Thursday, 19 May 2011

Gimme Five

Leg 3 - nice and flat
More than four weeks have passed since the London Marathon, and despite best intentions to do a lot of resting, there's always so much going on in the world of running that it seems impossible to rest.

A few days before London, I was asked whether I would be part of the Airedale Athletics team for the Calderdale Way Relay on 8th May. Well, what more can I say other than it seemed like a good idea at the time. The requirement that full body waterproof clothing, a map, whistle and compass must be carried probably should have given it away! I'd agreed on the grounds that I could do the shortest leg of just under five miles from Todmorden to Blackshawhead reasoning how hard could it be? Hard it turns out, very hard.

I was paired at the latest minute with Paul, who I know from club. Off road is Paul's favourite type of running. He's completed the notoriously tough Yorkshireman Off Road Marathon faster than I can run London and has also competed in ultra marathons. So, ability wise we were perhaps not the best match to put it mildly or, as someone else pointed out, Paul could have turned up in his flip flops and got to the end of the leg faster than me. But we had to stay together throughout the race, me huffing and puffing up the long uphill stretches struggling to walk some of it, Paul not really breaking into a sweat.

It really wasn't my finest hour as I gasped 'I'm doing my best' up what seemed like vertical inclines, with proper fell runners sprinting past me. But I did it, and I'm proud of that. And looking at the results, our time of 59 minutes wasn't too shameful. It didn't seem like it on the day, but there were other teams who were slower than us (me!).

I couldn't really count this relay as a race so I diligently waited just under four weeks (as close to a day rest from racing for every mile I'd run in the marathon as I could manage) before running one of my favourite races, the John Carr 5k which is run around the Yorkshire Water site in beautiful Esholt. This is the third year that I've run this race and, for me, it's the race that signals the start of summer. The race always takes place the first three Wednesdays in May, so aware that I needed to rest, I volunteered to marshal the first race and run the last two.

All out at John Carr
Back in September, I'd set a goal on Fetcheveryone to run a 5k in under 25 minutes by the end of May 2011 with the John Carr races in mind so the pressure was really on. I decided not to wear a watch and just see if I could do it. By about 3k I felt like my body was going to explode, and certainly as I crossed the finish line I couldn't speak. Intrigued whether I had done a fast time or whether my fitness level has plummeted I asked the man who finished near me what time we had run it in, and was ecstatic to find it was around 23.30! The results published the next day confirmed 23.32.

Returning the following week, I was hoping to at least run a similar time, and brought James with me to spectate as he always brings me luck - he comes to about two races a year, so I have to make my choices wisely! It worked, and once again, I ran flat out knocking 31 seconds off the previous week's time at 23.01. Never satisfied, all I could think was that I should have pushed it harder and knocked those all important two seconds off.

So, that brings to a close all that I wanted to achieve race wise...time to set some new goals for the future. But first, I just want to have a bit of time to enjoy running at leisure without having particular targets in mind.

And never one to be beaten, I'm busy reading 'Feet in the Clouds - A Tale of Fell Running And Obsession'!

The madness continues...

Monday, 25 April 2011

On the Line at London

Several posts ago, I put it out there that I was going to aim high at London Marathon. I decided it was realistic, if a little ambitious, to aim for under four hours.

I didn't manage it. In fact, I was nowhere near at 4.31.11. And immediately afterwards I was so, so disappointed and also a little embarrassed that I was so far off target. Was I that out of touch with my running abilities? I even concluded at one point that it was time to hang up my trainers for good.

A week later, and with the help of some no nonsense friends, I'm able to put it into perspective. I did manage to get a marathon PB of over four minutes, and despite the times I moaned about the training - so time for anything else...the list goes on - I have genuinely enjoyed the last 15 weeks, and I have achieved things I never thought were possible, including PB's at every distance (except 5k), and also a marathon PB.  I have loved those tortuous nights at the track, the circuit sessions, the long runs and the resulting buzz of knowing I'm improving. Oh, and most of all, the friends I've met along the way.

So, what happened last Sunday?

 I struggled. And it's pretty accurate to say that this was the case from start to finish. We set off from Greenwich just before 10am, and I managed to run the first three miles with Karen. I'd got a pace band for four hours from the Expo and had decided to ignore the mile timings and concentrate on each 5k so if I ran over time on a mile, I'd have a few miles to make it up. What I hadn't accounted for was just how hard it is to get a pace going at London at any point. It was so crowded that I kept losing sight of Karen, and after a run in with a human caterpillar just before the three mile marker, I never saw her again.

It was clear fairly soon in that I didn't have a chance of making my target. At each marker, it just slipped further away, and I didn't really have a Plan B so I just kept chugging on wondering why I was finding it so hard. Too many tutus, I concluded at mile 12.

Fab supporters
Usually, I love races where there's loads of support and fanfare, and I don't think you can get better than London for this but somehow, it all proved to be a bit too much for me, and I felt desperate for just a patch of quiet space to pull myself (and my running) together again. I did have tremendous support from friends and family throughout the marathon though, and I must admit the thought of seeing people at various stages was such a boost, and forced me to make sure I at least didn't look like I was struggling. I spotted my mum and sister at mile eight waving frantically, and then just past mile 10 I had the lovely surprise of seeing my friends, Kate and Nick in some specially made t-shirts (see left), which really made me smile.

At mile 15, I saw lots of people I know again, including Helen and Don from club who were leaning over a bridge waving frantically. At mile 18, I passed the hotel we were staying in at Canary Wharf where loads of supporters from club were cheering which was great. I somehow missed the mile 19 marker, and so before I knew it I was at mile 20. Here, I somehow managed to get a second wind. Perhaps it was the thought of only 10k left to run of this painful race!

Those last six miles seemed to go fairly quickly, and before I knew it, I was running up the Mall. Apparently, so much 'in the zone' that I ran past both friends and family at miles 23 and 25 without seeing them at all. Never have I been so happy to see a sign saying 800 metres to go, telling myself 'two laps of the track, it's nothing you can do it' - yes, there was a lot of talking to myself during this race - then 600 metres, then 375 metres and then I'd done it. Such relief as my feet touched the timing pads at the finish line.

Meeting up with family
It's such a strange feeling finishing a marathon. My body's not quite sure whether it can stop running now, and I think it takes a good quarter of an hour for my brain to register that I've done it. In a daze, I remembered the Marathon Talk advice to keep moving, so I kept walking. I'd arranged to meet family and friends at the A-Z meeting area, cursing that I am a W and, therefore, the furthest away I kept going until I finally found James and burst into tears of relief that the whole thing was over. Pulled myself together for a few photos and headed back to the hotel as we were heading home that evening.

Smiling now it's over
I watched the highlights of the London Marathon on the BBC iPlayer the following day, and only then did it hit me what a major event I'd been privileged to take part in, and that, despite not reaching my goal, I hadn't done too badly at all. I've also raised a total of £746 for the British Heart Foundation so I guess it was worth every step.

So, will I ever do another marathon? I'm not sure. Will I ever run again? Of course I will. I'll just be sticking to shorter races. There's still a 5k PB to get.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

The Last Supper

Well deserved tea and cake
The end of a gorgeous Spring day where the sun has shone from early morning to late evening, and I'm feeling really happy and optimistic for next week's marathon.

I set out fairly early this morning to meet other club runners at Apperley Bridge for the final long run which, according to my training plan, needed to be an easy 90 minutes. Twelve of us turned up, despite only four of us actually running the marathon next week, which was brilliant and really sums up the massive support we've had whilst training. We set off on the canal running towards Leeds planning to run out for 45 minutes and then turnaround, the idea being that everyone could go at their own pace but we would all arrive back at the same time.

I ran ahead a little with Karen, and before we knew it we were a long way in front of everyone, inadvertently running even faster than marathon pace despite the intention of going out for an easy run. I think we were possibly getting a bit overexcited that this was the final long run, so we had to keep reminding each other to slow down! Eventually, about six of us managed to run in a pack at a steady pace, managing just over nine miles in all. I absolutely loved the 45 minute turnaround point as it felt like, that was it, the training's done and we're heading back ready for London. In reality, we headed back for tea and cake at Toby's Tea Room to celebrate. I hope it wasn't premature!

So, that's it. With the exception of a couple of short runs this week and a pre marathon sports massage (which Penny has promised won't hurt), London Marathon training for 2011 is done. And what a great way for it to end; in the sunshine surrounded by friends.

It seems a very long time ago, on that fateful Friday night last November when I learnt that I had been lucky enough to get a place in the marathon. And now next Sunday, I'll be donning my red British Heart Foundation vest and running the streets of London. Whatever happens, I'd like to thank everyone who has supported me over the last 14 weeks and especially all those who have sponsored me, giving me just short of £600 raised.

 I'll see you on the other side...and here's hoping triumphant.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


Mmmm a new favourite
I confess I'm forcing myself to write this post simply in an attempt to avoid continuing to sit here stuffing myself full of junk. 

Yes, that's right. Food has found me. 

I don't think this is an unusual thing when tapering, as the advice given on Marathon Talk last week was to try to avoid getting to the marathon start line a stone heavier.  I've now cut the volume of running which means I can't burn as many calories so why can't I stop eating?

And I must resist the temptation to write it off as my body needing to store carbs before race day because even I know that's a load of rubbish. I don't think I even need to start carb loading until the Thursday before the race. So even I can't stretch it to two weeks before. 

At this rate, I'm going to need a whole new race outfit because I won't be able to squeeze myself into my shorts. How attractive. 

It's been a funny first week of tapering. After rejoicing that it was time to taper following my last long, long run of 18 miles, I've gone into it pretty hesitantly. It's so hard to get the balance right between not overdoing it but not undoing it either. 

Last week, I went to my usual Monday night class on running efficiency, aka olympic bootcamp, where it is impossible to under-do it as it's such intensive training. Coach Ilona had us doing plyometrics much to everyone's amusement as I think it's fair to say we were all really bad at them. This was followed by a circuit of hurdles, then out onto the field for three laps of a circuit involving sprinting, hurdles, burpees, box jumps and star jumps. Then moving onto a pyramid of hill sprints, after which we were rewarded with half an hour of core work. Phew!

Unsurprisingly, by Tuesday following a particularly painful sports massage session, I was too shattered to move so decided to 'listen to my body' (as I keep being told to do), and instead of doing my usual run with the Saltaire Striders, I rested (oh and ate). The problem with this method is that if I listened to my body all the time, it is unlikely that I would ever move from the sofa. 

Thursday was back to the track, which was a far cry from the previous week's beautiful run in Aberdovey. Horsfall track seems to have its very own micro climate of rain and gale force winds. It was another tough night of more plyometrics followed by 10 lots of 400 metres at effort with 200 metres recovery after each effort. This was made harder by running with Amanda and Claire again who are both faster than me so it was tough going to keep up with them even with Brian shouting at me to 'stay with the pack'. I do love the track though. It pushes me harder than any other type of training, and I never fail to drive home on a high. 

On Saturday, I headed out for a two hour 'easy' run with Karen, and we managed to cover just over 12 miles. It's hard to believe that a run which is almost a half marathon is classed as cutting back the training. We had a lovely run though, and we do a good job of keeping each other going as we're a similar pace. 

On Sunday, I snuck in a 10k race in Wakefield. I think I probably shouldn't have been racing at this stage but it was with work not club so I somehow convinced myself it didn't count. It was a lovely sunny morning, and we headed out on Horbury Road. My legs were tired so I struggled a bit but tried to pretend I was running on the track where discomfort is obligatory. I didn't wear a watch, so I was ecstatic to realise that I had managed a PB of 49.33, finally getting below 50 minutes! 

So, the final long(ish) run is planned for next Sunday, and we marathon trainers from club have planned a 90 minute run along the canal - 45 minutes out and the same all the way back to Toby's Tea Room, where I will be indulging in, yes, you've guessed it, cake! 

The storm (marathon training) predicted back in December has passed. Let calm resume. 

Just the small matter of 26.2 miles to complete. 

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Running Two Extremes

The last week has been so busy, I've no idea how I'm managing to keep my eyes open. Running wise, there's been loads of variety which I've loved.

Last Thursday night was a really tough session at Horsfall track, where we upped the length of the intervals to 800 metre efforts, with 200 metres recovery. There are a few new people who have started this six week block of enhanced training, and I ran with Amanda and Claire both of whom are faster than me so it proved really good training, albeit really tough. I'm still mulling over a conversation with our coach, Brian Scobie about what time I should be aiming for at London. Brian's got such a no nonsense approach to running, and reckons without doubt I should be aiming for sub four hours. The thought of such a lofty goal fills me with fear; it's much easier to be vague and say I'm not aiming for a particular time, just hoping to go faster than last year. But as Brian pointed out, how many times am I going to run London, and how long have I trained for this? So, here it is in black and white, I want to be the best that I can be so I'm aiming for sub four hours at London (on the understanding that I will be proud whatever time I do!).

Racing in Derby
On a grey pretty miserable Sunday, I was up at ridiculous o'clock to get to Derby for the 26.2k Kilomathon England. I had entered this race some time ago, and hadn't really thought much about it since so it hadn't occurred to me that Derby is pretty hilly! As a result, I found this race tough going until about 15k when I finally found my stride and started to feel better. The scenery on this race was pretty non existent and support was sparse. The final 5k is run through the industrial estate of Rolls Royce - dismal doesn't even begin to describe it. Nevertheless, I think it was a great psychological rehearsal for London as the race markers were in kilometres which really played with my mind as the race seemed to go on forever. Twenty-six markers are a lot to count down.

Beautiful Aberdovey
From the ridiculous to the sublime, following another running form and efficiency enhanced training session on Monday which I am likening to an Olympic bootcamp (not that I have any experience of such a thing but this is what I imagine it would be like) by Wednesday I was in Aberdovey in Wales for work where Spring had truly arrived. The sun shone consistently for the couple of days I was there, and I managed to fit in several three mile runs along the sandy beach with water lapping a few inches from my feet!! How much easier it is to run in such a beautiful place after months of running in the dark, snow, rain around the concrete streets of Bradford.

So, the past week has really been one of extremes from the places I have run, and the types of training I have completed to the scary setting of a goal for London.

By this time tomorrow my final long run will be complete (17-18 miles planned), and the taper will begin.

Three weeks to go!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

She Works Hard for the Money

Marathon day's getting nearer, and much to my excitement my information magazine arrived today, which was exciting and scary at the same time. Leafing through it, I started to feel a little overwhelmed as the enormity of what I have taken on hit me.

Looking at the map of the course, I realised that it was spread over three pages. It's a long way!!

But looking back over my blog posts since I started training in January, I think I've come a long way, though it definitely hasn't been easy. I've managed to be pretty consistent with my training, and it's definitely helped that I've had eight weeks of enhanced training via Bradford Athletics Network, which I've told myself is absolutely non negotiable on Monday and Thursday nights.

Fundraising for the British Heart Foundation is going well. Massive thanks are due to Martin, Becca, Lucy, Julie, Helen, Debbie, Steve, Karen, Julie and Sarah for their extremely generous donations to my marathon efforts over the last month or so.

This brings my fundraising total to £479, just £21 off my target with over four weeks to go. I'm so grateful, not only for the donations but also for the immense support I have received from just about everyone. There's no denying that these past 11 weeks, for the most part, I have been tired and pretty grumpy so thank you everyone, and especially James, for putting up with me (and making me so many teas!).

Sunday will see my final long race before the big day, Kilomathon, a 26.2k race in Derby, which I will Run for Japan - a challenge to cover 24,901 miles (right around the world) in 28 days with at least one run dedicated from every country in the World. To achieve this runners around the globe are being asked to dedicate just one run to the people of Japan and donate at least one unit of their home currency per mile run.

Then one more long run to do the following Sunday before my taper begins.

Now I just need to work out what I'm going to do with my time once all this is over.


Sunday, 6 March 2011

I Heart Trimpell...

The Afterglow. Here's what I love about running...
It's done. I did it! Evidently the positive mantras worked wonders and I managed to not only knock 25 minutes off last year's time but also really enjoy the once dreaded Trimpell 20. Can't get much better than that!

After a chilly start, the sun shone throughout the race and everything just seemed a lot easier. I noticed on the race information that it is billed as having lots of great scenery, which I couldn't remember seeing any of last year so I made sure to take everything in which helped me to forget the stabbing pain in my legs after about mile 15.

Lots of friends were also running, and this is an out and back course so I got to see loads of people along the way - though I was a bit dismayed to see Chris Jones and Mick Hogan heading back, whilst I was still heading out (granted, they are very speedy runners). I'd told myself that I wouldn't see anyone I knew coming back while I was still running out.

Today felt like a really good dress rehearsal for London. I haven't run with a watch for ages so had no idea what splits I should go for on a race of this length; I didn't want to go too fast in case I blew up early on but equally didn't want to aim too low if I could do more. Given last week's time on Snake Lane, I concluded that I'd probably be okay with nine minute miles so that's what I went for and managed to stick with it pretty consistently throughout. I ran with Karen from Pudsey Pacers for about the first 10 miles, which really helped the miles to go down faster, and I felt pretty strong. I experimented with gels, and could really feel a high kicking in about five minutes after I had one, though I'd only taken three and probably could've done with one more so need to remember this for London.

Everyone else from my club and adopted clubs, HPH and Pudsey, did really well today, and I'm particularly in awe of Mick and Julie from ERR who ran today to support others as they aren't training for a marathon. I'm not sure I could do as much.

So, I'm signing off today with sleepy eyes and tired legs. Very happy.