Category Archives: Running

The roller coaster ride is over. The race is done and I have returned to walking normally – DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) has a lot to answer for! So how do I feel now about the Liverpool Rock and Roll marathon a few weeks (actually now months) on?

First, shall we go back to the start of the race? Having stayed at my sister’s the night before, (she lives within walking distance of the start), I got a great night’s sleep and did not suffer any nerves on race morning. The one good thing about doing triathlon is that when you come to do “just” a running race, there is much less to think about. So I walked along to the start to see off my cousin who was doing her very first half marathon. The race start was delayed by 15 minutes or so because the Manchester bombing the week before meant that the security at the bag drop had been more stringent. It didn’t seem to dampen the spirits and eventually with a loud cheer they were all off.

AM at the start

Fresh faced at the start. Kids with cow bells ready for cheering!

I then made my way to my allocated Corral for the start of the marathon and bumped into my parkrun/Twitter/sometime running buddy, Brian. We started in waves which is a great idea so that you can find space to run in at the start. The first band at Pier Head was fantastic. Perhaps it was the adrenaline of finally having started but their rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “You can go your own way” changed to “You can run your own way” was very stirring. Unfortunately, they were easily the best band on the course and the music went a bit downhill after that (unlike the course!)

I caught up with the 4 hours 30 minute pacer and stuck with them for a good part of the way. Both pacers were great; keeping up a running commentary and banter. We ran past both football stadiums of Everton and Liverpool with Stanley Park sandwiched between them. I have never been in Stanley park before – what a revelation! The newly restored glass house was gorgeous and I marvelled at the craftmanship in the red sandstone bandstand.

I was glad of the pacer’s advice for short steps going up hill as there were plenty at this stage! It treated us to great views of the city but I was glad to be heading back down Islington to the City Centre and the flatter part of the course.

It was at this point I needed to make a toilet stop, roughly 8-9 miles in. I heeded advice (relayed to me by Brian) from a friend who ran the London Marathon. I decided to go to the toilet at that point rather than hanging on. I believe it is rather more difficult to get off the toilet at the later stages of the marathon when one’s legs may have started to seize up! I noticed an empty toilet on Islington and seized the opportunity. I waved goodbye to the pacer for now but astonishingly managed to catch them up on the water front, just as we were passing the Albert Dock.

When I emerged from the toilet, I started to run with another runner who had come up from London but who was originally from South Africa. We chatted a little but we were both quite content to run alongside each other in silence. We parted ways in Sefton Park when he said that he couldn’t quite keep up the pace. I had also crossed paths a few times with Lisa from Huddersfield who was also doing her first marathon and chatted with her. The great thing about a marathon is the opportunity to chat to people as you are on your feet for a long time (especially at my pace) and anything helps to break up the monotony.

As we left Sefton Park, about the 17 mile mark, I was beginning to tire and the pacers were starting to drift away from me. Although I was keen to hit 4 hours 30 minutes, I surprised myself by being fairly philosophical about this and I held onto the thought that this was my first marathon and just to finish was an achievement.

At mile 18, we hit Penny Lane and yes, the Beatles song of the same name was playing on repeat at this point. I am not sure why but this was the first of two points during the race that I began to sob. I had been warned that this might happen and I think it is just a little release of tension! I saw Gemma, another parkrun/Twitter buddy at this point and got myself together just in time for a high five.

I thought that would be it but no, I had another little cry at mile 20. This time, I think, was actual disappointment as we had run round the back roads in the Mossley Hill Drive area and emerged a lot further back on Aigburth Road than I anticipated. I really was making a lot of noise by this stage and I apologise now to two male runners who I startled with my sobbing and heavy breathing as I tried to keep running!

I got a bit of relief on the downhill section to Otterspool Promenade but by the time I turned onto the prom itself my hips were beginning to complain. I knew it was nothing serious, just the effort of running 22 miles had caught up with me. I had to grit my teeth and get on with it. I stopped for a few walking breaks for the first time in the whole race. There wasn’t much music left at this stage (even though there was supposed to be a band every mile) and the support had thinned out too. One man did spur me on as I started to run again after a walking break and he said “That’s it, Mersey Tri, we will pretend you never took that walking break!” Typical Scouse humour to get me through and I loved it.

AM finishing the marathon

My imaginary sandwich photo!

Just as I turned into the last mile, I saw Jon Rumley, Mr Birkenhead parkrun himself. He wasn’t running but doing a grand job of supporting with supplies of Jaffa Cakes and Fruit Pastilles. Had I not been in so much pain in my hips and legs, I would have gladly stopped, but I just wanted it to be over and for the pain to stop so I waved feebly and ran/hobbled on.

Finally the finish gantry was in sight. All thoughts on my finishing time were gone, I just needed to finish now. Somehow I managed to pick up the pace in the finish chute, although it took all my effort and an imaginary sandwich(!) as you can see from the photo.

AM and twins at finish

Smiles and bling at the finish. The kids did the mile race for a yellow submarine medal!

The overwhelming emotion I felt as I crossed the line was relief. Relief that it was over and I could stop running; relief that I had achieved a lifelong aim of completing a marathon; relief that it was a respectable time of 4 hours 37 minutes and relief to be reunited with my family, after collecting my bling and goody bag. No more tears at this stage although I did have a wobble in my voice as I was talking to another runner at the end of the race as we walked through the Echo Arena picking up our post race goodies.

My final thoughts on the race are:

  1. The wave starts are a great idea because it meant you could get running at your own pace relatively quicker.
  2. The route around Liverpool was great, taking in all the major sights. Effectively a running tour of the city.
  3. Apart from the band at Pier Head, the promised bands/music every mile were not great. Some were not playing when we ran past and by the end of the race, most had packed up and gone home! There should at least be music playing even if it was not live.
  4. The bling was amazing. I didn’t really like the design of the medal but there’s no denying its weight and “blinginess”.
  5. I was disappointed that the finisher’s T shirt was the same for the half marathon and marathon. I want people to know that I ran the full 26.2!
  6. Overall a great race and I would do it again, save for the fact that I want to do different challenges next year.

So here’s the thing. I started this blog post about 3 weeks after the marathon. I was going through a particularly stressful time at work and I never finished writing it. My thoughts at the time were that I felt great having done the marathon but I didn’t suddenly become invincible because I had run 26 miles all in one go. I still had to go back to work with all its stress. Running was no panacea to life’s ills. Those were my thoughts at the time (and still are) hence the headline for this post.  

At the beginning of July, I was signed off work with stress and anxiety by my very understanding GP. I haven’t been back to work since and have now resigned from my job. If you know me, follow my Twitter or my Adventurous Mum page, you will know that I went onto do my quadrathlon and Coniston End to End swim (spoiler alert!). I even amazed myself that I was able to keep training and contemplate completing the events. The thing is that it was my training that kept me afloat; it was my stress relief; it was fresh air and sunshine; it was socialising with my tri and running buddies and all of that prevented me from sliding into a heap in the corner. I am grateful that my family understood this and continued to support me.

So here are some of the things I hope you will take away from this post:

  1. Don’t believe that everyone on social media has a perfect life. Had you looked at any of my online profiles, it looked as though it was business as usual for me. I couldn’t share this until now as I was still employed and also, I am not one to seek out online sympathy (I did plenty of that off line!). I share it now because I am now able to, and if it makes one person feel better about their troubles, then it has been worthwhile.
  2. There are so many inspirational people out there sharing amazing stories of how running has changed their life because they lost a lot of weight, got fitter and met wonderful people in the running community. Everyone likes a Cinderella type story and I got sucked in too. I believed that once I had run the marathon, I would develop a shield against the things that were troubling me: stress at work in my case.
  3. What is important though is that running/exercise can help you cope with those stresses.  It cannot take the life events and stress away but it can help how you respond to the stress. I have no doubt that had I not stuck with my training, I would be in a worse state now and not able to contemplate going back to work (in a different job obviously) at this stage.
  4. Don’t underestimate the healing power of your friends and family. There are so many wonderful people out there in the running and tri communities. My tri buddies got me out on my bike and to keep up my swimming.  Some of you may not have known my circumstances this summer but it helped just to be out socialising and talking normal running stuff. Running may not necessarily change your life but meeting some fantastic people along the way has got to be one of the best benefits.

 

I blame my sister for all this. If she hadn’t done the Glasgow marathon in the early 1980’s when I was an impressionable teenager, I may not be in this situation.  I remember running some of the last few miles with her. Heck, I even remember her Hi Tec Silver Shadow trainers! For years, I have looked at her finisher’s photo sitting in her hall and said to myself, I’m going to do a marathon one day. I’m not sure why I waited until the ripe old age of 47 to do it other than it is a VERY HARD THING TO DO. Only 1% of the population has done a marathon.

As you read this post, I’ll ask you to bear in mind that I have been lucky in the last 3 years and have been relatively injury free. The problem seems to stem from the fact that Asics have changed their Cumulus 18 (my preferred trainer) slightly. The toe box is much narrower which caused me problems at the beginning of the marathon training plan.  A cold on week 1 of the plan didn’t help. Neither did blisters at Wrexham Half marathon (did you know I got blisters at that race??)  A calf tear at around week 4 of the plan and I began to despair that I would ever get started on the training “proper.”

I wasn’t feeling the marathon love and wondered if I had taken on too much. It didn’t help that I was extremely busy at work. I didn’t actually realise how much I wanted to do the marathon until that point. I thought that it was just something for my bucket list, to tick off the endurance athlete’s list. But my sister’s photo was always there at the back of my mind and it slowly began to dawn on me that I wanted to do the marathon very badly. I find that, when you want to do something badly, the fear of failing at it can be strong. I had never grown up wanting to do a triathlon so never really thought too much about it! I resolved to “feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Photo of Garmin 920 XT

Longest ever run (until the following week when I managed 32 km!)

Finally the calf tear healed and I was able to start building up the mileage towards the end of March. Into April and three consecutive weeks of following the plan and building up the long runs through 16 miles (26 km), then 18 (29 km) and finally the hallowed grail of a 20 mile (32km) training run, the last one done on my own in 3 hours 28 minutes. Woo hoo! The roller coaster was in the ascendant.

I had been very careful about my recovery from the long runs too. Stretching as soon as I got in; eating within 30 minutes; a nice hot shower; compression leggings on after and even some afternoon naps! I really thought I was on course to complete the training without further problems.

I had reverted to my old trainers for long runs, using my new ones for Short Runs during the week. This week I succumbed to buying a new pair of Asics Dinaflyte, not for wearing in the marathon, but for the shorter runs. I was absolutely gutted in their first outing that I suffered calf pain.

Photo of Asics Dynaflyte

New kicks – in Mersey tri colours!

Another trip to the sports massage therapist told me that I had strained my tibilas posterior muscle. i don’t have much pain in normal everyday life but it hurts a lot when I try to run. Cycling and swimming are fine. I will have to go back for more treatment this week and to have it strapped up.

I am calm at the moment as I still have 3 weeks and 6 days to go to the Liverpool Rock and Roll marathon. On the other hand, I am able to say, I am doing my first marathon this month! I am due to do one more 20 mile run before the race but it’s unclear if I will get that in.

Like life itself, in marathon training, you have to take the rough with the smooth. Patience is needed in abundance (a muscle of mine that needs more exercise!) And you just have to hope for the best otherwise what’s the point? Hopefully I will be able to display my finisher’s photo in the hall at the end of May…Wish me luck!

Any advice from seasoned marathoners? How is everyone else’s training going?

 

A new race on my doorstep? On a route on which I regularly train? Flat course? Loads of my running friends doing it too? Sounded good to me. Which explains why on a Friday night at the end of September I found myself signing up for the inaugural Wirral Way Half Marathon on 8 January 2017 and joining in on lots of excited chatter on social media.

I have done a January half marathon before – see my related blog post below for my review of the 4 Villages half marathon last year which I loved doing. I felt I couldn’t do both (although I wish I had now!) so I thought to myself that the Wirral Way Half Marathon had better be pretty special. I signed up to an ASICS plan (you can find them online) which tailors the training to your goals and time available and I started training at the end of October (once I had recovered from the Metric Marathon).

Photo of Loch Creran

Scotland – a place where the scenery is good for the soul

Training was going pretty well until the week before Christmas when I came down with a cold. Luckily it wasn’t a truly nasty cold. I was able to carry on with the preparations for Christmas and I “only” lost a week’s training. We also went to Scotland for Christmas and Storms Barbara and Connor meant that I lost a little bit more time. On the plus side, I enjoyed a long run on the Oban to Fort William cycle path. There’s nothing like running in very picturesque surroundings to boost the spirit.

Back home to the Wirral to the pre-race information or in my case, the lack of it. I had to rely on my parkrun buddies to forward it to me. As other people noted, it didn’t fill me with confidence because it was full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors (so I had better make sure this blog post is perfect on both fronts!).  The race organisers weren’t able to secure closure of the roads at the crossing points so that meant that these were being manned by marshals and we may have to stop. I wouldn’t have put my safety over a PB but I really wanted that sub 2 hour half marathon.

Photo of AM and parkrun buddies

Parkrun buddies Brian and Gemma looking good at the start of the race

Surprisingly the race day weather was good. Very little wind, about 6 degrees and only very light rain was forecast.  The absence of wind was a decisive factor in my decision on the morning of the race to push for the PB even with the road crossings.

The nice thing about racing locally is knowing a lot of people also doing the race. So there were lots of familiar faces in the car park at Hooton station where the race was to start. The difference with this race was that the start times were staggered as the start of the course was very narrow. There were quite a few people I knew in my 9.30am wave start so was happy to chat to them as we waited to start. I did get hemmed in at the beginning so that my first kilometre was 6.26 minutes but after that I managed to get clear and started to pass people. Much more satisfying to pick people off in a race than being passed anyway.

Photo of AM at Wirral Way HM

4 miles in and feeling good…(photo credit to Paul Avison)

The “southern” parts of the Wirral way were not entirely unknown to me as I have been on every part of it before at some point. However, I haven’t been on them for a long time so they were “fresh” to me and I enjoyed this element of the race. At 4 miles in, I was feeling pretty good, doing a reasonable pace and felt that I could run all day.

The light rain started soon after and I regretted my decision not to wear my peaked cap. But it was quite cooling so I pushed on. I thought that I might struggle going past the finish at around 9-10 miles but as there were loads of friends out supporting, it was quite a boost. Only 3 miles to go and still on course for sub 2 hours!

Just one and half miles later, I nearly lost the plot at Cubbins Green. I thought we were just turning round there but staying on the path. So when we had to run down onto the Green itself with its bumpy grass and muddy climb up back to the path, I lost precious time and my inner critic (my chimp!) told me that it was no good and to abandon all hope of a sub 2 hour finish.  I really had to pull it together and told that little voice to shut up, that we were doing this or else! Sheer determination got me to the finish in 1 hour 59 minutes and 38 seconds. Finally achieved the goal, and it felt good.

Photo of medal from Wirral way Half Marathon

First bling of 2017

Great to see so many people at the finish and I was able to share out my yummy cupcakes I had arranged for my birthday (it was the day before). Most people were tucking into the hog roast laid on at the finish but I stuck to cake. The medal was pretty ,if a little small, and the red T shirt made a nice change although my only small gripe with this was that it didn’t refer specifically to the Wirral Way so please take note race organisers if you read this! Otherwise I thought this was a great race which surpassed initial expectations. Most of my friends had a positive experience too.

The great thing about the running community is how supportive it is and this race was no exception. Thanks to my Mersey Tri friends Collette and Sue for picking me up and taking me to the start, thanks to my parkrun buddies for support before the race, thanks to my running group friends for their support on the course and, most of all, thanks to my family, who would rather be doing other stuff than coming out on cold January morning to support a mad woman who is obsessed with running 13.1 miles in under 2 hours!

Photo of AM and family

At the finish with Adventurous Son and Daughter – “Euuw mummy you’re all wet!”

 

 

 

 

 

Despite it being almost December, (how did that happen so quickly?) I am still very much in catch up mode with all my races so wanted to round up all the running I did in September and early October in one handy blog post.

I started September by having one of those “you know you’re a runner when” moments. In this case “you know you’re a runner when you get on a plane to do a race!” Probably something that lots of people do all the time but it was a new experience for me. I combined it with seeing my extended family most of whom live in Donegal, Ireland (where my parents came from) but some in Derry/Londonderry (I’m just going to call it Derry from here on in) where I was going to run the half marathon. As my cousins pointed out I didn’t need to do a half marathon to come and see them but it sounded a great route so why not do both?

Photo of AM in Derry

About to start the race with the Peace Bridge behind me

One of the benefits of doing a race away from home is that I could take it relatively easy the date before the race. My sister and niece came with me and we spent most of Saturday sat around catching up with our cousins!

Race day was the usual Irish weather, sunshine and showers but not too much wind. The start of the race was delayed by 1 hour though because there had been a fatal accident on the route the night before and the police were still conducting their investigations. The announcements kept putting the race off by 15 minutes so we couldn’t head off anywhere. I did wonder about fuelling up. I had brought an extra cereal bar so I managed to get that in me but I hadn’t brought anything else to eat en route and you will see later that this was a fateful decision.

Just before the start at 11am, the heavens opened and continued to rain until I had finished the first mile when, in typical Irish fashion, the sun came out and a rainbow appeared.

Photo of AM with Guinness

The Guinness was the best I’d ever had!

The route took us over the Foyle Bridge, a steep murderous ascent which seemed to go on for a very long time. I kept running (no walking) but was very grateful to see the downhill stretch. From there, the rest of route was flat so I tried to pick up the pace again to try to break my elusive sub 2 hours for a half marathon. I was still on track at 10 miles but  (you knew there was a but on its way), at this point, you could see the faster runners who had nearly completed the race head over the Peace Bridge towards the finish on the other side of the river. I found it soul destroying that I still had 3 miles to go and, on top of that, those 3 miles seemed to take forever! I think the delayed start and my lack of fuelling was having an effect as I really did start to slow down. Another runner saw me struggling and offered me some jelly beans which were a life saver allowing me to push on. Possibly only a psychological effect but it worked so I didn’t care what it was!

Finally I got back to the bridge and to the finish line in 2 hours and 6 minutes and 26 seconds…still chasing that sub 2 hour finish time…one of these days! I enjoyed the race overall with its stunning route but enjoyed my post run Sunday lunch with Guinness and the craic with my cousins even more.

The very next weekend, I was doing a race closer to home , the Wirral 10K allegedly helping my cousin who was doing her first 10k with her pacing. I say allegedly because my own Garmin decided to “die” about 1 km into the race. I am not sure what happened as I had charged it the night before. Possibly I had overcharged it?

Anyway, my cousin had her own watch so we ended up relying on it and I just kept chatting the whole way round as a distraction technique. It certainly worked for me because it seemed to take no time at all to get to New Brighton and the finish line. My cousin did amazingly well for her first 10k coming in at 56:33 (with me a second behind at 56:34) and we were 8th and 9th in our age category. I think she must have enjoyed it as she has entered 2 more 10Ks since then and is even to be heard muttering about the Liverpool Rock n Roll half marathon!

And finally, possibly my favourite race of the year, the Chester Metric Marathon on 2 October. What is a metric marathon I hear you ask. 26.2km or about 16.3 miles. I don’t think there is anywhere else in the country that does this distance. It seemed to me to be a nice step up from a half marathon to test myself to see if I was capable of stepping up to a marathon distance.

Things got a little bit complicated when I won the Chester marathon’s competition for an overnight stay in a local hotel the night before the race but was told Adventurous Twins couldn’t come. As Adventurous Daughter was running in the Mini marathon, this was a bit disappointing. Even more frustrating was checking in and being told that we had a family room after all! We had arranged for two of my wonderful friends to have the twins to stay and one of them even brought my daughter to the hotel in the morning to meet us.

Photo of AM and Tamsin

I know my place…

It was a gorgeous sunny morning and we decided to get a taxi to get us as close as possible to the Chester racecourse where the start was. Loads of toilets meant that the queue was not quite as nervy as usual. Having learnt my lesson from Derry, my pockets were stuffed with jelly beans and a Soreen bar!

There were lots of elements to make this a great race. Adventurous Daughter enjoyed her mile race and got the same size medal as me in a different colour so she rated the race too! The weather probably helped a lot to colour it as a great race because the sunshine was glorious and yet it wasn’t too hot. I drank a lot of water to be on the safe side. The course itself took us round most of the sights in Chester and out into the nearby country lanes for an out and back course with a loop round a very picturesque village called Aldford. The residents were out in force to support and all jelly babies were gratefully received.

Photo of AM and Tamsin

All smiles as Adventurous Daughter joins me for the finish

I hooked up with a lady from another running club (I honestly can’t remember if it was Blackburn or Burnley but it was in that general area!) and we must have run together for about 5 or 6 miles. We talked a little but actually  we were quite happy running alongside each other. When we reached the 13 mile mark, she looked at her watch and said that she had beaten her previous PB for the half marathon so she was really happy. Another kilometre after that, after she had been kind enough to get some more jelly babies and pass them onto me, I decided that I had a bit more speed in me so I told her that it had been a pleasure to run with her and I pushed on.  I managed up the last hill at a reasonable pace and finally it was a slight downhill into town, back to the racecourse and onto the track. I had a lovely surprise as my daughter was waiting for me and was allowed to run down the finish chute with me!  A lovely chunky piece of bling around my neck and I was even happier.

Photo of AM at finish of Chester

Bling! Really nice solid medal.

I finished the race in 2 hour 38 minutes and 31 seconds. I managed an average pace of 6.01 minute kilometres and I was happy that I managed to drop below that for the last 5-6 kilometres.  Overall my pace was reasonably consistent over the full 26.2 kilometres. I am hoping that this will stand in me in good stead for my big challenge of 2017 – the Liverpool Rock and Roll Marathon – the full 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometres)!

That’s all my races for 2016 done (apart from the West Kirby Santa Dash this weekend!). I look forward to the challenges that 2017 will bring.

What plans have you made for 2017? What was your favourite race of 2016?

 

My blog is feeling a little neglected these days.  It’s been a busy old time with Adventurous Twins’ birthday, some overtime at work, a few more visits to the doctors for the rest of the family and I have been stepping up my training again.  Although becoming a distant memory, it’s time to go back to Leeds Tri on 12 June and share that experience with you.

You may remember that I had a chest infection and sinusitis and had to pull out of Edinburgh Half Marathon. Leeds Tri was 2 weeks after that and, while I had managed a few runs and swims, I hadn’t really trained as much as I had planned or would have liked. I still felt a bit tired and under par. Thankfully I was “only” doing the sprint distance as I had calculated previously that it would be too tricky to train for a triathlon after a Half marathon.

I had entered this race last August though and I was determined to share the stage (well, the same race route with the elites!) I was promised a pontoon start for the swim, a blue carpet finish and the chance to watch the elites in action. I suppose 2 out of 3 isn’t bad but the chance to watch the elites was denied to many for reasons you will see later in this post.

Adventurous twins were not keen to come so my sister said she would look after them. Adventurous Dad came with me and I was glad of his support. The arrangements for setting up were complicated! We arrived in Leeds at 4pm on the Saturday before the race and had to register in one of the University buildings. No quibbles there; some very nice volunteers trying hard to find out for me if there was a goody bag and a race T shirt (the answer was a disappointing no). Then, as this was a split transition, we headed first to Transition 2 (T2) in the city centre. This was on some rough waste ground not far from the law courts. I was fortunate enough to be allocated a spot near the entrance so didn’t have far to run in my bike shoes. I didn’t envy anyone who was going to leave their bike shoes attached and try to run in bare feet…

Photo of T1 at leeds

The world’s largest transition area ever?

Then off to Roundhay Park to the north of Leeds where Transition 1 (T1) was. By this time it was nearly 6pm so parking was relatively easy. This transition was huge! Easily the largest I have ever seen (not all that surprising as this is the largest triathlon I have ever taken part in). I felt nervous about leaving my bike overnight but then I realised thieves would be more interested in the shiny carbon fibre bikes than my trusty steel bike!
Finally, I got all set up by 7pm, 3 hours after arriving in Leeds. I was a bit late for dinner with friends who were not best pleased. (Yummy food though so I am eternally grateful!) I felt a bit drained just setting up. The nerves were beginning to kick in so I struggled to get to sleep; tired but wired describes it best.

Swim Start Leeds Tri

Pontoon Swim start – I am the one waving!

On race day, the weather was pretty good for a triathlon. Overcast, not too cold, not too warm. I had a later start at 10.04am. I was really looking forward to the swim on the pontoon. We were not allowed to dive in but it did mean that we were all spaced out nicely and there was none of the usual scrum at the beginning of the race. One of the problems with being hard of hearing was not being able to hear the klaxon on this occasion (not normally a problem for me) and losing a few seconds relying on watching for others setting off.  The lake was beautifully clear. I had a reasonable swim but my time was much the same as previous swims over this distance. I also felt dizzy when I got out so had to take a minute to recover.

Then I had to face the world’s longest ever transition! The run from the lake to entrance of T1 was 400 metres. I then had to retrieve my bike, make sure my wetsuit kit was in the special T1 bag and run out of transition with my bike and the kit bag. The kit bag was to be handed to the marshals at the mount line. By this time, I had run nearly a kilometre. I am almost embarrassed to publish my transition time of 10 minutes and 18 seconds but I really didn’t hang around; it was the sheer size of the transition, honest! I must have run a fair distance in my bike shoes because my cleats were wrecked at the end of the race.

Photo of AM on bike

This lady is for turning…

The mount line was at the bottom of a hill but thankfully it wasn’t as bad as it looked and I was soon away on one of my fastest ever bike legs at 52 minutes 38 seconds. I will admit that a lot of it was downhill but it was also a test of my bike skills to embrace the speed! I like some of the photos from this leg especially this one as I performed the U turn.

Thankfully my run shoes were still were I left them in the wasteland that was T2.  There were a lot of crowds gathering by this time ready for the elite race so the support was great as we ran round Leeds City Centre. The pre race info suggested that it was 2 laps for my 5km run but when I got to the blue carpet, this was the start of my first lap and then it said I had to pass through 2 more times. It was a bit confusing and I couldn’t get it straight in my head so I relied on my Garmin to tell me I had done 5km when approaching the finish. I believe it was even more confusing if you were running 10km and a lot of competitors didn’t do the correct distance and ended up with the dreaded DNF…

I was finally over the line and got my blue carpet finish 1 hour 51 minutes 38 seconds after starting. I felt a mixture of relief that it was over and that, although I hadn’t put in my best time, I seemed to be over the worst of my illness. I choked back some tears of relief, smiled for the camera and soon had some shiny race bling round my neck.

AM at finish of Leeds

Blue carpet finish… at last!

If I had thought that the pre race set up was a palaver, it was nothing as to what was to come next. I queued to pick up my T1 bag but as the queue was quite long we decided to go and get lunch and retrieve my bike from T2. Luckily I had Adventurous Dad with me as he had my warm clothes, money and phone. Suitably refuelled, we returned to get my bag to find the bag drop in chaos. There were lots of angry people who had been in the earlier waves who still hadn’t got their bags. Some had been racing alone so were relying on their kit being transported to the finish. I read later on Twitter, that some people reported waiting for up to 7 hours for their bags. Some people had no phone to contact loved ones to say why they were going to be late and someone said their ticket for the grandstand to watch the elites was in their bag and they missed it all. We had planned not to stay for the elites race as we had to get back to our twins.
In the end, we probably only waited about 30 mins to be told that we had best get to Roundhay Park and get our stuff from there. As our van was there, it was not a disaster, merely an inconvenience. We jumped on our bikes (Adventurous Dad had brought his Brompton which drew a few stares!) and made it to the park. It was a bit chaotic there too but I found my bag and all’s well that ended well for me anyway.

I thought my assessment of the race might have changed with the passage of time but it remains the same, the race itself was great with the swim pontoon and nice swim, exciting bike ride and a city centre run was quite special. The organisation let it all down. The split transition was maybe too challenging for an open race of this size or maybe there was too much emphasis on the elites race.

This race going ahead again next year in Leeds but I won’t be back. I felt I earned my medal more for dealing with the problems with the race! I hope the race directors learn from their mistakes and put on a truly magnificent race next year. They have a lot of triathletes to win over.

Photo of race number

DNS

Photo of race number

My EMF race number that will not see any action😔

This is my race number for Edinburgh half marathon which I am not now going to be pinning to my Mersey Tri top and not lining up with a host of other runners on Regent Road in Edinburgh. After much soul searching and time spent trying to make a decision whether to run or not, I have concluded that I am just not well enough nor am I race ready with all the demands that the race will bring.

So how did we end up here? If you remember my post about Liverpool Half Marathon, I was keen to put my woes at not going under 2 hours behind me and focus on Edinburgh half marathon where I thought I had a good chance of finally attaining the sub 2 hours that has eluded me in 4 half marathons to date. Missing out on that time by 4 seconds at Wirral half marathon last September was particularly disappointing.

At Chirk Tri, I had some low level virus which affected my performance. I then had a period of about 3 weeks where I felt back on form and running felt free and easy; like running with the  brakes off. I picked up the mileage in preparation for the half marathon. Just as I was building up to my last long run of 12-13 miles before Edinburgh, I developed a cold. No matter, I thought, I will skip this run so as not to make the cold worse. The cold went on to develop into a right nasty stinker without any help from me!

Next thing I develop a nasty cough (which I don’t have very often) but also some of the signs of sinusitis (which I am prone to). The doctor gave me  antibiotics to help with clearing both. I had a few days where I felt dreadful and could barely go to work. By this time, I hadn’t exercised for nearly 2 weeks and was getting a bit anxious about losing fitness but I told myself to be patient and it would all be ok. I got my hopes up on Thursday afternoon as I definitely felt a lot better.

This morning I put on my running gear for the first time in 2 weeks and went for a gentle 3.5 km run to see how it would feel. While running I didn’t feel too bad but I knew I wasn’t on best form. Since then I have had a terrible headache. The sun is now shining in Edinburgh so we went out for a walk. I saw a few people with their finishers T shirts and medals from the 5k and 10k races earlier today and I felt a real stab of jealousy and then a wobbly chin.

I entered this race a long time ago and it was part of my challenge to myself to do a half marathon in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. I may have to rethink my challenge. So the disappointment is high and feels worse because I feel so unwell.

So to look on the positive, in hopefully getting some more rest, I will be fit and ready to take on Leeds Triathlon in 2 weeks. I really want to do a pontoon swim start and run on the same blue carpet at the finish as the elites do!

So I will curl up In front of the TV tonight, have a long lie tomorrow and chalk this one up to experience: my first ever Did Not Start.

Music to my ears

When Phil and I were discussing the possibility that he might do a blog post for me, he mentioned that there are two types of runner; one who responds to external stimuli and takes their cue from the world around them and the other who retreats within themselves to get through the run. Phil is obviously the first type as he likes to run with others and chat with them. I am very much the second type as I prefer to run alone, plugged into my headphones, lost in thought (usually planning my next blog post or thinking about what to eat for dinner!). That’s not to say that I don’t look around me; I like spotting wildlife and looking at nice views. I reckon it’s a 70:30 split for me internal/external.

Photo of AM at Worral 10k

No headphones at Wirral 10k in 2014 – note both feet in the air!

I don’t wear headphones when I am racing as most races don’t permit it for safety reasons (you need to be able to hear the marshals and not all races are on closed roads). When it comes to a race, I like soaking up the race atmosphere.  That’s when it is useful to at least be partly an external runner and perhaps do some training runs without headphones.

With my hearing loss, I do have a great pair of headphones. They hook round my ear and when I put my hearing aids to the T setting (the loop system that you often see in theatres), I can hear the music right in my hearing aid. It’s much safer as I can hear some background noise such as cars and people talking to me. The miracle is that there is no sound for others to hear, it seems to be right inside my hearing aid.

 

photo of ipod

My old skool ipod and miraculous headphones

So, definitely for me, one of life’s little pleasures is going for a run with your favourite music. I have always loved my pop music, from buying Smash Hits (I am giving my age away now!) to going to HMV to buy the latest 12 inch single. My taste is fairly mainstream but it is at the pop and rock end of the spectrum. So my running playlist simply has up tempo songs from my favourite bands.  Songs like Dog Days by Florence and the Machine, Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen and Beautiful Day by U2 are fairly obvious choices for running but I also have Take On Me by A-ha, Wages Day by Deacon Blue and The Way I Tend To Be by Frank Turner. I have just added Magnetised by Tom Odell, Payphone by Maroon 5 and Ghost by Ella Henderson.

Keep your head up by Ben Howard is another less obvious choice but it was out around the time I was going for my black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I was told repeatedly to look up by my instructor so I downloaded this song to remind me! I love the lyrics which are a good mantra for life; “keep your head up, keep your heart strong.” I always think of my weekend in Bristol grading for my black belt when I hear it.

Interestingly, after I wrote the first draft of this post, I forgot to take my Ipod on a run, and I noted that despite the lack of music, I am still mainly an internal runner as I focused on my breathing and I still retreated into my thoughts (what’s for dinner? and I need to amend that blog post now!)

I’d love to broaden my running playlist so if you have any tracks you like running to please share them in the comments below or we could start a conversation on my Facebook page. What do you run to?

Running with and guiding a blind runner

Adventurous Mum asked me to write a guest blog about what it is like to guide and run with a blind person. My name is Phillip Stanley, an average runner and novice triathlete. (Adventurous Mum says: Phil is being modest here as he can run a sub 47 min 10k. And he’s a 2nd Dan Black belt in Tae Kwon Do where we first met!)

Phil and Ben at parkrun

All smiles before parkrun

My friend, Ben Darby lost his sight when he was 3 years old although he does retain a little vision. The first thing to say is that running with Ben is a pleasure and, while it comes with responsibilities, it has many benefits for me. Ben is approaching his mid-30s and I am moving too quickly towards my mid-50s. He is stronger and faster – and has run all distances including two marathons.

Ben estimates that through training and races he’s had 30+ guides, including a number of attractive ladies – what an operator! Ben likes running with me because he trusts that I will keep him safe and give him the space and support to do what he loves most doing – running. Building that level of trust, helped by constant communication provides the foundations of guiding.

We are both members of Run Wirral, and use routes very familiar to Ben so he has computed road layouts and potential hazards. My job is to remind him of kerbsides, wheelie bins, overhanging branches, lamp posts, animals, and what people are doing around him. He holds onto my elbow so that as necessary I can pull him the right direction (well most of the time). Along the way I describe the route or street name. This is vital when it is dark.

At races, his main worry is making sure that we meet in good time so that he can drop off his bag, go to the toilet and get into the runners’ corral. I let him know when we are about to go and as we approach the start line to start his watch. He obsesses about times like most runners.

Phil and Ben at Liverpool HM

Phil and Ben at mile 9 of the Liverpool Half Marathon

The first part of any race is to find space and get into a rhythm, and of course it is crowded, so we could take about 10 minutes to get settled. Apart from alerting Ben to any potential dangers, I describe landmarks we pass or people we know just to say hello. We are easily recognisable with our names on the front of our vests along with Ben’s ‘Blind Runner’. We hear lots of encouraging remarks, and Ben laughs when people say how wonderful it is he can run – little knowing how fast he can be.

Apart from the business end of being a guide, the friendship has developed by the things we talk about when we are running. Ben is a warm, caring person but has a mischievous sense of humour. We cover everything from sports; family; the people we know; or what we have been up to in the past week. Since I love the sound of my voice, Ben listens patiently to my long stories which go off on tangents – and my stressful day at work. It’s good to share stuff and the time passes. You really get to know a person when running with them. As we approach the finishing line and I see space, it’s like letting a dog off the lead as he sprints to the finish – and that lad can run quickly.

Ben and I have made a lot of friends through running. We are a community. He has helped me to get stronger and his encouragement has meant I have achieved some great times. He keeps me going when I feel tired, as pictures of us show – him, smiling, happy to be running; me grimacing, digging in at times. What did I say earlier? There are mutual benefits to this relationship. I am the type of runner who thrives better on reacting to external stimuli and as I run past scenery, fellow runners or act as a guide, I perform better.

In my life, I meet negative people who moan about things. I would like to introduce them to Ben to show how he has to overcome barriers every day. He is happy when he can run and I am happy to guide him. Long may it continue – and hopefully more PBs along the way.

The Long and Winding Road

Since I completed Wirral Half marathon last year in 2 hours and 4 seconds and having become obsessed with the notion of “breaking” 2 hours, Liverpool Half Marathon was an important race for me. I felt I had a good shot at it because the course was reasonably flat with only one major hill at the start. Would the weather co-operate? I was in Liverpool last year when the half marathon was on and it was pouring with rain and blowing a gale. There were a lot of bedraggled runners in the cafe and I was glad I was not running! However the weather this year was looking really good and most importantly no real wind to contend with.

So everything was in place…apart from being sick in the week before the race. I will spare you the details, suffice to say it was a stomach bug which set off a reflux problem that reared its head last summer during Ripon Triathlon (but that’s another story). I was a lot better by Saturday morning so I thought I was ready to go.

The Liver Building

The famous Liver Building

The start was in the shadow of the famous Three Graces on the waterfront. It was busy with 6,500 runners taking part. Thankfully there were plenty of toilets and although I waited for about 10 minutes, I was still ready in plenty of time for the start and made my way to the 2 hour point. I took it as a good omen that this was right in front of the Liver Building. I was feeling good as we headed off and even the hill on Upper Parliament Street didn’t faze me. I noticed the 2 hour pacer was starting to pull away but wasn’t too concerned as I thought he was going too fast and that I would pace myself using my Garmin.

After completing 10km in 55 min 57 seconds, I was still on course for sub 2 hours. My inner critic was wondering if I had gone out too fast but I convinced myself that it was fine and that this was the time I needed to reach my goal. I was enjoying running round Sefton Park; it really is a jewel in Liverpool’s crown. It is a reminder of Liverpool’s rich heritage with the beautiful Palm House, vast expanse of open space and grand Victorian houses surrounding the park.

Heading away from Sefton Park, my troubles began. We had to run under an underpass and up and over to the Otterspool Promenade to start the last 4-5 miles back to the finish. I felt really dizzy as we came out of the underpass. When I got onto the prom, I started to feel really sick. It subsided if I stopped to walk and got worse when I tried to run. I also looked at my fingers and they had swollen up like fat sausages.  I later wasn’t able to get my wedding ring off and it is normally loose on my fingers.

AM at Half Marathon

Still smiling through the pain for the camera…thanks to Jon Fairhurst at Mersey Tri for the photo

By this time, it was truly hot and I was regretting wearing my long leggings so I pulled them up to my mid-calf. But nothing was helping; I just couldn’t power through the sickness. Even when I got to 10 miles and my Garmin said 1 hour 33 minutes, I was still thinking that I could do it so tried again to push to no avail.

There were some lovely people urging me to “come on we are nearly there” and some friends gave me a boost at 12 miles so that I managed to run a bit longer.  Eventually the finish appeared and there was my family with a big cheer. I finished in 2 hours, 7 minutes and 50 seconds.

I cannot pretend I was anything other than disappointed. I have examined my training regime (did I skip one training run too many?), my state of mind (I felt that it was positive on the whole), my fuelling (I was drinking an electrolyte drink through the race) but in the end I can only conclude that I was simply not well. I cannot fault the race organisation or the route which were both excellent and I would recommend this race to anyone.

Liverpool HM medal

More race bling! I need to get a medal hanger for Easter…hint, hint!

I have to chalk that one up to experience and consider the other reasons why I run. Chasing PBs is only one aspect of it. I love running because I like to be outside feeling the sun on my face (rain and wind are less welcome but come with the territory); I enjoy exploring new places through running; I like feeling strong and fit and able to cope with what life can throw at you and I like meeting up with like-minded people. Races make you feel that you are part of a bigger community and I like that too.

Edinburgh Half Marathon is next at the end of May (just the small matter of Chirk Triathlon before then). One of my friends said to me this morning, perhaps you are saving the moment that you break 2 hours until you are on home soil. It will be all the sweeter when the moment does come.

Five under £5 – March 2016

Five items under £5

Five under £5 – March 2016

I love Rainbeaubelle’s blog where she runs this monthly feature. Her blog is what mine wants to be when it grows up! She deals with family, love and loss on her blog so do check it out here http://rainbeaubelle.com. As this is a fitness/family blog, I have elected to try to find 5 running items under £5. A bit of a challenge but I think I have done it.

1.Water Bottle

AM at Wirral Half marathon

When the going gets tough at the Wirral Half Marathon..

I have had the water bottle  for a while and use it when I am training for a half marathon. I took it during the Wirral Half Marathon last year and taped a Nakd bar to it for fuel. The water bottle is handy so that you don’t have to stop at the water stations and lose precious time. I bought mine from Runner’s Sports in Hoylake for £1.79. This is where I get my shoes from which cost considerably more than £5 but the advice on fitting there is priceless.

 

Running vest

Dreaming of summer…or at least of buying some fake tan!

 

2. Running vest from Decathlon

I found this running vest from Decathlon in Warrington for £3.99. I am already dreaming of warmer weather so looking forward to wearing this lovely colour in the warmer months. It will be great for my weekly yoga class too. Just be careful with the sizing. I recommend that you try the clothes on before you buy as I am normally a medium (size 10-12) and I had to buy a medium/large in the vest to get a good fit.

 

Pants and socks

More Decathlon goodies

3.Socks/pants

These were both £4.99, again from Decathlon. I haven’t tested them yet but the pants are super soft. The socks look as good quality as any I have bought from more recognised brands. Decathlon has great stuff for kids too; my 9 year old daughter is kitted out head to toe in Decathlon for her running club including trainers which I bought for £11.99. She loves wearing them. (PS I am not a Decathlon ambassador although I wish I was!)

  1. Event clips

    Event clips

    Event clips – they do exactly what they say on the tin.

These are £3.99 from UK Run Chat web site. As my Mersey Tri run top suffered a run from a safety pin I ordered these. They are more stylish and are less likely to pull your running tops. I wore them to the Manchester Winter Series Run and was very pleased with them.  If you are on Twitter, one of the best things about UK Run Chat is the support offered to runners by tweeting. They have chat hours on Sunday and Wednesdays between 8-9pm where you can ask anything and get answers from your fellow runners. A great way to find like-minded runners when your family are fed up listening to you discussing races!

  1. Parkrun

I have saved the best until last.  This doesn’t strictly speaking cost anything but it does help to laminate your card (see the main picture) so there is a small cost. I will explain more if you have not come across parkrun before. About 11 years ago, the founders set up a free timed run in a park. The aim was that it would be free if everyone took a turn a volunteering. The model has proved enormously successful and it is now a global phenomenon with over 543 parkruns worldwide and 1 million runners having taken part.  My local parkrun is Birkenhead; 3 laps of the upper park, a total of 5km. I never thought it would be possible to get under 25 mins for my PB for that distance but I managed it last October with a time of 24.43. The volunteers do a great job and the magic with the bar code is amazing. About 3-4 hours after the race, the results are sent to you by email. The mantra is don’t forget your bar code!

I hope you like my selection and feel inspired to lace up your trainers now!