Virgin London Marathon 13th April 2014

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Wow! Just WOW!!

I’ve had a couple days to mull over this one.  The only thing I can compare the London Marathon to is the feeling of meeting your idol face to face and sitting down for the afternoon for a relaxing chat.  That’s what it felt like.  Yes.  I’ve never done that but I’m sure I would have the same feeling before and after. 

Picking up my running number was entertaining.  I’m no Londoner and the thought of getting lost on the tubes or taking the wrong one is always a worry.  As I’d taken Friday afternoon off work there were no wall to wall crowds of people which also makes me feel very uncomfortable.  Phew!  Passport and marathon letter shown and woohoo, I had my number.  Chip collected on the way through to the exhibition.  The exhibition a thrilling mixture of corporate power from fitness companies, charities vying for funds and other marathons around the world.  Now I’m a very weak person when it comes to gadgets and fabulous discounts but other than the Brooks running shoe stand I found very little in the way of good value gear on offer.  I trawl the internet for bargains on a regular basis and after visiting the exhibition I’m very glad I do.  Most of the offers were for gear on offer at more expensive prices than their online stores from a month ago.  Sneaky!! I don’t like sneaky “Special Discounted Prices” that are more than the original price a month ago.  There were a couple bargains to be had around the latest running shoes that I couldn’t resist.  So yes, I am now the owner of two pairs of Brooks Ghost 6 running shoes.  Can’t have too many running shoes?  Can you?  Nah!!

Saturday I made sure I rested as much as I could.  So much so that I was in bed and solidly asleep by 11pm.  That’s early for me!  Which made waking up at 4:30am that much easier. 

Packed running bag, running outfit and shoes selected the night before to stop the early morning panic “have I got everything?” Out the door and walking into town for the 6am coach on time.  Nerves jangling away – will it be hot, how crowded will it be, toilets (oh jees, now I need the loo), traffic, will we get to the start in time, weather, am I wearing the right stuff, my shoes feel tight, did I pack my water bottle, watch, where’s the watch, got the watch, money, where’s the money, there’s the money, hair bands, ribbons, it’s too hot, I’m wearing too much, oh seriously, now it’s freezing cold, what the hell am I doing………….. you get the gist.  Brain melt down followed by bag rummaging for the hour on the coach. 

Quick change of plan as the coach stopped and said we needed to get off.  Do I take everything or leave stuff on the coach?  I took everything!  The walk to the start thankfully had portaloos along the way.  Phew!  That’s one worry out of the way.  Then the start.  It appeared to be sparse of people when we arrived and moving around was fairly easy.  As time marched on the blue start area where we were starting filling up with more, more, MORE people.  Sooo many people.  Then it’s drop off bags time and line up in the starting pens.  A chilling 20 minute wait after the start horns have sounded and we’re all moving towards the start.  At the moment it’s feeling like any other really crowded event.  Lots of people waiting their turn to run over the starting mat.  Then it’s my turn, it’s really happening, there’s crowds of people cheering us through the start gate.  More people a mile down.  More and more people at every mile, cheering, shouting, hooting, waving, high fiving, screaming and taking pictures of runners.  26.2 miles of cheering crowds.  There was simply no let up, no quite spot, no peace, no lull.  It was constant.  Moving you forward towards the finish.  The sheer number of runners along with the incredible amount of spectators was overwhelming.  I couldn’t stop grinning.  Random chatting with random runners was fabulous, everyone appeared to be so happy to be there. 

Reaching Tower Bridge had Julia and I jumping up and down waving our arms and screaming for joy, we made it half way.  WOOHOOO!!  It wasn’t long after Tower Bridge that it was obvious Julia had much more in her than I did.  She carried on and I started to walk/run after mile 14 – again!!  I was still happy with my time but it wasn’t tiredness that was killing my running.  My insides were churning like crazy threatening to explode as if I had an alien trying to escape.  The whole nervous excitement had gotten to my guts.  It didn’t dim the mood of the day at all though.  I carried on high fiving kids, costume spotting, bottle avoiding, landmark spotting and my favourite – cheer bombing.  Every now and again a crowd was obviously waiting for someone to cheer so I’d put my arms up and “WOOHOO!!!” runners beside me would hoot and then the roar of the crowd starting to cheer on runners again.  26.2 miles of cheering crowds.  How anyone had a voice left Sunday afternoon is amazing! 

The Walky Talky building, the Shard, Houses of Parliament – wait, that’s near the finish.  I’m near the finish.  This is the last couple miles.  I’m running and I just can’t stop.  It’s starting to hurt like crazy but there’s no way I’m stopping until I get to that finish arch that I’ve seen on telly so many times.  Jealously watching.  Wanting to run through that arch myself one day.  Thinking I’ll never be fit enough to run a marathon.  That’s for crazy people.  That’s for all those other people on the telly who have made it there.  Raising money and training hard.  Wait, that’s me.  I’ve run a marathon distance before, I know I can do it, I’m here running with all these other people, I’m running the London Marathon and I’m going to run through that finish arch just like all those people I’ve watched on telly.  It’s the last 100 meters and I’ve got the biggest grin on my face ever.  For the first time in a race I get to the finish and start jumping up and down woohooooing away.  Completely drunk on endorphins. 

The long walk to the bags was painful hahaha!! But I was one very happy girl. 

My only damper for the day was going the wrong way to get to the coach to get home.  Being completely drained I ended up panicking that the coach would leave without us.  An endorphin high will get me so far but crowds and crowds of people, a deadline to get to the coach and not knowing where the hell I am.  Perfect storm for one of my panic attacks.  Thank goodness I was with sensible people.  I’d have completely lost it if I was by myself.  Coach finally found and on our way home.  Wow what a day!! 

Leighton Fun Runners Coach – fabulous.  Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.  I don’t think I would have been able to cope with the London tubes or trains that day. 

Julia – What an amazing effort.  5hrs 3mins of awesomeness. 

London Marathon Marshals – you all did an absolutely amazing job and I would love to hug each and every one of you but that would take me until next year so instead – THANK YOU

To all the other fabulous runners who took part – you’re amazing.  You did it.  Massive sympathies to the family who lost a very special person that day. 

So – would I do it again?  No.  Don’t get me wrong.  I really enjoyed the day.  It was an amazing experience.  I doubt I will ever experience anything like that again.  The sights were amazing.  But I’m just not comfortable being completely surrounded by so many people.  7 hours of on the verge panic attack was a lot to handle and if I’d been there alone I would have walked away at the start. 

Roll on Friday where I run around a lake seven times for a spinning medal from Enigma Running. 

Happy running

Helen

Brighton Marathon 6th April 2014

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I surprised myself on this one.  I was expecting more from this marathon.  More runners, more crowds, more miles, more atmosphere, more everything!  What I got was very nice.

Even though there were at least 9,000 runners taking part and their families in tow I was not overwhelmed by the sheer number of people around.  The commentator for the start kept everyone informed and he was making sure everyone knew where they should be and at what time and what was going to happen next.  It was 20 minutes to go before the start and I was getting nervous!! I had left my water in the car along with my hairband and my waist pack was deciding it didn’t want to zip up at all.  Thank goodness I’d been spotted by Karen and David before the start.  Karen suggested using the safety pins to keep my pack closed.  Genius!!  As for the water, well it’s not like there isn’t any around on the course and my hair?  I used the hole in my cap and had a loose ponytail instead.  Sorted.  What felt like seconds later the marathon started for the elite runners.  Seeing them run past the start was electrifying and those of us who hadn’t started yet were cheering them on.  A good 15 minutes after the elite runners started the last of the runners went through the start line, some even getting to high five Paula Radcliffe.  Cool.

The first hill was in the first mile which got me warmed up nicely, then in and out through Brighton town, the streets lined with cheering crowds.  Lots of charities advertising their causes and lots of runners running for them.  It was amazing to see so many people lining the course around the town centre.  After all of that it was a bit of a culture shock to then be taken out of Brighton along the coast and being able to see all the runners ahead and also all the runners running back along the same road.  SO MANY RUNNERS!!!! It was amazing see all those people, different shapes, sizes, capabilities.  Amazing!! After running through the closed in streets this open road was a nice breather.  No cheering crowds, just all of us runners pounding to the beat of the marathon.

Coming back through Brighton was exhilarating again, winding us through residential streets.  Residents playing music and kids handing out bowl after bowl of jelly beans and jelly babies.

Then we head out to the dock, another long road along the coast with the occasional cheer from groups of people lining the route.  Once we get to the end of the docks we head back towards Brighton Pier along the seafront.  By this time I was walking more than running but I was still enjoying myself thoroughly.  Every now and again a crowd of people would get a bunch of us walkers to get back to running.  When we did we got loud cheers which kept quite a few of us going.  The pier was getting closer with every step and runners beside me were starting to struggle with the mileage.  I was tired, I could push myself to run faster but I didn’t want to.  I didn’t want to ruin myself before London next weekend.  That’s my excuse anyway.  As we all got closer to the finish the crowds got bigger, the cheering got louder and it was difficult to stop and walk now.  Pulled along by the sheer roar of cheers I kept myself going to the finish.  5 hours 29 minutes 54 seconds.  I honestly thought I was closer to 6 hours because I eased off the speed after mile 14.

The finish was just as well organised as the start.  Only when I got past the baggage trucks and then out onto the seafront to head back to the car did the sheer number of people in Brighton hit me.  I had wanted to meet up with David and Karen afterwards but everywhere was drowning in people.  So, instead of worrying I got myself a cuppa and a pork roll and got myself back to the car park.

This marathon did take up my whole weekend and even though I didn’t stay in Brighton I did have to come down on the Saturday beforehand to pick up the number and chip for marathon day.  With the marathon being sponsored by Visit Brighton I’m sure a lot of business was made over that weekend.  Parking on the day was a complete nightmare even though I had paid for parking in advance.  Road closures made getting to the car park a complete nightmare.  Thankfully I’d given myself more than enough time but the stress of getting there did make me leave a couple things in the car.  This is an expensive marathon – the payment to enter, the requirement to pick up your number the day before and staying or parking in Brighton all adds up.  Having said that I did have a fabulous time and I thoroughly enjoyed the drums, the music, the cheering crowds, the organisation, the views, the gentle hills and the sheer friendliness of Brighton.  Thank you.

Roll on next weekend when I get to run the London Marathon.

Happy running

Helen

Started 09:28
Finished 14:58
Chip time 05:29:54
Gun time 05:43:06
Pace (miles) 12:34min/mile
Pace (km) 07:49min/km
Distance Split time Split pace Total time
5km 00:33:23 10:45/mile 00:33:23
10km 00:33:35 10:48/mile 01:06:58
15km 00:33:21 10:44/mile 01:40:19
20km 00:34:24 11:04/mile 02:14:43
25km 00:41:14 13:16/mile 02:55:57
30km 00:44:38 14:21/mile 03:40:35
35km 00:45:35 14:40/mile 04:26:10
40km 00:46:57 15:06/mile 05:13:07

Oakley 20 23rd March 2014

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What a lovely day that was.  I may have been freezing at the start and on some parts around the course but I had a fabulous time.  Plus I completely amazed myself on how much I managed to push myself into a semi fast run over the last two miles.  Where did that come from? 

Last weekend was a hot 14 miles that should have been a marathon training run of 20 miles around Leighton Buzzard.  I was testing my new Raidlight Olmo12 racepack and it was lovely.  The only exercise I managed to do through the week was lots of core strength training.  Watching telly whilst tying myself in knots so I’m not sofa surfing and adding to my curvy padding haha!!

No rock climbing, no sprint training and no distance running.  I was buzzing to go for a run by Saturday and I should have stayed indoors or done some gardening or something!! As usual I didn’t chill out the day before a 20 mile run.  I went for a tough 8 mile run that took in some of the hilliest bits I could manage from Asda in Bletchley to my door in Leighton Buzzard via Great Brickhill.  That definitely chilled me out for the evening and in my eyes boosted my weekend mileage up to what I wanted it to be. 

Sunday morning, Oakley 20 day, was chilly and my plan was to stay in a team with Julia and Emma from Leighton Fun Runners (lovely ladies).  We’re normally a similar pace and I was happy to stick together with them no matter what.  I had not done Oakley 20 before, last year was cancelled due to snow and very icy conditions, this year was chilly but at least the sun was shining.  The Oakley 20 is a two lap course, the first lap is 12 miles and the second lap is 8 miles. 

All three of us were having wardrobe nightmares at the start. Too hot, too cold, nothing felt right.  It was too late anyway because our bags were already dropped off and there was no quick way of getting to them now.  At least standing in the crowd at the start was warmer than being exposed to that cold cold wind.  The start gun goes and we’re off.  With open roads on the day it was a bit of a squeeze getting past some cars that didn’t want to wait for the main crowd to filter through from the start.  The marshals were doing their best to keep the runners safe, thank you marshal! I always try and thank every marshal in an event.  I really do appreciate they’re out there to keep us dopey runners safe when we’ve got our heads in the clouds. 

We’ve made it safely to mile 3 and the hills are starting to hurt Emma and Julia.  I’m determined to run every single hill so we start a relay race.  I run up the hill and walk at the top whilst they walk up the hill and catch me up running at the top.  It works really well throughout the course and I’m feeling pretty chuffed that I’ve kept up my personal challenge with the hills. 

The first lap was a tough cookie to crack with some long hills tackled.  We start to head back to the school to start our second lap and we’re discussing giving up or pushing on.  This is the time to quit.  Right where all our warm clothes are.  Julia is in pain with her hip and the hills are getting to be pure agony and Emma was not feeling the love of the event that day.  They were both hurting.  I felt a little guilty that I felt okay, my left knee was not enjoying my attempts of stomping up hills but I wanted to train it to get stronger.  Everything else felt fine.  It was very strange considering I’d purposefully tried to tire myself out the day before.  I got told a number of times to carry on without the lovely ladies but no.  My plan was to work as a team and that’s what I was going to do. 

The lovely ladies pushed on.  There was no quitting talk after passing the school point.  Heads down and pushing on to complete the next 8 mile lap.  I’d made sure I’d brought along food and more than enough water for myself.  There were very regular water stops but they didn’t seem to be at the right points for Emma.  My new task – water mule.  Go team Mule!    

We were now counting down the miles.  The scenery was unfamiliar for a while as we took a slightly different route but then we were back on familiar roads, we knew how far away the finish was.  I was eager to finish but I didn’t want to push the lovely ladies too much.  It was at mile 18 that I couldn’t help myself.  I reasoned that the lovely ladies could manage after this point and some senseless monster took over and I wanted so badly to finish.  Julia and Emma were very graceful in cheering me to go on.  My pace picked up and then I was flying.  Pushing and pushing until I was back at the school, then directed through the housing estate, corner after corner after corner….. Slightly disorientating.  One last corner and I’m in the field chasing down another runner in front of me.  “GO ON, YOU CAN DO IT, NEARLY THERE, ONE LAST PUSH, GOGOGOGOGOGOGOOOO!!!”  She gives me a confused look and cranks her pace up a gear and we’re both sprinting for the finish. 

3 hours 55 minutes.  Very chuffed with that.  I get my breath back then I realise I’ve left Julia and Emma, how could I have been so rude!!  I start to jog back to the entrance to the field.  I needn’t have worried.  There they were, pushing themselves for that last sprint to the finish.  Well done lovely ladies. 

Thank you Bedford Harriers – the Oakley 20 is a very lovely and challenging 20 miles.  The marshals were very helpful and encouraging – THANK YOU.  I’ll be back next year to see how fast I can go along that route.  I hope the weather will be just as kind next year. 

Happy running

Helen

Mystery Niggles and Quiet Weeks

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There’s nothing like a quiet week to refresh and refocus my training.  It’s March!  March!!!! Where is this year disappearing to?  I’ve got 2 months to get myself ready for a gruelling 50 miles in under 13 hours! Panic, panic, panic.  

Does this happen to you?  Bimbling along, following your training plan.  Not really focusing on how much time you have left till your next event because you’ve been focusing on getting kids, house, pets, things organised.  Everything but you is organised and ticked and checked and boxed.  That’s been me for the last few months.  I know where I need to be, I know which event is next, I know where the kids have to be and so on.  One minute it’s Christmas, the next it’s Easter and somehow I’ve managed to blink and miss whatever I’ve missed inbetween!! 

This is me panicking about 50 miles in May.  Why?  Its not like its unfamiliar territory.  I have managed to complete 50 miles before and that was in May 2013.  So what’s the problem?  It’s a quiet week.  That’s my problem.  Everything is organised and sorted and checked.  I’m now looking for things to organise and my brain has decided to go over everything and decided that I need to worry.  Yes, worry.  Are you ready, have you trained hard enough, what about that mystery niggle, is the knee strong enough, do you know the route, when can you get out to reccie the route, food, shoes, clothing…….. and on and on!! 

Lists help.  But that doesn’t get me out training does it.  I know I like to be prepared for the end of the world and somehow survive it but this is planning on top of planning for no obvious benefit.  

Then there’s the mystery niggle.  Walking up the stairs in the office and my left knee if feeling a bit weak.  Hmmm.  Posture isn’t that good lately.  Maybe I need to work on that a bit more.  Ankles, must remember ankles………. 

Throughout the day I’m reassessing myself and how fit and capable I am to complete big distances.  It’s not like it’s my first ultra and I think that’s making it worse.  I know what’s to come.  I know how much effort is involved.  I know how strong I need to be and I keep pushing myself to get stronger than that to make sure it feels easier.  

I ran a lovely easy 14 miles on Sunday with my new Raidlight Olmo running pack.  I had fun.  I am going to focus on core strength and balance over the next few weeks.  I will recheck what I need to carry in my pack for the 50 in May.  I will enjoy the Oakley 20 next Sunday.  Most of all I am going to chill the hell out. 

MK Festival of Running Half Marathon 9th March 2014

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A little bit of history on this event.  For the last two years this event has had the most bitter weather.  Snow, hail, rain and freezing temperatures.  This year – 2014 – Sunshine and blue skies, couldn’t believe the car thermometer reading 19c when I got back to it after the event. 

I was not interested in repeating last week’s effort at Silverstone Half Marathon.  I wanted to enjoy today.  Enjoy the scenery, enjoy the effort but not to destroy myself just for a decent time.  I know I can go faster, I know I can push myself to the limits but I don’t enjoy it when I do.  What I do enjoy is the company because today I had two lovely companions keeping me company and then it’s enjoying the time out on my feet.  No rush, no push, no time just running along enjoying it all.

I was nervous about today.  My left knee was hurting from last weeks efforts and I hadn’t been able to get out for a run all week.  The only leg stretch I did was some hill sprint training with beginners the day before – Saturday.  Probably not a wise move but my knee did feel a lot better after the hill sprints and the massage cushion afterwards.

My plans to run home afterwards, which would have been another 10 miles on top of the half marathon, were quickly shelved down to my knee niggle.  I managed to run home last year and really enjoyed the adventure home.  No pressure to get anywhere fast but still going as fast as I could.  I really wanted to repeat that experience and it was very good distance training but I decided it wouldn’t be a good idea as I was not sure if my knee could handle the distance.  Oh well.  I have a few more weeks before Brighton Marathon then London Marathon.

I couldn’t even decide on what to wear! The morning weather could be so fickle and there I was, kit laid out on the bed.  Long sleeve top, compression top, vest, club vest, lycra shorts, winter tights.  I could put on everything and decide when I get there.  No – compression top, club vest, shorts and joggers, t-shirt and sweat shirt in a bag if I need to keep warm before or after.  There.  Sorted.  Or so I thought!!

I met up with Julia and Kelly at the Xscape and I had ditz brain in gear already.  I blame my purple tutu.  Yes, I was wearing a tutu.  Long story!!  As we got ourselves to the start line I was reminded by Julia to start my Garmin.  Yes, that would have been a great idea if it was on my wrist!!  A quick run back to the car and Garmin retrieved.  Then it wouldn’t start properly, oh dear! Well, I wasn’t out for a fast run so it wouldn’t matter not recording anything would it. Grrrrrr

It was now starting to feel very warm.  I had too much kit on.

First couple miles – keeping ourselves at a slow pace and my Garmin decides “oh, you’re running, here you go then”.  At least it didn’t crash completely for me.

First water station was a welcome relief to the heat we were starting to feel.  Why was I wearing so many layers??

Counting down the miles – is this a good habit or a bad habit.  Hmmmmm.  Mathematician Kelly was working out our pace = finish times.  I was enjoying working out how many different variations on a theme “miles to finish” we could do.  3 park runs, two 5 milers, two evening workouts.

Another self entertaining tactic was warning others of objects in the path – fore-mostly, bollards or “POST” that was shouted around a lot.  Or nearer mile 8 onwards was more “FAX”, “EMAIL”, “PARCEL”.  My brain was melting, that’s my excuse!

HAM AND EGGS!! Perfect moment of cheers from some strange guy with horns on his head brandishing a vacuum cleaner. Yes it sounds like a hallucination at this point in the run but what made it more entertaining was – Why was he shouting “HAM AND EGGS” at me? Julia and Kelly found it funny so I roared back “HAM AND EGGS YEAH!!!”.  Wait for it……  I pondered a little about why he was shouting such an odd phrase then Kelly said “it’s on you” OOOOHHHHH!!!!!! My vest.  My club vest has my initials on it which is “HAM”.  Yup, there it is.  Blonde moment.  D’oh!

Striptease just before mile 10.  Lessons on how to remove a compression top underneath a running vest whilst continuing to run.  Support crew required for keeping hold of extra items like running belt and water bottle holding duties.  Look outs for lampposts and emails in the way.  That would be just painful as well as embarrassing.  Kelly soon followed suit only she was braver than me and took her vest off as well to get her long sleeve top off.  A few metres later and we realise she’d stripped in front of some police officers.  Brilliant timing!

It’s nearing mile 11 and Kelly is really struggling at this point with pain in her toes.  Now this is were I like the idea of running with people in an event.  If Kelly had been alone with this pain, there would have been no entertainment to distract her from the pain and the thought of pushing through the pain to the finish would have been a mammoth task alone.  The fact that Kelly kept going and kept pushing herself, even with support, was amazing.  This is where my running mojo was hiding!!! Boom! It’s back and I know why I love running all over again.

Swan lake moment.  Remember I was wearing a purple tutu with a purple running vest and grey lycra running shorts.  We where heading back towards the city centre on the redway (path) alongside one of the main dual carriageways in Milton Keynes and I noticed some cars had stopped.  Getting closer we could see a great big huge swan in the middle of the road.  Yes.  A swan.  Me – I decide that the swan needs to move and I’m not scared of them.  Plus I know they’re fairly okay if they’re not injured and there are no chicks around.  See a swan with chicks – move out of the way or get nipped!! Now picture the scene – runner with purple tutu jogs into road waving her arms around and clapping hands to shoo the swan onto the path.  Swan gives me the look of “WTF!!!!!” and moves.  Runners on the path start moving out of the way of the swan.  I turn to catch up with my friends.  Swan decides the path is too crowded and turns back to the road.  I turn and start jumping and prancing towards the swan.  Yep.  It was a proper swan lake moment.  All I needed was to put my hands above my head and do a twirl.  Swan saved I returned to Kelly and Julia who then said “Swan Lake” to me and that’s it.  I couldn’t breath for laughing.

We’re now running along the canal and Kelly is hitting the wall.  Her reserves are bottoming out and it’s very apparent that she was at the verge of quitting.  Oh hell no!!.  Pushing – come on, you can do it, it’s only a couple miles, move those legs – resulted in swearing, despondency and the look of “I’ll push you in the canal in a minute!!”.  I’ve seen this so many times.  So I switch to “Short Targeting”.  Setting Kelly’s sights on something visible, short term achievable and most importantly breaking down the BIG distance into something much shorter.  Run to the bridge then walk, walk over the bridge and then on the downhill run to the trees, walk from the trees to the bench, walk up the big hill then run at the top, walk to the fountain then run to the yellow sign, walk to the next yellow sign then run, walk up this last hill and you can sprint to the finish “YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT!!”.  Trust me, you’ll sprint, you can do it.  Keep walking, not yet, nearly there, this is it GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOOOOOOOO.  The last sprint to the finish was amazing.
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Thank you Julia for being a bonkers runner like me.  Swan Lake!  Thank you Kelly for bringing back my running mojo.  Thank you MK Half marshals for cheering on the 2tutu girls.  I may just wear this purple tutu more often if it gets more cheers, haha!

My next event is Oakley 20 – I’m hoping the weather will be just as kind as this weekend.  Last year was cancelled due to freezing temperatures and snow!! Eek!

Happy running

Helen

A Week of Rest 3rd to 8th March 2014

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Every now and then I get those weeks where I just can’t bring myself to do any training whatsoever.  I get really melancholy and down on myself because I’m not out running or working on core strength by tying myself in knots on the lounge floor.  Last week was just aweful.  After the Silverstone Half Marathon I was wiped out and my left knee went back to feeling weak as a kitten.  It hadn’t felt like that since I twisted it last year running part of the Lakeland 50 route to Coniston.

The only exercise I got round to was some sprint training the day before the MK Half with some very inspiring ladies who are taking on the challenge of going from 5k to 10k.  So if they could get out and push themselves, so could I.  After the sprint training I got out the massage cushion and it worked on my tight muscles around my weak knee.

Whilst the massage cushion was working I starting thinking about how those muscles had gotten to tight.  It was obvious, I wasn’t looking after myself.  I was ignoring general care for myself and expecting my body to keep going until it dropped.  No wonder my knee was complaining.  Sigh.  Note to self.  Listen to your body and take care of it.  Even when it appears like its trying to ambush your running mojo it’s just asking for a little care and attention.  Sigh! I spend so much time working out my whole year, working out where the kids are going to be, my husband, school holidays, travel plans to and from events, the dogs, healthy food for everyone, family time, guilt trip express!!

Keeping a blog lets me see these low moments when I feel like I’m struggling against a torrent of bad vibes and disinterest.  My low points and how I worked through them.  What brought me back out of that dark hole of despondency.  Normal insane service will resume shortly – if only!! At least I’m more aware of how I dig a hole for myself.  I know I should talk to a person about my dark innermost self but this works just as well.  Let judgement fall.

Now where the hell did my running mojo run off to?  I had it all trained and everything.  Have you seen it?  It gets all excited at the thought of a trail event of around 26 to 50 miles.  Gets a bit nervous around people but then skips around like a dancing pixie.  If you’ve seen it, send it home.

Keep on running

Helen

Silverstone Half Marathon and Indoor Rock Climbing – again!

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After wrecking myself last weekend I thought I’d take it easy during the week.  Easy? What is that? Do I sit around even more on my amply padded arse or find other things to do that are not running?  Do I cross train? Redecorate the house? Spend a couple hours brushing my dog Hector? – who is now way too fluffy!! What is easy?

What amuses me more is that I have picked up my kids habit of asking question after question after question.  Yes it’s a little irritating but if you don’t keep asking questions you stop learning.  Plus it’s great when my six year old son gives me that adult look of “would you please stop asking questions all the time”.  As my husband would say “childlike, not childish, childlike!!”. 

I couldn’t do much more than cultivate my padding – sit around and not do much – on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  As I said, the weekend wrecked me.  By Thursday I was feeling a bit stronger and decided that 2 hours of muscle crunching rock climbing was a good thing to do.  To begin with the session was slow, my arms felt weak and I was still aching and not feeling 100%.  As the evening progressed we took on more and more difficult routes that had us looking like wall art on a few occasions.  “Here you will see middle aged woman thrown against the wall by catapult”.  One of the climbs had me heaving for breath as I was contorting myself into a knot whilst trying to get my foot to a shoulder height notch to then inch myself up the wall.  Yes, it did look as bad as it sounded and double yes did I feel it the following day!!!

Friday I was using up holiday from work so I had the whole day to amuse myself.  I’d come home Thursday night and sent a message on Facebook that I was free as a running buddy during the day.  I couldn’t resist an offer of running 13-14 miles with The Fox (Enigma Running).  All that rest Monday to Wednesday had gone to my head.  The morning was heavy rain so I kitted up for a wet run and packed dry clothes into the car. Met up with David (The Fox) and went for a bimble.  Okay, by mile 10 I was struggling to keep up and could only manage a bimble!! I’d kept up a faster than normal me pace, running through puddles, a few diversions and for some reason I decided it would be a good idea to put in an extra mile with hills at the peace pagoda at Willen Lake.  Why? I have no idea why.  It would have been so much easier without that extra mile added! Me!! Adding hills on purpose!! I can only surmise that I was completely bonkers at that point. Sheesh!! In the end we managed 12.5 miles and even though the last mile or two was super tough for me it was a pretty good pace for slow me. 

Saturday was spent brushing Hector and generally being lazy.  Or can I count Saturday as recovering from an exhausting 2 days of 2 hours of full on exercise?  I’m going with lazy.  I could do better.  Plus brushing the dog is tiring but I don’t break out into a sweat doing it haha!! 

Sunday – Silverstone Marathon.  The morning was so nice.  Blue skies on the horizon, high cloud, light winds.  It would have been a great day if it stayed like that.  I was collected by Mark McLoughlin and joined by Michelle and Gordon from the LFR club.  All of us looking forward to Silverstone but not looking forward to the weather.  The blue skies had disappeared by the time we got there and I definitely had not brought enough layers.  I was worrying like crazy at how cold I was going to be in my capri bottoms, a vest and a solamon compression top.  I’m glad I brought my gloves and buff though.  They added just a little bit more protection against the biting cold wind and drizzle at the start.  Some good lucks to Michelle, Gordon and Mark and we were waiting to go at the start.  The wheelchair participants are set off and we all start moving towards the start.  I’m not sure if it was nerves or the dancing along to the music being played but I was feeling much warmer now.  2 minutes after the start I get to pass over the start line and start running at a slow pace.  I’m in no rush, I’m not after a good time, I’m here to enjoy myself and get back into some distance running.  By mile 2 that’s completely changed and I’m targeting people to keep up with!!!!! Who the hell gave that order? When did I decide that? I was out to enjoy myself! Shut up and just pass that guy in the yellow top.  You can take him, he’s slowing down on the hill, yes, that’s it.  Just a little bit faster.  A bit more.  There you go, you did it!! Now find the next victim and pass them, PASS THEM ALL!!!!!! But I didn’t bring enough energy drink.  Don’t worry about that.  You can do it.  But it’s cold.  Go faster and you’ll get warmer!! Faster, FASTER!! By mile 5 I was pushing myself to the limit and chasing a couple guys – one in a blue stripy top and another with a prostate cancer support top on.  My running id had kicked in and wanted me to just pass them, at all costs!! I was along for a tough ride but thoroughly enjoying how strong I felt.  I wasn’t majorly out of breath, my legs didn’t feel weak or achy and even though I was running at my limit I felt good.  I was amazed that I caught up with Gordon, doubly amazed that I caught up with Michelle – but Michell was struggling with an injury at that point.  Mile 10 wizzed past.  I started to feel myself slow down.  Running id was screaming at me to keep up the pace.  It’s 5k, come on, 5k.  You can do that in 25 minutes.  I’ll shut up and let you walk but only if you keep pushing.  Move move move move MOVE!!! Back onto the circuit where we all started and against the wind to begin with.  Mile 11 – I’m knackered, I’m not going to win anything pushing this hard.  Doesn’t matter, I want the finish, PICK UP THOSE LEGS AND MOVE!!!! Mile 12 – my legs are starting to burn, my feet are feeling sore.  So get to the finish faster, FASTER!!! I can see the finish, I’m nearly there, have I got enough? YES, GOGOGOGOGOGOGOGOOOOOOO!!! 2hrs 5mins – 4 minutes faster than my attempt at the same course last year.  I felt good afterwards and didn’t feel tired for the rest of the evening.  Could I have gone faster if I had rested on Friday instead of running 12.5 miles? I don’t know but I’m a little bit more confident of myself now.  I just need to keep that in mind next weekend when I tackle Milton Keynes Half marathon.  Wonder if running id will take over again? 

Happy running

Helen

Cross Country and Speed Training Madness

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Since the 30 miles on the Punchbowl event I’ve been keeping myself busy with helping freshly pressed runners get to 10k.  A local distance run, a local hill sprint session with the family and finally tackled a 5 mile cross country event in Nottingham.  It’s Monday morning and I feel wrecked! I felt better after 30 miles of mud and floods!!! Why???? The week one session started this weekend which also coincided with a cross country event in Nottingham.  Plus I haven’t done hill sprints for at least a couple years and demonstrating the core exercises to my husband has resulted in a wrecked me Monday morning!!

10k training – I’ve helped my husband and a local to run 5k and thoroughly enjoyed helping someone get back into running.  What felt better was the fact that I’d taken the NHS couch to 5k program and made it a little easier to cope with.  Breaking down the difficulty of how stupidly hard it is to run 1 mile to then run 3 miles. I remember how frustrating it was and how much I hated myself for being so slow and unable to run such incomprehensible distances that appeared to be so easy to other runners!! It was unfair!!  Now I’m one of those runners that can run stupid distances

Training to 10k appeared to be far more confusing.  There appeared to be little or no support after the couch to 5k programs and this felt a little odd.  Great, you can run 5k so lets go for a 5 mile run.  For newbies this just sounds like they’ve been asked to climb a mountain with slippers.  So I decided to go investigating and I’m currently testing a program with some local runners – and my husband lol!! It’s been interesting investigating how NHS, Runner’s World and other sites advise how you tackle your first 10k.  Some start you from scratch with a brutal training program that appears to be for people who are already running at least 5k.  Some start with a much kinder approach as though the program is aimed at a complete novice to running with cross training exercises thrown in.  Somehow – for newbies – you’ve got to decipher this mess of information that’s completely alien to you and make sense of it all.  Now, I’m not the fastest in the bunch and I’ve been the slowest because I’ve taken the wrong approach to training.  I’m definitely no expert on how to train novice runners either.  So what have I come up with?  A gradual increase in distance each week just like the couch to 5k.  This will keep the training familiar for complete beginners so they start with the couch to 5k and then progress to the 5k to 10k training when they’re strong enough.  A mix of hill sprint training one week and track sprint training the following week.  Giving the body time to rebuild and recover without causing overuse injuries.  Core strength exercises – a few basics that help improve ankle, knee and hip strength.  Most importantly – rest days.  It’s early days and I’m taking a lot of notes but it looks promising. 

So Friday evening I was out in the cold with husband, son (6), Dawn and Jan.  Apart from my son and Dawn the others want to get up to 10k.  A short warm up lap and I had them all doing their first hill sprints.  I didn’t stand and watch either.  I put everything into that short hill and powered into it as hard as I could.  I was shocked and amazed that I managed to go up again and again.  What was that about??? My husband and Jan found it incredibly difficult, which it is!! Lots of praise and support because they’re at the beginning of the journey I took over 4 years ago.  There’s no overnight magic pill.  It’s hard work and determination but most of all support.  A few more “hard as you can” efforts up the hill and that’s it for the night.  A gentle warm down and recovery for a day or so. 

What did I do next? 

Saturday Nottingham Cross Country with Leighton Buzzard Athletics Club. 

Saucony English Cross Country Nationals 2014.  There was a great club turnout even though a few were missing.  The sun was shining, the strong breeze was cool and the ground was forgiving but firm.  I got there around noon just in time to see some of the juniors return looking like they had been splashing around in deep, thick mud puddles.  Shoelaces caked in mud and legs looking like they had been through the latest mud beauty treatment.  I kept myself warm in my normal clothes for as long as I could.  The cool breeze would chill me in seconds.  Having tackled freezing water and thigh deep mud for 30 miles in the punchbowl event a couple weeks ago the thought of running two 2.5 mile laps around this lovely estate looked like fun.  I wasn’t sure about running as hard as I could up some of the hills but I was completely okay getting soaked with muddy water! Go figure! The gun fired and I was pushing up the first hill.  I even managed to push myself up the short steep hill.  Wow, the hill training must be doing some good!! The log jump was hilarious – a log, across the whole route, a big log.  Jump it? Climb over it? Step onto it and over? No, full on jump over at full pelt.  Then a nice flatish bimble around to some sticky mud, then a large wide puddle of liquid, sticky mud.  Back up to the hill I tackled on the start and around again.  It all felt so short.  It took me 48 minutes but it still felt short.  Back to the tent and get changed from muddy clothes back to nice warm clothes.  Thoroughly enjoyed myself. 

Then because I obviously hadn’t done enough miles over the weekend. 

Sunday – I took Dawn and Jan on a 6k run that included as many hills as possible in that distance.  I wasn’t at my best.  The full on push on Friday and Saturday had drained me more than I realised.  My body was more used to a long endurance bimble on the trails with the continual buffet of food along the way.  I’d been on the high intensity sugar train all weekend and it was making me feel downright rough! The 6k was tough.  Jan did a fabulous effort on the hills.  I was ready for bed!!

After all of that I end up with a urine infection that’s knocked me for six.  How can I bimble away on such long distances with little or no injury whatsoever yet hill sprints, 5 mile full on run and a gentle 6k run over the weekend and I’m knocked for six.  Sheesh!!

So this sprint training and distance running is going to be rethought a bit.  I need to go back and have a look at my energy and fuel for shorter, faster running.  Just when I thought I’d figured it out, I’m right back at the beginning again.  This time, a little wiser and stronger.  Grrrrrr

Happy running

Helen

LDWA Punchbowl Marathon – 30 miles of sunshine and mud

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My expectations for this event were terrifying.  A wonderfully organised and well stocked LDWA (Long Distance Walkers Association) event that has tortured runners and walkers with its weather and terrain.  Shoe removing mud.  Hills.  Lashing rain.  Snow.  Hail.  The list was endless and enough to terrify me before I had even stepped foot on the course.

So how was it? The weather? The course?

I’ll start with the weather because throughout the week the forecast for the weekend had been dire.  High winds, lashings of rain and no sign of sunshine.  On the day it was lovely sunshine with clouds and one very quick shower.  Couldn’t have asked for better weather.  It was lovely.

The course.  Even though the weather on the day had been lovely the incredible amount of rain that had fallen throughout the week had made one part of the course impassable.  I’m very glad they had a diversion for that part because it would have been a swimming/running/walking event.  The rest of the course was a mixture of very soft, very wet mud with the occasional completely flooded path or road that could not be walked around so you HAD to go through it.  Did I walk gently through these bits?  Oh no!  I jumped right in, started squealing with the sudden frozen feet feeling and then giggling like a kid as I kept splashing my way through.  I was confident my trail shoes would empty of water quickly and my socks didn’t hold onto water for very long, plus treating my feet with liquid chalk before a very wet run seems to slow down the wet foot/wet sock rubbing blisters.  That left me confident to just jump in and enjoy myself like a big kid.  The hill climbs were tough but nowhere near as tough as the Lake District so I stuck in and worked my way to the top. The course took us to trig points around the course that gave some absolutely beautiful views and with the clear weather you could see for miles.

The navigation was hard work.  I’ve been spoilt on big events because I’ve always been with someone who knew the way, had a partner in crime that could read the instructions and sense check them for me or I had the gpx route plotted on my Garmin etrex.  I had none of those to begin with.  It was a big wakeup call because it slowed me down a lot.  I was running alone for a good 8 miles trying to keep up with runners who knew the way before partnering up with a couple of slower runners who couldn’t have been nicer if they tried.  Thank you so much Fabrice and Anne – you were lovely company on a very long day out on the trails.  We worked together reading and rereading the route instructions which made us all confident of the very few unclear bit of the course.  We kept each other moving when we started slowing down.  It was lovely.

In summary I had an absolutely wonderful day out walking/running around the punchbowl marathon in Surrey.  It was hard work and I’m thoroughly impressed with my ultra-kit I’ve managed to get that made the day fun without worries.  Ultra HUGE thank you to the organisers and those lovely lovely LOVELY people at the check points.  I haven’t had lemon curd sandwiches since I was a kid.  THANK YOU

What surprised me most about the day was not the fact that it took me 9 hours 19 minutes to complete the course but the fact that I still had enough in me to keep going!! What was that about? My feet felt fine, my knees were aching, my back was complaining a bit but that was it.  I almost felt disappointed that it was over.  I’d been through flooded roads, mud, more mud and hills that should have wrecked me but it hadn’t.  I’ve not been out training as much as I should have for this event and I know that if I had trained for it I would have been a lot faster.  It almost feels like I’ve cheated somehow but my Garmin definitely recorded my day at 30 miles.

The only thing I’m doing different this year is rock climbing.  That takes an enormous amount of effort and I’m getting stronger each time I go.  I’m noticing the stronger I get at rock climbing the stronger I’m getting at running.  I’ve tried swimming, cycling, various strength training exercises and long distance runs to improve my stamina and strength with the end result being lots of injuries from overuse and blisters and chaffing in the oddest places!! I’ve been trying to increase my stamina and strength for running for the past four years.  I take up rock climbing this year and I’ve been handed a completely different body to run with.

Happy running

Helen

Ambleside Amble – Lakeland50/100 Ambleside to Consiton Reccie Weekend

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What a fun night that was! 

Lakeland 50 and 100 organisers putting on a reccie weekend for people who want to familiarise themselves with the route before taking on the big mileage.  Breaking down the route into manageable chunks.  Not only that but the checkpoints were manned by volunteers of the most cheerful nature in those awful conditions.  Hats off to them all. 

I’d spent the week worrying about the weekend and what the weather would be like and what am I going to wear because it’s going to be cold and what about food and and and and and……  I could end up taking enough kit to go walking in the artic!  Light, minimal, WARM, necessary – I broke down all that I needed and it had to meet those requirements.  My pack had everything I needed – extremely light weight base layers top and bottom, first aid kit and major first aid kit (I always carry two for some reason), emergency food (Kendal mint cake), lightweight full waterproofs top and bottom with taped seams, lightweight full windproofs top and bottom, heavy duty poncho (about as heavy as a banana!!), spare batteries, spare head torch, gps etrex, mobile, map, route instructions, base layer gloves and windproof gloves, one walking pole, ginger cake, babybel, white pitta bread and lastly a water. Any kit was bagged into separate waterproof bags (tie handle freezer bags) to help reduce damp kit. 

Then what I was wearing!   I’m terrible.  I’ll run in long sleeves in the middle of summer.  This time I’ll be mainly walking and it will be near freezing temperatures.  I’m really surprised that what I chose was perfectly comfortable.  Lightweight wool long sleeve top base layer, running vest, winter long sleeve running top, waterproof top (removed from the bag), winter running tights, windproof running bottoms (removed from the bag), buff, windproof motorcycle buff, beanie, ledlenser H7 headtorch, inov8 gaitors and trail shoes. 

I had all the kit ready to go a week before getting to the B&B on Friday night.  I’d packed and unpacked my running pack with the exact same things.  I couldn’t think of extra or less for the conditions.  I’d even packed and unpacked my running kit bag.  Again, nothing changed.  The thought of wearing less was not an option and I didn’t want to take more in case I had to carry it.  It made getting ready on the day very easy.  Kit on, bag on, waterbottle filled, food checked and bagged, torches checked, gps checked, phone checked – sorted.  Out the door!!  Then waiting for my friends to sort out their kit and put on their kit.  Just like me – it’s cold, it’s going to rain, it’s night time – all the things we’re not used to.  It didn’t take them long to get ready though. 

A quick trip on the coach and we’re in Ambleside.  A quick loo break later and we’re the last ones leaving the church hall heading down the path to the first big hill out of Ambleside.  The base layer gloves came out of the bag pretty quickly when we started running on the first mile because it was bitterly cold already.  Once warmed up going up the first hill out of Ambleside I was toasty all the way to Coniston.  My new head torch was fabulous.  Kit discussions on facebook helped.  It wasn’t the best head torch discussed but my budget wouldn’t stretch to the hundreds for a head torch unfortunately and H7 was the best for the price.  I was happy.  My bag was lighter than the last time I tried this route in daytime so I’m getting better at selecting essential kit.  I felt strong and the cold night air and rain was thrilling. 

Even though we were the last to set off we made good time to each of the check points.  We each took a slip on the treacherous mud in the darkness of the night.  Soggy feet was unavoidable.  When we reached the point where I wrenched my knee last year I became very nervous of the route, making sure I used the walking pole to pick a safe route through the marsh.  Once we were on the road and running from that point I was full of life.  Even the treacherous wind tunnel climb out of Tilberthwaite didn’t dampen my mood.  I was having a hoot!! A bit of concentration required down the mud ski slope towards the copper mine road and then we were running down the hill.  My last attempt at that hill was in daylight and I was not a happy bunny because my knee was filled with all manner of pain.  This time – Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!

We were in no rush to complete the route and we started right at the back of the whole group.  We didn’t see a sole for a good few hours and we passed two groups of people.  15 miles from Ambleside to Coniston in 6 hours 18 minutes – mostly walking lol! 

I am so looking forward to the Lakeland 50 this year and this time I’m prepared for whatever the lake district has.  Bring it on! 

Happy running

:-)

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