IAAF/Cardiff University World Half Marathon Race Recap!

So two days have passed and my legs are still not working completely. Yesterday my knees were stiff, today it’s my upper thighs. Plus I’ve rubbed a nasty blister between my toes which has decided to burst and make me hobble. So I guess that’s the price you pay for half marathon glory, but it was totally worth it!

 

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I was expecting to hate everything about this half marathon. What with the problems I’ve been having with my knee and with the weather forecast and just the fact that training has been lacklustre because of the winter, I was really expecting it to be a horrible mental battle. But you know what? I loved every second of it – even the hard bits near the end. Even with the torrential downpour. Even with the uncomfortable knee since mile 1. I loved it. Loved loved loved it – and I’m flipping proud of myself for doing it!

We drove down to Cardiff with a friend on Friday to hit the expo and pick up our bib numbers. We arrived around lunchtime and Cardiff was rather busy being a bank holiday. The expo was quite good though. Bib pickup did not take long (except for for Gideon who had to queue for about 20 minutes because the 20,000+ bib queue was about 5 times the size of all the others). We picked up some freebies (water, crisps, gels and the saving grace of the weekend – the poncho)! We then wandered round the exhibiting stalls, got a couple more freebies and just took our time looking around for a bit.

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Expo

It was a glorious day on the Friday – the sun was shining –  it was beautiful! However the Saturday could not have been more different. Black clouds – cold wind, rain. We arrived in Cardiff on the Saturday at about 11am. We wanted to get there early to find a place to park as it had been quite a struggle the day before, but actually it was no problem at all on race day. We then took up refuge in the museum for a few hours out of the cold wind and rain to wait until closer to race time.

When it got to about 1pm we ventured back outside. The crowds had really grown by this point and the whole area around the museum and city hall was packed with runners. We got in the queue for the porta-loo at around 1.30 and then it decided to rain a bit (it had held off until this point). The poncho went on – anything to stay dry whilst waiting around. Annoyingly, the queue for the loo was not moving AT ALL. Eventually a bloke from security came along, knocked on all the doors and then proceeded to unlock them all! NO ONE HAD BEEN IN THEM!! We’d literally been standing around in the rain waiting for toilets which were all locked! Who doesn’t unlock the loo’s on race day?!?!?

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Pre-race crowds!

Anyway, once we had (finally) managed to use the loos we said goodbye to my parents and headed off to our corral. We were in the last corral – the yellow corral – for people with a finishing time of 2.15+. The start line was in front of the castle, but the corrals went round the corner, so we couldn’t actually see Mo Farah and the elite athletes start – but we did hear it.

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Pre race poncho picture!

It was sort of raining a bit at this point, but not too heavy, and we were still wearing our ponchos. I was feeling a bit apprehensive – mainly about whether my knee would hold out – but I was ok, and I was enjoying the general atmosphere. Everyone seemed happy and excited despite the terrible whether, and so I felt happy and excited too! The atmosphere was contagious!

Each of the corrals in front of us went, and we walked slowly round to the front of the castle for our turn. There were lots of crowds here despite the rain. There was a big flame cannon which went off as the gun did – and then off our corral went. I think we probably started between 15-20 minutes after the elite athletes, but I’m not sure because I didn’t get a look at the clock time. Instead I just waved at the crowds and TV cameras with everyone else enjoying myself!

Gid and I stayed together for the first couple of miles. My first mile was 11:54 which actually wasn’t too fast, which was good. It was quite congested so we ran the first few miles without any walking (apart from a small stop during mile 2 because Gid ditched his poncho and managed to take his bib number with it).  I eventually lost Gideon in the crowds somewhere between miles 2 and 3.

I’d been feeling a slight discomfort in my knee since mile 1, but it was nothing like it had been last time I had run. It was a manageable pain, that I could run through, especially in those first few miles – so I was pretty happy. I made sure to walk on any downward slopes though, because I knew that was what would aggravate it. This seemed to do the trick on the downhill parts near miles 3 and 4.

It had been raining a little bit so far, but not much. I’d ditched my poncho by this point as I was warm. Somewhere between miles 3 and 4 the heavens opened and it absolutely pelted it down! I saw later on the TV that the BBC coverage of the elites (who had almost finished by this point) actually lost signal for a couple of minutes during this time – that’s how insane the rain went! I was soaked to the skin – but so was everyone else, so it really didn’t matter! In fact I almost forgot my knee was hurting at all because the rain took my mind off it. I was so surprised by my own attitude – the monsoon just wasn’t bothering me. It was what it was, and I just made the most of it by high fiving all the poor children in Penarth who had come out to watch and gotten soaked. At least I was keeping somewhat warm by running – they were just getting wet for the sake of it poor things!

The crazy monsoon had stopped by the time I reached the barrage, but the side wind was pretty extreme on this part. I was glad to be off it. My knee was starting to protest a little more by this point (mile 5 or 6 I think) so I decided to start following my run-walk intervals more strictly. This wasn’t always possible but it did help.

There was a lot of support around Cardiff bay which was good, but then we went around a rather boring part between miles 6 and 7 which was just roads and flyovers. I’ve seen some people complaining on Facebook that they had re-opened the roads here and they had to wait for cars to pass etc. We must have been faster than that because it was all still shut when we went through. That part was a little hard because there was very little support apart from the race volunteers (who were awesome for the whole course by the way – kudos to them for standing out in the rain all day and still having smiles on their faces).

When we got back into the main part of town there was much more support and I was still feeling really happy and enjoying myself at miles 8 and 9. The only slightly difficult part was when we reached Roath park lake. My knee had probably had enough by this point and was starting to really twinge. I had to slow to a walk abruptly a couple of times, so I decided to do the remaining 3-ish miles by reversing my intervals and running for 1 minute then walking for 3. I’d done so well up until this point and I knew I could finish so I wasn’t overly disappointed. Upon checking my watch I was still managing to do 12-13 minute miles this way so I was pretty pleased.

When I finally got all the way round the lake (which seemed to take a very long time) I was starting to flag, but it was only another mile and I knew I could do it. When I rounded the corner to the finish line I got a little emotional – but in a good way – I was just so flipping pleased that I’d made it – that I’d finally reached my goal after the course being cut short at Wine and Dine back in November. And the clock was still showing under 3 hours, which considering I started WAY after the initial gun, meant I must have made pretty good time! I crossed the line with a massive smile on my face – who would have thought!?!

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Still smiling just after the finish!

My official finishing time = 2 hours 39 minutes and 46 seconds! I still can’t believe it! For me – that is SUCH a good time for me, especially with the wind and rain and all the knee problems I’d been having. I’d anticipated that it would probably take me longer than that, but to be under 2 hours 40!! I’m still buzzing!

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Gideon finished roughly a minute before me in 2 hours 38 minutes and 51 seconds. He slipped on a water bottle near the last water stop which slowed him down a bit which is unfortunate, but he managed to run pretty much the whole course which is amazing! It’s weird that he was only a minute in front of me at the end, yet I couldn’t see him, but at that point I suppose I wasn’t really looking.

I was a bit annoyed, because just like I predicted would happen, they had run out of small ladies finisher t-shirts by the time I finished. I do think that is poor, but actually when I tried on the medium it fitted me fine so I guess I can forgive them.

After the race, we went and got changed (I had to change into my finishers t-shirt rather than my planned hoodie because I’d left it in the car doh) and then my parents drove us back to Swansea for a well deserved cuppa tea and fish and chip shop dinner!

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Cuppa tea and a medal – what more could you want?!

Overall – I really enjoyed the World Half Marathon. I have no idea why, what with the crazy weather, and I still can’t walk properly 2 days later, but it was just awesome! The course support and the marshals were all amazing and that definitely helped to keep me going mentally. I think some of the organisation probably could have been better (e.g. the t-shirts and the toilet situation) but there are always going to be some things that go wrong with such a big race.

We finished and we finished well, and that in itself is amazing and something I’m so pleased with! After the disappointment that was Wine and Dine we have finally achieved our goal of running a half marathon – and I’m already pretty excited about doing it again!

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The definition of rested…

So it’s almost time for the IAAF Cardiff World Half Marathon! 2 days to go! EEK! We’ll be hitting up the expo tomorrow to get our bibs and (hopefully) some free stuff!

So how am I feeling 2 days before what will (hopefully) be my first half marathon? Honestly… a bit meh. I feel like I used up all my nerves/crazies on what should have been my first half marathon back in November, so i’m not really that nervous about this one at all. In fact, all I want is to finish it and for it to be over – i’m not really feeling any excitement, though perhaps that will change when we go to the expo tomorrow. I think this is down to a combination of a couple of things:-

The knee injury – I haven’t ran since last Wednesday. OVER A WEEK. And at first I was a bit skittish and crazy and really wanted to say ‘screw it’ and go out and run, but i’m over that now. I knew that if I wanted to give myself the best chance of being able to complete this thing then I needed to rest. So that’s what i’ve done – I am literally the definition of rested right now! I have done NOTHING (except a little stretching) all week. I’ve been using up the rest of my holiday from work so i’ve literally just been sitting on my butt at home all week. I did do some cleaning today – but our house is little so it’s not much of a challenge to clean. So yeah. I’ve rested. I’ve given myself the best chance I think, but i’m still a bit apprehensive. I’m still a bit worried that as soon as I run again it’s going to start to hurt. There’s no way to tell until I start on Saturday, and I’m ok with that I think. I’d rather go in blind than try to run today or tomorrow and find it hurts and then be super depressed. Perhaps a silly logic but thats what i’m going with.

The second thing ruining my excitement is:

The weather forecast – yes i’ve been checking it all week like a crazy insane person and it is NOT GOOD. Am I surprised? No – it’s Wales. Am I annoyed? Yes.

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Accuweather says rain… and wind… and cold…and more rain… and more wind! 

So it’s forecast to rain and be quite windy. Which as you know is my least favourite combination of running weather EVEERRRR. I hate rain. I hate wind. I hate them even more when you put them together. The thought of running (or potentially even walking depending on the knee) for hours in the rain and wind is not appealing. Plus it’s been really nice the last few weeks and I feel like mother nature has lulled me into a false sense of security and then gone ‘haha sucker – enjoy your half marathon!’

I am British of course – and we like to complain about the weather. I know once I start running i’ll probably be ok and they’ll be lots of other runners/spectators for moral support, but i’m still not looking forward to it. And it does raise some questions… what do I wear as someone who wants to run it, but may have to end up walking a large proportion if the knee hurts? how do I stay warm if I have to start walking and am soaking wet?

So that’s it basically. I feel a bit blah. Which is weird. I don’t know if my blah mood is just because I haven’t had any exercise induced endorphins for a week and a half or if i’m feeling a bit under the weather or if my dissertation is stressing me out a bit or what really? Probably a combination of all three.

Hopefully a half marathon medal on Saturday will change my mood. I just have to get through the race first!

 

Weekly training recap: Mon 14th March – Sun 20th March

This week has been weird for me. Since hurting my knee last weekend i’ve been trying to take it easy and rest so I haven’t done a lot of running, and the running I have done hasn’t been very positive. It’s frustrating as the Cardiff IAAF World Half Marathon is ON SATURDAY. I have no idea if i’m going to be able to run properly, or if i’ll have to walk it. All I know is that i’ll give it my best go and whatever happens happens. Still so frustrating though.

Monday:

Stretching/ strengthening exercises to help the knee + foam roller session.

Tuesday:

Stretching/ strengthening exercises to help the knee

Wednesday:

Stretching/ strengthening exercises to help the knee

Thursday:

Ran 1.36 miles before giving up as the knee was hurting again. Average pace 13’59 per mile. There was a lot of walking.

Friday:

Stretching/ strengthening exercises to help the knee + foam roller session.

Saturday:

Walked 1.11 miles around the lake, to see ‘how fast’ I could walk a mile (incase I need too for the half marathon). It turns out i’m pretty fast. My mile was 14.43 mins which isn’t too shabby, and my knee didn’t hurt walking fast which was good. I don’t know if I could keep that pace up for 13 miles though.

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A crisp wintery day for a walk around the lake!

Gideon ran just over 5k whilst I walked. He did it in 29 minutes and 31 seconds – a new PB and the first time he’s broken 30 minutes! So proud of him! I know he’s going to do so great come Saturday!

Sunday:

More stretching/ strengthening exercises to help the knee.

So yeah – the half marathon is Saturday. The should-have-been-second-half-but-actually-will-be-first half. Or will it even be that? I’ll do everything I can on the day to make sure I finish, so if you feel so inclined please send some prayers and happy thoughts my way! I’m not doing anything up until Saturday though (except stretch). I have the whole week off work this week, so rest should be easy to accomplish. Hopefully that will help enough for me to be able to give it my best go on Saturday. At the end of the day, that’s all I can do.

Still hurting.

So now i’ve had a chance to calm down a bit I should probably tell you about last nights run. I wanted to test the knee, I havent had any pain on walking for the last few days so I figured it was time to try a short run. I had been thinking about doing it Wednesday but decided against that in the end opting for one more days rest.

The plan was just to do a loop of where we live. Its not very flat unfortunately but I sort of wanted to see if it would hold up going downhill as thats when it hurt before. Turns out the answer is no – it wont.

It started to feel uncomfortable the moment I started going downhill and by the end it was really hurting again. I was forced to cut short all of my run intervals bar the first one- meaning a mile took me 13 mins 18 seconds which is atleast a minute longer than normal on hills. Needless to say I was (am) pretty peeved! I cried a little more, but I did all my stretches as soon as I got home and iced it.

So thats me done with running until the half marathon on the 26th March. Its total rest for me for the next week, and then i’ll give it a go and if its too much its too much and i’ll have to either walk it or drop out. Neither of which I want to do! Maybe a weeks rest will make it ok. Maybe wearing a knee brace will help (I have no idea- i’m looking into it). Maybe running very short 30/30 run/walk intervals will delay the pain. I may give that a try once the start congestion clears. I certainly will be walking ALL the downhills- but I hear its pretty flat so hopefully that won’t be too bad. 

To sum up then. I don’t know. I don’t know why it hurts. I don’t know how it started hurting. I don’t know how to stop it hurting. I don’t know if i’ll be able to run my first half marathon, and i’m bloody annoyed by all of it! 

A bit of a stretch!

So since my knee had a ‘moment’ at the weekend I’ve spent many hours frantically searching the internet (as you do when you get injured 2 weeks before your first half marathon) for appropriate stretches that could help to strengthen the muscles in my thighs and glutes. Apparently when these muscles are weak -so the internet tells me – it can cause/contribute to knee pain.

I thought i’d share the stretches i’ve found with you all. I’ve no idea if they are helping, or if they will help, but I figure at this point if it might help its probably worth trying. I’ve also read time and time again that cross training and strengthening exercise can benefit your running (precisely to help prevent you getting injured) but I could never be bothered before. Well now i’ve had a scare i’m thinking I might try a little harder to incorporate the stretching and cross-training into my routine, you know “just incase”.

This is the first stretch i’ve been doing. The side lying leg lift. I’m currently doing 20 reps of this one which should help strengthen my glutes:

Then there is this lovely ‘clam shell’ stretch. I’m sure I look like a complete dufus doing it – but I can definitely feel the pull on this one. Again i’m doing 20 reps of these a day at the moment:

This particular stretch was recommended by my physio friend at work. It should help stretch/strengthen my IT band muscles. I try to hold it for about 20 seconds:

Then finally – this one, which is by far the worst! I can only do about 5 reps of this at the moment, And my right leg (the injured one) is far more shakey than my left leg, so hopefully that will improve with time.

Other than these stretches i’ve been resting since Saturday and icing my knee a couple of times a day. There was a lingering pain on Monday, mostly when walking down slopes or stairs, but since yesterday that seems to have disappeared. So i’m planning a very short jog around the neighbourhood this evening just to see how it’s feeling. Any pain and i’ll be stopping and walking immediately.

Do you have any regular stretches or strengthening exercises you build into your training regime? Have you felt an improvement in your running from adding regular strengthening exercises? I’d love to know in the comments. 

 

 

 

Weekly training recap: Mon 7th March – Sun 13th March

So this isn’t going to be much of a training recap. Not a lot of training has happened this week really. We skipped both the midweek run’s – no excuses, just wasn’t feeling it at the time. And i’ve already been through yesterday’s running related injury.

Honestly – skipping the weekly run’s this week was stupid, but perhaps i’ll learn from my mistakes in the future.

Monday:

Rest day

Tuesday:

Skipped maintenance run

Wednesday:

Did Jillian Michaels 30 day shred workout 1. It was hard – I haven’t done this one for a while (i’m well out of the habit) and I was wiped by the end of it. Hopefully I can build up some strength again by making this a weekly thing (though possibly not till my knee feels better).

Thursday:

Skipped ANOTHER maintenance run.

Friday:

Rest day

Saturday:

Ran 8.81 miles using run/walk intervals of 3 minutes running and 1 minute walking. Average pace 13 minutes per mile. This is a slow average because the last mile kinda fell to pieces due to the injured knee as was mostly walked. Most of the ‘good’ miles were in the 11-12 minute range.

Sunday:

Went for a walk today – it was about 2 miles in total. We walked a mile down hill to Brandy Cove, stopped to enjoy the view and then walked back up again. It feels like spring has arrived today! It’s beautiful!

The downhill definitely aggravated my knee a bit. I could feel the pulling sensation that i’d had yesterday, so i’m definitely not going to start running on it yet. Uphill was fine, it’s definitely a downhill problem, which is so annoying because I love downhill! I’ll keep icing it for now.

So I really have no idea how next weeks training is going to look. It’s taper time what with the Cardiff World Half Marathon in 2 weeks, so I shouldn’t be doing much distance, but I really have no idea if i’ll be able to do anything at all.

My main focus for the start of the week is going to be on resting and stretching. I’ve found a lot of stretches online that are helpful for knee pain, and i’m going to ask my physio friend at work if he has any suggestions. I might try some light yoga as well, but the second any exercise aggravates it and I feel pain i’m stopping. If all things go well and I don’t get any pain I may try a light run towards the end of the week – i’ll play it by feel.

The goal is to just be well enough by race day to be able to finish. If it means I don’t run at all until then then so be it. I hope that’s not the case as i’ll be a nervous mess, but if rest is what is needed then that’s what i’ll do.