Book review: Your Pace or Mine?

Running is, of course, a metaphor for life. Just like the build up to Christmas, it’s often the anticipation of an event that brings the most joy. You’re busy for months doing your training (Christmas shopping), getting your kit ready (hanging up the sparkly lights and putting up your tree) and buying your race day nutrition (turkey, sprouts and extra thick double cream). Race day can often be quite painful, but it’s how we push ourselves as we work towards this day where we reap greatest personal benefits. Sometimes we get injured and other times races just don’t go to plan. Then we have to forget times and instead focus on finishing.

Lisa Jackson has just run her 100th marathon, in itself an awesome accomplishment by any runner. However, when you read Lisa’s latest book, Your Pace or Mine? what you take away most is Lisa’s sense of fun and adventure. This is the most important part of Lisa’s marathon journeys.

Buy it now! Before copies run out!

Buy it now! Before copies run out!

She isn’t in this running game in a quest for a list of impressive PBs. Lisa is on a journey through life that is driven by the need to connect with other human beings. Running is just the method she chooses to do this. Lisa is trying to tell us something quite simple, and something those runners who punish the ground, with heads down, probably miss. It’s not about the time you do, but the time you have along the way.

If you run a lot of marathons you’re going to meet a lot of wonderful (crazy) people and Lisa shares her extraordinary stories with great humour. The personal stories could be yours or mine.

The amazing Lisa, bringing a little bit of magic to the London Marathon Expo last week

The amazing Lisa, bringing a little bit of magic to the London Marathon Expo last week

We all want to be as fast as we can but if being fast takes away the fun there’s little point to running. I love the way Lisa tackles running and races, in that she believes you don’t have to punish yourself to be a true winner. The chapter where Lisa shares with us losing her mum and auntie really spoke to me; it’s so touching and thought provoking. Her feelings are an echo of all our losses.

You don’t have to be fast to have fun with running. Lisa shows us this, and her spirit shines through every page. We all need to find some time to chill with this book and just enjoy the stories and adventures, then ditch our Garmins and go for a relaxed run – hopefully with someone special who brings a smile to our face. If this book inspires you to do this, then I know it  would make Lisa proud.

You can buy Lisa’s book here

#Week 18 – Race day arrives!

To me London Marathon every year means heading up to the expo to meet everyone in our wonderful running community and helping out on the Women’s Running stand. I did very little running in my last week before race day, a three mile easy run on Tuesday last week, with some light strength and conditioning after, and 5 x 1 min reps on Wednesday. I did these quite fast, to boost my confidence. Thursday was crazy getting myself ready. I was really worried I’d forget an essential piece of kit as my head was already on the streets of London.

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It was also the launch last week of the new Mental Health Ambassadors campaign, #runandtalk, by England Athletics, and I am really, really proud to be one.

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I bet there’s not many tiny mental health ambassadors out there

We are here to promote running as a way to help you with your mental health – if you need to talk, running is the perfect medium to do so (unless you are doing hard reps on a Friday morning, in which case you talk on your walk recovery). That was my wish when I set up my Friday morning group – to give women (and men) who can’t train in the evenings a chance to do so with like-minded souls, and a chance to talk about the weekly stresses we all live with.

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Thursday afternoon I was just about ready; my kit was packed and the girls sorted. I had one last thing to do, which I’d been waiting to do for a long, long time. I wanted to listen to the answer phone message my dad have left me before he died, which was on the day of London Marathon three years ago.

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It wasn’t there. There was one message, as there has been these last three years, but it was just white noise. I wasn’t expecting this. I didn’t have a chance to listen to it that last time. Even though it’s been there for three years I only listened to it once a few weeks after he died. I couldn’t do it again as it made me feel too sad. In my mind I had thought I would listen to it one last time, run on Sunday, then erase it – I would be saying my final goodbye in the race and it would be time to let go. Even as I’m writing this the tears are streaming down my face.

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I could only just get my face up to the ribbon – there was no extra step for small people

But I took it as a sign that it was time to remove the message. Time to cut the ties. I kept thinking of recording it on to my phone, but I couldn’t listen to it, so I didn’t. Now I don’t have that last message, and I don’t have the security of knowing it’s there if I do want to hear my dad talking. I guess it doesn’t really matter as I can hear him in my head all the time, and I always feel him running with me.

The lovely Jenny and Ashleigh

The lovely Jenny and Ashleigh

Sometimes it’s such a strong feeling I can almost see him, running next to me as he did when I was 15 shouting at me ‘WHAT DO YOU CALL THIS! PUT SOME GUTS INTO IT!’ He would do this to all the men he trained on his field gun crew. It made me feel like one of the guys.

Ready to go

Ready to go

I dedicated the last mile of the marathon on Sunday to my Dad. Without him, I may have never run a marathon.

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My dad;  we have exactly the same gait (and the same legs, mine are less hairy)

Friday was very busy! After the school run, I went straight to see my emotional wellness coach, Janet. We went through the race, and dedicating the last seven miles to my special people. This was really important to me, as I know I would need to draw on them to pull me through. Nerves were getting to me a bit, and I didn’t sleep well on Wednesday or Thursday night. I felt jaded on Friday, but after seeing Janet I had an overwhelming sense of calm. It’s the marathon – what will be, will be.

Liz working a knot in her back

Liz working a knot in her back

Friday night I didn’t sleep well again, and so I was beginning to dread race day – I was too tired to run! I asked my lovely friend Caroline to send me some Reiki, all the way from New York City, and we agreed a time for me to find a calm spot and ‘receive’. Just talking to Caroline on Saturday helped calm my nerves, as it always has, always will. Your oldest friends know your faults, and your strengths, and can drill down to them instantly. I felt reassured once again.

The amazing Lisa

The amazing Lisa

Saturday at the expo I met up with the incredible and lovely Lisa Jackson, author of Your Pace or Mine? and member now of the 100 Marathon Club. It was also a precious chance to see my faraway friend Emily – we were both nervous and emotional about what Sunday would hold for us.

I get my love of cross-country from my dad

I get my love of cross-country from my dad

Saturday evening was feet up in the hotel room, then, with the alarm going off early Sunday I was in marathon mode. We got to the Green Start (a little later than planned but within time) and the overwhelming feeling was one of being a tiny ant amongst a vast swathe of people.

The lovely Emily

The lovely Emily

The Race
Once the gun went off it only took about 1.5 minutes to get over the line. Hold back I told myself over and over as I constantly checked my watch through Miles 1-3. The volume of runners takes you back – you have to focus to keep your place and keep upright, more so when you’re petite. Despite feeling tired I felt OK and the miles passed quickly. I kept up my target marathon pace until Mile 10 then Mile 13. Each mile after that I checked my watch and I was surprised when I kept hitting my target pace. The wall of noise follows you through every mile. I spotted Marie, my ladies captain from my club and it made my spirits soar – it made such a massive difference to see someone I recognised amongst thousands of strangers.

Who said runners were crazy?

Who said runners were crazy?

My nutrition was covered by SIS, who kindly donated my gels and protein bars. They are my favourite brand as they are much thicker then some gels, and my Porsche metabolism burns energy quicker than I can put it in to my body.

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Mile 15 my left foot started feeling a bit twingy and I could feel my left quad too. I think I knew what was coming but I had been in total denial about it for two years! Since my last marathon.

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Mile 17 and my foot was hurting now, as was my quad and my left hip – but I think I was in a gel delirium by this point as I couldn’t work out where the pain was. Miles 18, 19 and 20 my left leg seemed to be seizing up and I think I assumed it was my hip, but in fact it was probably my quad and foot. I got to about 20.5 and started walking, knowing that my leg was done in (that’s my highly technical evaluation). Once I started walking I was battling back the tears. My target time and a chance of a PB was instantly gone. I knew it would now be about getting to the finish line without stepping out of the race and finding a tube back to my meet up point.

Oh dear! Not happy!

Part of me wanted to stop and cry, but of course you can’t as hundreds of people are willing you to keep taking that next step. I’m so relieved I didn’t see anyone I knew at a tearful point. Jenny from Women’s Running spotted me and shouted so much support, and lucky at this point I was resigned to my shuffling. Thank you to every person that shouted me on, and there were so many of you I simply couldn’t cope with all the attention! After a few miles of shuffling, walking slow (16-min-miling) and trying to jog just a little I put my headphones in.

The finishing straight - I wasn't happy!

The finishing straight – I wasn’t happy!

I walked the last third at Edinburgh Marathon and swore I would never do it again. Of all the issues I thought might prevent me running the whole way this time, I hadn’t bargained on it being my hip. I was gutted but what can you do? I carried on.

We're only as good as our support crew - mine was the best! (However, note that neither offered to pace me...)

We’re only as good as our support crew – mine was the best! (However, note that neither offered to pace me…)

That took about an hour and 15 minutes. I felt cold. But I’m stubborn and I just kept going, and even managed to almost jog the last mile. I finally saw my partner David, and our friend Simon, on that last stretch before you turn on to The Mall. They were shouting at me – I wasn’t very happy as I tried to shout back about my dodgy hip.

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Once I got across the finish line and retrieved my bag it was easy to find them. I didn’t take any pictures at the finish against the #oneinamillion posters as I was a bit devastated. I kept thinking of my dad. Well, it was his send-off marathon, it didn’t go to plan – which goes to show how life sometimes doesn’t. I wasn’t going to get upset about it as I knew there were so many factors out of my control. All I could think about was did Emily get her sub 3 hour time? When the text came through from her that she came in at 3:03 I was more devastated for her than for myself.

Oops!

Oops!

So what do you do when your best friend running sometimes isn’t your best friend? You turn to your other best friend sugar of course! Cake and chocolate help. God I love them.

I finished in 3.59 – it wasn’t the time I was hoping for, but I still finished. I wasn’t going to get upset about it, then I did a bit on Monday, then yesterday I felt like I had really let everyone down. Today, well, every day feels different after a marathon and as the aches subside you make your peace. But there’s only one thing that helps you put a bad marathon to rest. Yep, I’ve just entered my next one…

Did you run London Marathon, or another spring marathon recently? Did your race go to plan?

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#Week 17: The Road to London

Is next week really race day? How can that be? It seems so long ago I started training for London, the week before Christmas. Then I couldn’t project forward to April 24th, and now it’s just over a week away. Overall my training has gone much better than I would have thought it would back then, despite the hiccup of three weeks out with an injury.

Finally it's light - and we can see each other again

Finally it’s light – and we can see each other again

I didn’t want to do much running as it was a really busy week. I went up to the London Book Fair on Wednesday, to meet the publishers of my book (out in the autumn). That was exciting! Also Sienna had a competition on Sunday and my other two girls, Amelie and Lola, had extra rehearsals for a show they are doing in the Albert Hall next month. I was a taxi supremo!

Checking out the competition

Checking out the competition

Monday I made club and it was a tough session of long hill reps, with fartlek through the first section of each rep. I worked hard knowing it would be my last effort session before marathon day. There’s no slacking in Coach Penny’s sessions!

Testing my new Bliz glasses - it rained!

Testing my new Bliz glasses – it rained!

Tuesday I had a long overdue leg massage, which I knew would hurt as I don’t think I’ve had a massage since last year. Oops. Wednesday flew by and Thursday it was our first club time trial of the year. I didn’t want to overdo the effort so ran comfortably, then jogged home after. Friday was my group and we did 6 x 2 mins along the promenade at the beach. It was raining and miserable but we kept smiling.

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Saturday and Sunday were rest days, and the weekend ended on a high when Professor Pog came second in the southern region National Grade 4 competition, which means she will be representing Team South in the national finals! Whoop whoop! We’re going on a road trip… to Stoke!

Pre-competition meal to help Sienna carb load

Pre-competition meal to help Sienna carb load

Oh, and I haven’t stopped eating all week! There’s just one more week to get through. I’m taking a wide berth around anyone who has a cold or other germs, and won’t run much next week.

All three girls are going to the nationals (plus Niamh!)

All three girls are going to the nationals (plus Niamh!)

Whatever happens on race day, there’s nothing I can do about it now!

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The Road to London #Week 16

When I got the results of a DNA sport genetics test (thomasoliver.co.uk ) this week I was quite nervous just beforehand. As a long distance runner, from a family of long distance runners, I was slightly worried it may reveal I should be knocking out 20 x 200m around the track rather than getting lost for hours on the South Downs.

I got to test this Saucony London trainers this week and loved them!

I got to test this Saucony London trainers this week and loved them!

The conclusion of my test was that, in terms of athletic performance potential I am definitely an endurance athlete (I have the ACE gene), not a power one (I don’t have the ACTN3 gene), just like I thought (and hoped) I would be. Phew! This had to be a bit of a boost at this stage of my London Marathon training.

Did I manage to include every brand in my race day kit?

Did I manage to include every brand in my race day kit?

I am a long distance runner… I am, I am. I’m at that stage where I’m battling my brain, which is telling me that my trainers aren’t right, so I probably shouldn’t even think about running 26 miles. And that my ankle is still a bit sore… on the top and on the bottom, and that I’m really tired, and that I definitely haven’t done enough training… and that it will be a nightmare getting back into the swing of everything the moment I walk through the door after the race. You know, those 101 things that our conscious mind comes up with to get out of actually doing the race!

The SGR ladies

The SGR ladies

Excuses be gone! With two weeks left till race week this was my last push in backing up the DNA test and the positive thoughts with the real stuff. I did an off-road half on Sunday in a local forest, which, despite lacking the usual organization you get in a race, was a beautiful day. With an extra seven miles run to get home from the race I made my second long run of 20 miles, though I was knackered by the end as there was over 1200 foot of ascent by the time I finished.

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I couldn’t be bothered to do anything for the rest of the day, so the girls had pizza for tea and I forced them all up to their bedrooms by about 8pm just so I could lie down with my book and rest.

I got home and Sienna had half her face covered in one facepack, half in another. Of course!

I got home and Sienna had half her face covered in one facepack, half in another. Of course!

Monday and Tuesday I had rest days, and Wednesday my legs still felt tired; plus, my off-road shoes had aggravated my injured ankle a little during the first 13 miles through forest trails and mud. So I sat on the turbo for 45 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of strength and conditioning.

I really needed this break from the girls!

I really needed this break from the girls!

My legs still felt a bit heavy on Thursday, so I started a steady seven mile run, with no expectations. I just headed to the beach, did 1.5 miles slow along the shingle then wound up the pace so the last mile was about marathon pace. I think my splits ranged from about 10 min/miling to about 7.5 min/miling. I love these runs the most, where you start slow and expect nothing, then, as your body and legs warm up you can pick up the pace and finish and feel you’ve worked just the right amount. It’s like when you put on a pair of jeans and find a tenner in one of the pockets.

Recovery food :)

Recovery food :)

Friday was my group run, well, I say group but it was the school holidays so only three of us hit the shingle, for 10 x beach hut efforts. It was a really busy day running around after the girls, and I’m definitely starting to feel the pressure – I drank alcohol! Oh why did I do that? My body and my kidneys can’t cope with it at all! Even two small glasses!

I seem to have spent most of the holidays feeding this little cherub

I spent most of the holidays feeding this little cherub

This made Saturday’s 6 x 2 minute efforts feel sooooo hard! I only had myself to blame, but unlike last week when I shot off on the first 800m effort, then suffered for 5 more, I paced myself much better. Despite the heavy legs and eyelids my average pace was good, and it was another (surprisingly) decent week. Now, it really is time to taper!

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Questions: Are you getting nervous for any upcoming races?

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#Week 15: The Road to London

Week 15 was the first week of the Easter school holidays so I knew I wouldn’t achieve much! This didn’t all happen during in Week 15, but in a seven-day stretch from the Friday before until this Thursday I did  a 20 mile run, parkrun at about marathon pace (less than 12 hours later), 6 x 800m, and a 7 mile tempo run. This probably amounts to the best quality week I’ve done for literally years!

Not only this, I managed a plank PB of 5 mins! I was as chuffed with this as with my 20-mile run!

Sunday and Monday I rested my legs after my long run – I need at least two days off to feel human again, though I made sure I did 30 minutes of strength and conditioning on Sunday.

Tuesday I think I was a little crazy. Three weeks of un-running meant no burn out or speed, so I went into my 6 x 800m session with loads of gusto and did the first one in 5:30 pace. The next five were therefore a bit tough, but my legs seemed to have a mind of their own. I averaged a really good pace for all, so even though I’ve stretched my distance I’ve also got a bit of speed coming back into my legs, too.

Entertaining the girls

Entertaining the girls

This is so exciting, I almost want to bin the marathon and focus on training for 5K (which is the plan after my legs have had a rest once race day is over). It kind of stops you in your tracks mentally, when you do something you’ve been wanting to do for a long time but wondered if you would be able to do again. Hello speed!

Reviewing Salomon kit for a new feature in Women's Running

Reviewing Salomon kit for a new feature in Women’s Running

Wednesday was time to rest my legs and sort out my head. With juggling work, the girls, training and life I am already getting overtired and I struggle with thoughts of ‘How am I supposed to do all this’! I think I can sometimes err towards the negative when it comes to my own strengths and abilities, even though I would be so cross if anyone I know gave themselves a hard a time as I do. It’s called being a woman.

Another plank PB, what more can you wish for in life?

Another plank PB, what more can you wish for in life?

So I go to see an emotional wellness coach, Janet Smith, who helps me, how shall I say it… clear out the crap in my head to let in the possibility of what I want to happen become reality. Sometimes I don’t know what the hell I’m doing and my head is so cluttered I can’t think straight. That’s my ‘children clutter’. Them and their busy lives! Then there’s the rubbish we all carry around from our pasts, and I am guilty of doing this as much as anyone. Janet does a great ‘clearing’ session where you go, spill all the issues that are troubling you, and then she works with you to find the route of these problems so you can let them go. Every time I go it’s a transformational experience.

Saw this on the drive home from Janet's #blessed

Saw this on the drive home from Janet’s #blessed

So I told Janet how, at times, I feel so overstressed with everything that I worry I’m going to hold myself back through not being able to relax and just be. This doesn’t just relate to running, but to work (probably more so) and being creative. It’s that common situation where we are so busy that we end up with little time for the one thing we know we should be doing – for me this is fiction writing, and escaping into my imagination.

Can you see how calm the sea is?

Can you see how calm the sea is?

Holidays are busy when you work at home, and we also had a new bathroom fitted. My head definitely felt like it was ready to explode! The time with Janet is precious and I feel I walk away a different person, free of the stresses and worries that have built up. We also did a lot of work on visualising each and every mile of the marathon, and enjoying the race, and Janet set me up with a mental routine to tap into up until race day.

Thursday I had to do a seven mile tempo run, and my legs felt quite heavy. Friday I usually do my group but it was holiday rest mode so I just did 30 minutes of strength and conditioning and Saturday was too busy for any exercise – and I was doing an off-road half the next day.

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In theory I’m heading into my taper now, so not doing much mileage didn’t bother me too much (although the maranoia still creeps in doesn’t it?!).

Questions: Are you in taper time? Is paranoia preying on your mind?

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#Week 14: The Road to London

I run with a strange kind of inverted occasional carbon dioxide deselection, as my 9-year-old calls it. To you and me it’s called OCD. Sienna probably shows the greatest tendency towards OCD, and she knows it. We all laugh about her tendencies, and love them at the same time. And of course she would have her own interpretation of it. She renamed herself Pog Wolf aged 2, then got herself an imaginary friend (Marvin) and Gary Barlow (with a pink beard) used to live in her room. Lucky girl.

Good Friday trip to Oxygen trampoline park

Good Friday trip to Oxygen trampoline park

It’s lovely that Sienna will scrub out the woodburner and arrange the shoes on the shoe rack (in size order as well as colour), then pull everything out of the food cupboards and rearrange them in order, and that she can stack the dishwasher with a skill worthy of an Olympic medal. It’s even lovelier for me that, despite about 18 hours of gymnastics a week she wants to come home and do housework, I mean, for me, with my fear of cleaning and refusal of all things housewifely, she is a little angel.

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Sienna and Niamh

“Sienna, can you just do the dishwasher while I start on tea?” I will call out to her, knowing that in five minutes she will have done it, fed the guinea pig, tidied the laundry, will come and chop the veggies (precisely), tidy the kitchen and still ask for more.

If you can't find hills, make steps your friend

If you can’t find hills, make steps your friend

She has this kind of personality. My God she is thorough. I want to be thorough but I can’t; as I said, I have an inverse OCD personality. I know I’m on the spectrum; my place was booked and paid for when I was very young. Though I’ve never been completely sure where exactly it is I should call ‘home’. Apart from Cuckoo Lane (and isn’t that fate having a laugh on me?). Unless you have a perceptive parent who does some digging and wants to find out the strange currencies that flow through their child, you can spend half your life trying to work out exactly why you are different and how. I think I’ve journeyed a slightly strange, uneven and somewhat cobbly path from being a tiny little extrovert (emotionally demanding), to being an introverted extrovert (emotionally demanding), to being a HSP, or highly sensitive person (emotionally demanding). I’m still tiny and little.

Couldn't keep up with the lovely Phil with 20 in my legs

Couldn’t keep up with the lovely Phil with 20 in my legs

What has this got to do with my 14th week of training for a marathon? It’s about living with not being able to allow your OCD-ness to flow through you and train the way you want to due to being a grown up and having *responsibilities*. This is what makes it inverted. You have it but you can’t be it.

{ responsibility: n. (pl. responsibilities) 1 the state or fact of being responsible }

I sometimes struggle with that word. Responsible.

Interestingly, a further definition of responsibility is: the ability to act independently and take decisions without authorization, which I’ve always done through the stages mentioned above, and no one ever said I was emotionally demanding when I did that…

The lovely, lovely Friday group

The lovely, lovely Friday group

Well, we all have our weeks planned out, and when training for a marathon it’s important to try and stick to the plan as much as you can. But…we all have to take detours due to illnesses, family and work. I’m the same, but I worked out some time ago that if I do something exercise-related every day I cope so much better.

It doesn’t have to be running and it doesn’t have to be much. So writing this at the end of two weeks of Easter holidays, and about three weeks behind on this blog, and I realise, yet again, the marathon training has almost ceased as life’s just too busy! Work, three girls at home, and training is a complicated mix for someone with inverted occasional carbon dioxide deselection! And don’t be fooling yourself that everything is easier when you’re kids are older. Wrong! It’s just a new type of stress.

Have you noticed I spend a lot of time in the car? Gym girls this time

Have you noticed I spend a lot of time in the car? Gym girls this time

So if, like me, you’ve been experiencing severe judders in your training, you are not alone. There’s not much you can do about it. I’ve always followed the school of ‘slightly unconventional training’ where you go to races with the philosophy of ‘turn up and hope for the best’.

Saying all that, week 14 was going to be pivotal. After three weeks of un-running I had to get back up to speed to see if I had a chance of taking on those 26.2 miles. I found the first few runs really tough; my body felt too heavy. Am I a wrestler or a runner, I wondered? After my 10-minute test last Friday I did a run on the treadmill…with no pain. I sure was happy. So I obviously wanted to follow this up with a run outside, which was OK except for my body feeling about 10-stone overweight. I guess that’s what you get after weeks of un-running. I had to build on this, so I had a day’s rest then did another steady run, then another day’s rest, then I thought, right, I’m just going to go for it. I took my group as usual on Friday morning, it was Good Friday so I took the girls out during the day, then in the evening I added on 14 miles and there it was, finally, a ‘long’ long run. My only one. 20 miles.

Yep, a plank PB :)

Yep, a plank PB :)

Other athletes split their long runs successfully. So would I. Foot was OK, so I got up the next morning and did a parkrun. Just because I could. And doing one when tired would be great preparation for the six miles of pain that are the last stages of a marathon.

Having inverted OCD it’s been really hard not being able to train how I knew I needed to, I felt all angsty and wrapped up like a ball of barbed wire inside. I look for a window everyday to fit in being me, but sometimes it isn’t there. However, I figured if I could do one long run I could get to the start line without complete fear ruining the race. Hallelujah for split long runs!

My most miles in a week for some time!

My most miles in a week for some time!

I was also 45 during the week. I’m going to need a bit of time to get used to that. I’m working on some self-rehab re the mundane stuff, too. I’m taking things slow, but am doing the washing up after a meal rather than looking at it all day with fear. Small steps.

QUESTIONS: Do you also suffer from occasional carbon dioxide deselection when training?

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The Road to London #Week 13

Or ‘What you learn during a 2.5 hour run in the pool…’

I knew I needed a rest day at the beginning of the week after my two-hour bike as I had a 2.5 hour aqua jog/run planned on Tuesday. I didn’t really feel tired after the long bike so I went into the pool session with fresh legs and an open mind (I’ve only done about 30 minutes running in the pool previous to this injury).

Every runner's second best friend, their flotation belt

Every runner’s second best friend, their flotation belt

However, I knew I would find the pool run mentally tough. I wore a heart-rate monitor as I wanted to try and keep my heart rate at about 75 per cent of maximum heart rate, a tough ask as you are using your whole body so differently in the pool. I set off and the only waterproof heart rate monitor I could find in the house was a bit cheap, so the reading was all over the place, going from 130 to 60. Eventually it settled to about 125-130, but I wasn’t sure of my perceived effort during the first half hour. I knew it would be a long session so didn’t want to ‘go off’ too quick, and find I could only do an hour or so. I just didn’t know what to expect.

Back on the bike in beautiful spring sunshine

Back on the bike in beautiful spring sunshine

It doesn’t take long to get an idea of how fast you should be going to reach your target heart rate, but what I found quickly was that if I lost concentration I stopped running properly. So I had to keep focused on moving consistently. I learnt that as I turned at the end of each second length I could see the motorway out of a tiny corner of one window for about 20 seconds each time. I learnt that some pool guards are restless pacers, others stalk you with their eyes only. I learnt that if you come to use the pool in a full body suit (two teenage girls) EVERYONE in the pool stares at you. Then when you walk the wrong way across the middle of the two pools to leave and the pool guards blow their whistle at you to stop you EVERYONE stares at you again. (Will those girls ever come to the pool again?)

Can't stay inside when this is calling me

Can’t stay inside when this is calling me

I learnt that a few people don’t realize you are running (“Do you think she uses that to help her swim,” one older lady asked her swim buddy as they (only a little quicker than I) had their weekly natter up and down that pool. I also learnt you can only earwig on snippets of a conversation, and you have to string together what you hear then make your own conclusions…. Another swimming duo (again only just ahead of me with their breaststroke) “You don’t know if you’re safe, I mean, it’s not the worst place in Turkey but it’s a risk…” “He was just so mean, and selfish, what can you say…” “What do you want me to get her for her birthday? If it’s the pink one I’ll get it…”

Taxiing the birthday girl

Taxiing the birthday girl

So went 2.5 hours and it was like the school summer holidays; at the time you never think you’re going to make it through to the end, then suddenly they’re over and they seemed to go really quickly. My arms and legs ached, so it was a result.

Dancing girls

Dancing girls

Wednesday I definitely felt as if I’d done a long run, so only did 30 minutes of conditioning. I was back at the physio and Lawrence stretched my foot and ankle every way possible, got me doing lots of single legged exercises, then declared I could try 10 minutes of running, on the treadmill to play safe, on Friday. I wasn’t expecting him to be so upbeat and positive so left Absolute Running with a strange feeling. I was excited that I could try a run but scared about how it would go (and what this would mean). I was exscared.

I love Lola. Even more when she makes cake

I love Lola. Even more when she makes cake

Thursday was clear, sunny and not too chilly so I dashed out on the bike at lunch time for a quick 12 miles along the coast and came back fully charged. Then it was lovely Amelie’s 13th birthday evening, though she chose to go to dancing instead of hanging out at home. We still found time for birthday cake at 9pm, when all three girls were finally in from gymnastics and dancing. It was amazing, made by Lola. I give thanks every week that Lola took GCSE Food Tech.

The most important part...make a wish

The most important part…make a wish

Friday I cycled around with my group while they did a rural pyramid of 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 1 (off 60 seconds, with 2 minutes recovery after the four minute effort). Then, it came. My 10 whole minutes of jogging on the treadmill. It was painless and slow but felt weird.

Crazy seagulls fighting for a chip

Crazy seagulls fighting for a chip

Saturday was crazy busy with no time for exercise, and also I felt a bit paranoid. Was my foot aching? Would I be OK to run again next week? How the hell would I pull myself together mentally to do another long pool run if I couldn’t? I am a fiery Aries after all! Any more water and I feared I would evaporate.

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How will your star sign affect your marathon?

Does your star sign give you an insight into how your marathon race day may unfold? Astrology consultant Caroline Trowbridge (reikiwithcaroline.com) gave me a little insight into what each sign of the zodiac should expect from their marathon experience…

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Aries: You will approach your marathon as if you are at a battlefront, with huge determination and energy to get to your finish line, just like your ruler Mars. You are like a charging cavalry ready to attack and the marathon you will undoubtedly conquer! You will probably be one of the front runners (think of amazing Aries runners like Mo Farah and Roger Bannister and … ahem … *shewhodaresruns* ) and it won’t matter to you if you don’t have any support on the day. It would be wise in the first half of your race to use your strategy to conserve your energy, so you can go for glory on the finish line! You’ll want to compete against yourself to do your absolute best on the day. Remember, you’re the baby of the zodiac, so after your race make sure you plan in time to go get an ice cream, and plenty of rest – you may even have an afternoon nap!

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Taurus: There’s no doubt that you will be really well prepared for race day, especially when it comes to nutrition and having your tunes lined up on your iPod. You will have enjoyed your pre-race carbo loading (did you mistakenly include alcohol?!). You won’t be so bothered about your time, for you the race will be about focusing on your senses; the roar of the crowd, the feel of rain on your skin. You can plod along for a very long time! Steely and determined there is no doubt you will finish; you will stick to your conservative planned pace although may walk, stop and talk to the band along the way. Ruled by Venus, you will be drawn to the music en route and the smell of food. After you’ll be eating a slap-up meal with your family – you will have deserved that pint!

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Gemini: You deserve praise for doing the marathon, as often you flit between different events. You may use up a lot of energy on the way round chatting to everyone; your sunny disposition will ensure you make lots of friends. You will mentally prepare by thinking how you are going to get through each stage of the race, and you will keep your mind occupied as you run. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep before the race so you aren’t too tired from your nervous energy. Other runners will spot you a mile off as your nerves will show as you wring your hands. Your multi-faceted mercurial mind will guarantee success!

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Cancer: You will have deep emotional reasons for running. A cause close to your heart will be the reason behind why you decided to run the marathon – it’s a good idea to have pictures of the people you love with you, and you will look out for your special supporters en route. They will be important anchors that help you get round. You will run your marathon alone (avoiding the TV cameras) if you need to, secure that you have done enough training to get through. Focus on the emotional reasons why you are running, and remember to breathe when you start welling up at the finish line.

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Leo: Is it possible to run with a full camera crew, while you are also taking selfies?! It is for our Leo ladies! You can spot the Leo runner as an entourage of the opposite sex usually surrounds them. You are more than capable of running a marathon, but you will want to see your reflection in shop windows as you do – or you’ll be looking out for yourself on the TV highlights. You want to be seen to be doing well! Make sure you have your name in bold on your vest so everyone can cheer you – you love the adulation. You’ll want your support team around you at the finish, and to bask in your success. You’ll love being in the spotlight on race day, you may even be posting pictures of yourself on Instagram as you go along! This will be your greatest performance and the crowd’s support of you will only reinforce this!

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Virgo: Have you been aware of every niggle during training? Has your diet been precise and scientific? Of course! Don’t forget your hand sanitiser for the portaloos as you may feel repulsed by the possibility of germs in them while you try and soothe your nervous tummy. You will wear the same kit as you do for every race. You’ll be nervous and will have to pop to the loo a lot – think about getting a Shewee! Your routine is crucial – you will have checked your shoelaces are tight enough over and over. Your training will have been precise and you will have stretched and rolled your muscles religiously. You’ll be mindful of how your body feels during the race. Try not to focus too much on your niggles and enjoy yourself as you cross the line! And take advantage of the free massages available in the recovery area.

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Libra: Make sure you’ve prepared before the race – you’ll have had a manicure, your hair will be perfect and your make up too. You’ll look amazing and gorgeous as you race in the top brands. It’s all going to be about looking good! You may be racing with your loved one and, no doubt, you will steal sneaky kisses as you run. You’ll either be thinking about your loving partnership, and meeting up with your partner after, or, if you’re single, looking for that someone special when you run! Perhaps the love of your life is running right beside you. You’ll feel confident about your race and how great you’re going to look in the marathon photos at the finish!

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Scorpio: It’s important for you to run your own race and not focus on everyone else. Don’t start strategising how you are going to take down the runner who overtook you at Mile 3, or who stepped on your trainer, or threw a water bottle across your path. If you focus on how others may be doing better than you this may sabotage your race Scorpio! The power of Pluto will see you through to the finish line. Take the time to enjoy the race and use your steely determination to believe in yourself; when you do this you are unstoppable! Your running is intense, it’s a passion and you’re formidable. So look up and take in what’s going on around you and enjoy this experience (it’s supposed to be a charitable event after all!).

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Sagittarius: You’ve probably travelled the furthest to get to your marathon, maybe from all over the world, to run in the greatest cities. You’ll absorb the ambience of this historic city and all it has to over. This is just 26.2 miles of your incredibly exciting life. You’ll probably be chatting away all the way round. You’re incredibly capable if not always competitive. You may be guilty of not enough training but your natural ability will get you through. You may be clumsy or accident prone so look out on the cobbles and take extra care around the water stations. Even if you fall you’ll laugh it off as you’ll be buzzing at being at one of the world’s greatest events. As soon as you cross that line you’ll be thinking about the next big great adventure.

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Capricorn: Did you start running because your work was putting together a team? Are you now approaching the marathon like work, with the pressure of raising money for your cause? You will approach this event like a business and will be a formidable fundraiser. You’ll be the one organising everyone in their training. However tough the marathon gets your ruler Saturn will make sure you can dig deep and carry on. It’s a metaphor for your life – teaching you how tough life can be but if you keep working hard you will make it to the end. You’re no stranger to hard work and discipline. You’ll want to lead and will get stronger as the race progresses. The marathon, like life, is an endurance test for you and one that you will master.

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Aquarius: Your Uranus energy may make you an erratic runner. You may also be overwhelmed to be part of such a great humanitarian event. You’ll probably be running for a great cause, or those less fortunate than you; this will be very important to you. Your training may have come in fits and starts and might have been unpredictable, but you’ve made it to the start line! You, more than any runner, have all the latest and best gadgets. Technology is really important to you. You will probably spend your race focusing on your splits and heart rate. Avoid getting into any race day argy-bargies such as who gets the last safety pin, and make sure you have fun on your special day.

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Pisces: Charity is your sole focus. You may be an elusive figure on the start line and it’s likely you will move through the pack without being noticed. Suddenly other runners will realise you’re next to them! You may have done all your training without letting on to friends that you were running a marathon – then just turn up on the day to surprise your colleagues or club mates. If you see someone in trouble during the race you will give up your goal to help them. You will prepare by imagining yourself running the race, maybe by replaying a movie of the event in your head where you hold the starring role. This is your Chariots of Fire moment, and you are the star! Then, when the race is over you may slip away with your medal, and might not even tell anyone you ran. The knowledge that you have raised money for your chosen charity is reward enough for you.

Caroline is an astrology consultant, energy healer, children’s author and actor. Find out what she is up to on facebook, twitter or at carolinetrowbridge.com

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The Road to London #Week 12

Biking and swimming isn’t like running. It just isn’t. This week, like a crazed animal, I’ve tried to up my effort levels to try and feel as if I’m working my body. At the beginning of the week I tried running for a mile but my ankle felt a little sore as each minute passed so I turned around and went home.

Getting retaped @Knott Kinetics

Getting retaped @Knott Kinetics

Tuesday I decided on a bike-swim-bike, which felt good and I so wished I could add a mile or two run on to the end. This would have been foolish so I didn’t, what I did was a roundabout route to the pool with a steep hill, 9 x 50m efforts then zipped home as quick as I could. It was short but momentarily my legs were on fire.

The news wasn't great at the physio

The news wasn’t great at the physio

Wednesday I felt itchy so drove to the Mountbatten Centre pool in Portsmouth as there are two Olympic size pools and one is deep at both ends. I attached my trusty flotation belt round my waist and ran in the water, with a warm up, 4 x 6min 40secs (to replicate my 4 x 1 mile on the road) then a warm down before dashing to get Sienna next door from the gymnastics centre where she trains. It’s really hard to judge perceived effort in the pool as I didn’t have my heart rate monitor on, but I tried to push myself for each rep so I was out of breath the whole time. I felt a little bit shy as I trundled very slowly up and down the lanes while I puffed – most of the deep pool had the swimming club in for training. I caught a few glances from lifeguards/swimmers who were obviously thinking What is she doing? I just gave them my ‘I-have-to-do-this-as-I’m-an-injured-runner-obsessed-with-doing-a-marathon-next-month’ smile.

Biking bliss

Biking bliss

Thursday it was a really hard, short session on the turbo that gave me jelly legs. It really helped burn off my I-can’t-run angst, for a while. Coach David (more aware than most of my inner turmoil and tetchiness?) the duathlon demon wanted me to work hard (give him a break?) so gave me:

10 mins warm up with
– 3 mins in the first gear
– 3 mins in a harder gear
– 3 mins in a harder gear

1 min easy spin
5 x 30 secs hard with 30 secs recovery
2 mins easy spin
2 mins on a hard gear out of the saddle
60 secs recovery at 150bpm
2 mins hard out of saddle
60 secs recovery at 150bpm
30 secs flat out
60 secs recovery at 150bpm
5 mins warm down

I love this session!

I love this session. Kind of…

I did some S & C exercises focusing on my gluteus straight after. I loved/hated it; the second two minutes out of the saddle were crazy!

The awesome Friday runners

The awesome Friday runners

Friday I couldn’t run with the group so I cycled alongside. It was a quick session of 6 x 600m after a slow warm up to our starting point. I zipped around the circuit, trying to motivate everyone as much as I could. They are all stars, it wasn’t hard. Then I popped along to the physio, hoping (wishing?) that Lawrence would tell me my ligaments were much better and I could go and race a 10-miler on Sunday. Of course he didn’t. I’ve got another week of rest, with some daily exercises, before he decides on whether I may have a chance of making the marathon. I tried not to cry. And just about managed it.

Keeping myself entertained

Here I am again…keeping myself entertained

In the past I would have stopped exercising with an injury and started wallowing in self pity. If I wasn’t injured and not running I’d say I was feeling really good at the moment! I’ve truly learnt the importance of preventative exercises to keep injuries at bay and am staggered how little trouble I’ve had from my left glute since last summer.

Girlie sleepover in my room - I didn't get much sleep!

Girlie sleepover in my room – I didn’t get much sleep!

I say I don’t really like swimming and biking but I guess that’s not really true. I like them. I just don’t LOVE them like running. Maybe there is a little triathlete/duathlete hidden away inside me. Both have really kept me going through the winter, even when it’s been icy cold I’ve taken to my bike and I’ve never wanted to do that before. I think I need to keep learning to love both activities.

Saturday I repeated Thursday’s turbo session and put everything into the efforts… the highest I got my heart rate up to was 166, though it was really hard to do.

 

I swear she was in the same position when I left the house two hours earlier

I swear she was in the same position when I left the house two hours earlier

Sunday would have been my endurance run. My training plan said an 18 miler. What I wanted to do was 2.5 hours of running in the pool to try and replicate the effort. However, it was my middle daughter Amelie’s birthday sleepover Saturday night, and I don’t think she, or her friends’ mums would have appreciated me going off for about 3.5 hours. The next best thing was a long bike and this week I decided on two hours. It was so much warmer than last weekend and it was a pleasure to be outside doing endless reps along a bus route a few miles from my house.

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I wasn’t focusing on pace, rather heart rate and effort, and managed an average of about 75 per cent of my maximum heart rate for the two hours. My issue is that I wasn’t out of breath once. Even a bit. I can’t see how this can be boosting my fitness though of course I know it is. Running is much harder on my asthmatic lungs. Biking in comparison seems so easy. I hope there was some transference of fitness. I didn’t have the time for any longer – there’s a limit to how long you can leave your kids on their own, even when they are getting older (and especially when the youngest gets easily bored and is quite demanding). I left my eldest, Lola in charge, however, I’m sure Sienna didn’t move off the sofa the whole time I was out!

My fav fuel and recovery drink

My fav fuel and recovery drink

I’ve done about six hours of exercise this week. I would never normally do so much mainly due to time pressures. But it’s all on my own and I’m really missing going to my weekly club session and seeing my club mates. Still…I’m not ready to give in yet!

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