2017, a round-up

As 2017 comes to a close, I’m taking this opportunity to look back at what has definitely been a year of two halves. This time last year I won a place in the London Marathon and my running year suddenly had a new focus! My training went really well and I enjoyed the challenge of taking my runs further afield, having not run a marathon since 2011, when I ran in Brighton. I trained hard, sometimes getting up early on a Saturday morning so that I could run the last 5k of my long run at Hilly Fields parkrun, the support of my fellow runners pulling me around those hard last few kilometres.

With this dedication to running taking over my life, I decided to step back to the 2.5km distance at my now annual Swimathon, realising I might struggle to fit in the training for the full 5k. Last year I had really enjoyed my swim at the Aquatic Centre, so decided to swim here again, even having a fly-by (swim-by?) from Duncan Goodhew partway round! You can read all about my experience here.

Swimathon

When April approached I felt ready, taking my place at the green start and looking forward to seeing my family and friends along the route through London. Training for and running a marathon is a long journey, with so many factors affecting your performance on the day. I ran well for the first half or so, then took an emotional and physical dip, struggling through the rest of the race. I think I realised that big races are not for me, finding it difficult to focus and riding an emotional roller coaster, whilst trying to negotiate a space for myself. After London Marathon I had serious post-marathon blues and Edward suggested running another marathon, using my training and hopefully achieving the goal I had hoped to reach in London. Five weeks later I stepped out onto the Cyclopark in Gravesend and enjoyed a calm, controlled and steady marathon, with space around to switch off and run my way to a PB. You can read a detailed account of these two events here.

My marathon

As June rolled around, so too did Endure 24. After my marathons I kept everything ticking over, running with my GoodGym groups and tackling parkrun for an extra push. Endure 24 is a 24-hour team relay, where I camped out with my friends and we aimed to have a team member on the 5 mile course throughout the 24 hours. It was an amazing experience, with my endurance training putting me in good stead to complete a total of 30 miles. Our friends had tried persuading us to participate last year, but I had been concerned about needing sleep, not wanting to run through the night. How strange (and delightful) then, to find that my favourite part of the whole event was the night-time run, where I had just the path ahead lit by my head torch and a sense of being alone in the darkness, amongst the trees, beautiful.

Team work

A quick look back over those first six months of the year and you will notice that I didn’t really stop. I barely allowed myself time to recover and went on to pay the price. My knee became painful and I found myself hobbling around and even being kept awake by the pain. Hours were spent at the physio, being given different diagnoses, from hamstring tendinopathy, to eventually finding out that my medial meniscus was not coping very well with the continued impact of all this long running. I didn’t have much choice but to continue running, since my work depends on it, but cut right back on track sessions and moved into the pool to keep my heart and lungs strong.

After taking part in the inaugural Swim Serpentine last year, I entered again, keen to have another go. Some time after entering, Swim Serpentine made an announcement about the London Classics, a new event for those who had completed the London Marathon and Ride 100. If you also completed the 2 mile Swim Serpentine, you would enter the Hall of Fame for the London Classics. I quickly got on the phone to upgrade from the 1 mile to 2 mile course and got myself down to the pool to make sure I was fit enough to take this challenge on. Some good, rough sea swimming on holiday in Cornwall was about as much as I managed in terms of open water acclimatisation, so it was a bit of a shock to the system to ease into 15 degree water in September!

London Classics

This year also saw me trying another new swimming event, the inaugural Marathon Swims. A chance to swim again at the Aquatic Centre, this time committing to the 5k distance (though there were people there swimming the full 10k!). I loved this new event, enjoying the format and the atmosphere and, of course, that amazing feeling when you pull yourself out of the pool, having achieved something great.

5k finisher!

There are just a few more days of 2017 left to go, with tomorrow being my annual birthday run, this time at my beloved Hilly Fields parkrun. With a year split between endurance running and water-based activity, it might not be a surprise to find out that I am keen to try my hand at swim run in 2018. There is so much to say about this particular challenge that I will give it its own post in the new year. Until then I will eat, drink (Alkoholfrei) and be merry.

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Shine Night Walk 2016, I did it!

Last weekend was pretty epic. On Saturday morning I was up bright and early (and it was bright, an absolutely beautiful day) to Swim Serpentine (I’ll post about this later in the week, it needs a space all of its own!) then, once I’d refuelled, recovered and fuelled up again, I was off out to take part in the Shine Night Walk. As I wrote about previously, I had initially signed up to walk the full marathon, but realised I would be unlikely to make a volunteering commitment the next morning, so went for the half-marathon option instead. I popped on my official Shine t-shirt, along with some quite, erm, eye-catching tights a friend gave me and headed off to Southwark Park.

Clown pants

Clown pants

The train was crammed full with people heading off out for the evening but, when I hit Surrey Quays, I discovered where the party really was! I was greeted by brightly-coloured marshals, pointing everyone in the right direction and found a park full of groups of friends and family, helping each other pin on numbers, adding fairy lights to rucksacks, fitting hairbands with LEDs and adding a splash of colour to faces with neon paint. There was a lovely buzz of excitement and anticipation as people got ready to walk.

Welcome!

Welcome!

I collected my rather cool flashing, lit-up wristband, prompted by seeing everyone else waving their arms in the air and headed over to meet #TeamSole in the backstage area. It very quickly went dark and the air became cooler (though conditions at this point were perfect) and crowds gathered to warm up and watch some short films, reminding us why we were doing this. The park looked so pretty, with lights twinkling and sparkling and a Mexican wave swept the first group out towards the start area and off out onto the streets of London.

Wave!

Wave!

A quick catch-up with my team, some final adjustments to my outfit, a last-minute sugar-boost with an orange Club biscuit and it was time to join in ourselves.

Is it Christmas?

Is it Christmas?

Now, I have run very many races (some with a bit of swimming and cycling added in for good measure), of varying distances, but I can’t recall having a done a walking ‘race’ since school, so I was unsure of what to expect and how to pace it. A very practical and motivating goal was to be able to catch the last train home (I know), so I estimated I would need to pace myself to finish in three hours. I take just under two hours to run a half-marathon, so this would take quite some brisk walking! There was a bubble of excitement as we headed out of the park, lots of chatter and a lot of strolling. The race is walked on open roads (apart from a short stretch outside the park), so you have to use your common sense and negotiate other pedestrians and obstacles. This is easier in some places than others of course and, it being Saturday night in London, became more challenging in the centre of town, where there was a fair bit of encouraging banter going on!

All that marching kept me lovely and warm and I found I really did need a bottle of water when I came to a fuel station (and the chocolate-covered biscuits were welcome too!). One of the things I enjoyed most about walking through London at night was seeing everything lit up (not just us walkers), with the London Eye being a rather warming shade of red.

Red eye!

Red eye!

With a few bridges traversed, we got to enjoy sweeping views of the Thames to boost our energy when we might be flagging.

River view

River view

My photos turned out to be quite blurry, due to the blistering pace I was going at, though I wasn’t at all bothered by blisters, wearing my Sole double layer socks (they’re lovely and toasty too, perfect for long walks). I found myself walking largely by myself, tagging on the tails of speedy walkers, who paved the way through the crowds, but never felt alone, dipping in and out of overheard conversations. The miles ticked down steadily, marked clearly by big signs and it wasn’t long before we made our way through the slightly maze-like Victoria (what is going on there?!) and took a turn towards the finish. Of course, there were still a few more miles to cover, but psychologically, this was a lovely turning point.

Landmarks caught my eye, Big Ben struck eleven (I had passed by earlier, when he was striking ten!) and I kept on keeping on. A walk across Westminster Bridge, the Saturday evening strollers along the Southbank to negotiate and the end really was in sight! By now, I had a feeling I wouldn’t make that last train, but this didn’t slow me down at all! I skipped along, eager to cross London Bridge and, when I did, I smiled as I saw a row of balloons bobbing at the edge of the river. Another friendly marshal (they were all so super and encouraging around the course) told me ‘Not long now! You’re so close!’ and I swept along, boosted by this touch of friendliness.

Nearly there!

Nearly there!

Turning a corner, I saw Monument ahead of me and leapt down a short hill to this sign:

13!

13!

Outside the Old Billingsgate Fish Market were crowds of supporters, a red carpet, a tunnel of twinkling lights and lots of music. I thought I had finished, so stopped to take some photos, then realised the finish line was actually inside! I passed through, hands in the air, looking around the vast space to see many walkers, now warming themselves back up with hot drinks, taking group photos and hugging family and friends. Such a friendly and supportive atmosphere! I was presented with my medal and soon heard a voice I recognised…

Bling!

Bling!

I turned around and saw a friend who lives nearby, a big hug and she introduced me to her team (they all work in an intensive care unit), telling me they have done this for years now, having also tackled the full marathon, check out all these medals!

Medal-tastic!

Medal-tastic!

It really does seem like people come back to this event year after year, loving the organisation, the support, the route, the atmosphere and the opportunity to raise money for a good cause, remember those who have been lost and, best of all, celebrate those who have overcome cancer and are maybe even taking part themselves. Entries are already open for next year, why not get a team together and start training now?!

Summer Round-Up

Arrrghhgh! Where has the summer gone?! I’m braving it and trying to keep the toes out for as long as I possibly can, but I felt decidedly chilly on this morning’s first-school-run-of-year-four (I know, year four!!). It really does seem like yesterday that I was picking Hector up from school with the whole, long, warm (?!) summer holidays ahead of us, and here we are in September. It was a lovely summer holiday, with lots of fun activities, many active…

Body Boarding in Dorset

Body Boarding in Dorset

Some less active…

Crumble-bound

Crumble-bound

Some that involved getting muddy…

In Deptford Creek

In Deptford Creek

And some that involved getting wet…

Royal Victoria Docks

Royal Victoria Docks

This last image shows the Royal Victoria Docks in East London. Some readers might know this from the London Triathlon – this is the same body of water that thousands of tri-hopefuls leap into each year. You can now go swimming here on a regular basis, so I thought I’d give it a try. The opening times are limited obviously, so I found myself setting my alarm for silly o’clock one Sunday morning, in an attempt to cycle over there, swim and get back in time to volunteer at Hilly Fields junior parkrun. Phew! It was, incidentally, the same weekend as the London Triathlon and some of the roads were closed and already being sped along by eager athletes, so I sort of got lost-ish on my way. It was ok though, because I found an equally bemused cyclist heading in the same direction. We chatted open-water as we pedalled and it turned out this chap was training to swim the channel. Yes, the channel. I bowed as much as you can bow whilst riding a bike. Needless to say, he was off in his speedos as soon as we got there, whereas I, in my usual nervous-numpty mode sat sadly on the side, unable to get in. You see, the steps that are usually there were not there, they had been removed because they were not safe. I was told it was ok though “…because it’s about twenty feet deep, so you can dive in”. To many swimmers this would be an invitation to splash, but I instantly froze at the thought of:

a) twenty feet deep

and

b) dive in

and gently swished my toes in the perfectly still, calm, golden sunrise water while others jumped in and swam off into the distance. A very kind coach came over and chatted to me, giving me some tips about what to do when I got in (roll onto my back, allow some water into my wetsuit). I knew I would be fine once I got in, but I was stuck. Eventually I gave myself a good old talking to and reminded myself that there was a kayaker lifeguard there to call out to if I really couldn’t do it. And shalumph, I plopped in and rolled onto my back. It was fine. I couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful morning for it and set off towards a big red buoy at a steady heads-out breaststroke. Numpty. I had decided that I would swim the 400 or so meters around and back to the pontoon and maybe go around again if I felt good. I did and I did. Maybe trying to do this kind of thing on a tight schedule is not a good idea and I should give myself more time. To get in.

Lots more open-water swimming was done on our camping trip to Dorset, some lovely sea swims after sandy runs along the beach at Studland. I am ok once I’m in the water, I just need to be able to ease myself in slowly. Maybe diving is the next challenge, but I’ll need to be pushed…anyone?

So, what’s next?

In three weeks I will be taking on the London Duathlon again. Remember last year when I pushed so hard (and neglected hydration and fuelling so much) that I threw up at the end? Well, this year I will be finishing with a smile on my face and hopefully not needing to lie down in a crumpled heap. The following week I will be stepping up to the Olympic distance triathlon at Hever Castle. I am properly nervous about this. Every time I read about it, it’s billed as being tough, with a ‘technical’ bike course and challenging trail run. But hey, the swim is in a beautiful lake (and river!) in the grounds of a stunner of a castle! Eek! There are events following these, but I’ll just get these two out of the way first shall I?! πŸ˜‰

Juneathon Week 4, A Round-Up

Oops, sorry, it was a busy week last week (an eighth birthday to plan and enjoy), so my Juneathon round-up is ever-so-slightly late! I’ve kept at it, I’ve been consistent throughout the month and really enjoyed having that little push on days where I might have given it a miss. My final week was a very wet one, trying to keep cool in the water. I swam a total of 6.5km over the week, not bad! Starting at my local pool, heading over here for Olympic Day:

50m of loveliness

50m of loveliness

and heading back to the Aquatics Centre for some birthday-boy fun at Extreme Aquasplash:

Extreme!

Extreme!

I must admit, I slightly wussied out on this one: I managed one circuit and quickly realised I’m not a natural faller-inner, preferring to cling on tightly with a fearful look in my eyes. I left the boys to their wildness and opted for a lovely swim in the 50m lane, pausing every so often to enjoy watching Hector’s antics. My Juneathon came to a slightly abrupt halt on Hector’s birthday, when I simply couldn’t fit in a formal activity (I was running around like a loon) so made up for it the next day with two activities (I’ve doubled up on quite a few days actually, something I hadn’t really realised I was doing!).

Wow!

Wow!

On the last day of June I ran hard in the heat, tackling some local hills, then found myself stuck on a hot train on my way to the Serpentine Lido, where I should have been carving through some refreshing water. I got there in time for the second half of the session and realised that I might just have got over my fear of the open water.

Lovely lido

Lovely lido

…which is perfect timing since I have my first open-water triathlon this Saturday!

Monday: A lovely swim
Tuesday: For Olympic Day, a swim in the Aquatics Centre then a tough hilly club run in the evening
Wednesday: A hot and sticky run with a friend
Thursday: An errand-running bike ride
Friday: Friday road date at the Velopark and a swim during H’s lesson
Saturday: Some fast and furious setting out of cones for parkrun and lots of mobile cheering πŸ™‚
Sunday: An awesome birthday Extreme Aquasplash session at the Aquatics Centre

Monday: Just a lot of running around after the birthday boy and friends!
Tuesday: Hot hill session (to make up for Monday) and a swim in the Serpentine

Again, another varied and fun week!

Running: 12.9km (oops!)
Swimming: 6.5km
Cycling: 51.7km

So, my total for the month is:

Running: 70.8
Swimming: 11.55km
Cycling: 116.2

…all across 35 activities πŸ™‚

Juneathon Week 3, A Round-Up

Are we really into the last full week of Juneathon?! It’s flown by! I always find June flies and start to feel particularly pressured at this stage, as Hector’s birthday approaches. Looking back over last week, it was another varied and fun week of activities, with a good mix of run/ride and swim.

Some highlights of the week were the fun club session on Tuesday evening, where coach Adrian had us sprinting around the park, doing step-ups in the playground, running fast hill repeats over the spirally footbridge, doing *ten* planks in a row and some relays in pairs πŸ™‚ On Thursday I ventured out with my wetsuit to see if I could get into the Serpentine without getting right back out again. I did – my coached session the week before had given me so much confidence – and found myself really enjoying it and pushing myself to swim 2k of the 100m lido (with the occasional flip over to bob around and enjoy the view).

Lido

Lido

As always I loved my ride around the road circuit at the Olympic Velopark, I pretty much smile all the way…Saturday saw me jumping on my bike and heading over to Burgess parkrun as Hilly Fields was cancelled because of the fayre. A whole load of HF runners were there, so a great atmosphere and lots of chatter at the start. It’s very different from Hilly Fields that’s for sure…flat as a pancake! As a result, I found myself pushing hard and running my fastest time this year (not a PB, but so lovely to see I’ve ‘still got it’).

Hilly Fields on tour

Hilly Fields on tour

The most fun of the week probably happened yesterday, with a trip up to the Olympic Park (again, I certainly make use of its ‘legacy’!) with our bikes for a Father’s Day present of a ride on the mountain bike circuit. Edward hired a mountain bike because his hybrid road wheels wouldn’t have withstood such a bashing and off we went.

Happy Father

Happy Father

I think Hector was pleased that it was less ‘mountain’ and more ‘bumps’ – he told me he hadn’t been sure about coming, good for him for going for it anyway! So, we bobbed up and down with lots of whoops and joyous sounds and found a nice little spot to enjoy our picnic in the sun. As we rode around, Hector kept looking over to the road circuit and asked if we could go on there. Of course, I was overjoyed to be able to share this with him, so we left Edward to enjoy the rough and tumble of the mountain course and headed onto the smooth road for a quick three miles. I did feel a bit odd on my mountain bike and wearing jeans, but so lovely to show Hector around.

Smooth

Smooth

We even decided to go there together over the summer holidays and do some road riding πŸ™‚

Monday: A quick lunchtime swim, not a good idea (lane hoggers and ladies-bouncing-up-and-down class)
Tuesday: My favourite summer time club session, with planks, bridge repeats and relays, fun
Wednesday: Lovely evening run with a friend
Thursday: My first solo swim in the Serpentine πŸ™‚
Friday: My weekly date with the Velopark
Saturday: parkrun tourism with friends
Sunday: Super family Father’s Day fun on bikes

All in all, a lovely active week πŸ™‚

Running: 19.2km
Swimming: 3km
Cycling: 56.5km

Summer Breeze 10k Race Report

(Almost a week after the event, whoops!)

I was intrigued by the idea of running a race that starts at 4pm and it was a good job too, it took me ages to get to Wimbledon Common from SE London! The Summer Breeze Running Festival consists of a 10k, half-marathon and a crazy 12-hour, through-the-night relay (or solo, really!). As we arrived I glanced at the hardcore few who were sitting relaxing around their tents.

Sleep-run-relayers

Sleep-run-relayers

I had imagined, with it being such a long series of events, there might be more to it and had dragged Edward and Hector along for the ride. There were a couple of stalls, a yoga tent and some live music, but it was quite low-key – this was ok because Hector soon found a piece of cordon tape to jump over for about an hour, before he and Edward moved around the course to offer some support.

Hi-five!

Hi-five!

It was great getting a (low) hi-five early on, it really made me smile and pushed me to go a little faster…

Wimbledon Wombling

Wimbledon Wombling

The course is lovely, all trail and through the woods. It had been an overcast day, but the sun had come out good and proper just as the race started, but the trees offered shade, although it was humid and this made it hard work. The course was very well sign-posted, with arrows, km markers and little hi-viz markers on the ground every-so-often. The marshals were all very friendly and encouraging, with smiles and kind comments all round. I loved the variety on the course, with lots of tree roots to negotiate and some really tough hills. One hill was long, up and up and up and another seemed to loom out of nowhere as I turned a corner. It looked like a sand dune (and felt like it in the heat) so I gritted my teeth, part grin, part grimace and went for it. Puffing and panting for air, I scrambled down the other side and enjoyed the pull of gravity back into the shade of the trees. I soon started to see the front-runners from the half-marathon passing by in the opposite direction, looking strong, so gave a few nods and well dones. At this point, the humidity was getting to me so I grabbed a cup of water and took a little slurp – not something I normally do in a 10k. As the race neared the last few kilometres, it took some interesting twists and turns – at one point I wondered where everyone had gone, only to find they had taken a sharp left and then right! We were now in the field with the finish in sight πŸ™‚ I saw the boys, Hector with his hand out for one last hi-five: “You’ll have to run with me! I’m not stopping!”. I could see a couple of women ahead of me and, out of nowhere, found it in me to give a sprint finish (no way!).

Bling shot

Bling shot

I was given a lovely medal, a t-shirt (hmmm, not sure about the colour though – men had blue, women had pink, but the *wrong* shade of pink, maybe something less pastel would be more suitable…please πŸ˜‰ ), water, coconut water, a banana and a copy of Women’s Running magazine. Lovely! Once the results were out I had a look through and found that a small field leads to some pleasing stats: tenth woman (!) and third in age group. All the more reason to run smaller, challenging races!

Juneathon, Week 2, A Round-Up

We’re half-way through, already?! What a week! A varied, hot and sticky, cold and wet, fast and furious sort of a week. I continued in my quest to overcome my open-water fears by jumping into the Serpentine Lido in my lovely new wetsuit:

Suited up

Suited up

I took part in a beginners’ session with RG Active, which saw me putting my face in the – slightly green – water and even managing to swim in a straight line! (I will write more about this in another post).

On Friday I got myself back into my date-with-the-velopark, which I missed for two weeks due to a certain Sir Bradley smashing the hour record and half-term getting in the way. I love my little trips up to Stratford with my bike. A quiet spin around the road circuit is just what I need at the end of the week, I always feel invigorated and floaty afterwards.

Post-ride feet up

Post-ride feet up

After a wet and wheely week, my weekend was all about the running. On Saturday I volunteered up at Hilly Fields parkrun then headed over to Wimbledon in the afternoon for a lovely 10k trail race (more about this in another post).

Blingy

Blingy

Sunday was all about Hector, the boy who ‘doesn’t like running’. A little while ago, if you asked Hector if he enjoyed running, he would say: ‘I like cycling and swimming, but not running’. Quite firmly. Since he started junior parkrun, he seems to have caught the bug! I had signed us all up to run the City of London Mile and, when I told Hector he would miss junior parkrun on Sunday, he left the dinner table to have a little cry. So we did both!

junior parkrunner

junior parkrunner

After some running (and volunteering from the parents), we rushed over to St Paul’s where I quickly took part in the women’s mile, then a quick number change and Edward, Hector and I ran our first race together. I was so very proud of Hector, he ran all the way, steadily keeping pace and, when I asked him in the last stretch if he wanted to hold our hands or go through by himself, he picked up the pace and said ‘By myself!’.

First race number

First race number

Monday: Last-minute before bed run, oops!
Tuesday: School run run, swim session in the Serpentine
Wednesday: Local pool swim
Thursday: Slightly feeble cycle to the station and back, too busy for anything else 😦
Friday: Ride around the Velopark circuit (sigh) and a quick swim during H’s lesson
Saturday: 10k Summer Breeze race in Wimbledon (tenth lady!!)
Sunday: Women’s Mile and Family Mile at the City of London Mile.

All in all, a lovely active week πŸ™‚

Running: 24.4km
Swimming: 3km 300m
Cycling: 43.7km

The Fit Family

The Fit Family