Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014

As expected, this blogpost, written on the last day of 2013, is all about what I've achieved this year and looking ahead to 2014. A few years ago I stopped resolving to give something up and instead decided to start doing something new. One year I learnt to knit, another to bake my own bread. I have found it a much more positive way to make small improvements to my life rather than trying to cut things out.

Last year I used the same approach to set myself race time targets...here's how I got on:

5K - Target was sub-25 minutes
This was a tough one- despite parkrunning almost every week, my 5K speed has not been a strong point and I'd often rather have a relatively easy social run than go out and smash it. Back in September though, after a summer of lots of cycling and running, I ran naked (without my Garmin) and was amazed to clock 24 minutes dead. Boom!

10K - Target was sub-55 minutes
This one was hard fought! I ran lots of 10Ks in the first half of the year but it was the flattish Huntingdon 10K that saw me sneak under my target time with 54.55. Since then I've run 2 others in better shape and was on track to knock a chunk off that until I discovered that not one, but both courses were short. After 9.5K of hard effort I did not want to see the finish line- I wanted to carry on and claim a real PB! Turns out that I don't really mind a rubbish goodie bag, or dodgy toilets - I just want a course that's the length it's supposed to be (though toilets and goodie bag welcome too...). So, goal achieved, but still felt my time wasn't reflective of my form - step up the New Years Eve Ely 10K. I'm currently recovering on the sofa from this one (first half a dream of slight downhills and wind behind us, second half like trying to run in treacle whilst someone aimed a hair dryer full blast on cold mode at your face, with a hill for added pleasure. And a bagpiper) but with a shiny new PB of 52.31 - thank you Ely Runners, I loved it but maybe turn the hair dryers down for next year!

Half Marathon - Target was Sub-2 hours
The difficulty with this target was the lack of opportunities. I'd run my first half in November 2012 in 2.07 so decided sub-2 was a realistic target. Despite training hard, the snow at the Cambridge Half (in March) coupled with poor fuelling contributed to a big but disappointing PB of 20 seconds over 2 hours. The pressure was on for the Royal Parks but luckily as regular readers will know, this race more than delivered and I finished delighted with 1.57.35.

So all 3 targets smashed...time to relax? No, of course not - I'm a runner and therefore never satisfied! In 2014 my targets are as follows...

5K - 23 something - my focus for the year isn't on speed but I'd like to hope this is still realistic!

10K - 50 something - one day, I'll be aiming for sub-50 but not quite sure I'm ready for that yet!

Half - sub 1.55 - bring it on Cambridge!

Marathon (the new one!): 
A- Finish it 
B - Sub 4.30
C - Sub 4.15

Here's to 2014! 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

C&C - Becoming a Club Runner

Although Christmas and Carols might be on my mind at this time of year, in this case C&C actually refers to Cambridge and Coleridge – a local running club which as of last night I am now a paid-up member of. I’ve been weighing up whether to join a club for a while now - I used to attend free Monday night sessions with a coach from C&C but they started at 6pm and with an increase in workload over the summer it became impossible to make it on time. Since I stopped going to those, I have missed the experience of running in a group but have still been nervous about joining the club.

In local races and parkrun I’m a middle of the pack runner, but I know that club runners are usually thought to be speedier than that – I wasn’t sure whether my pace would be welcome at a club - after all I won’t be winning any trophies (unless I keep running this pace until I’m a pensioner and then I might get a decent age-grading!). However, I’ve gradually got to know lots of club runners and have realised that actually they aren’t actually all speed-demons and, regardless of their pace, they are generally a friendly bunch. In fact, they are not really any different to non-club-runners – they just like running and get to run together in the cold, dark evenings, rather than by themselves!
My other concern was that the coached sessions might not match what my marathon training plan said I should be doing each week. However, chatting this through with a friend (who managed the awesome time of exactly 4 hours dead for his first marathon a couple of months ago) he said that he just gave over responsibility for his speedwork to the club session regardless of what his training plan said. Basically, you just need to include some intervals/speedwork and exactly what that is each week doesn’t really matter. Speaking to him and to other friends along with my husband who joined C&C a few months ago persuaded me to head to the club last night.

The session was described as “Off-track: Aerobic, 6 x 4:00, 3:00 recovery, West Site” which quite frankly was a complete mystery to me. We started off with 2 laps of the track as a warm up and then continued with some drills including skipping, high knees and strides, before jogging to the ‘West Site’ to start the actual session. The session was led by Coach Rich, who blew the whistle to set us off and we had to run at about 5K pace for 4 minutes, when he would blow the whistle again. We then had 3 minutes recovery, before the whistle blew again and we had to aim to get back to the starting point in 4 minutes. We repeated that twice more, each time aiming for the same spot. It was a good workout and I’m sure I pushed myself more than I would have done had I been trying to do a similar session by myself – it was also good not having to think about anything or look at the time – I just had to listen for the whistle and then go!

One of my favourite things about running is the community aspect and I am looking forward to being part of C&C. It also makes me chuckle that I was considered to be pretty rubbish at PE at school and yet now I’ll be donning a club vest for races. My thoughts on PE in schools is a topic for a whole other blog post though…

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The pre-marathon-training-training week

As I mentioned in my last post, I am starting my official training plan for Brighton marathon shortly. This week has been all about trying to find out what works for me and what doesn’t, so I thought I’d write a little update before Week 1 starts on Monday!

I like…
• Running in the evenings, but in order to do that I have to be organised in the morning or ideally the night before.
• Running home from work, but I have to make sure I plan an easy dinner because by the time I’ve got home, stretched and showered I am ravenous and too tired to cook anything complicated!
• My regular pilates class and that is going to remain a priority.
• The new yoga class I tried at my gym – ideal for rest days (though I know I need to schedule some complete rest days in aswell).

I don’t like…
• Running on weekday mornings. I have tried twice this week and failed miserably to get out of bed. I have to leave at either 7.30 or 8am to get to work and trying to fit in a run before that just means getting up too early especially at this time of year. This test week has taught me that I need to schedule my runs in for the evening and stick to that schedule regardless of more exciting invitations that might come my way!
• Cold ears, so I’ve bought a hat that makes me look like an elf (it’s a bit big) but has a hi-viz pompom so I don’t care.

I’ve still got to figure out…
• How to go to Pilates on Wednesday evening but still fit in my Wednesday run – the things I like and things I don’t like aren’t currently compatible on this point! I’m considering Wednesday lunchtimes but not sure whether I’d need to shower and that’s not really an option with current work facilities (and the time available). Alternative suggestions on a postcard/tweet/blog comment please!

Has anyone else been finding out what works for them? It’s important to get it right if this is going to be my life until April…