Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Chester Half Marathon

I wasn't aiming to get a PB at Chester Half Marathon this weekend. I didn't want one. I hadn't trained much since the marathon 5 weeks before and only managed to get one run in the double digits since, mostly as I was concentrating on recovery and enjoying not marathon training.

My reasons for running Chester were basically to do a half marathon, get a long run in with some mates from the running club and enjoy it.

Medal selfie
However, I promptly forgot all this come race day. Instead I managed to get swept up in the race atmosphere and set off in sub 7 min miles and on PB pace. OOPS! The uphills were much more frequent (for some reason I thought it was a flat course!) and much sharper than I had anticipated. My mind said slow down but my legs kept going. What was I doing?! This lead to me hating the first 5 miles of the course and fighting an internal struggle. I really had to remind myself why I was running (whilst also cursing my mate Jill whose idea this had been). 
Mid way through and I had to have a stern word with myself. I reminded myself I didn't want to PB nor did I deserve to on so little training, and should slow down so I could achieve what I'd actually come to do.

After a little self ticking off, and at a slower, more reasonable pace, I began to enjoy myself - even despite running near a man who annoyingly breathed like Darth Vadar.

The route starts at the racecourse and heads out through the town centre, towards the countryside before a little loop and heading back. I must say the whole race was really well organised (take note Manchester Marathon) - barely a queue for the toilets and a really great atmosphere at the race course. The route itself was not only challenging with the hills, but also featured stretches of quite long boring roads which was pretty unexciting. But two bands on the course really stood out and kept spirits lifted, as did the heroic man at about mile 11 showering everyone with a hose. (This is not a euphemism).

The last mile was the worst - all uphill and seemingly never ending. But then finally, finally the finish was in sight. Louise Minchin off of BBC Breakfast gave me my medal at the finish line, and the post race goodie bag had actual useful things in it - sweets, 9 BAR and the best tasting Double Decker I've ever eaten in my life.

Finish line Medal from Louise

We stayed on course until the very end to cheer through all the last runners, and the organisers were on hand and came to chat to us to ask our opinions of the race.

It wasn't my best or most enjoyable run but that was due to my own legs and lack of prep. I think the fact that I eventually enjoyed it, despite the tough course speaks for itself.

Good job Chester.

Harriers on tour

Friday, 6 May 2016

An unexpected award

Last night was my running clubs annual AGM. As well as a look back at the club's achievements, this is also the night where two trophies from the past year are awarded; the Benidorm Cup, for Best Overseas Achievement and the Morris Kaplan Trophy for Most Improved Runner.

The former was awarded to Jill for her stellar achievement of completing her first marathon in Paris a few weeks ago. She promptly and heroically filled it with gin. The second was awarded to little old me!
Unexpected trophy

Although we recognise and revel in our PBs when we get them, it's not often that we stop and take stock of our full achievements. It was only when our captains, who decided on the recipient of the award, mentioned it in the prize giving that I realised I'd recently gotten PBs in at least three distances this year; 5k, half marathon and the big one, the marathon.

This wonky trophy might look like it's been sat on or dropped on the floor, but it's been around since 1968 and clearly been very loved! Or maybe someone did actually sat on it after a few beers....who cares?! I've only been running with the Harriers for a year and a half, so I feel very honoured to be recognised among some pretty amazing runners.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Eat Pasta Run Faster at Vapiano

I do not need any encouragement to eat more carbs, or more of any food for that matter. I literally think about food all day long, so when I was asked by Vapiano to pop in and try some of their new menu designed specifically for runners, I of course said yes.

It's now been three weeks since the Manchester Marathon and I'm still eating a lot! At the end of my two week taper, I really did feel that I'd misjudged my food intake. I think I ate WAY too much in the lead up to the marathon and I did feel sluggish as I stood at the start line.

It's a tricky thing to get right and your nutrition when training is very personal to each and every runner. Vapiano's new 'Eat Pasta Run Faster' menu has been devised by nutritionist Dr Sarah Schenker especially for runners to provide the right amount of carbs, protein and healthy fats to keep runners feeling fit and energised. You can read more about the menu here.

So how was it?

The food was really nice. Everything is prepared freshly on site that day, from the pasta to the homemade sauces, and pots of growing herbs litter each table allowing you to add to your food as you like. We started with the caprese salad to share which was enormous but tasty, and the freshness of the ingredients really shone through.

From the runners' menu plan we opted for the Risotto Funghi with Chicken, and the Vapiano Salmone pasta. The risotto was amazing, really creamy, rich and tasty but if I'd been paying for the Salmon pasta I would have taken it back. Although it was nice, our chef was way too heavy handed with the fresh chilli and sadly this was all you could taste. Word to the wise. go easy on the chilli here!

The concept of the restaurant took a while to get used to. Each diner is given a card which keeps track of everything they order so you pay for only what you eat and drink - a great idea for big parties. You take your card up to each station and wait while your food is cooked to order in front of you. This means you can add various different flavours to your meal, or leave out ingredients which you are less keen on. It does however mean that you are standing and waiting mid meal which is a little different and does impact on your dining experience. I think this would be a great place to go for families, or a large group for a relaxed lunch.

The next day I went for a run and felt the best I had since the marathon. This could be down to any number of factors; a successful recovery period, enough sleep, or even a tasty Italian meal the night before. I'll let you decide.

We were kindly invited to Vapiano to dine for free and they knew I would be writing a blog about my experience.