Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Last Long Run

This week's training:  30 miles, 20+45 minute bike (whilst reading Chrissie Wellington's Autobiography), 2 x body pump, swim 600m

I felt absolutely exhausted and really hungry on Monday after last weekend's long run. Coupled with my body clock being up the spout all week (struggling to get to sleep and waking up around 6:30am) tiredness was a theme of the week. I was especially tired on Thursday to the point where I really wasn't sure I was going to be able to manage even a mile run (I did 8 in the end). I'm not sure if it was jetlag, worries, overdoing the training or not eating enough... but it seems to have sorted itself out now.

I decided not to keep my food diary on Friday or fret over what I was eating. It was bliss! I ate a lot of cake but I think, in a funny way, it did me good. I've been better since but for once I decided to listen to my body on the food front. It'll probably want clean food again next week which I'm more than happy to oblige it with. Need to eat well now in the run up to the race (as I do usually) but I can do that without denying myself everything.

Given all that I was really pleased with what I achieved this week. I'm continually surprising myself with what I am capable of these days. My body is stronger and leaner, I'm mentally tougher and I'm now just three weeks away from the London Marathon! I ran what I'm calling my "last long run" this morning. I say that but really I do have a couple more to do, just nothing like what I have run to date. It was a whole 18 miles, at a good pace too, the longest I've ever run. It felt really good although I can tell my knees and glutes are going to ache tomorrow. I was in a really good mental state, which I am finding is the key to whether or not I manage the runs. Now I've just got to do that plus another 8 miles on the day! I've also started to introduce swimming into my schedule which is lovely.

I've got a local half marathon next weekend, which feels like no big deal now, and I'll continue to taper off for the rest of the run up to VLM race day. I found out today that my Aunt will be coming up for that weekend to support me alongside mum and dad. She was at the very first London Marathon and has watched them all on TV. I think it's the 33rd one this year and I turn 33 in August so that's pretty cool as well. I'm so thriled, It means an awful lot to both of us to be sharing this day together, because it is the biggie in my list of events really. We're going to take a couple of photos of us together tomorrow, with my in my Sleroderma running top, so I can send out some press releases.

She's also given me the money to enter the Run to the Beat half marathon in September as a thank you for everything I'm doing. Seems a little funny I guess, entering a race as a reward for running so much but although I will definitely have a break after all this is done, I have realised I just can't give it up completely. I enjoy it far too much especially while there are such amazing fun race out there still to try. I've been wanting to do this one for a couple of years but the price has always put me off but now I'm officially entered and I cannot wait! Psyched!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Cranleigh 15/21 Race Review

On Sunday I ran the Cranleigh 15/21 Tortoise and Hare race. It's a very cheap race, only £10 if you're affiliated, quite mall (about 1000 runners) and good in terms of distance and timing for marathon practice but I was not impressed.

The pre race instructions in the mail were rather commanding and unfriendly, but I'm sure they meant well. There wasn't a route map included and the online route maps weren't particularly good. There were none available in the race HQ for spectators/supporters which was a pity. However signs to the car parks were good, parking was free, and the race HQ and start and finish lines were quite close together. Always a good thing after a cold race.

The race brief said that there would be refreshments in the race HQ but given that proceeds from these were meant to go to charity it was beyond belief that there was no one to serve prior to the event. We ended up having to help ourselves, for free. No queues for loos though.

The start line was confusing and briefing couldn't be heard from the middle backwards despite the use of a megaphone. I only knew we'd started because the pack started surging forwards. There's no chip timing at this event, which accounts for the cheapness, so in order to ensure you are running to time you have to make a best guess at when to start your running watch. Yes this race has a time constraint which I found difficult to overcome mentally. I ran 16 miles without issue a week and a half ago but the knowledge that if I didn't reach the 15mile mark in 2:45 I wouldn't be allowed to continue, made for a completely different mental approach and resulted in the race being less enjoyable.

In the event I reached the check point with 3 minutes to spare but then had to bow out anyway due to impending injury. The route was on undulating country lanes, for the most part. One 9mile lap then 1 or 2 6mile laps depending on which distance you were going for. As I was towards the back of the pack I was getting lapped on the 6mile lap by faster runners finishing the 21mile distance, never fun, but such is life. The drinks stations were plentiful and even had lucozade at some which I thought was a nice touch for such a small event. The mile markers obvious but the one section through the town wasn't confusing as it obvious where we were meant to go. Marshalls could have given a bit more direction when runners were more spread out. But I did appreciate them being there in the bad weather. It snowed, all be it lightly, all race and it was pretty cold.

The finish line was well marked and you funnelled yourself according to which distance you'd just finished as medals were marked accordingly. There was a cup of squash or water for you but no other refreshment. Again, reflective of the price paid. It was good value for the distance but I definitely wouldn't do it again. The pressure of the time limit made it mentally tough and I thought it wasn't especially well organised.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Mental Strength Counts for a Lot

This week's training: 25 miles, spin class, 2 x body pump

Not a bad week. Body Pump on Monday helped me to combat jet lag by tiring myself out enough to sleep that night. I've put quite a lot of energy into training and socialising this week to keep busy and distracted but not everything's gone to plan.

There seems to be a different instructor at every spin class at the moment. This Tuesday's class was taken but a young girl who I didn't really like. They all run them differently and I just didn't like her style. Felt like I had a decent work out though. Was hoping to get my bike on the road this week but it's been foul weather and cold to boot so I'm not too upset that it didn't come to pass.

I jiggled my runs around this week which didn't work out too well. I ran 6 on Thursday evening but had hoped to do my other 4.5 mile run during a lunch break. Work got in the way though and I had to do it after Friday's Body Pump class... well I'd intended to anyway but 3 minutes on the treadmill and I knew I wasn't going to manage it so I did the same work out duration (and pacing) on a bike with high resistance instead so I'm going to count the equivalent "on foot" miles towards my total. I'm seeing real improvements in my strength and tone from pump classes now, even though I'm not increasing my weights much. Wearing a vest top on Friday was a very uplifting experience!

Saturday was a rest day as today I ran the Cranleigh 15/21 miler. I got pretty worked up about this race as I knew I had to run 11 minute miles for the first 15 in order to reach the checkpoint and be allowed to continue to the full 21. It's a mental pressure I could have done without but I tried to approach it with the same strategy I ran my 16 miler in, same sound track, same nutrition, same outfit even. The event is a pretty cheap one and a good tester for marathon training but I found the poor organisation distracting and I certainly wouldn't do it again or recommend it. The course is on undulating roads through countryside. It was quite lovely really and despite the constant light snow I managed to run almost every incline/hill and reach the 15 mile checkpoint with 3 minutes to spare.

I chose to bow out at this point, even though I had earned the right to continue. I think I made the right decision, but there's always a part of me, after I've recovered, wondering if I should have. My ankle and hip had started to ache and the last mile was almost totally at walking pace so I thought for the greater good I should stop. I didn't feel able to do another 6 miles later and the final 6 of the race would almost certainly have been mostly at a walk. I dunno... there's always going to be that doubt. But I still got a medal and I will be doing 18 the next two weekends, on my own, in a much stronger mental place.

I'll do a full race review in another post.

So I'm entering this coming week with a clean slate, a fresh start and all good intentions. I'll stick to my plans more closely and think about how far I've come, how much I've achieved. What is, is, what will be, will be, and I'll get round that marathon if I have to walk it! No time limits there.

Monday, 18 March 2013

All The Food In America

Last week's training: 36 miles, some yoga and core work at home, lots of walking around Chicago

I'm back in the UK after a great holiday in Chicago. It was wonderful, but tiring. I seem to have been labouring under the misunderstanding that holidays are relaxing and refreshing affairs. Maybe they are when you're not training and fitting in with someone else's routine but the following are not relaxing and refreshing ways to spend a week:
  • Getting up at 7:30 every day because you're sleeping in someone's lounge and that is when they get up for work and make breakfast
  • Spending the majority of time on your feet exploring a city rather than sat behind a desk 
  • Running many miles against the wind in an attempt to soothe the terrifying thoughts that, actually you may not manage to complete your next races after all and that you need to work off all the delicious food you've been eating
That said it was great to spend time with Shruti and I had plenty of time to run and do the sightseeing/exploring I didn't do last time I was in the city. A large proportion of this involved eating food such as bagels, deep dish pizza, frozen yogurt, donuts, gormet popcorn, tapas, tacos, ice cream, mexican, burgers and onions rings, the most immense cheesecake... basically all the food America is good at. I made sure I did one touristy thing each day like the Aquarium, the Field Museum, the Art Institute and the Museum of Contemporary Art which left me with time to spend in the apartment, just reading and chilling out, mostly late afternoon. We weren't out every night, but I felt tired all the same.
The river dyed green for St Patrick's Day
I loved the first run I did on the Sunday after I arrived but the second two were hard and boring, mostly because I didn't find it easy to find long routes so I ended up on the lake front trail which is a bit monotonous. The 12 mile run that I'd intended to turn into a 14 miler was so tough I stopped at the minimum 12. The second 8 miler I did was ok, but then there was the beast; the 16 miler, the furthest I've ever run by three miles. I was absolutely dreading it, given how tough the 12 had been, but I went North on the trail instead of South, which was busier, had my AudioFuel long run track and followed their advice of taking 2 minutes walking break every half an hour, and I did it! I finished 16 miles (outside the taco shop) feeling better than I have felt after any other long run. BOOM!

So while the indulgence of American food was enjoyable, I am looking forward to getting back to clean eating, my gym sessions and familiar routes. My lovely mum has done the honours of booking up my sessions while I've been away bless her.
I'm trying not to think too much about how close the next race is, how far it is, or how little time there now is before the Marathon. If I do I think I'll freak out a bit.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

No Blues in Chicago

This week’s training: 23.5 miles, 45 minutes cycling, two weight sessions

This week has been a right old whirlwind!

I got back from Paris late on Monday and the rest of the week has largely been playing catch up on laundry, training and seeing people now I’m well again, before I flew out to Chicago on Saturday. Yes folks, this post comes to you direct from the windy city, home of the Blues, Chicago!!

I’m out here for the next week staying with my gorgeous friend Shruti who moved out here 15 months ago after getting hitched to a lovely man who lives and works here. We’ve not seen each other for almost that long and I absolutely adore Chicago as a city, having been once before, so I’ve been really excited about this trip. Obviously I still need to train, more importantly than ever since I lost some sessions due to illness, but we have such a long list of things we want to do that an actual spreadsheet itinerary has been drawn folks, I kind you not, to ensure there’s time for me to run in amidst the bike rides, breakfast, brunches, lunches, dinners, drinks (theme?) and museums. Shruti even scheduled me a lie in!

The Bean!
I’ve already been for one run. It was meant to be a long one but I switched my 16 miler for an 8 miler to get my bearings so my weekly mileage is much lower than planned. Also we ended up starting the day later than expected, with brunch at Lou Mitchell's and a visit to the aquarium, getting back much later than expected so there wasn't really enough time to safely go for a full 16 miles. I actually ran 8.5 miles and got a bit lost getting to Navy Pier, stopping to take lots of photos but I should stand in good stead for the next runs. It was great fun and I reckon the next runs won't be a problem.

At the end of Navy Pier
Ice on Michigan Lake as seen from Navy Pier
Before I came out here I had the worst club run ever. Despite it being a warm evening (first outing for the Paris Half t-shirt) it was a poor turn out and the group I chose ended up being quite a bit faster than me, or at least I couldn’t keep up after a coughing fit so I lost them after a mile and never managed to catch up. No other option but to run the remaining 5 miles solo which was not what I’d gone out to do. But after the run our Marathon Beginners group had a meet up to review our training plans which was useful. I think our mentor is a little concerned about where I am because of the illness but he said I did the right thing by not running. I’m behind everyone else who are up to 18-20 miles while I was languishing on 13 but I’m hoping to turn that around quickly. And I’ve squeezed in two strength sessions, a bike session and another run this week so I’m pretty pleased to be back on track.

During the week I had a real big up from the Scleroderma Society on twitter and Facebook which was such a boost. I’ve also had confirmation of my collection date at one of the local supermarkets so more good news there.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Paris Half Marathon - Completed!

Last week’s training: 19 miles, Body Pump, 30 minutes cycling

I’ve completed the first of my charity challenges! I’m so stoked!

I had a fantastic weekend in Paris with my family. I cannot think of an easier way to get to France than the Eurostar, especially as it’s only a 20 minute drive to Ebbsfleet from my parents’. We were checked into our hotel in Bercy by 10:30 am and took some time out in the lounge are to wait for my Godparents to arrive as they live in the Loire valley and were driving up that morning. Cue long late lunch and a trip to the Parc Floral to pick up my race pack and suss out the transport route. It felt like quite a trek from the race start point to the expo but once there it was well organised. My heart was in my mouth until my medical certificate, a necessity for racing in France, was stamped but from there it was easy to collect my number, t-shirt and goody bag which included some energy sweets, poncho, a towel and some anti-chafe cream, along with a LOT of leaflets.

 Saturday was spent relaxing by wandering around some local markets then hopping on the metro to Montmartre for a land train ride and another late lunch. I think I slept better that night than I ever have before a race previously, despite still having a cough.

Sunday was a relatively early start to ensure we were breakfasted and at the metro station in plenty of time to contend with the crowds. There were a lot of runners staying on our hotel and it was really cool to see so many on the platform at the metro too. The race village didn’t have nearly enough loos and the ones that were there were disgusting (so I heard). It felt very chaotic even though I didn’t have much trouble finding my starting pen but as we were started in groups according to our predicted finish times and there were so many of us, although the advertised start time was 10am I didn’t cross the start line until a good half hour later. As we were blessed with a cool but sunny day that was half an hour of standing around getting cold. Not fun.

Once underway the race was great fun. Each group had pacers but I lost mine pretty early on, not surprising as I knew I wouldn’t be hitting my 2 hours target. The route was marked in kilometres which I really liked as it made it much easier for me to mentally break it down into manageable chunks (5km = a parkrun, 7km a third of the way there, 10km = a distance I’ve done many times before etc. etc.). The first third or so was through the parc as so very pretty. Then we were onto the roads and hitting the first water station. Each water station also had fruit available in the form of oranges or bananas so as well as having to contend with bottles (and cups at the powerade station, despite plenty of bins to put them in) it was pretty treacherous underfoot thanks to all the peelings.

My god mother, dad and Mark
The course was mostly flat, lined with spectators and supporters throughout and really really fun. We weren’t running in the heart of the city so landmarks were few but the atmosphere was excellent. I saw my parents and OH at three points in the latter part of the race and gave plenty of high fives to bystanders. I also swore at people crossing the road in front of me, including one old man who just stopped dead in my path causing me to shoulder barge him as I didn’t have enough time to give him a wider berth. It’s a serious bug-bear of mine in races on roads. Why do people insist on crossing the roads in front of runners? WHY?
However I finished in 2:22, which I was pretty happy with. The chaotic feel of the race village was apparent at the finish again, having a fair trek to get your medal and then refreshments (no additional goody bag) but I found my support group without too much trouble. The metro station had admitted defeat and just opened all the gates so we didn’t even need to use a ticket to get back to the hotel. Bonus.

A nice hot shower, 15 minutes of collating photos and updating twitter and facebook then out for an early dinner and some vino! I think I was in bed by 9pm. It was nice to have all of Monday to chill out and as a buffer in case of injury but in the event my legs felt fine and we spent the day taking a bus tour around central Paris seeing all the sights. Another early dinner and we bid farewell to my godparents and made our way back to Gare du Nord for our homeward train journey. We finally tumbled in the door at around 11:30 on Monday night.

It was a great experience to run in a different country and it felt even better to have ticked one of my challenges off the list. My fundraising total is looking healthy and now I just need to get myself healthier so that I can tackle the next 7 weeks of training prior to the London Marathon. It’s quite scary to know it’s less than two months to go now. Even scarier to know that a large number of my runs in the next two weeks will be in -8c conditions as I’m heading out to Chicago to visit a friend and training stops for no woman. Be prepared to see a number of tweets from me procrastinating about my runs, moaning about the cold and wondering why I’m putting myself through this. There might be several photos of my looking miserable and tired in the snow too.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Fundraising Update - February

My optimism sort of paid off... I hit and exceeded my £750 target for the month and have promises of several more donations to come.  Once again March is looking to be exceptionally busy as I was out in Paris for the first couple of days and I'm off to Chicago at the weekend but I'm sure I'll find time to hassle some peeps and run a couple of bake sales at work.

I wrote to two local supermarkets in early Feb to request a charity pitch because everything has to be in writing these days but I've not heard back yet. I did give them plenty of dates to choose from!

I finally be putting in that request for the £50 top up donation from my company so things are still looking up. I've not made any head way with asking companies for raffle prizes or anything like that but I'm considering a couple of eBay auctions to raise money instead.

At the time of writing I'm up to £880 (including the top up fund from my company) which is almost a third!

Anyone got any other ideas for raising money?