Race Report: Cathedral to Castle Run

I hope that everyone is having a great week, I can’t believe that it’s Wednesday already. The weekend is rapidly approaching.

a0ba0559-b46c-4048-9105-4d9049c3550dLast Sunday I completed a new (to me) 10 mile multi-terrain race; the Cathedral to Castle Run. The race started near to Lichfield Cathedral, passed through Hopwas Woods and finished in the grounds of Tamworth Castle.

Route

Although I was nervous about running a 10 mile race, the prospect of running and exploring somewhere totally new was exciting, so exciting I got very little sleep the night before the race.

The evening before the run was very relaxed and I may have ended up in my favourite local pub. I checked out the race route, got my kit together, located my running number, scoffed a load of pasta and made sure that I kept myself reasonably hydrated.

The morning of the race was unfortunately a tad stressful. The prospect of running 10 miles made me feel incredibly nervous and I struggled to eat. Most unlike me! I also made the fatal error of not pinning my race number to my t-shirt until just before leaving the house. It took me four attempts to successfully pin my number to my t-shirt.

My friend dropped me in Lichfield with enough time for me to use the real toilets twice, to get my trainers soaked, to untie and retie my laces twice and to generally faff around.

Pre Race

I was waiting to start, when I became aware of a male runner scrabbling around on the floor picking up worms. He was fighting a losing battle and I suspect a few worms would have been trampled by runners. Slightly surreal!

The race started with a lap around a very muddy and undulating Beacon Park. This short lap set the tone for the rest of the race. After leaving Beacon Park we ran past Minster Pool, through the centre of Lichfield, over a wobbly bridge and onto the route of the Lichfield 10k. Once we left Lichfield, I was so focused on running and not breaking something – there were a lot of potholes, mud and uneven surfaces – I can’t actually recall much of the route between the third and fifth miles.

Highlights included running past an Army shooting range and an abandoned assault course, into Hopwas Woods and then up a huge hill.

The course was described as “fast and relatively flat” and as suitable for runners of all abilities. However, in my humble opinion, the section through Hopwas Woods was anything but flat.

The hill between approximately five and six miles was epic. Had I known how long the hill was I would have probably ‘given up’ and walked. Not knowing where I was going was definitely an advantage.

I reached the top of ‘Mount Everest’ and immediately found myself attempting to navigate myself down a really steep hill. It was so steep I was constantly trying and failing to slow myself down. Tripping over one of the numerous loose stones would have ended in disaster. I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to make it to the bottom of a hill.

After leaving the peace and tranquillity of Hopwas Woods, the route briefly ran parallel to the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal – have I mentioned how I have a serious phobia of canals? – through Hopwas and Coton and then into the outskirts of Tamworth.

Hopwas Woods[Photo: Mick Hall Photos]

Although I was thrilled to leave the energy-sapping mud behind, I must admit that I found the final couple of miles of the route a little disappointing. There is nothing more demoralising than running along completely deserted streets and through a slightly dubious looking industrial estate and having to dodge dog mess and broken glass. I guess that the organisers had to make sure that route actually measured 10 miles.

The final section in the grounds of Tamworth Castle was mentally tough. Fortunately, I had been warned that I would have to complete a lap of the grounds before reaching the finish. I made sure that I saved enough for a ‘sprint’ finish, checked that I wouldn’t be sharing my finish line photos with runners in fancy dress and crossed the line feeling amazing.

Finish 2[Photo: Mick Hall Photos]

Finish 1[Photo: Mick Hall Photos]

I stopped my Garmin and found out that I’d completed the 10 mile run in approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. I was thrilled with both my time and with myself. For once I hadn’t even contemplated taking a sneaky walking break.

I grabbed a couple of bottles of water and a banana and took a couple of minutes to compose myself. I then walked the short distance to collect my race t-shirt, medal and goody bag, stuck my new t-shirt on over my sweaty kit, presented myself with my plastic medal and tried and failed to take a respectable selfie. It took me five minutes to pluck up the courage to ask a friendly policeman to take a photo for me.

Post race

I’m aware that this race report has turned into an essay so I’ll stop waffling now and will leave you with a selection of the Strava stats from the race.

After the Cathedral to Castle Run reminded me how much I love off-road running, I’ve already entered next year’s race. As an added bonus, the goody bag contained a flyer for a 10k race in Hopwas Woods I had no idea existed. I’ve added this event to my race calendar.

I just have to hope that my right knee recovers ASAP. It’s feeling a little niggly at the moment.

Race Ratings:

  • Cost: 9/10 – £25 (all profits went to charity and the entry fee included free downloads of official race photos)
  • Course: 9/10
  • Medal: 4/10
  • Race t-shirt: 10/10
  • Goody Bag: 2/10 (full of random flyers and not a lot else)

Would you rather have free downloads of race photos or a ‘proper’ metal medal? There has been a lot of debate complaints about the plastic medal we were given on Sunday. According to Facebook, some runners only run for  medals.

Do you have any slightly irrational phobias? As a hydrologist people find my phobia of canals really amusing.

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New Event: The Ciderthon (and discount code)

Like the majority of runners, I love taking part in organised events and races. In my opinion, nothing beats the feeling of crossing the finish line of a race.

Last week, I received some information about a new event called the Ciderthon. As a cider lover, I was incredibly disappointed when I realised that I had already entered a 10k race on the same day.

The Ciderthon

The Ciderthon is a half marathon with a cider taster at every mile and will take place on Sunday 29th April in Wells, Somerset.

Ciderthon

The event will be showcasing local ciders, raising money for Dorset and Somerset air ambulance while bringing runners from across the country to try a new challenge.

The Ciderthon starts at 11am and has a cut-off time of 5pm.

The route is one lap starting and finishing in Wells Market Place, Somerset. The route is undulating and multi-terrain with a bias towards road.

The Ciderthon is an untimed run, however, the roads will be closed and there will be stewards to support participants until the last runner goes past.

The event will be showcasing local ciders – I’ve checked out the website and the ciders that will be on offer look amazing.

How to enter

Tickets for the Ciderthon are available here and if you use the code EMMA10 you will receive a 10% discount.

With your ticket you will receive:

  • 13 x Cider tasters
  • Ciderthon medal
  • T-shirt

For more detailed information please check out the dedicated race website.

A parkrun, a nemesis hill and some laps

Happy Thursday, it’s nearly the weekend. I hope that everyone had an amazing Easter and if you are still on leave, I’m more than a little jealous.

As I haven’t blogged for a while, I thought I recap my most recent visit to Walsall Arboretum parkrun and also talk about a couple of recent training runs. If you find running related waffle then please, please close the page now!

On Saturday I managed to convince my friend to drive me the short distance to Walsall Arboretum. He was a little reluctant to start with but eventually agreed. After a slightly stressful journey, we arrived at the top end of the Arboretum with less than 10 minutes to spare. I jogged towards the lake and managed to position myself a little nearer the start.

parkrun lap 2[Photo: Ron Reynolds]

It was the same old story. I plodded around the first lap in an attempt to get going, increased my pace a little during the second lap and then tried and failed to put my foot down during the final lap.

parkrun lap 3[Photo: Ron Reynolds]

I finished feeling as fresh as a daisy in 28:03.

So although my times are gradually improving, I’m still struggling with the whole concept of pushing myself when I’m running. I’m stuck in first gear all the time.

Next time I’m aiming for a 27:xx time.

On Sunday morning, I got up really early – thanks birds – and decided to have a go at conquering one of my many nemesis hills. This hill had beaten me a few times so I was determined to run to the top without having to walk.

My run didn’t get off to the most positive start. My right calf muscle and right knee both felt a little niggly after my parkrun exploits, and at one stage I almost abandoned my run. Luckily, a couple of sensibly paced miles seemed to get everything moving and I felt confident continuing to run wasn’t going to turn my niggles into injuries.

I got to the bottom of my nemesis hill, gave myself a stern talking to and slowed my pace a little. I made sure that I maintained a sensible pace and did my best to resist the temptation to speed up. I reached the halfway point feeling great, but didn’t get too cocky because I was aware that the most challenging section of the hill was waiting for me.

I ran plodded past the Four Oaks pub, ran past my usual stopping point, ran past the church and made it to the top. The rest of my run was downhill and it felt great to have got another five miles under my belt before 08:00.

Next time I run in Four Oaks, I’m determined to conquer Cardiac Hill.

On Tuesday evening I found myself running after work in an attempt to clear my head. I’m finding my new job incredibly stressful at the moment and running gives me some much needed thinking time. I spent ages catching up on blog related emails and lying on my bed ‘resting my eyes’ and didn’t start my run until gone 20:00.

I headed out with the aim of completing six miles. My new Garmin was a little disappointing because due to some serious user error, I couldn’t actually read the screen. I had no idea what sort of pace I was running at, how long I’d been running for and how many miles I’d completed.

I’m definitely not an evening runner. Although I felt like I was running quite hard, my mile splits were a little disappointing.

Running is a strange old sport; some runs feel really easy, this run felt like a bit of a slog. I’m pleased I managed to resist the temptation to call it a day after a couple of miles.

I’ve worked out that I need to run roughly 50 miles a month for the rest of the year to beat my 1000 km in 2018 challenge. I’ve got everything crossed my fragile body lets me complete my challenge.

I’m aiming to complete a 4 or 5 mile run this evening, then I’m going to rest until Sunday when I’ll be running approximately 10 miles from Lichfield to Tamworth.

It will be amazing to take part in a completely new (to me) race.

Do you prefer to run in the morning or in the evening? I’m definitely a morning runner.

Do you have any new to you races planned? I can’t wait to run somewhere completely different.

A parkrun and a half marathon

I hope that everyone had a great weekend, at least Monday is now out of the way and it’s a short week. Apologies for the recent blog silence, life has been quite quiet recently and I haven’t had much to write about.

I had an amazing weekend and after I had to miss Cambridge earlier this month, I finally completed a half marathon run.

On Saturday morning I was woken up at 06:00 by what sounded like someone trying to break into my bedroom window. I looked outside, and realised that the ‘burglars’ were in fact starlings. After trying and failing to get back to sleep, I dragged myself out of bed and got changed into some running gear. I discovered that I’d left my hairbrush and running gloves in Wallingford. Luckily, I have hair that is so fine it doesn’t really need brushing.

The journey to parkrun was as late and as stressful as always. I’m scared to complain because my friend is doing me a massive favour driving me to the Arboretum, but it would be nice to arrive with enough time to warm up, get nearer the front etc.

I made it to the start area just in time for the pre-race briefing and managed to navigate myself a little nearer the front. It still took me 30 seconds to cross the line and my first mile was the slowest as there were limited overtaking opportunities.

Walsall 1[Photo: Ron Reynolds]

I felt great throughout the first couple of laps and managed to increase my pace throughout the third and final lap around the lake. I crossed the line in approx 29:04 and was handed token number 211. I was aware that people around me were really out of breath, I felt fine so perhaps it’s time for me to see what happens when I increase my pace. Let’s face it, I’m never going to get a sub-25 time if I take it easy.

I got home, had a quick shower and then headed to the Chase Farm Shop with mother and my stepdad Colin for a late breakfast/early lunch.  By this stage I was feeling rather hungry so I opted for an unhealthy Club sandwich and an extra bowl of chips.Club sarnieMuch to the horror of my mother, I managed to clear my plate in less than 5 minutes. I seriously regretted not ordering a pudding.

The rest of Saturday was incredibly boring. I had loads of housework and washing and ironing to catch-up on. I think the highlight of the afternoon was my new Garmin arriving. I’m easily pleased. As I was aware I would be attempting to run 13.1 miles the next morning, I made myself eat a huge bowl of pasta, kept myself reasonably hydrated and went to bed at a sensible time.

On Sunday morning, I was woken up by my starling friends again at 07:00. I wasn’t due to meet up with Ellen until 09:00 so I had plenty of time to faff around. I made myself eat a banana and a couple of weetabix and drank a glass of orange nuun.

As I walked the short distance to Ellen’s house I realised that we were incredibly lucky as the weather was pretty much perfect for running. It was quite chilly so I wore a long sleeved top – I’d later regret this decision. I also left my water at home.

At 09:00 we set off on the inaugural Four Oaks half marathon. I’d worked out a reasonably ‘hill free’ route around Four Oaks, nothing could possibly go wrong. We both had money and phones so that we could be rescued if needed.

The first couple of miles were easy but I soon realised I was wearing two too many layers on my top half. After running in cold temperatures for so long, I wasn’t used to running in slightly warmer temperatures. I definitely didn’t need a t-shirt, a long-sleeved top and gilet!

The route of the Four Oaks half wasn’t scenic but it was reasonably runner friendly. There weren’t any toilets or water stations and the only support we got was from other runners and people walking their dogs.

Unfortunately, by 10 miles I was really struggling; my mouth felt like the Sahara Desert and I was starting to feel quite woozy. The hill from Mere Green up to All Saint’s Church nearly finished me off. Thanks to Ellen, I just about managed to keep running.

I can’t really remember much of the final 3 and a bit miles, probably not a good sign. With about a mile and a half to go, I’m ashamed to admit that I slowed to a walk. I told Ellen to run on ahead and told her that I’d run walk to the finish. I crossed the imaginary finish line and walked the short distance to Ellen’s house. I can honestly say that the two pints of South Staffs water I knocked back tasted amazing.

IMG_1028We posed for a quick ‘after’ photo, sat down for a couple of minutes and then said our goodbyes.

The mile or so walk back took ages because I was trying and failing to get a decent selfie – I guess the camera doesn’t lie – but definitely helped my legs recover from the run.

Post run selfie

I got home, drank another glass of orange nuun, had a shower and then headed back to bed for a nap. I slept for a couple of hours and woke up much better.

I’ve now had 24 hours to reflect on what went wrong in the final stages of the half marathon. I clearly wore too many layers and didn’t drink enough water. I also felt incredibly underprepared and don’t think I squeezed in enough longer training runs in weeks before. Although the dodgy weather didn’t help, I could have fitted in a few more runs after work.

Now that I’ve completed a half marathon, I feel that I’ve done something to justify the £500 I raised for charity. Once my legs and right knee have recovered, I’m going to focus on slightly shorter distances.  I’m determined to bring my parkrun time down and I’ve entered several 10k races. I’m not very good at conquering hills, so my longer Sunday morning runs will be replaced with shorter, hilly runs.

Rants and raves #25

**Disclaimer: I’m writing this post after the snowy weather meant that the 7 Pools Run was postponed. As a result, I’m feeling a little frustrated. I’m also a little grumpy because I have a feeling that the weather will make my journey back to Wallingford more challenging (and longer!) than normal. As always, all moans and groans and rants and raves represent my own views. Other far less negative and far superior running and fitness blogs are available**

Rave: Running in Wallingford

After spending a couple of months living (sort of) and working in Wallingford, I’m starting to appreciate the town a little bit more. Wallingford is small and has a ridiculous number of pubs, but the majority of people I’ve met are incredibly friendly.

I’ve already mentioned Run Wallingford. I’m now thinking about trying out one of Wallingford Triathlon Club’s coached Thursday evening running sessions. I bumped into them last month and was invited to join them, I just hope that they realise I’m never going to do a triathlon!

Rant: Public transport, again

On Friday, thanks to the flexitime system at work, I left the office at 15:00, and started the journey from Wallingford to Four Oaks. The journey was going well until a woman ignored several other empty seats and sat next to me. I’ve already complained about #manspreaders on public transport, this lady managed to outdo them all. Luckily, she got off at Leamington Spa, as I was starting to feel quite claustrophobic squashed into a corner.

The train reached Birmingham, and before everyone had got off, people started to barge their way onto the train. Awesome, I hate people who do this. I navigated my way to Platform 8, and discovered that the train to Lichfield was running 10 minutes late, again. The train arrived, people got off and a huge number of people – it was Friday rush-hour – tried to get on. I spotted a seat with a bag on it and politely asked the owner of the bag if she could move the bag. I was so taken aback when she said “no” I decided to sit on her precious bag.

I wrote a quick tweet about ‘bag lady’ – apologies for the appalling grammar, but I was aware that she was fuming, and shared it. Unfortunately, my phone died, so I wasn’t able to see all the likes and comments.

tweet

Thanks for all of the support. I get the feeling that a lot of people have had similar experiences. Hopefully, ‘bag lady’ will realise that seats on busy, rush-hour trains are for people and not for bags. After all, I doubt her bag had a ticket.

Rave: parkrun  

I kept quiet about how I felt at the time, but towards the middle of last year, I completely fell out of love with parkrun. While the majority of runners looked forward to their weekly dose of parkrun, I preferred to lie in bed feeling lazy.ParkrunFast forward six months and I’m pleased to report that I’m finally feeling the parkrun love again. I just need to work out how to catch the attention of the official photographer at my local parkrun.

Rant: Random weather

What on earth is going on with the weather at the moment? On Friday, it was sunny and warm, on Saturday it snowed on and off all day and yesterday the weather was rubbish. The dubious weather forecast led to the cancellation and postponement of quite a few local races including the Ashby 20, the Coventry and the Stafford Half marathons and the 7 Pools Run.BBC Weather SundayAfter DNSing the Cambridge Half due to illness earlier this month, I was really looking forward to the 7 Pools Run in Sutton Park. I thought that a 10k cross country run in a park was more or less guaranteed to take place. Unfortunately, the race organisers decided to postpone the race. I’ve got everything crossed they manage to find an alternative date.

Rave: The online running community

After a slightly steady start, I raised over £500 for the Butterfly Thyroid Cancer Trust. When I looked through my supporters, I discovered that the vast majority were runners I’ve never actually met in real life. The online running community – especially Fetcheveryone – is bloody amazing.

I’m a glutton for punishment and have decided to attempt to raise £1000 for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. I’ve got until October and will be harassing contacting some of Geoff’s ex-colleagues.

Rant: Office heroes

It’s only March, and I’ve already had several coughs, colds and sore throats. A poorly timed sore throat and cough resulted in me DNSing the Cambridge Half earlier this month. Although I’m blaming public transport for some of my illness woes, I’m also blaming people who come into the office when they are ill.sick-office-employees-cartoon-598x325

[Source]

As I can’t avoid travelling on buses and trains and spending over 39 hours a week in a warm and potentially lurgy-filled office, I’m going to have to find ways to boost my incredibly fragile immune system. I can’t DNS any more races due to illness!

Rave: Learning how to say no

It’s taken me 35+ years, but I’ve finally sussed out how to say “no” to people. I’ve also stopped trying to please everyone. Once I’ve overcome the initial feelings of guilt, it feels great. I’ve also found the confidence to decline quite a few questionable blogging opportunities.

Once again, if you’ve made it to the end of my latest collection of random rants and raves then thanks!

Have you ever fallen out of love with parkrun?

Did the recent bad weather impact your training and racing plans?

Cambridge Half Marathon training week 12

As always, I hope that everyone had an amazing weekend. My weekend unfortunately didn’t exactly go to plan…Collage 34The final week of my 12 week ‘intermediate’ half marathon training plan contained three training runs, three rest days and ended with the Cambridge Half. Thanks to the weather and my fear of running in icy conditions, all of the runs were replaced with rest days. I was definitely very well rested before Cambridge.

So how did I get on during the final week of half marathon training?

Monday – Rest

A lack of direct trains between Birmingham and Oxford on Sunday meant that I booked Monday off as annual leave. Although I enjoyed the longer weekend, I’d rather use my annual leave for ‘proper’ holidays. Rather predictably, I wasted far too much time on Monday checking the trains and the weather forecast for the week ahead. I spent the morning getting everything organised for my trip to Cambridge.

After some world-class procrastinating and weather watching, I spent a couple of hours putting together a presentation on some of the outcomes of my doctoral research. Not the best use of annual leave. I arrived back in Wallingford at 21:00 and discovered that one of my housemates had left the front door wide open. Not ideal as the house was freezing. I got ready for my meeting in London and headed to bed in an attempt to get warm.

Tuesday – Rest

Following a slightly delayed arrival into London, I arrived at my meeting near Westminster with about a minute to spare. Perfect timing!? After a lot of debate about the snow and potential train cancellations, the meeting finished an hour early and we made our way to the nearest tube station. One minute the sky was blue, the next minute it went dark and we found ourselves walking in a blizzard. I said goodbye to my colleagues and 15 minutes later found myself walking along a rather slippery Regent Street – trainers weren’t the best choice of footwear – to meet up with Geoff.Collage 35I tracked down Geoff and we headed into Marylebone for a late lunch. After a bit of debate about what we actually wanted to eat, we ended up in Honest Burger near Baker Street. My free-range chicken burger was okay but a little dry and tasteless. Next time I’ll suggest we opt for pizzas rather than so-called fancy burgers.

I had a somewhat ‘eventful’ journey from London to Wallingford. Thanks to tube, train and bus delays, I didn’t get back to Wallingford until quite late. I took one look at the icy pavements and decided not to attempt my 40 minute easy run. This set the tone for the remainder of the week.

Wednesday – Rest

Thanks to the combination of dazzling sunshine, icy pavements and my fear of slipping over, my walk into work took ages. Once again, I was reminded that having long legs and no coordination is never a winning combination. Although I’m enjoying my job, the highlight of the day was the seriously impressive BLT sandwich I had for lunch. Just thinking about it is making my mouth water. Following my slightly hazardous walk into the office, I was relieved when I discovered that the pavements were more or less completely clear on the walk home. I thought about meeting up with Run Wallingford to do my 30 minute tempo run, but decided not to risk it.

Thursday – Rest

We had some snow overnight, but not enough to prevent me from walking into the office. I was the only person in from my team; I appreciated the peace and quiet. I decided to escape an hour earlier than usual as I wanted to pop into the sports shop in Wallingford to buy myself a Run Wallingford t-shirt. I made the right decision as the conditions worsened during my walk, one minute the roads were clear, the next they were completely grid-locked and nothing was moving. I bought my t-shirt – definitely an essential running related purchase – and managed to make it back to my room without falling over.Collage 36I was packing my bags and making sure I’d got everything I needed for the weekend when I received a text alert; all offices would be closed on Friday. I looked outside and had a bit of a shock, I hadn’t realised how bad the snow had got. I realised I probably wouldn’t be able to travel home, and that the Cambridge Half would take place without me. I’m ashamed to admit that I shed a few tears of frustration.

Friday – Rest

Thanks to #StormEmma – the irony – and the snowy conditions, my final training run of week 12 didn’t happen. As the office was closed and the weather was meant to deteriorate during the day, I decided to leave Wallingford early. The bus journey from Wallingford to Four oaks was a lot faster than usual and three hours after leaving Wallingford, I reached Four Oaks. I spent a few hours finishing off a couple of pieces of work and then got my running gear together for Cambridge. Shortly after lunchtime it started to snow in Four Oaks, the snow continued all day, and I started to worry about getting to Cambridge. I headed to bed early as the sore throat I’d been nursing all week had suddenly got a lot worse.

Saturday – Rest

I checked the Cambridge Half page and the trains the second I woke up. According to the event organisers the half marathon was still going ahead as planned. The local trains, however, were running but with severe delays. I got up, had a shower, got dressed and made myself eat a huge breakfast. I packed my bags and walked the short distance to the local train station.Collage 37Unfortunately, this short walk left me feeling so shattered and light-headed; I reluctantly accepted that attempting to run a half marathon wouldn’t have been sensible. I walked home, cancelled my hotel room, applied for a train ticket refund, apologised to all my sponsors and headed to bed.

Sunday – Rest

I spent most of Sunday doing four things; sleeping, experiencing severe race #FOMO, researching alternative half marathons and summer races. If I’m feeling better, I’ll be running in an exclusive event next Sunday; the inaugural Four Oaks Half Marathon. There won’t be a medal and goody bag waiting for me at the finish line, but I know that I’ll feel a lot better for running a half marathon.

So a huge “thanks” to everyone who has taken the time to read and to comment on my series of Cambridge Half training updates. After raising a lot of money for charity, I’m devastated that I didn’t make it to the start line. I know that I made the right decision but I’m still feeling incredibly disappointed.  It’s been an eventful training cycle; I’ve relocated (sort of) to Wallingford, started a new job and joined a new running group. Hopefully my next training cycle will be slightly less stressful.

Training totals:

  • Runs: 35
  • Time: 24 hours 29 mins
  • Distance: 144.27 miles

Final niggleometer:

  • Right heel: 2/10
  • Right knee: 2/10
  • Right calf: 3/10
  • Left foot: 3/10
  • Left calf: 2/10

Cambridge Half Marathon training week 11

As always, I hope that everyone had an amazing weekend. I think the highlights of my weekend were catching up on some much needed sleep and completing a 6 mile run.

I can’t believe that this time next week I will have successfully *touches wood* completed the Cambridge Half Marathon. I’m trying not to let the dubious weather forecasts stress me out.Collage 31Following a much needed rest day on Monday, an unscheduled trip to a couple of pubs meant that I postponed my run on Tuesday. I plucked up the courage to attend my third training session with Run Wallingford on Wednesday. Although I felt shattered, I managed to complete a 50 minute easy run on Thursday, a 40 minute stair session on Friday, a 40 minute speed work session on Saturday and a six mile run yesterday.

So how did my incredibly fragile body cope during the penultimate week of my half marathon training?

Monday – Rest

As always, I found getting out of bed at 07:00 on Monday morning more than a little challenging. I’ve no idea why I felt so tired because I got a reasonable night’s sleep. I even managed to sleep through the usual early morning kitchen noise. After a slightly ‘difficult’ day in the office, I walked back home and headed to my room for a nap. I didn’t get to spend long in my room. One minute I was having a lie down, the next minute I found myself drinking a pint in The Queen’s Head in Crowmarsh with one of my housemates. Spooky! As I was feeling quite tired and hungry, the sensible option would have been to go home after one drink. I’m not sensible and ended up watching the football and drinking a couple more pints in The George Hotel. It was good to see a tiny bit more of Wallingford.

Tuesday – Rest

Once again, my long ‘easy’ run didn’t happen. I can’t remember exactly when, but one minute I was fast asleep, the next I was lying in my bed in agony because my left calf had gone into spasm. My calf was still sore when I got up – even walking the short distance to the bus stop was painful – so I decided to give myself an extra rest day.Collage 33Following a long and hot bus journey into Reading – not ideal with a slightly iffy head, I spent the morning and early afternoon in a series of meetings and training sessions. I left the office and less than 45 minutes later was in London for the first time since December. After the emptiness and silence of Wallingford, the crowds of people and noise took a little getting used to. I called into my old university to collect some paperwork and then met up with my mentor and close friend Geoff for the first time this year. Geoff was as positive as always, and I went away from our all too brief catch-up feeling a lot better about a few career related issues. The journey back to Wallingford was long but stress free and I fell into bed at 22:30.

Wednesday – Training session with Run Wallingford

I spent most of the day inspecting hydrometric monitoring sites with a colleague. Although it was incredibly cold, I definitely enjoyed getting away from my desk for a few hours. It’s just a shame I had to pop back into the office for an hour to answer a few emails. Following a trip to Waitrose and quick power nap, I got changed into some running gear and met up with the Run Wallingford group. The training session was a little unusual as a representative from Skins had come along to give a quick presentation on the science of compression and 20 members of the group were testing out a pair of Skins tights.Collage 32The talk was interesting but didn’t do enough to convince me to break my buying new running gear ban. The run around the streets of Wallingford was probably a little fast for me, but I enjoyed running with someone else for the first time in a few weeks. I almost got gritted twice and fell down a pothole. I was quite relieved to make it back from the training run in one piece.

Thursday – 50 mins easy

I escaped from the office at 17:30, got back to my room and then spent what felt like ages watching rubbish on my laptop and generally avoiding getting changed into my running gear. I doubt my 50 minute easy run would have happened had it not been for the generosity of another runner. The email from Just Giving spurred me into action and 10 minutes later I was outside in the cold waiting for my Garmin to work. Once I’d warmed up, the rest of my 50 minute run around Wallingford felt niggle free and fairly easy. It’s just a shame it took me ages to get warm again after my run.

Friday – 40 mins cross training

Thanks to the wonders of flexitime, I left the office at 15:00 and arrived back home 3.5 hours later. I switched on the heating – for some reason it had turned itself off which wasn’t ideal, had a quick shower, changed into some gym gear, ordered myself a Chinese takeaway and then completed a 40 minute stair session. Although the stair session was incredibly boring and the 40 minutes felt like an hour, my dodgy knee and calf muscles felt reasonably niggle free. I finished the torture stair session feeling confident that weather permitting I’d be able to complete my two weekend runs.

Saturday – 40 mins speed work

With just over a week to go until the Cambridge Half, I rather reluctantly gave parkrun a miss and stayed at home. As I wanted to save my legs (and niggles) for my 6 mile run at race pace, I left my Garmin at home and enjoyed a ‘naked’ run. The cold weather unfortunately meant that my speed work session was anything but speedy.

When I got back from my run I really struggled to get warm. I decided that sitting around inside probably wasn’t helping, so I made a start on my list of weekend chores. A couple of hours later I’d collected my online order from Sutton Coldfield, called into the local florists and ordered some flowers for Mothers Day and tackled the ironing mountain. I also spent almost £200 booking my accommodation and train tickets for Cambridge, so much for running being an inexpensive sport!

Sunday – 6 miles steady

I took one look out of my bedroom window at 06:00, saw how icy it was and went back to bed as I didn’t want to risk falling over so close to Cambridge. After a much needed lie-in, I spent the morning stressing myself out by trying to work out how I’m going to fit in everything next weekend. At the moment I’m travelling home on Friday evening, from Birmingham to Cambridge at lunchtime on Saturday and returning on Monday morning. I had originally planned to return home on Sunday, but there aren’t any trains. I’m going to have to be super productive on Friday and Saturday, as I won’t have much time at home on Monday.

After spending the majority of Sunday afternoon getting myself incredibly worked up about the weather forecast for next week, a couple of work related issues and the half marathon, I decided a run would help to clear my mind. Although my niggles behaved themselves during the 6 mile run, I felt incredibly unfit and spent the final mile obsessively checking my Garmin. Not the best way to end the penultimate week of training!

So that’s week 11 of my half marathon training more or less successfully completed. Only another week to go. I had to switch some of my training sessions around but managed to complete all of my runs.

The final week of my Cambridge Half training plan looks both enjoyable and achievable. Injuries and weather permitting, I’m scheduled to complete three training runs and then if everything goes to plan, the Cambridge Half Marathon on Sunday. I’m not convinced I’m ready to run 13.1 miles! I’ve got to complete a 40 minute long easy runs on Tuesday and Friday and a 30 minute tempo run on Wednesday.

In order to get me to the start line, my coach has kindly allocated me rest days on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. I’m going to make sure that I do some sort of strength and conditioning on Monday and Thursday and will dig out my foam roller on Saturday morning.

Training totals

  • Runs: 35
  • Time: 24 hours 29 mins
  • Distance: 144.27 miles

Niggleometer

  • Right heel: 2/10
  • Right knee: 2/10
  • Right calf: 5/10
  • Left foot: 5/10
  • Left calf: 5/10