Back in the saddle….

Getting back into exercise isn’t that difficult in theory; a couple of runs a week, a swimming session, a spin class and it’s easy to feel accomplished. My heart beats fast and I sweat…a lot. But is it enough?

It is certainly enough for most people and definitely adequate if your only goal is to get fit and keep healthy, but probably not if you are training for a big event. Additionally, I find it easy to do the bits that I enjoy, but I am also a gold medal winner at “avoiding” or “not having enough time” to fit in the stuff I don’t enjoy as much. For me this is strength training.

The middle distance triathlon is 29 weeks away but slightly more alarmingly, the Big Half (13.1 miles) is only 16 weeks away. Most half marathon training plans are 12 weeks long and so with this in mind, I knew I had to get cracking.

I am a firm believer in seeking advice. If I don’t know the answer to something, I am not proud and will seek the counsel of someone who knows more than me. In this particular instance, this happened to be a personal trainer. I have never worked with a personal trainer before, ever and I was slightly nervous. I felt like it was very important that I was able to implicitly trust whoever was in charge of my physical health and it was critical that they understood who I was, where I had come from and most importantly where I was going.  But where to start? If you google “Personal Trainer”, there are literally tens of hundreds of names that pop up. In addition to this, I didn’t have any idea what sort of skills were important. So I did the only thing that I could, I met some.

The first lady was very nice indeed. I was welcomed with a green tea (no caffeine at her gym) and we had a good chat about my goals. She was very honest about not being able to help me with running and cycling but she was confident that she could make me strong. Unfortunately she was too expensive.

Learning from my mistakes (not finding out the cost before I met with the trainer) I then spoke to a couple on the telephone, with similar negative results. Both seemed to have a pre-planned programme that they applied to “clients like you” and apparently it worked well but I didn’t like the approach. Whilst I recognise that most runners and trainee triathletes are all seeking the same outcome (ie to finish and not collapse) we are all completely unique. We have different histories and motivations. I wasn’t happy and was genuinely about to give up hope when I found Dr Crane. He listened. He is also an ultra runner and keen cyclist himself, extremely patient and most importantly “gets” me.

He’s formulated a plan in 3 parts. Between now and Christmas we are working (very hard I might mention) to get my fitness back to what it was when I finished London Landmarks Half earlier this year. In my heart, I know that this was the fittest I have ever been and this is why this year has been so frustrating. I will be that fit again and we are also working on my strength (he’s slightly obsessed, in a good way I hasten to add, with press-ups….which I can’t do). In addition, and I know this goes against everything I have ever said before, I am actively trying to lose body fat.

I’m quite conflicted about this, not least because as you know from my previous blogs, I am not someone who likes to diet or restrict what I eat, largely because it’s so miserable and a larger body can be fit and strong – I think I have proved this several times over the past couple of years. I’m not really bothered what I look like. I am fit, strong and healthy. I am able to buy clothes in all high street shops and I once again own a pair of Levi jeans (you have no idea of the excitement levels when they arrived).

Unfortunately, the triathlon I have entered is an endurance event and whilst I have not yet worked out exactly how long I anticipate it will take me, I am guessing it will be in the region of 7-8 hours. If I am to complete this without injury and hopefully improve all my times, I do need to be lighter. I respected Dr Crane’s honesty and he almost apologised when he broached the delicate subject, but he is right. I knew before he said it that I needed to try and get lighter to lessen the impact on my ankles. I was not keen to simply restrict calories though as I am absolutely starving, constantly, when I am consumed by training for an event. So again I sought advice from Dr Crane. I am keeping my calories within a limit, but I am trying to eat more protein. Protein fills you up and so you are not hungry. It’s a work in progress however, as I am a natural lover of carbs. Of course, we are also into Mince Pie and Party season, so it will be an enormous challenge. Some days are better than others but I’m trying my best.

So with my physical well-being in good hands (as well as my running getting back to a regular, all be it slow, pattern) I turned my attention to swimming as I started my swimming lessons last week.

I arrived with plenty of time and sat on the side waiting to be collected by the teacher. It was fairly chaotic as there was only a handful of adult students as the vast majority were under the age of 10, wearing a rainbow of different colour swimming hats to make it easy to identify each ability class.  When Mr Triton, my swimming teacher, appeared he was friendly, Italian and extremely enthusiastic.  I was asked to swim a couple of lengths so he could observe and assess. I felt nervous but I was careful to breathe out underwater and tried not to swallow any when I breathed in. I turned to give him my best smile and waited for his assessment. Between you and I, I felt the swim had gone well and was quietly optimistic. However, whilst Mr Triton’s verdict was delivered with a smile, it wasn’t good news; “you’re breathing is good, but everything else is wrong so you’ll have to unlearn the wrong things and relearn again. It will be harder for you, than the rest of the class as they are just learning front crawl never having done it before.”

He then asked why I was in the class and what I was wanting to achieve. When I told him I had to complete a 1.2mile swim next June, he laughed. Then realised I was being serious….and quickly told me that I would be fine. I have to be honest, his reaction scared me, but I know that if it all goes wrong I could swim the distance breaststroke and I could do that now. But I am committed to learning properly.

He then proceedSwimmered to direct me to do length after length of “drills”. The first of which was swimming with my arms above my head (like Superman), my face pointing directly down at the floor (so I am swimming blind) and pointing my feet and kicking so my feet break the surface of the water. Apparently my body position isn’t high enough and my swimming isn’t “efficient” and this will help. But this is all I did for the rest of the lesson….it’s going to be a tough process this learning to swim properly. But I was reassured by Mr Triton that it would work. It might take a few weeks but he would have me swimming around that lake next June doing the front crawl. I will keep you informed.

Running is happening and I’m managing to fit it in a random times across the week. I haven’t yet managed to run 5k without a walk break, but I’m close.

Finally cycling. I’m not going to lie. I am struggling to fit everything in at the moment; running, swimming, work, family and daughter commitments and cycling seems to be the one that is missing out. I’ve managed a couple of spin classes but that’s it, so I have finally got around to setting up the turbo trainer that the “Unofficial Trainer” has lent me. It’s an ingenious device that turns your own road bike into an exercise bike. It is brilliant. I’ve only used it twice but I have it set up in the back room in front of the TV and I’m ploughing my way through “House of Cards”. Apart from the obvious fitness benefits of using the trainer, it has the even better benefit of allowing me to get to know my own road bike better. I have worked out that I have ridden it less than 12 times since I got it in April and I’m still not that confident with the gears. Riding the bike on the trainer and practicing with the gears, cleats and cycling shoes when I get them (please Father Christmas) will help me enormously when I emerge back out on the roads next Spring.

Therefore, at the moment, I’m feeling ok (or as OK as I ever do) about the running and cycling but slightly panicking about the swimming.

This is not the normal state of affairs for me, but let’s be honest – nothing about any of this is normal.

Over the next couple of weeks there will be more social events as the Christmas season kicks in and I am going to have to be more disciplined than usual. I’m motivated to improve, but I also love a gin and tonic and a mince pie. It’s a constant battle, but it’s a marathon not a sprint.

I want to be fearless, like my new training top, but at the moment, I’m feeling a bit fearful….hopefully that will change.fearless.jpg

Ballot results and plans….

On the sporting front, 2018 has been a sparse medal year and a year of high highs and very low, lows.

I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on this during September as I was benched following my UGIDA (hemmaroids) surgery on the 5th. The operation was largely successful but unfortunately last week the doctor refused to sign me off completely due to one of the wounds “overhealing”…yes…trust me to have the most competitive bottom that wants to be the best at getting better. This means possibly some more unpleasant bottom related stuff in November, but we’re all hoping (me especially) that my body will correct itself naturally. The good news however, was last week the Doctor did give me the all clear to resume exercising.

I was delighted. Being unable to exercise when your body is used to it is tough. I have found it nearly debilitating at times. I have been uncomfortable, sore, grumpy, intolerant, sad and often tearful.  These days it’s part of who I am and so not being allowed to move was nothing short of heart breaking. I hate running, I love running, I hate running but I can’t do without it. I missed it….terribly.

Upon being given the all clear on Tuesday lunchtime, I knew instantly that I had to get straight back into my trainers. Not allowing any time for procrastination, I ran home from work that evening. I knew it would be hard and it was. It was horrendous. I could only run for 5 minutes before needing to walk a bit and my chest heaved. I struggled with breathing (as not running had meant that my asthma was back) and my insides burned, but I did it. 3.1k run and walked.  I re-read my old blog posts (from the beginning of 2016) and reminded myself that my body does know how to do it as it had done it before. It just needed to remember how to do it.

I set out again Thursday and had another lousy run. It was hard. I have gained a little bit of weight during my running hiatus and so I could almost hear my bottom applauding me as I ran down the Bath Road, but I was a tiny bit faster than the previous run and this motivated me. A win is a win after all.

Last night I ran home from work and finally my legs seemed to remember what they are supposed to do. Very slow yes, but I was able to run 2k before I needed a little walk and I took 6 minutes off my time from the previous week. I felt positive. I have been reassured by many that “muscle memory” will help and it won’t be long before I am back up to what I was able to do before. I am not patient as you know and I know it will take a couple of weeks to get there but I am determined to do it.

This week the London Marathon Ballot places are being announced. I found out yesterday that I have not been successful in the ballot and so as a result will not be running 26.2 miles next April around the streets of London. I felt not one scrap of sorrow when I saw the result. If I had have been lucky enough to get a place I would have trained and I would have completed it. But in my heart I feel that 2020 is my year for a marathon and I think it will take place overseas. 2019 is the year of the triathlon for me.

VLM Ballot result

The other reason I was relieved not to get a place is that last week I signed up for an even more ridiculous event. On the 9th June next year I will swim 1.2 miles, then cycle 56 miles and then run 13.1 miles in the Cotswold 113 middle distance triathlon. This is the same distance as a half ironman but importantly, for this triathlon there are no cut off times (very important when you are often the slowest runner on the circuit).

The London Landmarks Half marathon earlier this year, showed me that I am capable as long as I believe in myself. Unfortunately, thanks to UGIDA, I’ve not been able to test that theory since. But now, all bets are off and I really want to push myself.  What can I achieve?

However,clearly I have a long way to go over the next 8 months and so I have taken action and have already formulated a loose plan.

I have signed up for adult improvers swimming lessons (I start in November) and will learn to swim properly. I have a wetsuit on my Christmas list (this could be a challenge given that I am short and weeble like, but they must exist for the more rotund triathletes….right?) and next year I will swim in the lake more. This doesn’t sound like a hardship to me as I am lucky and I like swimming already.

I am very much looking forward to getting to know my bike better over the coming months. This was the saddest and most frustrating aspect of UGIDA for me. It struck me down when I first discovered cycling and so I was cheated out of a summer of cycling with my friends. I had to enviously stalk them on Strava (app where you log your training) as they disappeared to the coast for a cycle, quick cake stop off and then cycle home wondering if I could have kept up with them. Cake and cycling? These are two of my favourite things. I’m ready to join in this time.

Finally running. Oh running…where to begin. I know I can follow a training plan and I know I have it in me to go faster and faster. I am signed up for the Big Half in London next March so my plan until then is to get half marathon fit, whilst learning to swim and cycling as much as I can (I suspect the odd spin class will feature too).

Finally, I accept that I need to lift some weights. (I can almost feel the Unofficial Trainer’s sense of uphoria as I finally acknowledge this). Strength training will be key if I am to complete a half distance triathlon in 8 months time, so weights and I’m also considering having a go at Crossfit (but it scares me) in order to get strong.

I’m not sure how I’m going to fit it all in with a full time job and two hockey obsessed daughters that seem to have a tournament every weekend between them, but I will do my best. I want to succeed and improve and this is always half the battle.

But first, I need to get back up to a comfortable 5k and so will focus on this between now and Christmas. I will keep you updated on my progress.

Back running Oct 2018

 

*** Thank you to everyone who bought my book raising £1050 for MacMillan Cancer***

I hope that my blog shows that anything is possible if you put yourself out there and give it your best shot.  Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be re-posting the blogs that were in the book back onto the site. If you know anyone who is starting, considering or currently in the middle of couch to 5 k or even wondering if they can do it, please do point them towards it as I hope it will help them.

Sometimes it just isn’t your time….

I love cycling. I absolutely love it. I love that I can cycle fast, really fast and whilst I am not likely to win the Tour de France just yet, I feel pride that I am not terrible at it and don’t come last (something and a feeling that has so far evaded me in running,  no matter how hard I try).

According to my Garmin watch (something that wouldn’t look out of place in a Bond movie), my top speed so far on my bike, Shiny Sheena, is 49 kilometres or 30 miles per hour. Admittedly this has only been once and I was going downhill, but it happened and it was exhilarating as it feels genuinely frightening cycling at this speed. Before I had my daughters, I used to own a pistachio green Vespa. Yes I was cool once! I loved it and pretended that I was riding through Rome rather than the streets of Bristol to and from work. Of course, now as I think back, I used to ride my Vespa such a short distance that the Me of today, would walk the same journey without thinking twice. But the Me of 2002-2007 never exercised and so I needed a Vespa to transport me the 2 miles to and from work. I feel sad as I think of all my past failed opportunities to exercise, but we are where we are and there is no point in looking backwards. The point I am trying to make here, is to travel the 2 miles to work on my Vespa, I used to wear heavy duty protective clothing, jacket and trousers in case I fell off, but I wasn’t even going as fast as I do on my bike, when I am only protected by comedy padded bottom shorts and a short sleeved top. I think this is what makes me slightly afraid but also why it’s so exciting and enjoyable.

Cycling outfitOver the past 12 months I have run on the Bristol to Bath Cycle path many times, but have never gone beyond Warmley. A few weeks ago, I persuaded Husband to take the day off work and accompany me to Bath on our bikes. It was a glorious day and we really, really enjoyed it. I didn’t struggle at all as we rode into Bath. We didn’t go slowly and genuinely I didn’t feel tired and was sure that I could have cycled for longer. I was actually sad when we arrived and inwardly wished that Bath was more than 13 miles from Bristol. A quick pizza lunch later and we were on the return leg of our journey, needing to be back in time for the required “school run”. Interestingly this time, Husband was struggling a bit on his clunky and heavy hybrid bike and so since then has been riding my bike and is now checking out road bikes for himself. I predict a Duathlon (Cycling and Riding) at least for him next year. It was good to do a longer ride and it showed me that my legs are strong. It is good to feel positive about things once in a while.

Swimming is something I enjoy and as regular readers of this blog will know, since Christmas I have re-learned how to swim front crawl. For the Westonbirt Tri I swam half breaststroke and half front crawl but for the upcoming Portishead Tri I planned to swim it all front crawl.

The immediate thing I learned upon completion of the Westonbirt Tri was that I LOVE triathlon and will be doing more, but most triathlons have the swim section in a lake and for this you need a wetsuit. Having bought a road bike this year, I would need to save my pennies to get a decent wetsuit and so I put all thoughts of lake swimming off until next year…or so I thought. The very hot, and wonderful summer that we have experienced so far for the past 6 weeks has meant that you do not need a wetsuit to swim in a lake. The Triathlon Training Centre is located in North Bristol and I follow their facebook page. One evening it was announced that wetsuits were banned as it was too hot and so I knew I had to go and give it a try. No need for a wetsuit and so no real excuses not to go. I contacted RubyRed to see if she wanted to accompany me and as we sat looking out at the lake, in our trisuits, on the “pontoon of procrastination” as we fondly call it, lots of thoughts raced through my mind. The most pressing was whether I would be able to even swim in a trisuit with sleeves and then there was the topic of temperature. Even with a wetsuit ban in place, the first leap into a lake is likely to be “refreshing” to say the least. As I jumped in, I couldn’t breathe for the first couple of seconds as the temperature hit me, but slowly regained my composure and we were off.

Pontoon of procrastination

The chap in charge of the lake is called Mike and he is quite a character to say the least. He is extremely suntanned and wears an enormous hat which makes him look not unlike Bristol’s answer to Crocodile Dundee. He has a terrible sense of humour but is also highly experienced in triathlon and had some very good advice for me. They also run beginner’s classes and he is very enthusiastic and encouraging. The lake is a 600m loop and you swim clockwise and between bouys. It sounds daunting but even I can touch the floor in most places at my grand height of 5 foot 3 and a half (the half is very important). When RubyRed and I finally managed to get in the water and had completed our loop, he was wildly complementary and congratulatory. Everyone needs a cheerleader like Mike. The centre also has a running track and a cycle loop so you can practice changing between the disciplines and can also complete a triathlon there if you want to practice.

I have since been back to the lake 3 times, the second time swimming two loops having met Merida there after work. 1393m is the furthest I have swum since school and most of it was front crawl which shows me that, as with most things, the thought and fear of doing something, ie swimming front crawl continuously, is much worse than the reality. Of the 1393m I would guess that at least 1000m was swam front crawl. My technique still needs work but I felt quite proud of myself as I sat back on the “pontoon of procrastination” considering my acheivement.

Running has also been happening, but not quite as often. It’s included a glorious trail run at Blaise Castle in the all important shade of the trees as well as a couple of exploring runs with Hattie. One thing I have noticed is that although I am running less (cycling and swimming more) my times are gradually increasing which shows very clearly that cross training, using different muscles, helps running immensely. On a personal level this is magnificent. If I can run less often (and when I say less often I am still running twice a week) but still manage to retain my speed or even increase it then I am a very happy person!

Unfortunately, as we edge towards the Portishead Tri, I am afraid to say that disaster has struck and I am once again under the spell of UGIDA. (Unwanted Guests in the Downstairs Area – or hemmaroids). Yes they are slightly embarrassing, but what can I tell you, they are extremely common. Lots of people have them (although they may not be as vocal about them as me) and they are quite literally a pain in the ass. But critically for me, cycling and running aggravate them enormously. They have plagued my training since April this year and my body seems to have no regard whatsoever for my fitness goals and plans for 2018.

I have surgery scheduled to have them removed on the 5th September which I am reliably informed is “quite painful” (why do people feel the need to tell you that by the way?  I mean I know what’s going to happen, it will involve a knife and I’m not an idiot, but I don’t need it spelled out for me so it induces a mild panic everytime I think about it!?) and will put me out of action for a month or so. The recovery is no driving for 10-14 days (so I will be working from home trying not to eat cake), then gentle walking and then I am allowed to start running again after 4 weeks in order to then start building up distances again. I was hoping that my body would hold it together to allow me to complete the Portishead Tri but after much soul searching I have decided to withdraw. I am very sad about it but I know it’s the right decision. Even if UGIDA subsides in the short-term to allow me to compete on the day, there is every chance that competing would cause aggravation and then I would be in pain and it would spoil our family summer holiday.

As one of the wise UberTri Mums said, “it’s times like this that it’s important to remember why we train in the first place”. For me, if I go right back to the beginning of this, it’s about my daughters and family and being fit enough to enjoy an active family life. It doesn’t really follow therefore that a medal is worth sacrificing our summer holiday for and my husband and daughters don’t like seeing me in pain anymore than I enjoy being in pain. Once I realised that, it was easy to make the decision. Also having withdrawn from the Tri means that I don’t feel under any pressure to run or cycle and so I will not be running or cycling now until October this year, post surgery.

I am signed up to the Big Half in London on Sunday March 10th 2019 and so have plenty to motivate me to get back up to speed quickly after the operation. I am also going to complete an Olympic Triathlon next year – this will be a 1.5k swim (probably in a lake) a 40k bike ride and then a 10k run. This will be a huge challenge but I’m excited for it. My Christmas list is certainly looking different for this year including a wetsuit and cleats (cycling shoes) than previous ones where it simply stated “Clarins and perfume”.

But for now, I need to be sensible and try not panic about losing all my fitness that I have spent the last 2 and half years building up. There is still plenty I can do, so I will keep swimming, using weights (gently) and today I went to my first Ashtanga Yoga class which was extremely difficult and challenging. I genuinely thought it would be a good stretch with some breathing whereas the reality is that I suspect I may not be able to lift my arms over my head tomorrow without wanting to cry. Still I need to keep challenging myself. This year has not gone the way I wanted it to – after the London Landmarks triumph I had plans of sub 75 minute 10ks and the two Triathlons with the second being faster that the first. But life does not always go the way you want it to. My body doesn’t care about my plans it seems and so there will not be any more medals for me this year.

I’ll blog again later in the year as I restart my running journey after my surgery and until then I wish you all a wonderful Summer.

 

 

Swim, bike, run, medal

2 days ago I completed a Sprint Triathlon. If I had told myself this two and a half years ago, I would have wet my pants laughing at the prospect, but there we have it. It’s true. I have the medal (and it’s my favourite medal too).

I think it’s important to remember where I started before I recount Monday’s exploits because I really and completely truly believe that if I can achieve a Sprint Triathlon, then quite literally anyone can. You can do anything you put your mind to if you want to do it enough. The fact that the idea scares you is not a reason not to try because the more the idea scares you, the greater the sense of achievement and more alive you feel because of it. Two and half years ago, the idea of running terrified me but knew that I needed to do something drastic to improve my health. I wanted to be an active, not lumpy Mum and I needed to set my daughters a better example. So I downloaded the couch to 5k app and over the past 2 and half years have persevered with what has become the most complicated relationship of my entire life. Running. I am not fast. I am not a natural runner. Most of the time I actively hate it. It makes me swear and often cry……but it has also given me more than anyone could have ever predicted. Not only a 4 stone weightloss, healthier heart, longer life expectancy (we hope), lower cholestorol, peace of mind, better sleep and the ability to eat (within reason) whatever I like as well as a haul of medals, but most importantly it has given me good friends, my squad, my tribe. I am part of a family of women who all met through running. I would not have met these people if it wasn’t for running; Hattie, Curly Sue, Merida, Miss Fonda, Ariel, Ruby Red, Captain, LA Blond, the list goes on and on. Two and half years ago I didn’t know any of them, but now count some to be part of my “inner circle” of great friends.

So if you are about to start on a couch to 5k course using whatever means you have chosen (app or running group), don’t be afraid of being afraid. Embrace it and remember that you can do it if you really want to do it…and one day it might lead you to a triathlon medal!

So enough of the mushy stuff….let’s talk triathlon. There is more to triathlon than swimming, cycling and running. There is also the complicated lesson of logistics. In order to participate in a triathlon you have to transport your bike to the venue and this requires a bike rack. Now we have a bike rack, but it comes out maybe twice a year and we always need to watch a youtube video to remember how to rack the bikes onto it. The Red Lady and I were due to start our swim at 7.41am, which meant in order to have enough time to get everything sorted out before we started we would need to set off at 5.30am. Ugh. I am not a morning person and I believe that the only reason you should ever be up at 5am is to board a plane for a holiday….but at this time of the morning we needed to be ready to go and faffing about getting the bikes on a rack wasn’t an option. Therefore the Red Lady bought her bike round on Sunday evening and thank goodness she did. After 45 minutes of trying to get the bikes onto the rack during which we all got covered in oil, we finally got the bikes on to then discover that the car would not go in the garage with the bikes  on. Needless to say, there was swearing…..so the next morning, my very lovely Husband got up with me at 5am to help rack the bikes up and at 5.30am the Red Lady and I were away and off on our adventure. (Husband and daughters were to arrive later but in time to cheer me on for the run.)

When we arrived at Westonbirt House, the location of the Sprint Triathlon, we had to go and collect our race pack which had instructions for transition (the area where you go from swim to bike and then bike to run, essentially where you leave all your kit), lots and lots of stickers (to put on your bike and helmet) and race number tattoos. As I have already said, I am not good in the morning and nerves, coupled with my general ineptitude first thing in the morning resulted in my leg looking like this when I had finished.

race-tattoo.jpg

So now as I was clearly looking professional….the Red Lady and I headed off towards the swimming pool to await instructions. The swim leg was 400m and I had been allocated “lane 2, position 1” which meant I was given a red swimming hat. The Westonbirt Sprint Triathlon is put on by a company called DB Max and they are brilliant. I don’t know if all triathlons are like this, but every single Marshall on Monday was superb. The lady in the pool explained with expert clarity that red hats would go in first and that there would 5 swimmers per lane, each wearing a different coloured hat and we would be starting in 10 second intervals. We were each in charge of counting our own number of lengths but there was also a person counting at the end of each lane who would help. If you are tapped on the feet whilst swimming, you must let the tapper overtake you at the end of the length then when you’re done you jump out and then you’re off to transition. Pretty simple. I was off first (being a red hat) and I did feel the pressure as I knew everyone would be chasing me. The Red Lady and a TMR Mum Jemima, was also in the same wave but a different starting position. Despite having practiced my front crawl religiously since January, I am ashamed to say that as I sat listening to the Marshall, surrounded by other triathletes (some of which looked fairly experienced) I lost my bottle and at the last minute changed my plan of swimming all front crawl, to swimming alternate breaststroke then front crawl. I was tapped on the foot twice but on the whole I was pleased with my swim. I had set myself the target of completing the swim in less than 12 minutes and my chip time (which you wear on a strap around your ankle) registered 11.35. I marked it up as a success.

What I hadn’t practiced however, was getting out the pool and getting to my bike in a soaking wet trisuit. I had practiced getting off the bike into a run but not the swim to bike. Westonbirt is also slightly unusual in that there is a 600-700m run from the swimming pool to the transition area (where my bike was) and I was surprised by how weird it felt. I got out the pool and ran to my towel, quickly dried my feet and put my shoes and socks on and tried to run. It wasn’t easy. My legs were wobbly and I felt strangely self conscious as there were lots of spectators walking around, getting in my way too ( “please MOVE I am doing a triathlon” – I muttered inwardly to myself, or words to that effect…) as well as swimmers in later waves walking to the pool. Everyone was offering support but as most trisuits are black, it’s impossible to see who is wet and who is dry so it was a confusing run.

The rules of the transition are plentiful but they all follow a common sense theme. You are not allowed to touch the bike until you are wearing your helmet and this follows that when you come back in from the bike leg, you are not allowed to take your helmet off until you have parked your bike. Safety, safety and safety. I didn’t rush in transition (I should have been quicker really and I will be quicker on future triathlons) but I didn’t want to break any rules. The Red Lady caught me up and we had a little chat as we prepared ourselves. I am quintessentially British and spend a lot of my life worrying about being appropriately dressed for the weather. One of the things I was most worried about on Monday (other than getting up at 5am) was whether I would be cold on the cycle. I would be wet…and hopefully travelling quite quickly so in theory could get very cold. Therefore I decided to put a Tshirt on for the cycle, somehow rationalising that this would keep me warm over a soaking wet trisuit!

There is a “line” at the edge of transition and you cannot get onto your bike until you are over it and also you are not allowed to cross the line coming back from the cycle whilst on your bike. Again safety, safety, safety. You must not ride your bike in the transition zone in case you hurt someone. The DB Max Marshalls were all positioned perfectly – as you headed out to the run the Marshall here had a loud booming voice, full of encouragement and enthusiasm, calling everyone “Runner” and telling us we could all “do it” and we were “amazing”. By contrast, the Marshall situated by the transition line entering and leaving the bike area shouted instructions at us reminiscent of a Sargeant Major but he had clearly decided that not one triathlete would forget the rule and risk disqualification on his watch, so barked at us loudly. It was a bit scary coming in as he shouted at me to “remember the line and get off your bike” but it was invaluable as I had spotted my family and was more intent on waving at them than remembering to get off the bike before the transition line.

As the Red Lady and I headed out to embark on our 24k cycle I felt excited. Now as much as I struggle with running, the opposite is true of my bike. Prior to Monday, thanks to my UGIDA, I had only managed 3 rides on my bike but I had always felt that this would be the strongest section for me and I wasn’t wrong. I quickly sped away and really began to push the cycle. For much of the ride I was on my own, surrounded my beautiful countryside and I found myself nodding to early morning dog walkers and then talking to the horses that were watching from the fields. “Good Morning Mr Horse” I shouted to them, like a crazy woman, but smiling. I felt truly happy. Also mindful of the advice of a professional contact, Mr Lapin, who had advised that I needed to “not come last and overtake a man” I made sure that I overtook the first man I saw (I don’t think he was very happy) and I was not last. I was ecstatic. I love cycling. I sped down the hills so fast that I wanted to squeal and pushed up the hills, digging in, not wanting to slow down. It’s a slippery slope though as I am already eyeing up cleats, new pedals etc but I am confident that I can be good (or at least not completely rubbish) at cycling. I mean, my enormous glute muscles must be good for something!

Westonbirt Sprint Tri – 28.5.18 – www.dbmax.co.uk

Finally, I got off the bike and almost into the arms of the enthusiastic Marshall as I set off on the run. My legs were wobbly and they felt very tired. I hadn’t been cold on the cycle as I had feared because it was warm and muggy and because I was peddling my little heart out. My average heartrate on the cycle was 150 beats per minute and I was hot when I got back. A trisuit is essentially a very large pair of spanx and it hides NOTHING. It is not an outfit for the body conscious but I think it says something about the atmosphere on Monday that in transition, I pulled my Tshirt off and ran in only my trisuit without really giving it too much thought. Westonbirt Sprint triathlon is an event for all types of athletes, all levels of fitness and all shapes and sizes, all doing their best and working towards that medal. I didn’t look out of place as I ran in my black lycra outfit. The run was nothing short of horrendous. It was here that the 5 weeks when I was unable to train properly due to UGIDA really showed. I had planned to run/walk the final 5k 3 minutes and 30 seconds, but this didn’t really happen. My legs didn’t seem to work properly at all but at the same time worked very fast. I couldn’t seem to take normal size strides…so was running in a fashion akin to someone in a Benny Hill sketch running to pat a bald man on the head with comedy music accompanying me. I was 5 minutes ahead of the Red Lady at the end of the cycle but she caught me up. We passed each other (the run was laps) before she caught me and she was clearly enjoying the run as much as I was as she shouted to me “I don’t like you very much at the moment”….. She didn’t mean it, I don’t think!!! 5 minutes later she had caught me and slowed down for a quick chat. I urged her on telling her not to wait and she was off. She was so strong on Monday and I am so proud of her.

On the final lap, I was really hurting but my cheer squad, Husband and Daughters, cheered me over the line and I was ecstatic. The finishers “high” was immense and I don’t think I have experienced a high as big since my very first 10k in 2016. I am a triathlete! I cannot believe it. I am very proud of myself.

Westonbirt Tri - RUN

There was 444 competitors on Monday and I came 380th in the swim, 385th on the bike and 434th in the run. I am always found out on the run.

Over a celebratory breakfast with Curly Sue this morning, we have formulated a plan which will hopefully help me to run faster (finally) and be stronger. I am going to redo couch to 5k but hopefully running faster and slow jogging the walking bits. I’m going to continue cycling (have I mentioned that I love it?!) and swimming but I’m also going to embark on serious strength training. I have ordered some weights and I will get strong. I want to do more triathlons and I’m also considering a wetsuit to try some lake swimming as I would like to do a longer Olympic Distance triathlon. But I don’t want my running to always undo all of the progress made by the swim and bike. I’m also entered for the Portishead Sprint Triathlon in early August so plenty to focus the mind.

So I enter a new phase….again! Get fast and get strong.  Arm wrestle anyone?….

 

Shorts, the sunshine and a 10k race

When I started running in 2016, the Bristol 10k was my first ever event and I completed it on a hot day, in 93 minutes of triumph.  Last year, the Bristol 10k became a bit of an obsession and I got a bee in my bonnet about achieving a fast time, which I did helped by Merida, who paced me to 78 minutes and 56 seconds on another overly warm day. There was press interest, interviews in the run up and whilst I should have felt elated upon achieving my goal, I didn’t as I suffered an emotional crash after having run on adrenaline for the preceding weeks running up to the race.

Each year, the Bristol 10k brings me a new challenge and this year was no different. After having not really run for the month preceding the race and deciding only 4 days before to even attempt the run, I was going for a different type of finish this year. I needed to relax my expectations to simply finish in one piece rather than achieve a faster time than last year and not to jeopardise the triathlon which is scheduled for the Bank Holiday weekend. This seems very sensible doesn’t it? Surely only a complete idiot would deviate from this plan……

The problem is that following my Landmarks victory (which is what I am calling it), I really believed that I had cracked the mental battle with running. I CAN run faster than I think and I only need to tell myself this and not walk and I would get faster and faster and one day, who knows, perhaps I could achieve a “fast” time. Husband, who is my most enthusiastic cheerleader, is convinced that I am capable of a sub 70 minute 10k and I began to believe it myself. Genuinely, I do think that one day I will run a sub 70 minute 10k, but let’s be realistic here, it’s not going to be following a month of no real exercise apart from walking and swimming. Only a complete idiot would attempt something like that…

So the morning of the race arrived and I was feeling remarkably relaxed as I had no real or public goal. I told myself that all I needed to do was finish. One of the lovely TMR ladies, MacStar had messaged me a couple of days before to say that she hadn’t done as much running as she’d have liked in the run up to the race either and perhaps we could “meander” (her words) together. I made it very clear that she was not to pace me and could leave me at any point, but she was happy for the company and so I joyously agreed.

Hattie has been preparing for the Bristol 10k like a woman possessed and has been training very hard indeed. We travelled into town together as usual, but we had decided (for the first time ever) NOT to run the race together. I didn’t want to do anything to stop her achieving her desired time and if I had to withdraw for any reason during the race due to UGIDA, then I know she would have stopped to stay with me. This was unthinkable for me and so we agreed that she would run her race (fast) and I would complete mine, hopefully in one piece.

Arriving in the Athletes’ Village on Millenium Square is always exciting and as Husband ran off to join the other speedies in his starters pen, I went to the Mothership that is the “This Mum Runs” stand to meet up with my squad. It was brilliant. There were absolutely hundreds of us and we all completed the warm up together, all wearing our team colours and I was able to help a couple of the first timers try to keep calm and convince them that they CAN run 10k and just enjoy the day. Macstar, Merida, RubyRed (my super glamorous friend who always runs in red lipstick), Captain, everyone was there and it felt a bit like a Christmas party. But then it was time to join our pen and await our start. I had been planning to chase the 75 minute pacer for as long as possible and then hopefully stay ahead of the 80 minute pacer. MacStar could possibly see my brain buzzing and so suggested that we run on our own, which I suspected she thought would help to keep my speed sensible. I happily obliged and we walked on towards the front of the pen, with me keeping half an eye on the 75 minute pacer who was now 20 feet behind me. And then we were off. The most consistent thing I can say about all three 10k races that I have run over the years, is that they have ALL been absolutely boiling. The portway part in particular felt like a volcano and the heat bounced off the tarmac and the sun beat down mercilessly. It was like running in an oven and I am never a very successful runner in the heat. As MacStar and I crossed the start line, I knew that the first kilometre would be faster than it should be as you get swept along with the crowd, but then you need to slow your pace down, especially in hot temperatures. But as I have stated a few times, I am an idiot and this is not what I did. Instead of slowing down, I ramped the pace up, even though MacStar was doing her utmost to reign me in pleading that “you need to slow down” but I couldn’t or at least, I didn’t. I have not got within 90 seconds of my 2017 10k time since last May and yet I ran the first 3k on Sunday this week at a sub 72 minute 10k pace and it was BOILING. This would have been a stretch if I was fully fit, but I was not and so, as you know, I confirm my status as “idiot” once more as at 3k I ran out of steam and also worryingly, began to overheat. My core inside was very, very hot and I felt a bit sick and we still had 2k before the water station. We stopped for a breather (3 minutes worth of a breather) and I instantly knew that my time was not going to happen. I felt ok about it to be honest and all the self imposed pressure instantly evaporated. Whilst I was stopped Hattie ran past me, smacking my bum as she passed! She looked fast and I shouted at her to carry on as she slowed down to see what I was doing and was I ok? I reassured her I was fine and Macstar was with me and then she was gone again. Hattie took 5 minutes off her previous fastest 10k time and she is delighted. She worked hard and deserves it. Well done Hattie.

Suspension Bridge High res

As we moved towards the 4k mark, I whispered to MacStar that I needed to walk (else I would have fallen over) and so the walking started. Run a bit, walk a bit which continued for the rest of the race. I stripped off my head buff and yellow sweatband as whilst they help mop up sweat, they were also contributing to my heat problem. At the water station, Curly Sue and the LA Blond were Marshalling and so hugs and high fives occurred as MacStar poured an entire bottle of water over my head and neck (I suspect that if you’d been close enough you would have heard a hissing sound much like steam) whilst I drank another bottle. Still I was hot but I was feeling better. We took a further 2 bottles with us and set off for the final 5k. I simply could not run without walking and the heat from the sun was relentless as we trundled through kilometres 5 to 8. Macstar was fantastic and we did finally have the meander and chat we had promised each other as the kilometres went by. I was feeling stupid as I knew that I had caused this situation but nonetheless determined to finish as I wanted the medal and knew that my daughters would be waiting to cheer me at kilometre 9.

As the kilometres passed by the crowd cheered loudly as I had hoped that they would, but I also received some unforeseen support from readers of this blog. 3 people over the course of the race (who all passed me running fast) shouted to say hello and that they were readers of this very blog and they enjoyed it and it had helped them. I loved saying hello to these people and your support really helped me over those final tough miles. Thank you.

As we reached 9k I saw my daughters which always lifts me. Husband was with them and he asked if I was ok, knowing I was hot and almost certainly not, and then quickly communicated that he had been off his pace and had suffered with the heat too.

As we turned into the final straight, I quickly decided that I wanted this to be finished as quickly as possible and promised MacStar that we would go for a sprint finish which we did, but those final 600m were amongst the most painful and excruciating I have ever run.

Sprint finish HIGH res

My final time was 85 minutes, which does include 3 minutes of stopping at 3k so I guess I ran it in 82 minutes. Given that I hadn’t really trained properly and was reliant on my residual fitness built up over a couple of years now, I can’t really complain. I wasn’t sore the next day either which I am also taking as a big win. If I had gone off slower it might have been a different story, but I didn’t. I am an idiot, but an idiot that never stops trying. What I took from Sunday is that you can’t smash every race. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Sometimes there will be reasons for this (not properly training in the run up or a ludicrously hot day) and sometimes there won’t. But you must keep trying. Despite promising myself as I ran up the Cumberland basin that I was having next year off and MacStar and I laughing as we noted that the supporters looked like they were having a much better time than we were and promising each other that we wouldn’t torture ourselves like this again next year, within 24 hours of crossing the finish line, I had already signed up for next year and so had MacStar. Runners are all mad.

As we walked back to the TMR stand, which was where I was meeting Husband and daughters, my smile re-appeared as we were greeted by the TeamTMR. Some were ecstatic having got fast times and others were desolate and disappointed. I consoled and congratulated accordingly.

My most immediate feeling I had was not about my time, but of a more practical nature – I was soaking wet. Without even giving it a thought, I pulled my soaking wet T shirt off exposing my sports bra and put on the dry new T shirt that was in the finisher’s pack, which was slightly loose for the first time ever. I didn’t give any consideration to my tummy or bingo wings or being “beach body ready”. What a load of crap that is – if you’re on the beach and you have a body, then you ARE “beach body ready”! The more observant of you will also notice that I am wearing shorts for the first time. I have worried about wearing shorts in public to run in for some time now, but finally took the plunge after Perdita (she has dalmations) suggested that I try the Decathlon shorts as they are long, don’t ride up and so, hopefully, my thighs wouldn’t rub together resulting in the dreaded “chafing”. I don’t think any woman over the age of 13 actually has a real “thigh gap” and so the fear of chafing is a big problem for most normal sized women and is a reason why so many of us are scared to wear shorts. But I did try them and they worked and given the heat, I was very pleased I had freed my legs and was wearing shorts on Sunday. There is no going back for me now, I will be wearing shorts for evermore now. Don’t be afraid to join me.

Bank Holiday weekend I will be wearing a Tri Suit, which is essentially a skintight (genuinely, I can barely breathe in it) lycra all in one shorts and Tshirt suit that you swim, cycle and run in – so as you see, it goes from the sublime to the ridiculous!

I’m not really going to be “match fit” for the Tri either, but I will pace myself much better as this will be a completely different test. I have never cycled the full distance having I’ve only been out on my bike once for a proper ride and the only time I have ever transitioned (which is when you switch from one discipline to the next) from bike to run, my legs buckled underneath me, so it will be a challenge to say the least. But, I am looking forward to it, as ever.  I’m just hoping it won’t be too hot…..

Shiny Sheena and U.G.I.D.A

Following the Landmarks Half, I decided to treat myself to a week off as I was knackered and wanted a little break before Tri Training started. I ate what I wanted which seemed to include at least 4 pieces of congratulatory cake (any excuse) and relaxed. It was wonderful and just what I needed.

The following weekend, I went for an 8k running plod (just for fun with no mind of speed) and then the next day took “Shiny Sheena” (yes, I have named my road bike) out for a 13 mile spin. I had been so excited to get out and try my new bike for a couple of weeks and when I finally managed it, she didn’t disappoint. I really like cycling and was able to test the gear I had bought (“all the gear and no idea” describes me down to a tee!”). I went up the Bristol and Bath Cycle Path to the Warmley Tea rooms, (which has a toilet decorated to look like Doctor Who’s TARDIS), I had a cup of tea and then cycled back. Other cyclists waved to me and I felt like I was one of the gang.

Shiny Sheena

The “Tri Mums” (This Mum Runs ladies that do Triathlons) had been enormously supportive with my planned triathlon endeavours and were on hand to help offering advice on gear, outfits, shoes (hooray – yes we need new shoes) and training plans to myself and a couple of other newbie Triers. They recommended that to avoid “chafing” in the bottom area, it was best to wear no underwear under the cycle trousers at all.

Frankly I was horrified. Having just been through the whole underwear/runderwear debacle with the running, it seemed that underwear (or lack of) was now a new feature with cycling. It seems to exercise in 2018, one must be knickerless and enduring a cold tummy. But these ladies know more than me and so I trusted them and followed their advice for the bike ride. They were correct. The padded bum part of cycling trousers did not rub and so I was delighted. Unfortunately the razor like saddle did aggravate my bottom, significantly and I was uncomfortable for a few days.

I will stop now and tell you that my husband has begged me not to put the next bit in this blog as it’s a bit embarrassing and extremely personal. But my blog is a “warts and all” log of my exercise journal and so I must go against his wishes. (Sorry). On the Monday after the cycle, I was horrified to discover that I had an UGIDA . An “Uninvited Guest in the Downstairs Area” as my daughter named it, rather perfectly…..or a hemmaroid.  I was not happy and extremely uncomfortable. Over the counter medicine was doing nothing to rectify the situation and so after a week of panic about not being able to run (it was MUCH too painful) or cycle (absolutely unthinkable) I went to the Doctor. The Doctor was fantastic and, importantly, a runner. I was surprised to find myself in tears as I explained to her (and her two medical students in with her as they all had a good look at the “UGIDA”) that I was desperate to run as I had an upcoming triathlon and so my training plan demanded that I run. Let me tell you, I am not a fan of running, but not being able to run was absolutely hideous and I needed to get the “situation” sorted quickly. Unfortunately, the human body, and mine in particular, doesn’t give two hoots about triathlons or medals and so there was nothing to do but rest and try and recover. The Doctor impressed upon me, in earnest, the need for rest, stating that this is not uncommon in runners and athletes and she wished more people would go and get their “UGIDAs” checked etc.  So as I blinked back the tears, I tried to heed her words and resolved to rest in the hope that this would fix the problem. So I rested. And then rested a bit more. It didn’t get any worse and possibly improved a bit, but it was not happening quick enough for me. I am currently waiting for a referral to come through to have the little blighter removed. I resigned myself to not being able to do the triathlon or run the Bristol 10k, which as you may know, is what I refer to as my “Annual Nemesis” as I usually use this to test if I am improving as a runner. I was gutted about the triathlon but I think if I’d had a choice over which event I would do if I could only do one, I would have chosen the 10k. It’s been a dark couple of weeks and I have felt at times as though I should simply set up a direct debit from my own bank account to Boots as I have desperately tried numerous creams to try and alleviate the symptoms.

I have been very, very down. I have been surprised by how low I have felt to be honest. I have bored my Sisters with updates on “Asswatch” as they’ve tried to help and keep me sane, but not running has been hell.

Hattie has been training with Curly Sue without me and making fantastic progress but I have struggled to go along and watch as it made me feel quite upset not to be running alongside her, sweating as we run up hills or sprinting around Queens Square. One small glimmer of light however, has been that although you can’t run or cycle with an UGIDA, swimming is **virtually recommended** and so at least this was some form of a lifeline. I have practised my front crawl over and over again in the past few weeks and I am confident that it has improved. I can now swim 400m front crawl continously (at Christmas I couldn’t even swim two lengths), which is the required distance for the Sprint Tri, but I am significantly faster if I alternate breaststroke and front crawl. I’ve swum on average 2k a week and it has helped me a bit.

Then last week, in my desperation I went to Boots (again) to see if there was another type of cream that might offer some miracle. I was elated to discover that this new cream made an immediate difference and it was enough of an improvement that this last Wednesday (2 days ago) I felt ok to run home. I hadn’t run for 3 weeks and it felt AMAZING and more importantly, there was no pain. As I ran, the 10k flashed through my brain and so I decided to run for 60 minutes to see if I could. I could indeed run for an hour (imagine if I’d told myself that 2 and half years ago – that after a 3ish week break, I would be able to run for an hour!) and it was clear that although I wasn’t as fit as I had been after the half, (understatement) the swimming had preserved some of my fitness and so the 10k felt possible. I mean, it was going to hurt, but it was possible.

If the 10k is possible then the triathlon should be too if I put my old bike saddle on Sheena, as Merida had suggested….. I’m massively undertrained on the bike now and running out of time so there will be an element of “winging it” but what else is new?!

Therefore, as long as my referral with the hospital doesn’t come through in the next two weeks (highly unlikely) and as long as I am not in pain (most importantly) I have decided that I am going to run the Bristol 10k on Sunday and attempt the Westonbirt Sprint Triathlon in 2 weeks time.

I say this knowing that I might have to withdraw from one or both mid-race if things go wrong or anything “appears”….. but I think for the sake of my sanity that it is worth the risk. Plus…I have already bought a trisuit (well 2 actually…it’s a long story and I couldn’t decide between them) and I NEED the 10k medal to keep my annual collection consistent.

There is a 75 minute pacer at the Bristol 10k (TMR are providing official pacers in the Duracell uniforms this year at 75, 80 and 90 minutes after “Pacergate” in 2017) and 4 weeks ago I would have felt confident at giving this a bash for a sub 75 minute 10k. Sadly I don’t think it’s realistic anymore and so I intend to follow the lovely 75 minute pacer for as long as I can and then try my best to stay ahead of the 80 minute pacer, but I also know that this might not happen. I’ll do my best though and will hopefully have a shiny medal by lunchtime on Sunday. Wish me luck.

 

Disclaimer **virtually recommended**– not really recommended, more that I bullied the Doctor into admitting that I could swim as long as it didn’t hurt but running and cycling were absolutely prohibited.

“Leave nothing behind”…..

When I wrote my last blog post I was in panic mode. Writing does help me process things and you’ll be pleased to hear that I did calm down a bit. This was further helped by a couple of positive runs (one in a blizzard) in the final 10 days preceding the London Landmarks Half Marathon where I had set myself the target of running it in under 3 hours. As always, though, not everything was straight forward and so using the benefit of my most recent experiences, I hearby give you the list of things to avoid in the lead up to a big race:

  • Whilst worrying about “overdoing it” and getting a last minute injury, decide to go to the triathlon club swimming session instead of going for a run. All good in theory as it’s excellent cross training with no pressure on the joints and they are all really lovely supportive people….but not if you accidentally smash your hand into another swimmer (who happened to be Merida – you can’t make it up can you?!) and injure yourself so much that you have to go and have your fingers x-rayed the next day. Thankfully it wasn’t broken, but in case you’re interested, google says that you can run a half marathon if you have a broken finger.
  • Add to your growing stress levels by agreeing to go along to a running club AGM to talk about your book and running stories 4 nights before the race. Sole Sisters in North Bristol are a wonderful and inspiring bunch of ladies (full of lovely normal runners) who were extremely welcoming and found my stories funny (I think), but I was so worried about not doing a good job for them on the night (as I take my running responsibilities very seriously) that I hadn’t really slept much the night before the talk which wasn’t brilliant preparation for a 13 mile race.
  • When you arrive in London for the race, check your hotel booking before you go. Don’t arrive at the hotel and roll your eyes when the receptionist fails to find your booking and then say, “don’t worry I’ll find my confirmation” only to then discover that you must have price checked the hotel but then never actually got around to booking the hotel after all. We were lucky they had a room and I was lucky that I couldn’t read my husband’s mind as he looked at me from across the hotel reception in growing disbelief as the scene unravelled before his eyes….
  • Fail to book a table in a restaurant for the all important pre-race dinner. This is especially important if you are staying in the vicinity of a 65000 seater stadium which has a rugby match on the same day and so you find yourself in direct competition with all 65000 spectators as you try and find somewhere to eat….needless to say that this was unsuccessful and so we ended up back at the hotel for a bit of a lack lustre pizza.

So with all these challenges behind me, I woke up in the day of the race feeling remarkably relaxed. Husband (who was also running in the race) and I enjoyed a leisurely porridge pot and cereal bar, prepared our race bags and left for the tube station. The tubes were running as they should and as we got closer and closer to Charing Cross tube station, we collected more and more runners. I genuinely felt good and I was excited. Dare I say that I felt ready even and was sure that all my troubles were behind me, although as my preceding week shows, this was probably reckless.

Husband and I enjoyed the opportunity of an unusually quiet Trafalgar Square to get some “Lion Selfies” and catch up with my friend “Gordon” who, I know professionally and had also signed up to the race following one of our drunken nights out in London a few months previously when we decided it would be a great idea… Merida arrived carrying a bottle of champagne in her race bag for our post-race celebrations. Hattie was already there as she had travelled in with her sister (also running the race) and we met up with her soon after. Husband and Gordon disappeared to start in the first wave and Hattie, Merida and I slowly followed being careful to do a proper warm up. I was focussed and precise as we went through the warmups that Curly Sue has drilled into us over the past few months and knowing that Hattie sometimes suffers from a tight calf, we paid particular attention to this part of the warm up. We also saw some lovely Sole Sisters as we were joining the start queue who waved enthusiastically at us to say hello – love those ladies.

And then we were off. Merida, in her gold shorts (the Kylies) was in charge of pacing and so we tried to be obedient and keep our pace down, but it was hard. It was a glorious day and perfect for running. Overcast, no kryptonite-like sun sapping my energy, not too hot, not too cold and no wind. This combined with a fairly flat course and my confidence about any hills we would encounter due to the hard hill training we’ve been working on with Curly Sue added to my excitement.

However, whilst I was feeling great and Merida was practically floating along like a Glinda from The Wizard of Oz in gold hot pants (as a sub 3 hour half marathon is a largely enjoyable experience for someone who usually completes one in 2 hours) then unfortunately, poor Hattie was feeling the opposite. Hattie was struggling to breathe and was unusually quiet. I put this down to nerves initially and also the fact that Hattie always hates the first 5k of any race and so I regret to admit that I did what I have always done. We fell into our routine of me ignoring the complaints and willing her to keep going as I was confident that once we hit 5-6k, she would be off like a train chugging confidently towards the finish line and then she would repay the favour by ignoring me as I start to complain at 14k onwards. But the usual strategy didn’t seem to be working as effectively as usual and Hattie asked to walk for a bit. With my mind anxiously, and selfishly I am embarrassed to concede, thinking of the sub 3 goal I had set myself, I urged her on promising a walk at 10k. Hattie continued but somewhere between kilometre 9 and 10 suddenly ran to the side of the road and clung onto a railing, swaying dangerously. Merida and I ran to her side and were horrified to discover that Hattie was a white as a sheet and her legs were buckling beneath her. She was urging us to leave her….which was never going to happen and so I made my internal peace with my sub 3 hour target and tried to help my friend offerfing her dextrose tablets and pouring some water into her. A couple of other runners also stopped to help and one offered to walk with Hattie as “she was planning to largely walk the race anyway”. I declined as Merida and I decided very quickly that we weren’t leaving Hattie at all and certainly not with anyone unless she was related to them. But then Hattie rallied a bit, probably as the sugar hit her system and she seemed a bit better. The relief was palpable. Walking was possible and then she was able to slowly jog, albeit unsteadily. Hattie then declared that she was feeling better but wasn’t going to finish the race and again urged us to leave her. I forcefully informed her that this wasn’t happening (forcefully…read…told her to shut up) and we kept moving forward not really knowing what would happen. At the 6 mile marker (10k) we saw Hattie’s parents and cousin. I have never been so relieved to see anyone in my entire life. The sight of her Mother spurred Hattie to a near sprint but her legs buckled beneath her once more as she reached her, very confused looking, Mum. I quickly explained what had happened and her Mum gave me that “Mum” look that stated clearly that she was now in charge of the situation and Merida and I could go. I didn’t know what to do, but she urged us on and so we left, feeling worried about our friend but also confident that she was now safe and ok.

As we ran off, I looked at Merida and was almost too scared to ask the question I desperately needed to know the answer to.  “Can we still do this in less than 3 hours?” to which the answer was a fairly unconvincing “I’m not sure, it’s going to be very close and we probably don’t have time for any walk breaks”. I said I would give it all I had and we would make a call at 10 miles (16k) as to whether it was still possible as we were not quite yet at the half way point. So, like Forest Gump, I just started running. I put my head down and ran. There was no trundling. There was “grit your teeth and run” running. My average running pace is usually between 7.50 to 8.30 minutes to run a kilometre and I always get slower as the distance increases. On Sunday, I ran kilometre 12 (over the halfway point) in 6 minutes and 32 seconds. This is my second fastest kilometre EVER and kilometres 12 to 14 were all ludicrously speedy. It hurt, but not as much as I had feared it would. We came to the turn point on the embankment which was also the 10 mile point and Merida decided that she wanted to get a selfie. I genuinely couldn’t believe it. A Selfie?!!! But I gamely smiled and enjoyed the breather as I’d not had even a 10 step walk break for the past 45-50 minutes. Now I realise that Merida probably did it on purpose to allow me to catch my breath as we had also made up enough time by this point that the sub 3 goal was back on the table as long as I kept going.

The final 3 miles were horrendous and yet amazing. Merida patted me on the shoulder and told me I was doing well, but conversation was impossible. I gritted my teeth and ran. I really doubted that I would be able to keep going without a walk break, but I was game to try.

The support from the crowds in a big race is so incredibly important over the final section of the route. Children were holding up their hands for high fives, offering jelly babies and cheering. Merida was high fiving for both of us as I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, trying to remember to raise my knees, pump my arms and relax my shoulders as per Coach Curly Sue’s instructions which kept going round in my head.

I grimaced and gurned my way along the final three miles of the race and the spectators could see I was in pain and so were calling out my name to encourage me, but one lady helped me more than she will ever know. She looked into my eyes and shouted “LEAVE NOTHING BEHIND. Do not cross that finish line knowing your could have given any more. Leave nothing behind”. I promised myself right then that I wouldn’t leave anything behind. I repeated this over and over in my head over the final section and when Merida and I finally crossed the finish line, not having walked AT ALL over the final 3 miles, even having sprinted to the finish line, overtaking runner after runner, I knew that I truly and honestly had left nothing behind. If I met that lady today I would hug her. I think she was a runner and knew exactly what I needed to hear.

LLHM Finish with Paula

Hattie did not retire from the race at mile 6 where we left her safely with her parents. She had a rest, some water and then CARRIED ON AND FINISHED.  I couldn’t believe it when I saw her Mum around mile 9 and she told me. Hattie – you are amazing. Finishing a race when you felt as poorly as you did is nothing short of astonishing. You are a hardcore, rockstar runner and I am so proud of you.

Husband was his usual brilliant running self, nailing the race in a sub 1 hour 50 minute time.  We’ve become a couple who now have to run 13 miles in the middle of any weekend that we go away for….which is not something I would have ever predicted and we’re already thinking about our next destination/race.

I managed to get my sub 3 hour and I’m proud as punch with my time of 2 hours, 56 minutes and 42 seconds which takes 5 minutes and some change off my Bristol Half time last September. I ran my socks off in a way that I never thought was possible. I would have never believed before Sunday that I could run that fast or run for that length of time and yet I did. It hurt, but it didn’t kill me. The pain was manageable and now, two days later, I find that I am wanting to see if I can do it again, on my own without someone pacing me – I think this is what they call a runner’s high, or perhaps just insanity! The mind is an extremely powerful muscle and on Sunday it was the most important muscle in my body. Curly Sue, Hattie, Husband, Merida, Hockey Sister and many others were all confident that I could achieve the target I set myself, but I was not. However, something flicked in my brain on Sunday. People have been telling me I am a runner for a while now, and I sort of know they are right. I mean, I run (a lot), I am a Run Angel meaning that I lead other ladies on runs (which I derive enormous pleasure from), I write a blog about running which was then made into a book about running, but finally I think I am there. On Sunday, when I ran in tears between mile 11 and 12, really, really wanting to walk, feeling that I needed to walk but didn’t, I finally proved it to myself. I am a Runner.

So in the words of Jed Bartlett (The West Wing)…what’s next? Well, I’m going to allow myself a week off because I am knackered….ecstatic but knackered. But unlike after the 10k last year, I don’t feel deflated and sad now it’s all over. I feel completely the opposite. I am so very, very happy and proud.  I’m going to drink a little wine (possibly a lot of wine) and eat some chocolate and enjoy Easter. Merida and I polished off a bottle of champagne after crossing the finish line on Sunday, sitting on a steps of a Whitehall building opposite Downing Street, looking a bit like Patsy and Edina in lycra.            Merida – thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am so very lucky to have you as a friend.

Next week will start triathlon training and then in May my old nemesis, the Bristol 10k approaches, where this year there will be an official 75 minute pacer, which I mention for no particular reason at all…..so plenty to keep me occupied in the coming weeks.

But first….a short rest.

Happy Easter.

Finished with medals LLHM

 

 

 

 

The Taper and Fairy Godmothers

Blogs are a bit like buses…you wait for a long time for nothing and then a few come along at once.

My last blog was full of excitement as I looked forward to the big race. Unfortunately, since then, I have experienced what is technically known as a fit of the wobbles. 4 days is a long time in running.

Long runs are essential in a training plan as they prepare your legs for the inevitable long run and let’s be very clear about this, 13.1 miles is a VERY LONG RUN. I have followed my training plan and have done plenty of these over the past few weeks with my long suffering running wife Hattie and although we have managed them, there has always be a caveat which makes me doubt my strength for the task ahead. When Hattie and I set off for a long run, we do slip into a bit of a double act. It’s Hattie’s role to complain bitterly over the first 3k (and for any aspiring runners reading this, thinking about downloading the c25k app – DO IT – but let me tell you that the first 2 miles of any run will always be HIDEOUS and it never changes) and then she is fine. My role as “first 3k cheerleader to Hattie” distracts me from my own misery and so I manage this part of the run a bit better. However, when Hattie hits 8-10k (6 miles) and even 16k (10 miles), genuinely, she is like a train that could go on and on. She has been trying to talk me into a marathon for a while now (I am resisting) but I have no doubts that Hattie could do one and do one in style as she gets stronger the further she runs. However, as much as she starts to hit her groove at 8k, over the past few weeks, the opposite has been the case for me as I have felt neither fresh nor strong after 8 miles. This is alarming me enormously. Will I actually be able to pull an additional 5 miles out of the bag on the day – strongly? Now I know that I will complete the half, because if all else fails then I know I can walk 5 miles, but I want to complete it looking strong and looking like a runner rather than crawling over the finish line.

The second worrying fact is that although we have done quite a few long runs, we haven’t managed any of them without a break – and when I say break, I mean a 5 minute breather waiting for parkrun to start, then another mini-breather waiting to get my barcode scanned before setting off home again. There won’t be any breathers on the day and so I’m worried and feeling under-prepared.

I talked this through yesterday with Hattie and Curly Sue at our coached lunchtime running session through gritted teeth and on the brink of tears (or as much as I could speak in between running up a hill sprinting as fast as I could) and they both calmly reminded me that apparently I felt this way in the fortnight before the Bristol Half Marathon last year.

The two weeks before a half marathon or any longer race are called the “Taper”. This is essentially the “it’s too late to do anything useful now so just keep your legs moving” phase. It is absolutely terrifying and doubly so if you are a bit of a control freak like me. For the past 8 weeks my life has been about training and long runs and now, just as my brain is freaking out and wanting to do as much running as possible, the rules of the taper mean that you must not do a long run. You cannot pull the equivalent of a running “all nighter” to get you through the exam/race. There is nothing more you can do. The next 2 weeks will be about resting, massage, impersonating a camel on the hydration front and eating good food. I will run a 10k this coming weekend and then apart from short runs and a couple of 5ks here and there, there is nothing more to do.

Essentially it’s too late to do anything and I AM FREAKING OUT.

I really, really want to complete the run in less than 3 hours else I will feel like all the extra work I have been doing will be for nothing and as much as I want to enjoy the race, I want to feel like I am progressing. Not enough to try out for the Olympics or anything, but just to be moving along the improvement line in a positive manner. I also don’t want to let Hattie down as she can run faster than me and so I would be very cross with myself if she didn’t get a sub 3 because she was running with me. Additionally I also don’t want to disappoint Curly Sue who has worked so hard on getting us ready and prepared for the start line on the 25th March.

Husband is also running the London Landmarks Half and he is on for a very strong 13.1 miles indeed. His training has been more consistent that any race he has run previously and frankly some of his times over a 1 kilometre distance have been ridiculous. He is in the first wave and so will set off 40 minutes before I will and so will have quite a wait for me at the end.

So in the middle of my panic, a glimmer of hope. My Fairy Godmother, Merida, sent Hattie and I a message. If you recall, Merida paced me to my fastest ever 10k last year at the Bristol 10k last year and we’ve since become good friends as we discovered we have much in common: gin, champagne, running, children, stupidly busy jobs, and …er gin. (Never underestimate the bonding power of gin).

Merida is running London Landmarks Half for MacMillan Cancer and has raised £600 in sponsorship money. Unfortunately, thanks to a couple of bouts of proper flu (not a heavy cold or “man-flu”, but real “put you in bed for a week, oh my goodness I can’t believe I can be this ill and not be in hospital” flu) her training has not been what she had wanted it to be at all. So she messaged Hattie and I to ask if we would like to have another running buddy on the day? Also to say that if we wanted to run a specific time then she would gladly work out the pacings and run with us/shout at us/encourage us over the line too as she would like to help us achieve our goal. I was with Hattie when the message came in and I think we responded with a loud “WHOOP” and “YES PLEASE”.

So this gives me a very real glimmer of hope in an otherwise dark feeling week. Genuinely I don’t know if I can do a sub 3 hour half marathon and I am not someone who likes to contemplate failure, but I have the best friends and support network and so I will try my best. With both Hattie and Merida shouting at me (in an encouraging manner of course…at least I hope so!) I have the best chance, but ultimately I know it’s down to me. I have to pull it out of the bag on the day.

London Landmarks Half Marathon have released an app to allow participants to be tracked along the route. This is a photo of my race number.

Race Number LLHM

Should you wish to follow and send me telepathic cheers of “come on Claire, run faster” or “Merida, run in front of her holding up a can of premix gin and tonic” or “Hattie, just slap her”, this would all be welcomed.

I may or may not blog again before the big day – it largely depends on my state of mind, which as you can see, is up and down. Whatever happens, I will try to be pleased with my time whatever I get. I will try and I am nothing if not a trier.

 

 

Snow, chafing and pacing

February is the shortest month of the year and my goodness it has shot past quickly. We experienced all the seasons over the past 4 weeks: Sunshine, wind, rain and of course snow.

When I trained for the Bristol Half over Summer 2017, I found it hard to run in the heat and so most Saturdays was getting up at 5am to eat, to enable me to start running at 7am before it got too hot. The burny hot yellow thing in the sky has caused more than a few problems for me over the past two years whilst running as it seems to sap my powers.  But this is nothing compared to the problems that the Beast from the East caused.

When running in extreme weathers, the advice is always to layer up. Therefore, when it is cold I usually run in a long sleeved top (base layer), a T-shirt and then either a waterproof, reflective jacket or a zip up windproof jacket, a pair of running gloves, buff (which combines to keep my ears warm as well as keeping the sweat from my eyes), hat if it’s really cold and running tights. It therefore follows that my top half is usually toasty (often a bit sweaty…mmm) and warm but my legs are absolutely freezing.  Running tights, are essentially just that. TIGHTS! One layer of material and not wind or waterproof. This means that basically since the middle of November my bottom and outer thighs have been numb with the cold for 90% of any run and it’s hideous. So the jury is out….Spring or Autumn half marathons? It seems that both have their met office related training challenges.

As we moved towards the end of the month, I experienced all of the weathers on the same run. Last Sunday, Hattie and I set off for our long run (delayed from our usual Saturday by the snow) and I was wearing a base layer and T shirt, but  I was immediately too warm and wishing I had remembered my sunglasses. Within 2k, Hattie was helping to preserve my modesty as I quickly stripped off all layers (I was stood in my bra at the side of a main(ish) road as a women trying to park her car looked in in shock) and then replaced my T shirt, tying my base layer around my waist. Within 30 minutes, the sky was black and then we were caught in torrential rain which lasted a good 20 minutes. I was then cold and put my base layer back on. Unfortunately I was now soaked right through to my skin and undergarments and was absolutely freezing. Hattie really tried her best to keep my spirits up over the final 3k of the run but I was close to tears. When I finally got home and stripped off I was mortified to discover that the rain had caused horrific chafing around my knicker line. It was terrible. There is no photo you will pleased to read, but believe me when I say I screamed in the shower afterwards and was in terrible pain.

Cold runner picture HAT

A wise (very wise) running person has suggested to me that I try and run “Commando” ie without any pants on at all. The reasoning behind this makes sense, in that I don’t run in a cotton T shirt as it would retain moisture and rub, so the same theory should be applied to underwear. However……..the reality is very different. I have had two children and the prospect of doing ANYTHING commando, let alone running 10 miles (as I have to this coming Saturday) is not an option. CAN YOU IMAGINE? There is so much that could go wrong…But with the chafing still very fresh in my mind, I need an alternative and so I have purchased a pair of “Runderwear” Knickers (they sounds hilarious don’t they?) They are very expensive (hence only the one pair) but apparently they will work in the same way that a technical T shirt does. I am hoping they will be here in time for my final long run on Saturday. I will report back.

This run aside however, training on the whole over February hasn’t been too bad. Hattie and I have managed to get our long runs in together and to date the furthest we have run is 18k. We did this by way of a “Park Run Sandwich”. Our nearest Parkrun now is at Eastville Park where I have volunteered to Marshall on a couple of occasions, and so Saturday mornings have been a run to parkrun, a parkrun and then running home, often via the Bristol to Bath Cycle Path. It is no understatement to say that I LOVE the cycle path. There is no traffic and it’s fairly flat which is critical from the 10 mile onwards point. Cars can be hazardous not only for the obvious safety factor, but also as they provide opportunity for idiots to open their windows and shout “encouraging” (not) things as you run along.

The cycle path is awash with other runners who usually nod encouragement at you, families walking, dog walkers and MAMILS (Middle Aged Men in Lycra) zipping along on their bikes. 99% of these are very friendly and I love the Britishness of everyone wishing everyone that they meet a “Good Morning”.

Hattie and I are pondering a route for this weekend’s final long run before the taper starts and one consideration is to run 10 miles of the Cycle Path, ie running for 10 miles, then stopping and either finding a bus stop to get home or (my preference, calling an Uber). It will be like an exploring run PLUS. I’m looking forward to it, although at the moment rain is forecast and so I might be running in a bin bag…

The London Landmarks Half Marathon sent all runners an email yesterday with their start wave and times on. I am (obviously) in the last wave as I seek to run it in under 3 hours. Hattie and I have been working very hard with Curly Sue on this with hill sprints and intervals continuing and I am feeling quite fit. I have also lost 9 pounds since January 1st and I think, gained quite a lot of muscle (which is more important as it’s the muscles that carry you around).

Unexpectedly, LLHM have also decided that I should have the best chance to smash 3 hours too, as they are providing pacers up to 3 hours and 30 minutes as well as a pacer for people who want to run/walk the distance. This is AMAZING. If you’ve read my blog previously, or have my book, you will be aware of the Great Run debacle last year over only pacing the Bristol 10k up to 70 minutes and so I was paced by my (now) great friend Merida as I tried to run it in under 80 minutes.

By providing pacers for the slowest runners too it shows enormous inclusivity and understanding that we are all runners regardless of how fast we can go. I am so happy about this and so this fortifies my determination to get under 3 hours. I have also already pre-registered for next year’s race.

The next 2 and half weeks will be critical and I need to not get injured, eat healthily and drink lots of water. I am currently on a self imposed booze ban (which is always horrible, I am currently thinking about the gin and tonic I will drink after I finish) but if it works it will be worth it. Time will tell.

 

New Year and New Plans

Hmmm. It’s February. How on earth has that happened?

January, although for many is a long and gloomy month, for me is one of my favourites. For one thing, as much as I’m fed up with my busy, exhausting job by the beginning of December (I’m usually a bit burnt out by the end of the year truth be told) by the time January rolls around, I’ve usually had a bit of a rest and feeling ready for action again. I do love my job which is lucky when I also run my own business.

January is also both my and Youngest Daughter’s birthday month. There’s a lot of cake and celebrations in our house in January and this is always good.

January also marked the beginnings of “Half Marathon” training month again and for the first week of January, there was very much a “getting back to it” vibe for me.  As before, Hattie and I made a plan which had all of our long runs together – plotted out. As I am desperate to crack 3 hours for the London Landmarks, I suggested to Hattie that we engage a proper running coach to supervise one of our scheduled 3 sessions a week and that this session should be fartleks (I still snigger when I type that) or as they also known, the dreaded interval sprints. As for who we should engage to manage this, it was an absolute no brainer……enter Curly Sue, or Coach Curly Sue as she is now to be known.

So far we have had 3 coached sessions and I am already seeing improvements in my running and technique as I took 90 seconds off my previous best time at Ashton Court Park Run earlier this month. Queen’s Square in Bristol, *may well have been* designed by a runner wanting to improve his/her fitness and stamina for an upcoming race. (*pretty sure it wasn’t though*).  It is also very convenient for a lunchtime run. Over 3 sessions so far, we have walked, sprinted, tempo ran (this is a new one for me, it’s where you run faster than your usual pace, but not at a full sprint) and ran with raised knees, low shoulders (this is hard for me as my boobs bounce around like a couple of tiggers trying to escape 100 Acre Wood) and engaging your core. This is a lot to think about whilst trying to breathe, and it’s hard. This is why Coach supervises these sessions as when something is hard, it’s easier to bunk off or skip the session. This can’t happen now and both Hattie and I are delighted. These sessions will continue right up until the Half Marathon and maybe even beyond.

Park Run PB Jan 2018

At the beginning of the month I decided to ramp up everything as I also have a sprint triathlon to train for. So on top of 3 runs a week (one of which is a This Mum Runs Wednesday night run when we had 18 turn up on one week earlier in the month), I decided I should integrate a spin class (to cover the cycling element) into my training plan as a well as a swim. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I have been perservering with my front crawl and I’m pleased to say that now I can now swim front crawl for 400m in one go. It’s exhausting but I can do it. Eldest daughter often accompanies me to the pool on a Friday evening and we’ve managed to go 3 out of the last 4 weeks and so it’s slowly becoming a habit. One the other week, I was unable to swim, go roller blading or ride a bike and I suspect 3 out of 4 weeks will be the normal cycle for swimming training going forward.

Under the support and encouragement of some of the “Uber Tri Mums” I am going to attend a trial session with North Bristol Triathlon Club next week. Honestly, I can’t believe that I just typed that! Now as much as I doubt I will ever feel able to run with them (but never say never), swim coaching and learning the rules of triathlon are all things I need. Plus, I am reliably informed by Merida, that they are all really lovely people and there is nothing to worry about. 2 years ago, I wouldn’t have believed this, but now knowing how lovely and encouraging sporting communities really are, I suspect (and hope) that they will be supportive as I try and learn their sport. I’m going for a swim coaching session next Thursday and I will report back afterwards.

Unfortunately, all of the extra cycling and sprinting impacted my right leg and something went “ping” 2 weeks ago and I had to see a physio. As usual, tight quads were diagnosed and I was told I was doing too much, needed to stretch more and probably needed to drop a cardio session in favour of weights. I was only out of action for a week and so have decided to put spin on hold until after the half marathon as I can’t really afford drop a run with that 13.1 miles closing in with every day. I only have so many hours I can dedicate to training and although in December my job is usually quiet, in January it is bonkers busy. This is one of the reasons why I didn’t manage to write a blog post. So I will continue swimming but spin and cycling will be left alone until the end of March.

At the end of December I was contacted by TMR HQ and asked if I would assist them with an empowerment campaign aimed at women who find it difficult to exercise for fear of judgement. I jumped at the chance as this is something I really believe in, having rambled on in this blog for more than 2 years now about the mental challenge about calling myself a “runner” when I’m so slow etc, I felt like it was designed for me. The Captain asked if I would attend and be filmed reciting a poem and recorded doing so and that it would be a proper video, with a director and camera crew. A couple of weeks later, they said the results were good, but they needed footage of me running to complete it. I am not going to lie, being filmed running (in lycra) was not mentioned at the beginning and possibly may have influenced my decision whether to participate or not, but I was in too deep now and so on Sunday 7 in January at 8am, I was running around a Bristol park, in the snow, being filmed. It was absolutely freezing but the Director and Cameraman were brilliant. A few days later the results were posted and dare I say it, I am quite proud of them. Hopefully, as this blog shows, you do not need to look like Paula Radcliffe to be a runner and that we all come in shapes and sizes. Here is a link to the video

http://www.thismumruns.co.uk/runnerfullstop

I have been told that the video has been viewed 103,000 times which absolutely terrifies and thrills me in equal measure. If it convinces one person to give running a try then that morning running in -2c will have been worth it.

On Friday evening last week, I was asked to speak at a Charity Scouts fundraising event called “RunFest”. As I sat listening to the lady who had run at least 5k a day since the 1970s, and the gentleman who trained Kenyan Athletes, the Ultra runner and many, many other amazing people, I did wonder what I was doing there?….but I went ahead all the same to tell my running story and really enjoyed the experience. I was asked afterwards if I had considered a career in “stand-up” as my stories were funny….but no, this really is my life!!  I also sold quite a few more books and raised some more money for MacMillan Cancer so it was all extremely worthwhile. I might have also agreed to do a 30 mile Ultra run (which I’m assured is a bit of running, a lot of walking and this will be fuelled by cake)..and so I’m sure there will be more on this as the year progresses.

 

Every penny of profit is being donated to Macmillan Cancer and so far we have raised £622 which I am absolutely delighted with. Thank you to everyone who has bought one.

Yesterday, I ran the London Winter 10k which was organised by Cancer Research UK. This was a 10k around the City of London and I ran it with my long time best mate Blanche. Blanche and I have enjoyed many weekends away over the years, but they have usually involved drinking and dancing so this was a new and unknown kind of weekend for us. It was the first time that Blanche had run more than 5.5k ever in one go and she was AMAZING, smashing 10k and amassing PBs throughout the run. I hope this will be a new thing that we can do together now. My google history this morning is a list of “10k races in….Barcelona/Paris/Amsterdam/Milan/New York/LasVegas” etc because after all, it is all about balance. I think I might have that phrase engraved on my headstone when the time comes. We celebrated in style yesterday afternoon with a pint of lager (with the TMR Captain and Mrs Womble, who is a TMR London Runner whom I have chatted with quite a bit on line and it was lovely to finally meet her) gin and tonic (obviously), crisps and then a meal out with red wine. It was brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and neither one of us would have ever predicted even 3 years ago that we would ever have had a weekend away together that would include a 10k race.

Before I finish I just want to give a little shout-out of support to my training partner Hattie, who is managing some very sad family stuff at the moment that is impacting every aspect of her life. Life can throw some horrid stuff at us sometimes for no reason at all but I hope that the running is helping with the headspace. I miss running with you and I’m sending love to your whole family.

Into February, I will try and blog a bit more regularly, not least because it helps focus my mind for training and the London Landmarks half marathon is really creeping up now. Time to properly get down to work and be a #runnerfullstop.