Strathearn Marathon 2018

Even when I was adamant that 2018 was going to be all about Manchester marathon and I was only going to be running “one” marathon this year, I still planned to do Strathearn, as I just love it so much. The logistics are simple- you can drive down and back on one day, the course is tough but scenic, but the thing that really sells it are all the volunteers involved in this race. Every single person you pass, from the guy directing you into the carpark, to the people on registration, to the marshals out on course and at the finish line, are the most friendly, enthusiastic people you could ever hope to find.

I was also keen to continue my streak and run this for the fifth time in a row. It’s only been run on seven occasions, though I’m not sure how many people have run them all. What I did decide to end though was my streak of early morning starts. Due to my liking for being in good time for everything (some might say ludicrously early), it’s always a painful early start. Last year as I drove past multiple hotels and B&Bs en route to the start, I promised myself that this year I would book a hotel.

I duly found a reasonably priced wee hotel in Comrie, just five minutes from the start. Stu was working on the Saturday so we didn’t leave Aberdeen until nearly 5, but we made good time and arrived around 7pm just in time for our dinner reservation. The hotel was busy, and I was worried our room would be noisy, but it was in a nice secluded little cottage out the back so it was fine. There had clearly been a crazy downpour shortly before, but it was still sticky and warm.

The woman who checked us in was lovely and super chatty, it was a small and friendly place. Even through our dinner she was chatting away, though I wasn’t so delighted to hear that it had been the hottest week she had ever experienced in the area and temperatures had reached 30 degrees! The forecast for the Sunday was warm but not that warm, with the possibility of some showers earlier on. I wasn’t going to be aiming for any kind of time (though it would have been nice to get under 5 hours, or under the 4:58 to stop my run of getting slower every time I run this race!), so I was just hoping that the weather was going to be pleasant enough that I could try to enjoy the day out.

After dinner we had a little walk to help dinner go down, then headed to our room to watch a movie before getting an early night. I didn’t sleep particularly well, but I got a few good hours, and I was very relieved as 5am came and went and it wasn’t yet time to get up! It was nice to have a later start, take my time with breakfast, and head over to the start for just after 8am for a 9am start, so in good time to get registered and have multiple loo visits, but not too long to hang about.

Many of the usual suspects were there, and it was great to catch up with everybody. I had originally asked Kate for company during the race, but that was before I also did Edinburgh and I knew I was going to be far too slow for her, so I told her to go and do her own thing (she also had to finish in time to get her lift back!), and I’m glad I did as she went on to run an absolutely cracking time. Lyndsey, who I had the pleasure of running much of the race with a few years ago, was also there and I thought that we may end up running together.IMG_4479

Personalised bottle dropped off, chip and number attached, and portaloo visited around 500 times, it was time to head to the start line. I’m sure there was a briefing of some kind, but I didn’t hear it, and in the midst of chatting suddenly we were off! I was next to Callum and keen to have a chat with him I ended up running the first mile way too fast, but at least it was flat! As we turned out of the camp and on to the main road, Alan and Lyndsey caught up to me and we chatted a little, then Alan pulled on ahead. Lyndsey was chatting to a couple of people who were nervous about the cut off and I started to pull away a little as we headed up the first hill. I meant to hold back and run with her but somehow I didn’t and though I kept hoping she would catch me up, she never quite did- I should have just stuck with her at the beginning!

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Callum making me run too fast

 

The first few miles were as tough as ever, and it was already warm, so I was pouring with sweat. I just ran where I could and walked where I needed to- hoping that maybe if I really took in steady in the first half I could aim for a faster second half. As ever every marshal we passed was super enthusiastic and friendly, and the pipers on the hills were a lovely touch.

As we reached the top of the hill around five miles, it was bizarre to see the piles of hailstones at the side of the road. It was nearing twenty degrees, but the leftovers from the crazy storm the night before were still evident! I tried to remark on this to the woman running next to me, as we had been leapfrogging for the last couple of miles, but she had headphones in and obviously had them up loud (this was also evident as I then saw her getting in the way of cars that she didn’t seem to register were there). I was irrationally annoyed by this and it became my mission to try to stay ahead of her!

The downhill section seemed to take forever to arrive and even when it did, I couldn’t pick up much speed. I was fairly isolated with nobody anywhere near me (apart from my new nemesis still fairly close on my tail!). I started to wonder why I love this race so much- it was feeling like a real slog.

After a couple of miles downhill, the route levels out before the next mean uphill. As I do every year I made the hilarious joke that I would rather turn right than left, but they still made me turn left up the hill as they do every year. One of the marshals said something about the hill not being that bad, but I knew what was coming!

As I plodded on up I heard a panting behind me and there was Stu on his bike, having left just before the runners and already completed one circuit of the race route. It was nice to see him and he cycled alongside me for a good few minutes before going on ahead and telling me he would see me again.

Once that killer hill is out of the way, it’s not long until halfway. It’s also a bit more shaded along that part of the route, and the wee breeze was very pleasant. I just really didn’t have anything in my legs- or, if I’m honest, my mind! I was walking more than I should have, but now I just wanted to keep making forward progress. I went through halfway in around 2:30, so knew that 5 hours would be a stretch, although the second half is definitely easier.

Stuart appeared again, and it was really nice to have his support. He popped up fairly regularly through the second half, and it really did make a difference. As we turned on to the main road around 18 miles, the marshal at the bottom called out, “well done, all downhill from here!” I replied that he was a liar, as I know full well there’s another mean up around 19 miles. I was still in decent spirits though, as Stu captured.IMG_4610

Run, walk, run, walk, one mile at a time… god it’s warm now! Glad I put suncream on, and glad I had my vest with water and Lucozade. At 21 miles I passed a guy who was fully walking and obviously in some discomfort- he said his hips had gone. I was able to promise him that there were no more big hills, but he did say that he would be getting in the first aid car if it passed. I don’t know if he finished- having managed 21 miles, I hope he did!

My headphone nemesis had been right behind me until now, but now I did put a bit of distance between us. It was good to have a reason to keep pushing though, as any kind of decent time was long gone. Around 22 miles somebody came into view up ahead, and I seemed to be gaining on her, so that was also a motivation. Finally it was just a parkrun to go, and I knew we would soon be back into the town and into that last mile and a half. I caught up to the lady ahead, and we told each other well done.

As I turned into the last mile and the long straight (slightly uphill!) road to the finish, I could see a couple more people ahead. I was also looking like I could dip under 5:15, but it was going to be tight, so I had a reason to keep pushing. Just as we reached mile 26, I passed the guy ahead of me- he was wearing a full kilt, which I did not envy! “Alzheimer’s all the way!” which was a lovely boost- I was proud to be wearing my vest, and I’m proud of the money I’ve raised for such a great cause.

Finally, the last corner was appearing and then I was turning towards the finish. They announced my name and I crossed the line with a big grin, tired but satisfied. I grabbed some water and my medal and fell gratefully into a chair. Another one in the bag!IMG_4609

Once I had recovered a little, I went and found the Strathearn squirrel, as I had taken my four previous medals and wanted the photo op. Sadly the medals aren’t that clear in the photo but it’s a good one nonetheless.

I rave about this race every year, even though I question why after those first few miles uphill. It’s just so well organised, so friendly, and good value. I intend to return again and continue my streak- although hopefully next year will be the year I finally stop getting slower!

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Edinburgh Marathon- Laying the Manchester Demons to Rest

As has been well documented in this blog, I sacrificed a lot for Manchester marathon, and it didn’t quite go to plan. My commitment this year had been to focus purely on Manchester with no other marathons, other than my annual jaunt to Strathearn. When Manchester didn’t work out, I ended up in a pretty dark place, and fell totally out of love with running.

So naturally, my reaction to this was to sign up fairly last minute to Edinburgh marathon. I decided to run for Alzheimer’s Scotland, in memory of my Granny, and hoped that running for a cause dear to my heart and without all the pressure I put myself under for Manchester would help lay my demons to rest.

My recovery from Manchester wasn’t too bad. The first few days were horrendous; both of my big toes were excruciating, and I could barely walk. One of them was infected and once I got antibiotics and they kicked in, it got much better. At A&E they gave me some steri-strips to help tape the nails in place, and numerous soaks in hot salty water offered immense relief. By the Thursday I was able to walk with discomfort rather than pain and set out to cover 5k, as I was starting to go stir crazy. I managed this, and on the Friday I also managed to walk over 3 miles (though I was a bit high on painkillers by that point!) and so felt confident to give parkrun a try on the Saturday, knowing that I could at least walk it if it was too painful to run.

The parkrun went well, and I managed progressive splits of 9:45, 8:43, 8:27 as the pain eased off. I was then able to start running regularly again, and actually ended up run/walking 20 miles two weeks after Manchester; I’m arranging a walk for work along the Speyside Way, and the 10-mile route needed to be recced. And then I had to get back to the car! I just took my time, walking as much as I needed to and enjoying the glorious day. It was pain free and reminded me of why I do this running thing- it was a wonderful day out.

Since then I’ve also managed a 25:01 at parkrun (damn you, second!), and a slightly disappointing (though not that surprising as I had just returned for a very indulgent holiday week of eating and drinking copious amounts) 25:26 at Dunecht Dash. I had also entered Baker Hughes, and all I wanted to do was hate it less than last year, where I had such a disaster! Mission accomplished, I ran hard but steady, and managed a 54:44 (a good 4 minutes quicker than last year) and managed to smile most of the way round (except that last bloody hill).

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2017 vs 2018 Baker Hughes

 

 

My diet is unfortunately out of control and I have put on a huge chunk of the weight I lost before Manchester. But to be honest, it’s been worth it- I’ve been enjoying it! Time to try to get back on track now though, as I’m starting to feel pretty horrible in myself.

And so, we come to Edinburgh. Given the weight gain, lack of proper training, and the forecast high temperatures, I certainly wasn’t aiming for any kind of time. I just wanted to get round, enjoy the atmosphere, and raise some money for a good cause. Stu was working on the Saturday, so after attending the Grampian Pride march (which was amazing- Aberdeen did itself proud!) I headed down on the train to Edinburgh by myself. I had a wee wander in the afternoon and picked up some food for breakfast, then headed to Prezzo for some carb loading.

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Grampian Pride

 

It was unsurprisingly heaving, and I was glad I had booked a table- it always amuses me when groups of runners turn up to an Italian restaurant, knowing what’s on the weekend, and are surprised not to get a table. Unfortunately this meant the service was a bit haphazard, but I got my food eventually. I had ordered a carafe of wine, and when the waitress threw my main course at me and then chucked some parmesan over it, she also managed to spill a load of parmesan in the wine. I asked another waitress to replace the wine, and although there had only been about a quarter left, she brought me out a whole new one! I had a very painful dilemma where I wanted the wine but knew that I would regret it in the morning. I had a wee bit more but managed to leave a fair bit behind. What a waste!

The race didn’t start until 10 and I was only a mile or so from the start, so I actually had a pretty decent long lie. I had a relaxed breakfast in my room, before getting myself together- it felt very surreal and I couldn’t quite convince myself I was off to run a marathon. I had checked my weather app and it said 14 degrees and sunny, so I was surprised (but also relieved) to step out into a cool, misty morning. Though I could have done with another layer at that point!

 

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Classy breakfast- Cheerios in a coffee mug

 

I walked up to the start, merging with the crowds of runners heading in the same direction, and walking irritatingly slowly. I arrived and couldn’t work out where I was supposed to go, as only the first few pens were sign-posted. A quick check of the map online and I worked out where to go, and managed to find Maz and her Jog Scotland girls, looking nervous but excited (about the alcohol at the end, if not the running!). I needed a pee by then but the loo queues were all pretty long. I had time, so I headed down the steps into the university building and joined a queue. Just then a member of the university staff came up to me, and said “how many are you?” There were three of us stood together, so he snuck us all through a hidden locked door at the back, and led me to my own private toilet with no queue. I could have hugged him!

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The Fabulous Ladies in Orange

 

I then joined the girls again, it was great to have company and some chat. But soon enough it was time for us to join our respective pens, and I headed off on my own into the black pen. It was still cool, and I was so relieved that it looked like we would have some respite from the heat at least for the first few hours. 9am came and went, and we slowly started moving to the start. It took nearly 20 minutes to get over the line, and in that time I got talking to a nervous first timer. I never admit to how many marathons I’ve done in these situations, so I answered the inevitable question with “a few”.

And then, we were crossing the start line and the race had begun! The crowd support was awesome, and I was running with a big grin in my face. I took it really steady, it was so nice not to have to stress about pace. I haven’t done Edinburgh before so I don’t know how it differed from the old route, but I really enjoyed the first few miles through Edinburgh. At the first out and back around the bottom of Arthur’s seat I saw Maz and the girls which was great, and I remarked to another runner alongside me that at least we weren’t going up!

I was running consistently between 10:30-11:00 minute miles. I could tell that my legs weren’t going to be able to keep it up, but I was happy to slow later if needed and just kept the miles ticking by. I was hoping to run around 4:45-5:00 (just as something to aim for) and I was looking good for that.

Support came and went as some points were quieter than others, but the crowds that were there were awesome. I was high fiving little kids and waving to old ladies wrapped up in blankets sitting in their wheelchairs, and grinning at the signs at the road side “Run like Ryan Gosling is at the finish” (spoiler- he wasn’t!), “Remember, you paid to do this” “Run like you’re in the hunger games”. This was what I needed!

As we turned on to the coast, it was a bit breezy but nothing too bad, and it helped keep me cool. Around mile eight I passed the first Alzheimer’s cheer point- I was wearing my vest so gave them a big wave and got a massive cheer. At mile ten, I started to suffer a little, but just slowed down. This was when we turned onto the interminable out and back- which actually wasn’t as bad as expected. It was awesome to see the race leader fly past looking like he was just out for a jog; he had a huge lead!

The crowds in pockets all along here were fantastic. We passed one house which had Aqua blasting out and guys dancing and cheering, and I sang and danced along with a huge grin.

Half way was a boost as ever, and there was another Alzheimer’s cheer point. I was looking forward to seeing them again at what I worked out should be about mile 23. I didn’t know many other people running, but managed to see and shout to Jonathan. Around mile 15 I started to struggle more, and at 15.5 I stopped for my first wee walk break and to text Stu- right at that point another metro, Graham, busted me and shouted out, I wanted to reply that it was my first walk break, honestly!

My pace had now slipped from 10:30s to 11:30s, which lasted to around mile 19. Looking ahead and seeing the long stream of runners along the coast to the turn point was a bit depressing! But then finally the turn arrived, and we turned back off the road. I struggled here on the softer ground which just zapped all on my energy, but it was a boost that the turn point was well after half way and there were “only” 8 miles left. I was by now searching out for Maz and the girls, and was delighted to see them looking so strong when they were at around mile 16 and I was coming up to mile 20. I got a big sweaty hug and headed off with a grin on my face.

It was getting warm now, and I was just relieved that it hadn’t been so hot the whole time! I had my ultra-vest on so was able to sip water and Lucozade regularly which really helped. I was walking when I needed to, and from mile 20 my pace slipped to more like 12:00s. I was close to 5 hour pace and tried to keep pushing, but my feet were sore, I was hot, and as I didn’t really have anything to prove I found it hard to really push on.

Things were really starting to hurt by mile 23, and I was a bit disheartened that the Alzheimer’s cheer point had packed up by the time I got there (although I saw some of them leaving and they did give me a huge cheer).  Then a kid appeared at the side of the road handing out ice lollies. Best. Thing. Ever. I had a wee walk and devoured the icy goodness, it really was amazing. That gave me the boost I needed and I picked up the running a little more. I was still close to 5 hour pace, but it was going to be close.

With just less than 2 miles to go, I thought 5 hours was gone, so probably walked a little bit more than I needed to. With just less than a mile to go, I realised it might not be gone, so tried to push on a bit. I was measuring half a kilometre long, which started to mess with my head a little. I thought it was gone again so took a short walk with about half a mile to go. Then I told myself to man up and run to the end and tried to pick up the pace. The finish seemed to take forever to arrive. There was a corner, then another, and finally I could see the finish ahead of me. 5 hours was gone so I slowed down a little to showboat for the cameras and crossed the line in 5:00:14 with a big grin- the story of the day!

I was tight for timing to catch my train home and knew that if I stopped it would be difficult to get going again, so I grabbed my medal, water and goody box (a fab idea) and kept walking. And walking. And walking. Everybody was meandering and hobbling but I strode past, knowing that every person I passed was one less person in the bus queue ahead of me! I eventually reached the buses and hopped straight on one. Sitting down was glorious. A few minutes later it headed off, and I could see that a huge queue had formed behind me, so it was worth the effort getting there in good time!

The bus journey back was smooth, but as we got back into Edinburgh it was cold and grey again, and I didn’t have any extra layers with me! I hopped off the bus and began the mile or so walk back to my hotel (think it was about a mile and a half in the end), walking briskly both to make the train and to keep warm. My pedestrian rage was burning- if you’re meandering slower than the person that has just had to finish a marathon then walk three miles, you need to get out of my way!

I arrived back at my hotel and grabbed my bags, borrowing their toilet to change out of my shorts and throw a jumper on. I was pretty minging, and wasn’t sure what was sweat, snot or sun cream, but I had nowhere to shower! I then headed back to Waverley and arrived with 15 minutes to spare before my train. I managed to grab a seat and get myself settled, tired but satisfied after a day that did exactly what I needed it to

My mum and dad picked me up at the train station, and it was great to see them as they’ve been away for six weeks (during which time I’ve managed to keep their plants alive and only stolen one bottle of wine- a huge success!). The shower and glass of bubbles when I arrived home was absolutely heavenly.

So what’s next? Strathearn marathon is only a couple of weeks away, but after that… I don’t know. I’m currently tempted by Glen Ogle 33, but also keen on the idea of not having to do any long runs and focusing on the shorter stuff. I also need to try to get back on my bike, but the thought currently fills me with terror. I’m also pondering the possibility of adding something totally different- I do miss my spin classes. Running seems a constant struggle and I think adding something new to my routine could be a good idea- open to any suggestions!

Finally- as mentioned, I was running Edinburgh for Alzheimer’s Scotland, so if you have just a couple of quid to spare, I would really appreciate it….

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Naomi-Milne

 

 

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Manchester Marathon- Race Day is here!

Blogging about Manchester marathon isn’t going to be easy, but it needs to be done. I’ve well documented the training in the lead up to this big PB attempt, and this is the final chapter, even though it’s far from the chapter I wanted to be writing.

I’ll pick up from where the last blog left off, when I had completed my final training run on the Thursday. I had a sports massage in the evening, where it was determined that my hamstrings were extra tight and half the length they needed to be, so I really did need to keep working on my stretching in the next couple of days! Friday was a super relaxed day, spent with my feet up and loading up on carbs (some pasta, some percy pig!). I was feeling nervous but excited; I tried to harness a positive mental attitude and imagine how good it would feel when all the hard work was worth it.

We flew to Manchester late morning on the Saturday, and the journey was uneventful. The airport lounge and plane were half full of fellow runners, and we all chatted excitedly about the task ahead of us. Most people have had great training blocks and were certainly feeling the pressure. After a ridiculously long wait for baggage at the other end (nearly as long as we were on the plane!) we headed to our hotel and were able to check in straightaway. We immediately headed out for the last little leg loosener- plan had 2 miles but I was aiming for 15-20 minutes. We headed over to the start, a useful recce, then back to the hotel. My knee twinged, I felt a stitch, it felt super hot- standard pre-marathon run then! Apart from the imaginary taper niggles, my legs felt reasonable. Through no planning the pace actually came out bang on marathon pace- just do that 16 times over and I would have a 4:15 marathon- easy!

We then had a lazy afternoon watching the Commonwealth games and eating some lunch, before heading to meet my parents at the nearby Bella Italia.  They had brought down a cake for me that was left over from Easter (when I was still on the diet wagon!) but he didn’t quite survive the journey- they send me a picture of the cake saying, “we’re hoping you’re not going to look like this tomorrow” (spoiler- I pretty much did!). Plenty of carbs later I headed to bed hoping for a decent night’s sleep. I didn’t sleep particularly well, but I knew that I had had plenty of rest in the couple of days before so wasn’t too worried.

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I woke feeling rested and nervous. I had a relaxed start to the day, having my breakfast in bed and chatting to Stu. It was nice being so close to the race start and not having to worry about bag drop, so being able to leave it quite late before we left. I said to Stu, “what I fail?” and he said, “then we try again”. I just responded, “I can’t put myself through this again”.

We left the hotel just after 8 and headed towards the start. We stopped to visit the first portaloos we came across, which I then realised were actually in my start area. Manchester is unlike any other marathon I’ve done before, where the start is very non-descript and the “pens” don’t really exist, there’s just flags every so often saying “start area E”- handy if you want to move further a pen! After one last nervous pee, we caught up with a few friends who were running, and then I spied the 4:15 pacer. I headed over to him, intending to stick to him like glue. Another guy who was planning to start with him then started chatting to me, and unfortunately did not stop. Stu eventually had to butt in and say goodbye as he needed to head to the start, but it was a shame I didn’t get a few minutes to get myself together and a last pep talk from him!

There was suddenly a lot of noise and to my surprise I realised it was 9am and the race had started. We started to slowly meander as a huge group towards the start line. At this point you had to be quite aggressive and elbows out to keep with the pacer, and we hadn’t even started yet. I made the decision not to try, but to let him get slightly ahead and then just keep him in my sights and hopefully catch him towards the end. I managed to catch Stu’s eye and gave him a big grin and thumbs up. I was excited now, legs felt ready to go, it was time for all the hard work and sacrifice to come to fruition.

 

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Where’s wally?

 

And that was it, we were off! The crowds thinned out quite quickly once we got going. The conditions were perfect, cool and dry with no wind. The pacer was a wee bit ahead and I just tried to settle into my pace. I had made the decision to wear my Ultimate Direction race vest. I needed to carry my shot blocks and phone anyway, and I find my vest more comfortable than anything round my waist or in my pockets, plus it meant I could carry water and Lucozade. Unfortunately, despite having worn it for hundreds of miles without any bother, for some reason it was bouncing around a lot. It was annoying and quite painful where it was bouncing off my collarbone. I tried to think if there was anything I could do- I didn’t want to ditch it, as I needed everything I was carrying in it, but if it was annoying me now, how bad would it be after 26 miles?!

Apart from that the first few miles passed fairly uneventfully. At around 2 miles we passed the pub where we had plans to meet later- it was so nearly time for bubbles! Stu had said we might be around 3 miles but I couldn’t see him, but it was a distraction at least to look for him! The crowds were awesome and I gave a huge grin every time somebody cheered my name.

Mile 6 was the first point my parents had planned to see me, and sure enough, there they were, with Stu alongside. It was a great boost to see them, but as Stu broke away from them to run along side me, and asked how I was doing, I found myself shaking my head and voicing what I had been trying not to admit to myself for the last hour “It’s not as easy as it should be”. I was- just- hitting pace, but instead of it feeling easy and like I was holding myself back as it should so early on, it was a lot more effort than it should have been. Nothing was particularly hurting or bothering me, I just didn’t have it in my legs.

Stu ran with me for half a mile or so, then headed back to find my parents. “It’s just a tough patch” he said. I really hoped so, but it was a desperate hope. The atmosphere was great, the conditions were perfect, the route was flat if a bit windy in some places, but I was not having fun.

It wasn’t until mile 10 that I had my first mile where I was really off pace at just over a 10 minute mile, but I knew it had been too difficult to sustain pace until then and felt I could only slow further. It was good fun to see the faster runners coming the other way, and a nice distraction to look out for familiar faces, but my pace dropped significantly as soon as I stopped thinking about it, and I had to really force myself to try to keep the legs ticking over.

I was by now looking forward to seeing my family again; they were planning to be around mile 12. And there they were, my mum screaming “you’ve got this special girl”. I gave them a grin and thumbs up, but as soon as I was past I choked up, because I knew I didn’t have this, and I felt like I was letting everybody down. We looped through Altricham here and I remembered that it was around here in 2016 where Ben 401 had passed me, I was approaching halfway on PB pace, and feeling so great. Not so this year.

I saw mum, dad and Stu again less than a mile later on the other side of the road, and again although it was great to see them it was also hard. That was the last I would see of mum and dad until the end, but at least by now I was nearly halfway.

I passed halfway just over 2:10- not only was I already off-pace, but I would have to pretty much maintain the same pace to even get a PB, never mind the 4:15 I had hoped for. Thankfully my vest had by now stopped bouncing, and there wasn’t anything specific bothering me, but I just couldn’t maintain any sort of pace. I hadn’t walked yet though, and I had no intentions to start. Maybe if I could maintain a run I could at least come in under 4:30.

I was by now the “faster runner” on the other side of the road, although there were not so many people coming the other way- I tried to encourage those that were, as they still had such a long way in front of them. The crowds all along the way were awesome, it was obvious that I looked pretty bad as I was getting more support than most! I was taking a shot block every 2-3 miles and sipping regularly on Lucozade and water- it was really great being able to avoid the water stations and just drink to feel.

At mile 16 there was a tunnel of supporters and it was just great, I tried to smile and enjoy the atmosphere though I still felt like my heart was breaking. A guy was standing at the side with “10 miles until beer”- he reappeared a couple of miles later and had stuck an “8” over the 10, which made us all smile!

It was now counting down until 20 miles, where it would be just a 10k to go. Miles 18-23 are probably the worst in terms of less crowd support, but there were still pockets of people, and a few people out with hoses- I remarked with incredulity to the woman next to that a week ago it was snowing, and now it was warm enough that people were out with hoses! There were so many people with jelly beans, sweets, cookies, and even one guy taunting people with beer! Sometime around here there was a young lad crying and saying to his running partner he was letting people down. I chatted briefly to them, telling him this was the tough bit and it would all be worth it at the end, and that by even standing on the start line he was letting nobody down. That snapped me out of my self-pity but only for half a mile or so!

Although slow, I was still running. I haven’t managed to run the whole way in many of my marathons, so at least that was something. 4:30 was slipping away, but not by much. Stu had said he would get to the end then come back to meet me, so from around mile 22 I was looking out for him. My feet, especially my left foot, were really starting to hurt now, and my legs were heavy and tired, but actually it wasn’t really getting significantly worse.

And then at mile 23 there he was, my own personal race angel. We didn’t talk much, but he ran just ahead of me and I just focused on his legs and keeping my legs moving forwards. My feet were killing me and I said so to Stu- he said he would carry me everywhere later! People were cheering my name, and there was less than a parkrun to go. I was now targeting under 4:40, and just to keep running without a walk break.

Just after mile 25 there was a slope, as Stu said “last hill!” I said “who the fuck put this here?!” and then we were turning into the long finish straight and I could see the finish. Unfortunately, it was still nearly a kilometre away and by god it took forever to come- it really did seem like a mirage that would never appear. Eventually I hit mile 26, Stu peeled off to the side, my parents were screaming for me, and finally, finally, I crossed the finish line, just ducking under 4:35.

I wobbled along, my legs seizing a little, trying to work out where to go. It was a long walk until we finally received water, and then our goody bag with t-shirt and medal (no small t-shirts left). I saw a few friends and just shook my head. It took forever to get through the “athlete’s village”, and when I finally reached the exit it was difficult to squeeze out as everybody crowded round- it was the same in 2016 and I wish they would sort that out!

 

IMG_4026

Not my impressed face

 

Finally though I was through and free and making my way through the crowds to mum and dad. I fell into mum’s arms and sobbed- “I’ve let everybody down”. Of course she told me to wise up! We found our way over to a pavement where I sat down and she handed me my prosecco, but after looking forward to it for so long, I didn’t even want it- it didn’t feel like I had earned it. Stu then found us and I hugged him and cried some more, then did eventually force myself to drink some prosecco!

I then decided to take my sock off to see why my foot was so sore, and promptly wished I hadn’t. My entire toe-nail was vivid purple, with a huge blood blister underneath. I have never experienced anything like it before! I also had really bad chaffing on my chest where my vest had been bouncing. While neither of these things ultimately affected my time, they didn’t help make the experience any more enjoyable.

Two days later and the toe is still agony (the right one is also sore though not as bad), and I have a lovely giant blister on my chest. I am still gutted, and just can’t believe that I missed my goal by so much after working so hard. It’s not like I was unwell or injured, or the conditions on the day weren’t favourable- everything was in place for a great race. I just didn’t have it on the day.

I’m not sure what comes next. I will be having a few enforced days of rest anyway, as walking is currently still very painful. Then I need to try to find the love for running again. I really feel like I am just not a natural runner- I was quicker five years ago than I am now, I only seem to get worse with time. I tried something different, attempting to train smarter, and it still didn’t work. Perhaps it’s time to find a new challenge, but I don’t know what. But it’s hard to see a way forward to keep doing something that I am patently not good at; how enjoyable can it ever be to fail so consistently?

 

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Manchester Marathon- Training Weeks Nine to Twelve

WEEK NINE- In which I start to break

I am feeling pretty fed up this week. I’m exhausted, I don’t feel like I’m improving any. I’m loyally and diligently following the plan pretty much to the letter and I don’t feel like I am seeing any improvements. I’m being so careful with my diet and I haven’t had a drink in over 2 weeks (I know that’s not a long time but it is an achievement for me), and right now I feel like it’s not going to be worth it, and Manchester is just going to be a massive disappointment.

But enough of that…

Tuesday- Metro double tree reps, 8 x 750m (approximately). These were hard. I probably hadn’t eaten enough during the day, but I just had nothing. I forgot how depressing it was being so much slower than everybody else and it was a dark, wet, miserable, lonely night

Wednesday- recovery run. Supposed to be 6 miles but tried to squeeze it between meetings and ran out of time; 5.3 miles at 10:27 pace. Felt inordinately guilty about cutting it short.

Thursday- 3 x 2,000m with 3 minutes recovery, with 1 mile warmup and cooldown. Got caught out by the weather, was toasty warm! 10:43, 10:26, 10:18, so at least they got quicker (and were actually around the same pace as my double tree reps)

Friday- would have been a rest day by the plan but needed to do my long run (did request it to be on the Friday, coach said it would be fine to do it Friday but just watch after the reps). Supposed to be 4 miles easy, 14 miles MP, 4 miles easy. Complete and utter disaster. Just had nothing in my legs. Ended up run/walking the second half with a short walk every half mile. Texted my dad and begged him to meet me on his bike for the last couple of miles to keep me going. 22 miles, average pace 11:37. Totally miserable.

Saturday- usual routine of parkrun route followed by parkrun, was lucky enough to have company for both and the time passed pleasantly

Sunday- suppose this should have been a rest day given I didn’t take the rest day on Friday, but I ended up meeting some friends (including the lovely Maz) and having a gentle recovery run (Autumnleaves you should be proud of me, it was finally more like actual recovery pace and you’re right, I feel much better for it). This did at least remind me that running should not just be a chore and can be enjoyed.

Monday- 7 miles with 10 x 30s strides. Did this in the evening and it was so nice to run after work in daylight (albeit we just ran out of light in the last mile!). My lovely hubby came with me and I took great delight in catching him out with the strides and leaving him behind (for all of two seconds). Felt better than the previous week.

So there we have it. One more full week of training. My head is not in a good place right now, but hopefully the taper will help. Really disappointed that the long run was such a disaster after such a good week last week. I don’t want to make excuses, but obviously the 2,000s the day before didn’t help, plus I ended up with 67 miles in 7 days- I think 55-60 is around my breaking point!

WEEK TEN

So the final week of full training is done, and now the wind down begins (although I have a feeling I will still be working pretty hard for the next week or two!). I am knackered today but feeling much better than this time last week… This week was apparently a bit easier to allow me to do my long run justice, but it didn’t seem that much easier!

Tuesday- called for Metro hill reps, 12 x 80s. Didn’t fancy the metro session so just did my lunchtime hill which is a tough one. 12 x 80s seemed much harder than 10 x 90s and I didn’t seem to have much power in the legs. I did note that the metros all did 10 x 80s so don’t know if there was a typo in my plan!

Wednesday- 5 miles “really easy recovery” (I guess this was the easier bit). Average pace 10:48 so still a bit too quick, but better than I have been

Thursday- 2 sets of 1000,1200,1500 metres with 2 mins, 300metres,3 mins active recovery between sets. I did this as a pyramid of 1000, 1200, 1500, 1500, 1200, 1000 (5:23, 6:17, 7:59, 7:59, 6:28, 5:20)- it was pretty windy and this was another 6:30am session, so I was reasonably pleased with my consistency if not particularly my pace

Friday- rest day and thank goodness as the weather in Aberdeen was insane, with horrendous winds. Although forecast to be slightly better over the weekend, I was a little nervous about the forecast high winds for Saturday

Saturday- long run day. First time I haven’t done parkun in a long time and it felt very weird, but I was so nervous about the long run so just wanted to get it out the way. Did consider postponing it due to the winds but the forecast for Sunday/Monday wasn’t much better. Plan said 23 miles with 4 easy, 15 MP, 4 easy. I managed 23 miles at 10:31 average pace with the MP section at 10:13 (wind wasn’t too bad in the end). Felt pretty epic at the end and it was good timing to come home to my race number! I did deflate a little when Stu asked if that was my goal pace and I registered that of course I’m still a good 30s off that, but… what can I do. At least it was better than the week before! And I think it’s my quickest 23 miles in training, or certainly close to it.

Sunday- recovery 6. Was very glad I didn’t postpone the long run when I woke up to snow and icy winds! Struggled to face this and tried to get company, but in the end it was ok and I did some lovely snowy miles up at Hazlehead. Tried to listen to the mini AL on my shoulder and not to beat myself up over the slow pace but to slow down further- 11:39 pace.

Monday- 6 miles “as you feel”. How I felt was tired, and fed up of the cold wind! 6.3 miles (misjudged route slightly) at 10:14 pace

And so the taper begins, though I have no idea what that will look like.

Oh- one other notable thing from this week is that at on Thursday I weighed in at 135.8 pounds, first time I’ve been at my goal of 136 in a good 18 months! Delighted and hoping that will help. Still haven’t had a drink either, I’m practically salivating at the thought of the bubbles on the finish line…

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- I bloody hope this is all worth it!

WEEK ELEVEN- the taper begins and my confidence is shattered

I’m struggling today. I’m exhausted and disappointed.

Tuesday- plan called for 5 x 1500m metro reps at HMP with 3 minutes recovery. I didn’t want to do the metro reps so decided to use my mile loop at work at lunch. I ended up doing 5 x 1 mile w/2 mins recovery, as 3 mins seemed excessive. At 8:24, 8:22, 8:23, 8:20, 8:23 these were realistically quicker than HMP, but I enjoyed the session.

Wednesday- 6 miles recovery at 10:51.

Thursday- race week reps. Short warm-up then 10 x 300m w/300m recovery. The reps all came out around 7:30 pace; but then they were downhill with a bit of tail wind

Friday- plan called for 5 miles easy, and I was able to tie this in with my mum’s long run. She had 12.5 miles to do so she did 7.5 then I met her and ran the last 5 with her, which was great; nice easy recovery for me (12:13 pace) and I like to think it helped having me towards the end, as it was her longest run in a long time. Was lovely to run with her anyway.

Saturday- was supposed to be a rest day, but having missed parkrun last week I was keen to parkrun. I haven’t made it to Stonehaven parkrun for a while as it doesn’t fit so well with extra miles beforehand, so I ended up doing the run/walk pacer there. At over 14 minute miles it was nice and gentle and it was really rewarding. I was pretty knackered as I had a 4am phone-call from work after which I didn’t really get to sleep, and I got another call at 9am so had to go do some work after parkrun, which wrote off the rest of my day a little

Sunday- national road relays in Livingston. I hadn’t originally planned to do these, but it’s always a great day out and they were needing people to make up a team. I requested the long leg (5.8 miles usually, ended up being nearer 6 this year due to road works) as that’s what I’ve always done the last three years. I tend to perform better than I think I’m capable of here; the first two years I ran close to 10k PB pace, running 8:07 on a tough route in 2016 (last time I ran a PB at Manchester). Last year I was running really poorly and only managed 8:23 pace, shortly before taking nearly 6 hours to get round Stirling marathon.

Given how well I had run close to Manchester marathon in 2016, I was hoping for a strong run, and at least quicker than last year. This did not happen. My pace came out at 8:35, so a significant PW on the course, and a full 28 seconds a mile slower than when I was last in good marathon shape. I know that marathon training doesn’t always equate to short speed, but it’s not like I’ve not been doing speed work… so this was a huge knock to my confidence. I crossed the line and absolutely broke my heart, sobbing like I haven’t in a long time.

I currently feel like the last 10 weeks of hard work, sacrifice and dedication has been for nothing, and that I should just quit running- I’ve been training harder and smarter and I still suck (I’m aware this isn’t entirely rational, but it’s how I feel). I was *this* close to saying fuck it and drowning in a bottle or three of wine last night (I had Dominos and chocolate instead).

Plan calls for recovery six miles today, but I don’t know if I can face it. I’ve asked coach if a shorter run would be better than nothing, or if I should just take a day off. At least the sun is shining- maybe I’ll just go for a walk. Have a sports massage this evening which is always good.

The only glimmer of positivity from yesterday is that at least I think I do look quite slim, so the diet work has paid off, even if it hasn’t helped with the running…

WEEK TWELVE

I am feeling a bit better today than last week. I obviously worried my coach a bit when I told him how I was feeling after Livingston, I saw him last Friday and he was asking if I was feeling better, when I started feeling so tired, but I kind of thought it was a bit late to be having that discussion with just over a week to go- only thing I can do now is make sure I take this week really easy. which I will.

I did end up taking last Monday off, just went for a long (3-ish miles) walk to get some fresh air. Felt better for that.

Tuesday- 6 miles at 9:44. Technically this was a MP run although it wasn’t intended to be, just so happens it came out pretty much at 4:15 pace for a marathon. Given that I haven’t managed a single long run with any sections at this pace, I still can’t really see it happening

Wednesday- 4 miles at 10:00. Didn’t feel as easy as it should have for the pace

Thursday- 1 mile warm up and cool down, with 10 x 500m with 1 minute recovery. Legs finally starting to feel a little better.

Friday- rest day. Did a bit of walking in the afternoon to get to a mortage appointment, but only did around 10,000 steps.

Saturday- I decided to have a crack at Stonehaven parkrun in a bid to get a bit of a confidence boost. I haven’t run hard there very often so I thought I might be able to get a course PB- all I had to do was run the same pace as Livingston, for half the distance. Also thought I might be in with a shot of first lady if it was quiet. In the end I only managed 5th lady (though first in my age category) but was delighted to smash 26 seconds off my course PB (and around a minute off the last time I ran hard there with Stu pacing me) in 27:00 (it’s a tough course).

It was dubby and windy, so that was a nice confidence boost. Not so much when I realised it was only a minute a mile quicker than supposed MP, but at least Manchester won’t have that bloody hill.

Sunday- kinda hoped my legs would magically feel great again, but of course they didn’t. 8 miles at 10:27 and my lower back was quite achey, and has been bothering me a bit since.

Monday- easy 4 on the plan, but I’m taking an extra rest day. Legs feel ok but back is a bit tight and sore, it’s really time now for taking it easy so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

I swing between thinking maybe I can do this, and thinking there’s no hope. The trouble is, there’s not a lot of space between my goal (4:15) and my PB (4:23), so if I miss the target, it may not even be a PB. I know not every race can be a PB, but if I don’t even manage a PB after training so hard and making so many sacrifices (resisting all the delicious goodies at various Easter meals yesterday was tortuous!) I know it will be really hard to deal with.

Either way, in less than a week I will be drinking prosecco. I can almost taste the delicious bubbles already…

THE FINAL WEEK

And that’s it, as of this morning my training is complete, bar a short 2 mile/20 minute leg loosener after the flight on Saturday.

Tuesday- 6 miles easy with 6 x 30s strides. Ran sligthly harder than easy at 10:01 but the strides felt pretty good. Back was still a bit tight, and my neck and shoulders were super tight, could hardly turn my head

Wednesday- plan called for 3 miles as I feel. This was one more run than I would normally do in a taper, so I did it run/walk, starting off with 1 min run, 1 min walk, then moving up to 2 min run, 1 min walk (apart from up the biggest hill where I reverted to 1:1!). overall pace was just over 11 minute miles and felt great for taking it nice and easy

Thursday- 4 miles easy with 6 x 30s strides. First mile sucked as I was up early to do this before work, but the strides felt decent and pace came out at 9:56 overall

Today is also the last day of Fat Club at work, and I weighed in at 133.4. That’s a total weight loss of nearly 16 pounds and I’ve had a few comments about how slim I’m looking, which is nice. I have been carbing up this week with a bacon and hash brown roll almost every day though

I forgot to add in my last blog, that March came in at 213 miles, my second highest ever monthly mileage. Looking at the Fetch training analysis, I have done more miles than before my last PB at the marathon. It’s not just about the quantity obviously but there are some quality miles in there too.

Last night I had an indian head massage and oh my goodness what a difference. I can now turn my head and my shoulders are so much looser. It was so amazing I never wanted it to end- wish I could afford that more often! I’ve got a short sports massage this afternoon, I will ask him to focus just on my hamstring which is still a bit tight. It’s not sore and doesn’t paritcularly bother me, but I’m most aware of it going upstairs and going uphill. I have been working it all week with the spiky ball and it’s definitely better.

Rest day tomorrow (and day off work thank goodness, I need the long lie!) then flying to Manchester Saturday lunchtime.

See you on the other side I guess….

 

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Manchester Marathon- Training Weeks Five to Eight

WEEK FIVE

At first I was surprised to find I was five weeks into my training plan. Then I thought about how knackered I am and realised it’s not surprising really!

Tuesday- recovery run after hill reps. plan called for seven miles. Seven miles does not a recovery run make! I did not run this slow enough to get the benefit of the recovery because I was trying to fit it into lunch and ran the first five miles with a friend. Watch buzzed at me at the end saying I needed 3.5 days to recover. Oops! Luckily had a sports massage that night which helped to flush things out

Wednesday- 5 x 1500m with 3 minute recoveries. Did a couple of km warmup on the track checking for ice and luckily it was clear. The reps came in at 7:38, 7:46. 7:39, 7:59, 7:35. A lot slower than I’ve managed in the past, but not much slower actually than my horrible 300s the other week.

Thursday- 6 miles recovery. Was up just after 6am to do these, the first mile was horrendous but felt ok by the end.

Friday- 18 miles; 4 miles easy, 10 miles at MP, 4 miles easy. Stuck to the same route I’ve used the last couple of weeks, adding an extra (hilly!) mile at the beginning. Was lucky with another gorgeous day and not too windy, but this was a real struggle. for MP I only managed 10:09; disappointing after the previous week, but tried to remind myself it’s still an improvement. Overall pace was 10:36, ever so slightly quicker than my first 14 mile long run, so that’s a positive.

Saturday- did 3 miles before parkrun with mum, then Hazlehead parkrun, so just over 6 miles total. The long run the day before combined with the copious alcohol on Friday night made for a very painful first mile!

Sunday- rest day, but did a gentle run/walk of 3.7 miles with a friend who’s just getting back into running. It was a gorgeous afternoon and this was a true recovery session, felt pretty good afterwards.

Monday- 7 miles “as you feel”. Pace came out at 9:24 and felt pretty good (except the final quarter mile up a hill into a headwind. dying!)

Last week’s total was 50 miles plus the 3.7 run/walk, so that’s 5 weeks of 44-50 mile weeks done. weight is slowly coming down, so I hope to start feeling the benefit of that soon. And from the end of February I’m going to try to cut out alcohol which will also hopefully help.

I hope this is all worth it…

WEEK SIX

When a cut back week is still 44 miles….! Not a huge cut back in terms of volume, but a big change in intensity, and I was definitely ready for it!

Tuesday- 6-7 miles recovery run. Headed out aiming for between the two but got caught in horrible icy snow (my eyebrows froze!) so it was just the 6 in the end

Wednesday- 4 miles easy and thank goodness. Headed out thinking it couldn’t possibly be as bad as the day before, and it ended up worse! Couldn’t feel my face…

Thursday- 3 x 2000m w/3 min recoveries. Was hoping to at least manage better than the last time I did this session when it was a real struggle. I dragged myself out of bed just after 6am and headed to the track only to discover it was rather icy. Couldn’t face coming back later so just did the session. Reduced recoveries to 2:30 and just ran as hard as conditions would allow. Bit of a waste really.

Friday- rest day. Went to Dundee and got drunk in the evening

Saturday- 6 miles. really need to stop being hungover on a Saturday morning. Did just over 2 miles to warm up, then Dundee parkrun. I was vaguely aiming for a course PB (27:04). Lost a lot of time at the beginning being stuck behind folk, and then a really annoying guy with a dog who kept squeezing me out, but then stormed past everybody on the hill feeling really strong. Passed a lot of people on the two big hills and none of them came past me again. Sadly came in at 28:05. wasn’t too disappointed with this given the 27:04 was run when I was running at my strongest, until I realised I ran 27:20 in 2013 so that’s a bit depressing

Sunday- 15 miles “as I feel”. Took this opportunity to run with a friend. We were dropped off at Milton of Crathes and ran back along the railway line to Duthie park. Was a beautiful day and nice to have company. 11:10, but not sure I could have gone a whole lot quicker!

Monday- 6 easy miles at 10:47. Bit tired and heavy legged but that’s thanks to bad diet and drinking again yesterday.

Really need to get a hold of the drinking. weight is slowly coming off and I’m NEARLY back at my happy weight. Got a couple of nights out this weekend then that’s it, off the booze til the marathon.

Been beating myself up a bit this week as it keeps popping up on Timehop etc when I ran my first sub-25 6 years ago. It’s hard to accept that I’ve worked so hard in all that time and not really seen any improvement. Two people that used to run similar paces to me, and I don’t think do anything significantly different in training, just ran a 22 minute 5k and a 1:43 half this weekend. I just have to accept I’m not a natural runner, but it’s hard sometimes

WEEK SEVEN

So after a cut back week I was ready to jump into this week, refreshed and raring to go, right?

… I’m still just knackered!!

Tuesday- 7 miles “as I feel steady”. Pace came out a bit slower than the previous week’s 7 miles but not too bad at 9:51

Wednesday- 6 x 1,000m with 2 minutes active recovery. Finally, a good session! Reps came out at 5:04, 4:59, 4:58, 4:58, 4:58, 4:56. Really pleased with the pacing as well as the speed, especially as this was another early morning session.

Thursday – 6 miles recovery run. Decided to run into work which is 6.7 miles. Pace came out at 10:48; given I was taking it very easy was fairly pleased to see this is quicker than previous commutes (albeit these were in the snow!)

Friday- plan called for 4 miles easy, 12 miles MP, 4 miles easy. This was pretty much a fail. I opted for laps of the beach for the MP section which was a mistake as it was super windy. I just couldn’t get the pace up, even with the wind behind me. Overall pace 11:09, with MP at 10:55; a whole minute off the pace. Disappointing but at least I got the 20 done.

Saturday- 3 easy miles before parkrun with mum (blowing a total hoolie!), followed by a slightly quicker actual parkrun again with mum. It’s great that my recovery miles work out so I can run with her and that took me to 249 parkruns so 250 next week; excited!

Sunday- rest day. Did an easy 11 miles on the bike, first time this year. was absolutely terrified, but it went ok- just did out and back on the railway line. Got totally freezing in the second half. Honestly don’t think my hands have ever been so cold. When I got back in the flat I just sat and cried and felt sick for a while at the pain.

Monday- hill reps, 10 x 90s with jog back recovery. Different hill than usual as I did these at lunchtime. oh my goodness it was hard work!! Decent session though

Other notable aspects of training this week were the fact that I was out Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, but managed to curb the drinking enough that I was able to complete my training without adverse affects, so that seems like a small victory. I had a couple of glasses of champagne last night and that’s it- no booze til after Manchester! Let’s see how that goes…

WEEK EIGHT

Well, the best from the east did its best to destroy this week’s training, and in some ways it was successful, but in other ways definitely not! This week’s plan was originally based around tapering for Smokies 10 miler, to give me a shot at a good time. This would have been interesting as the last time I managed a PB at Manchester marathon, I also PB’d at Smokies a few weeks before…

Tuesday- 7.7 miles early doors at 10:38 pace. this was a bit slippy as the snow was starting to fall. I’m still not good at getting up in the mornings, but I can do it when I need to; I had to on this occasion as I had a sports massage after work. I have had a tight piriformis and the massage was agony but definitely helped loosen things off

Wednesday- Recovery 5 at 10:58. Weather was a bit miserable but I’ve run in worse!

Thursday- plan called for 8 x 300m with jog recovery. Couldn’t get to the track due to weather so did 8 x 90s instead, in quite thick snow and a howling wind. Pace wasn’t there given the conditions, but it was just to get the legs moving after all.

On Thursday, Smokies was cancelled, which obviously screwed up my best laid plans slightly. No point losing a week’s training to taper for a race that wasn’t happening! but was I even going to get good training in given the weather?

Friday- I opted for the double run commute, in case the weather deteriorated further and I didn’t get many miles in at the weekend. This gave me 6.7 miles in the morning and the afternoon (11:18, 11:11 respectively). It was hard going in the slippy snow but I didn’t feel as tired in the afternoon run as I sometimes do.

Saturday- my 250th parkrun Did the route beforehand and then ran parkrun, giving me 6.2 miles total for the day. proceeded to eat lots of cake.

Sunday- we ended up driving up to Thurso on Saturday evening for Stu’s granddad’s funeral. Although this was obviously tough, it was actually great for my marathon training, as the roads up there were much clearer. I managed a fantastic 21 miles, at an average pace of 10:30, and with a final mile at 9:30 pace. Felt fit and strong and like I could go further. If only all long runs could be like that!

Monday- after spending around 9 hours in the car and getting through the funeral, we got home after 8pm and I couldn’t face a run, so I took an unplanned rest day. After a 64 mile week, the timing was fine for that.

So although the week didn’t turn out as planned, it was actually a cracking week of training. Two more long runs and then it’s taper time. I only hope at least one of them goes as well as Sunday did…

 

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Manchester Marathon- Training Weeks One to Four

WEEK ONE

I have decided to keep a brief log of my marathon training; this is the first time in a long time I’ve actually properly followed a training plan so am excited to see how it goes. Metro coach is giving me a training plan, though I only seem to be getting it a week at a time (which I guess makes sense but I find quite tricky not knowing what’s to come). Anyway; week one is done and went as below…

Monday- didn’t get my training plan by lunchtime so decided to wait til the evening. By the evening couldn’t face running and cold is still lingering a little, so marathon training started rather inauspiciously with an unplanned second rest day in a row

Tuesday- plan called for 6 miles steady. I got a bit over-excited and average pace was 9mm. Felt decent though.

Wednesday- 3 x 2,000m with 3(ish) mins recovery at 10:32, 10:27, 10:23. Really tough session. Neither body nor mind was in it and pace was poor.

Thursday- five easy miles before flight to London

Friday- “rest” day, walked about 10 miles round London!

Saturday- parkrun (26:12 but it measured about 0.05/30 seconds short) with a 2 Mile warmup and 2 Mile cooldown (more than I would usually do)

Sunday- 5 easy miles with Stu, so tired and full of food and booze

Monday- the long run which was originally planned for Sunday, 14.3 miles at 10:37. Hilly route and felt quite tired but ok

So there we go- week one done, and all sessions completed, one way or the other!

WEEK TWO

Another week of marathon training done, with Sunday marking 11 weeks until race day. Surprisingly I am not suddenly magically faster after 2 weeks of training, but I am pretty knackered!!

Tuesday- Plan called for 10 x 75 second Hills with a jog back recovery 1 mile warm up and 1 mile cool down. I was on a course all day and out in the evening so I was up at 6:30am to do these. I must admit I felt pretty epic afterwards. They weren’t fast but I felt strong and kept the pace going through all 10.

Wednesday- 5 miles recovery run. This was hard work and my back was all seized up, but it eased off towards the end and I felt better for doing it.

Thursday- 16 x 300m with 100m recovery. Did a one mile warm up and a few token strides. Averaged around 8mm for the reps, again maintaining pace throughout, so although the pace is still lacking, they weren’t as miserable as last week’s 2000s

Friday- rest day. Needed it!

Saturday- plan said six miles as I feel, so did a progressive run on the parkrun route, then did actual parkrun with my mum

Sunday- this was the session I was dreading all week. 15 miles; 3 easy, 10 miles at MP, then 2 easier to finish. 10 miles at MP sounded horrendous, and I have never done anything other than plod out my long runs. I spoke to my coach and he said it didn’t have to be goal MP just yet, just get used to going a bit quicker for some of the long run. He said to aim for what I did previously or a little quicker, but who knows what that is? My PB pace is 10mm, my goal pace is 9:55. My marathons last year were more like 12:00…

My last long run was 10:37 pace, so he said to aim for maybe 10:25. I decided to shoot for 10:20- 10 miles at 10:20 pace should be totally doable!! I planned to do loops of the beach to eliminate hills and road crossings to help me keep to pace. I also managed to rope a friend in which I’m so glad I did. The wind picked up so half the miles really sucked, but I came out with an average pace of 10:19, so I’m really pleased with that. I promptly died and my penultimate mile was nearly 14mm with a fair bit of walking! But I recovered ok and the last mile was a bit quicker. You know I was tired though as I stopped when I hit 15 miles (well, 15.1) and walked the last kilometre home.

Monday- 6 miles easy recovery run. Seemed a long way for a recovery run and it was hard work, not helped by hitting some nasty ice, but it’s done.

Tonight I am having a sports massage which I really feel ready for. I wonder what the next week will bring…

WEEK THREE

I thought I had trained hard before… I didn’t even know I was born!!

Tuesday- 1 mile warm up and cooldown, 10 x 75 second hill reps with jog recovery. Overall pace similar to last time; uphills were quicker but recoveries slower! Felt pretty good especially after a long day at work and some slightly slippy pavements

Wednesday- Recovery 6 @ 10:41 pace; a real struggle and super windy, gave up and walked a little in some of the windiest sections.

Thursday- 1.4 mile warmup, 10 x 300m (around 8mm pace) with 300m recovery. Coach didn’t want to give me too much ahead of long run

Friday- 16 miles with 3 miles easy, 10 miles at MP, 3 miles easy. Average pace 10:28, MP section 10:06. This was on the fairly flat railway line and perfect conditions (beautiful day, not a breath of wind) but I’m still super pleased, it felt so much easier than last week. MP came out much quicker and I didn’t die in the final 3 miles.

Saturday- did the parkrun route with my mum then actual parkrun again with my mum, in around 35 and 32:30, to give me just over 6 miles. Super windy and super hard work but lovely to run with my mum

Sunday- rest day spent watching Stu smash his second ever duathlon

Monday- 7 miles with 8 x 30 second strides at 10k pace. This was a horrible run, I couldn’t be bothered to think of a route so just went on the railway line which meant I needed to use my headtorch. Forgot how much I hate headtorch running. Felt like I was running hard but pace was so slow. Just generally an off run. The 10k bits came out alright, but average pace was 10:08 which I was disappointed with.

Tomorrow calls for 8 miles (on a school night, ugh!), and this week I’ll be doing my long run on Friday again; plan says same 16 again so really hoping it also goes well and that good run wasn’t just a total fluke.

In other aspects, my diet and drinking are still letting me down. I lose a few pounds then binge at the weekend and put it all back on. Really frustrating and just don’t know what to do to break the cycle…

WEEK FOUR

The training continues. So far, with the exception of maybe swapping a day or two here and there, I have done every session, even when it’s meant getting up early doors (which I really struggle with) so I’m feeling pretty proud of myself. I did however start to freak out a little the other day; it’s so much easier rocking up to a race with no pressure. My brain doesn’t always react well to pressure! Anyway. the race is still weeks away- plenty of time for the training to start going wrong and give me some excuses

Tuesday- 8 miles done. I was tired and it was windy and I chose quite a hilly route (excuses, excuses) was pleased enough to average 9:56.

Wednesday- 5 easy miles with Stu, 10:58 pace. Very tired legs

Thursday- 12 x 300m w/200m recovery, with a 1.1 mile warmup. this session absolutely sucked. I forgot my running socks, it was blowing a gale, I timed it wrong and there were school children everywhere tripping me up and smashing me with their school bags, at one point a branch flew at my face. On the uphill reps I was struggling even to hit HMP! But I completed the session, and did a short cooldown as icy hail started

Friday- I was nervous about the long run as my legs were feeling so stiff and heavy. But I fuelled well (bacon and hash brown roll, mmm), and it was another beautiful day, the wind thankfully greatfully reduced from the previous day. I did the exact same route as last time, average pace came out at 10:18 with the MP section at 9:56. I was absolutely delighted.

Saturday- we were heading up to Thurso for the weekend to visit Stu’s grandparents, so we headed up to Inverness on Friday night and planned for Inverness parkrun on Saturday morning. Although I usually hate them, I packed my trail shoes and thank goodness I did. It was a total mudfest! And a fair bit of it was perfect for my trail shoes, which came into their own on the slippy slidy mud. We ran 1.3 miles to get there, and then my parkrun came out just over 30 minutes, but I lost so much time on the first lap getting stuck behind people who didn’t want to run through the puddles! Although tired and tough conditions, I was pleased with a progressive 10:30, 9:31, 9:15 (8:13 for last 0.1), passing people all the way. A tired cooldown mile back to the hotel before the long drive up to Thurso.

Sunday- rest! Did a grand total of about 2,000 steps (though did also drive for 5 hours)

Monday- hill reps, this time 10 x 90 seconds with jog back recovery. Used the same hill, it levels out slightly for the last 10 seconds or so but is still uphill and it’s quite nice because you can accelerate again slightly. Was up to do these at 6:30am as I have a dentist’s appt this evening. Average pace was actually quicker than the last set of hill reps, and I did get a segment PR for the hill rep segment I’ve created, so must have been a reasonable pace!

Now to see what the next week brings…

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From 2017 into 2018

2017 was a difficult running year for me. Although I did complete 6 marathons (and one nearly marathon!), 2 ultras including my longest ever run of 36.5 miles, and one 27 mile relay solo, I did not really enjoy my running. I wasn’t running well, and ran some of my slowest marathons, with only one under 5 hours. I managed a handful of quicker 5ks, but on the whole was struggling to get anywhere near 25 minutes, and after running under 49 minutes for 10k in 2016, it was disappointing to manage nothing quicker than 54 minutes.

It’s not all doom and gloom however, as I did manage to end the year on a more positive note. I was absolutely delighted to duck under 2 hours at Fraserburgh half marathon, though I did then have a rather poor run at the Lossiemouth 10 mile Turkey Trot. I decided for the first time to participate in Marcathon, the goal of which is to run a minimum of 25 minutes/3 miles every day in December. I did similar in November 2015, running a massive 230 mile month and feeling the benefit with an almost marathon PB (if the course hadn’t ended up over 27 miles long!) the following month.

I only take a few rest days in a month anyway, so I figured it would give me good motivation to keep going through the cold and festivities, without stretching myself too much. I promised myself I would stop if anything started to niggle. As it turned out, the main challenge was not my body but some horrific conditions as the streets around Aberdeen turned into sheet ice. In fact the very first day nearly derailed me, as both roads and pavements all around our flat were nearly impossible to navigate due to ice. Fortunately we were heading to Edinburgh that day so I was able to get a few miles in once we were down the road.

The ice created further challenges through the month, and on one memorable occasion I ended up running up and down the same quarter mile stretch of pavement until I thought my brain might explode. I persevered though, and managed to run through the worst of the weather, fortunately never having to resort to the treadmill.

My original goal for the year was 1760 miles, a totally arbitrary goal that was simply a round number, and a few more miles than I managed last year. I hit this with time to spare, then realised that I could in fact just about hit 1800 miles, as well as my highest monthly mileage for the year. It meant a couple of double run days, and slightly longer runs than planned, but it was doable! So the final day of the year came and I ended up with 1802 miles for the year, my highest ever mileage.

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2018 started with the New Year’s Day double parkrun. I had originally planned to run between the two, but I was suffering quite badly with the cold and chesty cough that had been plaguing me since Boxing Day, and I realised that I had no reason to and nothing to prove. So I had two fairly easy runs, taking me to a total of 241 parkruns, which is super exciting as it means my 250 really is imminent.

The 2nd brought Lumphanan Detox, a race I have done a few times now, and regret every year! It’s a tough race, with the first 2km up a steep hill, and a farm track section which is always unpleasant, be it because it’s wet and muddy, or icy, depending on the conditions. I wasn’t going to enter this year, but for whatever reason, I found myself entered and dragging my ill and tired body up to Lumphanan. My cough was bad, it was freezing cold, and I was pretty miserable, wishing I wasn’t there. I knew it would help with the hill but I couldn’t even bring myself to warm up- I just wanted it all over so I could go back to bed!

I had somehow managed to convince my friend Barry to enter, and his plan was to run with me. I warned him it wasn’t going to be fast but he said he was happy with that. I was expecting to be well over an hour. I’ve twice been under an hour at Lumphanan; one was the first time I ran the race in 2012, and then in 2016 when I finally beat that initial time, running 57:19.

Eventually it was time to start, and we headed to the field which marks both the start and the finish, stopping for a quick Metro photo on the way. I kissed Stu goodbye; he was hoping to try to better his course PB, I was just hoping he finished in one piece! Soon enough the crowd started moving and I hit start on my Garmin, not realising that there was in fact a chip mat at the start as well as the finish.

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Team Metro- thanks Tony!

 

 

As soon as I got going, I felt better. Funnily enough my chest didn’t bother me at all while running. My legs were tired and heavy, but I was still managing to move up the hill at a reasonable pace, even passing a few people (including the two people walking right in the middle of the road two abreast- why do people do that?!). Not much to say about the hill except I swear it gets worse every year. As we finally reached the top I said to Barry, “the key here is not to hammer the down too much- there’s plenty more shit to come”. We did pick up the pace here, but quite a few people did go flying past us; mind you, we caught a lot of them back up in the second half.

It felt good to pick the pace up, and my breathing was feeling fine. We made up a lot of time, and reached halfway in just over 30 minutes. I knew I had the extra seconds from starting my watch early, and that the last mile was downhill- could I manage to duck under an hour? It really depended on how bad the farm track was.

The farm track was bad.

It was horrible, narrow and icy, and you couldn’t find your pace because you were alternatively stuck behind people, and also aware that you were holding people up. It’s also slightly uphill for the most part. It was just awful. I accepted that the sub-60 was gone as my pace slowed right down. I also lost Barry at around 7km as he nipped past a couple of people ahead of us and I just didn’t quite have the energy or confidence to go with him.

Eventually the track was over, and with about 2km left we popped back out onto the main road. Looking at my watch I realised that in fact if I pushed on here, I could still get under an hour. There’s a nice downhill stretch so I let my legs go, knowing it would soon be over one way or the other. I passed a few more people which is always a boost.

With 1km left I just needed to keep it under 6 minutes. There’s a nasty little sting in the route where you pass the finish and do one small loop around the houses up a small slope, but I was prepared for it, and as soon as I turned the last corner I knew I could put my foot down. Unfortunately that section of road was icy and I very nearly went arse over tit!

Fortunately I was able to stay on my feet and find a gritted section and push on to the finish- Stu appearing a few metres before the line expressing surprise and delight at my arrival much earlier than expected. I crossed with a high 58 on my watch, so knew that I was under an hour for sure. And in fact, when the official results came through I was delighted to see I had run 58:33, my second fastest time on that route. Given the difficult conditions and how I’ve been feeling, I was really chuffed with that. It did wipe me out for the rest of the day, but it was worth it!

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Delighted!

 

I took a couple of days off after that as my chest was still pretty bad. I haven’t set myself a mileage goal this year, and it’s actually been really freeing to be able to take a few days off without feeling guilty for it! I decided to run proms on the Friday, but that was a mistake. The weather turned horrendous and I ran my slowest ever 3k time, but at least it’s a marker for the year! I managed a much better run at Stonehaven parkrun the following day, where I ran just a minute outside my PB and paced strongly, passing a number of people without being passed in the second half and finishing 3rd lady, despite feeling like I was drowning in phlegm.

And now, it’s time for marathon training to begin. I’m still not 100% fit and the cough is lingering a little but I’m a lot better than I was. I’m excited to actually start a proper training plan again; it’s been such a long time since I trained properly as opposed to just racing all the time. I’m also going to FINALLY lose the half a stone or so that’s been lingering for far too long.

Operation 2018, fitter, faster and stronger is a go.

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