Monday, 30 December 2013

2013 review

Coming to the end of 2013, I've looked back at every month to remind myself what I did and give myself some ideas about challenges for 2014.

January 2013
I took part in Janathon for the first time, a running challenge to exercise every day in January and blog about it. It was quite snowy in January, but I managed to exercise daily and I ran more than 100 miles in total.

February 2013
I ran Baldock Beast Half Marathon at the end of February. I trained hard and was hoping for a PB, but in the end my hips and knees weren't up to the pace and I had to slow down after 10 miles because I was in a lot of pain. I took some consolation from the fact I'd been quite badly injured at the end of 2012 and the race was the first proper test of my physio rehab. Plus I ran 1:51, which was a course record for me :)

March 2013
The week after Baldock Beast, I was up in Blackpool to race in the Stanley Park 10K (with my parents-in-law). I was hoping for a PB, but didn't count on how fatigued I'd be after the half the week before. I nearly passed out after 3K. Needless to say, I didn't PB, but I did run sub 50 minutes, which I was fairly happy with (although I discovered afterwards that the course was short-measured...).

April 2013
A poor month from a running point of view; I was unwell for a large part of it with a chest and sinus infection. A lesson learnt: don't train when you're unwell, it just makes everything worse.

May 2013
At the beginning of the month I raced in the Greenway Challenge, an off-road self-navigated half marathon around Letchworth. I'd been hoping for a PB after my disappointment at Baldock Beast, but my illness in April meant I was only just recovered in time. The weather was really hot, and in the end I decided to run to enjoy myself, and finished in a PW of 2 hours. More lessons learnt.
The day before, I'd run in a local 5K with my children, my son (age 7) finished in 38 minutes and my daughter (age 5) in just over 40 minutes. I'd had to carry her for about a mile, but still, that's pretty good for a 5-year-old!

June 2013
I took part in Juneathon, the warmer version of Janathon. I didn't have such high expectations this time round, no aims to run daily anyway, but I failed with 2 days to go when I injured my shin during an interval session at running club. What a noob.

July 2013
I ran 12 miles during the whole of July. My random leg injury (and lack of funds to pay for physio) meant I had to increase the cross-training and take up cycling and swimming. I quite enjoyed the cycling if I'm honest, although not enough to take it up seriously. Swimming was OK; it's never going to be something I look forward to, but I can do it to an adequate level. I signed up to an aquathlon (Freedom Tri's Duck N Dash, 400 m swim and 6 k run) and began to train for it at Letchworth Outdoor Pool with some friends.

August 2013
I finally got back to running, but I only managed about two runs a week because of the summer holidays. I took part in a training day with Freedom Tri for the Duck N Dash, which made me realise how rubbish I am at swimming! But it was valuable training experience.

September 2013
I took part in my first aquathlon, the Duck N Dash, and enjoyed it so much I might do it again in 2014, mainly so I can improve on my woeful transition time (about 2 minutes). Later in the month I ran the inaugural Baldock 10K, which was a training run for Standalone 10K. It was such a tough hilly route that I was completely put off ever running that route again! Which is a shame because the 10K was one lap of the Ashwell Half Marathon that I quite fancied doing. But a lesson learnt is a lesson learnt.

October 2013
This month began with Standalone 10K. Yet another PB attempt foiled by circumstances conspiring against me (a family event the day before meant I was tired and not fuelled properly). Nevertheless, I ran just over 50 minutes and learnt not to give up even when I think all is lost. A good lesson. (I discovered later that Standalone was my fastest 10K race in 2013.)
I decided to push on and put in some serious training for Stevenage Half Marathon the next month. Lots of focus on heart rate training and proper interval sessions. I ran over 100 miles in the month.
I also passed the 1-year anniversary of running my first marathon, which coincided with me signing up to run my second marathon (MK) in May 2014!

November 2013
I finally achieved a PB for the year, running an amazing 1:45 at Stevenage Half Marathon. My training plan paid off, which proved to me that having a plan and sticking to it is really important. I began to plan my training for MK Marathon, with my aim to reach 14 miles in training by the end of the year and continue with quality interval training. I also ran another 100 mile month.

December 2013
I ran in the festive First Saturday 5k wearing my Santa hat, and put in a lot of miles to round off the year with another 100 mile month, and 900 for the year.

Plans and challenges for next year:

January 2014
I'm aiming to complete Janathon again, and I've signed up to Jantastic, which is a longer term challenge (January to March). For January, my Jantastic challenge is to run 4 times a week. I'm also racing in the Folksworth 15, which is a new race event for me, and NHRR's First Saturday 5k.

February 2014
I'm taking part in Baldock Beast again, but as part of a long run for marathon training (17 miles). Perhaps a course record won't be on the cards this year, but it will be good to run the race for enjoyment. Another First Saturday 5K is planned too, with my aim to beat January's time. My February Jantastic challenge is to set a weekly long run target, which with marathon training will be fairly straightforward!

March 2014
Lots of long runs on the cards this month, but I hope to race NHRR First Saturday 5K and beat February's time. March's Jantastic challenge is to set a flat-out time target over a specific distance. Since the 4-week period for this challenge is after the First Saturday 5k, I'll have to either run the route on my own or do my first ParkRun

April 2014
This is marathon taper month (for my last marathon I "tapered" for 2 months due to injury!). I'll be focusing on shortish runs (<10 miles) that incorporate speedwork, and staying healthy. 

May 2014
I'm running MK marathon on May 5th, my main challenge for the year! I'm hoping to run near 4 hours. Afterwards, I plan to recover with short runs, easy bike rides, and swimming (when Letchworth Outdoor Pool opens).

June 2014
I hope to have recovered from MK Marathon so I can take part in the Herts Hobble, and I might do Juneathon again, with half an idea to train for a late summer half marathon (there is a rumour of another half marathon around Baldock in the summer).

July and August 2014
Summer holidays! I have no plans other than to run (maintain half marathon fitness), cycle, and swim when I can, and not be injured! If I decide to do the Duck N Dash again then I'll be training for that event, and in August I'll start to think about Stevenage Half Marathon and Standalone 10K training.

September 2014
Duck N Dash possibly, maybe Baldock 10K if the weather is good beforehand. And training for Standalone 10K.

October 2014
Running club's focus event, Standalone 10K, is at the beginning of October. And I'll be training for Stevenage Half Marathon.

November 2014
Never let it be said that I'm a creature of habit, but I'll be racing Stevenage Half Marathon.

December 2014
No plans to do anything except the First Saturday 5k and maintain my fitness.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

MK marathon: week 8 training plan

On Sunday I was supposed to run 15 miles, but a combination of time pressures, niggling gastritis, and horrible rain meant I only managed 14. Which isn't all that bad really! I met a few friends and we ran just under 10 miles, we had planned an off-road route for the back few miles but had to go on the road because it just didn't get light. After we got back to Stotfold we added on another 4 miles, making 14 in total by the time I got home. 

Monday was a rest day, but I managed a windy walk around Blackpool. Not personal wind...

On Tuesday I ran just over 10K around Stanley Park in Blackpool. I've run a few races here so followed the approximate route for the first 5K, then found a hill to run up fastish, before running the reverse 5K route back. 

Wednesday and Thursday were taken up with Christmas food and family celebrations. No time to do anything but drive around Lancashire and eat roast dinners. 

On Friday I ran 12 hilly miles around Pendle in East Lancashire. I ran 2 miles on my own to test out my new headtorch, then met up with my sister to run 9 miles through Read and Sabden, up and down a lot of hills! I finished by running up the hill behind my mum's house, testing it out for a hill training session another day.

On Saturday I dodged hail showers and went out for a hill training session. I fancied finding the steepest hill I could, just to show off on Strava really ;-) Ran 4 loops of the local steep hill behind my mum's house, then did 4 short sprints up a shallower hill after. Was a good session. In the evening I was at a party, but spent time chatting to some of my sister's friends who cycle in the area, and they told me some challenging areas to run next time I'm in Lancashire. I can't wait to try them out :-)

Next week's training plan...

Sunday (Week 8)
Rest day (did the long run on Friday)

Interval session, 0.5 mile alternate fast/slow


8 mile run

Rest day

7 mile tempo run

Rest day (or Tabata workout)

NHRR First Saturday 5K

Saturday, 21 December 2013

MK marathon: week 7 training plan

On Monday last week I was supposed to go to circuits but had to cancel because of work. Tuesday I missed running club because I had to drive to Luton to collect my husband because the trains were screwed. I did make Pilates though.

On Wednesday, in honour of missing running club, I ran 8.6 miles after school dropoff, into Letchworth and back. Was a gentle plod and I quite enjoyed it. When I got home and was warm again. 

Thursday was running club's Christmas do! Wooo, much fun was had. 

Friday I delivered Christmas cards around my town. I managed to find 5 miles between my friend's houses. 

Nice rest on Saturday ready for...

Sunday (Week 7)
15 miles (slow and steady, might do 3x 5 mile Greenway runs taking in the Big Hill)

Rest day


10K run (AM), fastish



Week 8's long run, 12 hilly miles (cutback week)

0.25 mile sprint intervals, for about...3 miles (until I get bored)

Saturday, 14 December 2013

MK marathon: week 6 training plan

Last Sunday I ran 13 miles with Barry, Scott, and Ed. I'd planned to run at near marathon pace, which I'm hoping will be around 9 min/mile on the day. Managed an average of 9:30 but did hit 9s for miles 8 and 9, which is quite good considering it was over halfway through my run. I was struggling towards the end though so there was a bit of a mental battle to keep myself going until the end.

On Monday I ran 3.5 miles after school drop off. I was intending to run my 5K route to Arlesey and back but got out of school 5 minutes earlier than usual so decided to go off-road. Took the footpath behind Etonbury, which I'm still not confident about remembering (until I get to it). Muddy shoes for circuit training, just as well Pete is friendly. I felt tired before we even started so I don't think I'll run before the class next week. Perhaps afterwards. Anyway, I was a bit wiped out by lunchtime and had to have a 15 minute power nap. Circuits itself was four groups of four stations, and we did each group of four twice before moving on to the next. 

Tuesday night was beginners run club and I took a group out and back along Valerian Way. We walked for a bit because a lady got cramp in her calf, but she was OK once we started running again (cramp is a strange thing). I had my Pilates class afterwards, there was a lot of arm and ab work tonight, which my legs were happy about. We did a new exercise, side push ups, which worked our triceps. I must have good triceps because I managed ten each side, whereas everyone else struggled to do one. Arms of steel *flexes*

On Wednesday I was supposed to run but was so busy with work I missed my chance, plus I was really tired. :( I wasn't planning to run on Thursday (I knew I couldn't run with the club because my husband was out on his work Christmas do) but because of the missed Wednesday run I made myself go out for 7 miles. I ran the first 3 miles at an easy pace and then pushed hard for the next mile, recovering for a mile and pushing hard again. Last mile was a cool down. I didn't want to run before I started, and during the run I was cursing myself for being a fool and signing up to another marathon. But once I'd finished I was glad I'd gone. After about 3 hours of thinking about it...  

Friday was a rest day, I ate lots of cake for some reason.

Today I ran my long run for next week, because I can't go tomorrow. 14.5 miles in total. The first 3 were out to Arlesey and back with Maare and Paul. Once back in Stotfold we picked up Tracey and Graham and ran another 10 miles around Letchworth (Graham dropped out after 10 km, he said we were too fast!). Poor Maare had cramp after she'd run 10 miles in total, so she walked back on her own from Baldock (she got home fine, but insisted we carry on without her). Once we'd run 13 miles, Paul went home and Tracey and I carried on across Mill Meadows for a mile and a half. It was a bit muddy and full of happy dogs, but we didn't get chased by any so that was good.

Calves and knees and hamstrings are really aching now and I'm considering a trip to see my physio for a chat and a massage. Perhaps in January *hopes for Christmas money*

Next week's training plan...

Sunday (Week 6)
Rest day

Circuits (AM)

Running club (PM); a 2 mile run or speedwork


8 mile run, easy pace (AM)

Running club are out on the town for Christmas!  


Fast(ish) 10K 


Rest day 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

MK marathon: week 5 training plan

Last week was cutback week and I ran 10 miles with some of the club. It was a good long run, nice and slow, but the route wasn't ideal. After meeting a bin lorry and a bus on the road to Ickleford, I vowed to only plan routes on roads with a pavement.

I did a quick 5K on Monday in between school drop-off and circuit training, just to give myself something to do rather than sit at home looking at the dishwasher and thinking about work. Circuits was pairs, I was with Duncan and we did OK I think, apart from when I kept forgetting what number I was on. Poor Dunc holding a plank while I'm muttering "I think that's six, I'll do some extra".

Tuesday was another club run, 2.5 miles with the beginners, followed by an extremely difficult Pilates class. My abs and arms were not happy.

On Wednesday I took myself out for a 5 mile run, alternating slow and fast 0.25 mile intervals (instead of my planned 0.5 mile intervals). I was a bit rushed for time really, not my best mental state (although I read in Runners World this month that running when mentally fatigued is good marathon training). Anyway, the run felt terrible, I thought it was slow and I definitely could've gone faster. Plus my right leg felt huge compared to my left leg, a very odd sensation. I have retrospectively put this down to not eating lunch. 

I had to miss running club on Thursday for various reasons. I did manage to catch everyone at the end for a chat though, so that stopped me feeling too sad at not being able to run 5 miles in the freezing cold...

Friday, I dropped the car off in Arlesey for my husband and ran home. Not a long distance (2 miles) but miles none-the-less. Slightly odd sensation of running with no feet after I lost all sensation in them because of the cold weather. Bit like running on stumps. I imagine. 

Today I ran in NHRR's First Saturday 5K, a festive Santa run. I wore my Santa hat and finished in 25:20. Quite happy with that, I didn't push hard so it's a sign I'm getting more comfortable running at 8:30s. 

Next week's training plan...

Sunday (Week 5)
13 mile run (@ marathon pace, 9 min/mile)

5K run after school drop (AM)

Circuits (AM)

Running club (PM); a 2 mile run or speedwork


Tempo run (AM); 6 mile run with 1 mile alternate fast/slow

Can't make running club! Sadness indeed. I'll do a home workout if I can be bothered. 


Thursday's run, after school drop off, 7 miles or so.

14 mile run (slow)

Saturday, 30 November 2013

MK marathon:week 4 training plan

Next week's training plan...

Sunday (Week 4)
Rest day (did the run yesterday)

Circuits (AM)

Running club (PM); a 2 mile run or speedwork


Tempo run (AM); 5 mile run with 0.5 mile alternate fast/slow

Running club (PM); plan says 6 miles, will do whatever everyone wants to do

Rest day (or Tabata workout)

NHRR First Saturday 5K

Monday, 25 November 2013

MK Marathon: week 3 training plan

This week's training plan. I've already ticked off my 12 mile long run (which I did on Saturday...).

Sunday (Week 3)
12 mile run

Circuits (AM)

We did a Tabata workout. There were 8 stations in total:
  1. bicycle crunches
  2. skipping
  3. press ups
  4. jogging on the spot
  5. squats
  6. ab curls
  7. star jumps
  8. lunges
We did each exercise 8 times for 20 seconds, with 10 seconds rest in between. Similar to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). After each station we had a 2 minute rest, and after the 4th station we had a longer rest. I burnt 300 calories so it was definitely a good workout! Might do this again on Friday because it doesn't need equipment (skipping can be done with an "imaginary rope"!)

Running club (PM); my plan says 1K intervals, I'm not sure that's right!

Tempo run (AM); planning to do my 6 mile Strava segment tempo run
Pilates (PM)

Running club (PM); plan says 5 miles, will do whatever everyone wants to do

Rest day (or Tabata workout)

Week 4's long run, 10 miles (cutback week)

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Long run plan

On Saturday I ran 12 miles with a couple of friends. The pace was slow and steady, and my heart rate stayed mainly under the 70% threshold; I was very happy! 

Some friends have questioned why I've started training for MK Marathon this early. Here's my long run plan, to show that it's not too early at all, just base training during the winter months. The earlier-than-normal taper is because I'm on holiday so won't have time to run long distances, hence the increase in speedwork sessions.

Week 1   (Sun Nov 10; week after Stevenage half): 10 miles (the run with the crashed car in the hedge)
Week 2   (Sun Nov 17):    11 miles (the run through Letchworth that was a bit too fast for me)
Week 3   (Sun Nov 24):    12 miles (this week's run)

Week 4   (Sun Dec 1):     10 miles (cutback week)
         (Sat Dec 7):     5K race
Week 5   (Sun Dec 8):     13 miles
Week 6   (Sun Dec 15):    14 miles
Week 7   (Sun Dec 22):    15 miles
Week 8   (Sun Dec 29):    12 miles (cutback week, planning a hilly run)
         (Sat Jan 4):     5K race
Week 9   (Sun Jan 5):     15 miles
Week 10  (Sun Jan 12):    16 miles
Week 11  (Sun Jan 19):    15 miles (Folksworth 15 race, @ marathon pace)
Week 12  (Sun Jan 26):    17 miles
         (Sat Feb 1):     5K race
Week 13  (Sun Feb 2):     14 miles (cutback week; Greenway run)
Week 14  (Sun Feb 9):     18 miles
Week 15  (Sun Feb 16):    4 + 13 miles (run to Baldock + Baldock Beast half marathon, @ half pace)
Week 16  (Sun Feb 23):    18 miles
Week 17  (Sun March 2):   19 miles
Week 18  (Sun March 9):   20 miles
Week 19  (Sun March 16):  15 miles  (cutback week)
Week 20  (Sun March 23):  18 miles
Week 21  (Sun March 30):  20 miles (last long run) 
Week 22  (Sun April 6):   10K  (cutback week; speedwork increases)
Week 23  (Sun April 13):  12 miles (taper begins; speedwork)
Week 24: (Sun April 20):  14 miles (Greenway run; speedwork) 
Week 25: (Sun April 28):  10K (taper)
Week 26: (Mon May 5):     race 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Pilates delusion, and the importance of goals

I always thought that Pilates was the sort of exercise class that old ladies went to for a bit of a stretch and a relax. It was only when I was forced by my physio to start classes last year (during the knee injury saga) that I realised how wrong I was. After tonight's class my stomach feels like it's been pummeled flat and will never recover. (I don't really want it to recover, if I'm honest!)

My stomach isn't the only part of me that's sore. My thighs ache and so do my shoulders, due to circuit training on Monday. I finally made it back to class, after a month or so of hectic work schedule making me think I couldn't go (I could have, I just needed to be more organised and focused). I'm hoping to keep going every Monday now, it's a habit I need to get back into.


Last week I ran over 26 miles in total, 7 on Tuesday, 8 on Thursday, and 11 on Sunday. Thursday was a good club session, a fairly fast 2.5 miles with one of the "beginners", who was running away some stress, and then a 5 point something run with the intermediates. Ran an out and back route and the back leg was definitely a lot faster than the out leg. In fact, there was a bit of silent competition going on I think... I blame Strava.

Sunday's long run was too fast for me, 9 min/mile pace meant I was shattered and my heart rate was in all the wrong zones. I'm viewing it as a tempo run! This weekend's long run will be done on my own to ensure it's slow enough, plus most of my usual co-runners are running in the Ashwell half marathon. (I can't run in the race and I'm sad about it.)

Tonight's run of 2 miles brings me to 100 miles for my arbitrary month, a target that I set on Garmin Connect. That's the second 100 mile "month" I've managed since September and I'm quite pleased that I've been focused enough to complete them both. I almost didn't go running tonight but being 2 miles off my target was a great incentive! That's why goals are important.

Week 3 plan
Monday: circuits
Tuesday: short club run, Pilates
Wednesday: aerobics workout at home
Thursday: long club run
Friday: ab workout at home
Saturday: rest day
Sunday: 12 mile long run

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Winter long runs, and week 2 marathon plan

My plan for the next few months is to maintain half marathon distance until January, before I begin to extend the long runs towards the slightly overwhelming 20 mile distance. Winter long runs aren't very enticing, but if you can run them with someone else then they are much more bearable. Which is why last Sunday I got up at 05:45 to prepare for a 10 mile run at 06:30 with some club friends.

Four other equally mad runners met up and headed to Letchworth, on road for the first few miles and then via the Greenway once the sun was up. The pace was a touch quicker than I anticipated, but my heart rate managed to remain around 140 bpm so I wasn't too bothered, although my post-Stevenage legs weren't mega-happy. I started to struggle around the industrial estate in Letchworth, just by the tip, but I'd just run up a hill, and the next few miles were downhill, so I felt OK again quite quickly. I also set a few Strava segments from the tip to Nortonbury Lane, so I had to concentrate on running fairly fast!

As we headed back into Stotfold we spotted a car in a hedge, it had obviously crashed because the bumper had come off and there were tyre marks across the verge. We stopped for a minute to check there were no casualties, I wouldn't have felt right just running past. All seemed well.

At the end of the run, my friend produced peanut butter cookies from her jacket, which were perfect to finish with! They should be compulsory.

Next Sunday I'll be running 11 miles. I have a hankering to run around Baldock for a change, so I'm going to plan a route that meets that requirement but is safe for dark mornings. It might be impossible without a headtorch (Dear Santa...).

Other stuff this week...

On Tuesday I missed my Pilates class because of school parents' evening, so I ran at both club sessions. I took the beginners for 200 m sprint intervals, a session that I think they just loved going off the comments I received. I managed to swear at a new chap who I could hear catching me rapidly when I was "demonstrating" and who I assumed was Ed... He took it in good humour! Pulled my groin muscle again though, stupidly. The intermediate session was a run out to Arlesey and back, my first Arlesey loop for a long time. The muscle strain felt OK while I was running so I'm not that concerned by it. The second run was 4.5 miles, making 7 miles in total, so I won't bother running on Wednesday.

Instead I have Pilates, which I postponed by a day. I'm hoping this class sorts out my sore groin (from the sprints) and aching shoulder (from being old and creaky). I don't hold out much hope though.

Thursday will be club again. I've promised my friend that if it's speedwork again I'll take him for a run instead. He's had to do 2 weeks in a row of speedwork (1km intervals and then 400m/200m sprints) and I think he's getting a complex.

I need to get back to ab work soon too. I'm in a "can't be bothered" mindset at the moment. I know a plank a day and some ab curls won't kill me, but I'm lazy.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Marathon planning, it's Week One!

Now I've got Stevenage Half out of the way, and I'm still buzzing from my new personal best time (*skips about the room*), I'm starting to think about training for Milton Keynes marathon. I really want to do my best at this distance, because I don't know if it'll be the last one I do (the last one, again!).

Based on my 1:45 half time, the pace calculators I've looked at seem to think I can manage a sub 4 hour marathon. Well, I know it's not that simple! My aim is to beat 4:58, remain uninjured, and finish knowing I've run the best race I can.

There are 26 weeks between now and May 5th. I've made a rough plan of my long runs, and I've decided to cut the long run distance in half and run that as a tempo midweek. So that means I'll be running 10 miles with some fast sections on the Thursday before I run 20 miles on the Saturday or Sunday. There will be at least one other run midweek, on the Tuesday (of about 2 miles with running club), and then perhaps a 5-6 mile alternate recovery/tempo on Mondays or Wednesdays depending on my work schedule. As far as I see it, the long run is important, as is fitting a longish tempo in if I want to maintain my speed and fitness.

This week is Week One, and I'll be running 5 miles on Thursday and 10 miles on Sunday, and possibly a fast run today, if I manage to get my arse in gear.

Other stuff this week, I'm recovering nicely from Stevenage half, my legs aren't destroyed, although my calves feel a bit sore. I had a good recovery run last night with the beginners group at the club, and a lovely stretch out later at Pilates.

I've also weighed myself to check I've not ballooned after gorging myself on smarties and pasta on Monday and Tuesday. I've lost 2lb, which brings me to 47lb total weight loss (since I began counting in Jan 2011). I'm nearly back at the magic 50lb lost mark, which I've been aiming at all year! It was good motivation for me to eat a healthy lunch, rather than open a tin of curry and eat it all (I do have a habit of eating to excess when it's cold outside, when I'm working, and when I'm a bit distracted).

Random thoughts purged, time to work before I run later.

EDIT: I ran 4 miles in the rain, not fast though, I couldn't manage fast...

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Stevenage half marathon: race day

I've spent 2013 being a bit disappointed in myself. I trained really hard in the Spring and was on for a PB at Baldock Beast half marathon but my hip suddenly was too painful at mile 10 and I had to walk... I had a chest infection so couldn't train fully for Greenway Challenge half. I had a shin injury so spent the summer on my bike and in the pool, which affected my training for Standalone 10K. I had to enter Duck N Dash in the end, to fulfil my need for a PB a year ("6K run" being a new distance for me!).

So my training for Stevenage Half Marathon was quite important to me. I was careful to ensure my long runs were slow enough to develop muscle, I made sure I included one quality tempo run a week, of at least 5 miles, and I kept up my Pilates and other strength work, to maintain leg and core strength. 

Race day: I was dropped off at Ridlins track in Stevenage at 9:20am, so had an hour to get myself ready for the race. The sun was out, and I sat on the stands and caught the sun for half an hour. My friends arrived (Greg, Chris, Jess, Ann, and Matt) and we all had a relax and chat about various things (I looked at Greg's photos of his baby girl, very very tiny and very cute and no I don't want any more babies).

After undressing in front of everyone, I handed in my bag, went to the loo for the last time, had my first gel (15 minutes before the start), and found Lewis from club (randomly, I really wasn't stalking him). We warmed up together and I quizzed him about being from Manchester (because he is) and I think perhaps I scared him a bit... (sorry.)

We lined up, and I said to random strangers how much I hate the wait at the start, because my Garmin always goes off at the wrong moment (I was frantically trying to find satellites with a minute to go). And then we were off, and Lewis dashed off and I let him go. I had pace notes on my hand for a PB (8, 16, 24, 32, 40, 48, 56, etc) so I was following the plan and no one was going to stop me. Two laps of a 6 point something course. Let's GO!

I felt really good for the first 6 miles, I even managed some sub 8 min miles. Uphills are hard, but they're never too long on this course, and they must go down at some point. Running downhill, I relaxed into them and let my legs flow. In fact, I ran the first 10K in 48:56, which is faster than I ran Standalone 10K in this year, and only half a minute off my PB!

Took my next gel at mile 4, just after I'd dropped it (and had to run back for it, swearing loudly and apologising). At mile 6 I saw my physio Kieran, and he shouted at me for running too slowly, haha, he's good for encouragement.

As I passed the start point for the second loop my legs started to feel tired. The next miles (7 to 9) were mainly uphill and very hard. I was feeling a bit low because I wasn't hitting the 8 min miles I needed, plus I was feeling a bit dizzy; I could quite easily have sunk into the grass and had a sleep. But I didn't give up because I remembered back to Standalone when I did give up and then regretted it. I had a few fellow runners to race against, a guy called Arnie from Hitchin Running Club helped me on miles 7 and 8, and a lady in a blue top with 2 SIS gels in her bum kept me going for miles 8 and 9. I then remembered I'd run a few miles under 8 minutes so knew I had a few seconds in the bag. I checked my hand notes and I was still hitting my target every mile, so started to feel confident again.

Took my last gel at mile 8. Miles 9 to 12 were good, mainly downhill (although into a headwind), and at this point I spotted Lewis ahead of me. I was catching him, but didn't push hard to catch him. I passed him at mile 12, and gave him some encouraging words. He said he kept me in sight after that, so I hopefully kept him going. He certainly helped me stay in touch with my pace.

Just about mile 12 I felt my toe, which had been burning for miles, suddenly get hot and very painful. I assumed a blister had split, so curled my foot into a ball and limped for a bit. It got easier to deal with, and I managed a sub 8 minute mile for mile 13. The final stretch was uphill, how horrible is that?! But I knew I would PB so I was happy and relaxed at this point.

As I entered the stadium my name was called out, and I heard someone shout at me (Kieran I assume; I waved). I saw Chris (he finished in 1:38) and he said my sprint finish was a bit rubbish, so I made a bit more effort to cross the line. In 1:45:25, over a minute PB.

Happy PB Face

At the end I met Kieran, who took my photo and high-fived me, and we had a quick chat about my possibly busted toe, and his great supporting (LOL), then I went to get my bag and medal. Met Lewis crossing the line just behind me in 1:45:55. Got a bit lost trying to get out of the middle of the track, which earned me a spot prize of a bag, always useful.

It turns out my toe isn't busted, I just have a new blister. And I met my twitter friend Simon, and I quizzed him how he'd got on. "Yeah, wasn't really trying cos I've got St Neot's Half in 2 weeks". He came 5th, not trying my arse.

First Saturday 5K

On Saturday I ran in North Herts Road Runners First Saturday 5K. With Stevenage Half being on Sunday I decided I'd better not race it, so I took my 8-year-old son and my mother-in-law along for the fun. 

Earlier this year my son ran in a 5K race and finished in about 38:45, he told me he'd needed a sit down about three-quarters of the way round (he ran with my friend), so I was determined that he wouldn't do that! Obviously I wanted him to beat his last time, but I wanted him to enjoy it a bit more too. And possibly try and beat the time my friend's son set last month (34 something...). No rivalry there. 

I made him run slowly and had to keep reining him back, kids have a habit of sprinting off and then slowing to an almost walk after a few minutes because they're tired! My son kept leaping over tree roots and I had to warn him that he'd regret his misuse of energy later. 

He managed the first mile fine, but then we hit some very thick slippery mud so we decided to walk to prevent injuries. That proved a good plan because he got his breath back a bit. There is a nasty long hill at the back of the course and he needed another walk near the top, but once we hit the flat again I tried to point out that walking and running were equivalent uses of energy so he might as well run. And then when he looked at me blankly I took his hand and pulled him :)

After the first lap he didn't really want to go on. I offered him the chance to pull out (reluctantly) but his grandma convinced him to carry on. We had a lot of moaning about not enjoying it and never wanting to run again. I decided that was a good sign because I usually say that during a race too. 

By the time we'd passed all the mud and the horrible hill again he knew the end was in sight and managed a fine sprint finish. Just as his dad, grandad, and sister arrived to cheer us to the finish! He got a great round of applause and a 3 minute PB! Well done my boy. Let's do that again in December. 

On Thursday at club we did a new session, 1km intervals. Pete had set some segments on Strava, from Larksfield doctors' surgery out to the white gates past Etonbury Academy, and the return leg. Each are 1km in length. We based timing on the slowest runner's 1km time (7 minutes) so we all had 7 minutes to run each km. For the slowest runner this meant he could run steady and continually or he could push himself and get a short rest. 

My km intervals were all around 4:30, so I got some nice rest breaks. But I did feel like vomiting so I only did 3! I was pleased because I felt rubbish during the runs, and I was wondering how if maintain the pace during my race on Sunday. Then I checked my watch and I was running at 6:45 pace. So that was a relief! (I need to run 8s on Sunday.)

All in all, it was a good session. But not one for regular use. Possibly birthdays and Christmas. 

Monday, 28 October 2013

Monday punishment

Monday is usually my day for circuit training, but today was the Great UK Storm so my circuit class was cancelled for safety reasons. I decided to do a Jillian Michaels fat burning workout in the evening.

My sister has got me onto fitness workouts via YouTube, I don't know why I've never thought of looking online for exercise videos before. Possibly because I'm not a fan of home workouts; I have a tendency to "rest" on the sofa while the tricky bits are worked through by the trainer, and I'm sure I don't push myself hard enough when I'm actually joining in. I'm also worried about injuring myself because I'm not doing the exercises correctly.

Anyway, here's the routine, in case you fancy it ;-)

My sister attempted this same workout and had to abandon it halfway through. It's a toughie. But I burnt 350 calories in less than an hour. That's equivalent to a 4 mile run! Definitely doing it again, because I'm a glutton for punishment. I need a bigger room though, I kicked the sofa several times. 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

The next challenge: Milton Keynes Marathon

Today is exactly 1 year since I ran my first marathon, Preston Guild Marathon. Training had gone well for this race until I reached 18 miles and my knee decided to go on strike. Stupid joints. I never felt that I did my best during this race, so after a year of Pilates, strength work, and careful training, I feel ready to have another go. 

I didn't really think I'd be able to run a marathon in Spring 2014 (April is booked up!), but some googling revealed two possibles: Cambridge Boundary Run on March 2nd or Milton Keynes Marathon on May 5th (Bank Holiday Monday). The races are very different: Cambridge costs £8 to enter but is off-road, self-navigated, and not chip-timed; MK is £40 entry, flattish and on cycle paths or roads, and chip-timed (with a medal!). 

After some gentle persuasion, my husband agreed I could run MK. And so here I am, facing my second marathon, and a winter of cold, dark, long runs. I feel a lot more prepared this time round, and I'm confident I can get through the training without breaking myself too much. And the best thing is, at least one friend will be running the race too. I just need to persuade a few more :-)

Here's my Preston Marathon blog, from my old blog. Good memories!


It's over a week now since I ran Preston Guild marathon, my first marathon. Yes, I ran a marathon! All the way.

The race was the first weekend of school half term, so we travelled up to Preston after school on Friday evening, to stay with my parents. I packed about 4 different sets of running gear, just in case I felt uncomfortable in something on the day. I didn't pack a long sleeve top or a jacket though, because I'd not trained in one, but I would regret that decision!

The day before the race was dry but cold. I travelled to Preston with my family to attend the race expo, where I collected my race number and chip and received my souvenir T-shirt. I also met up with my schoolfriend Damian, who I was going to run the marathon with. We saw Liz McColgan and Helen Clitheroe at the event; apparently Liz McColgan was telling people she had to have a toe amputated. That's some reassuring running advice for you.

1130: sadly not the time I would be finished by!

Some friends had warned me SNOW was predicted for Sunday. Nooo! I didn't have any warm clothing to protect me from snow other than a pair of gloves and my hat. By Saturday evening I was resigned to the fact it was definitely going to rain. The weather forecast had a big blue patch over the whole of Lancashire for the whole day. But I decided rain would be OK because it would raise the temperature, so I wouldn't be cold! I finalised my kit, deciding to put in my gloves just in case it was cold first thing. I also sorted my food and drink, a bottle of an isotonic drink (not advisable to race with an untried food or drink, but I was worried after my Baldock Beast experience that I might need the energy) and three flapjack fingers that I'd originally bought for the kids' lunches!

Sunday morning, I was up at 5:30am for porridge. The clocks had gone back an hour overnight so I didn't feel too bad at the early start, plus I'd slept surprisingly well. By 7am I was on my way to Preston with my mum and dad (my husband and children were coming along for the finish, because of the cold weather and long wait between start and finish). It was FREEZING. Really cold. And it started to rain heavily just as we arrived in Preston. Marvellous. Inside Race HQ it was much warmer. I met up with Damian and we discussed whether we should wear jackets for the race. We decided not to because the rain had stopped and we would warm up as we ran.

My race number under my T-shirt makes me look podgy!

Heading to the start was exciting. So many other runners, probably similar to Standalone 10K in number but the noise was intense! We placed ourselves in the 4 hour group to avoid being passed by too many faster runners but to ensure we didn't have to pass lots of slower people. I had my phone in a bum bag tucked inside my running trousers, I had bought an app called MyWhereAbouts that was set up to tweet and post to Facebook every 1 mile, and I started this 5 minutes before the race start so I wasn't fiddling about. Garmin was ready to go, and then the crowd cheered and the gun fired and we were off!

Just before the start. Happy and relaxed. And no rain!

The first mile was crazy. Loads of people around us all settling into their stride. The route was downhill for the first few miles, so we were quite quick. We soon settled down into a good pace. The first water station at mile 3 had water and gels available. I took both to make sure I was hydrated and I was still worrying about any potential lack of energy.

3 miles in. Copyright R&R Photos

I had gloves on at this point, but by the time we got back to Preston at 5 miles I was hot. I saw my mum and dad again and handed them over. I regretted that decision about 10 minutes later, when the rain started. A downpour. And not just rain, but wind. Cold wind. Unfriendly weather.

Now, you all know about my knee troubles in the weeks before this event. My physio had advised me to carry painkillers and use them at the first sign of pain. At about mile 10 I started to feel a niggle in my knee, nothing massively painful, but I wanted to be safe, so I took my painkillers and felt good. Unfortunately, less than a mile later, Damian suddenly said he had to walk, his foot was really hurting. I didn't mind a walk at that point, gave me a chance to eat something. But bloody hell Damian! It was supposed to be me not you getting injured!

We continued running and walking for another 10 miles. It was a good strategy really. Meant I was not too tired, well hydrated, and full of energy gel. We kept passing and being passed by the same couples of runners. That was quite nice really because we struck up some good banter and made the experience even more fun and enjoyable. Everyone enjoys a moan about the weather. I was also happy to hear my phone beeping every mile or so, knowing that it probably meant another tweet had been sent and someone was wishing me luck. Those random beeps really kept my spirits high, it's a self-centered thing to say, but I felt happy knowing people were thinking about me.

I should say something now about the marshals, before I forget. They were simply brilliant. It was pouring down, really heavy rain. We were soaked through, but we were moving. These guys were stood for several hours providing support. They were drenched, cold, but never miserable. They always had something cheerful to say to us. And the spectators too were great. I made a point of chatting to as many people as I could, thanking them for coming out in the rain. And the little children too, they were so happy to be shouting at random people!

Anyway, now we are passed mile 20. The time is 4 hours; I'm getting cold and really want to be finished within 5 hours. Damian suddenly tells me he has to stop because he's not feeling great, and I decide now is the time we're going to have to run alone. I felt very very bad for leaving him, especially because he didn't look good. But it was definitely the right time (don't worry, he was fine!). I felt rested, surprisingly, and full of energy. I ran the next mile in less than 10 minutes I think! I eventually settled down into a steady pace. Just kept pushing myself on, telling myself I had 10K to run, then 5K, then 1 mile. I was also enjoying passing all the runners who had passed us earlier. I do like picking people off. I have no compassion.

I wasn't exactly sure how much farther I had to run. My Garmin didn't seem to accord with the mile markers. As I passed the mile 26 marker, we turned onto an off ramp from the bypass. It took us down and under the road. What goes down must come up. The final uphill stretch was so steep, my knee finally decided it had had enough and started to be very painful. I did shout a lot at that point. I was running so fast too. I could sense the end, and my watch said 4:58:00. I was going to make sub 5 hours! As I rounded a corner into the finish straight I was struck by two things: the clock said 4:59:30, and my children, husband, niece and nephew, sister, brother-in-law, and my parents were all there cheering me. I completely lost it.

Me, blubbing like a baby

As I crossed the line I heard the commentator say "And ladies and gentlemen a big cheer to this lady who is the last runner to finish under 5 hours", and I did get a big cheer. I was a bit shocked. I started to hyperventilate a bit. Needed to calm down! I received my medal and stood in a bit of a daze for a minute until I saw my family again. I then most importantly stopped the app on my phone, glanced at it quickly to take in the extent of the messages I'd received, WOW! I had 100 mentions in total. You guys are great x

Mouth full of flapjack, soaked to the skin, phone in hand
Post-race changing is always a bit tricky. I was cold and wet, but very thankful I'd packed warm dry clothes to change into. Not so happy about having to walk up two flights of stairs to get changed. We met up with Damian again (he finished in 5:17) and enjoyed a pint in the dodgiest pub in Preston before heading home for a bath and some food.

Tired and a bit achey, but very pleased

I don't think I'll ever run another marathon. The training was so hard and the event is very tough. Perhaps I had a poorer experience than other people because of my knee trouble and the bad weather on the day. If I do run another it'll have to be a special one!

Stevenage half training: last long run

On Saturday afternoon I ran my last long run before Stevenage half next Sunday. I was trying to avoid the wind and rain forecast for Sunday but ended up completely drenched. Serves me right I guess.

I wasn't sure how far to run, after running 12 miles last week I could either cut back to 10 but run nearer race pace or run longer (14 miles). I decided to run longer, to heart rate, so headed out on the Letchworth Greenway (which is about 14 miles). 

As I received my drenching, just as I crossed the road at Letchworth Gate, I decided to cut out the Hitchin part of the Greenway and run on the road to Willian, in an attempt to cut back onto the A505 halfway down. (I want to "learn" the roads around south Letchworth.) Anyway, I got lost and 2 miles later ended up back at Letchworth Gate. So I just ran home the way I'd come, resolving to check a map when I got home!

12.5 miles in total, my fastest long run over the past 3 weeks of heart rate training. So perhaps it's starting to work. 

Next week is my last week of training before the race. Not much I can do really to get any faster, but I'll do the club runs and perhaps my long tempo run on Wednesday if work goes OK. And continue with my diet and strength work (I've lost 2 lb in 2 weeks so far).

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Strava Segment run

Tonight I ran my Strava segment run again, it's my new Wednesday tradition (a 2 week tradition). First 2 miles are slow, third mile is as fast as I can run from Fairfield Park to Standalone Farm, fourth mile and a bit is slow again, fifth mile is as fast as I can from Fairfield Park back to Stotfold, then a nice slow cool down mile. Just over 6 miles, a perfect tempo run (in my opinion).

The two fast miles were about 7:40, which I'm happy with. Heart rate was in the right places at the right times too. I could probably have run faster, but I'd eaten my tea an hour earlier, and I was thinking about stuff (as you do), and I kept looking at the sky (very starry tonight). So yeah, good.

Apart from when I noticed my heart rate had gone a bit weird at the start of the run (170). So I started fiddling while running. And broke the damn thing. So had to remove the strap and fix and reattach it. For those who don't know, the strap goes under my sports bra... At least it wasn't a club night. 

Other stuff this week...

Monday I went to circuits. That was hard. Pete had this new structure of 6 sets of 20 second exercise, with 10 seconds rest in between. Once you finished the 6 sets you moved onto the next exercise. I started on the TRX doing inverted row, I always start on the TRX because next to press ups they are my least favourite exercise. Anyway, lunges and squats and ab curls and cardio. And 2 days later my legs still ache. 

Beginners club run on Tuesday, 4 K around town, then Pilates to stretch out my aching bits. And make more aching bits...

Tomorrow is a rest day, yes? No. Club runs. *Yay*

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Why I started running: a series of challenges

I've been helping at Stotfold Runners for over a year now. I enjoy the club, it's good to meet new people who want to run. Everyone has a different background, they come along for so many different reasons: to run with other people; to have fun; to lose weight; to run 5K, 10K, a marathon. This post is for the new beginners at Stotfold Runners, who have just met me and aren't aware of my running history.

I started running with Stotfold Runners in January 2011; I gave in and joined the club after about 3 months of gentle persuasion by friends to give running a go. My reasons for running were to lose weight (I weighed more than 14 stone) and improve my fitness. The last time I'd run before 2011 was cross-country at school, back in 1994 I think. 15 years of inactivity. Terrible... but I'm sure a lot of us are guilty of that, finishing school and just stopping all exercise.

January 1st, 2011
For my first session I was run-walking at 5 minute intervals, and I covered about 2.5 miles. There was no Stotfold Runners beginners group in 2011. The beginners now who are allowed to run for 1 minute then walk for a minute are LUCKY! I ran with the club every Tuesday and then again on my own at the weekend. After a month I was running three times a week, for a couple of miles each time; after 2 months I could run 4 miles. I'd also lost about 2 stone in weight, through cutting alcohol and bread, not snacking, eating smaller portions, and I'd changed my hair colour several times! I decided to set myself a challenge, to run in a 10K race, the Flitwick 10K in April 2011.

April 2011, before Flitwick 10K

On race day I was so excited; the atmosphere was amazing, the buzz beforehand and the noise from spectators and other runners at the start gave me such a good feeling; I just loved the whole event. I was completely hooked on racing! I finished that race and immediately wanted to run another one! I began to train again, this time for a half marathon.

I ended 2011 having raced in three 10Ks and two half marathons. I was also at my lowest weight ever (a never-to-be-seen-again 8 stone 12; I lost 50 lb in weight in 2011). I didn't want to stop running ever!

In 2012, I ran two other half marathons (I set my current half PB of 1:46:30 during the Greenway Challenge) and Flitwick 10K again (setting my current 10K PB of 48:16), and I ran an amazing 22:42 5K at Marston Forest in June (I don't think I'll ever run that fast again!). I also attended Run England's Leadership in Running Fitness course, and became qualified to lead sessions at Stotfold Runners. Around this time the Stotfold Runners beginners group started.

My next challenge began soon after; I started to train for my first marathon in October 2012, the Preston Guild marathon, which is every 20 years (very special indeed!).

After Preston Guild marathon

Don't ever think that running a marathon is easy "because so many people do it". The training is long and hard and tiring and painful. I'm not sure I ever want to go through it again. I picked up a bad knee injury that forced me to physiotherapy, made me miss running Standalone 10K, and has resulted in me doing Pilates once a week ever since and leg and core strength work most days. But it did teach me how to become a "better" runner, about foot striking (toe vs heel), cadence (number of steps per minute, 180 is best), posture (upright and tall, not slouched!), and to concentrate.

After the marathon was over I didn't run for several weeks, apart from a few beginner club nights. I just didn't really feel like I wanted to run anymore, because of my knee problems mainly, but I'd also lost a lot of speed (perceived at the time as loss of "fitness", I was disenchanted). But some long, hilly, slow runs around Lancashire with my sister over the Christmas period got my mojo back and in 2013 I was ready to start over again.

This year I've been focusing mainly on getting faster again. I'm still plagued by leg and knee problems; I've had two periods of non-running from knee and shin problems, and a sore heel that comes and goes. But in a way that's been good; because I wasn't running I started to swim more and to cycle. I took part in an aquathlon in August, and I loved the challenge of a dual discipline event. I've also started to refocus my training, concentrating on heart rate, making sure my training plans incorporate speedwork and long slow runs, ensuring every run is a quality run.

It's been really good to help out at Stotfold Runners these past 2 years, to coach "non-runners" to become runners. I don't want to push advice at people, but I am happy to chat if asked. And I'm always ready to explain why it's important we do speedwork! It makes me incredibly proud to see friends now running 5K and 10K and training to run their first half marathon. 2014 is going to be amazing!

Now to think of my next challenge.

Stevenage half training: 12 mile long run

This week's long run was a bit tricky to fit in, I had to run on Saturday morning, in between helping set up the Scout's Jumble Sale and cooking for a dinner party in the evening. I had 2 hours in which to run, never a good idea to give yourself a time limit!

The weather was much warmer than last Saturday, when I ran 11 miles. Fortunately I had an over-sized drinks bottle full of cold water to keep me company (although it really annoyed me after a few miles). Unfortunately I dressed for last week's weather, so I was too hot for the whole run, despite the water. I also needed a wee almost immediately after I set off (I did contemplate weeing in a bush).

I spent the first two miles weighing up the options of running two 6 mile runs (Standalone 10K route), so I could go home to drop my drinks bottle off and have a wee, but I decided I would never go out for the second lap. After that decision was made, I then couldn't decide whether to run last week's route with a bit added on at the end, or the full Greenway route (which would be a 14 mile run in total). The time limit I'd given myself was bothering me though, so I decided the 12 mile route was the best idea.

As I did last week, I kept my heart rate below 140 for the whole run, walking when it got too high. It got high a lot this week, possibly because of the heat rather than anything else, although I kept a closer eye on it and it never rose above 146, so perhaps I was a bit too keen. (When I checked my stats on FetchEveryone later, it said my 70% recovery was 146, so I think I've been walking unnecessarily...)

I felt a lot more tired around 9 miles, I ran past an elderly couple on Radwell Meadows, and said hello and "I don't feel like I'm moving at all!" Plod plod plod. But as soon as I got back to Stotfold for my extra mile I felt much better. I think next week I might add the extra distance on at the beginning rather than the end, because running near my home, only to turn back for another 2 miles, is quite hard.

So this run was quite tough, I had a lot to think about! But I did it, and finished in 2 hours and 9 minutes. Not massively over my self-imposed limit. And the rest of the day ran to military precision.

Next training run will be an interval session. Time to get my heart rate high and my legs moving fast :-)