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. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

On running and dying

Amongst this year's London Marathon's mania was a tinge of tragedy. A competitor collapsing short of the finish is sad enough, that said competitor dies after collapsing is devastating. It's the second high profile running death in our close knit UK community of road racing distance runners in the last month. And it gets me thinking, of all sorts of things. 

Death does that, makes you contemplate life, reminds you of your own mortality. Even if just for a second you think "there but for the grace of God..." It makes you think how lucky you are to feel invigorated with cold-tingle are after a run through constant drizzle. It makes you push harder in your next attempt at running exactly the pace you want. It makes you thank your family and friends for their constant ungrumbling patience of early mornings, big appetites and full washing machines. It makes you donate a tenner to a charity you've been meaning to for ages. 

That's good right? Isn't it? Or should we be aware of those things anyway? Do we need the unfortunate passing of one of our own  to focus our attention? 

What I have noticed about runners is that - for people on the move - we're very good at spotting the little things. The sunrises and sunsets in winter that punctuate our runs; the sparkle of dew, frost, canals and rivers; the nod, smile or upwards grimace of a fellow runner; the slow increase in blood sweat and tears as each of us reach towards our goals. So many of us run for charity, support each other's charities and dig deep to donate. And more than a few of us have confessed to roaring, whirling, dancing, whooping, punching the air throughout runs -celebrating feeling alive. 

So what more can we do? Is it about spending more time with family, friends and other loved ones? Do we too often indulge ourselves with time on trail and road to the detriment of quality time with others? Or should we hit the road more to honour those who've passed before us; raise funds for the dead, continue their legacy and raise awareness of their causes. Is it about continuing what we do, answering the primal urge to move rather than sit, giving our mind the space to contemplate the biggest thoughts and tiniest thinks on a meditative long slow run and doing what we love because isn't that what life is all about?

The answer to this is both different and personal to everyone, and the more I've written this post, the more lost in thought I've become. I think I might have even had a point or a thought to share and that has got completely lost too. 

So instead I'll finish on the slightly lighter end of a sombre topic. After all, death is unavoidable for us all at some point, so we better make sure that until that while we remain alive, we keep living:

"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows that it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows that it must out run the slowest gazelle or it will starve. 

It does not matter whether you are a lion or gazelle. When the sun comes up you had better be running."

Rest in peace: Ged Clarke, Claire Squires, Micah True. 

Monday, 23 April 2012

Running for over 50s
Saturday 26 May 11am Parliament Hill Cafe.

What is it? A gentle 45min introduction to running with a qualified Run England Run Leader to raise money for the charity Freedom from Torture

Why do it? It’s fun – and running is cheap. And it can be great for confidence and mental health.

Can I do it? Yes anyone can run. It doesn’t matter if you can’t run very far, or haven’t run for years. This will be a gentle introduction with tailoring for people with different abilities and experience.

If you a heart condition, asthma, or any other condition where you are allowed to do light exercise then please come down. I’ll be asking for health updates before we start so I know who to look out for!

When I started running I could only run a little at a time and I wasn’t at all a sporty person. In 3 years I’ve finished three marathon distances, one ultra race of 53km and run a half marathon in the Arctic Circle. So yes anyone can do it! Check out the Goalden Girls for more inspiration. 

What will it involve? First of all it’s not like bootcamp or British Military Fitness. It’s friendly, fun and easy to achieve. We’ll start with warm up exercises in a small group before brisk walking, some light running, drills and a cool down. There will be variations for experienced runners and walkers-only.

What should I wear? Clothes you are comfortable in eg track suit, shorts, lycra etc are fine. Layers are best in case you get hot exercising but cool down quick.

Who’s running this? Rowena is a local group member at Hampstead and High Freedom from Torture. She is a qualified Run England Run Leader and has experience in helping people new to running become active.

Do I need to book?: You can email or text 07985 198 770 to let me know you are coming. Feel free to contact me with any questions. This event is to raise funds for Freedom From Torture’s work so a donation of £10 is welcome. If you just turn up on the day that’s ok too.

Saturday 26 May 11am Parliament Hill Cafe.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

What am I up to...

Yes I've been very bad at blogging lately and trying but not really achieving to back blog my race reports. So what have I been doing? 

Well we've had an ITB twinge, a gland inflection along with swollen glands and abcess (ew) and generally a Michelin-man-like inner body. Did you know humans have so many gland? I'm much better now but my kidneys, mouth and upper body still ache and throb. Currently I am chock full of antibiotics and have fancy French painkillers so I am swelling my way through testing my new Saucony Kinvara3. They are the light at the end of my tunnel!

I'm supposed to be running the Saracens Trail marathon on 6 May and haven't run a half since 1 April... And I would like to do Sport Relief's Mile swim on 27 April but I've not been allowed to get in a pool for a week. 

Training starts 1 May so I must be careful at the marathon to not over work any joints or muscles (ha ha) and in fact this coming fortnight where the temptation could be to squeeze in as much running and swimming as possible to prepare for those two events is only going to threaten an already weak immune system. 

So the plan is to pootle about running and swimming as much as I can for fun but not for endurance and hope my deep endurance fitness exists somewhere and will rise to the surface! And then cross my fingers for the swim - there doesn't seem to be any  major rules about how long you can "rest" at each turnaround. And employ a run walk strategy for the hills in Wiltshire. And eat a hell of a lot of Vitamin C and Zinc supplements. 

Wish me luck! Or most importantly, wish me good health!
For everyone doing their first marathon this weekend at Virgin London Marathon I have an additional tip to my usual top two marathon tips.

Numbers one and two are in fact, my race strategy and my race goal, as written on my hand for London Ultra! They really did help me get to the end. Smiling really hurts when the going is slow or you're in pain. Also when volunteers see it written on your hand - they make a big effort to make you smile!

Number 3 tip applies especially to London Marathon: Accept that you will be beaten by someone dressed as a rhino, a fairy, and most possibly a toilet. 

Friday, 13 April 2012

Marathon tips

For everyone doing their first marathon this weekend: Brighton, Paris especially here are my top two marathon tips, or in fact, my race strategy and my race goal!

Friday, 6 April 2012

"The getting back into training" training plan

"Ooh I'm a bit tired and lazy" should be my motto for the last few weeks. Where has my mojo gone? I'm keen to go out for a bike ride, run or swim, but I can't be bothered actually making the effort to get out there. And so the idea of even sticking to a spreadsheet full of sets, reps and bricks makes me shudder.

Some brief analysis otherwise known as lying awake at night suggests I am perhaps working too hard. Ooh I like this one. I had disciplined myself during ultra training to only give work "so much" and still more than adequately get the job done. Now it's over and perhaps triggered by a slow onset emergency that we're covering at work, I've sort of expanded to fill space and am giving more than I need to. Hence less energy at the end of the day for some laps of the pool or pilates.

So this weekend is bootcamp weekend. I shall:
  • reset my work mind
  • put training time into my work diary
  • create a simple "back to training" training plan focussing on swim, bike and strength and conditioning
  • reclaim the mornings (I get to work half an hour earlier than my boss and 1.5 hour earlier than my team!)
  • get my bike ready for actions
  • take up a month pass at the swimming pool
  • so some fun dance classes
  • organise my gym kit
  • and get better at blogging as that helps me focus my mind.
Milestone are:
  • entries open in May so I need to be pretending to be fit
  • training plan starts in September where I need to be able to do the bike and swim almost distances in a pool or on a flat but with less intensity / speed / breaks
If I don't do this over this fabulous four day weekend we have got, can someone please kick me.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Back of the pack

I've got so many race reports to blog about that I am not getting any thinking posts done so here's a special edition blog because I was very moved today.

As you know, it's been five weeks since the Ultra, with a decadent holiday in between. I'm not in my bestest shape! And today I did my second half marathon since, with no training. I know, I know.

So I head off the start line, not in great shape but quietly confident that I know what I am doing. I have a painful stitch immediately. Ow ow ow. I start to drop back. After a mile my ITB bit of my knee is like a rusty knife. Ow ow ow times two.

I'm losing a lot of people and realise that I am probably last. I look behind me. Yep I'm last. In the spirit of Lisa / Run Like a Coyote, I make a joke about being last! Then after about 3.5 miles I am at my old house. There's a marshall doing a road crossing and I think "I am keeping these poor people out here, let them close the course and move on". So I stop and ask the guy if I can withdraw and walk back to the start, being as I am last. The marshall tells me I am not last. Another marshall on a bike joins him and confirms, I am anything but last. While I stretch my leg and work out my stitch I see on the horizon: the Back of the Pack.

Lately in all my races, I thought I was the Back of the Pack. I finish most mass events at the top of the last third. All I have been able to see is the two-thirds in front of me. I never imagined how many were behind.

As the Pack approaches, they are all shapes and sizes and ages. And they are trying their hardest and damnedest. And they inspired me. Yep, I sucked up the stitch and worked out a plan for the ITB and resolved to finish.

I ran the rest of the course, walking a little especially on steep descents and conserving my leg as much as possible. I didn't really lose position much and I actually felt bad; at times when my leg was good I could pull away from people consistently giving it everything they had, people dripping with sweat and faces contorted with effort. These people kept me going.

When I got near the end, the two marshalls recognised me and couldn't believe I was still going. But I could, because I'd seen the effort of everyone around me, and I knew that what I felt in my leg was what the people running with me felt in every part of their body and that we all had to keep going.

After the race, I congratulated the finishers around me. Then when I had my wits back, I went to the finish and cheered the people coming home. They came in on their own with big distances between them. Could I have done that? Hurting and unsure with no shirt in front to follow, no one bringing up the rear? Could I have kept going not knowing where the next arrow or marshall was? I was so pleased and proud for these guys and gave them massive whoops. I walked down the home straight to line the route and give them a cheer. And I got a massive lump in my throat because these guys were giving it their all. As I tweeted after watching them "Never diss a back of the pack runner; they are giving it their all too and they do it for longer". It's been the single most re-tweeted comment I've ever had and I am so pleased - running is the one sport where the man next door can run with a world champion. We must never forget that everyone starts somewhere, and never forget how much of a personal challenge everyone endures. Thanks for your inspiration today everyone who finished, not in front of me, but behind me! I would not have finished today without you.