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!
On 28th December, I took myself to Hardcore Gym in Gaerwen to meet with Oz and get my initial measurements before embarking on a 6 week fitness project. My goals? To give my fitness a decent boost to help me in the year of M; to lose weight and/or inches; to get stronger. The plan? Attend four fitness classes a week (in addition to my running) – x2 Fat Burn Extreme (FBX), x1 TotalPump (barbells), x1 Core and, if I was serious about shifting the pounds, reduce my calorie in take to 1350. Off I went with my booklet in hand and re-downloaded My Fitness Pal ready for the classes to start the following week.
I have to say, I really surprised myself in the way I stuck to the classes and actually enjoyed feeling the burn and seeing the improvements, even setting my alarm for 5.20am on a Thursday and hitting a 6am class! Very much a case of new year, new me! The biggest thing I noticed across the weeks was the change in my head and my mentality. I think I have mentioned before the fact I started this project in tandem with starting a new promotion in work: more responsibility, new challenges and days that never went according to plan! Do you know what though? Both moves were the best thing I could have done; whatever had gone on during the day was worked out of my system in the evening and I could start afresh the next day.
So the initial six weeks finished two weeks ago and Oz decided to extend the project for a further 6 weeks. I took this opportunity to mix things up a bit further and take on a slightly new fitness challenge – swimming training (I bet you can’t guess what future events might be on the cards…). That said, I couldn’t bring myself not to do any more of Oz’s sessions so my weekly timetable is now Monday – swim; Tuesday – circuits followed by TotalPump; Wednesday – hill reps; Thursday – rest day; Friday/Saturday – short run; Sunday – long run/track. I can’t wait to see how things change and develop over the next five weeks!
Two months after my initial weigh in, my stats tonight stand as follows: 5lb down, 5cm off abdomen, 5cm off waist (16cm off in total) and a head that is in a very good place! Also, if I’m completely honest, the sticking to 1350 hasn’t really happened and I have definitely not denied myself any treats so I am absolutely delighted.
Anyone who is squeamish should look away now as I have included a before/after collage and I can’t quite believe I’m putting this out there!
The mind is a funny old thing. This was going to be my FB status update on my page for today and then I thought I better expand a bit…
Recently, I have come across a bit of a mental block with the old running. Hill reps sessions and our club socials have been brutal/lovely/interesting/necessary/vomit-inducing (delete as appropriate) but they have always contained brief rest periods so the amount of continuous running hasn’t been an issue. Then there was the Parkrun shortly after Christmas (and in the early stages of the Better Bodz fitness project) where I had to stop and walk because my legs felt like lead – quite possibly because I had done a double class the night before – and in crept the nagging gremlin – something akin to those stupid finance adverts that seem all the rage on the TV at the moment – that put a bit fat barrier in my head regarding my running endurance. Now, given the title of my blogging world, speed is not my forte; however, I’ve been quite proud of the fact that I have been building up my stamina to not stop (which resulted in me crossing a half marathon finish line) but all of a sudden I have been faced with this notion that I can’t do it and I need to walk – WT actual F! Add in to the mix whatever this stupid viral cough nonsense that I seem to have been dealing with the last few weeks and I was starting to get myself in a bit of a pickle. I love running. I love the friends it has made me. I love the challenges that it gives me and the places it lets me explore. I love the endorphins it releases inside me. So keeping hold of this knowledge, I decided today that I did not want to give in to this wee beastie of negativity.
I was supposed to be meeting my coach for a run out this evening but I got my timings all to pot and realised that I wouldn’t manage a decent run with her and get back in time to go out with Owen this evening so I decided to do my own plod. The target, 5km on the cycle path from the edge of the village up to Tregarth and back down again. I’ve been avoiding doing this route for ages as it’s a tough slog up and I didn’t want to give up on it (I have been known to abandon ship mid-way through the run to take the easier option, shameful, I know) but my mind was set. I genuinely didn’t care if it was the slowest I have ever gone as long as I just kept running. This was probably the most needed run I have done for a long time and as my trusty watch hit 3.1 on the mile counter I could’ve happily done a little gig. Take that stupid negative beastie, you’re not stopping this plodder!
For this blog entry I needed to cast my mind back to the morning of 11th October, 2017 when I woke up to an email saying ‘thanks for your entry for the 2018 Buff Winter Trail Wales.’ Huh?! Queue a moment of complete panic and confusion before finding a What’s App message from my friend Gem: ‘Erm… so Merry Christmas. I just bought you an entry into the Winter Trail Half Marathon in January at Coed y Brenin…’ OMG!!!
Now I knew I had a half marathon in me, I had only ten days before completed the Cardiff Half but this was going to be a very different challenge, trail, for 13.1 miles (that .1 continues to mean a lot to me!) and so soon after Christmas. However, I embraced this present and knew that it would be an amazing experience in a beautiful location. I just kept thinking that surely my running would continue to improve, after all, the challenge was presented in October, a whole four months before the actual event!
So running was fine through November and I decided with Coach Chris to start working on improving my technique to therefore improve my speed (I have potentially mentioned this in previous posts) which meant I wasn’t overly focusing on trail running or distance but time was still on my side, right? Wrong! December happened and as a music teacher and member of a choir it turns out that December is not the month to add runner to your list of hobbies. Essentially, I think I managed three runs in the whole of December, which was not good. Anyway, we skip in to 2018 and I am well up for this year of becoming a better runner and to help me achieve this I enrolled on a Better Bodz fitness plan with Oz. January is suddenly the most active I have ever been and only then I realise that this half is now a matter of weeks away and my training has pretty much been non-existent. Pants.
Lots of discussion with Gem took place as to what the best course of action was going to be. She had literally bounced across the world for a good few weeks and was reacclimatising to UK temperatures (from summer in Australia) and I had not put the training in and was petrified of being too slow to finish. So we did what would any other bonkers runners would do and decided to go for it – what’s the worst that could happen?!
The Buff Winter Trail Half at Coed y Brenin has to be the most beautiful event I have ever done. Running through the forest at different levels, crossing the river, going from forest roads to muddy trails was awesome, hard, but awesome. We even had snow – it was like running in Narnia! I maintained my plodder status (in purple, obviously) whereas Gem was a bit quicker off the mark than me but do you know what? We frigging did it! *This is where I need to clear up my blog title ‘wunning’ so used because of the amount of walking on the uphills I needed to do; I definitely ran all the downhills though! That last three miles was by far the hardest bit of “running” I have ever done. Did I mention it snowed?! I think, now that we have both warmed up and managed to get the mud out of our running kit, we can both safely say that we are really chuffed to have done it; summer trail anyone?!
Life lessons from this run…
Your body can do anything if your mind is in the right zone – nothing was stopping me finishing this race!
I need to invest in a long sleeve running top – I got a bit chilly – that would be the snow and the fact it’s January!
Training is definitely something I need to do for all future events!!!
The day before term starts is always a day for contemplation and this is especially true when the day coincides with the start of a new year. Having spent a lovely weekend in London indulging my inner geek watching Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (which is A.Mazing) I’m sitting on the bus heading for home, pondering what lies ahead for the next few weeks…
I’ve started to refer to 2018 as the year of M, M being the Eryri marathon because, for me, this is potentially the most significant thing I will achieve this year and then I remembered I am also properly starting my biggest career challenge to date as I temporarily take on the mantle of Head of Year. Not one to do things by half I figured I might as well kick start my marathon year with a six-week fitness programme whilst getting my head in to the new role; this is a good idea right?!
I keep trying to work out exactly how I am feeling about it all, nervous, excited, apprehensive, buzzing, you name it, it’s probably going through my head. The one thing I do know is that I want to come out of this whole adventure successfully. I want to be able to cross that marathon line and be able to hand back my year group knowing I have done the best job possible. I suspect there may be a few hurdles to overcome along the way, the biggest ones being inside my head but I know I have a good support crew around me and as I won’t want to let them down I will keep at it! Someone once said to me “if it doesn’t make you s**t yourself, it isn’t a big enough challenge” I suspect I may be in for some interesting times ahead!
So bring on tomorrow’s training day and my first session with Oz’s Better Bodz crew and let’s see what 2018 has in store…
Coming to the end of my first week writing as The Purple Blogger and I have been overwhelmed by the response to my new Facebook page. Determination to ensure I am on the road to improvement has well and truly taken hold and I find myself remembering a slogan that I saw on the back of a fellow Cardiff Half runner’s top… strive for progress, not perfection; I think this needs to be my new motto because, as many of my friends will tell you, I am my own worst critic.
This week has seen the start of my 16 week programme to try and improve my 5km time – this is something I have asked my coach to help me achieve. At the moment, the areas I most need to improve are my core strength, hip flexors and running arms I think arms are going to be the running focus but I figured I could work on the other two in other ways…
I wasn’t overly delighted with my own performance at Wednesday’s club run owing to the need to walk at various points on the route – I can run 5km what the beep was the matter with me?! Then I remembered the fact I had also been out for a bike ride that day and that may be, just may be I should give myself a break. (I am also *trying* not to be so hard on myself with this sort of thing – I still did the route for goodness sake!)
Fast forward to the weekend and after a pretty lazy day on Friday I took myself off to the Fat Burn and Core classes that Chris had suggested attending. From next week, I’ll go on Tuesdays in Llanfairpwlll but on this occasion I went up to Llangefni for a little try. The classes are run by Oz Personal Fitness and were definitely pretty hardcore sessions for little old me. I thought at one point I may vomit during the twenty-minute fat burn session but tried my best (leg swings need more work!) and then on to the more gentle core session. This didn’t feel super gentle at the time as my muscles were already shouting at me but I gave it a go and realised that I definitely need to make sure that core work becomes a staple in my exercise repertoire!
Saturday morning, up before the alarm and off to Penrhyn Castle for park run. As I am now on this training plan, I did check with the boss what she wanted me to work on and the response came back have a steady run with a 15 sec burst at 8/10 effort every 5 minutes but return to steady pace and not recovery. Game on. Or not… I started off really well and even managed to push my first burst on one of the inclines of the course. After my second burst though, this became way more difficult and I found myself needing to walk on the second loop. My legs by this point were burning after the night before and I just couldn’t give it any more. I did complete the course and I did try a strong finish but in no way was this my best park run session. The rest of Saturday was spent discovering muscle groups I didn’t realise existed as the DOMS well and truly kicked in!
On to this morning and I currently should be getting ready to meet some of my fellow Betsis at Treborth track for a coaching session; however, Owen and I need to head off fairly soon for a long over due catch up with his clan. So, because I couldn’t see when else I could fit it in, I set the alarm for 7am (!) with the intention of getting to the track and doing my own session. The challenge: 12 mins easy, 2.5 mins hard, 5 mins walk, (x2) 12 mins easy to finish. I knew I could do the 2.5 hard, I have done beastly hill reps sessions that have lasted longer than that and nailed it, I just needed to make sure my head and my limbs were in sync for this session as I have been a bit miffed with myself for the lack of staying power I have showed in the earlier runs this week.
Inevitably wide awake before said early alarm (that’s twice this weekend), I decided against driving to Bangor and instead used the cycle path as my training route. I had the whole stretch I needed to myself (which is just as well given the fact I kept changing direction and occasionally muttering words of encouragement to myself) and off I went. I have to say, I really enjoyed the workout! The 2.5 minutes going hard was exactly that and I was so grateful that my recovery time was walking not jogging but I did it and I even managed to crack parts of the cycle path that I have had a bit of a mental block on. I’m not going to lie, I am feeling a tad smug with myself now. It’s not event 9am, I have walked the dog, been for a run and I can now enjoy the rest of the day without worrying about fitting everything in; proof that the early bird does indeed catch the worm!
As I mentioned on my ‘new venture’ blog, I am not a complete beginner to this running malarky and have been regularly running for just over a year now. Someone once asked me why I started running and my simple answer was because I like food (and gin but as one of my pupils asked me this, I didn’t add that last bit)! So let’s rewind to see if I can piece together bits of the old running journey…
I invested in a pair of pink (yep, I’m that girl) Adidas trainers back in the summer of 2016 deciding to make the most of having the Lon Las Ogwen cycle path right on my doorstep and would go out for the occasional plod. Obviously, I downloaded a couch to 5k app and would give that a try but always got stuck/bored around the week 3-4 mark and would give up. My Head of Department, Chris (that’s the second one who may feature in this journey) has been running for a while and religiously attends the Parkrun in Penrhyn Castle and he said I should just go and do it. I completed my first Parkun on 3rd September 2016 with a time of 38:10 and I was properly chuffed with myself. The course at Penrhyn is not an easy one and though I had to walk parts I still did it! Coffee and cake after also helped to sweeten the deal. So I tried a few more Parkruns always with the idea of trying to run a bit more of the track and by the time we got to the end of November I was managing to keep running the whole way round albeit still very much plodding with a time of 37:01.
On 10th December, 2016 I convinced my very good friend Gez to come up and complete our first ever running event – The Santa Dash in Llandudno! And I was very much enjoying this new found ability to run 5k without stopping. Then, the inevitable happened; I got carried away in someone else’s grand plan…
I’d been on a fantastic skiing holiday with my friend Andrea and whilst away had been asked lots about my new found running hobby. At one point there was a fly away comment about how I should enter the Cardiff half marathon and run it with her but I didn’t take that very seriously given the fact I was just about managing 5k. On our return, however, the Cardiff half matter was not dropped and on 7th January, 2017 I found myself paying my entrance fee after all, October was ages away!
About an hour later, panic set in. WTF was I doing? A half marathon is over four times longer than any distance I have ever run before and I had no training buddies and did I even know what I was doing ffs?! My solution to this, obviously, was to enter a 10k event (honestly, my logic fails my sometimes) so out came my bank card again and on to race entry number 2, the Anglesey 10km. Now the proverbial had become real and I was going to need to start training like yesterday. At these times you have to be thankful for the power of Google and I quickly downloaded the Bupa 10km training plan to follow in the run up to this first event. Time to get serious…
Now I don’t intend to bore you with every other event I managed to do between January and October (the half marathon goal) but it is worth noting here the complete and utter backwards way the sequence of events started to pan out… I completed the Anglesey 10k on a pissing down wet March Sunday morning (the 5th to be exact) in what I considered a very respectable time 0f 1:09:03 – I was aiming for 1:20 – whoop! And then I slightly lost my mojo. Every time I thought about going for a run I talked myself out of it, I wasn’t even regularly doing the Parkrun but I still had this half marathon hanging over me and, though time was on my side in terms of usual training plans, I panicked that I wouldn’t get back out there on my own. Cue advice from Gemma… why don’t I join a running club?! This had simply not occurred to me and mainly because I didn’t feel that I was good enough to be part of a club, I was a plodder, someone who put trainers and a sports bra on and then hoped for the best. She sent me a link to the clubs in the area, I did some research and then sent my enquiry to the Bestis. On 22nd March, 2017, I put my gear on and ventured in the dark (and the rain!) to Bangor for my first ever session and this was a major turning point. Finally, I could meet up with like-minded people once a week for a session where I was developing my skills as a runner and my social circle. (Having already entered a half marathon and completed a 10km – why would you not join the club first??? Laura logic right there…)
The Betsis are brilliant, Chris the head coach knows exactly how to approach everyone in the club and her advice and guidance is spot on. She also knows how to have a laugh whilst enjoying some of the sadistic routines she puts us through but hey, it means we are getting some decent training. She designed for me training plans for a few events that I decided to sign up for and then got me through the big plan for the half. It’s so lovely to chat with people from different backgrounds and hear about their running achievements and have people celebrate your achievements with you. I can’t see myself ever wanting to leave my purple family and know that, should I go ahead with this grand/crazy idea, I would have all the support I would need to get me through right there. The question now is… am I going to go through with it and bag my place?!