Monday 28 January 2013

We all have bad days

I've been a bit demotivated for the last few days. I went out for a 6 miler on Thursday which I cut short, making it just a 3 miler, because I couldn't get myself to do any more than just shuffle along, and then didn't manage to get out at all on Friday or Saturday. I knew I couldn't let the week pass without a decent long run, and so on Saturday night found myself looking for a race to enter on the Sunday, just to give myself a reason to get my trainers on!

I had a great offer of joining Emma at the Canterbury 10 miler, which I could have entered on the morning, followed by tea (and I was hoping biscuits) back at hers, but unfortunately didn't even manage to get up in time to drive down there! After such a poor week, I knew I couldn't just let it go, and had to bite the bullet and go for a long run regardless of whether I wanted to or not. So, I got my gear on, and eventually headed out of the door, with a plan to run 20 miles, during which I was also going to trial a High-5 carb drink with some High-5 gels to keep me going, from the race pack that we were given during the Brathay training weekend.

From the minute I started, I didn't feel great. Lumbering might be the word ;) About a mile in, I stopped to take my coat was much warmer than expected and I was cursing the long sleeve top I had on. Another mile in, the pain in my foot and shin was getting too bad to ignore, and I stopped again, realising that I couldn't flex my left foot. I took of my trainer, stretched the elastic on my sock, and spent a few minutes inexpertly rubbing my shin and ankle, trying to loosen off the tightness. It seemed to work, I relaced my trainer (less tight this time) and carried on.

The next 8 miles or so were equally annoying. Aches and niggles kept bothering me, and the voice in my head kept up a tedious commentary abut how painful running was, wondering who had thought it was a good idea in the first place, and what on earth was I doing. It wasn't fun.

I was pretty much on the road for the first part of my run, and I don't think that helped - I've been getting much more used to cross country stuff recently, and the unforgiving (and frequently flooded) tarmac did nothing to improve my mood.

I had to keep telling myself that I may well hate running half of the time, but the other half I enjoy it so much, that it balances out, and that this was just one day.  I know a good run comes after a bad one...

After about 10 miles, things got marginally better, as there was a pavement to run on away from the traffic and I managed to lose myself thinking about something other than the run. Another eight miles or so passed relatively painlessly and I managed to get in a bit of a rhythm  The High-5 products had actually worked very well. I was having a mouthful or two of the carb drink every 2 miles, and a gel every 6 miles, which kept me totally fuelled - a bit of a revelation to be honest. I've tried the gels before while drinking Powerade, and it made me feel very sick, so good to see they'll work for me if I use the right drink.

By the time I got to about 18 miles and I was nearly home, I was cursing running again. Why was I putting myself through this, I kept asking. What made me think I could run the 10in10? I must be insane was the only answer I could come up with, as my calves were burning and my knee started feeling like it was disintegrating below me! But on I went, because what else was I going to do....

I had to go and pick up my coat from where I'd dropped it off, so added a bit of a detour to my route, and by the time I eventually made it home, I'd done just over 21 miles.

Once I stopped, I realised quite how painful my calves were - horrendous searing pain that I don't remember ever having had before and I felt exhausted.  I laid down for a bit, then stretched, and had the final stage of my High-5 nutrition test, the recovery drink.

I went up for a bath, and although it's something I never do, I ended up running the cold tap over my legs, just to try and get some relief! Luckily, the pain seemed to pass quite quickly, and before too long I was feeling pretty much back to normal.

This morning, other than my knee still being sore (pass the ibuprofen gel!) my legs are fine and I'm really glad I persevered and got the miles done. It was hard to keep going but I've had loads of great motivational comments from friends on Twitter (just a few of which are below) which reminded me it was worth it!

 Well done Naomi, I know the feeling, I did 20 yesterday & 9 today barefoot and I am sore. These are the runs that make a finisher.

 The important bit is that you came through the tough bit and finished with a big mileage. Good training for . Well done :-)

   A run is infinitely better than no run, no matter how far it strays from your plan

 It's the horrible runs that we persevere with and don't quit that make us stronger! Well done!

I don't know what when wrong yesterday, but it really wasn't good. In a bid to explain it away, I've decided that my shoes are probably worn out - I usually change them every 450-odd miles, but counted up the miles I've done in my current ones and they total just over 550, so am blaming my trainers for the leg pain. Don't know if that's accurate, but it's what I'm going with. I'll but some new ones today and hopefully this week everything will be back to normal....

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Yaktrax Run review

As we’ve still got a lot of snow around our way, I bit the bullet yesterday and forked out for a pair of YakTrax Run. I could have bought them cheaper online but needed them yesterday to be able to have a go at running outside, rather than retreating to the gym and the treadmill, and didn't have time to wait for delivery, so at lunchtime headed to Sweatshop and bought a pair.

If you’ve not heard of them, YakTrax Run is a contraption that you pull over the sole of your shoe to give you traction on snow and ice, using wire coils and spikes. You can get more basic ones if you need them for walking around which just have the coils over the whole foot, or (the much more) expensive ones if you’re going to be running.  I’m sure the walking ones would cope with running too, but I decided to go for the Run ones to give me the best chance of completing the mileage that I had on my schedule. 

I was a bit nervous about running last night because of the amount of compacted snow there was around, but after tweeting to everyone that I’d bought my YakTrax and was going to give them a go, I couldn’t back out!

As soon as I got home from work, I got ready and then set about putting them on my shoes.  It was a mission! The first shoe took me ages, and seemed like a work-out in itself, but once I realised how to do it, the second one was easy enough to get on. It felt a bit odd to stand in them but only momentarily and I soon got used to it, and once I started running, I knew that they had been a worthwhile investment. I only ran on the road or pavements (as it was dark and I still haven’t got myself sorted out with a headtorch) so don't know what they'd be like cross country, and although some community minded people had cleared a few sections outside their houses, which meant I had to clatter away on the tarmac, most of my 6 mile run was on compacted snow or icing up slush, but I didn't slip at all.

I did find that my gait changed, although I’m not sure if that was just because of natural caution, as opposed to wearing the YakTrak, but my stride was definitely shorter, with my feet landing more under my body, which is closest to the ideal way of running anyway (or so they say). I was able to run at a normal pace though, and other than the clattering on the occasional bits of cleared pavements, I didn’t notice I was wearing them, they were comfortable and gave me so much confidence in the conditions. I was able to run up and down the hills, and was also able to enjoy the looks of astonishment and incredulity from the few people who were out tentatively walking home! So, all in all, a great purchase. I doubt I’ll have to use them very often, but it does mean that I don’t have any excuse to wimp out of a run just because the weather has got a bit wintery!

Monday 21 January 2013

A few miles in the snow

It's been a great week of training. I've felt hugely motivated, have followed my training plan to the letter, and had a couple of really good runs this weekend in the snow.  The diet's still totally out of the window but that's for another post ;)

The first of my runs this weekend was following the second leg of the St Peter's Way ultra race that I'll be running in February. I was with the RD of the race, Lindley, and Nigel who's also going to be running the main event, and the idea was that we'd follow the route instructions that Lindley's written, to check they made sense. We met at 9am on Saturday morning, with an inch or so of snow on the ground, and made our way our round a beautiful route through the fields and country lanes. The St Peter's Way is a centuries old pilgrimage route across Essex, and the ultra is going to be about 45 miles in total. It's going to be hard going - it's ploughed fields, there's likely to be lots of mud on the day (it was all frozen and covering in snow on Saturday) and it's over stiles and through gates, but the hardest part is definitely going to be the navigation.  I'm very glad I did the recce run, as I now have a bit more of idea of how to make it work and I have more confidence for the race - the instructions on the route description do make sense if you pay attention but you just have to follow them carefully. It's about reading one at a time, running to the next instruction, and then checking again. I've definitely accepted that this race isn't going to be about getting any sort of time - it will just be about getting through the miles and trying to finish each leg before the cutoff (total cut-off for the whole route is 13 hours). I'm really looking forward to it though as it's going to be a great challenge, and I'll be so proud of myself if (when!) I actually finish.  The medal is lovely too - Lindley brought it with him to show me as I'd made a bit of a fuss about not getting a medal for the Stort30 which was the last race he put on. After we'd got to where the second checkpoint of the race will be, we parted ways and I ran home to Billericay, taking a route through the lanes rather than cross country, but it was still really pretty through the snow. In the end, I clocked up 8 miles with the guys (which was lovely not only because of the route but also the company - great to run with people rather than on my own for a change!) and 13 miles in total for the day.

On Sunday, I headed out again - it had snowed all night, and was snowing all day, and so we had a lot more of the white stuff than we did on Saturday, by the time I headed out at 2.30pm.  It was a bit slippery and dangerous on the pavements where the snow had started to become compacted by people walking on it. I only have road shoes which don't have the best grip and so took it slowly and carefully, but once I got to the woods and after that the country lanes, it was amazing - very few people had been out, and the snow was quite deep. It was hard work but absolutely stunning through the woods - I wish I'd taken my camera with me, it felt magical. I'd started out with my iPod playing but soon took it off as just wanted to enjoy the stillness that had come with the winter wonderland I was running through. Absolutely stunning!! :D  So, I got another 8 miles in, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

My calves are really tight and a bit painful at the moment, ever since running Windermere, so after stretching and rolling last night, I also had a bath to try and relax them, before the compression socks went on for the evening.  This morning they're still a bit sore, and so will keep looking after them and hopefully they'll improve. My biggest worry though is that the beautiful snow will shortly turn to slush, and then ice, and tonight's run might have to be relocated to the gym and the dreadmill which will make my calves hurt even more. If they have any left in stock I'm going to try and buy some yaktracks at lunchtime, to try and salvage my outside runs.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Everything's changed

My life's been turned upside down.

I've known for about 7 months that in May 2013, I'd be running the Windermere Marathon course 10 times in 10 days, to raise money for Brathay Trust. I've obviously known that it's going to be hard, and I've started trying to raise sponsorship, and I've been training more than I've ever trained before. However, I don't really think that, even after all those months, what I was going to be doing had really sunk in.

For all the time I've been telling people about it, I knew it sounded impressive or crazy, but I was a bit blase and although I liked talking about what I was working towards, explaining that it was for charity, and I have been genuinely very excited about the prospect of it, I didn't really feel that I was very emotionally invested. I'd paid my £800 entry fee, and the 10in10 was just something that was going to happen to me in May, with a minimum sponsorship target to achieve in order to take part - that was that.

But now that's all changed.

Brathay Hall
Thanks to Malcolm for the photo
This last weekend, was our 10in10 training weekend. I stayed at Brathay (which is an absolutely beautiful place), met for the first time all of my fellow 10in10 runners as well as the support team who will be getting us through it, and attended various seminars about the detail of the event, going through how it's all going to work, as well as spending time understanding what the charity actually does and learning about it all in a bit more depth.  We also had to give a video interview which was the thing I'd been really worrying about before I arrived - although it wasn't as bad as I'd expected, it was still awful, and I know I rambled on like an idiot. I'm mortified that it's available on line for people to actually see...but it's all part of the event, so once there's a link I will post it...although I doubt I'll be able to bear watching it myself!

On the Saturday, we also had the chance to run the Windermere Marathon course, and although most other people (if not all) have run it before, I haven't...Saturday was my first time.

It's fair to say that I was a little bit overwhelmed with everything we went though, but it was a great weekend.

So, now I've had a bit of time for everything from the weekend to sink in, this is what I've realised:

Me, in the white hat. Just about to start running
 the Windermere Marathon course
The Windermere Marathon course is incredibly challenging.  It's ridiculously hilly for one thing...much hillier than I had ever expected and I found running it on Saturday very hard - I very rarely run hills and I felt woefully unprepared for the course, walking much more than I would ever want to during a marathon.  It's also, partly, on main roads some of which are narrow and we'll be sharing them with fast cars and lorries.  During the first 9 days of the 10in10, the roads aren't closed at all, and without doubt, we're going to be vulnerable.  At the moment, the prospect of running that course 10 days in a row is absolutely insane and it's fair to say I'm scared...of the pain, of injury, of my body or my mind breaking down, even of being hit by a car.  That's the bad bit.

However, the Windermere Marathon course is also amazing - the views around the course alter hugely as the miles go by, and whether it's the fields filled with funny looking sheep, quaint cottages hidden in the woods, babbling brooks or sweeping views across Lake Windermere and away to the mountains, the scenery is stunning. Whether I'll be able to appreciate any of that after day 3 remains to be seen, but I thoroughly enjoyed the countryside on Saturday ;)

The really good bit though starts with the people - I think this is what's changed how I feel about the whole event. Being at Brathay was a revelation. The team there are the most sincere, lovely people you could ever hope to meet and they are so passionate about the 10in10 and even more so about the work that Brathay does, it can't fail to inspire you. Meeting the other 15 runners who will be joining me in May was awesome too - there were a few familiar faces, although some people were new to me (other what I'd read about them on their profiles) from the minute I arrived, I felt comfortable chatting with everyone and I'm really looking forward to getting to know them better as they seem like a really nice, like-minded group, and I know that completing this together is going to create some life-long friendships. I can see from people who have done the 10in10 before that it really is special from that point of view, and we are all going to be integral to helping each other to cross that finish line on the 10th day!

So, I think the biggest change about how I feel, is that now I really understand that this is a team event rather than something that is just happening to me.  The support team at Brathay are giving so much of themselves to make this happen and to help us through it, and the sponsors who we also met are giving their time as well as their resources and money, and the other 10in10ers are giving their everything.  I now feel a responsibility to each and every one of them to be the best I can be over the next four months, to train as hard as possible & to be as prepared as I can, to make sure I have as much chance as is humanly possible to complete the 10in10 successfully! I also feel a responsibility to the charity itself. I can really appreciate now what Brathay can do with the money we raise, and what a difference it will make to the young people they support, and I also understand how important it is that I raise as much money as possible to ensure that the 10in10 remains cost effective as a way of raising such valuable funds for Brathay Trust.

Sunrise across Lake Windermere, from Brathay Hall on our last day
Thanks to Kaz for the photo
I just feel so totally emotionally invested in the event now. I can barely think about anything else (although I still have lots to do to finish organising our wedding in April, and will obviously keep a section of my mind free for that!).

Since coming back from the weekend, when I've been talking about the 10in10, and about Brathay, to friends and to colleagues at work, I feel so hugely enthusiastic about it and can hear the difference in my voice...someone even said to me after we'd talked about it for a while yesterday that I'd inspired him to go for a run that night!

I went out for a training run last night too.  I took a route that has a pretty keen hill in it.  Usually I'd always stop at the top of a hill to get my breath back and recover, but last night I just kept going until I got home - I had thoughts of Brathay running through my head, and it certainly motivated me to train that bit harder. I think those thoughts are going to govern everything I do during the next four months.


If you'd like to sponsor me to run 10 marathons in 10 days, you can do so via this link Every pound is very much appreciated!

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Daily Mile year-end report

I log all of my training on the Daily Mile website...miles on the bike, in the gym, and running.  At the end of each year, they send through a report to show the stats of what I've achieved over the last 12 months.

Compared to my stats from 2011, my total mileage increased by 366, my weekly average increased from 24 miles per week to 31 miles per week, and in 2012 I did an extra 39 workouts.

Not bad...not quite where I'd hoped to be...but much to be improved on for 2013!



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Distance (mi)


Per Week (mi)




Lbs Burned

  1. 124
  2. 97
  3. 171
  4. 122
  5. 167
  6. 160
  7. 137
  8. 138
  9. 192
  10. 137
  11. 75
  12. 103

Monday 7 January 2013

A surprise marathon

On Saturday, Francis and I had a day out in London...leaving home before 9am, we went to the London Aquarium (which is fantastic) where we went on a "behind the scenes" tour, and then Francis went snorkelling with the sharks which was part of his Christmas present. 

Francis is on the left
We found a restaurant for lunch, wandered along Southbank and then returned to the Aquarium, seeing everything but paying particularly attention to the adorable penguins they now have! We left with a renewed enthusiasm for going scuba diving again soon, and finally setting up our home aquarium. We got home at about 6pm - I'd spent all day on my feet but really enjoyed myself.

That evening, about 8pm, we were slumped on the sofa watching TV - I was also on the laptop, looking at Facebook.  I noticed a message posted by Foxy from Enigma Running asking if anyone wanted to run a marathon the next day as he had a spare place in the Enigma Winter Marathon in Milton Keynes.

Now I realise that any normal person, having put on half a stone over Christmas and not having exercised as much as they should have done, and generally feeling tired after a day out, would have thought running a marathon on an evening's notice wasn't the most clever thing to do. However, I appear to have become a fully fledged marathon nutcase and as we didn't really have any plans for Sunday and my schedule said I had to run 15 miles anyway, I thought that an extra 11 wouldn't be too much of a stretch. There seemed to be a fair few people I knew already running the marathon, and so without really thinking about it, gleefully took the place.

After sitting around on the sofa for a bit more, I realised that this actually meant I had to run 26.2 miles in about 12 hours time, and I should probably get ready! Last time I tried going to an Engima marathon, I forgot my trainers, and knew there would be absolutely no way of living it down if I managed that twice....

So, I pulled my stuff together, had a pint of water to try and make up for the lack of hydration during the day, and headed to bed early.

The day of the marathon dawned, I headed out into a very foggy morning, and drove over to Milton Keynes, feeling somewhat surprised at this turn of events, and wondering what on earth was I doing! By the time I got there though I was a bit more relaxed about the prospect, especially after seeing lots of familiar faces within minutes of arriving :D
I've run the course before, at the Enigma 30 miler I did back in July, and I think it helped to know what to expect, but I found the 7.5 laps of Caldecotte Lake hard going psychologically, although physically I wasn't too bad at all.  I just couldn't really get my head together and in the later laps, kept finding myself walking when I didn't need to. I also got incredibly hungry at about mile 14 and then later again - I was very lucky that there was food at the aid station otherwise I think I probably would have hit the wall, which is something that hasn't happened in years, but which was obviously just a result of the inevitable lack of preparation. My official time was 4:19:36, although my watch did clock 26.78 miles so it seems I travelled a bit further than I needed to which added just over 6 minutes to my final time but regardless of that, this was still my slowest marathon for over a year and a half!

It was a lovely out there though, really nice to catch up with people, and I thoroughly enjoyed the day, so am glad I took the place. Best news of all though is that my hip was pretty much fine and even this morning is feeling much better than it has in ages - I definitely just need to keep running more! :D