A race to the start line

•April 14, 2009 • Leave a Comment

My running schedule for this week dropped into my inbox this morning.

For a so-called taper, it involves a surprising amount of recommended running – including a 12 mile next Sunday, the week before the big day.

And I’m already feeling the lethargy that often comes with tapering (something to do with your body storing lots of glycogen and water because it expects more exercise than you’re giving it.) So I can’t decide whether to stick to the schedule or just trust my legs and run what feels right for this last couple of weeks. Any suggestions?

I ran the Rotary Easter Quarter Marathon on Saturday with the aim of a 50 minute time. I knew it was ambitious – so much so that I ran with my iPod and a special speed-inducing playlist, something I never do.

In fact we had an Echo team of runners. The original suggestion was that there would be a group of girls and a group of boys and we’d have an unofficial competition. When it came to it, only three of the people on the boys team actually turned out, so we’re claiming a victory by default.

Anyway. I rolled up with plenty of time to spare, to find the two other fastest runners in our group already there. I did a nice long warm up, with the aim of being able to peg it when the whistle blew.

So far so good. But we were still short three members of the team – who finally rolled up with ten minutes to go til the off. A few last minute toilet breaks and we set off towards the start line… only to realise with horror that the mass of people in front of us were already running.

Yes, we’d missed the start, despite being there at least 45 minutes early. Sprinting to catch up with the back of the field isn’t the best way to start a race… but at least it meant a good fast mile.

As a result, I went through the 5k mark at 22 minutes, a personal best for me. Sadly, the next section of the race was the subtly uphill section of the clifftop that featured in the Bournemouth Bay half – and as much as I tried to keep my pace up, my lungs just couldn’t do it.

There were a couple of occasions where I really thought my chest might explode – but the trusty iPod saw me through. It wasn’t until the six mile marker (48 minutes) that I realised a quarter marathon is longer than a 10k by just enough to make your heart sink.

Thankfully it was mainly downhill, and I crossed the line (by my watch) in just over 53 minutes.

Despite the pain and the fact that I appear to have pulled a muscle in my left calf (oops) I actually really enjoyed it – so much so that it’s inspired me to line up a few 10k summer races to aim for after the marathon is over.

I don’t want to just slide into inactivity like I did after the last one. I may even find a winter marathon to enter…

Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon: An unexpected sprint finish

•April 6, 2009 • Leave a Comment

So. This weekend was the Bournemouth Bay half marathon. I’d forgotten what a different experience it is going out to do a race that isn’t the one you’re training for.

Normally there’s the build up, the anticipation, a few butterflies in the stomach and the knowledge that you can cane it as fast as you like because in a few hours time it will all be over.

Not this time. Bournemouth’s quite a popular race with marathoners because it falls just before most people start to slow down their training (the longed-for taper).

That makes it quite a serious race, no fancy costumes or pubs playing loud music. It’s just you and the seafront, and some people who didn’t realise it was happening looking bewildered.

It’s also notorious for being pretty windy, and there are a fair few hills.

So it was a funny feeling driving into Bournemouth on Sunday morning. I was hoping to run somewhere around 1.45, praying that it wouldn’t be windy, and wondering if the slight under-the-weatherness
I’ve been feeling this week would have gone away.

It wasn’t windy, but it was warm, about 14 degrees. That might not sound hot but when you’ve trained a lot in cooler temperatures a couple of degrees warmer can really make you suffer. Well me,
anyway, I think I must have a deficient temperature regulation system….

Anyway, I didn’t feel entirely comfortable. In fact it was a bit of a slog. Sometimes you’ll hear runners talking about flow, that magical state where everything’s just working and you feel like
you’re flying.

I didn’t get that. I did get pain in my left shin, my right foot and a lovely blister underneath the nail on my left big toe.

There was one moment, at ten miles, where running 1.44 looked like it might have been a possibility. But then my legs realised we were running slightly uphill and decided to slow down, instead of
speeding up. (I hate it when that happens).

By the time we were back on the seafront I felt decidedly overheated. I was determined to go for a 1.50 even if I couldn’t make it to 1.45 and tried my hardest to pick up the pace a bit.

If it hadn’t been for a lovely girl called from Hamworthy Harriers called Bex I might have given up.

This is what I love about racing. About a mile to go and, to be honest, I felt a bit like dying. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to make 1.50 and I was slightly worried about doing myself an
injury by overdoing it.

But I could feel another runner on my shoulder… she was getting support from some people in the crowd and she was definitely picking up the pace as she headed for the line.

I knew she wanted to get past me – I’ve done it myself as a way to motivate myself to the line. So I lengthened my stride a little to pull ahead.

She came back at me, so I sped up a bit, stretched out for a few yards. She was still chasing me, so instead of easing off I tried to leg it for the line (to the people watching I probably looked
like I was sprinting in extreme slow motion – like film of Usain Bolt slowed down A LOT).

I was about to slow down to job my way over the line when I heard her footsteps sprinting at me. Oh no you don’t, I thought, and from out of nowhere my legs realised they could move after all and I
dashed over the finish.

She shook my hand afterwards but I did feel a little bit bad. Then I consoled myself with thinking that both of us had run faster than we would have done without the little race. So thanks,
Rebecca, I couldn’t have done it without you!

Anyway, I‘m sure you’re all dying to know. 1.51.16, 600th place. Applying the “double your half marathon time then add twenty minutes” rule that puts my projected marathon time at about four hours.

I’m hoping three weeks of taper and chance to get over whatever bug it is that’s making me feel dodgy will take off another five minutes or so – my new marathon goal is to match or equal my
previous time, 3.56. Maybe what I need is a Bex to run round with me?

UPDATE: Her’s a picture of said race!

The power of new shoes

•March 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Here they are. The saviours of my feet. These are the New Balance 1023, the shoes I ran my first marathon and a model no longer made by New Balance.

new balance 1023

I had, as regular readers will know, been in a bit of a panic about not being able to find some shoes that didn’t make my legs hurt.

So in desperation, knowing that these particular shoes cause me no problems at all, I set about tracking down a warehouse pair.

They came on Tuesday and last night was the first time I ran in them – 3 x 1.5miles ‘fast’ according to my Runner’s World training schedule.

It was brilliant! Like having wings on my feet. (I was, to be fair, aided by the strong winds blowing me along the seafront.) But boy it felt fast. Seven-minute-miles fast to be precise.

It was one of those moments. The sun was shining. The sea looked very blue. There were a couple of guys practising their break-dancing moves on the beach. Bournemouth, I have to say, looked
beautiful. And I couldn’t stop smiling. (so much so that when the Echo’s feature writer Maria Court jogged past me heading out for her run I barely noticed her til the last second.)

Let’s just hope they hold up when it comes to the long runs….

A really long run and a really long hard look at myself

•March 23, 2009 • Leave a Comment

It’s been a bit of a week for realism and readjustments.

It was my birthday yesterday so this week I switched my long run to Saturday. I’ll admit to being pretty trepidatious about the whole thing.

I had to ditch Thursday’s eleven miler after five miles thanks to excruciating leg pain (the racing trainers turned out not to be such a great idea after all) so I was worried that the 20 miles I
had planned would be a) un-doable and b) painful.

I’ve also been running very slowly this week – I can’t seem to get my hydration/nutrition right.

I couldn’t face the prospect of doing 20 miles round The Loop – too hilly, too depressing to have to run past my house four times – so instead I though I’d head for Bournemouth seafront.

The route went from Bournemouth pier, to Sandbanks, round the peninsula, back to the pier, on to Hengistbury Head and then back to the pier. But as soon as I started my warm-up jog I could tell it
wasn’t going to be an easy run.

The sun, apart from making for extremely warm running conditions, had brought out about 6 million people and running the seafront was a bit like an obstacle course. My shins hurt. I was fully
prepared for having to give it up at six miles.

But I got the pier and didn’t feel too bad. So I plodded on, slowly. The good thing about the seafront is that there are drinking water taps along the way. The pain in my legs faded after about
three miles. I could tell I was going slowly, because the sun started to sink quite low in the sky.

When I got to the edge of the Hengistbury Head nature reserve I had another moment of doubt. It’s very sandy, and last time I ran here the path was mainly sand, not ideal 15 miles in. But miracle
of miracles, they’ve built a walkway! A lovely soft wooden walkway. Never have I been so pleased to see a few planks in my life.

The I was faced with The Hill. (It’s not much of a hill. But it is a hill.) Turn round or try and make it to the top? I went for it, promising myself a rest and a look at the view if I made it
without stopping.

I can honestly say it was worth it. The view from the head is so beautiful – and looking down the beach to Sandbanks and knowing I’d run from the furthest point I could see
felt like a real achievement.

View of Bournemouth Seafront From Hengistbury Head

Then the oh-my-god-I’ve-got-to-run-all-the-way-back-to-the-pier realisation kicked in. The last few miles weretough. So tough that I stopped at what I thought was 18.5 miles and walked the last bit
(in my socks) to give my legs a bit of a cool down.

Turns out it was actually 19.8 miles, so I feel much better now. It took me three hours and ten, so just under ten minute miles. All of which has meant a bit of a reassesment. I have to acknowledge
that I’m not nearly as fit as I was the last time I ran the marathon. Back then I had a five-years-of-training base that I’ve pretty much thrown away over the last 12 months.

So I have realised two things. I’m going to have to be lucky to make it round in less than four hours, never mind my original goal of 3.30. And unless I’m REALLY lucky, it’s going to hurt a lot
more than the last time.

But my new trainers arrive today, so I can attack this week’s training in comfort, hopefully. I don’t feel too sore today, so my legs aren’t broken. And this weekend’s long run will be the last
really long one I do before the marathon itself.

Things are looking up!

Music to run miles to…

•March 12, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The Guardian’s Project Marathon blog raised the subject of music to run to this morning, which is good timing because I was thinking about posting about it myself.

I find running with music difficult. I have a very specific stride/breath rhythm and music makes it impossible for me to stick to. But I do find it helpful when I want to run a) fast or b) uphill.

I also have a very odd selection of tunes on my running playlist… this are the (not at all doctored to make me seem cooler, as will soon become very obvious) most-listened-to-while-running tunes on my iPod

Frank Turner: I knew Prufrock before he got famous (watch it here )

Charlotte Church: Call My Name (watch it here )

Paramore: Misery Business (watch it here )

Simon Webb: Coming around again (watch it here )

The Killers: Mr Brightside (Jacques Lu Cont’s Thin White Duke remix)(watch it here )

Britney Spears: Circus

Jimmy Eat World: Big Casino (watch it here )

Enrique Eglesias: Escape

Nelly: Heart of a Champion

Eminem: Lose Yourself

Kanye West: Jesus Walks

Coldplay: Viva La Vida

Kelly Clarkson: Since you’ve been gone

Alcazar: Sexual Guarantee

Heather Small: Proud

(this one is because they played it at the marathon Expo the first time I ran it. So it reminds me of running. Although I only listen to it for the bit where the gospel choir kicks in)

And finally, and probably most weirdly,

Ludovico Einaudi: Nuvole Bianche

What’s on yours?

Running on empty (and stuck between blisters and numb toes)

•March 12, 2009 • Leave a Comment

This week is proving a struggle, training wise. When you wake up in the morning feeling like you’ve been chloroformed it’s probably time to reassess the training.

Firstly, I’m having trainer issues (of which more in a second…). But thinking about why I feel so rubbish has made me realise that although I’m putting the miles in, I’ve been winging it a bit when it comes to nutrition.

Not eating a proper breakfast, relying on rubbish sarnies for lunch, drinking horrible machine coffee and then expecting to run nine miles after work is a bit daft, like putting beer in your car and then wondering why it doesn’t go very far.

So I’ve resolved to be better. I’m having enough trouble with my feet without making it worse.

The trainers you see, new, expensive, supposed to see me round the course, are giving me blisters (check the previous post if you’d like to see one) but more importantly, making my shins hurt.

There are a couple of explanations. It could just be the extra miles. Or it could be that the shoes are causing the problem.

I’m not sure what to do. Try and take them back? Run in my older shoes, which make my toes go numb? Run in my old shoes, which saw me round the marathon last time? Shell out for another new pair, so close to race day?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated…

Confidence and panic and back again (via a blister or two)

•March 9, 2009 • 1 Comment

This week I thought I’d share with you the thought process of my long run. Sunday was a beautiful day, but to be honest I woke up feeling like my legs were made of lead. My shoes felt heavy.

I was supposed to do 18 miles according to my schedule but with only three runs of more than 10 miles under my belt so far I thought 18 might be too much for my joints to take, especially on the
cross country madness that is the Lyndhurst loop. So I settled for 16. Here’s how it went.

Mile one: Wow, what a gorgeous day. Now, we’re going to do 10-minute miles for the first couple of loops. Ow, my calves hurt. Nope, hang on, that’s my shins. Hope it goes away soon….

Mile two: My calves still hurt. Oooh, I think that’s what Jane Fonda calls the burn (if you’ve ever lifted weights or done an ABT
class you’ll know that feels like. Ouch.)

Mile three: Hurrah, a miracle has occurred! I just ran up the hill at Bolton’s Bench and it was easy! Three cheers for hill training!

(I then spent the next couple of miles thinking about my lactic threshold, how pleased I was that I could run up the hills with ease,
and working out a revised marathon pace to hit my fantasy time of 3.40, now that I’m, like, superfit.)

Mile five: Huh. Did the first loop at 9 minute miles. Should slow down a bit, but hey, I feel great!

Mile seven: Horse! (A New Forest pony was blocking the path.) Do I run in front or behind? What’s safer? (I have a vested interest here, as when I was ten a horse stood on my face. It hurt.
A lot)

Mile nine: There’s my house again. Should I stop and pick up my carefully concealed water bottle from the hedge? Nah, I feel okay. Let’s crack on. (Note: this will shortly prove to have been
a mistake.)

Mile ten: What’s that funny feeling in my stomach? Hunger? How can I be hungry? I had PORRIDGE for breakfast, for goodness sake.

Miles 11-13: Hmmm. It’s quite windy. This isn’t so much fun anymore. How am I going to manage 26 miles when I’m struggling with a half marathon? I’m not even running very fast. I should have
started training earlier. I should have done more long runs by now. Maybe I just don’t have enough miles in my legs to cope with monster month… this could be a disaster

Mile 13.5: Lucozade. Ah. Now I feel better. Idiot.

Mile 14: My legs hurt. What time is it? 20 minutes to go if I want to finish in 2.30. I can do two miles in 20 minutes. I CAN do two miles in 20 minutes.

Mile 15:Why won’t my legs move? Somebody must have hold of my ankles. Why is there someone hanging on to my ankles?

Mile 16: Am I going to make it in time? Come on Samantha, you can do this. Come on! COME ON. COME ON. COME ON SAM. COME ON SAM. COME ON!

(I should point out that at this point I was shouting at myself like I was a racehorse and it was the last fence of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Lucky for me there were no walkers passing by.)

Back at the house: Oh. My back hurts. Yep, that’s pain in my ankles. Oh, and there’s my blister….

And what a blister it was. There’s a picture here. But it’s not very nice, so be warned. I can’t work out where the red stuff has come from… anyone got any
ideas?