Winter blues

I have been, unusually for me, suffering a bit from the winter blues in the last few weeks. I have been hating the dark, damp and gloomy days and it has been a real effort to get out of the house and go for a run. In fact since coming back from Berlin I have only run with the Snails on a Saturday morning and haven’t been out on my own at all or been out with the running club on Tuesdays.

I wasn’t even enjoying the little bit of running I was doing until last Saturday when we decided to go somewhere a little different to our usual routes. Emma needed to bring her dog out with us as it was the only time of day she could manage to walk him that day so she suggested that we do most of our run in the woods above the towpath where the dog could run around us and there would be less likely to cause a problem for other people. There were only four of us running last weekend and we thought this  a great idea.

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It was so refreshing to be running on different paths. As a group we have run in Leigh Woods before but not on the longer route that Emma showed us which included a lovely part of the woods called Paradise Bottom. Some parts of the route were a bit muddy and at one point we had to use stepping stones to get across the stream but we were all having a great time. The dog was rushing around enjoying himself enormously. he was getting very muddy but Emma had plans to hose him down when they got home so she wasn’t worried.

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Eventually our route joined the towpath about 4km from our usual starting place so we could get back more quickly fro our usual Saturday breakfast treats at Marks café. It was a really fun morning and I am now feeling a bit more excited about running tomorrow morning.

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Berlin

Last week I had to go to Berlin, it was mainly for business but I did have the chance to do a reasonable amount of sightseeing as well. It was my first  visit to the city and it was really interesting. I had of course packed my running kit so on Wednesday morning, when I had no early meetings, I was able to head out for a run as soon as it got light enough.

My hotel was just off Potsdamer Platz which meant I was near to the lovely park, the Tiergarten so that was where I headed as soon as I left the hotel. It was a bit grey and

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cloudy and was certainly very chilly but it didn’t take me long to warm up. The park was beautiful and a great place for a run although I quickly discovered that I needed to be wary of cyclists. They were certainly taking no prisoners!

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The other runners were very friendly although I was slightly handicapped by not being able to speak more than a word or two of German. Hopefully my smile was enough.

I spent about 45 minutes exploring the park and then came out the far side which gave me the opportunity to see the Soviet War Memorial and the Brandenburg Gate.

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Then it was back into the park for another twenty minutes or so of enjoying the autumn colours before heading back to the hotel for a well deserved breakfast and then on to do some work.

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Not Dublin

By posting last week about my plans to run another marathon just five weeks after Loch Ness I clearly tempted fate so now I am not able to do it.

I was involved in assisting at a medical emergency on a bus last week and as part of it I had to sprint (and I mean really , really sprint) from the bus to the entrance to the hospital to alert medical staff and as I result I slightly overstrained my left knee. It was sore and swollen for a few days and I couldn’t do the runs I had planned mid-week. I did run last Sunday and managed 12km without too many problems but after discussing the situation with Chris during a sports massage on Tuesday morning I decided not to risk another marathon. My left leg still doesn’t feel quite right and I would hate to overdo it during a long race and end up with a real injury that would stop me running for ages. I also have a four week trip to New Zealand coming up soon so need to be really fit for that. I feel it is better to be cautious and stick with just normal Saturday runs with the Snails, Tuesday evenings with the running club and anything else I can squeeze in.

On Monday I am off to Berlin for five days so I am taking my running kit with me and hope to be able to manage a couple of runs there. I love mixing my running with sightseeing in different places.

Dublin?

Back in June, one Friday evening,  I was lying in my hammock in the back garden reading and drinking  a glass of wine, as you do, when the thought suddenly crossed me mind ‘could I do two marathons off one lot of training?’ This thought had been prompted because the book I was reading was the excellent ‘Your Pace or Mine’ by Lisa Jackson where she talks about running a marathon on average once a month, among many other interesting things. I couldn’t help thinking that if she can do it so can I. No sooner had the thought crossed me mind than I sent off an email to Chris to ask if he thought it would be possible. Before he could reply I had entered for the Dublin marathon which will take place a week Sunday, five weeks after the Loch Ness marathon. Chris mailed me back to say that it would be fine to attempt two and would not be difficult to change the training plan. I saw him a couple of days later to discuss the plans, he found it really funny when I confessed that I had already entered Dublin before getting his reply. we decided that the sensible way to approach it would be to focus on Loch Ness and then see how I felt and if I wanted to try another race we could then work out a plan for the five week interval.

It also sort of made sense to have a back-up race in the calendar. Last year in the run up to my first marathon I did get a bit extra stressed because in the final couple of weeks before the race I started to worry that I would get ill or develop an injury that would stop me from reaching the start line. That would have been awful after all those weeks of training. At least with Dublin in the diary I didn’t have to stress about things like sudden colds or an upset stomach in eth run up to Loch Ness.

After Loch Ness my recovery seemed to be going well so Chris and I decided that I would try and prepare fro Dublin. After two weeks of focussing solely on recovery with only a few very gentle runs Chris gave me a two week program to try and get me ready. The longest run was to be 13-14 miles which I did on Friday afternoon. It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t pretty but I did it. I ran a few bill intervals this morning and tomorrow I have to try 8-9 miles. Then next weekend 8 miles on Sunday and then a week of tapering before Dublin.

The flights are booked (have been for months) but I’m not quite ready to confirm the hotel booking yet. I will see how it goes this weekend but at eth moment I am feeling pretty positive about the idea of giving it a go

Recovering nicely

Since the marathon I have been taking it fairly easy. I was lucky in that I didn’t seem to suffer too much in the few days after the race. I think the fact that I did a reasonable amount of walking on the Sunday evening and the Monday morning really helped. On the Sunday I walked too and from the restaurant and we spent the Monday morning exploring Culloden battlefield so by keeping active I seem to have avoided too many aches and pains. I even managed to run down two flights of stairs on the Tuesday which impressed a few of my colleagues. I had a sports massage with the wonderful Chris on the Thursday after the marathon and after that was keen to get running again. Chris advised me to be very gentle with myself for another week or so and not to run too far. He also warned me that I might find even short distances unexpectedly hard.

He was not wrong! I went out with the Snails the following Saturday morning and was shocked to find that I needed to stop and walk every now and then even though I only did 6.5km at a pretty slow pace. However, it was lovely to be out running again after resting all week so I didn’t worry about it. I ran again on Tuesday with Southville Running Club, again only slowly and only about 6km.

Last weekend I was staying with friends in France but I got up earlyish on the Saturday morning to go for a run and that felt a lot better. I did 7km with ease and even managed to run all the way up a steep hill at the end of the route; the first time I have ever managed to get all the way up it without walking so I was feeling pretty smug.

 

Inspiring! Ben Smith #marathon401

No doubt you will have all seen on the news the amazing achievement of Ben Smith in running 401 marathons in 401 days.

Ben is a member of the same running club as me, Southville Running club here in Bristol so I have been following his adventures since last year. He set himself a target of raising £250,000 for two charities, Kidscape and Stonewall and  and has also been visiting schools to raise awareness of bullying as he has been travelling around the country doing his runs.

Yesterday he set off for the final marathon, accompanied by runners from the club as well as hundreds of other runners. I couldn’t join him but managed to sneak out of the office to see him start at 10am.

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Then I took a very, very late lunch hour to go down and see him finish. It was a wonderful moment to see him cross the line, accompanied by school children and it was great to hear that he had raised more than his fundraising target.

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I can’t imagine the level of commitment needed to undertake this massive task and am now ashamed of myself for whinging about a few blisters, sore feet and being cold at Loch Ness.

Well done Ben

 

Loch Ness Marathon

Well, I did it and have the medal and a lovely T shirt to prove it. However, it was much, much tougher than I expected.

The Friday before last all the Snails gathered at the airport ready for our flight to Inverness. We were all wearing our Snails T shirts but then Emma surprised me with a special one she had had made for me. It was lovely, all the club info and a picture of Nessie done in little sparkly gems.

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The flight was delayed a while but eventually we arrived in Inverness, collected the hire cars and drove into the city. After settling into the Youth Hostel we walked into the city centre to explore and have an early supper and a glass of wine.

On the Saturday morning we were up bright and early to drive out along the loch to explore most of the marathon route. It was a little daunting to see how far I had to run, it seemed further as it was all more or less one road rather than running around city streets.

After coffee and cakes in a lovely tea shop at Foyers, a walk to view a waterfall and a bit of wild swimming in the loch it was back into the city to register for the race, visit the marathon expo and get some supper. Almost before I knew it was time for me to get an early night.

I didn’t sleep very well so I was up even before my alarm went off at 5.45. Emma knocked on my door at 6.30 and we went downstairs to meet Kia who was going to drive me to the bus pick-up point while Emma came along to give me a pep talk. They dropped me off fifteen minutes later just around the corner from the bus queue and I must admit that I did feel a little lost and lonely when they drove away. Fortunately I was quite close to the front of the queue so was soon sitting down on the fourth bus out of the many that had come from all over the Highlands to take us to the start. We finally headed off at 07.30, along the opposite side of the loch to the marathon route to Fort Augustus. Then we drove up a steep hill and after a few miles we were all dropped off in what felt like the middle of nowhere.

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There were plenty of portaloos as well as some volunteers serving tea and coffee which was very welcome as there was a really cold wind blowing – straight from Siberia! I put on my emergency jumper and a tatty fleece that I intended to abandon at the start ( I was pleased to discover some gloves in the pocket of the fleece) and sat down on a bin bag by a big lump of heather to try and stay out of the wind. Finally it was time to head down to the start where after a quick warm up we began to run, serenaded on our way by a pipe band which was a nice touch.

The first five miles or so was all downhill. I had known this but it was in places a lot steeper than I had expected and certainly my legs were feeling it quite quickly. The first part was fairly open and the sun was warm enough to counteract the cold wind but by the time we were down by the side of the loch I was starting feel quite cold.

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The wind was coming off the loch and we were running in the shade so my legs were starting to feel quite cold. I was glad I had gloves to put on and for a time even put my jumper on to warm up a bit.

By the time I reached the halfway point I felt in trouble so really had to dig deep in the second part of the race. My legs felt like lead and my heart sunk into my shoes when I was faced with the really long hill that starts just after the mile 17  marker.

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It seemed to take forever to get up it and I was overjoyed to finally reach the top, however it was immediately followed by a steep downhill section which was the last thing my legs needed. It didn’t help that it rained on and off for the final few miles. The other Snails had all finished their 10k race and were sending me supportive text messages to try and encourage me through the final few miles but I was fading fast. For the first time ever I had a huge blister on the side of my left foot and the soles of both feet felt like they were on fire. I had to keep stopping every ten minutes or so to try and stretch out my painful quads and calves. I was not going to give up though and was eventually rewarded by the sight of Emma and Kia who had come out to meet me at about the mile 24 point. It was lovely to see friendly faces and they ran with me for a little while. Then the others appeared to give me a cheer before running over a footbridge over the river so they could see me at the finish. I had to run a little further into the centre of the city, across a bridge and then down the other side of the river to the finish line. As I was approaching the bridge there was a real cloudburst and I was totally drenched. Just what I needed!

Finally, finally I made it to the finish and was rewarded with my medal.

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Kia had also arranged a bacon roll and a gin and tonic for me which was wonderful.14484610_10153990107552643_7604403059016208700_n

The gin is Heather Rose gin by Strathearn distillery. It’s fabulous, it’s brown in the bottle but when tonic is added it turns pink.

Only three days to go …

Well, this will be my last post before setting off to Scotland for the Loch Ness Marathon . We all fly off to Inverness tomorrow and then have Saturday to explore Inverness and the Loch before the races on Sunday.

I must admit that I am feeling a little nervous. My last run was on Saturday and it was pretty disastrous. I was supposed to do between 8 and 10 miles but after only about 5 miles my left knee was uncomfortable and feeling sort of weak and wobbly, then after a while my quad and ITB started complaining too. I tried walking breaks but, weirdly, the walking was worse than running. I eventually did manage to cover 8 miles with a mixture of running and walking/limping but was feeling very despondent and worried when I joined the rest of the Snails for breakfast.

Then on Sunday and Monday both my knees felt stiff and sore. Not what you want a few days before a marathon. I skipped my planned run on Monday as I knew I was seeing my coach, Chris, for a sports massage first thing Tuesday morning. When I arrived I told him my problems and he checked me over. To be fair, by Tuesday morning my knees were feeling OK again but he did say that my ITB and quads on my left hand side were very tight so that could have been part of the problem. Hopefully the massage he gave me has loosened things up enough for Sunday, he did suggest that I not run again before the race so I rested yesterday rather than do the planned 5 miles.

I am trying to stay positive and not stress out about it too much. I can only do my best and it’s not as though I’m hoping for a super-fast time. I just hope that I can finish and enjoy myself along the way. The other Snails are all looking forward to their 10k race so hopefully when we fly back to Bristol on Monday we will all have nice shiny medals to show off.

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Holiday tapering – good

The holiday running plans were not all a  total disaster. After a week at my house I went to stay with my best friend for my final few nights and on the Wednesday morning her husband kindly got u early with me and drove me to a small village 10km from their house so that I could run back.

It had rained heavily the previous evening which had brought the temperature down nicely and in fact when I first set off I felt quite chilly.

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It was lovely to see the sun rise over the Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance. The route for the first five km was gently downhill which was good as the overall profile of the Loch Ness Marathon is downhill so it was nice to have some practice. There will also be a few steep uphill sections in Scotland and a lot of the route is undulating so it was great that the second 5km of my Spanish run was very undulating.

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The first part of my ruin was along a fairly busy small road but after a while I was able to turn off onto a smaller track so I didn’t have to worry about traffic. It is the law in Spain that if you are running on the roads you must wear a ‘hi-viz’ waistcoat and I was certainly glad I did. Even though I was very visible there were a couple of occasions where I had to make a mad leap to safety.

I love the scenery in this part of Spain, I love the hills and the fact that there is quite a lot of bare rock.14358749_10153961392452643_7211833471712122299_n

I made good time on the run even though I was stopping to take photos. It was great to be able to enjoy a run somewhere I don’t often get the chance to be and I was sorry when it was over. Then it was time for a quick shower and a short drive into town for a fabulous Spanish breakfast.

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Holiday tapering – bad

My last long run (18 miles) was the Saturday before I headed to southern Spain for a twelve day holiday. I flew out on the Monday morning with plans for a couple of hill sessions and a couple of 10k runs to keep things ticking over nicely and start the tapering. My coach, Chris, was happy with that plan and I was also looking forward to a few nice relaxing days enjoying some sunshine, nice food and wine.

The first shock was the temperature. My house is in inland Andalucía in the hills and normally in early September the afternoon temperatures would be 31 or 32 degrees. Very enjoyable and cool enough in the morning for a hill session or a nice 10k run. However, there was an unusual heatwave and the first 4 days the temperatures were in the low 40s – no way I’m running in that!

I managed a gentle evening walk a couple of times but even then it was very hot and mornings were as bad. It was lovely to get out and enjoy the scenery but was not good for my marathon prep.

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Towards the end of the week the temperatures started to drop a little so I planned a nice little run early on the Friday morning – it was not to be – I woke up in the middle of the night with a really bad stomach upset and that was that. No running that day, or the next!