Manchester Marathon. Done.

I’m gonna say this from the start. My Manchester Marathon was one of the easiest and hardest marathons I’ve run. Yes, I know it’s a contradiction, but bear with me and I’ll try to explain it.

The week’s taper leading up to Marathon Sunday was a slight non starter. On the Monday night I had to pick up my brand spanking new Chasers running vest from the kit woman at the clubhouse. The Monday night social run was happening so there were a few people milling about when I got there. While I waited for the kit woman, a random girl came up to me and asked if I had done the social run before because she was a bit new and didn’t know the drill. I chatted to her about the dealio, and it turned out that she was running Manchester marathon as well. Her name was Lorraine and she hadn’t run for a few weeks but was going to give the marathon a go. She’d lived in Manchester for a while and had run it a few times already so knew the route. We swapped numbers so I could let her know on Sunday where all the Chasers would be after the race so we could all catch up for a post-race beer. I collected my vest and went off to do some easy paced laps of Tooting Bec.

No running on Tues and Wed nights – full on taper mode, but on Thursday I ran 4 miles around Tooting Bec at marathon pace. That was me done until I got to Manchester. Thurs eve I had my final sports massage from Lou at Aurora, and she did a light flush out of my legs, as well as my neck and shoulders, which were starting to feel pretty tense. Stress, I reckon. My calves were in knots though, which was slightly worrying as I had only run around 8 miles all week since my last massage.

IMG_4718
16 weeks of countdown

Saturday morning I got the train to Manchester. All day on Friday I was out of sorts, jittery and constantly checking the weather report for Manchester. At the start of the week it had been forecast to be 17 degrees on Sunday and sunny. My worst nightmare. However as the week progressed the weather forecast changed and gradually dropped to 12 degrees and overcast. Fingers crossed it stayed like that. I slept pretty well that Friday night but was awake early so was up and out of the house pronto. The train was full of runners heading to Manchester so I was surrounded by ‘runners talk’ and it was slightly winding me up. I was full of nerves, very strange for me. I actually had the jitters.By this stage I didn’t want to hear everyone talk about what time they were going to do, or what food they were going to eat etc, I just wanted to get there and get this race over with and then go home!

I got into Manchester and headed to the hotel, which was in Salford Quays and right next to Old Trafford, Manchester United’s stadium. I chose this hotel as it was less than a mile from the start and finish lines. Perfect for me. My friend Mil was coming up to be my supporter and take photos for a project she’s doing, so while I waited for her to arrive, I got my running kit on and went out for a 2 mile yog around the stadium and to get my bearings for the next morning. I also was trying out my new gel belt which I had only purchased 3 days before. Stupid, I know, but I had it in my head that I didn’t want to wear my arm bands so this was the next best option (it was fine on my yog, by the way).

Mil arrived and we went to the local Pizza Express to carb load. I even had a beer with my dinner, which is unheard of for me, but I was feeling relaxed and felt like a beer, so what the heck. Back at the hotel room I packed for the next day, got my race kit ready and was in bed and lights out by 10pm. Rock and Roll.

D Day!
D Day!

Sunday. D Day had arrived. The start was at 9am so I left at 8.15 for the short walk to the village to drop my bag off and do my usual pre-race rituals – toilet, chaff cream, food, drink etc – and I timed it well. I was feeling pretty ok and chilled at this point. I got to the start line with 10 mins to spare and just slotted in the first section I came to, which happened to be the 3.30 crew. There were no corrals so it was pretty much a mixed bag. I was there for about a minute when Lorraine shuffled past me. Out of 12,000 runners we see each other! She had enough time to tell me that she had downed a bottle of prosecco the night before so was just going to ‘see how she went’ (spoiler alert, she ran 3.41 the jammy cow. ha).

The weather had stayed as predicted – cool and overcast. Perfect running weather. I couldn’t see any start banner or anything but at 9am on the dot a gun went off and everyone started shuffling forward. There was no real start marker, just the chip timer thing on the floor, so I guessed I was on my way! Slight anticlimax but I wasn’t complaining.

The Race. My race plan was pretty simple. Stick at 8.30 min miles and keep checking in every 5 miles to see how I’m doing. Take a gel every 5 miles and just tick off those miles. The first 5 miles were as expected, pretty easy and steady. I was getting into my groove and keeping pace well. 8.30min miles felt great and at the 5 mile mark I checked in with myself – ‘How are you feeling? Good. Can you keep this pace up? Yes’ – and on I went. I did start to feel the beginning of a blister on my right foot, which was giving me a bit of grief, but there was nothing I could do about it so I just ignored it.

We were running on roads and it was fairly flat so I was doing fine. I saw Mil around the 7 mile mark and on I went. Miles 6-10 were the same as the first 5, pretty steady and maintaining 8.30min miles. I was surprising myself at how comfortable I felt. At 10 miles I checked in with myself again – ‘How are you doing? Good. Can you keep this pace up? Yes’ – awesome.

It was here that the hills started to come into play. ‘Manchester’s flat’, everyone said. That’s bullcrap. There are hills, just not steep ones. Still, from miles 10-15 I was still keeping steady and on pace with 8.30min miles. I still felt pretty ok. I saw Mil just before the half way mark and I had a smile on my face. I was feeling good. This part of the course was an ‘out and back’ route, so I saw loads of Chasers coming back along the route. It was awesome for them to shout ‘Go Chaser’ at me and vice versa. It absolutely helped the motivation to keep going!

At the 12.5 mile mark. Got a smile on my face!
At the 12.5 mile mark. Got a smile on my face!

At 15 miles I did the check in ritual. I was good, but I could feel myself tiring slightly. I still held the 8.30 pace but by 17 miles I had slowed to 8.40min miles. Here we go. This is where the race actually starts. I plowed on, taking it steady. By this stage I was busting for a wee so I did a quick pit stop in someone’s front garden, hoping like hell they wouldn’t see my lily white bum hanging out. Back on the route I tried to keep the pace under 8.45 but I was beginning to struggle. I saw Chaser supporters on the sidelines, cheering me on, which helped so much.

18 mile mark. Still feeling ok, but slowing down.
18 mile mark. Still feeling ok, but slowing down.

I got to mile 20 and by now I could feel the wheels falling off. I took a gel and checked in with myself. ‘How are you feeling? Ok. Can you keep this pace up? I don’t know’. Shit. I had 6.2 miles to go and I was currently on 2.49hrs. I did the calculations in my head (woozily, I hasten to add) and figured out that even if I took an hour to run those last 6.2 miles (so 10min miles), I would still come in under 3.50hrs, which was my main overall goal (3.45 being the dream, 3.50 being the YAY, 3.55 being ok). So between miles 20 and 25 I slowed down a bit and ran 9 min miles. This was not a choice, I actually could not have gone any faster.

By mile 23 I had well and truly HIT THE WALL. I have run 4 previous marathons and I have never experienced anything like it before. I wanted so badly to go faster, but my brain couldn’t tell my legs to pick up the pace. It was useless. It was here that ‘digging deep’ actually meant so much to me. I dug deep and I soldiered on. I felt like everything was in slow motion. One foot in front of the other. Just keep going Lou, just keep going. Do not stop, just keep going. Just. Keep. Going. Those top two inches that every sports person talks about? Well I certainly used my top 2 inches then, plus another inch or so to get me over the finish line.

Mile 24 came, I was counting down those miles like my life depended on it. I reached for my final gel, only to discover that I had lost it somewhere back on the route between 20-24. Crap. With less than two miles to go I tried to pick up pace, but those last two miles were on an ascent up to Old Trafford, the finish line. Who was the sick bastard who thought it would be fun to do that? Mile 25 came and on I trundled. By now I was plodding along at 9.30min mile, however by this stage I knew I was going to come in under 3.50, I just didn’t know how much I would be under as I was ACTUALLY SLOWING DOWN. I think a walker could have passed me at this stage.

Finally, FINALLY I got to the last corner and turned into the home straight. If I could have sprinted I would have, but I had absolutely NOTHING left in the tank. I managed a sharp shuffle over the line and completed 26.2 miles.

In a PB time of 3.47.32. That’s 9 mins faster than my previous marathon time. WOOP! God that hurt!

Me trying to jump for joy in celebration of my PB
Me trying to jump for joy in celebration of my PB. Not quite off the ground… ha

As soon as I crossed the finish line I was already analysing the race; what I did right, what I did wrong and how I can do better next time. Nuts, hey? Yes and no. This marathon was by far the easiest one for me as I had such a clear race plan, and I felt so comfortable for 18 miles of it. The training I’d done with the Clapham Chasers was the reason I knocked 9 minutes off my time. I have the training I did with the club to thank for this. Imagine what time I could do if I just maintained a better pace average. It was obvious to me that I should be able to keep the pace of 8.30 min miles all the way around – I just need to train harder with more miles in the mid-week runs. Maybe do the longer Tempo runs instead of the shorter ones. I know I can do it. I was two minutes off. Just two minutes.

However, this was a ridiculously hard marathon as it was the first time I had to face my demons and actually pull myself out of hell. Between mile 22-26 I had moments of thinking that I may not be able to finish the race. Never have I felt like I have in those last 4 miles, and it’s a huge learning curve for me. I’ll take all of this and more into my next one. Yes, there will be a next one!

Manchester Marathon. DONE.

Advertisements

Day of Reckoning

I’m not going to lie. I’m bricking it. 6 days and counting… I had been calm all last week and then I went and watched my friend Claire run the Brighton Marathon yesterday (Sunday) and everything since then has started to fall apart. Well, not literally.. I’m being a little bit melodramatic, of course, but ever since yesterday I’ve had this strange nervous sick feeling in my stomach and a slight shake in my hands. I can’t stop thinking about Manchester. It’s all I think about. This shit just got real and I need to keep it in check.

I’m in taper mode so last week’s training was pretty light, as to be expected. Just 3 sessions again this week – Tues, Thurs and Saturday. I turned up to Track on Tuesday night feeling pretty good. It was 4 x 2km with 2 mins rest in between. I’d not done this session before so wasn’t sure what to expect, but went into it knowing that I shouldn’t push myself too hard due to the fact that I was running a marathon on 10 days time. So I took it controlled and decided to stick to my desired pace of 9.30mins. I did the first 2km in 9.20 though, slightly too fast for me, but had it under control for the next two sets. The last set was a bit crappy, due to the fact that I got boxed in by two other runners so was a slave to their running pace. It was slower than I wanted and we finished in 9.45, but to be honest I wasn’t that bothered as I didn’t want to over stretch myself that night.

Thursday night the session was 3 laps Tempo pace (8min mile). It was a glorious night in London so instead of waiting the hour and a half after work to run with the Chasers around Battersea Park, I decided to go straight home and run around Tooting Bec instead. 3 x laps of Batt Park for me  = 4 miles, so I just did that at 8min miles instead around Tooting Bec. It was tough. Tougher than laps round Batt Park, but I enjoyed it. My legs were very tired though, something that I was slightly concerned about. The bonus was that I was finished before 7pm, which was awesome. Usually I don’t get home until 8.45/9pm on Thursday nights from the Park so I didn’t know what to do with myself!

Saturday morning was my LRS. I ran 8 miles, which felt like a walk in the park compared to what I’ve been doing previously. It can be so easy to run too fast when you’re tapering and you’ve got to really watch your pace in case you’re suddenly running 7.30 min miles and absolutely dying and wondering why. I decided to run MP – 8.30 – for the first 6 miles and then ease off to 9min miles for the last two miles to finish off. It felt good, and controlled, and I was happy, but my legs still felt really tired, especially my quads. Little niggles of doubt as to why started to creep into my brain. As I said, they always do when you’re this close to a marathon.

I had a sports massage booked for Sat arvo and this did me the world of good. She focused on my quads and hammies and gave my calves a light flush out. My quads were in pretty bad shape, so I am so glad I had the massage. They felt so much better afterward, and yesterday and today. My lower legs felt and still do feel a bit achey, not quire sure about what’s going on there, but I’m just hoping it’s the affects from the massage, and from standing for 4 hours watching the Brighton Marathon yesterday.

Yes, the Brighton Marathon. I went down on the train with my two friends, both called Anna, to visit our mutual friend Cat and her family who live in Hove, and also to watch the runners for the marathon and cheer on my running buddy Claire. Sunday was her Day of Reckoning. We’d been training together for the past few months so I really wanted to be there for her. Claire was aiming for the illusive 3.45 marathon time, same as me, and I was hoping so much that she would be able to do it. Unfortunately the weather was amazing for spectators, horrific for runners. It was around 13 degrees and sunny. Not so bad to be out and about in it, but a nightmare if you’re running 26.2 miles in it. We parked ourselves at the 14 mile mark and waited for Claire to come around. All the runners just looked HOT. And knackered. One of the Annas made a comment that if they looked this knackered at 14 miles, they’d be feeling absolutely horrendous at 26 miles… oh so true. Claire came into view round the bend and we screamed and cheered for her. She looked absolutely miserable. She saw us (after not recognising me at first, as I was in a sun hat and shades) and veered over to me and just collapsed into tears. She was a mess. She just said ‘I feel horrendous. This is so hard’. I gave her the biggest hug I could and sent her on her way with a few ‘keep it up you’re doing great’ words in her ear. She was behind her target time and it was looking like she would not be able to make it up.

We headed to the 18 mile mark to catch Claire again. This time round she looked more in control of her running, but she was still looking very hot and very uncomfortable. She had that look of determination on her face so I knew she must have given herself a Man Up pill and a stern talking to a few miles back. She was hovering around the 4hr target finish mark, so I knew that her 3.45 dream was gone. Devastated. On we went down to the promenade to the 24 mile mark and cheer on all the other runners while we waited for Claire to come through. We nearly missed her as she’d picked up pace slightly but was still running slower than usual. I really felt for her. She finished in a time of 4.03 – about 5 minutes off her PB.

I spoke to her afterwards and she said that from the get go she just felt off, hot and uncomfortable. She said that she tried to keep at 8.30 min mile pace for the first few miles but by half way she was completely knackered and there was not a chance in hell of maintaining that pace for another 13 miles. She knew at that point that she would have to slow down, 3.45 was out of the question and then burst into tears. It was around this time that we saw her at the 14 mile marker, so no wonder she looked miserable.

This has made me seriously doubt my ability to run a 3.45 marathon this Sunday. The forecast for Manchester on Sunday is currently 17 degrees. This is not good. I am hoping like heck that a cold front comes in and cools the north west down by at least 6 degrees by Saturday, otherwise I’ll be in my own world of pain too. I know that people have crap running days, and Claire definitely had a crap day yesterday, but I categorically do not do well in the heat. The last 3 races I have ran in the heat resulted in me being either put on a drip (Royal Parks Half), waking up in the medical tent after crossing the finish line (Ealing Half), or suddenly being held up by a spectator on the sidelines as I’d veered uncontrollably off to the side 600m before the finish line (Paris Marathon). Not a good track record!

So if it stays this warm I will have to seriously re-think my race plan. Start off slower than 8.30 and try and stay consistent. Get that 3.45 dream out of my head now, and focus on running consistently and finishing strong. Claire sent me this quote today which is on the back of her Brighton finishers’ t-shirt and it’s so bloody true:

“Respect the training. Honour the commitment. Cherish the results”.

6 Days to go!

Holy crap, it’s next week!

So it kinda dawned on me yesterday that my marathon is NEXT WEEK. Not in a few weeks time, not ‘oh that’s ages away’… it’s next flippin’ week. Yikes. This kinda crept up on me due to the long Easter weekend. My Friday felt like a Saturday, my Saturday a Sunday and my yesterday (Monday) was definitely not a week day. So I’m back at work and the realisation that Manchester Marathon is next Sunday is suddenly all too real.

I’m in taper mode, both in running and in mind. I’ve kind of switched off, slightly in denial that I am running a marathon, but also knowing that I’ve run the distances, even if some of my long runs have not been great. It’s nice having past marathon experience in the bank, as I have no doubt I’ll complete the race and I am pretty confident I’ll run faster than 3.56. It’s the extra bit that I’m a bit unsure about. Whether or not what I’ve done in training is good enough to get a time that I would be happy with…

Tuesday night was track night and it was a straightforward session of 5 x 1km – two and a half laps around the track with 45 sec rest in between sets. Last time I ran this at track I had to sit out the 3rd 1km as I couldn’t breath, couldn’t keep up and pretty much threw up afterwards. This time I flew around, no probs! Yay. I didn’t go all out, I stuck to my time for all 5 sets and finished strong. Was good to get that under my belt.

Thursday I was in Nottingham for work so had to do my Tempo training on the treadmill. Not as much fun as being outside but I ticked the box. Didn’t do the program I was supposed to as I forgot to read the schedule beforehand, but managed to get a progressive run done and dusted on an incline, so something is better than nothing!

On Saturday I was up north in Robin Hoods Bay, so did a 13miler run along what is called the Cinder Track. This track is the old railway line which stretches from Robin Hoods Bay to Whitby and has been covered over with gravel. It’s around 6 miles long so it was a straight out and back run. I set off with Lou, with the aim for us to run (me yog) 3 miles together and then once we hit this marker I head off and collect her on the way back. We started on the coastal path, which was beautiful but BRUTAL. It was raining, slippery and very uneven, mixed in with a few God awful hills. The coastal scenery was spectacular, but I kinda wished I was rambling it, not running it to appreciate it more. We scaled a hill that would rival Mt Everest and then hit the Cinder Track head on and I left Lou to run at her pace while I picked up mine. From there it was flattish and lovely. Spring lambs, fat mummy sheep, dog walkers, ramblers and mountain bikers were all out in force. I even saw some Shetland ponies and donkeys! There was an incredible railway viaduct I ran over just before Whitby which absolutely amazed me and for the rest of the afternoon I bored everyone with how cool it was.

I arrived at the end of the track in Whitby at the 6.5mile mark and turned around and came back, only to realise that for the past few miles I’d been running at a slight descent, which meant that for the next few miles I’d be running on an ascent. No fun there. My pace had been pretty easy – around the 9.15min mile pace – I was in no hurry to go faster, just to enjoy the run. The ascent made me work a bit harder but I stuck to 9.15 and for the last 3 miles of the run I had amped it up and was running at 8.30min miles – MP. I finished pretty strong so I hope this means that I’m ready to run.

I had two days off running after that, which felt weird. Now I just feel like I’m being lazy, but I know it’s just part of the taper. Now that we’re at the business end of the training, it’s all about not doing anything stupid to wreck my race day. So I’m wrapping myself in cotton wool for the next two weeks and sticking to the program. And trying not too eat too much!!

Two weeks to go!

Grit and determination

These weeks seem to blur into each other. Before starting to write this, I sat here for a good 10 minutes, racking my brain and trying to remember what I actually did last week in training. It’s not like my schedule is overflowing with sessions – I should remember the 4/5 runs per week I do! Was it last week I felt rough as guts on the Thursday night? Was it Saturday or Sunday that I ran my long run? Either Groundhog Day has well and truly arrived or I am losing my marbles slightly and diving right into senility. What used to be crystal clear in my memory of what I ran is now ‘meh’. Just ‘meh’. Weird.

Monday night I went to the theatre and saw Miss Saigon. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this musical for a long time. I missed it when it was in Melbourne, I missed it when it was in London the first time, and now that it’s back here I was keeno to go. So my mate Diz and I went, had top class seats smack bang in the middle of the Dress Circle. Could not have been better, except for the fact that I was bored the whole way through. Now I love a good musical, in fact I am a big fan, and I do understand the meaning of ‘musical’, however I don’t think I’ve ever been to one where EVERYTHING is sung, not just songs. All conversations were sung in the same melody – drove me mad. Just shut up the singing and have a normal conversation peoples! Even the fact that a helicopter, yes a HELICOPTER, came down on stage in one of the final scenes, did not stop my disappointment. Oh well. Next!

Tuesday night track night was relatively easy compared to previous sessions. 10 x 400m at 5km pace (which meant 6.50min mile laps). We worked in teams and in single file, taking it in turns to lead and follow. Good session and I loved it.

Wednesday night I had a facial – you can see where my priorities are now beginning to lie – which was utter bliss and desperately needed.

Thursday was Tempo at Battersea Park. Tonight was 7 laps progressive running. Claire and I opted to do the smaller loops of 1.25, which works out to be around 8.5miles in total. Progressive running that night meant Marathon Pace + 60 secs, then get progressively faster with each lap until you’re running your MP for the last two laps. Claire and I started out at 9.30min miles, which felt ridiculously slow, but moved up steadily with each lap. Both our Garmins were playing funny buggers with us, reading out ridiculous min mile times – too fast, too slow – so in the end we just had to guess our pace. The last couple of laps I’m pretty sure that we were running 8/8.10 min miles as my legs the next day were very tired.

On Friday I ran a very slow and easy 5 miles and stretched and foam rolled my way into heaven. Oh my IT bands, how I hate you so. In hindsight I should have made Friday a complete rest day as my long run was planned for the next day, on Saturday. But I was not thinking smartly and ran the 5 miles anyway.

Saturday Claire and I had agreed to do a similar run as we did last week; me run to her place, we both run together etc, however this time I was NOT going to run home – I learnt my lesson from last week so I would finish at Claire’s and get the bus home. The plan was 17.5 miles for me, 13 for Claire. So I did 4.5 miles to Claire’s, picked her up in Clapham North and then we both ran the Hyde Park route and back, which was 13 miles. It was a strange old run. When I got to Claire’s place I thought my legs felt a bit tired, but I put it down to wearing my running backpack (that I left at Claire’s for the rest of the run) and my posture being a bit different, so when we took off for on the run I was surprised to feel tightness in my quads at around Green Park. Claire said she felt knackered as well and then we both had a little rest at the top of the hill. Never have we done this. We both agreed it was from pushing ourselves hard on Thursday night, and me especially, not giving myself a rest day to recover. Interesting.

On we went into Hyde Park, taking it easy and sticking to 9.15 min miles, which was pretty good going. This was an easy run and we were going to stick to EASY. Around we went and just before the exit to Knightsbridge I had to stop as I felt like I was going to spew. Weird. Headache, achey, shivers and nausea. YUCK. I was pushing myself too hard, even though we were not going hard at all. I had a word to myself and for the last 4 miles kept it under 9.30 min miles, finishing the last mile in a steady 9min mile pace. It was pure grit and determination that got me through those last few miles. We actually stopped half a mile short of where we should have finished, but both of us (me especially) had definitely had enough. Half a mile will not make the difference, believe me.

So after analysing my long run, I’m putting it down to no rest day and running too hard on the Thursday night. With tapering well and truly underway, I will be taking it easier from now on. But it’s very interesting to see the effects of what a hard tempo session can do to the long run on the weekend. I wonder how I would have felt if I had done my long run on the Sunday instead… regardless, I’m glad I ran on the Saturday as Sunday it absolutely pissed it down with rain all day. Plus there were gale force winds. No thanks! It’ll be just my luck that marathon day is this weather…. God I hope I haven’t jinxed it now….

3 weeks to go!

Hump week is over

So this week just gone I ran my 20 miler for training, with the view to start the count down to marathon day from here. Hump week has come and gone, and now I’m on the downhill to D Day. I really should have done another 20 mile run in my training, but it just wasn’t mean to be.

I actually forgot to write this week’s blog edition, only remembering as I was about to leave work, which is possibly an indication of how good my weekend went, or the fact that I am getting pretty blasé about the actual marathon. Maybe both.

My week started off pretty well actually. Tuesday night at track was a killer but I nailed it pretty well. 12 x 800m Yassos. It felt good to feel good on the track. It was all about controlled running and I was hitting 3.40 each time. Done. Wednesday I ran my easy 5 miles, then had a Pilates class which was just what I needed. Thursday, though, I came unstuck.

I had to be in Nottingham for work on Thursday so was up at sparrow fart as per usual to get the early train. I woke up feeling a bit ‘off’ but put it down to the 5.30am get up time. When I got on the train I still wasn’t feeling too great, so justified it again, thinking I was nervous about my 11am meeting. That meeting went really well, so I was still wondering afterwards why I felt so nauseous at lunchtime. I tried to get some food down me but just felt miserable. I actually wanted to throw up. I made it through the day and got back on the train, thinking I wouldn’t make the journey back to London without hurling my guts up. As soon as I sat in my train seat I closed my eyes and slept the whole way back to London. When I woke up I realised I really wasn’t well at all so had to bypass Tempo running in Battersea Park that night. I was so grumpy about missing this it was ridiculous.

I managed to get myself off the train in Kings Cross, onto the tube, then on the bus home and in through my front door without losing my breakfast. As soon as I got into my flat though, I made it to the bathroom and I threw up. Yuck. I was shivering and shaking and feeling just horrible. I ran a bath, tried to warm up and then got in my PJs and crawled into bed. It was 7.30pm. I closed my eyes and woke up at 7am the next day feeling fine. WOW. What a super bug. Bleurgh.

So Friday I was a little delicate, but feeling much better. I still didn’t feel like could run though, so took it easy. Plus I was due to run 20 miles on the Saturday morning. With it being Super Saturday at the rugby there was no way I was missing out on the fun and games that this entails, so I’d arranged with Claire to run with her on Sat morning. She’s got her marathon a week before me, so she’s a week ahead in the tapering. She wanted to run 15 miles, so I planned our run around this. I would run 2.5 miles to her place and collect here, we’d then do 15 miles together, and then I’d run the 2.5 miles home. Sounded easy enough! We did the Hyde Park route, which we both know really well and kept it at 9min miles, sometimes 9.15min miles. I was doing fine until I hit 16 miles. It’s definitely psychological, because in the lead up to 16 miles I was getting annoyed at myself for not planing to finish running the same time as Claire. The thought of leaving her in Clapham North and doing 2.5miles on my own were really getting to me, and I was actually jealous that she got to stop and I didn’t – WTF?! What was wrong with me?!

The 17mile marker came and Claire left me then and all of a sudden I fell into a heap. Psychological, yep! As I hit Mile 18 I was running 10 min mile pace, which was ridiculous, and I had to have a bloody good word to myself about it too. I picked myself up and pushed on faster and finished the 20 miles on 9min mile pace. Phew.

I felt pretty good the day after (or was it the fact that I didn’t have to get up on Sunday and run! yay!) but the thought of me running 6 more miles for an actual marathon was weighing pretty heavily on me. I struggled at the end of my 20 mile run on Saturday, and I honestly do not know how or if I am going to be able to run at 8.30min mile pace for the full 26 miles. Saturday just showed that I probably can’t. ARRRRGH. Doubt doubt doubt…..

I’m on my taper now so I guess I won’t know if I could have done that 20 mile training run any different. This week’s long run is 18 miles, then 15 next week, then 13 the week after. And then that’s it. I really am nearly at the end of my journey. I am only hoping that my taper is good enough to keep me bouncing enough to get through my marathon on pace. God I hope so!

4 weeks to go!

No man’s land

I am finding that the days and weeks are beginning to become a bit same same and monotonous. I’m getting to the business end of my marathon training where the race is nearly upon me, but it it’s also numerous weeks into my schedule so repetition is happening. This week I have felt like I am in no man’s land, not quite there but not quite ready to run a full marathon. I have had a week of doubting just how much training I am actually doing, and if it is enough to get me round the course in the time that I want. I have no doubt I will do a sub 4hr marathon, am very confident that I will run sub 3.55, however it’s any time before that that I am doubting. I think I will be very lucky if I can achieve 3.50. See, the doubts are there…

I set off on this journey many weeks ago with the intention to train for a 3.45 marathon and for a while I was confident that I could, but now I am not so sure. I know I need to trust the schedule, but doubt creeps into every training session I do, and it’s here that I need to be careful that I don’t overdue my training in the final weeks and wreck it completely before I’ve even gotten to the starting line.

I ran the Monday night 8km social run this week well and at 8min miles so was feeling good. I had not run the Chasers TR20 race the day before as I was in Chamonix, and I was feeling guilty about it, so there were less people at the social run and those that were there had tired legs. The Tuesday track session was very similar, in that a few of my usual crew were really feeling the affects of the 20 mile race and were suffering considerably. I, on the other hand, felt fresh as and handled the 5 x 1mile set easily and stuck to my 7.30min mile pace well. I was glad I put a good session in, however I was still feeling guilty about not doing the TR20 as the Fear Of Missing Out had crept into my brain, and doubts on whether I could actually run 20 miles on my own were whirling round my head.

Wednesday & Thursday I was in Nottingham for work, so instead of doing my usual easy 6 miles on the Wednesday night I had chinese buffet in Notts instead. Love those crispy duck pancakes! Thursday I was back in London in time for Tempo at Battersea Park. This one was a killer – 7 split laps of 1.25mile loops – nearly 9 miles. There weren’t that many Chasers there so groups were small. Claire, Aussie Nicky, new guy Jeff and I set off and within a lap our little group of 4 had split into 2 groups of two. Jeff and I (who had not run the TR20) were up front with Claire and Nicky (who had run the TR20) behind. It was evident that both girls were still suffering from Sunday’s race as these two are usually faster than me in all training sessions. Claire even admitted to me that night that she’s lost her confidence (and desire) to be able to run a 3.45 marathon, which is slightly worrying. I don’t want to get to that stage yet, but it’s obvious to me that I am beginning to waiver on my ability to run a marathon that fast. Is this normal when you’re this far into training, but not quite at the race yet? Probably.

Jeff and I finished our 7 laps strong, and stuck to the night’s split lap program well – 8.45mm up the straight, 8.15 around the curve, repeat 6 more times. I was glad Jeff was there, as I bet I would have run with Claire and Nicky a lot slower just to keep the company and it would have not done me any good. I didn’t run my easy 6 miles on Saturday either (eeek! need to remedy this fast) as I had a stack of stuff to do and places to be to fit into my Saturday as Sunday I had the North London Half Marathon.

What a crazy race. This was the first North London Half Marathon race event and it did show. This new race starts at Allianz Park and is an out and back race with the turning point being Wembley Stadium. I was running this for Macmillan Cancer Support with two other Moody Cows rugby girls – LouMick and Bryony. There were only about 6000 runners so the pre-race usuals – car park, undress, chafe cream, bag drop, start line – were done pretty quickly. What wasn’t quick, were the toilet queues. There weren’t enough ladies loos (they were posh toilets, not portaloos, so the queues for the ladies’ were absolutely ridiculous) so Lou and I just squatted behind some bushes, not caring who saw us. If we had waited in the queue we would have missed the start. It was absolutely freezing so we did the brisk walk to the start line and stood in the corrals for about 5 mins before the gun went off. Mo Farah waved us off as we jogged by the start. Lou and I started together, while Bryony, who up until then had not run past 3 miles, started at the back. She was aiming for anything under 3.5 hours and not getting swept up by the race sweeper, with LouMick wanting to do sub 2.30. I just wanted to stick to my tactic of running 8.30min miles for the race and then tack on extra miles at the end to collect LouMick and get her to the finish line. If I could run 1.50 I’d be happy.

What I did not envisage, would be the number of hills on the course. I knew it would be undulating, but never did I imagine that most of the course would be either uphill or downhill. I think the only flat parts of the race were when we ran through Wembley Stadium, and the end when we ran into Allianz Park. Mile 3 was a killer – I cannot wait to download the elevation from my Garmin to find out just how steep it actually was – and it just kept on going. Because it was an out and back race, at Mile 10 we got the same killer hill. Horrendous. The weather, thankfully, was cold but no rain so I was at least grateful for this. If it were sunny I think I would have died. I trudged on through the race, cursing every hill that I came to and every descent that I did as it was murderous on my thighs and hip flexors. I was sticking to 8.30 pace, but every now and again I was slowing down to 8.45 and I couldn’t make it up. By mile 9 my target time of 1.50 was out the window so I was just trying to keep the pace as close to 8.30 as I could.

Going through Wembley Stadium was a bit of an anti climax. We spent a lot of time climbing ascents, going through car parks, running on fake grass, changing to gravel (GRAVEL!!!) then back to concrete to get there before running through the stadium itself. There was one cheer squad (Macmillan – yay!) and that was it. It was deathly quiet running through, with the only highlight of it seeing your name on the big screen as you ran through – blink and you’d miss it though. I expect slower runners would have enjoyed it more as they had time to soak it in… me, I just wanted to get out of there and on with the race. I saw LouMick as I was coming out of the stadium, gave her a high five as she looked comfortable, and also saw Bryony a mile or so later. She also looked great and was RUNNING! Se was only 20 mins or so behind LouMick so was doing incredibly well.

At Mile 11 there was nearly a full mile of running an uphill gradient – sick organisers who chose that… but all of a sudden we were on the home stretch and the stadium was in sight. I picked up the pace, no longer caring what time I finished in. Into the stadium, round the track and over the finish line. Official time was 1.52.32. Ok time, slower than I wanted but I was knackered from the hills. I got my medal and goodie bag, then headed out on the course again to collect LouMick. I yogged down a mile or two and found her on the hell hill between Mile 11 & 12 and helped her through the last bit of the race. She finished in 2.23 so a cracking time for her. We collected our bags and waiting in the stands for Bryony, not sure when she’d be coming through. Soon enough we saw her come round the bend where she picked up the pace to sprint across the line in 2.48 – incredible. Both girls were suffering slightly, but they did an amazing job, considering both of them had not actually trained properly for the race. My bonus for the day was being given a free Brooks running top – woop! Lucky me.

Looking back on my race time, I actually did ok. 1.52.32 is only a minute and a half off 8.30 each mile, so actually pretty good going considering the amount of hills there were. I think in my head I wanted to do 1.49 like I did at Brighton Half, however with hills it was never going to happen. I had to work hard on Sunday to keep my pace around 8.30 so I am hoping that this hill session works in my favour. I tacked on 3 miles at the end when I collected LouMick so in all did around 16 miles. I had wanted to do 18, but I don’t think I could have done that. Just too much effort.

Another week of training looms, another groundhog day week. Next week’s long run is 20 miles; I just hope I’ve not left too much of a gap between distances in my long runs to do this justice. Fingers crossed I don’t lose my momentum. I need to keep my focus and get out of no man’s land.

5 weeks to go!

run

A bit of a blur

This week was a strange one for me, as I was away for the weekend, but also that the week days seemed to go way too fast for my liking, and definitely not enough running in them.

Monday I didn’t go to the social 10km club run. My legs were still pretty tired from the 18 miler that Claire and I ran the Sunday before, so I decided to give it a miss. I had run that Sunday 18 mile long run really well so was feeling really confident about my running so figured I’d be ok.

Tuesday Track night was a bit weird. It was 5 x 1km laps. Pretty straightforward and something I’ve done before so I knew what to expect. Problem was, was that it was pretty damn cold that night and I had totally underestimated just how cold it would be. I had definitely not worn the right running gear. No long sleeve top, no Ski Sunday ear warmers, no gloves. I froze. By the second lap I was wheezing horrifically and actually had to sit out the middle lap as I just could not run. I finished the last two, but nearly broken. My chest hurt, my heart was pounding and I actually thought I was going to spew. I was struggling to keep up with even the slower runners so nothing was going right for me that night.

Wednesday I woke up feeling bleh. Nothing too serious, just off and not 100%. I was going to run my usual easy 6 miles that night, but going on how ‘off’ I felt, I went to a Pilates class instead. It was the right decision at the time as I doubt I would have been able to even run 6 miles. It was my first Pilates session, so I had no idea what to expect, or no idea what I was doing once we got started. It was a foundation class so pretty basic, however I spent most of the hour craning my neck to see what the instructor was doing. I will go again, as I can definitely see the benefits. It’s my core that needs work and this is perfect for it. Plus it’s great for my hip flexors, glutes and lower back. Tick, tick tick.

Thursday Tempo day it was again a pretty straightforward session. 3 x laps at tempo pace. Claire and I chose the middle lap (1.5miles loop). We maintained 8.10 for the first two laps and around 8min miles for the last lap so really happy with that. I did nearly spew again and struggled massively with my breathing all the way round, so I reckon I had a bug. Must have! Never felt like this running before…

Friday I felt slightly better, which was a relief as I was off to Geneva/Chamonix for the weekend to see some friends. All the other Chasers were running the TR20 mile timed race on the Sunday, and I was sorely missing this, mainly due to the fact that if I was there I would not have to run 20 miles on my own… However I had booked this weekend ages and wanted to go, so off I went to Switzerland and France. I planned on doing a 10 mile run on the Saturday while I was away, and my 20 mile run in the next two weeks (on my own. boo). So bright and early on Saturday morning in Chamonix, my friends Lucy and Mil and I drove to one of the clearest lakes I’ve ever seen which was near the village of Passy, and while they sat in the sunshine eating croissants and pan au chocolats and sipping on coffee, I proceeded to run 2 mile loops around Lake Passy to make up 10 miles. It was absolutely beautiful. Passy is in a valley surrounded by the Swiss and French Alps, one mountain range which boasts Mont Blanc. I had a 360 degree vista of the alps all around the lake. I’ve definitely had worse places to run!

So this week has been pretty light on miles clocked. Slightly worried about this, but I still hope that I am on track with my training. I have a half marathon race this Sunday 15th March – North London Half Marathon – which I am running with the Moody Cows for Macmillan Cancer Support. I am planning on running the race with the same tactics as my last half (Brighton), by sticking to 8.30 min miles. My running guru, Matt, has advised me to do this again and do not run a blow out full pace race as it is getting too close to my actual marathon to do this. He says my legs, and my injuries, will suffer and I agree, so the race plan is 8.30 min miles for all 13 miles. When I’ve finished the Half, though, I plan on doubling back along the route (on the sidelines) to find LouMick in the race, and then pace her all the way to the finish line. She has a target time of 2.20 to finish so I am hoping that will be around 2 miles out and 2 miles back in again – a total of 17 miles. That should put me in good stead for the following 20 miler I have to do the following weekend.

We’re getting to the serious end of the training now with only a few weeks to go until D Day, and everyone in my running club is starting to focus focus focus on the next few weeks ahead. I’m strangely calm about my marathon, which is so unlike me. Usually I am so tunnel vision and serious, but for this one I am actually very relaxed and not stressed at all. Totally different. Let’s see if this pays off…

6 weeks to go! EEEEEEK!

Lake Passy