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...