Monday, 30 April 2012

April Rundown

What a wet few weeks that was! Last month really lived up to the expression 'April showers', as we finally had heavy rain, along with strong winds and cold temperatures for several days in a row. It didn't stop me running, but it did make some of those runs slightly less enjoyable!

The biggest disappointment was a rare DNS, at a race I felt confident of PB-ing in. Hopefully I'll be able to put that right next month.

The biggest excitement was a course PB at Eastbourne Parkrun, where I shaved almost 40 seconds from my previous time, and ran within 15 seconds of my (faster course) 5K PB.

Two weeks of Easter holidays and the children off school meant that my mileage was not as high as I would have liked, and although I cranked it up over the last couple of weeks to make up for the first two, it's still my lowest mileage of the year...

Ran 17 times = 77.12 miles
Cycled 2 times = 20 miles
1 Race
1 (sort of) PB!

Overall though, I've kept things pretty consistent - I'm still running 4 times a week, and usually over 15 miles each week. I'm still feeling as though I'm as fit as I've ever been, so bring on the next month!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Dodging the Downpours

Since we moved to the South of England last August, I have been pleasantly surprised by the weather. We English are pretty damn interested in the weather (and I am definitely no exception), perhaps because it can be rather changeable and unpredictable. We also tend to think our climate is terrible, and we love to moan about it. But having lived in Scotland for 6 years, I have a more favourable view of English weather now. Suffice to say, there was a lot more wind and rain up north, (although admittedly we have moved to an area known as 'The Sunshine Coast', which prides itself on having more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in the UK, so it may not be entirely representative).

The last few months have been very dry and we've had a lot of sun, so much so in fact that the South of England and the Midlands has received drought warnings and we are being urged to save water.

But this has all changed over the last couple of weeks. The rain is BACK, and now it just won't go away. Every time I look at the local 5-day forecast, it has rain scheduled for every day. At first I thought we deserved a bit of rain, it's fair enough, and of course we need to fill those empty resevoirs. But now it's just getting boring, and there seems to be no sign of improvement.

On Monday, spurred on by having watched the London Marathon on Sunday, I decided to run 8 miles - my longest distance since the Half Marathon 7 weeks ago (which was a rainy day too, by the way...). I didn't let the rain out me off, I put my baseball cap on to keep the rain off my glasses and face, and got out there. After spending over an hour in the great outdoors, naturally I was soaked by the time I got home, but it wasn't too bad.

Then this morning I crept downstairs at 6.20am while everyone else was asleep, only to see that it was pouring with rain and blowing a gale. I reluctantly put my running gear on - jacket and protective baseball cap included - and willed the sun to break out. It didn't, and I started to think of a few good reasons why I shouldn't go out. I'm not following a training plan, it doesn't matter how many times I run this week, I could run tomorrow instead, I'd be better off doing a fitness DVD in the living room etc etc.

Then I remembered something that I heard a couple of days ago. I was listening to the Marathon Training Academy podcast, and someone described how Angie, the show's presenter, doesn't miss runs she has planned because her mindset is 'It's already decided'. That resonated with me, because since January, going for an early morning run has been something that I've done almost every Wednesday. It fits in well with my usual weekly routine, and I've just got into the habit of doing it.

On Tuesday night before going to bed, I'd got my running stuff ready and set my alarm for the morning. It was already decided. So in spite of the constant blustery wind and horizontal rain, I toughed it out for 3 whole miles. I was cold, and it wasn't much fun, but it wasn't that bad either. And it didn't matter what the weather was like anyway - my run was already decided!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Marathon thoughts

Yesterday was the 2012 London Marathon. With over 35,000 runners this year, it's one of the most popular races in the UK, and one of the biggest marathons in the world. It's not easy to get a place on the start line. Every year, after the race, there is a ballot for the following year's event. This now closes in a number of hours, and then hopeful runners have to wait until the following October to find out whether or not they have won a place. The chances of getting picked are slim - this year, over 170,000 people applied.

Otherwise you can choose to run for a charity, which usually entails a promise to raise a hefty amount of sponsorship money, or you can qualify with a Good For Age time (sub 3h50m for me - haha).

Since 2010, when I ran the Edinburgh marathon, I've been entering the ballot each year, in the almost certain knowledge that I won't get accepted. I don't even think I'd like it - I hate big cities and I hate big races. It would be a logistical nightmare getting to the start line, then meeting up with family, a nightmare for them to get round London, and the race is so crowded from start to finish, other runners would get on my nerves! But it's just become a tradition for me to apply each year to see if I can get my name picked out of a hat.

Anyway, yesterday I was spectating from the sofa. I went for an easy 4 mile run at about 8am, to bring last week's mileage to 19.3m. Then I settled down with a bowl of cereal and a cup of tea, Pete took the kids to rugby practice, and I had the remote control to myself for the morning.

It was a great watch. To be completely honest, I wasn't totally captivated by the winners of the men's or women's elite races, as I just didn't know any of the personalities enough. But there were several British men and women going for Olympic qualifying time, and of course among the masses were lots of celebrities, and a few people I know.

The online tracking system was excellent. You could type in a name, and follow that runner's progress from 5K onwards There were splits for every 5K, and a predicted finish time, so you could see exactly how they were getting on. I was tracking some of the British elites, a couple of celebs, and a few friends!

I kept an eye on the computer as one friend went through 10K at 3.15 pace (which was probably his target time), then he disappeared for ages, only to complete the next 5K in over an hour. He finished in over 5 hours, so something obviously went wrong there. However another friend ran an awesome race, with totally consistent pace, she finished in 3h59m55s! You cut it fine there Toni!

As for the Brits, a couple of women (Clare Halissey and Freya Murray) ran around 2h28m, which should get them into the Olympic squad, but unfortunately Lee Merrien, who needed 2h12m to qualify for the men's team was just outside with 2h13m41s.

Apart from that, there were also all the stories of people who were running for various causes and charities, which never fail to raise a tear.

So naturally all this got me thinking about the idea of running another marathon. I found the one I did really tough, and have had no particular desire to run another, until recently. A few weeks ago I read a blog post about a marathon which just made it sound so enjoyable and achievable. Then watching yesterday made me think it might not be so bad to do it all again.

The main reason for not doing it, is the risk of injury. It was 3 months after the marathon in 2010 that I got Plantar Fasciitis, which then lasted for about 10 months and stopped me running for a while. Obviously, the risk of not being able to run at all outweighs the positives of attempting another marathon. There is also the training - so many family weekends lost to training, and then being too tired to do anything after running 20 miles.

But on the other hand, so many other people are doing it, why can't I? And I have a time to beat - the Edinburgh marathon was so hot, I'm sure the weather added at least 15 minutes to my time, and I'm fitter and faster now too.

I'm not going to decide yet. I've been running consistently well for 4 months now, but I'm not convinced that upping my mileage wouldn't lead to heel problems. So I'll bide my time, and keep my fingers crossed that the PF doesn't come back. But watch this space, you never know!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Off road, on muddy trail

For a really long time I've been meaning to do more running on trails and soft ground rather than roads. It's a lot easier and more convenient to stick to roads as there are so many routes to choose, which all start from my front door. I can't plan routes through the countryside, as most of the tracks don't appear on google maps, and with my sense of direction, there's a high risk of getting lost.

But I know that running off road would reduce the risk of impact injuries, and provide a bit of variety and a different challenge. As well as that, the views should be better.

So this afternoon, after dropping Emma at nursery, I headed for the woods! I only had to run for about a mile before I got to the path that went into the woods. The track wound gradually uphill, but it was soft and very comfortable to run on. I had a vague idea where I was going, as I cycled round here a few months ago, but after about half a mile or so, I decided to turn off the main path and into the woods on my right. It was shortly after this that I remembered that the end of a week in which it has rained everyday (for the first time since we moved here), was perhaps not the best time to start running on muddy paths. I'd had this thought earlier, but almost immediately forgotten it.

It wasn't easy to run on. In places the path was very bumpy, and there were plenty of obstacles to negotiate. Then it got very wet and slippery. I kept stopping to consider exactly where to put my feet down, and sometimes to tiptoe round big puddles.

At first I'd pause my Garmin, swear, and wonder how I could avoid getting my trainers wet and muddy, but after a while, I got more adept at traversing the boggy bits slightly faster, and with my  confidence increasing bit by bit.

Then I came to a little stream, which I could only cross by balancing on a log, which someone had helpfully left there as a bridge.

After that I came to a gravel path, and decided to follow it in the vague direction of the way I thought I'd come. It went downhill for about 5 minutes, when I started to wonder whether I was going the way I thought, or should turn around and retrace my steps so far.

Thankfully after a while, I came back to the original path, and had done a loop round the woods. At this point I relaxed and enjoyed my run a lot more, as I knew exactly where I was going again! Instead of heading straight home, I took a short detour through a patch of woods which was dotted with bluebells (although you can't really see them in the picture below).

In total I ran just over 5 miles, and I'd estimate that less than a mile of that was on tarmac. I did have to leave my trainers outside the front door though, as they were so muddy, and my socks and running tights were pretty dirty too!

It was so nice to do something a bit different, and I really felt the difference on my legs. Although I think I tested out some new muscles by running on an uneven and slippery surface, my body definitely appreciated the lack of pounding, especially my poor fragile heels. I can't wait to do more off road running, but I hope we get some sunnier weather soon to dry out some of those puddles first...

Monday, 16 April 2012

A Better End to the Week

So last week didn't begin well, as the car and I both failed to start on Monday (thanks for pointing out that irony, Char!). I felt quite grumpy all day, but forced myself to go for a run in the afternoon, and it cheered me up a bit.

On Tuesday it was a really sunny afternoon, and I decided to run with music, which I hardly ever do. Whenever I do though, it always makes me go a lot faster, basically having the same effect on me as if I were in a race. Tuesday was no exception, and I blasted out 4 miles at 8.13 m/m pace. I kept looking at my Garmin and trying to slow down, but it felt as though I was racing!

Perhaps that was a good thing, because later in the week I decided to do a 5K on Saturday. It was the weekly Parkrun event, and this was my third time on this particular course. The last time I did it, almost a month ago, I didn't really enjoy the race, and just felt really tired, so I tried to psyche myself up in the morning. I had a small bowl of cereal and no cup of tea (which can give me a stitch). A great sacrifice for me in the morning.

It was a cool, overcast morning, with a little wind, but not bad for running. The organiser announced that there would be someone pacing 25 mins this week, so I though if I could stay near him, I could get a time I would be happy with. As the race began, I set off in front of him. It was a small field again, with only 59 runners, so I was mainly on my own, and only passed 1 or 2 runners in the last mile or so.

Anyway, I felt ok for the first 2 miles, running splits of 7.50, then 7.56. I started to slow down on the last mile, and there is quite a bit of running on bumpy grass and mud, which I find a lot slower than road races. I knew the guy who was pacing, and I could hear his voice behind me for most of the race, as he was chatting away to someone! I was desperately trying to make sure he stayed behind me, but he sounded as though he was getting closer and closer...

As we approached the end of the race, he said to someone 'you've got 2 minutes to finish, go now!', (meaning to finish sub-25 mins). I started to sprint, and I heard the other runner charge up behind me. I kicked harder, and we crossed the line in the same time, with me just ahead.

My time was 24m45s, which is only 14 seconds slower than my 5K PB, but a PB on this course by 39 seconds. Considering that my 5K PB was on a flat road course, I'm really happy with that. I certainly felt I couldn't have given it any more effort, I was absolutely knackered at the end! I was 5/23 women, and 25/59 runners in total. It felt good to finish the week with a strong race after the disappointment of DNS-ing on Monday.

I ran 5 times altogether last week, which is very unusual for me, and I totalled 18.1 miles.

Away from running, we enjoyed the second week of the Easter holidays with no less than 3 visits to castles, and cinema, cafes and beach trips too. It's great exploring this area together, as we have been here 7 months now, and there are still so many places that are new to us.

Pevensey Castle

Battle Abbey

This week it's back to school, and I'm actually quite sad not to have the kids home and to be able to take them out. But I also know that it'll be good to get back into a routine, and I'll find it easier to fit in the running, and hopefully some cycling as well.

Monday, 9 April 2012

My first DNS

In my last post I stated that I was confident of getting a 10K PB today, 'barring illness, injury, blizzards etc'. Well there was one potential problem I hadn't considered: car trouble. What's that, regular readers? Haven't we just bought a lovely new car? Yes, that's right. And although it took us on a 220 mile round trip at the weekend without any difficulty, as we rushed out of the house this morning ready to run, the car just wouldn't play ball.

The key electronics didn't work, and the engine wouldn't start. It seems to be an electrical fault, and as we have a 3-month warranty from the garage, I'm hoping it will be fixed tomorrow. With it being Easter Monday, the mechanics are of course on holiday today.

So much for the car, but I was really disappointed not to make the race. I had been careful over the weekend not to drink much, and I haven't run since Thursday in preparation for today. It was also an ideal race because there was an 800 metre kids' race beforehand which Robbie and Emma wanted to do, and as it's a bank holiday it didn't interfere with other weekend activities.

It's also especially annoying as I felt so sure of running a PB. Grrrr...

So instead of racing, I spent some time this morning looking for other 10k races in the area this month. There is one about 25 miles away coming up, but it's on a Sunday which clashes with Robbie's rugby practice. Hopefully I'll be able to do one soon.

Meanwhile we had a great Easter weekend at my sister's house. The kids loved seeing their little cousin, and we had fun at the zoo and did an Easter Egg hunt. Despite planning for the race, I didn't skimp on chocolate, and the kids certainly didn't.

I must admit, I'm feeling a lot more inclined to lay around the house and eat chocolate at the moment than get out for a run. I'm going to have to try hard to get myself motivated again to get some miles in this week...

Thursday, 5 April 2012

March Rundown and a Race Goal

What a great month! I managed to stay consistent as I kept running 4 times a week (apart from the week after the Half), and I just pipped my mileage for January! I also got a shiny new PB in my biggest race of the year so far, and hugely exceeded my expectations about how fast I could run!

Ran 18x = 83.4m
Cycled 4x = 39.98m (call it 40m?)
2 Races
1 PB

The Eastbourne Half marathon was one of the best race experiences I've ever had, as it just felt so good and fun to do. I had been focusing on getting a good time since the start of the year, so it was great to get under 2 hours at last. A couple of weeks later I did a Parkrun, and while I didn't beat my 5K PB, I did run pretty hard and get a good time.

I'm probably the fittest I've ever been, judging by my times
, and I'm eyeing my next race and hopefully PB. Next Monday I've entered a local 10K fun run. I don't know anything about the course so it might be a bit risky, but I am so ready to run a fast 10K!

The week after the half I ran the distance in a training run and beat my PB without trying. Then last Monday I ran 6 miles
at 8.34 min/mile pace and it felt comfortable. This would get me a 10k time of just over 53 mins, while my PB stands at 54m 39s.

So assuming the course isn't horrendous, and barring illness, injury, blizzards etc, I'll be hoping to get a 53.?? time, or maybe even 52.??.

Meanwhile the weather has been great and I've been enjoying the first days of the Easter holiday being out with the kids. It's great being so close to the beach when the sun is shining. We'll be visiting my sister at the weekend which should be fun, and I'll just have to try to hold off on the Easter chocolate until after the race!