Friday, 28 December 2012

Most Muddy Run Ever?!

Well Happy Christmas one and all, it's been a long time, but this time of year is always busy for me, what with daughter's birthday in November and then Christmas, and I've worked a few extra days this year in the run up to Christmas too.

As some people know, I get a bit laxed with my running over the winter season, but try to keep it ticking over at the very least. This year I jumped at the chance to "book" in for a run over Christmas, and tried out the Stokes Scurry on the morning of Christmas eve. This is a free event, running either one lap (2miles) or 2 laps (4miles) around the fields belonging to farmer Tom at Stokes Farm, near Wokingham. Some friends had been before and I liked the look of it, but the dates (it it held once a month on a Sunday at 10am) had never been convenient, so now was my chance to do it along with some other fellow parkrunners, which meant we all had great fun together and I was lucky to be able to get a lift too (big thanks to Pete :-).

For some strange reason I was excited about using my new trail shoes for doing a "proper" cross country/trail run, and the extremely muddy conditions didn't seem to bother me as they normally would. Maybe because it wasn't actually raining despite being wet underfoot? Or perhaps because it was an "Christmas attire" opportunity and I love the chance to dress up a bit?! My friend Jo had kindly leant me a great outfit - can you guess what it is??

Yes, it really was that muddy all the way round!! This was probably the toughest run I have done to date... after about 2km my legs were really struggling. For someone who regularly runs over 5km relatively easily that was a real shock. Of course I am used to road running rather than running on grass, and the mud really seems to sap all the energy from the legs, not to mention feet and legs getting completely numb from being wet and cold! As a result it was a slow run, and I even had to walk a tiny bit.

But, after all that I did really enjoy the experience, and I don't suppose it will very often be quite that muddy again! After the run we all went into one of the barns for mulled wine / tea / coffee and mince pies /biscuits and chocolates, what a lovely way to spend Christmas eve morning - I highly recommend it, and I shall definitely be back at the Scurry in 2013, possibly on slightly firmer ground!

Muddy trainers AND legs!!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Oxford Half-Marathon report, one month on.

I've been meaning to write this blog post for ages, and just not managed to find the time! So it's now over four weeks since I completed my first half-marathon! It has taken me a while to appreciate that I should feel very pleased with myself simply to have completed a half-marathon, regardless of the time or anything else about the race.  On crossing the finish line, however, I felt quite differently about it, I was in fact feeling quite disappointed.

In the few days prior to the race I had felt a little under the weather, like I was maybe coming down with a cold. Of course this didn't affect my race preparation, as I was now resting after all my training runs had been completed. I did however also have a slightly uncomfortable stomach too, but nothing worse than slight discomfort so I was just pleased I hadn't come down with full-on cold virus or similar and had to pull out.

So, on race day itself, we left home in plenty of time and arrived and parked up at Kassam Stadium with lots of time to spare, and just before it started to get busy and people were then queuing in their cars on the road leading up to the stadium. It was a freezing cold morning which I didn't like very much, but it did warm up later on as it was clear and sunny. There were plenty of loos available near our car park which was just as well - my stomach clearly decided it needed to do something about the niggling discomfort and I ended up having to use the the loos 3 times, even before I went for my final wee wee trip right before heading to the start line.

My cousin Anna meanwhile was queuing to get into the car parks still at 9am (race start time 9.30am) so I went to meet her coming in. We headed over to the start area without really being able to see where the start line was, or being able to see Sir Roger Bannister who was to start the race, so we had no idea how far back we started. 

With my cousin Anna before the race

At the start of the race I hadn’t set up my Garmin properly so it was just timing but not measuring distance or pace – panic!! So I spent time fiddling then switching it off and on again to reset it and find satellites before it started tracking me about a third of a mile into the course! As a result it was tricky to work out my expected finish time, though I was still able to use it to check my pace which was the main purpose.  I found myself weaving quite a lot to get past slower runners at the start, so maybe if I had started further towards the front I wouldn’t have had this problem, or maybe I should have just sat behind them so that I paced myself better, as I'm sure I went out too fast which was probably a major contributing factor to my legs dying at around 10 miles :-/

I was aware that my initial pace was fast but I felt really comfortable and completed 7 miles in around an hour.  The few miles of the course along the towpath were particularly scenic, and through the residential areas the support was great. In addition there were about eight bands playing in different places along the route which was an element I liked. My parents, sister and her family, and my Aunt and Uncle were all supporting at various points.

At about 11 miles
In the last 3 miles however I felt really fed up. Suddenly my legs no longer wanted to work so it was as much as I could do to run at very slow pace, and even had to stop and walk for several seconds every now and then simply because my legs wouldn’t continue. This upset me as I’d always maintained that I didn’t want to run a half-marathon until I knew I could run the distance without having to walk at all. I was also rather upset crossing the finish line in 2:14, not realising that my chip time would a whole 5 minutes quicker because I’d started so far back from the starting line.  Needless to say I was much happier once I saw my chip time!  I think my poor pacing at the start and being slightly under the weather contributed to me not coming in under 2:05.  

With my friend Teresa after the race

With fellow Reading / Woodley parkrunners - was great to have support there!

After the race I did in fact come down with a full-on cold virus for over 10 days, so I was obviously not 100% fit when running, and that's just something I couldn't control or do anything about on race day.

So 2:09:18 for my first half-marathon, slightly under the weather, I know now that I did a great job. This time 2 years ago I was nearly 4 stone overweight and morbidly obese, and couldn't run 5k without walking bits of it. How times have changed....

Immediately after the race my first thought was, never again! Having had time to reflect, I'm still thinking that I shan't be rushing into my next half, as it's definitely not my favourite distance (at the moment lol!) It takes a lot of training, and I do love the 10k distance. I have however already signed up for the Great South Run 2013 (10 miles) in Portsmouth in October next year. I am keen to try a 10 miler and the GSR is supposed to be a good (and flat!) one.  I have even managed to rope in several friends who have now signed up too so it should be a fun affair.

In other news, as they say, I ran, for the second year running, the Halloween Nite Run 5k down at TVP. In contrast to last year, the weather and conditions this year were not great, it poured with rain before the event and plenty of rain in the previous days had left the ground soft and muddy. I found myself asking "why am I doing this??!" However, I once again got dressed up in full halloween costume and joined the 500+ other nutters to run in the rain and thoroughly enjoyed myself again! This race is well organised and great fun. Lots of people I know were also running, and the pumpkin soup afterwards was extremely tasty this year.  I clocked 28.24, slower than last year but very pleased given the extreme conditions! I didn't even bother with my Garmin as there was no way it was going to be a pb on this occasion, so I just ran, slipped around, and enjoyed :-)

Pre race - can you guess what I am yet??

Muddy shoes crossing the finish line!


Monday, 8 October 2012

Lone Runner

Essentially I am a Lone Runner. 

I have run a few times with friends, and I have enjoyed it, but on the whole I enjoy the flexibility of doing my own thing, going out when I'm ready to go out, working just myself with my Garmin, enjoying the green excercise and seeing and listening to nature. 

I like the solitary time. As a Lone Runner I can think clearly, puff and pant, and talk to myself without bothering anyone else.

On my last long run of my half marathon training last week I thought a lot. I concentrated on my pace (not too fast, so I would manage the whole 12 miles), and enjoyed what was around me as the weather was not unfavourable.

During my run I saw

A few minutes of rain
2 pairs of Jays
20 or so Magpies
River boats going through the lock
A pair of black swans
Several ducks
Cotton reel hay bales wrapped in black plastic
4 other runners
Dogs and dog-walkers along the tow path
Autumn leaves on the trees
Squelchy muddy patches
*And a heron standing still as a statue in the pond in the nature reserve...

Surrounded by so much. I don't live in the middle of the countryside, I live just 3 miles from Reading town centre.

But even in suburbia, the Lone Runner is rarely alone.... 

*edited 12/10 - nearly forgot Mr Heron!

Friday, 5 October 2012

I'm in "Print!"

I'm a big fan of Women's running magazine, both in print and online and via the Facebook page, and quite fancied writing a race review for the magazine as I think they can be very interesting and useful, especially for newer runners choosing which races to enter. They can also act as good motivational and inspirational reading, reminding you that other runners can be experiencing very similar feelings and issues sometimes during a race. Click here to read the review!

I shall also be writing one after the Oxford Half Marathon so look out for it in the reviews section, though I'll try to remember to post a link up on the blog too.  I'm pleased to report that I managed my 12 mile training run on Wednesday without too much trouble and in 1hour 55minutes, so I really hope that I can come in under 2hours 5minutes on the day and on a lovely flat course. I am still feeling the effects from Wednesday mind you, so goodness knows how long it will take me to get over the actual race itself with the extra mile!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

A good result

On Saturday I completed the Reading O2O 10K race for the second year running.  This is one of my most local 10K races which runs along the river at Thames Valley Park and along the towpath into Reading and back. It was a 9am start on  a fresh but dry morning, after I had had a rather poor night's sleep for some unknown reason.

I kept my fleece on until the last minute!

Last year my time was 54.40, which I knew would be a hard time to beat having been training for longer distances with slower pace, so I was just aiming to get under 55minutes. I felt the race was hard going to begin with  - though I nearly always find that - and towards the end I knew it was touch and go to get under the 55minute mark.

I gave it everything I had in the last hundred metres or so but it wasn't going to happen without me dropping dead or injuring myself, which I definitely didn't want to do before the half marathon in two weeks time.

So 55:20 was my official time, I'm pleased with that, still consistent, and I know I gave it my all. As usual my lovely loyal supporters came to give me a shout out :-)

Tomorrow I'll run my last long run before the half marathon, 11-12 miles. Fingers crossed for not too much rain!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

3 months on!

Well, 3 months on and I don't know where the time went! Over that time I have completed my 6th Reading Race for Life 5k (July), in 28mins 28 (slower than last year but this time it was definitely measured as a full 5k!)
been on holiday to Portugal and had a 2 weeks break from running, put on a few pounds and really struggled to get back into my running stride. Not to mention watching rather a lot of Olympics and Paralympics, including an amazing day watching Paralympics live at the Olympic stadium and Velodrome, inspirational.

Summer holidays can always be tricky getting out to run with children at home, and whilst I managed to go out whilst staying with my parents in Devon, at the end of August I just didn't know why it was feeling like such hard work. As a last resort, with just over 6 weeks to go until my first Half Marathon on 14th October, I looked for a training plan, with no idea whether or not it would work and get me up to hm distance, when I was struggling even to get up to my old 10k distance and pace.

In addition I started a new job at the end of August, so any plan that I found would have to fit in with my non-working days as training days, and my working days being rest day, given that essentially I can only run in the daytime in the week, and at weekends. 

So I found this HM training plan from Women's Running Magazine: 8 weeks to Half Marathon, and I'm amazed at how straightforward it has been. Because I didn't start at 8 weeks I had to jiggle it a bit but it seems to have worked. I won't say it's been easy, as I'm not sure I'll ever find running 8/9/10+ miles "easy!" but the improvements with every run have been obvious. I had never before tried speed training either and can say now that it definitely helps to strengthen the legs, as well as just adding variety to the weekly training.

On Sunday I did my longest run to date, which was 10.5miles, AND in pouring rain all the way! As I've said previously, I've never been keen on running in the rain, but it's always ok once I get out there. This time, however, it was pleasant to begin with but, after about 6 miles, my legs really started to feel cold. But I plodded on and was pleased to run the distance in 1 hour and 40.  I just hope that the weather is somewhat kinder in 2 weeks time!

Last night I took part in a Pilot run of the new Woodley parkrun which was great fun. I clocked about 27.37 which isn't bad for my current 5k pace, and it was great to be part of the new parkrun which is practically on my doorstep. I hope I might be able to drag myself out of bed on a Saturday morning sometime for a quick 5k.

This coming Sunday I shall be running the Reading O20 10k which I ran last year in a time of 54.40.  I think I may be slightly off the mark on that time this year, but it fits in with the training plan and will be good to complete another race prior to the HM. I am still struggling to shift the half stone extra that I'm carrying and I'm sure that can't help the running but hey ho.

Of course once again I haven't managed to fit in as much scrapbooking as I would have liked, but I can't complain as I have been on 2 Scrap Cafe crops, one Saturday and one weekday, which means I have nearly finished scrapping last year's Portugal holiday photos - phew!! Also managed to complete the mini album of Cameron's birthday party which I'm very pleased with.

Next post I hope to be able to blog that I've completed my first half marathon in a time of less than 2hours 10minutes!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Just a quickie

Been busy, busy, busy here what with half-term holidays, tired children etc etc...  but have been managing to get the runs in (in between the ongoing awful weather). At the end of half-term we went to CenterParcs, Longleat, for a family occasion, so I took my running gear with me in order to fit in at least one run through the beautiful and traffic-free terrain. 

The weather was not looking favourable except for on the Saturday, so I took my opportunity to go out for a long run whilst hubby took the children to the pool (hooray for a wonderful husband :-) Not only did I get glorious sunshine, lovely scenery and as much time as I wanted, but I also managed to keep going and complete what is my longest run so far - just over 16km in just over 6min/km pace, so I was very very pleased with myself :-)

I have to admit that my legs did really feel it that evening and a bit the following day, but the run really allayed my fears of not being able to complete 13.1miles as required for my half-marathon. Now I know I really can do it, and hopefully in a decent time too.