Baguettes for legs

In case you were wondering, I’m still hard at it for the Viceathon cause, well the eating baked goods bit anyway. I had visions of running every day while Edward had a week off work, but bugger me, didn’t we just go out and do fun things every day instead?! I have managed a handful of runs this week, one of which took place on a running track on Good Friday at 8am. You read right. I was delighted to see that our local leisure centre have started a series of outdoor classes for the summer: bootcamp, Nordic walking and – woohoo! – running club. So, I ran over on Friday morning to find it was just me and the instructor. This could have been slightly awkward, but I sort of know him a bit anyway because his family live across the road from us, and he was very kind and gave me my very own tailored one-to-one session. It was superb. I pushed myself running the five 400m repeats and managed to maintain my pace throughout, with only one moment where I very nearly threw up. This session actually made my legs ache, which is always a good measure of how hard I’ve worked (this doesn’t happen very often!).

On Easter Monday I kept on looking out of the window and saying ‘urgh!’ until I eventually decided it wasn’t going to stop raining, and took myself out anyway. It was quite lovely actually – there was hardly anyone around, apart from a few grumpy runners and two scallies who I was delighted to see were carrying a large potted plant through the park: ‘Ah’ I thought ‘how nice that they are taking an interest in horticulture’ and I smiled appreciatively at them. As I ran on it dawned on me that the big bushy plant was in fact marijuana and they were taking advantage of the deserted park to take it for a walk.

Today’s run was rubbish. I made the mistake earlier of saying on Twitter that I had ‘run a crappy six miles’ which, when I read it back, seemed very dismissive and wrongly worded. What I meant was that the experience itself was awful, I was pleased to have run over six miles, but hadn’t particularly enjoyed it. I really wanted to get my Viceathon debt down, so aimed to run a bit further than usual, but as soon as I set out I could tell things weren’t right. I felt heavy, tired and wheezy and ended up resorting to popping into McDonald’s to use their loo (this is a place I only ever venture into in running gear, head down, eyes on the little lady sign). I enjoyed taking  in the madness of Greenwich as film set, seeing the ‘Les Miserables’ scenery, complete with gigantic elephant. I then crossed over into the park where preparations are underway for the Olympic equestrian events. All this distraction didn’t help get me up The Hill, and I had to pause halfway and pretend to admire the view as I found enough breath to make it up to the top.

Greenwich, France

So, the Vice part of Viceathon has taken over somewhat this week, with home-made bread picnics and Easter Panatone given by visiting friends and Edward’s lovely little simnel cakes…and not much running. I did, however do a bit of cycling, and up hill at that, so will take advantage of this to shave off some miles (using a version of JogBlog’s 1 unit=2 cycled miles).

Edward's Simnel Cupcakes

I’ve done some workings out in my diary and have arrived at a figure of 10.94 miles in debt. I can get out tomorrow morning and work that down a bit further, but Edward is back to work on Monday and Hector is not back at school until Thursday…excuses, excuses.


A year ago today we were in Brighton, stuffing ourselves with pasta and getting all excited about the Brighton Marathon. On Tuesday we went for a day trip there, and it all came happily back to me. Good luck to all those running tomorrow, it’s a fantastic place and a fantastic race.


Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon

I’m not sure I should write this blog post right now because I can feel myself descending into the gloomiest post-race blueness ever – you train for ages and focus on something so closely that you feel a bit lost once it’s over. The fact that it didn’t go swimmingly doesn’t help either.

But enough of that! I was woken a bit earlier than I had hoped (6am) by Junior Coach and tried hard to keep him contained for another hour by hugging him really tightly and hoping he might go back to sleep, but was kept awake by the incessant chattering until we all just gave in and had our breakfast. It was grey out there, pouring with rain in fact and I felt a sense of foreboding at the thought of having to run 13.1 miles in the rain, my least favourite running conditions. I had been very organised and laid everything out on Saturday night, so simply had to put on my kit and go, but not before I had sat with Hector for a bit and listened to the Jacqueline Wilson ‘The Mummy Cat’ audio CD that was free in Saturday’s Guardian (Edward and Hector listened to the rest of it when I had gone and it was apparently very, very sad). As I walked briskly under an unloved cheap umbrella to the train station, I did a mental check of all my body parts to make sure they were in working order, things felt good apart from the still achy Zumba hip.

The journey was straightforward and I started to see runners once I got to London Bridge, always reassuring. The rain had stopped once I got to Hyde Park, so I dangled the umbrella on a railing for a spectator to make use of and headed to the loo queues. I stood there for ages, not moving at all and eventually gave up as the start time drew closer and joined another queue and then gave up and walked to the blue start. I chatted briefly with a friendly fellow runner and she said it was her first half-marathon and she was aiming for 2 hours 30 minutes, I had a time of 2 hours 10 in my head, having run a similar time at Cardiff last year. Eventually we were off, shuffling forward in our waves and being released onto the streets of London. I did forget to set my Garmin to search for satellites so ended up starting my clock a few metres past the start – oops, my first race with the new Garmin, I used to switch the old one on when I reached the race, knowing it took an age to get a signal!

It is a lovely route and I had a great feeling running with all these other people through the sights of London with a big smile on my face. My race high point was as we ran towards the Houses of Parliament. I watched the hands on the clock turn slowly and felt a rush of excitement as Big Ben struck ten, there was a collective ‘ahhhh’ around me as we all enjoyed this uplifting moment, what great timing! Everything felt good running along the Embankment, looking up and waving at spectators on the bridges, and feeling a little like a London Marathoner again. Here we started to see faster runners who had already turned around, but I was soon one of them heading back towards Hyde Park. I pondered for a moment on the mounted guards who sat, motionless as thousands of colourful runners rushed past them in a wave of excitement, how do they do it? After an enjoyable run up the Mall, we were soon weaving our way around Hyde Park on a route that, at times became slightly irritating, especially when I started to struggle. I can see why the road sections are at the beginning, so that roads can be re-opened quickly and normality resume, but it would be so much better to run the park first and have the sights of London to get you through the second half of the race.

This part of the race takes you through a beautiful autumnal scene with colourful leaves falling at your feet and huge crowds of supporters cheering everyone on. It does feel slightly disheartening to see faster runners looping back towards the finish line though and I had a moment of bewilderment when I saw JogBlog on the other side of the barrier and I couldn’t remember if I had already run that way or not. It was unfortunate that she saw me at that point, the point where things started to go downhill for me. I was guzzling water and attempting to suck a gel whilst walking for the first time in the race. It wasn’t a hot day really, not like last Sunday, but I felt hot and thirsty and found myself repeating my experience at London Marathon 2009, where I drank so much that I ended up collapsing in a heap with cramp. I managed not to collapse this time but, at one point I had such a painful stitch that was radiating over my chest, that I thought I was having a heart attack. I didn’t want to say anything though, because I didn’t want to get carted off in an ambulance! It’s interesting that I saw so many people being attended to by medics during this race, far more than at Brighton Marathon earlier this year, I wonder if it’s because some people take the training less seriously for a half rather than full marathon.

So, I had by now consumed both gels, guzzled a load of Lucozade Sport and topped that up with water but I was still struggling, time to plug my headphones in. Once again, Florence and the Machine came up with the goods and made me smile with these words from ‘Hurricane’:

‘I brace myself
Cause I know it’s going to hurt
But I like to think at least things can’t get any worse’

It worked for a while anyway. By this point I was walking regularly because the cramp was so bad that my toes were curling and making it hard to keep going. It was so frustrating, knowing how well my training had gone. Even though it all felt like agony, the miles did pass quickly and I was soon in front of the Albert Memorial, stretching my calf muscles (‘Are you alright ma’am? said a friendly marshal) ahead of the run to the finish. Here I passed the woman I had spoken to at the start and watched as she was cheered on by her family and how this support gave her enough of a boost to sprint towards the finish (I could have done with some of that myself) and I crossed the finish shortly after with a sense of relief and also happiness when I saw the beautiful medal, the nicest medal I have ever received.

There were quite a few of my fellow bloggers running the race as well (JogBlog, Helsbels, Fairweatherrunner, Fortnightflo, Abradypus and Plustenner – I hope I haven’t missed anybody out there!), and they had arranged a post-race pizza/beer/cake meet-up, but I had to rush/hobble home to a delicious roast dinner and friends, who had arrived before me -oops! I would say, it’s good to take you time recovering, I would like to have had a look around the food festival and refuelled straight away, but instead I jumped on the tube and felt slightly nauseous. Edward pointed out yesterday that things always go wrong for me in races, not in training (apart from Brighton Marathon, where I had a splendid time). I can see what happens now: during training I carry a small bottle of water or sports drink or nothing at all, and I sip this slowly throughout the run, but during a race there is water/sports drink everywhere and I feel the need to drink as much as I can, thus depleting all the salt in my body and becoming a wobbly mess. So I either stop going to races, or I put on water-station blinkers. Watch this space!

Here are the stats from my Garmin:





Are these my thighs?

I think my thighs ache more than they did after the Brighton Marathon back in April, damn those British Military Fitness squat-pushers! The soreness hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm for my knuckling down to half-marathon training promise, and I have been out and about being Ms Active for the past few days. Sunday was a non-running day. We had a children’s party up in Finsbury Park, so my activity was made up of a bike-East London Line-bike-party-bike-East London Line-bikeathon. The East London Line is great – you can take your bike on during off-peak times (check ahead of travel though, don’t take my word for it!) and we can get from near our house all the way up to Highbury and Islington before a small boy has given up and caused travel mayhem. The Islington side of the journey involved quite a hill, and I really did think my thighs might pop, but they held out long enough for me to test them again on Monday.

During the BritMilFit doo-dah on Saturday I was shown some mean new squats and a nifty little tree interval session, so decided to add this in to my morning run and see if it is possible to replicate such determined effort whilst on my own. It is. I ran at a fairly gentle pace as it was super hot then, dripping with sweat, I spotted my evenly spaced trees and went for it. Now, I am a focussed kind of person, but I am easily distracted by things that might interest a certain small boy. This meant that my first sprint was momentarily halted by a lovely bright green feather to present to Hector for his collection, a parakeet, something that we have an abundance of here in South East London! It felt good to test this new way of training, and I can definitely see how it’s going to help me reduce my times, if I stick at it.

Time: 33 minutes 10 seconds

Distance: 3.06 miles

Average Pace: 10.51

Best Pace: 6.25

Calories: 326

(this sort of run makes for an interesting range in pace!)

Today I wanted to go a bit further, just to ease out of that three mile rut I often find myself in, so it was a simple out and back along the Waterlink Way.

Time: 39 minutes 25 seconds

Distance: 4.05 miles

Average Pace: 9.44

Best Pace: 8.24

Calories: 401

I’ve not decided what tomorrow will bring, but maybe it’s time to hit the track.

Peckham 10k, thirsty running

It rained on Friday night. Nothing that unusual, but it has been so very dry here for such a long time now that it made us all stand and stare out of the window for a bit when we woke up. The garden heaved a sigh of relief as well. I was happy because this would mean a fresh and cool Peckham 10k on Peckham Rye, so I put my new running shorts back on the shelf, unworn, and pulled on my trusty capris. Being slightly thrown by this alien weather situation, I didn’t bother with sun cream or sunglasses and headed off down the road to catch the bus. Edward said, surprised: ‘Aren’t you cycling?!’ and I promptly said ‘no’, I didn’t know the way and had a feeling it would be all hills, which it was. It was a nice bus ride, seeing glimpses of where I used to live years ago, but the journey seemed to take ages and I arrived at the park all flustered and ran to the registration area to pick up my number.

I would say that this race is on a par with the Parkrun series in terms of casualness and level of organisation – I got a confirmation email from Runner’s World when I registered, then didn’t hear anything until I sent an email asking where the race started and how I might go about collecting my number. I like to have my number pinned firmly to my top before leaving the house so I know that, if I am delayed for any reason, I can just roll up to the start line and run. I was on time and even had enough time to marvel at what people do before a race. There was so much odd stretching, arm swinging and jumping on the spot from the men mostly, while the women mainly stood about conserving energy or folding their arms. Eventually, we were asked to follow a chap across the slippery wet grass, turn around the way we came while he gestured a sort of loop with his hands in the air, then we were off.

This was my first race since Brighton Marathon, so just a test really, to see how I’m holding up. I wanted to finish the 10k in under one hour ideally, so kept my head down and surged up the little hills when they loomed in front of me. The crisp morning weather had been misleading, and I was suddenly very hot, squinting through the bright sun and wishing I had put on some sun cream. This race was made up of three loops and a one-third of a loop section, with some long steady hills and lots of dodging of people meandering around bus stops, leaping over tree roots and ducking under over-hanging branches. It was friendly, with most people being in groups of friends, many of whom wore t-shirts saying ‘God Loves Peckham’, and other religious messages, I hadn’t realised Peckham was the centre of the Christian universe. My pace seemed good, and I did feel it was a bit tough, then remembered I was going a bit faster than usual, so gritted my teeth and found myself overtaking lots of other runners, especially on the hill sections.

There had been water available on the first lap, but I hadn’t taken any because I don’t like drinking during a shorter race, and decided to wait until the end. I really wish I had grabbed some water now and stashed it somewhere near the finish line because, as I collected my medal and t-shirt, I realised there wasn’t a drop of water to be had anywhere. How disappointing on such a hot day, and I didn’t have any money with me to buy anything. The race organisers really do need to sort this out next year, you can’t expect people to pay to enter a race and go home thirsty – I ended up with a thumping headache in the afternoon. Anyway, apart from that, it was a nice race and I got in under one hour.

Time: 57 minutes 54 seconds

Distance: 6.13 miles

Average Pace: 9.27

Best Pace: 5.23

Calories: 633

I do have another 10k coming up in a few weeks, the Bupa London 10k, along with a few other running friends. Edward said I should aim for 55 minutes. Hmmmm, now let me see…

Going faster with Trion:z

Erm, well at least I think that’s what’s happening! I was recently asked if I would like to try out a Trion:z ionic sports bracelet and, as I am intrigued to know what they actually do, I jumped at the chance. My lovely green bracelet arrived just after the Brighton Marathon, which is a shame because it would have been good to try it out at such a big event. Anyway, I have limited my testing to a few short runs in the sun and have felt ever so sporty with it gracing my wrist.

Having looked at the website and the literature that came with the bracelet, I now understand that the wearing of such a product can increase blood flow to a certain area leading to an increase in oxygen and nutrients. I’m not entirely sure how this will manifest itself in my running, but I’m willing to give it a try (though maybe two devices strapped to my creaky knees would be better?)! I wore the bracelet in the week following the marathon, imagining that it could help my recovery and I did have a speedy and uncomplicated recovery. During the runs where I have worn the Trion:z I have felt energetic, sprightly and have run at a good pace (though this might just be due to the lovely weather, a good marathon experience and a general joy at getting out to run). Here are the stats for a run I did the other day:

Time: 38 minutes 40 seconds

Distance: 4 miles

Average Pace: 09.41

Best Pace: 7.58

Calories: 435

Nothing outstanding there, but I did feel as if I was flying, even in the heat, and overtook every runner I saw ahead of me – woo-hoo! I don’t know if the Trion:z is supposed to make you go faster, longer or turn cartwheels down the street, but I will continue wearing it to see if it makes a difference, though it is difficult to assign credit to a bracelet when there are so many other factors that can contribute to improved performance. You can decide for yourself and find out more by visiting the website here.

One runner who is totally bowled over by the bracelet is Hector. He does this little routine where he puts on the Trion:z and runs really, really fast up and down the hall. He then takes it off and goes in slow motion. So there you go!

Brighton is the new London

So, marathon number three is done and I loved it.

We headed down on Saturday morning, arriving to bright sunshine and a cool breeze, what would have been perfect marathon conditions for me. We strolled slowly over to the apartment we were staying in and dropped off our bags before heading straight to the beach 🙂 Hector was, of course, very eager to put on his swimsuit and get busy in the pebbles, but soon realised it was a bit colder than we had thought, and sat wrapped in a towel, playing quietly. The freshness in the air didn’t stop us all enjoying an ice cream before tracking down the Lego shop:

I’m not sure who enjoyed the Lego shop more, Hector or Edward.

As we were staying in an apartment, we decided to throw our own pasta party courtesy of M&S, and it was huge. We ate every last bit though. After putting Hector to bed I spent the evening checking and double checking my things, laying out various bits and bobs: Garmin, race number etc and fixing my timing chip in place. I think I slept ok, but was mainly concerned about my sore throat, streaming eyes and nose and the impending cough (concerns about over-sleeping are no longer a worry with our tag-along alarm-boy!).

It was a relaxed start to marathon day, with the boys watching TV whilst eating breakfast (we don’t have a telly at home, so this was a huge novelty) and me carefully making sure I had the right mix of porridge, tea and Lemsip. Looking out of the window and taking heed of Brighton Marathon warnings, I smothered myself in suncream and Bodyglide and donned Edward’s cap and my nifty Poloroid sunglasses:

We had looked carefully at the map and worked out the route from Hove to the park, and off I set. I hadn’t really wanted such a brisk and slightly panicky walk before the race but, as I don’t know the area, I was trotting along at quite a pace. I needn’t have rushed and fretted so much because the start was a slow affair and my section of the crowd took ten minutes to even cross the line! I was smiling straight away: the crowds were friendly but not too shouty and the atmosphere amongst the runners was jovial and supportive. When I compare this experience to previous marathons (well, London in particular) I can say that having done more races I now feel comfortable running in a crowd like this, and more able to block out any distractions around me, so getting in some Parkruns and smaller races is well worth it for a better marathon experience.

The first few miles were largely in shade thanks to the shops and houses we were passing by and the atmosphere was great, with regular blasts of music and roars of encouragement from the crowd, there’s nothing like the rumble of ‘Eye of the Tiger’ to get you to put your head down and run with added determination! It took me a while to get used to the fact that we were mostly running in loops with the faster runners on the other side of either a barrier, tape or even just some cones, it was simply politeness that stopped people running into each other. This did mean that you would see a stream of people ahead and those who have gone before happily brushing by, but no sense of where you might turn up ahead. This first section was also quite hilly, but the hills were short and oddly enjoyable. In the meantime, as I got hotter, the boys had the beach to themselves and had a wonderful time in the sunshine:

The whole of the next section was one of the most challenging for me. We came out from behind the coolness of the buildings and were suddenly very exposed, with the stretch from around mile five onwards being along long straight roads with no music and very little support, apart from a jolly man with a cowbell and a nice couple who called my name both times I passed them. Again, I had no sense of when we might turn around and was so very relieved when we did that it felt almost as if we were on the home straight. After the experience I had at the London Marathon in 2009, where I drank so much water and Lucozade that I ended up with cramp so bad that my legs buckled under me, I was very worried that I would do the same thing again. This time I was drinking when I felt thirsty, but trying to drink more sports drink than water, occasionally chewing on a Clif gel block and – now this is where I went a bit loopy – licking salt from a sachet. No, really. I was so scared of succumbing to the hideous cramp again, that I ate salt and it seemed to work.I was slightly scared that I might have a heart attack or something, but went for it anyway, ooh the recklessness of me!

One of my favourite moments was crossing the halfway line. There was an arch like one you would see at the start or finish line and it felt like a real celebration to reach that point – the crowds were now strong again and were calling my name. In the few miles before this I had had some moments of doubt,  where I thought I couldn’t do it, but nothing was quashing the immensely positive mindset that I had mustered up from who-knows-where. Passing into Hove, I really enjoyed the genuine support given by the crowd, especially along a residential road where families were out having  barbeques and one man was kindly giving us a hose-down. I ran alongside a man who was chatting to someone else, saying: ‘this is my road!’ and he had his daughters running with him briefly, in flip-flops. I think it was this kind of thing that made it a far more enjoyable experience than London, it felt more local, and is if the people of Brighton and Hove were behind us all the way, what a lovely place! It was here that I passed the eighteen mile mark and was overcome with emotion, feeling a sense of relief to pass the point where I had felt such pain in London, and here I was, happily waving my hands in the air to anyone who cared to look!

Now, I had heard and read about the horror that is the power station stretch so had psyched myself up for a tough ‘wall’ experience, but anyone who knows me well would know that this was a treat for me: huge cranes, diggers, front loaders, a ship and a power station! Grit and grime just like my regular Greenwich runs and all accompanied by a suitable soundtrack. I had promised myself earlier on in the race that I would have a little treat at mile twenty, a bit of music. First up was Morrissey ‘The More you Ignore me the Closer I Get’, this made me laugh out loud, picturing me sneaking up on the finish line (yes, I was getting slightly delirious here, forgive me). This was followed by some Florence and the Machine, then ‘Empire State of Mind’ (I know, very cheesy, but very rousing) and Florence popped back up again with ‘Dog Days’, which I’ve mentioned before as being a superb running song. By now I really was on the home stretch, with only a few miles to go and the crowds were just wonderful, calling out my name, willing me to the end. Off came the headphones for the last couple of miles, and I smiled all the way. The sea was calling, but so was the finish line, and so was a chap, showing his age with a jolly: ‘Top of the hit parade Adele!’

During these last six miles or so, I had thought I might get a PB and better my time at Edinburgh Marathon 2006 (4 hours 48 minutes), but I was slightly confused as my Garmin had constantly ticked off the miles ahead of any mile markers, so I wasn’t really sure what time I was going to get. I must have really picked up the pace in the last few miles because I felt like I was sprinting, goodness knows where that came from at this stage! This is the most amazing marathon finish: you have crowds on one side, the beach on the other and the pier in the distance, all glistening in the sun. After what felt like an awfully long time for people to be shouting: ‘you’re nearly there!’ I spotted the finish line, my smile widened, my pace quickened and I ran my socks off to get to my medal. It was tough, very tough in places, but I really enjoyed this marathon. I would definitely do it again, but maybe not just yet!

I collected my medal, tried very hard to eat a banana and a cereal bar, drank lots of water then made my way back to where Edward and Hector were waiting for me to come and dip my toes:

It was so lovely to see them 🙂

It was at this point that I realised what a state my feet were in. I had an inkling that my little toe had rubbed a bit, but wasn’t expecting to see five of my toes with nails resting on blisters, the cold sea helped, but getting my socks and shoes back on was interesting!

In addition to my marathon challenge, I have been raising money for Guide Dogs and, to make the challenge even harder, I gave up cake for something like ten weeks so, when Edward presented me with this little selection after my shower, I was very happy:

Thank you to Edward for making time for me to go for such long runs at the weekend, and to Hector for understanding this whole running malarkey. I would also like to thank everyone who has sponsored me so generously and supported me through this blog and through all the chatter on Twitter.

Time: 4 hours 50 minutes 28 seconds

Distance: 26.49 miles

Average Pace: 10.58

Best Pace: 6.53

Calories: 3153

(my chip time is exactly the same, but I’m guessing they measure that as 26.2 miles. So, very close to my Edinburgh time and knocking about half an hour off my London time, yay!).


Tomorrow we are heading to Brighton where I will be taking on the Brighton Marathon in aid of Guide Dogs. You can sponsor my effort here.

Only two more sleeps! Oh dear, it’s all getting a bit too exciting for me now. This morning I started the day with a glass of soluble vitamins, a mug of Lemsip and a mug of tea – the throat had kept me awake and my nose had joined in, just for fun. Argh. So I went and met Helsbels for a last little run before the big day. It was just short jaunt around the park to keep our legs loose and remind ourselves that we do know how to run, though we did both find it a bit odd and a bit of a struggle! After we had a chat about our nerves, fuel, heat and whether or not we like to wear short to run in (no), we both went our separate ways, wishing each other luck for Sunday. I did feel better after a run, and went on to have the most gorgeous morning in the garden, planting seeds and tending to various bits and bobs, and preparing to make a bee hotel with Hector on his return from nursery. Perfect.

So tomorrow we will soak up the atmosphere and explore Brighton. I am very excited about it all, but do want to get on with it now. I just consulted my list from yesterday and have made a little pile of essential stuff, not to be forgotten. Earlier on I got busy with the Poska pens and graffitied my vest, I hope spectators will be able to make out the slightly smudgy and wonky ‘Adele’, and runners behind me can read my web address for future reference.

Wish me luck, see you on Sunday evening!

Time: 18 minutes

Distance: 1.64 miles

Average Pace: 10.59

Best Pace: 6.57

Calories: 151