Firstly, let me apologise for the amount of time it has taken me to write my post-Swansea Half Marathon blog post. The week after the Swansea Half was a bit crazy-busy and then I jetted off to Dubrovnik early on the Saturday Morning (2nd July) – we left the house just after 3am!! I got back home yesterday lunchtime (just don’t talk to me about airports!) and started to have a real think about my blog post – it has been on my mind since the Swansea Half and I’m just sad I didn’t have chance to write it before now.
Let’s go back in time to Tuesday 21st June and work our way from there. Tuesday night means Kettlebells, a class that I absolutely love and think has made a real difference to my running. My legs were still achey from my long run on Sunday and squats were a challenge. I decided not to risk doing forward and backward lunges as the first one I did hurt my knee a little. Instead I did leg extensions and knee raises – easier said than done when holding a kettlebell and having ‘interesting’ balance! I worked hard in Kettlebells and my legs felt a lot better after a good stretch at the end of the session. I was hoping that my doms would feel better by the morning.
On Wednesday I had pilates in the evening, my last exercise class before the Swansea Half (and as it turned out my last bit of exercise until I reached Swansea). I found pilates a bit of a challenge tonight – my arms said no everytime we had to do push ups! They were achey from kettlebells, but my legs felt really good. The aches had gone and they felt ready. My brain on the other hand was feeling increasingly crazy. The closer we got to Swansea Half, the more I couldn’t stop thinking about it, how I just wanted it to be a better experience than Silverstone, I also wanted to get under 3 hours (although I hadn’t told anyone that) which would be a challenge and a big pb for me. I then felt nervous and started doubting myself. Had I done enough running, had I trained enough, could I really find an extra 5 miles. It was hard to keep myself from stressing too much.
I decided that the best way to deal with those thoughts and doubts was to remember what a very lovely, special lady had told me, run with a smile, enjoy it and everything will be ok. (not her exact words she was much more eloquent than me). That seemed to really calm me down.
I decided not to do anymore running or exercise before Swansea. Possibly a silly idea but I didn’t want to risk injury or anything. Definitely a bit paranoid!
Then came the mission of packing my stuff ready to travel to Swansea on Saturday morning. I was going by train and having to change at Bristol parkway on the way there and then at Bristol Parkway and Cheltenham on the way home, so I was limited to a small suitcase to fit all of my stuff in. I wasn’t sure what the weather would be like so I put in two tops (a running vest top and a t-shirt for running in) and also some three quarter length running bottoms and my full length running leggings. I made sure I had my “waterproof” running jacket too just in case. One thing I almost forgot was my running shoes – I know, I know! How I could forget them I’ll never know! I decided to wear my Mizuno’s – lighter than my Brooks and felt good on my 8 mile run on Sunday. I also had to remember my race number, my shot blocks, my running belt, my earphones and my armband for my ipod. And my running socks. I also made sure I packed some Percy pigs in case I needed to celebrate and my recovery skins to hopefully help my legs recover.
I had a rather nice journey to Swansea on the train, even with having possibly the worst coffee I have ever tasted at the train station! As my almost-2 year old goddaughter would say “disgusting!” I had a bottle of water and a bottle with my hydration drink in it to take away the taste.
I got off the train at Neath Station and met up with the very lovely Karen, who picked me up and took me back to her house for the afternoon. It was fab to finally meet her after talking to her for so long. We had a chat about the race and then went for a walk to stretch out our legs before Karen dropped me off in Swansea at the Travelodge and showed me where the race village was. It was just across the road so I really couldn’t miss it or be late.
I then sorted myself out, laid out all of my kit (with my two different race day options) and made myself a much-needed cuppa. I was supposed to be meeting with Vikki to go for a pre-race meal, but we weren’t sure we were going to be able to as Vikki’s accommodation was miles away. Luckily though, we did get to meet and it felt like we had know each other for years. We both had pasta – carbs! and there was no wine in sight. We didn’t get to stay for long as we were both tired and wanted to get a decent sleep before an early start on Sunday morning.
I got myself ready for bed, had a cuppa and caught up on my twitter and facebook messages. I decided to turn off my phone after a while so I could get to sleep. I couldn’t quite believe the number of good luck messages I had.
I set my alarm for 6am, another for 6.15 and another for 6.30am. I was determined I wasn’t going to sleep through my alarm! I woke up two or three times during the night, once to check that I had set my alarm, another to use the toilet (nervous weeing started early!!) and again after having an anxiety dream that I had overslept and then had to run to catch up with everyone who had already started.
I had an awful sleep (even by my standards) and woke up at my first alarm, got myself ready – chose my race outfit, pinned on my race number (second time lucky) and headed down to breakfast in the Travelodge. We could choose from cereal, toast, croissants and then juice and tea/coffee. Cooked breakfast wasn’t available that early and to be honest I’m not sure I could stomach anything cooked pre-race.
I normally eat porridge before my race, but they didn’t have any. Instead I opted for two weetabix, a cup of coffee, and a glass of water. I was more conscious this half to make sure I had been taking on enough fluids to stay hydrated. I felt like two weetabix wasn’t quite enough but I couldn’t stomach anything else. I was hoping that the shot blocks I had to take around the course would be enough to keep me going.
I had a message from Karen just before 8am asking where I was and telling me where everyone was meeting. We were having a little Vikkisrunnerfriends meet up; Myself, Karen, Jon, Steve and Rebecca. Rebecca wasn’t running (but maybe next year) but had come to support us all. Although eating a bacon sandwich in front of us all was cruel! Haha! We had a fair few group photos before we went to the starting pens, with most of us questionning what we were doing and whether we could just go to the pub and still get the medal! It was quite chilly too so I was glad I decided to wear my t-shirt not my vest top.
We split up as we were walking to the starting pens (so I could use the toilet in my room rather than the portaloos!). Have to admit portaloos kinda scare me a little! I walked to the second wave pen with Karen and on our way we bumped into Vikki which was a nice surprise. We waited with her and then walked to the start together. I think we were all feeling quite nervous and a little worried that we weren’t stood in the right place in regard to where the pacers were standing. Ellie found me on the way to the start, gave me a hug and told me she would be at the start cheering and also at mile 11 cheering. She wasn’t running herself but had come to support us. Runners are the best!
I plugged in my earphones, put on earphone in my ear, checked my watch to see what pace I had set it too and said my final good lucks to Vikki and Karen. The start was slightly delayed which just added to the nerves, but I just told myself that I could do this, run with a smile and enjoy every step. I also remembered what my dad said which was just finishing a half marathon is an amazing achievement.
Finally the race started and we started to move forwards, I was by the lefthand rails as I don’t like being boxed in the middle and tried to start off slowly to let the pacers go past and those following the pacer. At the start I appeared to be ahead of the 2hr 30 pacer, which wasn’t going to even be close to my time. I wanted to get into my own rhythm and run my own race from the start. I knew I could run 8 miles without stopping so I told myself that I couldn’t walk until at least 8.5 miles. That was the deal I made with myself.
I started off a little too fast and tried to slow myself down and get close to the pace on my watch (easier said than done) but my legs felt good and I felt strong. I had to weave my way past some people who suddenly stopped running and slowed to a walk without checking who was behind them, and people who veered across the road. But I guess that’s all part of racing. The route was a rather nice one, with views of the sea for a lot of the way. It was well supported in places and a little lonely in others, but that’s to be expected and it was definitely a much better experience than Silverstone, where I couldn’t have felt more alone. There were people cheering and people handing out sweets too. The people of Swansea were brilliant.
As we were heading on our way towards Mumbles, you could see the faster runners heading back. This could be demotivating, but I liked seeing the other runners and found myself looking out for my friends and clapping when I could see other runners on their way back heading to the finish.
I started taking my shot blocks, followed by a sip of water after the first water station around 3 miles in. I much prefer these to gels as they are chewy and have a really nice taste. I need to remember to drink water after them though. The only criticism of he race was the water stations. At the first water station there were no bottles of water already opened and the people handing them out were frantically trying to unscrew the bottles before handing them out.
The shot blocks seemed to help keep my energy levels up, and I even carried on running up the slight inclines along the route. After 6 miles we turned back to run along by the sea, which meant running around the cafe where you could see people eating a whole range of yummy things! All I had were my shot blocks. I think the favourite part of the race for me was from miles 6 to 11 when we were running by the sea, as I love the sound of the waves (even though I hate sand!). I was still feeling really good and really strong after 6 miles and just told myself 2 more miles until you can have a walk break if you need it. I didn’t! I ran up to 8 miles and then carried on running. I then aimed to run until I saw my friend Ellie. I couldn’t remember if she was at mile 10 or 11, but what I did know was, that I was going to keep running until I saw here, or that was the plan.
And that’s exactly what happened! I saw Ellie from a few yards away and saw that she had spotted me as she was cheering and shouting my name. I gave her a big high 5 and told her that I had run all the way and hadn’t run that far before. She told me I was doing really well and to keep going. She gave me a boost for the next mile.
I ran until just after mile 11, and that’s when my legs began to hurt like never before. They had never run 11 miles without walking before and I was beyond amazed and proud. I started to feel emotional and was fighting to not cry. I decided to walk until 11.5 miles and then run for half a mile and keep doing run/walk until the end. I’m not sure which hurt more but I was determined that I wasn’t going to walk the whole of the last 2 miles. That was for sure. Run/walk seemed a good option and once we got back into the city centre I tried to run the last bit up to the finish. I even tried to “sprint” finish but I don’t think my legs were moving very fast.
I crossed the line, looked at my watch and went “WOW” my watch said 02:52:09 which would be a massive PB. I was given my medal, which I very quickly put on and also my goody bag. I then rang my mum, who had been tracking me, to tell her I had finished and text my sister too. My legs were in bits and trying to walk was a mission. Every step hurt. I text Karen to say I had finished and headed off to the race village to meet back up with her, Jon, Steve and Rebecca. I think my smile said it all. I don’t think that smile left my face all day. We had lots more photos with our medals and t-shirts (in between my stretching!) and then headed off for a drink. Well I went back to get changed and to put on shoes other than my running shoes. I put on my recovery skins and my legs felt much better. The boys asked me what I wanted to drink and my reply was water. Although, when I got to the pub I was handed “pink water” otherwise known as rose wine. It was the best glass of wine ever!
After another glass of wine, we all headed off our separate ways and I headed off to get some food as I was so hungry I could’ve eaten everything in sight. My choice was Frankie and Benny’s and I devoured 3 courses in what was possibly record time. A family asked if I had been running and I told them all about my PB (even if they didn’t wish to know) and finished 3 courses whilst the were still on their main course!
It was then time to chill and catch up on the hundreds of tweets and facebook messages I had received (and eat Percy Pigs). I was overwhelmed by them all. I am very lucky and feel touched that so many people wanted to wish me luck and congratulate me.
I was exhausted after the half marathon, but an early night was out of the question. I was also hungry again. I have never been so thankful that the Travelodge had a late night menu. I was also looking forward to my cooked breakfast in the morning.
Safe to say Swansea was totally different to Silverstone. Swansea is a race I will never forget for the right reasons:
- a 23 minute pb
- 11 miles run without walking
- no tears
- no wanting to quit
- feeling incredibly proud
There was a determination in me during the Swansea half that I had never seen before. I didn’t even know I had it within me. It has been a long time since I have felt so proud and so amazed at what I could do, and excited for the next chapter. Who would’ve thought that after Silverstone.
So what has been different:
- better, more consistent running
- new running shoes
- cross-training including strength training
- running with a smile and taking the pressure off
Running is an incredible, life changing thing, you just have to believe in yourself.
I cannot thank everyone enough for their support, encouragement, advice, belief in me and just being there when things were tough. This PB wasn’t just for me, you all played a part in it too, and for that I will be forever grateful and thankful.
Love you all