Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10K, 3 September 2016

What: 10K

Where: London, UK (course map*) aka, my first international race!

*This wasn’t the exact course we ended up running, due to another event being set up for later in the day. We ended up going down by the stadium on the “Old River Path” a few times.

Who: Just me, with moral support from Drew

Time: 1:17:49

Splits: none, because Simon failed me, losing all memory of the race as soon as I paused him at the end. Boo.

Note: This recap is way overdue. Please see my last post for excuses!

Background

You may be asking, “What the heck were you doing running a race this far afield? London??” That is a good question, observant reader(s). A few days prior to this race, I was attending a conference for work in Wembley…

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Quick pause for a Wembley Stadium selfie!

Having attempted to run an international race a few years back but being thwarted by a race cancellation, I really wanted to fit one in this time around. However, I didn’t want to take over an entire day of sightseeing or what-have-you just so I could get some foreign bling, plus I wasn’t sure how ever-more-pregnant me would handle a 10K. I figured I’d see how Beach 2 Beacon went, and would decide then. Since B2B went quite well, and with Drew’s supportive “you never know when you’ll get another chance to run a race in London… go for it” in my head, I searched for races and landed on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10km Series.

The race sounded pretty cool – running around a park where Olympians roamed four years ago?? – and came with bling and a goody bag, so I was won over pretty easily. I signed up, found a hotel close to the Overground which would allow for easy transit to the race, and eagerly awaited the big day.

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A view of (part of) Olympic Park

Pre-race

After I carboloaded with some tasty ramen the night before, race day dawned not-so-bright and early. I was pleased with the overcast sky that looked like it would spit rain at any moment… at home it was still in the high 80s and I had been looking forward to cool race weather!

Drew and I hopped on the Overground and made our way to Hackney Wick, then strolled to and through Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. We had stayed nearby a few years ago, when the park was still at the early stages of reconstruction, so it was fun to see all the work that had been done since. We had the ArcelorMittal Orbit (the weird reddish tower in the above photo) as a homing beacon, and it led us to the race start area and packet pickup. Pickup was super easy and quick, and I spent the rest of pre-race time trying to both stay warm and poke my own pin holes through the bib, which didn’t come with any pre-made.

After a very half-hearted warmup on my part, a man with a megaphone (who shall henceforth be referred to as Megaphone Man) started strolling through the crowd of runners, reminding us all to double-knot our laces and treating us to witty banter in a Cockney accent. He then led us all in a group warm-up:

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(Note the not-so-overcast sky in those pictures… I was beginning to regret not bringing a hat or sunglasses at this point.)

After some butt-kicks and jumping jacks and sky punches, we made our way over to the 2012 Walk, where the start/finish line was. It was nice and shaded, and looked charming, and I had hope in my heart that it would be a lovely race:

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The start from Drew’s point of view…

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…and from my point of view at the back

The race

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Drew caught a picture of a bunch of charity runners dressed as monkeys

I wanted so badly to take off with most of the rest of the pack when the starting gun went, but I forced myself to hang back and take it easy. Though B2B had gone well, a month had passed since that race, and I was now carrying more baby weight and was unsure of how my body would handle running 10k.

The first little portion of the race was decent – down the shady flat path, marveling at the fact that I was actually running a race in another country – and both Drew and the race photographer caught me looking chuffed to be running:

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Photo: Drew

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Photo: Basil Thornton

Not long after those smiley pictures, however, things went downhill. It was hot. And sunny. I was thoroughly unprepared for hot and sunny. I hadn’t hydrated enough (surprise!), hadn’t brought water like almost everyone else had, and hadn’t brought sunglasses or a hat, so I was squinty and worried about sunburn. Plus, I was really feeling the extra baby weight. Things were more jiggly and, as a result, quite sore, and I also got out of breath very quickly. I had to stop to walk before the first mile clicked by.

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Stopping to walk meant I could take pictures!

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And then I started to run so I could take a running selfie. I was all ready to be done!

The course was mostly exposed to direct sun, so I was hot and red and sweaty and unhappy pretty quickly. There were also more hills than expected; the race description mentioned “slight undulations” but we had to scale some steep ramps to get onto bridges, and our detour included more hills than the usual route. I walked a lot, more than usual (with my midwife’s “listen to your body, stop whenever you get any pain” echoing in my head), and found myself soon getting lapped by the lead runners.

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About to get lapped by fast people

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Trying to muster a smile for Drew

Right after the above picture was taken, the course took us past a huge crowd of cheering people. Drew later told me that Megaphone Man had rallied a bunch of random passersby together so that we could have a cheering section! That was a fun little surprise.

The first water stop wasn’t too long after, and I savored my drink as I took a slow walk break in the shade. I had two laps to go, and I was mentally and physically done already. I strongly considered stopping, since I knew Drew was close by, but then I thought of the finisher’s medal and how I didn’t want to have my first international race also be my first DNF. So I soldiered on.

I started to hate the scenery. Three laps of the same thing gets very old when you no longer want to be running, no matter where you are. I kept taking frequent walk breaks, pausing every now and then to shove a Percy Pig – my chosen fuel – in my gob. (While tasty, those little suckers are hard to chew while walking, let alone running! I missed my Honey Stingers.)

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Struggling up a hill on the last lap

Two of the course marshals helped me carry on – one saw me struggling during the first lap and yelled out encouragement, then remembered me on subsequent laps and kept saying awesome things to me. The other saw the Shamrock on my singlet and said things as I struggled past, but her Irish accent was so thick I couldn’t make out her words! They sounded friendly though, and I like to think she was looking out for me especially because of the Shamrock. Seeing Drew at the end of each lap was a huge help too!

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Struggling up the last hill!

I can’t even express how happy I was to crest that final hill, knowing the finish line was close! I considered trying for a sprint finish, but the worrywart in the back of my head didn’t want to overdo it.

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Nearing the finish!

And then Megaphone Man appeared. I was a little ways behind the lady in front of me, and as he saw the two of us approaching, he started yelling that we should “make it a race!” and have a photo finish. The other lady had earbuds in and didn’t speed up at all, despite his goading her:

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Megaphoning into her ear

So he turned his megaphone on me and started shouting encouragement, urging me to beat the lady in red. So I thought, what the heck? I enjoy the first picture in this next series (all courtesy of Basil Thornton), because you can see the exact moment I tried to kick it up a notch – arms flailing and goofy look on my face:

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Clearly I didn’t beat the lady in red (she was going just a little too fast for me to catch up, though I did get close!), but I did manage to remember what Megaphone Man told us all we had to do at the finish – put our hands up. He joked that results wouldn’t count if our hands weren’t up, and that made looking through the race photos pretty fun – almost everyone has their hands up!

I made a bee-line for the water table, sucked down a couple cups’ worth (I was one of the last finishers, so didn’t think taking multiple cups was bad), and then stumbled off to get my goody bag and bling.

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So red, so sweaty, so tired… so happy to be done

I then made Drew hang out for a bit so I could hop up on the podium they had set up. Clearly I hadn’t won anything, but other people were leaping up for photo opportunities and I decided it would probably be the only time I’d have a podium picture, so darnit, I was going to make it happen:

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I can almost safely say that I was indeed the first place preggers American!

Mission accomplished, we set off for Stratford tube station, making a quick stop at Marks and Spencers so I could get some food to refuel (the recovery drink in the goody bag had sucralose in it – boo!). I got some interesting looks as I stood in the corner of the mall between M&S and the tube station, sweaty and wearing tiny shorts while pounding a milky coffee beverage and shoving chocolate in my face, but whatever – I had just finished my first international race despite really wanting to DNF, and was enjoying my runner’s high.

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Bling

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Goody bag contents

In the end, I’m so happy I opted to run a race while in London, even if I had been cursing myself while running the thing. I may have finished 313th out of 327 runners (91st out of 99 ladies), but I finished! And, once the runner’s high kicked in and my body forgot about the pain and exhaustion, I realized I’d even had a bit of fun too. It was a cool experience to run through an Olympic park, let alone experiencing an international race for the first time, and it will be fun to tell my wee running buddy about it someday πŸ™‚

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An Apologetic Travel Post

Oh hello there. I’m guilty (once again) of neglecting my blog, and I apologize (once again) for the radio silence! If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen a recent collage of travel photos… I offer you more now as an apology and a distraction from my pathetic-of-late running life.

Not much exciting – or anything at all, actually – has been going on with me running-wise for nearly a month, and this past week was spent doing a lot of catch-up and a lot of sleeping after I spent the previous week in the UK for a conference and a bit of collateral sightseeing with Drew, who was able to tag along.

The conference was in Dundee, Scotland, a city I had never visited before. And while the conference was fantastic and engaging and gave me a lot to think about as well as a rekindled enthusiasm for my chosen career, I was disappointed that we had scheduled our trip in such a way that didn’t leave a lot of time for exploring the city. We did a bit of wandering in the mornings to find coffee and Greggs:

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And I nipped out at lunch one of the days to get pies from Clark’s, a Dundee bakery, after being scolded by fellow conference delegates for my puzzling Greggs love:

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We squeezed our two days in Dundee between one day each in Edinburgh and Glasgow, doing touristy things like gawking at Edinburgh Castle:

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And eating haggis with neeps and tatties:

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And enjoying the Duke of Wellington’s jaunty traffic cone hat:

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And checking out the sweet view from the top of the Glasgow Necropolis:

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We saw some nice views from the train as we trundled around Scotland, like this picturesque glimpse of Perth:

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After a too-short whirlwind of Scotland, we flew down to London for a few days. When I found out I was being sent to the conference in Dundee, Drew checked the schedule for the soccer/football team we support, and as luck would have it, they had a home match for the following weekend. As even more luck would have it, we somehow managed to get tickets to the match, so on Sunday we found ourselves at White Hart Lane in Tottenham:

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…where we watched our club beat Manchester United at home for the first time since 2001. That was pretty cool.

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We also took a day trip to Oxford, and visited my favorite library, the one that made me decide to become a librarian all those years ago:

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We did some touristy things, like poke our noses into the quads of some colleges and eat lunch in the Covered Market:

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We also did something a bit out of the ordinary – we visited C.S. Lewis’s house, The Kilns, and had tea in his study:

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A friend of mine is living there right now, and kindly had us over for tea, a little tour, and some Turkish Delight. It was a bit surreal, and very cool.

And so, a flight home and a few days of jet lag later and here I am. When I last left you, I had homework from my running clinic – breathing exercises and band walks – as well as an interval plan to get me running again. Have I done any of that? Of course not. (Raise your hand if you’re surprised!)

After my last post, I spent the days leading up to this trip running around like crazy to get things sorted at work and ready for travel, and I’ve been so tired on this flip side that I’ve been severely unmotivated, even more so than usual. And, after all the pies I ate, that is very unfortunate, as I could use some exercise right about now! (Thankfully we walked many, many miles during the trip, so my GetFit numbers didn’t plummet pathetically.)

Tomorrow, however, is a new day. It is also the day before the Boston Marathon. And so, in the spirit of the race and the atmosphere that settles onto the city on this weekend every year, I’m going to makes my glorious return to running then. I’m guessing it won’t be pretty, but it will happen. I’m sure I’ll let you know how it goes πŸ™‚

How have you been these last few weeks?

Ever been to Scotland?

Will you follow the Marathon at all on Monday?

Random, Happy Things Friday

Today has been gray, rainy, and gloomy, so I thought a list of happy things might cheer me up a bit! So without further ado, here are some of the things that have been making me smile lately:

  • The Shammies had a cookout last night, and it was my first time hanging out with the club since April 1, when I injured my ankle. I hadn’t realized just how much I missed them until I was back among them last night! We gathered at a local Irish-American club for some burgers, dogs, and beers (or, in my case, a plastic cup of rum with a tiny splash of Coke) and it was so nice to chat with my run-club buddies again. I met some new people too, including a guy who commutes on my bus with me every morning and we always give each other that “I think I know you…?!” glance. Now we know why we look vaguely familiar to each other! (And this morning we exchanged hearty hellos instead of awkward glances!) There were some guys from a local running store there too, and I ordered some cool running shorts that will match my run-club singlet. Yay kit! I’m curious to check out their store one of these days too.
I signed up to bring macaroni salad to the cookout... turned out several other people did too!

I signed up to bring macaroni salad to the cookout… turned out several other people did too! (I was hoping to take lots of pictures of Shammie-good-times but the lighting in the club was terrible and I didn’t want to be the weird girl taking pictures of everyone. Ah well.)

  • Related to the cookout, the Irish-American club smelled just the way my grandparents’ cellar did when I was a kid… stale cigarettes and old-man cologne/aftershave. While I didn’t enjoy leaving smelling like smoke, the memory did make me feel cozy.
  • My running buddy Colin is back from his overseas travels! Huzzah!! I’ve definitely loved running with Drew while Colin’s been away and exploring new trails with him, and I’m looking forward to keeping him as my trail-and-track running buddy, but I’m excited to run with Colin along the new routes through the city he mapped out while I was injured, and to have my road race running buddy back!
  • The World Cup!! I’ve been missing watching soccer on weekend mornings ever since the Premier League season ended, and I’m excited to binge-watch for a month. I’ve started decorating my cube at work:
Come on England!

Come on England!

…and I’ve decorated my nails like I did for the last 2 World Cups:

I had forgotten how hard it is to paint the nails on my right hand... I'm not left-handed at all!

I had forgotten how hard it is to paint the nails on my right hand… I’m not left-handed at all!

My boss is the only other person at work who cares about the World Cup at all, and we’ve talked about sneaking away for a lunch “meeting” to watch a match. I hope that happens!

I was lucky enough to be in England right before both of the last two World Cups, and I miss all the excitement and flags and fun-flavored crisps and silly swag covered in St. George’s cross that came with it. I live in a hockey-centric city that’s still bummed out that the Bruins didn’t make the finals, and in a country that – while getting much more excited about soccer than it used to – doesn’t really go all-out for the World Cup. I’m okay with having to make my own excitement around the event, but it would be nice to have all the fun stuff that goes along with it everywhere else in the world. Someday?

  • Candlepin bowling for morale day at work!
I'm the one at the back being goofy.

I’m the one at the back being goofy.

Hard not to smile when you get to leave work at 11.30, travel in a pack to a local bowling alley, eat delicious pizza, drink cider, bowl like a fool, and then go home at 2. My kind of day!

Happy weekend everyone!

What’s been making you happy this week?