Thursday, 22 February 2018

Race Recap : Wokingham Half Marathon

My first event and target for the year has been ticked off the list. On February 18th I, along with a couple of thousand other people, took part in the Wokingham Half Marathon. I'd set myself the challenge of a sub 2-hour half marathon but it became clear in training that I wasn't going to be able to maintain the speed to do that so I re-adjusted my goal to achieve a PB, anything below 2h10. It had been a long time since I'd been quite as nervous before an event.

In the week and a half leading up to the event, my training went mostly to plan.
Thursday 8th - Rest day
Friday 9th - 1750m swim
Saturday 10th - Zumba Basic and Zumba Gold instructors course. A 10 hour day with a lot of dancing but I'm now qualified!
Sunday 11th - 1hour ramp run and an hour on the bike
Monday 12th - 1950m swim
Tuesday 13th - 45 minutes of fartleks and a couple of easy miles in the evening with clients
Wednesday 14th - Got talked into skipping track my the husband in favour of a Chinese take away on the sofa for Valentines day.
Thursday 15th - 1h10 on the bike
Friday 16th - 1hr on the bike and 1750m swimming
Saturday 17th - Rest day
Sunday 18th - RACE DAY!
The race started at a very civilised 10am. Car parking was located around the town with a 10-15 minute walk to the start. We ended up cutting it slightly fine with just enough time for me to visit the portals (plentiful) and Dean to do the bag drop. Lots of people, a well set out race village and plenty of shouting from the Race Director to tell us how little time we had left before the start. I placed myself roughly where I thought I needed to be in the start pack, Dean placing himself some distance behind me so I could concentrate on my race. We took about 3 minutes to cross the start line and it felt as though there was less jostling for position than usual. There was plenty of support along the entire route, from marshals, clubs and general public. It was a closed road event, on wide roads, country roads and taking in two motorway flyovers... twice. Otherwise it was largely flat.

I was aiming for 9:40 per mile for the first 8, which I managed relatively comfortably, edging a little quicker at times. Then miles 9-12 fell apart. Rather than speeding up I was taking an extra 45 seconds per mile. Shocking. I tried to dig in, pick my heels up, took my gel slightly earlier than planned... nothing worked. I feared a repeat of Oxford Half Marathon. A couple of shout outs helped but the photos from the race show grimaces and appalling form. Eventually I hit the last mile. A couple of women I knew drew alongside and told me Dean wasn't far behind. I swore a bit. I kept the feet moving as best I could, sped up a fraction and crossed the line taking 2 minutes off my previous PB time. And promptly collapsed on a nearby fence.
Dean crossed the line shortly afterwards, having completed the course in 2 hours 6 minutes to my 2 hours 8. We gathered medals, space blankets and bags (no goody bag for this event) and hobbled back to the car. I have to admit, despite the result I felt disappointed with my performance. It shows I rarely truly race events, completing them in relative comfort. And that's fine. If I do that from now on (after the events I've got goals for this year) then so be it. I'd rather still enjoy running than fear it. But it has opened my mind to what I can achieve.
I've learned a few things from the race:

  • Pace at the beginning of a race is crucial, especially when racing
  • Setting A, B and C goals helps to avoid disappointment, and sometimes that means readjusting goals before you get to the start line
  • It's hard to train for speed whilst training for endurance events
  • I am capable of more than I thought and with some more training a sub 2-hour half marathon is possible
  • I need to work on improving my running form 

I ran the event for the Anthony Nolan charity. I'm trying to raise £1,500 for them via my events this year and I would be so grateful if you could spare a few pounds for the cause. You can find my Just Giving page here:

The next event is Brighton Marathon which I'm aiming to complete in 4 hours 30 minutes. Why not donate the amount equivalent to the time you think I'll actually run it in? For example £4.30 or £4.40. If you get it spot on I'll send you something as a thank you!

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

What's In My Swim Bag

Swimming doesn't come easy for me. I really have to work at it. I still get freaked out if there are too many people in the pool, get worried that I'm holding people up (there fore swim faster and knacker myself out) and feel like I only ever have one pace.

I'm going to the pool twice a week these days, either to my Tri Club coached session or to the leisure centre to do a set dictated by my coach. Gone are the days where I just went to the pool and ploughed up and down until I'd covered a distance or time I had in mind.

As I'm getting more focussed, so my swim kit has expended a little. Here are the basics that I have in my swim bag most days.

  1. Costume - The all important swimming costume. My first swim suit (Speedo) was from Decathlon. My second from Speedo directly. Both were funky but they are wearing out and I decided to treat myself to something a little different. This one is by HUUB and you can find it here
  2. Cap - A cap keeps my head warmer and my hair out of my eyes. I've collected many swim caps over the years but it's nice not to wear a race branded one sometimes. I won't be able to wear this open water swimming (you need to be visible) so I'm making the most of this swim cap in the pool for now. I love a sugar skull! Find it at Decathlon.
  3. Goggles - I can't do a proper swim set without goggles and I finally found some that seem to fit me. Bonus is they were only £10! Find these Lomo goggles here.
  4. Antifog Spray - Despite my goggles fitting they still get steamed up. That was until I tried this Anti-Fog spray from Muc-Off. Now my vision is clear for the whole set!
  5. Ring Protector - Rather than take my rings off and risk losing them, or worry about them falling off in the pool, I invested in this ring protector from Amphibia, which keeps my rings in place and protected during my swim.
  6. Towel - Normal towels can be a bit bulky so I got an XL microfibre towel just for swimming. Plenty big enough to wrap up in, quick drying and cheap! Find other colours and sizes at Decathlon.
  7. Waterproof phone case - I get my sets via Training Peaks. I have an app on my phone so I bring it poolside to remind me what I'm meant to be doing. Some of those sets are long and complicated! I got this waterproof phone case years ago and I don't think they're available to buy but it's by the sports brand Ashmei.
I also have a variety of training aids that I've built up over a few months. I take them to every Tri Club session and some pool sessions depending on the set.

  1. Pull buoy - for isolating the arms and helping lift the legs.
  2. Fins - for improving kicks.
  3. Paddles - for improving the pull with the arms.

What do you have in your swim kit? Anything you consider vital that I'm missing?

Thursday, 8 February 2018

A Week In Training: Turbo, Tiredness & Tantrums

The weeks seem to be flying by at the moment, which is good because it means they are full and interesting enough not to drag but I do have to keep an eye on things to make sure I'm not squeezing too much in (as is my usual way of things). So I thought this week I'd keep it simple with an overview of my training and work-life balance in the week from the 1st to the 7th of February.


Starting on a bit of a low here. After morning class I set out for a 2hr endurance run. This meant one hour at target race pace plus a minute then the second hour at race pace. I hadn't planned a route as such but set out in an uphill direction with the logic that a downhill on the return would help me hit my pace. Cheating? Probably but I knew I'd been struggling to hit race pace. The first hour was ok but the second, well it all fell apart really. Despite a chap walking his dog congratulating me on how far I'd run (he'd seen me twice on my route at points significantly far enough apart to impress him) I stumbled home after 90 minutes feeling deflated that I'd not got closer than 20 seconds to my race pace. I curled up to finish off a book before evening classes.


I like Fridays. I teach one of my favourite classes in the morning and have the rest of the day to myself so a perfect day to tackle the two training sets in my plan. I tackled a bike test on the turbo trainer before work with the intention of swimming after class before meeting a friend for coffee. The bike test went well except my coach had neglected to mention that I should wear a heart rate monitor, so I'll be re-doing it tomorrow! However I failed to get to the pool and we were out for dinner with friends in the evening when the triathlon swim session takes place so only achieved half my training that day.
Turbo training means I'm in a vest with the window open and he's in a down jacket!


I'd pushed my rest day from Thursday to Saturday. I didn't make it to yoga in the morning but had a chilled out day with a few house viewings thrown in. Oh yes, we're looking to move house. Let's just add that into the mix why don't we?


Social bike ride day! Originally my plan said to do cross country in the morning followed by an hours bike ride in the afternoon. But. It was my grandmother's birthday party that afternoon and I knew I'd only have the morning to do any training. Then we got invited out for a bike ride which clashed with cross country. My logic was that I rarely if ever get out on the roads on my bike, especially at this time of year, so the lure of a ride that I didn't have to plan, with friends and a coffee stop was strong. Coach agreed this was a Good Choice so despite freezing temperatures and nerves about junctions we went. And I loved it!
Velolife cafe for our coffee stop


Should have been a swim day but after the travelling on Sunday I was knackered. I called it a rest day with the promise to myself that I'd swim on Wednesday instead. Taught three classes and got home at 8:45pm.
I've discovered a rather good alcohol free wine!


Had a great turbo workout after first class of the day! Got to play around with efforts which made the hour go really quickly. Yay! Taught a further four classes that day, one of which involved me taking part with light weights and another leading a 3 mile easy run. Got home at 8:30pm.


Swam in the morning and did the set I should have done on Monday. My pace was all off and I had a mini-tantrum at the poolside when I couldn't find my speed. Covered the distance though. Got a killer headache and started to ache all over as the day went on. Treated myself to the cinema (one of the perks of being active and having a Vitality Life Insurance is a free ticket each week I earn enough points) but two hours in a darkened room didn't help. Come 6:30pm, after teaching my two afternoon classes, my headache was still bad, I'd developed stomach cramps and a mild temperature so skipped track in favour of an early night. I did get my first Reading in Heels subscription box in the post though which perked me up temporarily. The Scentered balm is incredible!

So there we have it. I skipped two out of seven planned sessions which isn't ideal but life happens. I certainly couldn't have run last night but I do wish I'd made more effort to swim on Friday. Some weeks are better than others and I don't see any issue with completing the next seven days training as planned. I've not been so good at rollering and using the massage ball this week so that's another aim for next week.

Do you try and make up sessions when you miss them? Any tips on dealing with tiredness whilst training?