A rejection, an interview and the start of half marathon training

I hope that everyone had a great weekend. I had a quiet but productive weekend of housework, drinking, cooking, studying, eating and interview prep. I also managed to watch some athletics and England lose a couple of cricket matches.

I’ll be completely honest with you; parts of last week were rubbish. On Tuesday I received a rejection for the hydrology job I’d applied for a second time. The moment I spotted the automated email, I knew my application hadn’t been successful.

Thank you for your application to the Technical Specialist position.

I regret to inform you that having carefully reviewed your details, we will not be taking your application any further on this occasion.”

I read the rejection email, cried for a few minutes and then started to feel angry. I then pulled myself together and emailed a polite request for feedback. Although I know that I couldn’t have improved my application and have all the required skills and experience, it will be helpful to know why I was rejected, twice.

Later on the same day I received an email inviting me to an interview later this week. Rather ironic considering I didn’t think I’d get an interview in a million years.

So far my interview prep has comprised of the basics such as researching the company, its operating area and the main pressures on present and future resources. It’s also involved me trying on several pairs of smart trousers, failing to squeeze my fat bum into any of my smart trousers and subsequently having to buy a new pair of smart trousers.

Please let the new trousers arrive before Wednesday!

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My 16-week half marathon training plan started today. Earlier this morning I managed to complete a not exactly challenging 10 minute run. Preparing for the run took a lot longer than the actual run itself. At least my right foot felt reasonably niggle-free before, during and after the run.

I’m debating writing weekly training updates like I did last year. I know that some people find reading training updates boring. Personally, I find reading about other people’s training both interesting and helpful. I suspect that having the option of looking back on what I did 12 months ago will be quite beneficial.

I’d better stop waffling and get back to my interview preparation.

Did you have a good weekend? Although I enjoyed the short heat wave, being able to sleep again at night is brilliant.

Do you find weekly training update blog posts boring? Please be honest, I won’t be offended if you say yes!

Updated running goals and race plans for 2017

At the beginning of the year I set myself some challenging but achievable running goals for 2017. I felt so confident I shared my goals and signed up to Trail Running’s #RUN1000MILES challenge.

Unfortunately, I picked up a running injury towards the middle of January and found myself sitting on the injury bench.

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The injury was so persistent most of the first six months of 2017 were a complete write-off. I stopped running, started stretching, sulked, put on a lot of weight and sulked some more.

My house was spotless.

I forgot about the majority of my running goals.

Now that we are almost half way through the year and *touch wood* my foot injury is under control, I decided to update some of my running goals and race plans.

Run 700 miles Run 400 miles – I’ve just checked my training log on Fetch and discovered I’ve run the not so impressive total of 29 miles in 2017. 29 miles!!! If my maths is correct, I’ve set myself the target of running another 371 miles in six months.  I’d like to think I’ll be able to run approximately 60 miles a month.

Complete 10 parkruns and 10 races Complete 5 parkruns and 5 races – After writing ‘DNS’ next to several races this year, my race calendar is starting to look slightly more respectable. I’ll summarise my race plans later on in this post.

A sub 8 minute mile – I’d like to think that this goal is still achievable.

A sub 25 minute 5k A sub 26 minute 5k – I set my current 5k PB of 26:49 last February. If my foot continues to behave, I’d like to think that at some stage this year I’ll manage to run a sub 26 minute 5k.

A sub 55 minute 10k A sub 60 minute 10k – My original goal was to run a sub 55 minute 10k during the Vitality London 10,000. Now I’d be over the moon with a sub 60 minute 10k!

A sub 2:20 half marathon – The original aim was to run a sub 2:20 half marathon during the Cambridge Half in March. Although Cambridge was a DNS, I’ve decided to keep this goal the same.

Listen to my niggles – At one stage my foot was so painful I had little option but to listen to my niggles. As an injury-prone runner I now realise that listening to my niggles is not enough. I also need to improve my diet and make a lot more effort to follow my strength and conditioning ‘personal action plan’.

Join a new running club – Although I resigned from my last running club at the end of March, my lack of running fitness has made me slightly reluctant to join a new running club. I suspect that I’ll continue as an ‘unattached’ runner for the rest of 2017.

Be slightly more sociable – I still tend to run on my own and I’m still a running recluse. To be honest I enjoy running on my own so much, I can’t see this changing. Although I am a bit of a loner, I have really enjoyed volunteering at a range of local events.

Don’t buy any unessential running gear – My foot injury has definitely helped me curb my obsession with buying unessential running gear. Hopefully I will actually achieve this running goal 🙂

My race plans

As I’m the type of person who needs a target race, I’ve entered the Great Birmingham Run in October.

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If my dodgy foot doesn’t cope with the half marathon training plan I’ve put together, I’ve entered the Lichfield 10k as a sort of Plan B race.

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If my foot doesn’t cope with training for a 10k – the way it is feeling right now this is a definite possibility – I’ll have to look at dropping down to even shorter distances.PrintFingers crossed my foot lets me achieve at least a couple of my running goals.

Do you have any target races planned for the second half of 2017?

Did you sign up to Trail Running Magazine’s 1000 mile challenge? If you did and you didn’t receive a Ruff headband let me know and I’ll post you mine.

Rants and raves #14

**Disclaimer: I’m sharing my latest random selection of rants and raves after drinking slightly too much Malibu. I’ve been told that I’m far too honest when I’ve had a couple of drinks. As always, all rants, raves and opinions represent my own views. Other (far superior) less opinionated and negative running blogs are available**

Happy Tuesday! I hope that everyone had a great Bank Holiday weekend. I can’t believe it’s almost June, whatever happened to May?

Rave: Running

As I’ve spent months complaining about my inability to run, I thought I should probably start my latest selection of rants and raves with a rave. My right heel is feeling so much better *touch wood* I can run again. Although I’m still completing the majority of my runs without my Garmin, I’m now able to run three times a week.

Following on from my last rants and raves post I had to fork out £35 to enter the Great Birmingham Run In order to get my £55 Birmingham International Marathon entry fee refunded. I’m quietly confident I’ll be able to complete the half marathon in October. If I’m injured again then at least I’ve ‘only’ wasted £35 on race entry fees and not £55…

Hopefully the local trains will be running slightly earlier on the morning of the race this year.

Rant: Trains

While on the subject of trains, anyone who follows me on twitter will be aware that I tweet about my train related woes on a regular basis. My personal train travel ‘highlights’ so far this year have included being stuck just outside Birmingham International station for two hours without any information, delays and cancellations due to unexploded bombs and overhead line damage, witnessing fights and drug dealing, phone calls lasting two hours and my least favourite; people vomiting all over the place.Train DelayJust a slightly delayed journey back to Birmingham.

At least Virgin trains have really, really effective air conditioning. It’s just a shame their trains make me feel really travel sick because they smell like a sewage treatment works on wheels.

Rave: The weather

As I’m writing this it’s a typical wet and gloomy Bank Holiday Monday morning. I’m hoping that summer 2017 hasn’t already been and gone, but how awesome was the summery weather we had last week? I’ve just checked out the weather forecast for Four Oaks and it looks like we will get to enjoy a combination of light rain and heavy thundery showers.

Bank Holiday weatherTypical Bank Holiday Monday weather!

Fortunately, the weather for the remainder of the week looks slightly more positive.

Rant: My inability to drink in moderation

On Thursday I travelled down to London to meet up with someone I hadn’t seen for ages for “a quick drink” and a bite to eat. Four hours, several pints, half a bottle of red wine an Italian meal (I can’t remember what I ate…) and a shot of Limoncello(?) later I was feeling slightly inebriated. For some reason I decided to take several photos of the local architecture, so much for drunken selfies.

Drunken photosI have zero interest in architecture so have no idea why I took these photos.

My “I’m never drinking again” vow on Friday morning clearly didn’t last very long as I spent Sunday evening working my way through the bottle of Malibu my brother bought me for my birthday. Cheers Paul!

Rave: My bargain MPG leggings

Whenever I’m in Sutton Coldfield, I always end up calling into TK Maxx to check out the Activewear. Although I tend to leave empty-handed, I got my friend to treat me to a pair of these  Mondetta tights for my birthday.

Mondetta tightsUnfortunately it was too wet to get a photo of me posing in my new running tights. 

They are easily the most comfortable pair of running tights I’ve worn.

Rant: My diet

After keeping a detailed food diary for a few weeks, it’s clear that I urgently need to improve my diet. I rarely eat enough portions of fruit and vegetables and I eat far too much junk food. I treated myself to a couple of Renee McGregor’s books last year; it’s about time I actually read them!

Rave: Nuun mixology

I was going to have a rant about the BBQ my new neighbours had on Saturday – smelling the BBQ food was torture – but I decided to include a short bonus rave. My mobile has been playing up so much recently; I’ve transferred all of the photos from my phone onto my computer. In among all the random photos I found this article on Nuun mixology.Nuun Mixology

Apologies for the rubbish quality of the article, I found more information here and here.

Once again, if you’ve reached the end of my latest random selection of rants and raves, then thank-you.

Did you have an enjoyable Bank Holiday weekend? Hopefully the weather was better than it was here in Sutton Coldfield.

Do you ever run without your GPS? Hopefully I’m not the only ‘naked’ runner out there!

Race Report: Great Birmingham Run

It’s never a good sign when it takes me almost a week to write a race report. I could have written a ‘woe is me’ race review last Sunday, but I decided to spend a few days reflecting on what happened. The Great Birmingham Run itself was well organised and very well supported, and I didn’t want to write a biased and overly negative race review.

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After managing to complete 16 weeks of training, I was confident that I’d enjoy the Great Birmingham Run. I also hoped that all of the early morning training runs would be rewarded with a respectable half marathon time. I was going for gold.

When I first looked out of my bedroom window at 6am on Sunday morning it was dry. A few minutes later it started to rain. The rain continued until approximately thirty minutes before the race started. I got out of bed at 6:30am, had a shower, got changed into some of my running gear and managed to eat four weetabix and a couple of bananas.

My friend reluctantly dropped me off in the centre of Sutton Coldfield and I spent ten cold and very wet minutes waiting for a bus. Fortunately the bus arrived and 30 minutes later I found myself walking across the centre of Birmingham playing dodge the huge puddles and hunt the race village.

start-areaI would have taken more pre-race photos but I decided against getting my camera soaked. I tracked down some portaloos and had a successful visit. I then located the baggage buses – for some reason I hadn’t expected the baggage buses to be double-decker buses – climbed onto bus number 5 and removed my soggy jeans and fleece and put on the rest of my race day outfit. I squeezed myself into the black bin bag I’d customised the previous evening, and left my bag sitting on the back seat of the baggage bus. I was actually quite jealous of my bag getting to sit inside a warm and dry bus.

I reluctantly headed back out into the rain, found some shelter and spent the next thirty or so minutes people watching and trying to keep warm. I managed to fit in a couple of portaloo visits and after a few attempts tied my laces so that they weren’t likely to get too tight as the race progressed. I was nervous and just wanted the race to start. After what felt like ages, runners wearing orange and white numbers were called to the start area. It was quite windy and I started to feel really cold. In usual Great Run style there was a short organised – and in such a confined space slightly hazardous – warm-up. My warm-up consisted of me removing my bin bag and hoodie and realising that I *really* needed another wee. Unfortunately, there were huge queues for the portaloos in the start area and queuing would have made me miss the start of the race. I tried to convince myself that I didn’t need the toilet. I tried to remember where the first set of portaloos would be located.

The race started, and the elite and faster runners disappeared off into the distance. After a short delay to avoid the course getting too congested, my wave started running and I headed out on my half marathon run. As soon as I started to run I realised that I still *really* needed a wee. I actually weighed up the pros and cons of weeing while I ran. The first miles and a half was pretty bleak and the course seemed to pass through some slightly dodgy backstreets. I didn’t spot any portaloos and was envious of the male runners who were able to go just about anywhere.

After a couple of slightly over ambitiously paced miles – next time I’ll make sure my Garmin is set to miles and not kilometres – I slowed down and settled into a more sensible pace. I still needed a wee.

Unfortunately, even the more sensible pace felt a lot harder than it should have done so early on in the race. I realised that I felt very hungry. I’d eaten breakfast more than three hours before the race started and was now running on empty (sorry, I couldn’t resist!). Judging by the number of discarded gel wrappers I spotted on the floor – there were thousands of the bloody things, why can’t runners make more effort to carry their rcannon-hill-parkubbish? – I was clearly one of the few runners not using energy gels. I won’t make the same mistake next time.

At approximately 5 miles the course went directly past Bournville train station. I thought about the emergency £10 in my back pocket and almost stepped off the course and into the train station. The course then went past Cadbury’s World – another huge temptation and reminder of my hunger – and up a really short but steep hill. Shortly after the 6 mile marker there was a drinks station and more importantly a row of portaloos. I sprinted off the course and into a portaloo. After spending several hours on my feet, sitting down in the warm and escaping the wind and crowds felt like heaven. Unlike most runners I didn’t exactly rush out of the portaloo and back out onto the course. I guess that deep down I already knew that my race goals were out of reach.

I rejoined the race and spent a couple of minutes trying to get going again. My legs and knees were not happy. Between 7 and 8 miles I managed to distract myself by watching the runners from the later waves heading in the opposite direction. Without the wind cooling me down I started to feel warm and wasted more time getting into a tangle with my water bottle and cap. Trying to multitask didn’t work and next time I’ll stop running, remove my cap, tip water on my head, replace my cap and then run.

After what felt like forever, we turned off Pershore Road and headed towards Edgbaston Cricket Ground. We completed a circuit of the cricket ground and then crossed the road and entered Cannon Hill Park. While it was great to escape the roads, the paths in the park were covered in leaves – and the occasional gel wrapper – and I witnessed a couple of runners almost come a cropper. I grabbed a bottle of Lucozade Sport from the drinks station, had a couple of swigs and was almost sick. Yet another running fail!

We left Cannon Hill Park and headed back out onto the roads. Although this at this stage I felt terrible, the support between 9 and 10 miles was incredible and I was smiling as I hobbled along. At 10 miles the course took us onto the far from scenic Belgrave Middleway and it was at this point my right knee finally decided that enough was enough. Thanks knee.

Shortly after escaping the monotony of yet another Birmingham tourist attraction – the Lee Bank Middleway – the course took us onto Charlotte Road and the start of “The Hill”. When I originally heard the-hillabout “The Hill” I was determined to make it to the top without slowing to a walk. The course was very crowded, and after the third runner had slowed to a walk directly in front of me, I gave in and walked the final few meters of “The Hill”. Later on that day I found some photos that showed just how much I wanted the race to be over.

Just after 12 miles the course took me directly past my ex-boyfriends flat. At least thinking about my ex distracted me from the pain in my right knee and feet for a few minutes. We crossed Harbourne Road – more memories – and then turned onto Hagley Road.

After what felt like an eternity I hobbled through another underpass and eventually reached Broad Street and the approach to the finish.

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I gritted my teeth, powered my way towards the finish, posed for the cameras and stumbled across the finish line.

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I stopped my Garmin and realised that I’d failed. It wasn’t a great feeling.

The finish area of the race wasgbr-medal chaos. We had to queue for our goody bags and medals. There were families and friends waiting for runners and blocking the way out. The baggage buses were parked on a side street at the bottom of a steep hill. After running(ish) a half marathon the steep downhill wasn’t appreciated by the runners. Security on the baggage buses was variable; let’s just say I could have walked away with someone else’s bag as numbers weren’t checked. I grabbed my bag, got off the bus and started to hobble back up the hill. At this stage I spotted Matt. We had a quick chat about the run, I mentioned that I was heading back towards the train station and Matt very kindly offered to drive me home.

Thanks Matt you really were a lifesaver and I definitely owe you a couple of pints!

We hobbled back to where Matt had parked his car, drove back to Four Oaks where Matt very kindly dropped me off at my local Tesco’s. I’m pretty sure that most runners don’t eat three packets of crisps after a half marathon. I must have really needed the salt. I hobbled back to my friend’s house – down yet another steep hill – located where I’d hidden the front door key, let myself in, removed my trainers and socks and assessed the damage. Although my trainers and socks had been soaked from the start, I’d escaped with just a couple of tiny blisters and a sore little toe. I’d been lucky and my new socks hadn’t shredded my feet to pieces.

Right, I’ll leave this post now as its already far, far too long. Thanks for reading my waffle over the last 16 weeks or so. At some stage I’ll reflect on what I did wrong during my training and on the day of the race and what I’d do differently next time. Although I felt like quitting immediately after the Great Birmingham Run, I’ve already entered the Cambridge Half in March.

Cambridge has to be less undulating than Birmingham…

Have you ever felt like stopping halfway through a race? Had I spotted any of my family out on the course I would have stopped.

I need to start taking gels on longer runs What are your favourite brands and flavours of gels?

Great Birmingham Run training week 16

Week 15 – the penultimate week of my half marathon training – didn’t exactly go to plan. Unfortunately, I came down with a cold and had to miss a couple of my shorter midweek training runs. Although I didn’t feel completely recovered, I was pleased to end week 15 with a really enjoyable 60 minute run on Sunday morning.collage-39The final week of my beginner’s half marathon training plan contained three training runs and ended with the Great Birmingham Run on Sunday. Just looking at the final week made me feel really, really nervous. The training plan recommended that I completed a 20 minute recovery run on Monday, a comfortable 40 minute run on Wednesday and then an easy 10 to 15 minute run on Saturday. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday were my rest, recovery and rebuilding days. Although I was determined to complete all of my training runs, my cold from the previous week was lingering with intent.

Monday – 20 mins easy jog

When my alarm woke me at 05:30 I discovered that my nose was completely blocked-up – sorry – and decided that my run could wait for a couple of hours. After spending the morning working on my Brexit paper, I got changed into some running gear and headed across to Four Oaks Estate. After spending ten minutes warming-up and entertaining a group of workmen with some of my static stretches, I was ready to run.

Predictably the first ten minutes of what should have been an ‘easy jog’ felt anything but easy. My cold meant that my breathing was even more erratic than usual and I sounded really wheezy. Unfortunately, the run didn’t improve after the first ten minutes, and I was really relieved that I only had to run for a total of 20 minutes. When I got home and checked out my run on Strava, it was clear that I’d got my pacing completely wrong. The final week of my half training hadn’t exactly got off to a brilliant start.

Tuesday – Rest

The highlight of my rest day on Tuesday was the realisation that my cold symptoms were finally starting to clear up. At last! The low point was the discovery that my friend was no longer able to drive me into Birmingham on Sunday morning. I spent several hours exploring a range of alternative travel options, and coming to terms with the possibility I might not actually be able to run on Sunday.

Wednesday – 40 mins comfortable

Once again I didn’t feel 100 per cent when I woke up at 05:30, and decided to delay my run until later in the day. I spent most of the morning reading about the Industrial Revolution and the devastating pollution of the headwaters of the River Tame. I then got changed into a slightly strange looking combination of running gear, worked through my effective but after 16 weeks pretty tedious warm-up routine and headed across to Four Oaks Estate. Although I wanted to run for 40 minutes, I felt really unfit and wasn’t confident I’d be able to run for that long without stopping. Don’t you just love taper madness!?

I set out at a sensible pace and decided to ignore my Garmin and to run by feel. Once I’d got the first ten minutes or so of the run out of the way, I settled into what felt like a comfortable pace and started to enjoy my run. As I was acutely aware that my hill training had been pretty nonexistent, I made sure that the run incorporated several challenging hills. Although my pace definitely slowed as I ran up the final hill, I made it to the top without slowing to a walk.

I walked back to the Tennis Club and then spent a couple of minutes trying to take a decent post-run selfie. Once again the results of my attempts were not exactly brilliant.collage-40I eventually got home, drank a glass of orange nuun and then spent half an hour icing my right knee and left foot. Although the majority of my niggles had disappeared and my run had been virtually pain free, I didn’t want to take any chances so close to the Great Birmingham Run. In the evening I worked my way through some of my knee and bum strengthening exercises and then spent twenty minutes massaging my calf muscles with my foam roller.

Thursday – Rest

Another rest day, tapering is hard work! Mum picked me up at 11:00 and once she’d got me trapped inside her car, informed me that she was “fighting off a cold”… We drove across to the cafe at Packington Moor Farm for a late breakfast/early lunch. Once again I failed as a blogged as I forgot to take an artistic photograph of my sausage sandwich. By the time I thought about taking a photo I’d scoffed half of the sandwich. It was really, really tasty. I spent the afternoon and early evening reading a couple of academic papers and feeling guilty for not running.

Friday – Rest

Another mundane rest day… The highlight of my Friday was finding out that this blog has been nominated for the 2017 Running Awards. If you nominated me then thanks!

Saturday – 10-15 mins very easy jog

As the weather wasn’t exactly amazing, I replaced the 10-15 minute very easy jog in my training plan, with an hour long stroll in Sutton Park. Quite lazy of me, but I didn’t want to pick up an injury the day before the half marathon. As an added bonus my trainers avoided getting soaked in the rain. While on the subject of the weather… I may have spent far, far too long on Saturday morning checking various websites. I looked at four different weather forecasts for Birmingham – all four were slightly different.collage-41I spent the afternoon preparing a selection of three race day outfits, playing a really stressful game of ‘hunt the safety pins’, reading the race day instructions, checking the weather, buying train tickets and generally doing everything at the last minute. However, the large amount of uncertainty surrounding my race day travel plans was the cause of the largest amount of stress. I eventually tracked down a bus that would hopefully be running tomorrow morning although due to road closures and diversions I had no idea where it would stop in Birmingham. Not the best pre-race preparation and a valuable lesson in relying on other people.

Sunday – Great Birmingham Run

I’m not going to write an essay here, but the Great Birmingham Run was a bit of a disaster. Although I completed the run, I failed to achieve any of my time goals and felt like cyring the second I’d crossed the finish line. Not my finest moment. At the moment I’m analysing what went wrong and what I should have done differently. I’m also seriously considering taking a break from running.

Finally, a huge thank-you to everyone who has read and commented on my weekly half marathon training updates. Your support really did help me, probably far more than you realised. I really wanted to end this series of weekly updates on a positive note and I feel that I’ve let everyone down.

Hopefully I’ll feel slightly more positive when my feet have recovered.

Training totals

  • Runs: 52
  • Time: 28 hours 40 mins
  • Distance: 278.94 kms

Races/time trials

  • 5 km: 28:15
  • 10 km: 59:27
  • Half Marathon: 02:29:09 (includes a 10 minute sit down on the most inviting portaloo in the history of portaloos)

Niggleometer

  • Left foot: 2/10
  • Right knee: 4/10
  • Calf muscles: 1/10
  • Shins: 1/10

Great Birmingham Run training week 15

After somehow managing to run for two hours without stopping for a sneaky walking break, I felt ready for week 15 and the start of the taper.collage-36Week 15 of my Great Birmingham Run training plan started with a double rest day. After running for two hours, I knew that my legs and calf muscles would definitely need an extra rest day. The training plan recommended that I completed a 50 minute steady paced run on Wednesday, and an easy 35 minute run on Thursday.  If everything went to plan, Friday’s rest day would be followed by an easy 15 minute jog on Saturday and a 60 minute run on Sunday. Although I was determined to complete all of the training runs, thanks to spending far too much time surrounded by people coughing and sneezing, I ended week 14 feeling slightly lurgified.

Monday – Rest

When I made my first tentative steps on Monday morning I immediately realised why week 15 started with a rest day. My old friend – delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) – had made an unwelcome and inconvenient appearance. Evidently the post-run foam rolling and leg pampering hadn’t been very effective. After spending the morning filling in job application forms and drafting out some ideas for an academic paper, I caught the 13:50 train down to Euston. By the time I reached Coventry I’d already discovered that having long legs and DOMS on a cramped train wasn’t a winning combination.collage-37I reached Euston and then hobbled the short distance to Euston Square station and then from Baker Street to meet my friend at his local pub. Once again I found myself sitting outside the pub drinking beer, people watching and enjoying the sun. After an hour I managed to convince my friend that shopping in Lululemon would be far, far more enjoyable than drinking beer in the sunshine. The shopping trip was successful and my friend bought me an ‘anti-stink’ short sleeved running top. We then headed to a local restaurant for something to eat. I must have been feeling quite peckish as I managed to eat a huge portion of steak, peppercorn sauce and chips.

Tuesday – Rest

Luckily Tuesday was another rest day. Unfortunately, the DOMS in my legs had been joined by the start of what would quickly develop into my first cold of the year. I left London at lunchtime and spent the rest of the day working from home and trying to make my slightly fuzzy brain focus.

Wednesday – 50 mins steady

When my alarm woke me at 05:30 I felt far too groggy to attempt a 50 minute run. If I felt better I would run later on in the day. I switched off my alarm and went back to sleep for an hour. After spending the morning trying to perform a Principal component analysis on some river flow data, I was relieved when mum picked me up at 11:30. We headed across to Sutton Park and spent an enjoyable but quite chilly 45 minutes walking around the perimeter Blackroot Pool. Although I had been slightly reluctant to leave the warmth of my study, the walk in the fresh air made left me feeling much better. I was confident that I was well enough to run for 50 minutes.

The combination of not wanting to run when it was really busy, and issues with my statistical assessments meant that I didn’t start my run until almost 20:00. The first ten minutes of the run felt terrible, my breathing was all over the place and I seemed to meet every dog owner in Four Oaks. My obsession with early morning running had meant that I wasn’t used to having to negotiate dog walkers, pedestrians, children on bikes and cars. Things improved once I reached my favourite quieter route, and the remainder of the run was really enjoyable.

Thursday – 35 mins easy

When I woke up at 05:30 I discovered that running the previous evening had made my mild cold symptoms develop into a ‘proper’ cold. Awesome! As an asthmatic runner, I’m aware that missing the occasional run is the most sensible option. I decided that not completing a 35 minute run would make little difference to the outcome of next week’s half marathon and stayed in bed. collage-38My lunchtime walk across Sutton Park and into the centre of Sutton Coldfield meant that I got some exercise and fresh air. The Karrimor running socks and reflective Mondetta running tights I purchased were an added bonus…

Friday – Rest

As my cold hadn’t miraculously disappeared during the night, I was relieved that Friday was a rest day. I don’t like missing training runs. I spent the entire day working on my Brexit and water resources report. In the evening I treated my right knee to a long overdue session with the icepack, and then worked my way through a selection of my arse and knee strengthening exercises. I’m sure that my Friday evenings used to be slightly more interesting!

Saturday – 15 mins easy jog

Unfortunately, I didn’t feel very well when I woke up. My cold appeared to be lingering with intent. After walking the short distance to the local chemists left me feeling breathless, I decided to take another rest day. Although I felt unfit and was convinced that my cold would last forever, I made myself look at the positives. I wasn’t injured and I was taking the start of my half marathon taper seriously. I had a week to recover from my cold. As an added bonus the additional rest days had meant that my troublesome right knee and left foot were feeling virtually pain free. By the evening, I felt so much better I laid out my running gear ready for what would hopefully be the final Sunday morning run of this training cycle.

Sunday – 60 mins comfortable pace

Although – thanks to my cough – I didn’t get the best night’s sleep, when my alarm woke me at 05:30, I decided that I felt well enough to attempt to run for an hour. I went to the loo, got dressed into the slightly warmer running gear I’d laid out the previous evening, drank a couple of glasses of water and headed out into the dark for the final time. It was cold and still, perfect for running in and also ideal for triggering an asthma attack. After a very quick warm-up I set out at a very, very steady and sensible pace.

Once I’d warmed-up I started to enjoy my run. The extra rest days meant that my legs felt fresh, and for the first time in what felt like weeks, my left foot was pain free. The roads were virtually empty, I had the pavements to myself, and I was able to enjoy my final early Sunday morning run. I felt sad that my half marathon training had almost come to an end, and vowed to continue the early Sunday runs after I’d recovered from the half marathon. The run felt easy, and I made it home without breaking anything or injuring myself. I didn’t see any people dressed as clowns.

So that’s the fifteenth and penultimate week of my half marathon training completed, sort of. While I wouldn’t say that it was a successful week, I’m pleased that I managed to complete a 60 minute run without too much difficulty on Sunday. I just need this cold to disappear ASAP.

Next week’s training schedule – the ‘taper and race week’ – contains three training runs and then it’s the GREAT BIRMINGHAM RUN on Sunday!! I can’t wait. I’ve got to complete a 20 minute recovery run at some point on Monday, a comfortable 40 minute run on Wednesday and then an easy 10 to 15 minute run on Saturday. The training plan recommends that I test out my race day outfit on Saturday. As I don’t fancy running in stinky running gear, I’ll be testing out my race day clobber on Wednesday. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday are my rest, recovery and rebuilding days. I’m praying that my fragile body survives the final week and that my cold gets better.

Training totals

  • Runs: 50
  • Time: 27 hours 40 mins
  • Distance: 269.01 kms

Races/time trials

  • 5 km: 28:15
  • 10 km: 59:27

Niggleometer

  • Left foot: 3/10
  • Right knee: 3/10
  • Calf muscles: 2/10
  • Shins: 1/10

Have you got any tips for getting rid of a cold ASAP? I’ve tried several of Boots’ best offerings and I’m now starting to feel slightly concerned it’s not shifting…

Do you test out your race day outfit in advance? I’d never run a race in new trainers, but without knowing what the weather is going to be like on Sunday, I can’t see how I can predict what I’m going to wear.

Great Birmingham Run training week 14

After successfully completing week thirteen of my half marathon training plan, I looked forward to tackling what was described as ‘peak week’.collage-34Week 14 of my Great Birmingham Run training plan consisted of ‘steady’ paced 50 minute runs on Tuesday and Thursday, an ‘easy’ 10 minute jog on Saturday and then the final long training run on Sunday. The training plan recommended that this long run should last between 100 and 120 minutes. Monday, Wednesday and Friday were rest days – at this stage probably the most important element of the training plan. Although Sunday’s long run looked quite challenging, I was determined to run continuously for two hours.

Monday – Rest

It took me approximately five seconds to realise why week 14 started with a rest day – running for almost two hours the previous day had left me with tired legs – running would have been out of the question. Following a lengthy session with the foam roller, I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon working on my Brexit and environmental legislation report. After spending far too long sitting staring at my computer screen, I realised that I was getting a headache and needed to take a break. I got changed into my new yoga outfit – thanks cousin Alice – and worked my way through some of Jasyoga’s excellent five-minute reset videos. Week 14 had got off to a positive start.

Tuesday – 50 mins steady

When my alarm woke me up at 05:30, the first thing I noticed was how windy it was. Great! I got dressed into some running gear, went to the loo, had a drink of water, started my Garmin and then headed outside. I completed a very brief warm-up – it was really mild – and then started to run. At first, an accurate description of my running gait would have been ‘wonky donkey’, however, once I’d warmed up properly, my legs suddenly remembered how to run. After ten minutes of running directly into the wind, I crossed the main road and reached my favourite figure of eight circuit.

For once the weather gods were kind to me, and I found myself only having to run directly into the wind on the downhill sections of my circuit. The uphill sections were most definitely wind assisted. As I reached the final 20 minutes of the run, I started to feel quite nauseous. At one stage I thought that I was going to have to stop running. It wasn’t pleasant, and I have no idea what made me suddenly feel so sick. I was over the moon when I reached the end of my 50 minute run.

I walked back home, managed to drink a glass of water and then sat outside mulling over my run. What had gone wrong? Was I coming down with something? After ten minutes I started to feel really cold and dizzy. I headed back inside, had a long hot shower and then went back to bed. I eventually woke up a second time at 10:00. Although I’d wasted most of the morning, the nausea had disappeared and I felt ready to tackle Tuesday. Luckily, the rest of the day was far more productive.

Wednesday – Rest

The highlight of my rest day on Wednesday was the arrival of my number for the Great Birmingham Run. Say hello to runner ‘5672’. You may wonder why I was so relieved to finally receive my number. Although I was 99.9 per cent certain that I’d entered the event, I won my entry in a competition and never received a confirmation email from the organisers. I’ve been allocated a place in the second wave of runners, so will have to make sure that I don’t get dragged along by faster runners on the morning of the race!

Thursday – 50 mins steady

On Tuesday morning it was windy and mild, first thing on Thursday morning it was windy, mild and very, very wet. Although I’ve always loved running in the rain, accidentally stepping into a puddle and getting my feet soaked as soon as I started running wasn’t ideal. Once again I found myself running like a ‘wonky donkey’ to start with, and the uphill sections of my run were wind assisted. Luckily the nausea had disappeared and I was able to enjoy my run. The second 50 minute run of week 14 felt easier and far more enjoyable than the first. Sometimes the (Strava) statistics apparently do lie.

After spending the rest of the morning and the afternoon working on my Brexit report and drafting out a couple of potential blog posts, I was ready for a break from my computer. I got changed into some gym gear, cleared a space on the office floor, rolled out my yoga mat, spent ten minutes warming-up my muscles and then half an hour rolling my calf muscles and inflicting a lot of pain on myself. My calf muscles were so tight it wasn’t a very enjoyable experience and made me think of the overused expression ‘no pain, no gain’.

Friday – Rest

Another rest day, I really do love my rest and recovery days! Streaking definitely isn’t for me… I spent the morning and afternoon reviewing another couple of unpublished academic manuscripts. I rejected one manuscript – hitting the reject option made me feel really guilty – and the second was accepted pending some minor revisions. In-between the manuscript reviewing I managed to catch up on some washing, all in all a productive rest day. At some point during the afternoon I checked my Outlook account and noticed that I’d received an email from Great Run. The email contained the link for priority entries into the inaugural Birmingham International Marathon. I managed to resist the temptation to enter there and then – 10 years ago I was really impulsive and would have parted with my £55 pretty much instantaneously – and weighed up the pros and cons of committing to training for another marathon. After much deliberation, I decided to hold off entering the marathon until after my long run on Sunday. If I managed to run for two hours on Sunday I would enter the marathon, if I failed I would keep hold of my £55.

Saturday – 10 mins easy jog

As I only had to run for 10 minutes, I decided to turn off my 05:30 alarm clock, and delayed my run until it was light. For some reason I thought that my training plan said 10 mins fast so after spending five minutes warming-up, I decided to see how far I could run in 10 minutes. The answer – not very far! When I got home and checked my training plan, I realised that the run should have been a jog at a really easy pace. It had taken me until week 14 of 16 to completely mess up one of my training runs.

An hour or so after I returned from my run, I opened my twitter account and discovered that I’d won a CEP compression recovery bundle. I love my CEP compression socks and sleeves, so can’t wait to see what arrives in the post! In the afternoon I treated my calf muscles to another enjoyable (?) session with the foam roller, and then had an epic afternoon nap.  Lazy but I wanted to give myself the best possible chance of completing my long run. In the evening I made myself eat a huge plate of pasta, watched Casualty, laid out my running gear for the morning and had an early night.

Sunday – Minimum 100 mins aim for 120 mins

The prospect of having to run for two hours resulted in me not sleeping very well. Some people function well on limited sleep, I’m not one of those people. When my alarm woke me at 05:30, getting out of bed was a real challenge. I went to the loo, got dressed in my lucky Sunday long run outfit, drank a glass of water and headed out the door into the dark. It was cold and the wind had finally died down, the conditions were perfect. If I failed to run for the full two hours I wouldn’t be able to blame the weather. After a quick warm-up I set off on what I hoped would be a successful long training run.

I set out at a sensible pace, and once my legs had warmed-up started to enjoy my run. The first hour of the run felt easy and was incident free. I had the pavements to myself and for the majority of the first hour managed to avoid any tripping incidents. Once again I managed to run up my nemesis hill without walking, progress. When I reached the top of what felt like the billionth hill, I realised that I ‘only’ had 40 minutes left to run. Predictably, those final 40 minutes were both physically and mentally challenging. After listening to the sound of my breathing, the occasional car and a really irritating stone that got wedged in the sole of one my trainers, I started to get really bored. I needed something to listen to, to take my mind of the monotony. Although I felt great, I wanted to get out of the cold and for the run to be over. When the timer on my Garmin finally reached two hours, I was relieved that it was all over. collage-35Slightly contrasting weather conditions…

As soon as I got home I made myself drink two glasses of water followed by a glass of some slightly dubious tasting nuun. I then spent a painful ten minutes with my legs up the wall. After a quick session with the foam roller, I spent far too long having a hot shower. I then went back to bed again and attempted to sleep for a couple of hours. I spent the remainder of Sunday trying to avoid using the stairs and eating far too much food. I also entered the inaugural Birmingham International Marathon.

So that’s the fourteenth and the most challenging week of my half marathon training completed. I can’t believe there are only two more weeks to go. Next week’s training schedule contains four runs and is described as the ‘start of taper’. Let the taper madness begin! Monday, Tuesday and Friday are my rest, recovery and rebuilding days. My legs definitely need the double rest day! I’ve then got to complete a ‘steady’ paced 50 minute run on Wednesday, a 35 minute ‘easy’ paced run on Thursday and a 60 minute run on Sunday.

Training totals

  • Runs: 48
  • Time: 25 hours 50 mins
  • Distance: 251.74 kms

Races/time trials

  • 5 km: 28:05
  • 10 km: 59:27

Niggleometer

  • Left foot: 4/10
  • Right knee: 4/10
  • Calf muscles: 5/10
  • Shins: 1/10

Can you recommend a lightweight and breathable running jacket? I’ve now tried a selection of so-called breathable running jackets and always end up overheating.

What’s the most useful item you’ve won in a competition? I’m predicting that my CEP recovery gear will be near the top of the list.