11 weeks into my training plan and it seems to be flying by, but this means I’m having to actually run some proper distances now, and after successfully negotiation the milestone that was a half marathon last weekend I had another mammoth race to contend with. A lapped affair, with a 6 hour time limit and to make up my weekly distance I needed to cover 30km. Ouch!
It was a pretty course of 3.84 miles around Bates Green Farm, which consisted of some woodland trails, and a lot of farmers fields, which were really quite hard work to run on. You had to concentrate on where you were putting your feet the whole time, to avoid the dreaded twisted ankles.
On much less sleep than I had planned the first lap felt endless, despite only being relatively short, but after that they more or less flew by as you knew exactly what was coming up. There were some nice view’s in places, as we ran past bemused cows and horses in their fields.
The We run, They run, I run Team had yet again laid on a fantastic aid station full of sweets, cakes, flapjacks, fruit and crisps, alongside plenty of water, juice and coke to drink, as well as free tea and coffee for all runners and a recovery muffin when you finished, as well as another fantastic medal.
Despite my less than stellar prep for this race (my lack of sleep due to my lack of will power and my much later than planned exit from my friends birthday party the night before) I was feeling relatively strong once I was past the first lap, but by my final lap I was starting to struggle again, not due to a hangover I might add, but I had some uncomfortable chafing courtesy of my sports bra, my legs and hips were aching, my knee was giving me jip and my bad back was seizing up but I forced myself round the last little bit with half an eye on my watch – less than 5k to go, less than 3, only got to run past the campsite now and then I’m back… I hooted the horn to finish, my watch clocking my 5 laps in at 29.8km I thought about jogging down to the car park to make up the last 0.2km but honestly couldn’t be bothered. Close enough, and I’d done enough running during the week to offset the missing distance. I gladly took my medal and went to wait for the hubster, who was going for another marathon.
When I put together my plan to run a Marathon, I knew I wanted to build up slowly, and put in an interim goal of a Half Marathon, and this interim point has come around very quickly.
Not only was I attempting my first half marathon for a number of months, but I was also running a 10k the day before, and being a Brutal Run 10k, it wasn’t going to be the case of a gentle plod on some flat roads!
It was a scorching hot morning, we were sweating just waiting to start, and looking forward to getting going and into the trees at Congo woods where the race took place.
I was running with my friend Jayne again and we set off together around the starting field then gratefully entered the shade of the trees.
The course was brilliant, lots of mud, that if you trod in the wrong place could see you sunk in up to your waist, and several water crossings which were bliss in the heat, helping to cool you down. The best part of the course was towards the end of the the 5km lap, where you were directed into a twisting and turning downhill trench where you could just let go and run, slaloming down the hill. There was a lot of really pleasant woodland running, and the elevation wasn’t too crazy, the worst parts of the race when you had to come out from the cover of the trees and run across open ground with the sun beating down.
I had a couple of near misses where I tripped on a root and nearly fell flat on my face, but managed to stay on my feet both times, and I caught my weak ankle towards the end of the first lap, sending pain shooting up my leg, I’d spent so long lately worrying about my knee I forgot I have to be careful with my ankle too! It didn’t feel like a bad twist so I carried on, but once I was finished and had my shoes off it started to feel very painful, not ideal with a half marathon to run the next day!
we hung around in the sunshine for a while, then I headed off with my hubby to find food and beer! We also did a quick stop off at a supermarket to find me a bandage to strap up my ankle. Finally we got ourselves checked into our hotel for the night, took a little walk along the canal right outside, then turned in for an early night.
Woking Lions Half Marathon
The day dawned hotter than the last, hitting the 20s before 10am, a heatwave was not what I had in mind when planning this weekend of races. This was another step up in distance, and I had several things to concern me before the start. My ankle was sore, but seemed OK once strapped and tied tightly into my trainers, my ability to cover 13.1 miles in one go was by no means certain and now the heat, which was quickly becoming my biggest concern of all.
The race had three distances on the day, a 5k, a 10k and the half marathon. The organisers had sent out an email before when the weather forecast showed the expected high temperatures saying that you could drop from the half marathon to the 5 or 10k if you wanted to due to the heat, and as this race contained several split points and for the half marathon two laps of the larger part of the course there were opportunities to drop down if necessary. For the health and safety of all runners and marshals they also introduced a cut off time for starting the second lap of 1h30.
Thankfully a large part of the race was run in the trees, so there was plenty of shade. As someone who hates running encumbered with anything, even I conceded that I needed to take water with me. It was so hot, running was really tough. I set off slowly, trying to ignore my instinct to go off quick and get out of the pack, most of the people around me were doing the 10k anyway (different colour numbers). I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do this in the heat, the distance was intimidating me, so I decided just to play it by ear.
At points in the course there were lots of people around, then the course would split and you would be more or less on your own before re-joining the main route. This meant I found myself overtaking the same 10k runners several times.
The course was actually really nice, through some lovely woodland near Fairoaks airport and the McLaran Technology Centre. It was just so hot. There were three water stations on the main loop, which allowed me to conserve the water I had with me, and allowed me to chuck some over my head to cool me down too. The woodland paths were nice and shady, but there was also plenty of running through fields where the heat hit you like brick. I found myself half hoping I’d be too slow to start a second lap which started at 10k in, but I made it in plenty of time and directed my already tired feet off for lap two. Now there were just that half marathon runners out there and we were so split it wasn’t unusual to be running without anyone else in sight. I passed a young marshal at the 12k point who told me I was the 4th woman. I was surprised as I was just plodding, but I couldn’t see anyone else around me so I continued to just plod. I came to the next water stop and cracked a gel, the marshal kindly re-filling my water bottle for me, when a woman appeared out of the trees behind me, and a competitive streak that I thought had died flared up in me! I had gone into this not bothered about time or position but suddenly I wasn’t giving this up! I shot off into the trees and decided to try and pick up the pace while I was in the shade. This worked and I never saw her again. It stopped me slowing down and coasting the second part of the race.
As I was approaching 17km, after another water stop, as we ran by a shallow river in an open field I saw some other runners up ahead, one a woman. I didn’t think my tired legs would allow me to catch them but slowly and surely I caught up, overtook, and suddenly found myself in 3rd. If I could hold her off for just 4km I would podium!
I tried to keep my pace from dropping, but I could feel the heat taking its toll. I had to allow myself to stop and walk for a bit before running again, but I’d got far enough ahead that I couldn’t see anyone behind me again. My clothes were actually soaked in sweat and I was exhausted, but I ran on slowly, having to stop and walk every so often. It felt like my feet were dragging but I was so nearly there!
I came to the split point again finally, after a hot slog through another open field, and then it was along a path, across the airfield and then a short run down to the finish (we had walked this bit to get to the start line earlier in the morning) I knew exactly how far I had to go, but I still couldn’t run the whole way, the heat was getting ridiculous now. With half a kilometre to go I came across a man who had collapsed in the heat. He was being ably assisted by a marshal and another runner and they told me to carry on and get to the finish, there was nothing I could do to help, so I carried on, even now not able to run the whole way but walk-run-walk-running to the final drag. I managed to run down the final stretch and across the line, remaining in 3rd place. I was so happy to be finished!
I started looking for my husband, who should have been finished long before me, but I couldn’t see him anywhere, I checked the car, went back to the main field, but he was no where to be seen. Suddenly he came running up from the direction of the cars with another lad, turns out he had gone the wrong way, got lost, run an extra 2km and needed to cross the line still (even if he was coming from the wrong direction)!
Normally we would soon head off from a race, especially as we had quite a drive home, but the heat had got to us both. I felt really sick and unwell, Phil wasn’t much better. It took us a while to feel up to going and getting changed, and finally heading home, but I was feeling worse and worse so we soon stopped again at some services where I forced down some food and had a cold drink, which finally started to make me feel a bit better!
With a little time to reflect, I’m very proud of this achievement, and by that I mean managing to complete a half marathon in those conditions, the 3rd place a small bonus, but I wouldn’t recommend running in that kind of heat!
Week 10 done, and with another race next weekend (a lapped one where I’m hoping to complete in the region of 30km) I can only hope for maybe a slight drop in temperature before then!
6 weeks into my Marathon training and I was feeling pretty good, my knee pain had remained manageable, I’d stuck to the plan, adjusting if necessary but doing the required distance in a week to show a lovely steady increase in distance and then week 7 hit!
I was supposed to start off with a 12km run, a bit of an increase in the distance I’d been doing in training but not much, and less than the distance I’d covered in the Maverick Surrey race a couple of weeks before so no problem right? Wrong! It’s so easy to get complacent, and I had just assumed it would be fine without really paying attention to what my body was telling me, which was that I needed a rest! I had been steadily increasing my distance each week and had also started getting back into the routine of bootcamp and circuit classes, which meant quite a substantial increase in my training level overall and I had effectively burned out.
That Monday morning I set out and by the time I hit the seafront (about 3km into my run) I was struggling. I stopped, took a breath, It was really hot and my knee was starting to ache much earlier than normal. I decided to persevere and run out to 5km and see how I was feeling. Not good, again I stopped, I decided to push on a little more but by now I was really thinking that I might have to turn around. I made it out to about 7km before turning around, but stopping every 2km or so for a rest, this was unlike me. I can usually grind out the miles even if very slowly, I rarely stop over and over again, mentally I was fried. At 10km I stopped again, by now the knee ache had turned into full blown pain, stubbornly I wanted to do that last 2km but as I started jogging again I knew it would be stupid, so I gave up, 10k was still 10k, but it had been a hard and painful slog and not what I had set out to do. Later that day I went to my (pre-booked) bootcamp session and struggled some more, this wasn’t looking good!
The rest of the week I managed my other bootcamp session but I skipped circuits and my other planned run, I’d managed in total, with some running at class to get up to 12km but it was a far cry from the 30 I was supposed to be doing that week and now I was off on holiday. Oh dear!
I arrived in Gran Canaria with a few days left of the “strava week” and on our second full day I actually headed out with the hubby for a run. We did just shy of 7 very sweaty and hilly kilometers and that left me 10km short of the weeks goal. Oops!
Week 7 running total: 20.1km
For week 8, knowing I would be away, I had planned to try and do 20km but I wasn’t feeling hopeful. The idea was I would get up and run every other day, but I know in the heat, and after nights filled with food and sangria that my enthusiasm for getting up early and getting in a run before the temperatures got to high would wain after the first few days, as this is what happens every time I go away!
This time though, I surprised myself. Every other day, as planned, I got up and went for a run with my husband. I did 7km each run, the elevation up to our hotel was silly, and in that 7km, depending on the route we would clock up between 211 and 271m of elevation!
Due to the time of year we weren’t having to get up too early, rising about 7.30 to get a run in at 8 so we were finished by 9 in time for breakfast was manageable and I managed to get in the planned distance despite being away from home. I was back on track!
Week 8 running total: 21km
Back home I was in the position of needing to cover 34km if I was going to stick to my plan, but travelling had wiped out my Monday day off where I try to put my long runs, so this was going to be a big ask along with going back to work.
I went straight back to Bootcamp on the Tuesday, I had a lot of holiday over indulgence to work off, not to mention the pre-holiday over indulgences that have been getting to be a very bad habit again. I was (am) determined to re-focus and get back to a stage where I am happy with my level of fitness, and my size (which has sadly crept back up, despite the training – can’t out gym a bad diet as they say). I had planned to try and sneak in a bit of a run before bootcamp but my watch took 15mins to find a satellite and although I know I can run without the technology, I do want to track what I’m doing to make sure I’m not doing to much or little. After bootcamp and a circuits class the next day, running there and back, I had managed to scrape together around 7km of running, but I was going to have to do better than that, since as well as having my Monday wiped out, I was also busy all weekend and couldn’t do any running then either, I decided this was going to call for an after work run of some distance.
On Thursday, after procrastinating for a while, chatting to my colleagues and generally putting it off, finally getting home, stopping for a cuppa, I finally laced up and got out the door, a 10 mile route planned out and the decision that I would do this nice and slow and just get the miles in my legs. I set off up the side of the park and steadily made my way around Hastings, running into a few friends also running the other way on route for a bit of a boost on my solitary slog. I was tired, I wasn’t in the mood, I had DOMS, but I was going to do it… 16km later I was back at my door. BOOM! It had been as much about proving to myself after the 12km disaster that I can motivate myself to run more than 10km if I need to. I was pleased, I had some food then took myself off to vote – bemoaning the whole time that to get to our poling station is all up hill with a couple of sets of steps thrown in!
Despite this epic after work plod, I still needed to get just shy of another 12km done and I only had Friday to do it, as well as a PT session. My body was going to hate me!
My PT session was nice and early, as is standard, Adam put me through a gruelling hour of weight lifting, press ups, and sprints with him holding me back on a band, to leave my arms shouting at me and my legs like jelly before making me have a good stretch. He then reminded me that I could actually use strava on my phone (it’s been a while!) so I could run home from the park rather than walk and chip away at my weekly distance. This left me with 9.2km still to do. I had a bite to eat, some water, then made the decision to stick on my trail shoes. I ran back to the park and up to the Old Roar Gill section of woodland paths and muddy trails next to small streams. I weaved around, not following any particular route, and taking my time (by now I was super tired and my pace was only a little faster than a walk in places) and just keeping half an eye on the distance ticking up on my watch. I ran out to the waterfall, then when I felt I had done enough, I weaved my way back round the park in a bit of a random pattern until I had clocked up the distance I needed. That run was all about just enjoying where I was, as well as getting in the required mileage.
I had successfully covered my weekly distance, leaving my weekend free and clear for merriment and a trip to London, but now that weekend of fun is over and its back to bushiness.
When I set out my plan to run a Marathon properly, I put in an interim goal of a half marathon. It seemed a long way off at the time, but time has a habit of galloping by fast and it will soon be time for me to up my distance yet again. Next weekend I’m travelling to Woking to run the 10k Brutal race on the Saturday, and then the Woking Lions Half Marathon on the Sunday. A weekend full of races, and my first half marathon distance since I started this training plan after my month off of running. So with that in mind, and with 36km on the weekly plan, I have a 5km training run to do, so I’d best stop writing and get out the front door!
So what do you do when the wheels come off? Don’t give up, realise it’s not only OK but vital to listen to what your body is telling you, don’t beat yourself up, and get right back on it!