Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Well. Anyone reading the blog will have noticed a conspicuous silence after April the 22nd this year, the date of the London Marathon. I tell you, it's taken me this long to be able to write about it without getting a bit despondent. I shall relate the tale as I remember it...

Jennifer, Izzy, my husband and I flew down to London on the 21st. Izzy's first flight was pretty uneventful, and we got ourselves to Victoria Station without much trouble. Then we saw the HUGE queues in the underground station, so we decided to splash out on a taxi to take us the marathon expo at the Excel to register. It was a ridiculously long way away, Izzy hadn't slept all morning, and we were all knackered, so we whizzed through registration, said a quick hello to the Barnardo's stall, and got back to our hotel. We had a lovely big room with lots of crawling space for Izzy, and we were able to relax and have an early night.

Then came 6am on Sunday. My clothes were laid out ready, and when my alarm went off, I made to get out of bed, where Izzy had been lying next to me since her last feed a few hours ago. I had noticed she was warm, and thought it was just the heat of the room, but as she woke up and began to wail, it soon became apparent that something was wrong. She was burning up, and on closer inspection, was covered in a rash from head to toe. We gave her some Calpol, but after being unable to calm her, we decided to call NHS Direct. After a fraught time trying to find out the address of the hotel (which apparently the ambulance service were unable to find out), a paramedic crew arrived to take us off to St Thomas's Hospital. Jennifer was very worried about Izzy, but we all thought it best that she should run if she could, so she headed off to the start line.

The crew reassured us that it was probably nothing, and they even insisted that I get my kit on in case I was able to make it to the start line in time. However, when it comes to babies and rashes, it is certainly better to be safe than sorry. Izzy was much calmer by this point, and seemed to quite enjoy the trip.

My first ever ride in an ambulance ended at the hospital, where a lovely paediatrician checked Izzy over, and decided that she had a viral infection, possibly tonsillitis. We were given antibiotics just in case it was bacterial, and told that the rash should fade over a few days. Izzy now just seemed a bit under the weather, but it was too late for me to run. We walked back to our hotel in Victoria, along eerily deserted streets, all closed off and prepared for the marathon. It was a beautiful bright and cool day, and as we walked I sent messages to Facebook and Twitter apologising for not running, feeling like I had let everyone down.

We went back to the hotel, and watched the race on the telly! We also started tracking Jennifer online to see her progress. We had a nice breakfast, then checked out and wandered onto the streets of London, to fill our suddenly free day. We walked to the London Aquarium at Westminster and spent some time in there (Izzy slept through most of it, but woke up for long enough for us to ascertain that she's pretty freaked out by sharks!) Izzy had her lunch in the shade of the London Eye, and we wandered the area some more, filling time until Jennifer finished.

We arrived at the Barnardo's post-race HQ half an hour or so before Jennifer finished, and got to greet her as she arrived. She completed the race in 4:57:11, an outstanding achievement, and we were and continue to be so very proud of her!

After picking up our luggage, we made our way back to Gatwick, where passers by did double takes at the incredibly spotty baby. We were almost refused entry onto the plane due to her appearance, but were allowed on. Izzy slept all the way home, through plane and car journey, my poor ill baby, quite unaware of what her unfortunate illness had meant that day.

Izzy was back to her old self by the middle of the week, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd let so many people down. At least Jen had run, and no-one could expect a mother to run a marathon after a trip to the hospital with her baby, but the feelings of guilt remained. Barnardo's were lovely, and offered to defer my place to 2013, and no-one actually said anything negative about the situation, but I felt like a bit of a fraud. I'd done all the work, all the training, and yet had nothing to show for it.

But of course, that's not true. I had lots and lots to show for it. I had my fitness, which I would never have got back so quickly without a real reason to train. I had the weight that I'd lost, and the muscle I'd gained. I had all the headspace and much needed thinking time that running had given me, a chance to escape briefly from the relentlessness (wonderful though it is) of new motherhood. It was definitely worthwhile, and although the experience ended in real disappointment, I also gained so very much.

After a lot of thinking, I've decided not to run next year. Last year I had the luxury of time, being on maternity leave. This year, I'm back at work, and struggling to find the time to run even once a week. Add to this the fact that every second with my daughter is now extremely precious, I feel I can't sacrifice the amount of time it would take to train for London 2013. Barnardo's have agreed to let me carry over my sponsorship to the Great Scottish Run half marathon on September the 2nd, so I'll be sporting the green vest then, and enjoying the support of the crowds as I run what is still a long, long way for a worthwhile charity. I will run London one day, just not next year!

As for this blog, I think I'll continue it - after all, running is my main hobby and being Izzy's mum is the most important thing in my life, so I'm sure I'll continue to have a lot to say about both! Izzy is 'running' her first race, the Great Scottish Run 50m Toddler Dash, on the 1st of September, so I'll be sure to come back then and let you know how she got on.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Almost There...

Two days to go. The bags are packed (nearly), the passports and registration documents ready, and our fundraising target has been smashed! Thank you so much to everyone who donated. We are so very, very grateful (especially me, as it means I'm officially allowed to run - yipee!)

The next two days will possibly be the busiest of my life (or maybe a close second to my wedding day and the day before). In my usual nitpicky and over prepared style, I've put together an itinerary of our movements. From 7AM tomorrow, no second of our time goes unaccounted for. We've got to get to the airport, fly to London, get to the marathon Expo to register, get to the hotel to check in, get to the Pasta Party, then get back to the hotel to try to sleep.

On Sunday, Jennifer and I need to leave the hotel just after 7 and get two trains to Greenwich and find our starting positions. Then there's the small and insignificant matter of the race itself. Honestly, it's the last thing I'm worried about, after the travel arrangements and the perils of travelling with an 11 month old. Izzy and her dad will be seeing the sights of London as they wait for us to finish - I hope they get a nice day for wandering around. Jen and I need to try to meet up at some point after the 3 mile mark. We're starting at different areas, since I'm a charity runner and she's a ballot runner, but the courses converge after 3 miles. I hope she doesn't have to wait too long for me :-)We should be finished at the back of 3PM and then we have to limp our way back to Gatwick to catch our flight home - poor Jennifer has work in the morning!

If you want to track my progress on Sunday, you can go here and find me. If it asks for my race number, it's 34934.

The picture below is my marathon training plan - just Sunday to tick off now! At the top is the magnet sent to all runners by the race organisers. You can remove some pieces to  show your final race time. I wonder what it's going to be?

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

12 days and counting

Now it gets real - and scary! There's less than a fortnight to go, we've run our last long run (a relatively easy 20 miler last week) and the taper has started (the taper is the 2-3 week period before a big race when you scale back the length of your runs to let your body heal, build up fuel reserves, and rest before the race). Our 'long' run this weekend was 12 miles, and next week is 8 -it's amazing that these distances seem really short and easy, when only a few months ago they were still daunting and difficult. The 12 mile run was one I'd wanted to do for three years, since I moved into my current home. From the bottom of my road you can see, in the far distance, the Erskine Bridge. I always had a notion to run to it and run across it, and a few weeks ago I checked the distance - exactly 6 miles from my door, so a perfect 12 miles for an out and back run. The run there was pretty hard and I was struggling a bit, but we eventually reached the bridge. We ran uphill to the centre of the bridge and stopped to take in the view of the Clyde stretching back towards Glasgow, and take a few pictures. We turned around and headed home, and after a mile or so I realised why the run out had been so hard - it had almost all been uphill! For some reason, the fact that we were going downhill on the way back was more obvious than the fact that we were going uphill on the way out had been, so the second half was pretty speedy in comparison!

I've been working with an injury for the last few weeks, which has had me worried about the big day. I've had a pain in my left thigh when walking, which initially gets worse when running but eases off after a couple of miles. Jen and I went for sports massages this week, and the therapist diagnosed it as a problem with the iliotibial band. She gave me stretches to do, and I've been icing it and wearing a support, and it's been much better, so hopefully it'll hold up for the marathon. Unfortunately, the only real cure is rest, so I'll just have to soldier on until after the 22nd of April.

One real benefit of having the marathon to focus on is that I've barely thought about going back to work after maternity leave. I go back on the 30th of April, although I still don't know where I'm going to be working. I'm a teacher and I was on a secondment for 2.5 years before having Izzy, so I had to release my position at my former school. The council do have to find me a post, but it's taking a while to get any answers. To be honest, though, I'm not too worried - I have to go somewhere, and a school is a school, kids are kids, and teaching is teaching - I'm certainly looking forward to being back in front of a class after my time away, and I think all the exercise is keeping me from getting too stressed about it.

We've nearly reached our fundraising target! We're at £1545 out of £1800. We're so close, it really looks like we're going to do it! Thanks so much to everyone who has sponsored us, we really appreciate it and we hope to do you proud a week on Sunday! If you'd like to sponsor us, you can do so here - thank you :-)

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Miracle of the Blessed Mars Bar

Only just over a month to go before the marathon, and things are going well. We're nearly at two thirds of our fundraising target, and last week we did our first 20 mile run, the furthest I've ever gone.

It was a tough one compared to the relatively easy 18 miles the week before - it's certainly convinced me (if I needed convincing!) that the two week taper (where you reduce your mileage dramatically in the weeks before the race) is a fantastic idea. I was struggling from about 14 miles and I was ready to give up at 17. My legs were in agony, although cardiovascularly I felt fine. I certainly wasn't exhausted, just really, really sore.

We stopped at the Riverside Museum, about 3 miles from home, for Jen to pop to the loo and for me to have a rest. Fortuitously, there was a wee ice cream van outside, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to grab some fuel. I don't know what the family in front of me, who were taking what felt like three hours to make a ridiculously complex ice cream order, thought of me dancing from foot to foot and moaning quietly behind them, but I was willing them to hurry the hell up and let me get at the sugar! Once they finally had their mint-choc-chip-vanilla-wafer-cones-with-raspberry sauce or whatever it was they were ordering (ice cream in March? Really?) I ordered a Mars Bar from the nice wee man. He tried to engage me in conversation, so through the pain I managed to convey that I was training for a marathon and really needed some food. I gratefully grabbed the proffered Mars Bar and hobbled to a bench to eat it. Jen came out and ate her Milky Way, and we decided to set off again and get the final three miles over with.

We started walking, each step sending stabbing pains up my legs. Then my poor limbs started to ease off and we progressed to a slow shuffle, then a steady jog. By the time we'd been going for five minutes, the worst of the pain was gone and I felt able to face the last wee bit of the run. Before I knew it we had finished, and at a significantly better pace per mile than we'd managed for our 16 mile run a few weeks before. It felt wonderful to be done, and even better to know that that was the longest run in our training programme! I also now know to carry emergency Mars Bars, as the Lucozade Sport and sports jelly beans just won't cut it.

This week we had a relatively short 16 miler (when did 16 miles become short?) It was a lovely day, cool but bright, and the run was a breeze. We ran round leafy Bearsden and then along the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Kelvin Walkway, so it was a scenic and fresh run in perfect conditions.

Next week we have a rest week with three short runs and no long run, and the week after we once again do the 20 miles. After that the taper begins and we just have to look forward to the big day.

All we have to do now is reach our fundraising target! If you can help with a small donation we'd be really grateful. Barnardo's is a wonderful charity, and as teachers we know how much help some of our young people need with their lives. Any help you can give would be wonderful. Click here to go to our fundraising page. Thank you!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Hitting the Big Miles

Friday was our fundraising night out. It was a brilliant night and I'm so grateful to everyone who came and everyone who helped make it work (by buying tickets, taking part in the bingo, quizzes and raffle, donating prizes and helping with the organisation.) We made an amazing £559.03 which puts our total over the £1000 mark! A big thank you to everyone who has sponsored us so far too - I can't believe how generous people are being, and I'm very, very thankful.

The night was really great fun. I'd been worried about numbers, but we had over 50 people there which was perfect. I'd also been worried abut what to do with Izzy. In the end, we decided to bring her and play it by ear, since her dad could always take her home early if need be. As it turned out, she was an absolute star, making the rounds of the tables, laughing and chatting and doing her new trick of clapping her hands and generally having a lovely time. She fell asleep in. the car on the way home and there's been no major fallout from the late night - so relieved!

Jennifer and I went on our first 18 mile run today. We left at 8AM, running into a drizzly, dreich morning, but by mile 4 the clouds were dissipating and the rest of the distance was covered in beautiful sunshine. We ran 16 miles two weeks ago, and at the end of that run my legs were in agony and I struggled over the last two miles. Skip forward to today, however, and by mile 16 I was still going strong. After the run I felt brilliant and there's no major pain or niggles. I always hear people say that if you can do 18 miles, you can do the marathon. I don't know how true that is, but today's performance certainly bodes well. It took about half an hour less than I had guessed it would, and while the 16 miler a fortnight ago was at an average pace of 13:20 per mile, this run was 11:58 per mile, and barely slowed towards the end. Last week was a rest week (well, I say rest, it was 17 miles compared to this week's 27) and I think that the rest has made all the difference to my overall fitness and stamina.

I feel quite justified now in sitting on the couch, eating my bacon rolls and drinking tea. I might even stretch to a couple of Quality Street - I think I've earned it!

One final note - Congratulations to Caroline Breyley in Shetland, who was the winner of the Twaffle. The voucher is on its way to you! Thanks to everyone who donated in February :-)

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Twaffle extended!

I've decided to extend the Twaffle deadline - all donations to the Virgin Money Giving Page in February are eligible to win a £20 Amazon voucher, to be drawn on the 28th of February! One entry per pound donated and every pound gratefully received! You're still in with a chance :-)

Monday, 6 February 2012

Talking about the weather

Last week's training saw two sides of Glasgow winter weather. Thursday's 6-miler was in a cold, crisp morning. I did a few circuits of Bellahouston Park in pretty perfect conditions - freezing cold, but clear and bright. I even did some grass running over the frozen pitches for a bit of variety.

Beautiful Bellahouston Park
Then there was Saturday's 12-miler. It was cold and drizzly when Jen and I started our run along the Clydeside. By the time we reached the squinty bridge, however, the rain was pelting down, and by the turning point at Glasgow Green we were soaked through. Every inch of us was sodden and freezing, and we had to run back the same distance, only with added puddles. The wet clothes rubbed my skin raw by the end, and my lightweight technical training gear weight several pounds once peeled off. Run wise, though, it was fine. The distance seemed pretty easy, and after a hot bath all was well. I did start to get a bit light- headed towards the 10 mile mark, so I'm either going to have to eat a bigger breakfast or take some fuel on the long runs from here on in.

We're starting to gather in some great raffle prizes for the fundraising night on the 2nd of March, and any more would be most welcome! The Twaffle is going a bit more slowly, so I've decided that anyone who donates to our Virgin Money Giving page before the 20th of February will be eligible for 1 entry per pound donated. There will (hopefully) be Twaffles in March and April too, with the same rules applying - go on, it's only a pound!

This weekend will be a 14-miler. I haven't dreamt up our route yet. I'm going to have to start getting creative as the distances increase. I'm feeling so much fitter and more energetic for all the exercise, and the baby weight is slowly but surely disappearing. I'll have to recommend running a marathon 11 months after the birth to any mums looking to shift the pregnancy weight. - what could be simpler? ;-)