Celebrating my birthday and not running

So I’ve taken a week off of running. After the Jersey Half (and, let’s be honest, a good number of weeks of beasting myself with races and speedwork) I needed a break from running.

Basically mentally and physically I was kind of done. Don’t get my wrong, I’m super pleased with everything I’ve achieved but I’m genuinely pooped. I could feel it happening the week before the half and the half just pushed me over the edge. My calf had begun to niggle as well – which is always a sign of me over-doing things, especially speedwork. I’ve come to realise that it really doesn’t matter what kind of strength training I do, my calves will always be my weak point and I’ll always get niggles there. Maybe I need to strengthen them up? Foam roll them more? Do more stretching? Who knows. But I’m pretty sure my calf has started to niggle because I’ve ramped up the speedwork quite a lot recently as well as the volume of my running. I never learn but there we go.

The calf is feeling a lot better though and mentally I feel a lot more chilled. At the same time I also changed gyms. I just randomly decided to do this on a whim. I saw a new PureGym had just opened literally 5 minutes from my work (though my old gym was only further down the road so really the distance isn’t a thing) and it was offering a cheaper rate. I like PureGym and because it’s all new and swanky I thought I might as well change. As much as I did like my old gym, it was old and the changing rooms were a bit grotty. There was also no air conditioning.

Anyway on Saturday morning I decided instead of parkrun (to be all sensible and keep the calf happily getting better) I went to a Les Mills spin class (“Sprint”). I’ve been to many spin classes but never a Les Mills one. And at this PureGym (North Harbour one in Portsolent) they have a “digital coach”. This means that instead of having a real person guiding you through, there was just a huge screen where you watched some Les Mills coaches giving the session. That sounds pants, I know. But actually it was brilliant. The coaches were really good. And the room was all dark which strangely made things easier – but harder? Like you could just absolutely beast it out but without worrying about people seeing you gurning. I don’t know, it worked for me! Better to have a virtual amazing coach than a sub-part bored real instructor in my opinion. It properly destroyed me though. I was a sweaty mess at the end. I think I’m a relatively fit person… I’ve run marathons and stuff. But jeeze that killed me.Then I headed quickly home to get showered and sorted to meet my uni friends for a fun birthday meal. My 30th is on Tuesday so they were down to help me celebrate. We went to one of my favourite restaurants in Southampton, Sadlers, which serves insane smoked and BBQ food. I’ve been a number of times and it’s always fairly epic.Since Jersey I’ve been craving nachos like crazy. What is wrong with me?? But I didn’t just want to order nachos (though they were renowed to be a large portion). Thankfully though my friends came to my aid and we ordered two portions for the table to share. Whew! So I was free to order my own meal of ribs. Unfortunately compared to previous times I’ve been it seems that portion sizes have changed. I mean, I know realistically I’m the only one who’d be miffed at this because I have a monster appetite but I only got two ribs. I went for the smaller portions of ribs but STILL. £15 for two ribs? You’re joking. And also, no cornbread despite it being on the menu? I’m disappointed. The ribs were good don’t get me wrong but the portion size was a bit lame.I realise for normal people this would probably be fine. But Kate went for the larger portion of ribs and got four. She paid £5 more… I just think that’s a bit lame really. I remember ordering ribs and having loads. Like I couldn’t possibly finish them. Anyway, when I saw the portion size I quickly ordered a side of wings. The wings were lush! The nachos were good too but there were blobs of pulled pork rather than a layering. So again, a bit lame.

Despite the food being somewhat underwhelming, the company was fabulous so really I didn’t mind at all. The food was tasty and we had a good time regardless. It was lovely to catch up and see them all (especially as there are now two gorgeous babies in the group as well – not that I’m a particularly baby person but as babies go, they’re alright ones).Then we walked to Sprinkles down the road and had an immense pudding. I went for my usual Sticky Situation (lots of cookie dough, ice cream, chocolate and white chocolate). But ooof it was tough-going and I only managed HALF. What is even happening to me? Where has my monster appetite gone?!
It was just too much sweetness. But it was delicious. All in all a fantastic day. In July we’ll be going to Centre Parcs as a group to jointly celebrate all our 30th birthdays so that’ll be amazing.

Saturday evening I had a very chilled one (I was partly in a food coma if I’m honest) and watched the very strange film mother! I quite enjoyed it. Once I got on board that it was an allegory of the sixth day of creation from the Bible I found it a lot more engaging. But yeah, a weird one.

Sunday I had a nice lie-in and then took myself to another spin class (this time Spin RPM). If I thought the class the day before was hard I knew nothing. This was insane. I’ve never sweated so much in my life! And yet, as hard as it was, it was really good. Like I felt like I could properly push myself hard. My calf and everything felt fine so I could properly get into the workout and give it my all. I then did 30 minutes on the cross trainer at a light intensity. So though I didn’t get my beloved long run I did get a good sweat on and enjoyed a rather different workout.

Then I got home and ready super fast to head out for a joint celebration of Father’s Day and my birthday. My parents and I headed to The Pig in Brockenhurst. I booked this in April because it’s renowned of being super hard to get a table. We all kept remarking how lucky we were to be there on Father’s Day no less! The Pig was AMAZING. Like the whole setting was beautiful. A very rustic and old antique style to it.The restaurant was located in a like a large conservatory type room which was just beautiful. Lots of plants, pretty paintings and rustic style furniture. And the service was so good. Very attentive, you felt well looked after.We had mini starters before our regular starters (“Piggy Bites”) which were delicious. I had the Brock Eggs (eggs wrapped in shredded ham and bread crumbs), which tasted divine. And then for my actual starter I had the charcuterie board. Oh so tasty!!For main I had The Pig’s signature dish, the tomahawk pork chop with a creamy sauce and a side of Isle of Wight tomatoes and basil. Literally HEAVEN. It was so tasty. But of course there was just enough room for pudding…because, why not?I had the dark chocolate tart with toffee honeycomb ice cream. YES. A perfect way to end the meal. We all enjoyed our food and vowed definitely to come back at some point (for a special occasion, because it’s not cheap!).A fabulous way to celebrate Father’s Day and my birthday. Despite not doing any running for the weekend, I had such a good couple of days!

How did you spend Father’s Day?

Do you like going to posh restaurants? The Pig didn’t feel super posh but it was definitely not Nando’s!

Have you ever done a Les Mills class?

Marathon Talk Run Camp – part 2

On to the Sunday of the Marathon Talk Run Camp at Sandy Balls in the New Forest, we had a 10 mile “eliminator” style run planned.

*Catch up with Part 1 of the Run Camp here!*

So the idea was that we had a 10 miles race, but there were two stipulations (asides from a set course over the New Forest countryside – following a similar route to the Heartbreaker Half): one was that we had to finish at 12. You were given on point for every second you finished before 12 and two seconds for every second after 12. The more points the worse you did. The second stipulation was that you weren’t allowed to wear a watch, or if you did it had to be taped over. Essentially you had to pace yourself on feel only.

This did make me somewhat anxious. Not knowing my pace or the number of miles I’d done… I mean, what! I already knew I was going to run it as an easy long run but this meant I really had to tap into my body as to what easy actually was without having any paces fed back to me. Tough. Especially as I do tend to run quicker than I should for easy runs. I decided to go with starting at 10:40, to give myself an hour and 20 minutes, which would mean 8.30min/miles…not that i would be able to properly tell!

In the morning, the lodge was all up around the same time. John decided not to run to be super sensible about a pesky niggle he was experiencing – very wise of him. But the rest of us would be running and would be leaving at different times because of their different paces they’d be running and time goals. I didn’t have any breakfast as I never do before long runs so could have a little bit of a lie-in (thank god for finding my ear plugs). James, Michelle and I walked down to the start area together as we were roughly going around the same time and wanted to walk. I mean, just to be clear, I wasn’t going anywhere near as fast as those guys  but it was nice to have the warm up walk beforehand together.Unfortunately I left it a little too late and literally arrived at the start with about 20 seconds to go before I needed to start. Happily my fried Ade was there starting at the same time (what a nice coincidence!) and a very lovely lady called Jenny. We all decided to run together which was great. None of us wanted to push the pace so it was a good conversational run. Because the course was a T shape it meant there were a few out and back sections so we could cheer on other runners who had gone out before us and were coming back down a path we were running along, making it a lovely social run.Unfortunately, because we were talking so much we missed the TWO turnaround arrows on the floor. We didn’t realise until we reached a car park – about 0.25 miles on from the turnaround. We quickly headed back in a bit of a panic (no wonder it had suddenly got quiet with no other runners about!). This meant we’d added about half a mile to our route. As if pacing 10 miles wasn’t hard enough with having no watch, we now had to either quicken up to make up the over-distance or find a way to lose 0.5 miles.We were now no longer plodding along happy as Larry… we were brainstorming where to turn early or what time it was or what pace we were doing. Argghh! We decided that we’d turn around early at the next part of the “T”. I was concerned I hadn’t seen Michelle or James… when we finally saw them heading back along the other “T” they looked at us confused as this was far too late to be seeing us now. We decided a few minutes further to turnaround because at this point we’d never catch up with the main group of people – and therefore would not finish before 12.God, honestly it hurt my brain to try working everything out and adjusting ourselves to other people. Of course we assumed everyone else had their pacing strategy perfect which of course invariably they did not, making it even more of a mess.We even panicked further on thinking we might not even make 10 miles if we’d have turned too soon. What would be worse than finishing too late would be finishing the run having not even completed the 10 miles! So we collectively decided to turn around again and do a tiny out and back to make sure we’d hit 10 miles…just to be safe as we were worried we’d turned around too soon. We agreed we’d rather do over 10 miles than under. This did make us look a bit silly as other runners passed us… they must have thought we were trying to cheat which just mortified me. I tried to explain what we were doing but mostly people just looked bemused at us. Dear oh dear.Regardless of this silly mess-up (the curse of running with the idiot that is Anna? Quite possibly), it was a lovely lovely run. The sun was out, the views were beautiful, it wasn’t that windy and we were still enjoying each other’s company. Despite feeling somewhat stressed and generally in a state of confusion (my natural state perhaps), I was thoroughly enjoying the run. As we got closer to the finish we picked up our speed. The end finishes on a horrible horrible steep uphill. James was at the top looking all chilled and fresh having finished about 10 minutes before (he over-shot it) while we scrambled up, everything burning, and me trying not to look like I was dying. Probably failed there ha.
In the end we finished 1 minute and 40ish seconds over 12… so not too bad considering we’d also run 0.6 miles over the 10 miles!! Ahh what idiots we were 😉 But we all agreed we enjoyed the run, chat and the farce of trying to figure out how to rectify the situation. Smiles all round. John was at the finish cheering us all in which was nice.James and I then walked back to the lodge… James had forgotten that he’d been looking after Chris and Kate’s key for their car so while we were walking back, blissfully unaware, another car caught up to us with Kate in it asking for the key back as they couldn’t drive back… oh dear. For once not an Idiot Anna Move – not my fault at all ha.

We got back to the lodge and I got into the shower pronto as I needed to wash and blow-dry my hair (I was so grateful that the guys let me go first, very kind of them – sharing a shower between six people is tough!). And then we headed off to the lunch with the Marathon Talk crew – a delicious Sunday roast dinner with all the trimmings. Delicious!Then it was a case of saying goodbye to everyone. Obviously this also meant getting my standard photo with Martin and Tom…I’ve now done this every year I’ve been and the motage is quite cool.I know this is going to sound like overly sentimental guff (of which I rarely like to do) but Marathon Talk is such a fantastic community of people. I’ve met so many good friends through it and had such brilliant times with the different events (not to mention the actual podcasts themselves being a good listen). I hope to continue being involved in more events they put on! So big thanks to them.

For once I’d decided this year to stay until Monday as James, John and Michelle were too and it was nice not to rush off. So we headed back to the lodge to chill for a bit and then later we decided to head to a local pub down the road for dinner…the roast dinner clearly hadn’t touched the sides.Happily a few others joined us: Mark, Vicky and Stuart from the Austria Run Camp and Mark’s friend Caroline. Such a lovely bunch of people!I went for rump steak with a jacket potato and Stilton sauce….SO good. Followed by a large wedge of bread and butter pudding with ice cream. Perfection. We said goodbye to the others who were leaving and then headed back.The next morning, we got ourselves sorted. Michelle, the crazy girl, went out for a 5k run while James, John and I went for a walk to find the actual Sandy Ball, which I didn’t realise existed! The weather was lovely and it was a perfect way to end such a great weekend.Happy legs, happy tummy, happy heart.

Are you involved in any running or fitness communities?

Have you met friends through running that you stay in touch with?

Have you ever gone wrong in a race?

The New Forest Marathon 2017

The New Forest Marathon was my 10th marathon. I ran it with my good friend, Mike, who for whatever reason has yet to get a sub four hour marathon in his previous two, despite his other race times indicating he should. On Sunday morning my alarm went off at 5.50am (actually not feeling that bad considering I often get up at 5am during the week to go to the gym).My dad was supporting and was going to drive so I’d stayed at my parent’s house the night before. We got going at 6.20am and I had my porridge, Beet It! shot and a flask of coffee en route (time-saving tactics so I could have more sleep). We picked Mike up and headed to the New Forest.We got there within plenty of time (thankfully though not the three hours beforehand that they’d advised!). We arrived about 7.15am, picked up our bibs and were ready for a 9am start. We saw a few others from my club who were doing the half or the full and we shuffled around in the misty, cold waiting to make a move to the start area.I went to the portable loos several times (as you do). Interestingly they were split into males and females, not that people really paid attention! I was cold but not overly so. In fact, I was happy I was cold because previous Sundays had proved very warm.
And then we headed to the start. After what seemed like a rather over-zealous instructed warm-up, of which we halfheartedly followed, we were good to go.We tried not to get carried away in the enthusiasm of the start and kept things nice and easy. There were about 1,000 runners in the full but separated into two different starts so it never felt too busy. As soon as we started running I realised I needed the loo AGAIN. Can you believe that? I’d been THREE TIMES. I told Mike I’d dash off for a wild wee in a bush and catch him up. The plan was to stay around 9-9.10min/miles so I knew I could catch him up without killing myself.Wild wee was successful (though I was in an area where there seemed to be quite a lot of ants so the risk of actual ants in the pants was quite strong). Mike and I chatted away easily and I checked in with him every now and again to make sure he was finding it easy. These miles weren’t meant to be challenging at this point. The elevation for the first 10 miles was relatively flat so things should be nice and simple here. Our first mile stone was at 5 miles when Mike took his salt tablet. He’s suffered from cramp in the past and found that taking salt tablets helps prevent this – one every five miles or so.The scenery around us was beautiful. Lots of huge redwoods, ponies and pretty foliage. I tried to snap photos where I could while also not be that annoying to Mike. But I figured that while he was in a happy place and things were going well, selfies were acceptable. I’d post them on Twitter and send a few updates to my dad as I knew he’d appreciate it. With no tracker it was good for him to have an idea of what was happening.Along the route there were lots of funny signs that said things like, “Run? I thought you said rum!” and things like that. It kept us entertained. There was also a sign next to a huge tree saying that it was the biggest redwood in the whole of the UK. Pretty cool! I tried to get a pic but kind of failed.At mile 9 I took my gel. I planned it badly as it was my thick GU gel (Maple Bacon flavour, delightful!) and needed a good amount of water to help stop the “cloying” effect in my mouth. But I decided to take it just before the water station so ended up having to do a sort of gel-then-water swallowing combo. I should have taken the gel a few minutes before the water station and then gulped down a lot of water to help it all down. Oh well!I was also very aware not to litter, not that I intentionally do, but in the race pack it was said that litter outside the aid station areas would result in disqualification so I had a limited area to get the water and gel down! I could hold a gel wrapper but not a cup as well.My dad was stood at the mile 10 marker, exactly as he said he would bless him, and he cheered us on which was a lovely boost. We were still sailing along happily so everything was very relaxed and cheerful.
Then from mile ten we had a a number of undulations, but they weren’t anything terrible so far.We were slightly unnerved that both our Garmins were out of sync with the mile markers, pretty much from mile three, by about 0.2 miles. We figured it was probably due to all the trees and as we were reaching the mile markers before our watches were beeping the miles it was quite an advantageous place to be (better it this way than our watches beeping way before). It gave us some comfort that we were kind of ahead of target.So from mile 10 to around mile 14 it was basically a gradual incline. There was a section along the road where we had to run within the confines of some cones and curb and it meant single file running. This wasn’t too bad but you couldn’t zone out as you’d drift into a cone and be taken out! It also meant I had to keep looking behind me to ensure I didn’t go too fast and lose Mike. The incline didn’t feel terrible but it did mean we had to work harder. I was hoping that because we’d found the first 10 miles so easy and had kept to a fairly quickish but sensible pace we’d be able to gain back time later when we had some downhills.Mike and I continued to chatter, but he was less enthusiastic and upbeat as before and I found myself trying to think of any random nonsense to keep him distracted. Underfoot the terrain was compacted gravel and not the easiest to run great distances over. We were always pleased when we hit some road where we didn’t have to focus so much on our foot placement or jumping puddles etc. There were lots of ponies hanging around on the sides of the course in the expanses of grass around us. Several times we had ponies gallop across the roads in a rather dramatic fashion (like a Lloyds advert…). It was fine until they charged across the road very close to us and I wasn’t sure where to go to not be trampled! I remember hearing someone behind me shout about how they were so pleased there were unicorns in the marathon which made everyone around chuckle.

At half-way I remember saying to Mike we were counting down now. The temperature was quite warm and it was somewhat humid. Nothing crazy – in fact, it was quite a nice temperature to run in, but I was getting more and thirsty between the water stations. I hadn’t taken water with me as I don’t normally do so in a marathon and the water stations were frequent and plenty, but I think there were about 3 miles between each one and this proved a bit too far for me.Thankfully there were some lovely people who lived in one of the houses we passed that had put out their own water station and we happily glugged some there. The course was fairly sparse in terms of supporters though. There were the odd few people who stood outside their houses with a cup of tea cheering, and when you got closer to the villages more people were out, but otherwise there were long stretches of no support.I decided to not take my gel at half-way as I’d planned as I didn’t think I needed it and decided to wait until 18 miles instead. As we got closer to 18 miles, Mike appeared to be finding it tougher. I’d frequently (probably annoying the hell out of him) ask how he was to keep in check. Our pace started to slow down and he kept looking at his watch and panicking a little about time. At this point I text my dad to say we were hitting the struggle train just to keep him in the loop. We were hoping to see him at mile 25.

A brief spell of light rain and wind hit us which was both a welcome relief but also an annoyance as it meant we were working against it. The cooling effect though was worth it in balance. Sadly the rain didn’t stay for long though.I saw my friend, Ben (possibly 21 or 22 miles?), and he cheered us on and helped encourage us. We got to another water station and both of us guzzled down two cups of water and Mike dumped another on his head. He mentioned he was feeling a bit sick and his fingers were tingling. I didn’t like the sound of this but I needed him to not focus on it unless it got really bad. I could see he was starting to drift into his head and go to a dark marathon place.
We hit some nice downhills which helped keep us going but he started to need to take a few walking breaks. I desperately wanted to keep him motivated and moving forward to his goal but there’s only so much you can do. I had to have another wild wee (weird, two wees in a marathon!) and then sprinted to catch up with him. It was quite nice to get my legs moving quickly – though it definitely was not sustainable at this point!

As we hit mile 23 Mike had really hit a dark place. Along with feeling dizzy and tingly he complained that his side was hurting (like his ab muscle). He luckily stretched away his knee hurting (another thing to add to his struggles!) but this side thing wouldn’t budge. Looking at his watch was just stressing him out so we decided to shelve the sub four and focused on finishing without injury and misery. This involved walking to a certain milestone and then running some more. I tried to encourage him as best as I could but I could tell it wouldn’t really help. We’ve all been there! But taking away the time goal now seemed to lessen the edge off the darkness.

I really didn’t know how best to keep him moving forward at this point. We got to mile 24 (I think) and he stopped. A fellow runner asked if he was OK and then Mike decided to sit down on a verge which possibly wasn’t the wisest idea as he immediately got cramp. The runner told me I could go on and get my time and he’d look after Mike. I was like “hell no, buddy, I’m running this thing to the end with him”. The guy said he’d stay with us as well and we’d run it to the end together and helped Mike to his feet. The runner did stay with us but for about five minutes and then disappeared which I thought was a bit odd considering he was so keen initially! But it didn’t matter as I wasn’t leaving Mike and we really didn’t need someone else offering empty words (I was doing enough of that!). It was kind of him to have helped us but in reality the only person who could help Mike was Mike.The final mile we were back to running more consistently as the end was in sight.
I spotted my dad and headed over to him to have a quick chat as Mike continued on. I explained we were struggling a bit. He said he’d see us at the finish and shouted encouragement to Mike.We ran all the way to the finish – so strange to be running the same path we’d been at four hours ago.
Sadly our time was 4:10:46 – not quite the sub four we were hoping for, but still a stellar time considering the hills and terrain. I mean, looking at the splits we only hit trouble in the last three miles really. It’s definitely an encouraging run for Mike. Had the course been easier he would have smashed it I’m sure. But such is life and such is the decision we made to use this marathon as the one to go for.
This was a very strange marathon for me as I spent about 90% of it not thinking about me at all. During the majority of my other marathons I’m constantly analysing my pace, thinking about how I feel, monitoring any niggles or weird feelings and just zoning out. For this marathon I had to be in tune with how Mike felt and constantly think about Mike. My own feelings were pushed back. I only remember one time during the marathon where I thought, “oof still a long way to go” (I think this was at about 17 miles). It was also really nice to be running at a very relaxed pace (for me). I didn’t struggle at all (sorry, Mike) and found that I was easily sailing along. Not only this but I felt I could have continued running rather than being in complete relief at the finish line. I felt good!I’m sad we didn’t hit Mike’s goal but I do think he did amazingly – and he really pushed through some tough times during those last few miles. He should be very proud of himself. I think initially he was quite disappointed but I guess that’s only because the last few struggling miles were so sharp in his memory. On reflection I believe he’s more happy now. As he should be!The New Forest Marathon was a great event. There were lots of other events happening on that day too at different times (children’s run, 10k, half). And to be honest it was mostly very smooth and well run. The medal and t-shirt are cool, and the goodie bag was reasonable with a few freebies, a banana and a water.

My only complaint was getting out of the car park. Everyone was parked in a field and it was a bit of a mess trying to get out. There were several streams of traffic from all different rows and the security wouldn’t let anyone actually exit. We have no idea why. We could just see the security team shaking their heads at each other and throwing their arms in the air… And yet there seemed no obvious reason why we couldn’t exit – there wasn’t anything blocking anywhere. People starting getting frustrated and started beeping. I think the lack of information was really annoying people as as far as we could see everything was fine to leave.

Eventually we were able to leave though! Hurrah!

We invited Mike to join us for some food but he declined (understandably not everyone thinks about food straight away after a marathon!) and we dropped him off. My dad and me headed to Coast to Coast as I had a 50% voucher and we needed some large portions and a “not too posh” restaurant.I ate to my heart’s content (that’s to say, I ate everything I ordered; chicken wings, fajitas and chocolate fudge cake) and then my dad took me home so I could pick Alfie and my car up and then head home. So, at 5pm after walking Alfie, I could finally shower! Lovely.

Do you like to eat straight after a marathon?

Have you ever run a marathon with a friend?

Have you ever gone to the Dark Marathon Place before?

Marathon Talk Run Camp 2017 recap

So this was my third time going to the Marathon Talk Run Camp in Sandy Balls in the New Forest. Marathon Talk is a running-focused podcast hosted by two genuinely lovely and knowledgeable guys, Martin Yelling (running guru for lots of publications and races) and Tom Williams (MD of parkrun).

I love listening to the podcast on my long runs and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the previous two run camps I’ve been on so I pretty much signed up straight away as soon as it became available. I knew a few others who were going, though some of them couldn’t make it in the end which was such a shame 🙁 but I still got to see my running friend, Adrian, who went to the last one and I ran Fareham parkrun with a while ago.

I arrived on Friday night and met my fellow housemates. There was a married couple and two female friends who I was sharing with. What was nice was that I got a room to myself as the friends were happy to share their twin room.The cabins have a little kitchen, two bathrooms and a lovely lounge area with a fire. It’s very cosy but fairly basic. Sandy Balls is a holiday camp set in the middle of the New Forest so the scenery is beautiful with forests all around you.

That evening we headed out to meet other Marathon Talkers around a fire pit and toasted some marshmallows.It was nice to chat to lots of different people. I got to chat to Dan from Xempo, who does all the Marathon Talk clothinig. He was so lovely. A really nice and funny guy. I mentioned to him that I was considering running to the Moors Valley parkrun the next day as I wasn’t going to be able to stay for the Sunday long run. He said that his fellow housemate, Andy, was thinking of doing the same. Funnily enough I realised I knew the Andy he was talking about from Twitter. Though I found out he was a sub 2:40 marathoner so that concerned me a bit that I might hold him up a bit!

After chatting to Andy I managed to persuade him to definitely run it…and he handily said he’d figure us out a good route (the route I’d planned was all road and a bit dodgy with the traffic, true Anna-style planning of course!). He wasn’t entirely happy about getting up earlier than he’d need to for the parkrun but I won him round 😉

The next morning we met after 7am and headed out for the 9 mile planned run he had. This run was fantastic. The route was perfect. It went pretty much all along New Forest trails so off-road and through beautiful countryside. Over styles, along a river, through boggy areas… it was fantastic! We saw lots of wildlife and even had a dodgy moment of almost getting stampeded by horses but it was fiiiiiiine.

Though it was snowing when we set off, I’d worn too many layers and by mile two was feeling rather hot. The pace was good though probably faster than I would have run on my own – but that was nice to be challenged a bit. And there were several stops of jumping over styles and things like that. Though I did worry that I was going too slowly for this marathon pro!We arrived at Moors Valley parkrun with a good amount of time to spare. My pace is all over the place due to the trails and hills.Just enough time to lose our lovely warmth and get cold again! Our smugness of being nice and toasty while everyone around us was shivering quickly disappeared.We had a quick Marathon Talk group photo and then headed to the start. Moors Valley parkrun has definitely expanded since I last did (a year ago) as there were so many people – and not just the influx of 100 or so Marathon Talkers!

Source: Marathon Talk Facebook page

I was going to run with Adrian as he was semi-injured so would be going slower than normal (he’s normally a lot speedier than me!). We positioned ourselves badly though and the first 200m we were stuck behind a lot of people who were going slower than us. This was our fault not ours and we managed to politely (I hope!) navigate past them and get into a good stride.

A lovely woman, Pippa, ran with us too which was nice as did Andy. Then Andy dropped us as he speeded ahead, then Adrian and I peeled away from Pippa, then Adrian peeled away from me! It was quite funny how that worked out. I just didn’t have a sprint finish in me at all on my heavy legs.In the end I got 24:30 (151st! So many runners) which I was happy with after the 9 miles.Then we headed to the cafe to have some breakfast. I’d already decided on a fry-up because I was really craving one. And I knew I wouldn’t be eating lunch because by the time we got back and I got sorted we’d be heading out for another Marathon Talk chat and then interval session. I wanted to do the intervals (gently) as I wanted to increase my miles for the day. I’d done 12 already but I ideally wanted 16 as I wouldn’t be doing a long run the next day.The fry-up was perfection. I got to talk to Scotland’s parkrun ambassador, Terry, which was really interesting. He’d been to a previous Run Camp so he was a familiar face. it was interesting to hear about what an ambassador does and the differences with Scottish and English parkruns.

Then I thankfully got a lift back with Pippa and her husband and then chilled in the cabin with my housemates chatting about random running-related stuff. One of my housemates, Patricia, is also doing Tokyo so it was interesting to speak to her about it. She got a good for age place which I didn’t even know existed! This would be her final Marathon Major so she’d be picking up her amazing HUGE medal as well as her Tokyo one. How cool!

Then we headed to the conference area where we had a talk from Liz Yelling and Professor Andy Lane (one of my housemates!).
It was fascinating to hear Liz talk about her training, the mental and physical sides of being an elite runner and now being a non-elite and adjusting to that side of life. Professor Andy was really interesting as well, as he was last year. He talked about the psychological aspects of training and having several goals for a marathon rather than one. And not just having outcome goals but process goals so you’re hopes aren’t stacked against one thing that is in the hands of so many elements, not just your ability. For example, run with good form (like if you know the way you swing your arms needs correcting, focus on that) or focus on having fun and taking photos rather than I MUST GET SUB-4. Because ultimately a marathon is such a long way to go and there are so many factors that are out of your control that it is really setting yourself up for a fall if you just have one time goal… good stuff!Then we headed out for some intervals. I wasn’t planning on doing a full effort session but just wanted the extra miles and to “be involved”. We headed out a mile very slowly in convoy to an area just outside Sandy Balls. The views were amazing!We were divided into groups depending on our 5k time and I made sure I sand-bagged my time so I wouldn’t be tempted to go full effort. The session was 1k at tempo speed with 15 seconds break before a 300m full-on effort, then 5 minutes break – four times.In the end though I did run faster than I would have but it was nice to have some speed on my legs, even if it was fairly tough. I did feel a little bad as everyone was in pieces around me but I was OK relatively speaking.Then we headed back for a mile cool-down back to the cabins. So a total of 18 miles for the day! I felt pretty damn pleased with myself. I had a nice hot shower back at the cabin and then chilled out again next to the fire while chatting to the others about social media, races and life in general. It was great.

I was SO hungry though by 6.30pm when we all met up again for dinner. Annoyingly though we were one of the last tables to get called to go up and get our food. I was practically climbing the walls with runger. Yes, my own fault as I should have planned food better but there never seemed to be a great time to eat something – either having just run or about to get running. I did have a few snacks but obviously nothing huge.I made up for that by piling my plate high with chilli and chicken curry (weird combination but to be honest at that point I didn’t care) with rice and salad!We then had another talk from the truly inspiring and amazing Vassos Alexander who told us all about his ultra running craziness. Like how he ran around London ALL NIGHT before heading to his breakfast radio show in the morning. He said he stopped for an espresso but otherwise just kept running. He was such a lovely, lovely guy. I’ll definitely be buying his book! And he’s currently in the process of writing another one. What I liked was how he said he was offered money to write a kind of sports “tell all” book as he’s interviewed so many sports stars but he really didn’t want to as he wanted to remain trustworthy and genuine.I went up to him afterwards to speak to him and he was just so nice. I did have a bit of verbal diarrhoea though by blurting out how I didn’t actually listen to Radio 2 but was more of a Radio 1 listener and how my dad would kill me not getting a photo with him. He found this amusing thankfully!

I also got my usual photo with Martin and Tom… I do feel awkward asking for a photo from them but they’re so lovely that they didn’t make me feel like a silly fan girl.After a fun quiz, which our team (the Camp Runners) did terribly at, I had to go home. I had lots to do the next day and I needed a proper lie-in. I was sad to leave and sad to miss the next day’s fun but it had to be done. I loved the time I did spend though. I will be signing up straight away for the next one as it’s just so good. So much fun, so much good advice and information, so many nice people and a way to connect with other runners. I love it. I fully recommend coming if you can!

Have you ever been to a running camp?

Do you often do intervals?

Heartbreaker Half Marathon (and last of the MT Run Camp)

So the final part of the Marathon Talk Run Camp weekend recap is basically the race recap of the Heartbreaker Half Marathon that took place on the Sunday.

{Catch up with PART 1 and PART 2 of the MT Run Camp}

Not everyone at the Run Camp was doing the half but most people did. The others that didn’t did an 8 mile or 16 mile run with Tom.

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The handy thing about the race was that the race HQ and the start line was at Sandy Balls so it was really easy to get to in the morning, obviously, as that’s where the Run Camp was based. I knew the course was going to be tough and I had no ambitions to get a good time so I wanted to add some miles on beforehand to make it into a good marathon training long run instead. Happily some of my new (and old) fellow Marathon Talkers had similar plans so a small group of us planned to meet up at 8.45am to run five miles. The race started at 10am so it was more than enough time.

My fellow lodger, Hannah, and I headed down to meet Matt and another guy, Aidan.

IMG_8815Thanks to Hannah for the photo!

We planned a fairly easy pace and a 2.5 mile out and back to keep things very simple so we wouldn’t be at risk of getting lost and missing the race.

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We asked a passing dog walker to take our photo before starting so we could get a “Sandy Balls” photo. Annoyingly he missed the “Balls” off! Ah well.

The route was actually quite tough as it was rather undulating but it was just a precursor of what was to come really.

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We saw lots of marshals heading out to their positions as we were very close to the actual race route and we waved and smiled. A walker wished us good luck for the race as Hannah and me were wearing our bib already to save faffing time later. Then we got back in time to have a quick pre-race pee and listen to the brief. I also spotted a few of my running club friends as well which was nice. It’s a fairly local race so I wasn’t surprised to see them (one of them had previously told me he was doing it but I was just an idiot and had forgotten).

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Then we walked down to the start. “Down” being the operative word here. The race begins at the bottom of a rather steep hill. An actual hill, not an incline or undulation. If I’d have come across this hill at any other point during the race I would have walked it!

My friend Matt and me decided to run together which was nice as without any time goals it can be a bit boring just plodding out miles. Plus we’d both done the first five miles together so we were both fatigued to begin with. We tried to pretend the five miles hadn’t happened. Annoyingly my ankle chip thing had come undone and so I had to stop to sort it out mid hill. I told Matt to go on and this was pretty much the theme of the race!IMG_8801

After the awful hill we were then on to a very gentle incline along the road for about a mile and then onto the track in the New Forest proper. The ground was easy underfoot and the scenery was beautiful.

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The course is a sort of T shape where you run down the stem of the T, where the aid station is based (water or a carb-based drink on offer), and then it’s a left turn to head down an out back of three-ish miles. There was an almighty downhill and then some sharp uphills before turning around and heading back…to that almighty uphill.

 

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Matt is further along in his marathon training and in general I think he’s slightly faster than me so he was springing up the hills whereas I was struggling. I walked without shame when it got too tough, but I always caught him up again – though it did require me to burst some speed out.

IMG_8802Mid-race photo of Matt on the downhill

As we got going along the next bit of the T out-and-back we were going along quite nicely, chatting away. The good thing about these out-and-backs were that we could see so many other people either going out or coming back. We waved and cheered other Marathon Talkers and people we knew, which was great. We saw Martin Yelling zooming along several times too. I waved and shouted to my running club friend, Mark, but he just looked daggers at me and grunted.

“Must be having a hard time, I guess”, I said to Matt. Then we got to the turnaround and began our final way back (after just being passed by Steve Way heading back on the last stretch of the marathon – the marathon began an hour earlier and was twice the course). As we turned around the wind hit us in full force. Jesus! Suddenly we were faced with a ridiculous wind and some nasty uphills. No wonder Mark reacted like he did when I cheerily greeted him. I would have been the same! Matt broke away from me again on the hills and I vowed to catch him up again on the flat – which I did (though I can’t be certain he didn’t just slow down for me).

Then finally we turned again to head back to Sandy Balls. Thank god, we were now out of the wind. The good thing about the course was that you could split it into segments psychologically I found this easier than one loop or point-to-point (ahh Boston is a point-to-point…).

We just had one final nasty long slow incline to power up. Before that we had a nice downhill so I sprinted down it to put some distance between Matt and me so that when I inevitably slowed down on the hill the distance between us both wouldn’t be so huge and my catch-up wouldn’t be so hard.

The hill was relentless but we powered up and Matt, once again, got ahead of me.

IMG_8822Matt on the left (Photo credit: Gary Derwent)

But on the final mile back we were on a gentle downhill with the wind behind us. I did my fastest mile and felt completely in the zone of strong running. I caught Matt up and we pushed on to the end. Whew!image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the finish line we received our medals and a free cup of soup and bread roll (though I somehow missed the roll as I was talking too much). What a great way to finish a race! My time was 1:44:37, 58th overall, 10th lady and 6th in my age category. 18 miles in total. Not a bad training run!IMG_8806

The race was fantastic but it was really hard work. The hills and wind… it was tough, tough, tough! Especially with five miles to begin with. But the medal is great – with the race and date engraved on the back.

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I rushed back to get showered and sorted and then met the MT crew back in the usual events room for a carvery lunch. Before the lunch we had another talk, this time from Andy Lane who’s another Marathon Talk podcast interviewee (it also gave people a bit more time to finish and shower before lunch). Andy Lane is a psychology professor and does a lot of research into emotion regulation in sport. I was a bit zoned out at this point and very hungry. I hadn’t had breakfast or anything during the run, only the small cup of soup and it was now heading towards 1pm. My concentration levels were a bit blurred. What I did hear was interesting though.

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He talked about how as runners we need to have more of cyclist mentality where not every training session needs to be goal-driven and pressured. We should have more “cake rides”. Cyclists are renowned for just going out and cycling a fair distance but then stopping and enjoying some cake and social time. This rarely happens with running (OK logistically and stomach-wise it’s obviously tough, but we rarely have a run where it’s just about catching up with people and not focusing on the actual run). He said that goals don’t always need to be time-driven and hard. They can be things like: take some photos during this run or simply enjoy the outside. parkrun is a great example of this – it’s not all about your finishing time.

Then it was finally time to eat. It was a carvery so we had to go up and serve ourselves. Our table was about sixth to go up and I was getting increasingly hungry. Thankfully chatting distracted me so I wouldn’t turn into more of a monster.

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When we got up there I piled my plate high with vegetables, potatoes, gravy, and what I thought were stuffing balls, and then roast beef was placed on top from the chef. I tried not to wolf this down at breakneck speed… Turns out the ‘stuffing balls’ were actually vegetarian falafels. An interesting addition to the roast dinner! It was so lovely sat there eating this delicious meal amongst running friends and discussing the half marathon and running in general. I was very content.

IMG_8821This is actually from the Saturday evening but it’s mostly of the same people (Photo credit: Gary Derwent)

Then we went up for seconds Open-mouthed smile The chef gladly gave me more meat (there was loads!) and I was in my happy place. Until I was in my very full uncomfortable place Winking smile (arguably this is also my happy place…).

I plucked up the courage to go up to Martin and Tom, similar to the last Run Camp, and asked them for a cheeky photo. I told them I’d been there two years ago and showed them the older photo. They found it quite amusing.

IMG_8818Martin, me, Tom and Toms daughter, Rosie

They’re so friendly and lovely! I really hope I can make next year’s running camp. They’re just fantastic at organising the camp. It’s so well put together.

Then to finish Martin explained his epic running he’s got planned: running the South West Coast path! Twenty-one days of running 630 miles! Ouch! On the website you can sign up to join different stages or parts of the run with him which is quite cool. I might think about doing that – maybe! And not an entire stage!

And then that was it! I headed home with a lovely warm fluffy feeling in my stomach, and not just from all the food Winking smile Anyway, the Marathon Talk Run Camp was EPIC, amazing, so much fun and just fantastic. I learnt a lot, met some truly brilliant people and did some really enjoyable running. Fully recommend it to anyone interested in running: whether a veteran marathoner or a newbie runner just doing 5ks. It’s so inclusive and friendly. No one is left behind or made to feel like they’re not good enough.

Would you be interested in a training camp?

Are you better at running up or down hills?

What kind of course do you prefer – an out and back, a loop, laps, point-to-point, etc.?