Race report: Brighton half marathon 2014

I don’t know if I’m still on a high from running a PB, in the sun, along the seafront, but there wasn’t a single second of this race I didn’t love, love, LOVE.

From my solo breakfast in the hotel, to running into my crew during the pre-race tag-on miles… from waiting in the starting pen and running the first seven (slightly too speedy!) miles with Leah, to still feeling comfortable and confident at mile 11… from running the last half mile and realising I wasn’t crying like I was at the same point in my last half, to sprinting a little bit too early when passing the steel band… this race was beautiful.

Spot the bench! (Clue: it shouldn’t be surrounded by pebbles)

This was supposed to ‘just’ be a 16 mile training run – 3 miles in a bit of a loop from the hotel to the start, followed by the race at a slow, long run pace (just like every other marathon training run). Obviously I got overexcited in the race atmosphere, running 5 of the first 7 miles under a ten minute mile pace. But I was feeling gooood.

As we headed out towards Hove Lagoon and the final turn, I deliberately slowed down, scared of hitting the 10 mile mark and breaking down like I have done before. Thankfully that didn’t happen, and my last mile was the fastest of all of them.

This race has definitely jumped straight to the top of my list as my all time favourite, hands down. It was a perfect combination of being beside the sea (which I adore), great weather that turned out perfectly (especially after the windiest of windy days on the day before) and a flawlessly organised race nestled in the middle of a lovely weekend.

Brighton, I heart you.

 

 

Paris marathon training update: 8 weeks to go

Urgh. Urgh urgh urgh urgh urgh.

Well. I am half way through the ‘official’ 16 week marathon training period, and I have to say, this week I have not had fun. Training has taken a bit of a back seat, overtaken by a very, very busy time at work, friends staying, Tube strikes and rainy, galey weather that has made me want to properly hibernate.

Whereas the last few weeks training had framed my routine – I’d made time for it and taken time to enjoy it, this week I found myself shoving training into the spare couple of hours I felt like I had left. On one hand it could be argued this is a more ‘balanced’ approach, but on the other I was really quite enjoying training being my focus. When it was the focus, it felt better. My only solid aim for Paris is to get to the start line feeling confident, and this will only happen if I know I couldn’t have done anything more to feel prepared. If I have eight more weeks like this, I will not feel prepared and I will be really annoyed.

Monday 3rd February – Can’t really remember. Pretty sure involved it involved dreaming of yoga, but actually working.

Tuesday 4th February – Second week in Baby Cheetahs at Run Dem Crew. Wasn’t great, wasn’t terrible. Was only a short one though.

Wednesday 5th February – A lot more working.

Thursday 6th February – Didn’t go to track due to the Tube strike. I think I could’ve got there, but I didn’t fancy a solo session. Instead, I got home after a pretty long day, curry and wine in tow, but still went back out (in the pouring rain) for 5 riverside miles. I give myself 250 marathon training points for not immediately collapsing on the sofa.

Friday 7th February – Prepared for Saturday’s long run by going for dinner at Bill’s and not resisting wine. I’m not very good at resisting wine.

Saturday 8th February – Despite seeing friends the night before (and having one of them staying in my bed), I peeled myself out for an 8am start. After less than 6 hours sleep, I had a feeling this wasn’t going to go swimmingly. And it didn’t. I was supposed to hit 15 miles – my first ‘the furthest I’ve ever run before’ run. In hindsight, 8 miles was a pretty good achievement given how physically and emotionally exhausted I was.

After a few tears, I decided to call it a day shortly after popping out of the Greenwich foot tunnel at the Cutty Sark. I found a bus that miraculously took me to the door of our brunch venue – Del’Aziz – and settled in for an epic two hour long coffee, smoothie and egg fest. It was glorious.

Sunday 9th February – Definite rest day. I stuffed my face with the biggest brunch sandwich ever, drank coffee, ate cake, drank tea and watched Sherlock. Much needed, all of it.

This week, it’s all about swinging the balance back towards training. I haven’t practiced yoga in over three weeks. My sanity is suffering. I haven’t managed four runs for ages. I haven’t used my gym membership for months. All these things will be addressed this week. Ooh, and there’s that little trip to Brighton at the weekend…

Running with asthma

I’ve had asthma for as long as I can remember. I can also remember as a child being told that it was likely that I’d just ‘grow out of it’. But I got older and older, and now here I am at 26, still an asthmatic.

Like most people, I have certain triggers that make asthma worse. The biggest trigger I have is cold weather. Asthma is a major problem for me in winter – the cold air coupled with spending more time indoors with central heating on full blast plays havoc with my ability to breathe comfortably. 

It makes training so much harder – the running in general is harder, with inhaler breaks mid run. Harder runs in turn lead to dreading runs, which in turn leads to missed runs. It’s a vicious cycle.

I remember once being at a BBQ, and getting out and using my inhaler. Bemused someone said to me “you’re a runner AND you’ve got asthma? Surely that just makes it worse.” Au contraire, mon ami. Running makes my asthma improve immeasurably. I found there was a certain point of fitness I had to get to first, but once I got past the few hard, painful runs, it got a lot easier.

As the temperature has quite a bit recently (although I’d say this is still a relatively mild winter so far), I thought I’d share a couple of tips I’ve found useful for being a runner with asthma…

Prepare

I take my reliever inhaler (mine is blue and either called Ventolin or Salbutamol) about 10 minutes before I head out. This opens up my airways ready for the extra air I’ll be using. After someone suggested I try this, it was completely obvious. But before, I was waiting to get tight chested to use my inhaler. After all, that’s what it’s for – to relieve – but a couple of puffs beforehand works wonders for me.

Cover up

For me, breathing in the cold air is an instant kick to the chest. It’s also made worse when there’s damp hanging in the air. So, when it’s really chilly, I run wearing a scarf or snood that I pull up over my mouth. This warms up the air that I’m breathing in, making it less painful. I find this is only necessary for the first 5-10 minutes, but once I’m a little warmer it’s still good to keep my neck covered up on cold days.

Manage your condition

This (again) sounds really obvious, but for a while, I just ignored the fact I had asthma. I took the attitude that I’d had it so long, there was nothing I could do about it. I didn’t take my brown (preventer) medicine properly and didn’t keep up with check ups. I even spent one Boxing Day in A&E hooked up to oxygen it had got so bad. A couple of years ago, I admitted to a nurse that I was “avoiding stairs” because they made me feel so out of breath. No fit and healthy person should speak these words! Hearing myself say this gave me the kick I needed to take my own condition seriously. Now, I keep to twice-yearly asthma check ups with a nurse (even if I don’t feel like I need one), get flu vaccinated every year (didn’t do this for years either) and always make sure I have enough back up medication.

These steps have worked for me – obviously this is just my experience and may not work for everyone. Please speak to a nurse or GP about your condition. All I would say it’s that it is important to take asthma seriously and not ignore it – work out what this means for you.

Another thing I’d like to look into more and experiment with is the relationship between food and asthma. It was very recently suggested to me that the two could be related, which I’d never even considered before.

What are your experiences with asthma? What works for you in managing it?

Paris marathon training update: 9 weeks to go

This week has been the first week of training whilst living in my new house. I moved last weekend, so Sunday was a lot of packing, lifting, driving back and forth across London, carrying, unpacking and trying not to get too stressed. But by the end of the day I was in and mostly unpacked. I have had the biggest clear out of stuff I’ve had in YEARS, it’s actually been pretty cathartic. And I am now an East London girl!

The best part about my new house (other than my lovely new housemates, obviously – just in case they read this) is that I can walk to work. It’s 2.4 miles, which according to Google Maps will take over 50 minutes, but I’m not sure what kind of snails pace they are basing that on. I’ve done it in 35 – BOOM! By the middle of next week my new 25L running rucksack will be in my possession and I’ll hopefully be trialling the new run commute, which will come in handy as I’ve still only once managed all four of my planned marathon training runs.

This week was a step down week with mileage – “only” 10 miles for the weekend long run. I haven’t managed anything other than running this week, but I intend to work on leg strength in the gym a bit next week after attending an injury prevention talk at Runner’s Need on Monday (check out Charlie and Zoe’s recaps for more details).

Monday 27th January – Talk at Runner’s Need.

Tuesday 28th January – Tuesday was an epic Run Dem Crew run for me. After nearly a year in the crew, I finally made it down to the Leake Street graffiti tunnel underneath Waterloo (this route has been run quite a few times in the last year, but I’ve just always missed it). It was also my first run with Baby Cheetahs (see here to make sense of this sentence), which I was thrilled with as it meant I stepped up a pace group and on a relatively hard run covering 7 miles.

Glenn’s rather good panoramic photo of the crew in the tunnel

Wednesday 29th January – Rest day.

Thursday 30th January – Sacked off track to go to a colleague’s leaving drinks. Left sensibly early, only to return home and drink more red wine. Bad marathon training behaviour.

Friday 31st January – Drank more red wine. It’s the best long run prep, don’t you know.

Saturday 1st February – Our biggest Team Naturally Run group run yet. An 8am meet, with a Waterloo to London Bridge river loop, then we passed Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch, before heading up Baker Street and into Regent’s Park.

It was followed by brunch in Dandelion in Camden – who were lovely by the way. Just look at this table perfectly prepped for a group of runners.

Sunday 2nd February – I got a last minute spot on a Leadership in Running Fitness course, learning all about overcoming barriers,  health and safety, risk assessments and how to plan a good session for all abilities. Now I am licensed and insured ‘to deliver fun and safe sessions to groups of runners with different abilities’. Or, at least I will be when I work out how to fill in this damn DBS form properly…

How’s your training going? And who’s got races coming up very soon? Only two weeks until my first race of the year – Brighton half.

Paris Marathon training update: 10 weeks to go

Two weeks in one for this update – I have been training, but life has been getting in the way a bit too.

I’ve only managed three runs a week for the last two weeks, and only a couple of yoga sessions, but given what else has been going on (more on that soon) I’m pretty pleased. I’ve stuck to the plan when it comes to the long runs (12 and 13 miles!) which have really helped my confidence over the past couple of weeks.

Monday 13th January – Yoga practice at TPYC with Julie.

Tuesday 14th January – Run Dem Crew – 4 miles to the Design Museum and back.

Photo by Martin

Wednesday 15th January – Rest day!

Thursday 16th January – Second time at track. LOVED IT again!

Friday 17th January – Yang & Yin yoga at Good Vibes Fitzrovia.

Saturday 18th January – Was going to get up and go to parkrun. Didn’t. Oops.

Sunday 19th January – 12 miles with Team Naturally Run. We met up at Waterloo again, ran down the south side of the river and around Battersea Park, back over Albert Bridge and along to Waterloo. I got back to Waterloo and my Garmin said 11 point something. So I did lots of horrible little loops around the Southbank Centre.

 

Monday 20th January – Unintentional rest day, but some glorious life admin took priority.

Tuesday 21st January – RDC 6 mile run to Emirates and back. I moaned when Emirates was announced as the route – I usually don’t like the runs that head out of the city. But after the long, gradual uphill there and the painful sprint round the stadium, running back was one of those brilliant times where I was running under 9:30 miles and it felt comfortable. A happy run.

Wednesday 22nd January – A slightly painful, but oh so good hour spent with sports masseur extraordinaire Mr Lamb. My caaaaaalves.

Thursday 23rd January – It was supposed to be track day, but then the Victoria line went down because of that weird quick drying concrete thing, and this seemed to make every other line quickly follow suit and go down too. Which meant I couldn’t even get into the station, let alone onto the Central line and over to Mile End. Que ditching my stuff back at my desk and a quick three mile swing around the City and the river. I might do that more often.

Friday 24th January – Rest day/sort of early night, in preparation for…

Saturday 25th January – Team Naturally Run weekend long runs are quickly becoming my absolute favourite time of the week. I never thought I would actually look forward to running 13 miles, but all this week I did. Me, Charlie, Charlie, Katy, Leah and Lucy met at Tower Hill station at 8:30, ready to run along the river over to Chiswick, where an epic brunch (and Zoe) awaited us. We picked up and dropped off Sian along the way, and eventually (a little later than planned due to some loo breaks and puddle dodging) made it to the half marathon distance. I ran a half marathon, with no number pinned to me and no medal at the end. What the hell is going on?!

Sunday 26th January – The least restful rest day that perhaps there ever was (but like I said, more on that later…)

This week it’s an ‘easier’ week, with 10 miles at the weekend. Then it steps up to 15 miles and we are into ‘further than I’ve ever run before’ territory! How’s everyone elses training going? Do you have life stuff getting in the way too?