@TheWelshWookie’s review of his first HM :)

@TheWelshWookie’s review of his first HM :)

First of all let me introduce myself.

My name is Tony Jones, otherwise known as @thewelshwookie, I am a 42 year old former Rugby Player and former Martial Arts who had let himself go for a good many years. A couple of years ago, my fiancée, now my wife, @tartanjogger was training for the Glasgow Women’s 10k when she injured her ankle and had to pull out, being the supportive individual I am I offered to train with her and run the Great Glasgow Run 10k with her a few months later.
So once the injury had healed training started and this 30lb overweight middle aged man set out for his first kilometre and nearly died!!!!!!!
Fast forward to April 24th 2014 and I finally stepped up to the Half Marathon.
Having studied the Race Route the previous night, I was expecting a steep start to the race and was very pleasantly surprised! Training for the run in and around Tarbert, we have been hitting some serious hills including one that I like to refer to as ‘The B!tch’ so the gradual raise for the first 6k felt almost flat. After around 4k, we ran past the first block of serious support, a group of 20somethings with huge banners and vocals declaring ánimos, which was very uplifting, especially after just passing an empty water station, luckily we carry our own!!
The course continued through the city streets, on terrain that we like to consider flat, although some reports I have read describe as undulating, passing El Corte Ingles, Estadio Santiago Bernabéu and Peurto De Europa to name but a few!
Passing the 10 mile marker, new territory for me as this was the longest distance run in training, I was feeling great knowing that all that was left was a lap around Parque el Retiro before entering the park and hitting the finish line. I took my final energy gel and kept my head up, then it happened, we turned a corner and saw ‘La Bruja’!! The sight of this kilometre long hill in the very last stages of the run knocked me sideways and it took every ounce of mental strength I have not to start walking and crying, but somehow I managed to keep putting one foot in front of the other, nowhere near the pace I had been going but technically still running, JUST!
Entering the park, the support was amazing and gave me a burst of energy from somewhere ethereal! I now know what happens when Hulk Hogan receives power from all the Hulkamaniacs to beat the bad guy.
So, first half marathon down and looking forward to the next, as the great Mo Farah says, 2014 is the year for turning metres to miles.

tonys watch

 

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Race Report: Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, Madrid

Race Report: Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, Madrid

Date: 25th April 2014

Profile: Flat

Terrain: Road

Weather: Warm and sunny

Website: http://es.competitor.com /

Positives: good expo, great course, excellent organisation, friendly runners, vocal support

Negatives: the hill at the end, lack of water

As @TheWelshWookie and I were in Madrid for the race and our honeymoon, we headed straight from the airport to our city centre hotel. As soon as we had a bite of lunch, and hopped on the Metro to the expo.

We found the location, and the queue to get into the expo was huge! So, we waited patiently in line, and it was worth the wait. The organisation for bib collection was really good, as was the goodie bag and T shirt points. I was surprised to be given the choice between a T shirt or vest, so I opted for a vest 🙂

We purchased some really cute double layered socks with Spanish flags on them, and @TheWelshWookie treated himself to a spie belt:

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I didn’t hug any expo displays this time 😦

We then headed back to the city centre, had some dinner, and went for a walk to find the start line, which was easy to find and only about one kilometre from  our hotel. Result!

When we returned to the hotel, we laid out our running gear and headed for bed. What do you think of my race vest and shorts? Cute?

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On the morning of the race, we were up early, had our breakfast of greek yoghurt and a Nakd bar, changed and walked to the start line. As the 10K was starting at 8.30am, and the half and full marathon started together at 9am, it was pretty busy. The 10K start line was on a different street, but many of the runners obviously didn’t know that and were at the marathon start area, even as it reached 9am.

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Our corral was at the back, which was great. I could see that the other corrals were busy, and we were running for fun, not time. This was @TheWelshWookie’s first half marathon experience, and the atmosphere was great: music, excited runners and even some sky divers helped us get the party started!

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Here’s the map of the race:

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The race started at 9am, and the final corral (including us) headed off after about 10 minutes. The sun was shining, ans we were good to go! As our corral was quite quiet, it was really good to run on a lovely, wide road and we didn’t have to dodge around many other runners.

The first few kilometres were a steady incline, but I’m very grateful for our hilly training, as it felt flat to both of us. The early support around the course was great: the spectators were supportive and vocal. We ran past lots of Madrid’s sights, including Bernbau stadium, Puerto de Europa and many of the important museums and galleries.

As we reached the first water stop at 5K, we were both feeling great, and were very grateful that we’d brought our own water as they had run out. As it was warm, that will have caused some people difficulty.

The course levelled out, and the support dwindled a little, but that was fine as I was really enjoying looking at the buildings and architecture. It was gorgeous!

We then headed back towards Parque del Retiro, which was mostly downhill, and good fun. The marathoners peeled off along their course at around the 14K mark. Fortunately, there was adequate water and powerade at the rest of the water stations.

At the 15, 16K point, we were at the park, and knew that we had a lap around its perimeter before finishing in the park itself. It was warm, and the support here was good. I noticed that we were heading downhill a little at one point, and then, with about one mile to go, we turned a corner to head into the final straight, and there it was. A hill. A steep, unexpected hill. We dug in, and after haviing a fantastic 11 mile run, @TheWelshWookie began to struggle a little for the first (and only) time. I tried to keep pushing a little, but it was tough! And it lasted for the whole of that final mile!

As we turned into the park, the support was really good, and @TheWookie got a second wind. We picked up our pace, and finished the race strong. 🙂

As we crossed the line, we had our medals placed around our necks, and posed for photos. We collected water, powerade and food bags, then spent a couple of minutes celebrating.

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We then met the lovely Ro, from Run Dabblers, which was great! Ro had spotted us with 5K to go, and kindly said we’d helped pace her to the finish. She too, had found that last hill horrible!

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Our stats: 2:23:59 which is my slowest half to date, but we were not running for time. We were running for fun. Also, given the heat, the final hill and the altitude, I’ll take it! I didn’t know until afterwards that Madrid is the highest Capital city in Europe!

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The Medal: Really good, fab, sparkly and heavy!

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Goody Bag: money off vouchers, leaflets and a good quality gym bag with a mesh back.

T-shirt: It’s a fab, neon green vest!

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After a quick shower and change, @TheWelshWookie and I headed to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner and cocktails. We had a great day!

 

 

What we did in Madrid

What we did in Madrid

Now, I don’t need to recap on some of the things we did in Madrid.

You already know that we ran the RnR Madrid Half Marathon: I’ll be posting my race review over the weekend 🙂

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And I posted earlier this week about our main activities: eating and drinking 😉

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But we did see some other sights too.

First, we spent a lot of time walking around the city, admiring the wide range of architecture. It is a really beautiful city. My favourite building was the Metropolis:

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Top of  @TheWelshWookie’s to-do list was a visit to Bernbau Stadium, the home of Real Madrid football team, the team that was crowned Team of the 20th Century. The trophy rooms were stunning: I’ve never seen so many trophies in one place before!

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The stadium tour was great: we were able to visit various areas of the stadium, including seeing the pitch from various vantage points, sitting in the dugout, visiting the home & away changing rooms, the press room and of course, the trophy rooms. It was great!

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No one can visit the city of Madrid without spending time inside some of the fabulous churches. We visited the Catedral de la Almudena, which was stunning. I’ve visited many, many cathedrals, but this was huge, and beautiful.

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We also visited the Basilica de San Miguel, which we accidentally stumbled across:

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No trip to Madrid would be complete without a visit to Palace Real Madrid. It too was beautiful, with fantastic views across Campo del Moro. Of course, we weren’t permitted to take any photos inside the palace, but I loved the throne room, the chapel and Stradivarius room, which housed a viola, two violins and two cellos. Wow.

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The city is also home to many museums and galleries. We visited Museo del Prado, which houses works by Goya, Botticelli, Raphael, Rubens, and many others. There was an exhibition of paintings of ‘The Furies’ from Titian, Ribera and others, which I really loved.

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One thing we didn’t know was that Friday, 2nd May is an important holiday in Madrid, where the city celebrates their uprising against Napoleon. We watched a military parade in Puerto del Sol, which was really interesting.

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And the city celebrates with various cultural and sporting events, including one that they consider as both: bullfighting. Now, we did go to see this, and it was something I had never experienced before. I know that not everyone will support or appreciate that, so I’ll only post a couple of pics which I hope doesn’t offend anyone too much:

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Finally, we also spent time doing MY favourite  (aside from eating and running): shopping! Madrid is home of the original El Corte Ingles department store, and it was awesome! It was also very, very close to our hotel 😉

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I think we managed to squeeze in quite a lot!

The Delectable Delights of Downtown Madrid

The Delectable Delights of Downtown Madrid

You all know how much I LOVE my food. Well, Madrid far surpassed my foodie expectations!

They definitely have a sweet tooth; even savoury dishes are often sweet, especially sides like coleslaw.

Here are some of the highlights. I apologise now for the quality of the pics: it may or may not be related to the amount of alcohol consumed 😉

We did the RnR half on the Sunday morning. And, in keeping with previous RnRs, we refuelled at Hard Rock Cafe. We tested out a few of the cocktails, and I carb loaded on the brisket with fries. Yum!

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On Monday, we spent lots of time in various tapas bars. As I’m sure you know, if you order a drink, you’re given a lovely, tasty snack.

We tried out Alhambra, and were treated to chicken wings. We supplemented these with a meat platter, pork loin with peppers and goats cheese in a blueberry sauce. Yum!

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Stuffed to the gills, we headed onto La Torre del Oro on Plaza Mayor, where we had beetroot and onion, and a potato salad. We also had olives but by that point I could not fit in any more food! This bar is a favourite with celebrities including Bruce Springsteen, and it has been visited by President Carter and several Kennedys.

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Tuesday, I had a proper Iberican jamon pizza. Yummy!

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And on Wednesday, we were back to tapas during the day, including these dainty smoked salmon, cream cheese & dill sandwiches, and cheeses in Cafe del Oriente. Yes, as you can tell, we had some vino to go with it…..

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In the evening, we visited Botin, which is the oldest restaurant in the world. Goya, Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, Graham Greene and Frederick Forsyth were all frequent visitors. It was amazing: we had the suckling pig, as recommended and mentioned by Hemingway in his novel ‘The Sun Also Rises’. I then had Bartolillos de Madrid, which are little pastry parcels filled with a lovely, sweet custardy cream. Oh, my!

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Thursday saw us visit Mercado de San Miguel. It was so busy, with locals and tourists feasting on all kinds of delights.

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There was lovely seafood and savoury snacks:

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These are not cakes – they’re buffalo mozzarella:

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And, of course, sweet treats:

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For lunch, we tried another local speciality: bocadillo con calamares. Amazing!

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And, of course, we had yet more tapas….. these are little breads topped with cheese and a spicy sausage, and of course, patatas bravas:

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Here’s one of the final dishes I had on Friday: it was fried sardines with padrons de pimentos. It tasted amazing!

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We also had churros, frozen yoghurt and lots of beer and wine 😉

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If I’m not at least 15 pounds heaver, I’ll be very surprised!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m ba-ack!

I’m ba-ack!

 

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Did ya miss me? 🙂

We’re back from our runeymoon in Madrid: it was absolutely amazing!

I’ve run my favourite ever half marathon, eaten the most amazing food, seen the most amazing sights and had the best of times!

I’ll get a full race report up this week, and I’ll give you an overview of what we got up to in Madrid, for anyone who is interested.

But, for now, it’s a day of unpacking and laundry for me.

Can’t wait to catch up on your posts: I’ve missed reading them over the last couple of weeks!

 

 

RnR Madrid: done!

RnR Madrid: done!

This was definitely my favourite half marathon yet!

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I’ll post a review when I’m home: for now, let the honeymoon part of this runeymoon commence! 🙂

Sunshine Shake Out

Sunshine Shake Out

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It’s a gloriously sunny day in Tarbert, and @TheWelshWookie and I have just got back from our last shake out run before Sunday’s RnR Half Marathon. It felt great!

It was also warm, which I think was perfect preparation for Sunday. The forecast is for sunny spells, and a high of 21 degrees/70f so the weather should be good.

We’re now completely packed, and ready to head to Edinburgh tomorrow: bring the adventure on! 🙂

I’ll try to blog at some point next week, but please check out my instagram account or my twitter feed for more regular updates while I’m away.

Adios, amigos!

 

 

 

Madrid Madness

Madrid Madness

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I think I may be a little obsessed. I’m eating, sleeping and talking Madrid ALL THE TIME. I’m pretty sure that everyone is fed up of it, and we haven’t even been yet! 😮

The taper is under way, as is some early carb loading (any excuse!) as @TheWelshWookie and I had dinner at our favourite cafe tonight. Yum!

I’ve been scouring my Madrid travel guide, highlighting places I want to visit, and working out the closest metro stops that we will be using. I’m also just about packed, too 😉

I’ve checked and rechecked my race day gear, and it’s all ready to go. I’ll be packing my trainers in my hand luggage……. just in case!

Saturday morning cannot come quickly enough…

Does anyone have any tips on places to visit, or any favourite restaurants and bars that we shouldn’t miss?

 

Taper Time!

Taper Time!

Today is the beginning of my taper for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Madrid. I can’t believe that the race is next Sunday!

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It’s a beautiful, warm and sunny day here in Tarbert, which was great for a run in preparation for next week. We did 8.5 miles, and I now feel ready to conquer Madrid! 🙂 I tested out the shorts and trainers that I’ll be wearing, and while the shorts were great, I had the beginnings of a blister on my right heel. I’ll have to be ready to prevent that next week. Anyone have any tips?

I’ve already begun packing for our trip, which is actually late for me. I’m usually packed at least a couple of weeks before! But, as we don’t leave until Friday to head to Edinburgh for our flight, I still have plenty of time.

Meanwhile, have a wonderful Easter weekend: I hope you eat LOTS of chocolate!

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Anyone rolling their eggs tomorrow?

 

The First Bunny of Easter

The First Bunny of Easter

Welcome, one and all, to Easter Weekend 2014!

The weather here has been much more spring-like this week, which has been wonderful. The trees are all budding, daffs cover the grass verges and gardens are beginning to bloom. It won’t be long until the bluebells fill the hillsides!

Yesterday, we went for a lovely, sunny run. We ran along the harbour, and it was fantastic! We clocked in five miles, which was our scheduled Hal Higdon training distance.

And, we saw our first Easter bunny!

There are usually a lot of rabbits hopping around by the harbour, but this year I seem to have missed them all – until yesterday. This cheeky chappy was running quite happily in front of us, then hopped onto a garden wall, and sat in the garden watching us run past.

It was too cute! 🙂

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Do you have time off this weekend? Any plans? Have you seen any Easter bunnies on your run?