Healdsburg Training: Wk 2

After last week’s awesome week’s training, I wanted to keep the momentum going but wondered if that was unrealistic. Life is slowly getting back to its normal rhythm. I worked four days this week – back to full-time when a new class of preschoolers arrive after Labor Day. My college course started up. The Dude’s getting into the swing of 1st grade and the Husband’s training seriously now for CIM so there’s a lot to juggle. No more than other people, I know. But busy. Luckily, the week went really well and I sit here this Sunday evening feeling pretty solid about it.

MondayTrainer ride

I set my alarm for 5.45 so I could be on the trainer at 6am (the husband leaves early on Mondays so running wasn’t an option). Alas my phone completely died and we woke frantically at 6.30! I DID get on the trainer in the afternoon, before my first college class of the semester that evening. I only managed 30 minutes instead of the 50 I was hoping for, but I count that as a win.

TuesdayTempo Run Rest

I had an hour’s window to run in the evening but the Husband got back from work late so I had to count this as my rest day for the week. Frustrating!

Wednesday – Tempo Run

Out at 6am to get that tempo run in. This week I had to do 3 miles, so after a warm-up mile, I sped up. It went well. My miles were 8.26, 8.23 and 8.13, averaging 8.20. I was hoping for a little faster but I’m chuffed that I actually got faster across the miles and I was pretty satisfied. 5 miles @ 9.12

ThursdaySpeedwork

I try not to put two speed-sessions on consecutive days but sometimes you have to. I met Lisa at a dark track at 6am and did 8 x 400m repeats. This track is full-length and so the corners are softer than our more local, short track and I’m always faster here. This time I averaged 7.05 for those laps, which is surprisingly fast for me and I’m a little suspicious but it made me feel good! I really love running round a track. I never saw that coming! 4 miles @ 8.40.

me track

So fast I’m blurry!

FridayLong ride

No preschool today, so I did my long bike ride for the week. 50 miles around Woodside with 3,800 ft climbing up Kings Mountain and Skyline. I was NOT fast, averaging about 11mph which is shamefully slow. However I am not going for speed on my Tour de Tahoe, so I was content to climb steadily, not die descending and sit in the sun for 10 minutes with a mid-ride coffee!

cycling me margarita

SaturdayLong Run

For the second week running, I got to do my long run with a friend as the lovely Jen drove over the bridge to run with me. We did 10 miles around Redwood Shores together, chatting all the time and then split for the final few miles. She ran two more at a steady pace, I ran a ‘fast finish’ of 3 miles, aiming for 8.25-8.30 pace. They ended up at 8.25, 8.34 and 8.36 which I’ll gladly take. 13.4 miles @ 9.41.

Sunday – Recovery Run

Very easy miles this afternoon. 3.1 miles @ 10.45.

Overall, I’m really happy with this week’s training, topping out at 26 running miles and 57 cycling miles . I would have liked to have been slightly faster on my tempo run and that fast finish, but there you go.

Eating

Hmmmm…not so good. Not BAD but not as self-controlled as I hoped.  I lost a pound though🙂 so am slowly burning off those road-trip treats.

Sleeping

Sigh…reruns of the West Wing lured me into staying up till 11pm most nights. 10.30 is much better for me, so I’ll keep trying. I’ve been tired this weekend so I know I need to focus on this.

This coming week is particularly busy so I’m a little unsure as to how I’ll get my training in, but it’s going to happen. I’m on a roll, people! This is good stuff.

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Healdsburg Training: Week One

Last week was the first week of my 8-week training plan for the Healdsburg Half Marathon and I have to say it was one of my best weeks training EVER! Not because I’m suddenly ready to qualify for Tokyo 2020 obviously, but just because I did every single workout on my plan, nailed all my goal-paces and threw myself into it with a real relish.

I went into the week flabby from a 2-week road trip, feeling heavy and slow and like a Healdsburg PR was out of reach. I finished it feeling so much better about myself and my running. A PR will certainly take a lot of work and a lot of luck, but I feel like I’m in the game at least!

Healdsburg 2012. Best. Race. Ever.

Healdsburg 2012. Best. Race. Ever.

The week was actually 9 days because I started on the preceding Saturday. Here’s how it went down.

SaturdayLong Run

This was last week’s long run – 11 miles around town.  No pace goals, I’m trying to build up distance. I was tired and a little sore by the end but I got it done and happily sat down on the sofa for the entire rest of the day watching the ‘lympics. 11 miles @ 10.08

Sunday – Recovery run

VERY easy six miles to build distance without killing myself. 6 miles @ 9.59

Monday – Tempo run

This was so exciting. After a mile warm-up I ran 2 tempo miles. I freely admit I stopped after the first mile for a minute to recover, which clearly isn’t race-day practise but I needed to let one of the dads from school get far enough away from me that it wouldn’t be awkward if I passed him. I felt like I was dying the whole time for the tempo miles and was so frustrated at how hard it felt…until I saw I’d done them at 8.03 and 7.51 so I was utterly thrilled. 4 miles @ 9.04 overall.

Tuesday – Bike trainer session

My first trainer session on the bike for a long time. Golly, it’s boring. It would have lasted precisely six minutes but I gave up on the worthy Danish film I’d started and instead watched my first ever episode of Gossip Girl. Clearly it was dreadful but kind of amazing, and it kept me going for 50 minutes on the bike. Estimated 10 miles, no idea of speed. 

hoka clifton

My new Hokas arrived today. They are very green and very beautiful. #greengoblins

Wednesday – Speedwork

The Dude started 1st grade today so I took myself to the track in our park to run laps. This track is ‘The Short Track’ as it’s 0.22m, so I measured out ‘a lap and a bit’ which came to 0.25 miles and ran that. 8 x 400m at Full On pace with 300m recovery jog. My Full On pace turned out to average 7.31 which is slower than my last track session a month or so ago but I’m totally cool with it as my starting point. 4.67 miles at average 9.15.

ThursdayLong bike ride

In preparation for my 76-mile ride round Lake Tahoe in a few weeks time, I went out for my first long bike ride (eek!). I split it into two sections – 20 miles before 10am, an hour off to go to Bible Study and demolish the snack table there and then 30 miles afterwards. Loved the whole morning. Legs felt good the whole time. Bible Study Cake was delicious. 51 miles at 12.8mph.

I somehow managed to take a selfie whilst clipped in without falling off!

I somehow managed to take a selfie whilst clipped in without falling off!

FridayBlessed rest day!

Saturday – Easy run

I took my new running shoes out for a very easy spin round Redwood Shores. They’re not magical straight out the box but they felt okay, I’ll see what happens.

Sunday – Long Run

My goal was 12 miles at easy pace. I was out the house at 5.45 and started running in nearly Belmont at 6am, getting in 2 easy miles before meeting Lisa at 6.20 – she had to run 8 miles for her Healdsburg plan. I then planned get in a final two miles afterwards. Lisa’s Canadian so we both wore our national flags for the run, which made us feel like Olympians.

Team GB and Team Canada!

Team GB and Team Canada!

The run was tough – 4 miles uphill, gaining 700 ft in elevation. We got to the top and looked out over the mountains and the fog and it was all worth it, especially when we got to run back down, on a trail to boot!

Foggy mornings!

Foggy mornings!

By the time we got back to the cars at Starbucks, I’d run out of time for the final two miles so we got coffee and headed home. I then snuck those sneaky miles in later that evening, on an overly-full stomach and tired like a dog. 10 miles @ 10.27, 2 miles @ 10.18

Eating

I ate much better this week and lost two pounds of my Road Trip Bloat, so I was really happy about that. Two sweet treats. two (generous) glasses of wine. Some semblance of self-discipline!

Sleeping

I committed to have my lights out by 10.30 each night. I managed it on 5 nights which is a good first week!

All in all?  Cracking first week!!!!

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It starts today!

I’m a month late.

No, not like that! Those days are finished. That cervix is closed. Those ovaries are over.

Me Dude Baby Newborn

Bad puns are a great excuse to use this photo

No, I’m a month late starting my training for the Healdsburg Half on October 9th.

I am super-excited about this race. It’s my favourite race memory EVER and I have such love for the course. I am really excited to run it again. And in my head, it’s a magical course that leads to PRs beyond my wildest dreams because that’s what it did last time. So I’m kind of hoping that the Course Magic IS real…because my current state of fitness is not conducive to PRs.

We are back from 2 1/2 weeks of road-tripping that included Ironman Cheering, 2,000 miles in the car, 26 miles of family hiking and 39 miles of running. Not bad, I know, but not good. Because whilst it’s not too hard to run whilst travelling, it’s actually quite hard to TRAIN whilst travelling. When you don’t know the local roads, it’s hard to know where’s best for speed sessions or where’s safe for long runs or where the best hills are for hill reps. And I’ll be honest – the recent spate of ‘jogger murders (let’s give the women some dignity and say ‘Runner Murders’) rattled me when it came to running round unknown towns.

(Check out Angela’s post please about how to stay safe when running).

In addition to that, my commitment to healthy eating faded away about a week ago, when the endless succession of pizza, pancakes and veggie burgers wore away my resolve.  So I got back from our road-trip ‘several’ pounds over my happy weight and ‘several more’ pounds over my racing weight, such as it is.

How I feel this weekend

How I feel this weekend

The one thing that I did do well was my long run, getting long runs in every week. Not necessarily at the paces I’d hoped for but I notched up those miles. I’m up to 11 slow miles on my long runs.

Long Run Bliss #inbend

Long Run Bliss #inbend

Which gives me eight weeks. Healdsburg is eight weeks tomorrow. So what can be done?

Training

I’ve built myself a training plan for the next eight weeks. I was hoping to get a coach for this race but that plan has been deferred for the next training cycle. The plan includes activity every day in the week with just one rest day but it includes two cross training days. I’ve used the Hal Higdon plan as my base and tweaked it a little because real life!

The cross-training days will initially be cycling-based because I’ll be cycling 76-miles around Lake Tahoe in September and I haven’t ridden my bike for a month. Then I’ll be adding in some swimming (eek) and some yoga (yawn). But cross-training will happen.

 

 

Hopefully a little faster than this

Hopefully a little faster than this

Nutrition

I’ve also done myself an eating plan for the week. I’m going to be quite prescriptive about what I eat so that I get enough nutrients. Healthy breakfasts, healthy snacks and healthy lunches. I haven’t planned dinners yet but I’ll do that on a week by week basis. I’m cutting myself down to two sweet treats a week and two alcoholic drinks for the week – I know I can manage those limits for eight weeks. I’d like to lose those road-trip pounds in a healthy manner and I hope this plan will achieve it, as well as fueling me properly for a training cycle.

No guilt here!!!

Sleep

The forgotten, least-cool part of training. I hereby commit to having my lights out by 10.30pm every school night.

Accountability

This is where my blog comes in useful – I’m going to be recording my training, nutrition and sleep on a weekly basis here. I’ll try to keep it interesting and not yawny, I promise, but I need that accountability and structure.

Goals

I have no idea if I’ve scuppered my chances of a PR at Healdsburg but I’m going to train as if I were training for the Olympics and I’m going to go into this race believing in the Healdsburg Course Magic.

My fortune cookie in July. Let's make it happen, Healdsburg!

My fortune cookie a while ago.
Let’s make it happen, Healdsburg!

1.51, I am coming for you!

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Oregon Road Trip: #inbend

If you are follow any runners or outdoorsy people on social media these days, you’re likely to have come across the hashtag #inbend. Bend – the outdoors capital of the west. Bend – home to cool, beautiful people. Bend – centre of pretty much everything we love as a family. So you could say I was kind of excited to finally visit the place and to use the elusive hashtag🙂

Friday

We started the day at the Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood with the best breakfast we have had for a LONG time. We initially baulked at the price of the breakfast buffet – $16 for an adult, $10 for a kid but we couldn’t really find cheaper alternatives so somewhat grumpily decided to spend the money, making it clear to the Dude that he had to eat his body’s weight in food and we’d skip lunch! OH MY WORD we had no idea how good the buffet would be. I LOVE breakfast food and I nearly died of happiness. The best, lightest waffles we’ve ever had, topped with berry compotes and solid whipped cream. Delicious pastries. Cheesy scrambled egg and fluffy biscuits (savory scones). Scrummy sausages for my boys. Granola and thick greek yoghurt. Honestly, I’m almost dying just writing this. It was amazing and totally worth the spend.

Our plan for the day was to hike en route to Bend at Smith Rock, a hike I’ve wanted to do for ages. But by the time we got close, it was already in the 90s and we decided to switch the hike to the next day. Good decision. Instead we drove into Bend, checked into our adorable tiny cabin and borrowed our hostess’s floaties. The Deschutes River flows through Bend and floating down the river on inflatables is a Thing. You start at Riverbend Park, float about 1 1/2 hours down the river and finish at Drake Park. There’s even a shuttle bus to drive you and your inflatable back up to Riverbend Park so you can do it again. The Husband opted to take some time to himself so the Dude and I clambered on our floaties and drifted down the river. It was very cool, but surprisingly hard work when you’re clinging on to your only child with one hand and trying to paddle with your other!! Everyone else on the river was young and beautiful. Seriously. No old, chubby people on the Deschutes – or even #inbend generally!! We floated past the most gorgeous houses and met the Husband at Drake Park a little chilly but super chilled.

me dude bend river

Saturday

Saturday saw the best hike of our trip – Smith Rock, a state park about half an hour north of #inbend. You’re in the desert now and the flat terrain is suddenly broken by dramatic rock formations. We started hiking at about 9am and could have done with starting 30 minutes earlier, but whatever.

We hiked down a steep slope, crossed the river and started up Misery Ridge trail. It’s well named – the climb is steep and relentless, with hairpin bends/switchbacks, staircases and some very steep gradients. Our Dude alternated between attacking the climb like a champ and moaning like a dying swan. We were literally in awe at the few runners we saw tackling the climb at speed. I found the hike hard, but the views were incredible all the way up.

bend smith rock oregon dude bend smith

Eventually we got to the top and were rewarded by the sight of Monkey Face, a giant rock formation. It was pretty spectacular with the Cascade Mountains in the background.

monkey bend oregon IMG_3537

Having descended back down to the river (inelegantly) we had a few miles of easy hiking along the river, which was delicious. At some point, a runner passed us and a few minutes later we found him screeched to a halt, hands out to stop us. He’d nearly stepped on a rattlesnake warming itself across the trail. We all waited for it to slowly sllllooooowwwwllllyyyy slither back into the grass before passing with some trepidation. The rest of the hike wasn’t as eventful but we got back to the car feeling super-chuffed with ourselves.

husband

The Husband attempts some epic rock climbing

rattlesnake IMG_3580

Lunch was ice-cream at Bontà in downtown Bend. Clearly this is not a healthy lunch but we felt we had all deserved it and it was excellent ice-cream.

In the afternoon, when it was cooler, the Dude and the Husband did the river float and I had some time to myself. I scooted round two local running stores and REI in search of the Clifton 3s in green…but every single running store only has them in blue. Most frustrating. I picked the boys up at Drake Park to find them BUZZING with adrenaline….they’d gone down the ‘whitewater’ section of the river which we’d hiked round the day before. Not the actual whitewater section but a section which was slightly whiter than the rest of the river. As far as the Dude was concerned, he was basically ready for the Kayaking Olympics now.

bend

Dinner was in the Old Mill District watching the sunset. It had been a brilliant day.

bend

Sunday

Sunday started with my long run as I’m trying very hard to train for Healdsburg whilst on this trip. Running on holiday is easy. Training on holiday is harder. I left the cabin at 7am and it was pretty ‘cool’ (I could have used gloves). I ran upstream along the Deschutes to the famous Deschutes River Trail. The paved trail petered out and became an actual trail. There were some hikers out but it was pretty empty and I felt a little eerie. Just as I was about to turn back, I came to South Canyon Bridge and saw two ladies chatting on the bridge. As I passed them, I asked if they felt safe hiking here and their emphatic ‘yes’ made me feel so much safer.

deschutes trail bend oregon

Deschutes River Trail

deschutes river trail bend oregon

Gorgeous views

My plan called for 10 miles with the last quarter at goal pace, which is roughly 8.30. I wanted to do 8.25. At M7.5, I ramped it up and ran harder only to really struggle with the increased speed. It was SO hard. I nearly gave up so many times but fought through the faster miles. They were super-slow (averaging 9.15) and I was so disappointed but Bend is at 3,200 ft so maybe it was altitude? Maybe it was NOT eating breakfast before a long run? I don’t know. I was disheartened.

We very sadly said goodbye to our time #inbend and drove a few hours south to Crater Lake National Park, which had also been on our To Do list for a long time. The moment when we walked up the path and peered out over the edge of the crater to see the lake was one of the most spectacular moments of my life. I’d seen photos of the place but none did it justice. Perfect!!

crater lake oregon IMG_3618 boys crater lake oregon

We’d planned to drive down the shorter West Rim Road to the village and then hike Garfield Peak but that road was closed and we had to do the much longer drive round. As a result we only did two much shorter hikes, but we saw a lot of the lake so we didn’t feel cheated.

Sun Notch trail was about half a mile long and rewarded us with beautiful views of Phantom Ship Rock.

crATER LAKE OREGON

Castle Creek Trail was a total delight. Also half a mile long and super-easy it wound through a meadow and was filled with wild flowers. It was gorgeous.

ME CRATER LAKE OREGON

We checked out the gift shop (expensive, rubbish), got some food and then drove the half hour to our accommodation that night. It had been an amazing day.

Family us crater lake oregon

Monday

On Monday we drove a few hours to Ashland, a cool little town just 15 miles north of the California/Oregon border. The drive was beautiful and Ashland was lovely. I casually steered the boys past Rogue Valley Runners, the local running shop owned by Hal Koerner, the famous trail runner. He was there (looking handsome, I have to say). They also didn’t have green Cliftons, so I bought some body glide instead.

ashland oregon

The descent into Ashland down the delightfully named ‘Dead Indian Memorial Road’.

Our hike that day was in Lithia Park, the pretty, green downtown park. There’s a lovely hike along the river to a reservoir where you can usually swim…but dodgy algae has invaded so we couldn’t even paddle/wade.

bear

That made me nervous

ASHLAND OREGON TRAILS US FAMILY ashland oregon

That night, we had dinner at Caldera Brewery. Oregon is famous for its craft beers but I don’t like beer and the Husband doesn’t drink much at all. As a farewell to Oregon we both had beer – the Husband liked his Vanilla Wheat, I didn’t hate my Ginger Beer (which is a compliment). The beer & cheese soup however was amazing.

beer cheese soup

Beer and cheese soup🙂

The next day, we sadly drove south into California. We had loved Oregon. It’s a total cliché to say you love Oregon but we did. We all said we wished we lived there. It’s so beautiful, it’s so outdoorsy and the people are so incredibly friendly in this lovely laid-back, cool, effortless way.

Oregon, thank you for having us, we had a wonderful time.

oregon

But Norther California awaited us!

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Oregon Road Trip Part 1

We are currently on a road-trip around Northern California and Oregon and we are having an amazing time, to the point where we’ve decided to take advantage of some free cancellation hotels and stay a few days longer!! I like blogging about travelling – I like reading about other people’s trips and seeing their pictures (in fact, social media has basically planned this trip for me) but if it’s not your bag, feel free to not read this post. But if you do like lots of pics of beautiful places, read on!

I’m going to post different pictures to those I post on Instagram but my favourites definitely have gone on IG, so if you want more pictures, follow me HERE.

Sunday

The day after Ironman, we had a lazy morning, packed up our Guerneville cabin and headed to Windsor to check out the Ironman Finisher shop! And then we drove north for many (many) hours. We drove through the Avenue of the Giants, which has been on my wish list for many years – a 30-mile stretch of road through the most beautiful redwood forests. Needless to say, I was in heaven.

redwood oregon

Both an abomination and awesomesauce!

redwoods avenue of giants

Avenue of the Giants, looking up.

We spent the night in the tiny seaside town of Trinidad which blew us away with its gorgeousness!

trinidad trinidad Monday

Monday started ‘interestingly’. We drove up into Redwood National Park to hike the Lady Bird Johnson trail and as we pulled into the car park, steam/smoke came from the bonnet of our car. Bearing in mind that we were MILES from a decent-sized town, I was a bit freaked out. The Husband added more water and more oil and luckily, that was it! Our plan on this trip was to hike a minimum of 3 miles every day, followed by an ice-cream (6-year olds need motivation to hike). This hike was easy and lovely!

redwoods

More big trees

redwoods lady bird

The Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail

We then drove north again for many MANY hours through the most wonderful countryside – dark forests, mountain rivers – into Oregon and then over several motorway mountain passes to Eugene! For British readers, Eugene is kind of like Wembley for American Track and Field athletes. It recently hosted the Olympic Trials and is the home to Hayward Stadium, where the legendary 1970s runner Steve Prefontaine rocked the running world. There were runners EVERYWHERE in Eugene.

Tuesday

Tuesday started with a special treat as I got to run Pre’s Trail – a cinder-track trail through a park. It was even cooler because I got to run with Emily Halnon whose now shut-down blog has inspired me for the past five years. She is a fast, badass 100-mile ultra runner but she was sweet enough to slow down for four miles with me. It was super-cool to meet her and to run this famous trail.

We then mooched round Eugene for an hour or so and then drove over to Mt Pisgah and hiked up to the summit. It was a steady climb but we took our time and picked blackberries all the way up and down. The views at the top were AMAZING!!

hayward field eugene oregon

rich husband berrys pisgah oregon

Foraging. He’s basically Oregonian now.

pisgah me oregon

At the top. Views for days.

And then we got in the car and drove the three hours to Seaside, a (seaside) town that reminded me very much of Skegness. The town was a bit grotty but the beach was beautiful!

seaside oregon beach

Sand for days!

rich husband oregon jumping

We had a jumping competition

dude arthur jumping beach oregon

I love this boy

Wednesday

On Wednesday morning, whilst my boys played on the beach, I snuck in a run along the beach-path and then we drove a few miles south to Cannon Beach, which was the beach i really wanted to go to – Seaside was just cheaper for accommodation. Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock is iconic but it totally lived up to expectations. It was so beautiful.

cannon beach oregon haystack

Chilly, grey, beautiful!

us family haystack oregon cannon beach

Haystack Family Photo

90 minutes of driving later, we were in Portland where we stayed at the Youth Hostel! We spent the afternoon hiking around Washington Park which was a total surprise to us but really beautiful. We then stumbled on a football/soccer match about 5 minutes from our hostel – the Portland Timbers vs the CD Dragons from El Salvador. We got tickets and thoroughly enjoyed being impromptu Timbers fans!

portland washington park oregon trails MAC

MAC trail

portland football

Timbers!

Thursday

Thursday morning started brilliantly as I snuck in a wonderful run around Washington Park. There were trails, there was a rose garden and there was a very moving Holocaust memorial that moved me to tears.

portland roses

7am at the Rose Garden smells like heaven

MAC trails washington park portland oregon trails

Good morning, MAC trail!

We spent Thursday ‘hiking’ around Portland. We walked along the Floating Walkway on the river – I’d been very excited about this but it was a big disappointment, being next to a motorway (noisy) and it had a bit of a dodgy feel about it in places! The Dude loved the splash pad, we got food at some food trucks and then hiked back to the hostel, getting Blue Star Doughnuts on the way home. They were a whole world better than Voodoo!!

portland

Floating walkway

blue star doughnuts portland

On him: Buttermilk Old-Fashioned. On her: Almond Ganache

portland

In the afternoon, we drove to Mount Hood for our ‘treat hotel’ of the trip, the Timberline Lodge at the top of the mountain. It’s a wonderful hotel from the 1930s, built of wood and stone, with a real atmosphere of history. We stayed in a ‘bunk room’ which was absolutely perfect and we got to enjoy the amazing sunset from the top of the world.

oregon hood

Mount Hood

timberline

Home sweet home

timberline

Pool sweet pool

sunset timberline oregon

Mountain sunset with Mt Jefferson in the background.

jenga

When the jenga tower gets so big your kid has to stand on a table, you gather quite the crowd!

Loving Oregon is a bit of a cliché, but we’ve honestly been blown away by the place so far! More Oregon coming up in the next post. Hope you don’t mind.

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Race Report: Ironman Vineman 2016

On Saturday, the Husband (Richard) did his second Ironman. His first was in Canada, his second was in the Russian River region of California, about three hours north of San Francisco. This is a very long post, that includes perspectives on the day from both of us, so if you’re up for reading it…get a cup of tea first. My bits will be in normal type, Rich’s bits will be in italics.

Okay, let’s go!

So. Vineman.One thing worth knowing about Vineman is that it takes place in two different towns, unlike IM Canada and other Ironman races. The swim start is in Guerneville, but the bike-ride and run are based in Windsor, about 15 miles away. The Ironman Village is also in Windsor. We didn’t know this beforehand (we should have known it, our fault) and stayed in Guerneville for the swim start. This was a good decision, we don’t regret it at all. However the split-town nature of the race did change the dynamics and atmosphere of the event as a whole, especially when compared to Canada where the Ironman Village had a truly Olympian atmosphere.

We headed up there on Wednesday night and spent four nights at the Creekside Inn in Guerneville. It was perfect both for the race and for us as a family. It was a very easy half-mile walk to Johnson’s Beach where the swim start was but perfectly located for family fun…kayaking on the river, playing mini-golf, drinking the best smoothies in the world (Limelicious at Blended Choice) and having hipster brunch at Big Bottom Market.

On Thursday, we went to the Ironman Village in Windsor for Rich to do athlete check-in and pick up his awesome race backpack. We wandered round the shopping area but were disappointed by the Ironman goodies on sale – at Canada, we wanted to buy loads of stuff, but Vineman branded goods were not as much fun. This was good for our wallet but sad for Rich’s future bragging rights. In the afternoon, we drove the 50-odd mile loop of the bike course which was well worth doing. It’s a beautiful course, but undulating. There are very few actual hills but it’s constantly up or down. We headed back to Guerneville and took our patient little Dude kayaking on the river, checking out the swim course.

rich vine man

Ironman

ironman cycling dude

Someone wants a $500 cycling helmet

ironman vine man rich dude

Ironman and Ironkid

vineman kayak

On Friday it was the Dude’s chance to race with the Ironkids race. He had the choice of half a mile or a mile. He chose the mile. The half- mile was full of preschoolers and their parents and it was womb-quiveringly adorable. The Dude’s race was surprisingly fast. He was VERY psyched to race (wearing a Garmin and a HRM like Daddy) and did a solid run.

vineman dude

Heading out…

dude vineman

Heading back…

dude vineman

Ironkid…

Rich dropped off his T2 bag and then cycled back to Guerneville to loosen up his legs. I then snuck out for a wonderful long run in Armstrong Woods, which was pretty much heaven. The boys dropped off Rich’s bike at T2 and then went out on the kayaks again. Then we returned to our Ewok cabin, had a good dinner and got an early night.

redwoods armstrong

More redwoods please

Race Day

It’s worth saying that Rich’s goal was 14.59. His Canada time was 15.19 but he felt he could take a decent amount of time off this time round.

Rich was already awake when my alarm went off. It was very early, I wasn’t much use but I kept him company as he got himself ready and I drank tea. Then I got to kiss him goodbye and off he went.

I felt much calmer than the night before IM Canada. In Whistler, I slept about two hours. Here I had a nap in the afternoon before and then about 6 hours sleep in the night. When I woke up, I felt relaxed and ready to go. I had porridge for breakfast and then walked over to Johnson’s Beach, I was already wearing my wetsuit and a hoodie. When I got there, I got numbered up, pumped my tyres, put all my nutrition and drinks on the bike and put my shoes in the T1 bag as I’d forgotten them the day before. I phoned Cat and the Dude and they were 5 minutes away, so soon enough I met them on the beach. It was nice to see them, I was feeling really relaxed and ready to do the swim.

I felt really guilty getting the Dude out of bed so early but by 6am we were walking through the dark morning across the bridge to Johnson’s Beach to see Rich. Unlike in Canada, where T1 was dauntingly enormous and it was impossible to find him, we found Rich easily. He was ridiculously relaxed and cheerful so we hung round with him watching the pro start and watching the faster people line up for the swim. I got to see Aleks, waiting for her swim to start. She was looking nervous, as would I.

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National Anthem time

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Awkward Family Photo

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Ready to go

This swim was different from Canada in that it was a rolling start – people self-seeded based on their estimated swim time and then they were allowed into the water bit by bit. This was because the river is narrow, not like a lake, and also pretty shallow. Rich positioned himself right at the back of the line (like RIGHT at the back) and bumped into his IM Canada coach so they were chatting as he moved forward. Eventually we said goodbye and went to find a good spot for cheering.

A few minutes later, he swam past us, easy to spot as the only breast-stroker amongst a river full of front crawlers. Despite this,he’d already passed people and was moving up the field.

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See him? The green hat in the middle

We watched the pros start and then 15 minutes later the age-groupers started. There was a rolling start and I thought this was better than a mass start, although for someone at the back it doesn’t make that much difference. I started right at the back of the swim, I went over the starting line. It felt ‘normal’ whereas in the past few races it has been much colder, the temperature here was much more similar to our pool at home. Because of this I didn’t lose my breath and I got in and was able to start swimming straight away. I didn’t have to go slower initially to get my breath back.

The swim was an out-and-back up the river. The good thing for me was that there was a lot less fear of swimming in open water than I usually have, as there was at least 6 or 7 opportunities to put my feet down during the swim. This didn’t only reassure me but also helped me get my breath back a little. I put my feet down five or six times. Because the stones on the bottom were so hard to walk on, there wasn’t really any advantage to standing up and walking as you had to tiptoe. It was more to catch my breath rather than to gain advantage. One other thing was that they had distance markers on the buoys so you’d know how far you’d swum. I didn’t notice much of a current going upstream but once I turned round, it did feel a little easier and there was a definite time advantage splits-wise. I swam steadily because I’d decided I’d decided to save energy on the swim so I wasn’t going for it so I was amazed when I got out the water and realized I’d saved 10 minutes on my Canada swim. I was raring to go.

Whilst he swam, we went to hunt out breakfast. Guerneville businesses had missed a trick with several not open for coffee and breakfast at 7am. We eventually hung around outside Big Bottom Market, who, rather snootily I thought, refused to open until 8am on the dot. We got hot drinks and warm biscuits (like scones, British people) and then headed down to the beach to see Rich come out. The starting chute for the cyclists went up a short but very steep hill, so we stood and cheered for a while. Cyclists were split 50:50 between those who chose to walk up and those who chose to cycle up. The most unlucky was the guy who cycled up and punctured right at the top. The hiss from his tyre brought groans from the crowd! The other unlucky person was a stray cat who somehow got into the chute and dashed between the bikes terrified, causing chaos. We think the cat escaped unharmed. Eventually though, we got to the swim exit, 10 minutes earlier than we should be there, and saw Rich getting out the water. He’d crushed the swim, taking 10 minutes off his Canada swim. We yelled, he saw us and gave a massive grin. He was psyched.

I got stripped off by the volunteers and I realised I needed the loo. But because of the structure of T1, I had to go and put my bag in the changing room, then run out to where my bike was as that was where the loo was…and I couldn’t wait. Then I had to run back into the tent to get my bag (we weren’t allowed to take it out the tent). There was no loo-roll in the first five portaloos so I must have lost a good 5 minutes what with the running, the loo-roll searching and the running back to get my bag. Inside the tent, the changing facilities were poor – there was a chair but you had to go bare-foot from the water to the changing facilities and it was mud, so we had to clean mud off our feet with our towels before putting on our cycling shoes. I coated myself in sunscreen and ran to my bike. 

We dashed off to the exit chute and a few minutes later saw him heading out, all smiles and excitement. He was off on the bike. We were off to the cabin!

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Off on the bike

I saw Cat and the Dude as I came out into the chute. The chute was a solid uphill start so I chose to run up rather than ride – it was 50:50 between runners and cyclers up the hill but runner seemed to be using much less energy. I got on my bike at the top of the hill and off I went.

The Bike

The bike ride started really well. It was nice and cool and the first 10-ish miles were nice and flat along River Road. I was feeling great and I did 18 mph for the first hour. I must have passed about 100 people in the first 10 miles. This was my plan – to get as many miles in during the first few hours until it warmed up as I don’t do so well in the heat.

The first loop was great. I was feeling great and was flying around. I got to Chalk Hill at M44 and it felt pretty easy. Back to Windsor for the end of the first loop and out on the second. At that point, it was about midday and was starting to get hot. I took a bottle and a half of Gatorade every 12 miles and I took gels and Clif bars as well.

We had as easy a morning as I could give the Dude. Back at the cabin he had some iPad time, I had a shower. We played mini-golf and got ice-cream (him) and smoothies (me) and then at about midday we drove off to see Rich at M63. Because the roads were open to cars, it was easy to find him and we got to the right place about 10 minutes before he cycled past, looking awesome!

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Then we drove half an hour north to Geyserville at about M80. There’s a great pizza place there, so we had pizza and then sat on the steps to see Rich come through. We got talking to other cheerers, people were very friendly.

I was still feeling great when I saw Cat and Arthur at about M63 but shortly afterwards I started feeling the effects of heat. My body no longer wanted anything to eat or drink so I had to start forcing fuel down when I knew I needed it. I really struggled both mentally and physically between M70 and M105. This was mainly due to the heat, I don’t think I went out too hard.

We saw Rich come through. At the last time we’d seen him, he’d asked me to update him on his progress versus his plan so I yelled ‘TWO MINUTES DOWN ON PLAN, TWO MINUTES DOWN ON PLAN’ so he could hear me. As I yelled, I saw his face. He was clearly suffering and I had clearly shouted the wrong thing. I was heartbroken at being such a bad wife, I honestly nearly cried. (I was very weepy and emotional all day actually).He needed me to lift his spirits and all I’d done was kick him. I dashed down the motorway to try to see him at another point and be more supportive, but couldn’t navigate my way to him, so sick at heart, I took the Dude to a cool little beach on the river in Healdsburg where he swam and cooled off, and then we drove down to Windsor to T2.

At about M105, I heard a hiss and I’d got a puncture. I wanted to use the set-back to my advantage as much as possible so I pulled over in a shady spot, took off my helmet, opened up my clothing and poured water all over myself, I used it as an opportunity to recover and gather my thoughts and that’s actually the point where I stated to feel better. By the time I left, I was completely cooled down, refocused and ready to go again. After that, I flew the rest of the bike course, I almost wish my puncture had happened earlier to be honest. I saw Cat and the Dude again as I came into T2 and I was feeling great.

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T2

We saw Rich easily at T2 and he looked fab, all smiles and happiness. I was so relieved! The entrance to T2 and its exit are too far apart for us to be able to see him leave, so we headed to the Ironman Village, did some shopping, got some food and sat in the sun!

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Never ask a 6 year old to take your photo

T2 was much smoother than T1, except that I left my Garmin on the bike and had to ask a volunteer to go and get it for me, which lost me a few extra minutes.

The Run

Our friends came to join us and we wandered over to the turnaround point to see Rich finish his first loop. The run at Vineman is three out-and-backs, which sounded brutal to me. Each loop was about 8.5 miles long and was on local roads. The one benefit was that we could see our Ironman come through twice on his loops.

The run was very undulating and I think you gained some elevation on the way out and lost it on the way back. There was very little shade especially for the first lap and it was pretty hot, about 90F (30C) when I set out. On the first lap, my plan was to set out slowly due to the heat, walking the uphills and running the downhills unless there was shade on the uphills. At this point I was still on for a 15 hour time. Both physically and mentally, I was great. I had to do 3 laps of 1 hr 50 in order to make my goal time and I was on track. I had a bandana that I filled with at almost every aid station for the first two laps, I wore it round my neck and it really cooled me down.

I came back to the High School to the turnaround point. It seemed like a party in the park, lots of people, lots of noise. I saw Cat and Arthur along with our friends who had come out to cheer me on. It was good to see them and set out again.

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Looking good, Ironballz!

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I got really emotional every time an exhausted athlete was sweet enough to slap his hand!

Second loop was still okay, I stuck with the same plan. It was getting cooler and shadier so I could run a little more and I think I did that loop a fraction faster than my first lap. Back to the turnaround, saw my cheering squad again and set out for the third lap.

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NEVER EVER EVER GIVE YOUR CHILD GATORADE!!!

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Cheering Squad.

Rich looked really good at both turnarounds. The first time, he shouted ‘I’ve got this, I have so much in reserve, I’ve got this’ and the second time he was quieter but still on track and confident. I was so proud of him, I could burst. By now it was dark and surprisingly cold. I wish I’d bought more layers for me and the Dude.  We saw Aleks run past in her tutu, looking about as badass as a woman can look. We passed the time by people-watching near the finish line and soon enough, it was time for us to position ourselves by the finishing chute to see Rich come in.

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Aleks looking amazing at the end of the run

I don’t quite know what happened on the third lap. I started getting tired. I was still fueling well with Gatorade, gels, chips etc… but I think I just got tired. I wanted to go sleep. My body as feeling okay, nothing hurt, but I just wanted to go to sleep. It was getting dark and that didn’t help – when it got dark at Whistler, I also struggled. There must be something about it getting dark that makes it mentally tougher. It was much cooler, which was a good thing. The darkness made it hard to see where you were going, I‘d have a headlamp in special needs bag next time. I walked much more on this lap, about 60 – 70% of the loop but when I ran I was going at a decent pace. When I got to the turnaround to head back, I just felt so mentally exhausted. It was cold now and my body was cold but I was still sweating profusely so my body was probably suffering a little now.

Rich took FOREVER to finish that last lap. We knew what time we expected him in, but he just never came. In the meantime, my little boy got more and more tired. He sat, dully, wrapped in a blanket, by the finish chute. I have never felt more torn in my entire life. As a mum, I wanted to be sat down, holding him so he could sleep on me. As a wife though, I knew I needed to be stood at the finish line so I could see Rich come in. Our friends looked after the Dude and I stood there waiting and waiting.

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The finish chute

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One tired boy

As I was running through the high school to the finish line, I was nowhere near as overwhelmed by the experience as I was at Canada. Canada was an amazing experience but I was disappointed here to have not done under 15 hours as I’d hoped, although I was still really proud to have completed the race.

I turned the corner to the finish line…it was blinding, you could hardly see anything. I was looking for my people, I saw them and gave the Dude my snap-bracelet I’d worn the darkness and then ran over the line.

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He was going so fast I blurred the photo

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Eventually we saw him. We all dashed to the side of the chute and yelled like crazy. Rich looked exhausted but happy – he put the glow-stick necklace round the Dude we cheered, I nearly cried and he ran on to finish!

His time was 15.18 – a one minute PR versus Canada! One minute!!!

(The time on the clock was from when the pros started – his start was at least 45 minutes later.)

I was very glad to stop running. This finish line felt much less significant than Canada, just like an ordinary race. A volunteer put my medal round my neck and I had a photo and then my cheering squad found me. I got hugged and limped over to get pizza and food and then just sat down to eat. It felt good to sit down, I was so mentally exhausted.

After he’d finished and was eating, our friends said goodbye and headed home. I was so very grateful to them – they’d not only driven hours to come and cheer but they also took Rich’s bike and stinky bags home as we were heading to Oregon for a week or so! They also bought us both some dinner and played with the Dude as I was fading in the evening. I am so very grateful to them.

My last job was to get my boys (both shattered) back to the car and to drive the 15 miles back to Guerneville. Despite saying he was too high on adrenaline to go to sleep, Rich was asleep within three blocks. We got back to our cabin, I carried our enormous, heavy child inside and literally dropped him fully dressed on his bed…and that was our day done!

I just wanted to say thanks to all of you who read Cat’s blog who left lovely comments via social media and email. I really appreciate it.

Rich’s learnings for next time are:

  • Stay in bed the day before for the whole day and sleep as much as possible that day.
  • Use ice on the bike ride if it gets over 80F.
  • Get a headtorch for the final lap
  • Put my compression tights in my special needs bag for the final leg of the run. It got cold and I think some warmth and compression wold have helped me.
  • Change the batteries in my HRM as mine ran out of juice on the run.
  • Pick a cooler race. I don’t do well in the heat.
  • Cat – Pay $40 for athlete tracking. We really missed knowing where he was on the run particularly. Just stump up the cash.
  • Cat – Bring warm layers for the evening (spectators). It got MUCH colder than IM Canada and I was not prepared.

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How do IM Canada and IM Vineman compare?

Both Rich and I felt much less enthusiastic about Vineman than we had about Canada. A LOT of that may have been simply due to the fact that Canada was Rich’s first Ironman and we don’t think that first experience will ever be equalled. Would we have felt anti- climactic at any Ironman?However there were some other considerations that are worth sharing.

Canada was better in that:

  • The ‘Olympic’ experience. IM Canada literally felt Olympic. The Ironman Village in the centre, the fact that everyone walking round Whistler was there for the race, it was an amazing place to be that week.
  • The swim start. The Canada swim was magical – the fog rising off the lake, the cannon going off, the way the water came alive with the swimmers. It was quite an experience.
  • Also, the river swim at Vineman, where you could put your feet down many times, felt a bit like cheating. (This is a personal comment from Rich, we are NOT saying that Vineman swimmers who put their feet down were cheating!!).
  • We had closed roads on the Canada bike-course which felt safer. Vineman had open roads which meant was not as safe and involved overtaking some cars as they were going so slowly cheering on their friends.
  • The bike course was MUCH harder but much more beautiful.
  • It had better swag. We wanted to buy race-branded goodies but nothing appealed.
  • The Dude said the Ironkids race was better as it was all on asphalt and there was some shade.

Vineman was better in that:

  • The bike course was easier but it was a lot hotter. If you could manage the heat, this bike course was likely to be faster than the brutal hills of Whistler.
  • As a wife, I thought the Vineman swim was preferable as my husband was less likely to drown due to both the rolling start and the shallowness of the water.

What’s next for Rich?

I’ve already signed up for CIM in December. I want to see what I can do in a stand-alone marathon. I also think that I’d like to do some 70.3’s before I tackle a full Ironman…and my next 140.6 will be somewhere much colder!

Cat’s note – we have a deal that for every full-length Ironman Rich does, the Dude and I get a new ginger cat, so we will be encouraging him to do another one soon!!!

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Running in England

I was back in the UK for three weeks and, as per my Q3 resolutions, my sole goal was to run at least four times per week for at least half an hour. I succeeded (yay) but more than that, I loved it. The cooler temperatures were lovely to run in and wherever possible I abandoned the roads to run along trails. In the UK they’re called Byways or Footpaths but they’re basically the same thing.

In the US, I’m nervous of running trails alone, worried about mountain lions and rattlesnakes. I’ve always wondered if I’m a bit of a chicken, but as I happily ran down British footpaths, I realized that I was totally happy to run trails alone if I knew I wouldn’t be mauled by giant cats or bitten by venomous snakes. It was really encouraging to me.

This post is very photo heavy…I hope you enjoy the pictures. I’ve tried to steer clear of the photos I shared on Instagram but sometimes I just loved those ones too much so I’ve put them here too. (If you don’t follow me on IG, do it!)

Wiltshire

My first few days were at home in God’s Own County of Wiltshire. I had one of my best ever runs there, along both familiar and new-to-me footpaths and trails. It was utter bliss and I was super-happy for the entire 10 miles!!

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Devon

We then headed down to Devon to go camping for a few days with my parents. I don’t know Devon very well but it was honestly one of the best places I’ve ever run. Even lusher, greener and more beautiful than Wiltshire (can’t believe I said that), it literally blew me away. Really want to go back.

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Yorkshire

Up to Yorkshire, to Leeds for the Leeds 10k. I also snuck in a very easy morning run around Roundhay Park. At 6.30am I had it to myself and it wasn’t ugly.

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Lincolnshire

We headed next to Skegness in Lincolnshire to stay with my in-laws. It’s very touristy there and not the most beautiful part of the world, but by doing some googling and heading for the trails, I discovered new places I’d never visited before and found some real loveliness.

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I also made the very smart move of contacting the local running club, the Skegness Coasters, a few weeks ago and asking if I could join them on their Tuesday night club-run. I’d done this a few years ago and loved it!! I joined them again for their Beep Test night. Killed myself on a humid evening, ended up second-most-enduring female and loved it. It made me really wish I was in a running club here!

After some other diversions with no running, we finally went back to Wiltshire for a couple of lovely last runs.

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It’s lovely to be back with the Husband (who does his Ironman on Saturday) and the cat (who isn’t into triathlons) but I do miss the UK. I’d forgotten how beautiful the place is, and how incredibly green due to the liquid sunshine it gets every day. I’d forgotten the incredible, constant cloud action. The people aren’t as grumpy as I remember and if the food is still uninspiring and the coffee dreadful, the tea is awesome and the hugs are real.

Thanks for a wonderful time, darling England. See you next summer.

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Race Report: The Leeds 10k

We got back from the UK on Thursday evening, tired but happy. We’ve had a fab three weeks with our family and friends, and I’ll post some of the best bits in the next few days…but whilst we were there, I got to run the Leeds 10k and wanted to post a race report before I forgot all about it.

As background, we used to live in Leeds in West Yorkshire. We were there for six years and whilst I never liked the city very much (unlike everyone else, who raves about it), I did love our wonderful friends very much. So we were thrilled to sneak in a weekend during this trip and I was even more thrilled to be able to run the Leeds 10k. I was never a runner when I lived in Leeds, those were my obsessive-cyclist years so I think this was the first race I’d ever done in Leeds apart from parkrun. I planned to run it with my dear friend Debs, and then our other mate Andy signed up too. In the preceding weeks, I had a few emails from Debs basically telling me she hadn’t done as much training as she’d planned so I shouldn’t run it with her. I decided to run it hard and it turned out that Andy was willing to run it with me, so a plan was hatched.

The Leeds 10k is a big local race, with about 5,000 participants. It’s organized by the Jane Tomlinson’s Run For All organisation. Jane Tomlinson was a Leeds lady with an incredible, warm smile, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2000 and given a year to live. However she lived for another 7 years, and completed numerous challenges like Ironman, long-distance bike rides and marathons before succumbing to disease. She’d raised nearly 2m GBP for  charities. She had been a tremendous inspiration during my Leeds years, and I was gutted at her death, so I was so excited to run ‘her’ race. It’s a pretty flat race, out and back along Kirkstall Road with a couple of diversions to make the distance. Kirkstall Road is not pretty so it’s not a scenic race, but it’s a great PR race. I was gutted to not have trained for it (i.e. speedwork, tempo runs etc) as I think I could have PR’d there otherwise.

My goal was simple. To run hard and see what I could do on the day. I hoped to run it at 8.30 pace but wasn’t really sure what I could do after a week of basically eating bread, cheese and Devonshire cream teas. I find these days that the emotional aspect of racing is mattering more and more to me, rather than the final result, lovely though PRs definitely are. I want to finish a race knackered and exhausted, feeling like I did everything I could out there. Mental strength is becoming more important to me than physical strength. My goal these days is to keep pushing right to the end, to not give up, to keep pushing even when there’s nothing left. No matter what the clock says, if you know you kept pushing then it’s hard to be disappointed.

In the end, Andy and his lovely wife Rachel basically sherpa’d me for the entire race. They picked me up (Debs would drive our cheering squad), found excellent parking and delivered me to Millennium Square to get my number. Millennium Square was abuzz with excitement, including a coffee/champagne garden (we fancy in Leeds, now) with deckchairs. Having posed for photos, Andy and I headed off to our corrals.

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Relaxing before the race

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With Andy and Rachel before the race

It’s a long time since I’d run a race this big but it was pretty smooth. We found our corral (i.e. our stretch of road), found some portaloos (clean) and lined up. I’d apparently put my goal time down as 49.59 as we were with much faster-looking runners than I liked, but whatever. There was no national anthem (oh Britain!) but we heard the countdown and a few minutes we were off. We were very close to the 50-minute pacer and I was initially feeling awesome so I told Andy we’d try to stick with the pacer as long as we could.

I felt good for the first mile and solid for most of the second but by about a mile and a half, I realized I was working hard and I might not be able to hold that pace forever. The 50-minute pacer was drifting further and further ahead.  I wasn’t disheartened about this, bearing in mind my goal. I just wanted to give everything I had out there. Andy was in full Sherpa mode…lolloping along next to me effortlessly, pointing out new buildings that had gone up since I moved away, showing me where he worked. I grunted every now and again, we were an awesome team. At the water tables, I’d keep running hard, he would lope over the side, take water for both of us, scamper up and hand me water and then even carry it for me after I was finished. I was incredibly grateful, I just didn’t have the breath to tell him.

Eventually we got to the half-way point and I felt really good. Tired, but strong and decent. There were some lovely gentle downhills that I tried to push down and before long, we were nearing the city centre. It was fairly warm that day and quite humid, but nothing compared to California, so I was very surprised to see a giant hosepipe chucking out gallons of water for runners to run through. Everything in me was horrified at this ‘waste’ of water but then Andy pointed out that the UK is not exactly suffering from the same drought as California so I should just get wet and enjoy it. So I did.

The final half-mile was brutal. Up an off-ramp/slip-road which felt like a giant hill at this point, and then up the Headrow. What’s usually is a gentle uphill felt like a death march but I pushed as hard as I could. I saw our friends (and the Dude) cheering at the railings and finally we were done. We’d done it in 51.47 at an 8.21 pace and I was very happy with that result.

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Andy and me not dying at the finish line

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After the race

We got our medal (lovely) and our t-shirt (disappointing), plus two chocolate bars (ate them immediately) and some other gubbins in our goody bag. We found Debs, who ran a solid run and then our cheering squad arrived! Lots of sweaty hugs.

We were all getting chilly now so I walked with Andy and Rachel back to their car via the coffee/champagne garden. Neither was up for champagne (boo) but we got excellent coffee and that was nearly as good.

All in all, it was a fab morning’s work. I LOVED running my first Leeds race and thoroughly enjoyed this 10k. Great organization, a very PR-able course (although not pretty) and a wonderful community feel. It made me feel much warmer towards Leeds than I usually feel about the place! I’m super-glad I got run it.

Also, especially thank you to Andy and Rachel of Thompson Race Services (jk) for driving me, Sherpa-ing me and making my morning awesome. Rachel took all these photos too!! They’re coming to the Bay Area in the spring so I’ll be returning the favour then!

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Running The World: Iceland

I am really excited to publish this latest edition of Running The World as it’s from the wonderful country of Iceland, which is one of the places at the top of my bucket list. I’m speaking to the lovely Halla who I found when I simply googled ‘Running in Iceland’ and found this website. I emailed them asking if they knew anyone I could interview and Halla replied, offering to be interviewed herself. I’m super-grateful to her and really excited to share her stories…and her pictures!

(This is the first time an interviewee has included graphs! Graphs, people!)

Please introduce yourself. Tell us a little about who you are and what you do when you’re not running. 

My name is Halla Björg Þórhallsdóttir and I am a 41 year old Icelander. I have a master’s degree in Finance and work in financial advisory for an international firm in Iceland. Besides running I like to do some hiking, and in our spare time my boyfriend and I manage a website which is called Running in Iceland.

Halla and her boyfriend after the Reykjavik marathon

Halla and her boyfriend after the Reykjavik marathon

How did you get into running?

I have always been an active person and played tennis for many years when I was younger. I had been doing some running on my own but in 2008 I decided to join the running club at my local fitness center. That was one of my best decisions ever! I really enjoy going outside to exercise after sitting in the office all day, breathing the fresh air instead of going inside a sweaty gym to work out. The social side of the running club is a big bonus.

In 2010 I ran my first marathon in Budapest and since then I have run a marathon in Munich and in Lima. I have not run a full marathon in Iceland yet but that is definitely on my to-do list. I have also participated in the Laugavegur Ultra Marathon in Iceland twice which is an amazing 55km trail race. That is my favourite race and my most memorable running moments. I have run numerous half marathons and I like to participate in the local races during the year.

How popular is running in Iceland? Is it growing in popularity or has it always been popular? Or does no-one really run?

Running in Iceland has increased immensely in popularity for the past ten years. The number of running events and races has grown and new races emerge every year. Participation in the races is also on the rise. Almost every neighbourhood in Reykjavik has a running club and the same applies to the many towns outside of Reykjavik.

In 2015 the number of participants in the Reykjavik Marathon was 8,587 compared to 4,491 to in 2007.

Participation in RM iceland

How popular is it amongst women? Is that a new phenomenon or have women always been keen on running? Are the genders fairly well balanced?

Running is gaining popularity with women year by year.  Women have outnumbered men in the 10K race at the Reykjavik Marathon but men still outnumber women in the longer distances. I think that women’s participation will continue to increase in the coming years, especially in the longer distances.

As can be seen from the graph below, the development of women’s participation has been very positive as number of women has increased enormously or from 50 women in 1984 to 4,957 in 2014. Even though I have only been running since 2008, I have noticed a positive change in women’s participation in the races, especially in to the longer distances.

RM Women

What are the biggest or most important races? What kind of distances are popular?

Racing is quite popular in Iceland and during the year over 100 running events take place. Because of the weather and light the racing season is short, most of the races are held from May – September.

The Reykjavik Marathon is Iceland’s biggest running event by far and a great celebration for all Icelandic runners – from the ones completing their first race up to the professionals aiming for medals. The most popular distance is the 10K but the race has also 21.1km and a full marathon. This is my favorite day of the year but Reykjavik Culture Night, the biggest party of the year, takes place on the same day. After the race you can see runners all through the day in the restaurants and cafes.

Halla with her siblings and boyfriend after Reykjavik Marathon

Halla with her siblings and boyfriend after Reykjavik Marathon

The Midnight Sun Run is the second biggest race in the Iceland. It is held around summer solstice when the nights never get dark What makes the race unique is that it starts very late in the evening, in the bright summer night. The atmosphere in this event is therefore very special and different from other races – it’s very much a midsummer celebration!

The Laugavegur Ultra Marathon is clearly the best known ultra trail race in Iceland. It is a 55 km trail run along one of the most beautiful and popular hiking trail in Iceland. The Lauavegur trail race has been chosen by National Geographic as one of the top ten trail in the world. This is my favourite race in Iceland!

Halla at the xxxx

Halla at the Lauavegur Ultra Marathon

Tell us about trail running in Iceland? What are the trails like? 

Trail running is gaining more and more in popularity over the world and the same applies to Iceland. Iceland is great for trail running with beautiful places and constantly changing landscape. Good trails are always just around the corner – even if you are in the middle of the city centre in Reykjavik.

Mountains, hot springs, snow, ice, sand, grass, rivers and forest are all part of the Icelandic multi-terrain trails that can be found in Iceland. The number of trail races is also increasing year by year.

Trails on Mt Esja. Yep. I know.

Trails on Mt Esja. Yep. I know.

As a woman, how safe do you feel when you run? Are there any particular issues facing women runners?

I feel very safe when running in Iceland. I usually go for a run after work on weekdays and on Saturday mornings and I never feel uncomfortable or unsafe. I can’t think of any issues facing women runners in Iceland and I think that the outlook is very bright for Icelandic women.

What do female runners wear in Iceland? What kind of brands are big there? 

Our clothing mostly depends on the weather. In the summer months we wear shorts or capris and t-shirts but in the coldest months we were layers and winter jackets. The good thing about running in Iceland is that it is never too hot here and never too cold. The average temperature during winter months is a little below zero and the temperature during the summer seldom goes above 20 degrees Celsius. So there is just plenty of fresh air!

There are no Icelandic sporting brands available so the most popular brands are the usual suspects: Asics, Nike, Adidas, and Saucony.

What do Icelandic runners use to fuel and to hydrate? 

Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are the most popular sport drinks in Iceland. For longer runs it is very common for people to have gels from e.g. High5 or GU while some use natural energy bites like dates. Icelandic chocolate milk is a very popular post-run drink!

Does the weather cause any challenges to runners in Iceland? 

The weather in the winter months can, of course, cause some challenges to us runners, e.g. snow blizzards or storms. However, there are very few days a year when running is impossible – given that you have the right clothing! The weather here though is very unpredictable so you have to be prepared for everything.

The conditions of the running paths are often challenging during the winter months. Many runners use yaktraks (spikes) or put screws under their shoes for safety.

Very few people go out for a trail run during the coldest months (November to March). The conditions are hard, the trails can be covered in snow or ice. These months are also very dark as the sun only comes out for three hours in December.

Who are the well-known Icelandic runners or running heroes?

The population of Iceland is only 330,000 people. The running community here is therefore fairly small and it is not uncommon to see the top runners running on the same paths and competing in the same races as the average runner.

The best long distance runner is Kári Steinn Karlsson. He owns the national record in 10K, half marathon and in full marathon. He came 17th in the London Olympics 2012.

Our rising star is the 20 year old Anita Hinriksdottir who is an 800 meters runner and will be competing in the Olympics in Rio 2016. Anita will be Iceland’s only runner in the Olympics in Rio.

How big is social media within the running community in Iceland? Which are the best known blogs? Any good Twitter users we should follow? Which are the most important magazines and podcasts?

Social media overall is very big in Iceland. The most popular running site is hlaup.is which has all information regarding races, registration, results, etc. in Iceland. The running clubs have their own Facebook pages. Our website, Running in Iceland, is in English and has information about races and routes in Iceland. Being a small country, Iceland does not have any Icelandic running magazines or podcasts.

iceland halla

The Laugavegur Ultra Marathon

If I landed in Reykjavik where would you send me to find out about the local running routes, group runs or races there?

The best place to start is to browse our website Running in Iceland, to get some ideas about the running scene in Iceland. The website has a race calendar, running routes and information about all the running clubs in Iceland.

If you are coming to Iceland for the first time we recommend that you to go for a run and follow the “Sightseeing route” that takes you past many of the most well known sights in Reykjavik. The route goes past Harpa Concert Hall, the City Hall, the parliament (Althingi) and Hallgrimskirkja church.

My favorite routine is to go for a run, relax in a hot tub afterwards and then to a nice coffee house. Here is an article that includes three short running routes, a swimming pool and a cafe.

If I was going to do any race in Iceland, which would you recommend ?

The races I mention above, the Reykjavik Marathon, the Midnight Sun Run and the Laugavegur Ultra Marathon, are all great races with beautiful routes and great experience. Other alternative races that I recommend are:

Road races:

Ármannshlaupið:
This is a 10K race on a flat and fast course that takes you along the seaside of Reykjavik with beautiful views.

Fossvogur Race (Fossvogshlaupið):
Great organization in a 5K and 10K race that is held in the Fossvogur valley in the middle of Reykjavik. The race has beautiful running paths and has been chosen one of the best running event in Iceland.

Trail races:

Dettifoss trail run
The Dettifoss Trail Run in northeast Iceland is probably the most beautiful and scenic trail race in Iceland. An absolute must do once in your life! The race is held in Jökulsárglúfur in Vatnajökull National Park and the route takes you along the magnificent Jökulsá (Glacier River) canyon and ends in Ásbyrgi canyon.

Pentecost Trail Race (Hvítasunnuhlaup Hauka)
Very well organized trail race with a homely feel of a small local race. The course is on trails around a lake and up and down various hills on the outskirt of Hafnarfjordur.

Four Forest Run (Fjögurra skóga hlaupið):
This is one of my favorite trail races. It is a really cozy and friendly race in a beautiful surrounding. The trail takes you through 4 forests or 1-4 depending the distance. The race is half an hour drive from Akureyri in north Iceland.

What are the best and worst thing about running in Iceland?

There are so many advantages of running in Iceland. Fresh air is one of the best thing along with these favourites of mine:

  • Reykjavik and the surrounding areas have an extensive amount of running and biking paths. Wherever you live you can be guaranteed that great running paths are just outside the door, and the paths are very well connected. Most of the best and most scenic paths can be found near the coastline with a beautiful sea and mountain view.
  • Icelanders love their swimming pools! Many running clubs and individuals start their run from the local pool and soaking in the hot tub after a run is a long standing tradition for Icelandic runners. Recently, many swimming pools have set up cold tubs as well which are gaining popularity among runners who believe that going into ice cold water helps sore muscles and improves recovery. Many swimming pools also have maps that show running routes from the pool.
  • Reykjavik has the charm of being close to nature. Even though you are in the city center you do not have to run far to get away from the city and enjoy the nature. Reykjavik has many green valleys to run through, e.g. Fossvogur, Elliðaárdalur, Kopavogsdalur. Mt. Esja is only 15 minutes outside of the city with great hiking trails and even closer is Heiðmörk, the dreamland of Reykjavik trail runners.

The worst thing about running in Iceland is how short the prime running season is.

Halla, thank you for the wonderful interview! Please thank her by checking out her wonderful website, following them on Twitter here or liking their FB page here

For more Running The World interviews, click here and if you’re an international runner (or you know someone), please drop me an email!! 

 

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Quarter Three Goals

I’m currently in the UK, hanging out with my lovely parents and soon to be heading Up North to see my friends, run a 10k and spend time with my in-laws! But as July is a few days old now, it’s time to set my goals for Quarter Three.

  1. Run four times a week for July and the first half of August

Between July 1st and August 17th, we’re on the move constantly. The Dude and I are in the UK for a few weeks, then we go home for a week (with some friends as guests) and then all of TeamRamsden go to Guerneville for Ironman before heading up to Oregon for a few weeks’ road-trip. So my goal for this period is just to keep running steadily, to explore the lovely places I find myself and to flipping love it.

portland

Can’t wait to run in Portland again!

2. Cycle round Lake Tahoe 

I’m super-excited to cycle Tour de Tahoe in mid September with the Husband. It’s 72 miles at altitude with a lot of climbing, including two pretty significant climbs. I have to say upfront that I will not be  adequately trained, although I’m hoping to get a solid number of 50 and 60 milers in, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages so I’m just going to do what I can, be prepared to suffer at the end but to love every mile.

tahoe

Coming for you soon. Hopefully you’ll be a bit warmer.

 

3.  Start training for a kick-arse half-marathon PR

I’ve signed up for the Healdsburg Half Marathon in October, along with Jen and a bunch of other friends. Healdsburg holds a very special place in my heart – it’s where I finally went sub-two and, looking back, it was still the best race experience I’ve ever had. I’m hoping the old Healdsburg magic will strike again!!

Healdsburg is about 13 weeks away so I’ll start building up my distance and will choose a training plan in the next week or so and then boom, we’re on!

4. Learn Spanish

Another long-term resolution that I’ve put off and put off. I’ve actually started this, using the Michel Thomas app which has been brilliant but I want to keep working at it and be able to have some kind of conversation by the end of September. Planning to use my copious amounts of time in airplanes and cars over the summer to do this!

5. Start my next ECE course

‘Teaching in a diverse society’ is my next course. I’m not thrilled about this, it sounds a bit PC and dull, but you never know.

6. Take two swimming lessons

I’ve had this as a goal for ages now and have never done it, but I’m starting to actually want to do it. I may need you guys to hassle me into it.

swimming

Saw this at the SF MOMA. Think it might be aimed at me.

And that’s it!! Q3 goals. Yippee!

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