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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...


Why yes, trying to get comfortable with swimming lengths does make me think of Finding Nemo. Anyone else?

After a fun weekend with friends, having a BBQ and going for afternoon tea, it's back to working life this week. As always, having Poppy the dog to visit at the weekend reminded me of the joys of being inquisitive and having the wind in your hair...



I got a bit of a shock when I logged onto Fetch this morning to log last night's swim and realised it was only my third workout in July. Of course, that's been because I was resting after the marathon on 28th June, but it was still a surprise to see it. After last week's swimming class and then a short run on Friday, I'm trying to get back in the swing of things this week.

I was keen to get back in the pool after my first swimming class and finally made it last night. I also submitted my application form so that I'm officially signed up to the classes for the forseeable future, woohoo!
Swimming is a very sexy sport, I'm discovering!
I was a bit nervous about the pool being busy while I was flailing around in the water, so I made sure I turned up during a casual swimming session. Happily I ended up with the pool to myself after a couple of lengths...hopefully because everyone was off to get their dinner, not because I splashed too much. I paddled up and down a bit trying to practise my front crawl technique but I'm still not really getting the breathing right at all, so I decided to hang on until my next class.

Instead I thought I'd give backstroke another go and quickly discovered that I can make it to a full length at a time, albeit not particularly first. I completed 16 lengths of backstroke in the end and think I've managed to get my legs working a bit more like they're supposed to. I'm looking forward to my next class already, and will be branching out with a run tonight.

The only sad thing today is that it finally dawned on me that the nose stud I've been thinking of getting (eek) isn't exactly compatible with swimming regularly, as I'd need to take a few weeks off for it to heal. I need to think about that one!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Lucy's First Swimming Class

It turns out that all the childhood swimming lessons in the world don't help when you haven't swum in about 10 years - you still look like, well, a fish out of water. But in the water. Yikes.

I went to my first swimming class on Wednesday and loved it, even if there was rather a lot of flailing! I went to lessons when I was a kid and remember enjoying it, partly because my dad used to let my twin and I share a snack from the vending machine afterwards if we asked really nicely. I actually spotted Vice Versas (one of our favourite choices) in Tesco recently and had to buy them for reminiscing purposes. I didn't share them with anyone, mind you.

Anyway, so I started wearing glasses when I was about seven years old and even later when I bought contact lenses I didn't have ones that could be worn while swimming. That meant by my teens I did enjoy swimming but wasn't very confident because I essentially couldn't see anything more than a metre in front of me while in the pool. School swimming lessons are pretty stressful when you can't actually see the teacher who's gesturing instructions to you. I remember enjoying endless lengths of backstroke when we went to the pool as a family, but that's it. I've never really done pool holidays so I've not so much as doggy paddled to a hotel bar in the last 10 years.

Back to the present day, I'm keen to get back into the world of swimming because it would be great cross-training for running and I'm no longer near a gym at home so it would convenient too. That and I remember liking it somewhere along the line, so it would be nice to have that back. My local swimming pool is minutes from my house by bike so I swung by there on Wednesday to try the beginner class. I was relieved to find that the teacher was friendly yet businesslike, and soon got me and the other three swimmers to work trying out different drills. We swam halfway down the pool and back again from the shallow end, which felt nice and safe!

In the space of half an hour we fitted in quite a few drills. My front crawl involves a fair amount of thrashing and swallowing water at the moment, but it was nice to have a starting point and lots of useful feedback. The most hilarious drill involved lying on our backs holding a float, so we were just using our legs to kick along. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I barely moved! Whoops. The instructor eventually took pity on me and came over. The conversation went something like this:

"Are you a runner?"
"Yeah, how can you tell?"
"Well, you're trying to run in the water."
"Oh."

It turns out that this technique doesn't really work for swimming, who knew? With some coaching I managed to propel myself along a bit better, but I've got lots of work to do. I had naively assumed the legs would be the easy bit, so it shows how much there is to learn - I'm really glad that I've signed up to classes. I'm already itching to get back in the pool!

I didn't snap any photos of the occasion, so here's a humorous photo from Windsor Castle a few weeks ago instead:

Yes, that does say Pug Yard.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Giants Head Marathon 2014: Race Report

Where: Sydling St Nicholas, Dorset (near France, according to the race instructions)
When: 28th June 2014
How long: 5:55:00

I'm delighted to say that I finished the Giants Head Marathon and didn't even keel over on a hillside in the process, which I had feared in the back of my mind since I signed up last year.

Spoiler alert: I survived!
In the weeks and months leading up to the event many non-runners pointed out that I could have stayed home for booze and cake on my birthday, and even the runners went "sorry what?" when I mentioned the name of the race. Despite being featured in Runner's World earlier in the year, Giants Head is in it's second year of running and was capped at 300 entries, so word is still getting around.

Am I pleased I chose to run a madly hilly trail 26.2 on my 26th birthday? Yes!

I rocked up at the 'athletes village' on the Friday night, getting a little nervous about what lay ahead. I was soon feeling relaxed after chatting to some other runners and having a nice comforting meal. The camping cost a fiver, as did the meal put on by the local WI in the village hall, a minute walk down the road. The cows had been neatly removed from the field we camped in, as promised, and the views were stunning. It was a pleasure to feel part of the picturesque village of Sydling St Nicholas and I can't compliment the organisation and thought that went into the event enough. 

Thanks Mum!
After a cheeky half pint of Purbeck cider from the beer tent, I headed back to my tent to discover that my mum (who had kindly dropped me off with all my stuff) had customised my tent. Brilliant!

I got cold outside pretty quickly so chilled out in my sleeping bag with my Kindle for a while, reflecting on it being a slight surreal Friday night. I woke up bright and early to the sound of birds tweeting and runners starting to get up. I had a glamorous breakfast in my tent and headed down to race HQ to get a coffee and pick up my race number while accepting some birthday phone calls. It was exciting and a bit scary to see the finish line going up and lots of runner starting to arrive. 

More than any other race I've done, it was really noticeable at the start line how many people were in Ironman and half-Ironman finisher t-shirts, 100 marathon club t-shirts, and running club vests. Lots of conversations centred around ultras and very mountainous sounding marathons back to back. With my two flat road marathons behind me, I was feeling like the biggest rookie on the block! It shows how great the atmosphere was that that didn't put me off. 

Cerne Abbas - the medal inspiration!
Where to start on the race itself? The advice I'd heard was to walk the uphill stretches from the start to conserve energy and the people I was amongst did that, so I happily followed suit. The first few miles brought amazing scenery, a surprising number of flat stretches, and the first of many aid stations with plenty of water and interesting snack options. I wandered off chomping a malted milk biscuit and feeling delighted with my birthday plans. I loved that the volunteers were happy for us to fill Camelbaks from their water tanks (much needed on a warm day!) and it was really cool that we could send our own bottles/packages to certain aid stations, although I didn't take advantage of that option. 

The first 10 miles or so went by quite quickly in a blur of admiring the view, trying not to trip over, and enjoying some snacks. I'm so glad I wore trail shoes because it was dry but very uneven and rocky in places. I enjoyed scrambling along narrow trails through but not so much the parts with endless stones and rocks. Ouch. 

Around 11 miles I struck up conversation with the lovely Fiona while we were scrambling uphill in single file. She'd run 100 miles two weeks beforehand and done the South Downs Way relay the week before, so I was a bit gobsmacked while trying to keep pace with her. We were joined soon after by Jason, dressed as a Bishop extraordinaire, and a fellow BOSH member. We fast became a team of three, sharing jokes and stories back and forth, and renaming ourselves with suitably religious names for the duration of the race (that's Sister Mary Frances to you).


I'll be forever grateful to those two because I started finding the race quite hard not far after the halfway point and by about 17 miles it was mostly their encouragement that kept me going. We had a whale of a time posing for photos, singing a bit and getting a bit competitive with trying to overtake other runners, but it was still amazingly hard work.

By the 20 mile marker I was trying hard to relax and stay positive but whingeing every now and then about the cake and lemon vodka I'd been promised at the 20 mile 'lovestation'. I wasn't disappointed and we were greeted with hugs, cheers, and lots of lovely food and drink. We left in high spirits and I was so pleased to have the end (sort of) in sight.

True to form, the hills continued right to the end of the race. My Garmin had conked out by that point and I was trying not to ask Fiona every two minutes how near the end we were. Finally we got to the bottom of a hill and yelped at the marshals to ask how much further we had to go. I've never been so happy to hear the answer - "100 yards to go, just round the corner". We grabbed each other's hands and went for a sprint finish. I spotted my family just as we collided over the line and into the finishing chute. Thank goodness.

Well done to my family for steering me through some pictures and the obligatory food/cake afterwards, as I was totally done in. It's definitely the first birthday where I've been turning down a second glass of champagne and begging for bedtime at about 9pm.

Running with Fiona and Jason really made the race for me, as well as the amazing support from marshals and the camaraderie with other runners. I'm still keen to describe Giants Head Marathon as a one off for me personally, but I definitely want to run more races organised by the folks at White Star Running - they know their stuff.

Verdict: Amazing scenery, rewardingly challenging course, great marshals and well stocked aid stations, and a top notch ethos. Thanks all!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Juneathon: Day 19

Let's not talk about the football, eh? I'm no particular fan but I had it on in the background earlier and it's always a shame to lose. I keep hoping I'm going to get all excited and patriotic like the Olympics but it hasn't happened yet. 

I focused my efforts tonight on stretching and icing, especially as my shins feel a little sore from yesterday's race. I snuck in a plank that came in at 1:21. Not my best effort but at least I tried...


Spot the non-matching socks, whoops!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Juneathon: Day 25

Three days to go until marathon time, aargh! I've been psyching myself up nicely and starting to write my packing list for Friday. Just one little faux pas - the realisation that although I've been trying to get some hilly miles in, I've been doing it entirely in road shoes as that's usually fine for the routes I use. I've only just remembered after asking on the Facebook page that trail shoes are recommended for Giants Head. Apparently the trails are rock hard, which I find confusing because in my experience that makes trail shoes feel like really hard work. Oh and of course I haven't worn my trail shoes on a long run in months.

So basically, any advice/encouragement/commiseration welcome.

In true mad tapering style, today's exercise consisted of practising reversing into a parking bay for so long in my driving lesson that a muscle in my left quad started hurting and my right shoulder is all seized up. Oh and a plank that lasted all of 36 seconds. Time for bed.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Juneathon: Day 24

In which I encounter two rather large swans and an adorable group of cygnets on the canal path, and befriend another woman while doing so because she also stopped short of them. We were psyching ourselves up to run past when a cyclist came by. After a quick laugh together she ventured past the swans quickly and one of them reared up at her. That was enough for us two runners to turn round and go back the other way. I'm happy to admit that I'm not brave in the face of a beak and an angry stare.

I had a nice chat and was shown an alternative route, so that was a friendly outcome to the situation. I headed home to finish off my little three mile trot, probably my last run before Giants Head Marathon on Saturday. Eek!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Juneathon: Day 23

Does anyone else have the imprint of their grid foam roller on their IT band right now? Nope, just me then? Good. I do love the taper madness of every bit of your body slowly seizing up.

That said, after a restful weekend I made it through Monday without any yawning, for the first time in probably months. So that's a result.

I put a super duper effort into Juneathon today - every time I needed water (I get through a LOT) or needed to talk to someone in the office, I got up from my desk and walked upstairs instead of taking a shortcut or calling. I reckon I went up and down stairs about 10-15 times in my heels, and I strolled down to the park and lunch.

My favourite Instagram of the day goes to NotSalmon.com for this pic:

Important life lesson!