Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Oh no FOMO

The Beardy Guy astutely pointed out to me that I tend to have something called FOMO. This is diagnosed in the ultra running book, Relentless Forward Progress as:

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a frequent cause of fatigue and burnout in the ultrarunning community. As you become aware that you're capable of running vast distances, especially through gorgeous locales or with new and interesting running companions, you may continually add outings and events to indulge your physiological, spiritual, and social desires. While such desires are wonderful motivators, FOMO can leave you taking on additional events without consideration of training benefit or adequate consideration of physiological cost.
If you find yourself unable to decline invitations for a group run, you might have FOMO. If you're unable to resist signing up for every race, you might have FOMO. If you miss a holiday meal to run, you might have FOMO. Beware of FOMO. 

I think he may be onto something there. I love events and I love entering them. I love the sense of achievement, the medal, tshirt, spreadsheet with a time or sense of collective spirit of endeavour. It's why I want to do an aquathlon next week before I can even spell the word, then a 1500m swim race, then a sprint tri and then an off road sprint tri. 

I really do need to keep my enthusiasm in check. 

I've prepared a little mental filter:

  • Will the event cost a lot of money? - this gets rid of many quite easily
  • Will the event require a bit of training? - as opposed to ad hoc training that I am in now
  • Will the event add anything to my proper training? eg enhance it, be a useful benchmark
  • What is my risk of injuring myself or adding some kind of pressure by entering something I'm not ready for? 
  • Will it be loads of fun and therefore none of these above questions apply because then it would be something I would hate to miss out on?

Wait a minute with that last question... 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Millbrook Monster

My other home of Mossley (aka Chateau Beardy Guy) is a small village nestled at the confusing crossroads of Yorkshire and Lancashire. And sometimes even Cheshire. It is full of hills, so much so, that the parts of the village are called Bottom and Top Mossley. Way above Top Mossley is a street that reaches so far into the clouds that sometimes you come across men called Jack with a handfull of beans walking down it. As a result the locals are prone to running up and down hills at speed. The Beardy Guy is no exception to this. 

We had been alerted to a local event named the Millbrook Monster - a 10k on challenging terrain. Beardy was all up for it, myself unsure. We went for a bimble together the day before and I did ok on some of the undulations, walked the mega hills and felt alright but a bit tired on the flats. Beardy declared that I'd be ok on the Monster and buoyed by his unwavering belief in me, I agreed that nothing too bad could happen. 

Well, what can actually happen is that you end up the only non club runner in a pack of local elites with Upper Millsford Cheshires Knuts Harriers branded across their chest. And that the hills are so steep that mountain goats are taking chair lifts up them. Or you summit a hill and the earth falls from under you, only to find yourself on moors so desolate that even serial killers are scared. Ok that's this city girl's perspective! 

The hill starts as soon as you have crossed the start line, off road and I managed to keep running, past the first walker, past the man taking a leak, past the girl who made me sound less asthmatic than I am. It was all going well until a marshall said: "that's a good warm up for the real hill". What could she mean? Not that big hill on the horizon looming up at us? Uh yes... I powerwalked whenever I couldn't run, until the ground turned to shale that I was just falling over and two of the four places I had made became just two and my calves burned to the point I was sure I could cook on them. I felt at one stage like I was going backwards and realised because of the shale, I was. Never fear, when I got over that bloody hill (what no flag to stick in the summit?) I wasn't going anywhere because I was on the moors and the wind resistance was rendering me motionless! 

I loved the downhills and took my two places back, zig zagging with confidence even though there were a few slips. Now if only I could get that confidence on the bike. I clocked a few 4:50s on my sportsband (usually  near 6 - kms per minute, minutes per km - who knows?!) as the ground turned to tarmac again. Running downhill on the hard stuff proved a bit painful and I went to the roadside until the road flattened but I couldn't get my legs to do something that was neither uphill nor downhill. 

At about 7km in, I realised that my fuel system always always needs something to eat. I adopted a mantra which was simply "sugar". I was actually looking at plants to consider which ones I could chew. Sugar sugar eight. Sugar sugar. A marshall who I guess must have been an experienced runner, was lovely the moment she saw my blank face and gave me calm instructions on how to run through the sugar low. It's really quite lonely being at the back of the pack - can't see who is in front or who is behind. The marshalls really do help. Sugar sugar nine. 

At the last 400m I could see someone ahead of me. I wasn't going to  beat them on the finish line (unsporting) but I also wasn't going to waddle behind them, so with all intentions of encouraging them to a quick end, I sprinted to the finish, only to surprise Beardy One with my early return. I finished about 1:03 (my time based on my start line crossing) which given that even He of the Hills had to walk the summit and confessed it was a bit hard, I was dead proud of. And I was not last. 

And best of all we got a hot sausage sanger at the end for free. I am so easily pleased that I completely forgot to kill the Beardy Guy for thinking it was a good idea to send me up such a bloody difficult hill in the first place! 

Catch up

I feel I own my regular reader (hello @Runr795) a bit of an official catch up on everything before moving swiftly ahead with being a blog about running (and now swimming and biking) for people who aren't very good at it!

We last saw our hapless heroine, attempting to convalesce from two A&E episodes whilst in the Pennines, having made some big decisions that were not yet public...

And so, of course they are very public now. I left a brilliant job at Cancer Research UK after which I could have got a nice high paid exec job selling toothpaste or cars or something. I left London, without nary a backward glance. And I have moved to Manchester. And what a move...

I have not just moved physically, I've moved spiritually! For starters, this is a great place to get into tri: rolling hills (if only I could brave the terrible city drivers to get to them), open water swimming twice a week in the Salford Quays with the excellence Dave at Uswim; and running in the hills with the fabulous encouragement of The Beardy Guy. I have moved to somewhere where a random visitor to my building will chat to me in the lift, where I know the name of the guy who makes my coffee, sells me milk and maintains the building! And I have moved to somewhere where my mind has stopped whirring and my heart is at peace.

I hope to not be disingenuous nor disrespectful to say that the last three (was it three years?) were not meant to be. I simply made the best of a trying situation and in doing so did not realise that gradually day after day, I learned to live with suspicion, fear, and an expectation of the worst at worst, and at best, indifference. In moving to the North, I in fact moved somewhere where I was more myself, celebrated and adored for who I am, supported and motivated to be who I could be. So how does this outpouring of such candid emotion have any impact on my training, I hear you ask, cringing? Oh it's very simple.

It's all very well to say you're going to do an Ironman when the idea of being out of the house for 24 hours a week of training is escape. When it's the only place to be the person you want to be. When you have a point to prove. Early mornings, late nights, exhaustion, slave to spreadsheets - bring it on. But when you're not just happy but content, when you've no longer got to escape and you're revitalised by the stunning variety of things life has for you to experience, Ironman becomes a chore.

And you lose that reason for doing it. And without an ability to articulate why you're doing what you're doing, I feel you've set yourself up to fail.

So, after much soul searching, sleepless nights and long hypothetical conversations I woke The Beardy Guy one morning to the news - I was withdrawing from Ironman Lanzarote 2013.

This was not an easy decision to make but it feels like the right decision to make. I have made some alternative competition options but I am not sharing them at this stage. In the meantime, I'll be delighted to share my interim little races for fun and how I get on in them. Because the goal for the next few months is fun while swim-bike-running! And enjoying the peace in my heart.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Swiss miss

Many months ago when I was at fit as a whippet, I entered the Swiss Alpine marathon. It's actually a series of events from K10 (for 10km) up to K78. Oh yes. I entered the C42 - the easy version of the marathon. I think C stands for custard.

Anyway having been quite poorly recently I'd not trained at all I'd decided to do some latter distance. The half marathon (K21) was as hilly as the Alps could be. The K30 was just the marathon without the downhill on it. The walking event insisted you take walking poles and was instantly out of the question. So the K10 it was. Race strategy, jog slowly over the start and finish when people were watching, walk everything in between.

I forgot this strategy and walked the start due to congestion we all walked the first 8 minutes of uphill and then pushed past to finish 69th woman out of 233 odd. How very pleasing.

Cool things about running in the Swiss Alps.

  • Beautiful scenery. And I mean ooh wow look at that scenery. 
  • Small children and grown ups with massive cow bells ringing them at you. 
  • Alcohol free beer at the finish line. 
  • Catching a wee train to the start line. 
  • Starting in bright sunlight and finishing in torrrential rain and thunder
  • Running past a raclette and fondue house
  • Getting a very cool tshirt that you actually want to wear. 
  • Watching the K78s come in. 
  • 8 days of free travel with Swiss Rail. 
  • Watching Lizzie Hawker and other great runners finish. 
  • Finishing feeling really strong and wanting to do it all over again. 
  • I'd really recommend doing this event 

More Pics And how could you not want to do the K78 after watching this?

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Convalescing with competition urges

Let's be honest, I'm a bit of a wreck at the moment. I had an hour of gentle reformer pilates on Friday and ached everywhere the next day, needed an afternoon nap from walking up a big hill and fall into tears at the drop of a hat. Anyone's hat. 

On Friday I stopped myself from leaving the house. So what did I do? Signed up for cycle training with the council (hey I want the basics before I'm a triathlete!), signed up for lots of SkyRide Local events, registered for USwim and made pilates bookings.

I'm supposed to be resting resting and resting and then making a decision about Ironman. It kinda feels like I made the decision doesn't it?! I don't want to give it up and actually if I did, I'd have ended the only thing that doesn't seem to be changing in my life right now. It's probably not the rational way to make a decision, but it seems really important to me to keep one constant. I feel like if I didn't have the idea of Ironman to cling onto I'll lose who I am as it's the only thing left. It almost doesn't matter which I do or when, just to start the training and remind myself of who I am, because I don't recognise any other part of me right now. 

I keep telling myself that all the tiredness, patience and headmess is brilliant training for mile 65 on the bike course.  :)

Next week, I'm doing four sessions of reformer pilates. Yes four. And one swim coaching. Slow build. Slow return of me.

Friday, 6 July 2012

R and R

I'm resting at the foothills of the Pennines and it's so lovely to know this is my second home, now that I am moving to Manchester.

Yes I'm giving up the bright lights, big city of London and my great job as a marketing strategist to get better.

I'm so very very tired and even more tired of being sick - and if I stand even a little chance to complete the Ironman I have entered then I need to properly rest.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

I am here

I haven't written a blog post for a long time, mostly because I've been more introspective and also spending more time with real people. Which isn't to say that the twitter running community aren't real, I'm just very lucky to know the best of them offline too.
There has been a lot going on of late. I quit my "dream job" because of the stress, I found a new but very different job and I left my partner of three years. I tried to start my ironman training. I tried to find a new house to live in. In the spaces in between, I hurt for various reasons, because sometimes change smarts, and it's easy to feel like a failure. But I kept moving, training, volunteering, being active with charities, socialising - to keep that hurt at bay. Anyone who has tried to do that will know it catches up on you eventually and for me it manifested itself in my physical health.
In the last few weeks, I've had more fevers than I care to remember (including one that the NHS dramatically feared was from malaria!), had more infections than I might have had ever, and now as a result of this illness smorgasbord, find myself underweight, exhausted, emotional, in a lot of pain, unable to walk more than 100m and desperately hoping the doctors find out how to treat the symptoms of my current infection while dealing with a way to booster my weakened immune system. 
I've made a few decisions in the last 24 hours that I am not able to share yet - until I've reached everyone they affect. I know these are the best decisions for me and I will get better and stronger. There will be other marathons, other lakes and seas to swim in, other hills to climb and ride. I'm not giving up on my ironman dream, but the first and most important thing I can do for any training is to get better. I won't be thinking swim bike or run for four weeks; I want to see if I can do sleep, eat and smile instead. 
My lovely father - who is as goal driven as myself - told me of his pain when last year with chronic health issues, he had to pull out of Everest base camp after telling everyone he was going to do it. It felt awful for him to rearrange his life and plans and face up to what he couldn't do, when his belief system is built on 'anything is possible'. But as he pointed out, Everest is still there, and most importantly so is he. 

I'll be back

Thanks tremendously to the person who has most nursed me through all this illness and change in my life, though I hope I never have to repay the favour, I gladly would. 

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Vicarious ironman

Today I was meant to have my cycle training lessons as provided by Brent Council - they who can no longer afford libraries, rubbish collection and heath care. It was a four hour session where I guess I would ride through cones.

Then I was meant to visit an old friend, the indefatigable David Bousfield, who has cycled substantial amounts of Brasil and India.

Instead I ended up in A and E in chronic pain and a healthy dose of some internal bleeding. Nice.

So I lived through my coach, the inspiring and amazing Jonathon Acott who was doing Ironman Nice for team Livestrong, being a two times cancer survivor himself. Jonathan made Ironman look easy. With the Ironman live system you can track a runner's split times - and if you are lucky see them on tv. For the swim split, I was at hospital but fellow Ironman Lanzarote aspirant Sharky sent the time through. Fist in air, albeit feebly.

For the bike, Sharky again sent the first split and then I was told to go home and rest, which meant peering at the laptop from the horizontal position. Last bike split done - air in fist again - this time clutching antibiotics. That meant Jonathan was home - pretty much. Ironman Nice is a bit nasty in that in addition to the swim bike run cut offs they have cut offs all along the route through the bike and the run. So if you've got only one hour left to finish but you're 10km away from the marathon end, they don't let you finish. So French.

Anyway Jonathan started the run and a bunch of friends and strangers on twitter started getting suspensitis. Halfway through, then 15km, then 11km to go until there was 5+ kms to go. I've never hit the refresh button so many times.

And there it was Jonathon Acott, you are an ironman!
Here's the statsporn:
Overall time 15:03:21 
Overall position 1911 
Swim 01:21:06 
Swim position 360 1725 - nope don't know what that means
T1 00:10:01 
Bike 07:42:51 
Bike position 410 2064 
T2 00:09:22 
Run 05:39:59 
Run position 367 1890

I didn't get to turn the pedals myself this weekend but I feel very privileged to have such a great coach - who has taken me from being a breaststroker who couldn't swim 4 lengths of crawl to being a steady 750m open water swimmer in six lessons. If you want a great coach you can get him through twitter

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Running between borders

In between feeling sick, I sometimes have these great moments. So even though Friday I had fever ache I decided to try and do my scheduled 14 mile run the next day. The starting point was a place called Greenfield, which sounds really nice but actually appears to be a giant Tesco. But the spot was chosen as it allowed Jon to get up to his Dovestone Devil on Horseback Diamond Calf Killing trail while he sent me on the long and industrial but flat road to Manchester.

Jon was doing a 20 mile run ahead of Coniston trail marathon so he was off like the hare while I plodded gently behind, forgetting his first direction to Manchester Rd the moment he was out of sight. Also telling a Londoner things like, turn at the big roundabout, is only useful if you both have the same definition of big. Anyway in what will soon be a tradition, I ignored what he said and ducked into a Bridleway. I'm not sure if people who aren't brides are allowed to be a Bridleway but everyone was very friendly - all that top of the morning business. I scampered around the Bridleways for a bit and then found they spat me back out at the Tesco, so I followed the river Tame along a route I had run with Jon last time I was coming down from a fever. The canal path was pretty muddy but I run through puddles and there's nothing like the cling of a cold damp merino sock to make you feel like a runner.

The canal path peters out fairly quickly so I ran back along it and kept going and found the Oldham Way, a great little path in the mud, past some old industrial looking chimney stacks (really exciting for a foreigner like me) and stone buildings marked "cooperative". Some locals started talking to me and I could sort of understand what they were saying but not:
Me: [admiring ducklings]
Man with beard: They be garrrrn darrrn
Woman: Itsurn
Me: I'm not from these parts.

I also came across a long tunnel - which turned out to be Scout Tunnel - as discovered by Jon Crooks, not me, sadly - thought unlike him I didn't run through it. Cmon being alone in Yorkshire Lancashire Oldham Metrropolitan borders is scary enough for a city girl. You can't trust a place that can't work out what shire it's in...

Running back to the start I passed Jon - who was on his 17th mile (I was on about my 17th km) and we high fived. I thought he looked annoyingly strong - but it turns out that he made good of that chance encounter. I went to complete my 23km goal by going back to the Bridalway trails. My ITB had been hurting from 10km so I was often taking a moment to stretch out the surrounding muscles which helped a lot (and let me take photos). But at 21km the ligament alongside my knee relaxed too much and my patella shifted (I laterally displaced my patella a lot as a kid so I know about this!) and the pain was pretty mega. A man had to cover the ears of his small child as they walked past. I pretty much ran on one leg to the end with enough time to stretch, eat and be talked at by more locals before the boy emerged, triumphantly having done 22+ miles (such a boy thing) and needing four cheeseburgers.

A good morning all round.

More pics

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The great big tri report

It's funny how you can do tonnes of blogs about a single race. One to say; "I did it, thanks everyone" and then one to get into complete detail for people who come to your site googling "bodyglide vs baby oil" and then once you have had some reflection.

So this is the big long one with waaaay too much information to serve as an aide memoire for when I have forgotten I did such things as my youth.

Entering the tri was a whim, I wanted to just get the first one over and done with without thinking it. I had seen that Lakeside hosted a tri which was very affordable and easy to get to, the latter being quite a problem as I don't have a car or a driver's license.

I had been training with coach Jonathan to learn how to swim crawl and I had done one 750m open water swim so the tri seemed perfect: 750m lake swim, 20km ride and 5km run. And it was in about two weeks time.

I put a training plan together where I would build confidence on the bike (I'd rarely ridden and didn't have any handling skills), keep my swimming where it was and hopefully my marathon training would take care of the run. However I got a bit sick in this short two week period, I can't recall because I keep getting sick but I know that four days before the race I collapsed with nervous exhaustion so it was never going to be a massive speed event.

I took the bike on the overground Saturday morning which meant I only had to ride from my house to Brondsebury Park (safely done) then keep taking the overground and overland till I got to Lakeside, so I didn't have to cycle the dozens of miles there. Instead I had to carry my bike up and down a lot of stairs which I don't have much practice doing. I then pootled off from Lakeside to the hotel I was staying at but found the traffic a bit scary so hopped onto the footpath on a roundabout. Bad mistake as I don't really have cornering skills and the bike went into some bushes. I had hoped that the triathlon events team who were having breakfast directly opposite my crash site didn't see, but I gave them a chance when I walked into the hotel lobby wheeling my bike, with plants in her spokes and crashed it into a door. Look out Lance Armstrong.

The next day I wasn't having any such issues as Jon kindly offered to walk my bike down the road to registration while I had the arms full of kit. Tri is like sport for planners, it's all about having the kit. There were some lovely bikes at registration, and lots of people with big plastic crates. I don't know why, it doesn't seem like a very ergonomic thing to carry around but there you.

We were given armbands instead of body marks (disappointing) especially when the woman doing them says your wrist is smaller than her granddaughters. I wanted to say, "does you granddaughter have triceps like this" but I don't have any triceps. Then it was a hurried rush to transition zone, dump stuff in, come out again, get stuff off Jon, come in again, panic, until it was time to get into the wetsuit. Then run into transition, leave glasses, run out while wearing prescription goggles and dressed like Bertie Bassett's licorice wife (black rubber, pink swim cap). Some bloke went around kindly fixing everyone's wetsuit - there were mostly men who were either lean as spaghetti or looked unfortunately inappropriate for wetsuits. The women's wave was at the same time as the relay wave (I ask you!) and there wasn't a lot of us and there were a few women in surfsuits (not me!) I got in the water pretty quickly and let it into my wetsuit. It was quite nice, warmer than Eton and maybe 15C.

The start was a bit hard to work out with an imaginary line on an angle for a floating start. There was a bit of knocking but as they were mostly women it was pretty gentle. I realised at this point how bloody tired I was and was amazed when I did get to the first buoy. After that it was just about swimming down the lake. I overtook the people doing backstroke and breaststroke and found myself a bit on my own - I'm not fast enough to be fast nor slow enough to be slow! As a result of being alone I got my own kayak! I asked if I was on course, and they said I was great so I just kept at it. I also realised the buoys were held down by cables so I followed the cables underwater. I was delighted to find my stroke was straight (thanks Jonathan). The next buoys were all dandy until it got to the finish and I realised I didn't quite understand the reference to the paddle steamer in the briefing or where the briefing was. I lost a bit of time sighting. When you finish there is a load of rope and you crawl up that and get dragged out. I told the draggers I wasn't ready but they quickly had me up before I could muster the strength in my arms and I floundered on the jetty like a little eel! I was pleased to know I wasn't last and in fact had passed the stragglers on the previous start wave who must have had at least 5-10mins head start)

It seemed a long run back to transition especially with goggles on, so I walked a bit, saw Jon and then broke into a run when my head was on. I wasn't out of breath so I was pleased. In T1 was a girl who in the registration queue had told me she was going to swim last. Pah - she did just fine. The camraderie was excellent with everyone congratulating each other as they came in and left. I plonked my butt down, got some shoes on, through on the world's lumpiest bike pants and helmet and was wheeling my bike off like a pro (in my head ok). There were two guys in front of me (remember they had a head start) and I told them I hoped they knew what they were doing as I was following them. They said they didn't so I headed off and they must have passed me a bit later when they had sorted their clipless pedals out. There's a lot to be said for keeping it simple.

The race briefing for the ride was confusingly humorous but the marshalls were great; so great I tried to thank all of them. The course is open to traffic which was a little scary but I found I was more competitive than scared! I passed two guys on hills (in my head: "you've been chicked"). I really didn't know how to corner especially after a downhill so I slowed down a lot (especially after one big wobble on a roundabout with cars). This was the only time I was passed by girls and the numbers I passed vs numbers that passed me were pretty even.

Had a chat to a guy I kept swapping places with who was an on awesome bike - I kept competing with him (why?) and he said he was pretty new to all this. I pointed out his awesome bike and I think he might have got a bit ashamed of hanging out with my hybrid and put some welly in it! I really enjoyed the rights: I had found out how to take the hills and that my weight worked an advantage on these. I had a gel at the start of the ride (once I felt comfortable) and on the second loop of the course, on a safe stretch of massive dual carriageway. Thank goodness it was 8am by this point and traffic was minimal except for scary trucks. There was an event van picking people up who had broken their bike and a motorbike just checking on us all. The worst bit of the bike was the speedbumps in the shopping centre coming back into transition. Madness.

Unfortunately being so competitive on the bike meant I was pooped coming in for the run. My arms were a little wobbly and while I wheeled my bike intro transition the announcer called out that he didn't know who I was as my race number was all twisted. I went to correct it and my bike came crashing down bringing some shin skin and my dignity with it. The commentator saw it all so it was a nice laugh for everyone. Call me the entertainer.

I couldn't get my lungs and heart rate where I wanted for the run start. It was laps of the car park so it was lined with spectators and Jon. My legs were just lead. When I got around the corner for my first armband I took some energy drink and water, walked and then plodded off. When I ran past Jon I always made an effort but I couldn't sustain it when I was out of sight. It felt really really hard and I didn't want to make eye contact. But you know eventually you have enough of the arm bands and support from fellow competitors, still on the track, ahead of you or who had finished, was great. The announcer remembered me as the girl who tipped her bike over as I crossed the finish line and I was really pleased to have made it to the end  given my poor health and training preparation.

A great triathlon, perfect for first timers but with a strong enough field to make it competitive. Just don't go by train.

Monday, 18 June 2012

What I learned on my first tri

For absolute complete newbies who decided to enter a tri in a whim, don't want to spend a lot of money but want to have fun!
  • Don't be intimidated by everyone looking pro and having crates for all their stuff. And triceps. 
  • A race belt is easier than safety pins but your number will flap
  • Wear your sports bra under your bathers. This might seem really obvious but as I had been reading so much about long distance events, you have a slow transition where you might change clothes! Not so the sprint.
  • You can never lube your neck enough. Use Body glide not baby oil if you want to keep your wetsuit.
  • Be one of the first girls / people in your wave to test the water, go down and put some in your suit. Get used to it much earlier esp your feet and hands. I found this gave me confidence. 
  • A towel to stand on is useful but sitting down to put on socks and shoes is quicker! Get tri / lock laces and older (open) comfy socks.
  • Take a moment to walk not run if you get out of the swim a bit dizzy.
  • Use a distinct bit of material tied to the rack to help you find your bike or spot.
  • Never be in a high gear when you might come off your bike; impossible to get it going again!
  • Tackle hills like a runner: head down, low gears, high cadence, sit down and pedal pedal pedal. You will beat any big muscly or fat guy!
  • Don't worry about your bike too much. I rode on a hybrid and was constantly swapping places with a guy on the most beautiful machine ever. And he would have had at least a 10 minute head start on me
  • Get your heart rate down on the last bit of the bike so you can be ready to run when you get off.
  • Decathlon do great cheapish bike shorts with padding. I swam in boy short all-in-one swimmers from sports direct, threw the bike shorts on top then ripped them off. I used the same shoes for bike and run, low profile and minimalist kinvara, normal running shoes were too chunky.
  • Get your bike set up perfect, almost so you can't touch the floor with your toes to avoid sore knees when running.
  • The running will feel like the hardest 5km ever!
  • Don't try and do anything one handed when wheeling your bike into transition. You may be wobblier than you think!
  • Don't freak if you can't understand the race briefing. the marshalls are great. I thanked every one I passed. 
  • Enjoy it!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

I did a triathlon

How very exciting for me. I thought it was a bit nonsense to have entered an Ironman having never done a triathlon (actually they are almost incomparable events, a sprint tri vs an endurance tri) but anyway I wanted to say I was a triathlete so I did one.

Here are the stats:
Swim: 20:25  
T1 3:40    
Bike: 54:57     
T2 1:08    
Run: 27:49  
Total 1:47:57

I'll do a more detailed report but essentially here's the key things I wrote to my coach about afterwards:

I was very tired. I was so out of it on Weds that I collapsed (I know I know) so while I felt better on Sunday morning I think I actually felt better compared to rock bottom not actually better.

I took the swim really easy. I realised on the way to the first buoy that I was tired so I swam for fun. Good news is that I was dead straight [I used to veer to the right]. I found the finish hard to sight as the map was hard to follow, you couldn't see it from the start and the briefing describing it was so bad we all laughed. It was a dog leg around  a paddle steamer so not typical...

T1 was fine - walked a bit to get my head straight then long run in prescription goggles to bike.

Loved the bike. Hadn't ridden 20k before except holiday wine tasting! Only realised that I had gears on the left hand side too the previous day! Rode the hills in low gears with high cadence and went up ok - stayed in the saddle and chicked three guys all up. Got passed by three girls all up - only on the downhills. I passed two girls myself on the uphills. I had less confidence on downhills and cornering - and there was a bit of fast downhills into roundabouts. Was just too slow into these and had a wobble on one when I went fast. Got too competitive and started racing some guy on the flats! Totally loved it even though I had no ever done anything like that before.

Unfortunately my heart rate was too high coming into the run (trying to race on the bike at last minute). I struggled initally - walked when no one was looking. Brain just wasnt talking to legs. Jon came to watch which helped but when he wasn't looking I shuffled and limped. My time was not that bad (only one min off a 5k PB  though I dont really race 5ks).

Overall given the state I was in I am really pleased. I got a lot of confidence, thought it was fun (except the run!) and nutrition plan kept my head on!

And here's more pics

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Learning to ride

I went out cycling today to Gladstone Park and round the hills and corners to get some handling practice and to work out what gears were for. I figured if I stayed in a really high gear then my legs had to push harder so this would be good training. Uh no. I ended up with really sore knees later in the day.

Thanks Pasty Pistons for correcting me on that and pointing out that hills are best conquered with a low gear and high cadence.

This time round Gladstone Park I made it up all the hills (no slowing right down, veering sideways then coming off) and managed to coast down some hills without too much tight gripping of the brakes. I did audibly talk to myself the whole way down "you're doing great Rowena, well done". Thankfully there are few people there at 7am!

Bring on more confidence and I might just like this biking thing.

My bike: It doesn't have the bag carrier on the back anymore. Or the drink holder. 

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Mermaid ahoy

It's very remiss of me to blog about something so exciting as my first swim race in Open Water but you know, there was a lot going on that month. 

There's a fabulous blog post by Diminutive Runner who did the 1500m swim along with Becs Owen Gardner - both on twitter and worth following - so I shall keep this short. 

Can you spot me?!

I'd really recommend doing it if you're nervous about swimming. I was only a little nervous about being in my first open water swim race but not of the water. I'd spent a considerable amount of a previous weekend in a dingy lake and in the wrong kind of wetsuit! 

I rushed down a bit late, threw my stuff at someone very obliging (hint for wearers of glasses, bring a case) and jumped in, swimming around gently while waiting for the delayed start. 

I used the cables connecting the buoys underwater to help sight and off I went. 

I was amazed not to come last at all and in fact finish in 17 minutes which I was very pleased with given that I had only had six lessons in front crawl!

My new wetsuit - hired from Hire A Wetsuit - was comfy, I got a medal and a swim cap - what wasn't to love?!

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Week one learnings

It's been pretty busy or mostly distracting so a quick post on lessons learned, some new and some I needed reminding of. 

  • Short-term goals: as much as it's my personality to have the eye on the big prize a year in advance, training like that is going to get demotivating. 
  • Training as fun: I don't need the intense discipline of 6 days of ironman training right now. I'm going to build some confidence in one discipline and some fitness in another for the next 12 weeks. Also if I train for 52 weeks solid, I am going to burn out. 
  • Nutrition: I am a rapidly shrinking woman. Even my skinny clothes don't fit. I may have to start shopping places for young people. Or better still, learn what I need to eat as I start being more active. 
I've also had some mental boosts, learning of people going to Lanza, having a great swim coach and watching the Lanzarote Ironman this Saturday, the day after my birthday. More on all of those things to come. And for those in the know, it's all becoming real on Tuesday. 

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Neolithic Marathon on Sarcens trail

Some time ago, possibly pre Ultra, when I was high on the belief that I would be able to trot out 20 miles ultraeverafter, I entered the Neolithic Marathon, a 26.2 mile trail event from Avebury to Stonehenge on the Sarcens trail. 

So here's the reasoning and reality for new readers: having committed to slow build immediately after the 50km (5, 10, 15, 20 and a series of half marathon races) I figured that a marathon would be good fun! I ended up having an ITB niggle, then a gland inflection and so missing a few weeks of running 13 miles at a trot and then employed the lovely Neil to pace me 13 miles off the back of being sick. That done, I had enough time for some tempo runs and some sensationally good physio and I was off to Avebury. 

In fact I was off to Calne, who had the only rooms left in Wiltshire, via Chippenham - a journey which was so exciting in its Englishness I was constantly squeaking with joy. Shop assistants that spoke to you, helpful members of public, cute buildings - and all under a rare blue sky. I bounced with anticipation all the way to the Bug and Spider, my inn for the evening, hosting some football fans and an 'old enough to know better' Hen's Night. 

Unfortunately I had suffered a stomach bug for a few days and in typical runners overshare, food was going straight through me. I wasn't trying to carb load but just to eat well and I wasn't sure if I was getting much nutrient value from food. I was so queasy on the Friday before the run that when moist chocolate cake from an artisinal bakery came round, I said no, and sipped ginger ale in the hope of its healing powers. I thought I was going to be a little better on Sunday / race day but as it was I was hit again on the way to the inn, and could only eat fruitbread and baked potato from Sunday lunch to race day. 

The start was next to the Stone Circles of Avebury about 9 miles from where I was staying amongst green folds of hills - marked with the chalked white horse. I got there by taxi - again apprarently the only one in the area, it being church day.  Avebury is beautiful - old churches and houses,the sound of bird song and church bells, small wildflowers and of course the stones. I was so visbily excited that one of the marshalls reassured me it would all be here when I got back (but as it was a point to point race, I wasn't going back!)

Registration was fairly simple. There's a lot of men doing races like this and you have to look hard for a women to offer a friendly smile too. I ended up chatting to other foreigners who like me, were running around taking pics of all the cute Englishness. I had my Aussie vest on and a photographer introduced me to another Aussie and as we both used to live in Wodonga there was much excitement between us, his girlfriend and the event organisers. 

The start line was pretty relaxed - a few banners and a man telling us we had sunscreen. We all laughed. Always listen to a man at the front giving instructions! I ended up with a sunburnt nose and forehead! The dogs were raring to go (one runner had a leash around her stomach) and we were off, meandering through small lanes past houses with little rivers and flowers alongside us. It was pretty breath taking. Early on there are a few bottlenecks with tight corners and stiles but after that it opens us fairly quickly and you can see the faster runners snaking ahead as you navigate the muddy holes left by tyre marks by hopping from clump to clump of grass. I liked this kind of terrain as it kept me on my toes - literally! 

There was some pretty impressive heavy breathing going on during the course so I felt assured that I wasn't the most unfit person running and also some pretty pained looking plodders. This made me feel good as I knew I would have some company as I didn't have the fuel for a decent pace, however heavy breathers and pained folk aren't great for chatting!

As we made our way through the first stalling hill (the first few hills most of us kept running) into a walk, people stopped to take off layers and I snapped pics of the fields of rape that looked stunning. I fell in with a man from Berlin who was trying to do 100 marathons. He said he wasn't fast but he could keep going! I liked his attitude and he looked like someone who would do alright. Unfortunately our running styles were so different due to our sizes that we were never going to be able to keep much together on the hills (I could nip up a hill, he could hurtle down hill)

After sideways scrambling the last few metres of a hill, we came to a magnificent bowl of a hill, where we  ran along the top then down one side and up the other. It was  beautiful and exciting - and I had never done anything like this before. The German prompted me to take pics before I hurtled down the side - airplane arms out! It was so exhilerating! I felt like a proper distance runner. 

As we trotted down to more normal levels, a man dressed in a madhatters costume sprinted off and we began to catch some walkers who had started at 730am to do the same route. I made sure they said good morning and as we caught more of them who had covered more of the route they were great at saying "well done" as we plodded painfully past. 

At about 8 miles in, I noticed I was getting black spots in front of my eyes which I assumed was from low fuel and the unexpected warm weather. I was lucky I was dressed in so little and I had also brought a homemade drink of water with chia seeds and lime. I took an early energy gel and immodium and decided to run conservatively as I couldn't afford to get even a little bonky - there weren't many people around and probably aid stations every 5miles but only with water. 

We ran through some villages - one was offering red wine tasting and bacon butties and I fell in with some male runners who must have started a bit later. Sadly couldn't keep up and fell to myself for a bit before coming onto some old ultra runners swapping stories about great events in broad west country accents. 

My backpack broke at one stage as I had stopped to put biofreeze on my knees and ankles. I only noticed it was broken 5 metres after stopping however this was 5 metres with a cattle grid in it. I can't tell you how hard it is to wobble over a cattle grid on shaky runners legs with a car watching and waiting. A quick repair and I was back and had fallen in with a German lady who was looking pretty pink and hot from the weather. We ran walked some hills together chatting and then separated which was ideal company as I seriously wanted to just get to the half way mark - we were at mile 10 - it must be close. It must be close. It must be close. I have never waited so much for a 13 mile mark and it not to come. I was weary as hell when I noticed some tents that must be the half marathon start. I seriously thought I could dip out at this point and DNF - maybe they could give me a half marathon medal? But I didn't think they would so I plodded on. The terrain here was chalk with bits of rock in it which my minimalist Kinvaras and my feet hated. A woman pulled out at this stage - which almost tipped me over the edge, then I spoke to a Singaporean who had cramp since mile 8 who said there was no way she was pulling out so I walked with her a bit for company and plodded on. I fell in with Nicola, a Scottish nurse at this point and we ran some of it together before separating and saying we'd run together again. 

Not only was the terrain awful but we were able to see the route for miles ahead. I found this realy disheartening. I focussed on catching walkers and runners - there was a man who looked nude that was an incentive to catch up. He was actually in a caveman outfit and had bad cramp and was limping home. I plodded past Nicola at one point as she had something in her shoe and there was a period of being really alone. I was really sick and drawing on earlier when I had got some incredibly supportive messages via twitter at an aid station. I kept them in my head and nibbled a  cliff bar. I had one pack of mini Haribo and I desperately craved sugar. When Nicola and I fell in again I decided I need to stick with someone to keep it together to the finish so we chatted as we employed a run walk strategy to the end. Nicola didn't have any real food so I gave her my haribo and begged a man at an aid station for some squash from his own personal supplies. 

We skipped an aid station at mile 20 because neither of us needed water but didn't realise the course went past it. Instead we focussed on run walking on and chatting. Half a mile in I became concerned that there was no one in front of us and no one behind. We looked around and realised we were on a Ministry of Defence firing range. We had no idea where we were or where the route was. We thought we heard a car then realised it was a military vehicle. I went to ring the event organisers but t there was no emergency contact number on the back of the bib and so I sent a message to a friend I knew had the event organisers contact details. We decided to run back to where both new the route was and start from there. On the way, we found the runners again in the distance so that was reassuring and we cut out the aid station to rejoin them. A lot of people we had passed earlier we now had to pass again and they were very surprised about where we had gone to! 

We had to keep really positive about that because so close to the finish that can really demoralise you. It had zapped us a little doing an extra mile and the walk breaks were getting longer. We decided to save ourselves to be able to run the finish. Eventually someone told us Stonehenge was going to crawl into sight and it did, on the horizon like a little model, and the finish thankfully on this side of the road and closer! 

It took me six hours of running, walking, splashing through muddy puddles, scuffling through chalk trails, scrambling up hills and zig zagging down them - but I had finished. I had kept my head straight and mitigated the worse nausea and dizziness and also my legs felt fine other than a niggle where my ankle pronated. I decided to mark it a lesson in running smart and if I wanted to be a proper ultra runner one day that might be a useful lesson! 

Pics of the event

Sunday, 29 April 2012

It all starts here

As my lovely virtual coach / super nag James will be asking for my training plan soon I thought I would etch it out roughly here. The plan starts 8 May, two days after this "marathon for fun" I'm doing and which I aim to finish injury free as a result!

  • 8 May to w/c 9 July - beginners base phase 10 weeks
  • 16 July to 17 September - intermediate base phase 10 weeks
  • 24 September to 19 November - competitive base phase 10 weeks including tri camp
  • till 21 January - competitive build phase 10 weeks including sea camp
  • 15 weeks competitive peak phase including training camp, taper, travel.

You know I've worked this out a hundred times with a calendar and the date calculations change every time. And I work as a planning manager! 

As I am completely new to two of the disciplines, I've gone for good base phases to build up confidence, knowledge and technique with hopefully minimal injury, adverse impact and my immune system in tact. It will also help me build my lifestyle around my training. 

Luckily I've got a bit of running under my belt so I will use the run training to work on heart rate, fitness, speed and strength. It will mean I also have slightly less anxiety in my weekly schedule and can easily trot out runs around learning some of the other disciplines. 

The plan should have enough space for any injuries, illness and training camps. The training is time based and using Don Fink's excellent Be Iron Fit as well as Going Long. 

The swim training at it's very basic level requires 1600m of competitive swimming - which given I can't master bilateral breathing, is going to be my toughest element to start off with. While the bike still needs a service, I can handle a couple of weeks training and spin sessions at the gym. 

I've got a massive to do list before I get started: book swimming lessons, eating plans, daily schedules, get bike fixed, learn to use heart rate monitor etc etc. But at the bare bones level I will be ready to start come 8 May.  

So what is a 12 hour?

Many moons ago, Valerie aka RomfordRunner, was going to do Crawley 12 hour before her shoulder fell off and I was excited to offer services as a lap counter. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, but Valerie, if you will do it next year, count me in! To count, no way am I running.

As it turned out, Eric was running it, so I still knew someone in the field and turned up for a look see. It was a cold wet day in Crawley, I'd already got off at the wrong station (Horley) and when I got there, I really didn't know what to do! Most people were lap counting and there was a group standing up of people who knew Eric so I chose to hang with them. It turned out to be a few of his run club mates and his mum, an ultra runner called Allan and runner Ann Bradshaw's sister. They were a good bunch, really funny, pisstaking and experienced. You really need the right people around you if you're going to be cold and standing around for hours. My appearance meant lapcounters could take loo breaks and do stuff so I soon found myself occasionally taking a clipboard and nervously noting the lap times as people rounded the 400m track. Runners tended to nod as they went past you to check that their lap had been recorded. Essentially as a lap counter, you're noting the time on the clock as they pass the start line and then calculating the time it took them to do a lap. Yes maths. Ugh. Also if you have a regular person you're counting for, you can let them know how many laps / kms / miles they are up to. I helped out with a bit of counting, it's quite good fun looking out for your runner and giving them a nod, or seeing that some runners have to call out to their lap counter to wake them from a hypnotic daze!

Turns out that Allan is a proper ultra runner and many time Spartathlon attempter so I picked his brains about Davos and other good runs. It never ceases to amaze me that people like Allan and the competitors look so normal but are actually the kind of people that will break down their kidneys, risk dehydration and hallucinate running distances some of us wouldn't cover by public transport. And smile their way through it.

The Crawley 12 hour is run by a woman who would be described by the unknowing as a little middle aged suburban lady. Pam Storey is an ultrarunner who raises money for charity. She holds the 12 hour annually at the fab facilities at Crawley's K2 Leisure Centre in a low key way, staffed by volunteers brimming with clipboards and haribo. The race also has a 6 hour option which starts at 10am - giving the 12 hour runners some company on their 7 till 7 stint.

Not a lot happens on a 12 hour race. I missed the excitement of  a crow eating an energy gel but was there for the drama of clock turning over at 10 hours - that really was exciting and the number "one" sign being stuck up to remind people they had been there for more than 10 hours - like that was needed! I survived the collapse of two marquees with bits of metal veering towards my head.

As the number of lap counters dwindled I found I had a proper job looking after Robert Woodward, a man who, truth be told, looked a bit like he had no idea why he'd taken up this bet to run this in the first place. I first noticed him when he had friends / family running and walking the track with him or when he was on the phone. Despite this - or maybe because of this - it was hard for his lap counter to track him and she kept having to be told by him to record the time. So when it was my time to take over I tried to be a bit serious about it. I got caught out a few times (confirming the theory that if you walk a lap, your lap counter's mind is going to wander off) but then really put my VLM cheering skills to the test, making sure Robert got a massive wave, smile, cheeky comment, and lap / mileage update as he went through. He was joined by a friend who ran between him and me relaying comments. The armchair critic in me is going to say this as I doubt he'll ever stumble on this blog - but Robert could have cracked 50 miles if he wanted to. In fact if his friend, Allan and myself caught up earlier, we could have come up with a strategy to break the resignation in his mind. You can actually see in people's posture when they don't quite know what their mission is. Compared to Andrew, who Allan was counting, who was power walking the whole race, he covered more laps / miles and had a resolute spirit to the end.

As it was, we wanted Robert to get to 49 miles which involved some maths on my part and something which I am better at, some shouting. And shout I did. His wife called up, and we shouted down the phone at her. We shouted till his times got better and better, under 3 minutes, 2:59, 2:49, 2:46 - shouted so much his final lap was 1:46 and he made it by the skin of his teeth. Where other people bent over when the horn blew, Robert lay on the floor until he had to convince the ambulance staff he was ok! Once he'd done all his celebrating and groaning he even had enough strength to run over and give me a thank you hug. Aw you have to love running!

I was really impressed by everyone on the track - from Ann who looked doubled over with pain, Andrew who walked it all, the winner who had massive muscly legs and was apparently going to run a marathon the next day, the man who shouted like the Major in Fawlty Towers as he went past the start line "what's my lap", the French man who looked like he was on another planet, the man who turned down a coffee till it had sugar in it, and Robert who probably still isn't sure why he did it and why he listened to some woman shouting - all the loveliness and eccentricities made it worth four hours standing in the cold and four hours of bloody commute. I mean I might as well run the six hours next time... now there's a thought!

Watching the pros

"This is 29 Acacia Rd... And this is Eric, the schoolboy who leads an exciting double life. For when Eric eats a banana, an amazing transformation occurs"

As the twitterati will know, yesterday I went to watch the Crawley 12 hour. It was great fun - which I will do a separate post about - because I found a great way to give back to running and meet people. But it was also quite magnificent in that I felt like the ultra running community was seeing something pretty damn cool, and at the risk of making him cringe, that was watching Eriç run yesterday. 

I turned up at 3pm - Eriç had been running for eight hours by then and had covered the second most number of laps of a 400m track. He looked pretty fresh, maybe a bit cold, but cognisant enough that someone new had turned up to join his posse of supporters and even good enough spirits to laugh at us when we called out "nearly there mate, nearly there". 

His running style was really efficient, his legs appeared automated, identical gait, rhythm as the hours wore on; his arms didn't move much which at least made him look cold and he managed a small nod with every lap as we called out to him. 

He came in for a fuel stop and it was amazing to watch that you could stop, grab something to eat, stretch a bit and then keep going. I would have come undone at the stop point! At his next fuel point I wandered over to get a look at his face to see how far gone he was... I just couldn't fathom how you'd feel after so much running. He raised his arms up in a "I don't know" gesture as I said he made it look so easy. 

As the clock ticked to ten hours, we noticed other runners dropping their lap times. Eriç's times did drop, but continued to be very consistent. About this time, some of his Club team mates had to leave, the weather had got worse, the wind had blown two marquees down, the leaderboard had come crashing onto the track and the rain was persistent. It was quite frankly grim. The track was benefiting from a real blast of wind through one straight, you could see the rain dripping off people's caps, clothes and noses. 

Eriç came in for a fuel stop when we were sheltering in the catering tent. His mum, chief lap counter, myself and ultrarunner Allan were there. Eriç was soaked, his hands looked raw and he had an hour to go. He grappled round his bag for fuel. None of us could say a word. All I could think about was his mum; my mother constantly tells me how hard it is to see me go through pain when she can't do anything. I could imagine how hard this must have been for her. It was really emotional; the air was loaded with everything we wanted to say and everything that could not be said. I don't think any of us breathed until he went  back on the track. 

I'm going to tell the truth and say I didn't notice if there was a kick from Eriç in the 45 mins as the weather got so bad his mum went into the stands, and I was lap counting for a guy who needed every bit of support I could give. 

When the horn blew for the 12th hour all the runners stopped where they were and put a stick in the ground so their distance could be measured. Eriç stopped right on the other side of the track alongside the runner who had covered the most distance. Like obstinate petanque players, the two of them stood their ground chatting until a marshall came to measure their spot. After 76.19 miles, Eriç returned to the tent, massive hug for mum, enough presence of mind to thank me for coming (I was so cold I barely knew who I was!) and even started a conversation about how doing Monday's Asics runclub helped him run after a weekend's racing. It was surreal. 

Eriç is only 22 (and therefore not even old enough to appreciate my Bananaman reference!), and he's only been running three years. I don't think he's been massively coached or nurtured by any ultra running specialists. Even Allan, who I hope won't mind me saying, has been around and seen a lot, was very impressed. You know when you think you've just seen something that is going to be the next big thing... I know ultra running doesn't have a culture for big stars (and we love it that way) but I feel very confident that we had just seen something pretty damn special. 

By the way, Eriç is not a mild mannered school boy, I don't even know if he likes bananas, and his name is actually not Eric but Eriç - but when he runs he is a bit of a superhero. 

The come back runs

My last half marathon was 1 April. I created a plan to get me back into training for the marathon on 6 May but an infection in Paris put that to one side. I was on antibiotics, prescription pain killers and repairing my body from the two days when I couldn't walk properly. 

I had tried to run a couple of times when on the drugs and felt sluggish or was sluggish even when I felt I was doing fine. Two kms was the maximum. Then I went to Asics run club with no drugs to see if I could be dragged around 5km and I felt fine. We did 6km and I chatted through it and felt like I could keep going. Yes the pace was easy but finishing the distance was the point. I realised how much easier it was when there was someone to talk to so I decided that my 13 mile pre marathon run would be easier if I had company. 

A quick shout out on twitter and Neil (madebyelves) came to the rescue. We planned to take a lap of the Kingston Breakfast Run 8 mile route then go forward three, and back two to make 13. I needed precisely 13.1 to stay in the Nike Half Marathon a Month Challenge as my 1 April race clocked only 20.6kms. Grrr. 

Neil is a much faster runner than me and even doing London Marathon 5 days earlier hadn't slowed him down. But he kindly ran at my pace and perhaps I won some respect points for being in a tshirt and shorts in the cold and wet while he was fully layered up. All that Arctic training paid off! 

It was still a faster pace than I would run a half at and my lungs burnt a bit. My ITB had a niggle moment early on maybe about 5 miles in, and I had to stop and rearrange my leg. My right knee has been dislocated so many times it will turn any way you don't want it. With a right big toe also veering off one direction and a lazy right glute, that whole leg requires some serious telling off to hold itself together. So I took a moment to literally untwist my calf muscle and associated tendons so it's a bit more on track. 

The rain and wind was intermittent - it could have been much worse. The scenery was quite nice, lovely houses along the river and I recognised I am sure some of it as the Ultra route (we ran from Richmond to Barnes along a similar stretch). There were police horses, rabbits and leafy stuff given it a rural feel. I must admit, I wasn't looking at the scenery too much just trying to keep it together for conversation while dodging the puddles. About 10 miles, and I forgot about both the conversation and the puddles. Neil was good in keeping chatty and upbeat. At about 12 miles I just wanted to get home and felt a good rhythm but it just didn't last the full 1.1 mile needed and Neil had to coax me that last few hundred metres. It did help when he turned a post into the finishing line; having something to aim for gets that sprint finish going and without it my legs were just whimpering "stop stop". 

I was so pleased to have finished and it was a decent time for me let alone without any training. The new Sauconys held up well albiet their beauty was now masked by mud and horse poo. My arches had hurt a little and I wasn't sure if that was from more or less midfoot striking. I felt completely knackered but my ITB was not as bad as I had thought it might be, in fact the errant right toe had taken more of a brunt -pointing to more fore foot striking than usual. [TWO DAYS LATER: My feet are all bruised in the arches and toes so I need to work out what I was doing] 

I really felt like I could not have done this run without Neil so I am truly grateful once again for the twitter community and that the people on it are decent, fun and supportive. Now who wants to run a marathon with me this Sunday?!

Runner takes to water

So in my bid to take the triathlete world by storm (you know, in the way I've changed the face of marathon running!) I entered my first swimathon. I figured this was a good way to put my recent swimming improver's lessons to the test and hit a distance number in a safe environment and get some confidence. 

Marie Curie run a swimathon across the weekend of 2.5km and 5km. I opted for the Sport Relief distance of 1 mile. British Gas provide a number of training plans and other online resources on a special website which is very useful but the interface between Swimathon, Splashathon, Sports Relief and was confusing. But then this blog is not for me to critique them - that's my day job!

I had only one day of proper training from a training plan and I found that so tough I had to change the training plan after the warm up! It was good to go poolside with my bottle of water and plan in plastic pouch feeling a bit pro! But my training ended up being my actual swimming lessons as they put a lot of drills in fitness training in them. 

Lessons were through the City of London gym at the architectural beast of Golden Lane leisure centre - managed by Fusion and the fabulous ironman Jonathon. So that's where I decided to do my swimathon. I was really nervous as I didn't know how long a mile was or if I could do it and I don't know enough about swimming to know what happens when you tired; do you cramp, choke, swallow water?!

There were four of us to take the swimathon and one DNS meant I was sharing a lane with a speedy 15 year old taking on the 2.5km and a chirpy old man doing the 5km. They gave us a neat little swim cap and told us we could go. We had all manner of questions about time at lane ends, loo breaks etc but they seemed pretty laid back! 

I started off fairly slow, maybe even slower than if I did a warm up lap and just let my mind wander. They were providing lap counting so I didn't take my own device with me. This was a great idea because it meant I could just have fun. I thought that sharing the lane would be fraught but actually for me it was entertaining. I could watch proper swimmers underwater (I can see better underwater whereas I can see nothing above) and getting out of their way when they lapped me gave me something to do every now and then. 

I swam breaststroke moving to a lap of crawl (unilateral breathing) every time I felt a slight pull in my lower back. This started out as every 1 in ten but moved to 1 in 6 or 2 in 8 as the swim progressed. That pull in the back was the only thing I felt. I had imagined that my knee would hurt on a breaststroke kick given my ITB niggles but it was ok. I got a little thirsty as well from the chlorine and the thought of more of that with salt water made an Ironman sea swim seem formidable. 

At one point I reckoned I had done 20 laps and then upped it to thirty so I figured I wasn't far to half way. But then never really thought of laps again, just kept swimming, turning and dodging the pros. A couple of times as I got tired, my pushes off the wall weren't in time with my breathing and I gulped water but that was my only hiccup. 

I could see shapes at the end of the pool as the other two swimmers had brought support crew (I know!) and then I noticed a shape really near the pool. I was hoping that this was the lap counter telling me it was half way as I could feel a drop in pace though I could not pin point where in my body the reduced strength was. She said nothing that I could hear as I turned so I swam on. On my next turn I felt her tap me and call out "you've done enough laps". I really couldn't believe it so I stopped and checked "Me? One mile, are you sure?!" I really felt ok! I had done 84 laps in 46 minutes 50 seconds. I was dead chuffed (I can't believe I just used such an English phrase) and expected when I got out to feel a wreck but again I felt fine, just thirsty. 

I waited till the 2.5km girl finished as she was only 15 laps away and gave her a cheer then set about asking where I get my medal from. I only do these things for the medal! 

I was so pleased to have broken some mythical distance barrier. While breaststroke is my preferred stroke it showed me that I have the capacity to do distance swimming I just need to learn technique and build strength. And learn sighting, and swim open water. And... But for now let me just enjoy the medal!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

London marathon cheerleading

I love the London marathon because it's on my doorstep and as there are so many people doing it, I can live it through them and experience a whole range of emotions. I've taken a friend from France and together we cried having got to know spectating parents, as their child came through. I've taken an Aussie man, who has been inspired and then gone out running the next day, so hard that they puked. I've cheered for Constantina Dita and a surprised Deena Kastor and even a limping Jordan as well as friends who did it so long ago I hadn't even contemplated it as something interesting or even aspirational!

This year was even better because a friend was running. Tash had been blogging her journey and I loved reading about her progress because she came from a similar non running background and her learnings felt like they echoed mine. I was really excited about her run. Also I'd been speaking to this guy on twitter who turned out to be a Commonwealth and Welsh Champion; to say he was good was an understatement and so I had someone to cheer at the pointy end of the race too. 

I got so excited about going and supporting them and making signs that this got picked up by the twitterati. One retweet later and I was making a list of the four runners that I knew were running, no six, no ten. And then it was 34. I drew a twitter bird on a cheering sign and told people where I would be, not expecting that anyone would care or spot me. Suddenly I had a timeline full of descriptions of pace, split times, t shirt descriptions and people to look out for. 
I dressed for the day exactly like my twitpic in the hope that would help people and was so excited to read how nervous people were that I was at the 25 mile point at 930 as the kids races were taking place. I blocked out spots for four people, erected our signs and laid out the food. I was joined by Andy and his daughter and a camp from Jersey set up next door. 

As soon as the elites came through our area got very packed; pushing, shoving and a man obsessed with handing out Jelly babies to the point I thought he might have been a feeder. It was his mission all day to have sweets on hand for anyone - even if they didn't want one. He started off a bit annoying but after the elites and club runners went past, the jelly babies provided such essential relief for runners that I couldn't begrudge that he stole a spot, blocked my signs and obscured our view!

As the open car full of photographers descended on us I saw one of the teenagers from the kids race still on the track. That's odd I thought. Actually it was Mary Keitany who can put away the distance pretty quickly for someone only 5ft 1. Very sad to see Liz Yelling further back, happy to see Constanina Dita and confused to see Louise Damen's running style (no she's not in pain, that's how she runs!)

Then it was the men. Not just any men but Richard Gardiner. Oh I know there were a few blokes in front (including Lee Merrien who got a roar from me and the Channel Islands crew) but my eyes were trained for a brown haired, Welsh-looking guy in a a black strip with yellow stripe. Yes that's how I described him to the crowd. To say I a made a fool of myself when he appeared would be an understatement. I screamed and I screamed - and because there was a bloke within catching distance of him, I screamed some more. And I swore. And then once I had calmed down, I had to explain to the Jersey crew that no that wasn't my boyfriend, and no he wouldn't be coming to meet us after the race. 

Next up was Denis aka @ruggedradnage. The instruction went up "blonde hair, white tshirt, says Denis, but say Dennis". I mean, really can you imagine looking through 34,000 people with that description? And then, there she was! I actually got tongue tied and it took a while to call out but she spotted us and Andy got some great pics. Right next: Peter Savage, blue top, red stripe. We got him too though I am not sure the t shirt was that color. We actually had a list of people to look out for, expected times and descriptions! We thought we saw Claire, definitely got a wave at Jo (Where's Wally), and high-fived Hugh. We strained our eyes in vein for Baz and Paul Monkey. And fortunately my good friend Tash spotted me! I was SO proud. Sadly the web tracker then went down and my battery was onto backup chargers for spotting the next runners, though the crew via twitter were great for giving times for Becs and Manoj who I particularly wanted to see. Becs was in hospital the week before and Manoj had live tweeted the event (including how to handle wedgie issue) and both deserved all the support we could muster. We were gutted for everyone we had missed. 

It was great having Andy and Liz for company. Next year we need more of us - so we can take loo breaks, fight the crowds which were a bit brutal this year (everyone wants to get a final cheer for their runner before heading to the meeting area). Come and join the fun. Even if you're not a runner. If you want to see what people can push through, if you want to see pain etched on people's faces and then see them run again when you shout out their name. Come to make someone smile who thinks it's just the man in the mankini getting a whoop, call out the names on people's shirts, call to their spirit and strength and help them to the finish line. Come and watch the seething mass of humanity overcome a great challenge for charity. Your lower back and feet will be sore, your bladder bursting, your stomach rumbling and your throat hoarse. But you will have eyes brimming with tears, a heart swollen with restored faith in humanity and goosebumps from the inspiration and raw emotion. And who knows, you might even enter the ballot for next year. Just don't run the day next till you vomit. 

Thanks to all runners for a great day out. You were great. 

And thanks to Liz and Andy for putting up with the shouting.