Tuesday 26 March 2013

Best long run EVER!

On Thursday I found myself having to unexpectedly squeeze in a cheeky 20-miler. I had planned to do it on Friday (with an extra day's rest since the last one), but then I was asked to teach. We'd planned to go away for the weekend so that was out too.

I tried to psyche myself up for it, but I when I got up on Thursday morning, I just wasn't feeling it. I was tired and lethargic, and I just didn't fancy spending over 3 hours outside in the wind. So I set off with the clear idea that I could always cut it short - preferably no less than 16 miles, hopefully 18 if I could keep going.

It was really cold (no sign of that changing yet) and windy. The first few miles were into the wind, and I had no problem sticking to a slow pace. My last 20-miler the previous week had been at 10.21 min mile pace, so I was aiming to be only a little slower than that. The cold encouraged me to speed up occasionally, as I spent the first few miles just looking forward to it being over.

At about 4 miles I stopped to get a quick picture as I ran past our local castle - nice route!

At about 7 miles, I started taking the sports sweets that will be given out in the marathon - I thought I should try them. I washed them down with water. I wasn't feeling much better yet.

At 9 miles I decided to stop in a public toilet. I didn't really need the loo, but it was a shelter from the cold wind! I ate some more sweets and drank water, and stopped for a few minutes. Then I pushed on along the coast. It was really cold here with the wind coming off the sea, and my fingers were numb. Around 11 - 12 miles I remember seriously planning how I could alter my route, and wondering how short I could cut it. Working out the distances in my head was a good distraction from running.

Then at 13 miles I came to another toilet. I went in to finish my sweets and drink. I coudln't bear the idea of taking my gloves off outside!

I plodded along, not feeling much better, but starting to think that I could probably make the whole 20 miles if I just stuck at it.

Then, at mile 15, my podcast finished. I had listened to 2 podcasts about running, which had kept me company, but on a whim, I decided that for once, I would put some music on. I put my running playlist on shuffle, and out blasted some fast, uplifting tunes. I started to run with renewed enthusiasm.

I've often been amazed at the difference a bit of music can make to my speed, and this time it just lifted my mood completely. My last few miles had been over 10m30s each, but now I put in 2 miles at 10m18s pace. I suddenly felt so good! With the help of Britney Spears, Jon Bon Jovi, Brad Paisley, Huey Lewis and many others (it's quite a mixture on that playlist), I started enjoying myself.

As I ran along a quiet path through a park, I was singing out loud and putting in the odd dance move. My 17th Mile was done in 10m10s, and my 18th in a ridiculous 9m58s - I almost wept with joy as I saw that one on the Garmin!

I have never finished a long run like that. All my runs over 13.1 miles I find tough, and I usually drag myself home after 15 miles or so. Of course I was still aching all over and my legs were dead, but I just had this spring in my step that I usually only find in shorter distances. I did mile 19 in 10m07s, and came down the road to my house in an unheard of and frankly insane 20th mile of  9m36s!!!!

Wow. It's incredible how much power your mind has over your body. The music just made me feel so much better, and able to push myself in a way I've never been able to before. Of course it might also have had something to do with the energy sweets - I'll be using them again!

Although I didn't enjoy most of the run, I finished feeling that it had been outstandingly great. My overall pace was 10.18, which is the fastest I've ever run such a distance. Weird.

And that was the last big week of marathon training! I ran 35 miles for the week and now it's time to start the 3 week taper. I just hope I can recapture the feeling of the end of that run around mile 20 of the marathon!

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Too busy!

I'm struggling to find the time to run at the moment, let alone blog. Since my last post I've completed my biggest week of training so far, and I'm embarking on a similar one now.

Last time I trained for a marathon in spring 2010, my highest mileage week was that of the race itself, and that was 33.4 miles. Last week I ran 34.1 miles - whoop! It was quite a week - we had snow and gales on Tuesday, and I ran an out and back 7m avoiding icy paths. When I ran into the wind, my eyes and nose were streaming, it was no fun. Then on Thursday, I did my first 20-miler of this plan.

As usual I had to psyche myself up for the long run, and planned my route carefully. It was a loop, which made a nice change from out and back runs. I actually moved it to Thursday as it was due to pour with rain on Friday, and I was glad I did as it was cold, but dry. My pace was consistent, averaging 10.21 min miles. Woo-hoo! It felt GREAT to have it done, although I was completely exhausted for the rest of the day.

11 miles on the Garmin - time to stop for a photo!
On Friday evening I went for a little recovery jog which was horrible - it was raining and dark, and I just couldn't see anything. The rain on my glasses blurred my vision, and some of the paths were in darkness. People kept appearing out of nowhere and I felt anxious the whole time.

At the weekend we were off to visit my sister and her family. She had a baby 8 weeks ago, and it was great to see my lovely new nephew at last!

Emma and new cousin Huey!
I also had a nice run on Sunday morning on a soft muddy path. It was great to run somewhere different, and I avoided the rain again.

So a great week of training!

The weather is shocking at the moment - lots of rain, snow and cold winds. My bike is being fixed so no cross-training for now, and this week I'm battling with an extra day of work, writing reports for students, an eye appointment for Emma, and taking the car in for its MOT. We're away to visit friends next weekend too, so fitting in another big week of running is stretching my organisational skills. I'm determined to fit it all in somehow, then next week... I can start the taper!

Looks just like Robbie as a baby!

Sunday 10 March 2013

Long runs getting longer...

The last few weeks have not been exactly what I wanted in terms of long runs. 3 weeks ago I was on target with a 16-miler, but the following week a cold made me cut my long run to 10 miles, and last week was the Half Marathon race, which was my longest run that week.

On Thursday night I went to bed knowing I really had to get my 18-miler done the next morning, and every time I woke up in the night, I was consumed with dreams about running. I was feeling slightly obsessed.

On Friday, having taken the kids to school, I came home, got changed, filled a bottle with Powerade, put some jelly babies in a bum-bag, picked up my ipod and garmin and a cap (as it was raining), and got out there. This was my furthest run for 3 years.

It went ok. I'd planned a route which included some good scenery and the coast, and a few hills. The weather was not pleasant - it wasn't too windy, but I set off in drizzle and by the end of the run it was pouring. I gradually got soaked to the skin, and at about 17.5 miles, a lorry drove past me and did a classic splash in a puddle, spraying me all over with water. Although I was already as wet as it is possible to be, it felt like having a bucket of water tipped over me, and I shrieked with shock! It was such a relief to get home, to sit down and dry off.

I aimed for over 10 min miles, and for once it was easy to run at this speed. My first mile was 9.56, but after that they were all over 10 mins, averaging 10.18 min/mile pace. I felt shattered afterwards and struggled to do much with the rest of the day, but I've recovered pretty quickly, and had a nice 4 mile easy jog this morning.

So that makes my highest mileage week so far - 31 miles in total. Unfortunately there's no biking at the moment, as the brakes have gone on my bike and I need to get it fixed.

I did a couple of strength training sessions in the week too, and on Saturday morning, in no state to run yet, I volunteered at Parkrun. It was quite pleasant being a marshal, waving to runners I knew and chatting to passers by.

Today was Mother's Day in the UK, and after my run, I've had a rather relaxing day. Pete cooked a delicious lunch and the kids gave me cards, presents and flowers. I've spent a lot of the day reading the Sunday paper and my kindle, and eating chocolate. Perfect!

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Glorious run in the sun

On Tuesday I was lucky enough to have a free day on the sunniest and loveliest day we've had for a long time. Although I was a bit tired after Sunday's Half marathon, I knew I had to make the most of the good weather, before it disappeared again. So I had the brilliant idea of driving down to a nearby scenic spot and exploring. I ran carrying my camera in my hand which I've never done before, but I was glad I took it.

It's a country park by the coast, and I ran along a river that winds down into the sea. I thought it was a 3 mile path to the beach, but it turned out to be about 1.5 miles.

 When I got to the pebble covered beach, I tried to run along for a bit, but there was no path that wasn't piles of pebbles and rocks, and it was impossible to run on! So I clambered back up the beach and onto the grass again.

I love these chalk cliffs round here...

Some of the run was on a concrete path, but whenever I could I ran on the soft grass. It was quite dry, so not too muddy, and nice to run on.

I was constantly stopping to take pictures, climb over stiles, open gates and just admire the views.

I got a bit lost, and never made it to the viewpoint I had intended to get to. I found out where it was though - basically on the one path I didn't take. I tried 3 routes towards the beach and back to the car park! 

But I was enjoying the run so much I didn't care. I ended up doing 6 miles at 9.35 min/miles pace, which was a bit faster than I meant, especially considering the terrain.

Now the weather has gone back to grey clouds, and we are due rain in the next few days. I am looking forward to the next time the sun comes out and I can get out and enjoy it again!

Sunday 3 March 2013

First race of the year!

Well it went pretty well. I did the Eastbourne Half Marathon for the first time last year when I ran my Half PB and enjoyed it so much I decided to run it again. This year though, it's part of my marathon training.

I really couldn't decide how to approach the race - should it be a long training run at slow marathon training pace? Or at marathon goal pace (whatever that is, I'm not sure)? Or should I just race it and try to get a good time?

I never really made my mind up, but realistically I knew that I'd find it very difficult, once in the race, to run at a slow pace. So I tried to keep around 9 min miles, thinking that would be around 2 hours - not quite a PB but a good racing effort.

This course includes a very steep hill around miles 2-3, which is followed by a long enjoyable downhill, then flat along the seafront. So pacing cannot really be consistent for that first stretch. Today was also very windy, with a headwind from about 4.5 miles to the 8 mile mark.

Saw a photographer I know!
Anyway, I finished in 1 hour 59 min 23 seconds - just 45 seconds slower than last year! I'm going to put that down to the wind and my marathon-specific training...

I forgot to switch my Garmin on for the first minute or so (duh), but according to the stats I did record, I ran a great negative split of a race. It went like this:

Mile 1 - 9.08
Mile 2 - 9.04
Mile 3 - 9.38
Mile 4 - 9.39 (the steep hill was between these miles)
Mile 5 - 8.13 (downhill!)
Mile 6 - 8.56
Mile 7 - 9.10
Mile 8 - 9.13
Mile 9 - 8.43 (out of the headwind)
Mile 10 - 8.51
Mile 11 - 8.58
Mile 12 - 8.46
Mile 13 - 8.34
0.1 - 50 seconds

I'm quite pleased with those numbers, and indeed amazed about the last 2 miles as I started to feel really weak at that point. I felt strong until the 11 mile marker, and then just after that I suddenly felt really tired. I wasn't expecting it and had to push myself on, but I did manage to sprint across the finish line - yay!

This doesn't tell me anything about the marathon, other than that I won't be able to run it at 8.59 min/mile pace (which I definitely already knew). I enjoyed it though, and it's made me think that later in the year, when I've recovered from all this longer running, I should find a Half to target, and aim for a new PB.
My supporters

Friday 1 March 2013

February Rundown and Half thoughts

February was all about building up the long runs. In the first 3 weeks of the month I ran 12, 14 and 16 miles, which was looking good until I then got a cold. So my last long run was just 10 miles, as I wasn't feeling up to 18.

I also started experimenting with slower paces runs, along with hill, speed and tempo shorter runs. I'm just really taking various training programmes and mucking about with them to make up something that suits me - it might work, it might not.

I ran 3 (slow) Parkruns, only managed 1 bike ride, and dropped a few strength sessions during the half term holiday. Apart from getting a cold though, it was a pretty good month.

Ran - 17x = 104.2 miles
Cycled - 1x = 11.4 miles
Strength Training - 5x
Stretches - Most days

This was only my second ever month of running over 100 miles! The other one was April 2010 when I ran 134 miles in marathon training.

Today is 1st of March and at last I've got my first race of this year coming up! On Sunday I'll be doing the Eastbourne Half Marathon which I also did last year. It's my PB for that distance, although it's not an easy course - there's a huge hill between miles 3 and 4 which really annoyed me last year, but then it's downhill for a bit, and flat for most of the race. At least this time I know what to expect.

I surprised myself last year by running 1h58m - my only sub-2 Half as yet - but I've got no idea what to expect this time. My Marathon in April is my main race goal, so this is part of the training. However, I know that once I'm there I'll want to get a good time. I'm hoping to get around 2 hours, preferably just under.

I got my race number yesterday in the post. I like it! It could even be my time - 1hour 61 minutes 6 seconds! I think it's at least a sign of luck though to have a number that I could choose to wear upside down.