Thursday 28 November 2013

Blogs with Buzz

A few weeks ago, I posted about doing a photo-shoot for the magazine Top Sant√©, as I had been asked to be part of a feature they were doing on bloggers…yesterday I had an email to tell me that the magazine is now on the shelves!

I unashamedly rushed out to buy a copy at lunch, and immediately flicked through to find the article, entitled “Blogs with Buzz”. There was my photo on the glossy pages, although, unfortunately, as I often am, I was disappointed with the picture that they’d chosen to use. 

But never mind the photo…I’m considering it a real honour that out of all the awesome fitness bloggers there are out there, they chose me to be included in the feature, that they considered this blog worthy of the publicity, and that they wanted to tell my story. it is...and if can actually want to read the article there's a larger version here:

Friday 22 November 2013

A very busy schedule

I've been really enthusiastic about my running this week - I've been enjoying my training and my diet has been good too. Despite what everyone probably thinks, I've not had any new road shoes since May, and so I've bought some new ones (these lovely Kayano 20s) and I even went for a morning and evening run for Wednesday . Happy days!

As a result, I've been reviewing my plan that's going to prepare me for the Thames Path 100 as it's starting to feel a little bit more real now. I've realised that the massive number of long runs I have scheduled during training is going to be a nightmare to try and do on my own - I'm sure that as I get tired and life starts in get in the way, I'll be easily swayed from my schedule. So, I've booked in a few more events so I can get some long runs done with other people, and with a bit of bling encouragement  - if there's a medal at the end of it, I'll be there ;)

So...which races have I got booked in? All of these ones:

Confirmed entries:
Saxon Shore
10 miles
Buntingford Year End
Enigma Winter
Ultra: 45 miles
Country to Capital
Ultra: 66 miles/2 days
Pilgrim’s Challenge
Ultra: 45 miles
St. Peter’s Way
Half Marathon
Buttons for Brathay
Ultra: 57 miles/2 days
Cotswold Way Challenge
Enigma Good Friday
Ultra: 100 miles
Thames Path

Not all of them are strictly part of the training schedule - for instance the Brentwood Half Marathon was my first ever race and is local for me, and so decided it was just one I wanted to do this year. To make it into something a bit more useful, I'll run to and from the race. 

I only booked the two back to back races this week, and am really looking forward to them. XNRG put them both on...the same people who arranged The Toad that I did last year (90 miles in 3 days) which was such a success. Ideally I'd get a few more races in the schedule but there just aren't that many others that I've been able to find that work logistically...and I need to try and balance it with home life too so this will probably have to do.

There is a part of me that's a bit nervous about the races I've got booked though. I always run harder during an event than in a training run, and I'm really not as fit as I was this time last year - but there's only one way to improve that and it's running more so I'm sure things will work out ;) The Cotswold Challenge in April is one I'm particularly worried about - it's very hilly (2750m of ascent) and I'm really not great  at climbing - but if everything comes together by April it should be more than achievable. Let's hope so, because if I'm not strong enough to run 27 and 30 milers on consecutive days, regardless of how hilly they are, I'll have no chance of finishing the TP100 ;)

Wednesday 13 November 2013

More new shoes

A few weeks ago I was offered the chance to try out a new pair of trainers...any trainers...from, a site that sells a huge array of sports gear - not just running stuff, but clothes and accessories for biking, skiing, surfing, skating and generally being outdoors!

I've been thinking of getting some new Merrells recently as my Access Arcs as getting a bit worse for wear, so had a look through the Merrell selection and chose the Lithe Gloves in this gorgeous colourway, which are another style in the Merrell barefoot running shoe family.

I was very excited to try them out, and to see if they looked as good as they did in real life as they did in the picture. Luckily, they arrived really quickly...and they are beautiful looking shoes!

Unfortunately, I think I should have stuck with my Access Arc's as they are incredibly comfortable and fit me really well. The Lithe Gloves seem to feel totally different and I've only been able to wear they once despite loving how they look, as they're just not a good fit for my feet.

Although they have the expected spacious, wide toe-box, for some reason they are very deep, and after wearing them for just a couple of hours, walking around, they creased badly across the top and into my foot. The other problem is the fit around the heel - they rubbed badly and gave me blisters! I was really surprised, as I've expected the fit to be similar to my other Barefoot Merrells, but they just don't seem to suit my foot.

However, always nice to be able to try out some different shoes, and I really appreciate the trial...and just wish I'd picked another of the many shoes that were available to me from the website. Hey ho...we live and learn. It's probably not a bad thing...I think the house is a bit overwhelmed by the number of trainers I'm using at the moment, and not sure I have room for another pair in the hall!

Sunday 10 November 2013

Getting faster at Enigma

Twelve weeks ago, after doing minimal training since May's 10in10 injury, I ran the Enigma Gold marathon - a 7.5 lap course around Caldecotte lake in Milton Keynes. I wasn't ready - my lack of training was very evident and I finished in a disappointed but unsurprising 4:54 and in quite a bit of pain from my ankle which still hadn't properly healed. Then we went on holiday to the US, and I got back to find my running mojo had totally vanished, the weight had piled on, and I couldn't fathom how I was going to sort myself out.

However, six and a half weeks ago, the mojo returned, I started training again...and what a difference it's made! :)

Runners, Foxy and Karen just before the start of the Enigma Fireworks marathon, and Lisa's 100th marathon

Yesterday, I ran the Enigma Fireworks marathon - the same course as in August - and I finished in 4:17. Thirty-seven minutes faster! I did have to push for it, and my back was quite painful towards the end, but my legs were ok, and today I feel absolutely fine - no DOMS - and so I know that although I'm not quite there yet, I'm well on my way to regaining the fitness I lost over the summer, even if the weight hasn't really started dropping yet.

Me, Karen & Emily on the front row!
Needless to same, I'm very pleased with my improvement since the last Enigma marathon, and it really gives me hope for what I can achieve if I continue training to my plan, and putting the effort in.  I think last week's 10km race helped too, and I'll definitely be introducing some speedwork into my weekly schedule from now on, even as I concentrate on getting enough miles done, in preparation for the ultras I have coming up next year.

Although my result (for me) was fab, there were a few other great things about yesterday's race. There were PBs set by Heather, Traviss, Ellen, and Tinu which is awesome, but it was also Lisa's 100th marathon and we had all the celebrations that go along with that - the presentation of her 100 Marathon Club shirt, medal, delicious cakes, presents. Loads of friends stayed after the race to be a part of those celebrations in the pub, and it was a particularly special afternoon that I was very glad to be a part of...I'm really looking forward to seeing the many photos that were taken, as they appear on Facebook! :)

I've got three weeks until my next marathon, the Saxon Shore, and I'm wondering if it's too much to hope that I could match the time I ran on that course last year. I did a 4:08 then, so it'd be a big ask to improve that much in a few weeks - yesterday, my average pace was 9:49 mins/mile, so I'd need to bring that down to 09:29 mins/mile if I was to equal my time - but I've decided that I need a goal, and that's what I'm going to aim for.

Friday 8 November 2013

Smile for the camera

Top Sant√© is a women's health, fitness and well-being magazine. A few weeks ago, their features editor got in touch with me via twitter, to ask if I'd be interested in being involved with a feature they were doing on bloggers....yep, they wanted me to be in their magazine!

The opportunity to be in a national magazine is incredible, and I couldn't believe they'd asked me...but obviously I said yes! :)

Yesterday, I was invited to the Latern Studios in Battersea for a photoshoot, along with the other bloggers involved, to get some pictures done to appear in the article. I was pretty nervous - I'm not a big fan of getting my photo taken  - but decided to embrace it as a new experience.

I arrived and changed into some running gear, before having my hair and make-up done which was fabulous, and then went to see the photographer. I was hardly a natural (left a bit, right a bit, chin up, chin dowm, smile less, smile more etc) but I did have fun and everyone was very friendly. I had absolutely no ideas on what to do in the photos but they asked me to go into a "start line" position, do some stretches, and various other odd poses ;) No idea how they'll come out but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

I don't know which issue the article will appear in, but I'm really looking forward to seeing how it all looks in print!

Monday 4 November 2013

Pushing the pace

Throughout my running career, I've not really embraced the 10km race distance - my first 10km was in July 2010, I ran three of them in 2011, and then just one in 2012, the Billericay Striders race, which starts just 2 miles from my front door - a real bonus and probably the only reason why I signed up.

This year, I seem to have followed the same pattern - the only 10km on my schedule was the Billericay Striders again, which I ran on Sunday. I'm not a huge fan of the route and don't really enjoy the first mile or so (uphill and some of it is single file along the main road) and it could do with a few more road closures throughout but it's well organised and many people do really seem to love it...and it's great that I can run to the race from home and back.

However, the thing I really enjoyed about the Striders 10km this year, was it reminded me what it was like to race. To push myself hard, to pass people, and to put in a level of effort that's very different to the effort I need to run long distances.

Obviously if I was fitter I could properly race long distances too, but I'm not and I don't - long runs are purely against myself and that's fine, but I enjoyed my legs waking up during the 10km and realising I was meant to actually run rather than plod through.  A short distance race really is a totally different type of event to a marathon or ultra and I was surprised that I enjoyed that difference so much.

I know I'm not as fast as I once PB marathon pace from last year was only a bit slower than my average pace for the 10km....but that's because I haven't done any speedwork for absolutely ages, and I'm heavier these days, but it doesn't change how much fun it was to feel a bit speedier than usual! I'm thinking that although I'm concentrating on my endurance and getting miles in my legs in preparation for the longer races I've got coming up, it wouldn't hurt to include some speedwork in my training again, or to sign up for a few more 10km events.

P.S - Last year, we got a pen for a memento of the race, so I was very pleased with this year's lovely medal :)

Friday 1 November 2013

The Stort 30 - race report

What an absolutely brilliant day. That sums up my experience of the Stort 30 this year - it was awesome, I loved it and from the various reviews and blogs I've seen from other runners, I think everyone pretty much agrees :)

This is Jerry at mile 15
I arrived in good time at the clubhouse where the race starts in Bishop's Stortford, and said hello to a couple of friends before settling myself in a corner to tape and vaseline my feet...only to be rudely interrupted by a flying banana as my long time mentor Jerry (who was sweeping the course) made his presence known ;) 

I chatted with Jerry, and with everyone, about being a bit nervous but looking forward to the run...I think in hindsight there's a part of me that wants to make excuses before a race starts just in case anything does go wrong. I did the same at the St Peter's Way 45 miler earlier in the year, telling people I might drop out at halfway. I have to stop doing this - even when I'm nervous, I must focus on the positives!

Anyway, I think I managed to catch everyone and say hello before Lindley, Race Director at Challenge Running, called us all to the start line to get ready for the off....and then away we went.

Despite there being a much larger field of runners than last year, there was more than enough room for everyone and the pack quickly thinned out as the faster runners pulled away, and we all settled into our places. As I always do, I ran the first mile far too fast, in slightly under 9 minutes (my plan had been to try and run consistent 11 minute miles all the way through plus time at the checkpoints) only having to stop when a gust of wind blew my hat off! I calmed down after that first mile though, and found a more relaxed pace.

I didn't stop at the first checkpoint - we'd been told we didn't have to, I didn't need anything and I knew how much time I'd waste there. So, I carried onto the next checkpoint at 10 miles where I was very pleased to see that one of the marshals was fellow runner and friend, Liz and her lovely husband Albi who is recovering from a stroke - great to see him up and about again.

On I went.

The course really is lovely. Although I probably missed a lot of it as I spent most of my time looking at the path making sure I knew where my feet were going, the bits I did see were very picturesque ;) I wish I'd taken some photos.

There's a mile of tarmac path to start with until you get to the river, and once you're on the trail course, it's a mix of hard packed trail path, grassy fields, a bit more tarmac and for a few miles, just mud! I was so impressed by how my Salomon Speedcross dealt with the mud - I was incredibly pleased that I'd decided to wear them, along with my Dirty Girl gaiters which worked perfectly. The mud didn't actually seem as deep or a as slippery as last year, but I'm pretty sure my judgement was skewed by the just didn't seem that different running over the mud as running the rest of the course. The other difference in the course this year is that Lindley had put lots of route markers (blue paint arrows) down , and so I didn't need to look at the route instructions at all, and was confident of where I was going.

The weather was near perfect. It was a bit blustery...I remember one point where the wind literally blew me hard enough to make me worry I would have ended up in the river had the path not been as wide...but otherwise the temperature was cool, there were periods of sunshine and blue skies and so generally we had great running conditions.

As I got closer to the turn around point (mile 15), I started to get passed by lots of runners on their return trip, and took the opportunity to cheer on everyone I could. I love the camaraderie of the ultras but hope I didn't annoy anyone with my regular "well done" that I shouted out! A particular highlight of that section was being high-fived by Paul Ali as he ran past me...there was a boat load of people on the river just there and I remember thinking, I hope they can see what fun we're having!

I got to 15 miles in decent time and was feeling great. I stopped for a brief chat with fabulous Karen, and made sure I sampled some of her famous baking, before heading back along the way I'd come, still cheering on the other runners making their way down to the turn around. Was great to see Nici, who is a Twitter friend I hadn't met before, who was completing her first ultra and I made sure I cheered her on too. Looking at my Garmin stats, I was averaging just over 10 minute miles .for the first 20 miles of the race, and I really did enjoy pretty much every step of it.

The last 10 miles though were much more of a struggle, and my lack of training started to tell. I suppose I should have taken it slower for the first 20 and tried to be more consistent throughout the race, but I was enjoying myself so I'm not going to regret that. I stopped for ages at the last checkpoint, and the final 6 miles were very hard as I totally lost my focus - my back particularly started to ache, I started walking for long periods of time, stretching, and generally faffing about, instead of running.

Another friend, Rosemary, was running and needs a particular mention - the day before she'd run Beachy Head marathon and she stormed past me at about 28 miles, finishing incredibly strongly - I was very impressed with that.

Eventually I made it to the end where the course takes you along the side of the club house but you then have to run what is quickly becoming a quite infamous lap of the sports field before crossing the finish line. Seriously, having to do that lap is just cruel at the end of 30 miles - it always reminds me of being at school and having to run the 1,500m around the field when I was about 13 which was always torture, and I think it's that memory that makes it feel so tough as opposed to the 30 miles already in my legs!

Anyway, race finished, I got the fabulous Stort 30 medal, a technical T-Shirt, and a hug from Karen. If I was disappointed not to get a medal last year, this one definitely made up for it - a replica of a piece of art that is out on the course, totally unique and as good in real life as it had looked on the internet! I love it :D

I was also very pleased to see friends Conrad and Morgan at the end, who had both finished in their target times of sub-5hrs, and also to meet for the first time, Paul (who is running the 10in10 next year), his girlfriend Caroline and friend from Twitter, Dan, if only briefly.

Sue, who's part of Challenge Running, was also taking part in the race and prior to the big day we'd both been bemoaning our lack of training and worrying about how we'd get on - unfortunately Sue suffered with stomach issues, and even threw up but still finished in just under 6 hours - brilliant strength of character to keep going :D

I came across the line in 5:23:59 (against last year's time of 4:57:38) but knowing how well the first 20 miles went, and knowing I'd only had 5 weeks training, I'm really pleased with the result and am taking it as a real positive...especially because I didn't have any trouble with my ankle, and so I am declaring the injury resolved!