Monday, 2 June 2014

My first triathlon: taking an 'alternative' approach

There are a few things that I'm pretty sure you won't ever see in a triathlon training programme:

1. Don't do any formal triathlon training other than running a bit, swimming very little, and cycling less than 6 miles at a time, never in race conditions
2. Get your race kit ready the morning of the race, deciding what to wear last minute
3. Fuel yourself the afternoon and evening of the day before the race with crisps, white wine and cava
4. Go to bed at 1am the night before

This, however, is exactly what I did in preparation for my first ever triathlon - the super sprint distance at the ITU PruHealth World Triathlon at Hyde Park on Sunday 1st June. While I do not recommend this approach in the slightest, I reckon there's something to be said for  just 'going with the flow', and here's why....

I've had quite a lot of going's on in my personal life recently, so much so that I just didn't have the time or energy to give this triathlon my full attention. I have been itching to try a tri for a while now and was a little nervous that I'd put so little preparation in, but reassured myself that I could swim 450m no problem, could cycle 15.5km (albeit fairly slowly), and run 2.5km without too much bother. The only problem would be putting it all together.

When I woke up on Sunday, after an unexpected drinking session on Saturday, I hesitated about competing: my head was pounding, I was dehydrated and feeling a little fuzzy. But it was 7.30 am and the race wasn't til 5pm - thank god it was a late wave! Nothing that a bagel with peanut butter and another 2 hours of sleep couldn't help rectify. Well, almost.

Sticker, stickers, everywhere!
With still a bit of a headache I began furiously drinking water and getting my bike and kit ready - this really should have been done way before as I struggled to get screws on and off and my brain seemed to have forgotten how to work a bike pump. But I got there! I also had to decide what to wear to run - I already owned a wetsuit but no tri suit, so my swimsuit had to suffice. And I took some shorts and a vest to throw on for the run: that'd be ok, wouldn't it?! I also had some self-tying lace things, so attached those to my trainers as well. So many things I really should've done before the day of the race!

One problem with a triathlon is that you need to get your bike to the start line. The only way this was possible was to cycle the 5 miles to Hyde Park - great, just what I needed! I guess bike transport is something I might have to think about for future races too. I arrived nice and early to meet super-supporter Josie who had kindly brought along a race belt for me. Another oversight on my part! You need to have the number on the back during cycling and on the front during running, so an elastic belt that you can swing round in transition is the best approach.

I managed to find my way to registration, attached the various stickers across bike, body and bag, and then get over to the bike transition check-in point, before it dawned on me to ask: where and when do I put my wetsuit on?! Apparently the answer is wherever and whenever you like, with some people arriving in theirs (did they come wearing it on the tube?!) and others getting in to theirs at their bike rack. 

Racked up with Vaseline at the ready
I opted for the latter but quickly noticed that most people were not wearing swimsuits: tri suits or cycling shorts and sports bra (for the ladies!) were outfit of choice because - as I was later informed by a fellow competitor -  swimsuits can really chafe on the bike. Great. Nevertheless, I was glad I'd chosen to wear my swimsuit under my clothes otherwise my fellow competitors would've gotten an eyeful that I'm sure they'd rather avoid.

Wetsuit on, I first scoped out where my bike was in relation to the swim entry, bike exit and run route, then headed for the swim start on bare feet across the grass and paths. Running has left me with rough leather soles on my feet (delightful, I know) and so I didn't struggle too much with the spiky terrain - every cloud... 

I had been watching the waves go off and decided to get myself to the front of the holding pen so I would be at the edge of the swimmers and give myself a bit of space. I'm a relatively strong swimmer, but the hangover had given me cause for concern that I might drown, so aimed to be as close to the kayak helpers as possible.

In to the water, a wave of the flag to say 30 secs to go, the horn and then: WE'RE OFF! I kicked hard for the first 50m and managed to get myself in to a good position ahead of the mass of the pack who I feared might contribute to my drowning if they swam over me. As Dory from Finding Nemo advised, I Just Kept Swimming! keeping a nice steady pace. Next thing I knew I was up and out of the water, running along the pontoon looking like I had a wasp in my wetsuit as I twisted and contorted trying to get the bloody zip down. Yet another note to self: practice this more!

In to transition and I struggled to get my wetsuit off, but followed others with a sort of 'stampy dance' on top of the wetsuit until it eventually set me free. I hauled on my shorts and vest, stepped in to the race belt, vaseline-d up my thighs (a necessity if you get 'fat-man thigh rub' like me!), helmet on and fastened (word to the wise: the marshalls get very cross if you haven't fastened!!) and trotted down to the bike route.
This was the part I was least looking forward to. I'm not a cyclist and have never really taken to cycling the way I seem to have with most other sports. I get a bit bored and just want to stop at pubs for pints all the time, which defeats the purpose, really. But in triathlons it's often the longest part, so I had to suck it up as the thing I needed to do to get from the swimming to the running. So off I went - 2 loops of the course, 15.5km in total. 

I'd guessed that I'd maybe do this in 40-45 mins or maybe slower as I was just using my hybrid commuting bike, which looked super clunky next to all the streamlined road-racers that most had. I just had to finish the cycling and then I could run: head down and pedal! On the way back on the first lap I spotted Josie waving and shouting like the crazed loon she is, which gave me a big boost particularly knowing she'd be there again the second time round. Sure enough, more crazed lunacy ensued! Mostly downhill back to transition from here, I was feeling that the bike leg had gone better than expected - in fact, I later found out I'd completed it in 33.33 mins: result!

I entered transition, racked my bike and swung my number round to the front, having no clue as to how long I'd been going or where I was in relation to anyone else. It's an aspect of triathlon I really like: you have no idea who's racing against you, its really just a race against yourself to push as hard as you can completely blind to the time in many cases, like mine. 

My legs were a bit jelly and, I have to say, 2.5km seemed much further than usual after the swim and bike leg. But I just reminded myself that 2.5km is nothing in the grand scheme of marathons and half marathons, so 'shut up legs' and just keep shuffling. I felt like I was going so slowly, but managed to hold on to the heels of a guy ahead and passed a few people en route.

All the happiness of triathlon captured in one beautiful shot by Josie
Turning the last corner, the finish 'chute' was in sight and so I managed a sprint down the line with some more crazy Josie cheers to see me home, which you can't not smile to!

  I stumbled up to collect my bike, changed and packed up for the 5 mile cycle home. It wasn't until later that night, safely home with the Serpentine waters washed away, that I checked the race results. As I come middle of the road in most running races I just searched for my name and time: 1.02.26. Not knowing what times are good for these things, I thought I'd done ok. Then I looked at the overall women's rankings for the super sprint race: 13th overall and 6th in my age group! What the....?!! 

I'm not quite sure how I pulled that out of the bag given my absolute lack of preparation and, for some aspects, lack of training. I'm not suggesting that the moral of the story is to go out and drink all day and night before a triathlon and don't prepare well enough, but I think that sometimes just being a little easier on yourself and trying to relax can work wonders. 

I really enjoyed my first triathlon and this was a great race to do it - expertly organised, friendly marshals and competitors, and a bloody beaut of a medal!

Tri-bling is the best bling, evidently
Are you in training for your first triathlon? Or are you a well-seasoned triathlete? I'd love to hear your thoughts and tips for the next one!

Katy | City Girl Fit

Friday, 30 May 2014

Race Report: Royal Windsor Trail Half Marathon

This is a race I signed up to after reading an awesome race report from my running bud Laura on last year's event. It sounded perfect for my first trail experience and in many ways it was, with just a few hiccups along the way...

I'll admit that I was a little nervous heading in to this race - since the marathon I've done very little running bar that 'little' 13.1 miles with the boy in Geneva 3 weeks ago. I had, however, done a 10K training session (with Louise Hazel, no less!), and a few sprint, weight and HIIT circuit sessions, mostly because I could feel that jiggly spare tyre round my middle starting to rear it's ugly head. Toto, we're not in marathon training mode any more: we cannot eat ALL the food. Sad face.

On yer bike!

After a grey and all-round miserable Saturday (brightened up only by parkrun volunteering and a lido swim) I was plenty chuffed to wake up to some sunshine bright and early on Sunday morning.

My mate Steph had offered to give me a lift over to Windsor, so I hopped on the bike and pedaled the 5 miles or so over to her pad (wearing my lovely new Lululemon run capris - see left). The ride there was lovely. The way back not so much! Note to self: it is hard to cycle 5 miles over undulating terrain after a half marathon. Lesson learned.

Loo queues
Anyway, arriving at the small event village there was the tell-tale sign of not enough portaloobees - a massive snaking queue.

Fortunately, the event organisers seemed pretty laid back about when you started, with waves going form the start line a short walk on the other side of the river every 5 mins from 8.30-9.00.

Most chilled-out start line EVER!

 Myself, Steph and Steph's mate Liz started in the 8.50 wave and, despite some initial bottle-necking as we all piled on the the narrow trail path, we were cruising along nicely within 10-15 mins.

Most of the race took place along trail paths by the river and it was seriously beautiful. I will definitely be packing my kicks and heading out that way again, race or no race. Be prepared for major house (and boat!) envy though - not sure if I was green with effort or jealousy for most of it.

Sunshine and trails

We had settled in to a steady 9.45-10.00min mile pace and I was feeling good. So good that I decided to kick it a bit and see if I could drop down closer to 9.30, which I'd averaged Geneva... Yup, felt good too. So at half way I decided to go all out and aim for sub-2 hours. Why the hell not?! It was perfect running conditions for me - sun on my back but with a cool enough breeze, and lots of beautiful scenery to make you just fall in love with running all over again.

Just before I went past ALL of these guys :)

I threw on some tunes and actually started singing aloud at one point in a sheer moment of running love. My fellow runners did not share this love - I am not known for holding a great tune - and so quickly piped down, but continued rocking out in my own head, of course.

Unfortunately, it seems that the laid-back attitude of the organisers came at a cost. They apparently didn't set up the start-line timing mats properly and so all the timings were out and only a gun time could be salvaged if you emailed to give your start time. Cue much enragement on Twitter, but not me: I bloody loved this race, I had my TomTom watch of pace-telling genius on which told me I'd just cut it under 2 hours, and ain't nobody was gonna rain on my trail-running parade.

Big smiles and jazz hands: what trail running is all about

Ok, ok, there were a few other not so great things, like the most piss-poor goody bag ever (two leaflets in a plastic bag - say what now?!) and water supplies in low abundance at the finish line. But on the plus side the medal was a beaut!

Despite a few setbacks it had beautiful countryside running, friendly runners, and a flat, beginner trail runner's dream course. If the organisers can iron out the issues for next year then this will definitely be a 10/10 race, and in the immortal words of Arnie: I'll be back!

Katy | City Girl Fit

Monday, 26 May 2014

On giving a little back

Running is a bit of a self-absorbed sport, really. It's ultimately a solo venture and most thoughts revolve around me, myself and I: What will I wear? How will I get there? What time will I do? I'm no exception - I tend to focus on my race and have rarely stopped to appreciate all the people other than runners who are needed to make a race happen. 

Now, having completed some fairly big events, I've come to realise that so many people contribute to the race being a success and to my enjoyment of the run: the marshals on the course who give you that much needed support; the bag drop and pick-up people who, in my experience, have always been super efficient; and you have to give it to the people who sit there cutting people's timing chips off what can only be pretty sweaty and smelly shoes!

Brainstorming at LiRF

That's why I decided that if I'm to take part in an event a month, which seems to be my average at the moment, then maybe I too should give something back to the running community. 

So I took the first step and signed up to take a Leadership in Running Fitness (LiRF) course, which would enable me to become a run leader for the brilliant charity A Mile in her Shoes

The charity encourages women who are at risk of homelessness or affected by related issues to try running as a way of exercising, socialising, lifting confidence and boosting self-esteem. To be able to organise new sessions, however, the charity needs qualified group run leaders, which is where the LiRF course and volunteers - like me - come in.

LiRF is taught by Run England, and takes place over one day where you learn everything, from how to lead the session from warm up to cool down, to how to overcome barriers that people may have with running. It was quite an intense day with lots to take on board and practical sessions to learn the most appropriate way to lead an engaging and useful run session with appropriate care and safety. 

Leah (top) and Charlie (bottom) leading the mini sessions

But it was a really good laugh as well, helped by the fact that two of my run buddies, Charlie and Leah, were also there, as was Charlotte from fab fitness site lunges&lycra

We had a fun afternoon in the park with our respective groups, leading mini sessions to demonstrate the skills we had learned throughout the morning. I definitely learned a lot and am looking forward to taking my first group out later this year.

To enable the ladies who attend the sessions to go out and run at these sessions, A Mile in Her Shoes also provide appropriate clothing and footwear, most of which come from donations of kit from the public. If you have unused or worn but in good working order running clothing or shoes then the team would love to hear from you so please get in touch and share what you can.

Give a little back - it'll make you bloody ecstatic!

To keep my 'give a little love' halo shining a little longer, I also decided to volunteer for the first time at my local parkrun in Brockwell Park - a free, weekly, timed 5k run. Unfortunately for me, it was the wettest Saturday morning that London had seen in quite some time and I cycled along to the park in my waterproofs in the driving rain fully expecting nobody to be out to run. How wrong I was! 

Dedicated parkrun runners
in the rain

I was assigned the prestigious role of 'barcode scanner', and loved playing a small part to ensure that the run could go ahead smoothly. 

The runners were so friendly and appreciative of the volunteers, with some specifically coming back over once changed and dry to say thanks again. I enjoyed volunteering so much that I've signed up to do it all again next week! Hopefully the weather gods will be kinder to me this time..

As big races are often on a Sunday I don't tend to run on a Saturday, so volunteering at parkrun it's a good way to rest your legs but still be part of the running community. Why not have a look on the parkrun website and see if your local group needs some help? It's a great opportunity to give a little back and share the running love :)

Katy | City Girl Fit

Saturday, 24 May 2014

10k training with the BHF and some athletic superstars

Now that marathon is over (did I mention that I ran a marathon??), I can get back to doing some of the other fun stuff I love to do like swimming, spinning and running shorter distances that 26.2 miles. 

While I love half marathons and they are probably my 'goldilocks' race - just right - I do love a swift 10K. As a beginner runner 10K is a great distance to set your sights on, which is exactly what I did back in the day and worked my way down from about 60 mins to a recent PB of 50.39. Now I've had more experience of longer distances, I realised that 10Ks are a fun distance and great to really sink your teeth in to when it comes to working towards a new PB. 

Post last year's Mo Run 10K - good times!
I've made a decision that, although I will most likely run another marathon in future, I'm not going to chase a marathon PB beyond the 4h23 I ran at London. Not because I don't think that with dedication and commitment I couldn't - I'm sure if I dedicated my life (possibly quite literally!) to it I could - but because I don't want to. I just don't have the time on my hands or the drive to do what is needed to achieve a close-to- or sub-4h marathon. With 10K, however, I have a goal that is clear, definite and - most importantly for me - realistic: sub 50.

Fortunately I have friends who share in this goal AND who are lucky winners of competitions. Enter Josie, who was jammy enough to win a 'you plus one' 10K training session, organised by the British Heart Foundation, with Laura Fountain (of Lazy Girl Running fame) and World Championship heptathlete Louise Hazel. Possibly the best 'plus one' invite I'll ever have!

Smile for the camera!
(My technique is horrible - but let's ignore that for now...)
We rocked up to Regents Park on a sunny April evening and met with the other 4 people who made up the training guinea pigs. We started with a dynamic warm up of jogging, high knees, side-stepping, then a 10 minute warm-up run over to the track that's hidden away at the back of the park. 

Don't get too excited now: it's gravelly, like what you'd have played hockey on at school if you're from my generation - a 'don't fall in it or you'll be picking red grit out your knees for weeks' kind of terrain. But it's oval shaped and almost 400m round. Who needs an exact 400m anyway? If you're sprinting round that then high five to you, even if it is only 379 metres long. PBs for the '800m' all round! I digress.

Laura led us in some sprint sessions, which she suggested we incorporate once a week into our own training plans to help speed us up and hit those 10K goals. Our session was:

4 x 400m at a little below target 10K pace (for me this was around 4.8min/km or 8min/mile) with 90 sec rest between sets
2 x 60m sprint @ 90-100% effort, 150m jog, 60m sprint @ 90-100% effort, 150m jog. No rests between.

It seemed like we were all playing a game of 'stalk Louise Hazel' at times - she was so fast and it looked so effortless! 

The most conspicuous stalkers ever
This was the result:
Trying not to spew. At least Louise Hazel looks a bit puffed too!

As if all that wasn't enough to knacker us out, we then moved back in to the park where Louise took us through our paces with a fast, full-body workout.

Moving from planks, to mountain climbers, to back raises, to side plank, to crunches - there were 15 moves in total and each was completed one after the other, again no rests, for 30 seconds each. Oooft! We all survived though, and my abs reminded me of my effort for at least 3 days after.

Josie and me - being put through our paces by Louise
It was a tough but great session, and reminded me that effective running doesn't always have to be about pounding the pavements for hours. If I want to hit that sub-50 goal then my abs, glutes and arms are going to have to get used to a bit of hard work and pain with some full body workouts. It's a little different to the endless miles of road running I've been used to over the past 6 months, but it's time to shake things up and get this body back in '10k fit' mode. 

Thanks to the BHF for putting on the event, to Louise and Laura for their excellent advice, and to Josie for letting me be her plus one. The BHF have tons of running events going on around the country, so why not get some speed and strength work on the go along with some running sessions and get involved - find out more here

All images courtesy of Jordan Curtis Hughes.

Katy | City Girl Fit

Friday, 9 May 2014

Post-marathon 'recovery'

That's it. Nearly 4 weeks has passed since the event that consumed most of my tiny brain since October 2013. London Marathon 2014 has been and gone and real life has resumed.

My super-short London marathon
race recap: thumbs up!
After jotting down the 10 lessons that I learned on marathon day I was planning to write a race report. But then I sat down and thought about what I had to say different from the 35,999 other people who ran the London Marathon. And, to be honest, there wasn't much so I didn't want to bore you all! It was a great day: amazing atmosphere, busy course at points, overwhelming and emotional, and I highly recommend it for the experience alone. 

The London Marathon is organised to function like a well-oiled machine. Unlike me, who functioned like an extremely rusty old machine for the last 10K of the marathon, but I'm putting that down to the fact that: a) I spent the last two weeks of taper in the US consuming copious amount of food and b) it was a marathon - the wheels are supposed to come off around mile 20 otherwise you're doing it wrong (there is no evidence for this, just my own marathoning experiment with an n = 1. Statistically the most poorly powered study, you'll find. But this is my blog, so my 'evidence' it is!)

Other than that, yeah. Not much else to say. I did it and I'm unbelievably proud of myself and extremely grateful for all who donated to my last-minute charity fundraising. You guys rock.

So, what now? 

Well, after having to walk backwards down stairs for a while, and eventually giving in to a sports massage which hurt like hell (in the kinda bad-but-good way) to see me right, I laced the trainers back up and took it easy... Ha! Are you joking? I'm not so good at moderation - no, no. Instead laced up the trainers and headed off last weekend with the Team Naturally Run crew, plus special guest 'the boy', to run the Geneva half marathon. Three weeks after a full marathon. As you do.

This race was booked yonks ago before I truly came to understand what effects the marathon has on your body, but it was the boy's first half marathon attempt so I said I'd be happy to take it a little easier and pace him round in about 2h10.

Running through the Geneva countryside was fantastic (if a little chilly), and there was even a pipe band playing - it seems there are no bounds to the reach of the SNP to get YES votes for the independence referendum:

2h10 was what I told the boy we were aiming for, but I had the glorious watch of pace-telling magic (AKA a TomTom), which meant I was in charge and decided that little white lies about pace were OK in this situation. We settled in to a nice and easy '10min/mile' (read 9.40min/mile) pace for the first 10K. The boy was concerned about the level of people overtaking us but I told him not to worry, to trust the pace and wait and see. 
Smile if you know the pace
we're ACTUALLY doing!
I decided we should kick it up a gear a bit to '9.45min/mile' (9.20min/mile) pace until the final 5k arrived, which is my favourite point of a well-paced half: when you get to overtake everyone who elbowed past at break-neck speed at the 3 mile point. Now ye shall feel my elbows people! Mwahaha! 

Crazed half-marathon 'baddie laugh' over, and at 2h03 mins after crossing the start line we held hands and crossed the finish line together (all together now: ahhhhhh!). Not bad for a boy who hasn't run more than 6 miles in the past few months! Celebration was some weird cereal-y stuff (hmm) and some chocolate marble cake (yes!), plus a hug with what we thought was a giant peanut, but turned out to be a tupperware water bottle...

It's a giant peanut, right?! The orange
thing, I mean - the yellow thing is the boy...
All in - a great race and I discovered that a weekend race-cation is not a bad way to 'recover' from a marathon. Well, that is if you don't count the fact that I now have a stinking cold. But I've decided that these events are NOT related to my weekend running. Again, my blog: my evidence. Albeit that in this case there is none.

So yes, onwards and upwards post-marathon. Despite being worried I'd have nothing to talk about once the marathon was over, I seem to have suitably filled my sporting calendar with enough events to keep me ticking over. Next, it's just that small matter of the triathlon in that I'm signed up for. In THREE WEEKS TIME!! What on earth possessed me to do that?!

Katy | City Girl Fit

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

10 lessons I learned on marathon day

While I ponder my full race report - brace yourselves for that one, it could be epic - let me highlight the top 10 things I learned on marathon day: 

1. Be prepared 
Sunglasses = happiness
Given my intense need to have a full and comprehensive understanding of how I will get anywhere, travel was never going to be a personal problem; however, it amazed me the number of people asking on twitter etc. about how to get to the start site THE NIGHT BEFORE! If you're laid back enough to just rock up to a marathon start line 'somehow' making it on time and go with no nerves then I salute you. In fact, I defy that you even exist! In my opinion, if there is anything that you can do to reduce the pre-marathon nerves and worries then do it - including knowing how the hell you're getting there at least 24h before the start. 

My preparation for travel is not reflected in my preparation of kit, however, and realised that I forgot my sunglasses while on the train to the start. It was scheduled to be a scorcher too. Uhoh. Fortunately, having runner friends who will be on the sidelines comes in useful and a quick tweet to Charlie and logistical planning for a meet-up en route meant having glasses from the 6 mile point. Bonus lesson: if you can't be prepared, then have lovely friends who can be prepared for you. 

 2. Arriving early = no toilet queues. 
OK, so perhaps my '2 hours before the start' arrival was a little eager. Fortunately it was a lovely morning and I could sit on the grass in the sun, watching the weird an wonderful marathon peeople go by, while sipping my Nuun and eating a crunchy peanut butter Clif bar. But seriously - there was not a portaloo queue in sight. I went three times in the space of an hour just because I could! After 9am (1 hour before start), however, the giant snake loo-queues began to emerge. I'll admit it - I was smug. And, importantly, - but perhaps oversharingly - empty. 

3. Marathon supporters are awesome 
Yes, AWESOME. Having my name on my vest, I felt that everyone was there cheering for lil' ol' me. "You can do it, Katy!", "Great running, Katy!", "You're amazing, Katy!" - now, I'm normally fairly rubbish at taking compliments, but on this occassion I lapped it up and I have to say, I felt pretty awesome too (well, for the first half at least, but that's for another time...). I also had a huge grin on my face after spending the first 10 miles high-fiving every child who thrust their tiny hand my way and even some who didn't... 

After one runner robbed me of a child high-five I demanded that he provide me with said high five personally, despite the fact he was carrying a water bottle and four gels. It was messy, required some reorganisation, and almost resulted in a face-first fall, but I got my high five dammit! Yeah!

 4. Balloons are the answer 
Having friends and family in the crowd is great and I'd have been devastated to miss them, so set about planning how to spot them in the throngs of supporters. Answer: a massive yellow balloon, otherwise known as 'Bob'. A quick check of my phone told me my family and the boy were around the 12 mile marker; all I needed to do was keep my eyes above the crowd and BINGO! - there was Bob. Further down the line, another text: Mile 23. Hey presto: there was Bob. I doubt I would've seen them if it hadn't been for the genius of Bob (or myself, for having the idea of Bob, but we'll give him the credit this time...)

5. It's not just a training run 
It had been suggested to think of the marathon as 'just another training run'. I get why that can help, and that's what I tried to think. The reality was, however, that this was not another training run: this was it - everything I'd been working towards since October. During training I never experienced the highs and lows like I did in the marathon - I don't think anything can prepare you for that if it's your first time. It's also further than my longest training run of 20 miles, and while 6 miles doesn't seem that much further, trust me: it is. I hurt a lot in the last 10k and seriously doubted if I could keep going at points. As my mum said afterwards 'I think that's how you're supposed to feel: it's a marathon, not a walk in the park!' So I guess now, in hindsight, she's right. If it didn't feel that hard it wouldn't be a marathon, it'd be just another training run. 

6. Finishing is a mixed emotion 
First: thank christ that's over. Second: exhaustion. Third: where's my medal? Fourth: overwhelming emotion and tears. Fifth: exhaustion. Sixth: exhaustion. Seventh: MEDAL PLEASE! And water. Lots of water please... 

In my mind, this moment would play out in slow motion - the Union Jack flags billowing in the wind down the Mall, the cheers a dull roar in the background, the finish-line colours bright in the sunlight and me galloping over the line to Chariots of Fire. In reality, I was faint for the last 2 miles and felt very dizzy up the finishing straight, struggling to focus on where I was and could only think of reaching that big red sign so I could stop. It wasn't until I went across the finish, gathered myself, got my medal and turned to look back down the Mall that the emotion overcame me - I'd just run the London marathon! Then I stumbled onwards and everything was a blur. But I had my medal, so all was ok with the world again. 

7. Running in warm weather makes you crusty 
Apparently it's the dried out salt from your sweat or something. 4.5 hours of sweat = crusty like a piece of crispy seaweed. Lovely. Bring wipes. 

8. Cold, hard concrete is my friend 
Hobbling up stairs and down a ramp to get to the changing area (I mean seriously?! Event organisers take note for next year: this was just plain cruel!) I was confronted with an empty, shaded underground parking lot with a curtain up. Never before have I been so happy to be cool! I lay face down on the concrete floor, ecstatic at the cold against my skin, and stayed there until another woman arrived and asked if she needed to call an ambulance.

9. A pint will never taste so good. 
Nor will a G&T, a champagne cocktail, a glass of red, or a whisky. I do not, however, advise having all of these things, one after another, directly after a marathon - yes, that is from experience. 

10. Never say never 
Never again is exactly what went through my mind at mile 23. I was at the bottom of the emotion rollercoaster and declared that I will never put myself through this again! But. Well. See. The thing is... Now that it's done, and now that I know what to expect, maybe the next one won't be just quite as bad?! Only one way to find out... Athens Marathon in November it is then!

What did you learn on marathon day?

Katy | City Girl Fit

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Happy 1st Marathon Eve!

This is it. My last night before I run the London Marathon 2014. My first ever marathon, first ever time beyond 20 mile in fact! Am I nervous? Yes. While training went well overall, on Sunday I arrived back from a 2 week holiday in the US where I ate my weight in food and consumed copious amounts of booze. This, I'm pretty sure, is not what they describe in the 'how to taper' handbook...

Nevertheless, back at the end of March I completed the Surrey Spitfire 20 miler in 3.09, and felt pretty strong. I also managed a treadmill sprint session and three outdoor runs on holiday:

Run 1: 6 miles along the Vegas strip

Run 2: 4.5 miles in Mammoth, CA

Run 3: 10 miles from downtown San Francisco to Sausalito.
Yep, including over the Golden Gate Bridge!
So thank you, marathon. Because without this race to train for I wouldn't have laced up my shoes and experienced these places in the unique way that running provides. Each was individual and awesome in it's own right and I LOVED it!!

Tonight, I sit here finalising my marathon playlist, laying out the kit and generally being a bit excited. While nerves definitely play a part, I have been lucky enough to avoid injury and know that I will be on that start line tomorrow ready to run the London Marathon, and adding some London-based selfies to my running pic collection :)

Whatever comes my way, however slow or fast I run, I aim to take in what is happening around me and ensure that I take the time to focus on what's important - the fact that I am even able to run, the fact that I am privileged to be part of a race that many will never get the chance to run, and the fact that by doing this I am raising money for two great charities in memory of two great men.

If you're running tomorrow then good luck! Enjoy! I can't wait to meet all 36,000 of you :) Number 5097 - come say hi!

Katy | City Girl Fit