Saturday, 21 October 2017

Challenge 28 - Amsterdam marathon

What is it about runners that makes us push ourselves to our limits and as I experienced this weekend, occasionally beyond.
Running big city marathons and having a weekend away in a capital city has become a treat that Phil and I have enjoyed together. Each marathon takes you to places in a city that you would never experience on your own and gives a focus to the trip. 
This weekends destination was Amsterdam and I put the added pressure on myself of trying to run under 4 hours.  As Phil wasn't 100% fit we decided to run together for the first time with him pacing me to my sub 4 (well that was the plan!)
We enjoyed the sights and sounds of Amsterdam on Saturday and took advantage of the hop on hop off bus and barge service to see the highlights of the city without putting too many miles on our legs.  We ended the evening at the pasta party which took place in the Olympic stadium where the marathon was to start and finish and it was wonderful to sit in the stadium with friends watching the preparations as the sun went down.

Sunday morning arrived with the usual excitement but strangely no nerves. I started in the yellow pen and having lined up for the loos and given up on that idea, we waited with all the other yellow runners and saw the elite start on the big screen and clapped for a minute remembrance for the mayor we started moving forward. Everyone was moving onto the track and setting off towards the start line and as we got closer we realised that the barriers hadn't been moved and the only way into the track was over (this had also happened to me in Athens last year!) having little legs this wasn't the easiest manoeuvre for me but runners being the supportive bunch that they are there were several offers of help and I got over on the second attempt!

Before the marathon I had wondered how Phil and I would get on running together but I have to say that the first 20 miles were a pleasure! My legs felt great and we loved sharing the experience and chatting about everything we saw.  The barge with a piano and folk singer floating along next to us as we ran along beside the river and the traditional windmill were particular high lights. 
As the miles went on and the temperature rose I knew that I was beginning to struggle, by mile 23 we were starting to slow down and Phil kept reminding me of the pace we needed to achieve that sub four hour target but the more I tried the less my body seemed to respond.  The water stations only had cups of water and isotonic drinks rather than bottles which made it harder to hydrate and with the clock ticking by and Phil plying me with energy gels I staggered through the last few miles and after what felt like an eternity the stadium came into sight and I knew we had just 300m to go to cross that finish line and all the pain would stop! All I could think about was a big bottle of water and I tried to push hard for a big sprint finish.  In my head I was Mo Farah sprinting into the stadium and Phil tells me that I suddenly sped up in full sprinter mode but slowly sank towards the ground while doing a comedy walk. This, as Eddie put it was my Alistair Brownlee moment.  I had nothing left but I was determined to finish and after convincing the official I was ok and with the support of Phil and the official I put one foot in front of the other and just kept moving forward towards that finish line. Several people came to check if I was ok and the support was amazing. The elite men were walking back from their medal ceremony around the track and gave me a nod and a clap. - little things at this point mean so much. As I walked I started feeling stronger and managed to speed up towards the end - 300m in 16 minutes but I had finished. 
Initially I was disappointed with my race and gutted not to have achieved what I had set out to do. I felt that I had failed but having had time to reflect I can honestly say that I gave that race everything I had. I may not have run it in the time that I hoped for but I gave it my all and I can hold my head high. I still have that sub 4 to achieve so next year we will have to choose our next weekend away and with the right training I know that one day it will happen. - one day!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Swim run

Challenge 28 – Fritton Lake swimrun


The trouble with writing my blog the day after a challenge is the temptation to look back at it with rose tinted glasses!  Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the challenge but swimming is not my forte and I knew that I would have to really push myself to get through and I really didn’t want to let Phil down by not finishing in a competitive time. It was very intimidating as we waited for the briefing looking around at all the people in their triathlon kit and thinking what am I doing here!  We were given a very attractive orange swimming hat which we had to wear throughout the race even during the runs!  We also had a numbered bib like I used to wear to play netball and being one size fits all it was huge on me – great!

The event started with a 2.9k run and as running is the bit that I can do I really wanted to get ahead to try to ensure that we didn’t finish last!  With Phil pushing the pace we set off on the whistle and found ourselves leading the pack into the first corner! It did go through my mind that we may be using too much energy up too soon but we held our own and entered the water for the first swim in 5th place ready for everyone to come past us in the water!

As I have already said, swimming is not one of my strengths and I have been working really hard to try to improve and master front crawl since getting my challenges.  Swimming in a nice clean pool being able to touch the side every 50 meters is very different to open water swimming and the first swim was the longest at 650 meters.  I did attempt front crawl but the cold water took my breath away and with the weight of my wet trainers dragging my feet down, I felt more confident with my breaststroke and although the stronger swimmers raced off we didn’t seem to fall too far behind.  The swim was one of the toughest things I have ever done and I remember thinking to myself that if I could get through it, I can get through anything including my upcoming ultra! I did have to dig deep but there was no way I was going to give up and with Phil encouraging me all the way, the end did eventually come and with relief I dragged my aching body out of the water through the bog and the reeds, I heard Phil saying ‘come on this is the bit you can do!’ and reluctantly I got my legs pumping and off we went chasing down the people ahead and pushing our way past other pairs back to the water again where they would then overtake us again!

The runs and the swims were all shorter than the first ones and I became more confident as we went along.  There were a few moments that stood out such as the torrential rain that came down during the third swim which was quite magical being in the middle of a beautiful lake and running through the woods as well as along the road, soaking wet and in a swimming hat!

When the final run came I gave it all I had and Phil and I managed to make up a few places before racing down the hill and through the finish arch to get our lovely medals. 

The swimrun was definitely the toughest of my challenges so far and something that I would never have entered myself.  I am very glad that I have done it but do not anticipate ever doing it again (although Phil may have other ideas) and I’m very proud that we came 16th out of 45.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Treat number 15 -A family trip to see Les Miserables

The weekend after my birthday brought my first really big treat which was a weekend in London with a trip to see Les Miserables.  We drove to our hotel in London Docklandby s as soon as the children got home from school on Friday stopping for dinner with my parents on the way down!  We had a lovely large family room and chocolate chip cookies to welcome us.

We started Saturday morning with a visit to the closest parkrun – Southwark, which was full of marathon runners and their families and had a carnival atmosphere.  Eddie paced me round and I managed a pb which was a fantastic start to the weekend and hopefully a sign of things to come.


Image result for les miserables 

We returned to the hotel all hungry for a huge breakfast to keep us going through the day and had just sat down when the fire alarm started ringing and stomachs rumbling we were evacuated to the park opposite the hotel!  Luckily it was a false alarm and before too long we were fed, showered and ready to make our way to the Queen’s Theatre.  Les Miserables is one of my favourite musicals and I was not only really excited to see it in the West End but also wanted Phil and the Children to experience it too to see why I love it so much.  The show didn’t disappoint and we all laughed out loud at the antics of Madame and Monsieur Thenardier and all shed a tear as different characters met their maker.  Les Miserables  took us all on an emotional journey and I don’t have the words to express how much we enjoyed it but I would recommend it to you all!

The weekend concluded with Phil running the London Marathon and Team Whiting supporting him and all the other runners we knew.  Watching the marathon led to mixed emotions as it was a year ago that I ran it and would have loved to have been there pounding the streets with the thousands of other runners.  The excitement of supporting a marathon did give me the boost I needed to focus on my training and I enjoyed my run this morning with an extra spring in my step!

Monday, 3 April 2017

Challenge number 30 - The Diss Duathlon.

Challenge number 30 – Diss Duathlon.

With the start of April came my next challenge in the form of the Diss Duathlon.  Although I have taken part in plenty of running races, this was something completely new with transitions and road rules to worry about.

It was an early start and I was expecting protests from the children as I woke them to come and support me on the first Sunday of the holidays but they were fantastic and we made it to Diss in plenty of time to sort my bike and for the nerves to really kick in!  There were a couple of ladies at registration who were also duathlon virgins and it was nice to know that I wasn’t the only one.

I was in the first wave of runners and we set of at 9.30 on the dot!  I tried to hold back and not go out too fast as I knew there was a long way to go.  I was aiming to run the first 5K in around 30minutes to make sure I kept something in the tank for later but running is what I know and it was a lovely down hill start and before I knew it I was heading back to the transition area to get on my bike.  Phil had been drumming it into me all week to put my helmet on before I touched my bike and I managed this simple instruction!  A quick slurp of lucosade and I was off for the 30k bike ride. 

The bike ride was 3 laps, I estimated I came in from the run in the top 20 but it didn’t take long for cyclists on their fancy racing bikes to come whizzing past me.  I’m sure some of the designs are made especially to intimidate as they roar past!  I knew that cycling was not my strength and was determined to just do my best and enjoy the ride, I bought my bike with money that my Gran left me in her will and I though of her as I cycled.  Everyone was so supportive and encouraging as they overtook and I had to smile as Phil Hurr lapped me as I was finishing my second lap, knowing what a good runner he is I worked out that he would finish before I started my run!  By lap 3 I knew the course and was able to appreciate just how beautiful the Norfolk countryside is as we cycled past farms, fields of oilseed rape and pretty little churches.  Before I knew it I had reached the end and headed back past the children and my friend Georgie to park my bike and head out on the last 5k run.

My slow cycle had put me way back in the pack and there were people finishing their run as I set off but I didn’t let this get to me and was determined to just do my best.  My jelly legs had other ideas as I wobbled out of transition!  I could see several of the people who had come past me on the last lap of the ride up ahead and my runner’s legs kicked in.  Running is what I do and I started picking them off one by one and after about a mile felt that I could run properly!  It was a great feeling to overtake people and kept me going.  The finish line was a very welcome sight and I even managed a sprint finish and received my medal with pride!

I would never have put myself in for a duathlon and these 40 challenges and treats are getting me to try new things and ironically I am probably fitter than I was when I was 30!  I’m still not convinced about the open water swimming coming up but hopefully my blog afterwards will be as positive as this one.  Today I start my ultra marathon training but I’m going to try to keep cycling too.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Challenge 8 - Cambridge Half Marathon

Challenge number 8 – to PB at the Cambridge Half Marathon.

Today was the first of my physical challenges which was to get a personal best time at the Cambridge Half Marathon. I hadn’t run a half marathon since 2012 and felt confident that I could get under the 2hours 3 minutes that I achieved last time.  Everyone that had run Cambridge before told me what a lovely course it was and after an early start I felt optimistic as we drove down the A11 especially as the sunrise was beautiful and the weather was perfect.  We got to the start area with plenty of time to spare and it was as if somebody had flicked a weather switch, the clouds came over, the drizzle started and the wind felt arctic.  I had messaged Phil last night to ask him to get some bin bags to wear once we had handed in our bag so we looked especially glamerous in our pink bakery waste bags labelled ‘not for human consumption’!  I wore my bag until the very last moment and reluctantly shred it just before crossing the start line.  The first few miles were very congested and my average pace was over 9 minutes per mile which worried me a bit but I was running with a fellow Gazelle Andrew who told me not to worry as we would make the time up.  I really enjoyed the first half of the half and felt really strong, I remembered why I love running and the encouragement from the crowds was fantastic.  It started to hurt as I got towards mile 10 and I started to panic that I had gone too quickly but kept telling myself that it was just a parkrun to go and dug deep.  Mile 12 was horrible, up over an overpass into a headwind and everything felt like lead but I knew that finish line was coming and the last half mile was flatter and I knew my support team of Jess, Eddie and Tom were in the crowd so pushed hard and crossed the line just before the clock ticked over to 1:55.  I felt quite emotional as I collected my medal that I had achieved my PB and my chip time came in at 1:51:55 which gave me an 11 minute PB.

Worryingly this was the easiest of my physical challenges so I now need to get training hard and get out on my bike for next months’ duathlon!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Challenge number 20 - watch 40 tom hanks films

Most of my Blog posts so far have been about this challenge as watching Tom Hanks films seems to have been the most interesting thing that I have done!  There has been lots of training going on and I even took the bike off the turbo trainer and did a whole 10miles on the road!   My swimming is progressing slowly and my front crawl looks less like I’m being electrocuted and more like a swimmer, I just need to work on my stamina. Just a few weeks now until my first running challenge with the Cambridge Half marathon looming.

The chosen film was Saving Mr Banks which I had heard about but didn’t really expect to enjoy as I thought it was a documentary about the making of Mary Poppins, a film that I loved growing up.  This film totally blew me away, it switched between the early years of Mary Poppins author, Mrs Travers and her negotiations with Walt Disney and his team about the making of the Mary Poppins film.  We found ourselves singing along to the classic songs and willing Mrs Travers to sign the paperwork as we went on an emotional rollercoaster throughout the film and slowly we and Walt Disney understood the complex Mrs Travers!   We all loved this film and I would really recommend it as a great family film.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

How can it be February already! January has flown by and all the big challenges are creeping nearer.  I have been focused on my training and am now running increasing miles each week, swimming at least twice a week and have started cycling on the turbo trainer.  I will get out on my bike once the weather improves but for now indoor cycling seems so much more civilised!

We have really enjoyed our film nights and the most recent Tom Hanks film was The Man with One Red Shoe.  This was yet another film that I don’t remember ever hearing of and as the children said, was set in the olden days having been made in 1985!  By getting off a plane wearing one red shoe, Richard Drew (Tom Hanks) an eccentric violinist becomes a person on interest to the FBI who follow him, sabotage his apartment and cause chaos.  The film is an effortless comedy as the lead character has no idea he is being followed.   This is another film that would recommend as a nice easy watch with fantastic 80s fashion and technology!