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 done 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!

 

Week 5

I didn’t do a running review of week 4 because it was a bit of a relaxed week in terms of not doing a speed session but instead having a steady Parkrun and then a long run. I did however get an ace pic at Parkrun thanks to SJ Photography and, of course, a selfie with my Sunday Social buddies on our really lovely route around Llanberis Lake which culminated in breakfast at Caban.

So on to week 5 and the realisation I had a plan to stick to, or did I?!

Wednesday – club run – instead of meeting on the hill we have decided to mix it up a bit and do some work in Llanberis. I had heard rumours of tempo/progression run so was pleasantly surprised when I was allowed to go for a run around the lake. Lisa, Jayne, Sarah and I set off together and intended to run at least 3.7 miles in memory of Matt Campbell, the runner who very sadly lost his life at the recent London Marathon. It was really lovely to run alongside the ladies and to stick with Sarah who kept me well paced throughout. The views around the lake really are stunning. I ended up reaching 4 miles which I figured could count as my long run for the week…

Friday – as I had done a longer run on Wednesday and I knew I would be better doing a speed session at the track on Sunday I decided to take Matt up on his offer of a post-work 5km. When I checked if these plans were okay with the training plan boss I did get the all clear but it was suggested I try to make it a progression run rather than an easy session. I hate progression runs. However, I know they have their uses so informed Matt of the plan who promptly set the workout on his watch and waited for the end of the day.

I went in with a positive mindset, I knew the first mile at 11:30 pace was well within my comfort zone and I so wanted to nail the rest. Mile 2 went down to 10:30 and I was okay with that too. It was feeling harder but I did it. Then came mile 3 and 9:30 pace. How long do you reckon I lasted?! Point 2 of a mile. Point 2 of a mile and I honestly thought I might spew. Why can’t I run faster?! I had a pause to catch my breath and tried again but to no avail. At this point I was really grateful to have Matt with me as I would probably have given up altogether and walked back to the car in a major sulk but Matt suggested we tried a fartlek session picking landmarks to run all out to and then having a short walk before going again. I actually managed that! Small victory there then. I still hate progression runs.

Sunday – in true mixing it up style, I decided to go completely off-piste and take Jon up on his offer of doing my first ever ‘brick’ session! Now, I have been in possession of my loan road bike for a few weeks now and have barely covered any distance on it so naturally lending a turbo from Han and heading to the track was a perfectly sensible idea! Jon had this grand idea of doing 5 reps of 15 minute bike, 5 minute run. I just wanted to have a go and not fall over – bar, set! I managed x2 reps and then a mile run at the end because “I hadn’t done enough running”! The legs felt so bizarre when I first got off the bike but I was absolutely delighted that I didn’t fall off or fall over. I was also pretty chuffed to manage to go a bit further on the second running leg and maintain an okay speed for the mile at the end!

 

So that was my training done for the week but we then took the pup to the beach so she could run around like a lunatic and have her own adventure. Given my ‘throw caution to the wind’ attitude of this week and have a go I donned my wetsuit and went in for a dip. Clearly a triathlete wannabe!

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I really, really, really need to stick to my plan next week but heck, this week has been such fun (well, apart from that progression)!

Week 3

This week’s running started, as usual, on Wednesday and Belmont Hill. I am now in receipt of the training plan which will take me to race day and when I saw what this session had in store I honestly felt like bringing my long run forward and heading in the opposite direction, running away. Two reps, ten minutes each – argh!

On arrival at the session that delightful set was added to… Not only did we have to keep going for 10 minutes, we also had to head to lamppost 6!!!!! For the record, I usually get to lamppost 3, think about going to 4 and then think better of it. Owing to the fact the big A race is anything but flat I have been psyching myself up to go further up the hill and last week managed half way between 3 and 4 (go me)! My hand was being forced: keep it steady, keep good form but get my butt up that hill. As a consolation prize, we were allowed to have a run to lamppost 2 in between to “break things up” but that had to be faster – certain people were loving this power, I’m sure I have used the word sadist before…!

Off we set. I kept it steady, as is my way, and just went for it. Got to post 4 and felt okay, then rounded the corner for the last 2 and that is where the burn kicked in. That last pull up is hard! I was behind the others but I did not care one bit as I had essentially doubled my climb. In the 10-minute stint I got up to that lamppost 3 times! At one point I did feel like I was just going to sack it off and walk but that little nag in your head sets in “you’ll only let yourself down”; and God dammit you know it’s right!

During our rest break I had a little chat with Menna (who had been so lovely when she passed me on the top bit shouting words of encouragement) and she just reminded me that getting up there meant a longer downhill and a better view! During the second set I really kept this in mind and made sure I looked up when I reached the top. I even kept running after the final whistle just because I was so close to the marker.

Once I got my breath back, I felt amazing and just absolutely delighted! I didn’t stop smiling all evening. Hill rep win!

Speed session?! I had a bit of a fail getting my speed session in on Friday night because I forgot I had a rehearsal and misjudged my timings. Never fear, I thought, there’s always tomorrow but this, my friends, is where danger sets in… I had already put myself forward to marshal at Parkrun so a morning run was out (I realise that there is plenty of time before 8.30 to play with but I couldn’t face setting that alarm) and when I came home the weather was so unbelievably stunning that we went to the mountains instead and once again, I ran out of time that evening to fit my speed session in – d’oh! That said, our 3-hour hike in the hills was amazing and I have zero regrets about getting out and doing something with man and pup. Sunday, however, had to be non-negotiable, 4 miles needed to be ticked off the plan.

 

 

 

Having chatted with Gem we sussed out that neither of us had any plans for Sunday so I put meeting up for a run on the table. I really enjoyed myself last week having a bit of time on my own but having the option of a partner in crime is always welcome and luckily for me, she was willing to plot out a circular route in her old stomping ground.

We met in Betws before the hoards arrived and drove up to our starting point. Up was most definitely the key to this route and I naively asked if the car had done most of the climbing for us before we had even parked! The route we took was so fun, a good mix of forest track, field and road with some beautiful scenery along the way. Not a particularly fast run on this route owing to some of the terrain/incline/traffic but when you get to experience these stunning locations does speed really matter?!

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In fact, I couldn’t help but mill over this idea in my head for the rest of the morning… “does speed really matter”?! I know I have set myself this goal of getting a quicker time at Abersoch and I am very grateful to have a good plan in place to help me get there; however, first and foremost, running should be fun and this whole process needs to be something I enjoy. I will train, I will stick to my plan (better than I have managed to this week) but I must make sure that I am still enjoying the journey otherwise there is simply no point!