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Leg drills

Legs gotta work harder

Legs gotta work harder

Now I can swim (!!!), I vaguely recall saying I can start to focus on form, function, technique and whatever other techy words there are to describe swimming better.

I have to say focusing on one aspect was rather forced on me due to my shirking shoulders. The magical Michaela instructed me to rest for two weeks (three as it happened as I was on hols), so no swimming and no tennis. Running was allowed, thank goodness, I’d have gone a little stir crazy otherwise.

Anyway, I still went to the pool, but just did leg drills. It’s amazing how much time one can spend doing just leg drills. It’s amazing how wobbly one’s legs are afterwards from all the exertion.

I did more of the usual leg drills that the marvellous M has had me doing all along, e.g. lying on back, hands on chest, leg kicking up and down the pool. Repeat with float on chest. Repeat holding float to knees; lying on front with float out front, kick up and down the pool. How come it’s so much easier doing the kicking drills on one’s back? I seem to go faster, marginally, on my back (ah, see below).

I’ve got a couple of books on swimming now, so I found some more drills:

Standing on the bottom step in the deep end is a good drill, I’ve found. Sideways on, one foot on step, other leg hanging loose, arm firmly hanging on for support.  Hips/pelvis fixed. Kick back and forth, relaxed leg. All the effort coming from hip, well, and the glutes, I noticed. Kick wider than you would when swimming.

Kicking on one’s side is another good one. Need flippers. Kicking up pool on side, bottom arm out straight, head looking down (apart from when you need to breathe!), top arm lying down top side.  So far I’ve been doing the whole length on one side, yet to progress to making one stroke half way and finishing the length on my other side. Too much shoulder rotation for my shoulder three-week rest period. I’ll try it soon. This drill is supposed to help with body position and rotation too. I’m beginning to think I don’t rotate enough, having previously thought my body was supposed to be fairly still and horizontal. I’ll leave that for thought evolution (well, reading), and a future post.

I’m still figuring out how to do the leg kicking thing from the hip, i.e. with straight or nearly-straight legs. Knees are not supposed to be involved really, so I gather. Definitely avoid ‘running horizontally’ in the water, i.e. bending knees – apparently this causes drag; no wonder I used to feel I was going backwards, I probably was. Knees should be ‘loose and relaxed’, bending only ever-so-slightly during the kick. Sounds like I need to move my shoulder mantra from running to a knee mantra for swimming. I can do that.

It’s all about the flipping glutes, I’ve concluded. Need to max my glutes for multi-discipline proficiency. I reckon I’ve got a new cross-sport (run-swim) mantra: core and glutes, core and glutes (imagined in a silly parrot voice). In fact I’d already decided to build myself a core and glutes strength training programme to do once a week in front of the telly. I tried one for the first time the other day.

I would just say, don’t – necessarily – do a hefty core and glutes programme for the first time the day immediately before the long run… ouchy, ouchy, ouchy.

Intervals … nemesis number two

Heiligenstein in Austria - originally named because the sun "burns like hell" on it.  Makes some exquisite wines now.

Heiligenstein in Austria – originally (1280) named because the sun “burns like hell” on it. Makes some exquisite wines now.

Here we go – interval training. Nemesis number two. Or so I thought. (See here for nemesis number one).

Interval training is supposed to be ‘hard’ where tempo training is supposed to be ‘comfortably hard’. I still don’t understand that. Running’s all hard to me.

Firstly, what is that I kept avoiding? Interval training appears to be repetitions of longer and/or shorter runs over a set distance (or time) with short recovery times between distances. For example two sets of this set: 1,000m, 800m, 600m, 400m, 200m, with 75 second recovery between each distance. Then a five minute rest before you do the set again. The idea is you run faster for each shorter distance.

Why do it? I gather the aim is to build fitness. There’s a word I’m going to have to address in a future post. Fitter than what? Fit for what purpose?

I’ve read that interval training builds speed and endurance. In which case I should be loving it. I think it’s supposed to improve speed and endurance by getting the heart to work harder. I’ve also read more words about building lactate tolerance with interval training. Still don’t understand this lactate stuff. Oh flip, I see research coming … which I’m likely to avoid as I’m doing lots of research for the day job. This involves sitting on my backside in front of the screen, which I don’t really want to do more of at the end of the working day. Oh dear, where’s my running motivation gone?

Anyway, it turns out I’ve been doing interval training at run club, for the last couple of months, since I started up again after a lengthy London marathon reprieve period, during which I chugged along and jogged a bit. Now I’m training for the Bournemouth marathon, intervals it is (along with my long, slow run and a few hills).  Intervals are absolutely fine. Tough – I have to try to run faster which is quite tricky for a one-modest-pace sort of runner. But actually, I think I may be beginning to recognise that maybe I have more than one pace, after all. Another later post, perhaps.

So many learnings. So much to learn. Whoever said running was simply putting one foot in front of the other? Mad fool. It’s much more complex.

It turns out interval training is not a nemesis at all. I turn up to the track. Get told what to do. Do it. Go home. I’ve realised what I don’t like is the idea of creating and managing it all myself. It’s fine (organisationally) down at track because, well, because it’s a measured distance already, we’re given a schedule, we do it and that’s it. Last time the schedule for marathon training (as opposed to endurance training or middle distance training) was 8 x 1km with 75 second recovery between each 1km. I guess I’m supposed to be pushing myself to go faster than how fast (slow) I think I’d run a marathon. But that’s another story. Each of my 8 x 1km was not far off the same speed (8 seconds the difference between slowest and fastest, and the second four were quicker than the first four. Aah, the lure of completion!).

The nemesis bit, though now that sounds just a wee bit too dramatic a word for it, is that I simply don’t want to organise it myself, and measure distances out, and create a structured programme etc. etc. My inherent laziness is raising its lassitudinous head. Oh dear, where’s my running motivation gone?

Nodding to nemesis number one, in the pool I regularly get an ‘ooh, blimey, I’m swimming, I’m not supposed to be able to do this’ thought fly through my head. And to be fair, it’s typically a more robust expletive. But I am swimming, and it’s a fleeting thought.

There’s still too much to be thinking about with swimming, but I’m not solely thinking about breathing. But I do wonder why it’s so difficult to count laps. It’s a simple sequential numbering that doesn’t get unmanageably high and yet I invariably fail to remember whether I’ve done 4 or 5 laps, or 8 or 9 laps. What IS going on there?

Having mentioned the pool … interval training works in the pool, and on the bike, as well as on the track. Blimey – slowly, slowly I reckon. Let’s get used to the track first.

Do you know, even a few months ago, if someone had suggested I would overcome my two sporty nemeses by halfway through the summer I’d have wryly smiled and sadly but gently sighed at their naive and optimistic encouragement. Bugger me sideways though, I appear to have done it.

Utterly Buggerly

Wonderful Wimbly

Wonderfully Wimbly

Well, I’ve had a very depressing visit to the hitherto magical Michaela, my physio. I guess she has only mere human powers after all. My shoulder’s not been improving. If anything it’s been getting worse.

I’m now on enforced rest for two weeks to see if that sorts it out. Well three weeks if you include an upcoming week’s hols. I can run but I can’t hide. No, I can’t swim or play tennis, i.e. got to rest my shoulder.  I’m allowed to do leg work in the pool, i.e. lots of kicking drills, as long I’m not rotating my shoulders. The marvellous M will undoubtedly think it appropriate. He still laughs, good-humouredly, obviously, at the uselessness of my legs.

No tennis either. Tedious. I like the cross-training aspects of this fitness and training thing. I don’t feel like I’m only using certain bits of me (wearing out certain bits of me). And I know, oh I so know, being relatively run fit doesn’t mean you’re swim fit or any other fit. So it’s good to do several things. Which reminds me, I need to get on the bike again at some point. Maybe not a good idea for the next few weeks though, bike certainly uses shoulders.

Maybe it’s a good thing to focus on the running. I’m already behind with marathon training. And it’s amazing how much fitness one loses – I’ve lost – since April’s London marathon. Wow, that all falls apart quickly.

I’d been consciously laying off the running a bit, just keeping it ticking over (a) because of focusing on swimming and (b)  in anticipation of starting proper marathon training in July. I guess I get to pick up the running a bit earlier than I thought. I’m slightly daunted by that prospect. There’s so much expectation now (from me). I just had to finish London and that was always going to be brilliant. Now I have to be better, i.e. faster. That’s tough. Michaela says I need to build up to 50-60 miles a week. Ouch. I’m not doing more than 10 miles at the moment. Long way to go then, on the legs. Only 13 weeks to go, on the clock. Twelve if you exclude hols. There’s a different utterly buggerly.

I guess I need to get to grips with the fact that if I’m going to do sporty stuff, injury is an occupational hazard. At least I can run. And I need to put in some miles, given my very poor beginning of training for Bournemouth. Always some positives. That’s a good thing.

And I get to watch some Wimbly tennis this week, so definitely not all bad.

Shirking shoulders

Glum glutes ... shirking shoulders

Glum glutes … shirking shoulders

One of the best things I read about when training for the London marathon was to visit a physio for a check up (see ‘Glum glutes’). I needed to for the running – no glutes, which are quite important for running. Now that I’m pulling out the proverbial finger with the swimming, I though I’d go back for a ‘swim check up’, not least because I’ve had shoulder issues in the past. You just kind of work around them when you’re not needing to do certain things every day.  Now I’m using my shoulders a lot more, I figured I ought to get checked over so I at least have the best chance of working on decent stroke technique.

Predictably, I still have issues. Now, I knew this. I’ve never been able to do a single press up, for example, and I have exceedingly little upper body strength. I even had to prevail upon my poor neighbour to come to drill a hole in my wall once upon a time. My shoulders, especially the right one, have been getting sore after swim sessions. And my left arm has been getting kind of floppy and weak after enough lengths.

So now I have remedial shoulder exercises. Why am I not surprised? It’s all feeling a little too familiar. I’m sure it’ll all be good for me in the long run (long swim?), but I don’t remember struggling with my remedial glute exercises quite as much as I’m struggling with my shoulder exercises. And they’re tiny, nano-movement exercises. Just really, really difficult (self-pity descends, momentarily).

Still. Target has to be … sort out shoulders … sort out technique … sort out stamina.

There is another triathlon in the offing… (I haven’t even been on the bike).

A week of reflection

This is how interested the dog was

This is how interested the dog was

I’m still a bit demob-happy after last weekend.  I did it. How cool is that?  I ran a marathon. I ran the London marathon. I’m a marathon runner!

What’s more, I have my first official race time.  And I have a personal best.  That’s got to be one of the coolest things about one’s first running race: you’re guaranteed a PB!

I’m going to have to work so much harder next time.

Unsurprisingly there will be a next time. When I was ill with virus – the very day my running number came through, the marathon magazine also landed on my doormat. Probably predictably I signed up for Bournemouth – there was a flyer in the mag. My justification and rationale at the time was (a) contingency planning – what if I didn’t get to London because of illness, (b) Bournemouth’s not far from me, in fact nearer than London, and (c) it’s the first marathon in Bournemouth. I reckon it’s good to be involved in inaugural events. I’ll be able to say “I was at the very first Bournemouth marathon”.

I remembered a funny (only in a single eyebrow-raise way) thing happened at the end of the race last week. As I hit the mat at the finish, and stopped, I had the briefest moment of doubt and insecurity about whether I should have stopped running. Was I supposed to keep going? Was it really over? I had that fleeting thing of shall I start running again. Talk about single focus. But there was nowhere to go. Fortunately you’re gently, smilingly funnelled through a sheep dip sort of constriction-thing where the timing tag is removed and where you get your medal, before being released further down into the Mall to have photo’ taken, to collect goody bag and reclaim kit bag. I saw quite a few half-slumped figures sitting on the kerb.

Obviously I emailed my coaches on the way home. The responses:  well, apart from amazing time … (1) did I want to go sub-3.30 (doh, yes), (2), if I’d been more conservative early on, and not had so much fun with the atmosphere and the crowds, well, I might have got under 3.30.

My big, and happy, reflection is I wouldn’t swap those first 12 miles for a 3-minute quicker finish time. If having so much fun and being part of London 2013 cost me those three minutes, I’m happy at the price. I got to the London marathon. I got to run the London marathon.  That’s huge. I wouldn’t trade that uplifting feeling for three minutes.  What I’m going to remember is the joy of being part of that atmosphere, part of that event, part of that moment with those brilliant crowds. I’ll remember the first half as a fabulous, soul-sunny experience. I won’t remember the increasing pain of the second half.

And anyway, two coaches have suggested I can get under 3.30. So there we go. That’s got to be the ambition for next time (October 6th). I guess that means I get May ‘off’ (well half of it, after the triathlon) then start a training programme at the beginning of June. I might have to do a proper training programme rather than cherry pick the bits I fancied doing …

The other realisation is that I did a good time, a very good time by everyone else’s accounts.  Everyone, to a (wo)man, has said what an amazing time. Incongruously, I’m beginning to feel a bit disingenuous saying this now, but I genuinely had no idea that aiming for 3.30 was a big deal. I’d scraped under four hours in training. I really did just think that with another six weeks’ training I might be able to lop off half an hour. It hadn’t occurred to me that it would be considered a pretty fast time. I was just running the speed I thought I could go. Which I’ve always described as long and slow… someone’s already said no-one’s going to believe me when I say that now.

I reckon if someone had said 3.30 is fast etc., I’d probably have talked myself out of being able to get near it, saying to myself, ooh, I couldn’t possibly be that fast, then. Ignorance (naivety?) clearly can bring achievement.

So, my legs starting working without pain on Wednesday. For two days I felt a bit like I’d been back-kicked by a horse in both legs (my quads haven’t hurt before, apart from after cycling). I ceased to need to leverage myself into and out of a seated position with my arms (my triceps will probably miss the workout). I even went swimming for some triathlon training.  And talk about idiocy … all this time I’d been convinced I’d got three weeks between marathon and sprint triathlon. I hadn’t even thought to question it or check the diary.  But on the way up to the marathon, one of my triathlon buddies, J, pointed out it’s only two weeks.  Ho hum.

And what else … over these months of training two people have said I’ve been a bit of influence/motivation/inspiration for them to get back to the gym, or start running.  That’s hugely humbling. I’m the most un-influential person I know, but it gives me such a warm feeling to imagine somebody’s changing their behaviour in a small way to do more exercise because of what I’ve achieved over the last several months in that direction. But, you know, if I can do it, anyone can. Over the last 16-18 months I have so, totally, utterly, gone from obese sofa slob to enthusiastic exerciser.

Have I mentioned I’m a marathon runner 🙂

London: you rock

Shivering on the start line

Shivering on the start line

WOW! What a day. What a fabulous, enthralling, joyous, challenging, painful, ‘must complete’ day. What a hot day – 13-14°C. What at atmosphere. Brilliant, brilliant, uplifting crowds, so generous, supportive, encouraging and noisy with cheering. Seamless organisation. I shan’t forget it in a hurry.

In the last ten days before the run I’d been a bit worried about the weather forecast, which was suggesting warm – 13/14°C (spot on, Ms Kirkwood). All my training, given our dreary winter/spring, has been at +/- freezing.  I remember I went out one day, I think at the end of Feb (whenever), which was notably warmer, maybe about 10°C and my body felt and reacted differently. I ran out of water.  Anyway, I talked to my physio the week before the race and she recommended I overheat/stay extra warm during the week before the run to try to get my body used to the forecast warmer temperature. Good call. I reckon keeping at least my torso extra warm (thermals all week) helped a bit. I ran through all the (five/six?) cold shower sprays that were positioned along the course, plus the impromptu hose pipe at the pub (sorry no idea of the name), must have been around mile 20, give or take.

My view from the start line

My view from the start line

Onto the race:  I was in pen 6 of 10 (nominally the 4:15 time pen).  I was hoping to be going faster. When I’d done 26.2 miles (26.4 actually) in training (March 9th), I made 3:57, so I was hoping to go better than that, with all the additional training since then. In my reading, I’d even happened across this concept/category of ‘good for age’ (quite like that idea) – or is it ‘fast for age’? It looked like London was 3:50 for my age category (though other marathons were 3:30).  I’m sure you’re beginning to grasp where my brain was going in its ambition for race day…

Anyway, I got to my pen early to make sure I was at the front (pen 5 was the nominal 4:00 pen). I waited there an hour, shivering in the frosty shade, despite being togged up in old clothes that I jettisoned just before 10am.

I can barely believe I’m about to write this but … the first 12-13 miles went by in a flash (emotional flash rather than temporal). The crowds were amazing.  My physio/coach had suggested I stay to the side as there may be more room. She was right (obviously, ex-professional marathon runner that she is). Of course this put me next to the crowds. I even had fun on those early miles, really good fun, though I think I could do this because of all the training I’d put in over the months, which meant I could do the running bit without excessive difficulty. See “Enjoy is SO not the word” for the significance of that statement.  I was low-fiving, high-fiving, middle-fiving countless kids, adults and venerables. Just absorbing the atmosphere and realising I was a part of that atmosphere.  Good feeling.

The downside was the crowds on the road. I spent much of the first 10 miles weaving from left to right, looking at feet, hopping and skipping past fellow runners, trying to avoid tripping and being tripped as I overtook a few folk. There was absolutely no opportunity to ‘run my race’. Any concept of warm up / steady as she goes etc went out of the window in the first five seconds. I had to slow, or weave, while a tiny gap in the field opened up, then accelerate through it, then make sure I didn’t slow down so much that I made the person I’d overtaken need to alter their course/speed. And try to keep calm through all of that, making that the objective my race strategy (I’ll know if there’s ever a next time).  But without prior experience it blew away any concept I’d internalised, over the course of my training, of race pacing and timing and my body’s ability to sustain it over the distance. Oh well, live and learn. Certainly my lungs were burning by the end (by way before the end), so I’d definitely gone beyond my norm. Which is a good thing, I reckon. Shows I can.

I found the pace setters particularly challenging, just because they were doing a brilliant job, but – of course – they had a huge peloton behind them that spread the width of the road.  Really difficult to get past those tight bunches.

And it got tough after Tower Bridge (half way). Heading through Limehouse, the Isle of Dogs, Canary Wharf, the crowds thinned out, to patches of noise and encouragement. I missed them. Folk were holding out tubs of jelly babies and slices of orange for runners.  The running was hard. A blood blister had bloomed and burst by this stage. At least I knew what the spreading stain across the top of my shoe was (it having happened a while ago in training). Not too painful though, that was a toe on the other foot. Never mind.

I’d read about the way, if you write your name on your vest, the crowds shout out personalised encouragement. It was so true. Steve (no idea) must have been going about the same pace as me (or maybe there was more than one Steve), he got lots of shout-outs.  I didn’t have my name on my vest, but I did realise at some stage that people were shouting ‘Go OMG’ (etc) (see pic of my running vest “As easy as A,B,C). So I’m adopting OMG as my new nickname.

I got through most of my mantras. Just thought you’d like to know.

Another strategy learning: I found myself ‘tucking in’ behind (following) someone for a while. I think it might have been the antithesis of the brainpower required to weave in and out of runners trying to find space.  This was evidently too much brain power for running.  I never got a chance to have imaginary conversations with my buddies. I was forced to think about how to run the race.  So following someone for a while let me switch off the brain. But that turned into a bad strategy because suddenly I’d wake up and realise they weren’t actually going at the pace I thought I should be going at. So I’d have to overtake and get the brain in gear again (and the legs). Clearly my brain hasn’t been engaged on my training runs…

Think I drank too much water. I’d read quite a few stories about people who’d over-hydrated and fell ill (out of the race) because of it. I guess because they were thinking they should drink lots of water. And there are water stations every mile, or something, so it’s very easy to imagine one should drink at every station.  Anyway, this was one of the things that was top of my mind. In training I would drink ‘to thirst’. Easy when you’re carrying a hydration sack – water literally on tap. So I decided that rather than drink ‘to miles’, i.e. every water station, I’d carry one of the bottles with me so I could drink ‘to thirst’ and only pick up a new bottle when I was thirsty.  Anyway, I started feeling nauseous with about 4 miles to go, so I stopped drinking (still carrying a bottle of water just in case). I did start to feel less nauseous, so maybe it was that.

I’m looking at the route now. The second half was tough (have I said that already), and I have little memory of several of those last few miles. I remember at some point concentrating on my arms: move your arms because your legs have to follow, so I was doing big (and what I thought was fast) arm movements. Bless Team Purple, they spotted me at 23 miles and later said I looked like was holding good form. My mental map of London’s not great, but I don’t remember passing London Bridge. I remember Southwark Bridge only because I nodded at Vintners’ Hall on the way past.

I remember thinking I was still passing more people than were passing me. That helped.  I thought about the money I was raising for Leukaemia Care. That helped. Not letting people down. That’s always good motivation.

Don’t remember Waterloo, or Hungerford or Westminster bridges. I remember trying to think how we get to Buck House from wherever I was, which was probably as good a distraction as any (and at which exercise I did very badly). I do remember being channelled down Great George Street to Birdcage Walk.  The 600m to go sign was welcome (ooh, understatement).  I love the way we Brits mix and match our units of measurement. Big, over-the-road gantries festooned with balloons as mile markers all the way round the course. Toilets marked in metres distant. 600 metres to go. How cool are we Brits?



Team Purple: you rock! The hugest of humungously huge thanks to Team Purple, both the on-location team and the home-team. For your long term support all through. For getting me there safely, and bringing me home. For setting yourselves up at various mileages, giving me segmented focus points to break up the race. For taking the dog out, and festooning my home with recycled (I’m very impressed with re-usage) Jubilee bunting. For feeding me delicious, nourishing recovery nosh last night. For being brilliant pals. Huge thanks also to my other lovely pals who texted, emailed, left messages etc. My ‘phone’s never been so noisy.

I did complete.  In 3:33:19. I know, I know, great time. I even managed (I wondered if I would, I wanted to and hoped my legs would obey), what I’m calling a sprint finish down the Mall. In reality it was just a tiny bit faster than I’d been doing. But I did pick up the pace. And I imagined the louder cheering that happened at the same time really was just for me. But me, being me, I can’t help but feel the faintest twinge of something at not breaking the 3.30 marker. Not too much though. At all. I got up this morning and said a quiet ‘well done’ to myself. That’s a pretty good result.

As easy as ABC

As ready as I'm ever going to be

As ready as I’m ever going to be

Here it is. Marathon day.  The day of judgement. The day of reckoning. The day of completion.

I’ve decided today is going to be as easy as A, B, C. This will be my mantra (along with any of my other mantras, as required).

Austrian Wines – my corporate sponsor for Leukaemia Care.

Blood cancers – the cause for which I’m running.

Chums – all my chums who’ve put up with me being an utter, utter running bore for the past nearly six months; the chums who’ve sponsored me to do this crazy thing; the chums who’ve helped me to keep my sanity; the new chums who’ve helped and advised in technical and personal capacities. I wouldn’t be doing this without you all, and I couldn’t have got here without you. Thanks guys.

As well as being reassured and affirmed by support from family and close friends, I’ve been sometime surprised and sometime humbled by the level of support from unexpected quarters. Thank you to everyone who has acknowledged my idiocy in supportive and encouraging, and indeed, financial, tones. I am hugely grateful and thankful to all of you.

Austrian Wines (the organisation that promotes Austrian wines) sponsored half of my running vest – see pic. For those I leave in my wake (ha, ha), the back has Leukaemia Care’s name and number. There are many occasions when I could think of using that strapline – it says “OMG! I’ll sure want a glass of Austrian Wine”. And let me just say, without prejudice, I’m a huge fan of Austrian wines. They’re some of my favourite wines in the world. The best rieslings and gruner veltliners are unrivalled. I’m under no pressure to say this. It’s what I have long believed, which is why it was a no-brainer to ask them to sponsor me.  Is it a conflict of interest with the day job? Well, rightly or wrongly, I decided not. I make no personal gain from their sponsorship. My views of Austrian wines are unaffected. They’re certainly not all great, as with wines from any other country. However, I will indeed be having a glass of Austrian riesling or gruner veltliner on completion (there’s a bottle of each in the ‘fridge as I don’t know which I’ll fancy by the time I get home).

There’s also a bottle of Champagne in the frigo, and some English sparkling wine. Some English bubblies are some of the best wines around too. There you go, I’m nothing if not patriotic. Maybe I’ll raise a glass to her Maj. It is her birthday after all. Happy birthday Ma’am. They may even all get opened, and tasted.  All in moderate (definitely, probably) celebration (hopefully).

Blood cancers have variously formed a backdrop and foreground to my life for more than a decade. Dad died from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2004. Mum lives bravely with myeloma, having been diagnosed in 2005, helped greatly by a sympathetic and compassionate consultant.

I’m proud to be running under the Leukaemia Care colours … especially (and entirely serendipitously. Seriously, utterly serendipitously) as they are orange and purple, two of my favourite colours. Purple you probably figured already. Even my nails will be sporting these colours.

My sponsorship page remains open for a few months yet, should you be caught up in the patriotic moment of fervour that is the London marathon.

Last, and far from least, my wonderful, wonderful chums. Thank you guys. You’ve been so tolerant, enduringly patient and good-humoured, every step of the way. You’ve asked how the training’s been going even knowing you would get the full blown response in minutiae.

You’ve checked the day job is ticking over at an appropriate rate too. Thanks for keeping me on both my straight and narrows. You’ve sounded encouragingly impressed when I thought I’d reached a significant moment in training; chivvying when I was feeling like I wasn’t getting to where I thought I ought to be, with the work and the running; sympathetic and supportive when a pesky virus pushed me off the training wagon.  And a couple of you have kept me training for the sprint triathlon we’re doing in three weeks’ time!

You’re all going to be in my head today, swimming around with those endolphins (see “Enjoy is SO not the word”) in one big pool party. We’ll have a great chat, though I may not remember what I’ve imagined we’ve talked about by the time I finish.

Blog on

I’m thinking the blog will continue beyond the marathon.

There is of course the Winchester May Day Tri which I signed up for before the marathon (thanks – I think, J!).  Three weeks to recover from the marathon and work up to my very first triathlon (a sprint one). At least I have some buddies doing this too, training has not been a solitary existence, which is kinda nice.

I have already named swimming as my nemesis – maybe only to myself, so far – in which case, swimming is my nemesis. I have decided it will be overcome. It may take longer than three weeks, but at least by May 6th, I should be able to cover off 16 lengths, slowly, with pauses at every other end, without breaking down (emotionally or physically).

Beyond that, I see the need to build endurance in the pool, i.e. not having to pause (obviously I do just mean stop) every two lengths. Technique clearly still needs working on. But I haven’t drowned yet, so it’s not all bad news. And there are no hills in swimming. In fact, I think that may have to become my first swimming mantra:  there are no hills in swimming. Perfect. How cool is that?

Then. of course, in a moment of sheer insanity (like this whole journey hasn’t already been insane), I signed up for the Great South Run (October 27, 2013). Now that’s 10 miles, which we know I can do. However, comma, I can’t do it very fast. I only run long and slow. So my summer looks like it’ll be concentrating on speed work.  I dread it, but I begin to feel intervals and I may be about to knock heads. At least I’m a member of a running club now (such a wry smile on my face as I write that), so maybe coach can help speed me up.

One summer. Two nemeses. What am I letting myself in for?

Psychological espionage

It’s just awful about Boston, I watched it unfold on the telly, just feeling limp and powerless to make a difference, and gripped by the selflessness and bravery of those who rushed in immediately to do just that.

My choice of headline for this blog post preceded the events on the 15th (I wrote this post last weekend). Obviously it relates to my own rather insignificant personal ramblings below:

I’m just, belatedly perhaps, wondering how much of the head game is in the short runs as well as the long, endurance – ‘yes I CAN keep going’ – runs.

I did my normal short run the other day: two miles flat, three ascents of St. Catherine’s Hill, one mile flat to finish. It’s only ever timed vaguely, as in ‘do I have enough time to have a shower and get to work?’ The dog comes on that one and boy does she have her very own overriding rhythm.

Anyway, it didn’t start well. I had trouble getting out of bed. Even the dog seemed unmotivated. I had leaden legs (see below for newly official, leg classification system).

Forget warm up then an attempt at faster than marathon pace. This was just about getting round (oh they so often are). Those first two miles can be such a challenge of self-conversation.  ‘Oh how can I be expected to run with leaden legs?’ Then it’s ‘Oh I’ll just do one ascent, at least I’ll have made the effort. Then it’s ‘Oh, f*ckety, f*ckety, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, I’ll just do the three miles flat, at least I’ll have been out.’ (See Mantras for that one).

Aside:  whole load more mantras:  
It will all happen
Good for general life too.

Time passes

Don’t show the pain
I passed someone going the other way. He really looked like he was struggling (he may not have been).
And ditto.

Suck it up
When the going gets tougher than your worst imaginings
And ditto.

Bouncy legs
See new, official, leg classification system, below
This one’s really rather running specific.

I’m sure the lazy head has cajoled me into, well laziness, once or twice. I’m probably lucky I can’t remember them, because I’d like to think that generally the running head beats the lazy head. Though, in fairness, I have allowed myself to be reined in, once or twice when I’ve been over-ambitious, e.g. ‘Ooh I’ll do five ascents’ (from 1 or 2). This would have been from a time before I’d taken on board the 10% rule, or thought it really might be okay to break it. I can be SO idiotic sometimes! Also, I’d like to think, in those instances, this was a sensible head creeping in to make a mature decision.

What about all this listening to your body that we’re told to do? Body feels naff. Is that lazy head sneaking whispers in my ear or is it my body saying it feels naff? How am I, the simple, neophytic runner, supposed to tell the difference?

I reckon this head game lark is a vicious circle of rumour and counter rumour – psychological espionage.

This leads me on – only because I had these thoughts on the same day – to the new leg classification. My legs can, on any given day, wake up to be bouncy, okay, claggy, heavy, or leaden. In the absence of other information, I am making this the new official classification of running leg capability.

Is there anything beyond leaden? If there is I’m lucky not to have been there yet.  Injured? Broken??

Leaden is tough enough to deal with. Every step is a conscious effort. How would I keep that up for 26.2 miles? I’m gonna need some respite in my internal refuge if that happens. And I appear to have no control over how my legs wake up. Does one just pray to the leg gods for bouncy ones on the day? Are their sacrificial rites I should be performing on the 20th to appease them?

NB.  I’d like to say that I completed the full run that day: running head 1, lazy head 0.