41. Reflections

It’s coming up for two weeks since I ran the London Marathon. I spent the first seven days with the medal around my neck, and since then its been in my bag everywhere I go. I figure it’s the closest I’ll ever come to getting an Olympic medal. I’m desperate to get back out running but for the first time in my life I’m doing as I’m told and resting my knee another week before hitting the streets again.

I have been completely overwhelmed by everyone’s encouragement, support and donations – the figure raised is now around £2000 which is incredible. Thank you all so so much for this amazing generosity.

On reflection over the past few days, as I’ve recounted my marathon mission many times, I’ve been thinking about my top ten things I would tell someone who is going to do the London Marathon (or any other marathon for that matter); things I have done and wish I had done. Here goes…

10. See a physio at the start: I only saw one when my knee got bad, and they could have helped from the beginning to prevent or at least limit the damage by identifying potential problems you may have. It’s worth investing a few pounds into seeing a great physio (just don’t listen to the bit when they say you shouldn’t run because it’s bad for your knees).

9. Enjoy the carb loading: Do it for anything over 13 miles, and practise your whole race day routine – try and run at the same time a race is (usually starting between 9 & 10am) to practise eating your two breakfasts at the right time.

8. Keep a diary: It may sound pointless, but record all your running, gym sessions and rest days. Put in what you did (eg hills, intervals, weights, long run), how long for and how you felt after. It’s really good to be able to look back and track any factors influencing your training, both helpful and not so helpful. Be disciplined and stick to a plan. Pace it, and build up gently.

7. Energy levels: Make sure you practise carrying enough gels with you, and can consume water regularly. Try adding electrolyte tablets to your water, particularly on long runs.

6. Tapering is weird: Fact. I thought it would be easy, as I knew in my head why and how it would work. But when it came to it, I really struggled and started to doubt I hadn’t done enough and thought I should be out doing longer not shorter runs. Trust me, it’s weird but necessary.

5. Get your head in the game: Find headphones that you know will stay in/keep still, and use them on every run. Find music that you love, it’ll be playing for a few hours solid.

4. Don’t high five kids: Not much more to say. Sounds awful but this was the best thing I heard on the morning of the marathon, and was a bit of a life saver. Kept me from being distracted. Apart from the mum holding the baby, too cute not to high five.

3. Shoe laces: Check your shoe laces are tied up tight enough. I never had a problem until the actual day when for some reason I just did them a bit loose. Big mistake. My toes still hurt from them rubbing inside.

2. Supporters: Don’t forget they’ll be loads of people supporting and encouraging you right from your first training session, with you every step you take. They are vital, a lifeline to keep you going. I could not have done it without them. Try and get a few people to come and cheer you on. It makes such a difference. If you’re doing the London marathon, give out your runner number for those at home on the day so they can track you online. They feel like they are involved, and it means everyone knows how you’re doing – I had friends in Uganda, South Africa and Australia tracking me! Get your name printed on your top and thousands of people who you don’t know will cheer you on. It’s such a boost when you’re struggling.

1. Watch the clock: Look at the timer when you go over the start line. That was the most irritating thing the whole way round – I’d forgotten, and it meant I had no idea what my pace was. Learn from this!

Two more top tips:
~ It’s really hard to take everything in, it can be quite overwhelming on the day but you want to try and remember everything. I tried to remember moments, and every so often just think to myself, ‘flip, I’m actually running the marathon, look around and enjoy it right now’. I’d try and think of one thing that stood out about each mile, mainly to give me something to do – at the end of each mile I’d go over the list and add a new thing from that mile.
~ Read ‘Marathon running for mortals’, it’s the best book out there for “normal people” wanting to run. It was really realistic, and a real help to me.

Bizarrely, if I was offered to run a marathon in a months time, I’d do it. Next year, no. I absolutely loved it, but there is a high level of commitment to training needed which is quite intense, time consuming and becomes relentless towards the end; once is enough! There’s a part of me that knows I could run it faster and that’s frustrating. Maybe one day.

I’m proud of having done it, but now it’s time for a new challenge…

39. Better never stops

In the words of the London 2012 Olympic Team GB Campaign, ‘better never stops’. It sounds good so I’ll go with it. I guess it’s about always improving, pushing yourself, bring the best you can, never letting up. The title of my first blog was a quote a friend had given me: ‘Your legs will only go as far as your brain will let them.’ This is particularly true for me now as I think about getting round the marathon with a knee injury. This could take a lot of mental will-power, but I also know that I’ve put in all the training I need to in order to finish what I set out to do.

I’ve just got back from our family holiday to Italy. Perfect for carb loading. Perfect for resting. I may now be just about ready for literally the biggest race of my life. At which point, I think ‘better’ may reach the limit.

Run 67 – I know holidays are a time to rest, and I did largely, apart from my last two runs. Mum came with me on both, and we decided to walk/run this to see how my knee held up.  It wasn’t too bad, but I didn’t want to push it, so over 50 mins we meandered (with a few near death experiences due to Italian driving) along the edge of Lake Como, from Varenna through to Pino. It’s simply beautiful.

Run 68 – This is it, the last one. We pretty much repeated what we did a few days earlier, but I managed to run (slowly, with a few stops to look at the view!) the whole time. This was really important as I felt me knee was holding up, and I feel better about it for Sunday. There is hope.

Physio 4 – Have seen the physio this morning to re-tape my knee for the last time. This tape is amazing stuff! It may look bizarre but if it supports my knee then I don’t care.

Some stats for you, courtesy of anything I’ve recorded (long walks, running, cycling, cross trainer) on RunKepper since beginning training at the end of September:

  • 468 miles covered
  • 38,275 calories burned

So that’s it. I’ve done all I can. No more training.

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The view over Lake Como, Italy, on my last training run. Not bad eh. 

It’s all or nothing now.

Just off to register at the Excel in London, along with thousands of other runners, before getting everything ready for tomorrow.

See you at the finish line; ‘Mim’s Mission’ is almost accomplished.

Thank you to all of you who have been so generous in donating, it will make a huge difference. There is still time – http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/mimsmission

 

38. Take a break

Race day. 8 days away. A scary prospect. But I’m comforted by the fact that some very lovely people have agreed to come to London and be on the roadside to cheer me on.

If you would like to come along, the marathon is on Sunday 13th April. Obviously I appreciate any support along the route, but the most helpful would be anywhere after 12 miles on the north of the river, especially around Canary Wharf (miles 15-20) and towards the end of the route.

There is one condition to you coming to watch though. If you shout really loudly and I see you (which hopefully I will!) then you have to be prepared to have a speedy selfie taken with me. There is no getting out of this. I won’t exactly be looking my best so I’m afraid you have no excuse. Some lovely friends have made me a marathon scrapbook and I want to put pics in from the day recording how it all went.

So if you’re down with that, please do come and join me for a great day in London!

Gym 25 – 3.2 miles in 11.5 mins on the bike, 10 mins on the cross trainer, resistance machines and stretches and that was me done. I try and put the equipment to the highest level I can maintain to keep me working hard, particularly as road running has been so limited the past few weeks.

Run 66 – Another try at running outside, mainly because I get desperate for fresh air when I’m in the gym. 15 minutes later and I could feel my knee starting to go…which meant I had to stop. And that was at 12 min 12 sec a mile, which is slow for me. Enormously frustrating.

Gym 26 – Last proper gym session before the marathon. I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve done in the gym, and although it can feel very repetitive, I’ll probably still go after the marathon. Another 3 miles on the bike, and 1.6 miles in 15 mins on the cross trainer made for a good start to the day.

Gym 27 – The last ‘long run’ of the training was finally upon me. I actually did it on the cross trainer, which I’ve finally become friends with. 6.3 miles in an hour was pretty good going at 9 min 26 sec a mile. I don’t know how this translates to normal running, but that seems quite fast! The knee held up fine, and it felt more realistic than cycling. I was pleased with how it went, though I am now thoroughly bored of looking at the same wall for hours at a time, and am very excited about running outside! I think it’ll make me appreciate the crowds even more on M-day.

Physio 3 – Another physio session to re-tape and ultrasound the knee. Hopefully this will hold up whilst I’m on holiday. Just a few short runs to try and get through before the big day.

Now, what time is it? Holiday time? Why yes it is. Right, I’m off to Italy, see you all soon. Altitude training/ carb loading/ whatever you want to call it, I’m there. Just over a week to go, and it’s getting very real.

If you can’t make it on the day but you would like to sponsor me, my page is: www.virginmoneygiving.com/mimsmission

36. Expectations

I’ll be honest, this wasn’t how I expected the last few weeks of marathon training to be. I’ve had a schedule I’ve followed pretty closely since Christmas, and even until two weeks ago had been completely on track with it all. Then everything started to have to be adapted slightly, and suddenly I find myself not where I feel I should be at all. Maybe I had unrealistic expectations, though I don’t think they were. It’s sheer frustration at not being able to run properly. I feel like I’m under prepared. And whether it’s pride, vanity or fear of failure, I don’t want to be walking the whole thing and look like I have just rocked up on the day having done no training – it’s been hard work! Combine this with tapering off and it’s a weird thing as you feel like you should be running more, not less. Suddenly you start to doubt if you’ll be able to get round 26.2 miles after spending three weeks running less and less.

I was back home yesterday, and went to Richmond Park with some friends. I’ve never seen so many people out running and I actually had heart ache at not being able to run with them. I felt guilty, like I should be out there, but can’t. It’s a horrible thing, injury. The last thing I wanted two weeks before the biggest run I will ever do (that is a fact!) is to be strapped up in (albeit purple) physio tape down my left leg, and be doing constant exercises to try and stabilise my knee enough to make it round the course.

I suppose I’ve been put in a position where I now have to manage my expectations of the day. Two weeks ago I would have said training was going really well and I was aiming for 5 hours 20 mins ish running hopefully the whole way. Now it’s literally a case of managing pain relief and just getting round. It’s a hard pill to swallow after more than six months of early morning training, planning your whole life around long runs and eating saucepanfuls of pasta. But that’s the risk you take when you start training from scratch for something like a marathon – part of it is to see how far I can push myself, and this is becoming more of a mental than physical game now. Do I believe I can get round? Yes. Done.

Gym 23 – After a day off from the epic cycle ride, I was back on the bike at the start of another Monday gym sesh. I went faster on a higher level than I had done to keep the cardio going – it’s quite unrealistic sitting on a static bike in a warm room compared to running outside in the chilly fresh air so I wanted to keep make myself work hard. Almost 4 miles in just under 14 mins was good.

Run 65 – This was a hard morning. I went out and tried to run and stopped the moment my knee hurt. I got to 15 mins before I stopped. This doesn’t bode well at all for my confidence in my knee over many hours. I then spent the rest of the day thinking of the best pain relief plan for over 5 hours of running.

Gym 24 – Back on the gym bike and did 65 mins, but with no distractions this time – pure cycling. I put it on a higher level than the last long cycle and kept up the speed to do just over 17 miles, so had been over 1.5 mph quicker which was good.

Physio 2 – At home over the weekend my best friend’s wonderful physio mum gave me some more physio including taping up my leg, ultrasound on my knee and working on my left foot as it’s very tight and won’t move as much as my right. I now look like a pro with purple tape on – an injured pro, but a pro all the same.

I’m doing all I possibly can to get to and actually complete the marathon. After all, it is raising money for two brilliant charities who both do incredible work with the people they meet. M-day, by the way, is 2 weeks today! Eeeeek!

If you want to support the charities I’m running for – Catching Lives and Rianna’s Fund, you can see more about them and how to donate at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/mimsmission

34. Setbacks and staying positive

I’m terrible, I know. Two and a bit weeks of no blogs. Thing is, I’ve been putting it off because I didn’t want to scare you. I’ve had problems with my knee and I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be so thought I’d hold off till I knew – which I do more now, so I’ll reveal all in a bit. Things have changed slightly in the last few days, which will all become clear.

Gym 18 – Threw a bit of rowing in to the mix, I quite enjoy it as it’s sitting down 🙂 The resistance machines I’m getting used to using and can feel how helpful it is doing gym sessions as well as just running.

Run 61 – 8 miles. After a brilliant 18 miles the week before, I was thinking this would be fine. I’d go out slightly quicker as it was a shorter run, and keep up the intensity. Disaster. At 11 min 5 sec miles in just under 1.5 hours it was my fastest long run to date. Went out far too fast, and completely lost all rhythm. I also absolutely knackered my knee, and thought I’d completely ruined any hope of running the marathon. It’s a horrible feeling, thinking you aren’t going to be able to complete something you’ve worked hard for and have your heart set on doing.

Gym 19 – Almost 5 miles cycling before work isn’t a bad start to the week. Having done 8 miles on the Friday, this is Monday and knee still feels bad. Usually it’s gone in a few days with rest but I’ve had ibuprofen gel all over it, knee support, ice, you name it I’ve done it…and it still isn’t right.

Run 62 – Hills: I managed to run 1.88 miles in 21 mins, but then had to atop because of the pain in my knee. Ahhhh so frustrating. I also wore a long sleeved top, but got too hot – clearly I hadn’t learnt from last time. I need to embrace the chilly morning air!

Gym 20 – I focused on upper body conditioning as my knee was playing up. Arms are definitely stronger than they have ever been. Yeah, that’s right, I’m getting stronger!

Run 63 – This week is a bit all over the place as I’m away for the weekend with my church without enough time to get a long run in, so today (Saturday) is a short run of just under 2.5 miles before Monday’s long one. I ran in the forest around the house which I’m not used to as it’s very uneven ground, but nice to be out in the sunshine. A group of friends were out for a walk and I met them half way round. My laughing problem returned (I laugh when I see people when I run) and I creased up as I ran through the tunnel they made cheering me on. It was a great moment, and a bit of a taste of marathon day… 🙂

Run 64 – 20 miles. Well, let me set this straight, it was actually 13 miles. I’ll explain. It was awful, frustrating and not in the plan. I got to 6.5 miles fine, having covered my knee in ibuprofen gel. And then the effects of that started to wear off and I could gradually feel the real pain from my knee. It got worse and worse and so intense but I just kept going. I desperately wanted to get to 20 miles – after all, that was the aim for the day, I’d carb loaded and I was yet to stop before I reach a target distance. But at 13 miles I had to go down some steps and I had to hold on to the rail to do it, and by the time I got to the bottom my knee completely seized and I couldn’t move. It took a good few minutes for it to relax enough to hobble to a bench in the park and sit down and hold back tears. It was horrendous. Mainly because I felt so good running. I had loads of energy and it had been a good pace until the pain had started creeping in. Absolutely gutting. A very lovely friend came and picked me up and I realised I had to get to see a physio quick to work out what was going on and if there was any hope of competing 26.2 miles in a months time.

Physio 1 – Two days after the failed run, I saw a physio. Advice to anyone going to run a marathon: whether you think there is anything wrong with you or not, see a physio before you start training. They’ll be able to tell you what to watch out for. It turns out I have lax ligaments on the outside of my knees and so my thighs have been doing all the work to support my knees and now my leg muscles are really tight and can’t cope. Rubbish. But I’ve been given loads of exercises to do 3 times a day to strengthen it all as much as possible. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I’m still going to run the marathon, I just have to do all my training on a bike or cross trainer now. Not what I hoped for the last few weeks of training but hey, I’ll just have to go with it.

Gym 21 – A couple of days later I made it back to the gym and busted out time on the bike and cross trainer. Man I am so uncoordinated on the cross trainer, it’s really weird to use. Not a fan.

They say ‘no pain, no gain’. I think in this case, that will apply to marathon day, but any training until then is strictly ‘no pain, more gain in the long run’. If Davina McCall can cycle run and swim 500 miles in 7 days with 3 months training, I can run this marathon.

Gym 22 – Im currently typing this blog whilst cycling on a bike in the gym. It’s so boring not actually going anywhere, so I thought I’d alleviate this by multitasking for the first hour and a half. The song ‘Happy‘ by Pharrell Williams just came on in the gym and it’s reminded me to stay positive. It’s not the end of the world. I’m still going to run the marathon in 3 weeks time! Right need to stop typing and start focussing, Bargain hunt has come on the gym TV.

*watches Bargain Hunt, Top Gear x 2 and 4 Music chart countdown (One Direction came on so it was okay)*

So this session was 4 hours 15 minutes and I cycled 60.34 miles. Mental. The bike will only record up to an hour and then 5 min cool down at a time, so I kept taking photos on my phone to record each hours work. It seems multitasking makes me a lot slower as the second half of the cycle was much quicker! I’ve genuinely never cycled this much in my life. Knee is okay, aches a little bit, but a good call to cycle not run. I have to protect it as much as possible.
In case you wondered, this has been my view for the last few hours (the bike records in km not miles!):

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To sponsor me for this pain, you can donate at www.virginmoneygiving.com/mimsmission

33. Are we nearly there yet?

Well, what a difference a week makes. Last week was a really good week of training and feels the complete extreme to the week before. The frustration is that there is often no reason why it’s a hard run, it just is. And that’s annoying because it feels like there’s nothing you can plan or control to make it better. Good job it is better than last week – remember I said I couldn’t walk normally after 24 hours? Right, change that to 60 hours! Yep, it took till the Monday morning to be able to walk up/down stairs without using the banister to hold on to for dear life. Not cool. And I genuinely thought my legs wouldn’t ever feel normal again, so was quite relieved when I realised I could finally stand and sit without having to lower myself using my arms.

Gym 15 – Monday morning I was back in the gym but man it was painful! By this point I’d decided I had to push through and get my legs moving or they would never get any better. I sat on the bike and cycled 3.5 miles in 20 minutes. And that was all I could manage…but at least it was something!

Run 58 – Hills: If I’m honest, I always think I’ve done a pretty good hills/intervals session, however it goes – mainly because they’re meant to be hard work and I’m always quite tired afterwards. But I’ve decided more commitment needs to be involved, as in actually using them to their full potential as high intensity training to get maximum benefit. So today was the day I ran for 40 minutes in the rain, almost stopped after two laps but instead had a voice saying ‘this extra lap could make the difference’ and pushed on for another one, making it just over 3.6 miles. Was a good pace from the start (11 min miles), and really worked hard to keep it going. It was proper hard work and I was tired by the end, but it felt so good. Funny that.

Gym 16 – It was raining (again!) so ended up running down to the gym as I was getting pretty wet. After the usual 5 minutes on the bike, and using the machines, I tried some of the exercises FI had given me the week before to make gym sessions a bit more interesting. It was much harder than I remembered, probably because I didn’t have someone telling me if I was actually doing it right or not. But it made training more interesting, so all good.

Run 59 – 18 miles. Wowzers, now that was a good run. A whole other world to last weeks nightmare. I managed to properly carb-load leading up to it, and got a good nights sleep. Even though it was an early run (7am start, eugh!) it was super speedy (well, for me, anyway) at 3 hours 23 mins woohoo. It rained the entire time, not hard but just constantly. I wanted to test my theory that whatever pace I’m doing after 3 miles is what I end up finishing on. This turned out to be a little bit daunting as I was on 11 min 15 sec a mile after 3 miles, which was a minute a mile faster than the week before! However, I went with it, preparing to slow down by the end, but actually finished up on 11 min 17 secs a mile, which took me by surprise! All I can hope is the marathon is like this run and not last week. I was totally desperate for the loo and after 12.5 miles I was passing work, so quickly ran in. This raises the issue of loo stops for the marathon. I know there are some along the way, but I really don’t want to stop at all. It may be a case of trying to time when I’m consuming water…and heeding the advice from the book saying that all you do when you arrive is stay in the loo queue until it is time to start. Sounds good to me! I managed to stomach enough gels and water to keep me going. Also  did a 10 minute walk afterwards to try and help reduce the muscle tightness which I was determined NOT to go through like before. My legs felt much better after the run and they were pretty much fine by the evening. Thank goodness for that!

Gym 17 – Back to the Monday morning grind and the realisation that in six weeks time I’ll be recovering from the ACTUAL marathon was suddenly quite scary. Oh dear, the real thing. I’m excited about it, really, I am. It’s just come round so quickly and it also feels like there is still a long way to go. But every little bit of training helps; there is no point in slowing down now, this is the home straight!

Run 60 – Intervals: Yesterday I went for it with the intervals. No holding back, it was hard. Glorious sunshine made such a difference in wanting to go out. Back and forth on the same bit of road, running flat out and trying to recover before the next one. 2.5 miles, 27 min 37 secs, 10 min 50 sec a mile. Boom. Again it felt like a good run, you feel like you’ve earnt a second breakfast after it 🙂

Sunday evening I realised I have been fooling myself. I’ve been telling myself (and others) that I only have 1 long long run left (as opposed to a short long run which is any long run up to half marathon. Ha that’s ridiculous, can’t believe I would now call an 8 miler a shorter run!). Well, sadly it’s a lie, I have a 20 miler to do first. I can’t decide if that’s a good thing so it’s a smaller jump from 18 miles, or it’s bad as it’s an extra long run I hadn’t planned in my head. Either way, there are now only 2 loooong runs, and 3 shorter long runs until the big day. I reckon it’s about another 80 odd miles of training till the real deal. Oh my.

If you want to sponsor me for being bonkers, you can do here: http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/mimsmission

32. Friends, fashion and fuel

Good morning! Time to crack on with the training for another week – the countdown has started: 7 weeks to go! So I thought I’d share with you a few gems of wisdom, mostly from chatting to FI over the past couple of weeks, and some of my own experience. It was a really helpful session, and it’s amazing how little things all add to make a big change.

Friends
If you want to stay friends with members of the public, shout ‘excuse me’ before you crash into them and barge past.

If you are on the pavement and you can see a runner coming towards you, it is massively appreciated if you can possibly move to one side. Especially if you’re a group of sixth form girls waiting for a bus and decide to take up the whole width of the path and even when I am right next to you you don’t move so I have to go in the road *hint hint*.

Appreciate the support you have from friends around you. They no doubt think you’re mad, but they really do want you to do well.

Fashion
Top tip from FI – all running shoes have an extra hole by the ankle for the lace to go through again to make a loop for the opposite lace to go through, so that it can be tied tighter. I had no idea about this, but tried it on Friday and was genuinely surprised how much of a difference it made. Tricks of the trade and all that.

Check your running shoes aren’t too warn down on the sole. You don’t want to leave it to the week before the big day to get new shoes if they are completely wrecked. The latest is probs around a month before, to give you time to wear them in.
Buy a cheap hoodie and bottoms (charity shops are good) for race day that you can take off at the start line and are happy to leave there. You need to stay warm until the race starts, especially in the joys of the current British weather.

Fuel
Here’s the really important stuff – according to FI, fuel is your biggest ally when it comes to a long run (more than 12 miles). I burn over 100 calories a mile, which means when it comes to the marathon that’s over 2,600 calories. And as the NHS suggest a woman’s average daily calorie intake should be around 2,000, I’ll be running on minus by the end. Not a good plan.

To combat this, it all starts two days before the race. You need to increase your carb consumption to double, so your body starts storing the energy. This means when it comes to the day you’ll be starting on full as opposed to anything less. The more you start with, the easier it will be. I like this part of training – being told to eat as much pasta as you can is a dream come true.

Fluid intake – I’m the worst person for drinking enough water on a normal day, let alone when I’m running, and especially for long distances. Try to drink 1.5-2 litres a day. That’s loads for me, so I’m currently just trying to up it a bit at a time. I’ve used a running bottle from the start (one which looks like an oval so you can hold it easily) so I’m used to carrying it. I’ve now switched to larger one so I can carry more water with me on long runs. Advice from FI – add electrolyte tablets to your water, so make it more useful to your body without having to carry more water.

During the run – energy on the go – try different sorts of energy gels. The first ones I used were incredibly sickly sweet and took me half an hour to get through. I’ve now found some that taste much nicer (High5 energy gels), aren’t as sweet and I can stomach in just a few mins – and are much easier to open. Winner. Also have boiled sweets to have on the way round.

Do you have any other pearls of wisdom? Let me know! It’s all the little things that add up to make a big difference.

If you want to sponsor me for this madness, you can do here: http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/mimsmission

31. Far from ideal

Time for another update on training. A fair few significant points have been reached in the past two weeks…

Gym 10 – The gym routine has now become exactly that; a routine. I know what I’m doing on each machine and how much to push it. I’m kind of getting in to it…worryingly. This is not me.

FI 3 – I’ll be posting a more detailed blog on this session in a few days. It was really helpful as we discussed race practicalities for the up-coming half marathon that I had a week later. All the small details to think though which each contribute to making things a bit easier. It’s about controlling all the factors you can so you know you have done everything possible to make it the best opportunity for a good run. We reviewed my training so far and looked at pushing through these next few weeks to keep the training going in these middle distances.

Run 53 – Time to break the half way distance, and go for 14 miles. Eeeek. Just about kept sub 12 min miles (11.58 to be precise) in 2 hours 47 mins 30 secs. Started out too fast but eventually got in to a rhythm even though it was a little bit slower than usual. Tried out new energy gels which were much better. New shoe lace tying also helped! First time for ages on a long run that I’ve got back and thought I can’t run any more. Totally spent. Became so engrossed on auto pilot to make my legs move constantly that changing speed is really hard work. Good run in sunshine, was blinding at points! Need to think about the weather – sun as well as rain – for the marathon!

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Gym 11 – It’s been taking a couple of days for my left knee to recover from long runs. The gym on a Monday is now low impact so I’ve got quite in to cycling. It’s a nice start to the week, sitting on a bike and letting your mind wander without having to think about steering and crashing in to anyone.

Run 54 – Hills: I was pretty stressed so felt like I needed to get out and run but was very distracted. Also didn’t have much time due to something coming up so was frustrated I couldn’t run for longer. It was a bit wet and windy, pretty miserable weather which didn’t really help that morning. It’s times like this that I’m glad I can actually get out and run though, channeling energy into something.

Gym 12 – Another resistance session. Starting to recognise people in the gym, but there is an unwritten rule of no talking/communicating; everyone acts as though there is no one else in the room. It’s a bit weird sometimes.
It was also the day to start carb loading for the half-marathon race. Trust me, it’s harder than you think to eat a mountain of pasta.

Run 55 – Human Race half-marathon at Lake Dawney, Windsor. This is my only opportunity to experience a ‘race’ environment before the marathon, so I really wanted to be able to use it well. I don’t run with other people so even getting used to other people being around and overtaking was really important. It was all very touch and go as the weather had been so awful with the flooding, that mum and I only made the final decision to run it on the morning. I think it was what you would call ‘far from ideal’ conditions! It was 4 laps around Lake Dawney rowing lake which is over a mile in length, with very short ends, and not the most breath taking of scenery to enjoy. We had 25mph winds the entire time, and as it was going across the lake all the time we spent the whole race leaning to one side then the other to try and stay upright! The whole thing felt hideous. It was a flat course so that helped – it would have been a nightmare with any hills in! It was such hard work to keep going, the wind was mad, but I stuck with the 12 minute pacer the whole time which was really helpful. Usually I would have been quicker but with the wind that was about as good as it was going to get! RunKeeper decided this was the perfect time to tell me there was no GPS so annoyingly I couldn’t record the race. However you get a tag for your trainers which records your laps, which turned out to be very equal splits. I did it in 2hrs 35 min 54 secs so averaged 11.53 a mile. It certainly wasn’t the right conditions to be doing a fast race, just more a keep going race!

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The closest I’ll get to being an Olympian…standing in front of the Olympic rings! // Some words of wisdom in the port-a-loo

Gym 13 – I’m now completely out of netball (as FI said it’s not worth the risk, and not helping with knee recovery) – sad times. Tried rowing for the first time as all the bikes were taken. 20 minutes flew by, and I quite enjoyed it. Maybe I’ll be back at Lake Dawney soon as a rower…or not.

Run 56 – Intervals – used a new road for intervals this time, a bit of variation; I live a wild life. Just makes training a bit more interesting and less predictable. It’s these hill and interval sessions which are hard intensity that really help build for the longer runs. So easy to want to bail on these sessions, but you just have to remember what it contributes to the overall training.

Gym 14 – Rowing was so much fun last time, I did it again. And some time on the bike. And the usual resistance machines. Man, I still have pathetically weak arms. Good job I’m not trying to become a weight lifter.

FI 4- It’s only been two weeks since the last time I saw FI, but it was good to go over the race and work out training for these last few weeks leading up to April…less than 8 weeks to go! We’ve switched up when to do the long runs and shorter-long runs, to get an extra one in. I wanted to be able to get to 22 miles which breaks through the 20 mile barrier, and on the marathon course it means you know you can get through the depressing bit round the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf and you are running back along by the river. I’ll crawl the last 4 miles if I have to. FI also went through some other gym exercises to make sessions more varied and to work on different things. Now to remember it all for Monday morning!

Run 57 – 16 miles. What? 16 miles? Errrr since when?! It is a bit out of body experience thinking about running that far. Obviously I knew I’d have to do it at some point; the marathon is an extra 10 miles on top! But some how it just seems so strange to think that I can actually run that distance now. However, it was a hard run, a bit of a mixed bag. It felt like the first mile was too fast, then I slowed up too much and couldn’t pick it up again. This is a bit of a recurring problem – my first 3 miles sets the pace for the rest of the run, and I find it almost impossible to change pace. Whatever I’m on by then I just keep going like a machine, so it needs to be right. It was lovely warm sunshine, then suddenly rained pretty hard around miles 10-12. Nice. Just what I wanted – wet feet, my fave. I was also wearing glasses so had to run holding them as I couldn’t see a thing (note, wear contact lenses even if it looks nice outside!) My thighs went numb in the rain and I couldn’t feel myself running. The first 7 miles were the hardest I’ve done, even more so than the crazy winds at Lake Dawney (well, in a different sort of way), but the last 5 miles were actually okay. By the end, even after a terrible start, I felt like I could keep going a little bit more. My legs just feel like they can’t stop. 16 miles, 3 hours 16 min 46 secs, 12 min 18 sec a mile. Slowest pace by a long way, but at the end of the day that’s still sub 5.5 hours for the marathon, which I’m totally down with!

And that’s the problem. When my legs stop, so does my entire body. As I sit and type this 24 hours after the longest run of my life, all my muscles hurt a lot, and it takes 10 minutes to go up or down the stairs. I have to use my arms to push myself up from a seat, my thighs just kill. Right now I’m not convinced I’ll ever walk properly again, let alone run!

But remember, ‘pain is temporary, quitting is forever’.

Assuming I’ll actually make it to the marathon, if you’d like to sponsor me for this madness you can on this page: http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/mimsmission

29. Fight for it

Very often when everything is going right we don’t realise how good it is. But then sometimes things don’t quite go right, in fact they feel like they are going very wrong. I’ve been fortunate that so far my training has felt like it has always been on the up, even if there has been varying degrees of improvement at different times. But now I’ve come to face the reality of training when it feels like it’s all going horribly. And this is the time when I spend entire sessions repeating ‘fight for it, fight for it’ out loud over and over to myself.

Gym 6 – I usually like doing the gym sessions as it breaks up pounding my poor feet on the pavement and gives them a bit of a rest whilst still being active and working out. I can’t say I think the gym and I will ever be best of friends, but our relationship is certainly better than I ever expected.

Run 49 – Time for the long Friday afternoon run – this week was 12 miles. Trouble was I was feeling physically exhausted from a very busy week, and with no let up in training, I was feeling the effects. I got ready to run, sat down on the sofa, and before I knew it I shocked myself awake having dozed off for five minutes. I really wasn’t feeling very up for a long run, but knew it had to be done and the light outside was starting to fade. I’d worked out a rough route, beginning with what has become quite a standard first 5 miles now – twice round a lap which is a long slow incline up one road and long slow decent back down the parallel road. I like this because it is familiar, which means I can mix up the last half of the route and make it more interesting when I need something different to keep me motivated. 12.13 miles later, and after 2 hours 22 mins 7 secs I was absolutely shattered but pleased I’d done it.

Gym 7 – Evening netball training meant a rare lie in, wahey! Was good to run about and do some sport with other people, having fun. Brings a bit of light relief to the intense isolated training I’m doing for the marathon.

Run 50 – Hills: This is what I wrote as soon as I got back from a 2.5 mile hill training session. ‘Ugh that was horrible on a whole new level. Whole body was a dead weight from the first step- and that was going downhill. Arms ached. Legs wouldn’t move, I had to drag them round. It was hideous. Felt like I had already run 10miles before I started. Probably didn’t help that I forgot to eat till I got to the door to leave. BBC weather was saying it was raining. I’ve never been more pleased that the BBC were wrong. Half way round I stepped on the edge of a paving slab and a ton of water came up and soaked my feet, contributing to the draining enthusiasm for the morning. Having said all that, the loop was longer than I thought it would be but felt shorter. Which is always a good thing. That was the worst I’ve ever felt running. Glad it’s over.’ Get the picture? Now you see why I spent the whole session saying ‘fight for it’. Somehow I still did it in 29 mins (though it felt like 29 hours), and averaged 11 min 38 secs – ironically, better than some other ‘easier’ runs.

Gym 8 – Thursday’s workout was frustrating as it felt harder to lift lighter weights. In my mind I would always be improving; I’d never get to a day where I struggled with something I previously could do. I soldiered on and got through it all, and just have to keep reminding myself that some days are going to be harder than others.

Run 51 – I was away at a work conference in Eastbourne over the weekend so the normal long Friday afternoon run became Saturday morning. It was a drop back to 6 miles, so I ran for 3 miles along the very windy South coast and then back again. Regretted wearing a t-shirt under a long sleeved top to begin with, but by the end I was rather glad I had the extra layer. Gloves were a lifesaver – I usually get annoyed after two mins and shove them in my trousers, but again, I’m so glad I had them. Being the coast meant the route was pretty flat the whole way. I’ve not run that far with no breakfast before- not the best idea, won’t be doing it again in a hurry. I was able to get into a rhythm and stay consistent through it, averaging 11 mins 43 secs a mile over 6.5 miles. 1 hour 16 mins 31 secs later and I was ready for a cup of tea.

Gym 9 – As it was a match night for our netball team I did a gym session in the morning. I’m totally bailing from playing in a match until after the marathon – by which time the season is over, but I’m cool with that. Right now, my legs are too precious to risk injury! Was quite good actually, cycled for 18 minutes then did some upper body resistance. There’s something odd but relaxing  about cycling on a machine whilst watching BBC Breakfast.

Run 52 – Intervals: 2.5 miles covered, but with some hard intervals in the middle. Again, ‘fight for it’ was on repeat.

If anyone comes to see me at the marathon and I’m looking like I’m loosing the will to live (which could well be for most of the way round) just shout at me. Don’t worry, I’ll fight for it the whole way.

28. Life Lessons

I realised I’ve been apologising if I haven’t posted anything for a few days and been feeling very guilty for it. Then I thought about it and decided that a) I don’t actually expect people to read my blogs anyway and b) I need to succumb to the reality that there is in fact still only twenty four hours in a day, and thus I am still unable to do everything I want to everyday. For the moment, this means that blogging has taken a bit of a back burner as training has ramped up since Christmas and takes up more time. Lets just call it the ‘January blog lull’ whilst I try and balance my time across various activities. Thing is, I need to do the activity to be able to blog about it, so the actual training kind of has to take priority here. I do however find it helpful to blog a bit about it as it gives me a chance to think over the latest training. And seeing as a few of you also seem to read this every now and then, I thought I’d better get back on it.

So let’s take stock and rewind the last two and a half weeks of training. Here goes…

Run 42 – First run of 2014 (the plan to run new year’s day didn’t quite happen, so the 2nd had to do) and it was a long one. In fact, it was longer than planned, and probably a bit too long to be honest. At 10.23 miles it was the first time hitting double figures which was quite exciting. I’d planned a straight forward flat route along by the river. Trouble was I’d kind of forgotten that the flooding would mean the river was a complete no go, so when I got there I had to quickly think up a new route as I went. Just making it up as I went really wasn’t the best idea as I had no clue how far anything was apart from the voice on my arm shouting every half a mile. 2 hours 1 min 30 secs and over 1,000 calories later, I’d managed to average 11 min 53 sec miles which I was pleased with. Everything was going fine until mile 9 when my left knee was so painful I wanted to keel over. I’d also run out of water and was desperately thirsty. Maybe I should have stopped and walked back, but I’m not very good at walking if I’ve decided in my mind I’m going to run the whole thing.

Life lesson 1: Stop running if your knee hurts. 3 days later and I was still icing it to help recovery.

Life lesson 2: I’m wrong sometimes. I know, it’s hard to believe, but I am. And here it is – running with headphones is the best idea ever. Having previously said it is impossible because the wire flaps about and the earpieces fall out, I am now using super cool Apple Earpods which came with my new ipod nano, and have literally revolutionised running for more than half an hour. I would never have got through that run without background music on; it was the only thing that kept me going at many points. I’ve refined my wire technique so it doesn’t fly about, and I love it. Now I use them even if its for 15 mins. Amazing.

FI 2 – I met with my fitness instructor again in the hope that by doing so early in the new year I could get as much training in as possible and get in to a good routine quickly post holidays. I was worried about my knee and apparently I’d increased the distance too quickly which is probably why it hurt, but would be fine. Phew. We went through a few different training programme options and worked out what would be ideal for me to do. The main differences from my training thus far are cross-training sessions and hills and interval sessions. I was quite excited about adding something different in to the training, and relieved that the gym membership would be put to some use. I was however not so sure on the actual benefits of cross training – I’m not doing a triathalon, just run run run, so why do I need to do other things in training? But as he’s the expert I’ll go with it…

Run 43 – Intervals: The first attempt at running intervals was better than expected. I used the park in town as it has a long path straight through the centre of it with a fountain in the middle, useful as a marker to aim for. I have to say I was really surprised that even over 2.91 miles my average pace was down to 11 min 34 secs, which was really good.

Gym 3 – My first actual proper gym session. Using the machines and everything. The gym sessions will hopefully go something along the lines of: low intensity warm up, legs (leg press, leg curl, leg extension), upper body (chest press, lat pull, shoulder press), warm down and stretches. It took a bit of a while working out the right weights and settings but I got there in the end. There was huge relief to see that guys were clearly not committed enough and don’t get up at ridiculous o’clock in the morning, meaning it was a woman only gym for nearly the whole time. Winner.

Run 44 – When working out the long runs, it is important (so I’m told) to not just keep increasing the distance each week, but to drop back every few weeks to let your body recover. This was a drop back week to 6.21 miles. It was a Saturday morning run, and having had a decent breakfast it was good to feel like I could have kept going more. After 1 hour 11 min 34 secs I averaged 11 min 31 secs a mile – and could already start to see the benefit of the cross training. Okay, so maybe this gym stuff is a good thing after all.

Life lesson 3: My fitness instructor knows what he is talking about. Listen to him. When he says ‘don’t make up excuses to miss out cross training’ he means it – it’s what will make the most difference to enduring the long runs.

Gym 4 – Monday morning back in the gym. What a way to start the week. The resistance training felt harder than the first time. Still working out the right weights to put on. It is bizarrely fun though, you do feel good afterwards – you’ve done a workout and most people are just getting up.

Run 45 – Hills: This was another new thing for me, but once I decide to do something I’l do it. 3 mile run, with hills thrown in. I say hills, I’m talking short steep mounds as opposed to the Peak District. But hey, you have to start somewhere. Running up the mound in the park was hard work but having said at the bottom I won’t stop the whole way round, I wouldn’t let myself take it easy. Though it was kind of fun being at the top, looking out over the road and being high up, only to then run back down again. Just for a few seconds you feel on top of the world. Again, I was really surprised at my time, and how it does actually help!

Then came the slight interruption to proceedings with my birthday on the Thursday. I have to say, I managed to milk it for all it’s worth for over a week – huge thanks to all who came and did anything with me to celebrate, it was all brilliant fun and I loved it.

Run 46 – I was worryingly excited about the 10 mile run on the Friday. The training schedule said 10 miles but being competitive and always wanting to push it a bit, I decided I wanted to run 10.5 miles just so I would go further than I had before. It was a really good pace, and I managed to drink water at a much steadier rate. I also tried to have an energy gel after an hour, which I started on the second hour and took a full 27 minutes to consume. It was a bit gross, eating a very sickly frube, but appeared to do the trick. I was able to push myself more than before, particularly getting up hills. Energy gel along with cross training (and talking to myself) paid off and I ran it in 2 hours 1 min 14 secs – at an average pace of 11 min 32 secs which seriously surprised me. That’s about 4.5 mins off the last 10 miles I did. It’s always encouraging to see improvement like that. Let’s just hope I can keep it up.

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The delightfully sickly energy gels that kept me going 

Run 47 – Sunday I decided at the start of a new running week that I would really try and do every training session this week. So far, because of various things going on, I’ve always missed one in a week. I wouldn’t usually do a short run in the afternoon but I was so tired in the morning it didn’t quite happen (in fact I couldn’t remember why I’d set my alarm to get up early, and went back to sleep). A refreshing 3.43 miles later, and I’d woken up a bit and quite enjoyed it. Running makes me happy.

Life lesson 4: When you put your socks on, check they are sports socks not slipper socks. You will soon notice after a few minutes of running if you have put the wrong ones on. Really hot feet aren’t ideal.

Gym 5 – As I play netball on a Monday, this counts as a cross training session. I knew I wouldn’t be playing that evening, so decided to try going on the bike for a longer time instead. I usually hate cycling and haven’t been on a bike in years. Using it in the gym was okay and I quite liked it. Being a bit of a geek I like having all the data on the screen so I know exactly what I’m doing. 18 mins 20 secs and 3.79 miles later I felt good. I could have pushed the resistance up a bit – that’s the challenge next time.

Run 48 – Intervals: It was haaaard work. By the time I’d run down to the park I didn’t have any energy to run back let alone try and run back and forth at high speed. I did it purely because I decided that with the effort it had taken to get out of bed, and that it was so cold I had long sleeves and gloves on, I might as well do it and get it over with. That said, I probably didn’t do it for as long as I should have done, but at least there was something done. I’m happy knowing I’ve done something rather than nothing.

Wowzers. That was epic. If you’re still reading this you deserve a gold star. Well done. Now go and have another cuppa (assuming you’ve had a few to get you through to the end) as a well earned reward. As for me, it’s back to the hills and headphones as the training continues.

Life lesson 5: Get a drink and biscuit ready before reading any of my blog posts. They’re usually long and require nourishment to keep going to the end – and if they aren’t long it’ll be a nice surprise for you.