Monday, October 21, 2019

The Abingdon Marathon 2019!

The Abingdon Marathon 2019!

Both of us -Blue 
Kelly -Purple 
John Orange

After 18 weeks of relatively average training (whoops - must do better next time!) the day had arrived! We'd found ourselves a pretty nice little place on Air BnB only 1.5 miles from the start. After a chilled Saturday watching a documentary about the Boston Marathon (yes we really love running!), we had a carby tea of pasta before getting an early night. 

I woke up at 6am and John brought me some toast. I ate my breakfast before drifting back off to sleep for another hour. At 7am, we jumped up and got ready. Conditions were perfect 10 degrees, cloudy and dry with hardly any wind. We had a gentle walk to the start and arrived with plenty of time to spare. After quickly spotting our GWR crew, we sat down and chatted about race plans and strategies. Unusually, I wasn't nervous. I guess I hadn't really put any pressure on myself. My goal was to go for Sub 3 and see how it felt. I was prepared for it to hurt and I was prepared to put the effort in. After my DNF at the Kingston Half, I was determined to finish. In the back of my mind, I knew that sub 3 was probably unlikely, but the marathon is such a mental game that I knew I couldn't let myself think that. I had to stay positive. 

We did a little warm up around the track and got into the start pen with 4 minutes to spare. It was refreshing to stand on the start line of a race and feel cold! The race started and we were off. Initially, I ran with John and Dave but I found my rhythm relatively quickly and they pushed on ahead. My plan was to run 6:45 mm pace for as long as possible. At first I felt great! The first 6 miles flew by. I was in 3rd place and feeling great. Sub 3 was on. The first 5 miles were all exactly 6:46 - spot on. 

Around mile 7, I knew there was a slightly uphill section. It wasn't too bad but it did slow my pace a little. I was, however, prepared for this so didn't let it worry me. Getting to mile 10 is always a great feeling as 16 miles to go feels more achievable. I was still feeling pretty good although starting to worry that my average pace was getting closer and closer to 6:50 (6:51 was my average pace at Chester where I ran 3:00:51 so I knew I had to be under that). 

When halfway arrived, I felt a mix of joy that I'd reached that key marker but also slightly worried as usually -when I'm having a good day at a marathon - at halfway I feel really fresh still and the pace feels easy. At halfway the pace wasn't easy. My legs were starting to get heavy and that was worrying...there was still a long way to go. Nevertheless, I past halfway in sub 90 so technically I was on track. If only I could muster up a negative split! 

It was about this point that people started passing me. Club mate Tim cruised past looking pretty comfortable. I really wanted to latch onto him and push on but I really couldn't. My legs felt really heavy - just like they normally do at mile 22! Oh dear. At mile 14 I had done my first 7 minute mile of the day. That was the point where I realised that Sub 3 really wasn't going to be possible unless I really picked it up. I tried telling that to my legs but there really wasn't any chance. Surprisingly, I felt ok about it. I guess I had known all along that sub 3 would have been a tall order on my less than brilliant training and rather dodgy hamstring. 

I changed the focus of the day to- finish. I wanted to bank another marathon experience. I'd ran a sub 90 half and done 13 miles at target MP. I definitely wasn't going to pull out. I was pretty sure that it would be slower than my last race at Abingdon but I was confident that I could come in quicker than 3:21 - my Boston time. So my new goal was to finish in around the 3:05 - 3:15 bracket. 

It seemed to take quite a while to finish the first loop. Whilst I tried to stay positive, I wasn't looking forward to running that whole loop again. I felt like it would take an age. Surprisingly, the second loop seemed to go much faster even though I was running considerably slower. I had a good memory of the course and it was great to tick off the landmarks knowing I wouldn't see them again ...until next year perhaps! 
Jelly babies...YEAAAHHH!

The support around the course was brilliant. Our friend Cat was everywhere with her brilliant blue pompoms. It was also great to see Andy from our club and Beth, Dave's wife. As well as all of these cheers, there were quite a lot of supporters out and the marshalls were so enthusiastic and encouraging. 

By mile 17, people were starting to slow and and walk. I decided to try an encourage others who had clearly, like me, given up on their A goals. After a few positive shouts, I managed to get a couple of guys to run along with me but eventually they slowed back to a walk. I overtook a few people in these last few miles but quite a few overtook me too. Most notably, lots of women. Part of me really wanted to sprint on and overtake them...but my legs wouldn't let me. Also, despite feeling a bit tight (as was to be expected), my hamstring actually wasn't feeling too bad and I didn't want to destroy it for no reason. I grudgingly let them go past and focused on keeping to an acceptable pace of when I deemed to be around 7:30mm. 

By the time we reached 22 miles, I had a new problem - my feet. I've never really suffered before but I've moved to a new pair of shoes (as my favourite Pure Cadence brand have been discontinued). I could feel blisters forming and every step was becoming painful. Not only that, but my legs felt incredibly heavy. My pace was slowing but I just tried to keep smiling. I was really looking forward to mile 24 as our parents would be there waiting for us. Loud cheers and waves from them gave me all the boost I needed to power on to the end. 

The last miles follow the route we walked to the start so I knew it well. It was brilliant turning onto the track and hearing John's voice cheering for me. I crossed the line in 3:10 happy that I'd finished and banked my 3rd fastest ever marathon. I felt into John's arms with a smile on my face. 

2:57:01 = PB!!! Awesome result -  Well chuffed! From start to finish everything went near enough perfectly. As KD has explained the weather and conditions were perfect for marathon running. No excuses today. I was targeting Sub2:55 but wanted to race as comfortably as possible to make sure I renewed my membership to the Sub3 club. 

Prep was good. 18 weeks of good training averaging 50 miles per week whilst making sure to run steady throughout, very little speedwork other that the odd tune up race here and there. This meant I got to the start line injury free and feeling fresh and raring to go. Food prep was as follows (boring but I wanna record it so I can replicate at future marathons) Porridge for breakfast with a cuppa tea and a pint of water (2.1/2 hours before the race. The day before consisted of 4 Wheetabix and blueberries for breakfast, 6 pcs of peanut buttered toast for lunch and pasta with home made pesto for dinner. Plenty of water and decaf tea through the day but no more than on a normal day. Kit wise I was wearing 200+ mile ready Saucony Kinvara 10s and the usual club singlet, Ron Hill shorts and blue socks. Cloudy enough to not need sunglasses or sun screen today :-) I had a new setup on my trusty Suunto Ambit 2 GPS watch - Instead of having autolap telling me my pace every mile I was going to manually reset every 5 miles as per the course markers instead of the GPS reading. I've read a lot of people do this and have practiced during training. Personally I feel it's a little more relaxing and dependable... as soon as the watch beeps the first couple of hundred metres the pacing is all over the place and any kinda incline can really throw the pace enough to worry you - not ideal during a long race.

The race starts on a track which is very exciting. Great facilities surround the track which helps to make sure you're ready to start the race comfortable and there's plenty of places to keep warm and socialise before hand. Everyone huddled together before the start we all wished each other good luck and set off. The first couple of miles are quite crowded, chaotic and slightly uphill so no need to rush here. I took it steady and ran purposely at the back end of my pacing window (6:40-6:50 minute miles) - this was a really nice way to start the race. I was with KD for about a mile and a few other club mates which meant for some good banter before really needing to concentrate. 3 Miles in and everyone had started to spread out a bit and settle into their relevant groups. Downhill for a bit through a little bit of countryside before hitting the town centre and the not so beautiful industrial estate which you loop round a couple of times. 
0-5 Miles - 33:37 = 6:40MM Pace = Perfect

In the town I ran past KD's and my parents - lush! Great to have family and friends supporting which we had throughout the race today. A wave and a smile later and now time to concentrate and focus on getting the job done. The next couple of miles are slightly undulating. Firstly along the river and then out of town towards an industrial estate and a 7ish mile loop which you do twice. Ideal for any race as it means you only need a set number of marshalls - something I can really appreciate. Mile 9 comes and goes and I implement another renewed race tactic - I have a gel. The last few long distance races I've survived on beer and pork pies and this time round I thought it better to be a little more scientific. I felt the benefits and the next few miles felt a little easier than the ones before - coulda be psychological - don't care - having a gel worked. I also took an opportunity shortly after to have a cup of water - I stopped to make sure I could take on the necessary fluids instead of trying to drink on the run and choking it down - this was a smart move as it meant I was hydrated, not coughing or throwing water all over myself and because my watch wasn't autolapping every mile this short stop had a very small effect on my pace. My 10 done and I'm feeling great! 
6 - 10 Miles - 33:44 = 6:42 Pace = Perfect

Approaching half way and time to take stock. I'm not far off starting the second loop and I'm still feeling really fresh. I'm running a good pace but don't at any point feel uncomfortable or as if anything is out of control. I have a look at my average heart rate, 15X-something and this confirms that I'm running comfy. 1:27:XX-something ticks over as I go through half way - Great! If I do that again I'll get Sub2:55 - should things get tough near the end I'll have at least 4-5 minutes in the bank to make sure of a Sub3! 
11 - 15 Miles - 33:21 = 6:40 Pace = Perfect

The start of the second lap and I'm able to reminisce on the first lap and tick off all the landmarks as I go by. After the success of the first gel, I'm also able to count down and look forward to the next one and the boost I was confident it would bring. 18 miles comes and I take the gel, I stop at a water station and take on plenty of water. I'm still feeling really strong! I know and feel like I've ran 18 miles but I am in no way whatsoever apprehensive about the next 8 to come - if anything in a sick way I'm kinda excited. Whilst everything is going so well I think back to Kipchoge's recent Sub2 hour accomplishment and remember how he just purposely smiles and thinks positive thoughts to himself - I do the same! I think about how lucky I am at home, at work and with my friends and family. I draw on all the experiences of last year - I ran 100 miles, 26.2 is gonna be easy!!
16 - 20 Miles - 33:19 = 6:40 Pace = Perfect = My fastest split yet!

Now this is where the marathon should and does get interesting! My legs and body are now starting to reject my mission - I feel tired and achy... *just*keep*run*ning* KD's mantra which fits perfectly in time with my footsteps. There's a van collecting race drop outs at mile 23 and this is both very tempting and slightly off putting. I try to put it out of my mind as quickly as I can - I give myself a telling off for letting any negativity or doubt become a part of this so far awesome day - let's get the job done! My pace is slowing down - I'm aware of this but I'm in control. I'm still on target - I was at half way and through 20 miles so I had plenty of time stashed in the bank. The marshalls through the last 6 miles are awesome - it feels like they're everywhere, cheering, ringing bells and genuinely wanting you to do well. This alongside seeing my parents again, friends Cat and Andy around (what felt like every corner) was just what I needed. As I ran past my mum and explained I didn't have time for (what I hoped might become a traditional) hugging I knew I was gonna do it. 23 miles done and I was in a world of pain but I'd been here before and I'd beaten it before - I knew I would today.
21 - 25 Miles - 34:42 = 6:58 Pace = Not perfect but good enough!

The last mile or so is quite cruel... Every so slightly uphill the whole way... you're running past so many runners who are having a bad day; walking, hunched over, hiding in a bush... I put them out of my mind and focus on the runners who are strong and ahead of me - I overtake them one at a time - I must have overtaken at least 10 in the last mile - Including a guy dressed in full silk pyjamas and the first lady! The runners who are having a good day are feeling good for themselves and for me and are shouting lots of positive messages which is just what I needed. I turn the corner and run on the track... with 300 meters I have a quick glance at my watch just to make sure I hadn't got anything wrong - I had 4+ minutes to make sure of Sub3 - I WAS GONNA DO IT! Runners having a similarly positive day to myself started sprinting for the finish, making sure to earn every last second... I do the same crossing the line in just over TWO HOURS AND FIFTY SEVEN MINUTES! I celebrate by falling on the ground and crawling in to the foetal position probably staying there a good couple of minutes until someone gave me some water... 

What a great day and an even better race - PBs always are. Thank you so much to all my family and friends who supported me and as always a massive thank you to Kelly - my biggest fan and someone who has always believed 100% that I've got it in me to achieve my dreams! On to the next one... A winter of speed and strengthening with 5K road races, Prom and cross country before starting all over again with marathon training in the new year.... 2:57:01 = PB!!! 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Tapering and recovering...just in time...

Abingdon Marathon Training 

It's Taper time!

Both of us - Blue 
Purple - Kelly 
Orange - John 

With only a couple of weeks until race day, I decided I needed to do something about my hamstring niggle. Last weekend, I pulled out of the Kingston Half as I could feel it pulling with every step. On Tuesday, I booked in to see Matt one of the Physios at Comfort Health in Clifton. I've been seeing him and Jenny there for a while so all I had to say was 'I've got less than 2 weeks until the marathon - give it everything!' He did just that. First, I had another round of dry needling followed by a deep tissue massage and lastly -and for the first time - I tried out Matt's new toy called a 'massage gun'. The gun had a tennis ball sized sphere on the end which vibrated. I'm quite tempted to buy one myself to use at home! Matt and Jenny recommended that I take a good few days rest now to let all of the treatments do their magic. 

Rest is my least favourite thing to do. However, I needed to get my hamstring as good as possible to give me a chance at the marathon, so I had no choice. I rested for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, I ran 1.2 miles with the kids at running club. My leg felt tired and heavy but not too bad. 

On Saturday, I headed out for 4 miles to see how my hamstring felt. I could feel a dull ache for the first mile but, after that, the pain got less and wasn't too bad at all. On Sunday, I wanted to give it a bigger try so I planned to go out for 1 hour. John and I ran together to start with, he then pushed on to try some marathon pace and we met up again later. 

I had a BRILLIANT run. I felt like I had loads of energy, my legs felt fresh and light and my hamstring didn't hurt at all! It felt amazing. To give myself an added extra boost before the marathon, 

After last weekend, I wasn't sure how the marathon would go. After this weekend, I've decided I'm going to be my usual positive self, I'm go for it. I'm going to go out at sub 3 pace and see how it goes. Positive thinking; it's amazing how much of a role the brain plays in a marathon. 

I got home and put my birthday pressie from The Maestro and Nat on my shoes...

A good week of tapering for me: 5 Miles steady recovery on Tuesday, 11 miles with 3 @ marathon pace on Wednesday with the Maestro and 4 miles steady recovery on Thursday. Day off on Friday. A busy weekend of running! Up early to get a run in - 4 More miles of recovery running - making sure to finish in time to watch Kipchoge break 2 hours running a marathon distance. A phenomenal achievement and a masterclass show in running. A fantastic spectacle - very inspiring! A science experiment in many ways but watching Kipchoge celebrate in the way he did really did set a good example for the happiness that comes from the reward for working your hardest at something. 40-something <13min 5K runners in one place doing pacing duties was pretty cool as well! 

The rest of the day was spent travelling to and organising our clubs cross country adventure. Race 1 was at Llandaff fields in Cardiff. A relatively flat and fast course. With the marathon next week there was no racing for me. Was great to be a part of it and watch all of our guys and gals run really well. There were a fair few elites taking part as well - doesn't quite compete with Kipchoge but watching men and woman a similar age float along the ground at 5 minute mile pace is really something there in person. We were really lucky with the weather and had a really good time. 

Back home and straight back out to celebrate my friends recent engagement - congrats Max and Frankie (Max has had a few mentions before - he convinced me to sign upto my first ever 10K back in 2010 - I ran 46:19...) an evening of beer and pizza - proper carb loading whilst tapering!

Sunday - the weekends events so far were taking their toll so we opted for a lie in... Some lunch with KD's auntie and family, a few hours of napping and tele watching - massive congrats to Kosgei breaking the women's marathon world record - a stellar run and more great running entertainment - we were really spoilt this weekend! Come the evening we went out for a run... with 7 days to go until race day there's no need to do any sort of major workout but just keep ticking over. I was keen to test out/reassure myself with a few miles at marathon pace as well... 
8 MILES WITH 3@ MP (6:37, 6:33, 6:33) Easy - as it should be!

With all the great and inspiring things that happened in the running world this weekend and in an attempt to match KD's positivity - next weekend I too am going for it... 2:55 is the target - 26.2miles @ 6:40 Pace. Why not! I might do it or I might PB anyway (<2:58:05)... Worse case scenario I have a good run, bank another marathon campaign and eat my body weight in pizza! :-)

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Only 2 weeks to go...Colds, injuries and Maranoia set in...

Abingdon Marathon Training 

2 weeks to go - 

Key - 

Both of us - Blue
John - Orange
Kelly - Purple 

We haven't blogged for a couple of weeks as we've both been feeling a bit anxious about our marathon prep. You may be familiar with the term 'Maranoia' which is fear of being under prepared as the marathon draws closer. Maranoia really does sum up how we've been feeling...we are used to having doubts as race day encroaches however, this time, I think the doubts might have some legs...

Our training this summer has been rather...relaxed and we're both wishing that we'd done a bit more to prepare. Neither of us really feel that we're in as good shape as we've been in the past...which doesn't bode well when you want a PB. We had one last opportunity to test out how marathon-ready we were - the Kingston Half Marathon. 

One of the reasons I've not blogged for a while is because I've had a cold didn't really run much last week other than a steady 16 miler at the weekend. I've also been feeling a bit fed up with this niggly hamstring. It's not got any better and might actually be getting worse...I've tried resting, dry needling and lots of massage but can't quite shake it. Jenny, my physio, think's it might be hamstring tendonitis which is when the top of the hamstring that joins to the glute is inflamed and has micro-tears. This, annoyingly, takes a longer time to heal than other hamstring issues. 

I had a pretty restful week with the aim of having a successful final race before Abingdon. I've cycled to work every day which I'm loving.

On Saturday, we went to Bushy Parkrun as it was the 15th anniversary of parkrun. We ran with my sister for her 2nd parkrun - she enjoyed this much more than Ashton Court and its hill...

Sunday 6th October 2019 - The Kingston Half 

As we're only 2 weeks out from Abingdon, we decided to run this at just under marathon pace as a confidence builder. We're slightly worried that we won't be able to maintain the target 6:45 pace for 26.2 miles so we hoped that today's race would put any doubts aside. 

While John decided to run to the start, I opted to drive in with my Dad. I had the sort of morning where everything just seemed to go right. We arrived in the car park and were ushered straight into the closest space. Then we walked to the start and en-route I spotted a row of empty portaloos! Surprised by this unusual occurrence, I jumped straight in - feeling rather smug. When I came out, I noticed that there was in fact a (very large) queue at the other end...but in my defense, the people queuing hasn't noticed all of the empty ones. To try and make up for my shameful queue-jumping, I went down and told everyone about my discovery.

With 20 minutes until the start, I dropped my bag and went to warm up. 1 mile along the river in the sun - glorious. Legs felt pretty good. I did a few hundred meters at MP and it felt alright. I was ready. With 7 minutes to go, I popped into the front of the pen and was joined, within seconds, by John. Perfect! I was feeling great and ready to go. 

The first few miles went around the center which meant that my GPS wasn't accurate. This stressed me out a little as I really like to know what pace I'm doing. After a very twisty first mile, the sub 1:30 pacer came past. This really surprised me as we we should have been ahead of him. Often, pacers are followed by a large group so, not wanting to get caught up, John and I picked up the pace a bit and pushed on in front. John was running really comfortably but for some reason, I couldn't get into a rhythm. It might have been the twisty route or the frequent dodging of puddles or curbs - I'm not sure. All I know is I didn't feel right. John and I would be in line one minute and then I'd drop back without meaning to and I really couldn't pick up the pace to get back to him. Again, I think I felt quite tense and anxious. I started worrying about the pace dropping (which again could have been to do with the route or GPS) and my mind was stressing about the marathon (If I couldn't do 6:40s for a half marathon, how was I going to keep it going for 26 miles). I could also really feel my hamstring hurting. I wanted to put on a little spurt to reach John (who was, once again, a little way ahead) but I was worried about putting extra stress on my hamstring. 

After 4 miles, my pace was dropping, I was feeling stressed about my pace and about my leg and worried about not being able to recover in time for the marathon. I felt like I was doing more harm than good. I had to decide what was more important - this race or the marathon. I knew I'd see my dad and sister at mile 5, so I decided that, when I saw them, I'd pull over and stop. This decision happened pretty quickly as they appeared before I'd had much time to really think it through. I stopped, removed my number and manage to tell John to keep going and not to worry about me. 

We walked back to the start so I could collect my bag and there was a massage company waiting for the runners to finish to offer free massages. I made the most of this opportunity and got a free massage which really helped. We then went to cheer on John who did brilliantly and was looking really strong. 

So I'm left feeling a bit deflated and wondering if I gave up too easily - especially as the finishers T-shirts were really nice and they had XS (for once) and the goody bag was all gluten free! I've never DNFed before and it's really unlike me to give up like that. I could really have done with the confidence boost of a strong 13 miles at MP as I'm now left worrying that I won't be able to achieve my target. Part of me definitely wishes that I'd kept going but I think I probably made the most sensible decision as my main goal is the marathon. 

I now have 2 weeks to recover. I've booked in a dry-needling session and I'm going to have a good few days rest after that to let it have the most effect. I'm not sure if I'll be able to reach my goal at Abingdon. I'm not sure I've done enough training for Sub 3 and I certainly haven't done enough miles at marathon pace. I'm not even sure I'll be able to finish...It could just be the disappointment after today's DNF or it could be maranoia...all I know is, that I'll do as much as I can to get myself recovered and I'll give it my very best shot. 

A good weekend of running for me! Lush to spend time with the Dicks family as always - well looked after and very good company. On the Saturday, being in London meant that we were able to attend parkrun's birthday at its place of birth! I left early to bank some extra miles by running to Bushy Park - 5 very flat and mostly pretty miles later I arrived at the already very busy briefing. I had some time to kill so did another mile in the park. Racing the next day, Dicks1, Dicks2 and I took it steady throughout and really enjoyed the excitement of the 15 year anniversary and all of the people around taking part. Dicks2 even managed a PB - well done Amy! A chilled afternoon followed - watching the athletics with unnecessary carb loading... 

Sunday, 5:30 and the alarm goes off... urghh.. KD likes to have her breakfast 3 hours before the race... I think 2 hours is fine but she's the boss... Toast and jam for KD and a bowl of porridge for me... Back to bed for an hour of napping and watching New Zealand v Namibia... At this point, the rain is hammering down outside... :-(

An hour or so later and we're up and about getting changed into race gear. No sound of rain - Yey! Similarly to yesterday, I was keen to bank some extra miles so I ran down to the race start. 3 Miles later and I'm at the start in plenty of time - one more mile of running before getting in the start pen with KD. 

Race conditions were unexpectedly perfect; clear skies, nice temp with a slight breeze. Starting and running the first few miles in and around the town was lovely - a few tough turns but nothing too stressful - I thought we were plodding along nicely... As we were coming to the end of the loop around the town - mile4 - it appeared that KD was struggling to keep up (we'd planned to run together at around about marathon pace.) At the time I didn't think too much about it and knew we would be seeing KD's sister and dad shortly so thought to myself that would encourage her to pick up the pace and we'd soon be running together again. I was half right - KD had sprinted to catch up to me but only to tell me that she'd have to pull out the race! She assured me it was nothing serious and gave me the OK to carry on and wished me luck. By this point - 5 miles into the race - I was very much in my stride and enjoying the run. We crossed the Thames and took the towpath for a couple of miles from Kingston towards East Molesey in the direction of the Scilly Isles. The race was pancake flat throughout and all on tarmac so no excuses whatsoever. The miles ticked over nicely and at 8 miles we took a turn and made our way back towards Kingston. More flat and fast tarmac on the cycle path. 
Having run 4 miles before the race - with just 3 miles to go, I was starting to feel a little tired at this point and found myself actually running a little too fast. I reminded myself that today was a workout and not a race... the plan was not to get to the finish as fast as possible but as comfortably as possible whilst running marathon pace - strange aye! With just less than a mile to go I was reunited with KD and family again - massive cheers followed which was just the boost I needed to get me to the finish.

71st place with 1:26:43
13 miles at <marathon pace
17 Miles total @ 6:50MM Pace / marathon pace
27 miles for the weekend

2 weeks to go - Let the taper begin!

A tough day for KD and a hard pill to swallow in regards to doubt regarding whether or not we have trained hard enough to achieve the overall goal of Sub3. Personally I agree with KD - I don't think we're in the shape it takes to run a Sub3 - but - I'm not particularly fussed about it. When I did it back in 2016, it was off the back of 4 consecutive and very positive marathon training campaigns. This is our first one back after a year off proper marathon training. For once I'm having to be the positive one in the relationship... It really doesn't matter what we achieve in Abingdon in a few weeks time. What's more important is that we're happy and healthy and able to take our experiences from this campaign into the next one and look to improve where we can. Whatever KD achieves in a couple of weeks time I'm proud of her and know that she's capable of Sub3 and that it will come when the time is right.