Dublin Marathon: Decision Time

box-hill-walk

Gorgeous views from Box Hill last weekend!

I’ve drafted and re-drafted this post sooo many times, and then I dithered over whether or not I should even publish it. But here it is.

I have a habit of setting big goals, and putting quite a bit of pressure on myself to meet them. And I’m pretty hard on myself when things don’t go to plan.

So this decision was really hard.

A few weeks into my Dublin Marathon plan, I caught a nasty cold and was out of action for a couple of weeks. When I finally got back into my running shoes, things just… didn’t feel quite right. My breathing wouldn’t settle, my legs were heavy, and even the shorter ‘easy’ runs felt like a struggle.

I hate to say it, but I kind of fell out of love with running.

I blamed it on taking a break, I blamed it on the freakishly hot weather we’ve had, I blamed it on work… But what I eventually realised was that for whatever reason, my heart just wasn’t in it anymore.

I feel a bit crap admitting it, if I’m honest!

The thing is, when it comes to marathon training, it’s not enough to just tick off the sessions on your plan. As the long runs get longer, it’s that mental drive that will keep you going – pure stubbornness and determination. And somewhere along the line, I lost mine.

I love running. I love races, and I love big city marathons. Standing at the starting line of an event I always get butterflies, and crossing the finish line is the best feeling EVER.

But I think I need to listen to my body, and accept that maybe 2 marathons (plus that little hike across Exmoor…) are enough for me this year.

So I’ve decided to DNS Dublin, and postpone my sub-5 marathon attempt to 2017. I’m going to work towards a spring race, which means training will start again a little later this year.

I feel like a bit of a failure for giving up. But I’m not going to stop training completely – I’m going to get back into parkrun; I’m going to work on my swimming; I’ll be exploring more walk routes in the Surrey Hills (suggestions or company are both welcome!), and I’ll of course be spending some quality time with friends and family.

It’s time to take some of the pressure off, and get back into running for FUN, not for finish times.

Next month I’ll be heading down to Devon to join my lovely parents for the Great West Run. It’ll be my Dad’s first race since his accident last year, and I’m really looking forward to running it with him.

Dublin, I’ll see you next year.

Have you ever DNS’d or postponed a big race?

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Dublin Marathon Training: #runnersnotrunning

I have to say, I hate missing sessions on my training plan. For weeks 1 and 2, I ticked them all off – even on the hottest day of the year. But I’ve had a cold for the past week and a bit, so last week – and this week, so far – have seen exactly NO runs.

This is sooo frustrating, as I was just starting to see some real progress! To top it all off, I joined my local tri club last week, and was excited to get some cross-training in, too. However, a tickly cough and a stuffy head aren’t really that great to swim or run with. Boo.

But I wanted to get outside and do something, at least – so on Sunday, James and I decided to catch a train to London and spend the afternoon skating. It wasn’t quite the same as a long run, has to be said, but it was good fun and a pretty good workout – especially given how tense I was! (A master skater, I am not!)

We got the tube to Green Park, and walked across to Hyde Park from there. We passed lots of very tired looking cyclists (unfortunately, the Ride London ballot decided that this wasn’t my year – fingers crossed for next time!) and even saw one rider setting off for a run in his kit! As if 100 miles of cycling wasn’t enough for one day…

We sat on the curb, got our skates on … and then James had to help me up, because face-planting the pavement would have been a rubbish start 😀

Skating in Hyde Park

Step 1: skates on, and managed to stand up – with a little help!

The main goal was for me to learn to control my speed and be able to ‘t-stop’. Up until now, I’ve always just skated into poles/walls/the person I’m skating with, which has worked fine for me 😉 But James wasn’t standing for it, so I had some work to do…

Pokemon Hunting in Hyde Park

James made some new friends at a local PokeStop… 

After a wobbly start, I managed to pick up a little speed and could manoeuvre well enough to avoid the huge crowds of walkers, cyclists, skaters and runners. And then James realised that there were a ton of poke stops and lures about (and a gym), so he picked a route that would periodically take us past them all.

I was having enough trouble keeping myself upright, so my phone stayed in my bag for most of the afternoon. James, however, was multi-tasking like a boss, challenging gyms and catching pokemon and skating circles around me (literally). Sigh.

Skating in Hyde Park 2

The expert vs. the not-so-expert (but I didn’t fall over, at least!)

Hyde Park

Skating selfie! Whilst standing still and holding on to James for dear life…

But I’m pleased to say that I finally got the hang of the whole t-stop thing! I’m still not great at using it to slow myself down, and I’m still working out how to stop at short notice, but I’m hoping that after a few more practice sessions I’ll be able to join the ‘Sunday Stroll‘ – a weekly guided skate around London.

Always good to have something to aim for, right!? 😀

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How did you spend your weekend? Are you training for anything at the moment?

Bluebells in the Chantries Woods

I’ve been itching to go and see the bluebells for a couple of weeks now (I live an exciting life, clearly!). Our neighbour recommended that we go and visit the Chantries Woods, and after looking it up we realised that it’s only a mile or so from our front door – handy! (Also, how have we not been there before now!?)

So this weekend we laced up our walking shoes, and set off for a wander.

Walking in the Chantries Woods

There are miles of footpaths to explore through the Chantries, and the North Downs Way actually goes through some of it, too – so it’s easy to pick up dozens of different routes. I can’t wait to get out there in my trail shoes for some long training runs 😀

Chantries North Downs Way

… Though we discovered at times that some of the footpaths we used weren’t actually on Google maps, so there’s a high chance I’ll get lost… But that’s part of the fun, right? 😉

Chantries Woods Bluebells

I even managed to get James to pose for a photo or two. He caught on pretty quickly, and stopped slowing down to wait for me after a while! And I learned to stop asking him to take my photo unless I wanted to hear him sniggering about how dumb it was 😉 Instagram Husband, he is not!

P.S. LOOOL, you have to watch that video. Absolute genius!

Chantries Bluebells

Isn’t this place stunning though!?

Chantries Woods

As well as the gorgeous woodland, if you fancy a bit of a climb there are some stunning views across the Surrey Hills.

They’re almost as good as the views you get on the Bacchus Half, which I still need to sign up for! (And so do you, if you haven’t already. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have on a run! Here’s last year’s review, if you need any convincing…)

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How was your weekend? Did you get out and enjoy the sunshine? 🙂

Race Review: Barcelona Marathon 2016!

Barcelona Marathon 2016 Race Review

Barcelona was marathon #3, and I had high hopes! I’d heard nothing but brilliant things about the city and I knew that the marathon had to be pretty epic. I also had my sights set on a sub-5 finish, which was pretty exciting (and nerve wracking), too!

On the morning of the race, we set off from the hotel nice and early, and within 20 minutes we were at the start area. (Thanks, Barcelona metro!) I left James by the start line, and made my way up to the bag drop. I was in and out in minutes (though there was a bit of congestion at the entrance) and the corral was easy to find and not too cramped. If only the run was this simple!

An added bonus was that the pens weren’t closed off as strictly as Paris, so no elbows were needed this time 😉 It might also have helped that there were about 20k runners in Barcelona, as opposed to 40k in Paris! Big enough for a good atmosphere, but small enough for plenty of space before, during and after the race. Ideal!

There weren’t as many loos as I was expecting though (I found a row of 4, and I think there were a couple more rows elsewhere), and there were quite a few non-runners in the queue; not what you want with less than 15 minutes to the starting gun! But I managed to get into my corral about 10 minutes before the front runners set off, which gave me plenty of time to stretch and mentally prepare for the day ahead. Barcelona was my second attempt at a sub-5, so for once I actually had a pace plan to stick to – nothing too strict, but a bit more structured than my last marathons. Gulp!

Luckily, the conditions were absolutely perfect. It was sunny, about 15 degrees, and there was a nice cool breeze (quite chilly in the shade!). After nearly frying at Paris last year, I certainly wasn’t complaining!

Barcelona Marathon Start Area

Putting on a brave face before heading off to the bag drop…

There was such a party/festival atmosphere at the start, with music playing and everyone looking fairly excited (with a touch of ‘AAARGH what am I doing!?’). There was a wave of cheers each time another corral set off over the start line, which made me smile! I also recognised the lady doing the announcements as she did the Paris Marathon ones, which brought back memories and added a touch of familiarity to the whole event (and she’s brilliant!). Definitely helped with the nerves!

We shuffled forwards, and reached the start line about 20 minutes after the gun. The organisers surprised us with a brilliant treat as we set off – we were showered in an explosion of confetti! (Pink, to match our corral colour). Looking at the ground, it seemed that each pace group got the same treatment. Such a brilliant touch, and really set the tone for the entire day! Other marathons, take note – setting off through a cloud of confetti is SO MUCH FUN!

I’d heard that the Spanish are brilliant spectators, and I have to say, the crowd support was the best I’ve ever seen. Within about 11 miles I’d already lost count of the people that had cheered me on by name, and I was getting high fives every couple of miles, too. Our race numbers had our names printed really clearly, which meant that people could easily spot them as you passed.

In a long-distance race there’s nothing better then catching your name and seeing someone smiling and clapping for you. It’s lovely and makes me all warm and fuzzy inside 🙂 At one point there was a row of students who all held out their hands for high fives – about 5 or 6 total! Such a lovely crowd!

Barcelona Marathon Arc de Triomf

Passing the Arc de Triomf, about 36k in… And mentally listing all of the tapas and paella I was going to eat inhale once I was done! 

The route was fairly flat, with a few little inclines in the first half (not steep, but some were a km or so long). The route took us right the way through the city, and past some brilliant landmarks – the Sagrada Familia, Arc de Triomf, and even a beautiful stretch along the coast. There was also a loop through a lovely park in the last 5k. However, there were also 2 long out-and-back bits, which I always find really tough; one at 18km and one at 26km. They went on for a few km each, and you didn’t see the turnaround point until you were almost on top of it, so they felt much longer than they were.

For the first half I felt pretty good, clocking mile splits of 10:30-11:00 (a bit faster than planned), with a few speedier bits on the downhills. I tried to pace myself, but I always forget how easy it is to get carried away at these events, and had to keep slowing down! Amazingly I didn’t take my first walking break until 11/12 miles, which is far better than I’d done in training. I hit half-way with 6 minutes in the bag for sub-5.

The second half had less shade, especially along the seafront and the bigger, wider avenues. It was lovely, and there was still a breeze (and a big shower to run through at about 21 miles, which always seems like a GREAT idea until I then can’t catch my breath due to the shock of cold – d’oh!), but I definitely missed the cooler early miles. I started taking quite a few walking breaks, but managed to get myself running every time the pace slowed towards 12:00/mile.

One point I will mention is that there are basically no mile markers on the course; it’s all done in km. (This quite surprised me, as I had expected a mix of the two). I was given the heads-up by the guy at the Asics stand when I went to pick up my pace band, who suggested I use the km version. I think I saw markers for miles 10 and 20, but that was it!

As I reached the 41km mark – where I belatedly remembered that the last 2km were up a very slight incline – I started to hurt quite a bit. My Garmin put me ahead of the km markers, so I had no idea exactly how far away the finish line was and how long it’d take me to finish. Things definitely got a bit tough here.

Luckily, lovely James was just up ahead to cheer me on (for about the 5th time – such a legend!), and when he saw my face he jumped in – jeans, satchel and all! – and ran a couple hundred meters with me. Before he left, he made me promise to keep running – so I did!

Shortly afterwards (before the 42km marker), my Garmin hit 26.2 miles, and read 5:00:26. If it was closer to the course markers, I probably would have felt more inclined to speed up for a sub-5; but as it was, I still had a good way to go, relatively speaking. But when I saw (what I though was) the finish, I sped up and clocked a sub-11:00 mile – which at that point was the marathon equivalent of a sprint finish 😉 …

… Only to turn the corner and remember that I still had another 100m to go. The second sprint finish was slightly less comfortable:

Barcelona Marathon Finish Line

Right at the finish… I was seriously hurting at this point. (Though apparently not as much as the guy behind me!)

I had to just grit my teeth and keep going, because who slows down on the finishing straight!? (Note to self: don’t speed up until you SEE the finish line. Ooops).

But the extra effort was worth it, and I crossed the line in 5:05:28 – which is an 11-minute PB, and 21 minutes faster than Paris Marathon last year!

Barcelona Marathon Medal

Another medal for the collection! (I was too exhausted to clock that it’d been put on backwards…)

I’m SO pleased, and SO proud. It shows that I really have made progress, and have the ability to run a sub-5 (maybe even 4:45…) if I push a teeny bit more! As it stands, I think I actually prefer having 5:05 as my official time rather than 5:00:26 – being so close would have seriously bothered me! 😀

And I’m happy to confirm that I did indeed have my tapas and paella – straight after the race! (Priorities, people).

Barcelona Marathon Paella Feast

Food has never tasted quite so good.

Thanks, Barcelona! 😀

Now it’s another 3-week taper before Rome Marathon on April 10th. Glutton for punishment? Me? Never!

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Are you running any races this spring? 🙂

Barcelona Marathon Training: Stop! Taper Time!

With just 3 weeks to go until Barcelona Marathon, I had one more big challenge to conquer before I could settle in to the lovely taper: my last and longest training run.

As I peaked at 18 miles for my last 2 marathons, and I’ve been struggling with a niggly tendon through a lot of my training this year,  I hesitantly aimed for 18-20 miles. The route itself was 20, but I wasn’t at all confident that I could finish it.

20 Mile Run Route

I like seeing this route on the map – it looks super far and makes me feel a bit awesome. The splodge at Weybridge was where I got lost and ran around in circles for a while. That was a little less awesome.

Despite the doubts, I was up at 6h00 on Saturday morning and on a train to Hampton Court by 7am. My logic was that if I stranded myself 20 miles away, I would have no choice but to run home. Also, I figured I could treat it like a day out, and that the navigation would take my mind off the miles.

It actually kind of worked!

Without further ado, here’s my 20 (!!) mile run summed up in 20 thoughts that popped into my head along the way 😉

1 This is going to be SO MUCH FUN. I totally don’t want to get back on the train and go home. Though there iiis one leaving in about 6 minutes. NO. Bad Lucy.

2 Wow, that’s a strong headwind. And I’ve really cleverly picked a route that has me running in the exact same direction for 20 miles. The wind has got to change at some point, right? It’ll totally change direction.

3 Oooh, 2 people have said good morning now! People are so friendly around here! I’m going to see how many more I can get!

4 Ok, 2 people have ignored me now. That game was fun while it lasted.

5 It’s actually quite muddy along here. Maybe I should have worn my trail shoes. The river is preeetty close. I’ll just make sure I slip left. I do NOT want to fall in.

6 Yes! I found my way off the Thames path! I am a navigational genius! Now it’s just a quick detour through Weybridge to the Wey river path…

7 Ok, I’m not a navigational genius. In fact, I’m lost. How hard can it be to find a flipping big blue RIVER?

8 Phew! I found it! I’ll be in Woking before I know it!

9 Ok, the Wey path is longer than I remember. I’m pretty sure I was meant to come off and into Woking around 13 miles. Did I miss the turning?

10 Ah. I seem to have added 1.5 miles somewhere. I should probably let my friend know I’ll be late. Scratch that, I’m already late. I wonder how long it’ll take to get to Woking station now? Where am I?

11 Woking station! And company! And a banana I just remembered I had in my bag! I’m going to be completely spontaneous and eat this now. Training is all about trial and error, and besides, I only have 6 miles left to go. What could possibly go wrong?

12 I bet my friend’s legs are feeling way fresher than mine right now. But I’m not jealous. My legs are STEEL. I can do this! I am a machine!

13 Ouch, ok, note to self: you can’t sprint across roads after 16 miles. Slow-motion hobble-sprinting only. Turns out, that’s a thing.

14 I’m going to walk this big hill. It’ll be a nice treat. Pft, yeah – heading up a hill, in the rain and wind, after 18 miles of running. Some treat, Lucy! Plus, the hill is taking too long. I’m going to run up the rest of it.

15 I could totally stop right now. I’ve already passed 18 miles, so it’s officially my longest training run. But my house is still miles away. I should probably keep going. It’s too cold to walk that far. And why is there still a headwind!? I hate you, England.

16 Traffic lights, DON’T YOU DARE TURN RED! If you stay green, I can stop and stretch and I can pretend I’m just waiting for the lights. NO! YOU TRAITORS! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME!?

17 Whatever. I didn’t want to stretch anyway…

18 .2 miles to go. I’ve got this. No more walking. Hm, I think my Garmin is broken. Maybe I’m actually at 20 miles now, and it just hasn’t updated?

19 Nope, that now says .1. Maybe it’s delayed. Is that a thing? Then again, that fence over there doesn’t seem to be getting any closer. Am I moving? I’m definitely still moving forwards, right?

20 IT SAYS 20 MILES! Take THAT, legs! I WIN! But wait a second… I’m still 1.5 miles from home. Looks like I’m going to be getting a warm-down walk. I can totally just tell people I planned this…

End of 20 Mile Run

The lovely @Pandy_Cakes met me at 13 14.5 miles and whooped and cheered me through the rain and the wind to the finish. When she would totally have rather had a lie in. She’s an absolute legend. Thanks Amanda!

In summary, I surprised myself. My energy levels were pretty constant, I was cheery for almost the entire thing, and I felt like I had something left in the tank at the end. My legs ached, but I felt good. Yay!

And to make things even more awesome, according to my Garmin stats, I’m still on track for my sub-5!

Garmin Stats for 20 Mile Run

… Which makes my face do this:

After 20 Mile Run

20 miles DONE, and 7 minutes faster than my 3h45 target!

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How was your weekend? 🙂