Recap & Review: Saucony Cambridge Half Marathon

Hey everyone!

Sunday was the Cambridge Half Marathon. It’s only the second time they’ve held this race and it was a fantastic day out so I’m really excited to share this recap and review with you. Here is everything you need to know about the race itself.

Review

What? Cambridge Half Marathon
Distance 13.1 miles. Two lap course
Where? Midsummer Common, Cambridge UK
Cost? Around £30
Size 3,500 raced, apparently 4,500 entries
USP Racing through a beautiful, historic city
Terrain Roads and paths – flat flat flat. Just mind the cobbles and speed bumps!

The Highlights
– Beautiful location
– Not too big
– Good crowd support through the centre of town
– Flat
– Varied landscape: park, river, colleges, roads. A little bit of everything.
– Regular fuel stations and easy to spot mile markers
– Good pacers
– Nice medals

Could Do Better
– Bottle neck during the first mile
– Haven’t made up my mind about the water…I’ll explain below
– Goodie bag. It was ok, but a little random and different bags had different contents. Mine included a banana, water, some coffee flavoured sweets, a prune, a cereal bar and some crisps. Actually I guess this is pretty standard so I won’t complain about it! 🙂

 

In summary I thought it was a great race and I’ll definitely be back next year. If you would like to enters sign up to the mailing list now so that you’re the first to hear about it. It sold out within a few days…it’s a very popular race!

Recap

My brother and his wife live on the course route, less than a five minute walk from the start line, so the hubs and I stayed there the night before the race and enjoyed a relaxing evening with them. I had a large helping of sausage pasta with garlic bread and salad perfect carbo loading! We were in bed well before midnight and I managed to sleep pretty well considering I was getting slightly nervous about the race.

I got up before the others and caught up on some blog reading over my breakfast of cinnamon raisin bagel with banana and a brew. I had these bagels before my last race and didn’t want to change anything this time!

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I checked the weather forecast about 6 times and kept changing my mind about what to wear. It was snowing outside and whilst it hadn’t settled, it didn’t look as though it was going to stop. I opted for my Nike capris, sweaty Betty vest, gap hoodie, gloves, turtle fur and my Nike cap to keep the snow off my face. I spent some time rolling and stretching my legs and going to the loo every three minutes catching up with my cousin and aunty in law who popped round on their way to the start line:

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I fashioned a waterproof coverup out of a few bin liners and we all made our way to the start line. It was extremely cold so I was pleased that we only had around 25 minutes to wait before the gun went off.

The pens were not ‘policed’ at all, so you could start wherever you wanted. I headed to the 2:00 area. This is where I need to confess that whilst I am in the middle of marathon training, I had been letting my mind wander to PB related thoughts. Wisdom dictates that one should use the race as a marathon practice session, but I know what I’m like and I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I had been involved in some kind of covert taper operation the week before the race (I only managed another 1.5 miles after the last training session I bogged about) so I felt rested and ready to run.

The first hundred metres were fantastic. But then I had to stop. I didn’t WANT to stop, I just physically HAD to stop because there was a bottleneck at the first bend..and then again at the traffic lights. It was extremely frustrating and I could hear a wave of groaning as runners realised what was happening and started worrying that their PB hopes had been dashed. A few minutes later, I perked up as I ran past my hubs and family members cheering me on. I have never looked so excited whilst running…!

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Mile 1 – 9:20

Mile 2 – 9:08

Miles 1 and 2 were slower than I’d hoped for, purely because of the crowds. My legs felt great and I was up for pressing on, so as soon as the crown started the thin out I tried to pick up the pace. I knew that whilst I probably shouldn’t try for a HM PB so close to the marathon, if I could keep the pace at an average of 9 minute miles, I could sneak in under my previous time of 2:03:06.

Approaching mile 3 I had to stop myself from laughing out loud at the runners who stopped to *walk* over the bride. By bridge, I meant tiny footbridge over the River Cam. I even heard people say ‘Oh no, a hill!’. That, my friends, is not a hill. This barely even counts as any kind of incline – it is so so insignificant. That said, I grew up in Cambridge and until I moved to London I no idea how it felt to run on hills. I’m so grateful that I am now forced to run on hills whenever I leave the house. It has definitely made me stronger and makes this kind of race feel much less painful.

Mile 3 – 8:59

I took a Cliff shot blok between miles 3 and 4 and washed it down with some water from an inpromptu water station set up outside a pub. I managed to spill most of the water from the plastic cup over my hands, resulting in very wet gloves which I knew would get cold quickly. I had to take off the gloves in order to keep my hands warm and I kept them off for the rest of the race. The thumb holes in my Gap hoodie did their job perfectly and I stayed warm.

These are pretty yummy! They are chewy though so I spent a few minutes gurning whilst trying to get it down. I'm going to cut them into smaller chunks for the marathon. My mouth is too small...
These are pretty yummy! They are chewy though so I spent a few minutes gurning whilst trying to get it down. I’m going to cut them into smaller chunks for the marathon. My mouth is too small…

I used these during Run 2 the Beat and got on well with them.

Mile 4 – 8:55

I was happy with my splits for miles 3 and 4 and kept telling myself to try and hold the pace until miles 6 and 7 when I would be half way and could see DP and the family again.

Mile 5 – 8:55

It started to look like I was running an even pace. This is practically unheard of for me! At mile 5 I had to tread carefully to avoid some speedbumps and then turn onto the riverside and into the park.

Mile 6 – 9:01

I hit the half way mark around 58/59 minutes and got very excited. I was getting into a good rhythm and I felt strong. My ITB was behaving itself and I became very aware of the fact that I could PB and sneak in under 2 hours (a long time goal!) if I could maintain the pace. I had another chew and washed it down with some water.

Mile 7 – 8:50

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I was thrilled to see the family at mile 7 but I was working hard and knew I couldn’t string a proper sentence together. I wanted to conserve my energy but managed to spit out ‘DAN – 58 minute first half!’. I hoped that he would understand that it was going really well and I had a chance to PB.

Mile 8 – 8:41
This mile was too fast. I think I got a little over excited – a combination of seeing the family and realising that I was on track for good things.

Mile 9 – 8:52

The crowd support here was great! Thanks to everyone that came to watch and cheered us all on. The race numbers had our names printed on them as standard, so it was fun to hear people cheering me on by name.

Unfortunately, I had a bit of a chocking incident caused by the water bottles. I can’t remember the brand of water, but the bottles were very thin flexible plastic, more like a pouch than a bottle. You had to squeeze the bottle to get things flowing. I stupidly squeezed it into my mouth and it left the bottle at such force I chocked on it and was worried I would need to stop as I kept coughing. All was ok though, and I managed to finish another shot blok.

Mile 10 – 8:59

Getting to mile 10 at a pace I was both happy and comfortable with was a great milestone. I kept telling myself to press on and complete the last 5 k as quickly as I could. I knew that I had 30 minutes to go to get a sub 2 hour finish, and around 33 minutes to go to get a PB. I KNEW I could do it!

Mile 11 – 8:55

Nearly there. I tried to stick to the pacer I saw back at mile 10 who was aiming for a 1:58:30 finish. This guy was incredible, he looked old(ish) – well into his 60s, or older!

Mile 12 – 8:54

On the home stretch. It’s a windy end to the course – up along the river, across Jesus Green and along the river at Midsummer Common.

Mile 13 – 8:54

The course turns away from the river for the last 100 meters, allowing runners to sprint along to the finish line at the centre of Midsummer Common. And sprint I did! I assumed that Dan would be somewhere along the final stretch and he would expect love to see me finish strong. I crossed the line at EXACTLY 2:00:00 gun time, which left me with a chip time of:

01:58:08

That is a new PB – 5 minutes off my old PB, and I’m finally a member of the sub-2-hour club. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!! I did a little victory dance to myself and looked around for DP and the family. I couldn’t spot them anywhere but I did find a couple of super speedy Cambridge friends who crossed the finished line some time in the 1:40s….incredible!

After waiting for Dan for around 15/20 minutes I decided to phone him on a friend’s phone. It turns out he made it to the finish line at around 2:00:30. He missed me by a couple of seconds! He and the family couldn’t understand why I hadn’t finished yet and assumed that something had gone wrong and perhaps I was injured.

Here is the medal, which I really didn’t want to take off! It’s in the shape of Kings College, arguably Cambridge’s most famous landmark; I thought it was a nice touch.

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Dan’s aunty and cousin did a fantastic job, finishing in 2:20. Dan’s cousin paced her Mum as she is a bit of a pro at this now and it was her Mum’s first ever half. I am so inspired by Mums who take up running in their 40s/50s and then go on to run in events like this!

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It was a fantastic race and I was on a high for the rest of the day. I did lots of stretching, rolling, eating and bathing…and then probably bored everyone with mile-by-mile recaps like I did above. Oops!

Well, thanks so much for stopping by and reading through this. Congrats if you made it to the end! I’ll be back soon, perhaps with some chatter about the implications of this race for my marathon plan.

Jx

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Random Thoughts On The Run

Oops, drafted this earlier in the week and forgot to post. No proof reading, so so sleepy…sorry!

As I mentioned in my last post…my mind goes to some strange places when I’m out running.

Unlike many runners, I do not listen to music when I’m training outside. I know some of you are thinking Whaaaaat!!!? How is that even possible?? Well…I used to run with music, in fact my ability to run probably depended on it. However, once I started entering races I found that some banned music on the course…presumably due to health and safety reasons. It’s always wise to practice your race-day routine in training, so I decided it was necessary to learn to run sans-music.

From time to time I will listen to music or watch TV on the treadmill in order to help pass the time, and I do take my iPhone on my long runs in case I need to call anyone for help. I bring my headphones just in case I feel that music will motivate me…but I can’t remember the last time I actually used them.

Not listening to music gives me a lot of time to think. However, when the run is long and hard…my brain sometimes seems to melt down and wander. On last weekend’s 19 miler..this was going on in my head:

Are there mountains in the sea? How does the water stay on them {this question makes no sense…I was in a dark place!!!}

If anyone I knew was running with me right now I would be so angry I would punch them in the face just for existing in my presence on this horrible horrible run.

I wonder if I could get buried in this church graveyard…it’s so pretty. Does it matter that I don’t live here?

How did the bird die, was it hit by a bus? Did it die of shock?

I will never ever run an ultra marathon. Ever. How do people do it?

Maybe I should run an ultra marathon.

Look at the fisherman.

I hope I don’t get attacked by the geese.

So that was Sunday. I’m hoping that my mind will be filled with more positive thoughts on my next long run. Speaking of which…this Sunday is The Cambridge Half Marathon!

I’m really looking forward to it for lots of reasons:
– It’s my hometown
– Friends and family will be out to support me and the other family members running
– Cambridge is beautiful
– Cambridge is FLAT. Really flat. The course directors have ensured the course goes over every possible incline (a few bridges)…but it will still be pretty flat.
– Weather forecast = sunshine!
– My brother lives right by the start line = stress free warmup jog to the start. No hanging around for an hour in the cold and no long portaloo queue.

My race pack arrived a few weeks ago but I only just opened it this morning. I didn’t want to get my hopes up in case my ITB prevented me from running. But here is is:

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Apparently they had a disaster with the chip timing last year. I think they used the chips that are set in foam on the back of the race number. Whatever they used, there were lots of complaints regarding the chip not recording the start time…and in some cases, the finish time. I think mine was fine, but I ran pretty slowly so I wouldn’t have thought to check it anyway. That was in my pre-Garmin life..!! This year, they’ve adopted a chip timing device that I’ve never seen before. It’s just a strip of paper that goes in a loop over your shoelace. I hope it works – it looks a bit flimsy to me…but what do I know!?

In desperate need of sleep, having been up sometime between 4 and 5 most mornings this week….yawn!

Hope everyone has a great weekend….I’ll be back with a race report soon!

Jx

19

Hiya!

Hope you’ve all had a great weekend. Mine involved lots of food…, in particular:

– delicious Greek feast
– ridiculously good peanut butter cake…oh and the other great desserts in this pic:

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– lunch and catch up with girl friends
– Sunday roast with one of our fave couples
– and this…yum…I did not know you could get Oreo Dairy Milk?!? I cannot wait to try it…I just polished off the Pringles…chocolate should also follow crisps.

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Being able to eat a bit more is a definite bonus of marathon training. Only a bit more though…I’ve spoken about the dreaded marathon weight gain before. It’s easy to get a little chubby when training due to the increased hunger levels….so you need to keep an eye on the number of treats you’re having. Moderation in everything folks!!

Speaking of training, I’m still not going crazy due to nervousness with my leg, so I trained Tuesday, cross trained Wednesday (see last post), and then:

Thursday: 3.64 miles @ 9:31 pace, outside
I took this one at a nice steady pace and really enjoyed it. I tried to do a few sections of midfoot striking which felt great but my calves were killing afterwards.

Friday: cross training and strength session
I popped into the gym after work to make some room for the Greek feast that I knew would be waiting later in the evening. I focused on my legs and glutes as this will help my ITB pain. My legs were still aching from the session this morning.

Saturday: pilates
I started the day with a hardcore bathroom cleaning session…I spent 1:45:00 in there!! Must have been great for my arms! I followed it with a more tradition workout of Pilates, following the routine that my physio put together for me.

Sunday: 19 miles @ 10:52 pace

This pace sounds so slow to me, but I really don’t know how I could have pushed myself any harder. This run was intense; mentally and physically challenging.

First mistake: zero fuelling. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I had to leave the house at 6:30am in order to complete my run and have enough time to get ready for church, so I skipped breakfast and opted for extra time in bed. So stupid! In case it’s not obvious, once you get into double figure training sessions you really need to make sure you are properly prepared and have the ability to refuel as required.

Thankfully I left a bottle of water and a cereal bar under the car, so I knew that I could stop for them after the first loop (11 miles). Unfortunately I was a mess by mile 9. Mile 9!?! So early to hit the wall…but it really felt like I’d been hit by a bus; I didn’t know how I was going to carry on. Somehow, I managed to keep going for another 2 miles and just as I was ready to quit another runner passed me by and told me to ‘keep going’. If he had said that to me a mile before I may have punched him in the face, but he seemed very sincere and it was the encouraging word that I needed at that time. A few moments later I pulled into the drive, munched on mana from heaven a Frusili bar and got back onto the road, taking my water bottle with me. The effect of refuelling was so noticeable! I got my strength back and whilst my mile splits were starting to suffer, I believed that I could press on and go the distance.

I made it home at mile 19 feeling very proud of what I’d accomplished. I think it’s only the fourth time that I have ever run that far, the other three times being during and before the 2011 London Marathon. At the end of those 19 miles, I could have possibly gone on for another mile…but not 10k! It’s a good job that I have another 7 weeks to prepare…although in reality, with a half marathon this weekend and then the marathon taper, it’s probably another three or four long runs around the 20 mile mark.

My mind went to some pretty strange places during that run…I think the lack of fuel made me slightly crazy. I must do a blog post about the random thoughts that go through my head on a long run…it may make entertaining reading (or an excellent case study for a psych somewhere).

Off to spend some quality time with hubs now before this weekend is over.

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Jx