Sunday, 8 October 2017

From runner to triathlete...

Before I go any further I am just going to say this is all John Stoneman's fault!!

I have been feeling the need for a new challenge for a while, at parkrun a few weeks a go a triathlon was mentioned, John said if we were going to do one it should be an Ironman. Don't you hate it when an idea gets planted in your mind and you can't get rid of it. Anyway to cut a long story short I sort of signed up for one, not an official Ironman but ironman distance. It looks unlikely John will be joining me but I am committed.

So on July 8th 2018 I will be in Kent for The Bastion, for those that don't know ironman distance is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle ride and a marathon! I can run a marathon...

I can't (at the moment) swim 2.4 miles or cycle 112 miles...

I went for a swim last weekend and managed 1km, some was front crawl, lots was breast stroke, it was hard and I have a long way to go, I forgot to mention the swim is an open water swim! The plan is to work on my swimming in the pool over the winter and move to open water in the spring. 

I remembered a work colleague was selling a road bike and on investigation he still had it, it's an old style road bike but in immaculate condition and for now it means I can get some training in. I went for a little test ride this morning, a bit like my swimming it needs some work!!

I have about 9 months to get ready, I have some serious work to do on the swimming and cycling but am looking forward to the challenge. I will be seeking lots of help from all you swimmers and cyclists.

Just to add to my challenge I will be doing all of this on a very limited budget, I entered through Macmillan and have pledged to raise at least £500 for them
I don't currently have money for a flashy bike, swimming lessons or new kit so this will be triathlon on a budget unless anyone out there wishes to sponsor a Bonkers runner tri-ing (sorry!!) something new! 

I am going to blog weekly about my training and swimming and cycling progress (or lack of!) I must remember not to neglect my running. That's it for now, I sort of have a base to work on so time to #TrainHardNoExcuses...
Image result for funny triathlon quotes

Happy running, swimming and cycling!

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Touch the Bird 300

November 2015 I thought Touch the Bird 24 was a brilliant idea, 24hours of running laps of the hill at Great Notley Country Park, it was great, had loads of support and raised lots of money for Moorfields Eye Hospital.

Fast forward to this year, I have joked since hat challenge that the hill is 'my hill' and one parkrun morning I found this at the top! (thanks Mark) it now hangs with my medals at home but it got me thinking, maybe it was time for another challenge...

So Touch the Bird 300 was born! I had completed 265 reps in 24 hours last time, surely an extra 35 wouldn't be much harder! I even planned a better time of year, July, the weather would be good, more hours of daylight etc etc...

On Saturday 29th July at 9am as parkrun started I began my first lap, the weather was as I had imagined, it was summer, the park would be full of people and it would all be lovely!

I was raising money for Bipolar UK this time as my son had been diagnosed the year before and it had turned our lives upside down. Someone said to me during the run that with the up, and the down and the level bit, the laps of the hill represented bipolar somewhat!

I had my friends Andreea and Dan as base camp support, and Mark, who also has bipolar and has been a great support to me, also was there much of the time and clocked up a lot of laps with me especially during the night. Thank you so much for being a great support crew, definitely wouldn't have got through it without you.

150 laps in...

As we got into the afternoon the rain started and my romantic ideas of watching the sunset over the hill disappeared. I had had about 40 people join me at different times to run some laps and I am so grateful for your support. We had some good discussions about mental health too which was great. A special mention to Netty, Joby, Jane, Michelle, Ian, Sandra, the Hawkins family who came back to the park more than once to support me, would be interesting to know how many laps we ran in total between us. Thank you to every single one of you that joined me, you had no reason to spend your weekend with the crazy lady on the hill but I am so glad you did.

Evening supporters!

During the night the rain continued and my feet were soaked, I changed into dry socks and trainers but the second pair were soon soaked too and my feet were beginning to feel a bit sore on the bottoms but it was bearable. I had a few bouts of feeling sick but know it's usually because I haven't eaten enough. Dan was brilliant at force feeding me!

I'm not sure what time it was but we were into Sunday, Dan suddenly said was that lightening, we dismissed it until the clap of thunder arrived. A thunder storm would possible halt the challenge for a while as being on a hill with a giant metal bird in a storm probably was a bit risky but for now we continued as it wasn't overhead. Fortunately the storm stayed far enough away that we could continue but the rain, oh the rain, it poured and poured!

 Touching the bird with it's pretty lights!

Finally the rain did stop and there was a hint of daylight, not the beautiful sunrise I had envisaged but always good to get rid of the head torch. I felt awful between about 4:30am and 7am I just wanted to sleep, I would do a couple of laps and then sit down and tell the guys to let me have two minutes, which they timed to the second and I had to wake up and do a another couple. I was so relieved when we finally go to 250 laps as I felt like I was never going to get there! I have to apologise to Mark, Andreea and Dan for being particularly stroppy during this stage! I think I retired from running at one point!
About seven my head gave up telling me I needed to sleep and with Ian and Joby arriving back at the park I knew I couldn't quit, I had to get through these last laps. As the morning went on more people arrived and my posse grew, I could finish this off!
The weather improved and I changed into my last pair of dry trainers and it helped a bit with the sore feet.

Finally at just before midday I was on lap 300, it was an amazing feeling to complete the challenge! I think I am done with the hill now! So you can all stop with the mutterings about 500 laps!

There were lots of funny moments during the challenge, Marks Klingon opera singing, and lots of other things, some of which need to stay on the hill! One that did make me laugh though was about 6am Sunday morning a dog ran towards us and Mark said oh look normal people are out now,I looked at him and said 'Mark that's a dog!'

One of the best messages was from Ronnie Staton, who said 'it's the same hill as the first lap and that was easy' That was a great one to keep me going up and down and up and down.

The final lap!
So just to finish with some thank yous to everyone who came out and supported me, all those that sent messages of support day and night, everyone that donated money I am almost at £900, the park rangers who let me use the park and have 24 hour access, the loos were great!! Everyone at Great Notley parkrun and junior parkrun.
Just a massive thank you to every one involved.

So what is next... well I have signed up to go back and get Robin Hood 100 finished!!

Happy running xxx

Friday, 12 May 2017

Train like a Champion and a Marathon PB...

It's been a while since I have updated my blog (again!) so have a few things to write about.

Firstly I am still training predominantly using the Maffetone Method, still eating mostly low carb, high fat and my run streak has reached 132 days and I am still enjoying it.

Last Christmas (no I am not about to burst into song!) Andreea brought me a place on Ronnie Staton's Train like a Champion workshop so towards the end of April we headed off to Oxford for a day learnng how to injury proof and improve our running. It was a brilliant day and highly recommended if he is coming to a town near you.
We learnt drills to put into our training plans to improve flexibility, balance and engage those forgotten muscles, I am making them a part of my training as they fit in brilliantly with the whole holistic approach I am applying to my running this year.
We also learnt about good posture and a check list of cues to think about whilst running to improve form. Ronnie also spoke about mind set and what he said really struck a chord, the three Rs 'Real, Raw and Relentless' and perception, not attaching emotions to things such as the weather, it is what it is.
This Girl was Inspired!

So with all this in my head and feeling inspired I started to wonder if I could maybe go for a decent time at Halstead Marathon (and I do remember saying in an earlier blog I had lost interest in PBs etc!! But a girl can change her mind!) I decided I would 'go for it' at parkrun the next weekend and see what happnened, maybe I had left it a bit late in the day as I only had a couple of weeks to go. I surprised myself by running a 25:49 parkrun, my fastest in two years! Now the seed was firmly planted I was going to 'race' Halstead Marathon...

I kept my plan mainly to myself being a little vague as to was I was going for... My previous marathon PB was 4:22 set in 2014 at Halstead. I had no idea if I was in shape to get anywhere close to that so when a friend asked, I said I would be happy with sub 5! My gold time was sub 4:15 but I kept that completely to myself. On the morning of the race I was strangely calm and enjoyed the pre race atmosphere and catching up with friends I only seem to see at marathons.
I had written my pace on my and and some motivation up my arm
I started with Richard my usual partner in crime, the weather was perfect and I was excited to get going, Halstead Marathon is described as undulating (they lie it is hilly!) but I actually like the hills. I was wearing my heart rate monitor but not to keep to MAF pace just to see what it did over 26.2 miles. As for fuelling for the first time ever I didn't carry any water, Halstead has plenty of water stations so decided to rely on those. I consumed some jelly babies and a couple of gels on the way round but no where near the amount I would have done before LCHF!
As the miles ticked by I felt good, really good, I was focused and enjoying myself! Richard told me I was going too fast a few times but according to my watch I was bang on pace so ignored him! It was good to see some familiar faces around the route giving fantastic support. I did the first half in 2:03 and still felt good, the second half is all too often where it falls apart for me...

As I ran I went through Ronnie's running cues every so often 'long neck, tall spine, wrist to ribs, core engaged and midfootish!' It made me smile but also really helped me keep my form and I think lessened my usual hunching over I am guilty of when getting tired. There is a long hill at 14 miles and I shouted to Richard to talk to me, he was a bit rubbish and told me to talk to another lady who was running near us. So I did, I ran the whole of that hill for the very first time (this was my 7th Halstead Marathon) and realised Richard was no longer with me, so I pushed on alone (sorry Rich!) I did keep thinking he will catch up soon but he never did. So it was just me and my head for the last 12 miles. Ronnie's other advice was to just be in the 'now' and it really worked, I just kept telling myself for this bit I was on I was still running at my target pace and that was all I had to do. At 20 miles I began to realise I just had to keep pushing and I would get that sub 4:15 it would be close but I was on pace and still feeling strong. I knew Jane, Andreea and Michelle were marshalling at about 25 miles so I just kept going.
Excitement began to build I was going to do it. I crossed the finish line in 4:13 with the biggest smile, my mum was there and it was the best feeling. It was strange waiting at the finish for my friends to finish it's always the other way round! I am still smiling nearly a week later!

New PB!!
I am still surprised by how even my mile splits were and that without any long road runs, intervals etc I was able to run a marathon PB. Perception, seeing things as they are, if something began to ache I acknowledged it then moved on, and focusing on each mile at a time was such a big factor in my success. Asking myself why I wanted that PB, giving it value, it was important to me. I really believe that everything I have done over the last six months has helped, MAF, diet, run streaking and making my running my time for me. Life has been stressful over the past year so it is vitally important to me that my running is a source of enjoyment, time for me and not something else to add pressure or stress. Everything I have worked on, this whole holistic approach to training has got me to this point and long may it continue.

My seven Halstead Marathon medals!
Thank you to everyone who has helped me get to where I am today, I love you all xx

Happy Running xx

 P.S. I got a PB and beat Richard!!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Great Notley parkrun blindfolded...

A few weeks a go I got a free download of the book Achieve Anything in just one Year.

Each day it gives you an assignment to do, start or think about, well yesterday the assignment was to try something new or out of your comfort zone. I asked my Facebook friends for some ideas and quite quickly I had a list of things I could do. I have written them all down and will try and get through some more in the next few months (possibly not a naked parkrun!) I decided a blindfolded parkrun was both achievable and would mean something to me (my son is registered blind) so Richard agreed to be my guide runner and Len supplied a rubber dog toy thing that he had seen used by a blind runner and his guide at another parkrun.

I met up with Richard and Netty for our usual run to parkrun and once there Richard and I had a practice go, It was very strange and a little disconcerting running without being able to see. Richard tried as well so he could understand what it was like and hopefully be able to guide me safely. I was a bit concerned that after getting coffee on his Leeds hat last weekend I may end up in the lake!

I managed to start my watch and we were off. To me it felt like I was running fast but it felt like Richard was just walking beside me. I know Great Notley parkrun route like the back of my hand, but without Richard I wouldn't have had a clue, his constant commentary kept me focused and feeling relatively safe. The sharp turns were the hardest and it's not something I would normally give any thought to at all. The hill was actually ok as I could feel easily ascending and descending.

The biggest thing I discovered was how tiring it was, I had to completely concentrate and listen to Rich 100% of the time, there was no going off into my usual random, running thoughts! It is no wonder Ben is so wiped out after travelling from college to home by train, I now understand why, and I was only 'blind' for just over 45 minutes.  As each mile went by my confidence, and I think Richard's, grew and our mile splits certainly show a massive difference from first to last mile.
Mile splits
So all in all in was an interesting, and I think enjoyable, experience. Of course there is no way to properly feel how it is for a blind runner as I knew the course and once I had collected my finish token and been scanned I was able to take off my blindfold and carry on with my day. It has given me some insight into running blind and the  trust you need to have in your guide. Good communication was imperative and for me I had to trust I would be safe but Richard was a good guide and once I got over the initial trepidation it was an experience I am glad I have had.

Turning up in the same shirt... Good job I couldn't see!

Thanks to all the runners who supported today and the Great Notley core team who constantly put up with my craziness! Thanks also to Lis for giving me the idea. I couldn't have done it without Rich, thank you for being a great guide x

Happy Running xx

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

St Peter's Way Ultra

St Peter's Way Ultra is my favourite race hence why I returned for a fourth time on Sunday, it is a 45 (41) mile race from Chippng Ongar to Bradwell-on-Sea. I am going to start with the ending because I am still too excited not to. I got a new PB by 27 minutes and finally a sub 10 hour finish! 9:39 was my official finish time and it was still daylight!

Starting at the finish!!!
Right now I have that out of the way let's go back to the beginning. Training for the race hadn't quite been what I would have liked having only done two runs over 15 miles since last September, I had run every day since January as I am run streaking this year but just hadn't been able to get the long runs in. I think this may of helped on the day as I had none of my usual pre-race stresses or worries. The only plan I had was to have a day for me and fun out on the trails.

I knew quite a few people running and Richard and I had agreed to start together and see what happened. I didn't want to hold anyone up and was happy to run alone if necessary. It was good to catch up with some ultra friends at the start who I hadn't see for a long time, and there was an impressive posse from Great Notley parkrun either running or volunteering.

Raring to go!
 After kit check and the race brief we were off as I have mentioned in previous blogs I have been training using the Maffetone Method and eating LCHF, this would be my first race low carb and I wondered how I would get on not eating jelly beans washed down with coke! My breakfast had been Greek yoghurt with almonds and a tiny amount of honey and a coffee with double cream.
The weather was good and we set off in good spirits with John deciding to join us as well, it was his first ultra. The route was no where near as muddy as I have seen it in the past and the running was good. My heart rate was a bit higher than I had planned but I felt good so went with it, after all it was a race! We soon arrived at CP1 and I ate some  melon, pineapple, grapes and cherry tomatoes (loved the fruit on offer at the CPs this year!)
We met Jody early on in the race and she more or less stayed with us for the whole race, we were all a similar pace most of the day so staying together made sense.
Check point 1
I was surprised how quickly the miles ticked by and unlike my first two years there were always people around. Last year I had run in a group with friends. The only major issue I was having was my new trail shoes were hurting my toes but I had my old knackered pair at CP3 so knew I would be able to change. My heart rate settled during leg 2 and I was feeling good.We didn't waste time at CPs this year getting in and out as quickly as possible. I knew early on by how I felt that sub 10 was possible but tried not to think about it too much, It was great having friends manning some of the CPs and a hug from Andreea, bacon, change of shoes and a cup of tea at CP3 was a real boost! The change of shoes was a race saver and as it wasn't muddy this year my old trail shoes were more than good enough for me to finish the race in.
Leaving CP3 my legs were aching, which was to be expected due to lack of long runs so I instructed Rich that we needed some in race entertainment. We played our usual town game, this time towns and places beginning with W (there are lots!), snog, marry avoid which we will leave out on the trail and never speak of again and the alphabet band/singer game with the twist that you had to sing a line or two of chosen band song! I apologise to anyone that had to endure me singing, still smiling at Jody's comment that she had always thought ultra runners were crazy people and we had proved it! Anyway before I knew it we were heading into Steeple for the long mile through the village to CP4 where Len was waiting with more bacon! Bacon is the way forward in ultra running.
Posing along the trail!
We got into CP4 at 3:45 so I knew I had more than enough time to make sub 10, I was on a mission, head down and off we went for that final leg. I was moving well, energy levels were good and even the bits I was walking I was managing 13 minute miles and was running under 12 minute miles. It was the strongest I have ever remembered feeling in the latter stages of a race. I love the bit of this leg when you reach the sea wall and can see St Peter's Chapel (the finish line) in the distance. Even better this year the wind was behind us! Those last two miles were brilliant and a little emotional (though I'm pretty sure it was the wind making my eyes water!). I ran strongly to the finish and loved that Andreea had run out to meet us!

Richard finished slightly ahead and John and Jody were close behind, awesome effort by all. Lindley handed me my medal and out of the four it's a pretty special one!

During the day I ate fruit, cheese, a few nuts and bacon and had squash to drink, for me it worked and I had no major dips in energy and mentally felt strong and positive throughout the race.

All in all in was a perfect day on the trails, there were some very impressive performances by lots of friends, well done all. For me it was one of my happiest race experiences and I thank each and everyone of you who played a part in making it that way. For me the Maffetone Method, LCHF eating and being so much more relaxed before the race than usual all played a part in what was a very special day for me.

Thanks to all at Challenge Running for another brilliantly organised race, the volunteers were amazing and couldn't have been more helpful and I will be back for number five next year.

Special thanks to Richard, John, Jody, Andreea, Holly, Len and Karen for awesome support throughout the day xx

Happy running xx

Friday, 17 February 2017

Fasted, low carb, high fat... mumbo jumbo... or is it?

I have been training using the Maffetone Method for several months now, and I eat low carb high fat most of the time, I actually don't particularly enjoy sweet stuff now if I do have some, never thought I would say that.

So does it work? One of my best friends thinks it's all 'mumbo jumbo'! I have to disagree as I am feeling great, life has been extremely stressful over the past few months and I like the whole holistic approach of MAF. Running slowly and keeping my heart rate down (135 is my MAF maximum, 180-age) helps prevent placing my body under extra stress. My speed has improved since I first began, then I couldn't run much under 14 minute miles without my heart rate going high and having to walk to bring it down. Now I can plod along at about 12 minute miles and heart rate stays roughly in zone. I am not obsessive about it as I have found that if I keep it at below 145 I don't feel stressed or tired. If I have had a longer run, a stressful day or poor sleep I then will keep it at 135 and let my body recover.

I have also been running fasted and not fuelling on the run, I ran 18 miles like this on Wednesday and felt great, yes it was slow but not much slower than when I was training hard, but I definitely didn't get the ups and downs in energy levels I get when shovelling sugar in every couple of miles. Recovery was good and my run streak has now reached 48 days! The real test will be St Peters Way on the 26th February, 45 miles of trails and mud, now I don't plan to run it fasted and I will eat...  Nuts, cheese and bacon being the preferred snacks! I will take emergency sugar just in case it all goes horribly wrong! It will be my fourth time at this race so will be interesting to see the difference, I guess it will be a good test of how this method will work for me on an ultra.
18 miles...  Maldon to Braintree

An interesting point was that I suffered with painful shins for a long time after my Robin Hood 100 attempt last year. Since using MAf and eating LCHF I have had no pain at all apart from one week where I was particularly stressed and had a binge on all the sugar/carbs I could find! Within a couple of days the shin pain returned but as soon as I got my diet back on track the pain went away, whether it was connected I don't know but my diet was the only change.

So that's it for now, I am enjoying my new slower running, I like that I am happy to stop, look at things, take photos and just enjoy being outside. I will update after St Peters to let you know if I managed to survive without jelly babies!

Happy running xxx

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Time for adventures...

My blog has been pretty neglected recently, but time to start writing again...

Since Robin Hood 100 last year I have been somewhat confused about where to go with my running, I struggled with sore shins for several months afterwards and in that time revisited the Maffetone Method which I had had a brief dalliance with early last year. I decided to give it a proper go and along with low carb high fat eating(most of the time) my shins have settled and I am enjoying my running, it is very slow running, although some days I will ditch the heart rate monitor and run faster but mainly I keep it slow.

What I have discovered, or maybe accepted, over the past months is that I don't particularly like running fast, I don't feel the need, at the moment, to keep striving for that sub 25 parkrun, I don't see the point. It doesn't mean I no longer have goals and aspirations for my running, it's just that they are different. I still more than anything want to finish a 100 miler! I don't on the other hand feel I need to fill as many weekends as possible with races. What I do want to do is go on adventures, I want to explore locally and further afield, there are long distance footpaths I want to explore, but in my own time, on my own terms. One event I am looking forward to is Escape from Meriden, a 24 hour race from the centre of England. All you have to do is run as far away from it as you can in 24 hours, no set route, no cut offs, just me, a map and the trails!!

This just about sums up how I feel!

I am also using my running as an escape from everyday stresses of which there are lots at the moment, it's time for me even if  I can only get out for a mile that's my twelve or fifteen minutes. That is my time to switch off, forget, think or whatever else I need to do! One thing I am doing this year is a run streak,I don't know how long that streak will be... a month, six months, a year who knows, but while I am enjoying it I will keep going.

Maybe contradictory to all I have said so far, but I am massively looking forward to Ronnie Staton's Train like a Champion workshop in April, hopefully I will be inspired to decide which 100 miler I am going to enter and find what it is I need to get it finished!!

I am also running St Peters Way Ultra at the end of February, it will be my fourth time and is up there as one of my favourites, and it's a date on the calendar that I am excited about, a day for me, sometimes you need to have that day to look forward to...

So that's it for now, it will be a different year of running but I know it will be enjoyable and as usual I expect I will have some friends along on some of the adventures to join the fun, so if you want a slow bimble out on the trails that is where I hope you will find me!

Happy running xx