personal best

Taper terrors

After many, many miles ran and many, many hours spent running I reached 2 weeks to race day which on this occasion was when I would be starting my taper. A 2 week taper after 14 official training weeks would take me to the end of my 16 week programme.

There is lots of talk about whether a 1 week or 2 week taper is best but as this was probably the first time ever that I entered a taper on the back of a successful training period I do not feel that I can offer any expert opinion. However, one thing I feel strongly about is that you shouldn’t just get to your taper and think you don’t need to run. Your body adapts to the training demands placed upon it and I know that when I stop, my body feels weird as it wants to be active and moving. You just have to be sensible with what you decide to do in the taper week or weeks.

My taper week followed the same pattern of sessions but the biggest difference I felt was the removal of pressure on trying to hit a certain mileage and more focus on doing the sessions. I have talked a lot about aiming for 50 mile weeks so it was quite nice jus running and not worrying about the mileage I hit. However, this didn’t stop me having taper terrors.

I found that when I ran in this period I found myself completely panicking about every unusual feeling in my body during a run.

A slight ache in the hip. Oh no it’s going to go again.

A tight part in my foot. Argh. Plantar is back again.

My calf being stiff at the start of a run. I will never make it through a marathon without breaking.

I basically spent 2 weeks as a bag of nerves. It also didn’t help that I was on the Easter holidays for the whole two weeks. This meant my normal routine of cycling to work and being up and active all day was not happening. I spent my days focused around the running session. This may have been good in hindsight but it did feel a bit uncomfortable at the time.

Trying not to think about a marathon is hard, especially in the build up to a race, even more so in taper week. If I thought about it, I properly thought about.

I just kept reminding myself that I had a plan and we will accept whatever happens.

One night I dreamt I was at the start of the marathon, but had to queue up for my number. This took right up until the start of the race so I rushed to my pen. Then I saw that two elite runners were pacing my goal time but got into an argument and raced off early at much faster pace than they were meant to. Next thing I know is I’ve taken a turn down a road and gone the wrong way on my own. After a while I look back to see the other runners going the correct way.

Luckily this didn’t happen on race day but these thoughts all occur during taper weeks.

My advice is to do what feels right and try not to spend too much time thinking about it. You’re much better off having a chat about it then letting it stew in your mind.

Also, after getting to many taper weeks having to keep my training high, it is so good to reach one in good health. It is almost the holy grail of the actual marathon training. Reaching race day without missing runs through injury and illness.


Whistler Parkrun – 5k personal best

On my holiday I decided I would do the local Parkrun for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it would be a good way to get to know the area and meet some people. Secondly I haven’t done one for a while and it’s also a short run so wouldn’t take up too much time but I could push hard to get some training benefits.

I didn’t know much about the course or its profile in advance just that it would be a cool thing to do. It turns out that it was by a lake which we wanted to check out called The Lost Lake. We got there early and had a little stroll before I headed to the start area. There was two Parkrun volunteers there to run the event and I had a nice little chat with them and another runner about the area and general Parkrun chat. As we were called for the brief briefing, about 20 of us (if that) wondered over. After asking how many people had done it before, it was soon revealed that we were all tourists. It was a quick explanation of the route which had also been coned to further guide us round. We were told about a couple of points that might confuse us: a u turn after 2k and a cut back after 4K. Good to know I thought and felt confident with the reassurances of it being marked out so put it to the back of my mind.

As we set off the weirdest thing happened – I was in the front! I had opened up a small gap to some people behind me and as I realised this, I had a slight panic that a) I might have gone the wrong way b) what if I go the wrong way and they follow me! After a couple of minutes there was a fork in the road and I instantly wished I had listened better to course info. I thought for a bit that I was meant to turn left but just in time I spotted a cone in the distance and carried on straight forwards. Phew. As it went on I stayed in the lead and even passed Dani who was walking the lake whilst I ran. Asked how I was doing I declared that I went off too fast and expected to be caught.

Not long after this I approached the u turn sign and had a second moment of doubt. Do I turn before the sign? Or do I turn before it? Do I come back on myself or up the slope back towards myself? After a brief pause to check the slope and with nobody around to check I decided it must mean run back on yourself. It turns out it did mean this. Phew!

Turning back I was able to see the gap I had which was more than I expected but I also still thought I’d be caught at some point. I then moved to go round alongside the lake. The views of the lake and the backdrop were an amazing view to have. I was glad that I would have time to go back round it afterwards and soak it in properly.

Passing the 4K marker I was still expecting someone to take me before the line so I tried to just maintain my pace. The slight decline towards the line helped me out. I got to the line and stopped my watch. Having not looked down the whole run I had no clue what it would say. It said 20:32. A new PB. Delightful. And on a slightly hilly course. I also managed to cross the line first. I know it is not a proper race and it depends on who turns up but it was a pretty cool and surreal feeling. I came first in a Parkrun. Not sure how many people can say that. I know I won’t repeat that again in any race for a very long time, if ever, so I will appreciate that feeling.

Training has been going well so a PB is good but I feel that on a flatter 5 k route I think I could manage a 19 and change. Something I will leave until after the marathon in 6 weeks time!

Bristol 10k: The race

Two weeks after completing the marathon and after not doing too much running, I made my way to the start line ready to take on the Bristol 10k. 

I was heading into it not really knowing how to approach it. Should I go and enjoy plodding round or should I try to continue my personal best quest. 

I had done some calculations in my head regards the possible pacing. I knew that my training would put me in a position for a PB bit tired legs would put me off the sub 40 I would like to get. 

Still, in classic form, when the time came to get going I went off chasing the PB. I tried to find a rhythm that I could manage with my breathing that was of a good pace. To help with this I saw a couple of runners moving through the crowds at a pace that was what I wanted to hit. So following them I made my way through the other runners knowing that if I lost them I would fall off the pace completely. 

I’m pretty sure I went through 3K in a really fast 12 minutes and then continued to 5k in just over 20 minutes. However, it was at 5k that I really began to suffer. I had taken a sip of water and it really didn’t agree with my belly but I tried to keep going. At 6k, after a few minutes fighting with my central governor I had to stop for a moment feeling like I needed to be sick. I then ploughed on for another KM but it still wasn’t great so I stopped and almost tried to encourage vomit but it didn’t happen. 

The last couple of KM were tough but I managed to keep the legs going and along with a couple of brief stops, I approached the finish. I couldn’t muster a sprint finish and as I hit the finish line I stopped for what is become a now regular custom of squatting down to catch my breath. 

I had finished in 41:56 with a new PB!

As I walked away I even got myself on their video footage looking horrific. 

Still, I got my PB and without really training for it or pacing it well. It is definitely not my favourite event but think I will try again before the year is out, post marathon as I want to get sub 40!

Weymouth Half Marathon

This weekend I travelled down to Weymouth to take part in their 2017 half marathon. It was a really well run event with good marshalling and I managed to get myself a PB. 

The day started with a good amount of drizzle but it was not as windy as it could have been. I woke up at 645 to get some porridge down me but in hindsight I feel I could have had too much as I was trying to force it down near the end. We started our journey over at 7:15 to get to the 8:30 start time. 

I joined in the crowds walking towards the start and made my way to the start pen. There was a kind warning by one of the marshals explaining that the first bend is quite narrow so we should not race into it too much. As we started there was a short delay as I walked across the road and began the start of the race. 

The start of the race had a little loop round the pavilion before heading out along the sea front. I had a plan to keep my pace as close to 1:30 as possible which I knew would be a challenge for me. I found myself in a little group that were going at a good pace for me to stick with. I checked my watch and was a little off pace so began to move the pace up a little bit and picked a few people in front of me to gradually catch. 

As we got off the seafront I saw the 3 mile marker which was a bit disheartening as I was on the edge of my comfort zone. Soon we had to make a very sharp turn into a small trail section near the mini golf before heading back on to the seafront. 

On our return leg we passed the 7 mile marker and I spotted Dani and her mum in the crowd which was a nice boost. Although being told where I was in the placing a was not what I wanted as I hadn’t looked at the clock at all until then. (53rd apparently). 

The route is pitched as being a flat course and I had looked at it before hand noticing there were some inclines but nothing that looked too scary. However there was definitely more hills than I expected. The first couple were ok but then disaster struck. 

From nowhere I had a stabbing pain in my chest and I was finding it so hard to catch my breath. Basically I had to walk and although I tried to jog down the hill it was still hard to breath. I thought it was a stitch at the time but think it may have been more. It took me about a mile to get over this and I had to struggle through the hilly section.  

Once past this I managed to get back to some steady rhythm but I could not get it back to where it should have been. I then got to the downhill section, went in the underpass and headed back to the beach. The crowds as I approached the finish were really positive and I got many shouts which helped keep me going as my stomach was very tight. I then rounded a corner to see the finishing area and Dani waiting, only to realise I had to go past that point and do a short, but very frustrating, loop before returning to the finish line. 

The finish line was great as there was a brilliant selection of water and sweets for us to indulge in. Whilst scoffing my face I also bumped into Tony from Instagram who managed to get close to the 1:30 I was after. 

In the end I was pleased with a PB but frustrated that it was not quite what I hoped for. 

To find out more information click here 

Marathon PB EMF 2016

Edinburgh Marathon 2016 – Marathon Personal Best

This weekend I ran the Edinburgh Marathon and somehow came away with a completely unexpected personal best time of 3h27:07.

Start pen of EMF 2016

Start pen of EMF 2016

Going into the race I had talked about a knee injury and how it had stopped me training properly. This is true and the days after the race I really struggled to walk on it. However, through the race it did not really affect me – apart from a small part as I made my way onto the beach section of the course.

Going into it without many expectations meant I had not really thought about what pace to run it at. The previous night I settled on aiming to stay around 7/7.5mph and see how things go. Stood in the start pen I made a last minute and completely unplanned decision to run without music so I wound up my ear phones and put them into my zip pocket. I thought that I should try and enjoy the atmosphere as much as possible and hear my feet so I could focus on my technique and avoid injury. Another last minute idea I had was to tape my name onto my top. After running London without my name, I spent most of the course hearing the name ‘Tony’ shouted to the person behind me. This time it would be my turn. (I only suggest doing this if you are happy to acknowledge the crowd in some way, even if it is a tired glance/wave). This turned out to be a masterstroke and helped get me round.IMG_4880

My GPS was set on my watch before the start buzzer went to avoid any connection problems and it took 2 minutes before I made my way across the line. As I relaxed into my pace I felt comfortable and the few glances down at my watch told me I was going at around 7.6mph which was pleasing. At the 1 mile marker we approached Hollywood park and saw the front runners heading off out into the distance and then it was time to tackle a roundabout to come back on ourselves and follow them. I managed to find a bit of space so managed to avoid being cut up by other runners who were deciding to cut across rapidly.

Miles 1 to 8 are slightly blurred because I didn’t see any mile markers but was probably because I was too busy soaking up the atmosphere and it meant I was not clock watching. Without my music and lots of people on the streets I was really enjoying myself and running at a comfortable pace. About mile 8 I decided to have my first gel, estimating I had been running for over an hour.

I had planned to see Dani at mile 9 so towards this point I began to edge across to the left – like we had planned. It was a great boost to see her in the distance and because I was feeling alright I think it is the first time I have tried to have any dialogue with her when I’ve run past. Normally I’m struggling for breath!

My race changed from mile 11/12ish. From here it got really hard and I was really feeling my lack of training. As we moved through a really busy area for the crowds, it soon became quiet as we went off to do our long out leg before returning to the finish. I was having to try really hard to motivate myself and at 1h50 from the gun starting, the lead runners were coming back past us, which only made me realise how much longer I would be running for.  I was trying to set targets to reach before I even considered a walk but I couldn’t always make them, I had to walk and I hated myself for doing so. On the undulating hills I had to slow down too because I didn’t want to push my knee.

By mile 14 I realised I was going to need a distraction so took out my music. I only had it on quiet but it was something else for me to think about and I was hoping the shuffle would be good for me. The next 4 or 5 miles were tough and interspersed with some small walks. Mostly when taking on water or gels.

At about 4 miles from the finish line I decided to check my clock and see what sort of time I was on for. Here I realised that somehow, a PB might actually be possible. I kept telling myself it was only 5K – At best 22 minutes. At worse 30minutes. I still had 40 minutes to play with so I had to go for it.

Just as I began to feel comfortable with my stride I felt a very painful ‘pop’ at the top of my left calf like a ball of muscle had been pushed out. Disaster! Forget the PB I didn’t know if I could even finish. Pulling to the side with some colourful language I just tried to stretch it off. The pain eased and I got moving again – awkwardly, but moving. Then not long after it went again so I stretched and continued. This happened a couple of times and I found that if I kept my calf tighter it felt safer. I had to just focus on getting to the next mile and I told myself I could have a walk.

IMG_4909At about 25.5 miles Dani was there again cheering me on which helped. Although her shouts of ‘run faster’ were not helpful. The crowds lining the approach to the finish were great and I felt like an idiot when I had to stop before the final bend. Turning into the home straight I decided for some crazy adrenaline filed reason to pick my speed up. My right hamstring immediately told me no – as did my calf!

The main clock was approaching 3:29 and I tried to get under it but missed that by 9 seconds but I knew it was still a PB so that was okay. When I got my text with my actual time it was an even better PB.

Once home,  I had a chance to look at the medal and reflect on the fact I got a PB and also that if I trained better and stayed injury free I could go even faster.


Enjoying an ice bath