Tuesday, May 13, 2014

sunderland half: race report:)

hello, hello!
It's good to be back blogging even though exams are looming! I am really excited about writing this report because it is full of good news!

I signed up for Sunderland Half back in January with the idea of trying and achieve my year goal of hitting sub-1:40 for a half marathon. I convinced Claudia to sign up for the half as well, while our flatmate Colin signed up for the 10k to raise money for his trip to the Himalaya for Help for Heroes. I made a training plan, stuck it onto the wall and followed it religiously ( or almost).  I thought I was on good track for my time goal as I was getting quicker and recovering well. Then, I went home and my training stalledl: catching up with friends and family, attempts of revision, the absence of a structured training session with a club and the hilly surroundings of my home  conjured to make me shift my training runs around and reshuffle my plan significantly.

On my way up to Newcastle, I was highly doubtful I could make it. I felt there was no much point of me racing on Sunday and that I was heading towards failure.  At least until Thursday training session when I was asked to go and help out in group 5, our slowest group, to run a hill session.

Spending time with those amazing people who run because they love it, even though it's very though for them because they haven't been running for long, made me remember that I run for the enjoyment of it, to clear my mind, to keep calm, to meet new people and connect with my friends. And that was all I needed to be ready for the race.

On Sunday I woke up full of nerves as the weather turned out to be as  forecasts predicted -cold,  windy and rainy. In a spur of inspiration, I made some arm warmers from some old tights that Claudia and I could wear if it was too cold or chuck away if the weather warmed up a  bit.

We headed to the metro station where we met Bam and Heinrik from my club while our friend Mchelle joined us at the station after: after having run an amazing time at London Marathon (3:29-amazing!!) she was suffering from some niggles at her knee and ankle which were all bandaged.
Once in Sunderland, we had a look around the start and the bag deposits to pick a meeting point and I found all my friends from TBH getting ready: Adam had offered to pace a group for roughly 1:40 (which he had bagged in the Nortumberland Half in March) and I decided that I might try to stick with them for a bit for company. Meanwhile, Colin was getting ready to start with his Yoda backpack (it was may 4th after all): we took a quick prerace pic before he headed to the start line.

We lined up to see him off, before heading to dump our bags and for a last minute trip to the toilets, where we lost Michelle.

Claudia and I, clad in our binbags and arm warmers, joined the TBH crew- Katie, Adam, Bam, Michael, Adrian, Emma, Nicola, Gemma and Shaun on the start line and before we knew it  we were off on the Star Wars soundtrack. Our little group, Nicola, Bam, Michael and me, set off quite gingerly while Adam tried to rein us in looking at his Garmin. 

Across the bridge we went and we crossed paths with the 10k: I saw some of my friends from uni and we exchanged encouragements. We delved into the streets of Sunderland still keeping a gingerly rhythm, although we had lost Michael and Bam.

The course was really bendy and twisty and I soon lost any sense of direction: quite a few people from my club were marshalling and we kept bumping into them, even though we thought to be miles aways from them. Their support was amazing and it really kept me going.  While looping around, I saw Michelle on the other side of the fence and then Claudia: we waved at each other with big grins and kept going. 

Claudia with race face on!

Meanwhile, the 6 mile  mark was creeping on us and I wasn't sure whether to take my gel or not: I didn't want to get stomach cramps as in the last long runs, but didn't want to bonk later on either. We were keeping a pace that was perfect to nail 1:40 and didn't want to mess with it with wrong nutrition. In the end I only took a little sip (and somehow managed to put the open gel back in my pocket without spilling it all over the place) and carried on. The air was humid and sticky, very different from the cold day we were all expecting. I had a tshirt under my vest and was very hot, while Nicola in her thermal top was really suffering the humidity.

Back across the bridge (mile 9) we went and up along the seafront we went, crossing paths with the head of the race, especially Aly Dixon who was running a beautiful race. 

We looped around after mile 10 and entered in Roker park for another bendy and twisty stretch, where Nicola dropped behind a bit. We caught up with Phil, who had set off very quickly and was battiling through. 
At mile 11, I bonked: I thought I was going to die and wanted to stop or slow down so badly, I had to start counting my steps to keep my head away from destructive thoughts. I was really glad that I was running with Adam because he kept me going.
struggling, with a bad running form

The 12 mile mark went and so did the 20 km mark and finally we were on the finishing straight where I found my course mate Matt cheering for me. It was such an adrenaline kick, I steeled up and picked up the pace for a sprint finish: I could see the stopwatch ticking at the finish line, still under the 1:40 mark. I raised my hans as I crossed the line, a big smile on m face, because...I DID IT!! I ran a half marathon under 1:40!! 

big smiles and arms up: I made it!!!:D
Adam and I waited for Nicola, Michael, Bam, Phil and Claudia. Once the TBH group was all together, they went to get their medals while Claudia and I waited for Michelle. She crossed the finish line under the 1:50 mark crying for the pain: her knee and ankle were torturing her but she proudly battled through and still finished with a PB, truly inspirational!!

We got our medals, tshirts and food inside the football stadium and met up with Colin again who had patiently waited for us.

post race, for Colin's charity!
Tyne Bridge Harriers: an amazing club which helped to achieve my goals so far!!
We received a text with our times, 1:39:12 for me which was a bit disappointing as I had stopped my watch at 1:38:54. However, when I checked the results online I realised that we had received our gun times.
My chip time was 1:38: 47, a PB and year goal!
I was over the moon, so so happy also because it was a totally unexpected result. I obviously did my miles and trained for it but I didn't feel ready for it. I guess that going in with an open mind and heart did the trick: I went to the start ready to do my best and to enjoy the time with my friends...and it worked! I need to remember this open-minded attitude for all the future challenges because it has been successful over the past years!
Claudia got an amazing time as well: 1:42 which is so great!:)
As soon as we got home Claudia and I dived into a massive bowl of porridge with PB...but we struggled to finish it! Our appetites magically vanished and didn't reappear until a couple of days after...triplicated as we had not eaten that much after the race;)

In the evening,I dragged myself out to celebrate the PBs with my friends from TBH: it was the most appropriate conclusion to a grand day!

I hope you are good and your spring races are going well!

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