Running, Swimming, Cycling.

Not long ago, someone referred to FitArtist as a ‘swimming blog’. I thought this was interesting, since it started out ten years ago (yes, it’s our tenth birthday this year!!) as a way of logging my training for the Edinburgh Marathon, my first. It certainly helped keep me motivated, knowing I would be posting my training and also because I quickly built up so much support from fellow runners and bloggers. I shouldn’t be surprised that people might think it’s a swimming blog, having swum very many miles over those ten years (including throughout my pregnancy, right into ‘extra time’). Since I started logging my runs, I have run two more marathons, numerous half-marathons, 10ks, 5ks, parkruns (and I’m also Run Director at my local, Hilly Fields parkrun and junior parkrun) and now triathlons and duathlons. That’s a lot of running, swimming and cycling!

Just recently, my running has been plodding along slowly. A few months ago I signed up to the Hackney Half Marathon and have been training towards pacing 2 hours, in my role as trainer at GoodGym. A few weeks ago though, I developed a cough which wouldn’t go away, which resolutely ignored the two rounds of antibiotics I was given and sent me to my local hospital for a chest x-ray. I kept telling myself I would be fine, it would go away and I would be there, pacing hopeful runners to their 2-hour PB. Last week though, I saw sense and took my own advice for once and withdrew from the race. Did you see the weather yesterday?! I made the right decision.

Being a runner is hard work, being an asthmatic runner is sometimes even harder work. What starts as a cold develops into a cough, which lingers, putting pressure on you to slow down but, if like me you keep on at it, you end up feeling rougher for longer and regretting not taking a break in the first place! I learnt a lesson.

I’m so impressed with anyone who got out there yesterday in that heat, after a few very cold weeks of final training and taper, the temperatures soared and saw people postponing ideas of a PB and taking it easy, to just get around the best they could. It looks like the atmosphere was incredible, with a whole weekend of activity, including a 5k on Saturday, spectators lining the route, offering water/spray/orange segments to fading runners and an event village with plenty to keep family and friends entertained. Pacers paced beautifully, hitting targets, even under such challenging conditions and finishers went home smiling, sporting a rather cool ‘sheriff’ type medal – so do they have the freedom of the streets of Hackney now? 😉

You can pre-register for next year (and hope it’s a little cooller on the day!) here.

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Vitality Run Hackney Half-Marathon

I’m doing it, why don’t you sign up too?

I’m feeling inspired by my muddy 10k race yesterday (more to follow later in the week) and by friends who took on a half-marathon challenge over the weekend. The last half-marathon I ran was back in March, so it’s been a while – I guess I have been slightly distracted by various tri- and duathlons 😉 When I ran my last half, I was really chuffed to get a personal best time of 1 hour 53 minutes and 34 seconds, but commented that I would love to go sub-1:50. Now there’s a goal for my Spring half!

Image: Vitality Run Hackney

Image: Vitality Run Hackney

The race starts and finishes at Hackney Marshes (my old training route from back in the North London day), passing through closed roads and taking in some of the East End’s iconic landmarks such as the Hackney Empire and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The course is fast and flat (PB here I come!) and we are promised plenty of entertainment to keep us going/distract us from our pain along the way. Finishers are rewarded not only with the glow of achievement at completing their challenge, but also a chunky medal, a Brooks Running technical t-shirt and a goody bag.

Image: Vitality Run Hackney

Image: Vitality Run Hackney

Maybe you missed out on a place in the London Marathon and want something to work towards, or hope to tackle your first half-marathon or, maybe like me, you have a time you want to beat. Sign up now and secure a place for May 8th – 13,000 runners took part in 2015, but places sell out fast!

And just in case you’re not convinced:

– A single lap run through the heart of Hackney.
– Start/Finish in Hackney Marshes.
– Race starts at 9am.
– See Hackney! Hackney Empire, Broadway Market, London Fields.
– Follow in the footsteps of legends through Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park taking in the Stadium, Copper Box and Velodrome.

– A fantastic Brooks Technical T-shirt for all finishers.
– Incredible Hackney supporters.
– Fantastic live entertainment along the route and in the Race Village.
– Stay refreshed at regular drink stations.
– A great goody bag.
– Live race results and text message with your official time.
– Secure bag-drop and changing facilities.
– A much deserved FREE post-race massage.
– And don’t forget the bling… an EPIC medal to wear with pride!

Thank you to Vitality for giving me a place in this race, I’ll do you proud 😉

Richmond Half Marathon…PB Potential

Yup, another half-marathon PB in the bag!

As always, the journey to the start of a Sunday morning race in London is as challenging as the race itself, so I found myself on a freezing cold platform – thankfully with a friend – at silly o’clock with an epic journey ahead. The heat of the tube is always sleep inducing, so a brisk walk to the start of the Richmond Half-Marathon was welcome! As we were cutting it fine, I didn’t really have time to take in all the things on offer, focussing instead on the queue for the loos and the sign for the baggage tent. Hurry, hurry, hurry! Having volunteered recently in the baggage tent at the Winter Run, all future baggage tents will seem pale in comparison…this one was a bit DIY: show your number to a (very smiley) marshall, find a table/area with your number above it, leave bag. It worked though, but I certainly wouldn’t leave anything of value!

After a few more last minute nervous adjustments, Jacqui and I looked for the 1.50 pacer flags, having a brief chat and ‘good luck!’ with another friend Ronnie who was pacing the 2 hour group (well done to the pacers, it must be hard work running with a great big flag bobbing around). I was feeling a little nervous and also uncertain about how this would go, after my uncomfortable and slightly unhappy race in Brighton a month ago, so decided I would just see how I felt and, if things felt good, I would aim to beat my Brighton time. The pacers headed off quite fast, faster than 1.50 pace and I soon lost sight of them (and Jacqui!). This race has a very varied course and the roads are not closed (though carefully marshalled), so you do find yourself negotiating kerbs, shop signs, bus-stops and so on and the first section is not exactly scenic. We skirted around the high wall of Kew Gardens and passed by Kew Bridge then took to the Thames path. It hadn’t occurred to me to wear trail shoes, but this whole section was pretty rough under foot, with gravel and the odd raised rock, so my imagined views of rowers gliding across the water were forgotten as I concentrated hard on the path ahead. It did become quite congested here and I saw the first of the four falls I witnessed throughout the race.

I was feeling good, and my pace was steady, it was quiet, with everyone concentrating hard, just a thud thud and the heavy breathing of other runners. There were whole sections where friends and family had come out to cheer and the support was great, I also found the marshals very friendly and encouraging. I had decided to stick to the same fuel strategy as Brighton Half, and had two gels stashed in my pocket, one for the 10k point and one for the ten mile point, if I needed it. The water stations were frequent enough, but the water had been poured into cups, not so great! It’s so much better if you can grab a small bottle and sip as you go, washing down a gel if you need to, but the cup means you either drop it, squish it into the air or throw it at your face (I did a combination of the above). I got through though, but could have done with being a bit more hydrated later on as the sun came out. There were some nice wooded areas and some running on grass, which I think some people around me struggled with – it’s a good idea to include this kind of running in your training for this race, so you don’t find yourself stumbling as you get tired and lose form.

As always, I had missed a few mile markers along the way, so was delighted as the miles seemed to tick away nicely and we were soon enough heading for the Old Deer Park and the finish. I picked up my feet and kept the pace steady, trying to catch up with a woman ahead as a goal. All of a sudden we found ourselves running through a working car park to a little tunnel under the road, then onto the grass of the park and a ‘400m to go!’ sign. Thinking this sounded really short, I picked up the pace then noticed the course looped and turned and the finish looked miles away! Here the crowds were excellent, really pushing us along to the finish, one last push and I was pausing the Garmin at 1 hour 53 minutes and 34 seconds, so three minutes off my Brighton time 🙂

I had had a feeling the goodies might be good, and was chuffed with my medal, t-shirt (fitted, one that you can actually run in!), buff and a Whole Foods bag with a selection of snacks and not one but three drinks: water, juice and coconut water! Perfect to sip and snack on as you stretch and recover.

I’m really pleased with my time, but mostly pleased that I actually enjoyed it and have recovered really well – I do think I was coming down with a nasty cold before I started running at Brighton, so not the ideal situation. Now, of course, I’m wondering if I can get under the 1.50 mark, now that would be amazing!

PB Face

PB Face

Sub-2 Half-Marathon

It’s been a long time coming, but I did it! I had signed up to the Brighton Half-Marathon months ago, along with about ten friends from Hilly Fields parkrun, it was to be a full-on weekend of pasta, chat, post-race fish ‘n’ chips with a little run in the middle. My training was going well, with the requisite number of long runs in the bag and I had possibly even got over my stitch/cramp/stomach troubles. Yes, I know, you can feel a big ‘but’ coming can’t you? The Thursday a couple of weeks before the race was to be my long (13 mile) run, and I set off on possibly the most bitterly cold day so far, into a sleety London. I weaved in and out of the Thames path, heading westwards from Greenwich, keeping my head down, and trying to keep warm. I ran over the Millennium Footbridge towards St Paul’s Cathedral, paused for a moment at the ten mile+ point to take on a gel and, when I tried to start running again, felt an incredible pain in my right leg, just behind my ankle, on the inside. I gritted my teeth and tried to keep going, but it just seemed a silly thing to do. I did, however, need to get home! I had my Oyster card with me, so hobbled to Charing Cross, bought a big hot drink to attempt to keep myself warm and sadly took the train home 😦

The next couple of weeks included one ok-ish run, one dreadful, aborted run and a couple of swims, not great pre-race preparation. The biggest thing to take a knock was my confidence as I became nervous about running in case I did myself some permanent damage, really! As the race day approached, I had to make a decision – my room was booked, as was the train and I had been really looking forward to the social side of sharing the experience with friends. I decided that the problem was possibly due to having really tight calf muscles and that maybe I could be ‘fixed’ by a sports massage, so I booked myself in on the Friday before. I hadn’t really had a sports massage before, so didn’t know what to expect – including being a bit clueless about what to wear. A little call-out on Twitter proved useful, as did this blog post over on Magpie in the Sky (I opted for bra and pants for the massage, in case you’re wondering). The therapist talked to me for a while and went on to assess my posture and so on before giving my calf muscles a good old kneading, in fact he didn’t make it above my knees because the calves really were ridiculously tight! He showed me some stretches, which are the ones I normally do anyway, so I guess I need to do more and maybe self-massage before and after a hard session.

And so to the run. I was very nervous, not having run for about ten days! The evening before was lovely, meeting friends at an Italian restaurant for piles of pasta mostly (I opted for risotto, my tried-and-tested pre-race dinner). Of course, my sleep was rubbish, the usual waking every hour or so with a mixture of nerves, excitement and anxiousness about my alarm not going off. When it was eventually time to get up, it was a beautiful day, a lovely golden glow accompanying the sound of seagulls. Down went my porridge, banana and cuppa and after hanging around nervously adjusting shoe laces and so on, I decided to head over to the start. A quick hug from my friend Sarah, a quick loo trip and I met another friend Hugh at the start pens. Hmmm, now this is something they need to review and get right for next year. I was supposed to be in the ‘yellow’ pen as indicated on my race number, but there was nothing to show you where to go, and people were simply piling in from the back. Hugh and I ducked to the side and walked along a bit, but found ourselves in a bit of a crush of people all trying to join the crowd…with a couple of minutes to go until the countdown.

Soon enough we were off, sort of…a slow amble towards the big pink arch. Hugh soon disappeared into the distance, looking very strong. I saw a mile marker and we turned to head out East. This stretch felt like a long slow hill that went on and on until an eventual turning point where I could hear sounds of relief then groans as we realised we were now running into the wind (I say wind, it wasn’t that bad, the wind that picked up later in the day would have finished me off!). At this point I started seeing friends on the other side of the road: a high-five from a very determined looking Roni, a wave from Emma, all giving me a boost and making me run a little faster 🙂 At the drinks station I grabbed a bottle and took a few gulps, I was determined to keep myself hydrated and not suffer the hideous cramp that has troubled me in races in the past year. I sipped, swooshed and gulped down a gel, probably dribbling a lot of it down my chin. Nice. This next bit was long and hard. I now started to see the fast(er) runners heading finishwards, light on their toes and fresh faced. I looked ahead and wondered where my turning point would come. The beach huts to my left didn’t seem to stop, so I had a way to go yet. ‘Pick up your head, run tall, lift your feet!’ I told myself. At last, at about the ten mile mark, we turned and I felt an enormous sense of relief. I decided at this drinks station to walk a bit, take a good drink, another gel and then get my head down for the last three miles. Now my leg started to hurt again, and then my knee, it was all feeling a bit rubbish. With a combination of walking a little then running, I got a little bit closer to the pier and the big wheel that looked so far away. At this point I spotted Andrew across the way. This was Andrew’s first half-marathon and he hadn’t been so sure about even starting a few days before, so it was such a joy to see him still going, still smiling and our little high-five really gave me the push I needed.

I picked up the pace for the finish (maybe a little earlier than I should have done!) and crossed the line in 1 hour 56 minutes and 21 seconds. The last half-marathon race I ran and achieved a PB at was the Cardiff Half in 2010, where I ran 2 hours 12 minutes, so I’ll have that! I wandered rather vaguely around the finish area, not knowing where my friends would be, grabbing my bag to layer up and get warm, downing a cup of tea, then heading towards this lovely post-run lunch when I eventually worked out where we were meeting…

Re-fuel

Re-fuel

Gradually friends trickled in, some amazing PBs had been smashed, old form had been regained and first time distances had been conquered. We worked out that, between us, we had knocked over an hour off our previous PBs!! Well done Andrew, Em, Glenn, Hugh, Roni, Sally, Sarah, Siggy and Stephen, all an inspiration 🙂

Cold but happy

Cold but happy

New Year’s Resolution!

Really, that’s what a parent at the school gate had the cheek to call out the other day as I ran past. She clearly doesn’t know me!

Happy New Year and good luck to any of you who are trying to stick to new year’s resolutions, I don’t have anything against them, I just think January is a crap time of year to deprive yourself! It’s the perfect time to try something new and commit to getting fitter though and, with so many group initiatives to help you along, you won’t be alone. This year I’m logging my activities on Jantastic as part of the Hilly Fields parkrun group. I did this last year and found it gave me a real focus and helped me commit to a set number of runs/swims a week. Another group endeavour I’ve taken part in previously is Janathon, where you jog, blog and log every day for the month. It’s a great way to receive some support and encouragement to get you out there (and there are prizes too!).

I thought this might be a good time to look back over some achievements in 2014 and look forward to some new challenges in 2015. Last year was a fantastic year for my running, with a new direction and a new pace. My regular involvement with Hilly Fields parkrun helped me make lots of new running friends and encouraged me to become a regular at Kent Athletic Club, which inevitably helped me to get a bit faster, at last ducking under the 25 minute mark for 5k, something I had been aiming towards for a long time. This sense of camaraderie also saw me entering more races and smashing my 10k PB along the way. 2014 was also the year I tried triathlon, with a local race at Crystal Palace really giving me the bug. This new interest made me realise just how much I love cycling and led to me competing almost to the point of collapse at the London Duathlon in September (it hasn’t put me off wanting to do it again!). I also took part in my first sportive, hopefully the first of many.

It was a good, consistent year, giving me a strong base to move forward with this year. First up is the Brighton Half-Marathon in just a few weeks. I haven’t run this distance in a very long time, with the Cabbage Patch 10 being the longest recent race, so I’m steadily building up towards the 13.1 miles. This is going to be a very sociable one, with a group of us heading down from Hilly Fields, and Edward and Hector coming to cheer us on. A month later I’ll be facing the distance again, with the Salamon City Trail Richmond Half-Marathon – I enjoyed Richmond Park so much in the duathlon, that I wanted more! There are still places available, and you can also enter the 10k race alongside it. I’m hoping to get a place in the Crystal Palace Triathlon again, it was such good fun last year and, for my birthday, I was given entry to a triathlon, so went for the Hever Tri in September. I decided to set myself a greater challenge by entering the Olympic distance race, so that’s a 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run. I’ll definitely need to work towards this one, especially the swim, which is in open water, expect lots of posts about tentative dips in slimy ponds…

For now I’m ticking off my four runs and three swims a week on Jantastic, and keeping it interesting by visiting some lovely locations. Good luck with all your running/swimming/riding adventures in 2015!

Aquatics Centre Mile

Aquatics Centre Mile

Only three more sleeps

Until the Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon! Right now I have that silly pre-big-race thing going on, where you don’t feel like a runner, imagine that you will forget how to put one foot in front of the other and over-react to any little niggle or sniffle as if you might be incubating the plague. I am just fine, and I know I can run 13.1 miles on Sunday and I will aim to simply enjoy the route through the Royal Parks, enjoy the views, the atmosphere and that lovely feeling afterwards as I set off home to a delicious lunch prepared by Edward.

On Sunday I had intended running a 10k, but I was torn as Edward and Hector set off to the swimming pool, so decided to run alongside them and join them in the pool, then I ran home afterwards. Hector is really storming ahead with his swimming, ducking his head in the water, jumping off any available surface and even swimming a metre or two by himself, these are moments not to be missed. As I wrestled to put on my slightly sweaty running gear in the cubicle, I marvelled at triathletes who manage to morph themselves into three different sporting personas over the course of a race, taking in their stride the transitions between various sets of clothing. With my twisting and grunting and need to smooth out any wrinkles for fear of rubbing, I don’t think I’m cut out to do a triathlon!

Time: 42 minutes 3 seconds (with a swim break in the middle)

Distance: 4.31 miles

Average Pace: 9.45

Best Pace: 6.34

Calories: 84

This postponement of my longer run meant I had to fit it in on Monday morning after dropping Hector off at nursery. I headed towards Greenwich, enjoying the last drops of sunshine that October was squeezing out of the sky and a lovely view of the Cutty Sark, slowly emerging from the scaffolding and reaching out triumphantly towards the Thames.

Time: 58 minutes 16 seconds

Distance: 6.01 miles

Average Pace: 9.42

Best Pace: 2.10 (a blip, surely?!)

Calories: 113

On my return, I was greeted by a delivery man with a big box I wasn’t expecting, it turned out to be a bumper pack of Lucozade Sport products for me to try out. It’s a shame it didn’t come a few weeks ago, because it would have been great during my half-marathon training, but I will use some of the products on Sunday and in future runs. In the meantime, I grabbed a bottle of Lucozade Sport Lite on my way out to Zumba on Monday evening, feeling that I really needed the extra help at 7pm (I normally just take a bottle of water). When we got there I took a gulp, but the lemon and lime flavour was a bit sharp after just brushing my teeth! I’m not sure if the Lucozade can take any credit, but I really went for it, jiggling around and waving my arms like I just don’t care! I did overdo it on one move though, and have had an achy butt cheek and hip since then, I’m hoping it rights itself by Sunday. So, I’m not sure how much running I will fit in between now and Sunday, maybe just a couple of really short ones to test the butt and keep everything alert.

Not Quite Half

On Sunday I was supposed to be joining my running-blogging buddies down in Folkestone, a mere hour or so away from where I live. I enjoyed the Twitter build-up and the general sense of camaraderie and looked forward (mostly) to the after-race social bit, so was rather pissed off peeved when I realised I simply couldn’t get there. The training had gone ok, and I had managed to avoid injury, unlike some of the other runners, so not making it to the start line due to crappy travel challenges was very frustrating. However, I got over my sulking last week by taking myself off to the running track and gasping my way round a four mile circular run.

I was ridiculously excited by viewing this run on a map!

Time: 42 minutes

Distance: 4.35 miles

Average Pace: 9.40

Best Pace: 6.50

Calories: 63 (Garmin got back to me and suggested taking the battery out of the HRM then putting it back in to re-set, it doesn’t seem to have helped, any ideas?)

My average HR was 186 and my maximum HR was 200!

When Sunday arrived, I decided to try for a ten miler that would get me home in time to follow the Twitter excitement, beamed live from Folkestone by @richeginger. I set off down the Waterlink Way, planning to run down to Beckenham Place Park, fancying a change from the usual diverted Greenwich route. Early on in the run I was passed by two tall, athletic types who eased past me as if I were invisible, though I don’t know how they missed me in my bright green Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon t-shirt! Sometimes this sort of (lack of) encounter gives me a boost to run harder, try to catch them up (ha!), but today it just made me feel fat and slow and made me drag my feet. As I ran, my stomach started to play up again, something I am slightly concerned about ahead of the Royal Parks Half in just over a week. I lifted up my torso, breathed deeply and tried to ignore it, but I soon realised I wasn’t going to make it as far as Beckenham Place, so decided to turn at the two-mile point, head home and take it from there.

It was getting hot out there, even though it was still only about nine o’clock, so it was a relief to pop home, take a moment to think about whether I could carry on, wipe my face and head back out of the door, refreshed. From here it seemed logical to head Greenwich way – if I ran to the seven mile point then turned for home , it would make ten miles. I felt much better now, and pleased with myself for not ducking out. As I neared Greenwich I saw signs for the Run to the Beat half-marathon, which was taking place later that morning, and picked up on the buzz around the area as runners started to make their way over to the start. I reached the water and, just behind me, the clock on the old hospital struck ten. I thought about my fellow runners who would now be crossing the start line, and wished them luck as I took a sip of my juice/water/salt combo and looked at the sparkling Thames in front of me.

On my return, I eagerly checked the computer to see how things were going in Kent. I am proud to say that all of the Fearsome Folkestone Four made it up The Hill and struggled through the heat to cross the line with smiles on their faces. You can read about Cassie’s half-marathon debut here, how Helen overcame a painful foot and a heat aversion here, Shaun’s speedy PB chaser here and Cathy has some exciting news about her next big race here.

Time: 1 hour 42 minutes 6 seconds

Distance: 10 miles

Average Pace: 10.12

Best Pace: 5.31

Calories: 177