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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!

 

* http://betsirunaways.weebly.com
https://www.facebook.com/BetsiRunaways/

** http://www.awyrlas.org.uk  

On to page two

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).

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The whip cracker and me!

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.

Training Troubles

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.

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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!

Running Roundup

I have made it to the end of week 2 having completed 5/6 runs with the 6th to be snuck in tomorrow (which is officially week 3).

So far, three of my sessions have been sociable, including the hill reps session I blogged about last week and it’s been great to get out exploring! The two hill reps sessions have also been successful in terms of meeting the time requirements and completing the reps. I always find hill reps good for this; the short bursts and the alternating between up and down become an easy win for me in terms of getting my head in the game. Please remind me of this in a few weeks when the reps last 10 minutes!

My two long runs have been fab! My first was up and around Moel Y Ci with Jayne on Wednesday. It was a beautiful but close evening so I did feel a bit like I was melting but the view at the summit was totally worth it. It was lovely to have Jayne’s company on this route and know that she is game for future explorations. My second long run was this morning with Claire and I was keen to go and do a route around Padarn that I have done before to see if I could manage more of the hill! My plan says for me to aim to do a walk run marathon with the idea of running 3 miles and then walking 0.1 of a mile. I haven’t quite managed to stick to this yet as both of these sessions have taken in some tricky terrain (or massive inclines) so the need to walk has kicked in a bit sooner but I am doing the time and trying to make sure I cover enough hilly ground so I hope this is okay?!

I then get to my threshold sessions and this is where I have fallen down a bit. My first threshold session was the morning after the school trip to Drayton Manor and I tried to get it done before school. Trying to run out from my front door is tricky on a session that alternates between hard effort and recovery because any route you take is either a climb or slope. So either I find it too easy flying down towards Bangor or it’s a real slog heading back towards home. This particular session was also hindered by the fact that I had gone out for a curry after getting back late and I have very much learned that this should never happen again! The next threshold session should have been Friday but I accidentally pushed the end of term celebrations too far on Thursday night and was in no fit state to get my trainers on. This is massively unusual behaviour for me so I know it won’t happen again especially because it messes up my timetable!

Overall, I am pretty pleased with everything. I’m learning new tips from my running buddies whilst also working out what I can do and what I need to work on. I’m a little apprehensive about how the next two weeks will work out given the fact I am working away but the desire to be successful with this plan should outweigh any logistical complications. Keep everything crossed!

 

 

Making Marathon Memories

I’m sitting in the car at the side of Llyn Padarn having just dropped Claire at home after my first “on plan” training run. Week 1 of 16, run 1 of 48, Eryri Marathon here I come.

I love coming to club to do my planned training runs as I always come away with more than just a completed run. The company is great but so are the pearls of wisdom and as a newbie to the marathon world I fully intend to have a full pearly set by the time October comes around. Tonight, Claire made me realise that this entire plan should be relished just as much as the actual event, every run is part of the journey and I am actually super excited to be doing this.

Tonight’s hill reps were in a new location and my first set seemed a bit easy having chosen to try and go further up the hill but have fewer reps. By the time the second set came about it was suggested that less climb but more reps would be the better way to go and suddenly the vom zone was reached! I have to say, I felt stronger than usual on the climb but struggled with the shorter recovery period. The true test of this will be a return to Beaumont Hill…

Next run is planned for Friday morning, before school, bring it on!

 

The hills are alive… with the sound of Betsis!

A few weeks ago, during a Wednesday club session, the idea of entering Deiniolen 10km was put on the table by Claire. We spent the session chatting about marathons and how the Deiniolen race would be a good indicator of the challenge of the Eryri course. It was during this run that I had my wobble and got a tad overwhelmed by the road that lay ahead. I mentioned this in my a blog update just before doing the Abersoch 10km and decided that the best way to conquer the demons was to put an entry in and see what happened.

Fast forward to last week and our purple fam decided to turn out in force for the Llanrug 5km. Off we set and it wasn’t long before I was trailing at the back of pack; however, I was lucky enough to have Hannah for company and the promise of a burger and a pint to keep me going. Hannah’s company managed to pace me to a 5k PB! I was chuffed to bits with this and will continue to give thanks to Han for sticking with me especially given the fact she had completed her own epic challenge only days before.

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And then came this week’s fun…

Fair play to everyone that knows the race, there was absolutely no beating about the bush in terms of how tough the course was going to be and I was absolutely okay with this. What got me in a panic was the fact that I didn’t want to make a fool of myself or, if I am completely honest, show up the club! I could see the list of runners and the clubs involved and I started to think that this was not going to be my finest hour. In the midst of this panic what did I do?! I went and messaged the event organisers to ask how slow their slowest runner usually is – WHY??? That has to be one of the most ridiculous things I have ever done and the response set me on edge even more. In my hour of panic the thing I needed was some sensible advice and guidance from the Boss who gave me a stern talking to and put me back on track. That said, the nerves were real by the time we got to the start line and I did the most awful job of keeping it hidden. Thank you to all those people for their friendly, smiling faces and support before the race, I promise it was helping even if I couldn’t show it!

7.15pm came round and off we set. Once again, I quickly found my spot at the back of the pack and met my first hill. I had decided to keep Chris’ words in my head “hills are my friends” and was trying to channel my inner Maria as I plodded my way up. Glancing ahead I could see that some folk had started to walk and figured that it was okay to do it too, this was, after all, one of the big slogs. If I could just keep one front in front of the other, I would get this course done. I was really shocked to see my watch buzz at the first mile marker in a time of 11:36 – that’s only a smidge slower than my usual pace!

The next couple of miles were a bit of a blur or, more accurately, a battle against the wind and rain that had decided to grace us with its presence. I was desperately trying to enjoy my surroundings and take in the view but it was as much as I could do to keep moving forward, never mind anything else. Luckily, the course marshals and supporters were fantastic and it’s down to those people that you survive these parts. I can’t even remember the order I saw folk but I could have gladly given Becs, Menna and Fiona big hugs when I saw them! Fighting against the wind, I did start to think I wasn’t going to have the strength to continue but their words were exactly what I needed to plod on. Not long after that I turned a corner, the wind was no longer beasting me and then I saw Jack at the half way point and it was like I had absorbed the strength from that horrible wind and used it to my advantage flying down the next few kilometres – I love gravity! Another group of my purple fam were waiting at the bottom of the beastly hill that starts at 7.5km and I knew I wasn’t far off getting this event done.

That last hill is mean. I needed to walk quite early on but rather than resigning myself to walking the whole climb I tried to mix up a funny sort of shuffle with a walk until I got to the top. Then it was down hill all the way, baby! My long suffering husband found himself a spot at the last junction and shouted his encouragement and then I clocked the Betsi flag and started to hear those final cheers. I’m not going to lie, I could have balled my eyes out. So many lovely people there and not only had they all bothered to stick around and wait for me but they were standing in the cold cheering my name. I had to give it a strong finish, for them. Crossing that line was awesome and having Jayne at my side moments later was just lush. Then came the rest of the gang and I found myself, once again, feeling so incredibly grateful to be part of this running family. Everyone celebrated something yesterday evening and the joy we all had for each other is something very, very special. I want to make sure that every single one of the purple gang know how grateful I am for all the support that they continue to give me. I think I would have given up by now if it wasn’t for you all!

Race round up… I crossed the line in 68:29, faster than Abersoch and well ahead of the time I thought I would be! It’s hard and hilly but actually such good fun in places! I fear Jayne may be on to something when she says hills are for me… Same time next year?!

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Pain in the groyne

The day finally arrived and the alarm was set ready to gather the troops and get to Abersoch. Having checked the forecast we knew we were in for cloud but the rain looked like it might hold off so Owen decided to join us and walk the dog whilst Alison and I were running.

We arrived with enough time to queue for our race numbers and then again for the toilet facilities and we made our way down to the start line.

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To be fair, the atmosphere was fantastic at the start and it was good to get in to the race spirit with some of the other runners. Then comes the tannoy announcement that this is one of the hardest 10k routes around and I’m not going to lie, that was a bit of a shock. How am I going to get anywhere near a PB on a hard route? By this point, the fact that my Garmin is currently still away getting repaired I just thought stuff it. I am going to have no clue of my pacing so I might as well go and enjoy a lovely run in this pretty sea-side town so that’s exactly what I did!

The route from the start line was already on a bit of an incline and the heat was already being felt. I said goodbye to Alison once the race had officially begun as I knew I would be finishing after her and I set about getting in to my rhythm.

I was finding things manageable for the first 3km though I was absolutely boiling and starting to focus on the 5km water station when we reached a bottleneck in the path that forced everyone to a walk and even queue to get through (how terribly British). I did giggle to myself when hearing mutters of “ugh, this will affect my time” whilst I was thinking “excellent, an enforced walking break”. There were moments on the early route that were pretty tight to be fair but that’s country lanes for you… After the bottleneck came the warning of the “brutal” incline and given the heat I just decided to walk it. After all, everything that goes up must come down so I planned to make up time on the decent. Next came the water station and I grabbed a bottle threw some down my throat and over the back of my neck and the clutched the bottle for a bit longer as I cannot bear to throw rubbish. By this point my grand idea of picking my pace up and getting a bit quicker had gone by the wayside as I was actually really struggling with the heat but was actually enjoying taking in the sites. I decided to stick with this plan and continued to high-five any spectators who offered to do so, take up any spray with a water pistol that came my way and have a chat with anyone about. I always find this a much more fun way to finish an event. We came down on to the beach via the golf course (where Owen and Ella had stopped to cheer me on) for the final straight where you’re faced with that moment of being so close, yet so far from the finish line and there, as promised, were the groynes. The first two definitely lulled you in to a false sense of security as you could just take those in your stride but some of the others were more of an effort which is just a bit cruel after running that distance. The final groyne over come and the finish clock now in sight and I knew I was on for a personal worst when it comes to road races and I was flabbergasted to find that this did not bother me one bit. The final push was on soft sand (!) so a sprint finish was out of the question but I did throw my hands up in victory as I crossed that finish line!

I love how the marshals at finish lines get the priorities spot on, medal first, water and food second. I grabbed my Mars bar and headed to find Alison and my cheer squad! Noticing the hoards of runners cooling in the sea we too decided to ditch the trainers and get in for a paddle which was sheer bliss. After a quick photo stop with fellow Betsi, Ellie (who I had clean forgotten was also running and hadn’t seen up to this point) we decided to make our escape, stopping at the Cwrw Llyn en route home for a well deserved pint!

Next up… Deiniolen 10k!

Pre-race Panic

I haven’t done the best job of keeping regular blog updates on how the training plan is going for the Abersoch race. If I am completely honest, I probably haven’t done the best job of sticking to the letter of the plan either  – sorry, Jack! That said, I have trained, I have done some work I don’t usually do and I am looking forward to exploring a new route so why do you suppose there were tears on this evening’s run?!

I was so looking forward to a plod with my club buddies and knew beforehand that Claire would be up for a short 4-5km session so I was set. It’s half term, however, I spent the day in school rehearsing so was feeling a tad tired going in to the session but still, I usually do an entire day at school and then run so no excuse there! A big gang of us set off together on the understanding that we were going for a gentle run especially as Caryl had come for a post-Liverpool marathon recovery run. We all set off and we’re chatting away about future runs; it was a nice pace and a new route for me but part way through I became increasingly aware that I was fighting tears back and the annoying gremlin of self doubt was rearing its ugly head. Seriously?! I didn’t know all of the group running that well so I desperately tried to get myself together which I did manage to do for a bit but Claire soon clocked I was not my usual self and the floodgates opened. Luckily, by this point I had slowed enough to be at the back of the pack so I could let off steam to Claire without making an idiot of myself in front of the others. Trying to work out why you are crying out on a run is tricky and all I can think is that I just felt a bit overwhelmed. I am so fortunate every week to run with amazing people who all have their own stories and experiences. We come together for an hour or so, run, chat and have a lovely time. There’s no judgement, no one gets cross if you’re slow and there is always, always encouragement. Here I was though suddenly feeling very self conscious about my running abilities and the future goals I have planned. WTF?! I know I am not going to smash the hour barrier on Saturday but I do know I will complete the Abersoch run and I will feel great afterwards. I also know that there will be nothing that stops me from giving the Eryri Marathon my absolute best shot. With that in mind, I got myself home, had a shower and entered the Deiniolen 10k advertised as “probably the hardest 10k you ever do”. Jayne says it’s a good indicator of the Eryri’s course profile so I might as well suss out what I have let myself in for!

I am going to hold Claire’s advice in my head and remember all the growth mindset stuff I try to instill in the kids I teach… I’m right, I can’t run the Eryri, yet! I just need to take it one training run at a time and go and enjoy this weekend’s race!