Accepting that which we cannot change…

Reading back my last post it seems I was quite upbeat after my Cambridge Half performance, quite rightly so since I think my T4 levels were pretty low, so just to get round was a bonus. Things did not go well after that though, I struggled to do any sort of training and my one long run before the Manchester Marathon was horrible – 16 miles and 4 and a half hours of pain and effort that only my lovely friend S and a surprise visit from my husband to run the last few miles with made possible. I remember sitting on my front wall at the end of that run thinking that there was no way I would make Comrades, and that was that. I accepted my fate, moved on, and looked forward to a trip to South Africa cheering on my friends.

I had still agreed to run Manchester though, so thought I might as well give it a go since I had offered to drive everyone and didn’t want to hang around waiting and being bored. I did alright up until about halfway round, but then the wheels fell off. I was desperate to quit and would like to say that it was dogged determination that got me round but it was more that I was 13 miles away from the finish with no money and no way to make it back other than just walk round, which I did – mile after painful mile. I finally dragged my sorry ass back in about 5hr 50 – not quite what I had planned for Marathon #2 but I did at least get round and, more importantly, under the 6hr goody bag cut-off time.

The following week was the Southampton half – again I probably shouldn’t have run it but I’d gone all that way and it was home turf, so I figured what the heck, and pootled round in a rather poor 2hr 39, with slightly more running than the previous week. It’s a really nice race actually, back in Southampton after several years hiatus and it is definitely one I will try and do again, especially as the route goes about 50m from my parent’s house so they could wander up and wave without too much effort.

After that I really gave up the ghost, and apart from parkruns and the odd pilates session I did pretty much nothing. It’s a bit poor really since the new thyroid drug regime should have sorted me out and so I had no real thyroid excuse for being lazy, I just was. With nothing immediate to train for and motivation at an all time low I lost the plot a bit (ok, a lot) and it was no real surprise (but not a nice shock) to find out how much weight I had gained through eating like it was going out of fashion and doing no exercise for the last year. Just as well I didn’t qualify for Comrades I thought to myself…

It was during one pilates session in mid-May that I received a text message from an unknown number saying “A special Comrades Marathon dispensation now allows you to complete your entry by 4.30pm, 21st May 2015, please check your emails for details.” I thought it was a spoof but checking my emails and the facebook page showed that it wasn’t a joke, and that for the first time in Comrades history they were allowing people to start the race without having done the required sub 5hr marathon. This was highly controversial for many reasons – some felt that the race was being devalued by allowing non-qualified people to start, others misunderstood and thought it was just for people who were late entering their qualification times – I fell into the latter camp (I don’t really care who starts, it makes no difference to me as a competitor) but dutifully completed the email instructions and had confirmation I was registered. My family, husband and quite a few friends told me I was bonkers and that they worried it would kill me, but the plan was never to complete it. Well, that’s a bit of a lie – lets just say the plan was never to go any further than my limits. Another friend, K, was in the same situation so we agreed to run together and then quit when we’d had enough.

This all happened about a week before we flew out so I had gone from trying to organise banners and a support car to thinking about what the hell I was going to run in as I was now too fat for my usual running tights alongside what do I do about fuel/trainers/ohmygodI’mgoingtorunanultra

It was such an amazing opportunity though, I could have (and would have) supported happily but it was so much more fun doing the race prep and knowing we were all going to be starting. The trip over was in one of the new A380s and was my best flight experience by far. Durban was hot and interesting, the expo (despite a rude woman on reception and no goody bag) was fascinating and I stocked up on a whole host of Comrades goodies.

The few days pre-race passed uneventfully, we lounged by the pool, went to several pasta parties, slept late, rested our legs, bought 4000 different types of chocolate that you can’t get in the UK (Cashew & Coconut Dairy Milk anyone?) and I had a nice massage, peddling of homeopathic remedies aside. It would have been idyllic had it not been for 56 miles looming large on the horizon. But more on that in my next post…


Cambridge Half – I made it!

I had requested a decent consultant appointment and a decent half marathon to feel fulfilled, and I think I pretty much got it. The consultant was great, understood the issues and agreed a regimen of block and replace until I feel better, and then radiotherapy in June after my ultra. He did say that I shouldn’t really be able to run at all with my thyroid levels as low as they were, but promised the new drugs would make me feel better.

Friday was not a good day, I felt absolutely awful (and looked it too!), to the point where my husband suggested we cancel our weekend away and just stay home. We decided to go anyway which was the right decision, a day in the sun (it was 16 deg C on Saturday in Bedfordshire!) with some owls (a present from my parents for Christmas) and some time with my lovely niece later I was a new(ish) person. I was still exhausted on sunday though and dreading the Cambridge half. While waiting for a portaloo to become available with only 2 mins left until the race started I figured if I missed the start I would just find a perch, sit down and cheer people on. Unfortunately lots of people left the queue in front of me and I had time to do the necessary and then sneak into the starting pen, foiled!

I had struggled the previous year at Cambridge, it was hot and 2 laps and has the most horrible last mile of any race I have ever done, but at least I knew what to expect. I had stated 2:30 as my goal but was going to see how I went and at least with it being laps I could have retired at 6 miles without having a long walk back.

I had decided on the trusty run 8 min walk 2 min strategy, I struggle with stamina at the moment and wanted to make sure my legs could make it. As it was this worked a treat and the first lap actually went pretty quickly, I fuelled at all the stations and just held it back until my 2 min walk, and time passed pretty quickly. The only stupid thing I had done is not fuelled properly, I’d had a couple of pieces of toast but that wasn’t enough and rather annoyingly there were no jelly babies on the course, just water and gels. Aha, I thought, I’ll try a gel – usually I avoid them as they taste like flavoured runny snot, but I was desperate so grabbed one and shoved half of it down me. I was in the process of doing this when I realised that I had forgotten that they contain caffeine – I’ve been caffeine free for nearly 4 years ago due to thyroid induced heart issues, so to suddenly have a whack of caffeine in the middle of a race probably wasn’t the best plan. I monitored my heart rate closely for the rest of the race but it seemed to be fine, or no worse than usual anyway. Bullet dodged!

I was averaging about 11 min miles for the first loop, not bad with a run walk strategy – and I carried on much the same on the second lap (I had brief thoughts of dropping out as I was tiring but decided to just get on with it). I got to about 11 miles before I started to really struggle and then the last mile was as painful as it had been last year – for some reason they throw on a horrible loop at the end so you think you are done then have to do a sharp up and downhill over a bridge, then lap round what seems like half of Cambridge before the finish arrives, honestly, it is just horrible. I knew I was near my target so just pushed on as best I could and was delighted to come in at about 2:26. It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t pretty but I had got round under target. And just have to do exactly the same again for my April marathon and I’ll be under 5 hours and qualified for May… I suspect I need to work on my stamina before that though as I was absolutely shattered afterwards. No lasting damage although my calves are tight so there will be some foam rolling in my future.  All in all a job done though, and I look forward to increased levels of health and some actual training very soon.

Keep on keeping on

It has been a tough few months! The marathon completely banjaxed me, I thought it was fairly normal to feel a bit sluggish afterwards though, so took it easy and waited to feel motivated again. And waited… and waited… one month on I was still hating anything to do with running, and, well, hating everything really. This combined with some suspicious symptoms led me to get checked out at the GP and lo and behold, welcome my old overactive thyroid friend. Last seen in 2012 where I had hoped it had been banished never to return, it had reared its ugly head again, just as work got more complicated and just as I needed to start training for Comrades. Sigh. It’s now 4 months on and I’m starting to get better. Running was off the cards for a good 3 months due to various heart-related thyroid issues and the fact I was just too damn knackered to get out of bed let alone strap on running shoes. With some drugs my condition is managed now so I started running again, only to tweak my hamstrings which required a visit to the (lovely) physio. Then the day I went to the physio I came down with a stinking cold which I now still have, so it has all been a bit wearing. I’m due to run a half on Sunday (max distance run since the marathon was 11 very torturous miles the other weekend, uh-oh) and I think that will really be the nail in the Comrades coffin if it goes poorly, or a boost if I can actually string some miles together, we shall see. I’ve also got a consultant appointment on Thursday so will see what he says – last time it was “don’t train” but I am hoping for better news depending on today’s blood test results. We shall see.

In the meantime at least the enforced rest has sorted my errant foot out. After it still being lumpy and sore despite almost total rest (barring parkrun) I finally had an ultrasound done and was diagnosed with a Ganglion cyst. Harmless and I just need to go back if it is giving me gyp. What I thought might be the beginnings of a stress fracture in the same foot (caused by trying to avoid running on the lump I think) has sorted itself out, and my hammies are much better so as soon as I can shed this stupid cold I would like to get running again.

It’s been difficult being injured, but since my thyroid renders me incapable of pretty much anything fun I haven’t missed running so much, it’s not like if you have a broken leg and can’t run, I have lost enthusiasm for pretty much anything! So not having to drag myself out of a warm house has actually been nice, but I do miss it and want to get going. As for Comrades, we will see – the stars are going to have to align themselves in a very fortunate manner for me to even contemplate starting, but the thought of waving off my friends at the start fills me with horror, so I have to still keep it as a goal, even if it is a very distant one at present. Fingers crossed for a decent diagnosis on thursday and a decent-ish half on Sunday.

A marathon task

So, quick synopsis since the last blog:

Bacchus half: most fun race ever! we did the half marathon in just over 4 and a half hours and I had a total ball. Might have been slightly a lot tipsy by the end but it was all in a good cause. My proudest moment was unveiling the contents of my bra at the end – I had pocketed no fewer than 11 gels, 2 bags of crips, a cake bar, an apple and half a banana down there during the course of the race. Class.

Haltwhistle half: lovely scenery, slight incline for the first half but downhill all the way home. I struggled in the latter stages and also got freaked out by people hanging off my shoulder, so it wasn’t much fun and I was a good few minutes over target. Def good PB potential in the future and much much more scenic than Redcar though.

Wooler Wheel: DNS.  Just too knackered to bike in what would have been a 5am departure from home. Good decision in the end since I slept most of that weekend and the weather was pants.

Hellhole: Also DNS. My foot had started becoming very sore and about 10 days before the marathon I had developed a massive lump on my instep which hurt to touch and gave me stabbing pain when it was raised. Ice and ibuprofen didn’t touch it so I went to see our friendly neighbourhood physio. He was a bit baffled to begin with, but after a good prodding diagnosed a torn tendon. This unfortunately required quite a bit of deep prodding massage but after peeling me off the ceiling he gave me some stretches and said I would be fine. The next morning the swelling had reduced by about 70% and since then it’s been very little trouble at all. Physio’s are just the best things ever, thanks Neil!


So, it is fair to say I was underprepared. After my abortive 16 mile attempt that was 15 miles I had done one 20 mile run (with friends, which was so so much better) but that was it and my foot had really scuppered any other thoughts I had about late rallies. I saw the physio again on the Saturday morning for more toe curling prodding, he also decided to give my calfs a bit of a pummelling but I had been sensible and signed up to scan at parkrun so was taking it easy afterwards, just as well as it bloody hurt! After parkrun myself and J headed off to York and did a bit of shopping before meeting friends for a drink, carb loading at Zizzi’s, the purchasing of owl pyjamas and then heading back to the hotel for an early night.

We had been warned about the fog and foggy it was, after a breakfast of fruit and fibre cereal (no shreddies, turned out to be an error not to bring any) and a cup of tea we headed off to the station to catch the shuttle bus. I have to say that it was so well organised, we rocked up and got straight on a bus which spat us out at the University where the start was. It was freezing and it wasn’t clear whether there was any inside space so we shivered outside the baggage drop for a while along with multiple toilet visits before heading to the start. When I first signed up for the marathon I had intended to try and go sub 4hrs so had been allocated a place in zone 2 – almost nosebleed worthy compared to my usual starting position! I had met up with some club friends who were further back so we decided to compromise and sneak into zone 3 instead, so I did an excellent distraction job on the marshals and everyone crept in behind me, job done.

I was somewhat devoid of a race plan really, I knew I didn’t want to go out too hard as I would suffer later and so I was planning to run with some friends, Kerry – who wanted to get in somewhere around 5 hours and Kate who had been my original 4 hour buddy until she broke her ribs in a freak luggage accident in June. Kate had kindly offered to run with us and we decided to just see how we went.

The start at York is downhill (but that just means the finish is uphill) and everyone was quite excited so I was a bit nervous to look down and see 9 minute miles but we soon settled down into a more reasonable 10:30 ish pace. The first couple of miles take you back into York centre and past the minster so there was plenty to see and the crowds were already out in force. The fog was a bit bizarre to run in, I could only see about 20 metres in front so you just can’t tell if there is a hill coming, or a long straight road, it was most odd. We were all quite chipper though and the miles ticked away quite nicely as we passed through the villages and countryside.

I was keeping an eye on our timings compared to my pacetat  and was a mixture of pleased and a bit scared that we were going so well, at 9 miles we were about 8 mins under pace and I still felt ok and I started to feel that I might actually manage it. We lost Kerry at about 10 miles, but kept her in sight on the first switchback and it was nice to be able to wave. It was about the first switchback (14 miles or so) that I started to feel a bit wobbly. A chap running directly behind me shouted “COME ON” really really loudly and scared the crap out of me, plus it was a bit downhill and I was going a bit too fast for my comfort zone. I was also feeling the need for fuel but was struggling to get stuff out of my backpack – I did extract a pouch of apple purée which I tried to eat but it just made me feel a bit sick so I stored it back in my bra for easier access later.

The next few miles were difficult. We were on a main road in the middle of nowhere and it felt like a big incline. I was feeling quite sick by that point and contemplated throwing up in the hedge but there were too many people around so I just tried to ignore it. At the next water station I got out my nakd bar and tried to eat that but it was so claggy I took one bite and then chucked the rest away. The second out and back starts at about 16 miles and is a 2 mile out and back. It was a bit demoralising seeing people at the 20 mile mark and knowing we had 4 miles before we were there. Kate was doing her very best to chivvy me along and that and the cheers from some friends at about mile 17 definitely helped, as did the toilet stop at 18 miles (I had been needing a wee for a few miles and my kidneys hurt!) but by the end of the out and back section I knew I was in trouble.

We hit 20 miles about 10 minutes inside 5 hour pace but that is really where it all started to unravel. I tried getting more fuel in me in the shape of a mango and passionfruit pouch but that tasted grim and the malt loaf had the same claggy problem as the nakd bar. There were so many people on the course offering jelly babies and the like that perhaps I should have stuck to them but they always seem to give me a stitch and I came to the grim realisation that I just had nothing left – a bowl of cereal, a pouch of baby food and two bites of claggy stuff just wasn’t enough fuel and I hit what I imagine must be the wall. Kate, bless her, was trying to get me to keep moving but I was as short on patience as I was on energy and I suggested (probably not very politely!) that it might be best if she just cracked on without me. It was a sensible suggestion in the end, I kept running as far as mile 22 but by then the burning in my quads and hips was just too great and that was pretty much the end of anything other than walking and watching the 5 hour mark slip slowly away.

I have to say that apart from being in a world of pain I was still enjoying it and knew that I could walk the remaining 4 miles and whatever happened I would still end up with a marathon PB, so I cracked out my power tunes playlist, smiled at the crowd and kept putting one foot in front of the other. The same friends I’d seen on the out and back had found themselves a spectating point at around mile 23 so I hugged them and cheered at only a parkrun to go. Some of them were on bikes and caught me up and cycled with me for a bit which was lovely, especially as they were able to update me with J’s progress (he finished in an amazing 3:24 in his first marathon) before they headed off to find him and wait for me at the finish.

I was definitely low on fuel as I felt like I was going to fall asleep at points and also started getting really weepy, my power tunes playlist was more like a sob fest (what on earth possessed me to put mine and J’s wedding song on it?!) and I was struggling to hold back the tears for most of the last two miles, especially as I got closer and closer to the finish. I just kept thinking “I am running a marathon, and I am going to actually finish it” and that made me rather emotional. After the final hill I was able to use the little energy remaining to jog the final downhill, there were still crowds at the finish and the announcer nearly made me lose it entirely by saying to the crowd that the people finishing now were the ones who had struggled the most and that they needed extra applause – sob! Over the finish line and through the very long funnel, collect t-shirt and bag and then I spotted Kate who had very kindly waited for about half an hour for me to cross the line, she got the brunt of my sobbing (and apologies since I was feeling very bad about shouting at her!) but I pulled it together and we went off to find J.

My final time was just over 5:11 – not the 5 hours I was looking for but oh so close and considering the build-up (bad foot and all) and my severe self-induced lack of training I am not disappointed, and in fact am so proud of my achievement, 2 years ago I was nearly 20 stone and very very unfit, and now I had just finished a marathon – I honestly would never have thought I could do that. I haven’t dared look at the splits as I think that might start to depress me, but I got within about 4 miles of making it to sub-5, so there will be no complaining here. Next time (and there will be a next time, in fact I’ve already signed up for Manchester in April!) I will train better and fuel better and I think I will smash it.

Nearly a week later the effects are still lingering, the DOMS in my quads for the first few days afterwards were absolutely horrendous, but that has subsided and apart from still wanting to eat the world, I feel ok. This weekend I’ll head out to parkrun and I think I might try a 10 miler or so on Sunday to maintain momentum, but J is away and I have the house to myself so I can’t promise that I won’t just sit in my owl PJs and watch Masterchef Australia, but that is ok. I am a marathon runner you know.

Feeling slightly sheepish

I am quite appalled by the fact that it has been 5 months since I have posted on this blog. Where does the time go? Part of the break was a rest after getting married (which was absolutely lovely!!) but thanks to a bout of bronchitis it knocked both me and J for six and it was a good month or so before we felt anything like human after the event.

During this time I didn’t really do much of anything, one 42k bike sportive (Wiggle Dragon Ride), several DNS including both triathlons and a lot of eating later and I was staring in the face of being 2 stone heavier than my goal weight and with my mojo having gone on honeymoon and never returned.

5 months later I am still feeling the effects, I’m back on the weightloss train but really struggling with running, my parkrun times have been 30 min plus for the last four months or so (except one time when I had a train to catch and cranked out a 27 min!). Anything above 5k just hurts, I’ve done personal worsts in every race since April, and last night’s intended 16 miler turned into an aborted 15 miler as I had to ring J to come and pick me up when my legs stopped working.

Never having had running mojo before, losing it has been really difficult. What makes it even more difficult is that I am running a marathon in 4 weeks. Yes, you read that correctly. Mojo or not, I have to get round it and the thought is quite frankly terrifying. My longest run since about February was last night and it hurt. I used to do that route home comfortably (well, without feeling like I was going to die anyway) but the combination of not training properly and being 2 stone heavier is not sitting well.

Just don’t bother with the marathon I hear you say… well, believe me the thought has crossed my mind. But I need to give it a go even if it ends badly, I’ve already chickened out of triathlons and umpteen other events, I volunteered at the GNR instead of running it and if nothing else I should burn about 4000 calories running it which will help. The other interesting thing is that ideally I need to run under 5 hours. This is not a personal goal but the qualifying time for the Comrades Ultra-Marathon, a 56 mile beast of a race to be held in South Africa in May 2015. Yes, I have indeed gone completely cock-out crazy, I’ve never wanted to do an ultra, I’ve never even done a marathon and yet I sit here 8 months away from attempting 56 miles in under 12 hours – all I can say is that getting drunk and planning crazy stuff is a BAD IDEA. And unfortunately it is not easy to get out of it since I have 1) entered and 2) bought non-refundable flights. Hmmmm.

So, I need my mojo back please. Pronto. Plan is to continue losing weight, train as best I can and just see what happens. I have until April time to do a sub-5hr marathon so there will be other opportunities to qualify, but how nice would it be to know I was in if I wanted to be. Time will tell…

Off to the Bacchus half this weekend (on a wine estate with wine at the water stations, should be fun albeit not useful!), I think I am going to have to attempt the 16 miler again the following week, but maybe a bit slower. Then Haltwhistle half (net downhill allegedly), then the Wooler Wheel (50k bike ride), Hellhole 10k (trail 10k through the woods) and then it will be here. I will endeavour to keep this blog better updated as it helps me to get my thoughts in order too. Wish me luck!

Back on the road

The most pleasing thing about my Friday bike is how quickly I recovered. Some might say that means I didn’t push it hard enough, but I prefer to think of it as conservation of energy for the rest of the weekend ahead, which as it turns out I needed to do.

Parkrun on saturday looked like it was going to be sunny but then it was pretty chilly down at the track. I didn’t really have a plan other than to pootle round, but when Mike turned up and said he was happy to run round with me I thought I would go for it and try and get him to pace me under 27 mins for the first time since November. He was up for the challenge and since I had forgotten my Garmin (ARGH) I left myself in his hands. He was really good actually, he didn’t expect me to talk all the way round and kept me updated when I needed to push on. Near the end I thought I’d blown it but found some effort from somewhere and finished in 26:55. Still nowhere near the heady heights of sub-25 but the fastest all year and it felt pretty good. I don’t have my splits but Mike reckoned we’d done the tricky middle mile the fastest, so I was pretty chuffed with that.

The rest of Saturday passed in a haze of cleaning, the sunshine is lovely but it doesn’t half show up the dust so we topped and tailed the place between us and it looked much better by the end of it. I also got a bit of baking in – a second attempt at Tiger Bread, this turned out really well and tasted AMAZING. I made it by hand rather than in the Breadmaker and used my new proving basket and both worked out really well. Will definitely be doing that again (after the wedding though, the temptation to eat the whole thing warm drenched in butter is too strong).


Sunday saw my first 10k of the year – the North Tyneside 10k. I’ve not done it before but it is popular as witnessed by the large number of clubmates also taking part. The race starts in North Shields and heads up the coast before finishing in Whitley Bay. Rather unusually for a race of this magnitude there is no chip timing, so the start was a bit of a scrum. The beginning bit is downhill but then it climbs quite steeply up to the coastal path by Tynemouth Priory (I walked up that!) and then never really flattens out before you get to the end. My aim was to get round in under an hour, but my parkrun yesterday had spurred me on a bit, and apart from a niggle in my upper thigh (caused by cycling I think) I felt ok, so pushed on and came home in about 55 and a half mins. Again like parkrun it is some way off my best but represents an improvement on recent times so I was happy.

Or mostly happy anyway since if I thought the start had been a scrum then that was nothing compared to the finish where people were barging in the queue left right and centre. I don’t know if they just didn’t understand funnel etiquette or wanted to boost their finishing place but it was rude and made me quite cross, and coupled with a 45 min wait for the bus back to the start I think the organisers could think a bit more carefully about next years race. The nice t-shirt and socks helped though, as did some easter cakes baked by some clubmates and it was hard to be cross for very long.

After all this excitement there was still more to come on Easter Monday which saw a very pleasant round of golf in the sunshine and then back on the bike again (this time my hybrid which has yet to be named…) for 22 miles along the trail with some clubmates.

This leaves the last week or so with the following:

Sun: 12 mile fell race
Mon: 4 mile recovery run
Tues: 4 mile lunchtime run, strength and conditioning training in the evening
Weds: track session (4.5 mile total)
Thurs: 1 mile swim
Fri: 53 mile bike ride
Sat: parkrun
Sun: 10k race
Mon: golf and 22 mile bike ride

I make that nearly 110 miles of activity – not bad at all. Unfortunately this equated to a 5lb loss by Friday, and a 4lb gain from Fri to Monday so my diet needs some work this week, but that I can do.

This week is:

Tues: possible run (colleagues have wimped out though) and strength and conditioning
Weds: Relay race
Thurs: Swim

Then away for the weekend which scuppers most plans except maybe parkrun on saturday. Better go out for a run today I think…

Oh I wish it could be Easter every day

I’ve got to say that four day weekends are pretty much the best thing ever. Especially when the sun is out, it honestly doesn’t get any better. Loads of time to run, bake, sleep and repeat as well as other fun things like golf, biking and lying in the sunshine, I wish it had never ended.

To go back a bit further though, I did indeed make it to the track session on Wednesday. It consisted of a long warm up and then 5 x 800m with 400m recoveries in between. Although having said that my Garmin only recorded 4 sets, so maybe I wimped out of the last one, oops. It was hard anyway, 800m is a fair old way to go flat out, but it was nice to be back doing some speedwork and I enjoyed the session. Rough timings below, but pretty consistent 8 min miles for the 800 sets which I am quite pleased with. The GPS trace on my Garmin amuses me too, especially as it seems to have got itself a little confused, or the world did indeed move quite significantly while I was running round, hehe.

track1 track2


Thursday morning I got up early and went swimming, 1 mile in about 42 minutes so not bad. The pool was a bit busier than it is in the afternoon and there was this really annoying old chap who stopped me mid-length to tell me I was swimming the wrong way (I wasn’t), but I did it and it was nice to be finished by 9am and know that was my exercise for the day, as well as setting me up nicely for the long weekend. Bring it on!