Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Good and the Bad of Last Week

The Bad
Last Monday I weighed myself for the first time in a while. I was inspired to do so because my stomach has been gradually protruding slightly further over the top of my jeans. My suspicions were confirmed when I saw that I was about 4-5lbs over my preferred weight. No surprise, as my eating has been pretty out of control for the last couple of months or so, and I've been complacently scoffing cakes and biscuits and hoping that the running would burn it all off. It didn't.

The Good
I tried to be good this week and cut out the snacks, treats and puddings, and when I weighed myself this morning I was 3lbs lighter again. Yay, only 1 more to shift! But I really must get into the habit of healthier eating more permanently...sigh...

The Good
We got our new car! It's great to be driving a slightly smaller car (Ford Focus) instead of a big old banger (Vauxhall Zafira), and the new car is SO much smoother to drive than the poor old worn out old one.

The Bad
The same day I picked it up from the garage, I managed to slam my finger in the car door. OUCH! It was one of the most painful things I can ever remember doing (yes that includes childbirth!). The doors shut too easily, I'm used to them needing more of a bang. Anyway, it still hurts, and the finger's been swollen all week, but so far the nail is still on.


The Bad
I haven't run with my running group since January. At first I just missed a few weeks due to other commitments and being busy, but having not been for so long I just haven't felt any enthusiasm to go back. It's such a huge group that it's hard to feel a part of it, and I just found it a bit cliquey. I wouldn't rule out going back again though.

The Good
On Thursday I ran with another local group. This group is much smaller, designed for all types of runner from beginner to speedy, and it was very friendly and sociable. Much more my cup of tea! The trouble is, they meet at 6.30pm, and Pete's not usually back from work that early, so I can't imagine being able to go regularly.

The Bad
The next 2 weeks are school holidays, which means I'm really going to struggle to do as much running as I'd like. I've also got a load of work to do (exam writing) which is due in the day that Rob and Emma go back to school / nursery, so I'm going to be busy in the evenings too.

The Good
Hooray, it's the holidays! I'm looking forward to hanging out with both the kids, and we're going to visit my sister and her family next weekend. And of course there will be Easter chocolate too...

The Stats: I cycled 10.5 miles, and ran 18.6 miles last week. Good enough!

Monday, 26 March 2012

A week of fun and sun!

The weather recently has been AMAZING! The kids think it's summer and so do the flowers. Unfortunately the reservoirs are extremely low and we really need some rain, and it does seem wrong to be wearing sunglasses and t-shirts for my runs already. But I'm still going to make the most of it!

I love running when it's warm and sunny, but it can be tougher than milder temperatures. I found that out when I did the marathon in 2010 and couldn't drink enough water no matter how many bottles I picked up. I was reminded again on Friday when I ran 7 miles on a lovely sunny afternoon. It felt great to be out without my gloves or jacket and wearing sunglasses, a t-shirt and shorts instead. The route was mostly on a cycle path and there was no shade really. The (comparative) heat definitely slowed me down and made the run tougher, but I really enjoyed it.

Away from running, it's been lovely to take the kids to the park after school and go for wanders along the seafront. Everything seems better when the sun is shining!

On Sunday we did our Sports Relief Mile. At a local running track there were 3 races through the morning, of 1, 3 and 6 miles, but we were just doing the mile. When we arrived there were a lot of familes there, as well as people in fancy dress, and a very few serious runners. It was clear that this was much more of a fun run than a race - it wasn't timed, the distance was approximate, and the faster runners had to lap huge groups of walkers in the inside lanes!

It was great fun. We were laughing and talking with other familes and the atmosphere was really relaxed and friendly. We ran almost all of the 4 laps of the track, apart from a bit when Emma fell over and we stopped to check she was ok, and a time later on when she said she was tired so I carried her for a while and then she went on Pete's shoulders! Luckily in this race, she couldn't get disqualified!

We encouraged the kids to sprint for the finish line and they got a cheer from spectators when they did. I was proud of them for carrying on and not complaining at all despite a stitch (Robbie) and falling (Emma).

After the race we were all given some water and a small medal. Then it was straight off to Rugby club for Robbie - it was a sporty day for him!

I didn't include that mile in my weekly total, as it probably took about 15 minutes, i.e. around walking pace. But I ran 4 other times, making 18.5 miles, and I did 1 bike ride of 11 miles. The good weather is continuing for the moment, but will probably cool down later this week. It seems fair - it is only March after all.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Too tired to blog

Yaaawwn... I'm feeling a bit below par as I sit at the computer this evening. This is due to a combination of a. not sleeping very well recently; b. a lot of early morning wake-ups from the kids; c. a rather large glass of wine with dinner this evening. (As you may have guessed, reasons a. and b. are largely irrelevant here. I am a lightweight and I'm not afraid to admit it).

So I just don't feel up to an informative, entertaining and coherent post (what's new?, I hear you cry). Instead I'm going to keep it to a few points.

*We are buying a new car! We are trading in our clunky old Zafira for a slightly newer (but still 7 years old) Ford Focus. I can't wait to pick it up next week and get used to driving a smaller car! Unfortunately, we spent so long at the garage yesterday finalising the deal that I completely forgot I'd wanted to go for a run. We ended up getting Fish'n'Chips to celebrate so it was properly unhealthy.

The old one before we drove it into the ground...

*This weekend there are a lot of events going on for Sports Relief in the UK. This is basically a huge charity which raises money for all sorts of causes both nationally and internationally. Part of that is the Sports Relief mile, where race events are held for people to run and raise sponsorship. So on Sunday morning, Pete, Robbie, Emma and I will be running / walking / skipping / dancing a mile at our local event. Hopefully the kids will enjoy being part of the event, and having another little taste of what it's like to run in a race!

*There are so many great running-related slogans on t-shirts these days (mainly on American websites), but this one really made me laugh. For those who can't be bothered to click, it reads 'If you see me collapse, pause my Garmin'. Non-runners may not fully appreciate this, but I think it's perfect, and I hope you runner readers agree!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Running for fun

Last week I rediscovered running for fun, as opposed to training for a race. Don't get me wrong, running is (nearly) always enjoyable, but it's been a change to vary my runs a bit now I'm not focussing on any race goal.

My only typical run was on Monday, when I got out for 3 miles in the evening. It had been a sunny day, but when I ran the streets were shrouded in thick mist, which I didn't enjoy. I actually heard a couple of cars hit each other behind me, although thankfully it was only a small accident and no-one was hurt. I felt very tired and my shins hurt, and I wondered if I had a virus of some sort.

My parents arrived on Tuesday to stay for a few days. The kids had a great time seeing Granny and Granddad, and on Wednesday they babysat each other so Pete and I could run together! It's been at least a year since we did this, so it was a real treat. As Pete hasn't run for a while, he is quite a bit slower than me, but it was great to have an excuse to run slowly! We did 4 miles at 10.23 min/miles pace and I was able to chat the whole time - how annoying for Pete. I really enjoyed it.

On Friday I cycled 10 miles, then on Saturday morning I decided to do a Parkrun race.

In a week full of sunny weather, it was cold and drizzley in the park, and I tried to shelter under a tree before the start. This was my 2nd Parkrun of the year, and my 2nd in Eastbourne, and I improved on my last time (Jan 28th) by 39 seconds! I felt as though I was running flat out, and finished in 25m24s, which is about 1 minute off my 5K PB. However, this course has a fair bit of running on grass and was quite muddy, so I should expect it to be slower.

It was probably the smallest race I've ever run, with just 55 participants, out of which I came 32nd. I was 5th out of 17 women though, which sounds a bit better.

I needed a longer run though, so I had got Pete and the kids to drop me off at the start so I could run the 3 miles or so home afterwards. What a mistake! I had not realised how tired my legs would be after some flat out racing, and I really struggled to get it done. I stopped and walked a few times, but the bits I ran took just over 30 mins for 3.1 miles! I might as well have tried to jog 3 miles after running a marathon, it felt so tough.

Then on Sunday it was Mother's Day. This was a big event this year as Robbie had been preparing for it all week at school and Emma at nursery. I got 2 homemade cards, a paper flower, some homemade chocolate, and a bunch of flowers. I also got breakfast in bed, lunch and dinner were made for me, some chocolate cake, and a new camera!

It was great, especially as Robbie was really keen that I should be spoilt, and kept saying 'Happy Mother's Day', and making sure I was relaxing!

In the afternoon, we all went to a local park, and the kids cycled around on their bikes, Pete shot some hoops on a basketball court, and I ran loops around the park for 2 miles. It was not my furthest or fastest run, but it was a fun end to the weekend!

So in total I ran 15.2 miles and cycled 10 miles, but more importantly I did some running with the rest of the family and really enjoyed it!

Monday, 12 March 2012

A lazy week

After the half marathon excitement on Sunday I was brought down to earth with a bump the next day when I could barely move my legs. There was no chance of any exercise for me on Monday, as I struggled getting up and down the stairs. I had the DOMs as bad as after the marathon!

On Tuesday my legs didn't feel much better, but I attempted a bike ride anyway. It was quite windy and cold, and whenever I came to an uphill, my legs reminded me how tired they were. I did 8.3 miles before giving my thighs a rest.

By Wednesday morning, my legs felt a bit better, and I ran 3 miles in the morning, although my thighs were still not back to normal!

Then I decided to have my 'long run' on Friday afternoon, as Emma was at nursery. After all the training and the Half Marathon, I chose to keep the distance down to 6 miles. I thought I deserved a rest, and that cutting back on mileage now I can is a good way to avoid getting any injury reoccurances.

Well I surprised myself. I set off down a flattish cycle path, ran for 3 miles to a duck pond, ran around it and turned back. It was a pleasnt run with just a bit of wind, and I could see that my mile splits were fairly good, but it wasn't until I stopped my Garmin after 6.2 miles that I realised how good. I had run 10k in 53m30s - over a minute faster than my all-time PB! A PB that was set in 2009 on a fast downhill course!

The last 10k race I did - last year, on the comeback trail from the heel thing - was in a time of about 58 mins, so I just can't believe how much my fitness has improved! Needless to say I spent the next hour or so on the computer looking for a 10K race to do soon!

I suppose this improvement is down to consistent training. I ran 4 times every week for 9 weeks in a row, and stuck to all my long run distances as planned. It seems to have paid off.

However, I've messed that up now, as last week I only managed 3 runs. This was partly due to DOMS, partly to some freelance work I've been doing (when I could be running), and partly to Pete having a heavy week at work and coming home too late for me to run. So I'm a bit disappointed with my run tally, and a total of 13.5 miles but thrilled with my speed!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

February Rundown

January was such a solid month of training, it was hard to live up to. In February we had a week of school holidays, another day off for Robbie, 2 weekends of work for me and we were busy with family get togethers on the other weekends. All that considered, my training went pretty well!

Ran 16 times = 77.78m
Cycled 3 times = 29.18m

The low bike mileage was partly down to snow, and partly because I was just focusing on running in the build up to last weekend's race. The latter excuse also works for the complete lack of pilates - must do better. I didn't do any races in February although I would have really liked to, but this was due to being busy EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND!

My running mileage for February was only about 5 miles down on January, despite it being a shorter month. I certainly ran my longest weekly distances and longest runs for ages, and I've kept up 4 runs a week every week in 2012 so far. And it all helped me achieve my PB on Sunday!

With the start of March we've had some Spring-like weather, interspersed with cold winds and rain. The outbreaks of sun really make me want to get out there and run / bike, so roll on summer...

Monday, 5 March 2012

Eastbourne Half Marathon - Race Report

So on Saturday night I was lying in bed considering entering another half marathon at the end of the month, as I thought Sunday's race would not go well. The forecast for heavy rain and strong wind was putting me off, I must admit. I wasn't so worried about the rain, but obviously wind can really slow you down.

When the morning arrived, the rain wasn't too heavy, although it was very consistent, and the wind could have been worse. We decided that Pete and the kids would drop me off and go shopping, as it was no weather for spectators. This is the worst thing about bad weather on race day - the fact that it keeps spectators away.

I queued up for the toilet with my bin-liner on, and got colder and colder. The rain and cold temperatures were making me shiver. I couldn't wait to start running to warm up. As I assembled in the start pen (this was a race where runners were simply told 'fast at the front, slow at the back' rather than any organisation!), a man told me he'd done the race every year, and it was always sunny before this one. He also warned of a huge hill ('a killer'), that seemed to flatten out and then continued. A group of us were listening intently for his insight on the course.

Then we were off, and there was a bit of scuffling and barging to get across the start. The start and finish were in a park, and it was very muddy and slippery already. It was a relief to get onto the tarmac.

The race started along a flat road by the sea. Despite the persistent rain, it was quite pleasant, and not too windy. After the first mile, my Garmin beeped - 9m06s. Too fast, I thought, and resolved to try to slow down. I failed though, as mile 2 was 8m56s.

At 2.5 miles we reached the start of the hill, and it was indeed a killer. In the next mile we climbed from sea-level to 400 feet, as we approached the top of the cliffs. I was completely stunned by the steepness of the road. I had no idea it would be so bad. I kept jogging for as long as I could, but eventually I gave up and walked parts of it. Yes, walked! In a race!! At this point I decided there was no way I would get a good time, and I felt really angry and fed up.

Cliffs - pretty but steep

Then at about 3 1/2 miles, we reached a peak, and turned round to descend the hill. Suddenly I was speeding off, trying not to fall. It wasn't easy to run so steeply downhill, but it was a lot faster than the previous mile! My Garmin said 10m05 for mile 4, so I reasoned that if I could run the downhill mile in about 8m, I would still be at my target pace overall.

We continued downhill almost as far as the 5 mile marker. As my Garmin beeped again, it showed 8 mins exactly - back on track! The rest of the race was more or less flat, along the sea front.

After speeding down that hill, I felt absolutely elated, as though I had been flying, and that feeling really stayed with me for most of the rest of the race. I felt great, and every time my Garmin beeped it seemed ridiculous - I told myself to slow down for the next mile, otherwise I'd be sure to run out of steam. But it never happpened, and I just kept the same pace up somehow. I had totally underestimated how much faster you can run in a race than in training, because my times in training had been nothing like this! My splits were as follows:

Mile 6 - 8.46
Mile 7 - 8.58
Mile 8 - 9.04
Mile 9 - 8.52
Mile 10 - 8.41 !!!
Mile 11 - 8.58

I think this was the fastest I've ever run 10 miles as well - I was there in about 90 minutes. I did start to flag a bit in the last few miles, but there were a few people who kept going past me, and then I'd go past them again, and I just didn't slow down. By this stage I knew I had a good chance of getting under 2 hours, and I didn't want to throw that away.

I started thinking I might never run such a great 10 miles again, so I'd better go on and get a fast time now, or I might never do it! For these last few miles I was actually smiling as I was running. I was so excited, I just couldn't help it!

For the last 2 miles, it got a bit tougher. We turned round and started running right into the wind - for the first time in the race really. It was along the seafront and completely exposed. This part felt very tough, and I was starting to feel tiredness in my legs. I really thought I was running well over 9 min/miles, but the chance of getting under 2 hours was totally pushing me on. The last 2 miles were just as fast as the others, despite the wind:

Mile 12 - 8.55
Mile 13 - 8.42 !!

Finally I turned into the park again, and of course by now I knew I was going to do it! I was so ecstatic that I was still flying, and I charged towards the finish line. It was extremely muddy and runners were slipping all over the place. Someone called '20 seconds to get under 2 hours, keep going!', and I pushed on a bit harder! (Of course he was talking about gun time, rather than chip time anyway).

As I crossed the line I was elated. My garmin said 1h58m48s. Better than I could ever have imagined. The whole race just went so well, and even the hill had been good, as the downhill kick-started my speed! From that point I just couldn't slow down.

Later the results were online. My chip time was 1h58m38s!!! Awesome. A PB by almost 12 minutes and well within my goal of going under 2h05m! For stats fans, my position was 778 out of 1444 runners, and I was 154 out of 469 women.

That was probably the best race I've ever done, as I totally exceeded my expectations of what I could do.

This is as probably as fit as I have ever been, and it feels particularly fantastic after spending so many months unable to run last year, and then taking so long to get back to full fitness. There were times when I doubted I'd be able to run regularly again, and certainly not as far as 13.1 miles. Take that Plantar Fascia!! Ha ha ha!!!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Breaking news

Oh good grief, I can't believe it but I DID IT! I completely smashed my goal and ran the Half Marathon in under 2 hours!! I never expected that before the race, but once I started running, I just couldn't slow down and I was flying for much of it. Garmin time is 1h58m, but I'll have to wait a few hours for the official time to be posted. I'm so happy, it was the best race I've ever run! Race report to follow...


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Goals for Sunday

This weekend I'm running the Eastbourne Half Marathon. This is my first proper race of 2012, and my first Half since I hobbled round the Great North Run with the beginnings of heel trouble in September 2010.

At the start of this year, I decided that 2 of my goals for 2012 were to run a PB in a half marathon, and to run one in under 2 hours. With these aims in mind, I signed up for this race, and have been training for it for the last 8 weeks. The training has gone pretty well overall, but from my recent speeds, I think it's very unlikely indeed that I am in a position to run under 2 hours (9.09 min/miles). I know this is a realistic long-term goal though, as I was running that pace before the heel started playing up in 2010.

So for this race I'm definitely hoping to get a new PB. It currently stands at 2h10m, which was set in my first attempt at that distance, before I'd run a marathon, and on a hilly course in Glasgow. My aim on Sunday is to run under 2h05m, and the closer I get to 2 hours the better!

On a related note, the weather here has been mild, dry and calm with outbreaks of glorious sunshine for the last few weeks. The forecast for Sunday is heavy rain and wind. Bloody typical.