Monday 31 December 2012

Recent Running (or lack of it)

There's been so much going on this month that I haven't been spending much time with blogger. This is a good thing of course, but I feel as though I have some catching up to do now. However, I haven't actually done much running or other exercise to blog about this month.

A frosty run!
 At the end of November I had an injury in my left leg which made my shin ache during and after running. After taking a week or so off from running it wasn't getting any better, so I went to see a physio, and she informed me that the muscles in that leg are incredibly tight and lacking flexibility. So since then, I've been doing the stretches she gave me 2 or 3 times a day. They definitely helped and now the pain has almost gone.

While I was getting that sorted out, things got very busy with the children doing various activities at school and getting ready for Christmas, and I found it very difficult to find time for running. Then we were away for a week, including my birthday trip to San Francisco! I did a lot of walking there, but no running. Well, no proper running, but Pete did persuade me to run up and down for a few metres at one point, just so that I can say I have run on the Golden Gate Bridge! (turn your head to the side...)

After getting back home I continued to see the physio, and she gave me permission to run, but only 3 miles at a time. So that's what I've been doing. I did 3 slow-due-to-lost-fitness runs before Christmas which were hard work.

We had a lovely Christmas Day at home, just the four of us. The kids opened their stocking presents, we went for a walk and then opened the rest of the presents. We had roast chicken for lunch, then kept eating all evening in front of the tv, before Pete and I played our traditional board game, which he traditionally won.

Christmas jumpers!
On Boxing Day we travelled to my sister's house to stay for a few days. I had 2 lovely runs along the river there which were really enjoyable in spite of the ground being wet and very muddy in places, as it continued to rain often.

We came home yesterday, and I ran a 4-miler - my lonngest run for a few weeks! The physio wants me to build things up gradually, but I'm itching to be able to run further. Anyway, It's great to be back home now after a month in which we've only spent just over half of the nights in our own beds!

Having signed up for a marathon in April, I really should be beginning a training plan right now, but it'll have to wait until I get the all clear from the physio. After a year of excellent running, I'm hoping that this little period of injury and rest is nearly over.

Ran: 9x = 30m
Cycled: 0
0 Races

Er... 1x 40th birthday, and 1x trip to San Francisco!

Monday 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas...

... and a peaceful, wonderful, positively angelic New Year to all!

Friday 21 December 2012

Thursday 13 December 2012

Birthday Break

Well here it is already - tomorrow I will be 40 YEARS OLD. I can't quite believe it, and I do feel a bit like I'm getting old, but I'm looking forward to racing in a new age group! Not that I'm doing much running at the moment - I've still got some leg pain but I've seen a physio and I've been diligently doing the stretches she gave me every day. I'm not sure when I'll get back to exercising though, and I fear some weight will definitely be put on this Christmas...

To celebrate my 40th, Pete and I are off on a trip tomorrow! The twist is, I have no idea where we're going. I know we're catching a plane tomorrow, and we're going abroad for about 4 days, but that's about all I know.

So there'll be no blogging, no cycling, and probably no (or very little) running for a few more days while we're off relaxing somewhere. I'll let you know where we went when we get back!

Saturday 8 December 2012

Sneezy, Sleepy and Grumpy.

This has not been a great week of running, for the following reasons:

1. I've been working a lot.

I was asked to teach every morning this week as a teacher was ill with flu. I really enjoyed it, the students were mostly lovely and I could really do with the money, but it took up ALL MY TIME! I've also got some proofreading work to get done this week and next, so that's how I've been spending the evenings. I've done no Christmas shopping, no housework and no exercise this week.

2. I've got an injury.

The last time I ran was Monday evening, and my left leg ached from about my 3rd step. I finally bit the bullet and called a physio, and I've been given a set of stretches to do this week. It's boring stuff, but seems to be helping.

3. I've got a cold.

I suppose it's a good thing in some was to be ill at the same time I'm injured so I can get them both out of the way before running again. But that doesn't stop me from feeling grumpy. I missed a race I wanted to do this morning, as I was lying under the duvet with a runny nose coughing and feeling sorry for myself when I should have been out in the sunshine.

Basically, I'm fed up and grumpy. That is all.

Tuesday 4 December 2012

November Rundown

November was the month where a long period of consistent, injury-free running came to an end. After some good long runs culminated in the 10-mile Great South Run in October, I then had a couple of weeks of feeble running. They were followed by the Poppy Half Marathon on 11th November.

It was a lovely race on a beautiful day, but I crashed and burned at 7 miles, and staggered my way through the rest of the race. I didn't mind too much though, as I still enjoyed most of it, and wasn't looking for a PB.
Kids' race at Poppy Half
Since that race though, I've struggled to do much running at all. I've been supplementing the running with swimming and cycling (although I haven't done much of those either), and I haven't run further than 4 miles at a time.

I thought that a week off of running might help me recover, but I'm not seeing much improvement! My recent 3-milers have been very slow, my legs have felt tired and achey, and I've been battling a pain in my lower left leg.

However, I'm not too bothered about my sad-looking stats for November, as it's one month of recovery after 10 months of great running.

Ran: 7x = 34.5 miles
Cycled: 6x = 59.3 miles
1 Race (Poppy Half Marathon)
Swam: 3x = 0.8 miles!!!

Clearly this was my lowest running mileage month this year. I think I needed a break. But it's been great to spend time learning to swim and improving my ability to go underwater! 

I don't think December's going to see my mileage increase much. I'm really not feeling 100% and I need to get this leg pain sorted out. I've also got some very busy weeks ahead involving work, family visits and a trip away, so I just can't see how I'm going to fit in much running or cycling or swimming! I just hope I don't lose too much fitness and am ready to start marathon training in a few weeks...

Tuesday 27 November 2012

No running!

Last week I didn't do a single run! That was the first time I'd gone a whole week without running since August 2011, when we moved house. (Thank goodness I keep accurate records so I could check this statistic).

It's not that I didn't feel like running, I did, but I've got this nagging pain in my left leg which has been there for a few weeks. I think it might be a nerve problem, as I had something similar at the end of 2009. However, as that was so long ago, I can't remember exactly how it felt, so I'm not sure. I could do with seeing a Physio, but it's soooo expensive, and I'm trying to be careful with money these days.

I find it hard mentally to accept not running. 2012 has been a great year, and recently I've got used to adding up my mileage each week, and taking pride in regular long runs. It's difficult to go from that to a week of 0 miles!

But I listened to an interview with Australian marathoner Michael Shelley the other day, and he was talking about taking weeks off after the Olympic marathon. Then I listened to Ultra-runner Marshall Ulrich say he didn't run at all for months after one of his enormous distances. So I know I haven't exactly run a 2h14m marathon or run across America like those guys, but I've run further and faster than ever before this year, and been lucky to avoid injury for most of it.

It seems that the time is right for a bit of rest and cross-training. Next year I'm hoping to improve on my marathon time in the Brighton Marathon in April, so I need to be fit and well at the end of December to start training. With that in mind, I didn't do much last week!

I did 2 bike rides of around 10 miles each, and one swim of 450 metres. And that was it! How lazy.

The weather has also been horrific, so there hasn't been a huge temptation to go for a run. We've had A LOT of rain, and there's been some flooding, which is not great for your trainers.

In irrelevant news, I took Robbie to a gym place the other day, where he's been wanting to go forever. It's only open on weekdays, so when he had a day off last week (INSET or teachers' training day), he couldn't wait to try it out. It was right up his street as he could bounce, swing and hang upside down to his heart's content. We'll definitely be going back.

And here's me making a fool of myself and doing a bit more cross-training:

Thursday 22 November 2012

Water, Swimming and Me

Somehow I didn't quite manage to learn to swim when I was a child, well not properly anyway. My Dad used to take my sister and me to the pool at the weekend, and we mucked about in the water having fun. I became a good enough swimmer to survive in deep water and I think I got my 1 length badge at school, but never quite made it to 2 lengths (50m).

Unfortunately my preferred swimming stroke has always been doggy-paddle, at which I am quite proficient, and a kind of head-sticking-out-of-the-water version of front crawl. I've always just been scared to put my head in the water.

I hated swimming lessons at school, and I often tried to avoid them with an invented verrucca, cold, or 'lady problem'. I can clearly remember one lesson when we were told to swim underwater when the teacher blew the whistle. When I heard the whistle I just carried on with my head up, ignoring the teacher, and she blew the whistle over and over again. Even embarrassment couldn't make me want to put my head in.

As an adult I've never been afraid of water, and would occasionally go to a pool or splash about in the sea at the beach.

From 2001 - 2004, Pete and I lived in Spain opposite an amazing Olympic swimming pool. It was a legacy of the Barcelona Olympics, and had a 50m length pool with a retractable roof - it was the business. We started going regularly, and Pete managed to encourage me enough to put my head underwater. The big revelation came when I borrowed his goggles - I found that being able to see underwater took away most of the fear, and it really wasn't as bad as I'd thought. I got to the stage where I could go under the water, but I didn't quite get up to swimming underwater.

After we left Spain, I spent a couple of years having nothing to do with swimming. Then the kids came along. When Robbie was a baby, some friends of mine paid for expensive swimming lessons for their babies, but Pete didn't see the need for that. We took Robbie ourselves, and Pete would dunk his head in and get him used to the water. As a nervous nelly, I would never have had the confidence to teach a baby to swim, but Pete is a water-baby himself and knew that he was doing the right thing.

We took Robbie regularly, and he learnt to swim with us. Then Emma came along, and Pete did the same with her. As the kids got older, they started having swimming lessons, and as Emma learnt to swim short distances, Robbie started developing great style with breaststroke and crawl. They both  love being underwater.

It was becoming clear that my young children could do a lot of things in the pool that I couldn't. To see Emma (age 4) fearlessly swim down to the bottom of the pool while I kept my ears dry made me think it was time to act.

So at the beginning of this summer, I bought some goggles, and got to work. We have been to the pool most weekends, and Pete has been patiently teaching, encouraging, and sometimes shouting at me to get my head underwater. Since being in Spain I had gone back to square one and had to start again.

But gradually I built my confidence, and when I was confident of putting my head in the water, I started trying to do a proper breaststroke. Pete showed me what to do, and after a few goes I could swim a width!

Then a few weeks ago, something amazing happened - I swam a length with proper breaststroke putting my head in and out of the water! It was really great as the family were all swimming along behind me shouting encouragement - Emma on Pete's back when she got tired. Then I did it again, and again, and this week I went to the pool on my own, and swam 18 lengths (450 metres)!

Ok, so I stopped in between each one for a rest and it took me about half an hour in total, but I am making progress! It's wonderful to be able to see swimming as an actual sport, rather than just bobbing about in water as I used to do.

But the most brilliant thing is to go underwater with Robbie and Emma and watch them swim, do somersaults, dive and generally enjoy themselves. It's opened up a whole new world to me!

I have a long way to go, but I'm going to keep practising. My next goal is to swim 2 lengths without stopping for a break, and also to learn to swim front crawl properly. After my 18 lengths of breaststroke on Tuesday, I had a really bad backache, and I think I must have strained something. In fact a couple of years ago when I was seeing a physio regularly, she told me to avoid breaststroke because of the slight curve in my spine. I laughed and said 'I don't swim'. How things have changed...

Monday 19 November 2012

A week off running (more or less)

In my last post I stated that I was going to take a week off from running. Well last week I didn't do much, but I did have one teeny tiny run.

It's hard mentally to take time off from training, and I did feel guilty a lot, and worried all week that I might put on weight. However, with that concern in mind, I was quite careful with what I ate, and was actually a couple of pounds lighter than usual when I weighed myself midweek.

On Tuesday I did something that I haven't done ever in my life - I went for a swim by myself! I have gradually been overcoming my fear of going underwater (with help from Pete and the kids), and I'm learning to  swim lengths of breaststroke - very slowly and with a break inbetween each one! So on Tuesday I avoided the time when people were swimming lanes, and went instead to the open swim, as I wasn't sure I'd be fast enough in a lane. It was perfect, as there were a few old folks swimming sedately up and down (i.e. my speed), and a couple of parents with children who didn't really get in the way.

I was there for about half an hour before I had to leave for school pick up, and I swam 14 lengths in that time - which is 350 metres! So you can see I'm not preparing for a triathlon just yet, but who knows how fast I'll be in a year's time...

I had a lovely 11 mile cycle on Wednesday, which was mostly on cycle path and had the sun blazing through the red and orange trees. The scenery was lovely.

On the Cuckoo Trail

Then I tried a little run on Thursday. I went at 7am, before school, and just aimed to stretch out my legs and see how they felt. I averaged 8.48 min/miles, which is probably a bit slower than I would usually run a short distance before breakfast, and I kept it to a modest 3 miles. I felt ok fitness-wise, but I've had a pain in my left shin for a couple of weeks, and it was still bugging me.

So I decided not to run again, and as we were away at my parents-in-law all weekend, I didn't do any more exercise. Instead we drove to their house on Friday evening and met up with Pete's 3 siblings and their families. Then on Saturday we went swimming with all the children in the morning, had a quick lunch of sandwiches, then went to the cinema. Pete's Mum took the kids to see Madagascar 3, and the rest of us saw Skyfall - the James Bond film.

I'm not a huge fan of all the old Bond movies, but I really enjoyed this. It was just great to see a proper grown-up film at the cinema for a change, and the story was good, the actors were fantastic, there were some funny lines, the baddie was hilarious (Javier Bardem) and I just really enjoyed it.

That evening we went out for a curry, then to a local bar where I drank a few Jack Daniels and Coke - a very unusual weekend for me, but all this relaxing and no working out made a nice change!

Sunday 11 November 2012

Poppy Half Marathon

This race is named because it takes place on Remembrance Sunday each year. In order that runners can attend services in the morning, the race begins at 12.30pm.

Spoiler alert - I got a medal!
As I mentioned in my previous post, I did not have a great run up to this race. Having focused my training on the Great South Run (10 miles) I didn't do enough longer runs for this race, and then over the last 2 weeks, I've had various niggles - sore legs, cold symptoms, a bit of shin pain. Then on Friday night, I was walking home with the kids when I had a sudden attack of sciatica.

I've suffered a bit with it before, but it's usually manageable, but on Friday I could not walk! I had to keep stopping, and when I got home, I was struggling to walk up the stairs! I spent that evening rolling my backside on a tennis ball and foam roller, which seemed to help. The next morning it was much better, although there was still an ache there.

So this morning I was mainly hoping to finish the race, with a small wish that I could still go sub 2 hours. My PB was in March, on a hilly course, whereas this race is almost completely flat. Conditions were perfect too, as it was not too cold, there was not much wind, and the sun was shining all day.

Before the main race, there was a kids' race, and Robbie and Emma ran the 500 metres again. On the previous occasions when they've raced, I have run with Emma, but she was in an independent mood today, and didn't want me slowing her down. But she did then ask Robbie to stay with her. So they ran together, and went much slower than last time! Emma needed a pushy Mum there urging her on, it seems... They just pootled around, enjoying themselves!

Then it was my turn. The course was 4 laps of just over 5km. It was mainly along the coast, and the sun shining on the sea was beautiful. After my success in the GSR, I set off at a good pace. The first 4 miles were pretty fast; 8m26s; 8m16s; 8m21s; 8m13s. I was feeling good, and hoping I could keep this pace up. The trouble was, I hadn't really planned what my pace should be beforehand (due to all the illness), and in fact this was much too fast. 2 weeks ago, I ran a fast 10 miles with my first 4 miles all over 8m45s, so I was overdoing it now.
Feeling good at this point
I wasn't aware of it though, and the next few miles went ok - miles 5,6 and 7 were all 8m40s. But around mile 7 I crashed and burned. The speed of the start caught up with me, and my body reminded me that I was not as fit as I wanted to be. I stopped at a water station (something I rarely do) and walked for a while as I sipped the drink. Once I stopped to walk, the game was up mentally. I knew I had given in.

The rest of the race was just a big struggle. My legs were exhausted, and I could feel all sorts of aches and pain - a shin problem follwed by ankle pain in my left leg; sciatic pain in my right, and later the dreaded heel pain. Bleurk. From then on, all my mile splits were over 9 minutes, and 2 of them were over 10. I walked several times, and found it difficult to cope with the laps - it meant that people were finishing right next to me while I still had over 3 miles to go!
Getting tired...
To my surprise though, due to my fast start, when I got to the 10 mile point, I was around the same time as my PB from the GSR! I was on a downward trajetory though, and did a lot of walking in those last 3 miles, as well as some shuffling. In this race I was forced to appreciate for the first time, the wisdom of not going off too fast.

Concentrating hard on keeping going!
I usually try to run my last miles faster than the first few, and save something for a sprint finish, but today I didn't really care - I was just desperate to stop. I crossed the line in 2h 00m 25s, and I wasn't even bothered about those 25 seconds! In fact I was quite pleased that I had run such a bad, tough, seemingly disasterous race, and still got within 2 minutes of my PB.

It's a shame that I'm probably capable of beating my March PB, and this was a great course and a perfect day to do it on, but I just didn't have the fitness. I'm not too upset though. I'm glad I finished (when around mile 8 I wondered if I might not), and my time wasn't too bad. The medal is also really nice!
Poppies, the town's Pavilion building, and a runner - love it!
I think I'm going to take a week off from running now. I really want to give myself a good chance of being fit and well when I start marathon training at the end of the year (gulp), and I think my legs need a rest. My plan is to cycle, strength train and maybe even swim this week (but I must admit, I might sneak a little run in there in a few days' time...).

Wednesday 7 November 2012


I have not had the best couple of weeks, as far as fitness is concerned. Since the high of enjoying a strong, exciting run at the Great South Run on 28th October, it's been all lows on the running front. Last week was Half Term, so I didn't have a lot of time to workout, as the kids were my constant companions. I also had a flu jab in the week, which  (I think) made me feel a bit unwell.

On the Tuesday, I ran 3 miles really slowly. It was a bit soon after Sunday's race, I think, but I was really looking forward to going out in the dark for the first time this autumn! My legs felt pretty heavy, and I didn't run again until Friday morning. It was pouring with rain then, and there was even some hail. I didn't feel good, and it wasn't much fun.

Time to get out the high-viz clothing!
Then on Sunday I tried a longer run, but it just didn't happen. I ran 4.6 miles at 9 min/mile pace, and stopped and walked for a bit in the middle. I felt tired and achey. In fact I really hated it, and couldn't wait to get home. It's been a long time since I felt such disaffection for running!

This week hasn't been any better. On Monday and Tuesday I was busy with other things and didn't do any exercise. I've had some cold symptoms too - blocked nose, achey muscles, sore throat, and I think I have the beginnings of a cough... Ugghhh.

Today I forced myself out for a run, and it wasn't too bad - my pace was fast at 8.28 min/miles over 4 miles, but I felt exhausted afterwards. My legs are still heavy and not back to their usual state.

I can't really complain after so many weeks and months of great running and training this year. It's been by far the best period of running I've ever had, and I've done quite well in avoiding both illness and injury. I suppose it's only fair that it should catch up to me some time.

The problem is, I'm entered for a Half Marathon this Sunday! It's another coastal route, but this one is 5 times round a looped course. As it's a very flat course, ideally I'd be looking for a PB (wind conditions depending), but as things stand, I'm not even sure I'm capable of running 13.1 miles. I'm eating apples and drinking orange juice, and hoping to shake off any bugs, but I think my body is just tired and protesting about all the running I've been doing. Fair enough.

Unless I come down with a proper heavy cold, I'm pretty sure I'll make the start line, and if the worst comes to the worst, I'll plod round and enjoy the view. Or I might feel great by Sunday, what with all this tapering, and smash a PB out - here's hoping for the latter!

Friday 2 November 2012

October Rundown

With both Emma and Robbie at school full-time, 5 days a week, this was a good month of training. Every week included 5 workouts, and that was usually 4 runs and a bike ride per week. My long runs went 8 miles; 10 miles; 12 miles; then finished with a 10 mile race.

Sprinting to the finish!
Overall it looked like this:

Ran: 16x = 87.6 miles
Cycled: 5x = 52.6 miles
1 Race (Great South Run - 10 miles)
1 PB (first time at this distance!)
1 Halloween Party

This was my second highest monthly mileage after July, when I ran 0.4 miles further, and in July I only cycled 19 miles. So this is probably my best month overall.

Still going for it...
The Great South Run was the focus of my training for quite a few weeks, so I'm glad it went well. I would definitely do another 10-mile race, it was a really good distance for me.

Out of energy at the finish line...

This week has been Half Term, so the kids have been home, and I've done very little running and no cycling. I also had a flu jab, and felt a bit unwell in the days after that. But we did have a little Halloween party for the kids on Tuesday, which was great fun.

Dancing monsters
Then on Wednesday evening we got dressed up again, and went Trick or Treating:

Wizard and Witch
As Half term draws to a close, it's time to get back to more running and cycling, and I really must start adding in some strength training too - watch this space...

Monday 29 October 2012

Great South Run - Race Report

I entered this race some time in Spring, and I always intended for it to be one of my main goals for the year. It was my first 10 mile race, so I didn't have a PB to beat, but originally I wanted to run about 1 hour 30 minutes, which later became 1h25m - 1h30m as my training heated up.

I think I trained pretty well for this race. Over the summer I ran 10 miles several times, and most weeks I did a long run of 8 miles minimum, and this was all with the Great South Run in mind. I knew it was a very flat course, and that made me hope for a good time.

However, other parts of my preparation didn't go as smoothly. Last week I really didn't sleep well at all, and then Emma was sick on Thursday night, and up for a few hours. Then on Saturday we were staying with my in-laws before the race, and I just couldn't sleep at all. It was just one of those things, and I lay awake from about 10pm until 4am, until I finally got about 3 hours' sleep. (Lucky for me the clocks went back that night, otherwise it would have been 2 hours!).

Emma catching up on lost sleep
I knew I could run sub 90 mins, and having averaged 8.57 min/miles in March's Half marathon, I wanted to run a bit faster than that pace. From my training runs, I felt capable of around 1h 28m, and was really hoping for 1h27m something. But that was starting to look optimistic...

So we got to the start line early on Sunday morning and I was feeling tired and FREEZING cold. It was about 4 degrees Celsius, but there was a bitter wind which chilled me to the bone. Pete lent me his coat as the bin liner I had on just didn't cut it. I had to give his coat back though, and as I waited in the start corral, I nearly froze to death. I felt quite miserable, and decided to myself that I would never race one of these big events again. It's just so much easier to turn up shortly before the start, park near the startline, and not have to queue for ages before starting to run.

Wearing Pete's coat near start line
We did manage to see the elite women set off before the general race, and it was great to spot Jo Pavey (who won) and some other British athletes. Then I got into position and waited for the start. Eventually we crossed the line and were off. There were a lot of people around me (25,000 in total I think), and there was a bit of bumping and barging in the first mile. The course goes into the Naval Dockyard, and is quite narrow in places. Because of this my first mile was a slightly worrying 9m19s.

From that point I made a decision to run around crowds when I could, rather than getting stuck trying to go through them. I thought I'd lose less time by running round the outside of the main bunch in the middle. I don't know if that was the right choice or not, but it felt less frustrating than keep getting stuck behind people. Mile 2 was a better 8m58s, and I was amazed that I was quite warm, and able to remove my gloves at that point!

This race is advertised as having a lot of impressive sights, as you see a lot of famous buldings, the ship HMS Victory in the dockyard, and finish along the coastal path. However, I missed a lot of the sights, as I was watching out for other runners, trying not to trip anyone up or get tripped. While not as crowded as the Great North Run (which I did in 2010), it was busy all the way round.

I felt good though, and decided to go for it. My mile splits were looking better and better:

Mile 3 - 8m47s
Mile 4 - 8m46s
Mile 5 - 8m37s
Mile 6 - 8m33s
Mile 7 - 8m41s

This was the first time in such a long distance race, that I really felt I was racing the whole thing, rather than just running. It was a great feeling!

I was starting to feel tired around mile 8, and I developed a sciatic pain in my right buttock - I keep getting this on long runs. Towards the end I even felt like I had a blister on the sole of my foot, but my mental state was winning the battle against all of these things. I kept overtaking people, and that was the key to my speed really - a huge desire to beat all those around me!

From mile 8 onwards it was a long finishing straight along the coast, and the wind was in your face all the way to the end. It wasn't too strong though, and in fact it cooled me down quite nicely! The route seemed to be slightly downhill - or perhaps I was just running well. My last few miles were
impressive (for me):

Mile 8 - 8m35s
Mile 9 - 8m31s
Mile 10 - 8m25s

As I approached the finish, I had something left, and I gave it everything I could to sprint to the line. I overtook a lot of people in the last 200 metres! I paused my Garmin at 1h28m06s - which was also my official chip time.

I felt a little disheartened that I hadn't got under 88 minutes, but later, checking my Garmin details, I decided that I had run better than hoped, as I averaged 8.42 min miles overall. The problem was that I ran over 10.1 miles according to the Garmin (probably due to running all over the course to avoid people), and when I was planning my goals, I was assuming it would be 10 miles dead. I was only 7 seconds disappointed!

Afterwards I had to walk a long way to pick up finishers' pack, then go and meet Pete, and then we had to make our way back to the car. I got cold again very quickly, and started to feel quite rough. As well as aching, I felt a bit sick, and just generally exhausted.

So I really enjoyed the race, but the before and after were enough to put me off bigger races for a while! The medal and t-shirt were pretty cool though. Now I have a 10 mile PB to beat in the future!

Position 5638th (of about 25,000!), 1107th female, 216th in Age group.

Friday 26 October 2012

Race Goals

So on Sunday I'll be running my first ever 10-mile race, the Great South Run. It's in Portsmouth, which is about 65 miles from where we live, so we'll be driving over on Saturday. Pete's parents live nearby, and we're staying with them the night before the race.

As part of the Great Run series, this is a big race, 25,000 runners in fact. You can tell that this is a big event because it's live on National TV, it's expensive and gets full early,  there's a t-shirt for every finisher, and the race pack is rather large and detailed (including a magazine):

However, it's less than half the size of the Great North Run (a half-marathon) which I ran in 2010, and which consisted of 54,000 runners. It was an unsatisfying experience, partly because I hobbled round on an injured foot, and partly because it was just too big. The race was so crowded that it was often difficult to run at your own speed, and the congestion continued all the way to the finish.

I've heard that this race on Sunday could also be very congested in places, which is something I'm not looking forward to. However, the atmosphere should be good, there will be supporters all along the route, and it's supposed to be a scenic race, with the chance to view lots of local attractions.

So what time am I looking for? Well I'd like to get a decent time, as it's my first 10-miler. In March's Hlaf-marathon, I averaged 8.57 min/miles, so I'd hope for something similar or slightly faster here. However, the crowds may well hamper my 'speed'. I'm hoping that if I have to go slow at the start, I can pick it up in later miles. In addition, I've had a terrible week of sleep, culminating in being up for most of last night with Emma being sick! She kept throwing up, and is now off school for the day. I'm hoping she'll take a nap soon, and then I will too...

Anyway, I'll also have to wait and see what the weather is like, as it's a coastal route and could be very windy. Basically, I'm hoping to get under 90 minutes, and the the closer to 85 minutes I can get, the better.

Whatever time I run, I'm hoping to enjoy the atmosphere of a big race, and maybe spot some celebrities and elite runners. It'll be a PB anyway! I'm ready to enjoy my first 10-miler!

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Cross-training with the kids

We had a very active weekend which didn't include much running or biking (although my little 3-miler on Sunday took my weekly running mileage to a respectable 23 miles).

On Saturday we drove about 17 miles into the countryside to join a group of orienteers. We went orienteering a couple of times in Scotland, but since we moved over a year ago, we've never quite got round to it down here. At last we were lucky enough to find an event nearby, and on a morning when we had nothing planned - hooray!

We decided to do an 'Orange' course (no paths!), having previously tackled 'White' (shortest and easiest) and 'Yellow' (longer and more difficult). When we picked up our map and dibber (a peg with a chip in, which you punch into each checkpoint), we were told it was a challenging course, and it was certainly a lot tougher than ones we had done before. But that made it a lot more interesting and fun!
Emma's in charge of the dibber
It was extremely muddy, as although it was a dry day thank goodness, we've had constant rain for the last few weeks, and the ground was sodden. The kids wore wellies, but managed to splash mud all over their jeans and coats, and they both fell over a few times. Most of the course was in woodland, but we also went across a very wet open field, and over a stream. We really had to pay attention to where we trod, as a lot of the terrain was over tree roots, bracken and uneven ground. No wonder Robbie and Emma kept tripping over! The woodland was really beautiful though.

Unlike our previous experiences, we actually struggled to find some of the checkpoints, although we completed the course eventually. We saw a lot of serious racers on the course, but no young children, so I think Robbie and Emma must have been the youngest to tackle the orange course.

We got to the last checkpoint, and then the finish. We handed in the dibber, and were given a printout with our time - 82 minutes! I think we were the slowest on the Orange course, but I hadn't realised we'd been tramping about the woods for such a long time! On Sunday morning, my legs were aching, so it must have been from the hard-core walking in the country!

After my run on Sunday, we went swimming. Since the summer holidays, we've been going most weekends, and I've been improving each time! In July, I wouldn't put my head under the water, but since then, I've learned to overcome my fears, and am catching up with the kids. Pete has been teaching me to swim a proper breaststroke (which I've never done before), with my head in and out of the water. I've been practising my breathing, and finally on Sunday, I managed to swim a whole length (25m) of breaststroke!

It was scary and not easy, but after I'd done it, I did it again 7 more times! So I swam 200m altogether - allbeit with a rest between each length! It felt really good, and I'm really looking forward to going again and doing more proper swimming.

After swimming we went out for a late lunch. Both Robbie and Emma have been doing really well at school lately, and as they both achieved success last week, we decided to take them out for a treat. We had a big, long meal, including ice-cream, and then went home to watch the film 'Madagascar' on tv. Cuddling up under a blanket on the sofa was a great end to a busy weekend!

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Long Runs, Race Preparation and Rubbish Music

It's been a while since I've run further than 10 miles - about 7 months in fact - so it was with some trepidation that I planned a 12-mile run on Monday. Recently I find that I really have to psyche myself up for a long run. I think this has something to do with the amount of time it takes out of my day as well as the toughness of actually running it, and I feel like there's something hanging over my head before I do it. On Monday though, I was kind of relishing the challenge.

I found a route that I last ran in February as my last long run before a Half Marathon, and it had been a horrible run. I'd really struggled. On Monday's run, I changed the route a little (because I forgot a bit of it), but it was very similar, and included one really big hill, and a few undulating roads.

Anyway, I quite enjoyed it. I felt good most of the way, until about 10 miles. Then I had to stop to change something on my ipod, and when I started again, my legs felt really heavy. Then some terrible noise came on in my earphones. Pete had added some Iron Maiden to my playlist as a so-called 'joke'. It wasn't so bad at first, it was fast at least, but it was a live recording and the singer started talking to the audience. It was soooo boring and went on FOREVER. I didn't want to stop again as I thought I might never get back running, so I turned the sound right down. That was greatly preferable. However, it may have been the case that the nightmare music made me run faster, as I was so desperate to get home and switch off.

So I'm blaming that for the tough last 2 miles. I was delighted to have got those miles done though. The reason for the longer run was that I have a couple of races coming up. In fact I think I might have made a small error of judgement.

Ages ago I signed up for the Great South Run on 28th October. It's a 10-miler, and will in fact be my first 10 mile race. Then a few weeks ago after enjoying a 10K in Bexhill, I entered a Half Marathon in the same place. That race is on 11th November, which it turns out is only 2 weeks after the 10-miler.

Of course I should be able to run these distances comfortably, but I'm not sure I can race them both. As the GSR will be my first 10-miler, I'd like to get a good time, but the Half is my first since March's PB, and unlike that course, it should be pretty flat, so I'd like to aim for a good race there too.

Anyway, this also means juggling long training runs and tapers, so that run on Monday will be my last long run before both races. Next week I'll cut back leading up to the GSR race, and then I won't have time for a decent long run before the Half. Personally I find that a good taper is essential before a race, so I'm going to make sure I don't overdo it anywhere. No chance of that today, as I spent so long hoovering and tidying, I didn't have time for a bike ride. Oh well, I'm still basking in the smugness of having run 12 miles on Monday...!

Thursday 11 October 2012

Soggy Cycling

With both children at school, I've finally got the chance to get back on the bike for some decent longer rides. The trouble is, we've had so much rain in the last few weeks, it's been hard to go out for a cycle without getting soaked.

Last Wednesday I ventured up our local footpath / cyclepath / bridle way and went further along than I'd been before. I rode for about 6 miles, before realising that I was running out of time before school pick-up, and turning round to cycle back. I was lucky that it wasn't raining for most of it, although it started spitting and then pouring as I got back. The path was really wet though, and very muddy in places. I got splattered with mud all over - even on my face, and the bike was filthy when I got home.

Muddy water bottle

 Then on Saturday I had to work. It was training as part of my examining job. The weather forecast was quite good, and I decided to cycle there. The quickest route there is just over 3 miles, but I have to go up a really steep hill, so I decided to take a longer, but flatter and more scenic route. It was further than I thought at nearly 5 miles! Anyway, after Wednesday's ride, I knew the roads and paths would be wet, so I wore my running gear and took a change of clothes.

Muddy bum-bag
When I arrived, I went into the toilet to get changed, and realised that I had got soaking wet. I changed into my smart, dry clothes, but there was a problem - my knickers were wet too! My backside had been splashed by a lot of puddles, and it had rained a bit too. I hadn't brought a change of underwear, so there was no choice but to put my trousers on, and sit down on my soggy bum. We spent most of the day sitting on plastic chairs, and my pants never dried out. Lesson learned - bring a change of undies next time!

Muddy legs
I had another nice bike ride yesterday, and it was a glorious day. The sun was out, and the cycle path was busy - I came across a big group of walkers, 3 horses (with riders), and several dog-walkers and family groups. I cycled to the next town, where I got a bit lost, but found my way to the town centre and a coffee shop. I stopped for a big latte and a pastry before  a leisurely ride home. Very indulgent.

It's been great to have the time for some bike riding, but I really hope the weather dries up soon...