A Tale of Two err… Five Halfs

Half marathons, that is. This year has unintentionally turned into the “year of the half marathon”, with one done (or planned) for almost every month so far. I didn’t start the year intending to run so many races, but I did want to get my running mojo back on track. Here’s a quick rundown (geddit) of the halfs so far:

Ironbridge Half Marathon, March 2018

I had a score to settle with Ironbridge half. I’d entered this race a couple of years ago as it’s right on my doorstep, but poor mental health around the time of the race (and the reputation of the course being quite difficult) meant I ended up skipping it. This year, despite my lack of long run training (surprise surprise), I told myself I had to complete it whatever happened.

The route takes you out of Telford Centre, down the Silkin Way towards and through the historic town of Ironbridge and surrounding areas and then back up to Telford. It’s a multi-terrain course with roughly equal amounts of trail path and road. There are some inclines throughout including a tough hill around mile 8.

I thoroughly enjoyed the run, in part due to running with a local friend for most of the race with free-flowing conversation making the time pass all the quicker. The weather was just right on the day. I ran/walked the hill at mile 8 (heavy focus on the walking) as I had no intentions of pushing for any sort of personal best. Around mile 10 my running partner told me to go on without her as she wanted to walk the rest and so I plodded on.

Around 1km from the finish I happened upon a runner from my local club (but whom I’d not actually met previously) who was in a bad way, and ended up supporting her a short distance with her partner, before detouring to the side of the course while we waited for paramedics. When the paramedics arrived and I wasn’t needed, I finished the race with a speedy-looking sprint up the final bit of hill to cheers from supporters.

Despite intending just to finish, and the 15-20 minutes spent helping another runner, I completed in 2:33:26 which was just shy of my previous half marathon time (and personal best) of 2:34.

Photography (c) Chris Richards

May the Fourth, May 2018

The ‘May the Fourth Be With You’ half marathon is a personal favourite of mine, and having completed it twice previously it was a no-brainer that I’d enter again.

The course is 13.1 (ish) miles up and down the beautiful hills of Church Stretton in Shropshire with a peak elevation of 1,693 ft. It’s a tough challenge, but what else can you expect from a race organiser called “How Hard Can It Be Events”? This year was no exception, where an overly fast start saw me dead on my feet by mile 8. I literally thought I might die in the hills, with nobody there to find me.

Nonetheless, finish I did, and in 3:13:04 which saw me thrash my 2017 time of 3:37:45.

Not a happy bunny

Edinburgh Marathon Festival, May 2018

When I found out that several of my friends were taking part in the Edinburgh half marathon, I saw it as an excellent excuse for a dirty weekend away (teehee), taking advantage of the bank holiday the Monday after the run. This plan was nearly scuppered when our house sale completed the day before our intended date of arrival in Scotland.

As if that little ‘setback’ wasn’t enough, I’d managed to do something incredibly painful to my knee during the actual house move and was worried that I’d not be able to run even if we made it to Scotland. To top it all off, I also acquired the shits in the days before and every meal was quickly evacuated from my bowels: not conducive to pre-race nutrition/carb loading.

Personal ‘issues’ aside, with a bit of jiggery pokery and an accommodating airbnb host meant we were able to adjust to the move and arrive later than planned and crack on with project sexy times/running.

The weather in Edinburgh was stunning – I couldn’t have asked for better. Sunny while we were wandering about doing the “touristy” stuff, and then cool with cloud cover on the morning of the run. The route was mostly flat, which was surprising for a capital city renowned for its hills. I ran with a friend to support her round; my knee held throughout (but was fucked afterwards) and Immodium kept the contents of my guts out of my pants (ahhh running, the classy sport) and we finished in 2:46:26.

Shrewsbury Half Marathon, June 2018

Shrewsbury half was a weird one for me. I entered on the spur of the moment rather than signing up with friends, and decided on the day to push myself rather than plodding along for the sake of it. I hadn’t checked the course prior to entry (or running) and was left a little bit shell-shocked by exactly how hilly it was, with some particularly sharp inclines including the famous Wyle Cop. I don’t know why, Shrewsbury isn’t exactly a flat town!

I pushed hard, forcing myself to run up all the hills, letting my strong strong quads do as much of the work as I could (& tbh, this is where living where I do comes into its own, as you can’t train without at least one hill). I managed to maintain a good steady pace and didn’t slow down until the second half of the race when I caught sight of chap running for a male suicide charity at mile 8-9. With the anniversary of my brother’s death round the corner, it was all I needed to break down and I spent the final 3-4 miles run/walk/running whilst crying my eyes out.

By the final mile I was spent, physically and emotionally, and thought I would have to walk the last stretch. Two lovely women (who’s names I failed to note) kept me going in that final mile with a strong sprint to finish in 2:19:51. A lovely new PB!

Piece of Cake, July 2018

Another ‘How Hard Can It Be’ event, the Piece of Cake Half Marathon is another trail run in the lovely Carding Mill Valley in Church Stretton. The ascents never seem to feel quite as vicious as the May Fourth half, but it’s a similar style of route with the bonus of a fantastic 2(ish) mile downhill stretch to the finish, which makes for an adrenaline-rush if you are brave enough to pelt down the gravel paths at speed.

Like Shrewsbury half, I ran the Piece of Cake on my own (for someone who claims to be a social runner I’ve suddenly been entering a lot of races on my lonesome), although there wasn’t a single part of the course where I felt anything but part of a massive community. I cannot emphasise enough how brilliant these events are for camaraderie, support and general low-pressure “have a great time” running.

I ran PoC in brand new Vivobarefoot Primus Trail SG (mens, because the women’s are never wide enough) which apparently makes me a nutter because normal people break in running shoes before taking them out on a 13 mile run?

I finished in an awesome (for me) 3:02:07, although I was so stiff afterwards I didn’t move for the rest of the day.

Photography (c) Gareth Griffiths — look, I’m actually flying!

Next half? Lake Vyrnwy in September. Well, unless I can squeeze a cheeky half into August, of course.

Is this it?

I have spent a large part of the past few weeks jumping from one ‘chaos moment’ to another (as per usual) and I was sat on the toilet recently wondering… is this it? Is this what adulting is about? Just about hanging on while you ride the waves of life?

I’m being melodramatic — I’m not having a mid life crisis — but after a few weeks of intense hard work (covering for a friend/dev at a local agency as well as doing my own stuff) AND housework AND kids AND pets AND volunteering AND all the other day to day thankless bullshit which we seem to have to do as grown ups, I can’t help but feel if I’m missing out on some greater truth: there’s something I forgot to do that makes all this fulfilling and worthwhile?

Tomorrow marks 3 months since I decided to stop drinking. I’ve had a bit of a wobble this month with some INTENSE pre-menstrual cravings for wine, which I seem to be missing quite a lot all of a sudden. I did resist, although had a shandy over the weekend. Gaz says it counts as alcohol and I know he’s technically right, but the ABV is barely above what can be legally classed as alcohol free and it certainly didn’t make me drunk so I’m giving myself a free ride on it.

A few people have asked me if I plan on staying sober for life and I don’t know the answer to that question. Now the novelty of being newly-sober has worn off I can see occasions where a glass of wine or bubbles would be lovely, but am I ever going to be the sort of person that can just have one glass? Having the willpower to not drink is one thing, but having the willpower to say no once you’re under the influence is a different kettle of fish.

I’ve completely lost my gym mojo again, despite having lots of goals in mind and the support of awesome sexy gym-going people all over my instagram. I’m hoping to get back into it next week once the work commitments back off a little, so feel free to give me a kick up the arse or a hearty nag. I need to not undo all the effort I’ve been putting in this year with blatant laziness.

Running seems to be back on the agenda though, with a 5k Race for Life with the ladies from Source (aforementioned agency) that raised over £1000 for Cancer Research as well as a potential PB of 28 mins 17 seconds although my Garmin reckons the course was 400m short. Either way it was well under 30 minutes which is something I’ve struggled with for a while.

I’ve got another upcoming half (the Piece of Cake trail half marathon), the Leeds Abbey Dash 10k booked for November and the Edinburgh Half Marathon in the calendar for next year, so just need to keep up the momentum.

At least I’m not being completely lazy…

Is it time for another coffee yet?

Anniversaries, Races and …. this is a terrible title

What a month. WHAT A MONTH. Is it just me, or is May easily the busiest month of the year? (It probably is just me.)

The end of April (that’s basically May, right?) saw this blog – well, domain – reach 15. FIFTEEN years of dodgy web design, blogging about everything from poop to programming, as well as documenting massive life changes and my ongoing adventures.

May 4th, which came round far too bloody quickly, was the date of my trail marathon. That one with multiple ascents of circa 2000ft that I entered because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Predictably, I did not train for a marathon, so ended up ‘downgrading’ to the half on the day.

We (myself & some local friends) walk/ran/walked the half in 3hrs 37 official time, but again a Garmin moving time of around 3hrs 15 mins. Some of that walking was because my choice of trainers left a lot to be desired; despite running regularly in minimalist barefoot shoes and loving it, they’re absolutely sod all use for hilly half marathons comprised of slippery rock faces, gravel paths and the like. I was expecting to run in some Asics trail running shoes but they didn’t arrive in time, so I’m holding these back for July (because I’ve entered another trail half!?!)

The 5th of May saw me celebrating my ‘freedom’ anniversary – 3 years since I asked the ex to leave. As per usual, this meant my annual donation to Women’s Aid which after a quick post on Facebook was nearly tripled by friends.

On Sunday 7th May I then ran again — the Market Drayton 10k — which as well as being the first race I ever ran back in May 2015 is also up there as one of my absolute favourites. The support from the locals of Market Drayton is always fantastic: such a huge buzz being cheered on for 99% of the route by everyone from tiny toddlers to old pensioners. Bloody great goodie bag at the end too (important facts)

Next Tuesday (16th May) is my first wedding anniversary. One whole year of being married to the smartest, funniest, most amazing man I know. At this point in time I have completely failed to do anything about an anniversary present despite knowing what I want to do for well over 6 months (Jem in “leaving things til last minute” shocker) so this could be a very short lived marriage. :D

In between all this I’ve been juggling huge workloads both of my own stuff and as a WordPress ninja for Gaz’s firm locally; revising and practising for an upcoming taekwon-do grading for my yellow belt with a green stripe; usual kids / house crap; and lastly, multiple social engagements… because I am nothing if not a social butterfly (with great boobs):

To end this month of chaos we have Olly’s 5th birthday (May 30th) rapidly approaching which also marks the 5th anniversary of working for myself shortly after (no, launching a business with a newborn isn’t a good idea). I am not sure how my little spud managed to get to 5 (benign neglect / second child syndrome) but here we are. Should probably get him a present too…

What a munchkin.

All photos taken from my instagram because I’m too lazy to download them from my phone & re-edit them.

The one where I enter a marathon

Last week I entered a marathon.

Yes, me, the person who runs slow AF half marathons on no training because it seems like too much effort.

I have entered a bloody marathon.

And not just ANY marathon, oh no. I have entered the “How Hard Can It Be” May the 4th be with you trail marathon. The full version of the half marathon I did in May which as you may recall, included an ascent of more than 2000ft.

Which I will have to do twice.

I don’t know what possessed me. I mean, it’s one thing winging a half marathon and hoping for the best, but I don’t think it’s advisable to attempt over 26 miles without at least doing a few training runs first.

Still, it’s not til May 2017, so I have plenty of time before I need to start panicking…

In which I complete a half marathon & my guinea pig makes the news

What a weekend.

I’ve been panicking over the past few weeks about my half marathon, which I half-arsedly agreed to and failed to train for completing roughly 4 runs in the run up (the longest of which was 12km; a half marathon is over 21km!)

Anyway, by some wondrous magical miracle I managed to complete the half AND in a reasonable time. I secretly hoped that I’d somehow find a previously unknown half marathon skill and fly round in 2:30 or less, but I did not. Despite not having secret ninja running skills I still managed it in 2:37 (official time): 2:34 if you discount the 3 minutes I spent on the loo.

(Turns out half marathons make me poop, who knew?)

Anyway, home from the half and gently recovering I let the guinea pigs out for their regular grass-grazing session on Sunday afternoon and got on with the washing. A little bit later I went to call them in (shout “piggies” and jiggle the food bag and they come running, wheek-wheeking at the top of their tiny voices) and only one guinea pig appeared. Piggies, piggies: shouting to no avail. I went out with my torch and found poor little Spot —

spot guinea pig

— had managed to squeeze his head through the run panels which surround the animal shed (currently housing 3 recent piggie adoptions, more on them another day). I’ve been using these run panels for years and never had any issues so it was a bit of a shock to say the least! Unfortunately they’re designed for use in dog kennels etc (so ideal for keeping unwanted foxes, cats etc out) and therefore not easily pliable.

Anyway, attempts to get his head back out weren’t working and he was getting more distressed. I tried to use some sharp garden shears which were the best thing I could find and they didn’t do much (except wreck the shears no doubt) so I called the fire & rescue folks for some advice. They asked some questions and then said they’d send someone out. Turns out they meant the whole kit and caboodle, and the next thing I knew there was a fire engine outside complete with crew and a bloody big pair of boltcutters.

After a bit of wiggling and jiggling to get the bolt cutters around the metal without pinching piggie parts, the firefighters managed to cut a section free which meant we could maneouvre poor Spot out safely. He’s got a small tear on his ear which I cleaned up but was eating and drinking fine when I popped him back in his hutch safely last night. He’s back on the grass (now that I’ve fixed up and reinforced the run panels!)

It was all a bit of a drama but over and done with fairly quickly, and after a stiff drink I went to bed and thought nothing of it: until this morning when, despite telling the local paper I wasn’t interested in expanding on such a non-story, they published a bunch of assumptions firing the tempers of locals who thought that they knew enough to judge the situation both on the 61-word “story” and the accompanying tweet:

But hey, why let the actual facts of the matter come between a good rant, eh?

Spot’s none the worse for his adventure, and I can’t thank the Fire (& Rescue!) Service enough for fitting me in during what I recognise as a busy time of year.

I’m an idiot

Having moaned not so long back that I had let myself go with my workouts and had put some chub back on, I had a quick surge of inspiration which saw me back on the weights, which meant I dropped 5lbs or so and got back to my normal easy maintenance weight.

And then I stopped again. I’ve not lifted in weeks and I’m averaging 1 run per week. I’ve totally slipped on my diet, some days barely eating anything at all (thanks, hormones) and definitely not getting my 5 a day or drinking enough water. I also can’t remember the last time I slept well (probably related).

All of those would be fine and fixable, if it weren’t for the fact that I’m supposed to be doing a half marathon in two weeks, on Saturday 7th November. A half marathon with a 3 hour time limit, so I have no choice but run at least 2 thirds of it, which is a distance of about 15km, and the most I’ve run recently is just 10km (after which I felt half dead).

So… project survive-a-half is on. Training for a half marathon in two weeks is easy, right?

Great Highnam Court 10K (and other running news)

In my ongoing quest for a sub 1 hour 10km race time, I completed the inaugural Great Highnam Court run yesterday around the stunning Highnam Court grounds.

Pre-run photo courtesy of the Gloucester Citizen
Pre-run photo with Katy courtesy of the Gloucester Citizen

Unfortunately, I did not get my sub 1 hour time (again), although I am totally blaming this on the fact that I twisted my ankle in a hidden hole at around 3.5km so at one point I wasn’t even sure I was going to finish. I did, however, manage a time of 1:03:42 which amusingly (frustratingly?) is faster than my last 10km which I did not have a twisted ankle for.

Post-run kissy in the gardens of Highnam Court which I'm sharing because my arse looks FAB.
Post-run kissy in the gardens of Highnam Court which I’m sharing because my arse looks FAB.

Thankfully the ankle seems fine today, no swelling and no more than a twinge or two this morning. This is lucky because for some bizarre reason I’ve accepted @zimpenfish‘s offer of his place in the Enigma Fireworks Half on the 7th November. Is 7 weeks enough time to train for a half marathon? Only one way to find out…

(Also, why do I seem to injure myself every time I enter a half?!)

Another setback

The next time I decide to utter something as stupid as “I’ve never had a running injury…”, somebody please punch me in the face. I’ve clearly jinxed myself as I’ve now fucked up my other foot. On the 4th week of training for the Milton Keynes half marathon this is a bloody disaster (especially as I’ve been slacking off my training as it is).

I’m not even entirely sure how I did it this time. I know I aggravated that foot on Friday wearing my inch-heeled boots — the downside to living in barefoot shoes for 5 years — but it felt fine to run Saturday’s Shrewsbury parkrun. Got about 4km in and started getting shooting pains across my foot, ended up unable to do my super sprint finish.

Still, I hobbled the last leg and finished in 30:01. That’s the important thing, right? :p

Half marathon training plan

Now that I have officially signed up to my first half marathon (so much for pacing myself and doing a 10k first) — a half marathon that actually isn’t that far away — I’ve had to come up with a “proper” half marathon training plan.

I’ve browsed and compared suggested training guides from the big names (Bupa, Runner’s World etc) and come up with something that balances my desire to continue strength work & bodyweight workouts (because they seem to have the biggest effect on my body shape) with the need to fit in as much running as I can to build up my stamina for the big day. I have plotted the following:

the-grand-plan

However, having done that, I am now wondering if I’d be better doing my strength work (which does involve squats and other leg stuff) to a Monday, to give my body chance to recover before the planned long runs on a Wednesday. The only problem with that is Mondays are a totally manic as it stands; first day back at work/school after the weekend, food to cook, washing to do, bedtimes and then it’s one of the nights I see Gaz. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me working out while he’s there but for some reason I’d feel a bit weird :/

Any runners out there with thoughts / suggestions… is this manageable?

Update 19:16: based on feedback via email & twitter I’ve tweaked my plan, putting the longer run on the Sunday morning and scaling back closer to race day a bit more. Now looks as follows:

updated_training_plan

I think, whatever happens, I’m just going to try and be as flexible as possible. Given my potential for childcare issues etc as long as I get some good long runs (~2hrs) in without being too f*cked I will probably be fine come race day. Here goes…

Peer Pressure

I may have just been bullied into committing to running a half marathon.

In December.

Despite having only done one short run since I injured my foot.

WTF have I done…