Tuesday, 3 November 2009

So long, and thanks for all the fish ...

It seems fitting that I sign off this blog with a line from the great Douglas Adams. It was he, and his Last Chance to See book, who inspired me to become interested in Save the Rhino, and their great work continues. Stephen Fry recently retraced Douglas's steps with Mark Carwardine, and gave a great talk fundraising for Save the Rhino which I was privileged to attend.

So, next half marathon was scheduled for November 8th - the Grand Union Canal half marathon near Watford. What's been happening?

From Milton Keynes, I tried to keep up the running once a week. I just about managed it, struggling to hit any kind of distance, with most of my runs 2 to 3 miles. My longest run was 5 miles in Cheltenham, and I did manage one lovely running cliche - a 2 mile run along the beach at daybreak on Sanibel Island on holiday, quite gorgeous! It's true though that a lot of my runs were cut short - whether through struggling with heat or the usual mental demons that cause me to take shortcuts home.

But with five weeks to go to the half marathon, I really needed to step up the training. And so ... it was at this point that I took three weeks off completely. A persistent cold followed by cramming for an exam meant that I completely abandoned training, and as a result have abandoned next week's half marathon.

I do remain positive! Tash, my first commenter on this blog many months ago, and now my friend and running partner, checked out this blog to remind me that exactly one year ago this week, I ran my very first mile. I came a long way to that point but have moved on a long way since. Though I may have dropped off recently, I musn't forget how much I have achieved!

But that's not the end of it. I have started again. And I am scheduled to run in next year's Edinburgh marathon - keep following my progress and find out future details of the orangutan charities that I will run for this time. Last week I ran three times - the busiest week since Milton Keynes, and I am back up to 50 minutes' running again. I am positive, I'm back, and I'm aiming for a sub five hour run.

And for more proof that I really did the run this year - see below!

Monday, 3 August 2009

The proof - and what next?

Well here's the proof from last Sunday - the Garmin readout of my 13.14 mile run round Milton Keynes


And here is proof of my finishing time:


I'm still amazingly proud that I can run half marathons now - twelve months ago this blog started and I could barely run a minute. But I'm wary of a few things

- I'm slow. Really slow. If you sort the finishers in reverse order, I come on the first page. I beat only 8% of runners home, and only 4.6% of all men
- I finish with energy left in the tank. I've finished two half marathons and a full marathon now, and in each case I could have done more, having finished without pushing myself to its limit.
- Combine those two facts - look at the splits I ran - I can go faster.

I think if I'm to continue, my goal has to be to run faster - do I have a 2 hour half marathon in me? Or can I at least try and train for one and get a respectable 2:05 or 2:10?

As I finished, delighted with my 2:29, the prizegiving was happening for all the different age categories. Now I didn't go to win any prizes, but the leading woman was not there as she'd long since gone home for a shower and a cup of tea. And the over 60s womens category was won in 2:11, fully 18 minutes faster than me. By the only over 60 woman in the whole field!

I haven't decided my running future yet but I've spent 8 days now not running and eating lots of cake. It surprises me to announce it, but I want to run on, run regular and run faster.

Well, run on a bit anyway!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

NSPCC Milton Keynes Half Marathon

So, the time has arrived and the preparations continue to be disastrous. To cut a long story short I've completely lost my application pack, so travelled to the venue early in the hope of being able to enter on the day.

Thankfully as I arrived and told the organisers my story they completely believed me and handed me a new pack free of charge. With this change of luck I made a donation anyway to the NSPCC since I was expecting to have to re-enter. The sky tried to rain, succeeded in dropping a few spots of drizzle, but this was to be all we got.

Quick stop off at the ambulance for some nipple plasters much to their amusement, and the run started. My race number was 1492, the number of Columbus, but I ran the race more like Columbo! (that's not actually true but I just wanted to make that joke)

I started near the back at the 2hr 30 marker, but soon got overtaken by just about everyone in the first half mile. Determined not to set off I convinced myself that everyone else was going too fast, but the truth is I never saw most of them again. But I was happy with my early pace, and by mile 2 latched on running alongside a girl who seemed to be running at my pace. She was a Paula Ratcliffe lookalike so looked the part, but obviously she was running with the slowcoaches at the back so that's where the similarity ends ...

Two miles later I decided to speak - not sure if I was freaking her out by running next to her but not speaking, and from that point on we kept each other company for most of the rest of the race. I'd established that the first 3 miles or so have always been difficult especially recently, but all seemed fine as I ran through the first 8-9 miles. Mile 9 was slow, as my companion (I never found her name) began to struggle, and though I continued comfortably, I still never overtook anyone, apart from two injured runners and two blokes stopping for a piddle.

At about 10.5 miles I felt a second wind - having slowed down a bit I knew I could complete but saw that I needed to speed up a bit to match my Silverstone 2hrs 30 time. So I showed my companion a clean pair of heels and left her for dust (and many other cliches). My speed got better again and in all honesty I had no trouble accelerating slightly to the finish. I probably overtook 50-100 people in the last 2 miles, which felt really rather good.

And I finished, in 2 hrs 29 minutes. My fastest mile was mile 13, to my delight, and I genuinely feel I had a lot more left to give. Perhaps my company was slowing me down somewhat but I was very grateful and she really made the race smooth and fast. Whoever you are, I wish you well, congratulations and good luck in the New Forest marathon in September!

I don't think my blog posts today have done justice to the amazing difference mentally and physically (but mostly mentally) between last Sunday (my long run only lasting 5 miles) and today. Whether it's running with others, or in events, that brings it out in me I don't know.

Today I was prepared to give up running for good if it all went badly. But it didn't, and so I won't. I'd even go so far as to say I might start liking it again now! If only I knew how my mind worked and could harness it to like running more most of the time! No matter, the rest of today has been about spoiling myself - and a jumbo frappuccino, a roast dinner and a glass of wine later, I'm rather pleased with today.

It's all gone quiet ...

As the title said, my blog has gone a bit quiet. So what happened?

In training terms, not a lot has happened. A combination of a wedding weekend, a mild virus and a lack of organisation meant I week went by without running. My Milton Keynes deadline was looming but the miles are decreasing, not increasing.

Fast forward to July 19th, just a couple of short runs since my last blog and the need to get in one final long run before the half marathon. In the interest of "tapering" I didn't want to get to 12-13 miles, but woefully short on practice of longer runs I did need to at least hit 10 miles.

Setting off in the pouring rain I planned my possible routes but didn't run out into the country, deciding instead to run short laps in Bicester. This was probably doomed to failure as I really struggled to two, three miles and beyond. I just didn't have the motivation. The only way I could convince myself I would even reach five miles was to tell myself that was as far as I was going.

And in the final week? Just two short treadmill runs to avoid the rain and tick off the bare minimum of training.

A lot of people asked if I was still running, or those in the know asked about Milton Keynes coming up this weekend. My now very over-used line is that I am running Milton Keynes on Sunday 26th (now today) but haven't done enough training. No expectations, no promises. It feels like I'm only happy to run it with a ready made excuse. And I've not done anything close to 13 miles for a long time now ...

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Slow and steady

Still struggling - yesterday's run was all about making sure I had at least one chance to run this week, and making sure I didn't either fail or hate it. Wish these weren't my struggles so close to a half marathon but I have to be realistic.

I also need to think how my training (or lack of it) has gone. I can't really expect to go faster than previous half marathons, as I haven't put in the miles for that. I'm sure I have the potential, but can't beat myself up going for it when I'm not ready. I find it hard enough to think of myself as a runner, but I can never expect myself to be a good one! Completing a marathon is good enough anyway, isn't it?

So, the sole aim for yesterday was to run, not to go too fast, and not to watch the Garmin the whole time round, as it would only make me think too much about pace. Again I went out at 9pm and I knew it would be hard enough dealing with running after a meal and late in the day.

With that in mind, mission accomplished. Four miles down, time not important, pace slow and steady. On a nice evening I found a whole twisty maze of Bicester's cycle paths I didn't know about, and returned home 4.02 miles later. With a wedding to go to there's no more running till Sunday, and by then I will have banned alcohol and cakes!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

I feel good ...

... da-da-da-da-da ... and I knew that I would da-da-da-da-da.

Well, that's what I told myself my blog title would be as I set off for my long run. I was visualising my triumph! I'm sure that's what great sportsmen do. And if nothing else it became *that song* - the song that creeps into my head and stays there the whole time.

But really, I don't feal that good. And I feared that I wouldn't ... da-da-da-da-da, doesn't really scan so well. The facts and figures first - I covered (note the absence of the word "ran") exactly ten miles in a few seconds under two hours.

But the first hour especially, in the sun, was hot. And it does seem that I struggle in the heat. It's a lot cooler than the last few days, probably about the same as London Marathon temperature (and I managed 16 or so miles consecutively there) and there's no reason to think that Milton Keynes in 3 weeks time won't be any different, if not warmer.

As I took on water at 6 miles I found myself slowing to a walk, and basically walked for half a mile there, as well as three quarters of a mile later on. And had I been mentally up for it, I could have made up for my walking aberrations by running the two miles home from 10 miles to 12 miles to make up for it, but didn't.

The problem is still mental - as Sall_y said in my last comment, I have to want to run. Today felt like a trudge, not a run. I've run these routes before now, and I don't have the incentive of a big marathon at the end of this training. And though I enjoy the run up to a point ... when I stop and walk for a bit, I enjoy that just as much if not more! Once that's happened once, my brain pretty much gives up on running the whole thing.

I can't be too despondent - how many others of my friends and contemporaries covered 12 miles before lunch, and ran the majority of them. I'm unrecognisable in shape, size and lifestyle to this time last year. Today was supposed to be the run that fixed the bad week last week, and it wasn't to be.

On a lighter note ... I was resplendent in orange today with black arms and black shorts. As I ran through Bucknell I noticed I had a ladybird on my shoulder. I'm wondering if it was a large case of mistaken identity!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Down but not out

I've discussed a lot whether I actually enjoy running or not yet. I've greatly enjoyed the two events I've run in, but struggle for enjoyment running, until the feeling of achievement kicks in.

One thing that I have realised though is the opposite kicks in - I can get down when I'm not running. Especially as I should be training and targeting for a half marathon in just three weeks now. Not running makes me feel like I'm failing.

So with that in mind, and just one short run behind me this week, I set off yesterday planning to run 5 miles or so.

Bit of a disaster though, after a mile or so with still a bit of stitch or heartburn, I changed my mind, walked, and ran a shortcut home. No point in killing myself when it didn't seem right, bur of course, mentally, I'm now even more disappointed than before I started.

So what went wrong? I've thought of lots of excuses ...

- 1. I don't run well late in the day. Probably true, after a long work day I just want to relax, and starting a run after 9pm I start to worry aobut whether I'll relax or sleep OK. Valididty: 7/10

- 2. I don't run well after an evening meal. I think this is true - it was almost two hours after my evening meal, and still felt sluggish. Validity: 8/10

- 3. I haven't been eating properly. Yes, true - not enough carb loading and too many cakes and ice creams this week. Validity: 7/10

- 4. Too hot. Hmm, well it was warm but it was 9pm so not exactly the midday sun. Validity: 3/10

- 5. I tried my usual route in reverse. Maybe I don't run anti-clockwise? Validity: 0/10. Now I'm just being silly.

I will though try not to get too disappointed by this, and will stick to my plan of a long 11/12 mile run on Sunday morning (tommorrow). That one is more important not to mess up. But I am still on track. Down, perhaps today even more down, but not out!