Sunday 28 April 2013

The Sun's been out but I haven't!

Finally we are getting some decent spring weather around here! After the longest winter anyone can remember, the sun came out in fine style last week and the temperature even rose to an appropriate level (at times). It's been lovely but unfortunately I haven't been able to make the most of it.

I was working for the first three days of last week and only managed to run early morning, when it was still chilly. So I was really looking forward to my free days of Thursday and Friday, when we were forecast sun and warmth. I planned a good long bike ride and then a run the following day.

However, it was not to be. On Thursday morning, Emma woke up with a high temperature and proceded to throw up. We spent the day mostly in the living room, with Emma asleep or dozy on the sofa. On Friday she wasn't much better, and we stayed in again.

Sickly child
On Saturday, I managed to sneak out for parkrun, which was fairly sunny but still pretty cold at 9am. I ran 5K in 26 mins, which was not bad for the moment. Then I was working all day, and today, Pete has been out all day, so I've been looking after Emma again. She is now full of cold, but at least she has been eating today, so definitely on the mend.

On the bright side though, the forecast for this coming week is similar, if a little cooler, so I'm hoping to spend some time in the sunshine. Assuming that Emma is fit for school, I'll be working again at the start of the week, but then I'm itching to get in a long bike ride for the first time in months!

Friday 26 April 2013

Marathon Aftermath

Thanks to all people who commented with kind and encouraging remarks on my last post! When you can barely move becuase of the pain in your legs, it's quite a lift to see such nice remarks.

So, what have I been up to since the marathon? Not a lot. Firstly, I had to face up to going to work, as I was teaching on the 3 mornings after the race. On Monday I was exhausted, on Tuesday I had the worst DOMS in my legs, and by Wednesday I had caught a cold. Still, none of this was unexpected of course, and I was still basking in the joy of my acheivement, so it was fine!

I was planning to try a run at my local Parkrun on the Saturday morning, but I ended up being left in charge of the children, so I had to take them along with me and we volunteered instead. It was a sunny day for a run, but I don't think I would have been up to much and it might have been a good thing to have a few more days off.

I finally ran again the following Monday, so the 8th day after the marathon. It was an early morning pre-breakfast run, but I quite enjoyed it - no pressure, just plodding along at whatever speed I felt like (which turned out to be 9.09 min/miles).

I had a similar plod out on Wednesday evening, which I really enjoyed as the weather was comfortably warm with a nice cool breeze. It was so enjoyable to not think about my pace and just run for pleasure.

The other activity I did this week was very exciting. A group of women have got together (through Facebook), and started a netball club! We had the first meeting on Monday evening and 30 women turned up! I knew 2 of them, and even then not very well.

It was a cool windy evening on an outdoor court. We all wore stickers with our names on, and started with a few warm-up exercises. It was a great mixture of all kinds of women - mostly Mums, aged from 20s to 50s, some obviously fit and sporty, others wanting to get fit and lose weight. The ethos of the group is to have fun and enjoy doing an activity together, with no emphasis on competition.

I was never sporty at school. I was good at trampolining and gymnastics, and I played a bit of tennis, but team sports were always something I hated. I couldn't stand feeling that I'd let other people down and I always felt like the weak link on a team. However, I thought that now I'm an adult, I might not worry about such things, and I should give it a try.

I'm so glad I did. It was great fun. We had enough players for 4 teams, so we played 2 matches at once. I ended up playing 'centre' as no-one else on my team chose that position! I was a bit concerned that this is a key role, but it was great for me - I had to be fast and keep sprinting up and down the whole time, and I wasn't allowed to shoot - perfect! We didn't keep score of the goals, but my team did ok, and so did I. Considering I had recently run a marathon, I was surprised by how quickly I got out of breath and tired. I also found I was aching the next few days - different muscles I suppose.

'Netball Nutters'
 So this is a new activity to add to my cross-training - netball once a week. I'm planning to get round to learning the rules soon, as I was quite clueless. Can't wait for next Monday!

Thursday 18 April 2013

Brighton Marathon Race Report

I would have posted this earlier, but on Monday evening, just over 24 hours after I'd crossed my marathon finish line, I watched the news in disbelief to see the horrific scenes from the Boston finish line. I had still been basking in the glow of my achievement and it felt almost surreal to see spectators and runners being attacked. Having experienced the joy and good spirit that a marathon finish line is made of, it was just unbelievable to watch such devastation.

Although I didn't know anyone running in Boston this year, I've never been to Boston, and I live hundreds of miles away; it still felt strangely personal - and it seems that a lot of runners have felt this way, believing it to be an attack on a community which we are all part of.

However, I also think it's important to share positive stories about running and remember what these races should be all about.So I'm going to get around to describing my 2nd marathon...

I signed up for this race last May, with hopes of a long, steady progression of long runs and a consistent running base before I ramped the miles up to 20+ . Needless to say the reality was nothing like this as I got ill and injured in December and so started my first week of marathon training with a pathetic long run of 5 miles.

I ended up running only 2x 20-mile runs due to the time constraints, where I would have hoped to run at least 1 more, and maybe a run of 20+.

But my 2nd 20-miler went so well that I felt reasonably confident of achieving my goals. Last year, I think I dreamt of running around 4 hours, maybe even under if everything went perfectly. But as I started my training I knew this was an unreachable speed - this time at least. My new goal was to break 4h30m, which I felt capable of. With marathons though, there is so much unknown, and I just didn't know what might happen in those untried final 6.2 miles.

My strategy was to know my pace, stick to it consistently and just keep going. From my training runs, I thought I could probably keep going at that pace for a while, and I knew I would need mental toughness to force myself to continue. I made myself a pace band, based on a time of 4h28m (10.13 min/miles) which I thought would allow for the extra distance I'd end up running so I could still go under 4h30m.

The day started with me feeling very sleepy after a terrible night's sleep, but fired up with excitement. I got the train to Brighton leaving the family to come in later, and met other runners on the train. The train driver announced that the train was busy due to '..the Half marathon I think it is...', which got boos and rude comments from the runners crowding the train!

The race start was in a park, which was nice and muddy from rain overnight. In fact it was still drizzling as I queued up for the toilet. 20 mins later, I finally made it to the front of the queue, and shortly afterwards it was time to join the start. Then we were off!

This was one of the first races I can remember where people were running before the start line! I kept walking towards it, thinking 'this bit doesn't count', but eventually I had to join in. The race began with a loop around the park, which included a short uphill. My first mile was 10.13 - bang on pace so far!

We ran down to the city centre and somewhere after mile 2 I saw Pete and the kids for the first time. The course then looped back on itself  and I saw them again. The kids had made posters which I hadn't been allowed to see before - it made me laugh!

At this stage it was cool and good running weather. The course did another bit of out and back, then we headed towards the seafront. We were running East - supposedly into the wind, but I didn't notice it being too bad.

Somewhere around mile 5-6 I saw the front runners coming back towards us - they were at about mile 11. It was great to have such a good view, and of course they sped past! My mile splits for miles 2 and 3 were 10 minutes, but here I started to slow down again. I didn't know the course but there were a couple of long uphills towards the furthest point East, then we turned and came back along the seafront, slightly downhill. After that it was pretty flat.

I remember checking my splits regularly from this point, but I couldn't find mile 10. I didn't want to go by the garmin as it was getting ahead of the actual mile markers. I had arranged to meet Pete and the kids around mile 12, and I started looking for them at mile 11. I was taking my gels and water as planned, and hoped I wouldn't miss them while looking down at my stock of gels! Then at mile 12 it got really packed. This was near the pier and the finish line, and the crowds were amazing.

I started to panic that I'd missed Pete and the kids, and I couldn't enjoy the incredible response of the crowd as I was getting so stressed that I'd missed them! I ran through 13 miles, then a halfway point, and just after that I saw them. I was so relieved I had to slow down and kiss them all - I kept moving though!

I ran the 13th mile in 9m49s - this was probably due to the roars of the crowd here, which carried me away.

After that it started to get tough. I really didn't know the course, and as we ran North, away from the seafront, I thought it would be a little road then turn round. I was so wrong - it was about 4 miles of residential streets. The support was still great, but for some reason I just loathed that whole stretch. It seemed a little uphill - both out and back! I suppose I just had no idea where we were going. At some point along here I was a bit behind my pace band splits, but I gradually got back on target again.

When we got back to the seafront it was further west on what some previous racers have dubbed 'the road to hell'. This was a long stretch out towards a power station! The crowds are thinner and the views are uninspiring! But I had a secret weapon - for the first time ever in a race, I'd brought my ipod. I'd made a special playlist of empowering fast music, and I think it helped me get through a few miles.

By this point I was hurting in various places, and my left leg had a pain all the way along my IT band. Just after mile 21, we turned around and headed East - towards the finish. Mentally it felt like we were on the way home now, even though we were really just still running as before! The sun was  out and it was very warm. I think this brought people out too, and as we headed towards the pier again, the crowds were great.

As the spectators increased, I took my earphones out and soaked up the atmosphere. It was tough, but I just kept thinking - keep going - it was so simple, all I had to do was carry on with what I'd been doing all morning and I'd be ok! I was still on pace, but I knew that anything could still go wrong in the last 5 miles or so.

I felt hotter and hotter, and started drinking a lot more water than I would have normally expected. Eventually we got closer to the pier. A man pushing a wheelchair ran near me for a while and he was getting an incredible response from the crowd - it was so loud! Another guy was whipping the crowd up as he ran, and there was a lot of high-fiving going on!

Suddenly I heard a little voice among the chaos calling 'Mummy' - I looked round and there were Pete, Robbie and Emma again! I hadn't expected to see them here so it was a real boost. By this point I knew I was going to do it. The amazing spectators and atmosphere pushed me towards the finish line, and I saw the time on the clock was about 4h35m. I knew I'd crossed the line a fair way after the start time, so I was pretty sure I had done it.

Finally I crossed that finish line, and paused my Garmin at 4h28m! I stopped running for the first time, and my legs almost gave way. Tears sprang to my eyes, but I managed to keep them down! A marshal told me to keep moving and helped me walk forwards. Then it was medal, foil blanket, t-shirt, drink...

I was elated but exhausted. I had to walk a long way to get out of the finish bit and to the family meeting point, and I got really frustrated at having to go so far. It was hard-going!

We met on the beach and I collapsed on the pebbles in the sun!

My official time was 4h28m0s - I really stuck to that pace band. I pretty much ran even splits over the first and second half, and I was 5010 out of 9067 runners, 1192 of 3177 women, but I'm not really interested in those positions!

Most of all it was an incredible experience. I stuck to my plan and got the time I wanted, and I ran every step of it - no walking or stopping at all, which I'm really proud of. A massive thanks to the organisers and all the spectators, who helped make this into something really special!

Sunday 14 April 2013

Marathon Result!

Talk about sticking to your plan - I had a pace band for 4h28m, and I ran 4h28m exactly! Perfect weather, incredible atmosphere, wonderful spectators and I got what I wanted. Result!

Too tired to write more now - race report to follow. Whoop whoop!

Saturday 13 April 2013

Marathon Eve

So here we are the night before my 2nd marathon and I'm trying to assemble some sensible thoughts from the maelstrom of nerves in my mind...

It's gone ok. I had some illness and injury at the start, so when I wanted to be starting with a base of 10 mile+ long runs, I actually had to start with a 5 mile long run. But since then it's gone pretty well, and I've run consistently 4 runs every week. I've done 2x 20 mile runs as my longest, which is one less than last time. My taper has been strictly adhered to, and in fact I've run less than planned over the last 2 weeks, so I hope I'm going to feel fresh, rather than out of practice.

This year has seen the coldest March since records began in the UK, and I've done all my training in gloves, long tights and a jacket. Needless to say that's set to change tomorrow! The temperatures have risen recently, and we are forecast around 10-12 degrees C - much more comfortable than the heatwave of my last marathon. It should be mostly dry, with a chance of showers, but there's going to be a strong crosswind. Hopefully we shouldn't be running into the wind too much, but we'll see. There's nothing I can do about it, but I hope it's dry for the spectators (including Pete and the kids) at least.

My only previous marathon was hard-going as I struggled with really hot weather. I finished in a slightly disappointing 4h59m, having hoped for around 4h45m. That was 3 years ago when I had only been running for a couple of years, and only finished 1 half-marathon. So clearly I'm hoping for something better. As a minimum, I intend to beat my previous time. Preferably, I'd like to get under 4h40m. In a perfect world, I'd love to go sub 4h30m, but that will depend on that wind, my legs, and my mental state. I'll need everything to go really well to be faster than 4h30, but that's my dream goal and the one I'll be going for!

So my bag is packed, I've got my train ticket, I know my fueling strategy and my pace, and I've almost decided what clothes to wear (can't decide between long and short sleeves...). Bring on the marathon!

Monday 8 April 2013

Training complete, bring on the marathon!

It's been almost 2 weeks since my last post! The main reason for my tardiness is the Easter holidays. Not only do I have little free time as the kids are off school, but we've been away for a few days too. In addition to those excuses, I've been tapering rather than training, so there's not so much to say.

For Easter weekend, we went up to Scotland. It was out first visit since leaving our home there about 18 months ago, and the idea was to catch up with old friends and remind Robbie and Emma where they were born and where they used to live before they forget completely.

Mission accomplished! We stayed with some good friends in Fife, and managed to fit a lot in. We drove up on Friday and Saturday, stopping off overnight, and drove home in one long journey on Wednesday. We met up with a lot of people, if not quite everyone, and Robbie loved pointing out the things he remembered, such as his school, local sights, people's houses, where Pete and I got married etc. Emma had already forgotten a lot, as she was only 3 when we moved.

We were so lucky with the weather. After months of cold, cloud and rain, the sun actually came out. Although there was some snow around on the mountains, and it was still cold, everything looked extra special in the sunshine.

Our old home town!
Over the weekend we had a little Easter egg hunt, played football in the garden and visited a farm.

The kids absolutely LOVED playing football
On the Monday we spent the day going from sofa to sofa, catching up with our old neighbours, the kids' childminder and their friends from there, and other old friends.

On the Tuesday, we caught the train to Edinburgh, and met an old colleague for lunch, then played in Princes Street Gardens, in the shadow of Edinburgh castle.
Spot Robbie running around
And of course I had a few runs to fit in. This was my 2nd week of a 3-week taper, so I ran a couple of times with about 4 miles each run. It was a very hilly route compared to what I'm used to these days, but with lovely views.

Fife - not exactly the view from my runs, but something like it
So that was the end of another month, and March was my highest mileage EVER!!!

Ran - 18x = 141.95 miles (oh for another 0.05!)
1 Race - Eastbourne Half
Cycled - 1x = 3miles (!)
Strength Training -  about 5 or 6 x ?? Stretches - Almost everyday

That Half marathon seems like a really long time ago! So loads of running, but I was a bit lazy with the strength training, and stretching. Not bad though. As for the bike, it went in to the local shop to get the brakes fixed, and has come out with amazing new effective brakes and the tyres pumped to within an inch of their life! The only ride I fitted in was a little 3 mile errand, but I'll be looking forward to a lot more cycling now.

Since coming back from Scotland, I've finished my 2nd week of taper, in which I ran 18 miles, and cycled 10m. I also ran fast at Parkrun on Saturday, and finished just 8 seconds slower than my all-time 5k PB! A good sign of fitness I hope. Less than a week to go to M-day - eek!