Back on Track!

After my epic fail at the Foots Cray Meadows 10k earlier in the month, I wasn’t too sure what would happen at Sunday’s Morrisons Great Newham London Run (bit of a mouthful).  This is the event formerly known as the “National Lottery’s Anniversary Run” but which has now been brought under the umbrella of the Great Run series.  It’s also been extended from 8k to 10k.  I took part in its original format in both 2013 and 2014 and my run report from last year’s event can be found here, and having reread it, I did have a bit of a bee in my bonnet when I wrote that! 😉

The “cunning plan” is definitely showing signs of becoming a bit too successful.  If I’m not too careful, I’ll be sooo relaxed in September, I might just forget to turn up on the start line!  I started off the weekend with an overnight trip to Camber to visit a holidaying friend and my “have to leave in the morning” stretched to “around lunch time” and after a “do I have to go”, I eventually departed mid afternoon!  Historically I wouldn’t have dreamed of being so far from home the day before a run, let alone spending the morning jumping around in the waves and then laughing at all those townies doing their King Canute impressions.  For the uninformed, the tide at Camber goes out a very, very, very long way and watching people set up windbreaks close to the water’s edge at low tide can be very amusing!

Anyway, I digress!  The forecast for Sunday morning was cool and showery with sun expected late morning/lunch time.  Well the forecasters were a few hours out!  It rained ever so slightly before I left home but by the time we arrived at Stratford, the skies were blue and the heat tempered just a bit by a cool breeze.

Having my brother and nephew there for support meant I didn’t have to worry about using the baggage area so while they went off to explore the park, I got my priorities right and joined the not too long toilet queue.   Then I meandered around the assembly area taking photos and soaking up the atmosphere before thinking perhaps I’d better join that queue again – it was much longer by this time!  Announcements to start gathering in starting pens seemed to go unheeded, well we didn’t have a lot of choice really if we wanted to be “comfortable” on our run!

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I eventually went to wait patiently in my “white wave” pen only to suddenly realise I was actually in the “pink wave” area, I blame it on my sunglasses and the pale nature of the pink!  So having extricated myself from there and hastily finding the correct pen, I found myself at the bottom of the Orbit with a perfect view of the “warm up” man.  Most of us joined in with the obligatory squats, arm waving and stretching.  There was a short ten minute or so delay in the start but eventually Paula Radcliffe sent the first wave on their way and then it was time for my wave to move forward, ready for our turn.

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While waiting, I saw Paula walk past with an aide “so she’s not starting us all off then” I thought!  No, we got Brendan Foster 😉 Only appropriate as the founder of Nova International which organises lots of mass participation sports events, including the Great Runs.  I loved his final words of advice for us runners, “start off slow and then get slower”!  Sensible words in view of the rising temperatures.

The route was out passed the Aquatics Centre, around the outer perimeter towards the Copper Box and Velodrome, before heading back towards the Stadium and running under the stands to emerge out on to the track for the final 300m.  My memories of the course suggested to me that once we’d got over a hilly stretch at the start, the rest of the course would be fairly flat.  Boy, did my memories get it wrong!  Every time I thought “it’s going to be downhill after this one”, I’d get to the top and any enjoyment at the downhill bit was ruined by the sight of another slope up ahead.  But I persevered and wherever possible kept to the shady parts of the route, it was getting hotter and hotter by the minute.

There were musical interludes around the course to encourage us on our way.  Audible groan moments?  Not long after the start we were subjected to “Let It Go”, I’m assuming the joke was the fact it’s from the film “Frozen” and it was a hot July day!  Then in the second half we had The Proclaimers with, yes, you’ve guessed it “I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)”.  That’s enough to make anyone run faster!  And then, perhaps predictably, as we ran under the stadium towards the finish we were greeted by the Chariots of Fire theme!

During my other runs here, much of the park has been a building site which meant spectator access was limited and therefore support en route was severely lacking.  Although there’s still a lot of building work going on, much more of the park is open to visitors so there was a bit more vocal encouragement on the way around.  But the wall of sound when you emerge into the stadium is overwhelming.  In a way it’s a bit of a shame that you can’t totally appreciate running on the track at the end of the run because you’re tired, hot and keen to finish – but I suppose it wouldn’t work at the start of the run, would it!

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Once we’d crossed the finish line we were ushered back out under the stadium where goody bags were being distributed and my first priority was to check that there was a medal in my bag after my experience in 2013 when a number of goody bags turned out to be medal-less and an uproar ensued.  Then I think I probably walked around the whole of the outside of the stadium to get back to the turnstile I needed to rendezvous with my brother and nephew back inside the stadium!

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My overall experience of the run was such that I entered for next year as soon as I got home – entry was open before the run had even finished!  I’m not sure whether the finish line will be on the stadium track again but it’s such a well organised event and it’s great to see how the park is developing.

Oh, and I managed to run the whole 10k in a good time (for me)!

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The Highs and Lows of My Running Weekend!

That was a weekend of running highs and lows!  On Saturday I took part in the inaugural Foots Cray Meadows 10k organised by PB Race Events and on Sunday I ran for the first time at Cyclorun.  So let’s start with the lows and build up to the highs!

Saturday

Five Arches Bridge

Five Arches Bridge

I’ve driven passed Foots Cray Meadows a fair number of times over the years but have never actually had occasion to visit so when this inaugural run came up in a search for local events, I decided to give it a go.

The day dawned bright and sunny and the forecast was “warm”.  We drove to the school where parking had been arranged and then followed the marshals’ advice to “go through the alley, turn right and follow the arrows”.  The pre event instructions weren’t wrong when they said it was a 15 minute walk to the registration area!  I tracked it on my Garmin on the way back – 1.5k!  There weren’t too many people around to reassure us that we were heading in the right direction and we even managed to pick up a couple of other stray runners en route.  Eventually we found the registration desk and picked up our numbers, enviously eyeing the cake stall being set out in front of us!  Hopefully there would be some left by the time we finished, especially as there was also a 5k run taking place at the same time.

Shade :-)

Shade 🙂

The start/finish area was reasonably shady so we were protected while waiting for the off.  The field was small but we set off more or less on time without much preamble and headed out across the meadows towards a small copse.  The route wavered between out in the open and in amongst the trees where some tree roots had helpfully been highlighted with purple spray.  The marshals also gave us vocal warnings where necessary of the trip hazards.

The kilometre markers started to come and go but it was getting hotter and hotter.  By the time I’d got to 3k, I was beginning to struggle and put this down partly to my pace, I’d probably gone off a bit too quick – again – but it didn’t feel quick.  It was somewhere between 3k and 4k that I started to consider pulling out at 5k!  And as the route was two laps this was feasible.  The thought of carrying on with another lap was becoming particularly daunting.  By the time I’d got just passed the 4k marker, I had to resort to walking and the last kilometre was very much run/walk.  Once I got to the finish line, that was it, no more.  I wasn’t prepared to put myself through the remainder of the course.

No shade :-(

No shade 😦

It became apparent as the run progressed that I wasn’t the only runner to pull out half way and having seen one poor man carried across the finish line where he promptly collapsed and had to be dowsed in water, I certainly didn’t regret that decision.  I subsequently discovered that St John’s Ambulance had to be called out to another poor soul out on the course.   If it had been an out and back course, maybe I would have persevered, if only because I wouldn’t have known the way back but there was an option to pull out, so I took it!

Despite this experience, I would definitely take part in the run again but hope the weather was a bit kinder.  Oh, and there was cake left – a nice piece of red velvet 🙂

A few months’ ago, I’m pretty sure I would have been gutted to have pulled out before the finish but it seemed the sensible thing to do at the time.  I’m just putting it down to experience although I’m now beginning to get concerned about the Great Newham London 10k in a couple of weeks.  That is out in the open, the chances are it could be hot again and I have a later start time!

Sunday

Due to another event, there was no junior parkrun in Gravesend this weekend so I took advantage to go along to Cyclorun, a free timed run which takes place in Cyclopark and its environs.  It’s an early start because when the track is used, it has to be cleared before the venue opens to cyclists so I don’t mind admitting it was a bit of a struggle to get up even earlier on a Sunday morning.  And it appeared I wasn’t the only one to take advantage of junior parkrun’s absence because I recognised a few faces from the volunteer core team when I arrived!

There are three distance options at Cyclorun, 5k, 7.5k and 10k.  After my disastrous run the previous day, I felt I should do more than 5k but wasn’t sure 10k would be advisable, especially as my elliptigo experiences meant I knew the track was fairly undulating and I wasn’t confident of finishing before the cut off time.

The timing process is fairly simple but it works.  When you register, you take a number and you put down what distance you plan to do.  I did enquire if I could pull out at 5k if I wanted to but it was suggested that would confuse the timers.  Okay, no get out clause there then – damn!  As it happened, the 5k runners went off in one direction and the 7.5k and 10k runners in the opposite.  The track is conveniently 2.5k long and each time you pass the start line, the time is called out.

The weather could not have been more different from the previous day.  Grey skies with threatening clouds abounded.  As the sun had been making an attempt to show its face when I left home, I’d taken my sunglasses with me but although in the end they weren’t necessary, I found it easier to wear them than carry them with me.  This meant when it started to rain, I must have looked really stupid (or more stupid than normal)!

I could say the first lap was a voyage of discovery but I had a rough idea of what was coming up, which included a sharp incline around the back of the course which had been gleefully freewheeled down on an elliptigo.

It was on this first lap that Phil, a running buddy from parkrun, decided to pace me.  Personally, I think he was trying to kill me!  He’s a much faster runner than me and knows the course well.  He sacrificed his own PB opportunities to drag me around the course and it’s probably just as well as I suspect some walking would have been involved on the last lap if I’d been on my own.

As it happened, on the second lap I was already employing parkrun strategies!  That is – “next time is the last time I’ll run this part”, followed by “less than 2k”, “less than 1.5k”, “only six minutes to go at most”, ”downhill after here”, “up that last little hill and then down to the finish line”.   Also “why am I doing this?”, “I could have been enjoying a lay in” as well as a few swear words!  These were all in my head by the way!

My finish time was 40’ 11” which I was very pleased with and I ended up setting an AGR (I think that means Age Group Record) for the distance and direction, but let’s be honest, it was only because I was the first female in my age group to do that distance in that direction!  Would I go back?  Yes, when time allows.  I have toyed in the past with running the 5k and then going on to junior parkrun but I’m still not totally convinced of the logistics for doing that.  Maybe one day I’ll give it a go.

So not an entirely successful running weekend but I live to run another day!

King’s Cross Pond Club

WP_20150701_032What do you do on the hottest day of the year (so far)?  Go for a run or go for a swim?  Well, luckily for me it was the latter.  A friend and I had both seen media coverage for King’s Cross Pond Club and we had decided to give it a go.  You do have to book in advance so we had picked our date whilst acknowledging the vagaries of the British weather.  But we do open water swimming in October/November so we can cope with our temperamental climate, can’t we!!  As it happened, we lucked out big time!

So what is King’s Cross Pond Club?  Here are a few quotes from their website which should give you the idea.

“A natural bathing pond in the heart of London”

“An art installation you can swim in”

 “the piece encourages visitors to enter the water and participate in the installation as a piece of experiential art”

“The UK’s first ever man-made fresh water public bathing pond is a piece of innovative Land Art, within a working construction site area of London’s King’s Cross. The 40m long, natural, chemical-free pond is the creation of Ooze Architects (Eva Pfannes and Sylvain Hartenberg) and artist Marjetica Potrc.”

Entitled “Of Soil and Water” “King’s Cross Pond Club is a bathing pond, in a natural oblong shape, built two metres above ground level and 10m wide x 40m long. Its central pool is surrounded by both hard and soft landscaping, including pioneer plants, wild flowers grasses, and bushes so that the environment evolves as the seasons change.”

Our session was booked for 1pm until 4pm and after meeting up with Lexi at St Pancras, we strolled across the concourse for a bit of brunch at Fortnum & Masons, completely ignoring all advice never to go swimming just after eating!  Then, following Lexi’s iPhone directions, we took a mystery tour to find Canal Reach, just off York Way, to the east of King’s Cross.  It probably took us about 15/20 minutes to find the venue where our names were efficiently ticked off the list and we were given a padlock for our locker (a caged affair out in the open so if you go on a rainy day, you might need waterproof holdalls).

The website advises there are eight changing rooms and I had envisaged your usual leisure centre style changing rooms so I could not have been more pleased to see they were actually eight individual outdoor changing rooms of the type you find at many a lido around the country.

Changing rooms & lockers

Changing rooms & lockers

Once changed into swimming costumes (I had considered taking my shortie wetsuit but the forecast told me I might look a bit stupid), we ventured to the outdoor showers – initially warm but rapidly chilly – and then climbed the stairs up to the pool area itself.

As we’d arrived just after the start of our session, there were only two other people there so we quickly bagged our loungers by territorially positioning our towels and went to suss out the pool itself.  We opted for entry via the ladder down into the deep end (2.8m) and gratefully sank into the cool waters.

I’m still struggling to be totally convinced by the 40m long claim even if that does include the natural filtration section at one end where “wetland and submerged water plants” “filter and sustain clean and clear water”.  It’s definitely not a venue for a serious training swim but as somewhere to pootle up and down on a hot day, it’s perfect.

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Natural filtration system

On the submerged wall of the deep end, there’s some form of underwater ledge where you can rest your feet while hanging over the side and from our vantage point we could see a big screen area showing the day’s matches at Wimbledon.  We weren’t close enough to see play but close enough for me to see it was a Djokovic match.  We were also able to see trains coming in and out of King’s Cross and St Pancras and that was reassuring in view of the many announcements about potential train delays due to the hot weather.  At least they were still running in and out of these termini!

Lewis Cubitt Park

Lewis Cubitt Park

We spent about 90 minutes in the pool and then chilled out on our loungers while watching other people making use of the pool.  Probably due to our weekday visit, the majority of the other swimmers were shall we say of the “older generation” but there were also families and younger people there.  The atmosphere was very relaxed and the staff must be commended on their friendly and helpful nature but they were on the ball the whole time.  They picked up on a couple of men who hadn’t bothered to shower and they were sent back with their tails between their legs.

No excuses!

No excuses!

The environment is obviously still developing and the planting has yet to get established but it does make the whole area a little oasis amidst the construction sites.  And whilst the pond was quite peaceful when we first arrived, by the time we left there were a few more swimmers around.  Even so, it never felt uncomfortably crowded.   Sessions are apparently limited to 40 people.

About as busy as it got

About as busy as it got

During our time at King’s Cross Pond Club we realized that we’d actually taken the “long route” to our destination so having briefly spent some time purveying the area from the viewing platform, we walked back through the more landscaped area of Lewis Cubitt Park, and I was sorely tempted to play in the fountains in Granary Square.

From the viewing platform

From the viewing platform

The redevelopment of an area probably more associated with its red light district can only be applauded.  The whole area is undergoing a massive makeover and with it only being a 20 minute train journey away for Lexi and I (on air conditioned trains), I can see we will be going back from time to time to see what’s happening and perhaps for a bit more “urban” swimming 😉

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