Post marathon thoughts, and a difficult decision

It’s been a month and a day since the London Marathon, and lots has happened since!

I mentioned in my post about the London Marathon itself that the organisers have been in touch as part of their investigation into conditions for slower runners, and I’m interested to see the outcome. I do think there needs to be cut offs and if you’re going to be outside that you cannot expect all facilities to be in place, but people should feel safe and be treated with dignity and respect.

Since the marathon, I’m slightly ashamed to say I haven’t trained at all. Pushing on through the cold/virus definitely took a toll on me and left me rather under the weather that week. However, aside from that, physically I was walking like normal by Tuesday and you simply wouldn’t have known I’d finished a marathon two days earlier. That was in contrast to 2018, so I hope that’s a sign that the varied and harder training paid off!

The virus has lingered so whilst I’ve been working and doing “normal things,” I haven’t felt quite at full fitness hence having not trained. It also led to me having to make a difficult decision, with a place for the Vitality 10k on Bank Holiday Monday (27th May). I did the event last year and loved it, and always planned to do it as one of three events for Dementia Revolution in 2019. However, the combination of a very long day at work at Silverstone on Saturday, the lingering virus and a busy and important week ahead led me to make the difficult decision to withdraw.

Those who know me well will know this was not an easy decision, and one I didn’t make lightly. However, I’ve not always been best at putting myself first but I really needed to. There will be more events, and I just have to accept that unfortunately this one wasn’t meant to be.

I plan to get back to training in June, and I’m sure I’ll find plenty to keep me busy. Until then, I’m going to enjoy my achievements this year!

If you’d like to sponsor me for the London Landmarks Half Marathon and the London Marathon 2019 for Dementia Revolution, you can do so here.

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The Virgin Money London Marathon 2019

Years ago I never thought I would have attempted (and finished!) one marathon, let alone two. But, people change and time impacts on decisions. After 2018, I said I would never do a marathon ever again but when Dementia Revolution were announced as the official charity of the VLM 2019, I applied for a place and was successful.

I learnt a lot in 2018 and have previously documented here how my training changed; sessions four to five times a week, personal training, etc. I felt in much better shape and hadn’t been nervous at all until the cold struck and I felt absolutely awful.

Having checked into the hotel, I used Deliveroo for the first time on the Saturday night, and had some pasta for dinner. I was really struggling to stay well hydrated as the cold/virus really seemed to be sapping things out of me and no matter how much I drank, I had dry lips and didn’t seem any better hydrated. Before I knew it, it was time for sleep and a relatively early alarm. I didn’t sleep too badly, but had some “interesting” dreams where I missed the start amongst other things.

Marathon day came and I was up, showered and ready. I had planned to get the DLR to Greenwich and take porridge with me. As I picked it up ready to leave, I dropped the pot down me… not a great start! I cleaned up and headed off, but later than planned. Unfortunately the result of this was I missed the “Team Dementia Revolution” team photo which took place at 9am, but I managed to catch up with many fellow revolutionaries at the tea pavilion which had kindly been reserved for our use.

I sat and drank water, ate a banana, checked I had everything in my flip belt, went to the toilet and thought about the day ahead whilst talking to fellow revolutionaries. We all went off to the bag drop together, and watched a little of the TV coverage on the big screen in the park. We then headed off to the start pen and I decided to split from them and find the 07:00 pacer. Originally, I’d been aiming for 06:30 but the cold had left me feeling rough and I adjusted my plans.

Before too long it was time to start, and off we went, a small group of us following Ann-Marie, the pacer. She put her bluetooth speaker on and the run/walk plan started. Ann-Marie was doing two minutes run, two minutes walk and I wish I’d known this in advance as I would have trained to these timings (I found these out the week before). The minutes per mile time she was aiming for was slower than I was used to from training, but I found I was really struggling with the cold and around mile three I dropped back slightly. I’d really wanted to go with a pacer for the camaraderie, support and as it would remove some of the mental calculations, but it wasn’t to be.

The first person I saw on route was Matt, at mile 3. I didn’t stop (bar sneaking a quick kiss!) and there was a Dementia Revolution cheer station out in full force which was great to see/hear too. At mile 4 I was on my time plan, so things looked good! Next up was Mum at the Cutty Sark, I texted her in advance and asked for some jelly babies out and no water (it was easier than fiddling in my flip belt!) and having grabbed a handful, off I went again.

The next “milestone” for me was mile 10, where I hit the wall in 2018. I saw someone else struggling here and kept my head down and kept going; it was nice to get through this section after struggling there last year. By the time I got to mile 12, things were starting to hurt just a little; frustrating having gone further in training! I exchanged a couple of messages with people, and knew Matt was waiting at mile 13.

Tower Bridge was great with noise and support, and having turned right after crossing the bridge, I suddenly heard my name being shouted. I looked across the road and there was Kate (an ex colleague) and her son, Finlay. Familiar faces were great, and off I went again where a short time later I found Matt – followed by Mum 200m later, as a surprise! I shouted at her that Matt was close and they should meet off, and I went off.

My half marathon time was a little down on what I wanted, but it was still on track. Around mile 14, the 07:30 pacer caught up with me, Jo. I’d met Jo at the start and it was good to see her. She tried to take me with her, but it wasn’t quite to be. Somewhere between 14 and 17 I saw Lucy, a friend I made last year thanks to the marathon. She gave me a massive hug and screamed at me to catch up with Jo. Lucy had been messaging me all day and kept messaging me after seeing her too.

I knew Mum was waiting for me at mile 17, and I hit the wall around the time I saw her there. I don’t know what made me hit the wall this year; I’d worked much better/harder at fuelling this year (forcing myself to fuel and having a plan I actually stuck to), physically stronger, mentally stronger etc. But, there was no doubt about it, the cold definitely threw me.

Mum was with me from mile 17, Matt joined us at mile 20, friends (Cheryl and Darren) at mile 22, more friends (Laura, Chris and Gill) at mile 23 and Lucy and Tom at mile 24/25 ish. Chris had come down from running a marathon earlier that day himself! Seeing familiar faces, as well as all the messages I could see on my watch, was great. Somewhere around mile 22 my six year old niece, Elouise-Mae, called and there was definitely lots of support for me.

I found this year slightly odd, because there were points I did doubt myself which is completely unlike me and thanks to support, nagging, people there etc I got through. There have been some well documented articles since the marathon about how slower participants are treated, and I don’t intend to go into them here. However, I experienced them in full in 2018 and to a degree in 2019. London Marathon have contacted me as part of their investigation, and I’ve provided them with information and images/videos on both years. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

I ran The Mall as I planned for the finish, and collected my medal. I then walked ever so slowly in a bit of a daze towards the bag collection and all these parts of my body I didn’t know hurt, hurt! I took some photos with my medal, and collected my bag before finding Matt, Mum and friends. I realised they were ahead of where I was about to walk out, and we were walking down parallel parts of the street. I then started to feel really ill and faint and Matt ended up jumping the barrier to join me. I really wanted to sit down (which nobody else wanted me to do!) but it was the best thing. Matt tried to feed me a pretzel from my goodie bag (it tasted like cardboard), I took on some water and Gill and Chris got me a blanket. After a while, I started to feel more human; not before Gill and Mum had kindly removed my trainers and socks and swapped them for flip flops! I had felt quite ill during the marathon, worse than I can remember, and even worse at the end!

All I really wanted was a diet coke, and so we decided to head off to the local pub. I decided it was also time for a bottle of prosecco although I drank it very slowly; as Matt said, he could tell I still wasn’t right! We finished our drinks and then got a black cab back to the hotel and had dinner. I was a little stiff, but in surprisingly good shape (and better than last year!).

Taking part in the London Marathon for Dementia Revolution was a great experience. The support within the group was fantastic, no question was ever too small or too silly and being connected to and able to share hopes and fears with fellow revolutionaries was great. The Facebook group which really brought us together is still going, and I hope it will for some time to come.

To have finished the London Marathon not once but twice is something I never thought I’d do. I might not have hit the time I wanted to this year, but I finished within the cut off and on The Mall which were my two aims. I think one of the key things I’ve learnt is nothing will ever go quite to plan, but it’s given me a belief that I can achieve things I never previously thought possible.

If you’d like to sponsor me for the London Landmarks Half Marathon and the London Marathon 2019 for Dementia Revolution, you can do so here.

Marathon week

Marathon week; where to start?

We landed from Sydney on Monday, and Tuesday I went back to work followed by going to Watford v Southampton that evening. On Wednesday, I started to come down with a cold and started to feel extremely rough…

Having got through marathon training without any injuries, to come down with a cold at the last minute was really frustrating. It started as a sniffle and sore throat, but then got progressively worse. I left work an hour on Thursday, and then the stress really started to hit.

On Friday, I made the decision to ask Matt to go to the Expo for me to collect my number. Numbers must be collected in person, but I simply didn’t have the energy to finish work and then travel to and from the Excel Centre. This definitely started to increase my stress levels, and I cried for the first time that week. I felt collecting my number was a big part of the marathon experience, and I was concerned.

I didn’t want to eat but was trying to hydrate lots. I was due to go to Southampton v Bournemouth on the Saturday and really didn’t want to, but was persuaded doing something and taking my mind off things might do me good and I went (with a lift from friends which was appreciated!). I also squeezed in a last minute sports massage before heading to central London where I had a hotel room booked for Saturday and Sunday nights.

The week hadn’t gone to plan, but that was it; marathon time!

If you’d like to sponsor me for the London Landmarks Half Marathon and the London Marathon 2019 for Dementia Revolution, you can do so here.

Holiday Training

Many years ago, Matt and I said that one day we’d visit Australia. A combination of factors meant that 2019 would finally be our year to visit – friends in Canberra encouraging us to go over, us both celebrating special birthdays etc and our trip was booked.

After booking our holiday, I then found out I’d got a place in the London Marathon for Dementia Revolution and with the flights we’d already booked, we’d be landing home only six days before the marathon. I became slightly concerned over training, before I realised I would be on taper time, and then about jet lag, of which there wasn’t much I could do.

My plan was to use hotel gyms whilst in Australia, but the reality was we were doing lots of walking each day and I decided not to. A couple of training highlights however were my first time in a saltwater pool in Sydney, and Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas.

I’m not sure I’ve swam in a 50m pool before let alone a saltwater one, and it was on Mrs Macquarie’s Point, overlooking one of Sydney’s bays. The gym pool I’ve used for training is only 20m so it felt very different swimming 2.5 times the distance before it was time to turn around and head back for each length!

From Sydney we headed to Queensland for several days, and one of the places we stayed was Port Douglas. Port Douglas is famous for many things including Four Mile Beach, and I decided to use it for a training run. I set an early alarm to try and avoid some of the heat but the reality was I was out before 9 (I hit snooze a few times…) and it was still 27 degrees. I decided just to do 5km, as it was too warm for me.

We then spent time in Melbourne (no training!) before staying with friends in Canberra. Whilst there, we drove out to Mount Kosciuszko National Park. We got the chairlift in Thredbo, and then did the 13km return walk to the top of Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s tallest mountain at 2,228m. It was a good walk (although I was slightly surprised that you could feel the altitude) and some more miles in my legs before the marathon.

If you’d like to sponsor me for the London Landmarks Half Marathon and the London Marathon 2019 for Dementia Revolution, you can do so here.

 

 

London Landmarks Half Marathon

The London Landmarks Half Marathon…where to start?!

I entered the London Landmarks ballot in 2018, with a view that if I didn’t get into the London Marathon it would be something that was fun to do, and if I did get in I could use it as a training run.

As it was, I did get into the London Marathon and so this half marathon became a training run. I’ve chosen a different training plan this year and at points have been worried I’ve been behind because I keep comparing myself to last year, but I have to remember that this plan is different; and actually a half marathon on this date was exactly spot on for my training!

We had our niece staying for the weekend and so I heading into London early on my own, ready to drop my bag and get ready. I was early and so had a quick banana and made sure I was ready in plenty of time.

The previous week I’d trained to 11 miles but found it really tough with the wind and conditions. My pace hadn’t been there and I’d hoped that it would be with the atmosphere etc for this event. I set off quickly (for me, it’s all relative!) and things felt good. I knew Matt and Elouise were at mile 3 and the noise coming onto Embankment was immense; I wish I’d recorded it! It was constant, and then I saw them; I stopped for a brief second and off I went again. Mile 3 was the first water station and I needed it, it was a warm day.

I made sure I used this event to practise fuelling, something I’m not always on top of in training and something I didn’t get quite right in the marathon last year. At this event though, it was going to plan. I knew my Mum was somewhere around mile five/six having come to London for the day to support me, and before too long I saw her. She was at a part of the course which doubles back on itself so I saw her twice.

Mum then planned to see me at mile six/seven, but post event we’ve decided she was actually at mile eight and wasn’t quite where she thought she was and then moved on thinking she had missed me! All this time I was getting messages from friends with support (particularly Riny and Laura). My pace was still good, and I was feeling good. By this time, Matt and Elouise were in a play park and I wasn’t sure when I’d next see people, bar the finish.

Coming up to ten miles, the mental wall started to appear. It’s hard to describe, but it’s when you start to doubt yourself but for no logical reason – it’s just silly, the mind playing games. I never doubted I would finish, I knew I would, but my mind kept saying “it’s hot, feet hurt” etc and legs felt like I was wading through treacle. A lot of the course went out and back on itself, and sometimes I found that a little demoralising.

I knew my aim for the day was to be as close to three hours as possible and still my pace was good even if I was playing mind games with myself unintentionally. The 10 mile marker was at Tower Hill and I kept telling myself “just 5km left, that’s a short training session.” I messaged Riny and Laura and said “please keep the messages coming!” (they were tracking me on the app). I knew I had Matt, Elouise and Mum at the finish but it felt a way off. Suddenly, my friend and colleague Sarah was there – surprise! It was great to see her and she was with me for just under half a mile, we had a quick chat, and I carried on.

The end of the route felt it went on forever; just under three miles along the Embankment before a hairpin right in front of Big Ben, short section coming back on yourself, and then two 90Ls before the finish. Coming up to the 12 mile marker, both my watch and Strava (two separate tracking methods) told me I’d hit half marathon distance. As I’m slow, quite understandably I have to keep left, but it means extra distance. Half marathon time came up as 3:04, a personal best for me by 50 minutes, result!

At mile 12 were the London Show Choir, and they were singing Defying Gravity. I absolutely love my music and went past with my hands above my head clapping, and to have amazing music, singing and them all acknowledge me back was spine tingling.

I kept plodding up Embankment, and then it was time for the final slog! When I hit the 13 mile marker, I decided there was nothing left for it but a sprint finish. I kicked and just heard people shouting and cheering and my name; another spine tingling moment. I knew my family where somewhere there on the right but I couldn’t look, I could only see the finish. I remember seeing them in my peripheral vision and raising a hand, and I realised a couple of people were coming up on me, so my competitive spirit appeared and I kicked in harder to make the finish line as I didn’t want to be overtaken at that point (I wasn’t). And that was it!

Slow walking afterwards, medal collection and then I waited for my friends and family. Elouise came over and gave me the biggest hug (despite my sweaty state!) and then stayed with me. The event volunteers were kind enough to give her a finisher’s wristband which she hugely appreciated, I swapped to flip flops, and we found a local pub for some lunch. I never want to eat after training, but knew I needed to!

It was a great day, and seeing it as a “training run with atmosphere” was brilliant. I wanted a good run because I knew it would give me confidence to carry forward, and it did. Although April means double the distance, there’s a lot to take from that event and I’m happy. Through my charity place, I’ve access to running coaches so I’ve been in touch with them for some advice/queries but being reminded of the atmosphere/support and practising things “in race conditions” was brilliant. Bring on April!

If you’d like to sponsor me for the London Landmarks Half Marathon and the London Marathon 2019 for Dementia Revolution, you can do so here.

Clicking on any of the below images will make them full size.

Upping the distance (11 miles/18km)

As predicted, nearly a week away with work and very long (17/18 hour) days meant training went completely out of the window. I had Tuesday off after an eight day stint and I thought “oh yes, I’ll train.” Well no… I was exhausted, I didn’t realise quite how tired I was, and with the weather being horrid I thought I’d go to the gym instead. However, my mind body seemed to have other ideas and before I knew it the day was flying by and it was time for a sports massage I’d booked, and that was that.

That meant that today, Saturday, became LSR (long, slow run) day instead. I’d hoped to do 9 miles on Tuesday and up it today but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I’ve been to the gym to swim during the week, but no outdoor running.

I took the Waddesdon Greenway which I tried a few weeks ago, but I’d underestimated just how intense the wind was going to be. I wasn’t going into it, I didn’t have it behind me, but it was sideways. I was leaning into it just to stay upright and it was ferocious and unrelenting! After 6km and reaching the Waddesdon estate, I turned round and decided my last 6km could be around Aylesbury with hopefully the buildings providing some shelter.

As I came back into Aylesbury, I decided to take the Thames path instead and followed that along the river, until coming back along the various roads and estates that make up that area. I was two minutes from home but about 1km short so then came the fun and games of adding distance around where I live to hit 18km!

I would like to have made 20km today, but with the London Landmarks Half Marathon next weekend, 18km is good and next week will push me. I’m exactly on plan according to the Dementia Revolution Walk/Run plan, so whilst I might have had a few moments of doubt today, I need to remember I’m where I should be! It’s really hard not to compare yourself to others, but it isn’t the best idea as we are all different and have our own plans.

Earlier this week, I went in to see my local council as they are working to make Aylesbury a dementia friendly town and they’ve done some promotion of my efforts on social media which is great. I also trialled my new trainers today which were comfortable. Matt (my husband) kindly offered to buy them for me and I’m very grateful; they’re Asics and not cheap, but exactly the same as I already have (albeit a different colour) and these will be the shoes to see me through the all important next few weeks!

If you’d like to sponsor me for the London Landmarks Half Marathon and the London Marathon 2019 for Dementia Revolution, you can do so here.

You can also watch a short video I’ve put together here.

Marathon silly season starts…

Marathon silly season; I found this last year and hated it, and I hate it again this year. Marathon silly season is the name I give to the period not too long before the marathon where you are absolutely determined not to get injured/ill etc, but something silly means you do. In my case, it was twisting around in the bathroom; cue a twisted ankle that hurt and didn’t like weight bearing; great!

A combination of that and a very busy weekend (the Bath Festival Targa/getting in at 0230 and a busy Sunday being out and about) meant I delayed my long slow run to Monday morning, with the idea being to go before work. It helped with my ankle too which wasn’t right but was slowly getting better. I set an early alarm, but I knew I was tired and hey presto, I slept through it…!

I still got out, but I only managed 8km (5 miles); better than nothing but not quite what I had planned. I know sessions are going to be really hard as I’m about to go away for work for a week and I’ve seen the schedule; it’s packed, and I think if I’m lucky my best opportunity will be working out in my room! Really not ideal, but I’m a little stuck at the moment for options.

If you’d like to sponsor me for the London Landmarks Half Marathon and the London Marathon 2019 for Dementia Revolution, you can do so here.

You can also watch a short video I’ve put together here.

Trying out the Waddesdon Greenway

There’s been plenty of training going on – 5kms, swimming, gym sessions, gym classes, PT sessions etc – but a weekend meant another long, slow run (LSR) session. I’d missed my run the previous week, as I was competing on the Saturday which was a long day, and worked on the Sunday. I find weekends like that tough – mentality I hate missing an LSR session but I know it’s only going to get harder. I make sure I cross train, but it’s not quite the same…

The Waddesdon Greenway I thought had opened recently, but it turns out it opened at the end of last summer. It’s a long, winding path from Aylesbury Vale Parkway Station to Waddesdon Manor, and to get to the start of the path is 2km from my house, so already getting some distance down. The path itself is 4km each way and crosses a farm track and a main road and is surrounded by fields and quite simply, lovely!

I’d not got round to trying it but I’ve got a little bored of the Fairford Leys/Thames road route I’ve been using and being traffic free was keen to try this route, and I’m glad I did! I fear the tranquility of it may be lost when HS2 is built (it’s due to cross the path) but the route is lovely, and on a sunny Saturday afternoon, it was full of families and people enjoying it.

The route follows an old Roman Road (with stones they found along the path) and I followed the path all the way to the Waddeson estate, before taking a right turn and heading into the village and doing a little loop, before heading back. I’d decided to bring my session forward from Sunday to Saturday, so I could enjoy the weekend more, and I was glad I did.

Towards the end I was starting to feel my efforts and I’ve also been wondering if new trainers are needed. I think the answer is yes, and I’ll go for the same again, so time to find some pennies…!

If you’d like to sponsor me for the London Landmarks Half Marathon and the London Marathon 2019 for Dementia Revolution, you can do so here.

You can also watch a short video I’ve put together here.

First 10km of the year

So, marathon training is well and truly back! I’m training four to five times a week and including lots of cross-training this year; gym work (cross-trainer, treadmill work including sprint sessions, weights, etc) as well as some swimming which is typically “active recovery.”

Marathon training can only mean one thing at weekends, the return of the “LSR” or the long, slow run. This year I’ve decided to combine two plans; the Dementia Revolution Walk/Run plan, and the Bupa plan, along with the extra cross training sessions and some things I learnt last year.

I started off with some short distances (3km, 5km, 6km etc) but missed a couple of early long runs; quite simply life, work etc got in the way. My first long session was Sunday February 10th and it was the first time I’d hit 10km since the Vitality 10km in May. I was only a few seconds off my time there, so I was happy!

I learnt last year that when I first start training, when I get home my body goes into some sort of shock/recovery mode; I know I need porridge and at least two pints of water before I go out, but when I first start training, I’ve not found a way around the “shock.” In essence I get really cold and feel absolutely awful; which wasn’t ideal as we had lunch and an escape room planned with friends! A long hot shower helped, and I didn’t feel amazing, but not as bad as I used to and at least I now know what I need from experience (hot shower, little food, water etc). Onwards and upwards!

If you’d like to sponsor me for the London Landmarks Half Marathon and the London Marathon 2019 for Dementia Revolution, you can do so here.

You can also watch a short video I’ve put together here.

The return of marathon training…

It’s 2019 and that can only mean one thing; it’s time for my London Marathon training to truly commence!

I’ve got a place for Dementia Revolution which is a cause close to my heart, and I shared more about here.

This year, I’ve decided to go for a 14 week run/walk plan from Dementia Revolution (in 2018 I used a London Marathon beginner’s training plan). Training officially starts week commencing 21st January, however I did go out for a few sessions over the festive period and I have done three sessions during the week commencing 14th January.

As well as the outdoor training, this year I’m also cross training including strength and core work, which is something I didn’t do in 2018. I’m hoping this will make things seem a little easier and help me as well.

As well as the marathon, I’ve got a place in the London Landmarks Half Marathon on 24th March. I was lucky enough to secure a ballot place, and it fits nicely into my training plan as well as being able to raise awareness for Dementia Revolution so two events at least to look forward to this year.

If you’d like to sponsor me for the London Landmarks Half Marathon and the London Marathon 2019 for Dementia Revolution, you can do so here.

You can also watch a short video I’ve put together here.