Tuesday 27 October 2015

Becoming a different person

Francis and I were talking this evening. I told him, "I got up this morning at 5am!!"
"Did you run?" he asked, totally incredulous.
"Yes, I did, again!"
"You're like a different person..."

I've always struggled with morning running, being far too lazy and happy in my bed to get up early. Even if I've managed it for a couple of days, I've always failed to maintain it, and for the last few months, I've barely been able to drag myself out on night runs either, despite telling Francis throughout every evening that I was on my way. I might sort it out and run for a few days here an there, but then would lapse back into nothing. I felt guilty for not running but couldn't make myself want to go enough to actually do it and have just been lurching from race to race! I felt like I was losing touch with who I was despite desperately fighting to get back to normal. Anyway, I can understand Franc's surprise at my 5am start, and his surprise that I was running again. 

All of a sudden, and for the first time (I think) I have been able to maintain morning runs. I've been following my plan, and we're not just talking about hauling myself out and plodding around - I've concentrated, put in some effort as well as done some sensible easy runs...tomorrow morning I've got another tempo session. It feels different...brilliant...I feel like a real runner again, like myself. I've been rewarded with some beautiful countryside trails, with stunning morning sunshine lighting up the vibrant autumn leaves, with sloshing through rain and mud. My mood generally has drastically improved.

More running = a happier and less stressed me!

So, what happened?

Running Chelmsford marathon a couple of weeks ago was so much harder than it should have been. It was a bit of a wake up call - I realised just how much of an effect not running regularly was having on my race performance, and when I saw the photos of me I realised just how much weight i'd put on too. I was not impressed with myself, especially as I knew that even feeling so disappointed wouldn't make any difference and I still wouldn't be able to make myself do any training. I realised I needed some help and something had to change if I had any chance of doing justice to all the ridiculous races I've entered for next year.

So, I emailed Lindley Chambers from Challenge Running,

I've known Lindley for about three years, have shared some miles with him out on the trail, taken part in lots of his races and he and his other half Maxine looked after me at 120 miles into the Grand Union Canal Race! He's been coaching other runners for a while now, and I thought he might be the man to kick me back into shape and to help me start training again! I've tried coaching before, and it didn't really work for me, but Lindley talked to me in great depth about my running, what I wanted from coaching, how he could help, and how we could make it work. Everything he said made a lot of sense, and so I signed up with Coach Chambers! It really feels very different this time.

Me & Lindley at this year's Saffron Trail
The training plan that Lindley's written for me makes sense, is straightforward, and suits me, and he's agreed not to ask me to cancel my races, but will work with me to help me be the best runner I can while racing as frequently as I do with legs that never really recover! He's been keeping an eye on what I'm doing via my posts on Daily Mile, and has been in very regular contact which was such a motivator for the first few days, and I'm sure will continue to be. I know that if I don't post to say that I've run that morning, he'll be getting in touch to find out why! It's also fantastic to get home after work and not have to worry about having to go for my run because I did it that morning - it's such a relief to have already done it.

So, it seems the wake-up call from Chelmsford, and of course Lindley's guiding influence, is changing me. It's only been a really short time, but out of nowhere I've maintained my commitment to morning runs, rediscovered my enthusiasm and on Sunday had a hugely enjoyable race at the Stort 30 mile event, coincidentally put on by Challenge Running. It helped that I had friends there, that the weather was perfect and the course looked absolutely stunning, but the miles ticked by really quickly and I was disappointed when the race was over. Not sure there are many people who can say that at the end of 30 miles! I was a bit frustrated with my time (5:25) as it was my slowest out of three Stort's I've run - but I know that my pace will start to improve. I love my medal too.

Now I just need to keep the momentum going...but this time I have help. I've been trying for so long to become a better runner and every time I try something new to help my training, I seem to fail after the first blog post! But when I start to lose enthusiasm for the cold and rainy mornings, and I expect I will, I'm confident that this time, Lindley isn't going to let me give up. Maybe this is where my running will really start to get better.

Monday 19 October 2015

What have I been up to? Uuuum....some running....

It's been ages since my last post (over 10 weeks) and I've completed a few events in that time, so here's a quick update:

The Stour Valley Path 100km.
This is a race that I absolutely loved last year - it's a fantastic route and the marshals and aid stations are exceptional. I did pretty well, and have been looking forward to having another go ever since. The race director, Matt, convinced me to start in the second wave (there's a 7am start and a 9am start) as only people who started later would be eligible for prizes! I was third lady last year, so there was a possibility that would be me. The later start made for a very tough race though - I was a bit out of my depth, not really fast enough. I was chasing cut offs the whole way through, and was being chased by the sweepers.

I managed to fall over at one point and hit my head, giving myself a decent headache and a bit of a black eye which didn't help matters...but I was very well looked after by a fellow runner, who ruined his race time by hanging around with me and making sure I was alright. It's that sort of thing that just goes to show was a brilliant sport this is!

My late start also meant that I finished in the dark, whereas last year it was still daylight, which I think contributed to me going the wrong way a few times, and I spent the last 5 miles or so practically walking with another runner whose headtorch really wasn't sufficient for pitch black trail running, so he could use my light. So, it wasn't the fun experience that I'd had the year before, and I was slower, but by default, as only four women started in the 9am wave, I managed to take home a trophy for 2nd Woman after finishing in 13:21 and it's one of the loveliest trophies I've ever seen.

A 40 mile run on a treadmill. 
I volunteered to be a participant  in a PhD study being conducted at Kingston University into the physiological effects of ultra running. I did a VO2 Max test, had bloods taken, saliva tests, went into one of the chambers that accurately measures your body fat percentage, and then ran for 40 miles on a treadmill, while all sorts of other statistics were measured - pace, heartrate, calorie and fluid intake, weight loss during running, and I'm sure there were more.

It was an incredibly interesting thing to be involved with, and I'm very keen to see the results of the study, but running on the treadmill was absolutely horrendous. I really struggled! There was no natural light in the room, I was too hot, I was bored, my legs hurt, it was just so tough.  It was meant to be a 50 mile run but I took so much longer than I expected I had to call it a day at 40 so I could get home.

Having not run on a treadmill for some years, I don't think I'll be getting back on one any time soon!

Kent Coastal Marathon.
I was dreading this race, as I knew how unfit I was, and I've never been a fan of the course, but actually it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable marathons I've done. I paired up with my friend Rachel, who was returning after some time out too, and we covered the full 26.2 miles together, although lots of other friends ran with us along the way as well.

The weather was gorgeous, the sea side was absolutely picture perfect, and we stopped for ice-creams a couple of times, and just laughed, chatted, ran and walked the whole way around. Consequently, it was one of the slowest marathons I've ever done, at 5:31, but it was so relaxed and so much fun, I just didn't care about the time.

Our South American adventure
Francis and I went backpacking in Peru and Boliva for three and a half weeks and had an absolutely amazing time. I only ran once, in Lima on our second day after arriving, and it wasn't the prettiest 5 miles I've ever done, but more than made up for it when we went trekking in the Andes, over the Salkantay mountain pass, to Machu Picchu, which is about 38 miles. We also climbed the mountain at Machu Picchu (Waynapicchu) as well as trekking through the Amazon in Bolvia. So altitude, heat and humidity training!  Most of our trekking in the mountains was at about 3,500m, going up to 4,500m, and it was tough - I've never been at altitude before - but it was such a great experience. It's a stunning part of the world!

Chelmsford Marathon.
This was yesterday's race. I had hoped that our exertions on holiday would be good alternative training but unfortunately it turns out trekking isn't the same as running, as I found the marathon tough going...in fact I thought I was going to die at any point through the first 6 miles. Luckily, my body started to remember how to run and breathe at the same time, and I was much more comfortable at 10 miles, and by 18 miles I was starting to enjoy myself and was running pretty strongly. There were quite a few friends out on the course which is always great, especially as some were returning well from injury, and some ran absolutely brilliant times including a couple of PBs, and I spent a lovely couple of miles at the end running at chatting with 100 Marathon Clubber, Anna.

Although I had a negative split, it took me 4:44 to finish. I'm aching this morning too which is very unusual for me after a marathon...it's just a sign of no training so need to rectify that!

Chelsmford was also my last race in my "24 ultras and marathons in 12 months" challenge, that I have been doing to raise money for the Saint Francis Hospice who helped us when my wonderful father-in-law Roger was diagnosed with cancer last year, and then passed away less than a month later.
I'm really proud to have completed this challenge, and to have included such big races (namely TP100 and GUCR), and of course glad to have raised some much needed funds for the hospice to say "thank-you". The total currently stands at £2,069 plus gift aid.

If you'd like to donate, there's still time to support me and the hospice - my justgiving page will remain open until early December.

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!