Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Back To The Future (Part 3)

Just to keep the theme going and because I wracked my brains failing to think of a better title for this post here we are going back to the future once again - this time with 2014.

Up until i started writing this I thought i was going to split 2014 up into 2 sections as there is a lot of emotion involved, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to handle it all in one go. But now I've squared up to it I think maybe I'll just get it all in one post and move on to this year, otherwise I'll be putting off part 2 - but it will be a bit of a long one, so bear with. 

Mind you given the events and the ensuing emotional roller coaster effect, maybe this post should have been titled after another of my favourite films. . .

"Get on with it then, we want to hear what happened", yes OK here goes. . .

Paris Marathon training was in full swing come January. A friend who had run many marathons over many years, including the famous Comrades (impressive!), and who was an experienced runner, offered to write me a training schedule, and as I wanted to have a good chance of doing under 5 hours at Paris, I accepted with thanks. (More accurately, but probably unwisely, I wanted to 'show 'em' at the 'RW/Asics 26.2 project' that i could do it myself).

The training schedule was quite comprehensive. I don't have it saved anywhere as it was 'old school' and written on sheets of paper, and stuck on my fridge. But given the Garmin data and what memory I can muster, I should be able to give you the gist.

A sample training week from the middle of January was thus:

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 20 min warm up, 800s* x 6 @ 4:40 with 200m recovery, 20 mins cool down
Wednesday: 8 mile steady run (can't recall pace sorry)
Thursday: 3 miles with cadence drills**
Friday: rest
Saturday: parkrun in 28-29 mins
Sunday: 14 miles at easy pace with 1 min walk break every mile

(*800s refers to Yasso 800s, which involve running 800metre intervals in your predicted or hoped for marathon time as if in minutes, with 200metre recovery between, and apparently once you can do 10 intervals you can be fairly confident of hitting your time. EG if your predicted time is 4 hours 40 mins, then each 800 metre interval should be done in a time of 4mins 40 seconds)
(** Cadence drills involve doing short sections in an increased cadence in order to quicken your leg turnover)

By the peak of the training there were 10 x 800s scheduled and 20 mile runs lined up. Probably the most intense training program I had ever attempted

To be quite honest the 800s were doing wonders for my fitness and I was managing the long runs fairly well, up to and including the first 20 miler. . .and so was Max the dog, although he didn't do the 800s. (mind you i think 20 miles is about his limit as he was flat out for the rest of the day after that!)
Somewhere around that first 20 miler at the end of Feb/beginning of March (I cant recall if it was before or after) i developed a slight twinge in one of my quad muscles. Of course i ignored it and tried to run through it.
During the next week or so it got a little bit worse, but not enough to make me think I should stop. Just a nagging twinge.
I recall looking at the schedule 3 weeks before the Paris Marathon and realising what i thought was another 20 miler was in fact 22 miles. I don't know why but my brain balked at this and went something like. . .

Still, trying to stay true to the training I went out to do it.
I only got halfway before. . .disaster. . .my quad muscle gave up and I couldn't complete the run. . .

So i gave it a week off, Icing and Massaging as much as possible, before attempting a short run, and got about 4km.

After another couple days off I managed 5km - but the leg still hurt and so with about 2 weeks to go I decided I should go to see a Physio who advised me to stretch hip flexors, strengthen glutes, and loosen quads, and NO RUNNING until Paris.
I dedicated the remaining time to the stretches and exercises i had been given but despite the physio's advice did a slow a 3km run the following week just to reassure myself.  I suppose at this point i could have pulled out of Paris but i had a point to make and i figured if i just gave up on a time and just tried to complete it I ought to muddle through! (what was i thinking?)

What I haven't yet mentioned about the early part of the year is that also in full swing was my daughter's wedding preparations, on countdown mode for 16th June! I was making the wedding cake (being a trained cake decorator in another life), and was also supposed to be looking for a 'mother of the bride' outfit (which i wasn't trained for, so hence had done nothing!) 

So, back to Paris; I met the Massey Ferguson RC massive at London (loads of fun), caught the Eurostar (not at all fun), and arrived in Paris on the Friday. The Expo was visited, medical certificates were handed over, numbers were collected, wine was drunk, tourist attractions were visited, and then all of a sudden we were at the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, looking for the portaloos and the baggage drop.
Cue the start pens - I was already in the slowest 'Rose' pen, having no illusions about my finish time. It was a long wait, but eventually we started, the leg held up, I kept a really steady easy pace, and was hopeful of finishing. At just over halfway, however, it all went horribly wrong. By the time I reached the midway aid station, at around 23km, the road was covered in orange peel and banana skins from the thousands of faster runners that had gone before. . . . Of course a classic 'comedy' moment ensued, and in trying to stop falling over completely I jarred and pulled my quad muscle.

After that, the pain in the quad just got worse and worse, but unfortunately being the stubborn mule that I am, it didn't occur to me to stop running and bail out (like Magnus Magnusson, I'd started so i would finish). I struggled on through the horribly dark road tunnels with all the music thumping (which I hated). By about 35 km and the Bois de Bologne I was hobbling about 3/4s of each km, and walking the remainder, and was in a very dark place.

I did have a bit of a lift at 41km when i saw the person who had pipped me to the post in the Asics competition, apparently throwing up behind the 41km marker, and so with this small boost i managed to force up the pace a modicum for the final 1 and a bit km and finish several minutes in front of them in 5:19 and change.

Nowhere near a sub 5 finish but a finish all the same.

Cue Medal, Tshirt, bag collection, MF RC meetup, hobble back to hotel, eat all the food, drink wine and generally collapse, followed the next day by inability to walk due to seized up quad. . . . and oh god it was a long limp back to the train station. . . .

I needed help with my ancient misbehaving suitcase especially when the wheels seized up and I found I couldn't walk up stairs without hanging on to the handrail. I'm sure my travelling companions must have thought I was being a bit of a diva, but if any of them are reading this, I was in agony honestly!

If I learned anything from this it was the following:
  1. If you get an injury rest and seek medical help as soon as you can, don't wait until its well established
  2. Its OK to pull out of a race if you are not sure you are fit.
  3. Training programs are not set in stone, if you feel something is too much don't do it, even if someone really experienced has given it to you, only you know how you feel.
  4. Given the right incentive you can usually pull a bit of extra pace from somewhere even if you think you are finished
  5. I really don't like road marathons!
Short term recovery started immediately. Long Term recovery took a tad longer than I expected

3 days later I managed a walk/jog of 2.5km, then hobbled round parkrun as the sweeper and could only just keep up with the person walking at the back! My leg would just not work properly and i was running a bit like Quasimodo....The week after I started slow progress through 4 & 4.5 km, and also started a further series of physio/osteo visits. . and so it went.

By this time, and over the last year or so, we'd gradually got to know local running hero Steve Way via Poole parkrun and while on the injury bench it was great fun watching him romp home in the London Marathon as first non-elite, while cheering enthusiastically at the TV. His amazing performance gave him a qualifying time for the commonwealth games later that year in Glasgow.
Most amusing listening to the commentators shuffling through the paperwork trying to find out who this unexpected bloke was!

Increasing the distance slowly i reached 10k again the day after my 100th parkrun in the middle of May. There was still a long way to go but I was looking forward to a 2 week holiday in the Alps we had booked at the end of June - just after another visit to Cerne Abbas and the Giants Head marathon (glutton for punishment and cider at mile 20 obviously!)

I'd also managed to finally find a dress for the wedding (Mother of the Bride should have been making a bit more effort don't you think?). Given that I needed hat, shoes, and handbag to complete the outfit there was also a fair way to go, but i was quite pleased with myself given my feelings for clothes shopping (not a fan).

I was due to be sweeping the Ox marathon (another White Star event above Tollard Royal) at the end of May, and Kevin was marshaling, but as I was no-where near recovered for that kind of distance I asked if I could sweep the half instead, and my pal Nic was going to run with me. I also decided to take Max along too as i knew 13 ish miles was well within his abilities and he would enjoy a lovely run in the countryside.
The start was at the top of a sunny, but very windy hill, and it was a lovely run downwards but soon went back up again.
such great views!
We let the runners get well ahead as I planned to let Max off the lead for much of the run (he's a right pain on the lead when running!), but when I eventually unclipped him I didn't expect him to leg it for around 400 yards, catch the runners way ahead and nearly trip some of them up! Oops, apologies to anyone reading this that had their first Ox half marathon nearly cut short by an over-enthusiastic small dog.

This was a very nice route with some lovely bits through woodland, and along ancient cart tracks and it was all going very well with no real leg problems at an easy jog, but when we caught up with the last runner they wouldn't run at all after halfway, not even a bit of a jog downhill and so we had to walk from then on. (no cut off time for the Half as the Marathon and the Ultra runners would still be out there)

Even Max got his own medal!
June began with a 10k race in the guise of the Poole Festival of running, and Kev got a chance to join in, by doing his second 5k race. He also had an idea for a T-shirt, one that would prove more popular than we intended or ever envisaged.
Those of you that have read the aforementioned Steve Way's blog will know that one of his philosophies is 'Don't Be Shit!' one that he applies to running and to life in general. Its blunt but strikes a chord with a lot of people it seems.
Kevin innocently said "we could make Steve a tshirt with his motto on (in the end it was changed to 'Don't Be Sh*t!' so it could be worn in public), and give it to him to say well done for being picked for Glasgow". Steve was due to be running the Littledown Marathon in Bournemouth that month so we decided to give it to him then (after checking with his wife to make sure he would like it), and bless him, he was suitably chuffed, and mentioned it on his blog.

So many unexpected comments followed, not about his training as usual but 'where can i get a tshirt like that Steve?' so I had the thought that, If Steve approved we get some done and sell them for charity; "if you think they would sell?" he said, "we might sell a few". I started off with a facebook page with all profits going to Steve's favourite charity Julia's House, and asked people to message me if they wanted one; Steve promoted it on his blog and the orders started trickling in.

By the time Glasgow came around, we had surpassed all expectations and made over £800 for Julia's House and did a classic Giant Cheque presentation at Poole parkrun, and a super send off for Steve.
In the end and following Glasgow in July the orders kept rolling in, and we closed the shop later after selling over 350 tshirts and raising over £2000 for Julia's House Charity! Amazing!

presentation at Poole parkrun

While all this good stuff was going on however, other forces were at work.

Still in June and about 2 weeks before the wedding my dad called me at work to say my mother had a fall and so I rushed home only to find her wedged in a doorway and unable to move.
Eventually the paramedics arrived, swiftly diagnosed a broken leg and whisked her away to hospital. The doctors decided that given how weak her bones were they would have to operate on the leg to mend it. Before they could do so she developed mild pneumonia which had to be treated first However she was still hopeful of being able to attend the wedding even if it was in a wheelchair. She was not 100% when they eventually took her to theatre from intensive care but they said she was stable. Fitting in hospital visits and trying to finish the wedding cake was difficult but had to be done. I don't know if it was mum's age or condition but she took several days to regain any kind of consciousness following the operation. 2 hospital visits a day and not sleeping through worry was starting to take its toll on me, I was training for the Giants Head marathon at the time and long runs were done in laps around the heath in case i needed to get to the car in a hurry. By the morning of the wedding she was only staying conscious for a few minutes at a time but a phone call first thing suggested she was stable.

I still hadn't bought a hat. .

the wedding morning went like this: check on Mum, deliver wedding cake, rush back home via local TKMaxx, grab 2 hats that would go with my dress, pick up the first suitable shoes and handbag I could find, rush home to wash and change, collect Dad, bundle into car, and arrive at wedding venue just in time after all other guests were there including the bride and groom - I think I scrubbed up OK and so did the cake!

Hazel and her new hubby, my other daughter who was bridesmaid, and my son all went along to the hospital to see my mum in all in their finery to cheer her up and caused a stir in the ICU :-) Everything was looking fairly positive.

The very next day though....

I phoned the hospital first thing, and was told mum had perked up a bit so went to work...

Dad phoned a while later to say she had taken a turn for the worse and could we come in.

I rushed to collect him and we went to the hospital but when we got there the Doctor met us and said she had already gone. . .

To say I was devastated was an understatement, I felt like the bottom had dropped out my world. And all because of a broken leg.
Just writing this is making me upset so I wont go into too much detail if you don't mind, but of course the next couple of weeks was spent doing what needed to be done. Helping Dad with funeral arrangements, paperwork, and making myself go out for short runs to regain some normality.

The funeral was booked for 2 weeks later and in between was the Giants Head Marathon, which I don't know now how I managed to complete, but it seemed there was nothing to be gained by not doing it. Running was keeping me grounded and feeling like there was something I could control.

We postponed our Alps holiday until the middle of July and were considering cancelling that so my Dad wouldn't be on his own but he insisted we go.

However, another worry that had reared its ugly head was now Kev's Dad who at nearly 90 but still with all his faculties had taken a swift turn for the worse physically over a matter of a few weeks.

With all this going on I can't remember at what point in 2014 I decided I wanted to enter the Mont Blanc Cross (which is a little over a half marathon at 23km) but by the time we went on holiday I was planning on signing up when entries opened later in the year. While we were in the Alps we were going to walk the Cross route and see what it was like.
I will be doing a separate route report in my next post.

We did manage to have a reasonable time as best we could given the circumstances in the fresh air and among the amazing scenery, the area around Chamonix has to be one of my most favourite places in the world, and we returned, if not refreshed and rested, then at least feeling a little restored.

Nearly 2 weeks of hiking brings us to nearly August and we returned to find Kevin's Dad still ill and getting worse. I wont go into detail but very sadly he passed away about a week later, adding to an already emotional few months. Looking back I wonder how we got through it all.

After getting through yet another funeral, in the circumstances it would be easy to overlook a very small local 10k race called Maiden NewTEN madness which took place on a Saturday evening in the first week of August but I just wanted to give it a mention as it was a nice little race. 

A new race series called the Purbeck Trail Series had started up in 2014 and 4 local races were involved automatically giving runners points based on their finish times. The more of the races you did the more chance to get points but only the top 3 results counted. The 4 races were: The Studland Fun Run 5k, The Beast (which I hadnt done before), and 2 of my favourites, Purbeck Marathon and the Studland Stampede. I was determined to complete all 4 races in order to get as many points as possible. Of course I had no hope in winning a prize but I wanted to see how far up I could get in my age group! (not very far up as it turns out as there are a lot of great local lady runners my age!)

The Beast was the most difficult certainly, consisting of a 13 mile (ish) course from Corfe Castle out to the coast path and taking in these steps at about halfway at St Aldelm's Head.

After doing these I had jelly legs and managed to trip over a blade of grass on the other side and spectacularly faceplanted causing a fair bit of leg bruising later on. This is a challenging but fun race though with spectacular views and bit of stile hopping to keep it interesting.

This same weekend we were in awe of a diminutive local runner Gemma Bragg (wife of Ultra Runner Jez Bragg) after she completed her first UTMB race (Ultra Trail de Mont Blanc). As we had walked a little of the route the month before, and I looked ahead to the Cross it made her accomplishment even more real. You can read about her experience on her blog.
Gemma very kindly gave me some good advice and tips for my upcoming (but slightly less impressive!) mountain race.

Attending the Purbeck Marathon with me this year were 6 of my running friends (including Nic), 5 of whom had decided to do this as their first marathon on the back of my recommendation that it was such a nice race - a lot to live up to! Thank goodness they all finished!
So in no particular order I'd just like to say well done to Janet, Jacquie, Gordon, Steve, and Angie for joining me on a mad offroad run as your first marathon! You were, and are, truly awesome.

A week later came the Black Hill Run in Bere Regis again, and I think attendance was doubled from the year before, proving a great success and being picked by several local clubs as one of their championship races. The race start was improved from the year before. more improvements are planned this year

Around this time as well was born a tiny black and tan Patterdale/Jack Russell/Chihuahua cross puppy that would soon have a big impact on us.
We had been talking about a second dog since early in the year but with everything that had happened it had been put on the back burner, but now we felt we could start looking.

With 2 more races on the horizon, The Studland Stampede for the third time, and my first time at the Stickler, a taxing local mostly offroad race with 3 huge hills in 10 miles, we somehow found time to go and choose little Daisy at her farmyard birthplace which was very near where the Stickler was run at Shillingstone. We fell in love and collected her in November. Max wouldn't speak to us for a week, but now he loves her and wouldnt be without her!

Her first insight into the sort of life that she would have was spectating at the Wimborne 10 race a week later although she spent most of the time snuggled up on someones lap under a blanket (it was cold); finally at this race I felt like I had fully recovered and to top it all bagged my first PB of the year! The multitude of cake always available at this race was most welcome.

My next race (which I did more as a training run) was the Endurance Life CTS half at Lulworth and at 16 miles I am calling this an 'Ultra-Half'. I picked this one to do, partly because I liked the 10k in 2012, partly because as you know I like a challenge, but mainly because when perusing the previous results, I discovered that the finish times were similar to the Mont Blanc Cross and so might be an indication of similar difficulty, thus giving me an insight into where I stood fitness and ability-wise.

It would be an understatement to call this a tough race, it was a VERY tough race, starting at Lulworth Cove, doing the 10k route first then going up and out the other side of the cove, and having to tackle the nasty hill called Arish Mell, not once but twice, Flowers Barrow and the hill out of Tyneham as well. But it did indeed give me the confidence that I could finish a tough course and I was very happy with my finish time of around 4:20 as there was a lot of walking!

I know this has been an epic post but I'm winding up now honestly -

Christmas was a mixed and a slightly sad affair but we got through it and we rounded up the year with my second and only other PB of the year at the Poole Round the Lakes 10k on Boxing day and I waved goodbye to 2014 gladly - it was certainly a real emotional roller coaster.
Oh, and i forgot to mention that in April I had my 50th birthday but it didn't seem that important at the time!

Mont Blanc Cross route report including some kit info to follow in the next post.