Thursday 28 July 2011

How did you celebrate your 30th birthday? I ran 50 miles...

As a direct result, I think, of the confidence that I got from my Dartford Half Marathon, I have been thinking a lot about the direction my running is taking, and what I want to achieve next.  This week, I have done two things which have set me on a new course....

* I have contacted my local running club, the Billericay Striders, and am arranging to go out with them on one of their training runs this weekend.  I've never trained with anyone before, but think if I'd really going to get better, this is something I'm going have to do - I need to join a proper running club! You never know, I might really enjoy it, make new friends, get to know people in real life (rather than online) with whom I can share my running passion!

* More excitingly, I have signed up for my first Ultra event, of 50 miles, which is the equivalent of running from Oxford to London!  It will be my 30th birthday in July 2012, and to "celebrate" (although don't think that's really the right word!) I've decided that I want to run my 30th race...and I want to make it a significant one.  

I have, so far, run 15 races, so this gives me a fair bit of work to do over the next year to get to the number of completed races, but in addition to the races I have already signed up for, I have already started scheduling in the others, to leave me with the Ultra as my 30th race.

I'm going to be taking part in the 50 mile challenge, organised by Challenge Hub, and it's being held in Chislet, near Canterbury, so relatively close to where I live.  The event is 8 laps of a 6.55mile course, and although I'm not a huge fan of laps, I think this is a safer option for me as a first timer, as it means I can get help or drop out if I have to without it being a great logistical nightmare!  There is a cut-off limit of 15 hours, and as long as I make it to 50 miles by then, I will be happy - I'm not going to worry about the time, just completing it will be enough for my first Ultra.   

I do have a very long time to prepare...a whole year...but I have two marathons already booked for September 2011 and April 2012, and I don't want to use those those as training runs - I want to try and get a decent marathon time, so I will carry on training specifically for those, and then start following an ultra plan from April 2012.

I'm so motivated by this plan, and I know that this is something that I'm going to be able to do with the right training, and am also excited about the prospect of running so many shorter races between now and July too.

I feel I'm now becoming a slightly different type of runner...probably one of those that most people would consider to be crazy! ;)

My momentous Dartford half marathon

I've been very slack in writing up my Dartford race which was five days ago now, but the more I've been thinking about it, the more important it's felt to me, and the less sure I was about what to write.

The race itself was ok although nothing spectacular, and I probably wouldn't do it again to be honest.  My race review that I submitted on the Runner's World site is also at the bottom of this post, if you're interested - it's a hilly run, not the best organisation, with a mixture of pretty country lanes, running along a horrible main road on a narrow path, and finishing with a lap of an athletics track.

But, for me, it wasn't the route, or the lovely marshals, or even the time I ran in that was the most important thing about this race (my time incidentally was 02:00:15 - a PB and a fraction off my sub2hr target which I would have blasted if it hadn't been so hilly!).  The Dartford Half Marathon, for me, was a turning point I think in my running - it was the first time I feel I truly raced at an event.  I targeted other runners and overtook them from about the third mile all the way to the end, I ran as hard as I could despite the hills, and I ran pretty much the whole of the 13th mile at a bit of a sprint pace (for a plodder like me), completing it in under 8 minutes, desperate to beat the runners in front of me, especially the very slim and fit looking ones!  I felt so strong throughout the race, in my lungs and my legs - turning my training up a notch recently (4 days a week rather than 3 days) has made a big difference in my fitness, and I suppose losing a stone in the last 6 weeks must also have had something to do with it too.  I really did feel like a proper runner...and I love that feeling, it's what keeps me going!  I enjoyed it so much that the actually course itself was a bit secondary - it was the feeling of pushing myself that was so good - although the exhilaration of running fast downhill will always be the very best thing about running ;)

2011 race reviewed by: naominf
Overall score
Would you do it again?
PB potential
In short: Decent, hilly race but needs work to make it great
In full: There was much made about the fact that this race is in it's 35th year, so it surprised me a bit that it wasn't that slick an operation. From the big queue to drop off baggage because we had to wait for a label to be written for each person, to the unclear, poorly signposted winding route in the last mile, to running out of goody bags at the end of the race (and I finished in 2hrs so wasn't one of the last) - it just didn't seem as organised as I'd expect when everyone's had so much practise. However, the marshals were excellent, the water stops frequent (and even stocked with bananas), the locals were very supportive and the hills, although horrendous, were a positive challenge...and the medal was pretty good too! Generally the route was around pretty countryside, although I didn't particularly enjoy the narrow path along the main road. All in all, a good morning's work, but glad I didn't have to travel too far for it, as this wasn't the historic race I was expecting.
Date of review: July 25, 2011

Saturday 23 July 2011

Are Friday nights for running?

After a busy day at work yesterday, I got home, had dinner and unfortunately had to spend a couple of hours cleaning and preparing for my family coming over to visit us today - could not get more dull on a Friday night but never mind...needed to be done. However, when I finally sat down on the sofa at about 10.15pm, I realised that I really still needed to run, to keep up with my schedule, and also because I have a half marathon on Sunday and wanted to get in a final training run before my race.  I had set my alarm early that morning to try and get out before work but typically I had turned my alarm off and gone back to sleep!!

So, it's Friday night at 10.20pm, I'm tired, it's raining, and I really fancy just sitting down and watching a bit of TV with Francis.  There have been quite a few similar times in the past, when I slept through my early run, but when it came to making up for it in the evening I just couldn't be bothered...but this time it was different.  I deliberated with myself for just a couple of minutes, before realising that my running really is much more important to me than watching a bit of TV...and it wouldn't be worth the feeling of guilt I'd have if I didn't go within 10 minutes I was changed, ready, and on my way!

I was so pleased with myself for actually getting out, that I think it helped the run overall.  It felt like I got a good pace up (although didn't have my Garmin so not quite sure) and I ended up taking a different route to usual which always makes it more interesting, and my legs and my lungs felt strong.  It started absolutely tipping down with rain not too long into my run, but as I had a jacket and a baseball cap I didn't notice it too much despite getting soaked to the skin, and ended up doing 7 miles, when I'd only intended to do 6, so I must have been enjoying myself ;)

Going out late on a Friday night is kind of entertaining as you get to see all the drunk people coming out of the pubs and trying to get home. I passed a couple of people throwing up in hedges and groups of girls shrieking and staggering around in their mini-skirts.  What they must think of me, this mental runner dashing past them at that time of night, I'd rather not think about too much: when I used to be that person falling out of the pub I would probably have felt sorry for the runner; they weren't in the pub, they weren't having fun - I would have thought they were a bit pathetic.  Now I find myself thinking that of them.....

Friday 22 July 2011

Can I help make the Olympic Games happen? Please??

Earlier this week, I attended an interview day for a volunteer job for the London 2012 Olympics. I would absolutely love to be involved in the Games - to use a horrible cliche, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity, especially living so close, and as I come through Stratford on the train every day on the way to (and from) work, I've seen the Olympic stadiums built over the last year or so, and they're so impressive. Now we know that we didn't get any tickets in the ballots to go and watch any of the events, being a volunteer will be the only opportunity I have to get inside a venue!

Anyway, very early on in the build-up to the Olympics, I was on the website, and submitted my application to be a volunteer, or a Games Maker, as they're called.  I took time over my application and really tried to sell myself and my skill-set, but with so many applicants didn't really think it would get any further.  However, a couple of months ago, I got an email inviting me to attend an interview session, for a volunteer position with the Event Services team - the people who will be at the venues taking tickets, showing people to their seats, and generally being helpful!  I was very excited, and on Wednesday, took myself along to the Excel centre in London for my 11am timeslot, to see if they would want me!

Each time slot at the event saw 25 people going through a recruitment session of 90 minutes, which consisted of a talk and Q&A session from some of the paid team who are organising the volunteers, a video showing various sporting celebrities telling us how great it would be to volunteer, and then one-on-one interviews of about 30 minutes, followed by the obligitory trip to the London 2012 souvenir shop to get to the exit.  It was all well organised and smoothly managed - the only thing that made me laugh was the frequent reference to McDonalds, who are supporting the process - I really can't connect what is often perceived to be a terribly unhealthy fast food chain with a sporting event involving the fittest people in the world!

My interview was with a lovely Australian guy, about 65, who used to be a rower - I didn't get to the bottom of whether he just did it as an amateur or professional and now I really regret not asking!  He had some standard questions to ask me, which I expected...but I was surprised by how difficult I found it.  I'm usually very good at job interviews, but this was a bit different. We managed to get talking about my running, and rather than telling him all about my customer service experience, my people skills, and what a great volunteer I'd make...I ended up talking about how I had a run a 2:02 half marathon, was hoping for a sub 2hr time at this Sunday's Dartford half, and so I didn't know why I couldn't get a sub 4.30 marathon, but was going to be trying again at my next race in September.  All a bit random and I definitely kept going off on a bit of a tangent!

The only positive I can really take from it is that I would have come across as very enthusiastic and chatty, and I suppose a bit knowledgeable about marathon running, but that's not really going to qualify me for a job in crowd control and answering questions about how to get to the train station!

I'll just have to wait and see - they were very open about the fact that not everyone who was interviewed would be offered a role, so I don't want to get my hopes up.  They're going to start letting successful applicants know in October...fingers crossed!!

Sunday 17 July 2011

Monsoon marathon training

The weather this weekend was truly atrocious.  Although I knew I wanted to get my long run in on Saturday morning, when I got up and realised how awful it was, I really didn't know if I would manage it - the rain was monsoon heavy and the wind was howling.  There have been many times in the past when the weather being quite so bad would have left me sat on the sofa staring out of the window, but this time I pulled myself together, found my long leggings, my rain-jacket and hat...and I made myself step out of the door.

And I was absolutely soaked to the skin in minutes.

But I carried on, and to be honest, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.  The rain was incredibly heavy, but it wasn't too cold, although with the noise of the rain and the cars I could barely hear my ipod (even on maximum volume settings). But my biggest problem was with the splashes!

The route I had chosen to run was pretty much only on a pavement right next to the road, or on the road itself around a few country lanes.  So stupid!  There were massive puddles everywhere, and although I tried to be very aware, to move away from the edge when cars were coming and to wait until there were no cars before running along certain sections, on more than one occasion I found myself getting splashed by the cars going past which was horrid :(

But on I went...the rain eased off a bit every so often, but then went back to monsoon conditions, and it really was the worst weather I think I've run in.  Half way through I could have turned off and gone home but I stuck with it and got my second lap in, for a total of 12 miles.

I do think it's important to run in whatever conditions there are - you can never control them on race day and it's worth getting used to whatever's out there so you don't get too much of a shock!  I'm pleased I went out, pleased I stuck with it, but was also very pleased to get home, out of my drenched clothes and into a warm shower!!

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Running away from the day!

I've had a pretty poor day today...I'm absolutely overwhelmed with the amount of work I've got on at the moment, and generally feeling very stressed about getting it all done.  It's mainly down to a number of different projects all having their completion date this weekend and not being quite in the right place to meet the deadline!

Anyway, I'm feeling a bit crap about it all.

But it's amazing how much I'm looking forward to going out for my run tonight, because I know that it will make me feel much better.  Running will remind me that my job is not my life, and it will give me some headspace...a bit of time where I really will not think about work.  I'll either just concentrate on the run itself (although that usually only happens on speedwork days!), or immerse myself in the audio book or music I'm listening to.  Then, when I get back, I know that my general mood will have improved, and I will feel a little more prepared for going back to work tomorrow.  What a cheap, easy and generally very good for you way of getting a bit of therapy :)

Anyway, that's the plan, how I think it's going to work out....fingers crossed it actually does!

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Keep on eating....

I had the big weigh-in today after 4 weeks on Weight Watchers ProPoints programme and my issues last week of not really being sure of how much I should be eating to cover off all my running.

Very pleased to report that I seem to have been eating the right amount - could even get away with eating a little more - I have now lost very nearly 10lbs and have reached my 5% of total weight milestone.  Haven't been this weight for ages, but determined to keep going until I reach my goal...only another 18lbs to go...

Wonder how much this is going to shave off my PBs??

Hurray :D

Monday 11 July 2011

A great few weeks - lots of training & losing weight! :)

What an absolutely great couple of weeks of training.  It's not often over the last few years that I've felt that things have gone quite as well as they have recently - I wonder whether it's because I had nigh on 3 weeks without really doing any running which was just long enough for my to fully rest up without losing too much fitness, or it's just because the weather's been lovely recently and it's a joy to get out and about - who knows, but I've just felt really enthusiastic about my running and definitely have been looking forward to finding new routes and getting in the miles.

So, I've stuck pretty religiously to my training schedule over the last fortnight, and have clocked up over 50 miles, and am well on my way to being ready for my half marathon on 24th July, and the marathon at the beginning of September.  I'm even starting to think that I might be able to smash a couple of PBs while I'm at it ;)

The other change over the last few weeks has been that I have joined Weight Watchers!  Now, this isn't going to become a weight-loss blog, but indulge me this post at least...

I've been following the Weight Watchers plan for three and a half weeks now, and have lost 7.5lbs, which I'm really pleased about - I'm aiming for a total loss of 28lbs. I can start to see the difference already, and I'm hoping that dropping a bit of weight will make my running easier and I'll be a bit faster too - surely running with an extra two stone is slowing me down!!  I've tried losing weight a thousand times before, and it's never really worked, or more accurately, I've never really stuck with it long enough to make a difference, but this time, it does seem to be working for me.

The problem that I'm starting to have though, is that I'm not sure that Weight Watchers is really geared up for those of us training for marathons, and I'm worrying about eating enough to keep my metabolism active, without eating so much that I jeopardise my weight loss.  It's a bit of a balancing act, and although Weight Watchers does encourage you to input your exercise and then allocates "activity points" which you can exchange for food points, I just don't know how accurately my calorie expenditure through my running is being measured, or how many of these food points I should eat.

So, the detail.....

I've been allocated a daily number of points to eat, regardless of exercise, of 29 (total over the week = 203).  I then have an extra 49 points that I can use at any point during the week, i.e spread over the days for extra food, treats, a drink or two, or to use in a day for a nice meal out, so now my total for the week = 252.  Fine, this is perfect for me, and gives me enough leeway to never feel deprived, go out for dinner, and generally feel that I'm not really on a diet, but still, by making healthy choices and controlling my portion sizes, enables me to lose weight.  But this week, I have earned through exercise over 80 food points (by running 27 miles, cycling 20 and a couple of long walks) - whether this is an accurate representation of what I've burnt during the exercise I've done, I just don't know.  But anyway, this brings my total points for the week to 332!

Although I exercise so much, the reason I am overweight is because I have always used my running as an excuse to eat too much - I want to fuel myself before my run, and then eat loads afterwards because I've done this long run...I have lots of chocolate and generally don't eat well and always try to justify it because I'll be doing another long run the next day.  I find, even following Weight Watchers, I can still make these excuses....

My difficulty comes because the plan doesn't say you have to eat all of the activity points you earn through exercise- it says you must eat at least your 29 per day and the rest is really up to you.  You can eat them all if you feel you need to.  I'm just not sure because I'd rather not eat too many, so I can ensure I lose weight, but am worried that if I don't eat enough my metabolism will stall and my body will go into "starvation mode" and I'll stop losing weight!  Arrrgh!

Well, this week, out of my 332 points, I'm going to have eaten 283 - that's my 29 per day allocation, and all of the points I accumulated through exercise, but none of the "have a treat during week" 49 points.

It's weigh-in day tomorrow, I'll have to see what the effect has been! Fingers crossed....