Monday, 25 August 2014

Last Long Run before the Big One!

After last Monday’s 4 mile run with Rachael we agreed to go out for 4 miles on Wednesday too, as this was in my running plan from Steve for this week.

I am still hoping that I will soon be finding shorter runs easier, but they still feel equally difficult to longer runs, they just last less time! Running with Rachael definitely makes the runs more bearable (though still not quite ‘enjoyable’). We find ourselves laughing at things that are neither funny nor entertaining but sharing in the suffering of the run makes us temporarily take leave of our senses! In no other aspect of my life would I find having a painful stitch in my side hilarious. I don’t find this particularly entertaining when I am running alone either, but there is something about the shared experience that makes things seem funnier than they actually are. My beautiful grandma always used to say “you’ve got to laugh or else you’ll cry” and I think this is very true when applied to my running experience!
Wednesday’s run felt particularly difficult. I don’t know why but my legs were heavy. I had been in the house on Wednesday afternoon and don’t think I drank as much water as I would at work so this could have been part of my problem. My friend Katie came out to watch my running style and to give our legs a massage after our run. Katie said that my right leg doesn’t look straight when I run but it felt fine when she massaged it. As ever, the massage from Katie was nice (though it was a little more painful this week as she massaged them straight after running).

I’ve put my old insole (that I had properly fitted) into my new trainers to see if this helped the lumpy muscle on my shin, as I felt it was being caused by my running style. I have noticed a massive difference so I think I should have done this from the start. Better late than never though. Hopefully this will see me successfully through the Great North Run.
On Friday, I went for my final long run before the big one – 11 miles in South Shields. I asked my big sister Joanne to run with me as she was off work and she is making this year’s Great North Run her last one. I did not ever imagine that I would be asking my sister to run 11 miles with me. It almost made me excited for the run. I say ‘almost’ as I knew I would appreciate the company but I don’t think I will ever be excited to do a long run.

I had a half day from work and drove to Joanne’s house. Having a half day was the only way to fit in this week’s long run as I went out for Rachael’s birthday on Friday night and have been away with family for the weekend. I think this demonstrates dedication to the cause!

I took my running clothes and got changed into them at Joanne’s house (in South Shields). Joanne was taking ages to get ready and then I got my brother in law Craig to take a photo of us pre-run.

When I went outside and set my Garmin watch away to pick up satellite it was taking ages to locate! I was starting to get quite impatient and Joanne was laughing at my watch as hers had located a satellite straight away.

I had been waiting all morning for a telephone call from the interview I had on Thursday. Just as my Garmin had almost located satellite, my mobile rang and it was the Speech and Language Therapist from my interview offering me the job!! I am glad that Joanne took so long to get ready and the satellite took ages to locate as otherwise I would have already been running when my phone rang!

I don’t think I have ever been so excited! I was also feeling enthusiastic about starting my run as I was in such a good mood. It was lovely to have Joanne there when I got offered the job and I was excited to be running with her talking about my new adventure. Unfortunately I think my excitement meant I set off too fast, and after a couple of miles running (and talking just as fast!) I was beginning to feel it in my legs. I slowed down a little and felt a bit better. Joanne was running just ahead of me, and she was wearing the vest she had printed when she ran for NETA last year. Seeing the NETA logo just in front of me, gave me a constant reminder of why I am putting myself through such a challenge. Every penny raised will make a difference to the North East Trust for Aphasia, and that makes it worthwhile.

We ran part of the Great North Run route and it wasn’t easy! I took Jelly Babies out with me and ate one every few miles. This helped me a little bit. I offered one to Joanne and she said she doesn’t like them. I told her that I don’t like them either but they are good when running. She decided to take my word for it and eat one herself but the look on her face suggested that she wasn’t impressed! And once again there was that uncontrollable laughter at something that is only marginally funny!

The route was hillier than I am used to running. I thought I put a good number of hills into my training runs but it would seem the GNR route still has more! I was seriously struggling just before Marsden bank (this was about 7 miles into our run) and opened my energy gel. This week I opted for tropical flavour. It did not taste nice. It did not taste nice at all. I did manage to open it with more success than last week, so it would seem practice really does make perfect(well not quite!) I tried to continue jogging whilst eating/drinking it this time. Last week I walked, but I wanted to experiment and see if I could use the gel on the move, so I know how this would feel on race day. After I had half the gel I began to feel a little bit sick, and the pain in my right knee had turned from a niggle to causing me to limp. I saw Joanne running across the road ahead me but I started to walk, not sure how I was ever going to complete my run.

I walked across the road to the top of the bank. I was still limping a little bit and Joanne stopped to wait for me to catch up with her. She asked if I wanted to turn back but I said I was ok to carry on. I began to run down the hill (and this felt better than walking). I heard a car toot their horn and looked at the road, not expecting it to be anyone I knew (as I don’t live in South Shields) but it was my brother in law and niece. They waved and smiled and it gave me the morale boost I needed. I was so close to giving up but seeing their smiling faces spurred me on.

We crossed the road at the bottom of the bank and ran part of South Shields Parkrun route. It was much quieter than I am used to seeing it as I have only ever ran it on a Parkrun day. The view, as always, is amazing. I stopped to take some photos, which I never do during a parkrun J and Joanne took a photo of me too.
The last two miles were so difficult. My legs were heavy and my knees were aching. The distance between me and Joanne was getting bigger. It was hurting her knees to keep slowing down so I told her to keep running. Finally, two hours and 21 minutes after I began, I finally reached 11 miles. I have no idea how I did it but am so grateful for Joanne’s support.
I was almost in tears when I finished and my feet were sore. I have noticed that I have the start of a blister (my first running blister – and I’ve a feeling it won’t be the last!)

I am so proud of myself for running 11 miles. I don’t know where I am going to find another 2.1 miles but I am sure the adrenaline and atmosphere on the day will get me through.

I went out with Rachael after my long run. We went for a meal and then to the comedy club at Ashington Football Club. I saw some people I know and one of them (Sam, a childhood friend) congratulated me on my running and said she really enjoys reading my blog. I started my blog as a way of keeping me motivated and a personal record of my journey to the Great North Run, so it really does mean a lot that people enjoy reading about my journey. Thank you to everyone who has supported me so far, through encouragement and sponsorship, I can’t believe that the journey to my first Great North Run is almost over! I am excited but also looking forward to it being over so that I can rest my legs!

I've just returned back home from a weekend away with the family and have decided I will go to my running group tonight....dedicated (or slightly mad!)

Monday, 18 August 2014

Determination makes difficult runs do-able!

With just less than 3 weeks to go until the Great North Run, I am going through a rollercoaster of excitement and nerves. A couple of weeks ago I kept a food diary for my running coach to analyse and give me nutritional advice (he’s qualified in Sports Nutrition). I was very honest in my food diary, recording everything I was eating even things I knew I probably shouldn’t be (such as chocolate cake and custard!) as I wanted the advice to be based on my current diet.

Steve analysed what I had been eating and then after running group last week he talked me through my diet and what I am doing well, not so well and what I need to eat more of. It was really helpful and now I am trying really hard to be eating more of the foods I should be eating. I haven’t been eating enough protein (and too much sugar) so these are the areas I am focusing on most. I have also stopped eating low fat yoghurts due to the high number of artificial ingredients.

I’ve changed all the snacks that I take to work, as if I don’t have unhealthy snacks with me, I can’t eat them. I’ve been taking more fresh fruit and nuts and no chocolate! If I set my mind to something then I am very determined (as you can probably tell!) and if something is worth doing it is worth doing properly.

I am still having trouble with heavy calves and Steve said this could be partly down to what I have been eating so I am hoping that this will ease over the coming weeks leading up to the Great North Run.

I went for a 4 mile run after work on Wednesday and I really struggled. I always expect that now I am doing longer runs, the shorter runs will be easier, but on the most part this isn’t the case. It’s just a shorter time to be feeling discomfort! It definitely isn’t any easier.

On Wednesday night my legs felt really heavy and the muscle on the side of my left shin felt swollen again. I used the foam roller and lay on my back with my legs against the wall, but neither of these gave much relief. I text my friend Katie (a Physio) and asked if she could massage my legs again and she came round to do this on Thursday evening.

It was like walking on air after she’d finished the massage and I was *almost* looking forward to my long Saturday run, knowing that my legs would feel a lot better than they have done.

I got up early on Saturday morning and had my usual running breakfast of porridge with Nutella. I waited an hour before I got ready to go out for my run. I decided to head out in the same direction as last week and just keep going further along the river towards Sandy Bay.

At Steve’s recommendation I bought some energy gels to try on my long runs to see how I respond to them, ahead of the big day. I managed to squash one into my pocket along with my phone before heading out.

I usually buy a bottle of Lucozade sport when I’m about half way through a long run, but I decided to use an energy gel on Saturday instead. It proved quite difficult to get into, but once opened it didn’t taste as bad as I was expecting and I think it did give me a bit more energy to keep going.

I saw my Grandad when I was out running and he stopped his car to say hello. This was really nice and gave me a bit of motivation to keep going! I also saw a tractor wrapping hay bales in plastic which is not something I’ve ever noticed/seen before. My life was not previously incomplete without this observation but I found it rather interesting all the same! I told my niece about it when I got home and she hadn’t seen this either so I taught her something from my run! Who said running was boring?! Haha!
I ran an amazing 10.65 miles on Saturday! I am so proud of myself as I didn’t think I’d ever run such distances! I was only aiming for 10.5 miles but I misjudged my route slightly.
My legs are still feeling quite heavy and the muscle on my shin is aching again. Katie said she thinks I will need maintenance massages between now and the Great North Run, so hopefully it won’t get any worse and I will be fine on the day!

I am still in disbelief at how far I can run when I wasn’t even a runner this time last year! I am excited for the Great North Run but I am also looking forward to it being over so that I can have a rest from doing long runs.
Tonight I ran a difficult 4 miles with Rachael. The first mile felt ok as I was chatting away (as always!) so it passed quite quickly. I think I was running faster than normal as I found breathing difficult but that could have also been the amount of talking I was doing! The next three miles were difficult as my legs were heavy and my right knee began to hurt. I slowed down a bit partly due to my legs and partly due to my breathing. I was so glad to get home as I don’t think I could have ran any further tonight.

Tonight's 4 mile run and a lie down after!

Rachael and I had some strawberry milkshake when we got home. My legs don’t feel too bad now but they are still a little heavy. I’m hoping to go for another 4 mile run on Wednesday then on Friday I am doing 11 miles with Joanne (my big sister) in South Shields on Friday (the last long run before the big day!)

Running is not easy but it’s all for a good cause – if you can support my fundraising it would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me so far. It means more than words can say.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Double Figures!

Four weeks today and my journey to the Great North Run will be complete! I cannot believe how quickly time is flying by! My training is really in full swing now and I can honestly say that running has taken over my life!

Last Saturday I ran 9.1 miles, I got up early because I was meeting Rach at lunch time and needed to ensure I would be back (we were going for cupcakes so I obviously didn’t want to be late!) It was a difficult run, the rain during the first half being a combination of light relief keeping me cool and a challenge trying to see out of my glasses! I was so proud when I got home and had completed my longest run to date!

On Monday I went to running group and we were doing 800m repetitions. I found it particularly difficult as I was becoming out of breath much quicker than usual. I also had a bad cough which probably wasn’t helping! I still managed to do all of the 800m reps at a consistent speed though, and we all ran well.

On Wednesday I was due to go out for a 4 mile run. My cough had become chesty and although I felt well in myself, I didn’t feel up to running. I was disappointed and disheartened to miss a run in my training plan but I thought a rest day would be better, rather than risk making my chest even worse.

Yesterday was my first 10 mile run. I set my alarm early and got up and had porridge for breakfast. I was coughing a little bit and I had cramp in my left calf. It looked damp outside and I wasn’t sure if I should go running due to my cough. After an hour or so thinking about it I finally decided to go out and just see how I felt. I arranged with my mam that if I felt poorly I would phone her and she would come and pick me up. Knowing I had this option made me feel happier about going out, though I knew I would have to be pretty poorly to take her up on her offer. I set off on my favourite route towards Sheepwash, hoping I could complete my 10 miles. “I CAN DO THIS” I thought to myself as I left the house.

I started off steady and was happy to find that my cough seemed fine. I tried to keep my mind occupied with thoughts about anything but running as I find the time passes quicker this way. The first few miles were a lot easier than I expected and I felt that having a few days rest probably made me stronger. At about 5 miles I called into a shop and bought a Lucozade sport. I didn’t drink it all but it was just the energy boost I needed.

Lovely View

At 8.5 miles I really felt I was struggling but I just kept telling myself I could do it. I’d ran this far so I wasn’t going to give up now. At 9.5 miles my chest began to feel a little tight and I was glad I was almost home. My knees were hurting and my calves were heavy but I was determined to continue. I arrived home exactly on 10miles (my feet are good at leading the way!)

As I was stretching outside, before going into the house, I felt a tear escape my eye and roll down my cheek. I felt extremely emotional that I actually ran 10 miles. My first run in double figures and the first time I ran for more than two hours (2 hours 11 minutes). I have never felt so proud and I am so glad I decided to go out for my run!
My 10 mile run
If I felt that emotional after a 10 mile run on my own I cannot imagine how I will feel 4 weeks today upon completing the Great North Run. I am running for a very worthwhile cause, close to my heart. Aphasia is a life changing condition, affecting all aspects of communication. NETA support individuals and their families, in the North East, with Aphasia and make a positive difference to their lives. If you can help me raise money for them you can donate here (every penny counts).

Thank you so much for joining in my journey so far. I still cannot believe I ran 10 miles yesterday! My legs believe it. My legs believe it very much! My Great North Run number arrived this week – it really is happening! I’m excited that I will be in the same zone as Joanne and Rachael, as well as some of my running friends. Four weeks to go!