Category Archives: marathons

The Barbados Marathon weekend – a runner’s mecca

I’m writing this on the first day of winter and it’s dark, in the middle of the afternoon. It’s miserable. And cold. I have no desire to go for a run but at some stage I’m going to have to. If you struggle with this impenetrable solar obscurity like I do, I can help.

Just cruising along

Just cruising along

We all need to go to Barbados. We can all go to the 2017 #runbarbados marathon weekend series, together; we can sit in the sun, run in the sun, have fun in the sun. Drink rum in the sun. Let’s start saving now (OK after Christmas) and make this happen! We’ll have something to really hold on to during autumn 2017, and then we’ll be so stuffed full of warm-running memories by Christmas they’ll be no room for turkey.

My morning run route

My morning run route

Why? You can do the 1mile race on the Friday, the 5K on Saturday afternoon, followed by the 10K about an hour later, either the half marathon or full on Sunday morning, and if you choose the half you can do the 5K walk to finish it all off. Yes, five races in three days, but you’ll get six medals for your trouble.

Kate, Amber and I after we finished the 10K

Kate, Amber and I after we finished the 10K

Where? Yes, Barbados! You know that stunning (light), amazing (light), hot (light) Caribbean island, about eight hours south-west from here.

It was amazing to swim with hawksbill turtles in Barbados

It was incredible to swim with hawksbill turtles during our stay

It’s just 21 miles long and 14 miles wide, but Barbados packs a punch on a global level when it comes to marathon weekend experiences.

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There it is…

The island rose from the sea millions of years ago as coral limestone, rather than volcanic activity so expect to see colourful colonial houses chipped into the coral, as if they are sitting atop giant blobs of pumice.

Scenic 10K route at sunset

Scenic 10K route at sunset

You’ll also experience the magic of island life, the Bajan people and their culture. Yes, you’re travelling to find some winter sun but you can also step into the past, gaining a glimpse of what colonial life was like. There’s crystal clear sea to snorkel in, where you can swim with hawksbill sea turtles. Then there’s the rum…ah, the rum!

Another sunset on the route

Another sunset on the route

The race series is popular with local and international people; this year there were nearly 2,000 participants. A very generous prize fund has something to do with this, as money can be made at these races (the winner of the marathon not only wins BDS$4,000 but a return trip to the island including flights and hotel). So for slightly more serious runners this is a good chance to win enough money to make the trip pay for itself. There are medals for the first three in all age groups, as well.

How amazing, we went on a submarine!

How amazing, we went on a submarine!

Even at 5am in the morning, when the half and full marathon start, you are not only breathing in incredibly hot and humid air, you are breathing in the fumes of the past. The course is fast, with the sea on one side, waiting to cool you down as you pass the finish line, and beautiful Bajan houses dotting the road on the other. Ripples of support follow you all the way round (if you’re doing the full marathon you get to do two laps and the sun will have risen for the second) and there are plenty of water stations – you’ll need to make use of every one.

And we saw this little fella

And we saw this little fella

If you can, enter every race. The race organizers have ensured it’s possible to just about do this, so run them all slowly to get the most of the race series (and bag an extra medal for doing the full combo). Make sure you also plan your daily itinerary, so you don’t waste a moment while you’re there.

St Nicholas Abbey - it hasn't changed in 400 years

St Nicholas Abbey – it hasn’t changed in 400 years

You HAVE to visit a rum distillery or sugar plantation. Sipping rum at 11am in 30 degrees centigrade is just…surreal and makes you feel very, very happy. We went to the St Nicholas Abbey distillery. I went in saying I don’t really drink any more, then came out with a new love in my life. Rum and lemonade. It’s a stunning place – you find yourself walking through a Jacobean house alongside the ghosts of those who were born, lived and died there.

Not your ordinary setting for a race

Not your ordinary setting for a race

We also travelled by submarine to watch the tropical fish and turtles, as well as taking a sunset cruise where we were fortunate enough to swim with them.

You'll find the light in the submarine is very flattering!

You’ll find the light in the submarine is very flattering!

There are too many fantastic restaurants to list, and so many day trips (many featuring the serene aqua-blue Caribbean Sea) that you’ll get a tan while you’re on the go.

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This is always going to be the perfect time of year to travel to Barbados, as it’s the week of the anniversary of the island being granted independence. Being there on the golden anniversary was a beautiful thing. We all felt the love of these people – it oozes from them as a nation, and they share it with the world through their music. As it bounces away in the background, along the course, let your body then your mind join the Caribbean party. There’s no place for tense shoulders or furrowed brows as you pound the roads. You’re there to relax.

It's harder than you think to run in this kind of heat and humidity - add about 15 minutes to the time you would normally do

It’s harder than you think to run in this kind of heat and humidity – add about 15 minutes to the time you would normally do for a half marathon

You may experience a little rainfall when visiting; just think of the water gently washing away your stress and let it caress your skin. If you get rain during your races you’ll be so grateful. The most spectacular part of this trip was feeling my stress unravel, a gentle release, like the sprung mechanisms of a very old clock slowly peeling away, layer by layer, until all the crumpled old metal has been eased into a flatter, smoother inward landscape. Island life will wash away your tension and aches, while you do what you love most, running. Thank you Barbados.

Don't mind if I do

Don’t mind if I do

Travel essentials
Enter the race weekend at: runbarbados.org
You can get return flights from British Airways to Bridgetown for approx £600 (britishairways.com)
Stay at the Courtyard by Marriott from approx US$200 per night for two people (Marriott.com)
Restaurants: Tapas, The Beach House, Beach One, The Cliff Beach Club, Buzo Italiana
Day trips: Atlantis Submarines (barbados.athlantissubmarines.com), Tiami Catamaran Cruises (tiamicatamarancruises.com)
Make your trip complete by visiting St Nicolas Abbey rum distillery, Saint Peter Parish (stnicholasabbey.com)

Just in case you need a bit more sun, here it is again…

See you in Barbados!

Happy Christmas! Love Tina x

 

If you’re looking for last minute Christmas presents, here’s my latest children’s book, Rosalee’s Wish

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10 deadly sins of marathon training

Here are my 10 deadly sins I committed in marathon training, which I will never, ever do again… (I promise)

  1. I didn’t start my long runs soon enough – I needed to start much earlier, like two months! You can never start your long runs too soon.
  2.  I didn’t do enough strength training. Yes I did squats and forward lunges, calf raises and the plank. But I didn’t add any weights to these and I didn’t do enough. And I know it… I was trying to get away with the minimum. Yep, I was cheating on myself.
  3. I didn’t ensure I was completely happy with my race day shoes. I should have bought two pairs of the trainers I planned to run in. When I finally decided the shoes I wanted to run in (way too late, what was I doing?) I was sent a pair that was half a size too small, and didn’t receive the right size until two days before race day. It was too late to break them in. Schoolgirl error.
  4. I didn’t experiment with homemade nutrition like I planned to. I hardly had gels on my long runs then had one about every 45 minutes in the race and had terrible nausea by mile 20. Little balls of Amelie’s homemade flapjack, wrapped up in clingfilm, would have been perfect.
  5. I did a long commute on public transport on race day morning, which went smoothly but took way longer than I planned and involved a few miles on my feet –  next time I’m taking a taxi (I’ve already stashed away a couple of tenners in my race day fund).
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The Green Start seemed to be miles away from the tube!

6. I ran oh-so-proudly in my club vest, you know, the one with your name written on it in the massive-ist thickest, boldest font you could order. But when I started to walk about mile 20 there were thousands of people cheering me on to start running again, by name. I felt like a failure to each and every one of them. Awkward. Eventually I put in my headphones. Next time I’m wearing the other club vest, you know, the one that allows you to remain wonderfully anonymous.
7. I can’t believe I did this, as I packed it and it was in my bag, but I forgot to put on my bin liner before I checked in my bag. It was cold, really chilly, but that’s not what I  needed it for (I had two tops from my local charity shop for that). The queues to the portaloos were hundreds deep when I arrived… if only I’d had my bin liner on I could have had a secret wee by just bending down…

Next time I'm not going to be me...

Next time I’m not going to be me…

8. I didn’t actually do one long run in one continuous hit, so had no idea my left leg niggles were going to hit on race day. I missed several vital weeks of long run training, then, with only three weeks to go I squeezed in two 20-milers, but both were split into a  morning and evening run (hey, it was the Easter school holidays!). So I had no idea of my endurance weakness (though at the time I had been so pleasantly surprised at how fast I had done the evening 14-milers, despite a morning six-mile run). The body – it’s a trickster!
9. I tried to keep up with the runner dressed up in the Frozen outfit, even though I knew they were stronger than me by half way. I should have let it go, let it go…
10. Did I say I didn’t start my long runs early enough? Oh I did. But it’s so important that it’s worth saying again!

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What marathon training taught me this time round…

It’s a thinking out loud day, and since running London Marathon a few weeks ago I’ve thought a lot about how much I love the journey that is marathon training. Much more than the race itself probably. The painful start in mid-winter, when you can’t believe you’re going to be able to do any long runs, let alone 26 miles in the spring. Feeling like you’re in pieces after anything over 5 miles. Then the slow evolution of strength and stamina. The cold bikes to the pool, and back again, with freezing wet hair. Running long  – it gives you time to think.

Post marathon I've been able to spend a bit more time with these two beauties

Post marathon I’ve been able to spend a bit more time with these two beauties

I tend to seek understanding … of myself and life, and I have always done this through new challenges. As I seek a deeper awareness I need to go further out of/away from myself, to be able to really ‘see’ who I am. After all, we all have those moments of thinking ‘Why am I here?’ and ‘Who am I?’ (Apart from the obvious, which is a mum to three human beings on their own onward journey.) With a busy life, running gives you time to think. Or to not think, if that’s what you need on any particular day.

The last two weeks I've eaten way too much of this stuff...thankfully I've started to slow on my sugar consumption

The last two weeks I’ve eaten way too much of this stuff…thankfully I’ve started to slow down on my sugar consumption

Of course we all are constantly changing, and I don’t think I did things that differently 20 years ago, I just did what I did more, and thought about why I did it and what it meant to me (or others) a whole lot less. I was quite impatient, impulsive and in the moment. I couldn’t imagine that, in the shake of a head, I would be 45. And not always so able to do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it.

This Saturday I got to spend the day with these lovely WR readers on a Full Potential training day

This Saturday I got to spend the day with these lovely WR readers on a Full Potential training day

I find the daily routine, the mundane and the, at times, circular nature of motherhood/family life tricky. Yes, I would like to be flying off to new places and races all the time. But I can’t – and few of us can. Yes, I want to focus 100% of the time on the existential, the creative, the sporty, the fun – but that doesn’t get the jobs done and make the machine of life run smoothly. I’m still coming to terms with this part of my personality. It’s a lifelong project.

Took this one to the woods to try and tire her out

Took this one to the woods to try and tire her out

What I’ve definitely learnt a whole lot about in the last six months is understanding and respecting my limitations. Getting cross because I’m ill/can’t train/am injured. Forget that – that was for my 20s me. Now, I find a way around it. Running doesn’t have to be your only best friend, the bike and pool can be too. Don’t get frustrated about what others are doing. Find what works for you – and who cares what the training plans or club mates say? I can’t do long runs and bounce back. I need two days of rest at least after a long run, and ideally I need 10-14 days between each one. So that’s what I did. Just take the start date of your marathon back a month so you can plan this in. Get creative.

‘It’s never too late to be what you might have been.’
George Eliot

When you learn to work with your limitations, suddenly they are no longer so limiting. Find a positive way to deal with them and they become tools for achieving your goals. Many running limitations are caused by lack of strength training, and since last summer I’ve done more than I ever did before. Give myself a pat on the back, I thought. Until race day. My left leg, from pain in my foot, knee, lateral quads and hips, wasn’t as strong as I thought it was. I had done some strength training on it. But had I done enough? No. The strength endurance of my soft tissues is not enough to last 26 miles. So I am going to double what I’ve been doing, adding weights, which I never quite got round to including up till now. (Read that as: I was lazy)

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This may sounds obvious, but the longer I run, the more I’m realising how incredibly specific my training has to be to me. Both due to my own physical make up and my lifestyle. It’s taken me quite a long time to truly tune in to my needs – or even realise what they are.

Being so busy bringing up three girls by myself, which often meant I wasn’t thinking about myself, or looking after myself properly, to having a few health issues, then turning 45, it’s made me understand better the importance of my daily routine, rituals and rhythms of life. I’ve finally got it that eating healthily (this includes cake), a good sleep pattern and getting some exercise every day dramatically affect my capacity to function efficiently and feel good.

Back on the turbo - it's so frustrating!

Back on the turbo – I try and tell myself it’s not but it’s so frustrating!

So I drink mainly water – one coffee a day (two if it’s a risqué kinda day), very rarely have alcohol (such a shame as red wine is one of life’s greatest pleasures) try to sleep eight hours a night and try and do something physical most days. These are essential to my mental health and perception of life.

This has been a long process for me. It probably started as I thought about divorce, and is ongoing. Before divorce how others saw me was much more important to me. It’s gonna take me the whole time on this planet to work through this one I think! I am constantly working towards being more in tune with my sense of who I am. I get flashes of this, or more like feelings of connection, usually when I’m out on the trails, the hills, the mud – they call me. I think I was just deaf to this call for so long.

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We all try many different paths before we find the right direction, which makes life so deliciously interesting. You’ve got to keep being daring and experimental and eventually you realise you’re heading for the right destination. For me, this destination, in running terms, has to include more and more strength training. Nearly three weeks on from my marathon I’m still injured, so it’s been back on the bike and to the pool for me. I find this so frustrating and feel like I am going to burst!

How has your running evolved over the years? Do you get injuries easily like me?

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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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