home      my running story      races from the beginning      talk to me       product reviews      

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Getting Changed in Car Parks and NOT Going to Running Club

Managed to actually schedule things so I could make it to running club. It’s like waiting for the alignment of the stars or something trying to get everything arranged to get to club. I used to be able to get there regularly but due to the time work finishes now it isn’t possible to get there any more unless there are unusual circumstances.

I used to train on Tuesday evenings for about an hour with a group of 2 or 3 other girls who were doing their triathlon training, but it fitted in fairly well with my running training. We used to have a chat and a catch up as we were doing it and I missed that when I couldn’t go. We’d never bothered to switch telephone numbers, just used to be there at the ssame time on Tuesday evenings ready to train.

So ... yesterday it was raining. And not just a litle drizzle, but a proper deluge. The gutters were overflowing and the grass was sodden. It stopped  as I left work and although I can’t say the sun actually came out,the day brightened a little around the drizzle.

In case you don't know what mud looks like

I finished work and had a coffee in a pub while waiting for the training time and then did my usual „Let’s Get Changed Surreptitiously in a Car Park“. It’s really not as easy as it sounds. Firstly, car parks are designed so there aren’t tucked-away spaces and quiet corners otherwise there would be all sorts going on. Like people getting changed in their cars.

Secondly, trying to get yourself out of your normal bra and into a sports bra with 2 SEPARATE clasps without doing a Kate Middleton is virtually impossible.

And third, someone ALWAYS walks past the car at the critical point when you’re trying to get your arms out of your work shirt. You have to sit in the car looking innocent and armless (see what I did there) until the passerby passes by. Possibly it’s always the same person and they’re sitting in a nearby tree with binoculars waiting for that critical moment, but I don’t think my boobs would be worth the wait.

Plus I always forget to turn my sports gear the right way round so I’m sitting there with no trousers on, trying to turn my running shorts the right way round as fast as possible. I ALWAYS think „Shit! Why don’t I do this bit FIRST?“ And I ALWAYS forget.

Couldn’t get changed in the pub loos as I think they were likely designed by an anti-obesity campaigner as it’s difficult for ME to navigate the loo roll holder and get the door shut and I’m little. I don’t know how a lady with more generous proportions would manage and there’s definitely no room for getting changed. Even if you didn’t drop your socks down the loo by mistake.
I think we should be issued felt tip pens with EVERY card

Anyway, finally got to club and there was nobody there. At all. I did a mile warmup around the track, slowly. A hurdler turned up. And no-one else. I considered doing my scheduled 4 x 800m, but I was getting wet. It was cold. My knee hurt.

I’d rescheduled everything to get to club. It was drizzly and getting dark and my bottom lip was DEFINITELY starting to wobble. I phoned home and had a ‚Poor Me‘ moment down the phone. Simon knows how to handle me and he said all the right things. I was told me to come home and run there. I got home and there was a bunch of roses waiting for me. I’ll have to have a tantrum every day ...

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Castles, Sherborne Gooseberries & Scrumping Apples

I was back in Dorset again this weekend. It feels wrong to be there and not go for a run. So I decided to head out despite the long runs in the previous week. The weather was a bright, crisp Autumn morning and although sunny, there was a bite to the air.

Despite my misgivings, I agreed to run with The Mr. He’s been running for YEARS and is a seasoned runner but as a rule I refuse to run with him any more as he moans, grumbles and then sulks (en-route) because I’m quicker than him.

Our last run together started with him falling face down in mud 5 minutes into it, then moaning about the puddles on the path. Then he got a stitch. Then he got a blister. Then he just wanted to go home. This was a 4 mile run.

However, this time I was impressed. He started out with a minimum of moaning (just a quick grumble because his Garmin wasn’t picking up the signal) and no complaining at all. Or falling over.

We pegged it down the side of the A30, putting our lives in our hands – and the hands of the psychotic car drivers – and skipped through the gap onto the footpath by Old St Cuthberts’s chancel and stopped to give the Garmins a chance to pick up the satellites.

We ran across the small field and hurdled a stile, adding nettle stings to our ankles. Still no moaning. Had to do a quick check to confirm he hadn’t fallen into the hedge or been left behind. Nope still there.

Under a tall stone railway bridge which echoed our footsteps on the dried mud path and into a grassy field. The grass was short and good to run on and we flew diagonally across it following the footpath and heading for a stile on the far side. There was a farmer driving a tractor wrapping the bales and the black polythene was loose and flapping in the breeze.

My knee twinged a little bit so I kept the pace steady and just enjoyed being out in the sunshine and enjoying the cool air. The next field was mowed stubble but the ground underneath was firm and nice to run on. Over another stile and into an upwards sloping field of mowed hay, dodging in between the wrapped bales and heading for the woods at the top of the field.

Through the gap in the trees and blinking in darkness for a moment until our eyes adjusted and then following a twisting, dry dirt trail path between trees. Ducking under branches and avoiding nettles and brambles and hopping over branches in the path. A perfect trail. Could hear vague muttering coming from behind but ignored it and concentrated on the trail.

We came out on a stony lane which emerged onto a paved road leading through the Digby country estate. Down an incline with the rolling grassy hills laid out in front of us like a landscape painting. Turned left onto a lane leading to a farm, passing trees on the verge laden with red apples not qute ripe enough for eating.

We dodged right before the farm, following the footpath through a field of sheep that scattered before us. A high stone wall barred our way and we moved through a high kissing gate designed to keep the deer in the park beyond. The grass was short and smooth here and it felt springy to run on but the incline was sharp and sharpened dramatically towards the crest of the hill.

The enormous hill (which looks quite mild in this pic!)
I kept moving up the hill, but gave in to the incline and wimped out and walked up it. Just as I got to the top I saw a couple of walkers coming the other way. I started running again but they called out that they had spotted us walking. Busted.

The trail went through another high kissing gate and down a shady path bordered by tall bracken and brambles. Over a stile and out onto a stony path and back into woodlands on the other side.

Simon in the background

I’ve run this trail many times but somehow I managed to miss the turning. I turned left into the woods and should have passed a barn hidden in the trees but the path I was following went straight on and bordered a field on the left and trees on the right with piles of sawdust on concrete foundations. There were several big oaks in among the younger trees and they sat squat and dark like bloated toads.

The foundations were from the Nissen huts as this was a Polish camp after the Second World War. The huts were there mainly intact, until about 10 years ago, painted black and made of corrugated iron with small windows. There was also a tall red brick building hidden among the trees, about 3 stories high with iron handholds going up the walls. My friend and I climbed the tower once when we were about 15 and sat on the top floor looking down and hidden among the trees. It has been knocked down now and there is nothing to mark where it once stood.

We passed through the woods and back out into sunlight at the top of a hill. Sherborne lay in front of us in the distance and a nice steep – down - hill directly in front of us. Bracken to either side with an occasional old, tall tree. Down the hill, my body wanting to go faster than the feet, storming past a couple of walkers eating lunch on a fallen tree and past the shooting lodge at the bottom, all boarded up with heavy pink wooden shutters.

Through another high gate and onto a long, flat track between wire fences with fields on either side. The dirt was dry and firm, but there were loose stones being kicked as we ran. Past the trees and past a metal trough that our dog used to love jumping in, and a vista opened up on the right.

A lake as blue as a periwinkle and a castle, with tall windows and green lawns all around it. Not one that a princess would live in – no turrets! But definitely one a prince or a Lord would like.

Past the castle and up onto a grassy footpath. A choice of the higher narrow path wide enough for half a foot or the lower grassy footpath wide enough for half a foot. Or one foot on each and a strange wobbling gait.  Into the trees and through the kissing gate surrounded by railings.

Simon 'enjoying' the hill

Down a steep grassy bank and yet another iron kissing gate and out of the estate by Perli. Famous – among school children - for its conker trees.

We followed the pavement all the way back to Oborne, passing – lots of Mums out with prams – and the Sherborne old castle – in ruins, a postman with a fully laden cart and a tree laden with apples leaning over the pavement.

In the joy of running I reached up and plucked an apple as I ran – saving it as my post-run victory treat.

A left off of the main road and onto the lane to Oborne. Meadows and a stream running down the left of the lane and houses on the right. A small girl cycled her bike across the road and disappeared into one of the drives. I waved at people gardening as I passed and called “Hello” but didn’t stop to chat.

Past Lower Farm where a plane crashed during the war and through the village where the stream widens and where we played Pooh Sticks as children. We used sticks – for the record.

Turned right into Stony Lane and onto the steep, broken path. It’s impossible to run this lane. I’ve tried many times but after pinwheeling my arms and spinning my legs like a Roadrunner cartoon, I’ve learned to be sensible and walk this hill. Besides, sometimes you miss things when you run. I picked up a small round stone the size of a small marble. It was a fossil cockle shell of a sort called Sherborne Gooseberries as they’re so common round here.

Made it up to the top and enjoyed the nice half mile downhill all the way back to the A30 between the high hedges and the occasional gateway giving a glimpse of the village laid out like a child’s playset with toy cars and houses on a patchwork of fields and lanes.

Another 50 metres up the A30 and home. Apple eaten. Goosberry inspected. Run finished.

Apples scrumped:                    1
Sherborne Goosberries:          1
Castles:                                    2
Falls in Mud:                            0
Blisters:                                    0
Miles:                                        6

Monday, 24 September 2012

Last Long Training Run & Cycle Route 41

The furthest and last long run of my marathon training was looming but I wasn’t sure how I was going to schedule it around weekends away involving alcohol and weddings. I wasn’t inclined to try 22 miles with a steaming hangover or even worse substituting my water bottle for one of Smirnoff to save time.

I plotted and planned but despite all my scheming, my holiday request on the day of the Quarterly Sales & Marketing was spotted as what it was and it was declined. Bugger. It was to be Death by Powerpoint after all. Rather than death by exhaustion, dehydration and lack of long run practise.

I was just about to start sulking when my manager announced I wouldn’t have to go to the 2nd part of the meeting as it wasn’t relevant to my role. I decided that this was my chance and quickly booked a half day holiday.

The meeting was actually really interesting and best of all we got fed. A nice buffet lunch with lots of spicy Indian-style food. I wolfed it all down, smug that I’d burn it all off during the afternoon run …

Got home and ready to run but a few stomach rumblings meant a quick pit stop before starting out… Got a mile down the road and was burping spices and another pit stop in the local Travelodge …

Got the legs to start moving and the bowels to stop moving but I felt a bit sluggish and heavy and didn’t enjoy running as much as I usually do. Usually, running is an escape from work, motherhood and herding cats and a chance to plug in an audiobook, have a nose through people’s windows as I run past and fart. Secure in the knowledge that the unlucky recipient is unlikely to be able to catch me to tell me off.

However, I wasn’t feeling as bouncy and enthusiastic as usual but I’d had a 20 mile run five days previously so blamed that. My knee wasn’t twingeing, there weren’t any obvious niggles, just a general – burp! – sluggishness. Ah … that was why. Another pit stop. This time in the local Sainsbury’s. Sigh. If I ran at this speed during the marathon, the chap in the diving outfit was going to overtake me.

Finally … I got going properly and could start enjoying the run. I was following cycle route 41 some of which I had run on before but without realising it was part of the same trail. The route started at Rugby train station and went up a disused railway line through the centre of town although you’d never know it was there as it was beautiful and peaceful.

There was about a mile or so on pavement next to a busy road and then the route disappeared into a quiet road and continued at the end of the road into a secluded footpath between fields. It was lovely and although I’d run in this area and driven past the footpath many times, I’d never spotted it before. It was lovely and very quiet – you could hear tractors and it passed by farms and an old collie sleeping by the gate. He lifted his head as I passed but didn’t make a sound.

The footpath continued into a quiet lane and past a field of alpacas! Lots and lots of alpacas! Nuzzle and Scratch … and Nuzzle and Scratch … and Nuzzle and Scratch …

Down a tree-lined hill and to the edge of Draycote Water and thankfully the hilly and tree lined side of the reservoir, rather than the concrete-fantastic side.

Usually Draycote Water is absolutely full of people. Cyclists zipping round and runners puffing their way around and families having a wander with lines of toddlers blocking the paths, but today there was absolutely no-one else there. Not even a solitary cyclist.

I continued the route past the far end of Draycote Water and the route went down a broken tarmac track and onto a grassy lane and then quiet lanes. It was a nice change of terrain – a proper trail run. Under a railway bridge and then over and on top of it and onto a lovely smooth sandy path which was another disused railway line. The railway bridges were still all in place and obvious. Everything was well maintained and peaceful.

I followed the path to Birdingbury and despite the gorgeousness of the route and the fact I had no time limit, was finding it hard going. The long run a few days before had taken it’s toll and I was conscious that I’d knackered my knee only a week or so previously. 

I kept the pace fairly slow and kept topping up with water and mars bar slices which kept me going. I was only just halfway at this point which made it feel even more difficult as I knew I had another run of the same distance to do. Coming out of Birdingbury, I came to a T-Junction and stopped the Garmin to consult the maps so I could see which way to go. I then forgot to restart it … for another mile and a half. What a tit.

At this point I was running through country lanes over gently rolling hills, but they just felt as though they went on … and on … and on... Finally came to the canal path entrance but across the canal like a shining beacon of beer I could see a pub. And more importantly a sign on the pub door offering ice cream for 80p. Sold!

After the achy legs and multiple poos, I felt stopping for an ice cream would be a small sacrifice to the God of long runs.

After the pub, Route 41 carried on along a canal path which was smooth and well maintained and I always like seeing the colourful barges with the bicycles strapped on and geraniums growing from the pots on the roofs of the boats. Anything to distract me on a long run. I’ll take boats with flowers on over roads and pavements any day.

I ended up going past some quiet farms and onto a very small lane. I was passed by a few cyclists absolutely flying down the hill I was labouring up as I found the highest and sharpest peak of the run. Thanks a bunch. A nice touch at the 17.5 mile point. Ouch. Cheated and walked up it. I didn’t mind the downhill on the other side though.

The lane finished at a main road and the next mile or two were the worst of the route as they ran along a busy road which had a lot of blind corners and no pavement. In a lot of places, there was not even a verge really so I had to hop on and off the bank as cars passed. Bloody cars. And bloody people driving while I had to run. In their nice comfy seats. 

The Route 41 signs directed me onto a well maintained lane that was obviously another disused railway line with the railway bridges still towering over the path. There were some good views across the fields and the soil was red like in parts of Devon. Either that or the red mist that had descended as I swore at the car drivers going too fast on the main road earlier still hadn’t cleared. 

The next part was the highlight of my run. An adorable Springer / Collie cross puppy that wobbled up to me and licked my hand like I was his favourite person ever. He was 12 weeks old and too cute not to stop for. Even in the pursuit of a 22 mile goal.

I passed a few houses on the outskirts of Leamington Spa and was directed onto a winding path going around a park called Newbold Comyn. There was an interesting looking hill in the middle of it and a Beacon on top. I considered a Lord of the Rings moment and I would have liked to have had a closer look, but I wasn’t THAT worried about adding extra mileage in at this point. Meh … call me lazy.

There were lots of runners out and about and I thought it must have been a club night in Leamington. I caught up with another runner to ask and check that I was still on the Cycle Route as all signs had evaporated at this point … just as I ran past a sign telling me I was on Cycle Route 41. Ok. Now I look like scary, sweaty Stalker Runner.

Coming into Leamington, I had to stop several times at the traffic lights for the traffic and a chap passing in his suit with his briefcase cheekily told me off for stopping my run. I beat him to death with his own briefcase. Oh no. I laughed and told him I’d just completed 21.5 miles and was happy that the lights were red for 20 seconds. See. I CAN be nice.

The route ran alongside a park which looked interesting. There were a few monuments I could see through the bars and it was faced by some Regency style buildings. I wasn’t however, that interested that I was going to stop ½ mile before my finish point. I crossed a busy road and pegged it up a hill and arrived at Leamington station at 22.25 miles and 3:29:12.

Route 41: LIAS LINE:
From - To:  Rugby, Leamington Spa (and Warwick)
Type:          Mainly traffic-free
Access:     Warwick and Leamington Spa Railway Stations
Surface:     Tarmac or fine gravel paths

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Goodbye Summer, hello Autumn ...

September is here again. Every year I feel so sad to say goodbye to summer, but I forget how gorgeous Autumn is. The air smells cold and my fingers are chilled, but it reminds me of playing marbles in the playground when I was a kid.

I started running just over 2 years ago and it was about this time of year that I did my first parkrun. It was so nice not to have to run on my own and I went nearly every week over that winter. I think maybe it is because of those cold parkruns that I associate running with the smell of frost and the feeling of cold in my fingers and puffs of breath in the air.

Parkrun was my first taste of the competitive but friendly world of running. I also learned the most important running lesson. Don’t assume.

Don’t assume the old chap is going to be slow. Don’t assume the skinny racing snake is going to be quick. And definitely don’t assume that the curvy girl isn’t quick and would hesitate to flatten you on her sprint finish.

People assumed I was quick as I was slim and dressed in a vest. Nope. Just slim and too tight to fork out for a proper warm running top. My first parkrun time was 29:31.

I was thrilled to have a 'proper' time but at the same time a little bit disappointed that it wasn’t as quick as I’d run it on the treadmill at the gym. Welcome to hills and broken paths and starting out too fast in a race, New Runner.

It gets better. I promise.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Bulls or Cows, Alpacas and Wimpy Girls

Arranged to meet up for a run with WolfRunner starting – and more importantly finishing -  at a pub. I texted her to confirm but on the last text had make a bit of an error and said „I’ll meet you at the Bull“. What I’d actually meant was „I’ll meet you at the Cow“. Not a big difference animal-wise, but about 8 miles difference run-wise. A couple of confused phone conversations and a late start by half an hour and we were out running.

It has been starting to feel more like Autumn the last few days with a bit of a chill in the air and the evenings and early mornings have been a bit more crisp. It felt like that tonight. It was beautiful but there was a bite to the air and it was definitely getting cooler.

We decided to run down the main road and cut down a country lane and across a field full of cows. It’s a lovely bumpy field, perfect for turning your ankles and covering lovely clean trainers in cow pat. Luckily we avoided doing either and we decided to run on the trail route this evening. This is a trail which goes along the side of a field and means you’re running on long grass and small hillocks. It’s a lot more fun than running on the road.

Got to the top of one of the hillocks and were confronted by some unusual looking animals. Alpacas. Or as a friend described them 'baby albino giraffes'. They were small and quite dumpy, obviously young ones and very cute. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d stumbled on Nuzzle & Scratch from Cbeebies and that they would overtake me at a sprint a few minutes later dressed as pirates and tripping over in front of me.

We went through a gate and leapt a puddle and realised we’d gone the wrong way, so we did a U-turn and got back onto the main path by the reservoir. It was definitely getting darker and we only  saw 2 other people - a cyclist who seemed to come out of nowhere and a lady dressed in running kit run walking. We called out „Good evening“ as we passed and she returned the greeting with an explanation of how she was walking because she was reading a text. You don’t need to explain to us Run-Walk-Lady ... but we did see you walking a few minutes earlier without your phone! Hope you got back before dark.

Passed the visitor’s centre and it was definitely getting dark now. Bats were flitting above us and rabbits dashing across the path in front of us were only vague blurs. I was very glad I was wearing my hi-viz jacket!

We decided to run back via the lanes rather than across the field and started discussing what alpacas sound like so we could distinguish between an alpaca and a mad axeman in the dark.

Decided against going through the cow field as didn't want to run into a cow in the dark. They're a bit solid and might not be too impressed with a runner bouncing off their arse. WolfRunner and I got onto the footpath back to Rugby which led through a tunnel. It was now so dark that the ends of the tunnel seemed to stretch out like an optical illusion. Very dark in the middle so dug out trusty phone and fired up the flashlight app. Yes, we are wimpy girls.

Got back to the lit streets and ran back to the pub and the cars. 6.75 miles over road and trails and I’m still not quite sure what an alpaca sounds like.

*Thanks to @Mick_GFX for the alpaca description!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

How Not to Follow a Marathon Training Plan

I was SO good at following my training plan for my first half-marathon this year. I downloaded the schedule to my Outlook calendar and the plan to my Garmin and scheduled them all in my iPod calendar. I faithfully followed the plan, switching rest days and runs whenever there was a schedule conflict. Such as an evening on the wine or an unexpected cold. I was positively saint-like. In a running way, of course.

As this is my first marathon, I hit problems finding a training plan. I had kept the training up from the half marathon as much as possible as it fitted around my life and the amount of desserts I wanted to eat (lots).

I found that a lot of the beginner marathon training plans started mileage at about 15 – 20 miles a week where I tend to do 35 – 40 miles a week. I didn’t like to jump to an advanced marathon plan as I’m not an advanced marathoner. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Also I prefer to run 5 or 6 times a week, but all of the plans except for the advanced ones were for 3 or 4 times a week.

A FURTHER problem was what time plan do I download? According to race time predictors I could be looking at a time anywhere between 3:19:00 (yeah right, I bloody wish) to 3:50:00 (I can dream ...) if I put the training in.  

I decided to download an intermediate one and wait for the mileage to catch me up.

The problem was by the time the mileage on the plan caught up with my current mileage, I had completely forgotten about the training plan. Bugger.

All of a sudden, there’s 6 weeks to go and I’m still merrily doing intervals using ‚Zombies, Run’ twice a week, doing a long run on a Wednesday and a Saturday and trotting around doing whatever the hell else kind of running I felt like. Shit.

Also, along the way I’ve had a bad cold and knackered my knee so had additional 2 weeks off.

I’m basically doing my normal running at the moment, but doing the long runs from the training plan whenever the intermediate plan tells me too. I’m hoping that as long as I can do the long runs I will be ok. I will be THRILLED with any time under 4 hours and definitely satisfied with a finish!

Dragonflies, Mike Myers and Apple Pie

I got the go ahead from the physio to do my long run of 20 miles this weekend. Well what he actually said was “I’d recommend 9 or 10 but since you did that last night, you should be ok with a longer distance.” However, with the strict proviso that should my knee start hurting, I should start walking. I tried explaining that it hurt less to run than walk but he fixed me with a beady eye and told me to do what the hell I was told. OK I’m paraphrasing, but that was the meaning behind it.

My pre-fuel today was a giant mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows and a slice of apple and caramel pie. I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that hot chocolate is a good runner’s drink. Maybe that’s wishful thinking …

Luckily my stomach is quite forgiving and it actually worked OK as a pre-run meal. Not sure I can recommend it with a clear conscience though.  

Decided to use Draycote Water as my route and run laps of the reservoir then veer off down a footpath if I got bored. I did 2 laps going alternate directions at marathon race pace so kept it 8min/mile - 8.30min/mile and then did half a lap at a comfortable pace and went off to find a footpath. There was one about half a lap, just before the last long straight.

Ran down the Birdingbury cycle route which was lovely and smooth – not too many cyclists either - and there were dragon flies and butterflies everywhere. Much prettier than the usual flies and they didn’t seem to have the suicidal urges the flies did – getting in my mouth and eyes all the time.

I did see a few cyclists though, including a couple who kept going the wrong way and asking me for directions. I wasn’t going fast enough to overtake them but they went the wrong way at every intersection so I must have seen them 3 or 4 times. Must have looked like a running version of Mike Myers from Halloween. Not fast, but they couldn’t get away!

There were quite a lot of people bramble picking. Mmm … I love blackberries but halfway though a long run wasn’t really an appropriate time to gather fruit and I didn’t have anywhere to carry them except my mouth.

Decided not to follow the route all the way to Birdingbury as didn’t want to run on the road so followed the trail but it petered out into a rabbit run between stinging nettles and thorny bushes which wasn’t doing wonders for my speed so I turned around.

I was alternating High 5 gels and slices of Mars Bar to see how I got on with them as a fuel for the marathon. I didn’t feel particularly tired and didn’t hit the ‘Wall’ although I ran out of water at mile 15. I struggled about ½ mile from the ‘finishing line’ but I often do at the end of a run whatever the distance when the end is in sight.

Really pleased with the long run. It might be interesting to try a negative split next time – try the last 10 miles at race pace. Sounds a little bit like hell though.

Not Doing Long Runs

I’ve read the marathon posts on a few forums and one of the main themes seems to be the long runs. Apparently the regular – and successful - marathon runners reckon you need to do a minimum of 4 runs of over 20 miles to be ready for the distance at race pace on the day.

I’ve got 5 weeks before the marathon and assuming that I’m going to have the last 2 weeks as taper weeks, I’m going to run out of time. I’ve got no problem knocking out 12 – 15 mile runs and I run this distance regularly, but I’ve only done 1 x 18 and one 29 miler (don’t ask).

I always used to scoff when people said they didn’t do their long runs and think, “Well how did they expect to do a marathon?” but now it’s my turn to look stupid. A cold a couple of weeks ago, then a bad knee this week and it’s knocked me completely off track. 

I’m pinning all my hopes on the physio tomorrow which is silly. The poor chap is a PHYSIO not a magician but I’m done so much training for this and I really don’t want to cock it all up with a last minute setback.

Well, who does?

If the worse comes to the worse and I’m not able to do the marathon, then I can defer it and look to enter another one later in the year (or hope that I made it through the London marathon ballot!) but we’ve all booked hotel rooms in Liverpool and rescheduled other things to be there. Sigh.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Night Run with Hedgehogs, Mars Bars and Snail Genocide

In my Not-Really-Following-A-Training-Plan training plan, there was a 9 mile run scheduled for last night. I’ve been getting a bit paranoid about missing runs so I thought I’d get out there and see whether the knee held up. 

I’m sure that any odd twinges I’m getting are completely normal, like a dead leg because I’ve been sitting at my desk with my legs crossed or a sore ankle because I knocked it on the doorframe this morning but I’m getting really paranoid that every little niggle spells D-O-O-M for my marathon.

So I thought bugger it. How am I going to know unless I get out there. Besides I’ve got physio tomorrow and hopefully he can wave his magic wand if I mess it up tonight and make it all better. I have a LOT of faith in my physiotherapist!

Got all ready in my running gear. Strapped my bum bag erm ... I mean running belt on, pulled up my neon pink compression socks and set off. Well, turned the Garmin on and then wandered around outside the house vaguely for 5 minutes until it picked up the satelites.

Started running. Then stopped. Because I spotted this chap. He didn’t even run away, just snuffled at me and carried on sitting on the lawn eating slugs.

And running again. It was a warm evening but even though the sky was clear and the stars were bright it was very dark. It was nice. I had a good audiobook on (preferred to music as I can still hear around the talking for other noises like mad axemen and banshees), I was setting a nice steady pace and the knee was feeling good.

Had a near miss about mile 4. I run through an industrial estate which turns into a country lane and for about ½ a mile after this there aren’t any street lights. This wouldn’t normally be a problem except for at night – like now – or when it was pitch black with no moon – like now. I was running down the hill on the pavement and could vaguely see something odd about belly button height coming towards me. Like a barely seen grey circle bobbing from side to side. I kept watching and running towards it and couldn’t quite work out what it was. It was a bit spooky, but I was more curious than anything.

Realised what it was with about 5 metres to go and leapt off the pavement! It was a cyclist coming up the hill on the pavement with no lights on. The grey circle was his front reflector which must have been picking up some light from the stars. I laughingly called out „Near miss!“ and shocked him – he hadn’t seen me either. We exchanged apologies and carried on.

Running on the new bypass on the lovely wide pavements, I became aware that it sounded as though I was running on gravel. Couldn’t quite work out why so had a closer look and realised that the pavement was absolutely covered with tiny baby snails. I felt really mean, even though the squishing was completely accidental but there was no way of avoiding them as there were so many. Maybe I should just think of it as revenge for the little buggers eating all my lettuces this year.

I wanted to experiment with different fuels so I had a couple of slices of Mars bar wrapped up in foil in my running belt. I get on fine with gels, but I wanted to try something a bit more substantial. I don’t get on with jelly babies. I can run with a pub lunch in my tummy, but I can’t really stop during the marathon for one of those. Although I wish I could.

The Mars bar slices worked fine. I didn’t feel tired at the end of my run and could have carried on a bit longer whereas usually when I’m within sight of home I feel like I need to stop whether it’s a 3 mile run or a 15 mile run. So a win for the Mars bars.

Also a win for the knee. No problems at all. A very slight tightness at one point but as that happened in both knees I think it must be something usual. Very relieved!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Bristol Half marathon and Pink Compression Gear

The pack for Bristol Half Marathon has turned up with a pretty blue race number. Decided it might be a good idea to actually give the knee a try after 5 days off and see whether the pain returned with running. It’s been fine all day, but I’ve been getting shooting pains down the other leg which makes me suspicious that the root cause might be an old back problem rather than a problem with my knee.

I’m a bit relived to be honest, as the back problem is an old one and the physio tends to be able to sort it fairly well, whereas the knee would be a new problem. Definitely what I don’t need 3 weeks before Bristol Half Marathon and 5 weeks before Liverpool Marathon!

Had a trial run this evening to test it out. A 4 mile route which runs through a housing estate with a loop at the top like a balloon on a wobbly string. My knee was fine. It had a couple of very faint twinges, but these were probably normal but heightened with oh-my-God-I’m-injured paranoia. My back was aching when I got back though and I had to stretch my calves out halfway which was unusual. It felt like a lactic acid build up (or what I assume is lactic acid) but stretching seemed to shift it.

I had my cold bath and am currently typing this in my very fetching neon pink compression socks and a thick, tight tubular bandage over my knee. Just in case.

No I’m going to post a picture. Trust me. Not my best look.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Damn You, Buffet Trolley

After the holiday last week, I’m trying to behave myself. On holiday, I ate everything I could possibly manage including a Cornish pasty EVERY day and ice cream EVERY day. Plus normal meals. Well ... takeaways mainly.

Also, I’m not running so much as I don’t want to put too much strain on the dodgy knee so I’m not burning any of it off.

As a result, I’m trying to eat clean for a while. My evening meals are back to my usual steamed fish (salmon this week as it was on offer in tesco for £5 per kg!) and a giant mountainous mound of veg, usually carrots, cauliflower, broccoli and mushrooms. And whatever else is around and is greenish (in a vegetable way, not a mouldy way). I’m having tuna and mayonnaise for breakfast and lunch. It sounds like a horrendous breakfast, but I find it fills me up and I run pretty well on it.

However, my body betrayed me earlier. I’d eaten my breakfast, eaten my lunch, wasn’t feeling particularly hungry but went downstairs to post a letter and passed the buffet trolley which had been left in the kitchen so we could help ourselves.

And before I knew it, my sneaky food-grabbing hands had grabbed 3 pieces of snack sized buffet food and had shoved it into my mouth.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Don't Overdo It!

I loved the coastal path route and I don’t think I’ve had such a satisfying and enjoyable run for ages. And that’s saying something as I LOVE my runs. However, my joints weren’t too impressed ...

The day after the coastal path run, I was limping as the pain from my knee was quite intense. Irritatingly, it still felt better when I ran but I was pretty sure that running everywhere wouldn’t do it a lot of good ...

I rarely get aches or pains after running as I do my stretches religiously after each run and have a cool bath and stick on the compression gear after long runs or particularly tough runs. Annoyingly, I hadn’t been able to have a cool bath because – due to being on holiday! – the caravan had a teeny shower but no bath and I’d completely forgotten about my compression gear before going to bed. Lesson #1. Don’t drink so much Cornish cider.

I’d bought a tight tubular bandage and put my compression gear on the day AFTER the run but it was wishful thinking. So no running for a few days then. Grrr.

I’d been using the Samsung Hope Relay application to track my runs and raise pounds for children’s charities. Samsung gave £1 for every mile I ran so it was for a good cause and I was top of the list for my team (the Fetchies!). I now had to sit and watch as my nearest rival inched his way up the board to catch me up and I had to sit still with a bandage on my knee raising no money at all … Cue sulky face.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Coastal Runs, Ice Cream and a Poorly Knee

I’d popped to the beach in Porth and while not deliberately scouting for run routes, I’d spotted the coastal path while lazing around on the beach. It seemed a shame to come to Cornwall and not take advantage of the opportunity for a bit of off-road running. Besides, there might be an opportunity for some Cornish ice cream at some point along the route …

I’d meant to start early but that didn't happen as there was an unexpected chance for a holiday lie-in. Lie-ins are few and far between for me so I pulled the duvet over my head and finally got my trainers and kit on about 10am after drinking a lot of water, a coffee and a big bowl of cornflakes. The day was going to be a hot one and I didn’t really want to have to carry water with me.

I started from the car park by the beach and ran up the hill on the pavement for about 200 metres – almost the only part of my route that was on a paved path. I crossed in front of a refreshments hut and onto a sandy path bordered by smooth rabbit-nibbled turf.

It was beautiful and the views were straight from a holiday brochure. I ran too fast for the first part but it was so much fun and knowing that I didn't have a time limit for my run made it all the better. Usually I have to fit my runs into a lunch hour at work or before everyone’s tea or bedtimes. It was bliss knowing I could run for as long  - or as short! – as I wanted to.

There was an iron-age fort on the point so I ran over the bridge and up to the top of the island and down to the end. I couldn’t help it. I stopped and looked at the views and the sea crashing around the rocks. It was beautiful.  

I followed the path up the hill past the hotels and following the line of the coast. A lot of walkers were out and all were pretty friendly and most greeted me and got out of the way when they saw a runner coming by stepping off of the path or moving to one side. In most places the path was only wide enough for one person – and at some points hardly that so it was most appreciated!

There were some gorgeous views. It was such a warm day, but clear with no mist over the hills or hiding the views. I took a few photos but not as many as I would have liked. The sea was a perfect bluey-green and with the sandy beaches and craggy cliffs, it hardly looked real.

The coastal path was really steep as the path followed the coastline and ran over the cliffs. The trail was hard going and very damaged in places. I had to watch my step and the path was often very deep and rutted. Other places the path was paved or maintained gravel. It differed very much over the double 9 miles. Even with the heat, there were still muddy patches. The hardest parts were the natural stone steps going up and down the cliff sides but there was no chance for getting bored of the path or scenery at any point. 

Coming in towards Watergate Bay the path disappeared and I had run down the main road for about 100 metres. The path wasn’t clearly marked and there wasn’t a pavement which wasn’t great as there were a fair amount of cars coming down the road on both sides. It was difficult to re-find the coastal path even though I’d checked the satellite maps previously and knew the markers to look out for (Car park on right, villas on left). I went up the road too far and had to re-trace my steps.

I found a nice beach in Trenance after about 5.5 miles and spotted an ice cream shop. It seemed silly to pass up such a good opportunity so I stopped. I decided on a scoop of the apple crumble flavoured ice cream and a scoop of the orange fudge with chocolate bits in. It was delicious and I made a mental note to return at some point for more ice cream. Had a chat to an elderly couple who were staying down here for a month from Manchester. Had to stifle my jealousy. Just think how many miles I could do in this gorgeous area if I had a month’s worth of running! 

I had to run across the sandy beach and up Bedruthan Steps to rejoin the path. It felt strange to be out in the middle of the day dashing across the beach past all of these people in swimming trunks and bikinis! I’d rather be running than lying on the beach.

My knee started playing up at about mile 6. It hurt when I walked or after I stopped for any reason but when I ran on it, it seemed to improve and didn't hurt at all. Obviously not something I could maintain indefinitely though and it became a pain when I had to let people pass on the path or go through a gate. 

Ran on and decided would make run up to 18 miles - the long run I'd had to miss because of my cold last week. I went past an estuary at Craigmorrick at mile 8.5 and decided I would turn around at the top of the opposite hill to have a nice downhill as my return run.

My knee really starting to play up and every time I had to pause – to tie my shoelaces, to take a photo or go up steps it started really throbbing and felt weak and wobbly. After about 10 steps of running, the pain eased but it was very sore when I started running or walked.

I spotted an ice cream van on top of one of the cliffs and stopped for a coke and just sat and enjoyed the view. I just couldn’t get over how gorgeous it was. I wasn’t even finished yet, but already it was one of my favourite runs ever.

I was meeting everyone else at the beach and got a call when I was about 2 miles from my finish point to say I'd passed them all at the last bay! Whoops! Would have waved if I’d known! I had meant to run back around the iron age fort but decided that I shouldn't really aggravate the knee any more than necessary so I ran straight back to the starting point and had a well deserved cold drink.

Got back and realised I hadn’t been quite as careful with the sun cream as I’d meant to be. I was burned in all places open to the sunshine today from the run. The weather had felt hot but not burning hot but it obviously was as I now looked as though I still had my running gear on. White, outlined in red! Not a good look.


Distance:                    17.35 mi
Time:                           3:21:26
Avg Pace:                  11:37 min/mi
Elevation Gain:           2,390 ft
Calories:                     1,666 C

Time:                           3:21:26
Moving Time:              3:13:50
Elapsed Time:            4:06:12
Avg Pace:                  11:37 min/mi
Avg Moving Pace:     11:10 min/mi
Best Pace:                  4:05 min/mi

Elevation Gain:           2,390 ft
Elevation Loss:           2,375 ft
Min Elevation:             6 ft
Max Elevation:            278 ft

Friday, 7 September 2012

My Trainers - Demoted to Mud Running

I bought my first pair of running trainers from a discount sports shop just under 2 years ago. Luckily, the chap advising me showed me some pink Asics 2160s and blue 2140s (rather than Converse or daps) and these were the ones I bought.  There were a blue pair and a pink pair. The blue pair were my outside running trainers and my pink ones were my gym trainers.

After an episode at the gym where I left a little pile of mud behind the treadmill thanks to a rather muddy and visited-by-cows cross country run the day before I had decided this was a neccessity. The pink ones were so pretty they had to be my indoor shoes. I’m not a girly girl, but these were pretty shoes.

The pink ones are long gone, having racked up their 500 miles or so and have gone to the great Shoe Rack in the sky. (Think Monty Python hands opening a gap in the clouds and a choir singing) However, the blue ones are still with me. They have been demoted to my mud running shoes after lots of miles and mud had dimmed their blue and white and silver colours to blues and muddy greys.

They have done Wolf Run and got me through the end to 4th female position. And they’ve gone through the washing machine. They’ve done Sole Destroyer and made it through ALL of those bloody rivers and hill repeats and got me to 4th female position. And they’ve gone through the washing machine again. They have managed Tough Mudder and got through all that barbed wire and river swimming and fire walking and got me to 3rd female position and a place in the World’s Toughest Mudder. And back through the washing machine.

Ironically, because of all the soapy Fairy goodnes and 1000rpm spin cycle, they’re actually looking pretty good. They’re certainly whiter than all of the other trainers I’m currently running in and there aren’t any visible rips or damage to the uppers. I’m sure any running store clerk or Asics representative would look at them and shudder ... especially after 3 trips throughthe washing machine, but to me these are the hardcore, butt kicking, over muscled Schwarzeneggers of the trainer world. I like pretty trainers, but these bad boys have EARNED their place on my shoe rack.