The End is Nigh

Here it is at last – my last week of ‘proper’ marathon training. In other words, my last week of increasing mileage before the taper, when I gradually cut it down to give my legs a rest before the big day.

After last week’s lack of long run, I had good intentions for this final week. Unfortunately the boiler had other ideas, and my diary was already full of British Gas engineer’s appointments, and men coming to quote for a new boiler (sssh – don’t tell the old boiler. Its only just hanging on to life by its toenails and the news its going to be replaced might just push it over the edge).

So no running on Monday.

On Tuesday I was delighted when my final ‘man’ left at 12.15 and I thought “I can run!!”, but then realised I hadn’t eaten since 7.30am, and I needed to go to Sainsburys as well. So quick lunch, speedy trip to the supermarket and still fitted in a quick-ish 5.5 miles. managed to arrive back just before the school bus arrived in the village so my children were excused the embarrassment of a bus full of their peers seeing their Mum in running gear.

On Wednesday an engineer was due to arrive between 12 and 2 to fit the part that would fix the boiler (hooray!!), although I had begged him to be as late as possible. I stuffed porridge into my face at 7.30am, got the children out of the door for their bus, rollered my calf muscles, sprayed Deep Heat liberally (sorry cats!), grabbed water and gels and made it out the door by 8.25am.

Around 16 miles later I was heading back into the village and it was just before 12.00. I really wanted to run further, but I really REALLY didn’t want this engineering saviour to get to the house before I did, and then go away again. So I did what any sensible, desperate-for-heat-and-hot-water marathoner-in-training runner would do, I ran into the house (in my very muddy trainers – oops) to see if he’d rung yet and left a message. He hadn’t, so I took the chance to run another mile and check back again.

Still no sign of him, so I ran up and down the lane by the house so I could see if his British Gas van came up the lane. By 19.1 miles it was twenty five past twelve and I chickened out and decided not to push my luck any further, so I called it a day. I shot inside and had the quickest shower ever as I was convinced that as soon as I stepped into the hot water the doorbell would go.

Typically, he finally rang me at quarter to two and said he’d be delayed as he had to go and help a colleague. Pffst! So I could have finished my first ever (training) twenty mile run, however I am still glad I made it to 19 miles, as I know I could have staggered on for another mile.

So that’s the last long run done. I’m very glad that’s it, as I am very tired and my legs have been twinging and moaning. I have discovered I can hear their complaining less if I stuff them into my compression socks, although its hard work getting them on and off again! I just hope I’ve done enough this time. A friend did point out I’ve managed much more training than last year, however last year’s target was just to make it to the finish line. This year I have a time to beat!

On being a film star, shift work and life getting in the way

What a week that was! I’ve spent four days working as an extra on a film being made in our village called ‘The Christmas Candle’. I have spent hours wearing a corset, and hanging around in cold pubs. I also managed to do some walking, storming of a candle shop and pretending to watch a slide show whilst looking at a green screen 30cm from my face. All good fun, and I even managed to sneak in a couple of runs as well.

Victorian Black & Tabby
Running gear 1890 style
1690's Black & Tabby
Not so streamlined in 1690s costume

On Tuesday night I didn’t get home until just before midnight though, and on Wednesday I started at 5.30pm, and finally made it home at around 2.30am. Not surprisingly I’ve been a bit tired, and feeling rather jet lagged. I guess shift workers must just get used to it, but I have even more respect now for anyone who can train for a marathon, work shifts and have a family life as well.

Plan was for a lovely (!) long run on Friday. At least 18 miles, and maybe pushing on to 20 if I felt okay. Life had other ideas though – on Thursday the boiler packed up (again) leaving us with no central heating or hot water. Bath night was Victorian style (appropriately enough) involving boiling pans on the cooker and carrying them through to the bath. The earliest the engineer could come was Friday afternoon ‘any time between 12 and 6pm’. No way could I fit in a long run, and the subsequent water heating for very necessary post-run bath before 12 noon, so no long run today. Sigh.

Saturday is son’s birthday treat, Sunday Mr B&T is off cycling again, so I guess I’ll have to do a long run on Monday. No wonder I don’t know what day it is!

These are the miles that matter

16 miles today. They were all hard. I was dreaming of my end-of-run hot chocolate by mile 3. It was raining, my legs were tired.

At first I thought about why it was so hard. Don’t have to look too far – a Half Marathon PB on Sunday, 9.5 miles on Tuesday, 3.3 miles on Wednesday, and now 16 miles on Friday. Not surprised my legs were tired!

Then I started thinking about how these miles on tired legs were the ones that were really important in marathon training.

“These are the miles that matter” I thought, in a slightly American “Go Team Me!” style. Then I kept on thinking it, and it helped get me home again. That and the thought of the hot chocolate of course.

Our village is currently being dressed in Victorian finery for a film they’re shooting here from Saturday. I’m lucky enough to be an extra, so am swapping my Lycra for a corset, big heavy dress and jaunty hat for the next 5 days. We are guaranteed snow this weekend – in fact I passed the trailer it came in.

The snow's arrived



To anyone else feeling really tired on their long runs, just remember “these are the miles that matter”*

* it helps if you say this in a Rambo-esque voice

John Austin Half Marathon 3/3/2012

As part of my preparations for Brighton Marathon, I booked myself in to run the John Austin Half Marathon, a small race raising money for charity, down in the New Forest.

Sunday morning saw us up very early – 6.30am, and I was eating my porridge before 7.00am. The rest of the Black and Tabby clan had decided to come with me and cycle whilst I ran, meaning I had company on the journey, but also meant I had to organise sandwiches etc for them as well as getting myself ready.We finally left the house a little later than planned at 7.30am but still in good time. Even with an unscheduled stop at a services for a nervous-tummy-loo-stop we arrived after 2 hours just in time at Brockenhurst College.

Husband unpacked the bikes whilst I went and registered, collected my number, queued for the loo (again!) and generally got myself ready. It was a mile walk to the start line, and I could hear the PA telling runners to start making their way. I left bicycle repair man still putting bikes back together so I could follow the crowds to the start (as I had no idea where I was going!) I thought I’d slowly jog to the start, as a little warm up, but we were walking en masse along a narrow pavement with cars whizzing by, so I could only follow the crowd and hope walking would be enough.

Start line Smile
Start line Smile, or is it a grimace of pain?

My family turned up just as we were called to the start line and just in time for me to reluctantly take off my fleece jacket and hand it over for safe keeping. The wind was bitter, and I thought I smiled nicely for a start line photograph, but the evidence proves otherwise.

A klaxon sounded, and we were off. Starting at the back I took a little while to actually reach the start line, so I only started my Garmin then. Then I was off, trying not to start out too fast, but trying to make sure I didn’t slip into the slow pace I’ve been running my long training runs at. Within the first mile, my shoelace came undone. Not a good start!

After 3 miles of running through fairly sparse fir trees I was starting to wonder if this was going to be the lovely scenic race I had thought it would be. The gravel tracks were dusty, the wind was cold and I still hadn’t seen any of the famous Forest Wildlife. By mile 4 I was telling myself that that was my warm-up finished, now I had to knuckle down and run the middle third of the race, concentrating on keeping to my pace. This was more difficult than it sounded, as by the mile 5 marker my Garmin was only saying 4.8 miles. I was hoping that my ever-so-clever watch had simply lost the satellite signal under the trees and so mis-measured the route.

At this point we emerged from the forest trails onto Beaulieu Heath. Boy it was windy here – despite the route on the heath almost completing a circle the wind somehow seemed to be right in my face the whole way round. The phrase ‘the blasted heath’ kept springing to mind. I had a gel at mile 8 (or 7.8 on my Garmin) and dutifully handed my sticky packet to a marshal to avoid littering. It was a relief to come down off the heath and out of the wind, and see a water stop which helped wash the gel down.

From this point on we turned off the paths and tracks, and headed off road. We had been told that this section could be muddy, and even with a few weeks of dry weather there were some boggy sections. It was fairly lumpy and bumpy here, with the odd very muddy section. At one point, there was a huge section of ankle deep mud which you had to go through to get to the gate. The very helpful marshal gave me a hand over this bit, literally, helping me jump from a log in the middle onto the path. What a Gent – thank you Sir!

At mile 10 we were back on paths again, and suddenly we were in a really beautiful part of the forest. It was also sheltered from the wind which was a great relief. Little winding paths lined with daffodils, twittering birds, and some surprising undulations. At mile 11 there was a long uphill, and the group of runners I’d been chasing for most of the way round had all stopped to walk. I was delighted to plod past them.

The railway bridge with the concrete steps was a nasty surprise to my legs, but then I could see the college and knew we were nearly back. I came around the corner of the college, knowing the finish line was just there, but was directed to run around the field first. Curses! When I had nearly reached the last corner, the man just in front of me suddenly staggered and fell to the ground. I stopped to check he was okay, and encourage him to finish, and someone (who obviously knew him) came running out of the crowd shouting “He’s asthmatic”. He got to his feet and continued on to the finish line, with his friend shouting at him “just to the clock! Just make it to the clock!” He did make it to the clock and staggered over the line with his friend and myself behind him. The marshals had already alerted the St John’s Ambulance people, who seemed¬† delighted to have a genuine emergency to deal with.

As I crossed the line behind him, I noticing the clock said 2:16 something. I collected my medal, got held up behind the marshals helping the wheezing man away in front of me, had my number taken and then made it into the blissful warmth of the hall.

Goody bag, hot drinks and cakes to buy, changing rooms to do the best I could with some wet wipes and fresh clothes, and then my wind swept family returning from their bike ride, all red and glowing in their faces. What more could you ask at the end of a race?

All in all, the final few miles really made this race. The marshals (who must have been frozen to the bone) were all cheerful and encouraging. The blasted heath was memorable for all the wrong reasons, but it may have been good training for a windswept ‘along the seaside’ Brighton Marathon (if the weather isn’t kind to us on 14th April). Oh – when she came in my daughter spotted the asthmatic man sitting on a seat wrapped in blankets, but looking fine, which was a great relief.

The other good news from the day? Taking my Garmin time, I have a new Half Marathon PB. Very happy with that!

New PB at John Austin Half Marathon
New PB at John Austin Half Marathon

Rest day today, as I think I’m going down with a cold, and spent the night awake and coughing. My muscles are feeling a little sore now – pass the echinacea and the foam roller!