Back in the USofA

Yes, it’s true. I won’t be posting up any #gotlost photos on instagram from the lovely footpaths of England for a bit.  As of right now I’m back in the US and reconnecting with running friends here.  Unfortunately my Nordic Walking poles are still in the United Kingdom so I won’t be getting to do that as cross training until I can be reunited with them but that doesn’t mean I’m not still pursuing new activities!  Last Saturday I was invited by a friend to attend an aquafit H.E.A.T. class.  Oh. My. Gosh.  Talk about an intense core workout! If you get the opportunity to try one of these do so! I’m still nursing some sore muscles 2 days after.

As for running I’m rebuilding on that, it kind of took a back burner after we left France for Ireland and I am looking forward to getting back to some semblance of decent mileage. I will try and share some of my favourite run routes from our Europe travels in the coming months.

 

Not just about the medals

I run for many reasons….the endorphins, the calm, my mental health, trying to outrun my family history of heart disease and at least reach age 70, camaraderie, cake, the occasional bling, and to set new personal records/bests.  But occasionally I run for remembrance, mostly for those I have known personally, last month though my partner proposed a different sort after a week of visiting WWII cemeteries, battle sites, and memorials—running Omaha Beach. No medals, no t-shirt just a simple run on a beautiful beach that not terribly long ago had been the location of so much sacrifice.

It was so incredibly poignant and brought to reality all those history classes I cruised through paying the least amount of attention that I could get away with and pass with a decent grade.  Gazing across a short expanse of beach that must have seemed endless to those struggling to traverse it to reach the first bit of shelter from the enemy onslaught. No words I produce can equal the sacrifice, terror, bravery, tenacity, mayhem and bombardment of that time and I certainly can’t adequately express the emotions I was experiencing while running that beach.

Omaha Beach Run

As I say, not as I do or How I ran the Reims Marathon on no training!

14657449_169886303461961_8082813271761895364_n

It would happen that way back in July I ended up winning an entry to the Run in Reims race festival from Running Heroes (affiliate link, my code is 00ac)…being on somewhat of a roll after the last ultra I opted for the marathon thinking we would be settled in Malta and I could get some good heat training in making a cooler autumn race somewhat easier.  Well if you follow our Gabby and Simon blog/vlog then you are well aware things didn’t go to plan AT. ALL.  I actually didn’t think we were going to make it to Reims so had tried to transfer to it to someone who could make use of it but per race rules that wasn’t possible.  Honestly we had written off me being able to get here and my training was non-existent anyway (difficult to get in quality training when essentially you are homeless and camping out in the car).

Obviously we made it but oh my gosh was I expecting my first ever DNF with my longest run being around 7 miles in the past 3 months!  Not to mention there was a little incident with my right foot being run over by the car week before!  If I was someone I was coaching I would most emphatically have advised against doing this but as the blog title reads, this is an “As I say, not as I do” post.

First off I must say I love France, once you get away from the Paris area then the people are incredibly friendly and helpful and not above taking the piss in a very good-natured manner. Yes, there is some arrogance occasionally but actually far less than I’ve encountered in the UK (again not counting Paris, they wrote the book on it).

14615706_169886286795296_1291684156820965910_o

This could end up turning into a novelette of a post so opting for the good/bad format:

Good:  Security is taken seriously but it isn’t incredibly obtrusive. Like the Marine Corps Marathon we had to clear security before entering to collect our numbers but it seemed much more organised and certainly went quicker.

Bad:  Finding the venue for the race village was far more difficult than it should have been, explicit directions should be included for those of us not from the region–and there were a fair few of us, Simon heard lots of grumbling about the same issues we had in finding Stade Auguste Delaune.

Good:  Number and t-shirt pickup was very quick and easy once we found the stadium.

Bad:  Expo was non-existent, this is a new event but there were over 11,000 participants over the 10k, half-marathon, and full marathon races so vendors and organisers need to get their act together and have something befitting the event size.

Good:  The races and the roads were well marked and fenced off so as to block off the majority of car access and to protect the runners and spectators.

Bad:  They started closing off a lot of the roads earlier than stated causing major issues with racers trying to get to the packet pickup.

Bad: The race maps could have been clearer.

Good: High energy start and the waves moved through smoothly.

Good: Lots of water/food stations that were very well stocked and plenty of bins spaced out appropriately to throw your rubbish in.

Good: The volunteers and spectators were AMAZING! Lots of allez, allez, bravo cheers from everyone and if you smiled, gave a thumbs up, and clapped back they were even more enthusiastic.

Good:  Beautiful course overall although like most marathons you do seem to have an industrial park section.

Good:  We ran through the heart of Champagne vineyards country.

Good: Every kilometre was marked and they were spot on with the location accuracy

Bad:  More of a meh, wasn’t fond of the doubling back during the last 2 miles but at least there were lots of people cheering.

Good:  Several bands were set up through out the course so that helped boost energy levels especially for those of us like moi who didn’t bring their mp3 players

Good: Variety at the food stations–fruit, water, coca-cola, savoury crackers.

Good: Gender-specific tech race shirt, personalised bib, and very nice medal with the option to have it engraved.

Good:  Actually great, the best food I have ever seen at a finish line! Got my obligatory banana but they had champagne, macaroons, coffee, tea, soup, quiche, pizza, fruit, biscuits, etc all rowed out for quite a distance so you weren’t crowded around trying to fight your way to what you wanted.  Also the half and full marathon sides were separated so as to alleviate any crowding as well.  Everything appeared to move quite well and you were not herded through like cattle so no rushing.

My performance recap:  As stated before I had no pressure to try and complete it in a certain time so went in fully relaxed and settled into a decent pace that lasted until around mile 15 when my back started aching.  It was a surprise to me as well that I passed the 4:15 pacer (I had started in the very back of our pen) and was feeling comfortable.  Kept expecting him to pass me when I had to start doing a run/walk but apparently my split times were fairly reasonable–my slowest was mile 23 with an 11:09.

I loved the champagne country part but could have done without the endless canal slog mile 18.4 through 25, that was the only bit where it was a struggle mentally but I find that type of route mind-numblingly boring.  I did get a chance to re-pay the very nice Belgian man that I had been chatting with off and on who got me back to running when I had started to walk during mile 16.

Overall I’m happy with having finished and I even ended up with a personal marathon best of 4:13:01 (official chip time), an improvement of 25:23. If it wasn’t for every muscle aching in my body right now I would say that I should do this more often! Now pardon me while I go off to do the marathon zombie shuffle while walking the mutts 😀

Oh and a huge thank you again to Run in Reims and Running Heroes for hosting the competition for the entry. This is one race I would definitely not hesitate to pay the entry for to run again and that’s high praise from me.

14563515_170150100102248_7512096199997135520_n

Oh, Malta

sea1

Isn’t it funny how a runner’s idea of paradise and a holiday maker’s paradise differ so much…I am slowly getting acclimated to the heat and lung-crushing humidity of Malta. I have yet to find a running club to join, it seems most want you to pay the yearly membership first before trying them out and our situation doesn’t lend itself to that at the moment so my runs are solo which is just as well because it is doubtful I could chat with all the wheezing and gasping for air I have been doing.

Alas trails also seem to be a rarity or the ones available are so damn technical that if your attention wavers for a second you will find yourself sprawled on the sharp rocks in a very unseemly manner. So far I have been able to recover from any trips and stumbles so no bloody pictures of flayed flesh to gross everyone out with.

This month I have been forcing myself out of the car or tent (yes we are sans abode) 6 mornings a week right at sunrise in order to try and force my legs and lungs to try and remember this thing they used to do called running. The hills are relentless so I have adopted the run-walk method to get up them and while it is not getting easier it is certainly getting a bit faster;  I am now doing some of the more bastardly ones around 11 minutes rather than the 14 plus I was struggling with 2 weeks ago. There have even been a few strava segments I have conquered but they all seem to be mostly populated by Brits so they are facing the same heat and humidity issues I have.

All is not horrible though, yesterday and today’s runs didn’t suck. While I couldn’t have gone faster or further I didn’t feel completely drained at the end–yay, progress.

The Reims Marathon I had won entry to via Running Heroes doesn’t look like I will be able to make though–finances and fitness just aren’t there. Unfortunately the entry cannot be deferred or transferred–I did try to see if I could give it to one of my UK running club mates but the rules are rules and the directors aren’t budging

I will be back

Apologies for the blog silence, there have been some major upheavals in our lives lately. Some may know that I am an immigrant to the UK and unfortunately due to a fairly dire year for my partner we didn’t make the income requirement for my visa renewal this year so it’s off to explore new countries.

13913658_10153603174582691_552620512482728904_o

Leaving out for the group run

Somehow my running club, dog-walking, and Nordic walking friends along with my partner all managed to put together an amazing surprise leaving do with me having absolutely no clue as to what was happening.  I just thought I was heading out for a Sunday afternoon run with two of my best mates only to be led into a trap! Couldn’t believe it when we started to run by Brew & Bake West Hallam and one of them stopped and said ok run is over. The place was filled to the brim with people! I’m still in awe at their ingenuity and the fact so many showed up to say good-bye.

So many people to thank and I have done so in person and via messages but 2 weeks later and I’m still floored over the outpouring of friendship and love.  I will add more to this as I get the time to do so but for now we are en-route to Malta in our car with a much longer stop than planned in Italy due to an increase in ferry crossing fares that we didn’t expect. Please follow our journey over at Gabby & Simon and yes Ben and Elsie are making the trip with us 🙂

13653474_10153603171652691_213773645693740660_o

Some of my furry friends and Elsie 🙂

13680277_10153603169717691_2997150614114100237_o

Getting ready for the Nordic Walk! 

I will be back.

 

Silly o’clock Sunday Running

beggingtoberun

Doesn’t this just beg to be run on? 

It’s always nice running in different locations than your usual routes but sometimes leading a run can make you see what has become background ‘noise’ in a new way because you are having to warn others about possible hazards (Tree! Rock! Watch your step! Go to the left!) and tell them about various points of interest as you go (hey, anything to make convo).  As you might have guessed, today was my turn to plan the route for the silly o’clock Sunday runners aka my fellow crazy running mates.

 

Since they had ran a blistering hot (by UK standards) half marathon the previous Sunday the route included several places where we could cut it short if needed but I also wanted to keep it off the road and as interesting as possible.  I think I succeeded 🙂

poppy field-1

Poppies and Beans

The highlight of the run was coming upon a field full of red poppies…It had been a while since I’d ran that section so it was as much a surprise to me as it was to them and it required a run selfie break.  Too bad the phone camera didn’t do it justice!

GabbyIanKaz-Edit

The Silly O’Clock Crew

It’s not often I finish a 10 mile run feeling like I could do another 10 easily but today was one of those times and it’s quite a welcome feeling.

How fast can you run a mile?

How fast can you run a mile?

Officially my best timed mile is from 2012 at the Go Running Go!Mile! race with 6:43 (you can read about it here on my other blog).  A bit more recently I managed a 6:54 on the track during an IRC session.  After reading this article in The Guardian about the resurgence of the mile race distance I’m kind of getting the urge to see how fast I can go now even though it is almost guaranteed to be slower than my previous times.

gomilehalfway

2012 Go!Mile! Race at the midway point

Back at it | Returning to strength training

It’s amazing how quickly you can get out of the habit of working out, I have been so busy with dog-walking and leading Nordic Walking sessions that the strength training sort of fell by the wayside just before the Dukeries 40 and it’s taken me this long to get back to an organised plan of action.  It’s been said so many times that you have to make fitness a priority and that is certainly true.

If you have fallen off the workout wagon like I have, don’t waste your time and energy moaning about it–make an appointment with yourself and KEEP it! It doesn’t have to be a massive amount of time and you certainly should resist the urge to overdo it on the first one back, DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) isn’t fun for anyone especially on the second and third day after.

Back at it

For my return to strength training I used the workout above after I did a 20 minute warm-up run, I also opted for the :20/:10 intervals because I couldn’t be arsed to count the reps 😀  This was a good mix of strength, cardio, plyometrics, core and upper body yet was well under 30 minutes counting my rest times between each 4 minute set.

Running for the sheer joy of it

putasmileonit

I’m in a bit of a recovery mode from the Dukeries 40 at the moment, no races or events planned so no pressure to ‘train’ at the moment 🙂

One of my Wednesday dog-walking appointments is for a very active Cocker Spaniel that I do a run/walk with. He loves the water, he loves bounding through tall grass and stopping to stare at the cows and sheep, and most of all he simply loves to RUN, bonus points if he gets to run THROUGH water!  Every session with him leaves me grinning ear to ear because it reminds me running is a joy and a privilege that should never be taken for granted.

Yesterday was one of those grey misty days that seem tailor-made for running in wooded areas. The trees shrouding the trails kept us protected from the hardest of the rain yet allowed in just enough to keep us cool.  The mist deadened our footsteps and muted the bird-song and made it seem like we were the only ones in the forest. Up and down, leaping over exposed roots, splashing through the muddy puddles, and zooming this way or that around the trees–every so often Handsome Hugo would stop and gaze at me, both of us grinning from the sheer joy of what we were doing.  Running doesn’t get much better than this in my very humble opinion.

Every so often it’s important to forget about what the training plan says to do and just do the sort of run that makes you the happiest, whether it’s road or trail, easy amble or full-out sprint, sunny or rainy.  Don’t worry and stress about the time, distance, or pace.  Get out and run for the sheer joy of it.

Dukeries 40

So the Wilmot Wander wasn’t a one-off, I feel slightly less like a fraud when I call myself an ultra-runner with having made it to the finish line of the Dukeries 40 yesterday! Can’t say that it was my finest day of running but I’m extremely pleased to have toughed it out and finished.

I do think I have figured out the best way to calm pre-race jitters! My friend Nicole (who also was the one who talked me into this madness and gifted me with entry into the Dukeries) had volunteered to arrive early and help out as needed so instead of sitting around I decided to do so as well. We were put on car park marshalling duties and had lots of fun donning the high-vis and directing the other runners where to park up.  Totally took my mind off the craziness of daring to attempt to run 40 miles!

The event itself is both somewhat a blur and very clear…I’m not sure that makes any sense but it’s the way my crazy brain is processing it.  The scenery was gorgeous, we ran through Sherwood Pines, Clumber Park, Creswell Crags, rapeseed fields, a handful of villages, and the same water crossing at just after the first mile as the Dukeries 10 (a bit naughty that!).

dukeries40aidstation

So to continue, here are a few of my random thoughts about yesterday aka I kind of lost the plot when it came to writing the race report!

GOOD: Ronnie/HOBO Pace puts on a top-notch event. Laid back but some of the best bling with a bespoke medal and a race vest that actually fits.  Also the best ever pre-race briefings!

GOOD:  Gorgeous route through forests

BAD: Having to find a tree/trees to hide behind when you need a loo stop.  Which I had to do FIVE freaking times starting at around mile 6.

GOOD:  Absolutely fantastic volunteers, one of which sorted me out with kitchen roll to stop the very impressive bleeding I had on my legs from bramble scratches due to the first dive into the woods and she made sure to check on me again with the 2nd stop at the aid station.

BAD:  I managed to get bramble scratches on my bum as well as my legs, OWIE!

GOOD:  Well stocked aid stations with jam and peanut butter sandwiches, the usual fare of jelly bellys and biscuits as well as savoury in the form of Hula Hoops crisps. There was also water, squash, coffee, and coca-cola available.  The latter is what saved me, it was the only drink that I could manage to get down after the 3rd trip to the woods.

GOOD:  The other runners, lots of chit-chat and encouragement.

BAD:  The field thinned out somewhat after the 30 milers split off so there were some long solo sections which in hindsight was not so bad because it offered a bit more privacy in my gut-wrenching (literally) and mardy moments.

GOOD:  Beautiful sunny day.

BAD:  A little bit of sunburn on my shoulders!

GOOD:  The ever-changing scenery kept things interesting

BAD:  A wee bit too much tarmac to suit me for that distance.

GOOD:  A (mostly) very well-marked course with the tape and the hot pink spray painted dots and arrows.

BAD:  There were a handful of places that could have done with one of the pink arrows. On one of them a group of cyclists saved me from going the wrong way and out of a mess of nettles that another runner ended up in. Some of us are a bit more directionally challenged than others 😦

GOOD:  The First Aid Responders on cycles were very friendly and took the time to encourage the runners and ask if we were ok.

BAD:  My right calf tightened up just before the first aid station and it made running slightly uncomfortable (understatement) on the areas with uneven ground.

BAD:  Getting a rock in my shoe and when I stopped to remove it I re-laced my trainer too tight which has left me with a very sore spot on the top of my left foot (total rookie mistake).

GOOD:  The other runners giving encouragement during the last few miles as we made our way to the finish.

GOOD:  THE FINISH LINE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

GOOD:  The blissful cup of tea after I hobbled my way over the finish line

THE BEST:  The support of my running club mates. Priceless. But now we need a mascot!

Dukery (2 of 1)

Well done to Andrew, Nicole, Caz, Ian, Lora, Daniel, and Richard, my clubmates who also ran the Dukeries 30 and 40 yesterday!!!!

The boring stuff:  40.7 miles in 7:32:58