It’s the first Monday of the October half term, it’s 9.30 in the morning and I am still in my pyjamas making the most of the fact I have some down time and I haven’t filled my week with endless of activity – most unusual behaviour for me! I haven’t blogged since the end of my 30 things in my 30th year mission (May, 2017) and yet I have found myself contemplating how best to go on with this new instalment. Why the need for the new blog?! Because… I am currently contemplating whether or not I am going to carry out my most bonkers physical challenge to date… training for (and hopefully completing) the Eryri Marathon in 2018!
I should mention here that I am not being a complete lunatic and deciding to go from couch to marathon in 12 months and that I have already got some running under my belt but a marathon is a very new prospect. So why a marathon and more importantly, why not a flat one?! My purple family are completely to blame here…
The purple family, aka the Betsi Runaways* are the most amazing, friendly and encouraging group of people I have had the pleasure of meeting and in the short time I have been running with them have become a key part of my life. On Saturday, 28th October I volunteered to help on the Awyr Las** feed station at mile 15 of said marathon. I knew a number of my fellow Runaways were taking part in the race and kept a close eye out for them all giving them a big cheer as they ran past whilst in complete awe of their amazingness. 26.2 miles – what an unbelievable achievement (and for anyone who has seen the course profile of this event is no easy feat)! At various points during the day our chief coach (and the reason I was on the feed station), Chris kept dropping little comments along the lines of “when you do this route”, “this is a good part to train on”, “next year, Laura…” and all the while I am snorting with laughter, me? A marathon runner? Get a grip! I suspect Chris knew exactly what she was doing because ever since Saturday afternoon, the seed has started to take hold… May be, just may be I could do this… Oh b*llcks!
Today was my first ever event outside of the running world – an open water sea swim! I entered this particular one without much forethought all because a group chat saw me getting carried away… 2km sea swim on bank holiday Monday, how hard could it be?! Turns out, quite tricky!
We were aware that the weather forecast wasn’t super promising but figured we were getting wet anyway so that didn’t matter too much but what one doesn’t want when swimming is choppy water… Arriving in plenty of time to register we watched as those doing the 3km distance started and it became apparent that there was certainly going to be a preferred direction to swim in. Unfortunately, it was a yin/yang situation where both sides had to be experienced. Great. Chris and I then headed inside for coffee and plotting of future challenges (dangerous) and finally, it was our time to start…
Race briefing explained that we were to keep the massive course markers to our right and do two laps with a “run” in and out. Luckily for me I never enter these things to “race” and favour the “just finish” school of thought but I was soon aware that even finishing was going to be a massive challenge. The swim out to the first marker was tough as we were battling against the incoming tide and I floundered to get any form of technique on the go. Turns out, that was a sign of things to come for the entire time we were in the water. The distance between the buoys seemed to go on forever and given how pants my sighting is, I am sure I was adding to the mileage with every stroke! At the turnaround point and the moment I was hoping for with regard to some light relief I found I was moving quicker but struggling to stay in line with buoys! This was really hard going. The other thing I was struck by was just how lonely swimming is. If I struggle on a run I usually end up finding someone to chat with to spur me on or there’s a little cheer from a marshal to give you that much needed boost but when you are in the water and trying to get in to a rhythm you are aware of the safety crew but there’s no cheering and no one to exchange some pleasantries with; it’s you and the water and in the words of Dory you just have to ‘keep swimming’. So that is what I did!
Getting back to the beach was so welcome and I staggered up to the finish line just behind Chris. I honestly think that is the toughest event I have ever done especially from a psychological perspective!
Reflecting on the event whilst writing this I am still not overly sure I enjoyed it… There were moments I was acutely aware of just how powerful the sea is and I was in real danger of giving in to the panic I had initially felt but I did survive and have the bling and a new swimming cap to prove it! Feeling a bit apprehensive about the weekend’s lake swim event but surely if I can survive this, I can survive anything?!
Back in February, I came clean and announced to the world that I had been really struggling with some horrible gremlins that were essentially putting me off my stride. I was really touched with the amount of support I received and made it my mission since then to run for enjoyment’s sake and remember what it is I love about this hobby. I have had some really lovely runs and have completely embraced life without a training plan – something I never thought I would be motivated to do. My passion and enjoyment well and truly rediscovered I started to turn my thoughts to entering events (I never call them races as the only person I am ever good enough to race is myself!) and hit upon another stumbling block… One which saw myself getting into a right tizzy about what my next event should be.
I have no idea why we (I) do this ourselves. We are going along quite nicely, enjoying things, staying fit and active and then from some unknown location a sudden feeling of pressure descends and it’s like a reset button has been pressed. Firstly, why did I feel I needed to find an event to enter when I clearly was happy doing what I was doing? Secondly, why was I getting in such a state about not finding one I wanted to do?
To this day, I still do not have the answer to the first question and really, the answer doesn’t matter because the itch was there and needed scratching. As for question two, the simple answer is because I am mental. Though delving a little deeper, I think I can probably figure out what was happening…
October was the last time I had entered an event and it was the biggest challenge I have ever completed. I finished that marathon whilst in a lot of pain and discomfort and consequently had to have a month off all training that would affect my knee. That sent me bonkers. I was having a tough time in work and I had no outlet and I ended up having a bit of a breakdown about it all – lots of tears, panicked moments and struggles to get out of bed. After rest, a readdress of my training programme and some support in work I was firmly on the recovery road and I think the fear of committing to a training programme took hold. I desperately do not want to put myself in a situation where I can’t do these things that I have come to love. So there in was the underlying concern about entering an event.
I decided to try and overcome this by doing something I knew was not an excessive distance and had a lovely atmosphere and entered the 6th Trail that takes place in Portmeirion. The entry was eased by the fact that two friends were also due to take part and we could probably stick together; however, the weather gods had other plans in mind and the race was postponed on safety grounds – thanks for that, Storm Freya! So I was back at the drawing board. In the meantime, I had been to two of the Run Coed y Brenin trail sessions that Jude leads for women who want to get in to trail running and those Sundays have been really lovely. A safe, non-competitive plod around the beautiful landscape at Coed y Brenin that I have shared with two of my lovely running friends, Jayne and Fiona. Whilst on the second session the Goldrush event was mentioned and the seed was planted. One thing to note about running in Coed y Brenin is the fact that it’s hard! There’s a combination of forest roads, off-piste trail and lots of hills. I went home to check out the route on Strava and started to think things through. I knew that I could get myself round the 8.5 mile course, I knew there would be no pressure time wise and I knew that I had already covered sections of the route in our Sunday sessions so what was stopping me? Nothing, I put my entry in before I could start doubting myself. And then I did something I have never done before… I told no one! I decided that I needed to do this little thing for me, not go doing my usual thing of broadcasting it to the world but go, get my head down and complete this route. I also wanted to have an escape route should I suddenly feel like I couldn’t go through with it and the fewer people who knew the less pressure I had on myself. I even wasn’t going to have my usual support crew as Owen was away with work so this was going to be a really new experience!
The morning of the event (still refusing to acknowledge race status) came and with an afternoon start time I found myself wide awake with nothing to distract me. I decided to have a go at baking flapjacks, as you do, as I figured they would be useful fuel and also enjoyed a hearty breakfast (starting a run at lunchtime makes for tricky fuel planning).
The Goldrush was going to be my fourth event at Coed y Brenin having done the Trail 10K and the Buff Winter Trail Half (one year as a runner and this year as a volunteer) and these events never disappoint. The location really is stunning but on race day we were also blessed with glorious sunshine though a slightly chilly temperature. It had also not rained for days so the conditions were actually ideal! I then tried to figure out what would be a nice time to finish in – I’m not overly bothered with things like this and my mantra is finish line not time but it’s good to have a little goal in mind. 8.5 miles is a funny distance really so I figured, given the nature of the course, that I could aim for 2 hours but finishing in an hour and fifty would be ace. Off we set and the running felt good, I was so glad I had ditched my long sleeve top and opted to run in my vest as I quickly warmed up and I was just really loving being in the woods – trail is such fun! I had a chat with a few folk along the way and kept in mind to leave something in the tank for the final climb at the end. It was on this final climb towards the finish that I caught sight of the clock – 1:49:49 – on my God, I was so close to my ideal target that I put a final burst of speed in to make sure I crossed that line in time – gun 01:49:59; chip 01:49:32 – I bloody did it!
Run Coed y Brenin events are always so well organised and come with a very welcoming and special atmosphere that the journey is always worth making. I’m really chuffed with this as the first event of the year! I’m not sure I am quite over the entering event apprehension I seem to have developed but at least I know I still have it in me to turn up to a start line and have a good go!
It’s been three weeks since I admitted to the world that my running confidence was at an all time low and I am still overwhelmed at the lovely comments I received following this admission. Not one to shy away from a challenge, I have made it my mission to not let the nagging gremlin in my head get the better of me…
Having admitted the issue I was a bit stuck as to what to do for the best to try and move on. That weekend we had a visit to stay in a cabin in the woods to finish off birthday celebrations for O. I packed my kit. I knew a couple of the others at the cabin were also potentially interested in running but the anxiety of having to try and keep up with them was stressing me out before we had even arrived so I bit the bullet and explained that my run in the morning needed to be a solo mission. I had a vague plan in mind that would avoid me getting lost but also meant I could explore some new parts of the forest and the only other goal was to just enjoy being out. I walked stretches, I stopped to take pictures and I didn’t get lost – victory!
The next week I didn’t manage to do a lot of running (club session had been cancelled because of the icy weather) so I decided to brave going to Penrhyn Parkrun for the first time in 2019. The apprehension at the thought of going was palpable, especially because it had been over-analysing Parkrun stats which had set me on the downward spiral in the first place. I had to agree to pick Jayne up or I knew I would find an excuse and bail in the morning. We made a deal to stick together and off we went. As part of my gremlin busting mission I have made myself set mini goals each time I set out on a run; the goal is absolutely nothing to do with speed or timing and everything to do with enjoying myself. I have also been trying to stop looking at my watch during a run so I don’t start obsessing over numbers. The goal for today was to try and run the whole thing without a walking break and keep the watch hidden. Sticking with Jayne proved handy for this as there were a few moments where, had I been on my own, I would have given in to the gremlin but I wanted to save face so I kept going and to my utter disbelief bagged a Penrhyn PB – 33:09! This was a much needed boost and though it wasn’t a magic wand to the confidence crisis it certainly helped.
The last two weeks have seen me try to get back to some sort of running routine: Wednesday Rebel Runaways followed by hill reps and a weekend run. I have also been trying to keep the physio’s advice of building back up slowly in mind so haven’t gone too crazy on distance. 4.7 miles had been the longest since the big M so I was buzzing to manage 5.1 on Wednesday having done a rebels run with Claire and Jayne and then the hill reps session. I even added an extra 0.2 at the end of hills keeping Fiona company whilst she rounded her mileage up (I hadn’t set my watch for that so actually Wednesday’s total was 5.3! And it turns out lamppost 8 is way further away than we thought, who knew?!)! That night I actually felt strong, the hills were my friend and once again, my mini goals had been reached (get to lamppost one on the return from Menai, complete the full hill session – tick)!
This weekend Claire and I headed to Derby for a long overdue visit and catch up to see Han and Jack. Running kit was obviously going to be needed and the itinerary was sent to us in the week: Saturday – run to Parkrun, do Markeaton Parkrun, walk/jog home, have a walk and cake somewhere that afternoon; Sunday – go for a 4 mile run, have a nice breakfast out. Saturday was a roaring success! The run to Parkrun was mostly downhill (added bonus) and a nice way to explore the local area: 2 miles in the bag. We all agreed to run our own race at Parkrun and meet back at the finish line; I was delighted by this as I knew I could relax and enjoy the route and not feel any pressure about it. That said, when you’re in a pack of 657 (!) Parkrunners you can easily get a bit carried away. I set out to just keep running but made the mistake of glancing at my watch therefore realising that despite the fact I was going a smidge faster than usual I was actually feeling okay and that maybe it would be okay to keep pushing and see what happened. I crossed the line in 480th place with a time 32:48 – my fastest ever Parkrun time! Two Parkruns and two consecutive PBs! We decided that it was probably best to walk rather than run back to the house as I was already at the 5 mile point for the day. Sunday morning (today) was a slightly different story… A 4 mile loop was proposed with the promise of breakfast at the end. I knew this might be a tough one given how much slower I am compared with Han and Claire but I desperately wanted to give it a shot. Two mistakes made this morning… 1) I didn’t set myself a sensible goal; 2) I looked at my watch and clocked that the pace we were doing was too fast. I knew it was too fast, I could feel it in my legs but for some reason I didn’t mention it and I also didn’t do anything about it until Han asked if I was okay. Instead, I let the numbers get in my head and got myself worked up about how I couldn’t manage it and how the girls should go on without me. That is not how my friends roll. I was not going to be left to do a walk out and back whilst they carried on so we persevered with a walk/run arrangement and tweaked to do an out and back 3 miler. My first reaction was to be really disappointed, especially as I felt like I had let Han and Claire down and spoilt their morning but on our return to the car I did a little review of everything… I had managed to do 5 miles on two separate occasions this week; I had also added an extra 3 miles this morning – even if there was a lot of walking involved. My total running mileage for this week was the equivalent of a half marathon an 86% increase on the week before – oops – no wonder my poor legs were tired! Now being hard on myself is something I have done for years and is something I consider to be a real flaw in my personality. I know it drives people around me bonkers and I cannot help it (believe me, I would love to stop) but today I had a small victory… I was initially gutted but I took a step back, I re-evaluated and I realised that I didn’t need to write Sunday morning off as a failure and forget about all the positives that had occurred this week; just remind me in future to make sure I set a realistic target before I set off – take that, gremlin!
When I was studying for my A Levels I completely lost my ability to play in front of people. I used to dread doing practical lessons in school because I was suddenly hyper aware of not being as good as other people in my class (it didn’t help that my class teacher was also a flautist, and amazing, and even though she had a lot more experience than I, I kept comparing my standard to hers). In all this I never stopped playing but I did have to hide when practising which became a bit of an issue when it came to checking my progress. It took a long time for me to regain my confidence and some very patient handling from some very special staff to help me over come this but over come it I did and I will always be grateful for the help I received as it enabled me to go on and fulfil my career ambition.
Fast forward to the present day and it is like I am reliving that same experience but this time from a running perspective…
At the beginning of the year I blogged about being a bit too hard on myself after a Parkrun and how I had set targets for the year to ensure I enjoyed this fitness journey rather than putting too much pressure on myself and yet now I feel that no amount of positive thinking is helping me over come this crisis of confidence.
I enjoyed a lovely little plod with some of the purple family last night; it was a 2 mile loop around Bangor designed to get us warmed up if we were staying for hills or just have company if we were not. I chatted the whole way round and didn’t stop for any walking breaks therefore proving that I can keep a consistent pace when I put my mind to it. However, at the end of the first loop I didn’t want to carry on. We had twenty minutes, I knew I was physically capable of doing another loop but there was something in me that would not continue. I was sitting waiting for the others and could not help but think how much better off they are not needing to slow down for me. When they returned I could not face sticking around and asked Jayne to take me home. Essentially, I ran away. It’s so sad when you come to the realisation that your confidence has gone on vacation. The most frustrating aspect about this is not knowing why….
I love running. It is the best thing I have ever applied myself to. I don’t intend to give up because I have reached a little hurdle but I suspect this might be something that takes a little time to mend. I really don’t want to end up sounding like a broken record and boring people with my woes so I will try to plod and get myself back on track. I’m hoping that the blog will help to remind me how things have improved!
2019 is upon us and having spent New Year’s Eve enjoying some chilled time at home (with a brief but entertaining visit to a rope swing) I was all set and ready to start the year as I mean to go on – running with friends. We had a fab time at the affectionately nick-named Knoborough Parkrun (see picture below for explanation) with an excellent turn out from the purple family. The route is lovely and a good challenge so I will definitely return to give this run another go and a massive thanks must go to all those involved in organising the New Year’s Day Parkrun events – what a fantastic way to start the year!
On returning home, I did the inevitable look through the results table and started to get a bit down about my time and how it never seems to get any quicker. Now the logical side of my brain reminds me that I have been injured and I have only been back running for 4 weeks and that has been pretty infrequent thanks to the gadding about of the Christmas season but still I found myself a little blue. Then my thoughts turned to the first race I have booked for the year (Anglesey Half Marathon) and a wonder of whether I should aim to work towards a PB. When you start to question things like this I find the best course of action is to consult the Coach and see what wise words she has to offer. As always, Chris’ advice is golden and she soon put me back to an eased state of mind reminding me that speed work is never my favourite thing to do (accurate) which completely defeats the object of running (it needs to be something I enjoy) and actually I may just be suited to long slow runs! I mean it would be nice to go a bit quicker so I don’t feel like I am holding everyone else back but someone is always going to be at the back of the pack and if people don’t like the speed I am going then they simply don’t have to stay with me! I also got sent an article by Claire as she knew I was having a wobble and there’s lots in there to take on board; the first two resolutions listed are particularly noteworthy for me so if you find, like me, you’ve been a bit hard on yourself lately I would definitely recommend a quick read of this…
So, what goals might I like to achieve in 2019? Well all sorts of things started to go through my mind including trying to go one better than the previous year – who else is guilty for doing this? Last year was such a major accomplishment, why do I need to almost forget it and move on to something bigger and better?! I decided to have a little word with myself and really think about what is important to me and my running/fitness journey and it came down to these things:
Continue to maintain/develop my running buddy friendships by taking as many opportunities to run with folk as possible and explore new routes with them;
Enjoy the exhilaration that is outdoor swimming and try to get as much experience of this as possible;
Get to the start line of the Eryri marathon injury free!
I like that these goals are pretty vague (well, apart from the last) because it gives me room to play around and take opportunities as and when they come to me. I signed up for the gym in December purely to help reach goal 3 and have already started to try out some of the different classes that may be able to help improve my strength, I also have a PT session next week which should be able to provide me with exercises to do on the gym equipment so I can kick this IT band issue in to touch! Goal 2 is linked to the Bala Big Swim which is booked for June (4.5km swim in Llyn Tegid) so I know that I need to continue my swimming training to help build up to this but the rest of the year is pretty much a blank canvas (after Anglesey Half)! There is talk of doing things like running the Anglesey coast path with Jayne or trying to get in the sea once a week with Chris but it is all open for negotiation and that is super exciting! What I can say for sure though is 2019 is going to be a good one!
A friend mentioned that they were passing on my blog info to a friend of hers and I realised that, owing to the epic rest I had been forced to do, I hadn’t updated for a long old time (mostly because there hasn’t been much to report given the recovery process I needed to go through). What I also hadn’t realised was the fact I never got round to doing a full blog post about actually completing the marathon and instead settled for a Facebook update. I’m actually quite cross with myself about this given how much completing the marathon meant and how much I had documented along the way!
So, given the time of year, and the fact that many of us look back over the year that has been and start planning what is still to come, I thought I would finally get around to my marathon entry…
Friday 26th October – the end of my first half term in a new job role and the night before the race. Claire and I arranged to go and pick up our race numbers together which was very much needed or I might have jibbed at this hurdle! We wandered through Llanberis to the event village and it was great to see the atmosphere building already but the reality well and truly hit, as did the nerves – was I really going to run a marathon?! I felt very sick!
Race number, t-shirt and hoodie collected (along with a quick hug and some final words of encouragement from Jayne) and I headed for home where Owen had made a massive spag bol and I could focus on trying to get some rest.
Saturday 27th – OMGEEEEEEEEEE! Race day! I can’t actually remember how well I slept the night before but I woke up absolutely buzzing! I always get super nervous before I do an event and today was no exception but in addition to the nerves was this absolute determination that this finish line was going to be all mine! I sorted myself out with banana and porridge and O. and I went to pick Kate up from Tregarth before heading back to Llanberis to meet Claire and Han. The weather was cold but sunny and there was even snow on the mountain tops; stunning! We joined the crowds heading towards the start line with O. in tow and the excitement was now overtaking the nerves. I had been overwhelmed by the messages of support I had been receiving all morning but the time to switch my phone off had come and I needed to get in the zone. I was surrounded by hundreds of people with the same goal in mind; 26.2 miles, bring it on!
I knew I was never going to manage to keep up with the girls so we had big hugs and a promise to see each other on the other side and then the race began. It is so easy to get caught in the flow of runners and start off too fast so when I caught site of fellow Runaways Sarah and Kath I made a beeline for them as I knew from Beaumaris Half that they would keep me going at a suitable pace. Running through Nant Peris towards the climb of Pen y Pass and I was completely overcome with something I can’t put in to words but I was in a very happy place. I had endless support and encouragement from so, so many people but the only person I could rely on now was myself so whatever happened it was down to me. I soon parted ways with Sarah and Kath but I was completely okay with being on my own.
Pen y Pass was indeed a tough climb and I took a few walk breaks to get up it whilst chatting with people along the way. I made a point of looking behind me a few times on that climb just to put in perspective the height gained. That valley is stunning anyway so well worth checking out!
It’s awesome being towards the back of the pack because people like to chat! Everyone runs these events for different reasons but us folk towards the end like to meet and greet new folk and are more than happy to share stories. I chatted with lots of people on my way around which all contributed to my enjoyment of the whole experience. It was on the descent from Pen y Pass that it dawned on me that now I was on the course there was no way in hell I was coming off it until I crossed that finish line! This was a slight issue for me because I had made a promise to my physio, coach Chris and O. that if my knee started to cause me any problems I would pull out but at that particular moment in time I felt good and the only direction I was going in was forward.
At Llyn Gwynant I reached the point where I had recced the course in training so every step was now slightly more familiar and I could start to get my head around inclines and the route a bit better but at mile 10 I hit an issue; my bloody knee. As I said earlier, I had promised everyone that if I encountered serious pain I would pull out and this initial issue wasn’t so much pain but a definite awareness that things were not feeling right. I was not far from Beddgelert (the half way point) so I eased off and started a walk/run with the intention of seeing how it went over these next three miles. It wasn’t ideal to have had to resort to this so early but I so didn’t want to give up.
Well Beddgelert came and went and it turns out that when I put my mind to it I can actually walk at a decent pace! I knew that if I could keep the walks around the 15 minute mile mark and put a burst of speed in every so often I could still get this race done and more importantly to me, get in before dark! By the time I got to Rhyd Ddu (where I knew Karl and Keira were going to be cheering) I knew I wasn’t going anywhere! Every step now was a step closer to home and I was still enjoying ticking off the markers as I went along.
At Waunfawr (around mile 20) I had the most amazing surprise as O. and Alison had turned up to cheer! I hadn’t expected to see them until the finish line and I burst in to tears with gratitude. This point is the start of the final and the most brutal climb of the course so I went for a big hug before carrying on my way. I also caught up with Sarah and we stuck together to get over this last hurdle before we went to claim our coasters! Part way up the climb we found Jack on timer duty who supplied us with some much needed sustenance in the form of salt and vinegar kettle chips and a big high-five and then we carried on up the hill…
At mile 24 you reach the final feed station and they serve tea, that’s right, TEA! It was like liquid gold and the biscuit went down a treat too and then all that is left to do is get down the hill and across the finish. At this point I told Sarah to go on ahead mainly because I knew my knee was not going to enjoy this descent one bit but also because I needed to finish this one on my own. I was right regarding the knee, that descent was absolute agony and I did start to worry that I might have done some serious damage but there was no chance I wasn’t going to finish now and I just kept going, one foot in front of the other. By this point in the course the view across Llanberis is awesome but you can also hear the noise from the finish line which is enough to keep you going. I reached the village and started to pick up the pace to ensure a decent finish and when you turn the corner to the finish straight and hear everyone cheering for you, it was only right to finish properly (luckily I had conserved enough energy through the jalking to be able to run at this point). I could feel the tears starting again as I made out the cheers from O. and the purple fam but when I finally saw that finish line I couldn’t help but punch the air with victory.
Ten months in the making, hours of training, the laughs, the tears and the new friendships and I had actually done it! 6 hours and 17 minutes later and that finish line was in the bag – I was absolutely buzzing!
When I got home I put a post on Facebook thanking all the amazing people who had helped me along the way and did my best to thank all the people who had sent me messages that day too – my thanks to everyone still stands. Doing this marathon has changed so much for me: obviously it made me fitter and showed just what the body can do when you give it a chance; it has shown me how strong my mind can be – if you want it in your head, your body will follow; it has given me new levels of discipline with regards to training but, most importantly to me, it has given me friendships that I know will last a lifetime.
It took me a long time to physically recover from the after affects of that day (which is why my blog has been quiet) but the running has started again, steadily and the plans for next year are beginning to get formed; so excited about these. In the meantime though, I did actually get a small marathon tribute tat and will forever cling on to the title bestowed on me by Gez… I am so proud to be a marathon wanker!
I cannot quite believe I am writing this but we are now 6 DAYS away from the big M; how the flip did this happen?!
I had hoped at this stage to be quietly smug with my training progress. I had been doing well at following the plan and was actually enjoying reaching new milestones and exploring new routes with some of my lovely Runaway friends. Then three weeks ago, on my planned 18 miler, I got struck down with a case of runner’s knee which brought an abrupt end to my biggest run to date at a mere 6 miles. I was absolutely devastated and could not stop the tears from falling as the realisation that I might have done something stupid took hold. Luckily, I choose my running buddies wisely and I was very well looked after by Fiona as we called for a lift and I was sent home with armfuls of things to help ease the pain.
Since then I have had various appointments and an eventual diagnosis that I have a tight IT band which has pulled my patella alignment out and this is causing the pain when I run. I have been for a sports massage and a physio session and have discovered that with tape on, the discomfort stays away so providing the magic tape is applied I am game on for Saturday! I will work in fixing everything to get properly run fit after the big day.
The last three weeks have been driving me crazy. I know I need to not stress about the injury and deal with it but as a newbie marathon runner I really wanted to get to the start line with a completed training plan under my belt and this injury has knocked my confidence, big time. How can I possibly complete 26.2 miles when I have barely run in three weeks?! People keep assuring me it will be okay but it is something that keeps niggling at me. That said, I have no intention of pulling out now. If I don’t try to get round the course I will be eaten up with what ifs. So on Saturday I will don my purple vest and set my head to the finish line and keep everything crossed that my feet follow suit. I happen to be very lucky that I have the support of some amazing people who have helped me through every step of this training process and it is those people I intend to keep with me with every step of the way; this one is for you, my lovelies!
I love the training journey that I am going on and recent adventures have not disappointed. Two weeks ago, I took the leap to boldly go where I have never gone before and passed the half marathon mark! Claire and I met in Llanberis and decided to tackle the last 16 miles of the marathon route. I’d already covered part of this on an early recce but this would prove worthwhile to get over two of the three major up hill sections.
We made a plan to leave my car at Claire’s, took the van to our starting position (more on this later) and off we went. Throughout this entire process the thing I will take away more than anything are the friendships that I have forged and running with Claire is just a lovely way to catch up with each other. The miles tick by without much thought and we put the world to rights. That run was no exception and she got me out of Beddgelert with relative ease (and no walking break)! I was doing my best to stick to my scheduled fuel breaks and everything felt pretty good; however, around the ten mile mark things started to misfire a bit and I started to think the next six miles were a mega undertaking and it’s at this point that having company on a run is invaluable for me… I shared my concerns with Claire and she suggested taking on some food and started to play a silly game which completely took my mind off the running until I found my rhythm again. I have to say I hadn’t expected the doubt gremlin to appear before the 13 mile mark given the fact I had comfortably run Beaumaris Half the week before but these things are all part of the marathon experience.
When we had plotted this run, we had decided that the final climb of the course, which comes around the 22-mile mark was going to be a walk as this climb is pretty beastly. We got to the Waunfawr sign and headed up. En route we found a marshal who was out on course for one of the brutal extreme triathletes and stopped for a little chat before continuing on up – that brutal triathlon sounds unreal and these athletes had already been going for about 24 hours at this point – mental. It’s funny trying to get your legs back to running after an uphill climb so things were a bit clunky at the top of this section but then the downhill started! It was around this point that we realised we had slightly messed up on the car sharing mission… We were two miles from my car, 14 from Claire’s van, my car keys were in Claire’s house, Claire’s house keys were in the van. Oops. Lucky for us we have an amazing running club family and Claire happens to live next door to one of them who came to our rescue – thank you, Kath!
We navigated the final descent and got back in to Llanberis; 16.7 miles in the bag. I was absolutely buzzing and for the first time in this whole process started to think that maybe, just maybe, this challenge is actually achievable!
And now for something a little different…
Not many people know this but the reason I started to run properly was because I actually wanted to complete a triathlon. I have never had an inclination to run but I loved swimming as a kid and have also had moments in my life enjoying biking. It was running that was my nemesis and something I would need to tackle if I stood any chance of getting anywhere with this triathlon idea. Fast forward 18 months and I never would have thought running would be such a massive part of my life and one that I do not want to get rid of but the triathlon dream still remained and finally became a reality last weekend!
Given the amount of energy that is going in to Eryri training, this first foray into tri was a little bit of fun and light relief from the other miles. Always Aim High’s Superfeet Sandman Triathlon, Sprint distance. My swim training had been dodgy, and I was feeling a tad unprepared for that part but I had been and checked out the bike route twice with Chris as well as a bit of a plod on the running course.
The swim was a bit of a funny one, the waves were present and the tide didn’t exactly behave itself as stretches of the swim were walked but I was doing it! I managed to not look a fool of myself in transition and set off for a really good bike. Then on to the run which wasn’t quite as comfortable as I had hoped it would be; I think the combination of trail when almost all of my training as been road based and tiredness from the other two areas meant I was having a bit of a bimble. I managed to trip over a tree stump at one point but luckily landed in very soft sand and then met a lady who was struggling with injury. At this point, we were a mile off finishing and I knew it would get done and what was more important was solidarity and getting the finish line in the bag. Three of us walked the last bit of the course together and received our finishers medals. I LOVED the event! Everyone had been so friendly, the marshals were great, the location is stunning and the organisation second to none. I cannot wait to have another go! Oh, and I even got a little screen time in the S4C coverage of the event – haha!
When I first received my marathon training plan I remember feeling a little bit daunted and overwhelmed at what I was seeing and I had to stop and take a moment to remember to just focus on achieving one box at a time. That said, when faced with things in the diary that can potentially affect my running routine I know I have to do a certain amount of planning ahead to ensure success and following the disaster earlier in the summer I have well and truly learnt my lesson – never miss the long run!
The last few weeks have seen the training coming along nicely and (dare I say it?!) I have actually allowed myself to grow a little in confidence. The ticks in each box are getting done; the route has started to be practised and there have been some small victories with things like progression runs that I had never thought would happen! I was pleasantly surprised with myself when I went out with Chris last Sunday to do my first chunk of the course and managed to go further than expected in the time I needed to (9 miles instead of 8).
I snuck in an extra run with Claire and Anke on the Tuesday but as this was a 6km trail run(!), I figured it wouldn’t hurt! We had a lovely mooch on part of the slate trail near Mynydd Llandegai and I even managed to set a new PB for the first 5km!!! The positivity continued with my hill reps session on the Wednesday (although 5 sets of 5 minutes with only two minutes recovery did push me to the vom zone) and then I had to make a journey down to south Wales to resume my welfare role for a few days. I took this in to account when sussing out my training and decided that a 30-minute progression run was more than manageable whilst away and I opted to move the long run to Monday (instead of Sunday) as I knew I wouldn’t fit it in whilst I was down south and after four hours in a car wouldn’t want to do it when I got home. I was absolutely delighted with my progression run as I finally managed to pace it so I had enough gas in the tank for the final set (this has never happened before and I usually stop to walk after 3 minutes of the last set) and it was lovely to be running back in the Bay; I haven’t done that since last year’s Cardiff Half Marathon.
Then came the scheduled long run. I knew I would need some motivation to go out and get it done after the first day back to school and it was fantastic that Alison had mentioned being up for a long plod. My initial thought had been to run the first part of the marathon course but I don’t really trust the traffic on Pen y Pass so need to do this on a Sunday morning when, hopefully, the road is quieter than risk doing it in the middle of the afternoon. Option 2 was to run from the house up to Llyn Idwal and potentially do a loop around the lake before meeting Owen in the car park, this would have been around 11 miles. In my head I wanted to aim for 10 but I knew I needed to tick off 120 minutes whatever happened. I managed the first mile up to Tregarth and then my body seemed to take notice of what I was doing and started a serious protest. The next two miles were unpleasant, clunky and almost resulted in complete abandonment of the session. I have no idea where this came from but it’s like my legs were not connected to the rest of me and it just felt rubbish. At this point, I cannot express my gratitude to Alison enough because I know for a fact that if she hadn’t been there, I would have thrown my toys out of the pram and walked back home. Her gentle encouragement and then my stubbornness got me through to mile four when everything finally seemed to fall in to place. I have to say, it’s been years since I have made it that far along the Lon Las Ogwen path and though the inclines got tougher, the scenery got more and more beautiful and I really started to enjoy it. We did make the most of the gorgeous evening and stopped a couple of times to take photographs or take on some more fuel (orange High5 aqua gels were a hit, thanks Chris) so although it felt crappy at first, I actually did get to enjoy it. We made it to Llyn Idwal car park bob on the two hour mark which was 8.5 miles and I took the decision to stop there. In hindsight, I could probably have managed the extra mile and a half but given the fact I have a half marathon event on Sunday and the fact that I had come so close to throwing the towel in I decided to take this as a small victory and give myself a break. I’m so grateful to Alison for her company this evening, I would not have done it if it wasn’t for her and to Owen for, once again, going out of his way to ensure I can get home safely.
So with that run completed, I move on to page 2 of the training plan. Glancing ahead there are going to be some pretty serious sessions on the cards and after next Sunday every long run I do will be longer than I have ever gone before. I just need to remember to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I haven’t been able to write an update for a while as, quite frankly, there was a rather static period in my training plan; a stumbling block I had not anticipated so early on in the training mission, that of the Lampeter Lull!
Now, in previous years, my moonlight period as welfare staff with the National Youth Orchestra of Wales has never affected my ability to do anything and I can usually guarantee doing a few sneaky runs before breakfast as well as getting a tonne of planning done for September. This year I managed a grand total of two training runs and zero prep work; the runs weren’t exactly earth shattering either! The hill reps session was plagued with irrational thoughts on my part including many repetitions of “don’t trip, don’t trip, don’t trip” interspersed with “wouldn’t it be ironic if you were the one who needed looking after” and the threshold session was done on the dreadmill as I couldn’t face the lashing down rain! Needless to say, I returned from Nash having had a great time but completely knackered and really cross that I had let myself slip off the training wagon so spectacularly!
I was delighted to get my arse back to the club run on Wednesday and humbled to hear that everyone was willing to follow my plan for the session – 4×5 minute beastings with 3-minute recovery blocks. The beauty of this being everyone could push themselves to their own limit and there was no pressure to keep up with anyone (thank God)! It was a tough session and my legs definitely felt tired but it was also great to be back in the saddle. Not one to do things by halves and keen to get fitness back (how annoying is it that it starts to go after so little time?!) I went for a second beasting at Oz’s class on the Thursday and my own hill reps beasting on the Friday morning before setting off with Owen and Ella on our Scottish adventure.
Pretty much back on plan by this point, the only thing I had left to tackle was my long run. I was in a bit of a quandary as to how long this should be given the fact I had missed both the 75 and the 90 minute session (I hang my head in shame as I type that) but given the fact we were now on holiday on the Isle of Mull and the fact that I had a support crew in the shape of Fran, Matt and Morgan on their bikes I threw caution to the wind and went for the 105 minutes that I should have been up to. I asked Matt to plot a route from our campsite and explained that the time I need to be out for should equate to about 8 miles in Plodder speed so he sorted that and off we set! I knew my legs were going to take some warming up and I also knew that the road had some good inclines; what I didn’t know was just how tight my calves would feel at times or how funny my tummy would go. There was a lot of walking stops on this run as well as some scenery stops but I did it! In fact, we ended up doing just over 8 miles and being out longer than 105 minutes but I blame baby piglets, a private bay and Jean for that!
My plan officially says this week should be a rest week so I have two 30 minute runs to do, one being thresholdesq the other easy and then a 75-minute long run. I know Fran, Matt and Morgan are up for another support trip so they’ll join my for the short runs and we’ll explore a bit more of the area near us (though I am tempted to save the threshold until we get to Glasgow and do a Scottish Parkrun…)! In addition to the on-plan runs, we’re also doing a lot of walking and have pitched really near the sea so I am hoping that a swim or two and all these walks can help to build my fitness up!
My holiday read so far has been Your Pace or Mine by Lisa Jackson, it could not have been a better choice for me given my frustrations at being away. She’s definitely making me realise that things are moving in the right direction and that I need to keep believing in my goal. She’s also given me ideas for future goals – uh oh!