Keep on TRIing

I love the training journey that I am going on and recent adventures have not disappointed. Two weeks ago, I took the leap to boldly go where I have never gone before and passed the half marathon mark! Claire and I met in Llanberis and decided to tackle the last 16 miles of the marathon route. I’d already covered part of this on an early recce but this would prove worthwhile to get over two of the three major up hill sections.

We made a plan to leave my car at Claire’s, took the van to our starting position (more on this later) and off we went. Throughout this entire process the thing I will take away more than anything are the friendships that I have forged and running with Claire is just a lovely way to catch up with each other. The miles tick by without much thought and we put the world to rights. That run was no exception and she got me out of Beddgelert with relative ease (and no walking break)! I was doing my best to stick to my scheduled fuel breaks and everything felt pretty good; however, around the ten mile mark things started to misfire a bit and I started to think the next six miles were a mega undertaking and it’s at this point that having company on a run is invaluable for me… I shared my concerns with Claire and she suggested taking on some food and started to play a silly game which completely took my mind off the running until I found my rhythm again. I have to say I hadn’t expected the doubt gremlin to appear before the 13 mile mark given the fact I had comfortably run Beaumaris Half the week before but these things are all part of the marathon experience.

When we had plotted this run, we had decided that the final climb of the course, which comes around the 22-mile mark was going to be a walk as this climb is pretty beastly. We got to the Waunfawr sign and headed up. En route we found a marshal who was out on course for one of the brutal extreme triathletes and stopped for a little chat before continuing on up – that brutal triathlon sounds unreal and these athletes had already been going for about 24 hours at this point – mental. It’s funny trying to get your legs back to running after an uphill climb so things were a bit clunky at the top of this section but then the downhill started! It was around this point that we realised we had slightly messed up on the car sharing mission… We were two miles from my car, 14 from Claire’s van, my car keys were in Claire’s house, Claire’s house keys were in the van. Oops. Lucky for us we have an amazing running club family and Claire happens to live next door to one of them who came to our rescue – thank you, Kath!

We navigated the final descent and got back in to Llanberis; 16.7 miles in the bag. I was absolutely buzzing and for the first time in this whole process started to think that maybe, just maybe, this challenge is actually achievable!

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The best running buddy ❤

And now for something a little different…

Not many people know this but the reason I started to run properly was because I actually wanted to complete a triathlon. I have never had an inclination to run but I loved swimming as a kid and have also had moments in my life enjoying biking. It was running that was my nemesis and something I would need to tackle if I stood any chance of getting anywhere with this triathlon idea. Fast forward 18 months and I never would have thought running would be such a massive part of my life and one that I do not want to get rid of but the triathlon dream still remained and finally became a reality last weekend!

Given the amount of energy that is going in to Eryri training, this first foray into tri was a little bit of fun and light relief from the other miles. Always Aim High’s Superfeet Sandman Triathlon, Sprint distance. My swim training had been dodgy, and I was feeling a tad unprepared for that part but I had been and checked out the bike route twice with Chris as well as a bit of a plod on the running course.

The swim was a bit of a funny one, the waves were present and the tide didn’t exactly behave itself as stretches of the swim were walked but I was doing it! I managed to not look a fool of myself in transition and set off for a really good bike. Then on to the run which wasn’t quite as comfortable as I had hoped it would be; I think the combination of trail when almost all of my training as been road based and tiredness from the other two areas meant I was having a bit of a bimble. I managed to trip over a tree stump at one point but luckily landed in very soft sand and then met a lady who was struggling with injury. At this point, we were a mile off finishing and I knew it would get done and what was more important was solidarity and getting the finish line in the bag. Three of us walked the last bit of the course together and received our finishers medals.  I LOVED the event! Everyone had been so friendly, the marshals were great, the location is stunning and the organisation second to none. I cannot wait to have another go!  Oh, and I even got a little screen time in the S4C coverage of the event – haha!

 

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!

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!