Last long run before the marathon and some SUP

Well I’m just sat here waiting for the Goodwood Marathon to get cancelled…

I won’t be angry because I do understand but it’s frustrating. I mean, who knows it might still happen. The New Forest Marathon happened, though with no spectators. Originally my parents and Kyle’s mum were going to come to support me at Goodwood (this Sunday *gulp*) but obviously this was far too optimistic. Understandably they’re encouraging minimal supporters. The likelihood will be that it’ll just be Kyle and I going. I feel a bit bad for Kyle as it is such a boring  marathon to spectate (let alone run) but he has an iPad and his Switch so he can amuse himself quite happily with minimal effort to hurry to meet me on the course in different places.

(Side note: we always joke that I’m very much a “Hoff” and he’s a “Homer” in our relationship – MarathonTalk reference – I love to be moving and exercising and get itchy feet very easily, whereas Kyle’s default is not to move, to chill and do as little exercise as possible. We balance each other well. So this marathon is ideal that it involves minimal running about for him.)

I did my last long run this weekend gone. I quite like to do 13-16 miles the week before a marathon. It just works for me. And as I haven’t done quite as good a marathon lead-up to this race as I would normally (because I’ve been training for a moving target due to COVID) so I did 16 miles.

It wasn’t as good as my 18 miler the week before. I felt a bit meh and that it was hard work, but it is what it is. It was quite windy along the coast and I planned my run to try and have minimal headwind but there were times I was running straight at it which was tiring. No idea what this will mean for Sunday. I think I’m just going to see how I feel – which, let’s be honest, is no different to how I approach most races! The first mile will be telling. At least if there’s a headwind somewhere on the route I’ll get a tailwind too due to the course being basically a ring.

After my 16 miles I headed to Winchester to meet my lovely friend Bhuvana. Due to one thing and another, we hadn’t seen each other for far too long. It was just so lovely to catch up with her. We had so much to talk about.

We went to our usual lunch location where we’ve  been a few times before. I had the vegan BBQ salad (which I promptly de-veganised by adding smoked cheese and chicken) and we nattered away about everything.

We had a lovely walk along the river and then decided to head back to the train station. At this point I realised I had about 10 minutes to catch my next train (otherwise I had to wait an hour) so we picked up the pace and run-walked quickly to the station. With seconds to spare I leapt onto the train. But Bhuvana (who was heading to Basingstoke) shouted that it was the wrong train! She’s checked with the train guy and it wasn’t my train. So I quickly leapt off again practically just as it left the station. Whew!

Bhuvana said she thought she’d double-check for me (always safe – I’m just a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda gal – definitely stung me a few times). She told me it wasn’t going to Southampton. Ah no! I wasn’t going to Southampton, I was going to Portsmouth! The train guy overheard and confirmed, yep that the train I jumped off of was indeed the Portsmouth train. Haha what a farce! To be fair to Bhuvana, all the times we’ve met up previously I’ve always come from Southampton where I used to live. It was fine in the end – I mean, I really should have checked before jumping on blindly. It just meant we had a bit more time to chat 🙂

Sunday after a gentle 3 mile run, Kyle and I met up with his family to do some stand up paddle boarding in Chichester (a lake not the sea thankfully). I was adamant that I didn’t want to fall into the water because, rather vainly, I’d washed my hair the day before and didn’t want to deal with the faff of washing it again so soon (#longhairproblems). But this was the first time Kyle and I had ever done this so we were nervous. It was a warm day and I was wearing clothes I was happy to get wet but still.

Anyway we were given life jackets, were quickly taught the basics then off we went! Surprisingly I didn’t find it too tricky.

I got my balance and managed to stand up. I enjoyed how peaceful it was just floating and paddling away. And AMAZINGLY I didn’t fall in! Even when the waves picked up after the speedboat zoomed by. Kyle did fall in a few times but I put this down to him being rather taller and bigger than me. I thoroughly enjoyed the hour we were out on the lake but it was quite the upper body workout. I was actually quite envious of the others having had nice cool dips in the lake – whereas I was bone dry but sweating! But I was happy for my hair 😉

Then we headed into Chichester where we had lunch at Trents. I, of course, went for a giant platter of wings. The waiter was both shocked and impressed at my chicken wing eating capacity. The wings were good but a little plain…and humongous! I sadly didn’t manage them all.

It was a lovely weekend all in all. Now just creeping towards the marathon, nervous, apprehensive but excited. Please still  happen!

Have you ever done stand up paddle boarding?

Do you like water sports?

My next running challenge

So my running lately has been a little bit without focus or a goal.

And I’m sure this has been the same for so many other runners out there too because of COVID and races being cancelled and rescheduled left, right and centre. And entirely understadable and the right thing to have been done.

But while I’m not really the type of runner who is strongly motivated by PB’s or getting faster, I do like to have a race in the diary to schedule my training to. An endpoint so I can schedule my peak in miles and then have a finishing point. It feels a little like groundhog day week and that makes scheduling my runs somewhat tricky.

As someone who really enjoys long runs, it’s hard to not go overboard and end up running a long run every single weekend (like 15+ mile long runs). While I enjoy them, I know it’s not particularly sensible or even necessary. During marathon training it makes sense, but without that goal it can end up just being long run after long run without an end in sight and my body gets worn down unnecessarily. As an injury-prone runner, very risky.

However, this has now changed. I now have a marathon in the plan! I mean this could all change and it could be cancelled of course because, well, COVID really loves ruining things, but SO FAR it’s still to go ahead.

Despite not entirely loving the experience and probably ranking it down the lower end of my top marathon experiences, I’m going to be doing the Goodwood Marathon again 27th September. I ran it two years ago and while it was a fairly fast time for me, it was mentally a tough course to run because you do 11 laps (2.3 miles per lap) around the Goodwood Motor Circuit. It’s flat and an ideal course to get a good time, but it is dull.

However, at this point I’m so desperate to do a race and a marathon again I will take that. I have no idea what time I’m going to aim for, but I’ll do my best. My running has been fairly decent recently. I’ve been doing speed sessions every week, I’ve been doing some solid long runs… will it be enough? Who knows and, frankly, who cares!? It’s an organised race! They’ll be actual runners near me! They’ll be a medal!

I ran 18 miles last weekend. I hadn’t firmly set out to do 18 miles but I decided that if I managed it and felt good for it I’d do it, and then that would dictate whether I would do a marathon in the near future. I managed 18 miles and it felt good and I felt happy with the distance.

At that point I hadn’t entered Goodwood. I was going to run another marathon on my own (similar to how I ran the “lockdown marathon” a few months ago on my own). I just need to get it out of my system again. So I’d planned to do it round Portsmouth. Then I heard about Goodwood still being on from a friend and with it being soon I was sold.

So I’m excited and nervous – which I think is a healthy outlook to have for a marathon. The race organisers seem to have good COVID safety measures in place and it’s not a particular big race, so I’m not concerned about that. I’ll be as safe as I can while running – wide berths with any overtaking (positive thinking on that front), masks where appropriate, minimal contact and touching things I don’t need to… it’s a big track as well so I can’t imagine there being any great risk during the race anyway.

I just can’t wait for the whole shebang, you know? The night before’s pre-marathon meal, setting my clothes out ready, getting up early, eating porridge, getting there and having a million wees. I just love it. Then standing there ready to go with everyone else. BANG, you’re off. One mile in and over 25 to go. It’s daunting, terrifying, hard, tedious, boring, relentless, but exciting, fun and one of my favourite things in the entire world. That last 5k. Knowing how far you’ve come, how long you’ve been running. Just a parkrun to go. Push the pace a bit if you’re lucky. Smile for the cameras (turns out you grimaced), sprint finish to the end – which is never ever a sprint, but in your head your Mo Farah and you’re winning gold. I cannot wait.

I just hope it goes ahead.

Do you miss races?

What race would you love to do right now if you could?

Well that escalated quickly…

Life has really taken a dramatic twist hasn’t it?

Since the last time I posted (blissfully happy in a bubble of long running and marathon hopes), well, everything has changed.

For us in the UK things have really ramped up quickly in the last week. From advice of washing hands regularly to now schools closing and instructions to work from home, avoiding social spaces and parkrun cancellations.

It’s undoubtedly a scary and uncertain time but I don’t want this post to be all about that because let’s be honest we all know what’s happening and it’s pretty overwhelming and consuming. I’m actually quite glad to now be working from home because it’s all everyone talks about in the office. So I’m at home with a little set-up in my room adjusting to this new way of life.

Anyway, on to what this blog is about: RUNNING. Of course all the races I’d signed up for have been cancelled or postponed. I had the Eastleigh 10k this weekend, of course Rotterdam, and then I’d optimistically signed up to the Southampton marathon as a back-up, but that too has been postponed. Rightly so. And parkrun being cancelled.

Of course this is all the right thing to do. Not going out to social areas, not mixing unnecessarily, limiting chance of exposure. My dad has a heart condition so I’m worried. But we can only control what we can control and there’s point wasting emotional energy on things outside of that. Obviously easier said than done, but I’m trying.

So no marathon in the near future and a bunch of long runs and weeks’ of trainings that seem worthless now on paper. However, for me I really enjoy the process of marathon training so personally it’s not a waste. It’s just a shame there’s not a big shebang of a race to celebrate those long runs.

That said, I’m almost certain I will run 26.2 miles in April. My plan is to run the distance around where I live. I mean, it’s going to be ridiculously tough – so much harder than if it was a race as it’ll just be me on my tod running along. But part of me is curious as to whether I can actually do this… We’ll see. My plan would probably be to run it over the Easter weekend. I’d properly plan a route, maybe get my family out to support me, do everything I’d normally do. Well, watch this space!

Last weekend Kyle and I ran 18 miles together. We both knew Rotterdam had been cancelled and potentially the miles were “pointless” but we wanted to do it anyway as we’d planned it and had mentally geared up for it. Kyle is not a huge long distance fan and now that Rotterdam isn’t happening he’ll drop his mileage back down. It makes sense.

It’s such a shame for him because he did so well with the long runs – far better than last time when he trained for the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon and got injured halfway. He was very much on for a solid race. But such is life right now. He’ll be able to train up again if he wants to (Rotterdam is technically postponed until later in the year so this is real possibility all being well in the world, of course).

The 18 miler we did around where I live, my usual along the coast style long run which I love so much. We reversed the route and set off Sunday morning. We had a more relaxed start as no parkrun to get to (this was to be a “true” long run in the sense we wouldn’t be stopping or sandwiching anything in the middle). The wind was a bit blustery which was somewhat annoying  but generally the run went really well.

It’s funny though because when you’ve been doing a run route in one direction for so long, when you change it suddenly it makes everything different and you notice all these hills that you previously hadn’t!

However, we maintained a decent pace and then towards the end I stretched it out a tiny bit just to get my legs going. It’s my usual way of running long runs that I like to speed up a bit towards the end if I have the energy. Kyle wasn’t far behind at all though.

When we got back to mine my parents handed me a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts that a lovely friend had dropped off after I’d done a favour for him. What a fantastic way to finish a run, I tell you! We didn’t eat them straight away 😉

Instead we showered and then celebrated with an almighty carvery. Honestly, so satisfying and extra delicious after all those miles!

I had roast gammon with all the trimmings. It was glorious. The doughnuts were had later when we were chilling. Perfection!

Delicious Lotus Biscoff

Anyway, stay safe and healthy everyone!

What’s your favourite doughnut flavour?

Are still long running if you’ve had a race cancellation?

Training for the Rotterdam Marathon

So Kyle and I are currently training for the Rotterdam Marathon, which is on April 5th.

We’d signed up to it last year. I’ve always been interested in this marathon because people say it’s very scenic, it’s flat and it’s a bit different to the more popular Amsterdam Marathon (which I would still like to do as well at some point). I needed a spring marathon to look forward to and this made sense.

Kyle decided to sign up too as he wanted another crack at the marathon after his not so great Portsmouth Coastal experience (it’s a very tough first marathon and he only just scraped under his goal of four hours). We’re pretty sure he can run faster and Rotterdam gives him the opportunity to try on a much better course.

Anyway then the whole knee drama happened and I was resigned to not doing it (which Kyle was more than happy about – he’s not a natural long distance runner and to be honest was quite happy for any excuse not to do it). But then my knee got better and by the time I was back running we had enough (ish) time to train for Rotterdam. As Kyle had pretty much stopped running as regularly when I was injured we were both on the same starting block and could do most of our training together as we’re very similar in our paces.

I created a plan and while it was a fairly steep climb, it was doable. We have a limited taper (one week basically) but I tend to prefer this anyway. Long runs increase each week from 6, 8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 18, 18, 10-13, to the marathon. If we had a few more weeks it would have been nice to have dropped down again after the 17 miler, and/or in between the 18s, but we sadly don’t have that time.

So how’s it been going? Well with all the storms recently it has been tough.

Handily we were able to run 10 miles with work on one of the Wiggle Run/Ride Outs which happen every month. It was such a fantastic run.

I felt like I really got into it and got strong and stronger as it went on, finishing with a sharp blast at the end. I’ve had to sit out of these Run/Ride Outs for a number of months so it was so good to be back at it again. A nice way to bond with colleagues and get out of the office.

The weekend after we ran 13 miles from Kyle’s house (near Waterlooville) to Fareham and it was a toughie. The weather was horrendous and it was just so taxing.

For the entire 10-11 mile mark we were straight against the wind. We saw a chap running towards us who looked like he was absolutely loving life – being pushed along nicely, while we were gurning our hearts out just to push forward.

But we survived. It was a gruelling run and character building.

Good for the marathon bank at least!

Last weekend we ran 15 miles. I had planned a nice route round where I live, lovely and flat for the most part and along the sea front. It follows part of the Stubbington 10k route, then the Gosport Half Marathon route. It’s my usual long run locations and I love it because I can run anywhere from 6 to 18 miles around that area without looping back on myself. It’s a very satisfying and pleasant route.

Despite the weather beautiful GORGEOUS, the run didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. As we got into it my hip just started to niggle very slightly. I had somewhat expected this as the other day it had randomly started annoying me when I was at work. Very bizarre. Nothing crazy painful, just a little nag.

During the 15 miles the nag got a bit worse and it just felt uncomfortable. It wasn’t making me slow down or change my gait but it was generating some horrible thought processes in my brain. What if this develops into an injury? What if I’m out for months and months again?

When you’ve had a couple of injuries (and close together) then any sort of niggle gives you The Fear. What if, what if, what if. I have just got going again! Don’t do this! It really killed the vibe of the run for me as I sunk into my brain and ruminated on the worst case scenario. Afterwards I felt a bit “meh” about the run. My brain was in overdrive.

That week I foam rolled and iced and did all the good stuff I know I needed to do (or avoid doing) and went for a trial run on Wednesday morning.

Pre-early morning run

The run went absolutely fine. My hip was fine. I couldn’t believe the relief. What a panic over nothing! And my run the next day equally felt as good. My hip niggle has disappeared. I’m so relieved.

I wonder whether the hip thing was something entirely unrelated to running and then putting it under pressure during the 15 miles aggravated it a bit to inflame it a bit more. But then it died away as quickly as it had arrived.

This weekend is 17 miles and I feel a lot more positive. Kyle’s running has been going well as well. He had a minor misstep in trainer choices and felt his shins start to annoy him. But he switched to a more cushioned shoe (Hokas) and things have hugely improved. Happy days indeed!

Have you ever done any of the marathons in the Netherlands?

Do you like a long taper?

How many weeks do you train for a marathon?

Bournemouth Half Marathon

I’ve done the Bournemouth Marathon twice before, but never the Bournemouth Half Marathon. And it seemed like a great race to do the week before the Chicago Marathon. A last long run. A catered long run with a medal!

Considering how my training hadn’t been exactly how I would have liked it, a sharp build-up and not as many long runs as I wanted, I decided to do three miles before we headed off the half in the morning. Sadly this meant a very early alarm as the race was to begin at 8am and it would take us an hour to drive there. Ooof.

Happily (?) I woke up before my 5.40am alarm at 5.30am and decided to just get up and give myself a bit more of a buffer. It was warm outside (15 degrees) but dark so I grabbed my hand torch. The torch (from Nathan Sports) is fantastic. It has a front and back light, a rape alarm and attaches to your hand so you actually don’t have to hold it.

The run went well. As it was so quiet I ran mostly on the road (it’s a very quiet route in general) and saw several cats and a fox, who just stood and watched me run past. It was all very peaceful.

Then I got back, quickly swapped into some new running gear and my parents, Kyle and I headed off to Bournemouth. Kyle’s brother, Zack, was also going to be running the half as his first ever half marathon (and first actual race I believe) and him and his family were already down there staying in a hotel And happily my friend Emma was running as well. So lots going on and lots of friendly faces!

My parents dropped Kyle and I off and we headed to the portaloos where we met Zack, his mum, his sister, Lucy, and his other brother, Adam. The queues for the loos were huge and seemingly not moving. With only about 15 minutes before the start I was getting nervous. Eventually I gave up and found a well concealed bush nearby. Whew!

Then we headed to the start. We heard over the speakers though that the race had been delayed until 8.15am (we later found out due to the grim police investigation of a dead body).

We spotted Emma and wished each other well which was nice. Then it was off to our respective waves and then the start.

Kyle was planning on seeing what he could do, so I let him run off while I kept to my own more gentle speed. I remembered the course well from the other Bournemouth races I’ve done (the half follows a lot of the similar marathon route, but of course less of it). I had music going and just zoned out.

The first three or so miles went by nicely and I saw Kyle on the switch-back going the other way. I also saw Zack looking relaxed just behind me. He was aiming for a sub-2 hour half, but with a bit of sketchy training and a problematic toenail it was going to be a push.

As we got to around six miles I started to feel like things were harder than I wanted. My pace felt less relaxed and I suddenly felt overwhelmingly tired. As soon as I recognised that feeling I couldn’t get it out of my head. Like a niggle in my brain, all I kept thinking off was “I’m so tired. This is so hard”.

The temperature was increasing but not crazily so. It was a lovely clear day and the crowds were out in force. Annoyingly there was a head wind directly against us as we headed down the promenade. I felt this chip away at my good vibes and the demons set up camp in my head. What if Chicago felt like this? I felt a deep dread in my stomach.

To be honest, I ran this race badly. I wasn’t racing it but my strategy was appalling. It was meant to be an easy run and I (wrongly) associated pace with effort. My watch was saying 8-8.20 and I found it bizarre that this felt hard, but I didn’t slow down. I realise I should have just backed off and actually reduced my pace to the real easy pace for that day.

Easiness can change – the weather, the course, how you feel, how you’ve slept etc. etc. can massively impact what pace is easy for you. But like a newbie I ignored it and pushed through. I knew my parents, and Kyle’s family, would be mile eight and I got a horrible déjà vu from when I ran the marathon the first time and ignored my dad at this point saying I should stop because I felt a lot of pain in my knee. I wasn’t in pain, I wasn’t suffering any niggles, but I was feeling so drained. Should I stop?

As I got to my dad I did stop. He looked very worried – I don’t normally do this during a race. I said how I felt and how hard I was finding it. He suggested maybe I drop out? Or walk a bit? But I was resolved to finish. I had a little cry, a big hug and then headed off. This hugely helped. I felt like I’d had an emotional pick-me-up gel. A hug in a gel if you like.

Then I was hit with the hill that I was very familiar with during the marathon. Thankfully not the 18 miler hill which is horrific, but a shorter and less sharp hill, but tough nonetheless. I felt a new lease of life and pushed on up, smiling as much as I could remembering reading an article that smiling triggered happy feelings in your body. What a loon I must have looked like.

Then it was a lovely downhill which I fully embraced and a long slog to the Boscombe Pier. The sand underfoot that had blown over from the beach made for an annoying running path… the wind dead against us… the sun in my eyes… it all felt so very hard. But I spotted Kyle’s dad and he gave me a big cheer as I headed onto the pier, then back down the other way to the Bournemouth Pier. Now the wind behind us and I felt strong and picked it up a gear. I was almost done!

I finally managed to overtake people (having spent most of the race being overtaken) and whizzed along the pier and to the finish. Done!

I was so glad to stop. I felt exhausted. 1:45:58.

I collected my medal and saw Kyle. He’d finished in 1 hour 40 mins and 12 seconds, sadly about 20 seconds off his PB. He had had a hard run too. But still, a fantastic time. Zack finished in just over 2 hours 1 minute and 18 seconds – oh so close!! He was happy though, as well he should for his first half marathon.

I also saw Emma. She’d had a tough race too but, like me (or like I’d planned anyway) had used it as a last long run before Chicago.

For my race, in retrospect I should definitely have slowed down. My ego got in the way and I paid for it by having a miserable run. I was pleased to have gotten 16 miles for the day though – my last long run before Chicago. And I will definitely relax the pace if it starts to feel like that. Lesson well and truly learnt! Chicago is about getting to the finish uninjured without issue. No heroics or pushing through anything crazy.

We had a few photos, celebrated finishing and then headed home. Whew! I was tired, hungry and mentally drained.

Next stop now, Chicago.

Have you ever run a mentally tiring race?

Have you ever done the Bournemouth Half or Marathon?