Friday 30 April 2010

Life gets in the way...

This Sunday marks 3 weeks to the marathon, and that means it should be the date of my last long run before cutting back on mileage. However, life is complicated, and this weekend we are going away for my 'Grandma-in-law's' 90th birthday party. There's no way I could fit a long run in tomorrow or Sunday, so I decided to go this morning instead.

I arranged for the childminder to look after the kids, and set off as soon as I could, at about 10.30am. It was fine and sunny, and I had the rare pleasure of bare arms in a t-shirt! The first 7 miles or so got me to the coastline, and the esplanade where I ran last week. I ran along feeling pretty good, then turned around and abruptly realised I had been helped by a tailwind, which was now blasting in my face. Then the heavens opened.

I am well-used to getting rained on, but this was so heavy, and I wasn't dressed for it - no trusty baseball cap! My arms and hands got cold, and I couldn't see a thing out of my glasses. My eyes were stinging too - I think it must have been moisturiser being washed into them! It was really unpleasant, and a fellow runner came alongside for a short chat about crap weather and her injury.

Anyway, about 15 mins later, the sun came out again. Just when I started to feel a bit drier and enjoy the scenery, it poured down again. I got soaked, and even stood under a bus-stop for half a minute to drink and eat some jelly babies. So it went on - sun, shower, sun, shower...

As I got to 17 miles or so, I was feeling pretty tired. I started watching the Garmin and counting off every 10th of a mile. Then I decided to pop into the public loos for a quick pee. I'm not sure I really needed to, it was more a chance to sit down. It was tough to get going again, and eventually I decided to cut off a corner of my route, taking 22 miles down to 20.

I plodded on around 11.30 min/mile pace now, and even walked up a very steep bit of hill. Then I forced myself to run the last mile, and as I got home it was 20.4 miles. This week there was no chance of adding a bit more on - I was totally exhausted.

I'm a bit disappointed, as that was my last chance to do a long run, and I wanted to try a bit further. But at least I have now done 3 runs of 20-miles, so hopefully that should be enough. Next weekend, according to the plan I'll be aiming for about 10 miles, which should be a bit easier!

I'll miss the sense of achievement that comes from these long runs, and the challenge of pushing myself as far as I can. But Thank God we get our weekends back now - popping out for nearly 4 hours for a run, and then not being able to walk for the rest of the day is something of a pain in the backside. Literally.

Things I could not have done my long runs without:
1. Lucozade Sport. I chose this drink as it will be provided at the marathon, and luckily, I really like the taste. I haven't had any upset tummies with it either.
2. 'Bum-Bag'. Quite comfortable strapped round my waist, this has been a great way to carry fuel, music and keys. Not room for much more than that though.
3. Bottle. I put the Lucozade in this and it's really easy to carry because it just fits over my hand without me having to grip it. I just wish it held more liquid.
4. Ipod. Podcasts kept me company, music made me go faster. Essential.
5. Jelly Babies. Supposedly a good source of energy and carbohydrate. Not sure how much effect they had on my running, but they are yum yum yummy!

Monday 26 April 2010

4 weeks to go...

Yesterday had been forecast as a fine, sunny day, so imagine my grumpiness when I looked out of the window at rain rain rain. Not funny. I changed my sleeveless vest for a t-shirt and jacket, and headed off. Just down the road I ran past a couple of women who were absolutely drenched, and we all smiled at each other as if to say 'yes we are all as mad as each other...'. Apart from that, there was hardly anyone about. Ran downhill for about a mile to meet my cheerleading running partner Ianthe, who was to accompany me on her bike. Unfortunately she had a problem with her brakes, and was stuck in the pouring rain trying to fix it. I was getting soaked and starting to get cold, so I ran off and she caught me up later. The front brake was still not working, but I generously offered to keep the pace nice and slow, just so there wouldn't be a problem. How kind of me!

I had planned an out-and-back route that went down a cycle path to an esplanade by the sea, along it and back again. It was a nice route, but I forgot to check the directions before I left, and we accidentally cut off a big chunk of it. After about an hour it stopped raining, and the temperature was surprisingly warm. Suddenly there were lots more people about on the esplanade - a few other runners and cyclists, and loads of children on bikes and trikes. I don't know how they all got out so fast - it was as if they had all been waiting in the car park for the rain to stop, and then they all jumped out to play.

When we turned round to head back, I realised that we hadn't done enough miles and I would probably have to add a bit on at the end. Ianthe was helping me keep going, saying I didn't look tired yet, and in fact I felt fine up until about 14 - 15 miles. Then I started to get tired. On the way back we had a few uphills, and I really slowed down on some of them. Every time we passed another mile, my Garmin bleeped, and Ianthe rang her bell each time as a mini-celebration! It seemed that the gap between each mile was getting longer and longer though (of course that's because it was, in terms of time anyway).

We got back to less than a mile from my house, and we had only done just over 17 miles. So we added on a bit of a loop, and as we did it, we talked about whether I would do the whole planned 20 miles or not. I reasoned that my original training plan called for an 18-miler at this point and I'd only decided to do another 20 because training had been going well. I also thought that stopping at 18 miles would leave me in better condition for attempting 22 next weekend. So Ianthe headed home, and so did I.

But as I plodded on, I started to feel a bit better, and gave myself a mental kick up the bottom. I knew I could run 20 miles because I did it last week, so I turned right instead of left to add on a bit more. I was feeling very tired, and it was quite tough, but I was determined to complete the 20 miles now. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and I can be quite anal about certain things, and finishing with the Garmin saying '19.9 miles' would really annoy me.

It was really frustrating though - I got near my house and it was still only 19.4, so I kept turning off up little roads and adding bits on. Eventually - thank goodness - 20 miles done! What a relief.

I suppose it was harder this week because it was the second 20-mile run in my legs, and they're not recovered from last Sunday yet. Whatever the reason, it was only 3 mins slower than last week, which wasn't too bad considering how knackered I felt.

A hot bath later, and I took Pete and the kids out for lunch. I had a massive burger and chips, it was great! The weekly post-long-run lunch out has been a marathon expense that I hadn't foreseen. Who wants to cook after running 20 miles though? One more big one to go before taper time - watch this space...!

After the run. The damp mangy-looking animal on my shoulder is actually my ponytail. Yuck.

Thursday 22 April 2010

Feeling good

Wednesday is Jog Scotland night, and yesterday evening was nice and sunny, so naturally there was a big group of us! We had a lovely run, jogging into the local country estate surrounded by sheep and newborn lambs. One runner even claimed to have seen a deer. Anyway, we stopped at a cattle grid at the bottom of a steep hill, and did 2 hill repeats, then jogged to the bottom of another hill and did intervals to the top.

It was 7 miles by the time I'd jogged home, and the Garmin said 62 minutes. I remembered the first time I ran 7 miles last summer, and it took more like 1h20mins. I just felt that I was running so well last night, and when I checked the statistics later, I saw that at 6.2 miles, I was almost exactly the same as my 10K PB! Pretty amazing seeing as we'd been doing hills! Average pace was 8.44min/mile! I think I was trying to keep up with the fast ones.

As I was running home in the sun, I had a sudden realisation that I was really enjoying myself. It sounds silly, but a lot of runners say how they feel good after a run, rather than during it. Last night though, I was out in lovely weather with beautiful views feeling fit and invincible and it was GREAT!!

Anyway, I must shut up now, because I don't want to jinx myself and get injured or ill just before Marathon Day.

Here is a picture of me after the run looking fit and invincible:

Oh, and knackered.

Monday 19 April 2010

The big Two-Oh!

After a reasonably ok 18-miles last week, today (now yesterday) was the day to attempt a big one – 20 miles. The weather has been pretty great recently, around 14 degrees and sunny, but looking out of the window this morning, it was drizzly and overcast. So I put on my trusty baseball cap to keep the rain off, didn’t even consider a jacket or gloves and off I went. It was freeeezing! After about 5 minutes, I was really feeling the cold and my fingers were completely numb. I thought I’d soon warm up, but it kept raining and it was windy, and even after 13 miles, I was still wishing I’d brought my gloves. It only improved towards the end when the rain stopped. As I shivered away, I thought about the people I know who were doing the Edinburgh half marathon today and what a shame the weather was.

Anyway, enough moaning about the weather. The first part of the route took me towards the airport on some long main roads, but listening to another marathon talk podcast kept me entertained and distracted. I’ve read a lot recently about how important it is to start slowly and try to keep pacing consistent rather than start too fast and run out of steam. My first mile was about 9.30, then the second was 9.45, but I kept trying to keep it slower, and after that they were all over 10 mins.

However, when I got to 11-12 miles, I realised my overall time was really slow, and tried to speed up a bit – I just couldn’t help myself. Just after 13 miles, I met my running partner Ianthe, who was coming to support me in the hardest final miles! We settled into a slower, steady pace, and I was able to chat comfortably without getting out of breath. This part was mainly on a country path which is a great route, but it ended with a long steep hill. It didn’t kill me though, and as I got to the top at 18 miles, I knew I could keep going.

Just a short loop to do to make up the last 2 miles. My legs were really aching, and my right calf was starting to cramp up. Just after 19 miles, Ianthe headed home. I realised that I felt ok, and decided to up my speed a bit. I knew that last few miles had been over 11 mins each, so I kicked off, and managed to do the last one in less than 11. As I got home and stopped the Garmin, it read 20.1 miles. Woo-hoo!

I hobbled up the stairs, and as I stopped moving, my leg totally cramped and I started shouting in pain. Pete got me to lie on the bed and he pushed my foot back which eased it. The kids joined in, and eventually it started to feel better. I felt like a fine athletic specimen as I lay there collapsed in a heap.

Despite my sorry state after the run, I felt fairly strong during the last couple of miles, so I suppose that slowing my pace earlier was quite effective. There is such a strong instinct to go faster if you feel good near the start, but my goal is to finish this marathon, and if I can feel ok towards the end of it, it’ll be worth holding back at the start.

Total miles - 20.1; Time 3h33m24s; Average pace 10.37 min/mile.

For the rest of the day, I was aching so much I could hardly move, but so what, I ran 20 miles!! Whoop!!

Friday 16 April 2010

I knead a massage (ho ho)

When I saw a physiotherapist a few weeks ago to help fix my calf, she suggested getting a sports massage, just to help prevent injuries and help relieve soreness. So yesterday I went for my first one. I had read a lot on a running forum about how agonising they are, so I was prepared for some pain, but I was a bit sceptical, as I didn't find the physio treatment particularly painful.

I decided to cycle there for the sake of the environment (and because I couldn't be bothered to find a parking space), so I hoped I wouldn't be too achey to cycle back.

Sure enough it was fine. She concentrated on my calves first, but said they were quite 'soft', then hamstrings (fine), shins (some soreness), quads (eeew, that is a bit painful actually) and glutes (that means bum to you and me, and ouch). Turns out I should be stretching my quads a lot more, as there was a lot of tightness there, and I have a small issue with my piriformis (who doesn't?).

So when she dug her knuckles or elbow into a sore bit, it was uncomfortable, and maybe even a little painful, but honestly, I've had 2 children, it takes a lot more than a bit of heavy-duty rubbing to bother me. Pah.

On Wednesday evening, I went out with my Jog Scotland group and it was a lovely sunny evening for once. We went to the local school field, and ran intervals around the newly painted track. It was great! I clearly remember the last time I ran on a track, and it was when I left school at 18, and attempted a race round the track with some friends. I was unable to finish, retiring after about 200 metres wheezy, red-faced and clasping my unfit chest. This time we did 2 mins fast, 1 min recovery x 6. I love intervals, it's like a game trying to go as fast as you can. (Ok ok, I know how ridiculous that sounds... but I love it!)

Anyway, this morning I planned my usual early morning 3 miles before the rest of the house got out of bed, and decided to go back to the track. I jogged there, ran a mile at an effort-ful pace, then jogged back. Mile 2 was 7.59 mins - pretty fast for me! Whether this was down to the fun of the track, the morning sun or the massage, I really couldn't say, but my legs did feel a little looser when I started running.

I suppose I'll have at least one more massage before the marathon. If it goes any small way to preventing injuries, it'll be worth the money and the mild discomfort.

Meanwhile, I've decided you're never too young to learn about race strategy and training...

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Hush little baby - shut up and go to sleep!

For the last couple of weeks I've been struggling a bit with rest and recovery. I've cleverly managed to pinpoint two main causes of my recent sleeplessness; one is two years old, beautiful but demanding, and seemingly in constant need of attention. The other is four years old, also beautiful, generally well-behaved but with a tendency to wake up too early.

So Emma has been having a few issues with bedtime. Last week she was horrendous, refusing to go to bed, crying and tantruming so Robbie couldn't sleep, and then coming to our bed in the middle of the night and refusing to go back to hers. Luckily we have seen Supernanny, so Pete and I confidently and calmly returned her to her bed without ever getting angry or frustrated. How we laughed as she got up again and again! It really was amusing.

Then imagine the warm smiles all round as I drifted back off to sleep to be woken after 5 minutes by Robbie going to the loo and asking in a booming stage whisper if it was time to get up yet.

Anyway, after a few days of whole-house hysteria, we decided to stop Emma's daytime nap. This seems to have slightly improved matters as now she is too exhausted to protest, and falls asleep in about 30 seconds. She's still getting up in the night, but (fingers crossed) she tends to go back to bed without screaming. Much.

Added to that is my stupid inability to sleep properly, so even on the quiet nights I keep waking up and not going back to sleep. I think this definitely has an effect on my running. The crappy 15-miler I did 2 weeks ago I put down to lack of sleep, and I find that even my little 3-mile morning jogs can be quite uncomfortable if I haven't slept well.

There's not much I can do about this, other than try to get some early nights and cadge a lie-in whenever possible (never). Yawn.

Anyway, despite all this trauma, I managed to do my 18 miles on Sunday. Yay me! I did the whole thing alone with my faithful ipod, mainly listening to podcasts. It was an ok run until about 12 miles, when I started to slow down quite a bit. The weather was fabulous, but because it was so much warmer, I ran out of lucozade before the end - yikes! At about 14 miles the route started going uphill, and I was reduced to a walking pace (although technically still running). Then as I got to 16 miles, I switched to music on my ipod, and suddenly my Garmin went from 11.5 min/miles to 8.5 min/miles! Whoops! Amazing - the boosting effect of music.

I soon managed to slow back down though, and eventually staggered through the front door. This one really took it out of me, and my legs were really sore for the rest of the day. But what did I expect after running non-stop for OVER 3 HOURS!! Madness.

Sunday 11 April 2010

Easter Holiday

We've been on holiday here at home this week. This is what we've been up to.

On Monday, we went to a nearby beach for rock clambering and walking, and jumping in muddy

On Tuesday, our car broke and had to be fixed, so we wandered round our home town.

On Wednesday we went to an adventure park in the Highlands where Robbie climbed in the trees with his Dad and Emma and I took photos.

On Thursday we went for a trip on a Steam Train. (The kids both had a massive tantrum here, but we'll gloss over that).

On Friday, we went to a safari park, and drove through Lions, Camels, Bison etc, saw sea-lions splashing about and some amazing birds of prey.

We've had a great week, and I even managed to run 3 times, although a little half-heartedly. Long run today...let's see how it goes...

Sunday 4 April 2010

7 weeks to go...

After last week's crappy run, I really felt that I had to have a good run today. I have pretty much decided that the pants-ness of that run was down to; a. lack of sleep, and b. just one of those crappy runs. Things didn't look great yesterday, as I had a real pain in my left thigh, which came from a tough hills session on Wednesday, followed by a fast run on Friday. Then I got a text from my running partner Ianthe (who basically ensured that I finished last week's run) saying that she was ill and not running. Panic!

Never mind because I had a 'brilliant idea'. I invited Pete to join me for the last 3 miles or so of today's run! Pete is only an occasional runner, and we rarely run together because of the kids, but when we have, I must admit that he is somewhat slower than me. However, we had babysitters today, in the form of his parents who are here for the weekend, and I thought that after 13 miles, I wouldn't be too bothered about going slowly. After some Easter chocolate style persuasion, he agreed.

For the rest of the run (all 13.5 miles of it), I would have my trusty ipod. Rain was forecast, so I set off with my baseball cap at about 9.30am. Generally I prefer to listen to podcasts rather than music on a long run, as I like the company, and the illusion of being part of a conversation (with my invisible friends...). So I scrolled down and found my Marathon Talk podcasts. This is a great programme for anyone training for a marathon, or anyone interested in running. When I looked today, I saw they had a special 'Long Run Show', which was all about the long run, and had been designed as a longer version to listen to during the run. Perfect!

Listening to the general banter and an interview with a 'mental performance coach', I sailed though the first few miles. The fact that it was mostly downhill helped as well. It didn't rain, the sun came out, and I felt ok. So relaxed in fact, that at mile 8, I said hello to a few sheep. They are such lovely animals to run with - I wouldn't dream of running through a field of cows or horses, but sheep are great.

Anyway, around there I hit a big hill (where I killed my thighs on Weds hill session), but managed to run all the way up it. Around 10 miles, I got to a bendy road with no path, and there was quite a lot of traffic. I tried to keep close to the grass verges as a few rude drivers appeared to try to knock me over.

At 11 miles, the podcast finished, and I scrambled about with the ipod, trying to put some music on. My fingers were all cold and stiff and weak, so I just hit a few buttons, and ended up with Guns & Roses blasting into my ears - 80s rock - nice! That and Amy Winehouse pushed me up another steep hill, and then I arrived home. I took off the ipod and bum-bag, banged on the door about 3 times, and waited for Pete. My legs were just starting to seize up when he opened the door, and we set off again.

I was feeling pretty good at this point, and had about 13.5 miles on the Garmin. We were doing 10 + min/mile pace, which suited me fine. We chatted for a bit, but after a mile or so, I started to feel really tired. I didn't have much energy to chat, so Pete tried to think of all the things he wanted to get off his chest while I couldn't reply - haha! Luckily he couldn't think of anything, and we plodded on for the last few miles. Reaching mile 15, I felt really good because I'd had so much of a better run than last week. Then mile 16 was another boost because I've never been that far before.

As we got home again, the Garmin said 16.89 miles, so I jogged up the road and back again until it said 17. Yay! Made it! Hobbled up the stairs and plopped on the sofa.

So Thank Goodness for that. With a 17-mile run in the bank, I feel a lot more confident about completing the marathon. Next week I can aim for 18 before I attempt the big TWO-OH. Scary. Luckily the house is full of appropriate runners' nutrition, so I don't need to worry about my calorie intake. Happy Easter!