Wednesday 25 January 2012

Making it count and keeping safe

Yesterday was the funeral of an old school friend - Leigh Horne.  He was a boxer, and tragically got knocked down by a lorry while he was out on a training run and was killed...he was only 30.  There is a news article (here) about what happened.

Leigh climbing mountains in Ireland
I completely lost touch with Leigh after leaving school, and only found out about the accident through Facebook, but I remember him as a great guy...and it seems from his Facebook profile that he grew into an impressive man, dedicated to his family and his sport.

To find out that someone I know, who's my age, died while out doing something I do (almost) every day has really struck a nerve.

I don't know the detailed circumstances of what happened to Leigh, but it serves as a reminder to all of us who run on the roads that you can never be too careful.  When I think about it, I do take some stupid risks - on more than one occasion I've run across someone's driveway as they started to back the car out, or have crossed the road just a little too close to the oncoming cars, or assumed someone has seen me when they haven't, been out at night wearing all black - the list goes on.  I've been lucky so far, but it really isn't taking worth taking such a gamble with my safety.  

As invincible as we all feel, the worst does sometimes happen, and unfortunately it seems Leigh was just one of many.  After a bit of Google research, I've found statistics (here) from the Department of Transport that show that in 2010 in the UK, there were 19,455 accidents reported involving pedestrians and vehicles where someone was injured...and 403 of those resulted in a fatality.  Obviously that's not just runners...any pedestrian, any vehicle..but these are much higher numbers than I had expected.  It's frightening and really does make me re-evaluate why I take the chances that I do, and makes me realise that I need to change how I run when I'm out on the roads.

Leigh's death has also served as a reminder to me of how incredibly important it is to really take advantage of every day we's clich├ęd I know, but it's true.  I'm the world's worst at wasting time, prevaricating, watching the TV instead of actually doing something, and not taking up opportunities I'm offered through fear of the unknown, fear of failure, or just damn laziness.  It's crazy.  As some of you will know, my amazing dad died very suddenly of a massive heart attack while he was at his desk at work, 10 years ago.  You would think that this would have made me realise just how precious life is and how quickly it can be gone.

Now I don't want to sound morbid, but clearly horrendous things can happen, and they do, every day.  Because of that, I know (and I think we all do) that you should tell your nearest and dearest that you love them whenever you can, you should say yes to new experiences, get back in touch with friends you haven't seen because you've all been too busy...take advantage of everything today has to offer because you never know what tomorrow might hold for you.  

Now I just need to work out how to actually live like that - to turn off the TV, and to make the most of every moment.  I suppose I can start with my approach to running. I should stop plodding away on that boring 4 mile route I have, just to rack up some empty miles to get the weekly numbers up, and start making the most of every mile. To quote the recent Nike campaign (which against all my instincts, I love!) ...I need to "Make it Count".  

I know it's easy to say these things, harder to actually apply them in every day life, but sometimes, it's really worth the effort.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

It doesn't matter if you're faster than me

I am amazed at how much my pace has improved since I started running, and to have PBs of 1:23 for 10miles, 1:53 for a half and 4:09 for a marathon just blows me away - I never thought I could run that fast and I am proud of myself.

But in the office today for a meeting was a visitor who is also a runner.  I didn't know he was a runner but we started chatting while making tea, and we were talking about our training plans, long runs, and that we both plan to tackle our first ultra race this summer.  I also found out we're both training for the Brighton Marathon.

Conversation goes:
Him - "So, what time are you aiming for?"
Me - "I'd love to get sub 4hrs this year and Brighton's a fast course, so hopefully I'll make it.... how about you?"
Him - "I'm going for 3 hours"
Me - "Wow, that's amazing!! What's your PB?"
Him - "3.34 but I'm running 7 min miles in training at the moment so it should be easy"

I walk away from this conversation feeling like I've been kicked in the teeth.
  • He didn't comment on the time I'm aiming for - does that mean he's not impressed...which means does he look at me with some sort of level of scorn? Does he think I'm not really a runner because I'm going to be running at least an hour slower than him in Brighton (and sub 4hrs will only happen if I have a great race).
  • Is it that he said it was easy to run that fast that has upset me?
  • More importantly, why does it matter what he thinks?  
I'm sure he doesn't look down on me - he's a nice guy - and I know it doesn't matter what he thinks, but I can't help feeling really deflated.  I know that I am motivated by improving against my own times, and I know that I'm never going to be winning races, but that's never really bothered me. I love what I do, I've worked really hard to improve and I'm proud of my achievements.  But for some reason this conversation got to me and now I wish I hadn't talked to him about it which is a real shame because usually I love to share my running with other people.

I'm not sure why I've had this odd reaction. I wonder if maybe it's because when I see other runners in races going very fast, or I read about them online, that's who they are - amazing runners that I look up to and admire but when it's someone who I know in a completely different capacity, I feel  an unnecessary level of competitiveness.

Or maybe (and thinking about it, more likely) it's because he said it was can running a marathon in 3hours be easy?!  I just don't believe that, I can't believe it, and so I wonder whether he was trying to be condescending.

Anyway, I should stop analysing this now, and move on.  If I get a sub 4hr marathon I will be absolutely over the moon.  And if he finds it easy to run a 3 hour marathon, then that's great for him, but I don't run because it's easy...if it's easy, surely it means you're not working hard enough however fast (or slow) you're going ;)

Monday 16 January 2012

Magic Mile done! But my long run broke me

The weather this weekend was gorgeous - very cold & wintery but with bright blue skies and sunshine.  We made the most of it and on Saturday went for a walk around some local woods for a couple of hours, and I made sure I climbed a tree :) 

As we'd been out in the day, I ended up doing Saturday's run late...which meant in the dark. That didn't matter too much though, it was better that it was quiet, as this run was all about the MagicMile - running the fastest mile I could manage, as part of the LardyBoy 2012 challenge. 

So, my Magic Mile run comprised a warm up jog for a mile, a mile sprint, and then a slow run back home, which gave me a total of 4 miles.

I was amazed with my time: 7 mins 2 seconds! I did go flat out and was barely able to breathe by the end, but still very pleased ;) I've not done a sprint mile before, so I was very interested to experience what it was like - and it was awesome.  I just wish I could run that fast without feeling I was going to die by the end of it!  What's going to be even more interesting is seeing how (if!) I improve on that time over the next few months.

As I hadn't managed to run in daylight on Saturday, I set my alarm for 8am on Sunday morning, determined to get up, out and really enjoy the crisp winter sunshine for my long 15 mile run.  Unfortunately, I completely overslept and didn't drag myself out of bed until 11am! By that time the day's plans were screwed and after lounging around on the sofa for far too long, eating too much and watching mind-numbing TV, I eventually got out on the road at just gone 3pm.  By this time, the blue skies were clouding over, the temperatures were dropping, and all plans of having a lovely countryside run were gone - but nevertheless I had to get my 15 miles in, and I did, finishing in about 2.5 hours, and again, finishing in the dark.  It wasn't fun, it wasn't pretty, running slow meant I was cold, and by the end of it, I felt broken...and this morning, I still don't feel great.

My knees are killing me at the moment. I don't know what exactly is causing it but my knee caps are very painful, and although it's bearable and then seems to ease when I run, after I get home they start seizing up, and stairs are becoming a real problem.  Then on top of that, for some reason (maybe the cold wind as suggested by one of my twtter friends) last night when I got back from my run, one side of my face felt very bruised and sensitive to touch...and no, I hadn't run into anything!  This morning my face is feeling better than it did, although still aching, but my knees are still painful, very stiff, and I'm feeling utterly drained in general - it was a real effort to get to the office today!  

It's starting to dawn on me that my diet (which has been dire since Christmas) probably isn't helping my energy levels or recovery rate, so I think I need to address that kinda urgently if I'm going to maintain this marathon/ultra training without destroying myself, and if my knees don't start improving with a bit of RICE, I need to head off to see the physio!

Friday 13 January 2012

My Garmin, the Magic Mile and a training update

Marathon training is well and truly underway - I'm feeling pretty good about it and generally very positive - a stark contrast to my state of mind a week ago ;)

My most exciting news is that I've finally replaced my Garmin that I threw away in a fit of temper last year at the beginning of a race when it wouldn't turn on!  So now I can get an idea of my pace, and studiously analyse my running stats like the geek I am...and see how much more work I need to do on my speedwork! 

I bought the 405CX in the end, because I decided that I really couldn't afford the 610 that I wanted, but the 405CX is a great watch with lots of functions (most of which I'll probably never use) and I'm very happy with it.  The main reason I went for this one over some of the cheaper GPS watches on the market was the number of different options you can choose to have displayed on the screen including average pace which lots don't seem to have - I love the level of customization that's available, combined with it looking pretty good - and there's a fabric strap as an option which is so much better than the solid plastic one that comes as standard.  However, swapping the strap for the fabric one did result in lots of swearing and shouting at Garmin!

Anyway, now I have my watch, I've been doing some proper speedwork, long runs, runs at race pace - it's been good :) The massive change for me now I've started my marathon training schedule properly is having rest days, after having got used to going out every day during my run streak it's definitely a nice change! Strangely though, sometimes I do feel like I'm missing a run and I should probably go out anyway, because I've got the time and I quite fancy it but at the moment, I'm not, and I'm trying to stick to the plan to give my body the time to recover from the extra effort that I'm putting in when I am training.

I've also got my race schedule planned for the next six months.  As well as the Brighton Marathon, and the Challenge hub 50 mile challenge, I've also got the Halstead Marathon booked, a couple of halves, and a couple of 10kms.  It's going to be busy! I hope I'm not being too ambitious and setting myself up for injury but I'll listen to my body and if I need to rest more, or change my plans, I will.  The key target for this year is a sub 4hr marathon and my ultra, and I don't want anything jeopardising those.

Jamie RossOh, and I've decided to take part in Jamie Ross's (aka @lardyboy2011) MagicMile challenge.  You post the fastest mile you can run each month, to see at the end of the year who's improved the most and of course who's the fastest!  Take a look here.  I'll be running my MagicMile this weekend...

It’s been a good week!

Wednesday 4 January 2012

A well needed pep-talk!

For some reason, today I'm being flooded by self-doubt.

I'm planning all of these great things for 2012, but I wonder whether I'm expecting too much of myself.  I was so positive and excited just yesterday but this morning I can't get the questions out of my head - can I really double my mileage compared to last year and can I really run an ultra?  Am I committed enough, physically capable, mentally strong I good enough to really make this happen?

I get so much support on twitter that at times I do believe I can reach my goals, and I see other people achieving phenomenal success in challenges that are much harder than anything I'm aiming for, so I know great things can be done...right now though, I'm just not sure whether they can be done by me!

However, as every endurance runner knows, a large part of being successful is having the psychological strength to keep going when your body tells you it's had enough.  I call myself a runner, so I need to start thinking like one - I can't fall at the first hurdle and fail through a lack of mental fortitude! So, self-doubt or not, I have to just get out and get on with it, and give my training and my ultra a damn good go and prove to myself that I am good enough to do this!

Runner's World and me

I've been looking through my blog stats, and saw I was getting some traffic from the Runner's World website...which is very unusual!  After a bit of research, I realised that I'd been mentioned in an article they did about the 2011 Holiday Running Streak.  I've copied the whole article below, as it's interesting to see what everyone else thought about the need to scroll down a fair bit to get to my contribution :)

#RWRunStreak All the Way Across the Internet

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By Meghan G. Loftus
Our 2011 Holiday Running Streak is nearly over--just three runs left, after today's!--and we've been so impressed with the huge response to our challenge.
In addition to the streakers we initially introduced, and those you met two weeks into the challenge, even more bloggers have been filling the internet with tales of their #RWRunStreak.
Got some time to kill at work? (Let's face it--there's not much work to be done this week, anyway.) Check out these streak-inspired posts.
Have you seen one we missed? Leave it in the comments.
A Healthy Dad - Brandon
"With 27 days left in 2011 – which means 27 days of running, thanks to my run streak – I need to average just under 3 miles per day to meet my goal. I think that’s totally doable, especially considering that on the weekends, I typically get in at least one longer run that will bring up my average considerably. 1000 miles or bust!"
Chick Named Chuck - Chuck
"I’m not going to lie, I kind of, sort of, love this challenge way too much. There’s no hemming and hawing over whether or not to run today. The answer is already decided."
Fear of Bananas - Stephanie
"I’m holding strong with my run streak. Yesterday morning I got out and got it done first thing in the morning. It was quite lovely actually."
Momster on the Run - Ann
"I'm giving all of the credit for my 4 mile PR today to the Runners' World Holiday Run Streak! Since Thanksgiving, I've been running at least 1 mile per day, and it is paying off already!"
Running Because I Can - David H.
"In these last two weeks I’ll continue to hit milestones I’ve never seen with the most miles ever in a year and my most consecutive running days."
Running Los Annegeles - Anne
"I really didn’t want my streak to end but since it was late and our stomachs were full I didn’t think it would be possible to get our mile in. Mike came to the rescue and decided we would drive to Ocean Avenue and run along the street which overlooks the ocean and Santa Monica pier. Our run had amazing views and we completed 1 mile at 11:45 PM to continue the streak to 15 days!"
Run Damnit! - Cindy
"I’m learning more & more about myself, my running philosophy, my typical excuses, my motivators and my pace! Truly a great experience! I know for a fact that I will run more in the New Year than I ever have in the past. Although I admit to being excited for a day off…”
Strides Against Narcolepsy - Heather
"Much like my trail run, my running streak has come with obstacles. Shin splints are super annoying and almost brought me to a halt on more than one occasion. My biggest hurdle has been my day to day struggle with narcolepsy."
These Days, I Call Myself a Runner - Naomi
"Trying this run streak has given me a newfound motivation for the days when I don't really fancy going out (which is good as the weather has been awful recently!) and my fitness is improving much more quickly than it would have been had I been training four times a week."
Twelve in Twelve - Ann
"When I suggested the Run Streak a month ago, I had no idea it would yield these results. I thought I would log my 1 mile and be done. I didn’t expect that I would actually develop a habit of running. And I certainly didn’t expect I would start to enjoy running."
Yes, Folks. I Run Like a Girl - Beth
"Never try to run a mile after two shots of tequila and a plate of nachos referred to as 'dinner.' No matter how wedded you are to the idea of run-streaking, this is a BAD IDEA."

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Setting goals for the year ahead

2012 is a really important year for my running, and I have some really challenging goals that are no doubt going to take a huge amount of time and dedication to achieve (as well as a truck load of understanding from my friends and family... particularly Francis!).

I want to record my goals here so I can really see what I'm working towards...and I have something to look back on at the end of the year!

1) Run a sub 4hr marathon
I'm running the Brighton marathon for the first time in April 2012, Halstead again in May, and will possibly run the Kent Coastal in September.  If I can run sub4hrs, I'll feel that I've made it as a marathon runner - it might not be good enough for Boston qualifying, but for me, it's a really significant time.

2) Complete my first ultra-marathon
I'm taking part in the ChallengeHub 50 mile run near Canterbury in July 2012, to coincide with my 30th birthday.  It's laps of 6.55 miles so works out at just over 52 miles if you complete the whole course, and there is a cut-off time of 15 hours.  My target is to finish the full distance within 12 hours.  The training for this is going to be unlike anything I've experienced before, and will take my weekly mileage higher than I would have thought I was capable of - hopefully, I'll prove that I can do it!

3) Cover 2012 miles in 2012
When I initially signed up for this challenge, I was planning on running the full 2012 miles, and I have a training schedule already written up that gets me to the 2012.  However, I will be incredibly surprised if I actually manage it...if I have a week off sick or injured, or we go on another holiday where I can't run, it'll go out of the window!  However, I am still going to make it my goal to complete the distance, but will count miles biked as well as miles run.

4) Weight-loss
This is one of those goals that people up and down the country will be thinking about right now, and although I don't want to be jumping on any bandwagon, I have restarted Weight-watchers today, and am determined (again, as ever!) to get to my goal weight and lose another 20lbs.  I lost that much last year, there's no reason why I can't keep going - losing weight means faster times and less stress on my joints, as well as looking better in the why wouldn't I do it?! Well, because when it comes to food I easily lose control and this is probably the hardest of all of my goals to complete.

Starting weight today: 153lbs.  Goal weight: 133lbs.

Wish me luck ;)

Monday 2 January 2012

It's not only running

Shared Photo

Sometimes I go out on the bike too, usually with Francis.  
It was a beautiful day today, so off we went!

Sunday 1 January 2012

A successful year

I'll apologise for this post in advance...

I know that it's really self indulgent, and I'm blowing my own trumpet a bit but I'm so proud of how 2011 has gone, I just want to record my highlights, and really reflect on how far I've come this year, which will hopefully inspire me to do even better in 2012 ;)

1001 miles in 2011
I did it...I ran 1001 miles!  It took a hell of a lot of effort in December to get there but on New Year's Eve, I actually hit the magic number! And just because I'm a geek, below is the chart, showing how I did it, with miles per month....

Races and PBs
I ran 12 races in 2011, which is what I had set out to do, one for every month :) I really enjoyed them, and racing is what it's all about for me.

At the beginning of the year, my aim was to run a sub 4:30 marathon and a sub 2hr half marathon. 

My first marathon attempt back in April 2008 at London was 5:00hrs, and then my first of 2011, London again, was a 4:55 - you can see I hadn't improved much! However, I'm elated that in 2011 I did improve, and by the end of the year, I had achieved my aims:

I ran 4:09 in the Kent Coastal Marathon in September and 1:53 in the Bedford Harriers Half in December!  

I never believed I could run these times or get so much quicker in a year, and it makes me so excited about what I might be able to achieve in 2012!

Run Streak
I successfully completed the Runner's World Holiday Run Streak - running every single day from Thanksgiving to New Year, clocking up a total of 220 miles!  My mileage was through the roof (for me) during this time, and I never thought I would have the commitment or determination to run every day over the holiday season, but I did, I have, and I'm so proud that I kept going, even when I really didn't want to go out.  Hopefully this will give me a good grounding for my ultra training this year!

Weight loss
February 2010: I weighed 176lbs (12 stone 8lbs).  
February 2011: I was at 165lbs (11 stone 11lbs). 
June 20011, I started following the Weight-watchers plan
*September 2011 - I got down to 146lbs, 10 stone 6lbs!

At my heaviest, in about 2001, I weighed nearly 200lbs (about 14 stone) and losing weight has been an ongoing struggle for me for many years!  I've lost a bit of weight on a crash diet, put it back, lost it again.  However, I'm particularly proud of my weight loss in 2011, as I did it sensibly, healthily and 146lbs is the lightest I have been since my early teens!  

I am however very annoyed with myself that after coming off the Weight-watchers plan in September during our Madagascar trip, and then indulging far too much over Christmas, I have put back on 7lbs and start 2012 at 153lbs (10 stone 13lbs).  However, I know that I can lose weight successfully, and I'm starting again on Weight-watchers today, this time determined to lose those lbs, and a few more, so next year will be the year I get to goal...and am especially motivated as I'm sure losing the weight is a massive contributor to my PBs and will only help my times in 2012!