Category Archives: marathon

Missing training and the importance of a good plan

I’m not very good at having rest days, I get twitchy and start to feel guilty or that I’m missing out, especially if it’s a sunny, slightly cool, not too windy day – my perfect running conditions.

To fit in with family, I usually have my rest day on a Sunday, so we can do stuff and they’re not waiting for me to do my run / come back / stretch / shower / plug in my Garmin to check my stats / tweet about the run etc etc… which make an “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll just do a quick 10k,” into more like a couple of hours.

I try to make sure I get to parkrun on a Saturday, I’m back and ready for the rest of the weekend, sometimes even with a new PB to give me an extra lift for the weekend.

Every now and then, I have to miss a session on a Saturday, then I insist on going out on Sunday, but run early and try to reign in the other bits. I think it’s better for the family in the end than being niggly, and a bit grumpy all day.

When other things scupper my training plans, like waiting in for a delivery or having to attend a doctor’s appointment, I have to compensate by getting up extra early or squeezing another or doing a double session the next day.

Keeping a proper training diary with notes has really helped balance things for me. If something does come up I am more comfortable about changing things around as I have a much clearer picture of what needs to be done and what can be switched around easily.

This is the first year I’ve made detailed training plans, making sure that I fit all the training elements in and given me confidence if I need to move things around.

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Keeping my mojo for marathon two

“Get out and do a recovery run on the day after marathon, about 20 minutes, don’t worry about pace.” That was the advice I was given to set me on my way to marathon number two, the Liverpool Run Rock’n’Roll, seven weeks after the Brighton Marathon.

Given that walking down the stairs was little, er, tricky, I wasn’t sure how this would go. Still, I stuck my running shoes back on and headed out into the rain which had finally arrived.

Once I got going, everything felt fine, I chose an easy, flat out and back and a comfortable pace. Whether this helped my legs to recover or not, I couldn’t honestly say, but it definitely helped my head get into the right place.

It was the school holidays and it would have been really easy to have taken a couple of weeks off, using “I’ve just run a marathon”, as an excuse, but getting straight back out there kept my rhythm going. I made sure I got up for some early morning runs, and even though my longest run was only 10 miles and I’d done no swimming or yoga, I felt like I’d my fitness and energy levels up and my legs strong, ready for the last five weeks of full training when the kids went back to school.

First thing I did on that Tuesday was fill out my training plan for the five weeks to race day. I’d been holding off to see how the legs felt. Putting it all down on paper made it all seem doable – and real.

Friday was my last long run, a cheeky little 24 miler, and I’m now back into tapering again before the race on the 25th.

This time last year, if you’d told me I’d run a marathon in 3 hrs 30, then plan for another seven weeks later, I’d have thought you were talking about someone else. Well, I did and I am. I’ve no real target for this one, just planning to enjoy the music, atmosphere and a nostalgic trip around my home city. Oh, and picking up another nice bit of bling at the end.

Is it really four weeks since Brighton?

Does this still count as a race report nearly four weeks later? I think I was in shock after not only getting inside the time I had hoped for, but by a satisfying 20 minutes, that it didn’t seem quite real and writing about it felt weird.

Anyway, I’m over it now, I’ve checked, double and triple checked the results page and it’s definitely true. I finished the Brighton Marathon in 3 hours 30 minutes and 27 seconds which is well inside the London Marathon good for age qualifying time of 3hrs 50. Yippeee!!

To be honest, it couldn’t have gone any better. It was as though all the running gods had got together and decided that it was going to be the perfect day for racing.

All week we’d been promised rain, cold, and strong winds, but I woke up Sunday morning to see that the rain had been removed from the forecast, the temperature was up and the wind was down.

I joined the throng of people walking up to Preston Park for the start of the race, the atmosphere was buzzing, there were lots of marathon stories being swapped and last minute advice being offered. This continued during the traditional half hour wait in the queue to the toilet.

Still, it meant that I got to listen to an interview with Paula Radcliffe, who was there to start the race. It was interesting to hear her coping strategies for the distance, like counting to a 100 three times to pass a mile. I’ve been known to do something similar with times tables.

With 10 minutes to go, I headed down to the starting pens and joined my fellow reds, my Garmin successfully located the satellites, just needed to get going now.

The loop round Preston Park, with its bottle necks, means that you can’t go out to quickly, so avoid that early mistake that can mess up your race.

I settled into a comfortable pace and had to keep telling myself to slow down, I didn’t want to burn out.

I searched around in the crowd about mile three as the family were going to try to get there, didn’t see them, but I hadn’t been hopeful so wasn’t too disappointed, also, got distracted by the new loop to replace the post-Ovingdean hill.

Still, I saw them at 5 miles, was able to nip across to kiss the kids and hand my gloves over – yes, shockingly, I was warm enough to do that. (I’ve been known to still be wearing a jumper at 25C.)

On the way to Ovingdean, about mile 6-7, saw the first of the elites coming the other way, their speed definitely helps inspire you to get up that hill.

One of my big worries coming into the marathon was the number of ‘natural breaks’I might need, eating into my running time. I managed to stick it out till 11, at the bottom of the hill on the way back into Brighton, result!

Saw the family again just after halfway, a great psychological boost ahead of the 14 mile marker, which was where, two years ago, my Achilles had screamed at me to stop and I’d staggered round the last 12.2 miles. I passed the marker with a very loud internal “Whooop!”and started to really relax and enjoy the support around me.

There seemed to be so many more people out this year cheering and holding some inspiring and funny banners.

Checking my timings after another sneaky loo trip at mile 19 and I was pretty confident I was going to hit my target.

After the not-so-picturesque trip round the docks, coming out at mile 23, I felt strong, happy and a little excited.

My last three miles were the fastest of the race and I knew I had a big grin on my face as I passed the family just ahead of the finish line. The crowds were amazing on the last strip down towards the sea front and really spurred me on.

Crossing the finish line felt wonderful, especially as I’d knocked an hour off my last Brighton marathon.

The family where there at the meeting point when I got to it and we headed off for a pint and a slice of pizza.

All that’s left is to say a big thank you to all the organisers, marshals and supporters in Brighton. I hope to run in the London Marathon next year, but I’m sure I’ll be back one day.

Last minute nerves

The last run has been run, kit is all washed and ready to go, train ticket bought and legs rested. I’ve been pretty happy with training and preparation for the Brighton Marathon on Sunday, more than ever before a race, maybe that’s why I seem to be suddenly really nervous. I feel like I’ve got the running version of stage fright.

I can’t seem to settle, am really twitchy and have persuaded myself to write this so I sit still for a little bit – the up side is that flat is probably cleaner and tidier than ever. Don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep properly for the next couple of nights, but then I expect I’ll sleep like a dream on Sunday to make up for it.

I think it’s a mixture of nerves and excitement. I sort of know what I’m in for, this is my fourth marathon and my second in Brighton, but this time I’ve got a goal that has (hopefully) a bonus prize of a good for age place in London next year. Stakes seem a bit higher now.

To calm myself down, I’m off to do last minute checks on all my lotions and potions and recovery bits and pieces, then tonight I’m aiming for a long soak in the bath and a good comfort food meets carb loading pasta tea.

Here’s hoping I don’t freeze up on the start line.

Good luck to everyone marathon running this weekend, looking forward to all your race reports.

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Some of the “essentials” coming with me

It’s taper time

Ah, the taper, it always makes me a bit anxious. Even though I’ve read lots about the importance of tapering and have always done it in the past, I worry that it’ll leave me less fit or prepared, but still, it’s the right thing to do.

That said, my tapering has gone pretty well, touch wood – and I’m doing a lot of that at the moment. I’ve stuck to my schedule, reducing distance or intensity as advised and am eating sensibly – banana cake is fruit and carb loading in one right? – and trying to keep well hydrated.

My big fear at the moment is tripping over some random bit of sticking up paving stone and ruling myself out of running. Of course, I’m constantly checking the weather forecast too – will I have to run in a jacket, can I ditch the gloves? It’s only adding to the PMT (pre-marathon tension).

There’s now only five sleeps till the big day and I know I’ve got two runs, a swim and two yoga sessions left. Friday’s will be a short shake out run before trying to rest on Saturday, although I can see myself frantically running round the expo, credit card in hand wanting to buy everything. That doesn’t count though surely?

Partly to appease the kids (“Aww, why do we have to come and watch another marathon? It’s sooooo boring.”) and partly to enforce rest upon me we’re planning on going to see the Muppet movie on Saturday afternoon. Otherwise, I can imagine a little light shopping might turn into an afternoon trekking round the city.

We’re staying in a family room that night too, which means an enforced early bed time, a bonus given that I usually find it hard to sleep the night before a race – too excited and nervous – so at least I’ll be resting.

I’ve enjoyed reading other people’s taper blogs and tweets over the last couple of weeks too, good to know we’re all in it together.

Choosing the right energy boost

I’ve run three marathons so far and never bothered with energy gels, snacks on the go or the like and have got round on water and maybe a little slug of the energy provided by the race organizer. This time around though, I’ve decided to give myself that extra little boost as I’d really like to get a good for age place for London 2015.

There seem to be so many different ways to go and products on the market that it was a bit overwhelming. I took to #UKRunChat hour one Sunday, 8-9pm to seek advice and find out what others were doing.

If you’ve not discovered #UKRunChat hour, it’s a brilliant way to connect with other runners on Twitter. People swap advice, give support and make connections with fellow runners. It’s billed as the fastest hour of the week and keeping up is quite a challenge, but it’s also great.

So, armed with a bunch of suggestions I headed to Sweatshop and had a chat with them. I’d decided to try three different options, otherwise I wouldn’t have time to get used to my choice.

First up was Science in Sport, Go Isotonic Gel, 60ml, apple flavour. I don’t carry a bag or a belt or anything and these were really bulky in my back pocket and the corners were poking me too, so was glad when they’d both gone. I found them quite hard to open, I had to rip them with my teeth which wasn’t pleasant.

It was good that you didn’t have to take them with water, they were pretty liquid and the flavour was ok, but a mile later, they were a bit “repeaty” for want of a better phrase. This was not good, feeling a bit sickly.

Next up were Jelly Beans, Sport Beans, 28g pack, orange flavour. The pack recommended one whole pack 30 mins before running then to eat the beans as and when you needed an energy boost.

As someone who doesn’t normally eat jelly beans or sweets for that matter, eating a whole pack before running was quite a big ask. I didn’t really enjoy the jelly bean experience at all. I did pop one every 2-3 miles, or when I stopped for water, but I found that they really stuck to my teeth and I just wanted to brush and get rid of them.

Finally, I tried the GU energy gel, 32g, jet blackberry flavour. I took three out with me and spaced them out during my longer runs. I could just about fit them into my back pocket, so was pleased with that. Again, they were a bit tricky to open, but I think I’ve got the hang of it now. The flavour was ok but I can’t say I enjoyed the texture, made sure I had a good bit of water with them.

I’m not going to try any more now ahead of the marathon, so I’m sticking with the GU, the best option of the three that I tried.

I definitely think they’ve made a difference to my training, last year, ahead of Paris, I’d come back completely spent and hungry. My last two long runs, 24 miles each, I’ve felt fairly comfortable and confident I could do the last 2.2 at the end.

Here’s hoping they help me reach my goal in Brighton next month.

Fear of getting caught short on the course

I don’t know whether it’s my age, the cold, that I’m drinking too much water on the way round, or just that worrying about it makes you want to go more, but these days, my long run routes (and, sadly, currently my shorter runs too) are determined by a series of park / public toilets and even a 24 hr garage that I know has a loo.

Or at least, that’s the theory. I had a nightmare the other day, I was doing my interval session, so there is a bit of slow recovery time, it was chucking it down with rain – that may or may not be related – and no one had come to open the park toilets. Of course, this only exacerbated the situation, knowing that I couldn’t go.

Through gritted teeth, I did my intervals, lots of extra deep breathing and concentration. Then, just after I’d finished and was heading off for the cool down run home, a man arrived in a van. My heart lifted, I ran over and asked, all expectant, if he’d come to open the toilet block. He said that he hadn’t but could if I wanted, but wouldn’t I rather use the facilities in the community hall?

What, the place with the shutters down, no lights on and looking about as closed as possible? Yes, I was told, apparently it had been open the whole time. Aaarrrrgghhhh!

I think the longest gap between toilets on my long runs is about four miles, about the same as longest gap on the Brighton Marathon route, which makes me feel more relaxed. Hopefully, knowing they’re there will be enough to make me forget about them and concentrate on the running!