Tuesday 31 May 2016

Cheryl's First Half Marathon – North Lincolnshire Half.

On Sunday 15th May 2016, all of the training, the practicing of fuel strategies, the good runs, the difficult runs and the blood sweat and tears came to a wonderful  triumph as Cheryl completed her first half marathon. This date was a special day for her, in that it is the 21st anniversary of her breast cancer surgery.  As noted in previous blog posts, this was the reason behind her raising money for the Pink Rose Suite.. 

CRC Improvers

Before I start, I just want to put a little note in here for any of the CRC Improvers who might be reading this.  If you’ve completed the beginners course you may be wondering where this could all lead and what you are capable of. You may think that 13.1 miles seems way out of reach, but just remember when you first started running 1 minute, resting 90 seconds x 8, you probably wondered how you would ever get to being able to run for 30 minutes without a break.  But you did it.  A little bit at a time. And that’s exactly how you build up to 10k, Half Marathon (13.1 miles) and beyond.

Cheryl is a perfect example. Just over 2 years ago, she didn’t think she could run. At all.  But in 2014, she joined the beginners course and she has now run a half marathon!  Her training is all recorded in this blog (among other stuff) so if you want to see how a beginner can progress, you might like to scroll back and have a quick look.  It might be a bit too much to try to read it all (I don’t half bang on once I get going) but a quick glance at some of the pictures and smiley faces will tell you a lot.  I would bet you’ll be inspired and if you begin to sow that little seed of ‘could I do that?’ you can be sure you’ll get all the support you could wish for from your CRC buddies – not least from Cheryl. Now she’s seen what she can do, she’s very keen to encourage others.

Extra Support

Photo by Rach
We've been accompanied on some of Cheryl’s HM training runs by a number of Caistor Running Club (CRC) buddies which has given extra support as well as adding variety to the long runs.  Rachel was one of the regulars and has can now run quite fast, but suffered an injury a few weeks ago and there was a doubt over whether she’d run this race at all.  However, as it’s her first HM too she decided to give it a go and run with us.  Just a few days before the race, I was talking to Jo-mo and she revealed to me that she entered NLHM last minute with a view to running with Cheryl to offer more support.  She’s not been very well so even a few days before, there was doubt as to whether she’d run so she told me not to mention it to Cheryl until the day.  I was really pleased to have them both on board; despite having done several training sessions to prepare for my Dukeries 30 on Saturday followed by HM Sunday, I wasn’t sure whether I’d be tired or just not as up-beat as I’d want to be if I was aching or fatigue.  With others along for the ride, I knew that there would be plenty of chat and encouragement for Cheryl.

Photo by Rach

Messages for the Day

In the week before the race, I canvassed some of Cheryl’s family for messages that I could jot down on a piece of paper to pull out of my pocket and read to her at any points along the way if a little extra inspiration or encouragement was needed.  In the event, they were mostly too emotive for me to read out in a race, but I passed them on afterwards..... except the one from her husband, Baz, which I thought was best delivered direct.

Early Morning Panic and Reassurance

I woke up at 4am on the day of the HM and got out of bed for the loo.  Aaagh – ouch – ooooh.  The bathroom is next door to my bedroom but it took ages to get there. Everything ached. My quads were throbbing, my calves were tight, my feet were hot.  I even ached around my upper rib cage.  I can’t say that doubt really set in because I’ve always been committed to run with Cheryl and only a proper injury would stop me, but I did start to wonder how I was going to persuade my legs to do another 13.1 miles today after 30.9 the day before!  I gave myself a good talking to, but I didn’t get back to sleep from that point onwards. I kept up the positive self-talk and on the drive to Scunthorpe, messaged Mike asking for any final hints and tips on how to sort my legs out. Reassuringly he reported that he too was aching (he had run the Dukeries 40 miles) to the point where he’d woken up for the loo and decided it wasn’t urgent enough to tolerate the pain it would cause!  He reassured me that I’d be fine and reminded me that I’m likely to struggle for the first 2 or 3 miles but just take it steady and I’ll get into a rhythm.

Cheryl was quite quiet on the way to Scunthorpe.  She had been very emotional for a few days as she started to receive lots of good luck messages and as the money had continued to roll in on her Just Giving page for the Pink Rose Suite at  Diana Princess of Wales Hospital.  The emotion came to a head when she saw me come in at the end of Dukeries.  I’d told her that only injury would stop me from running the HM with her, so I was very keen to tell her quickly that I’d come out of it OK!  On the day, she had a mixture of excitement and nerves, which I think is pretty healthy. I kept reminding her that she’s done all the hard work, the training is in the bag, she’s practiced her fuel strategy, now all she had to do was get out there and run the thing.

At the Stadium

We arrived at the stadium in good time and got into the loo queue.  I realised at that point that I’d forgotten my gels. I knew there would be some for sale in the race HQ, but that was upstairs at the stadium. Yep. Quite a long flight of stairs. I would have to go up (= slight discomfort) and then down (= agony). I decided to give it a miss. I’ve run HM without gels before – I didn’t even know about gels until I’d already done 4 HMs.  I had 2 bottles of home made sports drink with me and remembered that they have jelly babies on the route so I figured I’d be fine.

We soon started to meet up with other CRC runners and quickly hooked up with Rachel.  Then I saw Jo mo!  There she was in her running gear, ready to go. On her number, she’d written, ‘I’m with Cheryl’.  She explained to Cheryl that she was going to run with us too.  I felt really emotional at that.  How lovely our CRC friends are.

We’re doing it – we’re running  a half marathon.

Photo by Rach
We headed off down to the start line, which is a 10 minute walk – we walked quite briskly to warm up and when we reached the start area there was just time to wish everyone else a final ‘good luck’ and very quickly the start hooter went off.  A quick ‘conflab’ about when to start the Garmins, a brief walk before breaking into a trot just as we crossed the timing mats, Garmins were started and we were off.

We planned to set off nice and steady, but as often happens in the excitement of a race, we went off slightly too quick and adjusted pace once we settled.  I’m in miles, but Jo-mo has her phone set to km and a voice reads out the pace of the last km and previous km. This was helpful in keeping us consistent.  Rach announced that she was going to take photos at every mile – I welcomed this as it was another little distraction and mile marker.

Cheryl looked relaxed as soon as we got running.  We chatted about the training and about Lincoln and how she didn’t need to push herself to do that kind of pace today, it’s just about covering the distance. 

We were treated to our first ‘John Rainsforth’ moment at about 1½ miles and I love this picture (below) of us all looking really fresh.  I think Cheryl and Rach and Jo-mo were genuinely feeling fresh at that point .... as for me, I can always blag it for the camera. I particularly like that Cheryl and I are in our charity T-shirts and we’re with Jo and Rach in their CRC colours. We look great together.

Photo by John Rainsforth.
Hot, hot, hot!

Ask Cheryl what kind of weather she prefers to run in and she’ll tell you, cool, not too windy, overcast and don’t mind a bit of rain.  Today, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, it was very sunny and we were soon baking hot.

I have to say that the NLHM, run by Tape2Tape is one of the best organised HMs I’ve run and they really looked after us in terms of water stations and this year, a sponge station.  Just what we needed to try to cool off as well as breaking the run up a bit.

I was so pleased with how everything went.  For myself, Mike was right; after the first few miles, I was feeling much more like I’d get around OK and my legs just got into robot-mode.  Rach wasn’t having any trouble with her injury, Jo-mo, although a little unsure of herself, seemed to feel somewhat better after she and I ‘used the facilities’ along the way!  And Cheryl did brilliantly – there was absolutely no need to get the axe out – she just got a lovely rhythm going and cracked on with it.  She was hot and every time I asked if she was ok, she said she was fine, but just hot.  We all made sure we kept well hydrated, Cheryl used her shot-bloks before feeling she needed them as advised by Sarah. I took full advantage of the jelly baby stations - I was probably on the edge of greedy if the truth be told!

Photo by Rach
I think it was at about mile 10-ish that I started to pass on some of the family messages – Nicki, Cheryl’s sister, had sent a message to say,  think of all the women you are helping who are having treatment at the Pink Rose Suite. Also, to think of her little nephews who would be there for her at the finish line.  Unfortunately this just made her too emotional, so I abandoned that idea, except for the message from her mum; “Ooh Cheryl what do you want to go and run all that way for?”  That made us giggle!

With about 5k to go, Jo-mo announced that she was sure she was going to do it now! She’d set off with a view to seeing how far she got, but if she felt ill. Was going to either stop or just slow down and get back in her own time.  She had urged me before we set off, that if that happened, we were to carry on.  I was delighted to hear that at that point she gained a sudden certainty that she would do it.

From my point of view the miles seemed to pass by really quickly just as they had done the day before.  There’s the value of running with friends.  Before we knew it we were coming into the last long straight on the way to the stadium. This is about 1½ miles and for me, the least pleasant part of the race.  It’s on a main road, partly coned off from the traffic, but with one carriageway open,  it is very noisy.  Luckily there were more marshals on this section than I remember from previous years and despite them having been out on the course all morning, they were cheerful and encouraging.

Another fab photo by John Rainsforth.
Photo by John Rainsforth
As we came down that last straight, Jo-mo wasn’t feeling so good.  Just exhausted really. Although she was tiring, she kept pushing on and there was no way I was leaving her side at that point. She was such a star coming along to support Cheryl and with only a short distance to go, I just wanted us all in that stadium together.  Cheryl and Rach were just a few yards in front of us along the straight and I could see they were OK; not much chat going on, but I could just tell they’d got it nailed.

Fabulous Welcome into the Stadium

Check this out - Cheryl is out-show-boating me here! I have taught you well!
We entered the stadium together and the sea of blue that is the CRC supporters and fast-finishers and Robey the Panda greeted us bold and bright in one corner.  Wow.  A massive cheer went up and I could hear people shouting Cheryl’s name in particular.  Jo managed a little twirl despite feeling pretty rubbish at that point and I high-fived Robey the Panda. 

Thanks Laura for these Photographs of our finish.

Amazing you ladies. What a great finish!

Thanks CRC friends for flagging these up to me when I couldn't find the pic I was looking for.

Cheryl looked giddy with excitement by this point and she had got a sprint on, buoyed along by seeing husband Baz, daughter Katie, sister and brother in law, Nicki and Dave and their boys, and friend (CRC Improver) Suzanne and her partner.   I could hear her supporters shouting her on and then heard Katie shouting me for a photo.  I felt elated.   Rach was with Cheryl and they turned to see if Jo and I were going to get to them to cross the finish together, but I waved them on and we came across as two magnificent pairs – a pink one and a CRC one in each pair.

There we go - We did it. Thanks for the photo Laura
Once we’d all caught our breath, checked everyone was ok, had a group hug we headed off to pick up our goodie bags, medals and T-shirts.

T-shirts that fit, medals and Frankie and Benny's Muffins.
You have to hand it to Neil and Nicola (Tape2Tape), they know how to reward their finishers!

Time? Goals?

Unlike the Lincoln 10k, Cheryl hadn’t set any goals (unless there were secret goals she hadn’t told me about) other than to finish.  13.1 miles is not to be sniffed at and I remember my first HM – really just to complete it is an achievement.  In my mind, I had had a little guess at Cheryl’s time.  I sort of thought, take her Lincoln 10k time, double it, add another 10-12 mins for the extra mile and add another 10 minutes because you can’t expect to sustain your 10k pace for HM distance.  My guess came out at 02:40 / 02:45.  Forgive my smugness at being right – she finished in a very respectable time of 02:41:18.  I couldn’t be more proud. So pleased for my BFF, who has gone from struggling to run for a minute, to managing to run 13.1 miles. 

I was so made up for Cheryl, that it didn’t quite register with me that my achievement this weekend wasn't too shabby either, until I got with my CRC friends and was getting congratulated as much as Cheryl!  44 miles in 2 days. 

And then we went to the pub.

I think the smile says it all.

Prosecco in one hand, lager in the other. That's a balanced diet!

Recovery and more Celebrations.

At the point that I first found out that NLHM was going to be the day after Dukeries, I asked Cheryl if I could spend Monday in her hot tub.  And I did.  But more than that.  Cheryl invited Rachel and Sarah too (and Jo-Mo, but she was unable to come due to work) and we had bubbles in the tub, more sharing memories and celebrating.  Of course, the talk turned to what is next and it looks like Cheryl's next HM will be Worksop HM (unless she happen to be on holiday).  Should be a good one for her - the end of October, so it should be cooler.

Wearing our finishers's T-shirts, Vests and Medals for hot tub celebrations.

Rach forgot her sun glasses! No one forgot the prosecco glasses!

Well deserved chill out in the hot-tub .....(AKA the slow cooker)

Dynamic Duo - 2/5 of the Dukeries Fantastic Five

Prosecco streak!
I'd just like to say a final thank you to all who have supported and advised and shared in Cheryl's journey to 13.1 miles.  Also, thank you for the generous donations to the Pink Rose Suite.  I am not sure of the total raised as there have been some cash donations, but at the last update, she has raised over £200 (inc gift aid) on her Just Giving page.  I suspect the final total could crack £300.

Thank you again for your kindness and generosity.

2 days, 2 races, 44 miles, 2 medals, 1 vest, 1 t-shirt = Very Happy Fran

And I can't help feeling a little bit smug too.
At some point, I need to write briefly about how the
Smugfuckers brooch came into being..

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