Thursday, 23 July 2015

Life's Tough

So here I am half way through my lovely holiday. It was my birthday on Monday and I celebrated by getting up at 4am to go stand in many queues at Luton airport before landing in the 34 degree heat that is northern Italy right now. The 4am part wasn't ideal but at least I had the whole day ahead to enjoy my birthday. Since then I have done a bit of swimming, some sunbathing (although I will still be depressingly pale upon my return to England) and a lot of eating. Ice creams, proscuitto, salami, homegrown tomatoes and all of the fruit ever grown in this country. I have to say it has been a struggle, but someone has to do it. 

As for any running, well I didn't pack any of my kit so that's not happening. I am swimming every day though so hopefully should be able to pick up where I left off when I get back to training next week. The thought of doing any planned or regimented training at the moment is far from my mind. It is beyond hot and humid here. While this means I need a fan on all night in order to sleep it does also mean I can completely justify floating about in the pool with a cold drink all day. And (most importantly) I can have multiple ice creams a day. It is almost encouraged! 

Anyway, I am off for a swim now. I will leave you with a photo from yesterday's pre-lunch drinks in a town near my house.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Next Steps

So here I am, just over a week from my first race. I have to say I may have rested a little more than I really needed to but I also spent a lot of time thinking about what's next for me. My first milestone has come and gone in a sort of anticlimactic blur. It was amazing on the day but then the next couple of days I found myself at a bit of a loss. I went for a short run today which has re-awoken my motivation somewhat and this week will be the beginning of the new training period leading up to my next milestone: the 10K race. I haven't actually signed myself up for a 10K race. Don't get me wrong, I fully intend to very soon. As you know I use races to motivate myself (coerce might be a better word) into actually sticking to training, I just haven't been able to settle on which race yet. My favourite at the moment is the Running 4 Women 10K in Windsor at the end of September. Not only does this give me ages and ages to train, it is also a nice course which takes you down that long road away from Windsor Castle and round a big scenic loop before bringing you back to the Castle again. Also I hear it is supposed to be quite flat. I know I should try to like hills more or at least incorporate them into my training but really, (really?) let's get real, nobody enjoys hills. Unless they're the downwards kind. Or you have some sort of mechanism to get you up them. Like a car.

Anyway. I have to say I am feeling slightly daunted by the distances I'll be running. I know in my head that 10K isn't that far but I can't help thinking past that to what will come next. I will have to be doubling my running distance every three months until next April if I'm going to do what I said I would and actually run a marathon. I'm also going to have to get a tad quicker because while 5K races don't really have cutoff times, half marathons and full marathons certainly do and I don't think I could cope with being branded a non-finisher (unless medically necessary).

So you can see I most definitely have my work cut out for me. Am I constantly asking myself why I had this bright idea in the first place? Yes. Am I cursing myself for starting this blog because it means I can't slack off or everyone will know it? Yes. But at the same time, I know that when I ask myself in a year's time if this will all have been worth it, the answer will be YES. 

Oh and also, next week I am going on holiday to Italy where most of what I will be doing will be eating and sitting by the pool in the sunshine. I will aim to get some swimming in as a form of cross-training (and so I don't feel totally lazy) but I think I will limit my running and just enjoy myself. So yay!

This is not my photo or my dog but a) it looks like my dog and b) it accurately represents my plans for while I am on holiday.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Race For Life Hampstead Heath

The big day has finally arrived. I went to bed last night thinking I'd actually manage to get a decent amount of sleep. Ha. Of course last night would be the night a thunderstorm decided to come rolling on through. Don't get me wrong, with the heat we have been having recently I'm glad it happened. I just wish it could have happened when I wasn't trying to sleep. Anyway. I got to Hampstead Heath an hour before the race (which is what the organisers say you're supposed to do) and found there was absolutely no point in me getting there that early and I could have had an extra hour's sleep instead. Never mind. It was a gorgeous day today which was both a blessing and a curse. Blessing because it's always uplifting to see clear skies and feel the sunshine on your face, but curse because it was 26 degrees and humid so not ideal for running really. 

There I am before the race, still feeling fresh and showing off my number and sign at the back. Everyone else who was running today was over by the stage taking part in a group warm up but given the heat I figured the last thing I would want to do would be to stand in a large crowd under the beating sun and jump up and down for fifteen minutes so I gave it a miss. 

The race started on time (to my surprise and the organisers' credit) and the 1000+ people all set off. There was no staggered start so it took about five minutes for me to even get past the start line and, once past it, another while for the crowd to thin enough for me to actually be able to run without trampling anyone. 

Making my way slowly towards the start line

Now, the description of the course on the website said there would be "a few hills and mostly tarmac surfaces". HA. Where it says "hills" read "small, extremely steep mountains" and for "tarmac" just substitute "the entire course was gravel or uneven woodland". To say I was unprepared is an understatement. I have been training almost exclusively on nice, smooth tarmac roads and, while on my usual route I have to navigate a few inclines, I have never come up against something quite like this. So that was frustrating. I tried to stick to the pace I had set for myself but soon found that I wasn't going to be able to keep this up and, much to my disappointment, I had to stop running and walk between Km2 and Km3. Still, the park is beautiful so I tried to  soak in my surroundings and the atmosphere instead of dwelling on how my plan had completely gone out the window. By the time I got to Km4 I had perked up a bit, felt less sorry for myself and managed to find my rhythm again. While kilometres 1-3 were out in the open under the beating sunshine, the final two kilometres, thankfully, were through the woods and thus in the shade. I could hear the crowd at the finish line as I passed the 4km marker and before I knew it I was passing a sign telling me I only had 500m to go. I felt like I had enough left in the tank to sprint the final 500m and it felt great to speed through the finish line within the time I had set for myself. 

In all honesty today didn't go how I thought it would but, once again, I have nothing to blame but my over-inflated expectations. I didn't factor in the heat and how much all the unexpected hills would mess with my pace. Still, I made it in one piece, I wasn't the fastest by a long way (apparently the fastest person crossed the line in 23 minutes) but I also wasn't the slowest by a long way.

Overall I would say today has been a success and I'm very happy I did it. I probably won't be able to walk at all tomorrow but I am glad nonetheless. 

Here I am looking decidedly less fresh post-race but I got a nice shiny medal for my efforts so I'm ok with that.

Last but not least, I would just like to say thank you so much to those of you who sponsored me. And now I'm going to go have a nap.