Monday, 21 April 2014

Running Naked

A month or so before my marathon I had entered Trowse 10K, a race that was on Easter Sunday. It was my friend Michaela's favourite race and apparently gave out the best goodie bags as well as having a medal. With little regard to whether my legs might be up to running again,or whether I would want to be up at 6am on Easter Sunday, I signed up.

I didn't prepare very well for the race. On top of the whole marathon a fortnight before, I did parkrun the morning before and then 2 hours of hot TRX and barre the afternoon before. This meant that my legs were sore and tired before I'd even started. As a vague nod towards proper preparation I did eat the traditional spaghetti bolognese the evening before, but couldn't face getting up early enough to have porridge so just had toast. Can you tell that I wasn't really that fussed about this race?!

I didn't bother to charge my Garmin and decided I would just run naked (without a watch) by feel. I was a bit worried that that might result me settling into the familiar marathon pace so set off quite fast. I regretted that by 3K when we faced a long hill and I started to feel a bit sick and had a few black spots before my eyes! Maybe my attitude towards the 10K (it's only 6 miles, I've done 26...) was a bit blasé. The sensible runner would have slowed down at this point but my competitive instinct kicked in and refused to- luckily the hill did eventually end and what went up did have to go down so I was able to recover on the downhill. It was two laps and after the first lap I shouted to Neil that I'd gone off too fast but I still didn't really know what pace I was running. I'm almost certain I slowed a bit in the second half but I had got used to running by then so was feeling, not exactly good, but a bit less sick. At 9K I think I slacked off a bit and decided just to ease in to the finish - my legs felt heavy and my arms were also aching; my body was just understandably tired. However just before the turn to the finish Neil shouted at me that I could get under 52 minutes...what?! Apparently I did have a sprint finish in me after all and legged it to the line for a new PB of 51.37 - almost a minute quicker than my previous PB. Running naked had worked for me this time but I'm not sure whether to risk it at my next 10K in a couple of weeks time. Either way, Project #summerofspeed is off to a good start!
(A comedy race number always helps) 

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Bank Holiday Weekend

Since the marathon, I have slowly eased my body back into exercise. I didn't do anything for the first few days (I was still walking like a penguin so I didn't have much choice!) but after a restorative massage on the Wednesday, I was able to cycle commute for the rest of the week and to take a gentle Pilates class. I had hoped to be back running at parkrun last week but I was concerned about one of my hamstrings which was quite tender, so volunteered instead (whilst wearing my marathon finishers tshirt!). The following day I headed down to London to cheer on everyone in the marathon. I had a great day in the sunshine and came back really motivated to get training again.

This week I've cycled more, swum in my gym's outdoor pool & been to an energetic Pilates class. I tested out my hamstring with a short run on Thursday and decided it was fit enough to do parkrun this morning. I ran without my watch & despite my aching knees (marathon training seems to have aged them beyond my 29 years!) was pleased to finish comfortably in just over 26 minutes. 

Now that I'm not in training for a specific event I'm looking forward to doing some more non-running exercise. I was therefore excited to see that my local Sweaty Betty store was collaborating with a Hot Yoga studio to offer free classes. I'd tried Hot Yoga a few years ago at a different studio & was keen to give it a go again. The package I signed up for was 1 hour of Hot TRX followed by 1hr 15 of Hot Barre. The TRX was good - I want to improve my upper body strength & there was a lot of work for my arms, supporting my body using the ropes system. I struggled a bit with some of the floor based work because I didn't quite trust my (very sweaty) hands to hold on to the ropes whilst I did back bends etc! 
I enjoyed working in the heat and it didn't seem as hot as I thought it would. The Hot Barre was in a different studio though and was much hotter!

I enjoyed Hot Barre more than I was expecting given that I am not a natural dancer by any means and tend to struggle with any kind of choreographed routine that requires co-ordination. The mention of a routine to Bolero (think Torvill & Dean) panicked me but it ended up being very short and simple so I could just about keep up. The heat meant that we were all dripping with sweat (I was glad I had taken 2 towels) and even relatively simple movements got my heart rate up. This meant that I felt like I'd had a really good cardio workout from a strength/flexibility based class.

I'm not sure if I'll go back, partly because I have a regular Pilates class which I really enjoy and it's difficult to fit in everything I want to, but if I did it would be for the TRX. I loved how the instructor combined yoga with the ropes. Overall it was great to be able to try out two completely new classes. The studio (Ethos Yoga for anyone Cambridge based) was lovely and seemed very clean and fresh despite all the sweating! 
Tomorrow I'm heading to Norwich to run a 10K with my friend Michaela - I've been promised that there will be creme eggs!

How is everyone else spending their Bank Holiday weekend? 

Monday, 7 April 2014

The day I felt like a rockstar

Sunday April 6th 2014: My day in minutes and miles.

6.15: Wake up, gingerely test legs - think, they're not sore considering I ran a marathon yesterday.
6.16: Realise I haven't run it yet. Oh. Feel a bit sick.
6.20: Check twitter, notice a Happy Birthday tweet - oh yeah, it's my birthday. The marathon takes over everything.
7.00: Attempt to eat breakfast. Manage to force down half a bowl of porridge and a banana without throwing up & consider it an accomplishment.
7.45: Walk the 2ish miles to the start very slowly as a warm up (and because all the roads are closed so it's the only way). Both my hamstrings feel tight but tell myself it's only nerves.
8.20: Arrive at Preston Park and immediately join a toilet queue. It's just like any other race and that's a good thing.
8.45: Neil takes the obligatory "before" photo before heading off to his first spectator spot.
9.00: Head to the start pen. Huddle under a bin bag when it rains. 
9.05: Rain has stopped - maybe the running gods love us after all and the forecast "heavy rain and strong winds" might not happen.
9.15: Klaxon goes. We don't move.
9.23: Cross the line, high-fiving Paula Radcliffe in the process. 

At this point the concept of actual time becomes lost and it's all about minutes per mile. Some mile highlights:

Just before 3: First glimpse of spectating team with personalised signs. These guys rocked.
3: Spot Neil - exchange high fives. Let's do this thing!
5: Spectating team (now including Neil) whooping away

The next part of the course was an out and back along the coast- I knew I wasn't going to see the team until about mile 14 so I just concentrated on keeping my rhythm and getting on with it. Quite enjoyed this part - I still felt fresh and the pace was manageable. I didn't enjoy not being able to open my gels though - I ended up squirting one all over my face to the delight of a small child watching. Sticky gel mixed with sweat - nice. 

Mile 13: Back in town, amazing support. Putting my name on my vest was the best decision ever - I felt like the whole crowd was there for me! 
13.5: Spectating team out in force again.
Miles 14-18: The hardest ones for me. Another out and back and I was getting tired but knew I still had a long way to go. 
18: Stopped for a quick hug with Neil then it was time to head to the power station, on the "Road to Hell"
20-22: Round the power station which says it all.
23: Turned for home but the pier still looked a long way away.
24: Realised I'd either miscounted or lost a gel. Panicked that I was going to run out of energy. Stuffed my face with all the jelly babies I could find- thank you people of Brighton, IOU some sweets.
24: A very long mile. 
25: Saw my team again - now I really was "nearly there"!
25-26: Loved this mile, it was through crowds who were all shouting my name - I think I smiled for the whole mile (in between the grimaces - it hurt too)
26: Suddenly I was at 400m to go - wow! Sped up, or at least felt like I did and raised my arms in the air. The sun came out & suddenly I thought that there was no better way to spend a birthday.

Finish: 4:23, consistent 10 minute miling. Delighted. 

1 minute after the finish: Learn that a sprint finish + half sobbing = difficult to breathe. Manage to calm myself down before needing medical attention. 

Later that afternoon: Reunited with the best team of supporters ever. Discover that slightly damp pebbles are heaven for sore feet. Feel high on endorphins for the rest of the day (and it turns out, all night - I couldn't sleep!). I think this photo says it all. 

Thank you to everyone who has supported me - I get the glory but so many people were there for me. Marathon running comes highly recommended. 

Friday, 4 April 2014

My first Expo

I have successfully arrived in Brighton and have already been to the expo to pick up my number. I wanted to get this over with as I was expecting to be queuing in a cramped space with lots of other nervous runners but actually there was no queue at all and it was all very smooth.

I had never been to an expo before - for the uninitiated out there, the first bit is like normal race registrations but then you get funnelled into nervous runner shopping dreamland. I managed to resist the running jackets emblazoned with the marathon logo (nice but £70!!), considered a tshirt but decided it was unlucky to buy a tshirt before I'd done the race, almost compromised on a towel but then decided to concentrate on breaking the "nothing new on race day rule".

The forecast for Sunday is pouring rain. This worries me but I've just got to deal with it. However the main issue is whether to go for short sleeves (preferred option as I've already put my name on my favourite race top!) or long sleeves. At the expo I bought some bright pink arm sleeves to hopefully solve that dilemma. I also bought a turquoise cap to try and keep the rain off. I might hate both items but I'll just chuck them away/to a supporter en route if I do, so I don't mind breaking the rule.

I also discovered that at an expo you basically get the goodie bag in advance. This one was pretty good - best item was a buff type thing, most random item was Worcestershire sauce sample!

All that remains now is to eat yet more pasta, rest & then actually race the thing.

Bring it on Brighton!