A marathon update

I have Chelmsford Marathon next Sunday.

Chelmsford Marathon number

In the last four weeks I have run a grand total of three times.

Slowly.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to go!  I was supposed to run Ealing Half Marathon at the end of September and achieving a PB.  Which would then lead nicely into a new PB at Chelmsford Marathon at the end of this month.

It all started out so well…

At the start of the Summer I couldn’t have asked for better results from my training – I PBd in 5 mile, 6 mile and 10k distances all in quick succession.

Then – injury, illness, my Mum being rushed to hospital and a very busy month of work all happened and the three weeks I was forced to take off fell at such a crucial point in my training cycle.

When I run Chelmsford next weekend it will be with the aim of getting round to the finish and completing my twelfth marathon.  There will be no time pressure.  I want to enjoy the race and am looking forward to spending 5+ hours out in the countryside without a toddler wanting me to read the same book for the twelfth time that day and without feeling like I should be tidying up the house or offering help in some way to somebody.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to cut my marathon time down further.  Of course I do, but undertrained and returning from injury, this is not the time to be doing that.  With all that has been going on I have lost nearly 2 stone in the last four weeks, so my body is not at it’s strongest currently.

Following my back injury in September, I’ve made several visits to the physio.  I’ve been going to Strong Lines in Wellingborough, and cannot recommend Fred enough.  Since my first visit I’ve been religiously completing my exercises to strengthen my core.  Fred established that my left side is much weaker than my right but my whole core strength is pretty shocking.  Something which deep down I knew, but didn’t know how best to go about fixing.

I have a series of exercises to complete each day, including some resistance band walking and planks in various positions.  Fred used my phone to film me completing the exercises, which makes it super easy to check form and remind myself just what it is I need to be completing each day!

After watching me run on the treadmill, Fred established that my cadence was much too slow.  Something I have focused on in the past.  I currently fall naturally into a rhythm of about 140spm, when actually I should be running closer to 180, so this is something I need to focus on during road runs over the coming weeks as well.

I’m feeling so confident that I will be able to see improvements in my running with the addition of proper core work this Winter.  I can already feel the benefits of the exercises after just a few weeks.

I received my annual rejection magazine from VLM for 2018 last week along with everybody else I know who hadn’t already guaranteed their place through a Good For Age entry or deferral. London Marathon rejection magazine 2018 A couple of weeks earlier though I was lucky enough to be announced as an ambassador for Milton Keynes Marathon 2018.  Milton Keynes was my very first marathon back in 2012 and so I have a soft spot for the race, having run it three times now (2012, 2013 and 2015) with the half marathon last year whilst pregnant.  I’ve always enjoyed the event and it has been lovely to watch it grow into such a successful race in such a short amount of time.  (The first Milton Keynes Marathon was held in 2012 the first year I ran it.)

You can read all about the other ambassadors on the MK Marathon website.

As well as Chelmsford marathon next weekend I will be running Gower marathon in November.  A tough, off-road, coastal trail marathon with a whole bunch of my running friends.  We go every year (although I couldn’t last year as Oscar was only a few weeks old at the time).  I’m really looking forward to the weekend away.  I could definitely do with one at the moment!

After that I just have a couple of cross-country races pencilled in to end the year and I was thinking about entering Bedford half marathon in December to try and finish off the year on a high.  My half marathon PB is in desperate need of updating, sitting at 2:09 from many years ago.

I haven’t fully organised next year’s calendar yet, but the target will be Milton Keynes Marathon in May.

Oh, and this…! 😉

Have you ever had to go on the wait list for a race?
Do you add in much core work to your weekly training?

A slight change of marathon plan

So my goal marathon for 2017 has always been Mablethorpe.  I’ve run the race three times now (2013, 2014, 2015), the route is pancake flat, the race always seems to attract other runners from our club and I know where to buy the best milkshake from after the race(!)

But, there were a few snags with my target marathon being Mablethorpe this year.

  • It falls just one week after the half marathon I won a place at (Ealing half).
  • I will be returning to work full time in September for one month – finishing two days before Mablethorpe marathon.  I have been working full time since May whilst juggling raising Oscar, training, blogging and keeping on top of housework and family life, but a teaching workload in September will be much greater than one in July.
  • It will be just a few days after Oscar’s first birthday (27th September – added purely so Dan remembers when it is!) and we had wanted to hold a get-together on the Saturday for close family and friends.

Recently, after a long discussion with Dan we made the decision to have Oscar Christened.  Because both of our families are a two hour drive from where we live it made sense for us to combine Oscar’s Christening with his first birthday celebrations and the date suggested to us by the Vicar was October 1st – conveniently a date all three Godparents could make too.  Something we thought might be an issue, knowing how busy the weekends in all three calendars get!

So Mablethorpe is off the cards.  If I did rock up to the start line for 9:30am on September 1st, I doubt very much that I would be able to run 26.2 miles, shower, change and drive the 90 miles back for the ceremony at 10:30am.

No, the easiest thing to do would be change my target marathon so I’ve decided to run Chelmsford marathon again.  Which to be honest (don’t tell Dan) I’d already decided to do anyway.  Partly as a backup in case I fell short of my target at Mablethorpe, and partly to tick off another marathon from the list, getting ever closer to that magic 100 marathon number.  I used Chelmsford as my backup marathon in 2015 after my Mablethorpe sub 5 attempt didn’t go to plan.  (That year I literally returned home from Mablethorpe, searched for nearby marathons that were taking place a fortnight later and had booked Chelmsford within minutes of waking the following morning.)  In that scenario the plan worked, and I ducked under the sub 5 bracket by 6 minutes.

This time I want more.

Chelmsford marathon falls three weeks later than Mablethorpe did.  On the 22nd October.  Swapping my target race will allow me to run hard at Ealing half marathon towards the end of September and still recover enough in time to race hard at the marathon.  (That’s the plan anyway!)

I am kind of sad that I won’t be running Mablethorpe again this year (and also missing the opportunity to add another marathon to my tally), but I will be back.  It’s a lovely race with great marshals and a super flat course.  You run right alongside the beach twice on the route and last time I ran, there was somebody there handing out little bags of seaside pic ‘n’ mix.  Winner!

The last couple of weeks of marathon training have been a bit sporadic so having those extra three weeks now is reassuring.  The final week of term was a fairly busy one for me and I was working late or attending leaving dos most evenings.  The Saturday of that week I headed to Rushmere parkrun (new course for me!) before a friend’s hen do, and the following week saw Dan, Oscar and I all end up with food poisoning following some dodgy chicken during a meal out.  Rubbish!

Quick recap of the Rushmere parkrun, as I’ll kick myself if I don’t write about it and there were some pretty nice pictures on their Facebook page too.

Rushmere parkrunRushmere was my 86th parkrun and 13th different course.  I ran with Laura and as per most parkruns we just chatted our way round.

Rushmere parkrunDan has promised to take Oscar on a Saturday morning soon though so that I may run a parkrun hard once more!

Rushmere parkrunLaura and I had an afternoon at Go Ape planned as part of a friend’s hen do, and I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to heights so I needed to save a bit of energy to get round the high ropes course at Woburn!

Rushmere parkrunRushmere is a lovely off-road two-lap course, with friendly marshals providing banter rightthe beginning at the event briefing.  The absolute best thing about the Rushmere parkrun though is that it has a PB gong!

{Official time: 35:05   Position: 143/187   Gender position: 53/74   Age grade position: 11/13}

Technically it wasn’t a parkrun PB for me, but it was a course PB (having never run the course before, so I leapt at the chance to ring the gong!  I think the gong should be part of the mandatory kit when a new parkrun course starts up.  I’d want to run faster just to have the opportunity to ring it at the end  I wouldn’t have a clue where to start looking when it came to buying one of these though!

After parkrun, it was Go Ape.

Go Ape for Steph's hen do(I survived!)

And After Go Ape it was time for a quick flick with the wet wipes and a dress thrown on before getting glammed up for Afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea for Steph's hen do

I’m a jam then cream kinda person.

Afternoon tea for Steph's hen do

This week I’m back on target with my training again.  I even made it out to a club training session on Thursday night which I haven’t been able to do in ages!  (Baby logistics as Dan doesn’t return home from work until 6:20pm and club starts at 6:30.)

I’ll sit down with my training plan on Sunday and tweak it slightly to reflect the extra weeks I have now gained before race day, and also the week of training I missed when I was ill.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to stick 100% to the Hanson’s Method when I started training, but the elements I’ve incorporated have definitely been doing me some good.  Not only have I PBd over three different distances just lately but I generally feel stronger and healthier.  I’m looking forward to seeing what else I can achieve during this training cycle!

Have you visited Go Ape?
Jam then cream or cream then jam?!

Ugh, a new PB and cake

dsfI’m pretty sure that the three of us came away with food poisoning last weekend. We’d taken Oscar out to a large indoor play area on Sunday afternoon. He was having so much fun, and we were having so much fun watching him enjoy himself that we completely didn’t realise how quickly the afternoon had flown by until Oscar started to whine that he was hungry, and we realised restaurant feeding options were minimal in the area.
It was a quick trip to the nearest one we could find, where Oscar sleepily, but thoroughly enjoyed chicken skewers with sweet potato fries and corn on the cob. Dan also went for chicken, and I demolished a mushroom burger.
Oscar with cornBecause Oscar was so tired he left quite a bit of his meal, which is unheard of for him, so we got it boxed up to take home for his lunch the following day.

The next morning, Dan groggily appeared downstairs for breakfast. By that point Oscar had already been through two nappies, and was about to fill his third. Dan managed to force some cereal down but Oscar just moved his breakfast around his tray looking rather sorry for himself.
Fast forward to lunch and, having not yet sussed out the link between the meal from the previous night and our poorly household, I pulled out the remainder of Oscar’s meal for him to have for lunch. When he once again, did not seem too fussed about eating any of it, I placed it onto my plate instead. Sweet potato fries are my favourite!

Ugh.

They are not my favourite any more. And neither is chicken.  :(

I spent the start of last week feeling rough, with a painful crampy stomach and zero energy. I sensibly decided to take a few days off from running until I fully recovered.  It was frustrating not getting out to run during the first week of the Summer holidays, but I knew that there was a good chance that I wouldn’t be able to hit any of my training paces, and would feel rubbish for attempting to do so in the first place.

The Thursday before had been our club’s annual Pre-Welly 5 BBQ run.  Always held 10 days before our club 5 mile road race, the idea is to check over the course, practice our marshaling and to give everybody a chance to run the event who might not be able to on the day if they were marshaling instead.

After a couple of rubbish BBQ runs in previous years I had a great run last year and set a new 5 mile PB of 45:55.  Although it’s not an official race – but instead more of a social event for our club, it is run on the race route, so I’m counting it as a PB!

Having run really strongly since starting my training using the Hanson’s Marathon Method, and having already achieved PBs in 6 mile and 10k events over recent weeks, I was hoping for another PB this year.

It didn’t start well when I arrived feeling knackered and hungry though.  I instantly had doubts for the run and began to talk myself out of it.

When we first set off I looked around and instantly felt like I had placed myself way too far forward, with runners usually much faster than me.  But my heart rate monitor told me that I could run faster, so I carried on.

Pre Welly 5 BBQ run

I chatted to a couple of people early on in the first mile.  Again, projecting my doubts about a decent time to them.  Kev came alongside me and commented on how well I had been running just lately.  I told him that I was hoping for a good time again that day – perhaps something around 9 minute mile pace.  I could see him trying to work out the math!  We spent several minutes talking before he nipped into a bush following the pre-run pint of Guinness he’d enjoyed in the bar before setting off!

I had sat behind the same people for the whole run until we hit the slight hill at mile 3.5.  Here, still feeling strong, I managed to gradually pull past other runners one by one.  I probably wouldn’t have been able to hold a full on conversation any more, and this ended up being my slowest mile at 9:07.  (So happy that I can say a mile at this pace was my slowest mile now!)

In fact, I ran really consistently for the whole run.  My mile splits were 9:01, 9:06, 8:49, 9:07, 8:50 and then 7:20mm pace for the final 0.09 recorded on my Garmin.

I overtook a couple more runners who I never would have been able to overtake normally in the final mile and then opened up my stride to power through to the finish.  As I headed towards the finish line I struggled to remember my exact PB time, but knew I was in with a shot of hitting it, and so commented to the Group 4 running coach as I came alongside him, who then insisted we run through the finish holding hands.

Pre Welly 5 finish line pic

Watch stopped, 45:33.  A full 24 seconds faster than my previous best!

Despite not really looking it in this pic, I was completely comfortable and was barely breathing heavily at all, able to chat and laugh with other runners whilst heading down the finishing chute.  I guess this picture must have been taken literally as I pulled back from a run to a walk.  You can see the official finish line drawn on the floor just behind me.

Although initially disappointed that I didn’t come very close to 45 minutes, having set myself a rough target of 9 minute miling, I soon cheered up when I checked my watch to discover that with the slight over-distance run I had actually ran an average of 8:57 minute miling!  Hanson’s is definitely doing me some good!

For the first time since the BBQ run has been taking place, we didn’t actually have any BBQs.  Instead, a pizza van.  So I waited in line for my turn to demolish a hot, veggie pizza and sit nursing a drink at the bar.  Very satisfying mid-week and with just one day left of the school term.

So that was last week – poorly sick following a good 5 mile race.  This weekend was a little different again.

I started off this weekend by running Kettering parkrun with Laura whilst pushing Oscar in the buggy.

Kettering parkrun start(Picture taken as a still from a video which was shared with the Kettering Facebook page)

This was parkrun #87 for me and I completed it in 34:25.  I should really count the amount of parkruns Oscar has been to.  He must be coming up to 20 now?
{Position: 196/255 Gender position: 67/108 Age category position: 10/12 }

Kettering parkrun midrun

(Picture taken as a still from a video which was shared with the Kettering Facebook page)

Having come right from the very back of the run and Kettering being a very difficult course to overtake with a buggy, I’m fine with that.  Oscar stayed wide awake for the whole run, gripping onto his Sophie giraffe toy.  Good job, because I didn’t really want to have to keep stopping to pick her up along the way!

I’m hoping that at some point during August I will be able to run a parkrun hard and see what time I am currently capable of.  It’s been a while since I raced a parkrun and I’d like to think I’m a little quicker now.

In the afternoon I headed over to The Garden Deli with Laura and Steph for cake and a catch up.  The cake there is a good.  I went for this lemon and ginger sponge.  I don’t even really like lemon flavoured things.  I can’t stand it when bartenders add a lemon slice in your drink when you go out, but this looked too good not to try.

Lemon and ginger sponge cake

The drinks are also amazing!  I went for a strawberry and vanilla fruit crush and was not disappointed!

Strawberry and vanilla fruit crush

Then yesterday was the actual Wellingborough 5 race.

For the last few years my role at the race has been to direct cars down the driveway and onto the car park before the race begins.  I then take photos of the runners along the first 100 metres of the race, again in the final 200m as well as ensure runners turn safely into the final section along the field at the very end of the race.  There were a couple of other marshals with me at the end this year, which meant that I could take pictures without worrying about where runners were headed.

I love taking photos of the event.

Last year a runner suffered a cardiac arrest during the race and was air lifted to hospital, so it was a sigh of relief when all runners were back safe and sound this year.  The club invited Tom, the runner who had been hospitalised following the race last year to our BBQ run the other week, and he finished at a run/walk along with his wife and one of our members who happened to be a doctor who had stopped and helped him on the day.  He finally got the chance to finish the race route!

Wellingborough 5 trophies

This year I also took pictures of all of the prize winners.  Prize giving always seems to go on for ages.  I couldn’t even dream of ever being good enough to receive a prize at a race.

Welly 5 winnersHow did you spend your weekend?

Weeks 1 and 2 of the Hanson’s Marathon Plan

I have about ten half written race recaps and reviews in the Drafts folder of my blog that I’m gradually working my way through!

Today though, I want to recap the first two weeks of my marathon training plan.

In my last blog post I announced that I intended on following the Hanson’s Marathon Method* to work towards a sub 4h 30m marathon at Mablethorpe this October.  My current marathon PB is 4:54:08, but I have always felt that I should be capable of a much quicker time.  The year I did achieve my PB was after following a specific training plan (on the back of a 70 mile race) and I loved the structure that the plan gave.

Hansons Marathon Method book

This will be my first time working through the Hanson’s Marathon Method plan and although I plan to stick to the scheduled paces and runs as closely as possible, I will definitely be doing some day-swapping, and cutting back on the miles during the early weeks as necessary.  The first week of training began the day after I ran a 35 mile ultramarathon, so I let my legs off a little bit(!)

The paces I’ve chosen are targeted towards a 4h 15m marathon time.  I will be aiming for anything under 4h 30m at Mablethorpe in October.  In the weeks before starting the plan I tested out a few of the sessions and found that I can run the paces required for the 4h 15m target time comfortably, and so I plan on continuing with the slightly faster speeds to give myself a little leeway time on the day.  If I need to knock them back a little later on in the plan, then I will look to do so.

Week 1 planned: (5 runs)
Monday – Off (extra rest day scheduled due to racing an ultra the previous day)
Tuesday – Banbury 5 (run to heart rate – 170bpm)
Wednesday – Off
Thursday – 6m easy (10:50-11:40mm)
Friday – 6m easy (10:50-11:40mm)
Saturday – 6m easy (10:50-11:40mm)
Sunday – 8m easy (10:50-11:40mm)

Week 1 actual: (4 runs)
Monday – Off
Tuesday – Off
The first week back at work and juggling sending Oscar to nursery and picking him up in the evenings was harder than I thought it would be.  A 4:15am get-up time is never fun, although this week I’ve managed to slide things around in order that I can set my alarm for 5am instead.  I’ve been pushing it to get in to work on time each morning though.  I arrived home on Tuesday night absolutely exhausted and within five minutes of announcing that I would not be driving the 55 miles to Banbury I fell asleep on the sofa.  Right call made.
Wednesday – Off
Thursday – 5.8m at 10:56mm pace.
A lovely chatty run out round the streets of Wellingborough with Laura and Steph before the running club committee meeting.

Friday – 5.3m at 10:41mm pace.
Saturday – Corby parkrun at chatty pace.
Corby parkrun with LauraI headed to Corby parkrun with Laura for a change of scenery.
[Official time:
30:27 Position: 95/182 Gender position: 20/81 Age category position: 3/13]
Sunday
– 3.79m at 11mm pace.
It was 9:30pm before I even got out of the door on Sunday evening.  Dan and I had spent all day with Oscar at an Open Farm day in Peterborough.  It was lovely to have the day out as a family, and we continued tag-teaming for Oscar’s evening routine.  When he was in bed, it was a quick rush round the house to tidy and clean and put the washing on for the following day before I could even get changed for my run.  Nearly 4 miles wasn’t the 8 I had in the calendar, but it was definitely better than no miles.

Week 2 planned: (6 runs)
Monday – Off
Tuesday – Harborough 5 (run to heart rate – 170bpm)
Wednesday – 7m easy (10:50-11:40mm)
Thursday – 8x600m (8:20-8:27mm), 400m rec (12:20-12:30mm)
Friday – 6m easy (10:50-11:40mm)
Saturday – 6m easy/buggy parkrun at chatty pace
Sunday – 10m long (10:29mm)

Week 2 actual: (5 runs)
Monday – Off
Tuesday – Harborough 5
Oscar was overtired when I picked him up from nursery, and wouldn’t let me put him down long enough to get changed to run or for me even go to the toilet.  As soon as Dan was back from work I had to madly rush around the house to get all of my bits together in time.
Annoyingly, as soon as I arrived (three minutes before the start and desperately needing to pee) my Garmin flashed to say that the battery was low and by the time the gun went, there was nothing left at all on the display.  I’d planned on running to heart rate, but in actual fact I am guessing that my first three miles were run at parkrun PB pace.  I then got a stitch and had to walk for a stint as it was so painful!  I’ve not had a stitch in years!  I had a rough fourth mile, but overtook several people in mile 5 to finish in 47m 32s.
Harborough 5 Garmin timeWednesday – Off
We had a carpet fitter coming to measure our bedrooms on Thursday evening after I returned from nursery pickup.  By the time our house was looking as presentable as a house occupied by two full-time working parents and an eight month old whirlwind can look, it was close to 11pm, I was pretty knackered and had no intentions of heading out for 7 miles.
Thursday – 8x600m, 400m rec
1.5m warmup at 11-12mm pace (11:09mm)
8:21, 12:24, 8:26, 2:25, 8:32, 11:57, 8:20, 12:26, 8:30, 11:54, 8:24, 12:09, 8:24, 12:18, 8:23, 12:41
1.5m cooldown at 11-12mm pace (10:59mm)
I loved, loved, loved this session!  I have always loved runs where I have to meet (achievable) set paces for each split and this run reminded me of that.  I managed to teach myself how to set up paces for split distances on my watch and my Garmin beeped every time I was running too slow or too quickly which took the guesswork out of my pacing.
Friday – Off
Run was replaced with sleeping on the sofa by 7pm.  Two weeks into my return to work, super early morning starts and organising an extra person every day had definitely taken it’s toll by this point.
Saturday – buggy parkrun (in 32m 25s) and 4.01m easy (10:52mm) to make up a little for the lack of run on Friday.
Both runs were incredibly hot!
Kettering parkrun with OscarI got quite a few comments from other runners when I ran past them up the hill whilst pushing a buggy!
[Official time: 
32:25 Position: 230/367 Gender position: 82/173 Age category position: 9/14]
Sunday
– 8.09m (10:26mm pace)
Although I was nearly two miles short of the planned distance for Sunday, I was incredibly chuffed with how close I was to my target paces, and especially chuffed with how consistent I ran for miles 3-7 of the run.

Long run consistent split timesBecause (once again) I left it really late to head out on my run, (it was 8:50pm before I headed out the door!) I needed to cut the run short slightly in order to get round and ready for school the following day.

So what have I discovered during the first fortnight of my Hanson’s Marathon Method training?

  • I am loving the set plan with exact paces to follow (especially when it comes to speedwork and long run sessions).  It makes planning for the week so easy.  I know exactly how far I should be running, and at exactly what pace.
  • I spend most of the time in the build up to each run feeling incredibly guilty that I am running instead of doing housework or seeing my husband.  (I tend to run late at night after Oscar has gone to bed so it doesn’t impact on time spent with him.)  I need to stop faffing and just get out and get the full run done as soon as I hand Oscar over to Dan for him to put to bed.  I knew that this plan required for high mileage before I began.  Things will definitely be easier once I finish school for the Summer at the end of July and I feel like I have more time again.
  • If I cut a run short because I’m feeling guilty, I end up feeling cheated as I haven’t completed the run I intended, but I didn’t spend quality time at home either.  The aim for this week is to make sure that no runs are cut short!

Do you enjoy sticking to a training plan?
How many days do you tend to run each week?