Sunday, 28 April 2013

Lighter Schedule

This week's training: Body Balance, 2 x swim (550m & 650), 2 x cycle (35 mins & 50 mins)

It's been a very strange week. On Monday I ached quite a lot, but nothing a full body massage couldn't help with. I didn't do anything that day, for obvious reasons, except get over excited about my new VLM 2013 branded sports kit and hoover up all food I could find. Tuesday I was feeling almost normal again and felt jealous that my housemate and friend were going out for a forest run in the evening sunshine. I could tell I wasn't ready for that though. I started tracking my calorie intake again to try and ensure I'm not overeating post-marathon. Easier said than done to not let my appetite get out of hand after allowing myself to eat anything and everything for a few days. I've totally overdone it this weekend.

Wednesday I spent the entire day feeling very fidgety and frustrated. I lusted over brightly coloured trainers, browsed the Bournemouth Marathon Festival website with intent and yearned to be outside. I only just managed to persuade myself not to sign up to the Bournemouth Marathon by reasoning that this might just be marathon fever. There's been no sign of the depression may people say kicks in after a marathon, possibly because I still have plenty of running/fitness goals as well as a house move on the horizon. I did an easy 35 minutes on the bike in the gym and a Body Balance class in the evening (wearing my new VLM branded kit). I was signed up for Body Pump but I was a) too chilled after meditation and b) worried my knees weren't quite ready.

Swimming seems to be the only thing I'm capable of getting up early for which is just as well as I was in the pool at 6:45 on Thursday morning. I love how a morning swim leaves me feeling for the rest of the day. Maybe front crawl lessons are on the horizon if I keep enjoying it.The rest of the day featured hitting the F5 button with increasing frustration trying, and eventually succeeding, to get a place in The National Lottery Anniversary Run. I've also signed mum up (with her permission)! By Friday I was almost back to full training mode again with 50 mins on the bike and a swim. And I really enjoyed it.

No running this week, which has left my schedule a little emptier... in fact it's looking a lot sparser from here as I'm running much shorter distances and halving my strength training. Maybe I will feel at a loss! But it gives me time to do other things in life, like packing up the house, maybe reading or seeing a friend or two. In fact I've taken advantage of my lighter schedule already by visiting friends in Wales this weekend.

Tough Mudder next weekend! Got my instructions yesterday which I've not had a chance to look at in earnest yet... it will NOT be fun.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

So, what now?

Well it's been quite easy to forget that the marathon was only the second of my five charity events and I still have three to go. 

I've got just two weeks until the brutality of Tough Mudder and I've no idea if I'm ready. It's a completely unknown quantity. I've done muddy trail runs of similar distance before but not with obstacles thrown in so I've no idea how tired I'll get. I have built up a good deal of endurance with marathon training and I'm stronger since doing Body Pump twice a week but crikey, I'm envisaging being a complete wreck after this.

In the more immediate post-marathon world I have a whole week of training that doesn't feature any running. Instead I will be swimming, cycling, doing pump classes and hopefully a Body Balance/Yoga session. I predict that I will miss it.

This does somehow count as R&R. I need to look after myself now and let my body recover. Muscles need to be stretched and eased back into life. My feet need some care and attention. And I need to feed my body. Lots of good-for-me food after the couple of days indulgence of eating anything I fancied (that was bliss). I've treated myself and been treated to some new sports kit (marathon branded, natch) and shown off the medal so now, fully inspired, it's time to get back to work and build up to attack Tough Mudder... RARGH!!

Monday, 22 April 2013

I am a Marathon Finisher!

Yesterday I completed the 33rd London Marathon. I am a Marathon finisher. My body is capable of covering 26.2 miles by hook or by crook and I'm a little bit proud of that. I don't feel quite right saying I'm a marathon runner because I didn't run the entire thing, but I sure as hell earnt that medal!

I drove up to my parent's on the Friday night and went to the Expo with my mum on the Saturday morning to collect my race number and have a nosey round. The less said about the DLR the better... Anyway I lusted over kit (that they didn't have in my size), samples countless energy bars, stocked up on a few bits and bobs and claimed my goody bag. A happy morning indeed.
At the Expo - this just got real!
Amazingly I slept right through on Saturday night. None of the usual pre-race nerves were evident. I'd eaten a good meal of pasta followed by my mum's amazing apple cake and custard, watched three quarters of Chariots of Fire, and laid out all my kit for the morning. I guess I was looking forward to it so much I had a clear conscience!
Before the start...
Mum came with me to the start before going to meet dad and my Aunt at the first cheering point so I wasn't on my own. It was a gorgeous day. I was in good time for the start, no queues for the loos (turns out I'm not ready for female urinals yet), baggage on the truck in good time. It all felt incredibly chilled out! The 30 second silence to pay respects to Boston was a little spine tingling and then we were off... sort of. It took me 25 minutes to get to the start line but I enjoyed hearing the announcer commenting on the fancy dress costumes. I was then able to calculate how much time I'd made up when I passed them on the course!

I wasn't prepared for just how many people were lining the course. It was just incredible. Bands, charities, people in their front gardens, outside pubs, just everywhere, all cheering us on, shouting our names and handing out jelly babies, jelly beans, orange wedges, banana, biscuits and in one case cocktail sausages and cheese sandwiches.

I saw my cheering party at miles 3, 15, 20 and 25 and saw my mate Brett at mile 10, which certainly helped time go by. Actually the miles felt as though tthey just flew past, with water stations, lucozade stations, mile markers, kilometer markers... so much to look at and take in. My running club had a cheering station and I loved the noise coming from the Run Dem London crew. I had a huge grin on my face the entire time despite welling up fairly frequently; it was all a little overwhelming.

As it was such a hot day there were several very welcome shower stations en route and I thought the fuel and water stations were very well staffed and organised. In fact I don't think there was a single element of the organisation I could fault!

I ran all the way until mile 18 and then I started to ache. It just got worse and worse to the point I couldn't run any more so I slowed to a walk. I'd been on track for a 5 hour finish until then and thought I'd still make 5.5 if I kept up a 15 minute mile; do-able, I thought. Nu-uh. Mile 22 was bleak. I felt as though I had to keep stopping to sit or rest or stretch or do something, anything. I got so much support from the crowd, other runners who walked with me, and then the St John's who got the heads up about me from a fellow runner. I was given a foil blanket, they dealt with my tears (I was terrified I wouldn't be able to finish) and spent 5 minutes trying to find my pulse! I felt a bit better then and with 2 miles to go I set off, feeling pretty dire but with renewed determination to finish. And I got there. I may have walked and I may have take 6 hours but I crossed that line and it felt amazing.

My split times.
I did everything right, I couldn't have done anything more, and I am not upset with my time. I may still feel in awe of people who finished in under 5 hours but, hey, I was in a whole new arena after the 18 mile mark. I felt so emotional when I saw my family again.

You can see the tears on their way.
Never worked so hard for an ice cream!
The orgainisation at the finish was great, they got our tags off swiftly and it was sparse enough by the time I came through that the baggage guys could see you coming and have your bag all ready for you. Meeting up with everyone afterwards was a cinch too, apart from the seemingly long walk. And the train journey home was fun, chatting with other finishers, catching up on all my messages from friends and supporters. We all went out for a lovely meal, after a glass of bubbly, and the aches aren't *too* bad today. A massage has certainly helped. Another early night is calling.
Proud Aunty
It's a strong contender for the best day of my life. I'll never forget it and I'm really proud of what I've achieved. Thank you to everyone who has helped me get to this point, all the supporters in all your forms, the friends, family and mentors. I could not have done it without you.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Final Preparations

This week's training: 7 miles, 2 x Body Pump, 2 x cycling (65 minutes), 1 x swimming (500m)

So... this is it... the last few days before the London Marathon. So what have my preparations been? Well I reduced the number of training sessions very slightly as well as the miles and the week's been front loaded to give my legs a break. I've been eating well, tweaking my playlists and adding a few last minute extra tunes, writing packing lists and making sure all my kit is clean. I've got notes of all sorts of things to write on my hands like water/gel times and where people will be on the route.

Tomorrow, after a photocall at the local paper with the charity and packing everything I can think of that I might need, I'm heading to my parent's in Bexley. It's the perfect base location as I've discovered when I've volunteered on the start line in previous years. My DVD rental package magiced up Chariots of Fire last week so I'm packing that and Run, Fat Boy, Run to watch on Friday and Saturday nights :) I'll be going to the expo on Saturday morning to collect my race number and black ribbon for Boston, look at the stalls and soak up the atmosphere. Then my Aunt will be arriving in the afternoon. I'm terribly excited and nervous. 

I've had lots of good luck messages which have really touched me. I promise to do my best, and I'll be back with a full report early next week!

Finally... a little video that's been getting me revved up:

Tuesday, 16 April 2013


Last night, whilst I was in my room eating dinner after a double gym session, my housemate stuck his head round the door and informed me that bombs had gone off at the Boston Marathon. My twitter feed was awash with shocked, angry, confused comments. I'm sure you'll have heard or seen various reports and maybe even footage of the blast and aftermath.

What has happened is terrible. The marathon seems like such an odd target, apart from the fact it is a large gathering of people where a big impact can be made. When you think of the reasons people put themselves forward for marathons, charities, good causes, personal goals... it is senseless and awful. Ever since I heard the news my thoughts have been with the runners, spectators, support services and everyone else who was there and especially with those who are injured or haven't accounted for their loved ones.

It's rare that I feel affected by stories like this. Obviously 9/11 was tragic but I didn't really connect with it in the way that so many others did. But this is different and my reaction (which BBC Surrey called on me to share on air this morning) has taken me by surprise. I think it's because the running community is so close knit. We can all imagine ourselves, our supporters, in that situation. It feels very close, even though it took place on the other side of the ocean, because so many runners talk to each other every day. I've never experienced as strong and supportive a connection as I've had with other runners and while there are elites and beginners it's always felt like a very involving and friendly community.

I've felt very shaken by the news. There's no reason to be, really. There's no reason why anything should happen at the London Marathon but I suppose you can't help but wonder. There is some nervousness about Sunday now, for ourselves and our friends and family who will be on the sidelines, which the organisers are handling very well, sending out communications and reviewing security. There's not much else to be done. I'll be running regardless, but now it will be as much a show of solidarity and defiance as for personal and charitable reasons.

In the meantime the first line responders, the emergency services and the general public who have helped runners in Boston by providing shelter, communication channels, blood and so on, deserve to be mentioned as examples of how people pull together and are generally good. And we would do well to remember that.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

I'm in the paper!

Just a quickie before I head off to London for the weekend... I'm in the paper! Not the local paper, well not to me anyway, but the Exmouth Journal, my Aunt's local paper.

Spreading the word about Scleroderma, fundraising and my challenge :)

Friday, 12 April 2013

Landmarks and Tapering

This week's training: 19 miles, 2 x Body Pump, 45 minutes cycling, 25 minutes swim (700m)

Posting slightly earlier than usual this week just because I've done all my scheduled training already and am having the weekend off!

I'm in the taper now with just over a week to go until the marathon so my mileage has come right down. I ran a very boring 5 miles on the treadmill early in the week but my other runs have been straight after work both finishing just in time to escape getting rained on - result! There was a final "beginners marathon" session at running club this week which I didn't manage to get to but I've been sent a copy of the slides and am trying to take the advice on board. I only have two short runs next week before the biggie which feels like such a relief but I'm not reducing my other training as my mentor suggests. It shouldn't case me any problems as the week will be pretty front loaded but I have wondered if I should have reduced all my sessions. Oh well que sera sera.

The only training I've been getting excited about are my double or triple sessions in the gym where I do body pump then one or more of swimming, cycling or running. I feel really hardcore when I do these and get a real sense of achievement. The things I've not looked forward to have been dealt with by a "just get out there and do it" attitude and a "don't think about it, just keep going" mantra.

I've STILL not taken to the roads on my bike, prefering the convenience of the stationary bikes in the gym but I MUST do this if not next week then the week after.

My fundraising has had a little spike this week and has finally broken the £1,000 mark! It's simply fantastic and I'm so happy :) I had a little cake sale in the office this week and raised almost £30 and did another email blitz which raised around another £100. People have been so generous and I'm so grateful.

And now I'm off to catch up with some friends in London for the weekend - hurrah!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Bolt Round The Holt Review

My most recent race was Bolt Round the Holt, which took place on Saturday 6th April at Alice Holt Forest in Surrey. Saturday isn't the usual day for a race, more often they're on Sunday and as such the venue's parkrun was cancelled but for the greater good I think. I like to hope that some of the parkrunners came along and took part anyway.

Bolt Round the Holt is a collection of races run over the course of the morning organised by AllAboutTriathlons. There's a 1km kids race followed by cani-cross, 5km, 10km and 21km races which all set off within a minute of each other, run on a 5km loop through the forest. The course is somewhat hilly (evil hill of note just before the 5km point) and mostly on packed gravel paths. The prices vary according to the distance, from £5 to £25 and for this you get a technical t-shirt, free parking a few minutes walk from the start, chip timing, and GU gels on route if you're doing the 21km distance. I felt this was good value for money.

We were blessed with the warmest, sunniest day so far this year, which made a huge difference to my enjoyment level of the race. The forset is very picturesque and the start area is near to a cafe which serves excellent bacon butties (according to my dad) amongst other delicious foods. Race numbers, t-shirts and timing bands, which are worn on the wrist, are collected on the day and although there was a queue for registration it moved quickly and a good system was in place. You could even switch distance on the day and these requests seemed to be handled well.

Over near the start point there was a PA system set up playing lively music, most of which could have been lifted straight from my own running playlist, which added to the cheerful and relaxed atmosphere. Everyone seemed chilled, from the kiddies who'd already run to those gearing up to set off. Even after the event there were still plenty of people relaxing and enjoying the forest and the sunshine. There seemed to be no queues for toilets whatsoever, even though I don't remember seeing that many of them.

There was a bit of a delay to the start time but no one seemed to mind. There was a brilliant warm up which everyone, not just the girls, took part in and then it was time for the off. We were instructed to arrange ourselves according to distance, with cani-cross runners and dogs at the front, followed by 21km runners then 10km runners and so on. I was entered in the 21km distance and somehow ended up hemmed in by 10km runners so had to elbow my way to the front and was a comic sight as a lone runner trying to catch up to the pack. Otherwise, all went smoothly. There were plenty of walkers in the shorter distances, notably one older lady in skirt and pumps, and the course didn't feel at all crowded. There were water points at two spots on the course which meant there were plenty of opportunities to have a drink over a multilap distance. It got a bit lonely after the second lap as the shorter distance participants has already finished and by the time I was on my last lap I was thanking all the marshalls for still being there! That said as I approached the finish I discovered a lady I had caught up with had one more lap to go! Now that's dedication.

There were plenty of marshalls, all doing a fantastic job, as ever at these events, and as the day wore on and more members of the public started using the paths that made up the route it was notable that everyone was very considerate and didn't get in the way of the race. Because of the volume of people taking part the organisers had requested that no headphones were worn, soemthing I adhered to although I spotted a couple of people with iPods. It was the first time I'd run that distance without music but in the event I didn't miss it. And the laps mean that you get to pass your supporters frequently. Any more than four laps could have been very tedious so I think they got that spot on.

On finishing everyone recieved a medal, although not one specific to their distance, and a banana. No goody bag but the t-shirt more than made up for it in my opinion. A race video and some unofficial photos were up on the site and facebook that afternoon as were the results.

I thought it was an excellent race with a wonderful friendly atmosphere. I recommend it and I would certainly do it again.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Scared... I most certainly am

It's easy to forget at this poitn in time but I do actually have three other events to complete after the London Marathon. The third in my series of five, and the next up after said marathon is Tough Mudder.

I've written a bit about what this involves in the past and I've seen the odd article online by others who have been persuaded (as I was, I hasten to add. This is not one I've signed up to willingly) to sign up and are dreading it just as much as me.

The latest of these is in The Guardian and you can read it here. It doesn't really install confidence and I'm quite glad I have 26.2 miles between here and there to distract me from it.

And you thought a marathon was tough!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Best Laid Plans and Surprises

This Week's Training: 25 miles, 2 x Body Pump, 600m swim, 3 x bike (1hr25 total)

It's been a good week all in all. I'm trying not to think about the fact it's now only TWO WEEKS until the London Marathon. So far so good. My friend Alex is running Brighton next weekend and I really feel for her as she's been poorly and not able to get so many miles under her belt. I'm sure she'll have a blast though and I'm looking forward to hearing all about it.

I was house-sitting for a friend for most of the week so shuffled my training schedule around quite a bit to suit. I did body pump and a bike session before I went over on Tuesday night, failed to do a lunchtime run on Wednesday because of workload but managed it the next day instead. I'd intended to do 8 miles after work on Thursday but thought I'd forgotten my gloves. It had been snowing all day and my hands went numb the day before so thought I'd better not go. Also failed to go out on Friday morning. So best laid plans and all that... my excuse was I didn't think it wise to run the day before a half marathon race and I was doing a swim and bike combo that evening anyway. Turns out I'd had my gloves all along. SIGH.

Before running a four lap half marathon 
Anyway Saturday morning I took part in Bolt Round the Holt in Alice Holt forest. I'd had my eye on this event for at least a year so I was really excited about taking part, not least because it turned out to be a really warm and sunny day. I even got a tan mark on my forehead where my head band was! As ever I'll do a separate review on the event but I really enjoyed it, despite the trail terrain and hills, despite not being allowed to run with music (I don't think I've ever run more than 8 miles without music) and despite it being laps. I've never done a lapped event of that length before but it worked out really well because it meant I passed my parents five times which meant lots of cheering and being spurred on. I came 149th out of 175 and run in 2:16:36... faster than Paris, that was a surprise!

Obligatory post event bling shot
Turns out someone I know from a National Trust working holiday was also running and spotted me, somehow, and tweeted me after the event, which was a really lovely surprise.

The final surprise has been today... I was up for an 8:30 body pump class followed by a 25 minute session on the bike, did the shopping and had a light lunch then went out for another run. I was down for 4 this week but I'd only done two so I knew I had to do one more minimum. Another sunny day made it a joy to go out and I managed 8 miles with some still left in the tank. But what really surprised me was that I averaged 9:30 minutes per mile! Over 8 miles! I don't think I've ever done that before. And it's not exactly flat around here. Long may it continue!