Firsts, Lasts and A Loose Goose

That’s it! I’m done.

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Sunday saw me finishing my half marathon training programme with a nice, short 7 mile run. It was meant to be 8 miles, but I had a hissy fit a few nights before when checking my Jeff Galloway app.

I downloaded the app last year and followed the finisher’s plan. It worked really well and, without killing myself, I managed a 2:22 Great North Run. This year I opted to follow the improver’s plan. This meant doing lots of interval running, which near finished me off – especially the 12x800m ones! On the original plan my longest run was 14 miles; on the new plan it was 17 miles. I did all this and, at the end of the day, made no improvement at all. So last week I looked again at the finisher’s plan and discovered that when I input my pace (11 min/miles) the predicted result was exactly the same. I was killing myself for nothing.

I’ve decided that I’m happy being a finisher for the time being. I would rather enjoy my running than feel that it is a task. So instead of finishing on 8 miles I ran a paced 7 miles. I took my Camelbak and, once I’d worked out how it all fitted together, it was great. Nothing jiggling about my waist, nothing in my hand, just a back pack holding a small bottle of juice and my gloves (when the sun came out!)

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The following day I went for a sports massage. My first ever sports massage. Those of you who have experienced a sports massage will understand when I say that it was a mixture of pain, more pain and pleasure; the pleasure comes when the pain stops. It’s a necessity though. Over the last few weeks I’ve felt that my legs have become heavier and stiffer and no amount of stretching would alleviate that. I talked to my beauty therapist who told me that she was also trained in the heavier techniques, over and above a Swedish massage.

We concentrated on my gluteus, IT band and calves. I was prepared for pain because my chiropractor has offered it as part of my therapy with him; I knew what to expect! I won’t go into gruesome detail; I survived, albeit feeling a tad bruised two days later! I definitely feel looser. My calves and Achilles especially feel less tight. Had I not had a meeting tonight I would have tested those loosey, goosey legs on the trails! Tomorrow will have to do!

So, what now? I’m looking for another half marathon for sure. I have the bug. There are two on the horizon, one local, one in The Borders. I’m wondering about another in between then and now. 5ks and 10ks on Sundays or evenings are few and far between, but I’ll find something! What I would like to do, though, is make greater use of my GoRun minimal trainers. I want to see if running more naturally will help improve my running style and pace.

Recovery Miles

Sometimes after a grueling race the best thing you can do is the worse thing you feel like doing! Recovery miles are a downright slog, there is no other word for them! I don’t think I’ve ever come back after a long or hard run and done the next run with wings on my heels.

Last week I did one measly trail run with the dog clipping my heels. I enjoyed being out in the sunshine (rather than the rain), with a gentle breeze accompanying me (rather than a hurricane) and did a gentle 2 miles, there and back. I wasn’t bothered about my time, although I am hardly ever Garmin-less, and I’m even less bothered about sharing it now! It was 2 gentle miles.

And that was it for last week. It was my first week back at school and it was busy with after school meetings. Something had to give.

I was busy on Sunday organising a historic vehicle run for National Drive It Day. It rained all day anyway, so I wasn’t missing much and rather enjoyed tootling about the countryside in my convertible…with the roof up.

On Monday I had a lot to do, but I got all my chores done by 3pm and set off for a just over 4 mile run. It was meant to be 4 miles, but my route is just over and, well, I’ve been running 13, 15 and 17 miles so point something of a mile was neither here nor there!

In a moment of clarity I decided to run my usual route in reverse. It was quite windy and my choice actually meant that for once I was running mostly out of the wind! My only face on stretch was going to be downhill! Total result for the home team!

I didn’t struggle, although some of the uphills were a bit soul destroying; I remembered why I run this the other way after hill three, which came hot on the heels of hill two. I just ran as far up as I felt happy doing and walked up the rest. I honestly didn’t realise just how tired my legs were until I hit the hills. However, I wasn’t looking to do “a time”, just do a run.

I wasn’t happy carrying my water bottle. The juice was splashing about, my hands were sticky and I just don’t like carrying a bottle. Mind you, I had bought some cherry isotonic drink from Morrisons (because it was cheap) and it was a bit strong. Really water would have done. I don’t think my autopilot is used to me doing these short distances!!

I did 4.39 miles in 48:05, giving me 10:57 pace, which was fine. Funnily enough my “jog” back down to the village was at 10 min/mile pace – I must be doing something right. The only really slow bit was the uphill section at mile 3, so I’m happy with that.

On Sunday coming I have 8 miles to do and then that’s me done with my half training, for a while at least. I don’t think I’ll put myself through the training regime like I have done. I’ll still do the Jeff Galloway plan, but just the straightforward one. I honestly think that a couple of good trail runs and a long run a week more than set me up for any race, maybe even better than what I have put myself through this time.

On the treat front, look what I’ve replaced my water bottle with!

One hump, or two? My new Camelbak hydration pack!
One hump, or two?
My new Camelbak hydration pack!

I found this on ebay last week with a £15 starting price. Brand new, still with covers, I got it for £21 including delivery, which I think is a bargain! It has the 1.5 litre bladder, has room besides for my other stuff (inhaler, plasters and phone) and saves me carrying anything or having anything uncomfortably clipped around my waist. I realise that some people might think it’s OTT for a relatively short distance runner, but if it keeps my hands free and is comfortable enough I couldn’t care less!

I’m now off to UnderArmour to see about some nice loose fitting and flattering running tops. I’m sick of seeing a podgy runner staring back at me!

And depression hits

I spent a very uncomfortable night, trying to relax through gale force gusts of wind shaking the caravan, listening to the contented snores of my husband who decided that sleeping on my side of the bed was preferable to sleeping on his, trying to stretch sore legs with a small dog sleeping on them, struggling to get a full breath as my asthma rebelled against the run and wrestling with impure thoughts about my race yesterday.

I was fairly content at bedtime, tired but quite happy. I’d made all the excuses that I could to explain my poor time, relative to the time I’d put in at my last half, and was OK with myself. Then I made the mistake of comparing my time to that of others. My self esteem plummeted. A fickle thing, my self esteem.

I was annoyed with myself. I worked very hard in an effort to improve on a 2:22 half, really very hard. I was running two lots of 45 minutes a week on top of my long run, the longest of which was a massive 17 miles. The first 45 minute run was comprised of intervals and, not only that, some of my long runs were intervals too. Up to 12 lots of 800m. Gruelling.

And for what? For nothing, it seemed.

I’d gone backwards. Instead of doing a fast last Magic Mile in training, I’d done the worst one I’d done in a long while. Regardless of the weather yesterday, I should have been faster. By just a minute at least! I would have been happy with a minute faster.

I made more improvement doing the straight half programme last year than I did following the improver plan this year.

Where am I going wrong? Am I concentrating too much on running? Has the fact that I live in the countryside meant that my winter training has softened me up with too many treadmill runs? Should I be hitting the gym? Am I carrying too much weight? Or am I just not a fast runner?

I’ve got all these self-depreciating thoughts racing around my head, but I’m trying hard to not let them get to me. I have to pick myself up and move on. I need to sit down and decide where I want to improve and how best to get there.

And start enjoying running instead of beating myself up with finishing times, unfairly comparing myself to other people and relax a bit.

Edinburgh Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon

Oh.My.God.

After making light of yesterday’s forecast, expecting much lighter wind speeds and for the predicted rain to have passed over, I felt a tad embarrassed walking down through the cobbled streets to the start of this half marathon. We had decided not to try and drive into town, but leave the car at Leith and bus it as close as possible to Holyrood. With the start at just after 9, we’d been told to arrive an hour early to allow for any hold ups. Ordinarily this would have been fine, but today the weather was rebelling. Wearing only a soft shell jacket for protection, I was drenched by the time we reached the bottom of the hill. Not the best scenario an hour before a race and with no shelter to take.

As we rounded the bend at Holyrood Palace, the full force of the gusting wind hit us. This was not going to be a pleasant experience or a personal best race. My first stop was to visit the toilets whilst the queues were still short. After finding a portaloo that the wind hadn’t already blown over, we headed across to the field.

I had filled a rucksack with as many things as I could think of that might help me at the before the start and at the end of the race. Nestled at the bottom of said bag were a couple of foil blankets collected from previous races and stored away for days such as today. Amazingly warm for such a thin piece of material and waterproof. Result.

We sought out shelter behind the Run 4 It tent, along with a few others, and waited for the start to be called. A very long 40 minutes later I stripped down to my vest top and sleeves. Looking around me, most people had opted for long sleeves, several layers and waterproofs. I was there with no sleeves, one layer and three quarter leggings. Was I mad? After kissing hubbie goodbye and giving my shivery, wet dog a pat, I headed off for my corral.

Finding my corral proved difficult and I ended up in corral 7 by mistake. The guy beside me assured me that it wouldn’t matter, so I stayed put. I wasn’t alone. I didn’t realise, but our numbers started with our corral number and there were many others in corral 7 with numbers starting with 8, 9, 10 and even 11. I stopped worrying. With the weather conditions taken into account, where I started was insignificant.

I had Jeff Galloway’s Half Marathon app playing on my iPhone and my Garmin for back up. Our chips were in our numbers, which meant that there was no faffing about with lace chips, far easier. When I crossed the line I hit my app/watch and I was away.

Starting in the faster corral actually worked out better for me. I tend to run faster during my run intervals than other people running the same overall pace as me, so I found that I was better paced being further up the field. I made sure that I kept right out of the way during walk breaks, because I know how annoying it is to be confronted by a line of walkers. I also quickly realised that my vest and arm sleeves were perfect. I was warm within minutes.

Mile 1 : 9:44

Even in the town the wind was dreadful. Combined with rain the conditions were some of the worst I’ve endured. In terms of people running, it was certainly more comfortable with only five thousand runners on the roads, rather than almost forty thousand in the Great North Run. Mind you, I still managed to get tripped up around mile 2, although how it happened I’m still not sure. I was going for a space, got through it and then all of a sudden someone ran right into the back of me. I’m fairly sure that I am easy to see, so how she managed that I don’t know.

Mile 2 : 9:56

What I soon discovered was that my trip had caused my juice bottle to fall out of my waist pack, a bottle full of SIS juice designed to last me the entire race. I was annoyed and a bit worried. I couldn’t remember what isotonic juice was on offer and wasn’t sure how it would suit me. Perturbed I stopped to collect water from the first station and, in an effort to calm myself down, I stopped at the portaloos behind the water station.

Mile 3 : 10.10

I was pleased with my pace, despite stopping for a toilet break (although the watch may have auto-stopped for this, I didn’t check and can’t until I get home.) However this joy was soon to cease. We had reached the shore and the wind and rain were waiting for us. The route took us down onto the promenade. I didn’t think the wind was too, too bad, but the long hill before dipping down to the shore was relentless.

Mile 4 : 10:09

I took my first energy gel at mile 4, following the pattern I’d set down at the GNR. The Powerade gels were a little thicker than others I had been having and needed washing down with water. Around mile 4 we were offered isotonic juice IN CARTONS! I’ve never seen this before. They were terrible to use, with juice spilling out from the open top. I quickly emptied my water bottle whilst on a walk break and filled it with the juice. I don’t drink a lot on runs these days, but I needed to know that I had enough to see me through.

Once we turned off the promenade the wind hit me. And so did the hills. Oh, and the rain, I almost forgot the rain. This combination was a killer. We hit hill after hill during mile five with the wind hitting us face on. My pace showed the effect.

Mile 5 : 11:21

Mile 6 was no better. Hills, wind, rain. Lots of all of these.

Mile 6 : 11:37

On the downhill stretches, and there were one or two, I just went with it and ignored walk breaks in a bid to regain some time. I knew I was going to be close to my GNR result by now as I was averaging a 11 minute mile. Knowing that I needed to speed up when I was confronted by the elevation and the weather was starting to get to me. I had to focus on running for four minutes as close to my race pace as I could, even when I was running up hill. Not easy.

Mile 7 : 12:14 (my worst mile)

As I finished mile 7 I took another gel, and on seeing that the organisers were giving out the same gels, I snaffled one to replace my bought one. Cheeky! By now we were climbing back up towards Arthur’s Seat. It’s a long and steady climb, eventually rewarded by a long downhill stretch to Holyrood Park. I, again, ignored the walk breaks and used gravity to push me on down the hill. I could hear Jeff Galloway counting down the miles and it sounded as if I wasn’t far off pace, but as I’d lost sight of the 2:15 pacer, I didn’t know how far away from this I was.

By now I’d decided that finishing below 2:30 would be nice.

Mile 8 : 11:31

We hit the town again, which meant more hills. Yaay.

I will never moan about the Great North Run course again.

Ever.

People had generously dotted pretty much the entire route, offering encouragement as these mad runners ran past. Considering the weather, I think that these folk deserved a medal as well!

Mile 9 : 11:32

Have I mentioned the hills?

We ran down through the Grassmarket and, inevitably heading down will mean that we will have to climb again. By now I was totally pissed off with the hills! I just couldn’t get a good pace going and I knew that I still had it in me, just not uphill anymore.

Mile 10 : 12:09

By the time I reached the town centre I was glad of some level running at last. My legs felt tired out by all the climbing they’d done, but were happier to run on the flat for a while. I was starting to yoyo with the same people, all of us were doing a combination of running and walking. I was pleased to see that there were running club people around me, making me feel a little less useless! I knew, as well, as I had about half an hour of running left, so I tried to up my pace.

Mile 11 : 11:51

Running across the Royal Mile meant that I wasn’t far from the finish. The course the took us down past The Mound, past Waverley Station and into Princes Gardens. I have to say that this is one of the nicest routes I’ve run, if you disregard the hills and the weather! The architecture and the sights were lovely, taking me through areas of Edinburgh that I didn’t know at all. I spotted some lovely looking restaurants, although I doubt I’ll ever find them again!

Mile 12 : 11:46

From mile 12 on the going was easier, mostly downhill and sheltered. I started looking out for hubbie and dog, but didn’t really expect to see them until the end. As I headed down Cannongate I knew I was nowhere near my Great North Run time of 2:22. I was disappointed, but it was a tough race and I’m not going to give myself a hard time over missing a PB. Doing a sub ten minute mile at this stage of the race was fabulous. I felt strong at the race end.

Mile 13 : 9:58

As I passed the palace the wind hit me again, but I pushed on through it, distracting myself by looking for my family. I found them just before the finish straight. I was aware of someone trying to overtake me and, spurred on by the sight of the finish, I sprinted for the line – which probably surprised me as much as the other runner!

Mile 13.13 : 9:08

I crossed the line at 2:25:10, well I think I did. There were three lines! I didn’t know which one to stop my Garmin at, so I went for the last one, just in case. Bearing in mind that I’m not sure whether my watch kept going when I was on the loo, I don’t think it really matters! I will get my official time in due course, but whatever it is, I’m happy with what I did.

I enjoyed the run, but wasn’t expecting the hills. The weather made the hills impossible and apparently everyone was affected with even the elite runners coming back slower than expected. My medal, well, see for yourself!

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I’m tempted to say it makes up for the hills and the weather.

After the race it seemed that the weather had caused far more chaos. The bag check tent was in danger of collapsing, so no one was allowed in. Instead bags were being collected by staff members and handed out, so you can imagine the huge resultant queues. The stage for the after race concert had been devastated, the wind having ripped the stage sides to shreds. The concert was cancelled. As I passed the portaloos I noticed that even the massive urinal loos had been blown over.

Luckily I’d given my bag to hubbie to look after so I only had to collect my tee shirt. The organisers had done well offering a Brooks technical tee, which is wonderful.

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The walk up to Leith Walk for the bus was hard work! As if I hadn’t seen enough hills!! The bus journey back to Leith was wonderful. I had a seat all the way home. Warm and comfortable.

Sitting here now in the caravan, having enjoyed a hot shower, a lovely lunch and the Chinese Grand Prix, I think we’ve got a great set up. We leave tomorrow for home, not racing home tonight because I don’t work on a Monday. I’m looking forward to vegetable frittata, new potatoes and salad and a nice glass of wine in celebration of the toughest race I’ve run…so far!

EDIT.

I’ve just sat and read this through and realised that not once have I mentioned the bands that were playing along the way! Just about every mile was marked by a rocking band, spurring us on. It was great to listen to and I just regret that we weren’t able to enjoy the concert at the end.

Ready to Rock and Roll

It’s Friday before the race on Sunday. My semi silent coach and I are cosily ensconced in our caravan on a site overlooking the Firth of Forth as the rain gently patters on the roof. Hopefully the rain will have passed over by Sunday and the temperature warmed up a bit, because it’s very cold at the moment. We walked the dog along the esplanade earlier and the wind was biting.

I know that not everyone embraces the taper, but I was happy enough to just run 6 miles last Sunday and even accepted advice give by my guru Jeff Galloway not to run at all on Thursday. Maybe I’ve found my limit. I’ve run 13, 15 and 17 miles with a week in between each run. Non runners would quickly tell me that it’s no wonder that I’m happy to call it a day.

Well, at least until Sunday!

Running away from home (!) has meant that I’ve had to bring everything I thought I might need and a bit more. Two bags full of stuff! Luckily the caravan has plenty of cupboards!

Tomorrow we will do a dry run. We were planning to catch the bus to Holyrood, but that involves catching two buses. As the race start is just after 9am that might prove tricky, so we need to check out the routes and timetables.

It’s time for bed now and I’m looking forward to a cosy night in our cosy van, even if that is listening to rainfall!

Night all!

The Day After the Day After the Longest Run

Yes, you read right. It’s Tuesday after Sunday, my long run day. I was astonished to wake up on Monday morning and still be able to walk. I was expecting for my sorry legs to have locked up, but I was benefitting from an amateur massage performed by my Semi Silent Coach, henceforth known as ‘Magic Hands Hollis’.

We went for a lovely long walk yesterday along the beach at Kippford, further along the Solway Coast and, apart from feeling tired when we got home, I felt great.

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Today I was faced with a run consisting of intervals. Once I started I realised how tired my little legs were, so I listened to my body and turned the pace down a little. Not by much, but enough to make the run achievable. I also cut the run slightly short because I started to run out of energy.

Once thing is certain, this time round I’ve learned that my body knows better how I am feeling than my head does. When it is tired, I slow down. When it is strong, I push it on.

I think I’m starting to become a real runner at last.