Wednesday 18 April 2012

Forget the nerves & just run (aka Brighton Marathon race report)

Despite the fact that I was more prepared and better trained for the Brighton Marathon than I have been for the other five marathons I've run before, I have never been more nervous about a race than I was for this one.

Francis and I went down to Brighton on Saturday, and after checking into the hotel had a lovely afternoon strolling along the pier, and then along the beach and up to the marathon finish line which had already been put up, onto the ice-cream shop (obligatory because we were at the seaside!) and to the pub (although just a shandy for me!).  A few stag and hen parties were already out in full fancy dress but it was all very chilled - I absolutely love the vibe in Brighton! 

However, by the time we got to dinner, I wasn't feeling the relaxed atmosphere, was getting pretty stressed about the whole thing, and wasn't looking forward to the race at all.  In fact, I think I could quite easily have jumped in the car and come home!

When we got back to the hotel after dinner, I checked out twitter.  WOW! The support from so many people was absolutely overwhelming, wishing me luck, saying they were going to follow my progress on the course through the tracking app, and hoping I was ok.  It was just unbelievable and I'll take this opportunity to say a massive thank-you to my wonderful twitter friends :D

I was still feeling jittery, but knew that I had to go out there and have a good race, not just for me, but for everyone who was supporting me.  I had pretty much lost all confidence that I was going to get my time, and was half expecting to run slower than my PB from last year, but nevertheless, I had to give it my best shot!
In hindsight I think I know why I was feeling so nervous.  In the past, I have scrimped on my training plan in the run up to the marathon, and so have known that I couldn't really expect to do well, so there's less pressure.  I've always lived like that - don't try too hard, because if you fail, it's just because you didn't try, not because you can't do it, not because you've failed.  I know it all sounds a bit twisted and is very negative but there you go.... But this time, it was different, this time I had tried.  I had trained hard, put in the effort, and told everyone I was going to run sub 4hrs and I was in the best running form I've ever been in. If I didn't get my time (excepting picking up an injury on the way round) it would be because I just wasn't good enough to do it, and I think that's what was scaring me.
Anyway, on Saturday night, I laid all my kit out, set the alarm, and settled down to sleep...before then waking up every 2 hours in anticipation that the alarm wasn't going to go off.  

Nevertheless, after my disturbed night's sleep, the alarm did ring out and I jumped out of bed and got ready, jealously leaving Francis at the hotel watching the grand prix. I was still a bag of nerves, and although I was pleased to see that the weather looked pretty perfect for distance running, I was keen to just get the whole thing over with ;) Another check of twitter reminded me that there were lots of people rooting for me, and I headed off for the half hour walk from the hotel to the start, along with streams of other runners leaving their hotels.

After getting to the race, I dropped off my bag (keeping on my charity shop sweatshirt that I would later throw off), gave up on going to the toilet because the queues were so long, and headed to the start corrals.  As I looked around me, I realised that I was stood near the pacer for the sub 4:45 finish time...NOT GOOD! I panicked a little bit and tried to make my way through the crowds of runners to a bit further up towards the start line but it was so busy it was impossible.  I waited until the gun went off and (11 minutes later having crossed the line) started to run my way through the slower paced runners around me.  It wasn't great, dodging between and around people, and I know I must have annoyed lots of runners who were trying to find their pace, and for that I'm really sorry!  At the time though, with my first mile at over 9min/mile pace, I was absolutely cursing the narrow course, the organisers, everything and I'm afraid, everybody...

However, as always happens, after a while it all thinned out, and with a few slower miles under my belt I settled into my stride and started to realise how much more comfortable I felt than I had expected.  As I ran, I realised that my nerves had evaporated, and I remembered just how much I love running, and love marathons, with the amazing crowds, the support, the music, and the joint effort - in Brighton, we even got a cavalcade of vintage cars and mod scooters. Wonderful :)

To get my target time I knew I needed to stay just under 9min/miles, so it came as quite a surprise when my average settled at about 8.40, quicker than I'd planned to run. I was worried that I was pushing too hard and I'd be worn out by mile 20, but I made a decision to just go with how I felt and see what happened - at this stage I was much more comfortable running at 8.40 than going slower, and so just stuck to the pace. My splits and details are on my Garmin page if you're interested: Brighton Marathon by naominf at Garmin Connect - Details

As it turned out the last four miles were hard, but not so bad that I couldn't keep going - I felt pretty strong, I didn't walk or stop once, and although those last four were definitely much slower, by the time I got to the last 600m, with the roars of the tremendous crowds in my ears, I still had enough left for a "sprint" to the finish line!

It meant I'd done enough to finish the Brighton Marathon in a staggering 
3 hours 49 minutes and 55 seconds!

This is a PB for me of just under 20 minutes, and nearly an hour faster than I ran the London Marathon, this time last year! I'm still astonished, and so, so happy with it! It was a great day and just goes to show what I can do if I put in the effort - I've had a smile on my face all week, despite the blisters, DOMS and the toenail that I've lost! However, with a couple of out and back loops around cones, the very busy start and running most of the last section around the deserted and dull power station/port/industrial area, there were enough negatives to the race that I wouldn't do it again...although the crowds, running along the sea front and the good organisation (and amazing medal) were all positives great enough that I understand why other people will run the Brighton Marathon year on year.

Thursday 12 April 2012

Taper hell

It's just 3 days until the Brighton marathon.  So, how am I feeling?? Well, I am very excited (I might actually run my first sub 4hr), I'm a bit nervous (I might mess up & not run my first sub 4hr)...and I'm absolutely hating the taper!!
My taper started a little earlier than anticipated due to my body pretty much shutting down on me, so it's very clear that it has been a necessary evil, but although I've pretty much followed my schedule, kept up my intensity while reducing mileage etc, I really feel that it would have been better if I'd run the marathon last week!  The couple of runs I've had so far this week have had me feeling slow and sluggish, with a thousand different niggles and although my runs have clearly not been helped by the ENORMOUS amount of chocolate I've been consuming over Easter, I am blaming the taper for making me lose faith in my ability to run long and at a decent pace.

Also, when I don't run, I find it really affects my mood and how I deal with everything else.  For the last couple of weeks I've been feeling really stressed at work, I think I've been less patient with people, and generally I'm just not feeling it - which is such a shame, as when I am running a lot, my life seems to go a whole lot smoother!'s just another exercise in mental strength - I know I'm capable of running the marathon at the pace I want...and I know that I should trust in the advice of a thousand running professionals who all follow the taper - it's just been harder than I expected and I've let it affect me more than I should.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

'80s rock on the iPod

A couple of years ago, in a previous job, I worked at a marketing agency, and for the back of our business cards, we had to come up with an image and a slogan to describe ourselves.  Lots of people thought it was a bit odd, but I always loved how personal it was.  The slogan had to start with *Me: and the one I came up with was:

*Me: commitment, determination, self-belief (and '80s rock on the iPod) = marathon runner

Now, it's not always that I run with music, and I don't use an iPod at all during races, but in training, especially on long runs, it can help to have either music, an audio-book, or the radio to pass the time, and particularly when I was first running, I always had music to accompany me.  I used my iPod Touch first, but I couldn't comfortably carry it, because being somewhat larger than I am now, the armbands that I bought to do that very job, wouldn't fit around my upper arm without cutting off the circulation!

So...I invested in a tiny iPod Nano to clip onto my waist band or sit in the pocket of my shorts, which I have used since, and absolutely love.

Now, although I wouldn't give up my Nano to go back to my Touch, and I'm never going to get round to uploading music to my phone, as my ultra training starts to ramp up, I do wonder whether I should be taking a phone with me on my long runs, so that 1) if anything happens in the middle of no-where, I can call for help and 2) I can use my Google Maps GPS app to tell me where to go and how get me home again!

To that end, when I was asked if I'd like to review a product and was offered either some headphones or an armband to fit a Samsung mobile or iPhone, I decided to try out the armband and see what I thought of it - would it still be really uncomfortable like they always used to be, and would it help me to stop getting lost? ;)

The armband they sent me was this one, a Belkin Samsung Sport Armband from, and I was very happy when I tried it on and it actually fit on my arm comfortably! I jumped up and down a bit and it stayed put too, my phone fit in there, and I was able to see the screen even while wearing it, and use the touchscreen without too much trouble through the protective cover, which were really the areas that I thought would be problematic.

Anyway, I headed out for a short run to see how it worked and I was very pleasantly surprised, it was really successful. I think for using the maps on the GPS for my long runs, it's definitely something I'll keep doing as it just makes it so easy to work out where I am and where I'm going - although now I'm going to have to see if my phone battery lasts long enough to keep the GPS working all the way through a long run!

However, for my music, I'll definitely keep my 80s rock playing on my Nano :)

Thursday 5 April 2012

It's more important than a race

I had a fantastic day at the Reading Half on Sunday and it was an amazing race which I was lucky enough to share with awesome friends, some of whom ran (Vicky and Becca with me here in our "proud medal" photo) and some of whom supported us (the excellent cheer-leading team of Steph, Keith, John and Mark). I've got to say that having friends there made the race much more special for me than most of my others, added to which I also ran a PB of 1:48:08 which I'm over the moon about!

However, when trying to write a race report full of the joys of Reading, I can't fail to feel that it's inappropriate, following the tragic death of Ged Clarke who suffered a cardiac arrest shortly after he crossed the finish line. Ged leaves behind his wife and children and of course it is them who are suffering the most after this, as I know only too well after suddenly losing my dad. However, it's become clear that Ged's death has deeply touched many other people - he was well known (although anonymously) on Twitter as @12pmCLUB where he encouraged people to go out training at lunchtime and to aspire to a healthy lifestyle, and it is clear from the tributes that have been left online that he truely inspired a whole community of runners.

Ged's death comes during the same weekend that the running world heard about the equally tragic loss of Micah True (aka Caballo Blanco) the legendary ultra-marathoner and organiser of the 50miler Copper Canyon race with the Tarahumara people in New Mexico - the star of the Born to Run book - who was found dead after not coming back from a run earlier in the week.

I have tried to write tributes to them both but keep deleting what I've put down - I don't feel qualified really as I didn't know either of them personally. I've also realised that I'm not going to be able to write a proper report about the race, so will instead end my post with a few photos from the finish in Reading's Madejski stadium: a reminder of just how lucky I am to still be running, and just how much I have to be grateful for.

Monday 2 April 2012

Successful recovery for my broken body

This time last week, I was considering whether I would be able to run the Reading body felt absolutely broken, as you will see from my last post!  But in all honestly, pulling out wasn't a viable option for me - I had to do all I could to help me recover in time. So:
  • I took three days off in a row - no running at all.  Not entirely through choice - I could barely walk - but I think this was the most important aspect of feeling better, my body just needed some time to heal! I then ran 6 miles on Wednesday and 6 again on Thursday, with another two rest days before Sunday's race.
  • I headed to Boots and bought a load of tablets (although have now been given lots of recommendations for where I could have bought them at half the price!).  I'm now taking a decent dose of Glucosamine Sulphate, Chrondroitin Sulphate and Cod Liver Oil, every day to try and help my joints cope with the rigours of running.
  • I bought some 2XU compression 3/4 length tights. I've seen lots of other people wearing them and thought they looked cool, but the price has always put me off, although I've long been a convert to the idea of compression clothing.  I'm now a convert to 2XU too - in my opinion they are better than any other compression stuff I've bought in the past, and well worth the price. They are incredibly comfortable, but also seem like a miracle for my legs and I think wearing them has made a difference for me. 
  • I got a sports massage - this is something I love to do, but again the price puts me off going that regularly which is a shame as it's so worthwhile.  My main problem areas on this trip were around my hips, my hamstrings and my glutes (lots of problems with my glutes!) and so I had to really ignore all my embarrassment and let the massage therapist go to work on my bum!! It did work though, I did feel better, and I'll definitely be going back too.
All of this came together and brought me to the point where I got up at 6am yesterday morning, feeling entirely confident, really looking forward to the race and absolutely raring to go - no pain, no tiredness, no longer broken...and you know what, I absolutely smashed it :) I had a great day, and a race report will follow....