Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Snowdonia Marathon - Race Report

The Snowdonia Marathon 2018

Race Report 

Both of us - Blue 
John - Orange
Kelly -Purple 

Friday 26th October 2018

Since both of us have completed our 'A' races for 2018, we took a rather more relaxed approach to this race than usual. Usually, we won't drink before a race and will think really carefully about our meals in the week leading up to the race. 3 meals this week have consisted of chips...ooops...and we both raced pretty much flat out only 1 day ago. We were feeling pretty relaxed...until we realised that we had a 4 and a half our drive ahead of us. North Wales is apparently a really long was away. 

We didn't arrive until 9:30pm so were pretty tired and fed up of driving - poor hamstrings! We were staying in a little apartment in Beddgelert; a beautiful quaint village. We unpacked and pretty much went straight to bed. 

Saturday 27th October 2018

Race day!

We woke up after about 7 hours sleep - not too shabby. 
I had considerably less! As lovely as our accommodation is, we arrived to find no supplies: No milk or butter and barely enough tea bags (10+ but that's an hours worth for me..) So I had an hour-or-so less than KD as I headed to the shops and bought supplies so we could have breakfast. I got back home with said supplies to find KD just coming out of slumber... very cosy indeed....

I was slightly worried about my calves. After racing (and winning!) the Weston Prom 5 mile race on Thursday, I was feeling a bit achy - not how I usually like to start a marathon. Still, this was going to be a relaxing run. Just for fun. I had to keep telling myself this as it's rather hard to keep my competitive feelings at bay. 
I wasn't concerned about KD's calves... I was concerned about having a cuppa tea. As for relaxing... I'm not sure if a marathon is ever that. Our plan was to try and run within ourselves, making sure throughout to not wreck ourselves on the downs or the ups. (Breakfast for anyone concerned about pre-race nutrition was: a generous bowl of porridge with a spoonful of jam and two pieces of white bread toast - a very small glass of water with a cuppa tea, plenty of hydration on the way to Beddgelert yesterday in the car)

We had to pick up our numbers by 9am so we left our apartment at 8:10 and drove to Llanberis where the race begins. John went to pick up our numbers while I struggled to pay for parking using the app. 
When John arrived with our numbers and T-shirts, I noticed that our numbers had a little hoody symbol. What could this mean? Surely we didn't fork out extra for two hoodies? We walked together to the race village to see. After being distracted by the winners trophy (which I nearly ran off with!), we found the stall and were told that yes in fact we had purchased two matching hoodies! Awesome! 
Getting to and parking up near the race event village was a lot more straight forward than I thought. As long as you get there in good time (1.5-2 hours before the race) there's no chaos whatsoever plenty of space for parking and plenty of shelter at the expo and bag drop. The hoodies we've got are awesome!

After about 5 trips to the toilet (hardly any queues!), we started the long walk (uphill) to the start. It was cold. VERY cold. I did a bit of a jog to try and warm up and then we played 'find the sunbeam and wait in it' until 10:30am when the race began. 
Agreed, 't was/is proper cold. Luckily we timed things quite well so, after the walk to the start, we had a 10 minute wait. 

We had a good spot right pretty close to the start line. We counted down from 10 and then we were off. The first two miles were downhill so we quickly got into a 7mm rhythm. John kept reminding me to look around. Normally, in a race, my eyes are fixed intently on my feet - mainly to ensure I don't trip and fall over but today I was wide-eyed and looking around all over. The sun was shining, the mountains stood majestically around us while the lakes glittered. It was easily the most picturesque race I've ever ran (sorry Towpath!). 
We were storming the first few miles, <7MM on the flats felt good - easy distracted by the beautiful mountain landscape. There was no need to reign it in yet, the upcoming hills would do that for us...

Mile 3 came around pretty quickly and with it, the first of 3 major hilly sections. I knew it was going to last for a couple of miles so we just slowed the pace and trotted up steadily. Every race we run, we seem to bump into people we know. We saw a Weston AC runner and then I spotted Jules who I recognised from the Gwent League and from the Abingdon Marathon last week. We had a bit of a chat and he gave us some advice. 'When the downhill comes, DON'T go super fast - you will pay for it later.' 'Meh - I though to myself, I love downhills, downhills are my thing!' 
The hills have eyes... They saw how much fun we were having and they were waiting patiently to remind us how tough today was gonna be... after plenty of helpful advise from blokes with 30+ Snod attempts between them, we took it VERY easy going up the hills... as soon as we started to feel labored, we slowed down - repeat. 

Luckily, John heeded the advice. The hill finished and the downhill began - 'woooohooooo' I started to pick it up but then I looked behind me and John was taking it pretty steady. I dropped back and ran with him - we'd planned to run together. Secretly, I really wanted to zoom down the hill but I love John so I stuck with him. Plus - he is usually right. Annoyingly, the more we stuck to our race strategy, the more people stormed passed us. Literally, a hundred people must have passed. Including loads of women who I know I'm quicker than. Resisting the temptation to race was pretty hard at this point. Instead, I focused my energy in looking around and continuing to admire the spectacular scenery. It felt like everyone was going past us... but not one of them looked like the beaded, hardy, mountain-goat types who had warned us - "...don't wreck your quads too early..." I was VERY disciplined and kept reigning KD in.. (So together we were both very sensible.. ) I knew, after years of watching the hours of S4C coverage, and, regardless of not understanding a word of the Welsh commentary, we had 3 very long, tough hills. This first major decent was very fair; 4+ miles of low gradient, slow, lazy downhill - plenty of time to take it steady and recover in-time for the next major accent.

The downhill pretty much went from mile 6 to mile 13. Halfway came round super quickly. We were still plodding and still being overtaken but I was over it now. Just really enjoying chatting to John and really enjoying myself. Never had a marathon felt so easy and been so fun. I'd been looking forward to mile 13 because we'd go past our apartment. I reminded John that we had a huge Toblerone waiting for us there and that thought filled our minds for quite some time. 
Through half way in Sub1:40 - it became apparent that with a Sub1:50 second half, we'd break 3:30 - awesome considering I was going out for Sub4 hours.. Halfway was lovely - we ran down into Beddgelert where we are staying to masses of people cheering and it was nice to reflect whilst running past our home for the weekend. We were both feeling very fresh and very strong. The added incentive of being reminded of the Toblerone was just what I needed as the isotonic refreshments were't quite hitting the spot!

After 13 miles, I was feeling mega fresh still. Legs felt great, my heart rate was pretty low and I just focused on running lightly and keeping good form. For miles 14 and 15 we had hill number 2 to contend with. Again, we took it really steady but for the first time, managed to overtake a few people who had chosen to walk up the hill. Even the sudden pelting of hail stones couldn't dampen our spirits! This was a tough one... after going through half way after tonnes of downhill, I(we?) had forgotten about any discomfort from the previous climb... this one was VERY exposed so not only were we fighting against gravity but also against tornado type winds (slight exaggeration - the weather throughout the race was actually very kind!) We hid behind a strong group and protected ourselves as best we could, whilst taking it easy and still enjoying the scenery.

I had to pinch myself. I'm running up hill. In Snowdonia and it feels easy! We bounded up the hill, ignoring the wind which had picked up a bit. When we reached mile 16, my favourite mile, I was in a great place. We had another 6 miles of gentle undulation with a considerable amount of downhill. I decided not to think about the infamous 'massive hill' at mile 22. I wouldn't say it was easy... KD was still full of energy and needed to reminded of the impending doom of the last major hill ahead... to be fair, she remained controlled and sensible-ish.

The miles kept on ticking by and I was still feeling amazing. We were keeping the pace to around 7:30 mm which still felt really comfortable. By this point, my bounding along chatting away merrily was starting to get comments from nearby runners - hopefully I wasn't too annoying and they could see that I was just enjoying myself! KD was very annoying.. when you're 18 something miles into a marathon, the last thing you want is a bouncy-Duracell-bunny like character reminding you just how great the views this point I'm sure most are very aware and wanting more of a television like view... I balanced our dynamic duo by mainly grunting and moaning... all was good...

For me, (and probably most people) reaching 20 miles into a marathon and feeling great just doesn't happen. Today changed all of that. Hmmm...maybe my usual strategy of going all out and hanging on for the last 6 miles isn't actually the best plan after all! I knew I only had 2 more 'nice' miles before the hill began. I had heard that it was proper hard and most people walk it. Well, I was still feeling good so I told John that I really wanted to try and run the whole way up it...
KD was full of beans and I was feeling OK. The miles had ticked over nicely and a quick review on the time piece re-asured me that with some work, 3:30 was in the bag. As KD suggests, this is a great feeling and actually unusual for bother of us... 

Mile 22 came and we had caught up with our friend and ex-running coach Faye. She is mega good at trail running so we don't often see her on the road. After a little chat, we pushed upwards and onwards. The final hill had began. I knew it would last about 2 miles but I hadn't realised quite how steep. For the first time today, my legs hurt. My back was also starting to hurt and the gradient became so steep that I was hardly moving. Luckily, John had taken on the Duracell bunny role and was bounding ahead of me shouting encouragement. A couple of times I was pretty close to stopping and walking but he knew exactly what to say and I managed to keep running. 2 miles of steep uphill is really really hard. I was offered a jelly baby which I took gratefully and gradually ate during the uphill - trying to take my mind off the intense pain in my quads and hamstrings. During the whole uphill section, we were overtaking person after person. I recoginse these people as everyone who had left us for dust in mile 6 on the first downhill section. 'Mwhahaha!' my...I mean... John's strategy was working! This hill was a killer... But... we were in strange territory... we'd been holding back for hours and were feeling strong and excited about getting over the hill and finishing.. This coincided with catching up with 3+ women and KD's competitive side kicking in... Warning for anyone doing this evening in the future: This hill is a killer! It is 2 miles of very VERY tough climb... imagine Ashton Court, twice...(it felt like Ashton Court x5!)

Finally, we reached the top of the hill. My legs felt like jelly for a few steps but I quickly spotted 3 or 4 women ahead of me. John was jumping around and sprinting to the next woman and pointing manically at her - indicating that I had to pick up the pace and overtake. We only had 2 miles to go and -amazingly- I still felt pretty good. Yes my legs hurt now but I put that out of my mind and focused on mission overtake women! Sub3:30 was slipping away... luckily there was candy in the window... KD couldn't resist the finger pointing/goading and kept picking up the pace and overtaking woman after woman - awesome/some of the best racing I have seen from KD!

The last two miles were suuuuper steep downhill. Mostly, I was storming down although there were some sections that I had to slow down because they were slightly scary. John was storming ahead - mountain goat style but looking back every few paces to check that I was close and still going strong. 'We can get sub 3:30!' came the call! At this point it was all guns blazing... hold nothing pack... we'd been protecting our calves, hamstrings and quads all day - no point now! The field at this point in the race was pretty spread out and everyone we flew past looked like they were struggling. This downhill section was precarious - very dangerous (J5 on the scale...) but I was feeling dangerous! We implemented top downhill technique; leaning forward, high cadence and took about 10 years of the lifespan of our quads - worth it!

With just 0.2 miles to go, I could hear the cheers of the crowds. We managed to overtake another two men (just for fun!) in the last sprint for the line. Just a few paces ahead of me, John held out his hand. I took it and we crossed the line together! It was a really special moment. (It wasn't for fun - it was to secure <3:30) Running in together was awesome - we'd had a great day and executed the race plan almost perfectly. A over the top soppy hand holding finish awaited...

When we finished, we were given slate coasters and water bottles. Then, the film crew spotted us and asked for an interview - I imagine they've read our blogs! Hmmm...

If you want to see us (possibly) on TV and watch our interview (unless they cut us!) it's on .....
S4C - Sunday at 8PM... will be in Welsh but there should be subtitles... Please watch (not for us!) to get a perspective on this awesome event! Yes it's tough - it's a road marathon in Snowdonia! - but the course is perfect - beautiful views throughout, fantastically marshaled and very well organised - I'd love to come back. Running with KD was great - I think it's the first time we've raced together in a long time? It was so nice feeling strong throughout and being able to help each other out - it goes in my top 5 fave races - awesome!

Finishing time for both of us, 3.28.43

PS - JC's Top 5 Races...
  1. Snod 18 - Running and executing a controlled marathon with my best friend and coming away from an event with loads of kit and being able to wear it all confidently without having to repeat the boring Boston story... An EPIC adventure at one of THE best marathon races (a little OTT...)
  2. Berlin 16 - Running at the fastest and most prestigious road marathon in the world toe-to-toe with the Maestro throughout - missing Sub3 by 5 seconds (3:00:04) gave us plenty to talk about for the next 12 months but I enjoyed the race, weekend and company so much it will always be one of my favourite races.
  3. Bath 17 - My first ever Sub80 half marathon.. 77:44.
  4. GMU30 - Sharing the podium with the Maestro and Doctor Dave - my first ever piece of proper silveware and finally some inches on the shelf for me in the Cox-Dicks household!
  5. Pensford 10K 17 - My one and only win! Yes it was the weekend after London Marathon and OK it was the slowest winning time in the history of the event - but you gotta be in it to win it and lunch that day on the winnings was one of the tastiest ever!
(SUB3 (2:58:10) AT Abingdon 2016 has it's own list....)

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Chester Marathon - So close to Sub 3!

The Chester Marathon 2018

After about 7 and a half hour's sleep, I woke up at 6am for my pre-race breakfast. I've decided to vary from my usual pre-race meal of egg fried rice in favour of Coach Cox's recommended toast with butter and jam. The thinking behind this is that rice takes longer than 3 hours to digest where as toast digests and gets into the system quicker. 3 slices of toast and a glass of water later, I was back in bed for another hours' sleep. I woke up in a panic after a dream that I slept in until 10am...I wonder how many others have had that dream pre-race?! 

John and I got up and dressed and we left the Airbnb apartment at 7:30am. After a 10 minute drive, we parked up in a Teso 0.7 miles from the start. The weather was perfect - about 12 degrees, cloudy and cold. My legs felt great and I felt super excited; my resting heart rate - usually 45 bpm - was at 130! We walked into the racecourse and atmosphere was amazing. It didn't take us long to find the Elite room. The set up was amazing; loads of chairs, it was lovely and warm and they were giving out tea and coffee. I made my usual 10 trips to the toilet. At 8:30, I went outside to do a little warm up. My legs were feeling especially good and mentally I was feeling really positive. I spotted a few runners that I knew from local running clubs or strava- John, Kieron Fee and Melissa - so had a chat and managed to find a few people who I thought would be running a similar pace to me. 

At 8:50, the organisers led us all out to the start where they had a pen right at the front ready for us. Just before the start I spotted someone I reconginsed - Russell Bently aka Russell Runner. I've been following his training and reading his blogs for a while so I couldn't resist saying hello and introducing myself. He's been training for a sub 2:20 so I was pretty sure he'd be in with a chance of winning. 

After a few words of encouragement from the Town Crier, the horn sounded and we were away. The first couple of miles were through Chester town centre and I actually remembered to look around and enjoy the architecture! There were a few ups and downs but my legs were feeling amazing so I hardly noticed them. Just after the first mile, I saw my support team for the first time. John, my parents and John's parents were cheering wildly which put a huge smile on my face. 

Fairly early on, a girl called Sam pulled in alongside me. We'd been chatting before the start. She'd had recently raced in Berlin but pulled out before the end. She, like me, was aiming for her first Sub 3. She asked if she could run alongside me and I was more than happy to have some company. At that point, we were running as part of a huge group. A few of us were having a chat but most people were pretty focused on the task at hand. 

I always say that I can tell (in half marathon or marathon) if it's going to be a good day or not at mile 6. Mile 6 came up pretty quickly and I was feeling great. Sam and I were working really well together running step for step and getting into a really strong rhythm. 

The first 6 miles looked like this: 
6:42, 6:42, 6:41, 6:53, 6:35, 6:51 I was averaging exactly 6:45 pace. There was a lovely long downhill at mile 5 with beautiful views. I went over the first chip mat at 6.1 miles and thought of all the people who were tracking me. 

In marathons, I split the race up into a number of milestones which are really key. Reaching 10 miles was great. It's also where John was planning on seeing me first...I didn't spot him...later I found out that I was too quick and he arrived there after I'd passed! Ooops! Around mile 11, we went down a road called something like 'straight mile lane' it lived up to its name - 1 mile straight, flat and fast. 
We were running through countryside now. There were some beautiful little villages and huge houses. There were a fair number of supporters on the route and, because we had our names on our numbers, I was getting loads of cheers. Lots of very rich looking people had come out of their private roads to politely clap and nod their heads! I also spotted fellow GWR runner Taryn who had come out especially to support me holding up a GWR vest - her support was much appreciated - it's always lovely to see a familiar space. 

Getting to 12 miles and the next chip timing mat was great as I knew that I'd give my supporters something to cheer about! Another really solid block:
6:47, 6:45, 6:41, 6:42, 6:42, 6:43 once again averaging 6:45 - the race was going exactly to plan. 
At this point, we reached a section of the course where the faster runners were coming back along the stretch we were on. We'd timed it perfectly (just as I'd done in the London Marathon) where I could see the lead car! The leader came past followed pretty closely by Russell Runner! I gave him a shout of encouragement and then got back to focusing on my own race. 

I went through halfway at 1:28 - spot on what John had told me to aim for. It felt great to have reached the halfway point especially as my legs were still feeling really good. My left hamstring was feeling a little tight but nothing major. Also, the tongue of my left trainer had moved a bit ...but I was trying to not think about that! 

I love getting to mile 16 in a marathon as there's just 10 miles to go. I was still feeling good and still running step for step with Sam. At this point, we reached our first 'proper hill' I followed John's advice and took it steady - no need to storm up it. It did increase my average pace a tad but nothing that I needed to worry about too much at this point. I checked in  with Sam and she said that her legs were starting to feel a bit heavy now. I keep encouraging her but did keep in mind that I might need to push on if she couldn't keep the pace. 

I reached mile 18 and the next chip timing mat. I checked my watch - still averaging 6:45 - yes! 
6:57, 6:39, 6:37, 6:50, 6:57, 6:57 for the last 6 miles. The varying times are due to the undulations. I was running at a consistent effort. With 7 miles to go, Gia (local running friend who'd traveled up with us) passed me with a couple of words of support. I managed to keep him in sight for a while...
It was at mile 18 that I made a bad decision...I was feeling amazing still and I only had 8 miles to go. I thought I could pick up the pace and get an even better time...I got greedy! It was at this point that Sam stuck to her plan of 6:45s (very sensible!) and I ended up running ahead of her for a bit. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I've only done 6 marathons and I'm definitely no expert yet. I've learnt how important it is to reflect on my mistakes so that I don't make them again. 

I wasn't ahead of Sam for very long. Whenever I reached an uphill, I slowed down and she caught up with me. Then, eager to make up the pace, I tried to really use the downhills as much as possible. Up until this point, I hadn't really needed to think about my form. This was the point that started reminding myself to lean forwards and use my arms. 

I reached 20 miles and, for the first time, my legs were feeling tired. I was just about to maintain the pace but I was very aware that I was working pretty hard now. Usefully, I spotted a lady not too far ahead of me so I focused on catching her and tried to dig deep. In the book I've been reading (recommended to me by John) called 'Endure' by Alex Huchinson, he suggests that swirling energy drinks around in your mouth sends signals to your brain that you're getting an energy hit - you don't actually have to drink the drink to get the benefits. This caught my attention as Lucozade doesn't agree with my stomach. As I was feeling pretty fatigued by now, I thought I'd give it a try. The result-  I did feel a boost and ran a fairly speedy mile - 6:41! 

After a painful two miles I managed to overtake the lady I was aiming for. I only had 4 miles left. But 4 miles suddenly seemed really really far. I was checking my watch what seemed like every 1/2 a mile and found that, in actual fact, I'd only traveled 0.1 miles. Oh dear. By this point, my pace had dropped to 7 minute miling. I tried to do a bit of maths. My watch was telling me I had been running for 2 hours and 28 minutes. It took me much longer than it should have done to work out that 7x4 was a couple of minutes for the 0.2 (which is normally longer than 0.2 due to the weaving and GPS inaccuracies!) It was ok. I was still going to get sub 3. I had a couple of minutes in the bag. 7 minute miles would do it. 

I'd heard talk of the biggest hill on the course at mile 24.  I was told that I'd know when I'd reach it because there were 'angels' who would be running up the hill to help encourage the runners. I wasn't especially pleased therefore when I reached a pretty big hill at mile 23 but there were no angels...I knew that meant that there was an even bigger hill to come...brutal! Who planned this course with all of the big hills in the last 6 miles?!?! 

With just 3 miles to go, I was really starting to suffer. The sub 3 hour pacer had just gone past me and a couple of ladies I'd passed early came back past me, including Sam who I gave a thumbs up to. I was obsessively checking my watch now and desperately trying to calculate if I'd still be able to make it. My legs were getting heavier and heavier and slower and slower and there didn't seem to be anything I could do. I was cursing myself for trying to pick up the pace at mile 18! 

'3 little miles....just a parkrun to go!' I tried to convince my brain that I was nearly there but my brain was having none of it! Someone in the crowd was handing out watermelon - yes the watermelon could save me. Remembering the ice lolly in the Boston Marathon which had given me a second whim, I took it gratefully. It was refreshing but I didn't get a boost. 

2 miles to go. Come on legs! You're nearly there. There was a lovely downhill section and I got into a rhythm. The pace came back down to sub 7. 'Yes! I'm going to do it!' Oh balls. There's the hill. It looked like a mountain (clearly it wasn't but I'm slightly concerned by my perception as I'm running the Snowdownia Marathon in 3 weeks...oh dear...). I watch the seconds I'd just gained disappear and I trudged slowly and slightly sadly up the mountain. There were indeed angels, with lovely bright orange tops on, who were...just standing there...they did cheer but I would have actually apreciated some company up the hill! Never mind, I did ask them one question "This is the last hill yeah?" They confidently assured me that it was. 

The last few miles saw my pace slow:
21 (6:55) 22 (7:01) 23 (7:08) 24 (7:08) 25 (7:31) 

Brilliant. Just over 1 mile of downhill. I've got 10 minutes to do a mile and a bit. I can do this. I got back a bit of momentum on the downhill but then...another uphill! WHAT! Fighting the urge to turn around to go and tell those 'angels' that they were mistaken, I just tried not to think about it. By this point my legs were absolutely shattered. They were just about managing to do a sub 7 min mile but the hill slowed my pace again. I began to realise that sub 3 wasn't going to happen today. 

'It's ok,' I told myself. 'Just keep going and get as close as you can.' I knew I'd see my support crew again in a minute and, despite feeling like I just wanted to stop and curl up into a ball and sleep, I tried to put on a smile and keep an eye out for them. I heard them before I saw them. They were seriously loud and enthusiastic! I didn't have to work hard to smile. It was great to see them at the point when I was hurting the most. I tried as hard as a possibly could to pick up the pace. I knew I was so close. Where was the race course? Surely I should be able to see it by now? My watch beeped for 26 miles. Yes! So close! Where is the race course? Suddenly, I spotted Sam in front of me. She'd stopped...I think she maybe thought she'd reached the finish line...'Keep going!' I yelled. I tried to catch up with her. We were both swerving around the road like two drunk old men. 

Desperately looking at my watch, the time said 2:58:10 I knew I was so close but I still couldn't see the finish. Eventually, I saw the racecourse and heard John screaming at the top of his lungs. I urged my legs to move faster. I tried to focus every tiny bit of energy I had left but I felt like I was hardly moving. John ran the last bit with me - from the other side of the barrier. I put everything I had into it. With 200 meters to go I looked at my watch and saw a 3:.... I didn't feel disappointed. I genuinely had given everything I had. I passed Sam with 100 meters to go. I crossed the line in a time of 3:00:50 and collapsed on the floor. 

I'm delighted. I've taken around 3 minutes off my PB. I was so close that I know it's just a matter of time before I go sub 3. I ran a perfect race up until 20 miles ....I wonder how many marathon runners have also done that! I've learnt some lessons and I had an amazing weekend with the people I love. My family were amazing; it really made a difference having their support. 

The one person I really have to thank is John. He devised my 10 week training plan. He's put up with my whinging, moaning, stressing and panicking! He's shown me that sub 3 is possible off low mileage; I've averaged 41 miles a week for the 10 week block. I will definitely be listening to him more often and following his advice in the future! 

Thank you to everyone to has been reading these blogs, following my training, tracking me and sending me messages of support. It feels wonderful to know how much people care.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Chester Marathon - Sub 3 attempt - Marathon Eve!

Marathon Eve!

Both of us - Blue 
Kelly - Purple 
Orange - John 

We've just arrived in Chester at our lovely Airbnb accommodation. The Chester Marathon - the culmination of months of training and planning - is only a matter of hours away! 

Here's how my last week of training has gone: 

Monday 1st October 2018  

I started the week with a rest day. I'm only doing an 8 day taper so going to really drop the mileage this week to give my legs time to recover after my last long run on Saturday. 

My main mission this week - don't get ill! Everything has gone to plan; the only thing that could go wrong is for me to pick up a cold now...which, when working in a school, is often quite a challenge!

I went to yoga, at Pure Yoga Wapping Wharf, in the evening and really felt the benefit of all of the downward dogs. I'm a total yoga convert. It's made a huge difference to my recovery this campaign and I'll definitely keep going regularly. 

Tuesday 2nd October 2018  

A lovely gentle 5k around the Harbourside this morning. Super nice to be running with John again. We averaged just under 9 min miles. Legs felt pretty good although my calves were a bit tight. I made a mental note to ask Jenny to focus on my calves in my sports massage later in the week. 

 Wednesday 3rd October 2018  

Today, John had planned for me to run a 'dress rehearsal'. This is something I often hear people talking about (especially John!) but I've never tried myself before. The idea is that you wear everything that you plan on wearing for the race and run a few miles at your planned marathon pace. I haven't done it before because I haven't wanted to run so fast so close to the big race. However, John aka Coach Cox thought I should give it a go...and...let's face it, everything he's suggested so far has been successful so I decided to give it a go. 

Despite running 102 miles just a week and a half ago, John was keen to come along and pace me so we headed out together along the Portway. 1 mile to warm up and then we were off. John encouraged me to practise drafting behind him and not look at my watch too much but try and feel the pace. 

Amazingly, the pace felt really comfortable. My legs felt great and I was bouncing along merrily. 3 miles at : 6:45, 6:39, 6:43 spot on planned marathon pace. Woohoo! 

  Thursday 4th October 2018  

Just 1 mile for me today at my staff running club. Had 4 people today which is great. Hopefully the numbers will continue to rise. 

In the evening, I went to see Jenny, at Comfort Health Bristol, for my sports massage. She focused on my calves and achilles before turning her elbow onto my glutes - ouch!

I left with a spring in my step - my preparation was almost complete! 

Back at home, I completed my next phase of preparation - the all important nail and toenail clipping and painting! The colour of choice - GWR blue of course! 

 Friday 5th October 2018 

Another mile today with the kids this time at our lunchtime running club. 37 children, 2 parents and 2 teachers. We did a focus on the importance of using our arms today. I made them run up a hill with their hands on their heads, before then letting them use their arms again, so they could feel the benefits! 

That's it! My last mile before Chester done! 

Then I did my final yoga class. A one off special - a 90 minute workshop (especially for runners and  cyclists) called 'melt into your hips'. 90 minutes of stretching focusing on opening up the hip-flexors - ideal! 

 Saturday 6th October 2018 

Marathon Eve! I'm VERY excited! I haven't stopped bouncing around all day. I've been eating lots of rice and toast and trying to remember to drink lots of water. Both my parents and John's parents are also in Chester to watch me race so we're off out tonight to meet them and have dinner. 

For the first time ever, I feel like everything in this campaign has gone to plan. I've been following a 10 week plan, which is my shortest ever, written for me by John. Initially, I wasn't sure it was long enough but now I feel completely ready. I've followed the plan to the letter. I didn't manage to achieve all of the workouts initially but I've grown in strength and, more recently, I've hit every session. I've not had any injuries or illnesses at all which has made a huge difference as I've not had to take any breaks from training during the 10 week block. I've had massages around every 2 weeks, been to yoga at least once a week (a lot more frequently in the summer holidays!) and had PT sessions, working on strength and conditioning, almost every week. 

My race strategy is to go out at 6:45 min mile pace. I've heard that the course is undulating so I'm planning to take the uphills steady, recover on the downhills and really focus on hitting the pace on the flat sections. 


Bronze - PB - sub 3 hours 3 minutes 

Silver - Sub 3 hours 

Gold - Sub 2 hours 58 minutes and 5 seconds (John's PB!) 

I'm feeling good, feeling confident and ready to go! 

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