Do what you love

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Since the London marathon, I have been struggling to get back the body and the fitness I had this time last year. I was lean, stronger and faster and, above all else, I was happier. I was training up to half marathons, running lots of 10ks and feeling good. BUT, I felt this need to sign up for a marathon. I got sucked in by the other runners at my club and people on Twitter and Facebook – I felt the pressure (albeit positive and well meaning) to join in. Thereafter followed boredom and misery for nigh on 6 months. I felt stressed and irritable, and I was a pain in the backside to be around. I irritated myself on pretty much a daily basis. I had turned into a marathon arsehole – I lived, breathed and slept marathons, and avoided socialising in case it interfered with the dreaded plan.

Then the RUNger set in (noun: the need to replenish energy stores used up after a long run with cake and shit food) and where once I had traces of abs trying to peak through, was a blob of gloop. In essence, marathon training had turned me into a blobby, slow and miserable loser.

Contrary to what others have said I would do, I haven’t come away from the marathon after all of that trauma and all-round bollox and thought ‘hey I’ll sign up for another one’; quite the opposite. I’ve looked at why I feel the need to self flagellate by signing up for things that are frankly horrible and not right for me, and I’ve looked at what I really want to do and what I enjoy. Life is supposed to be about fun after all, and that involves feeling good about ourselves and sharing that positivity with others.

Lately I have been indulging myself in pretty much anything I want to do and it’s been a huge amount of fun. I have been strength training daily with Julia Buckley‘s Extreme Inferno (more on that another time, but it’s great!) and my personal trainer, I’ve gone out and got drunk, I’ve learnt to love cycling and I’m going open-water swimming this week. I leave the watch at home and I’m ok with that.

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I may not be a marathon runner, but I’m a happy, strong and positive runner and that’s what matters to me.

sian

A weekend of running: Nike we own the night and Oxford Town and Gown

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A couple of weeks ago (my first proper run since the London marathon might I add) I took part in the Nike We Own the Night 10k and managed to rope in a friend of mine in on it too. I did the same race last year (you can read about it here), but there were a few organisational issues making it a pretty below par affair. I’m pleased to report that every single one of these issues had been resolved and this year’s event was pretty awesome (well done race organisers!).

– Race corrals – check!

– Race bling – check. After last years disappointing bracelet (which landed up in the bin), this year we got given an awesome necklace

– Bottle necks – nearly gone, apart from a section towards the finish.

– Warmup – check. Last year I was randomly jumping up and down not knowing that the hell was going on, but this year they had people demonstrating the moves on the podium.

– Pacers – check!

– Bar – check, which I was just too cold to go in! 😦

The only thing that let it down slightly, which is beyond anyone’s control, was the fact that it was unseasonably cold, wet and miserable so I was too cold to meet anybody and just wanted to get home straight afterwards!

I didn’t really own the night – the Night owned me! My legs felt heavy and I managed to run a personal worst 10k time (certainly in the last year), but it was fun! 🙂

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Race number 2 was the Oxford Town and Gown 10k, which takes place through the historic centre of Oxford. This time I was official photographer/bag holder for Rich who was running with his friend Matt – a total newbie to running.

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I was originally supposed to be pacing Matt, but I decided that two back-to-back races would probably kill me. We also had no idea how fast Matt would be running as, in typical newbie runner style, he hadn’t really been taking much notice of time and was counting a ‘5k’ as anywhere between 5.5k and 6k (soon he’ll be like the rest of us though and stopping his Garmin dead on 5k and running up and down the road past his house to make his watch say ‘13.1 miles’).

We had absolutely no idea if he would smash it out in 30 minutes or 60 minutes. As it happens, I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with him for more than about 30 seconds because he was AWESOME! I’ve been running for ages now (about 3 years), training all the time, eating well, doing drills, threshold and Fartlek sessions, etc and I still look like Gollum when I run. Matt rocks up with a running style like Mo himself – high knee lift and a kick to die for – barely breaking a sweat and making running look completely effortless in an incredible time of 50:30. Poor Rich was shortly behind him after nearly dying trying to catch up with him with a massive PB of 51:06.

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Matt is now running the Oxford half marathon, where we expect him to either win or maybe come second? 😉 You can check out his fundraising page here.

Running SMARTer

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For me, the marathon was an unmitigated disaster. I’ve never been one for dwelling on shitstorms too long though – there are always lessons to be had!

The biggest lesson is that picking and choosing training plans based on hearsay, Runner’s World, twitter and the bloke down the pub is perhaps not the best strategy. I need a plan tailored to fit around my needs, what my body is capable of and the plan needs to adapt based on how busy and stressed I am at the time. I have also come to terms with the fact that I am busy and when you can’t run more it’s better to run SMARTer – with every run having a specific purpose. I shall no longer avoid intervals, threshold sessions and Farlek runs! I also need to stop thinking about what I think I should be doing and do what I want to do and what I enjoy – half marathons.

Who is better to help me with my own personal plan than a coach right? Cue my lovely new coach Ben from Full Potential who sends me weekly training plans, advice and support. Coaches aren’t just reserved for athletes – we average runners can also have a trainer. After all, running is all about self improvement and setting our own personal goals.

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So my new goal is to run faster and for me that means a 23.30 minute 5k, a sub-50 minute 10k and a 1.50 half marathon.

How am I going to do this?

Stick to the plan – there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a training plan on the wall and crossing it off as you complete each item (something I saw a friend of Facebook do)!

Embrace interval training on my own. In the past I’ve always relied on others to pull me along at running club speed sessions, but again these are ‘one size fits all’. I’ve been making use of my marvelous TomTom multisport watch to set personalised interval sessions and it’s flippin brilliant!

Keep my goals realistic and adaptable – sometimes my goals are completely ridiculous and I feel deflated when I then, unsurprisingly, don’t achieve them. If you keep them realistic, when you achieve them you just set new goals.

Start focussing on running technique – it’s time to banish the niggles and run more efficiently. It’s amazing how making small changes to my running style can not only minimise injury risk but shave a few minutes off a half marathon. Over the coming weeks I have some drills to do to try and stop over striding and get my legs moving faster.

Make stretching my friend – I’ve really missed doing yoga. I couldn’t fit it in much with marathon training and my favourite yoga teacher has moved away, but I’ve now found a yoga studio where I work and joined GloYoga so I’m planning on fitting it in at least twice a week, even if it’s only a 10-minute session.

Make running fun again – instead of pounding the pavements around Bicester all the time, I plan on doing some more runcations, even if the race is just a training run.

nutrition

Sort out my nutrition – I need to eat more healthy snacks in the afternoon so that my evening runs are less laboured and I know I sweat a fair bit running so I’m drinking a SIS  electrolyte drink before every run.

Cross train – I’m adding swimming, cycling and runner-specific strength training to the schedule thanks to my PT.

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Be cool – if a run doesn’t go well it’s not the end of the world – it’s only running.

Have you done a marathon recently? What are you plans post-marathon craziness?

sian

London Marathon 2014: What an amazing/awful day

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There are two things in this life that terrify me: bananas and feeling/being sick. One of those fears I overcame and the other I didn’t.

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It’s no great secret that I have struggled with the training for this marathon. When you add in a new place you don’t know well, not knowing many people to run with, having two jobs (one of which is busy and new), being a company director, having a previous life to sort out – any kind of marathon training is virtually impossible.

I haven’t enjoyed the lead up to this marathon much either. The training for Brighton involved beautiful runs along the beach and runs out in the countryside, not a bypass!

BUT London is a once in a lifetime marathon and I was so fortunate to be given the opportunity to run I was going to give it everything I had, in spite of picking up ITB strain and glute pain 2 weeks before.

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I stayed up in London the night before with a friend of mine who was also running where I was treated to fajitas, a comfy bed, copious amounts of delicious banana cake and a lift to the station.

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I’d been feeling quite tired, my leg was stiff and I was a bit apprehensive beforehand, but having someone to chat with before the race was great, Zoe went off to her insanely quick pen (3:15-3:30) and I headed back to my pen (4:15-4:30). I knew a few people from my running club would be the same pen, but I didn’t spot anyone until just after we got started. So what a lovely surprise when I bumped into Tony!?! What a treat to have someone as positive as him to run with! My strategy was to start quite slowly and save any energy in the legs for later on when it gets tough. I started to feel twinges in my legs from about mile 8, which got me feeling quite worried to start with, but actually they started to go after about 10 miles and I was starting to feel quite comfortable, if a little hot. Tony and I chatted for the next 5 or 6 miles and I started to feel really jaded in myself and as if I was going to vomit. My heart was racing and I felt ‘wrong’. I had to stop for a little while and get some salts on board so I ate a few salted cashews and off I went again.

Between miles 19 and 21 I walk/jogged a bit as the running was making my feel really quite ill and I had a lump in my throat. I just wanted the whole ordeal to be over, but the crowd support was wonderful – ‘come on Sian – you can do it’ brought tears to my eyes and warmed my heart. I called and sent a text to Rich and told him how ill I was feeling and he said to just take it easy and not go for a time so that’s what I did. At mile 22 I decided to suck it up and push on. My legs were feeling good, my stomach wasn’t and it took every ounce of strength for me to keep going.

All that time I had worried about my legs and didn’t even think about how I would actually feel in myself.

Highs

– Hanging out with Zoe at the start.

– Crowd support was epic! I felt like everyone in the crowd was a friend looking out for me.

– Seeing the legend that is Sami at mile 8!!

– Running 17-odd miles with the lovely Tony.

– Superb organisation – like a well-oiled machine.

– The phenomenal support I had from Adidas UK and the lovely guys at Speed Communications. Thank you! x

– Showers along the route – awesome!

– No blisters and feet in one piece – loved my Adidas Boosts!

Lows

– Having to duck and dive, and lose my rhythm because of congestion.

– The heat and the lack of a breeze (I forget how stuffy cities can be).

– Feeling sick when my legs were feeling good.

– I hate sweets of any nature (well, at least for a month).

I finished in 5:08 – still a PB by 12 minutes. I am counting the days until my legs are able to get faster again and start working towards my goal of a 1:50 half marathon.

Will this be my last marathon? Probably – I went out on a high though! 🙂

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Thanks to Zoe for a place to stay, Sami for the hug at mile 8, Tony for running with me and taking the fab pictures, Adidas for providing my kit and my place, David and Harry at Speed Communications for being fab, and Ben from Full Potential for his support! And well done to everyone who took part and all the marvelous supporters – you rock! x

sian

Race review: Banbury 15 – the one with the guardian angel

Apart from the marathon, Banbury 15 is the longest race on my schedule this year. That, coupled with the fact that Banbury, unlike other parts of Oxfordshire, has some pretty gnarly hills in it made this race a pretty formidable challenge.

My pacer was Rich’s friend Ewan. He does all of his running for Helen and Douglas House because of a little boy Thomas who sadly, only about a week before the race, passed away.

Ewan is way faster than me and also has the constitution of an Ox (his mantra is ‘man the fuck up!’), unlike me who goes into every race thinking I’m instantly going to fail and fall flat on my face. He agreed to stick to my pace of 9.30 min/mile (or there about) aiming to finish around the 2 and a half hour mark.

We were just packing the stuff in the car before I had a quick last-minute costume change and threw on my running skirt instead of my black running tights – best decision of the day as what was probably 18 degrees felt more like 28 degrees when running!

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The Banbury 15 is a local race run by the local running club – it’s a no frills race with no timing chips and not many spectators along the course, but sometimes that’s nice!

The first gnarly hill hit about a mile in and I was feeling pretty good – I’ve almost nailed this hill thing, in fact I enjoy a course with a little bit of undulation in it.

Ewan was running the race in memory of Thomas and that’s what drives him to run. I run for the (minimal) glory/achievement and the bling to add to my already overflowing collection. It was nice to have a little bit of that positivity rub off on me though. At mile 13 we were sure little Thomas was watching over us as a yellow butterfly (his favourite colour and he loved butterflies) fluttered by.

We were both feeling pretty strong until around mile 14 when all I could think about was water and I came over feeling decidedly odd, and Ewan’s knee started playing up. We both pushed on though to finish in a respectable 2 hours and 20 minutes – 10 minutes quicker than I had hoped.

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The good…

–       Great undulating course – gives you confidence that you can complete a flat spring marathon

–       Well organised

–       Easy parking and easy access to the train station for those who don’t drive (race starts in the middle of Banbury)

–       Good value race entry

…the not so good

–       No timing chip – didn’t bother me, but might some

–       It was an unseasonably hot day and I think we could have done with an extra water station

Diva rating: 4/5

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What did I learn? 

–       Maybe running for a cause would be nice and would give my running a sense of meaning rather than being a selfish, self-indulgent pursuit

–       Don’t do your shoe laces up too tightly as your feet swell up massively on a long run – my poor little toe is really feeling it now!

Helen & Douglas House has the time and expertise to care for children and young adults with life-shortening conditions and support their families. The two hospice houses offer specialist symptom and pain management, medically supported short breaks and end-of-life care, as well as counselling and practical support for the whole family.

sian

 

 

 

 

 

Silverstone half marathon: The mental challenge

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I was really looking forward to the Silverstone half marathon, not least because I knew it would be well organised (being sponsored by Adidas) and it was a mere 15 minutes drive from my house – boom!

BUT, what I had mistakenly forgotten about was that it is still only March, we’re in the UK and Silverstone used to be an airfield – cue bitingly cold wind. I haven’t been that cold since I turned up to watch Brighton play on a July day in shorts when a freak weather front came over and the heaven’s opened! What was a real shame was that I knew a few people would be there, but both Rich and I were so cold we just wanted to ‘get it done’ and get home.

Silverstone is a extremely flat half marathon course and although you are not literally running around multiple laps of the track, it can feel like that. However, if you are looking to get a PB it is a good one, just be mindful of the fact that although it’s flat it is a very exposed and can be quite windy. I was going great guns to start with, despite major bra chafing that appeared at mile 1 (not ideal) and  a very strong head wind. I hit the first 10k at 54 minutes, but by mile 8 I became a bit bored and hit a mental wall. After downing a few jelly babies I had a burst of energy and managed to hit 10 miles at 1:29 (think this may actually be a 10-mile PB). Sadly, I wasn’t able to maintain this pace though and finished in a marginal PB of 1:58:31 – 26 seconds faster than Oxford half back in October last year. What it does prove is that I am actually a lot fitter this season than I thought and it also shows me that Oxford wasn’t a total fluke!

What surprised me the most is what a race can teach you and that is I’m not quite as much of a PB hunter as I thought I was because the PB didn’t make me wild with excitement. What I realised as I ran multiple flat and windy rings around the course was that I am knocking on the door of 35 and I started running properly at 32, I’m also not built to be a runner so I’m unlikely to ever be a fast runner now, but the best I can hope for is maintaining a level of fitness, knocking maybe a handful of minutes off my times, and enjoying myself. Perhaps with my build and strength, and my boredom with road running maybe I should reinvestigate trail running?

What I also realised during the race is that my Adidas Boost trainers are superb and super comfortable!

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DIVA rating: 3/5 – not my thing, but may well be yours!

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The good

– Superbly organised – timers on every mile marker, lots of drinks stations

– Loved the Adidas shop

– Lots of eateries and things to entertain the spectators

– Prestige associated with being at the Silverstone track – great if you’re into F1

– Ideal for a PB

– Best bling ever!!

The bad

– Lack of atmosphere – probably due to poor weather conditions in fairness

– Slightly monotonous course

Big thanks to Adidas for giving me a place on the race!

sian

Gade Valley Harriers’ marathon training runs: Review

First off, I am so bored running round where I live you wouldn’t believe it! It’s flat as a pancake, it’s not pretty (bypass, anyone?) and apart from the fab times when people from my running club have run with me, I’ve been on my own so when I found that Gade Valley Harriers in Hertfordshire (not a million miles from me) organise these special marathon training runs (3 a year to be exact – 12, 17 and 20 miles) I thought it would be ideal for me. Plus it was only £5 (bargain) and cake at the end – win, win!

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An ex colleague and friend of mine was also going along so we decided to run together (she is a newbie runner also training for the London marathon).

I parked up at Hemel Hempstead station and immediately met up with a few of the runners and walked the short 5-minute walk to the clubhouse where we saw the 17-mile finish sign (scary stuff!). I wasn’t feeling amazing for a 17-mile run – we are having our kitchen done so I couldn’t find any breakfast (made do with some Brevita breakfast biscuits) and I was really late the bed to night before filling, sanding and plastering.

Danni arrived, and we set off on the staggered start. The first 2-3 miles were a hard slog over the muddy tow path, but because we had so much catching up to do (haven’t seen each other for about a year and a half) we hardly noticed the time going by. Quick water stop (yes, they had water stops!) at the top of one of the many hills, photo op and off we set.

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The route is mostly through villages and forest, which was such a lovely refreshing change for me – not a bypass in sight!

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Up and down a few more hills we went chatting away and then I spotted the 8 mile sign – how had we done 8 miles without me noticing (particularly as between miles 5 and 6 there was an enormous hill!)? Next water stop, jelly baby refuelling (screw gels!) and off we set again.  Danni had run up to 13.1 before so up until that point we were both quite comfortable, then we said to ourselves ‘only 4 miles to go’ – by this point though my arms were cramping (clearly done too much upper body work that week!) and we were both quite quiet. The next goal was to get to the infamous jelly baby stop at mile 14. After that we were told it was all down hill and flat (phew!) which gave us a bit of a boost. We were back on the horrid, energy-sapping tow path though for the last mile where we were joined by two other ladies. We kept each other going with the promise of cake and a cup of tea.

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We finished the very hilly course in 3h 11. I was really proud of Danni as she’s a new runner and not used to hills at all. There was no medal of course, but who cares?

It’s given me a huge amount of confidence now that I can do this marathon – if I can run 17 miles up and down massive hills then flat London is totally doable! Bring it!

DIVA rating: 5/5 – awesome!

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– £5 (criminal – they should charge more!)

– Amazing organisation and marshals

– Water stops

– Jelly baby stop

– Cake at the end!!!

– Interesting and undulating course (my favourite)

– Easy to get to by train (Hemel Hempstead) and car (parking at Hemel Hempstead Station)

The next training run is on 23rd March and is 20 miles. If you are at a loss as to who to run with and where to run, I couldn’t recommend this highly enough.

sian