Back in those halcyon days, pre-marathon entry, when I was still pretending I was a “runner”, I was introduced to the concept of ‘A’ races and ‘B’ races. (Little old me used to think any race was a major accomplishment, how was I to know that some people prioritise races and have end goals where they take part in a race as part of their training plan – mind, blown!) The Eryri is to be my A race for this year, obviously, and I have already completed a trail half, 10k road race and 6k trail this year so I started to think: what was my B race going to be and what did I want to set as my goal for this?!
Step forward FB news feed.
Social media algorithms alarm me. I can be looking at a website on my computer, log in to my FB app on my phone and there’s an advert for that very thing staring back at me; Big Brother much?! That said, my pondering a B race happened to coincide with a FB scroll and what should appear but an advert for Abersoch 10k and, more importantly, the 10th birthday party celebrations they are hosting post-run – well played Facebook, well played. So there was the race. Now for the goal…
My entire blog world centers on my lack of speediness and I am okay with this. I have built up endurance that I never imagined having and I complete races in my own sweet time. These last few months I have tried to work on building up my strength so I will be marathon fit and with that has come weight loss, inch loss and a new level of fitness but I have been too scared to push my speed on runs. Could I really manage to do at 10k in under an hour?! Chris has mentioned that this is something that could be in reach, why not give it a go!?
I know that if I needed to I could go out and run 10k right now; it would not be pretty and it would not be fast but I would do it (this is a major, major development from a year ago and it does me good to remember this from time to time). If I really want to shave 7 minutes off my 10k time I am going to need a plan. Jack (one of the Betsis) was hoping to get on with leading some training and after conspiring with Chris it was decided that he could sort me out. We have ten weeks. Game on.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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…
Your body can do anything if your mind is in the right zone – nothing was stopping me finishing this race!
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!
Training is definitely something I need to do for all future events!!!
The day before term starts is always a day for contemplation and this is especially true when the day coincides with the start of a new year. Having spent a lovely weekend in London indulging my inner geek watching Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (which is A.Mazing) I’m sitting on the bus heading for home, pondering what lies ahead for the next few weeks…
I’ve started to refer to 2018 as the year of M, M being the Eryri marathon because, for me, this is potentially the most significant thing I will achieve this year and then I remembered I am also properly starting my biggest career challenge to date as I temporarily take on the mantle of Head of Year. Not one to do things by half I figured I might as well kick start my marathon year with a six-week fitness programme whilst getting my head in to the new role; this is a good idea right?!
I keep trying to work out exactly how I am feeling about it all, nervous, excited, apprehensive, buzzing, you name it, it’s probably going through my head. The one thing I do know is that I want to come out of this whole adventure successfully. I want to be able to cross that marathon line and be able to hand back my year group knowing I have done the best job possible. I suspect there may be a few hurdles to overcome along the way, the biggest ones being inside my head but I know I have a good support crew around me and as I won’t want to let them down I will keep at it! Someone once said to me “if it doesn’t make you s**t yourself, it isn’t a big enough challenge” I suspect I may be in for some interesting times ahead!
So bring on tomorrow’s training day and my first session with Oz’s Better Bodz crew and let’s see what 2018 has in store…
Coming to the end of my first week writing as The Purple Blogger and I have been overwhelmed by the response to my new Facebook page. Determination to ensure I am on the road to improvement has well and truly taken hold and I find myself remembering a slogan that I saw on the back of a fellow Cardiff Half runner’s top… strive for progress, not perfection; I think this needs to be my new motto because, as many of my friends will tell you, I am my own worst critic.
This week has seen the start of my 16 week programme to try and improve my 5km time – this is something I have asked my coach to help me achieve. At the moment, the areas I most need to improve are my core strength, hip flexors and running arms I think arms are going to be the running focus but I figured I could work on the other two in other ways…
I wasn’t overly delighted with my own performance at Wednesday’s club run owing to the need to walk at various points on the route – I can run 5km what the beep was the matter with me?! Then I remembered the fact I had also been out for a bike ride that day and that may be, just may be I should give myself a break. (I am also *trying* not to be so hard on myself with this sort of thing – I still did the route for goodness sake!)
Fast forward to the weekend and after a pretty lazy day on Friday I took myself off to the Fat Burn and Core classes that Chris had suggested attending. From next week, I’ll go on Tuesdays in Llanfairpwlll but on this occasion I went up to Llangefni for a little try. The classes are run by Oz Personal Fitness and were definitely pretty hardcore sessions for little old me. I thought at one point I may vomit during the twenty-minute fat burn session but tried my best (leg swings need more work!) and then on to the more gentle core session. This didn’t feel super gentle at the time as my muscles were already shouting at me but I gave it a go and realised that I definitely need to make sure that core work becomes a staple in my exercise repertoire!
Saturday morning, up before the alarm and off to Penrhyn Castle for park run. As I am now on this training plan, I did check with the boss what she wanted me to work on and the response came back have a steady run with a 15 sec burst at 8/10 effort every 5 minutes but return to steady pace and not recovery. Game on. Or not… I started off really well and even managed to push my first burst on one of the inclines of the course. After my second burst though, this became way more difficult and I found myself needing to walk on the second loop. My legs by this point were burning after the night before and I just couldn’t give it any more. I did complete the course and I did try a strong finish but in no way was this my best park run session. The rest of Saturday was spent discovering muscle groups I didn’t realise existed as the DOMS well and truly kicked in!
On to this morning and I currently should be getting ready to meet some of my fellow Betsis at Treborth track for a coaching session; however, Owen and I need to head off fairly soon for a long over due catch up with his clan. So, because I couldn’t see when else I could fit it in, I set the alarm for 7am (!) with the intention of getting to the track and doing my own session. The challenge: 12 mins easy, 2.5 mins hard, 5 mins walk, (x2) 12 mins easy to finish. I knew I could do the 2.5 hard, I have done beastly hill reps sessions that have lasted longer than that and nailed it, I just needed to make sure my head and my limbs were in sync for this session as I have been a bit miffed with myself for the lack of staying power I have showed in the earlier runs this week.
Inevitably wide awake before said early alarm (that’s twice this weekend), I decided against driving to Bangor and instead used the cycle path as my training route. I had the whole stretch I needed to myself (which is just as well given the fact I kept changing direction and occasionally muttering words of encouragement to myself) and off I went. I have to say, I really enjoyed the workout! The 2.5 minutes going hard was exactly that and I was so grateful that my recovery time was walking not jogging but I did it and I even managed to crack parts of the cycle path that I have had a bit of a mental block on. I’m not going to lie, I am feeling a tad smug with myself now. It’s not event 9am, I have walked the dog, been for a run and I can now enjoy the rest of the day without worrying about fitting everything in; proof that the early bird does indeed catch the worm!