Tuesday, 25 February 2014

A personal best!

Ater a week of brutal storms,  somehow the sun managed to come out in all its glory on Saturday morning, as we lined up for the inaugural Valentine’s Weekend 10-mile Road Race on Saturday, February 15th. 
Thanks to this unexpected bonus of warm sunshine, the atmosphere was unbelievable at the starting line. The excitement was evident in all of the 620 runners who lined out.
Each had their own reasons for running - some just to finish a 10-mile race, others aiming for a personal best or to beat a previous time, and some just running for fun. 
I’m still not sure what my reasons were - but I was definitely aiming to try and get a good time, so the pressure was on a small bit. 
However, I tried to pretend that I didn’t care what I did in case it threw me, as I’ve learned that creating too much expectation can be a bad thing.
The support along the route was also an added bonus and it was great to see supporters clapping the runners. This positive support also showcased the best of Tralee, which is fast becoming a venue for great sporting events. 
The crowd really pulled us along on the first few miles as everyone was pretty much together as we travelled up towards Caherslee and out The Spa towards Fenit. The first few miles went smoothly enough even though I did find myself running faster than normal but I found I could keep it up. Maybe this fitness lark is working after all!
I hate The Kerries - I think that everyone who ran the marathon last year does - so I wasn’t happy when I turned down the Kerries road to head for Higgins Waste.
But actually, those few miles are not anywhere as bad as I remember from the marathon, which goes to show how your mind changes when you’re tired. 
I honestly thought there were major hills on that route, and while it can’t be called flat, it’s nothing like I thought it was. 
The really good thing about the whole race is that there was always a runner beside you, and there was great camaraderie between us all as we each pushed ourselves.  
A 10 miler is a nice distance I think - it’s not too long like a full marathon but it goes beyond the more normal 10k distance, so it’s a great achievement to have under your belt. 
The hardest part was the pull out of Knockmoyle and the road out to the lock gates. It just seemed so long - I suppose because I was getting tired. But thanks to a young spectator who fed me a Jaffa Cake, I was able to keep going. The sun beating down on my head didn't help I am used to training in hailstone so these conditions are not good for me. I am sure some people love sun for running, I on the other hand would have preferred it be overcast. 
I have to say thanks to all the spectators, as they really helped, and while it might not see like a big deal going out, it really does boost the participants. 
The canal was tough, but not as lonely as the marathon last year, so I got through, although I did feel like giving up on a few twists and turns. 
It felt like it took ages to reach Prince’s Street and finally the finish line was in sight, and a final push. 
I have to say I was thrilled to finish in 1.40 - a personal best for me - and I think a respectable time at last. 
I have to say thanks to Joanne Allman for pushing me, as I tend to get lazy and believe I can’t run faster than I am going, when I actually can. 
I think my training is definitely paying off, so for all those out there who think they can’t improve, just keep training and you will. 
This time last year it would have taken me two hours to do that time but look at me this year - 1.40 and it’s all from just doing my training, and nothing else. That's 10 minute miles which is fast for me and now of course the curse of all runners is that have managed that much I have to improve on it. Its a never ending cycle and what keeps you addicted to running. I don’t know if I can actually keep that pace for the whole 26.2 miles of the full marathon but hopefully I will do it faster than last year and that will keep me happy!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Marathon runners are mad!

I have to say IT: marathon runners are mad. We’re all mad - there’s no other word for it. Nobody in their right mind gets up at 6.30am in wind, hail and rain to run 18 miles - except lunatics.  
Standing at the Oyster Tavern on Sunday morning at 7.30am, I definitely came to the conclusion that nobody should be out of bed in this weather. Yet we managed to run 18 miles.
The first few were tough going though, especially with the hail hitting our faces. And let me tell you - it hurts: I expected to get home with marks on my face. 
Luckily, the weather actually improved and we had sunshine by the end. The wind nearly blew me away on Barrow Hill. I was actually running up Barrow and being blown backwards down it. 
Barrow Hill is hard enough without fighting the elements and boy was I glad when I reached the top. 
I didn’t have the best run on Sunday due to a dodgy runner’s tummy, so making it around the 18 miles was a feat in itself. But in my new positive mood, I’m not letting it get to me. The fact that I did 18 miles and felt pretty good at the end is enough for me. 
In fact, I even managed to run fast for the last few minutes - something I was never able to do before. 
And it was nearly worth running the 18 miles just to eat the homemade rocky road on offer after the run! I burnt off all these calories and then put them back on by eating chocolate - but who cares? I deserve it after getting up at 6.30am and running that far.
This weekend is a rest weekend, and it’s the Valentine’s 10 mile run. so it’s a relatively short one. I love saying that - only 10 miles! Sure it’s a walk in the park! 
Okay, it’s not that easy really, but when you compare it to 18 miles, it’s fine. 
I’m actually looking forward to the 10 miler: it’s a nice challenge but not too tough and hopefully I will do okay. 
I am, of course, looking forward to my heart medal - it’s the only heart I’ll be getting on Valentine’s weekend! 
It will take pride of place in my medal collection. It’s a very small medal collection but it’s getting bigger and soon I will have a second marathon medal too! 
I read back last year’s blog and I was super excited about reaching 18 miles and although it’s different second time around, there’s still a sense of pride and confidence that I can in fact run that far. 
I was trying to think the other day what my life was like before I started running. 
It’s only been over a year since I first joined ‘Born to Run’ but I don’t know what I did before. It seems so weird to think of not running - it’s definitely one of the best things I ever did mainly because I have a whole new lifestyle and group of friends. 
In fact, I’m nearly getting sad that the marathon training is now over. I can’t believe it - only one more long run to go before the big day. 
I’m actually feeling confident this week and I think I might be able to improve my time this year - or at least get home under the five hours anyway. 
I don’t want to become too confident as it will come back to haunt me if it takes me longer this year, but I think my running has improved. 
I’m definitely stronger which I think may also have to do with my strength and conditioning class with Tralee Tri Club, and that’s definitely a bonus. 
I’ve learnt a lot more about running and refuelling this year and if I can get over the mental block, I should be okay.
Here’s hoping anyway!

Keep on believing!

I’m back in action! My last few blogs have been a bit depressing and I was finding it tough to gear myself up for another marathon. But after a fantastic 15 mile run I remembered why I signed up for this madness! 
Since I joined the Born to Run club last year my whole life has changed and for the better and I know I can do any challenge I want to. 
26.2 miles is tough - but it can be done. And the only way really is to believe in yourself. I had forgotten that for a while - there will always be bad runs when it seems like you are not making progress, but you are, as every run means you are putting in the miles and getting fitter. 
It doesn’t matter if the 12 miles was tough or the 14 miles, every run is different and will stand to you. 
Maybe my fitness has improved in recent weeks as I found the 15 mile run relatively okay. I won’t say its was great - 15 miles is still 15 miles - but it wasn’t that bad. 
Not even Barrow could beat me and I made it up, slowly and surely. I always find the route from Barrow to Fenit long but this flew by as well, and while I was tired when I made it back to the Oyster Tavern, I think I could have managed a few more miles. 
The 16 miler was a little tougher. I did this on Friday evening after work as I wanted to take the weekend off and enjoy an alcoholic drink for a change. 
Once upon a time I was out every weekend - now it’s a rare occasion and one that must fit in around my training. So off I set on Friday evening so as to make sure I did my run too - that’s dedication for you! 
I actually missed running the route. As it was in Tralee it was obviously flatter but tragically I can’t say this made it easier. The first 12 miles were fine and I felt comfortable but 12 is my limit it seems, as I had to pull myself through the last four miles.
A fall at mile 6 also didn’t help and nearly resulted in an injury when I put my hands out to save myself and jerked my shoulder. 
Still feeling the effects of it, but I am hoping it is nothing serious. It’s not stopping me training - so that’s what counts.  
We included the last few miles of the marathon into our Tralee route and I am not at all taken with the ‘skinny mile’ as it has become known, from Mounthawk to Rock Street. It is the longest mile ever.  
I hear the conditions for the Saturday morning runners was tough, so fair dues to everyone who completed it in the wind and the rain. I had it easier and still found it tough.  
This weekend is only 12 miles so I am super excited as it is not a real long run. Imagine - 12 miles can now be considered a short run! 
We’re doing the 10 mile Valentine’s Route so I am looking forward to running that in advance. However, it has to be said I am not looking forward to The Kerries. Those few miles last year in the marathon were so tough that I have pretty much written The Kerries out of existence and I refuse to go there, unless absolutely necessary. 
I’ve made a promise to myself that I will not keep looking at my times anymore and just enjoy my training. 
Once I finish, I finish - but I had to have a sneak peek at last year’s 15 mile and 16 mile run and I’m on average 15 minutes faster than this time last year, which is a result. It may not translate on the day of the race but fingers crossed it will. 
Our next long run is 18 miles and then the Valentine’s 10 mile Road Race and a 21 miler and its time to taper down. 
That’s all that is left in our training programme and already I am having withdrawals. 
It has gone so fast this year it’s unbelievable. But it’s also exciting that in a short few weeks I will have another marathon under my belt.