Tag Archives: training

Prelude to Canalathon – Why does it always rain on me?

An ultra marathon is a BIG undertaking. The initial blog post I planned was also BIG! So I have split it in two. Here’s the details on the training and the run up to Canalathon. It didn’t all go to plan…

Training

I entered this race in July 2017. I can’t remember how it all came together but I planned to do the race with my team green friends (from UKrunchat on Twitter), Gemma, Jon, Brian and Ellie.

My training plan included Conwy Half Marathon in November, Cakeathon in January 2018 as a marathon and then, the big one, Canalathon 50k in March 2018.

Photo of AM on Great Orme

I went back to pain face after this was taken!

Conwy was a great race. The weather was beautiful and the views across the Great Orme were spectacular.  The medal was one of my favourites of the 12 medals I earned during 2017. I had a niggly calf during the race though which developed into full blown calf strain about a week later during one of my run group sessions. I had only just recovered from that and managed one run when I came down with flu. Proper flu, the kind where you can’t fathom how people manage to get dressed and get out of the house type flu. Christmas was a write off as we all came down with it.

I did Wepre parkrun on New year’s day thinking I was much better but I was wrong! I wheezed and puffed my way round the course and felt only slightly better when I learned that it has the second hardest elevation of any parkrun in the UK.

I was trying to build up the mileage ready for Cakeathon at the end of January. I had wanted to do this race for a while. I had seen so many tweets from people brandishing this absolutely enormous medal and, as I like a nice piece of bling, I was intrigued. When I heard the race was coming to Yorkshire (it’s normally in Kent which is a 5 hour drive for me!), I signed up immediately.

Also my calf strain returned when I tried to increase my running. It didn’t bode well for doing a full marathon at Cakeathon at the end of January. I was lucky enough to win a free physiotherapy treatment in a Twitter competition, though, so I got some treatment and felt much better.

Photo of cakes

Cake table groaning with yummy cakes.

I drove over the night before and stayed in a local pub near the start. It was a fairly low key event with about 300 taking part. We congregated in the community centre in Peniston for the race briefing and to ogle all the cakes. I had brought a marble cake for the cake competition but no prizes for me on that front. It was great to see Helen Bly, Colin and Keith Johnstone and to meet a few others for the first time.

The course was straight forward laps of 4.37 miles along the Penine Way which ran behind the community centre.  3 laps made for a half marathon and 6 for a marathon. I had really wanted to do a marathon here but I just wasn’t fit. I was determined to do a half marathon and in fact managed 4 laps or about 17 miles.

Photo of AM

How many more laps before I can eat some more rocky road?

Running up and down the path was not the most interesting after a while but it meant that you constantly saw other runners so it wasn’t as isolating if you were a slower runner like me (especially slow that day!). We managed most of the race in the dry with some rain showers towards the end of my last lap.

The aid station was back at the community centre so when you completed a lap, you had your card stamped and helped yourself to plenty of crisps and cake. I was drawn to the rocky road which I later learned was made by Rachel, the race organiser. She reckoned that the secret of its success is that she adds a bit extra salt.

 

Photo of Cakeathon medal

The medal is as big as my kettle!

I was happy with 17 miles on the day as I remember just being really perplexed as to how unfit I felt for all of January. Flu is a horrible illness and really takes it out of you. I didn’t feel properly well until the week before Cakeathon, when I finally shook the annoying little cough. I  seriously considered pulling out of Canalathon as I wouldn’t have been able to prepare properly and with 50km at stake, you really have to respect the distance.

Although I came down with yet another cold and missed Mad Dog 10K, after that, things went a bit better and I recorded my highest ever mileage month in February at 166.2 km, including at 32 km run around the northern half of the Wirral.

Photo of AM in Oban

Feeling the runner’s high once I reached Oban!

My favourite training run was what felt like an epic point to point run from my in-laws in Port Appin to Oban, a total of 34.5km. I followed the cycle path all the way to Oban (although it disappears in some places and I had cut through a camp site at one stage!). It was quite magical too because I also saw a red squirrel, a deer and an eagle all in the space of 10 minutes about halfway through the run. They all disappeared before I could get my camera out, of course!  It was much more hilly than I expected, especially the last 10km but on the final downhill into Oban, I felt invincible and on a real runner’s high.

This was a turning point for me as I finally felt that I was as ready as I would ever be for the ultra. The cloud had lifted.

 

Book review- Fat Girls’ Guide to Marathon Running by Julie Creffield

Book cover

You all know already that I love running. Most of you will know that I love reading books. Books about running combine two of my passions and are my favourite thing! So when I was kindly offered a pre-print copy of Julie Creffield’s book – Fat Girls Guide to Marathon Running for review, I was one of the first in the queue.

You might think that the book is not all that relevant to me as I am not overweight. I have been at the top end of my healthy BMI on occasion but could never be described as a plus size runner. However, regardless of your size, you will find that we are all runners here and a lot of the advice is true for all runners. Having done my first marathon this year, I was curious to see if there was anything in there that I would have liked to have known before I raced (the answer is yes, how does it really feel after mile 20?)

Running a marathon is not easy as we all know. If you are plus sized, it seems to be even more of a difficult task due to the comments that such runners have to put up with. Thankfully I have never been subjected to any of that (other than the usual: isn’t it bad for your knees? *eye roll*). Such a revelation that people can be so blinkered and prejudicial. Wouldn’t we be better using that energy to applaud anyone who gets off the sofa and decides to do something about their health?

So let’s talk a bit more about the book itself. Julie’s refreshing honesty is what makes this book special. It’s a bit like sitting down and having a chat with a good friend or a wise sage from your running club. Someone who has been there and done that and got the race T shirt to prove it.

Julie covers things to think about before signing up to the marathon – discovering why you want to run this marathon and discusses some of the logistics of actually signing up. She talks candidly about the training that will be required. Then you need to “sign up or shut up” to the marathon. Give yourself plenty of time to train, especially if you are starting from scratch.

Training and creating your own running plan is also covered and, if you are new to running, a guide to running terms is very handy. What on earth is a Yasso 800? Julie covers it.

I found it interesting to have a view from the back of the race, dealing with the dreaded sweeper bus. Most marathons have a cut-off point to allow the roads to be re-opened. Julie provides some very sensible advice about planning your pacing to make sure you aren’t caught by the sweeper bus. There is no sugar coating it: you will need to run a fair proportion of the race to ensure that you are not scooped up by the bus.

If you are expecting detailed marathon training plans, this is not the book for you. It is probably best for beginner runners or for those making the transition up to marathons. Where this book exels is covering the kind of detail that no-one else does, what does a race day actually feel like, what goes on your head while running, how to deal with others and their reactions to your running.

It seems to me to be a great motivator to be the best runner you can be, to help you adopt an athlete mindset and to help you ignore the naysayers, regardless of the size of your body.  Make 2018 the year you finally take the plunge towards fulfilling any long held marathon dreams.

 

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!”