Juneathon is back! (And this time it’s personal…)

OK, OK, I know I haven’t yet written a marathon race report.  But the thing is, I had lots of celebrating to do on the evening of the day itself, then a horrendously hectic week at work straight afterwards, and then I went off on holiday to Cuba where they have no internet.  And by the time I got home it was mid-May and it just wasn’t a priority any more.  It is still on my To Do list, but quite low down.  Suffice (for now) to say that it was an awesome day, I loved almost every minute, I ran every step (except for quick food breaks) and I came in under my target time, so I was very pleased with it.  I imagine my Mum will talk me into doing it again with her in a couple of years.

Marathon over, it’s time to move on to new challenges.  So far, despite having signed up for the last two Juneathons, I have yet to complete this challenge.  This year I have added incentive – having had a very lazy (albeit fully deserved) couple of weeks in the Caribbean followed by a very alcoholic couple of weeks since, I am all out of shape again and dying to get back to the peak condition I was in pre-marathon.  Especially since I am going to the south of France for my friend’s wedding in July – effectively 4 days by the pool with a huge proportion of the people I know, including more than one former flame.  Never has it been so important to look super hot in a bikini!  Luckily for me, Juneathon promises to deliver.

This year, I have a vague idea of using Juneathon to sample as many new exercise options as possible (zumba perhaps) but we will have to see how that fits in with my hectic schedule of busy work days and even busier social plans.  There will be a bit of deja vu going on as three things that featured on my Juneathon blog last year are coincidentally also in the diary this June: the Blitz party, moving house, and a fancy client dinner (same client).  So try not to get too bored if it sounds like I’m repeating myself.  The difference is – this year I will succeed!

Good luck everyone, and happy Juneathoning!

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04:56:43

Amazing, exhilarating, painful, wonderful day.  Delighted to achieve my sub-5 hour target on a very warm day.  Full race report to follow later.

48 hours to go!

The countdown is in hours, not days, now, and many of the pre-race preparations are being ticked off.  On Wednesday evening Sue Bell and I escaped the office early to go and register at the Expo.  Glad we went then – it was nice and quiet and registration was super-fast and slick.  We called into the Oxfam stand, picked up a few free goodies (although skipped the London Pride!) and then got out of there – it’s quite a trek back to West London from the Excel centre. 

The last couple of days have been the start of carb-loading, and to my surprise I’m not enjoying it as much as I expected!  Being a big fan of pasta and bread and rice and potatoes I didn’t really see this stage of the training as a problem at all, but actually it is a bit of an effort to make myself each such a high proportion of starchy food.  I feel heavy and bloaty. A bit of a change tonight as I’m going to a friend’s for an evening of cheese – but even then, since I’m not drinking, I will be bringing my own baguette in lieu of a bottle of Bordeaux’s finest!

This is what remains on the last minute preparations list:
1.  Register at Expo.
2. Attach timing chip to shoes and race number to T-shirt.
3. Iron my name onto my shirt (I think I’ll save that one for my far more talented mother who arrives tomorrow)
4. Arrange logistics for getting to the start with Gemma and Adam (depart Brook Green at 7am to catch 7.54 train from Charing Cross to Greenwich).
5. Finalise my iPod playlist – not enough tunes on there yet.  I think I’ll add a few miles of Belle and Sebastian at the beginning to help me keep a gentle pace through that first section.
6. Keep eating carbs.
7. Go to my last spin and pilates classes to keep me ticking over and give everything a nice stretch (very gentle exercise only though).
8. Replenish post-spin with some more carbs. 
9. Pack my race-day bag.  I’ve got everything I need now – just need to bring it all together in one place.
10.  Confirm where all my supporters are going to be along the race route so I can keep an eye out.

I’m sure there’s plenty more I’ll be adding to that list over the next 2 days.

On Wednesday I did my very last run before the big one – 30 minutes on the treadmill, doing intervals of 4 minutes gentle, 1 minute fast.  It felt good. Whatever was wrong with my right quad has fixed itself during this long taper period, and my legs feel strong, despite my right knee being black and blue and yellow from Monday’s fall.  All I have to do now is take care of myself for just two more days…

Stats
Distance:  5.25km
Time:  30 minutes (6 x intervals of 4 mins gentle, 1 min fast)
Terrain:  treadmill
Time of day: 12.30pm
Notable features:  last one!!

Countdown: 6 days to go!

And so into the final week.  This time next week, I should be hobbling around the office basking in the self-satisfied knowledge that I am a London Marathon finisher.  That is, assuming nothing stupid happens between now and then.  I had a momentary panic this morning after going flying on some kind of kitchen grease spilled across the pavement on Fetter Lane.  I landed quite hard on one knee, which is now sporting a neat graze and a big bruise reminiscent of the school playground, but (fingers crossed) I don’t appear to have done any real damage.  Even my dented pride was restored when another chap also slid spectacularly to the ground just seconds after I did.  Well, misery does love company!

But back to the training.  As per my last post, I have been trying to get some hot weather runs in just in case the current summery spell continues into next weekend (although forecasts at the moment are more encouraging).  To that end, I headed out on Wednesday lunchtime for a quick jog along the last 2.5 miles of the actual marathon course (and back via Northumberland Avenue).  I made sure to really notice my surroundings and try and imagine how different they will look on Sunday lined with thousands of spectators.  I’m not sure my imagination really did it justice.  I did particularly notice one lady on Birdcage Walk though, who can’t have been much older than me but who was shuffling along very slowly with the help of a frame.  I told myself to remember her when I am in pain in those last few miles and remind myself again how lucky I am to be able to contemplate running the marathon at all.

The 2.5 miles to Buckingham Palace and the Mall took me about 22 minutes  (not being sure exactly where on the Mall the finish line will be I couldn’t be more precise).  It’ll be hugely interesting to see how long they take me on Sunday – safe to say that it’ll be longer than that!  It was a hot lunchtime to be out and about, and I did feel the heat slowing me a bit, but I was pleased to find that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.

The same was true on Sunday morning when I went out for the last long run. 10 miles, Putney to Barnes.  Again baking hot, but with a perfect breeze that cooled but didn’t slow me down.  There were loads of obvious marathon runners out in their charity vests for a final dress rehearsal, and I made sure to give each of them a particularly encouraging smile.  Maybe my boring black vest and shorts didn’t inspire similar sentiments, because none of them smiled back except for one beaming grin from a blonde girl in a Breakthrough Breast Cancer vest.  I hope she does well on Sunday.

I was really pleased with the 10 miles.  The heat didn’t bother me at all (I slowed to have some water at every bridge, so roughly every 2.5 miles), I felt strong and comfortable and had to deliberately slow myself down at times to keep to a gentle 10.30 min pace, getting home on target in 1:44:49.  After the disappointing long runs of recent weeks it was a relief to feel back on form.  Even better to look back to where I started from and realise how much I’ve already achieved: I can now run 10 miles in 20 degree heat with ease, which would have been pretty unthinkable six months ago. 

All that’s left to do now is sort out logistics for Sunday morning, get to the Expo (hopefully on Wednesday evening) and stock up the fridge.  Oh, and actually run the marathon.  Bring it on!

Stats (Sunday)
Distance:  10.0 miles
Time: 01:44:49
Weather:  hot midday sunshine, 20 degrees
Route:  river, Putney to Barnes loop
Notable features:  ITV1 were filming the Britain’s Got Talent London auditions at the Hammersmith Apollo, so I got to run past TV cameras, guys in drag and tutus, and loads of very weird costumes.  So pretty much just like the marathon then!

Taper (or running out of steam)

I fear that I may have peaked too soon.  Since the 20 mile run the other week, I have been feeling far less motivated about running, and even training more generally.  The taper period has started now, so I deliberately took it easy last week in an attempt to help my poorly quad recover from whatever it is that is ailing it.  It did appear to help – my first-thing-in-the-morning limp is less pronounced – but the general apathy that has come with the tail-off has taken me by surprise.

Admittedly, work has been busy, but since my last post ten days ago I have only managed the following in terms of training:

Wednesday evening: short gym session on the rower, cross-trainer and free weights;
Thursday morning: Spin and Tone session (unfortunately the toning session focused on the same upper body muscles as my own workout the night before, so it was a struggle);
Friday:  30 minute yoga/pilates class;
Sunday late afternoon:  ten mile run/walk; and
Tuesday evening: a 5k interval session on the treadmill. 

All of which is OK for what it’s worth but is much less than I had intended.  The plan was for the long run on Sunday (a whole week after my last run) to be 16 miles rather than 10, but my heart just wasn’t in it.  I dithered all day and am pretty sure that if it hadn’t been such a glorious day outside I wouldn’t have gone at all.  I decided to do a river loop between Barnes and Putney, and had it not been warm and sunny I would have turned towards home when I got back to Hammersmith Bridge at 5.5 miles rather than continuing on along the south bank.  But even though I resolved to keep going, it was with the promise to myself that provided I covered the 10 miles one way or another, I could just walk it and enjoy being outside in the lovely spring weather instead of pushing on through.  I did run bits of it but got a nasty stitch two and a half miles from home and just meandered my way back from there.  Hardly gritted determination to succeed at all costs.

Yesterday’s treadmill session was more of the same.  My schedule suggested 7 x 800m intervals, which I thought was optimistic even before I started and so I resolved to do six.  I did three reasonably happily, but without my iPod and with the gym hot and sticky I was tired of it after just three.  In the end I did manage to push on for a fourth and made a point of making it faster (flat out sprinting the last 200m), but it was really just a lame attempt to justify quitting before I was done.  Rubbish really.

I’ve also deliberately slept through 2 morning spin classes so far this week, which isn’t great.  I’m hoping it’ll be third time lucky tomorrow.

Lots of people are asking me now whether I’m excited or nervous and how the training is going – all I can tell them is that I just want to get it over and done with now.  I know its common to feel strange and frustrated during a taper period but I don’t feel like I want to get out and run, I just feel apathetic and want it to be over.  Anyone else felt like this?

The plan for the weekend is to go home to Warwickshire tomorrow night for a brief Mother’s Day visit, and head out Saturday morning for the same 15.25 miler that I did back in February.  The good thing about that is that really there’s no turning back once you’re committed to that run, and I’ll have my parents to kick me out of the door in the morning, so I’m hoping to get my mojo back that way.  Fingers crossed anyway.

PS.  I’ve been invited to a Cheesefest the Friday night before the marathon, which is exactly as it sounds – a bunch of friends and lots and lots of lovely cheese.  A wonderful idea as far as I’m concerned, but I’m not sure whether the timing is so great.  Any thoughts on the possible implications of cheese overdose 36 hours before a marathon greatly appreciated!

Stats (2 runs)
Distance:  10 miles; 5k
Time: not sure; 00:29:26
Terrain:  river path; treadmill
Time of day:  late afternoon; evening
Weather:  wall to wall sunshine;  just walls, no windows
Notable features:  lethargy, grumpiness and not finishing the job

Final push

This week the final instructions and registration form arrived on my doormat, informing me that on the day I will be marathon runner number 52610!  It’s all starting to feel very real and very close now.  In some ways, that’s a bit scary, but for the most part I’m just glad that the punishment I am putting my body through at the moment is nearly over – I am fed up of limping around the office.

The final instructions were the impetus I needed to step up the fundraising drive this week, so I finally got round to sending out emails to friends, family and colleagues, and putting a link to my Virgin Money Giving page on Facebook.  I’m delighted to find that people are really rising to the occasion and being incredibly generous; so much so that I’m already almost at my target total.  Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me so far – I really appreciate it and your money is going to a great cause.

Having sorted the fundraising, there was just one last thing to tick off, and it was the big one: the 20 mile long run.  I was extremely lucky to wake yesterday to a truly glorious spring day: wall to wall sunshine and blue skies, and yet a bit of a chill in the air to keep me cool on the move.  I couldn’t have asked for a more auspicious start to a big challenge.  (Well, the start of it could have gone a little bit better – my dodgy right leg was playing up a bit and the first couple of miles were run with a distinct limp on that side.  But recent runs have taught me that once I get going I seem to even out so I pushed on through it and by the time I reached Richmond Park I was into my stride. )

The really long run is supposed to be practice for the big day, so there were a few things that I wanted to try out on this one.  Kit first: I wore my Oxfam vest to see whether it was comfortable to run in, and learnt that it chafes under the arms so I won’t be wearing that on the day.  Fortunately Oxfam have also sent a bamboo T-shirt which I tried out last week and is much more comfortable.  I also tried some supposed “proper” running socks which gave me my first blisters (very impressive, but fortunately not painful), so again I think I’ll be sticking with the old cotton, completely non-technical, socks that have seen me comfortably through the rest of the training.

I also tried a strategy of having a short break every 10K to eat some Haribo and have a drink – taking my time and walking briskly as I did so.  This strategy worked well and gave me a welcome boost each time, but is a bit costly in terms of time.  I’ll have to have a think about how much I care about that – running the marathon comfortably is probably a bit more important to me but it would be nice to have as good a time as I can manage.

As for the actual run itself, it was definitely a run of two halves.  The first half was mostly in Richmond Park, which was totally transformed by the sunshine.  It was no longer the grey and bleak expanse that I have become so familiar with through the winter months, but a leafy, green oasis full of excited children and shiny happy people.  Much more pleasant.  That first half (once I had got into my stride) was fairly comfortable and enjoyable, although my body did feel really tired and I found myself thinking longingly of the taper to come.

Once I left the park I headed through Barnes to the river and ran along the riverbank to Putney.  By the time I reached the half marathon stage at Barnes I was starting to feel tired, and knew that the next seven miles would be a struggle.  Although I was eating jellies regularly I could tell that I hadn’t really eaten enough the night before/that morning – must significantly increase the pasta intake prior to the long runs.  I was initially distracted from the discomfort by the river itself – it was really high, as high as I have ever seen it, presumably tidal as a result of last night’s “supermoon”.  It was also noteworthy that on this glorious day there were no rowers out on the river – generally there are loads even when the weather is really miserable, and given that we are only a week from The Boat Race their absence seemed really unusual.  I assumed the very high tide must be preventing them from getting onto the water.

When I got to Putney (at around 17 miles) though, I realised where they all were.  There was a regatta taking place yesterday afternoon and as I got there thousands and thousands of people were thronging the riverbank about to put hundreds of boats into the water.  The road was completely impassable, and I had to take a detour into Putney proper to get through.  That detour (which added just under half a mile to my route) was a psychological killer – I was only just holding it together at that point and I pretty much ground to a halt at the extra distance.  I had the last horrible section up Fulham Palace Road still to go and it defeated me – I had to walk a big chunk of the way and the whole of the last half mile to home.

Still, one way or another I covered the 20.5 miles, in just under 4 hours with a lot of walking at the end (the last 3 miles took me 45 minutes).  Everyone keeps telling me that the support and atmosphere on the day will provide a huge boost to keep me moving, and I am relying on that to a certain extent.  I also know that I need to eat a LOT more – the last couple of long runs I have been running out of energy rather than having any biomechanical difficulties.  It’s interesting that I didn’t have that problem with some of the earlier long runs – the 15 miler after the 30/90 party at home was no problem in terms of energy despite being really hilly, but I had noteably eaten my own body weight the day before! Similarly the 16.5 miler was fine too, but these last few longer runs I have been feeling hungry and weak by the time I get to 13 miles.  I’m perfectly OK with the kind of exercise that requires me to eat, eat and eat some more – when do girls ever get free licence to do that otherwise?!

That’s the longest run I’ll do, and listening to my body I think I need to start the taper from here so I’ll go back down to 16.5 next week.  Instead I need to step up the stretching and flexibility regime, try and get to some pilates classes and spend some time in the gym working on my core strength.  Hopefully then I’ll be in slightly better shape come 17 April.  Not long to go!

Stats:
Distance:  20.48 miles
Time:  03.56.39
Route:  Richmond Park, then river from Barnes to Putney
Weather:  glorious!!
Time of day: 11am-3pm
Notable features:  glorious weather, thousands of rowers in my way

Record breaker

Brilliant perk of running as part of the Freshfields Oxfam team today.  And I’m not talking about the rather fetching baseball cap they gave me .  Freshfields sponsors the world record breaking marathon runner and Paralympic medal hopeful Richard Whitehead, and today the marathon runners got to go out on a training run with him.

Fears that we wouldn’t be able to keep up were fortunately allayed as we headed out at a very gentle pace along the Embankment and made our way up to Hyde Park.  Richard runs with a wide circular gait which makes running right alongside him a little hazardous until you get used to it, so for the first half a mile or so we made quite a spectacle for the tourists as he led the way with a dozen girls (and one guy) chasing after him.  When we got to Hyde Park we did a few intervals of around about 200 metres or so, which gave my dodgy quad something to think about, and finally headed back to the office at a much more brisk tempo pace which felt pretty great actually.

Richard is a great guy and very happy to chat and answer questions.  We discovered that his secret weapon is a large bowl of plain spaghetti for breakfast before a marathon race – a strategy I don’t think I’ll be adopting.  Haribo might not fuel me to a world record but they are a much more tasty option!

As midweek training runs go, they don’t get much better than today’s.  A great combination of easy, tempo and interval running, some inspirational chat and the opportunity to bunk off work with impunity.  I think my training may have just peaked.

Stats
Distance:  11.6km
Time:  not sure, no watch
Weather:  misty but not too cold
Time of day:  2pm, on a Wednesday, so pretty indulgent.  Lucky it was sponsored by the firm really.
Route:  Embankment, St James Park, Green Park, Hyde Park
Notable features:  training with a world record breaker – can’t beat it.