Sunday 8th May. Weather forecasted as 25 degrees. The hottest day of 2016 so far. What a fantastic day to chill in the garden with some Prosecco soaking up the sun.
Except I wasn’t doing that. Instead I was taking part in my second half marathon!
Leading up to the event; I did everything right. I got the training runs up to 11 miles, I cut down on boot camp sessions to ensure my legs were fresh for my runs and I hydrated until my body couldn’t take any more water.
The day before the event itself Run Hackney sent out a warning; due to the high temperatures coming our way participants should not expect a personal best. Now I knew I would not be hitting a PB. After my ailments this year I am still not up to strength – so simply managing to take part and complete the race was my goal.
Which is what I did. Hands down, the Hackney Half Marathon was the hardest race I have faced to date. From the get go I struggled with the heat; drinking all the water I had within the first 2 miles. It took some time to find my pace (or trot) too – which seems to be a common occurrence on race days for me. During training I have no problem, I just trot away. However; as soon as I am surrounded by thousands of runners the trot goes to pot!
That said, I managed to find a slow and gentle pace once the crowds had thinned out, slowing down to a fast walk when the heat was getting too much then back to a run.
I stayed with this walk/ run pace throughout the race. Pushing myself when I needed to and slowing down when it was a bit too much. And and times it was a bit too much. It was a really tough race.
However, it has to be one of the most enjoyable runs I have experienced. The community spirit was amazing. Every street was lined with Hackney residents drinking outside their houses and pubs and bars; offering Jelly Babies and shouting words of encouragement to all runners – not just those they knew. Around the Hackney Empire the streets were bustling. Steel drums were being played, choirs were belting out some tunes. They even went as far as connecting hoses to spray us as we went past. Such a simple thing to do, but such a welcome relief from the heat. Every runner was running through the water – myself included. The residents deserve medals themselves as their encouragement gives the run such an amazing atmosphere.
Around mile 9 I had my own cheering squad – something that I have never had at a race before. My two friends, Rachel and Charlotte, who live locally were on one of the quieter streets cheering other runners whilst waiting for me. Seeing them in the crowd was so uplifting – giving me the push I needed to keep going at that point. After taking some Jelly Babies they offered I was on my merry way again (choking back a little sob for seeing them).
The sights I saw after mile 10 were shocking and makes me thankful that I listened to the advice Run Hackney had given as well as listening to my own body. The number of runners who had passed out, receiving medical treatment from the 10th mile through to the finish was unbelievable. The majority seemed to be those who looked super fit, people you would not expect to fall were dropping like flies. St Johns Ambulance had their hands full and deserve a great deal of credit for their work that day.
When I finally made it back to the Olympic park the heat was something else. With no shade, runners were totally exposed. At this point (around mile 11-12) there were more people walking than running.
Me? I kept trotting. At every water station I made sure I took two bottles of water; one to sip from and the other went over my head. So soaked from heat to toe I got through those last difficult miles slowly and sensibly – finally passing over the finish line in 2 hours 46 minutes. 26 minutes over my previous half marathon; but after so many thought I would not be able to compete I was extremely happy with the effort.
There are not many races that I would run again; mainly due to the fact that I don’t like to know what’s coming, but the Hackney Half Marathon is definitely one I would repeat. I have already pre registered for next years event. Hoping to train hard, get my strength back to where it was at the end of 2015 and improve on my time.
With such amazing community spirit in Hackney, not running the Half Marathon next year would be missing out.
Its been one week since I took part in WAR for the second time. Hosted by Regiment Fitness this one was set in the beautiful grounds of Woodhall Estate, Hertford.
After my warm up the week before at the Gauntlet Games I was more than ready for this one. Originally I had signed up for the 20K route, but after the health issues I had this year I felt that it would be “sensible” to reduce this to the 10K – which is still challenging enough.
The event didn’t disappoint, plenty of man made and natural obstacles to conquer. More than the usual amount of rivers to get through, boggy swamps, walls, cliffs and ropes to climb – lots to keep you entertained throughout.
The spirit around the course was amazing. Lots of team work going on, with other competitors helping others they had never met before. It really shows how amazing these events can be; it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from there is always someone to give you the hand or the shove you need to get over the obstacles.
One small factor we all missed was the lack of Spectators. In previous WAR events spectators had the opportunity to see us round 70% off the course, taking plenty of embarrassing pictures en route. Due to the vast grounds at the Woodhall Estate there were not as many opportunities for loved ones this time round. And sadly the camera man didn’t picture me at my favourite obstacle – which is a shame.
That said, we still all had a great time. Its always fun when you partake in these events as a group.
If you are looking to sign up to an OCR event I would thoroughly recommend training sessions at Fit4OCR. I managed to throw myself at obstacles this time round due to the fact that I have had several training sessions with them. Thanks to Fit4OCR I am now able to complete Monkey Bars too (though as yet not at a OCR event itself).
So, that brings a little break to the OCR events for a while; with Bear Grylls scheduled for August and Commando Series in November. However I shan’t be winding down. As I write this I am constantly thinking about my training plans for the week. With Hackney Half Marathon less than a week away there is no rest for the wicked!!
Plus there is plenty to keep me occupied after Hackney too.
The show must go on after all.
Saturday 16th April saw me partake in my third event of the year, The Gauntlet Games. The first since my run in with Pneumonia.
Getting back into the swing of things in the last 8 weeks have been particularly difficult. The Gauntlet Games was a great way to pave my way back into the OCR world without causing myself any set backs or injuries.
Set in grounds in Hertfordshire the “obstacle” race was very mild in comparison to what I am used to.
With a group of Boot Camp pals; Jo, Dan and Emily, we set about the 10K course early on Saturday morning.
For those who have never participated in an obstacle event or feel nervous at the thought of entering such event I would highly recommend The Gauntlet Games. With the multitude of “bouncy”, fun obstacles participants more likely to get a face full of foam than collect “OCR Kisses”.
For some this would be spot on. For me, and those I was running with, it was not enough. When you have participated in the likes of Nuclear Races, WAR adrenaline Race or Tough Mudder this will be a walk in the park for you.
Yes, the terrain is challenging with its numerous hills and cross country running, but I needed more.
That said, it was a great way to warm myself back up. Earning myself an easy medal to add to my Bling in the process.
I may be regretting my words as the next event is fast approaching. WAR adrenaline race takes place on Saturday 23rd April.
As much as I would like to say I will be attacking this with full gusto; I still have to remember that I have to be sensible and not take risks that would cause a set back. After the scare I had I would rather skip an obstacle than do something that would effect my health.
Watch this space for photos and a run down of the event!
So, it has been some time since my last post; where I was relishing in a post race glow after the British Heart Foundation Olympic Park 10K.
Since beginning my blog I have made several mentions to the fact that, at times, training had been a struggle in 2016. Shortly after the run at the Olympic Park, I found out the reasons behind this.
A few days after the 10k I went out with training buddies Jo and Becky to attempt a pace run. From the get go I struggled to breathe; I barely uttered a word the whole way round.
During a couple more runs during the same week I had the same issues, on one in particular I experienced pains in my side – which I assumed was a stitch.
Later that night, after suffering from severe pains in my side and chest I made my way to a&e. Several hours later I was diagnosed with a Chest Infection and advised to rest. For someone who doesn’t do “rest” well; this was a challenge. However, I did as I was told. Only on the following Monday afternoon I was back in a&e after the pain became so agonising I could not breathe, stand, sit or walk without crying.
10 painful hours later I was diagnosed with Pneumonia. Both lungs had become so infected that the pain I was experiencing was a result of Pleurisy; my lungs had become so inflamed that they were pressing against the skin causing the pain and trouble breathing. Luckily as I was young, generally fit and well, I was able to be treated at home on IV antibiotics three times a day. So in other words – HOUSE ARREST. No training, no working – just Nurses and rest; which was a challenge in itself due to the Pleurisy – I could not lay down to sleep. I couldn’t attempt the stairs – so the sofa became my friend.
I ended up on house arrest for 10 days. At this stage, due to inactivity, a Chest X-ray showed that part of my lung had become deflated. So I was told to “get active” again. Immediately I thought “fantastic” – let’s go running, but quickly realised that if stairs and a simple walk round the shops was an issue then running was a long way off.
A few days later I was discharged from hospital care. I was free! So that weekend I attempted Boot Camp for the first time in weeks……Which made me realise it was going to be a long recovery.
Just over two weeks have passed since I was discharged. In this time I have had so many people lecture me and give me the “I told you so” look. Most assume that I got Pneumonia due to the fact that I train too much. This is completely incorrect. I had a cough that didn’t go away – as a result my immune system was weak and I picked up a virus which led to Pneumonia. Yes, I could have paid more attention to the way I felt leading up to being diagnosed. But, then again, I would have still assumed It was a cough I could not shake.
Am I fully recovered now? No way. I am slowly improving now that I am back at Boot Camp and running again. I still have pain In my chest if I take a deep breath and my heart rate goes through the roof when I run; which means that training for the line up of events is proving extremely difficult. Many have said “maybe you shouldn’t do this event, that event” but I don’t agree. I am still mobile – if it means I have to go at a slower pace and take longer to finish so be it. I will complete all events I have signed up for in 2016, just for now I will not expect personal bests!
I’m sure many people who have suffered with any injury will sympathise that getting back to your fittest is tough. Its frustrating. For me there have been many tears – before, during and after my diagnosis.
Not only do I have to re train my legs and my mind – but also my lungs. I have to remember my limitations and forget what the person next to me is doing. It is going to be a struggle in the coming weeks, but I will get there.
But I will not give up because winners do not quit!
So another weekend passes with another race – the British Heart Foundation Olympic Park 10k.
Training leading up to the event was fantastic. I managed two great runs that week. 7 miles on the Tuesday then 4.8 miles on the Thursday in 47 minutes. Instead of throwing myself into training the day before, I actually took advice in, had a rest day and an early night.
Typical English weather moved in on race day. It was cold, windy and wet. Waiting for the race to start was the most agonising lead up ever.
Just after 10:30 we set off. 2 laps round the Olympic Park. From the beginning I pulled back to a pace that I felt comfortable with; gentle and allowing myself to get space between the crowd of runners. It was not an easy one. What I expected to be a flat route turned out to be very undulating. We were directed up and down hills around the Velodrome within the park. Pair this with the weather conditions and we had a challenging 10k run.
As with every run there is the constant battle with mind and body. My legs were going, but my mind was saying “lets just do the one lap.” I did think about finishing at lap one. Races with laps have always been tough for me – probably due to the fact that you see the nice big FINISH line and then think “crap, I have to do that again.” You also know exactly what’s coming. I find that with these races the battle continues all the way to the finish.
But finish I did. My eyes were streaming from the wind, getting a breath was difficult but I pushed through. I got to the home straight and opened up my stride.
Finishing in 55:06 according to my fitbit, which I still don’t quite believe. But I will damn well take it. As a runner you are constantly learning. With this race in particular I have learnt that you cannot compare your time from race to race. No two are the same. Every race, every terrain and every performance will be different. All you can do is keep training hard, keep putting in the effort, keep moving forward.
Accept the days when running seems impossible. The days when it is effortless, just welcome them with open arms.
With no scheduled races until April, I am going to keep pushing through, keep working on my pace and try to believe in myself a little more.
So, today I completed the London Winter Run Series – 10K.
I have run many 10k races in the last few years, all of which were more challenging than this. However, as many people will know, no matter how many races you have run If you wake up knowing you are “not feeling it” the chances are you will have a bad run.
Today that was exactly what happened to me.
After one month of a chronic cough (which I have chosen to ignore) and restless sleep I woke up this morning over tired and in panic.
All runners, no matter how experienced, will want to constantly beat their best time and have a good race.
From the get go, I was trying to open my stride and make my legs move. No matter how much my mind tried to talk to them, they were having none of it. My legs were dead weights. Heavy and unwilling to move out of the snail pace they were moving at.
The atmosphere around me didn’t help. It was a typical cold, rainy afternoon in London – not that the cold bothered me. My main problem was the number of people at the event. 15,000 runners according to Cancer research.
I had never competed in an event as large as this, mainly sticking to local 10k running events where you have the community spirit and cheer.
The first 15 minutes was full of people barging past; the “competitive runners” trying to get past the steady runner (like myself) knocking into me or running through puddles, regardless of who they were effecting behind.
It didn’t improve much on the way round. My head was constantly arguing with my legs. And i kept thinking “I have run a half marathon – why am I finding this so hard?”
The moral of the story is, no matter how hard you train you DO NOT know how you are going to feel on race day.
All I can advise is don’t let you legs stop, keep going (no matter how fast/slow). You will get the the finish line and there will be someone waiting for you.
Today, as I approached the finish line I spotted one of my Bestie’s Jo, Sarah and Richard waiting for me. I got through the course breathing fine but as soon as I saw them – became a complete wreck. The course was tough for me, but seeing them was a lot tougher.
People often say to me, you are so fit, you are tough. NO! This is not the case! As today has shown, I have weak moments as everyone else. I am human, I sometimes find the simplest race challenging. The difference is, I pick myself up (drink several bottles of Prosecco) and I look towards the next race.
DO THE SAME!
So where do I begin?
I suppose I should start with the small decision that changed my life nearly two years ago.
At the beginning of 2014 I was the regular gym goer. Always at the gym, doing the same thing, always bored. Even though I had been a member of Virgin Active for many many years I had never got to know anyone there, so it was a very lonely place.
I discovered Regiment Fitness by accident. Due to the nature of my job at Red Letter Days I am signed up for numerous “deals” and voucher code newsletters. On one occasion in particular I was browsing Amazon Local (who since late 2015 stopped selling deals) and saw a “Boot Camp” offer. So I had a read to discover that Regiment Fitness ran outdoor boot camps in my local area. I signed up for the deal.
That Sunday, the most depressing rainy Sunday ever, I rocked up at the Town Park with my voucher and had my first taster session, which was taken by Steve Nodwell – one of Regiment Fitness’s owners.
My mind was blown! I worked so damn hard, in the rain, but I came away smiling. The next day I cancelled my membership with Virgin Active and became a proud member of Regiment Fitness.
Nothing has stopped me since.
Before joining I didn’t really know anyone in the local area, only people I knew through my Boyfriend Ross. Becoming a member to Regiment Fitness opened up a whole new world.
Within a month I had a whole new circle of friends who were up for new challenges like me. No doubt in blogs to come you will hear all about my new found FitFam, who are equally crazy when it comes to fitness and training as me.
So my fitness journey had a new lease of life!
However, it wasn’t until the beginning of 2015 that it really started to crank up a gear. Having a new group of friends with the same interests means that you often spur each other on, take on new challenges and generally find you cannot say no.
The worst for this are a few members of the Reg Fit family, and two of the many friends who mean the world to me, Jo and Richard. The three of us are such bad influence on each other, all one has to do is send a link to a race or adrenaline challenge. Guaranteed within five minutes the other two will have signed up without a second thought.
Which brings me to the crazy year I had in 2015 and the reason as to why I was encouraged to start my own blog. Once I finished one challenge I had to do more.
The first challenge was WAR Adrenaline race. A 10k obstacle race that’s run by Regiment Fitness. I didn’t know what to expect. I had run a couple of 10k races before and hated them. I got swept into the excitement and signed up anyway. It was a challenge after all and I needed to push myself. As a team we threw ourselves at obstacles with gusto. There was mud, water, blood, sweat and I think maybe a few tears.
As soon as I finished I said “never again” – until later that day. When I had finally warmed up and was admiring my collection of bruises (later to be known as OCR kisses) Jo sent me a link for another obstacle race, Nuclear Fallout. High on adrenaline I signed up and the rest they say is history.
I signed up to many events following this one. Which prompted me to send Regiment Fitness my “Members Story” which got published on their own Blog http://www.regimentfitness.co.uk/member-story/gemma-crozier/
The Hatfield Broad Oak 10k Road Race followed WAR in May, mild in comparison but still equally as challenging.
Merely a few weeks later I was off again. This time Climbing Snowdon with Vickie, Aimee and Natalie. It was a challenge that was harder than you would expect, especially at the summit.
After the dizzy heights of Snowdon I went on to complete the Willow Warrior Run with colleagues from Red Letter Days, Pretty Muddy 5K, Epping 10K, a 10 Mile Bergen Run, GR8 10K and Essex Colour Run.
Willow Warrior 10k
By this point I only had Nuclear Fallout scheduled for November. Not satisfied with the number of challenges I had already completed and wondering what I was going to do with my spare time, I signed up for more.
I joined a team of 3 men from our local Regiment Fitness area to take part in a 24 hour boot camp, which deserves a Blog post on its own.
But I didn’t stop there. I decided this would be a great time to sign up for my first ever Half Marathon.
After hours and miles of training, I completed the 13.1 miles in 2 hours 18 minutes on 4th October 2015. My good friend and training buddy, Jo, beside me the whole time.
Finally just over a month later I ended my adrenaline year with the very wet and muddy challenge of Nuclear Fallout. OCR kisses galore. It was a muddy end to what had been a fantastic adrenaline fuelled year.
So that was that. Early on in the year I decided to raise as much as I possibly could for the Willow Foundation. At the end of all the challenges I had raised £330.50 which I was extremely proud of. A hell of a lot of training had gone into this so I was very happy that I had managed to raise some money in doing so.
Another amazing highlight was being nominated for “Most Enthusiastic Member” at the Regiment Fitness Christmas party. Sadly, I didn’t win. But it meant a lot to be nominated.
People ask me constantly, how do you do it? Do you not get tired? You must be crazy.
The answer is I just keep going, even when I get tired. Am I crazy to do something I enjoy so much….. Hell no!
Hopefully starting this blog, after colleagues suggested it to me, will help others get moving and be inspired.
I am definitely not a professional. I most definitely get things wrong. I definitely do too much at times, but I cannot say no.
My motto is “don’t think, just do!” If you think about something too much you will talk yourself out of it!
So I am hoping people will follow my progress, failures and frustrations into 2016.
It is already set to be a big one, with the following events already signed up:
I would love for people to join me, cheer me on or simply read my stories. I hope to keep them coming.