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!

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!

Penrhyn to Portmeirion

Ooo I do love a spot of alliteration (hence my blog name) and today’s adventure fitted this perfectly: two runs in one day – woo hoo!

A while back Gem mentioned the fact she’d entered the 6th Trail (6km) at Portmeirion and given the fact we had both survived doing the Coed y Brenin half, I figured it couldn’t hurt to enter this one too.

My original plan had been to have a lie in and a mooch about before heading down to Portmeirion. However, given the fact that Owen was on his way back from a work trip in Estonia and Ella was still in kennels I had a quick rethink, a quick check in with the coach and decided that going for a plod at Parkrun this morning would actually be a lovely idea. I love how friendly an atmosphere we have at Penrhyn Parkrun and the fact that not one but two of my lovely running buddies were up for a gentle plod with me. Thank you Claire and Fran for a lovely spring run this morning!

 

After a quick cake stop, I headed to the crazy little village that is Portmeirion, a little tasty of Italy in North Wales. If you have never been it is so worth a trip just to walk around and explore; I like to tie these explorations in with something else such as the Christmas Fair (or trail runs, apparently) and went to meet Gem. After an unnerving/hilarious “hunt the friend” game in the car park and pick up of my race number we had a little mooch about the village so Gem could see the bonkers architecture set in the beautiful landscape that is this peninsula.

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1pm and the race started. We had already agreed that we would see each other at the finish line and off we set to enjoy this trail. The route was such fun but really tough! Even with my investigation of the course profile I hadn’t anticipated how tough the climbs would be but the downhills were awesome! I was delighted to come in under the hour mark once I had sussed out the route! I do love a trail run, it’s such a different ball game to road running and everyone is just so delighted to be able to make progress; yes, you may have to walk up the really steep bits but then you can really open up on the descents! It was so lovely to spend some proper time with Gem too, I’m loving how our catch ups involve doing things, can’t wait to plan the next one!