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!

Week 2

Wednesday Hill Reps – I don’t know what it is about a hill session but I actually love them. I think it might be the fact it’s broken into chunks, recovery time is factored in and the goals always seem manageable. This week’s session was written down as being 6×3 min with 3 min recovery. When we first met up it was decided to review after 4 sets and see how everyone was doing. Chris also decided to mix it up this week and actually carried out her threat of running with cardboard tubes so we can see how are arms are driving. You look like a bit of a plonker doing this but hey, we were all in it together! The only snag this week, given the shortness of the rep, was the fact you had to run hard both up and down – the kind of vomit-inducing hard – and keep your form for the entire duration; easy peasy!

On reflection, set one is probably the hardest. I think I start off a bit too hard and then realise I have to maintain this for another 5 sessions (I clearly wasn’t going to stop at 4, the decision had already been made). By set 4 I was in to the swing and even tried getting further up the hill (lamp post 3.5). 6 sessions done and it felt pretty good to be fair!

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Friday Speed Session – 15 minute warm up followed by 3 min reps with 3 minute recovery x 4 with a cool down. I headed out on to the cycle path between home and Tregarth to do this session. I’m definitely finding three minutes hard to maintain speed wise; I feel like I start really strong but after a minute it feels tough and I find myself checking the clock every few seconds. That said, I did complete the set and had a cool down “jalk” (something between a jog and walk) back to the house via a slightly muddy path – oops. Garmin over view says that this session wasn’t as speedy as the hill set earlier in the week but then that also included the warm up run down Belmont hill where gravity is clearly on side!

 

Sunday long run – my training plan stated the need to do a 4 mile run and as I have visitors staying this weekend, I needed to try and accommodate everyone’s needs in this plan. Given the fact that we were well overdue for a visit to Siabod Café, I decided to work it so I would meet the gang at the café having completed the run and therefore fully deserving the completely unhealthy breakfast I was really going to enjoy!

Lucky for me none of the others in my house this weekend are particularly early risers so I didn’t have to set off until 9.15! I took my car down to Ogwen Valley and parked up near the foot of little Tryfan having marked out on the map the fact the path between this point and Joe Browns to be just shy of my 4 mile target. I had such a fun run! It’s been ages since I have done a longer run on my own and I really enjoyed it! I met a few folk along the way including a gang of mountain bikers – I decided to stop and let these guys pass rather than risk major mud spattering/mowing down but essentially had some time to just enjoy my surroundings.

Things I have learnt this morning:

1. I was totally right to call wearing my trail shoes!

2. Sometimes, just like the Bear Hunt story tells us, you have to go through it!

3. French toast tastes even better when you have done the exercise before hand!

Week 1

So I’m pretty sure I am a week in to my Abersoch mission at least I have done three runs with guidance from Jack so that’s a week done, right?

Hill rep session last Wednesday was a gentle one (if you can call running up and down hill for 8 minute stretches gentle)! That said, the 8th minute was a killer and I did find myself willing the whistle to blow! I need to start trying to push myself to further lamp posts over the coming months but Wednesdays focus was on keeping good form and I definitely feel like I am holding myself better!

My next run was a bit of a speed session. This happened to coincide with a visit to south Wales and therefore meant I had endless options for flat routes (OMGEEEEEEEEE). The session was a 15 minute slow warm up followed by a pyramid type session of running as fast as I can for 1 minute, then 2, then 3 and back down again with the corresponding time as a rest and then a 15 minute cool down. Out of all the tasks that lay before me I think I found the going super slow most difficult which I would never have believed possible! When it came to the pyramid, minute one was okay though I shocked myself to see 7-something on my pace, minute two also not so bad but I could definitely feel myself slowing, minute three was hard and seemed to drag; knowing I only had to do that once was enough to make sure I just kept going. I also tried to make sure that I sped back up for the last 7-8 seconds of each set as I was safe in the knowledge that I had some recovery time. I felt good at the end of the session and posted my Garmin stats for Jack to see – not too sure how he is going to use this information at this stage and fear I may be in for further torture!

My second session was supposed to be a nice easy 3-5 miler which, in future, should coincide with club social runs, but, as we were still south, was one I needed to do on my own. I sussed out a route (one that didn’t rely on going past people’s houses, which I really hate doing) and set off on Monday morning. Two miles in and feeling pretty strong both legs and, most importantly, head wise and I was struck with this horrible pain in my right shoulder. Having spent the last year developing technique I try to use my arms as much as possible when I run and anything I can do to help me push my speed is called upon so I knew this was a problem. Initially, I did what anyone on a training plan does and tried to ignore it but it wasn’t easing and even a few movements in different directions didn’t help so I stopped and as soon as I did, the pain stopped. Talk about fickle! Not overly sure what could have caused this – sleeping in a different bed? Belated reaction to the bouldering session I did last week? Aversion to Mondays? Who knows! This is going to be something to watch… Humph!

I’m now looking forward to receiving my next set of instructions for the coming week!

Better Bodz, Better Brainz!

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.

Better Bodz pic

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!

 

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L = 28/12; R = 18/02

Overcoming Obstacles

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!

Wunning* in a Winter Wonderland

*Typo intended…

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…

  1. Your body can do anything if your mind is in the right zone – nothing was stopping me finishing this race!
  2. 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!
  3. Training is definitely something I need to do for all future events!!!

 

The running so far…

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…

Santa Dash
Gez and I with our bling!

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…)

 Anglesey 10k
Nearing the finish and still smiling; soaked and stoked!

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?!

Cardiff Half
Me and Andrea, Cardiff Half, 1st October, 2017