The Scribbler

30 December 2012

2012 – a review of my training and racing year

It’s been a good year has 2012. I started with a run on New Year’s Day – a great way to see in the Olympic year, bounding through the mud and clambering up the hills on the Town Moor. I’d see a lot of this landscape throughout the year.

Me on the Resolution Run

Resolution run on New Year’s Day 2012

But I was carrying an injury and not really doing enough about it. By the time I saw a physio and started properly managing my plantar fasciitis, running had to take a back seat and I returned to walk/run to get my feet and calves fit and strong.

I turned it to my advantage by focusing efforts on my swimming, joining in club swims and clocking up my highest swim mileage month of the year. I logged my second highest bike mileage this month too.

I continued to recover and treat my plantar fasciitis throughout February, logging my lowest monthly run distance since I started recording such things. But it was the right thing to do and I learned a lot while I was doing it.

It actually really got me thinking about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to use my accumulated knowledge of training. Talking to and getting such good treatment from my physio and sports massage girl helped push me in the direction of looking at getting some training qualifications – convincing me I could do it.

I was recovered enough to take part in arguably the year’s A race – The Olympic Park Run. On 31 March 2012 I donned a red T-shirt and smiled all the way round the five miles of the Olympic Park, touching the side of the velodrome, and eventually emerging from the long corridors underneath the stands to run on that track.

On the route of the Olympic Park Run

Running with the Olympic Velodrome in the background

I still remember the bounce, the energy, the absolute thrill of entering the bright glare of that arena. On a cold grey day, with only a few thousand spectators, I could only imagine the roars that would fill it come July.

But the whole experience of being in London, of taking part in a warm up event absolutely convinced me that we would make a wonderful job of hosting the Olympics. And didn’t we!

I took a break in April – a few days in France and my first run in continental Europe. And I finished off the month with great day in Scotland tri training with Leslely and friends, finally getting to grips with my clipless pedals.

It was good timing, as May was full of tri activities. My first triathlon of the season and a return to the scene of my first EVER tri at Ashington. With a still nigglesome foot and little focused training, I failed to improve on last year’s time, but I was off and running and my enthusiasm for crazy multi-sport events was as high as ever.

My real triathlon focus of 2012 was to be my next race, the QE2 sprint triathlon, where I’d tackle my first open water swim. So that meant open water training, and I first donned my wetsuit and got in the lake in May. Pretty scary at first, I did seriously wonder whether I’d ever be able to get myself calm enough to be able to swim proper front crawl, but little by little, session by session, I built my confidence and began to enjoy the open water experience.

And I was back north of the border again for another fabulous tri day, swimming, cycling, running and generally messing about in the sunshine on the best day off work ever with Al, Ann and Lesley. I got some serious inspiration that day. A real dose of ‘you can do anything if you believe in yourself’ magic. It works.

For those who only remember the wet summer, I can assure you we did have some super sunny days. That tri day was one, and our Fetch ladies cycling day, when me, Karen, Penny, Lisa and Lesley Anne took on part of the C2C route, was another.

me crossing the finish line at the QE2 sprint triathlon

The moment I felt like Chrissie Wellington – finishing my first open water triathlon

Which brings me to June – an absolutely action packed month, starting with my big event, the QE2 triathlon – my first time swimming 750m in open water. I was seriously nervous getting in that lake. So it felt very reassuring to have a couple of friendly faces nearby in the form of my PT, Ian and Lesley’s son Al.

The rest of that experience is blogged at length. But if I had to pick a moment of the year, it would be that one. Crossing the finish at a sprint, hearing my name over the tannoy system, race face captured on camera, falling into the arms of my very best tri buddy Lesley. Oh, and the best finish photo ever courtesy of Bob Marshall.

I’m sure it felt harder, I had more doubts, and I know I seriously asked myself what I thought I was doing going into the water. But I don’t really remember that now. I just remember the sense of achievement, the elation and the joy of finishing and being surrounded by friends and eating cake in the car park!

I’ve already mentioned the weather, and Saturday 9 June was a day of sunshine and showers in Newcastle. As I made my way down to the Bigg Market for the start of the 150th Blaydon Race, people were sitting outside the restaurants and cafes, watching the world go by, enjoying the sunshine.

But as the race started, so did the rain. And less than a mile in, the roads were rivers and we were drenched through. I’d been drier in the lake. It made for a memorable race. Still a fun one as always, but definitely my wettest yet.

As the Olympics drew closer, the torch came to town, gathering crowds and celebrations, swiftly followed by a brand new north east park run on my beloved coast. On Olympic opening day itself, I was a visitor at Ellem’s again, enjoying a swim in a lake near where she lives, a cycle and a run before heading home to wonder in delight at the opening ceremony.

I’ve spent a good few days in Scotland this year, which is always good news for me, and I returned to Edinburgh for a day at the festival in August. I threw in a parkrun for good measure and caught up with some of my other Scottish Fetchie pals too.

I logged my highest ever bike mileage this month (still no great shakes by the measures of this site, but still significant for me) helped by my longest ride to date on the Great North Bike Ride.

Me waving at the camera on the last mile of the Great North Run 2012

Enjoying the last mile of the Great North Run 2012

And so to September, which sort of marks the beginning and end of my running year with the Great North Run. My fourth year of running it (who ever thought I would be saying that?).

It was important in that, thanks yet again to my generous Fetch friends, it helped me raise over £700 for Sands in memory of my baby sister Ava. And it was important to me that I’d recovered enough from my running injury early in the year to be able to take it on.

But in terms of time, of challenge, to me, it was no longer the big thing it has been. I was overjoyed to high five a couple of Olympic heroes on the start line and very happy to have stumbled into the company of the brilliant Elvet Striders 2 hour run bus, but right from the start I knew it wasn’t my race this year.

I’d already had a magic moment crossing the finish line the day before in the company of the amazing Tony the Fridge flanked by a host of Harley Davisons and the lads from his junior football team. A real privilege to run with this guy and spend time in his company.

Lesley, me and Jane at the finish of Haddington triathlon

Lesley, me and Jane posing at Haddington triathlon

So by the time I reached 10 miles and I was still not feeling it, I let it go, released any sense of pressure of time or achievement and just ran easy. High fiving all the kids along the last mile, waving, smiling, giving thumbs up to everyone who shouted out my name on my shirt, just cruising to the finish and enjoying it.

It had been a bit much to ask to run an amazing race after opting to do a sprint tri in Scotland the weekend before. But I wouldn’t have missed Haddington triathlon for anything. Another sunny day in the company of my lovely friends; a perfectly run event; a swim that frankly astonished me, and a run that convinced me I could get back to previous form. That was another event for the scrapbook.

After all that I was ready for a break and I really enjoyed our holiday to Canada, where I still managed to run, cycle and swim and watch part of a half marathon.

My plans to come back refreshed, revitalised and ready to enjoy the off season were scuppered by a silly fall during the Newcastle Stampede which had me finishing the best part of a 10k with a sprained ankle.

But actually this injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Using what I’d learned from my physio treating my plantar fasciitis earlier in the year I rested, recovered and returned using a walk run plan to build back up. Only this time, I also revisited my running style and with the help of drills and exercises from my PT, Ian, I started to transition to a more midfoot style.

Me, Ian, Les and George the pug

The Inspire team at Newcastle Stampede 2012

It felt strange at first and I had to make sure I did a lot of stretching and foam rollering to release the built up tension in my calf muscles. But that’s made me develop more good habits and the additional stretching, running drills and warm up are now a regular part of my routine.

Not running so much also drove me back to swimming and cycling. I used some drills with the pull buoy as my ankle was recovering and they’ve helped me improve my front crawl stroke a great deal, so that I now get my hands in the water more quickly, and finish every stroke, rather than rushing through to take the next breath.

October too saw me return to support the Town Moor marathon – another race that’s become a regular on my calendar. It was great to welcome Fetchie pals Ann and Les and to cheer on a host of other runners around the course. And it was absolutely brilliant to be there for Ann’s course record breaking win. I predict more to come from this fabulous runner next year.

And so onto birthday celebrations in November, combined with a return to parkrun and each week developing confidence in my new running style and chipping away at my time.

Runners standing on the track

Fetchies do the mobot

But my biggest achievement this month was returning to the exam room for the first time in over 20 years and passing the theory papers for my Level 2 gym instructor qualification. I still have to face the practical assessment sometime early next year, but a good set of marks on the exams has given me the confidence that I can do that too. And the whole experience has fired me up to do more and to pass on some of my learning and experience in 2013.

December saw us get together for a Fetch track mile – a great chance to meet up, run a bit and eat some cake before Christmas. And I ended the year with a very wet but enjoyable 10k race at Saltwell.

Track training obviously suits me, as I returned there for a session with my PT this week and have just clocked my fastest parkrun of the year at Whitley Bay  in a time of 25:49.

Now I may not have managed to run faster or PB at any distance I’e run before this year but I have:

  • Swum over 20 miles further than in 2011 (including my first open water swims)
  • Cycled over 100 miles further than in 2011 (including my longest single cycle ride to date)
  • Ran fewer miles than I’ve ever logged in a year
  • Cross trained a little less than I did in 2011, but not by much
  • Still trained for more hours than any other year – over 270 of them 🙂

There’s still a bit of time left to go, but I doubt I’ll get much time to train.  I’m enjoying spending a bit of time off, relaxing and getting stuck into my studies again.

I have plans and goals in mind for next year already, but I think that’s fodder for another post, as this has been a long one already. It’s been great to look back at another tremendous year, to reflect on the achievements and to cherish the friends with whom I’ve enjoyed some magic moments.

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26 December 2012

Saltwell 10k – end of the year racing

Filed under: run — The Scribbler @ 22:25
Tags: , , ,

I volunteered at Whitley Bay parkrun on Saturday morning, and braved the blustery, windy conditions to stand and point the way over the path to the bridge, smiling at all the crazy costumes and Santa hats as the runners battled the elements.

I really didn’t feel much like running a 10k that afternoon in the wind and rain, but resetting expectations to just go and enjoy a run in a nice park in the expectation of seeing some Fetchie friends I headed over to Gateshead for the Saltwell 10k.

The wet weather made everyone keen to get their numbers and keep warm, rather than stand around chatting, but within minutes I’d spotted Jason, Rob, Jeff and Peter and said hello. And I walked up to the start with a couple of Elvet Striders who weren’t running but were supporting. As I lined up to start, Dave and Melanie said hello – almost unrecognisable beneath their hoods and wet gear, they looked well equipped for the wet conditions.

My Garmin didn’t like the rain and failed to start until a couple of minutes into the race, but no matter, it wasn’t about pacing or racing today. I set off at a decent pace, but one I felt I could keep under control, focusing on my running style. I dropped off the mid foot on the downhills, cruised the ups and generally had a good run.

Round the bottom of the lake Peter came past with a quip, and I tried to keep him in my sights for a good time, before deciding just to run at my own pace. I seemed to pass people on the downhills, although I had to ease up a bit to avoid slipping. I had a good couple of mini races with people close to my pace, and all the way round I kept hearing encouragement for ‘Sunderland’ just behind me, and hearing comments about a festive hat.

I was dying to see the comment-worthy hat, but kept my focus forward, trying to keep this close-paced competitor behind me as long as I could. Coming round for the second lap, she shouted out to the leading lady who flew past to lap us. It was fantastic to see Aly Dixon in full flow in her Sunderland Strollers vest.

The rain never eased up and it was a wet, soggy run. It was great to see Jeff and hear his cracking race time as I came into the park for the last time.

I felt like I’d dropped some pace on the last lap, and kept expecting to be passed by my Stroller nemesis, but as we rounded the lake, I found something of a last gasp spurt and held on for a muddy finish.

As I turned to see the famous hat, I realised it was being worn by Lesley Foster who I haven’t seen in ages, and who’d been using me as a pacing target throughout the race without realising who I was either.

With a chip time of 57:35, I was some way off my fastest time for this course, but I expected that, and my target really was just to get round, but going under 60 mins was a bonus. Comparing race stories with other runners as we shivered into dry clothes afterwards, we agreed it was another one to clock up to experience.

But actually, I really enjoyed it. I still haven’t really raced a 10k in 2012, but I was far from pootling round this one. Now I have my new running style, and my racing experience, I feel like I’ll be well set for next year. It’s reminded me I do enjoy racing and it’s always good to see a Fetchie or two. And I’m sure there will be plenty more chances to do that.

19 December 2012

North East Fetch Everyone track mile

Filed under: run — The Scribbler @ 12:45
Tags: , , , ,

There’s a bit of a trend on Fetch Everyone (the running site I frequent) to hold local mile races. Sometimes they are small, sometimes large, but generally they are just an excuse for a bit of a meet up with fellow runners, a race and cake.

Runners standing on the track

Fetchies do the mobot

And that’s why a small, select band of North East Fetchies and parkrunners met up at the track at Churchill playing fields, Whitley Bay on Sunday.

We had a range of speeds from the super fast to the pretty impressive, and ages from 17 to 80. We even had timing kit as Nigel from Newcastle parkrun turned up with the kit he devised with local school kids.

We ran three races in all. First off were the speedy boys, with 17-year-old Adam up from Durham to chase a sub 5 min PB. Despite having a Saturday parkrun and winning cross country race in his legs, he stormed off around the track looking very relaxed and in form. It’s a measure of his talent and focus that he took strides out of our speedy parkrunner Craig who arrived after an 8 mile warm up.

Race two was me, Jeff and Nadhim. In such speedy company, I set off way too fast and struggled to catch my breath, choking and wheezing in the chilly air. I knew I would be a good way behind the guys, but just tried to focus on my running form and keeping up my leg turnover.

I fought for breath all the way round, only really gaining control on the back straight of the last lap, at which point my only aim was to avoid being lapped. With Adam yelling encouragement from the final bend, I kicked in to a last sprint and powered home in 7:44. Not my fastest mile ever, but the only one starting with a 7 that I’ve run this year. So I’m happy with that.

Runners on the track

Karen, Penny and Eric running their mile

The last race saw fab Fetchies Penny and Karen, with parkrun legend 80-year-old Eric, all bidding to get round four laps in under 10 minutes. The dynamic girls in red and yellow kept pace with each other all the way round, until the last lap, when Karen broke free in the final straight to record a time that astonished her, with Pennyclose on her heels. Eric recorded his fastest mile of the year and all managed sub 10.

After the races, there was cake in abundance and smiles and chat in the winter sunshine. The meet closed with an optional 400m and 100m sprint and some photos emulating the Olympic superstars, Bolt and Farah.

The running was impressive, the sun shone and there were smiles all round and requests to do it again soon. I reckon we can count that as a win.

13 December 2012

A tale of two parkruns

Filed under: Parkrun,run — The Scribbler @ 23:31
Tags: , , , ,

With a cold snap in the air, there were understandable doubts about parkrun being safe to run on 1 December. Indeed, a number of north east runs had to cancel due to icy paths, but Newcastle was still on.

The race director reported the run to be marginal, but made the decision to keep it on, with the extra help of the marshalls who did double duty directing runners away from the iciest sections and over onto the soggy grass, then came back to the finish to take numbers and scan tokens. It was bitingly cold on the moor, and the volunteers were in for a cold job.

I went to do my usual warm up in all my layers, including my Fetch hoodie and had a quick chat with a runner visiting from Edinburgh and staying nearby. And then it was time to line up at the start.

Some quick steps over the grass and negotiating the turns and icy sections kept the pace steady through the first kilometre, but I was able to pick it up again through the gate and out along the road. I felt good and strong when my footing was sure, even over the rough path back onto the moor, where the low sun provided another challenge, making it hard to see the icy ground.

The new running style has definitely started to stick. The only times it dropped during this run were when I had to divert over the grass and I found myself plodging or when I was skipping over the ice, uncertain of my footing.

I was out on my own between 3-4kms and felt my pace drop over this tricky section. But once back on the path, I gave it a good kick in the last km and tried to keep the pace up even over the grass. The final sprint to the finish line was painful and I needed a few minutes once over the line to stop the spinning feeling in my head. But I was pleased with my time which was only 7 seconds slower than last week. Without the ice, I feel it would have been faster.

Stats and stuff:
5k 27:32

1) – 0.62m – 5:45(9:17/m) – 63cal
2) – 0.62m – 5:26(8:45/m) – 64cal
3) – 0.62m – 5:20(8:36/m) – 65cal
4) – 0.62m – 5:49(9:23/m) – 65cal
5) – 0.62m – 5:08(8:14/m) – 63cal

So when this Saturday dawned ice cold again and ice threatened to make the Town Moor course a cross country fest, I opted for parkrun at Whitley Bay. It’s a long time since I ran this course, and in fact, they’ve changed the finish, so I hadn’t run this version before.

I warmed up as usual and found myself a spot, ready to give it a good run. Not knowing the field, I very much ran to feel, finding my own pace and enjoying the steady footing of the tarmac paths and the drop down onto the promenade.

Not too windy or too cold, I was on a mission to improve my run time after an encouraging chat with my PT. I’m enjoying my new running style and feel like it’s working, so I wanted to prove that and I’m using parkrun as my push it session in the week.

I made the mistake of glancing at my Garmin after 1k and noticed the pace was hot for me. In truth I was feeling it a little in my breathing and trying to relax into the run. The next part of the route has a couple of sharp inclines, that weren’t as long or as steep as I remembered, but I cut my stride and eased up them and onwards.

I was on my own for much of the run, with few targets to chase, but after the initial surge I tried to cling on to anyone that overtook me and I managed to outpace a couple of guys just by keeping my rhythm and reeling them in.

Back round past the starting point, I knew there was less than a lap to go and started mentally calculating the time left to run to distract me from the effort. 10 minutes of bright winter sunshine and clear skies, then less than six and keep pushing, keep the head, keep the desire.

It was tough, but I knew there wasn’t much further to go, even though my head hadn’t quite got the measure of the new course. Once more over the little bridge and up the incline, then back round along the road and onto the cliff top path down to the promenade for the finishing stretch.

A male runner in a blue top had run beside me for a while and I’d stuck with him, pushing my pace, but here he showed his form and stretched ahead. I knew I still had a kick, but it’s a short and fast one, so I picked my spot to really pick it up, all the time willing my legs into a faster turnover. Just after the Rendezvous I hammered it down, less than 100m to the finish.

Token collected, watch stopped, I stuttered away from the line, head down to catch my breath and it felt like minutes before I could look at my time. Target for today was faster than 27:25 which I’d run in Newcastle two weeks ago on a dry course. The figures on the watch face read 26:26 (official time 26:32)

Not only is that the best part of a minute faster, it’s my best time of the year so far, beating the 27:02 I ran in August. So, I think I can safely say that I’m seeing improvements from my new running style.

Stats and stuff:
5k 26:26
1) – 0.62m – 5:09(8:19/m) – 63cal
2) – 0.62m – 5:34(8:59/m) – 65cal
3) – 0.62m – 5:21(8:38/m) – 64cal
4) – 0.62m – 5:17(8:31/m) – 65cal
5) – 0.62m – 5:05(8:14/m) – 63cal

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