Iron Ready?

I’m not sure how I thought I’d feel by now. Did I think I’d feel like an athlete? Did I think I’d look ripped and muscly? No and also no because Jam. And cheese. And bagels. And sausage suppers. But I definitely expected to feel different: Fitter, stronger, highly tuned. Less like a sofa dwelling carb-addict and more like Leanda Cave.

Alas, I’m much closer to the sofa than the Cave. Literally.

I guess I must be different than I was, though. Even with my gut and bingo wings. All the indicators suggest I am at my fitness peak. But I still feel like me. I still feel normal.

I’ve gone into taper feeling ready for it. Not totally wrecked but with plenty of niggles and a requirement for plentiful sleep and water. I made it to 82 miles of my last century ride before I lost my shit. This is progress!

I had a beer and managed to finish it for the first time in months! I’ve been eating well and trying not to overdo the carbs as I taper down my efforts.

I’ve also been driving myself, and my people, CRAZY with taper madness. It is a real thing and it is happening in my head ALL THE TIME.

If I thought Maranoia was a thing before, I was wrong. Try Iron Maranoia.

It’s 100% horrendous.

I’ve trained for a year, but I’ve prepared myself for THREE years for this challenge. Painstakingly ticking off bucket list stuff en route to hopefully one day becoming IronBean. And the job is barely finished. I have the actual work to do now.

I’m so close that I can touch it.

And yet I’m terrified.

I’m terrified of that which I have no control of: Bike mechanicals. Relentless headwinds. Torrential rain. Unbearable heat. Hungry Pike. Cramp.

I can control none of these so naturally it’s all that consumes me as I beg for last minute mechanical tutorials on repairing chains and dealing with snapped mechs.

I guess the thing that frightens me more than anything I’ve done so far, is that I might not finish. I could have A Disaster. This isn’t set in stone. You can’t wing 140.6 miles. If something goes tits up and it’s non repairable, it’s game over. You can walk a marathon or an ultra. You can breaststroke a 10km Swim. For me to feel home and dry, I have to get to the marathon. And even then, I’ll need ample time to finish the damned thing.

Just get to the run, girl. Then you’re on the home straight. Then it’s just a marathon.

Just. A. Marathon.

I have never had a good marathon. (Ssshhh. Nothing could be good after 112 miles on a bike. Not even sitting down is good. You’d rather be running.)

I’ve been waking up at 4am bathed in sweat panicking about why my bento box won’t sit right on my top tube, how much lube I should apply, what if the photographer gets my chins from the wrong angle, what if I forget to hit save on my Edge….. all crucial, of course.

The last few weeks have passed in a blur of busy work days and last minute Lakesman fretting. Somehow, I’m about to enter the final week of taper and pack for the Lake District. So….. I’m basically going to do this, then.

I’m watching my footing, wearing sensible shoes and glaring at anyone who dares to cough or sniff in my presence.

I’ve had shoulder issues and a gammy knee which, at 8am on Sunday was ABSOLUTELY DEFINITELY A MEDIAL MENISCAL TEAR OR AT THE VERY LEAST A TEAR IN MY MEDIAL COLLATERAL LIGAMENT OR OH FUCK WHAT IF ITS ARTHRITIS.

*hyperventilates*

Physio was booked for Sunday anyway, and Sarah reassured me that it was literally not even one of those things.

And relax, Bean. Do your stretches, Bean. Eat your protein and your fibre, Bean.

It’s all just come round so fast! (The exact opposite of how the event will go, just FYI)

Lakesman was a distant dream last June when I psyched myself up to register. Now it’s next fucking WEEK.

Next week. Shit the bed.

140.6 miles. Iron. My dream. My goal. THE goal. (Insert 18,000 ridiculous instagram hashtags here)

Shit.

Am I ready? Who the fuck knows. But it’s time to HTFU and find out!

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Psychological Warfare

It’s been a funny old week. With less than a calendar month to go until Lakesman, the mind games have well and truly begun.

It started on Sunday night when we had to take my newly serviced bike apart to try and figure out what the fuck was causing the front derailleur not to shift. Diagnosis: fucked shifter.

Cue an almighty panic attack even by my own standards.

There is, of course, plenty of time to fix it. Beardy swiftly hopped on ebay and sourced replacement shifters while I continued to have meltdowns about every single thing I possibly could. I also have the luxury of owning several bikes (n+1 comes in handy, you know). So I tried to convince myself that if the worst came to the worst, I could do my last 100 miler in a weeks time on my cyclocross.

I have also noticed a tiny flaw in my shiny, hideously expensive new Garmin Fenix 5s. The back plate is squint. No problem, right? Garmin customer service is famously actually brilliant, and I got an email back within a few hours asking for photos. But they close for the weekend. So at the moment, my incredibly sophisticated bit of kit is not going near water until I’m sure there is no risk that the “waterproofness” has been compromised. This pragmatic approach is absolutely not what I was experiencing last night when I decided I may as well stop training because if it’s not on Strava, what even is the point.

Happily, I got back in open water this week, for my first loch swim since the 10km last year. It felt fantastic. Cold, of course, but importantly, I felt comfortable and confident in the water, easily smashing out 1:40/100m pace without feeling tired or breathless. Definite progress to be proud of!

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As my HR and Garmin stress score begins to settle back down to within reasonable limits, I find myself reflecting on another significant milestone that I reached this week.

Five years ago, I registered for an event. And this morning, I finally took part. I’ve trained hard for this day. Practised with kit, nutrition, hydration. Visualised the start and finish. Paced myself….

That’s right, kids. After 5 years, I finally ran my first parkrun.

Why hadn’t I done one before now? Well there’s a few reasons for that:

  1. I can’t “just run 5k” without trying to absolutely tear the arse out of it. This is not good news for this famously perma-injured runner. So I avoided parkrun during marathon prep (x4) as I didn’t want to risk disgruntling the underlying injuries I am plagued by.
  2. It always fell on long run day. I liked to keep my long runs on a Saturday so that I could either recover or bike on a Sunday. And, as per previous point, I try to avoid trying to run hard, which I seem to have to do over 5km, when I’m going long.
  3. I get hideous anxiety before anything that involves crowds of people. And parkrun’s near me are super busy. So I avoided them due to my fear of crowds.
  4.  Ignore all of the above. It literally took me 5 years to figure out how to log back into my Parkrun account to reprint my barcodes….

I’m SO glad I did it though. It was the first ever Lochore Parkrun and over 340 people descended on the Meedies to run. This made it really congested for the first 2km but the pack soon spread out.

I went out way too fast and at 5:19, my first km was too quick for me. I slowed it down, reminding myself that my actual A Race is in 4 weeks, and I could do without undoing all my hard injury-avoidance work! It was roasty feckin toasty. People were stopping to walk and puke. But my legs felt BRILLIANT!

I guess listening to your body does work?! Who would have thought it?!??!

I only noticed the camera thanks to the chap in front of me shouting “PHOTOGRAPHER” and was able to react in time.

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I’m amazed that there is finally evidence that I can run without shuffling.

So there we have it. My first parkrun. I loved it, obviously. I even got within 30s of my fastest ever 5k time. 27:52 is not a shit time. Which makes me very happy as I didn’t feel totally dead afterwards!

It’s time to start my last big week of training now, and then I start my taper! It’s FINALLY HAPPENING!!!!!!!!!! I sincerely hope the stunning weather continues. But I’m not getting too cocky. Lakesman has been both gloriously hot and sunny, and extremely moist and windy. I’m definitely prepared for both!

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Dunblane 7.5mile Road Race

This will officially be known as The Last Race That The Other Half Gets To Choose. Basically because every time he picks one, it includes the words “gently undulating” and “slight climb” in the race briefing which prompt the regulars to chortle knowingly. 

Forget, for a minute, the weird distance. You do get over it. I promise. 

4 weeks post London he felt I needed a bit of a kick start. And boy did I bloody well get one. 

It’s fun to enter smaller, more obscure races. As long as you’re quick like a club runner, like Brian is. If you’re slow like a sloth then it’s not so much fun. But hey. Someone has to come last… (I didn’t this time…) I’m actually not *that* slow these days, but that’s by my standards. Bean is now faster (marginally) than a glacier. 

This was actually a lovely wee race and one I would recommend to those in the locality. You’re piped down the hill (by a piper, not like on to a cake) beside the Hydro to the start line (note; it is the MOUNTAIN that you run back up at the end, by the way…) and then you’re set off on the main road. It’s a loop out of Dunblane to Kinbuck and then back round OVER THE ACTUAL BLOODY ALPS and then down into Dunblane only to be faced with over 200m of elevation in the last half mile. Which is fun. 

It was hot. So damn hot. And from about 3 miles in my left calf had decided that this was definitely TOO FUCKING SOON, BEAN. 

There was a mythical water station at “4 miles” which eventually appeared as a watery mirage after one of the mountain roads rounded a corner. I’ve never finished a bottle of water at a race yet. Until Sunday. 

Brian, or Speedy McSpeedFace, had zipped off at the start. Both of our Garmins had failed to get a signal. Mine woke up after 600 worrying metres where I decided I really need to learn how to pace without a gadget… But his didn’t wake up until about 1.5 miles in by which time he thought by keeping up with those around him he’d be doing alright on pace. Turns out that 4.45/km otherwise known as “imminent death”. 

Meanwhile, I’m bringing up the rear, where I’d found some lasses from my local running club which i have never attended (swimming night coincides, you see…) and it was lovely to chat for a bit before the hills stole all my words and my soul. 

A very picturesque race on a sweltering Sunday meant that I soon began to reel people in. One thing I pride myself in is the fact that I no longer walk/run. It works for some people but not me. I’m better if I just keep on jogging. I was getting particularly hacked off with the girl that repeatedly SPRINTED PAST at under 6min/km and then walked until I’d JUST passed her before taking off again. 

Eventually I decided to match her run pace behind her and then lost her. More efficient, my Arse. 

The real bastard about this race is the end. Not often I’ll say THAT. But the whole time you’re running down hill back into Dunblane, you are ALARMINGLY AWARE of the fact that the hill back up to the Hydro looms over you. And you have to run up an equally impressive slope to get to the bottom of Death Hill. 

By the time I reached the bottom of Death Hill, Mr Speedy had finished and come back down to find me, admitting afterwards that he had expected to wait a lot longer for me than he did. He jogged up beside me as I basically cried that I could absolutely NOT do this (I was doing it) and I overtook maybe 4 or 5 others on the way to the top. It really was brutal. And SO FECKING HOT. 

Somehow, I’ve no idea how, but SOMEHOW I found the beans in my legs to beast the finish with an impressive (or not) sprint and even heard a chap say “Christ I’m amazed she has that much energy left”. Oh yeah, bitches. Check my impressive stride…. 

There were snickers bars and MEDALS! How lovely! Not the usual script for teeny races but an ace surprise. 

£15 was decent value for money for a race that was VERY well marshalled ( by some wonderful people!), well organised and provided refreshments and bling. Thoroughly recommended (but practise hills. Honestly.) 

My time: 1:17.53

Brian: 1:02.56 

Maraftermath

I’ve loved writing about training for marathons (oh yeah… plural! That technically makes me an expert now) and writing about what happens when you run them. So it was about time that I wrote about what happens afterwards. This is just based on my own personal experiences and everyone is aware that I’m odd, but it’s always fun to share….

The Hunger

Be prepared in the days (and weeks) following a marathon, to wish to eat everything in sight. Twice. And then have pudding. It’s probably acceptable to “refeed” for the first few days and carbs, fiber and protein are the way to do that sensibly. Plenty of vegetables, water, pasta and chicken, right? Wrong. Bring on the donner meat, biscuits, cake and copious tea because “behold. I have just run a marathon. Bring to me cake and shower me with pasta and praise”.

And that’s ok. What probably is not ok is still maintaining that dietary approach 4 weeks later. My trousers definitely suggest that I need to quit the biscuits and start being sensible again.

Sigh.

The Medal Wearing

Thou shalt sport thy finishers medal for a minimum of 3 days and then carry it in your handbag for when you bump into people in Tesco and want to brandish it at them. “Hi yes my handbag is awfy heavy because of this enormous bit of bling”.

Remember that the only people allowed to wear your medal are you and children under the age of 10. Anyone else is an impostor and a fraud with no concept of what you’ve actually just been through and they must be attacked immediately if found wearing your medal. If they ask to wear it, just politely question them to see if they too have just completed a marathon. If the answer is anything other than “yes look at my finishers t shirt and this kebab I am enjoying it is my third today because I have just run a marathon” then punch them in the face and hobble away. (Don’t run. you probably can’t.)

The Finishers T-shirt Wearing

Largely acceptable for a week. I WISH I worked somewhere where finishers t shirts were an acceptable form of office attire. But alas. Never mind. I shall wear it immediately upon arriving home and at every available public opportunity. It is especially important that once you are able (and willing) to run again after the event, that you wear your finishers t shirt with pride and a grimace as your body makes you suffer for wanting to run again after 26.2 miles.

Try not to wear your marathon finishers tee to do a 10k. Or any race of a lesser distance. It’s a bit ‘boasty’. Especially if, like me, you’re not quick or you don’t, like me, possess terribly enviable form. I quite enjoy that EMF gave me two t shirts. One with 26.2 emblazoned on the back in GIANT LETTERS THAT CAN BE READ FROM MILES AWAY, and one which just states “2014” leaving fellow runners to guess which distance I completed that weekend. I’ve been tempted to wear my Aberfeldy 70.3 shirt a few times but no. That one doesn’t get worn for training. That one just gets worn for smugness.

(I will be a nightmare if I ever become an Ironman)

The Sleep.

The night after a marathon, your brain and legs will be buzzing. Everything will tell you to PLEASE OH MY WORD PLEASE GO TO SLEEP and then just as you close your eyes you’ll remember A Thing or your calves with spontaneously go into spasm and then before you know it you’re on facebook and it’s 4am.

I actually find that two nights after the event is when I have The Giant Sleep. A sleep so deep that an elephant could fart in my ear and I wouldn’t even flinch.

Reliving the Event

This is the great bit and it doesn’t go away! To say “I’ve run a marathon” is a bloody brilliant thing. To say “I’ve actually run TWO marathons” is even more incredible. But to be able to say you’ve run the LONDON marathon is something I doubt I’ll ever get my head around. Your eyes will glaze over as your brain skillfully blocks out the portaloos, the sounds of shuffling feet and exhaustion, the sweaty strangers hand from a high five, the smell of deep heat and nervous fart and the pain (oh my god the PAIN) of covering 26.2 miles. You will say “it was wonderful” and recount tales of cheering crowds and landmarks (If you’re doing Edinburgh now, there are none. Not a single one. sorry. They demolished THE ONLY LANDMARK. Rubbish).

The Forgetting of The Pain

I imagine that this is a similar chemical reaction to what happens after a birth. The brain makes you forget what actually just happened. So you go online and you sign up for next years race before you can even bend down to tie your own shoe laces.

The glory of crossing the line, getting free stuff and generally basking in your own amazingness never gets old. Enjoy this. You deserve it!

Obsessively Checking for Finishers Pics

And then hating almost every single one because your thighs look shit. Seriously, camera men. I know you have hunners of folk to snap but at least try to make them flattering. (I actually doubt there is such a thing as a flattering photo anywhere during a marathon…) I managed to select a tiny number from 41 images where my thighs didn’t look like they were trying to peel themselves off my body and crawl away…

The Immune System’s Revenge

Steer clear of anyone you know who is remotely poorly after a marathon. In fact, turn your house into a germ-free bubble and refuse to leave for anything except more food. Because, when you least expect it, you will wake up with a HORRIBLE AILMENT that will strike you down for MUCH longer than you’re used to. My tonsils became incredibly disgusting within 8 days of London. And I was sick for nearly two weeks. Antibiotics and ALL the vitamins did virtually nothing until my body chilled the hell out and decided to be fine again.

Your body has been through a lot. Months of training and preparing for this and then the immediate drop in adrenaline leave you susceptible to all sorts of nasty shit. Feel free to punch anyone who sneezes in your vicinity. But make sure you wear sterile gloves while you punch them.

Finally….

Treat Yourself

Whether it’s to new-and-not-stinky kit, new-and-not-stinky trainers, a holiday or some time off. Make sure you take some time to enjoy your achievement for yourself. Look after your body. And allow yourself time to recover before you throw yourself into the next challenge.

And welcome to the club!

 

 

With age comes wisdom. 

I turned 30 on May 6th. Not old. Not even a scary age, but a landmark none the less. I looked back on my 20’s of which the first 50% was fuelled by terrible choices, terribler tequila and terriblerer dietary decisions. The last 50% was fuelled by free Haribo and new bikes! 

With plenty to look forward to, I was relieved to have a bit of time to relax after London. 

However…. Last weekend, my throat became ‘a bit sciency’ and I felt literally as though someone had found an off switch. Zero energy. Zero awake. Zero sparkle. 

I lamented on what I’d pulled my body and mind through over the last few months. Redundancy, uncertainty, the small matter of a marathon. All of these things (and more because #feelz) had clearly suddenly sunk in and my body gave up. 

But it’s ok because I was also about to get stuck in to the Etape on the 8th….

By Monday it was pretty apparent that I had quite a nasty bout of tonsillitis. Plagued in my formative years I knew the signs and tried to kill it with fire* but it had other ideas. 

(*vitamins and rest) 

The out of hours doctor (who used her Galaxy S5’s torch to check them…) decided that I should be put on 10 days of penicillin. “We always prescribe 10 days” 

I have never in my life been prescribed 10 days of Penicillin. But seeing as my medical degree is mostly 11 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, and googling any symptom I ever experience, I thanked her and started taking them. 

Clearly the infection had gotten it’s disgusting claws in deep. The Penicillin may as well have been Haribo. 

My GP rolled his eyes on Wednesday, gave me a decent dose of a different antibiotic (which will now be known as The One That Makes Me Want To Hide Inside Forever And Not Move) and it’s got rid of the majority of the Petrie dish that had appeared in my throat. 

This week of sofa-dwelling and insomnia left me with a decision. I hadn’t really told anyone but I was desperately dreading Etape. I’ve no doubt that my legs could go the distance. But my back still struggles after a break from the saddle and I didn’t want to start my new job (YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT I GOT A JOB) on Monday with a gait like An Old and still nursing tonsils like golf balls. 

I decided to withdraw and I am not gutted. And the fact that I felt like a weight had been lifted told me everything I needed to know about how right that decision was. 

The 3am start would have been atrocious. Much less the 81 miles on a carbon road bike with less than 6 hours in the saddle this year so far. 

It was the best choice. 

There’s always a certain amount of unease for me going into any event I don’t feel 100% ready for. But life is too short to do anything you (and your body) don’t want to do. It’s not a case of chickening out. Sometimes you have to look at what you’ve achieved, how you’re healing and think about the impact of endurance sport on the body. 

Happily, I was spoiled rotten on my 30th. My family have gifted me with so many thoughtful presents that it was quite overwhelming. 

I’d also like you to meet my new bike (she is as yet unnamed). 


Weighing decidedly less than my faithful Diamondback (which weighs almost the same as my Mini) and with suspension and the most amazing spec, I was straight out on her this morning. Nothing too energetic but I DID get a QOM!


So 30 is looking like it’ll be fun! Here’s to throwing myself (gently) down the side of hills! 

No Rest for the Wicked

It seemed like SUCH a good idea at the time…. Entering Etape Caledonia and then getting a place in VLM. What’s 81 miles in highland Perthshire, 14 days after a marathon?!

C’est ne pas un problem! (If one has trained adequately) Because the cycling should provide excellent cross training for the running. Provided I can do either at the same time or really at any point in the run up to either of these events.

Oh.

Somewhat miraculously and despite injury woes and life-induced stress, I surprised myself at London with a 5:20 finish. At least I have endurance in my legs. And a little left in my mind…

My worry is my arse. My poor under-trained arse.

It’s covered a measly 407km in the saddle since January. I’m not going to sit here (comfortably in my chair) and wish I’d been less injured and sick (I wish I’d been less injured and sick). Instead I should focus on the fact that I know at least 50 miles of the 81 I’ll be covering. The loop round Loch Rannoch and the subsequent climb up Schiehallion were part of the Aberfeldy Middle Distance Triathlon route in August. (Remember my epic race pic? Well it’s being used to advertise the 2016 event!)


So it’s not the route that’s freaking me out. Nor is it nutrition. My wicker basket* will be proudly attached to my bars beside my garmin and fully stocked with pastries** and sandwiches***.

* Bento box

**PowerBar

***Shotblox

The fear of arse ache is real. Also there is the small issue that comes with enjoying being a solo bikist. Riding en masse terrifies me. Though not as majestic or hairy, I’m very much like a nervous horse while wobbling along on my Stella. I scare easily and will need to be VERY careful not to be too twitchy when surrounded by other cyclists. If I fuck up my own day, I can live with that. I couldn’t live with fucking up someone else’s race!

Descents are not my fave. Climbs are fine. I enjoy them, in fact. But descents, which usually follow a climb in Scotland, are not so enjoyable. Despite what my self-conscious lady brain would lead me to believe, I do not have gravity on my side, and I’ve yet to master braking hard without flying arse over tit into my wicker basket of pastry heaven. Actually that doesn’t sound too terrible…

81 miles is fine. It’s not scary. Coming last isn’t even scary anymore. Just like Ross from Friends, I am fine….. FINE.

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I’m hoping that by Sunday afternoon next week, my endurance adventure for 2016 will be done. I’ll be able to relax and get back into the sports I love so much at a pace that suits me. That, or find a sofa and NEVER LEAVE IT AGAIN FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.

Not one to not have a plan, and still with an unshake-able love of cake that requires regular calorie-burning to accomodate (I really truly love cake),  I hope to build on confidence in corners and downhill through mountain biking (srsly). I’m looking forward to getting my running back on course and getting my CSS back from 1:55 to 1:45/100m in the pool in time for the Great Scottish Swim later in the year. And I’ll continue to build on my excellent strength improvements with coach.

I am keeping EVERYTHING crossed that the weather for this years Etape Caldedonia is better than it was last year. Scottish isn’t even enough of a description. Biblical would be better. Even if it just rains instead of being wet AND windy, then I’m fine with that. But PLEASE NOT BOTH.

On a positive note, I have been very pleasantly surprised at my recovery post marathon. If I remember Edinburgh’s aftermath, I was unable to bend my legs for several days. And stairs were out of the question for well over a week.

Somehow, I got on my bike on Tuesday. I “nipped” up some stairs quickly on Wednesday. I’ve been so OK that I keep expecting to wake up one day and not be able to move…. It’s almost like my body has FORGIVEN me. In record time. If it wasn’t for this bizarre sore throat and uber-tiredness I’d be off for a run today!

It’s this remarkable recovery that’s slightly unsettling. I think I’ll be spending this week not telling my arse what is about to happen to it.

London Marathon 2016

Mum: “MLDUK have been given one spot at the London marathon. Do you want it?”

Bean: “no. Nope. No. Hell no. Not doing that marathon bollocks again”

Mum: “ok!”

Bean:”WAIT…..”

7 months later, I found myself on a Southeastern train to Greenwich with 10,000 other runners, their kit bags and their nervous farts. I stood quietly, chewing on an oatmeal bar while my Painless Performance team mate Stuart shared the intimate details of his body-glide application. We were then shepherded off the train, through Greenwich where the drinking had already begun, and up a “hill” (let’s call it Mount Everest) to the Red Start.

Stuart and I had been tasked with getting a #TeamPainless selfie beside a VLM sign.

We found a sign with VLM on it and so ensued the funniest 5 minutes of my life featuring The Confused Man and quotes such as “yes we really want our picture taken by the female urinals” and “so what actually *is* a she-wee?”

 I call this “Kneeling in pee”

We dumped our things at the lorries, Stuart re-lubed by Lube Tree and I queued in the not-terrible queues at the portaloos several times.

The smell of pre-marathon portaloos will stay with me for a long time. (It’s like a music festival but replace beer smell with deep heat and all your usual portaloo smells)

After about half an hour, Stuart and I parted ways. He was in pen 6 and I was right at the back with (literally) the Rhinos and the Jamaican sodding Bobsled team (what a fucking achievement. They were brilliant lads) in pen 9.

Tim “I’ve turned space exploration from death defying to dull” Peake started us off (which was pretty cool) and we slowly edged our way to the start. 29 minutes. TWENTY NINE MINUTES. I was FROZEN.

I listened to the two girls behind me draw up their walk-run plan which consisted of 1mile walk, 5 minute run the whole way. I spotted the 5:15 pacer about 10 miles ahead. That was the last I saw of their flag. Bugger. There goes my Garmin-battery-backup-plan.

We were funnelled through the gate as the Canadian family who live on the corner cheered us tirelessly and waved flags. And there it was: the start gantry of one of the worlds largest marathons. Goosebumps.

The first few miles were unremarkable. Some ace support and lots of high fiving kids and definitely a bloke who I then realised was probably on some kind of register somewhere. But hey. This is probably a once in lifetime event for me so I’m going to go with it!

Everything felt smooth and I quickly got into a metronomic rhythm at around 7:40/km. bang on.

Around 3 miles in, my left knee shouted at me. And then shut up and never bothered me the entire race. It was almost as though my body suddenly realised what was about to happen to it and shouted “STOP THIS MADNESS”.

No. Shan’t.

Running through a-bit-I-can’t-remember-the-name-of-but-it’s-near-the-start, the music pumping out of people’s flats, the guy dj’ing and shouting runners names from his balcony (awesome) and all the happy smiley faces was just brilliant.

Soon we were over the first timing mat and I grabbed a bottle of water to sip. I hydrated well through the race. Every other water station I took a bottle, thanked a volunteer and sipped a few sips. At 10k, 20k and 30k I used water to wash down gels. I like this method.

Cutty Sark appeared after my first pee stop and that was something else. The crowd there was amazing an all through the town people were cheering and clapping. Quite an experience.

My next tick-box was Bermondsey. Mum and dad were there. Just one more 10k to go and I would see them.

I broke VLM down into 4 X 10ks. It worked very well for keeping my pace consistent. The plan, originally, was to build pace. I genuinely think I could have done that if I’d had a little more training.

1 10k down, 3 to go.

The run from Cutty to Rotherhithe and Bermondsey wasn’t terribly memorable. Most of the crowd had moved to their next spot so apart from the charity posts who shouted for everyone and the pissed locals and enthusiastic kids, there wasn’t a huge amount of support.

I was glad to get to the crowded streets of Bermondsey and then mum and dad appeared in the distance. They got a sweaty hug and a kiss and I made sure they were ok before jogging on towards half way.


Almost half way!

Running across tower bridge will stay with me forever. The crowd got bigger and louder until I turned a corner and there it was. Dodging people stopping to take selfies was the main challenge. It became an obstacle course which is just what you need half way through a marathon:

Top tip: it’s amazing what we’re part of but MOVE TO THE SIDE OF THE ROAD, THANKS.

After tower bridge, it was a right turn towards Canary Wharf. The crowds here were amazing and it was a chance to cheer for the runners that were almost at 23 miles. What we didn’t need, on our side of the road, was the guy on the party bus to shout, “THOSE GUYS OPPOSITE YOU LOT ARE ALMOST FINISHED. 10 MILES UNTIL YOU’RE ALMOST HOME”

What a bastard. That was the first time my head started to object. “No this is too far oh my god they all look fucked and you’re fucked already can we just jump the fence and then go get a burger and be done with this?”

No. We bloody can’t.

One foot in front of the other. Canary Wharf seemed to go on forever. Some firemen had loudspeakers blasting dance music out of their fire station. “KEEP MOVING, BEAN. YOU’RE LOOKING STRONG LOVE!” Was the reply when I thanked them for the boost.

Eventually I got to the curve that heads round to Mudchute where I was hoping mum and dad would be. And they were. Things were starting to hurt. I’d taken Ibuprofen and Paracetamol at half way but I’d yet to walk. At all. I told mum and dad I’d probably need to start walking a bit soon. But I was ok. Just sore. More hugs. More sweaty kisses and off I went.


Mile 17 “I NEED A CUDDLE”

More pee stops (15 minutes was added to my chip time due to pee queues. You men don’t know how lucky you are) and a minute of walking was all that was required to reset my sore pelvis so I could continue.

Before I knew it, 20 Miles came into view. I only had 10k (plus 2.2) left. I AM ALMOST FINISHED AND I HAVEN’T WALKED YET HOW IS THIS HAPPENING?!

The next 10k became a battle of mind over matter. It should have been easy! 10km isn’t far! But in my head it may as well have been another 26.2 miles.

My quads seized as they did during EMF2014 so a stop and stretch was required. I chatted to a young girl called Jess. I can’t remember which charity she was running for but she was emotional and sore from living with and training through an injury. She looked strong though and I hope she made it!

After being in Limehouse for what felt like FOREVER I reached 22 miles and then treated myself to to another quick walk (coach if you’re reading this is was faster than LISS pace) and began overtaking runners.

It was here that I welled up a little when the bastard party bus of earlier was playing Go Your Own Way at full pelt. My very best school chums and I absolutely love that song. So many happy memories. It felt like they’d stopped by to cheer me on. I ran along singing at the top of my lungs. I was running the bloody London marathon. For realz.

At 23 miles, I heard “GINNIE” my *actual* name. And there was my school-chum Robyn. Her bright hair and brighter smiler made my day. I’d really needed a lift at that stage. She got a sweaty hug whether she wanted one or not.

Then on to Blackfriars. I had been warned about this bit. But, disappointingly/ reassuringly there was no crying, puking or shitting. Just a woman over some loud speakers telling us we were amazing. No Somme-like experience. Just a bunch of tired folk having a walk and a bit of a word with themselves.

Coming out into the bright light of day, I clocked mum waving manically from the overpass. Brilliant. They’d made it! (On what was apparently the most horrid tube journey of their lives)

This was it. I was on the home stretch. “Where is Big Ben? I can’t see it. Must be Behind those trees. Oh it isn’t. FECK where IS it. Oh god it’s MILES away”

The Embankment was outstanding. So much support and it was basically like that until the end. As I rounded the corner past Oor Ben, I remembered to turn my cheerful grimace into a smile (thanks for the tip, D) and made sure every photographer got a smiley thumbs up.

There’s a bit after the road from Big Ben that you’re funnelled through onto Birdcage. Some army lads were lined up congratulating runners. Each of them got an enthusiastic high five. They were so lovely.

I am grateful I had sunglasses on. Birdcage walk was the first place I got choked up. I was about to finish the London marathon. I was running. I had run almost an entire marathon. On about 10 weeks of solid training. My battered, broken body and soul have had a fucking tough few weeks and months but I was about to smash this thing in the face. I was DOING it.

I was then brought out of my reverie by a bloke shuffling along in agony telling a photographer who’d shouted “CHEER UP MATE” to “FAHK ORF”. Amazing.

I passed the 800m to go sign and lengthened my stride, bringing my chin up and letting my legs stretch.

I reached 400m to go and started to feel like I may well puke.

I remembered my finishers pictures from Edinburgh. My “majestic sprint” was more of a holding-in-a-poo shuffle and my “bright smile” a twisted look of agony.

Not this time.

I shuffled Edinburgh, injured and wrecked in 5:40.16. At VLM 2016 I crossed the line in a time measured by my Garmin of 5:20.15. (Chip time 5:35. Fuck you, toilet queues) – 20 minute improvement. And no injuries.

Once I checked and revived my phone, I was utterly blown away by the support and encouragement from everyone. Not least my baby sister who went full beast mode and I don’t think anyone on Facebook anywhere in the world managed to avoid a Lissie-Update. Outstanding.

My mum and dad were the best Sherpas. They battled packed tubes with an arthritic knee and a sore ankle and provided endless hugs, kisses and high fives.

Naomi, our friend who let us crash at her stunning Highgate home looked after us lovingly and ensured that carbs and dogs were aplenty.

I could not be more proud. It was a huge experience. I smiled 90% of the time. And, most importantly, I have almost doubled my fundraising target for Lymfund.

London? You rock.

One Week

I remember the nerves vividly. At this stage in the run up to Edinburgh I was nauseous, stressed and scared. Every time someone asked how I was feeling, instead of saying “great” or “scared” or “excited”, my mouth would open and the contents of my stomach would try to escape. Heavy dry-boke situation. 

Life has a funny way of providing perspective. So while I’m sitting here with 6 days to go, I’m nauseous, stressed and scared but for a totally different reason. (The job thing. And also I haven’t had coffee yet)

I find myself ridiculously excited about London, instead. 

Letting go of my goal was an important step. I’ve gone from wishing for a particular time, to just wishing for a fun day of touristing my way around London, very slowly, with 30,000 other smelly, sweaty individuals. 

I just. Want. To finish. 

It’s liberating. 

Also… The last time I had to do something endurance related, it was a triathlon. That’s 3 things I had to do. And not fall off or over or anything. I only have to do one thing this time. Granted, it’s running a fucking long way, but it’s not 70.3 miles and I’ve done it before. 

I suppose at this stage, the only thing that’s making me slightly nervous (other than the fact that I haven’t trained over 13.1 miles…) is how much my feet are going to hurt. I’ve not had the time to practise pain-ignoring. Or blister prep. To Vaseline or not to Vaseline? That is the question. (I’ve never had to use it yet but then I’d trained to distance before!!) 

I’ve not practised nutrition other than some delicious* gels on my half the other day. 

*entirely not delicious

So we can safely assume I’ll shit myself, have feet that resemble mince by mile 16 and not be able to walk for 5 weeks afterwards. 

Oh good. 

Most importantly I’ve no idea if my Garmin will go the distance. I mean…. If it’s not on Strava I may as well put my medal in the bin and forget it ever happened. 😱

On a serious note, I HAVE prepped my body in other ways besides sitting still, eating pies (many many pies) and doing the Not Running. My S&C coach has had me on a pretty well-rounded training schedule that’s worked on HR, endurance capabilities and muscle adaptation without the impact and wear on my joints that I’d have experienced had I been pushing the mileage. 

Mentally I feel zen-like* and calm** and prepared. I’m going to look up. Look around. “Embrace the suck” as my favourite motto reminds me. Take it all in. Enjoy being part of something so big. Hopefully making it to the finish and becoming #oneinamillion 

*in denial

** definitely in denial 

So! Good luck to our friends in Boston today, Madrid on Sunday and to my chums along the route in London. 

London? I’m not going to smash you. But I am going to tickle you gently under your chin. 

Losing Stuff. 

*Liam Neeson voice*: “I have a particular set of skills…”

Skills which seem to include losing stuff:

My marbles, my dignity, my phone (it’s usually in my other hand) my car keys, my purse, my gym card, usually the left sock from a pair….

….And now my job. 

On March 24th, the company I’ve worked my Arse off for since 2009, was entered into administration. Shit just got grown up. 

I’m not going to delve into details because there’s little point. But I really really loved my job. And my team. And it’s pretty deflating to see product you so lovingly selected which had been so beautifully merchandised by my talented floor teams, be sold off to vultures who had previously never stepped foot in the door. 

Losing my job meant that I have lost *quite* a lot of sleep. A thing which is very important, not least when you’re at the pointy end of what’s been a difficult few months of training. Just enough sleep was lost so as to enable a vicious bug to creep in and knock me for six. Yeah. Cause things weren’t sucky enough! 

Thankfully, (and quite surprisingly) I’ve remained fairly positive throughout this latest ordeal. Perhaps it’s denial. Or…. This is an opportunity to get out of the rut that I’d become quite comfortable in. It’s the kick I need to do something different.

I just dunno what that is yet! 

Whilst chatting to my best chum recently, we discussed the trials and tribulations of life. When asked when we grew up, she simply replied “we didn’t. It’s just that grown up stuff keeps happening to us…” 

So. 18 days out from VLM, I’ve run no further than 14.5km and have a virus that’s wiped me out. I imagine I’ll not be winning VLM this year… I might adopt the race strategy of A Beer Every Mile instead.  

I think this bling will be hard earned. 

HipGate 

I remember sitting down for my Higher Mathematics exam (non-calculator paper) and thinking “fuck. I am not prepared for this”. I failed. Quite tremendously. Much to my Dad’s dismay. 

Despite my emotions at that time, I had prepared the very best I could. I’d studied hard. Maths just wasn’t for me. 

Fast forward to now. 5 weeks from VLM. 4 weeks since my hip flexor became Very Bloody Sore. And I’ve run the grand total of about 10 kilometres. 

In just under 5 weeks I will be toeing the line of one of the most exciting events in the running world. I’m not relinquishing the opportunity to enjoy every second. But I know now that this is going to be a very well earned medal and a very painful recovery. 

Am I stupid? Probably. But I should be reminded that I am 200% stronger and fitter than I was when I attempted Edinburgh 2 years ago. I am also mentally ready for this beating. I think….

And lo. Etape still looms 7 weeks away on the horizon. Cycling is pain free (winning!) so I know, leg-death-depending, that I should be good for that beast. 

On Saturday, coach let me tag along for two of his TEN sufferfests during his Knights Of Sufferlandria challenge. Almost 3 hours of hard graft and 90km covered. Loved it. And he beasted it!

  
I am not suggesting for one single second that anyone should ever attempt to run a marathon with minimal training. So please understand that while I’ve not been out running, I have had my Physio and coach working to get me stronger and fitter with resistance work and cycling. My RHR continues to drop and my thresholds are moving in the right direction as well. I’ve also been training for this (largely) since September. It’s just my body has had other ideas.

So. 5 weeks to go. If anybody fancies supporting me by donating, please follow this link ❤️
https://www.justgiving.com/missrunningbean