Focusing on London

After a very happy running day yesterday the focus now shifts to the London Marathon. It’s not far off. I’m happy with the training. I’m getting tired, yes, but that’s normal at this point in the training. The running isn’t worrying me. I know I can complete 26.2 miles, it’s a matter of staying injury free and then giving it my best shot on the day.

What is worrying me a little is fundraising. I don’t often run for charity and this is why – I don’t like asking people for money. I don’t like the whole ‘yay look at me I’m doing stuff that I think you should give money to an organisation I have chosen that might mean nothing to you for’. It’s weird, it’s odd, it’s a little bit embarrassing and I’m not good at it. Some people just seem to be able to be constantly in people’s faces about sponsorship etc. I just can’t do it. Kath’s charity place came with a £2000 fundraising target. I don’t have a target because I am using my ballot place but obviously it would be nice if that actually made a contribution to Mind! In other words we would really like to raise more than £2000 for the charity and that’s a phenomenal amount of money.

As well as not being comfortable constantly being in your faces, there are also loads of fundraising ideas which seem to raise a good amount of money which would require us to step right out of our comfort zones. We could probably do a pub quiz, we probably could have organised all sorts of social events but honestly, the training and the being sociable on the level described below is already pushing me outside my comfort zone. It’s already all quite people-y and maybe I should just get over myself but honestly it’s hard! So apart from really hoping a few more of you might be able and willing to sponsor us (You can do so here), we’re doing a few other bits and pieces.

  1. We are planning a carboot sale and some of our lovely neighbours have already donated items for us to sell there. If you have something that might fetch a pound or two at a carboot sale to donate and can get it to us by mid March or so then let us know.
  2. We are doing a cake bake for our local parkrun on 9th March and a coffee morning for our neighbours on the 10th March.
  3. Time permitting there may be more cake related efforts because – you know, cake.
  4. We have a couple of raffle ideas – we are still looking for a few more prizes for a running related one so if you know of anyone who might be able to donate some running/sport related prizes give us a shout! The other raffle had its soft launch at an event I did last week and is for legal academics. Read more about it on my academic blog here.

I realise this could easily be read as a whinge that people aren’t sponsoring us. It’s not intended to be that. If you want to support us, it genuinely means a lot to us, thank you. If this isn’t your thing, I get that too. I was just trying to share what’s on my mind as we head into the last couple of months of training and preparing

Harewood House Half Marathon

So remember last year, my DNF at the Harewood House Half Marathon? I said I’d be back and today I was. I have been looking forward to it and I wasn’t really nervous until this morning when I suddenly started feeling really anxious about the whole thing. The course is tough, I’m not.

Anyway I had been thinking about the race and in particular how I would manage to stick to #MyRunMyRules. I knew from last year that my pace would put me at the back of the pack even on a good day. I therefore spent some time really thinking about how I would feel if I was last and how I would feel running last for a considerable chunk of the race. How would I keep myself motivated and moving forward with the tail marker right behind me and the feeling of people waiting for me. I don’t like to keep people waiting.

Honestly I am absolutely fine with actually coming last, what I think I’d find more difficult is having to run last for most of the race, particularly if I lost touch with the pack or runners in front and there was an obvious big gap that would mean I was holding people up. Maybe that’s where some of the anxiety came from this morning. But anyway, we had our porridge, got sorted and set off. We parked, went to the loo, picked up our t-shirts, went to the loo, met one of our fellow #Run1000Mile challengers, went to the loo (nothing like nervous peeing!) and then we were ready to start.

We set off. For the first few hundred metres all I really had was people streaming past me. I smiled. It is quite hard to keep smiling as everyone keeps over taking you. I tried not to mind and I tried not to speed up. Very soon I was last. I could hear the back marker on his bike behind me and I could hear the marshals’ radio conversations which were quite entertaining. Ok, I thought, well, I’ll be doing all of this right from the back. I felt surprisingly ok about that and settled in.

I hadn’t really looked at pace since an early glance which told me that at 11.20 minutes per mile I was going way way way too fast. I thought I’d slowed a fair bit but at the 1 mile beep I was at 12.08. Too fast. I tried to consciously slow down but already being last made that quite hard somehow. I was gaining on a woman in front of me who had been pulling away but by 1.5 miles she looked like she was struggling and I went past her. I hope she kept going – she must have done for quite a while at least because the back marker didn’t catch up to me and I didn’t see him again.

I was still trying to slow down as I saw deer on my left and red kites in the sky. I couldn’t help but smile. I actually saw loads of deer, loads of kites and tons of smaller birds and an odd squirrel or two. I am utterly rubbish at remembering the route or what was where on it so this may be in the wrong order, possibly totally jumbled. Anyway, I settled into what felt like a comfortable pace. I could see a woman in front of me running a stunningly smooth even pace and I tried to keep with her. I was fine on the flat but she had far more power up the hills. Eventually I stopped focusing on the pink of her jacket, did the sensible thing and let her go. She stayed in view for a long time but eventually she was gone. I was alone. It was bliss.

Coming up to 3 and a half miles I had the first walk as I made my way along the edge of a grassy field heading towards the first steep downhill. I sipped some Tailwind and I tried to keep marching and saw two women ahead of me. I was easily catching up with them. We had a quick chat just before the downhill and then I kept going carefully jogging down the uneven and quite steep track. The marshal sent me diagonally down the hill and that seemed like the route most people took judging by the muddy path. However, the actual route seemed to go straight down to hit the 4 miles marker and then turn left. This is probably the main reason the course measured short.

I think we next turned up into the woods and I walked the hills. I was feeling the too fast start and very briefly it crossed my mind that maybe I was totally screwed but that thought went as fast as it came. I saw some more deer and then at some point I saw some lovely looking Jacob sheep – they looked familiar and then I remembered that the flock we got ours from also had some going to the Harewood estate so it could well be the same blood line. That made me smile and reminisce for a while.

I enjoyed the course and I enjoyed being on my own for so much of it. Around mile 6 I realised I was falling in with the pace of two blokes in front. They were running slightly faster but walking more slowly. I caught up with them for a chat just after the mile 8 water station. We marched up the hill together and then met Susan who was struggling a little. Me and her walked and jogged together for a mile ish leaving the two blokes behind us but then I was walking faster again so I powered up the hill and jogged down the other side to the Mile 10 marker.

I felt ok. I slowly jogged along the track trying to stay out of the way of dog walkers. I was gaining on the aid station where I had called it a day last time and was smiling because I knew I was going beyond. I heard a runner coming at some considerable pace behind me. I wondered whether Susan had maybe found her running legs again but it wasn’t her. It was someone just out running I think and she was fast! As she came past me she touched my shoulder and told me I was amazing. It nearly made me cry but it also gave me a boost and I jogged on and turned left back into the woods. Less than 3 miles left. I slowly jogged most of those last miles with just a few little walks thrown in to reassure myself that I had enough left in the tank. As I plodded past the 11 mile marker I had the rest of my Tailwind feeling pretty happy about my fuelling. Although later on I wished I’d saved just a little bit for the last push.

I’m fairly sure the mile markers were out by quite a bit. Mile 13 was, if I got my numbers right, nearly 1.25 miles long and the Mile 13 sign was definitely more than .1 of a mile away from the finish. The last bit is brutal. It’s not a steep climb but it’s one hell of a pull. I walked up the track, passed another woman and tried to encourage her on, then I turned left into the field. I could see the finish now and willed my legs to start running again. They did, slowly and now feeling really heavy but run they did. I saw Kath coming towards me and she jogged a bit at the side of me when I got to her. She had finished in 2 hours 19 minutes and had nearly been taken out by some deer which had decided to split the runners and cross their path. She said she felt them come past behind her. Wowsers.

The nice thing about coming in at the end and in space is that the announcers at the finish have time to tell the world you’ve done it. Of course most of the world has already gone home but it was still nice to hear my name and a well done and a comment on my ‘big smile’ which was actually more a sort of Cheshire Cat grimace. I got my medal and bottle of water and a hug from Kath. We headed to the car and I stripped down to my bra to change out of my sweaty top and into something warm and dry. I felt awesome. Tired. But awesome. I sipped my tailwind recovery drink and nibbled a cheese sarnie in the car. My time: 3 hours and 58 seconds. So those 58 seconds are annoying. I’m going to have to go back and try again to conquer these rather ridiculous looking squiggles on a map!

Dopey 2019 Reflections: The Celebrations

Our celebrations started with a long sleep like most good celebrations do. Then we went for a lovely dinner at the California Grill which is located at the top of our hotel. It was a lovely celebration meal with gorgeous food, a blissful glass of wine and gallons and gallons of water. We watched the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the viewing area at the top of the hotel, had chocolate cake and went to bed. After that Dopey joined in.

Coming with us to all the parks

Drinking ALL our booze

Then he got a bit silly including behaving inappropriately in the toilets (probably Stitch’s influence)

So we limited him to beer and made him drink lots of water and coffee and put him on a time out

Once he’d calmed down a bit we let him come with us and play in the parks until he got a bit tired

So we thought we better feed him

He likes cake!

Dopey 2019 Reflections: Rest and Recovery

Just over a week ago I finished the Dopey Challenge with a personal best marathon time in spite of really struggling with the heat and humidity. You can read about that here. For those of you who thought I was done with Dopey posts – nope. I’m going to milk it a little longer. I want to tell you about the rest and recovery that got us through the challenge in this post and then the celebrations and the medals in the next.

So the first thing to think about it how much sleep you’re going to need. Dopey is tiring and I think we managed to make the challenge enjoyable in part because we slept loads. We had an afternoon nap every day during the race weekend. It meant not playing in the parks but it was the right thing to do! Work, Christmas, travel and all of that meant we were tired anyway, add early starts and running increasing distances for 4 days in a row. You need to sleep – at least you do when you’re me!

So afternoon naps and early bed helped massively and that pattern didn’t stop – we slept after the marathon. On the Monday after we played in the parks with lots of sit downs and stops and we came away quite early. On Tuesday we went to the parks early but then came back and slept before heading back out, same on Wednesday. Thursday we managed a full day in the parks without a nap and were sooooo proud of ourselves, Friday we were back to resting if not napping!

The only thing that really got me was chafing. I shall spare you the details but trust me when I say you should never be that conscious or that worried about exactly where your underwear sits. It all happened during the half marathon when we had a pee stop. Sweaty lycra pants are tricky to get back up properly and they never sat right again. The full just aggravated the already raw areas. As much as it freaks me out, this was a job for vaseline. I hate vaseline, the texture, the smell, everything… but vaseline it had to be.

I am sure that being relatively active helped recovery. We walked a fair bit and kept those legs moving. I also spent quite a while lying down with my legs up in the air and overall I think I did pretty well. After the half marathon I was fine. After the full I was tight and my feet were a bit tender. However nothing really hurt. My lower back on the right side and into my right hip were niggly on and off but nothing too bad. I suspect that could have been avoided completely if I had stretched more. In fact this is the one thing we really neglected. We’re idiots! We hardly stretched at all which is just daft because that actually makes a massive difference and I think would have avoided the soreness that we did experience. Live and (probably not) learn.

The other thing that probably wasn’t ideal is food. We fuelled relatively well during the challenge having chosen our restaurants carefully but even then the portions were too big and we probably had too much. The days after we could probably have made better choices to help with our recovery. We didn’t go crazy and kept the booze within relatively sensible limits but Disney portions and menus that kept enticing us to have three courses meant that we had far too much and too much of the wrong stuff. I can’t tell you how excited I was to find some actual green vegetables! The food was amazing and part of our celebrations but it was really not a healthy week!

I was worried about how I would mentally deal with finishing Dopey, recovering and then starting running again. I mostly did quite well. I was overwhelmed and had little cries every now and again but I recovered well mostly. I had one major wobble. It didn’t come until Tuesday when we were queuing to get into Hollywood Studios. There were a few Dopey runners and marathon runners around and many of them looked very sore. I was feeling ok. I suddenly thought, wow I clearly didn’t work hard enough, I’m not sore, I should have done so much more… and I started thinking about points where I could have pushed harder. I soon snapped out of it but every now and again my mind goes back to that. I also forget or fail to recognise that Dopey is a pretty big deal. It can’t really be because I did it. And I don’t do things that are such a big deal.

I was also worried about getting back into running after Dopey. I struggled with that last time and London Marathon prep suffered as a result. I was concerned that I won’t recover enough to train properly. The first test came on the Thursday after Dopey. We decided to try a little run on the Contemporary running track. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about how far I would go or how fast. I just wanted to see if I could still put one foot in front of the other. I could. I was incredibly tired and my legs felt pretty heavy. I trotted round a mile and a bit, took some pictures. Right at the end I felt my hip niggle a bit so I stopped. Overall, it was a good first trot out.

Dopey 2019 Reflections: why I’m (probably) done with Dopey

Dopey 2019 has been awesome on a whole load of levels. I am loving having done it. I am loving walking around the Disney parks with the Dopey medal. I am loving pausing every now and again to remind myself that we did something pretty special a few days ago. I am excited that I improved my running and fitness levels to a point where even the marathon was not totally miserable. It has been great. However, I’m pretty sure I’m done with Dopey. Here’s why.

1. Training for Dopey is pretty tough. Not significantly worse than for a marathon actually but Dopey training happens as the nights draw in, days are short and daylight limited and then there’s Christmas towards the end of the training. It’s not a great time to be training for a multi day running event culminating in a marathon.

2. I’m really really not a marathon runner. I will have one more go for the London Marathon but I don’t have anything to prove here and I think there are other challenges out there for me that I will enjoy more. I want to get off road more. I want to be a more confident trail runner. I have said before that I like half marathon distance because it’s a serious distance but it doesn’t break me. That is absolutely true and I think with a marathon there is always a risk that it will break me and put me off running. I have learned never to say never when it comes to running but at the minute I feel like I have achieved what I wanted with Dopey 2019. There is no unfinished business. I am more than happy to take this Dopey and remember it as the marathon weekend that helped me believe that I can do the impossible.

3. Dopey is brutal in two unexpected ways. It’s not the running. The running I would do again in a flash notwithstanding the comments above. The first is the early morning starts. Even with the help of staying on U.K. time, getting up at 2.00am ish for 4 mornings in a row is tough and you get more and more tired and reluctant to get out of bed with each day. The second is the waiting around. There is no getting away from it really, at least none that I can see. Thousands of people have to get to the start line and then into the right corral etc so you have to set off early on the transport provided, then you have to wait. Waiting takes its toll. There is a lot of sitting around, standing around, just waiting and that actually makes running more difficult because even with a good warm up routine you end up standing around for at least another 30 minutes after that and most likely much longer. If you are a middle to back of the pack runner it can take another hour to cross the start line… I don’t think I want to do that again. Not for 4 days in a row.

4. Florida weather in January. It can be anything! So in terms of running gear you need to pack everything. It might not be warm. This year it wasn’t. It was cold, really cold for the 5k, the 10k was marginally warmer, the half was just nice and for the full, well it’s been the only really hot day we’ve been here so far. It was humid too and clearly I don’t function well in humidity. While dealing with whatever weather for one day is doable, having to run 4 races on consecutive days in potentially completely different conditions messes with my mind. Perhaps I don’t need that again.

5. Dopey is not to be underestimated. If you also want a Disney holiday and you want to play in the parks, it’s tough to do that during the race weekend. At least it is for me. We needed naps on each of the race days and we headed to bed early. We have a full week after the race weekend to do stuff which takes the pressure off and means we can still do our favourite Disney things. But we are tired. We had naps on Monday and yesterday, we have had a lot of downtime today and we are going to bed early. I’d like to combine a runDisney event with a holiday again but maybe with a half marathon, not with such a huge mileage challenge. Something that I can recover from more quickly and which means I don’t have to spend my holiday napping. I don’t feel like I am missing out because I’ve been here several times before and because we have prioritised our list of favourite things to do. I think if you combine Dopey with one of your first Disney trips you really need to be careful not to do too much and exhaust yourself. Disney can be full on and exhausting even without any running!

6. What are the chances of running three personal bests during the Dopey Weekend – one in all but the 5k race – again. Probably zero! I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead! For anyone else thinking about it though, it’s phenomenal, it’s magical and it is great to have done it. Just don’t rely on pixie dust alone! It’s a serious challenge and a serious achievement and I will wear my race shirt and my medal (and possibly the ears too) with pride!