Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Leap Day Run

Today I made my proposal, a proposal not of marriage but one of commitment. It was a challenge to myself to get 'back on it' in terms of my marthon and cross-training to support my marathon plan.
I was up at sunrise and after the stndard morning faffing of feeding cats, brushing teeth, choosing which trainers to run in I set off for a leisurely trot along local roads.
My legs were still a little sore post race and the missing club run last night in favour of an extra 12 hours rest seem to do the trick as I was feeling much fresher for it.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Post race buzz!

Up early and eating my porridge I was slightly apprehensive about my knee niggle giving me problems at the Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon today but I needn't have worried, my body fell into race mode as soon Dame Kelly Holmes started the race at 10am this morning.
Travelling to the race win a car full of PWRs we chatted and laughed, grateful for the glorious weather, perfect for racing at around 8-10degrees and sunny.
On arrival we saw more PWRs and other familiar faces in the crowds as we stopped off to collect our race t-shirts before the start (making sure we got the right sizes). A bottle of powerade and a banana later we were heading up to the 2 hour space in the start corral. After only 2 miles I heard a shout for PWR and then my name and spotted Mike R in the crowds with his trusty camera filming us. I also said a friendly hello to some Orpies, spotting Dave my fellow night runner - suggesting that we were making leaps and bounds in the local rivalry running side by side!
The two pacers for a 2 hour marathon were close by so I knew I was on track to get round in a sub-2 and hopefully with my knee in tact. Trotting along comfortably as a decent clip the miles seemed to drop away happily and before long we were approaching the dreaded and now infamous Spring Hill... I managed to ignore the hill and make some quips to some non-impressed runners about a sign for potatoes 1/4 mile ahead, suggesting that if they can make the potatoes they'd be full of carbs - not sure they were impressed but it made me smile!
Onwards and upwards, I heard the two hour pacers behind me shouting at their follower not to stop at the pub, there was still more hill to come. The pub in question was home to a band and lots of screaming fans which is always good for a boost especially on a hilly section.
Gels and water were next and by god gels are the food of the devil, a texture that defies explanation but is surely one of the worst to have ever been created. They are not a good thing! I stuck to the jelly beans being handed out by kids (lets hope they hadn't suffered the same fate as Jerry's jelly babies!)
As I neared 10miles I spotted Dalaine and Laura up ahead and I approached gradually, unable to speak due to a man blocking my way I continued ahead. Within a couple of minutes Dalaine had sped up and rocketed past me, not to be seen again until after the finish. Then the mind games began, less that a 5k to go, that's less that 30minutes even if I slow down, but I didn't want to slow down I wanted to keep going. Then y next target slipped into view around 12 miles, I could see Simon's trademark red cap bobbing along and gradually, slowly but surely I counted off the runners between us and closed the gap. With probably less that 400m to go I made it past but I made my move too soon, I could hear my name being called out by the other PWRs who had already finished and as I rounded the corner Simon called out, 'where did you spring from' and instantaneously everyone else around us faded into obscurity as we raced, spurring each other onto the finish line and Dame Kelly Holmes. We crossed in unison, I began to heave as is my way on a sprint finish then we were awarded our medals! 
Before departing we celebrated with chocs from Sarah, hot tea and some homemade cupcakes from Tracey, yum yum.
I continued my post race buzz for the next few hours and it is possibly only now that I am on the come down. I had truly forgotten how great you feel after a good race (only a few months since my last but it felt like forever) and Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon was a good race, I will be back in years to come.

Check out the video here... I am in about 0:32 and at the finish at about 1:34 (on the video, not the race!), you will see Simon trying to catch me but I just pipped him by 1 second in the final chip times!

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Making the most of free time

Fitting in my training runs has seemed very difficult for the last couple of weeks, I seemed to get back on track in Ireland and then volume seemed to decrease again. 
This morning, knowing I had only done one run and that I will be racing tomorrow in Tunbridge Wells I decided to go out with my garmin on but on a screen that meant I had no idea of pace but planned a route that would give me legs a good loosening for tomorrow of around 3 miles.
According to my plan, my pace should be around 10min/miles for an easy run so imagine my surprise when I got home and loaded up the stats to find that I had paced at almost my perfect marathon pace. I wasn't out of breath, I was comfortably pootling along just enjoying the run, so my body knows the speed it wants to go at but now we just have to make sure I get the miles in and come the 22nd April lets hope it all falls into place once again!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Emergency! Stop! Where are my shoes!?!

Where are my shoes!! Where are they, they have to be here, they just have to be, when is the train, oh too soon too soon, can I get home to get them, I don't think I can, I need my shoes where are they? - Just some of the thoughts running through me head after my interval training at the gym this morning!
Now lets go back a couple of hours, I woke up with the alarm nicely refreshed and got my gym bag together thinking I may try and make the early spin class. Then looking at the time and thinking better of it I decided I would try out my knee on the treadmill (I had a bit of a niggle of Sunday). I did 1 mile easy to warm up and was feeling good so decided to do some intervals instead as I was unable to get to the track session last week.... they were going superbly well, with 400m hard (at 7:03 min/mile pace) followed by 100m walk recovery. I did the first set of six and then the bad luck began I somehow pulled out the emergency stop tag and the treadmill (as it should) came to an abrupt halt and gave me my stats, argghhhhh what to do now. Well I figured it happened at a good point and just restarted the treadmill and back into my second set of intervals. 
I did the next set and although it was getting tougher and sweat was pouring from me so much so that my t-shirt had completely changed to a darker shade, I did my cool down and headed to shower and change for work.
Then it hit me, I had left my shoes at home, I must have, they were nowhere to be seen much as I willed it - now this wouldn't normally be a huge problem, I could have popped home or I have spare shoes in the office but not today. Today I was going to catch a train straight after the gym for a meeting in London. I two choices; (1) be late and go home to get the shoes risking schools traffic or (2) just style it out and go to the meeting, they were after all web developers and seem to mostly wear jeans and clothes reserved more for dress down days in the offices that I am used to. Decision made, I would style it out..... I looked a fool, bad day to be wearing a dress and black tights with bright white gym trainers! doh!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

A tale of two runs

Saltdean under cliff walkway
After failing to get out and run yesterday morning as planned I opted for a Sunday morning run despite being at a friends house on the South Coast. One of our friends was running the Brighton Half Marathon this morning and we were going down to cheer him on in this, his first race. 
So in my wisdom I decided I would run from their home in Seaford, along the coast via Newhaven, Peacehaven and then at Saltdean I would drop down onto the under cliff walkway to take me the remainder of the way into Brighton to see him racing. By my calculations this was about 14 miles and I would add some on getting to the 7 mile marker to see him running. 
I was running well and at about 5.5 miles into the run and on my way up the hill out of Newhaven  I got a sense of a car slowing, I turned in time to see my friend and her little boys waving ferociously at me from their car whilst beeping the horn, this gave me a lovely boost and I kept going well at a good pace. Onwards and upwards I went along the undulating coast road, I passed the carvery and took a moment to think about how nice a roast dinner would be about then, at which point the rather portly man - I assume the manager - came over from within and unlocked the door, his substantial belly put me right off and I continued on my way.
Meanwhile at this point my friend must have been at the start line, getting ready to set off. Hopefully he had remembered all the race day wisdom with which I had battered him with that morning and the night before!
Going down the steps to the cliff front walk my knee had a little niggle but seemed to righten itself again before long. As I ran along the path the waves were crashing over the sea wall and the cliffs were highlighted by a beautiful blue sky - a really fantastic day for a run.
Another couple of miles on I had passed the Marina and was beginning to struggle, I was unsure if I would make it to see my friend, then as I started along the seafront past the marina, as I turned, my knee just gave up and I was forced to walk for a while. 
I made it to some steps up to the race route and saw the pacer for a 1:45 time just pass me by, this was around the time I thought my friend would come in at so I tried to step it up and run down the slope on the pavement alongside the runners, turning the corner near the pier I heard a shout from above, my friends were there on a wall, I had just missed our friend by a couple of minutes (the minutes I was forced to walk, doh!).
We made our way then towards the finish line, grabbed a cuppa and a bacon sarnie before positioning ourselves to cheer him in. I layered up as I was beginning to get cold and we shouted out to the runners as they came towards the finish. I saw Brian O and Steve J from PWR who both looked comfortable and fast and gave them a big cheer.
Before long we saw our friend, looking tired but still running strong, we all screamed and cheered him on and he waved enthusiastically back at us before the final dash for the finish line. His time 1:42:22 - amazing! He celebrated with a cheeseburger and chips!

postsrcipt - so it turns out the course was long at 13.42 miles.... adjusted time for my buddy was 1:39:55 POW!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Haters got to hate

The easiest thing to do this morning would have been to turn that alarm off, turnover and go straight back to sleep. But we had come so far and today was the last opportunity to run before our return home tomorrow.
Initially I had played with the idea of another circuit of the lake (approx 9 miles) but we opted for a slightly shorter route that included a long downhill and would be closer to 7 miles. A bit more manageable for us.
Both of us were struggling, our legs felt like lead and after about 2 miles we stopped for a good stretch, this loosened up my legs nicely and we continued onwards onto the main road, which I was sure was downhill but running along it felt pretty tough still... about halfway along this busy stretch of road I looked down at my pace and noticed it had crept up a little and my friend was intermittently lagging behind.

Once we had turned off the main road we took a short walking break to give our legs a little more recovery time before getting back into out stride. We passed a house with a never ending supply of dogs which seemed to get bigger as each one rounded the corner to bark at us. Strange however that for all their angry barking and the fence with large dog sized gaps they didn’t come out to chase us at all.
We made it back to the house thoroughly exhausted and I for one was ready for a nap which I promptly had after some food and reading about 2 pages on my book before sleep took over!
Some really great runs over the past few days, it’s always great to run somewhere new and it was good to have company for the long runs even if the person in question did declare that he hated me at the end of the last run!

Monday, 13 February 2012

What goes up...

...must come down.
Hill reps, officially a really tough workout and luckily for us there were no shortage of hills which meant that even the warm-up and cool-down were pretty hilly too.
After a day of rest (well no running) yesterday we set out with renewed vigour for the task ahead, that was until we went out and headlong into a very windy and wet morning.
The format of the run was perhaps a little odd, 1 mile warm up followed by 2 sets of 5 pyramid hill sprints, another mile, another 2 sets of 5 pyramid hill sprints and a 1 cool down. This wasn't easy at all and at first hating the drizzle and rain it bacame our friend as it helped to keep us cool. Although  was somewaht frustrated that when we returned to base the wind had also changed direction and was stright in our faces once again. Bad times, but valuable run!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Famine pots & a sweaty undercarriage

Bet your glad I went with this image!
Run two of the Donegal Marathon training regime, today was to be a long run and similarly the longest run my new running buddy had ever run.
Up nice and early we had breakfast and prepared our water supplies and energy sweets then set off down the lane from the house.
We had been advised that the route around the lake was about 10-11miles which was sufficient for me for my long run although I was concerned that it may be a big jump for my friend whom had previously only done a maximum of 5 miles in a training run. Sensible head on we decided that 4 miles out and back might be a better starting point as it gave the option of a drop out or continuing. From about 3 miles in my friend (male) started to complain, but knowing that I am a lady he dedicated enquired about what he should do about his sweaty undercarriage - this is not a problem from which I suffer so if any of my male readers have advice on this please feel free to post your tips on avoiding Betty Swallocks.
5 miles in we were going well and at a steady pace so we decided to keep going as we could always walk the remainder of the circuit should we need to stop. We approached the 'Famine Pot' which we had spotted on a drive the previous day and speculated about what food we would like to eat right then... sadly the famine put is not a food version of Mary Poppins bag so we had to stick with water and lucozade tablets.
Onwards we went up and down the hilly circuit, we passed a garden with 6 footballs scattered around, it seemed a lot but who am I to judge, more dogs yapped and barked as we made our way around. just before we hit a long downhill our other friend caught up with us on his cycle around the lake and was suitably impressed with our progress and pace, we chatted awhile before he lets the downhill stretch lengthen his lead on us.
We reached the lane back to the house and we were only at about 9.4 miles, this could not be, we were so close to 10 there was no way we could stop, we forced our legs to keep moving past the lane and keep going so that we could take the run up to a nice round 10 miles.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Donegal Marathon Training Camp

It's not how this little getaway was advertised but for one this relaxing Ireland mini break turned into a marathon training hell... thankfully it was not me that was in hell!
Staying on the edges of Lough Eske in the North West of Ireland in a friends holiday home this seemed to me like a prefect place to get my training back on track and luckily for me I was to have some company. Another friend on the trip managed to get a place in the London Marathon back in January after no success in the ballot draw, but up until now his training has been somewhat ad hoc and with no plan to guide him. I would soon put pay to that, or possibly put him off running for a while.
As we arrived, following a 15 hour long journey of cars and ferries the first thing I needed to do was to get my kit on stretch my legs. We opted for an out and back route around the lake (part way), totalling about 5 miles. The pacing was good, the terrain was hilly and a dog started to chase us for what felt like an age (not good on an out and back route).
The return journey was a little bit of a worry as each corner we turned we were sure the angry little dog would be waiting for us so he could once again begin his chase. By the time we passed his territory again we had scared some cows, had a chat to some sheep, struggled up lots of hills and I had successfully scared my friend concerning how many miles we would be doing over the next few days, the dog however was nowhere to be seen.


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Pacing makes perfect

Pacing is quite a tricky business for many, I know that when I started running my pacing was not great - well If I was looking for consistency it was terrible. Then before long I had succumbed to the pull of a Garmin and my pacing got better and better. Now I am pretty good with or without the Garmin (not that I would be without it by choice you understand).
Once again on the treadmill this morning (it was -3.5 last night, I just couldn’t brave it) I had no need for the Garmin but the machine does the work for you in terms of pacing. The last of the snow and ice seem to have rendered the gym a little quiet but the hardcore were still out in force and for many the snow excuses was melting like a snowman. My hips and legs seem to have finally recovered from the brutality of the Spartacus circuit with a personal trainer on Saturday. I started off with a mile warm up to make sure I was up to it, then 3 miles at target marathon pace and another mile cool down. On the treadmills either side of me, people came and went, often as they do trying to catch a glimpse of what I was up to!
Pacing is of particular importance for marathon running, my first marathon (Brighton 2010) all my splits were within 9:20 - 9:50 with bad or overtly tough miles, I didn’t hit the wall, I was steady and consistent and I finished delighted with myself – I finished ready to sign up for another, which to me means a very good racing experience. I want the same again this year in London so it is a key part of the training to practise my goal pace. Thankfully all the speed work and track sessions seem to be paying off and my target pace is feeling pretty comfortable, let’s hope its like that on the day.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Blah blah blah run run run blah blah blah

Today was the date of my second contribution to Womens Running Magazine, fast becoming my favourite magazine of all time!
I took part along with three other women runners in 'The Big Debate'.
In the cosy upstairs room of a London watering hole we arrived ready to talk about running and talk about running we certainly did. The topic was 'What makes a good race' but I will not delve too deeply into our discussion as I don't want to step on the toes of the feature - for those interested (which I am sure you all are) it is due to be published in the May issue of Womens Running.
The other runners included a writer who is embarking on her first novel about running (she could just be my new hero); ex-elite rower and race director of the Tunbridge Wells Half marathon; and a newbie runner from the 'Rock Bottoms' in training for her first marathon. We were interviewed by a lovely journalist, Clara Tait, whilst photographer Eddie skirted around us like a phantom taking an unfathomable amount of photos - lets hope at least one is a good 'un! Also in attendance was sub-editor Clare who lives very close to me so hopefully one day soon I will see her at PWR for a run or maybe even running our 10k in October.
Cannot wait to see all our running jibber-jabber in print... watch this space!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

I am not Spartacus

When I visit my good and oldest friend in Sheffield from time to time we go to her gym and do a personal training session. This is something she does pretty regularly and I do 2, maybe 3 times per year. We have done some kick boxing style sessions but with the marathon coming up we thought it was safer on me to do a 'fitness' PT session. The minute I heard it referred to as the 'Spartacus' circuit I knew I was in trouble!
After my warm-up on a horrendous machine which was not dissimilar to climbing a ladder my legs were already like jelly. We moved on to a variety of other exercises, all with names I am sure but I cannot remember them, it was enough for me to focus on my instructor - Alex - and keep the sweat from my eyes.
The second round of the circuit was even tougher, now with jelly legs and jelly arms I felt like Mr Softie on his way to a collapse. I made it through though and felt great for it. The benefit of doing cross-training has improved my running no end and whilst I am sure I will be too sore to run for a day or two I know this will have worked wonders for me. Looking forward to next time already (but just not too soon eh!)

NOTE: It is now two days later and my legs are still not my friend, they are fine once I get moving but the transition from sitting to standing and vice versa is not an easy one.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Everybody's (Nike) Free feel good! 
Well Rozalla, you were right and wearing my Nike Free's I just want to keep on going. They really do feel like slippers and somehow my feet are loving them, after my initial start with the Vibram Fivefingers I was expecting some soreness in my foot and also my calves but taking a step back to this transition shoe was the best thing I could have done. My only sadness today on the run was that I didn't have time to go further, due to other commitments I only had time for 5 miles but it was a great five miles. I ran through the woods and along quiet roads, the only mishap being close to the end where I mysteriously starting heaving and had to stop briefly. The nausea subsided and I was back on my way.