A marathon weekend

So, now to recap the before and after.

On Friday we took the train down to Brighton- partly because there are no rail replacement buses on weekdays, but also so that I could attempt a more relaxing Saturday.

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We had rented a flat for the weekend, which was near the seafront, so a bit of a walk from the station. Once we had looked around, we headed to the seafront, and also to the expo so I could collect my number.

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From the end of the road we could look down on the finish area being put together- exciting but nerve-wracking!

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When we finally found the expo (I thought it was on the beach, and then we ended up looking on our phones at the app trying to find the address) the lead car was counting down to the start- 39 hours to go! That is the closest I will get to a lead car.

2015-04-10 20.29.59The expo was well organised, with runners going in one way, and spectators another, and the numbers were being given out in sections, although it was very quiet so at that time the volunteers were helping anyone who needed it. I was also given a bag for the bag drop (a very big one) and a sticker with my number, to go on the bag. The number also included safety pins, but no pen to write on the back- luckily there was one in the flat so I could write my info on.

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We also picked up a really handy map, showing where all the mile markers were, drinks stations etc, as well as a really handy zoomed in map of the start and finish area (this was so useful for arranging where to meet up after).

2015-04-10 20.30.21I was also very excited to see a Bondi Band stall- I looked recently at ordering some more, as my run one is wearing a bit thin now, but the postage costs to the UK were really expensive. They had a deal, 2 for £10, so I spent a long time choosing which slogans and colours to go for.

I also picked up a pacer band, as I had made one, but the ones they had were sticky on the ends so I could wear them like a bracelet, whereas mine was paper that I would have to hold. Anyway, they had a 4.45 one which was crazily optimistic, and I wanted a 5.00 one (they were only in 15 min segments), but they had run out (on the Friday!!)- there were some pacer runners there, in their orange t-shirts, but as I mentioned before I did not see them on the day of the race.

We were going to get an ice cream, but time had got on, so we went for dinner, before heading back for Gogglebox.

I had my own little hydration station in the kitchen- many herbals teas to choose from!

2015-04-11 18.17.50On the Saturday it was raining pretty hard- we went out for breakfast (Cafe Coho- it was good luck before the Brighton half) and then Andy got the train to Southampton as they had a match. I went around the town for a bit, picked up some lunch, and then headed back to the flat for a couple of hours of feet up, relaxing time, including watching the boat races.

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I treated myself to a salad from Pret, plus mango, coconut water, and a sort of date and cocoa almond smoothie thing. Although I tried it and it tasted of banana- I was not so keen.

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The view from the flat- the rain had stopped by then luckily.

Later on I headed out. I was sensible and packed a water bottle in my handbag. I did a bit more shopping, but then got a headache, had to buy some paracetemol (the advice from the marathon was to avoid ibuprofen before and for the day after too, something I had not really heard of before- I only knew you should not take it during a run)- I also bought some crisps as I fancied something salty, and then went to the Bluebird Tea co (possibly my favourite shop now)- I bought some tea to take home, and also a strawberry lemonade (made with tea) to drink on the walk back.

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Refreshing.

I then spent the rest of the time waiting for Andy basically drinking a lot of different drinks, getting my kit out, and trying not to worry about the morning. I packed my bag for the drop- I did think about just leaving things for Andy to carry, but the info said it may take a while to meet up after, so I packed a long sleeved top, nuun tabs, a clif protein bar, face wipes and baby wipes (and I am really glad I did, as the finishers area was long, and the blissful feeling of wiping the salt off my face, plus drinking nuun instead of plain water was good so soon after finishing). I had picked up some salad, and then I ordered a takeaway pizza from Pizza Express (I decided that I would drink more and relax more if I was in the flat, instead of going out for dinner) which Andy picked up on his walk back from the station.

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I had also picked us up some cake for dessert- usually we would share a slice in the afternoon (if we are away for the weekend, not every day!!)- but with Andy being away I didn’t want one to myself. Anyway, I saw a cupcake shop and decided to get us one each, and then when I went inside I saw they had slices for sale- better value, and a better cake:icing ratio in my opinion. What I should have done is bought one to share, but as I had already decided on two cupcakes, I got two slices of cake- carrot cake and salted caramel. The slices were huge so we shared the carrot cake on the Saturday evening, and left the other one in the fridge.

I didn’t go to bed too late, but I felt like I hardly slept at all.

So, let’s fast forward to around 3 on Sunday afternoon. I met up with my parents and Andy on the beach, and we walked up the steps, and back to the flat- probably 5 minutes away so perfect. I got changed, and then we went out for dinner.

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Yay! Medal!

Originally I was thinking we would go out for lunch, and then once my parents left I would go back for a shower, before dinner. But although the race started nice and early, I crossed the start line at 9.30, so I didn’t meet up with them until around 3pm I think, and then by the time we had taken photos, walked up the steps, I had got changed, and then we had walked into town, it was just about 4pm- a bit late for lunch. I didn’t really think it through properly! Anyway, we went to Bill’s and I had a mezze plate with a huge tortilla wrap, tortilla chips (I swapped these for some of Andy’s sweet potato fries), hummus, some sort of sundried tomato dip thing, and an aubergine dip (and olives, which my dad had) as well as delicious peach iced tea and water. It was just right-beforehand I thought I would want a huge meal, but actually my stomach felt a bit weird- I think little and often was the way to go.

My parents went back to the station, so we walked back via Bluebird Tea co (I got one of their tea lattes with almond milk-so good). I say we walked- I was going pretty slowly by then! My vivofit tells me I did 66,634 steps (only a few more for 66,666- why didn’t I notice then??)- the walk to and from the town centre was over a mile each way, and that doesn’t include going up and down different roads.

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After getting back to the flat, and eating a cinnamon roll (Andy went to 3 different Starbucks to get me one while I was running- what a lovely surprise), I got the energy to have a shower and put on my t-shirt after.

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I did think it was a shame that it was not a technical t-shirt, and also was not a fitted one- I think it was a brilliant race, and yes you could buy technical tops beforehand, but I felt that it was maybe bad luck to buy a top before actually doing it. I wore it then, and I like it, but I can’t see me wearing it again. I have a t-shirt from a 10K I did in Nottingham years ago, and I still wear it as it is a nice top, and my Stockholm technical t gets regular outings on my runs. The cotton t-shirts get relegated to decorating/ gardening wear, or torn up for rags, and I don’t want to do that to this one.

I then found out that I had managed to get sunburn on the backs of my legs- I had put suncream everywhere else, but it hadn’t occurred to me because I have been wearing running tights up until this week. I also then realised that I had forgotten to put on my calf sleeves (my lovely new pink ones) so these went on for the evening.

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I tried to have a little sleep, but could not drift off so gave up on that idea. The rest of the evening was spent in slight agony- trying to get comfortable, having more tea, and a few snacks (hummus and carrot sticks, blueberries and soya yoghurt, half the caramel cake, and I topped up the Pret almond drink with almond milk which diluted the banana flavour enough for me to drink it).

I was pleased to not get a headache, especially running in the sun. I got to sleep OK, but woke up just before 4am, and just could not get to sleep. My legs were really hurting, so in the end I took some paracetemol and read for about half an hour, and then luckily I felt sleepy so drifted off for a bit more. I felt a bit like I had jet lag the next day though.

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They had spray painted smiles on the roads so you knew when there were official photographers- they were on the ground on our walk back to the station. I think they should be painted randomly everywhere.

On Monday morning I was so hungry when I woke up! I had packed some apples, so had one, with some tea, while we pottered about. Andy went out to get us breakfast (an almond croissant), before we packed and walked back to the station. I was picturing myself having a little sleep on the train, so imagine my joy when we found that due to emergency engineering works, all trains were delayed, or cancelled. In the end we got one train part of the way (I had to stand, which was fine until the train went around a bend- agony!), waited for a bit and then got another  train which had seats- phew. Calf sleeves were on again- I really wish I could get some thigh ones (is that a thing?)- I find the relief they provide once on is amazing.

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Once home, I decided to order myself an i-tab, which has your name and finish time on it, to fix to the back of the medal.

I was thinking we would have a walk on Monday evening, but we had already walked to the Brighton station, and I was just shattered- even unpacking took a lot of effort! I also had to make a cake as I was seeing some friends on the Tuesday, so I wasn’t sat down the whole time.

So, there we have it. A very long recap of a couple of days by the seaside!

What is your favourite race memento? I do love a medal, and I am still looking for a nice medal hanger to display them, but a technical top will get worn (so long as it is the right size). I also have a boot bag from a cross country run back in 2010 I think- I used it this weekend for my running shoes.

Brighton marathon recap- don’t think about the numbers!

Yup, the recap is here. Be warned, it’s going to be a long one. Much like the race itself!

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At the expo on Friday

We travelled down on Friday, but I will just fast forward straight to Saturday night, where we ordered a Pizza Express takeaway pizza to share, along with some salad and plenty of drink (water, tea, iced tea…). And a bit of cake to share. I had got everything out that evening, so all that was left was to try and sleep- not very well at all. I had decided on capris, vest, new headband (they sold Bondi bands at the expo!), and in my pack I had two packs of yoyos, some jelly beans, a nakd bar, my phone, tissues, hand wipes and little headphones- I had the Lilo and Stitch soundtrack on my phone in case of emergencies. My Garmin was charged, I had printed out the pace band for 4.59, added to it 4.50 on one side (my optimistic side) and 5.15 on the other (would still be a pb), and also picked up a 4.45 proper band at the expo (they had no 5 hour ones left on the Friday)- mainly because it had a sticky tab so could actually be worn around my wrist. I also had body glide ready (mainly for where my sports bra straps are) and SPF50 suncream ready.

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Outside our flat trying not to look too terrified!

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After some toast and nuun in water, we walked up to Preston Park for the start- just over a mile so a good warm up really. We saw the 10k runners race past. It was chilly, so I wore an old jacket (thanks Jess for that idea)- it was in the charity bag at home, but the race guide said if you left old clothes on the fences of the corrals then they would collect them and donate to charity, and I am glad I did. I had time to walk up to the bag drop (which was so well organised- flat bed truck things, divided into sections according to race numbers, and as you handed your bag in the volunteers were sorting them into the right order. Compared to the GNR (the only other point to point race I have done) where, no joke, you had to get on a bus and put your bag on a seat or on the floor, this was just so much better.

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Andy took a few photos, I panicked about needing to use the port-a-loos (which is honestly one of my biggest nightmares)- he convinced me it was nerves and I would be OK once I started, but there were also toilets on the course so I could stop if I needed to, so then I walked down to the starter pen and nervously waited around. We saw the elite runners head by (they start further up the road so they miss out the loop of the park so it is even flatter for them) as they started at 9- amazing to see how fast they run and how effortless it looks.

I was hoping to see a pacer runner in the corrals- apparently there were going to be some, but I didn’t see them. I think they had orange tops, but no flags or balloons or anything. I was in the pink (penultimate) one, but could not remember what time I estimated, so had no idea what pacers would be in that pen.

The pens were quite small, but were clearly marked in colours, so I waited in the entrance to the corral as there was no space inside, but that didn’t matter as the start was very organised, setting off the waves with a few minutes in between, and with a countdown to each one. I had the official app on my phone, and Andy used that to track me, and it said I started at 9.31 (the official start time was 9.15) so for a big race that was pretty good timing I think. I heard Jo Pavey starting the race, although I could not hear every word, suddenly I was crossing the start line and she was there on the right- not wanting to miss out again (I didn’t join the queue for Mo at the GNR) I leapt up and high fived her- what a great start to the race!

As I mentioned, I had a few goals. What I really wanted was a sub 5 hour marathon, but any pb would be good, so I had with me 4.59 times, 4.50 (for if I was feeling extremely optimistic) and 5.15 in case I struggled. What it meant in practise was that I had to keep between 11 and 12 min miles, so I just kept glancing at my watch to check I was between those two times. The loop around the park was good- uphill (but not for long) meant you couldn’t set off too fast, and before long I saw Andy, although he didn’t see me until I had run past!

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My spi belt was annoying me- it bumps about and takes ages to settle. A lady chatted to me a bit about the times we were aiming for, so I didn’t see Andy here. I tried not to think about the mile markers at this point- marathon talk’s advice of “20 miles is halfway” was on my mind, so although I felt fine I wanted to be cautious.

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I quite liked that I only vaguely knew where I was- we looped into the town for a bit (oh look, I’ve been to that Starbucks), up another tiny little hill (a steep road), down the road our flat was on before heading along the seafront. Still I tried to not think about the mile markers- at this point I also stopped needing the toilet- lucky as all the toilets on the course had queues.

We ran up to Ovingdean, similar to the half marathon route but a bit further, and here it was just beautiful- the blue skies and the sparkling seas. After running in and out of the town, we headed back down towards Brighton, and I saw Lara cheering on the runners- what a boost it was to see someone I knew! This was about 10 miles, and at this point I did start to think about the numbers. I was about 5 mins ahead of my 4.49 pacing, but as I had just ran a long downhill I didn’t want to get carried away.

Running back into Brighton the crowds got really busy, and I tried to see Andy but didn’t know where he would be. He saw me though.

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At around mile 12 we could see the super speedy runners on the other side heading towards the finish- sometimes this is disheartening but I liked all the out and back parts of the course as it meant more runners to look at to take my mind off my sore legs.

I crossed halfway in 2.25 (+31 seconds but who can see those on their watch as they run?) so I was pleased that I was on track for sub 5 hours still. At this point the sun was warm, and although there was a breeze (quite a strong one) I was getting hot and my mouth was getting dry, and whenever I pushed my glasses up my face I could feel the layer of salt on my face and hands, so I knew I needed to start drinking.

This year Brighton had introduced cups instead of bottles, and although I heard some runners moaning about it, I felt it was much more sensible. I don’t tend to drink at shorter races generally, but I hate taking a bottle, having a few sips and then throwing it away- what a waste. It also meant they had more frequent drink stations (nearly every mile)- their pre-race guide was so sensible, saying that you should not drink at every stop but at least with them being so frequent you could choose what suited you. The drink station at just after 13 miles was my first stop (well I had to walk for a few metres whilst drinking)- the people had put maybe an inch of water in the bottom of the cup, which was perfect as you only want a few mouthfuls.

After the seafront we then headed into Hove, which was tough as the sea breeze was not there to cool us down and there was not much shade. I had water at mile 14, 15, 16 and 17, and had a couple of my yoyos too, as I wanted to have something to eat before I felt hungry/ ran out of energy. Some people had trays of orange slices, and one person had watermelon slices, and they looked so tempting, but having never tried either on a run before I didn’t want to risk it.

Then we were back to the seafront again- at around mile 19 again you could see the people heading towards the finish, so I hoped we would turn and head back to Brighton, but no, we carried on going out. This was where it got tough. It was great to get to 20 miles (the real halfway hooray!), but on the other side was the mile 23 motivation station, so all I could hear was a guy shouting “3 mile to go- this is amazing, you are so close”- well, I still had 6 miles to go which at that point felt like a very long way. Walking whilst drinking was good (and sensible, so I actually drank something) but meant that starting running again was getting tough- I get that weird surge which maybe is the blood going back around or something. Also, it smelled badly of fish, because we were running around some docks- not the best thing to smell!  I had more water at mile 20 and 21.5, and the other two yoyos. Then thankfully we turned and started heading back to the finish- this was it! I got a bit prematurely excited here, as the end felt achievable, and had to calm myself down a bit.

There was more and more salt on my skin, and my tummy had started to get that weird bloated feeling, so at mile 23 I risked some gatoraid (plus a bit of water)- I only had 1/3 of a cup but surprisingly it didn’t taste too sweet. Then I got confused about how far I had to go- I could not remember how much over 26 miles it was (26.6 I was thinking….)- I think it was about 4 hours 20 so I was pretty sure I could get sub 5, but the mind plays tricks. I was trying to remember a comment from Anna, which I think was about rocks in a stream, but I could not remember that at all.

Again there were loads of crowds- at some points it was hard because people were not behind the cones so it got very congested, but of course the crowds help. Chariots of Fire was playing (although at that point I could not remember the name of the film, and just knew it was something to do with running on a beach). The Mile 24 marker seemed to appear very quickly, then the mile 25 drinks station (I didn’t think I had water here, but on Strava I seemed to slow so I think I must have done). At this point my legs no longer felt like my own- my feet felt tender with every step, and I felt like I was having trouble running properly. I was still holding my 4.59 pace band in my hand, and the pier was getting closer, and the crowds were getting thicker, and suddenly I heard my dad shout “Go Maria!!” and I saw my mum and Andy waving at me, and I waved back, and honestly this was just what I needed to see- it gave me such a boost when the finish was so near and yet so far. I then got very emotional and had a bit of trouble breathing as I was nearly crying, but luckily managed to push it back down and get on with the running.

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You can see the pacer band in my hand. My dad told me later that I actually looked like I was running, compared to a lot of people hobbling at this point.

Then, the 26 mile marker was there, and then I could see the finish, and oh my word point two miles seems like a long way. I knew at that point I had achieved a pb, and a sub 5, so I just went for it, and in fact my 26th mile was my quickest, at 10.32, and the point two was run at 9.39 pace!

Crossing that finish line was amazing. I was so glad I could finally stop, and so proud that I had achieved such a strong run.

Chip time: 4:53:24

The finish area was well organised too- someone put my medal around my neck, and then I was handed a carrier bag, and then some water, and then a chocolate bar, and then a banana, and a weird protein drink that contained collagen (didn’t drink that) and a t-shirt, and a foil blanket (which I put on, as although I was hot, the sea breeze was strong and I knew I would cool quickly). (The bag was useful for all of that stuff, and I took my waist pack off and dropped it in the bag too) . Just like the bag drop, the pick up was well organised- I found the truck with my number, and then the volunteers looked at your race number and found your bag for you. I had some face wipes in my bag- seriously the best thing is to wipe all that salt off of your face. I had packed a tube of nuun in the bag too, so added that to the water, and ate the banana and chocolate bar right away.

Once out of the runners finish area, there was a beach village with flags- we had arranged to meet by M, so I started walking that way. The wind was flapping the foil blanket all over the place, so I got my top out of the bag and put it on instead. I saw the M flag and was about to sit down when I saw my parent and Andy (I think it was lucky I didn’t as I don’t think I would have got back up again).

_DSC0423We took a few photos, and then started walking up the steps (ouch) and headed back to the flat- which was only a stone’s throw from the finish area.

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Looking down onto the finish area from the end of the road.

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Beach village

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Scenic big screen

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Selfie before I changed- what a mess I had made!

Then it was into some dry clothes and out for a very late lunch- we were going to go to one of the fab veggie cafes but by the time we walked into the town it was nearly 4pm and most of them were closing, so we went to Bill’s. It was so lovely to recap the race with my parents too- my dad loves parkrun and I think was really taken with the whole event- apparently he was shouting out all the names he could see (you know, when people put them on their vests). It was great of them to make the day trip down, so I was glad they enjoyed it too.

Then they headed off to the station, and we got a drink from the Bluebird cafe for the hobble home, and then it was cake time!

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Andy had been to three different Starbucks during the day to get me a cinnamon roll, and this one was the best one ever!!!

I do love Brighton, and I think in every race I have done here (10k’s, half marathon and now a full marathon) I have achieved a personal best, which is pretty impressive.

I shall leave you with a picture of the back of the finisher’s t-shirt (sadly not technical)- all those long runs and early starts and late nights were worth it in the end.

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Marathon spectating

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So, as you might have guessed, I am back from an awesome weekend in Brighton. Andy was excellent as support crew, walking to several points on the course and snapping away with his fancy camera (which at some point he will email to me…), and my parents came down to watch the finish, and to help me hobble around after. I will of course have an extremely long post coming, but in the mean time, I have a guest post about spectating races:

Make Marathons Fun for Everyone with Competitor.com’s Marathon Bingo

We all love the strength and support we get from friends when we compete in marathons, but let’s face it: marathons aren’t always a fun experience for spectators. In fact, they can be pretty boring, because attending a marathon as a spectator usually means standing around all day waiting for you to run past them. In fact, the only comfort that people get from watching marathons comes from looking at all the different kinds of people participating. After all, there can be quite a few interesting people running in marathons, and they’ve been a source of laughs and inspiration for many racers and spectators alike in the past.

In this day and age, we have smartphones to keep us busy, but not everyone wants their friends to be fiddling with their phones when they’re supposed to be watching a race. Instead, Competitor.com offers an alternative – a game that makes even watching a marathon fun and competitive: Marathon Bingo.

marathon bingo

I love this Bingo card, and actually think if you are running a race it would be good to play too. On Sunday I saw a barefoot runner, a few tutus, lots of high fiving (I high fived Jo Pavey woohoo!), a man laughing to whatever he was listening to, a man punching the air in front of him for about a mile, some very cool running socks and shoes, and although no upside down numbers I saw lots on backs instead of fronts- you have to keep your mind busy somehow!

Bingo has been used for many sporting events in the past. Mashable introduced a fun way of watching gymnastics competitions with Gymnastics Bingo, and even Betfair ran special promotions in line with sporting events like the Masters. Marathon Bingo is a simple game, and all you really need to do is print out the card provided by Competitor.com for your friends.

At the event, give out the cards, and challenge them to be the first to complete a bingo pattern by picking out the items on the list from the crowd. It’s an entertaining way to pass the time, and if you want to create your own cards, you can use an app like Bingo Card Generator to easily make custom cards too. The app is straightforward and easy to use, and it can even help you involve your friends in the card-making process. Ask them what they expect to see in the race, put these things in the bingo card, and print out several sets so your friends can use them at your races.

How do you keep your friends entertained when they come to watch you race? We’d love to hear your ideas!

Normally we don’t tend to have spectators at races- on a few occasions Andy’s parents have come to the finish line, and my mum was there for our first half marathon. Usually either we both run the race, so I know Andy will be at the finish, or it is just me running, with Andy either watching (if we have gone somewhere for the weekend) or him waiting at home (if it is a local race). It was really great having people to look out for at the weekend, and luckily there were bands playing and a big screen at the end to keep them occupied.

Do you tend to have people coming to watch you race, or do you tend to run alone?

Now and then

So as the weekend draws closer, I am veering between excitement and terror as to what lies ahead. The rational part of my brain is telling me to trust in the plan, and trust my training, and trust myself. The irrational part is panicking about everything going wrong- setting off too fast, getting too hot, running out of energy…

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I finally made a Simnel cake- this one was from the CCC book and contained pistachios as well as marzipan baked into the mixture. 

When I was looking for marathon training plans, I found it quite hard. When I did Stockholm (back in 2011) it was my first marathon, so it was easy to find a “get you round” plan for a first timer. But now, things are different. Back then I had only been running for 3 years, and had only run a few races (including two half marathons) in that time. Now, I am a more experienced runner (10 half marathons now), and I know a lot more about myself. But I am still pretty much a novice marathon runner- running one hardly makes me “experienced” in that field, so I am still finding a lot of it pretty tough as it is all fairly new.

However, I need to remind myself that my running experience is going to stand me in good stead. Anyway, here are my worries:

Hydration

Back then I would not run without my water bottle, and now I know I can run a half marathon without drinking water on the course. I was worrying about not carrying my water bottle with me (as I did last time) but there are water stations on the course so I can drink pretty much when I want to. I did take nuun with me on my last marathon, and without a bottle on me this won’t be an option. But before my long runs this time I have been having a tab in water with my breakfast, so I will continue this. I worry a bit about hyponatremia but if I don’t have water with me I won’t be tempted to drink so much anyway. And I will have another nuun tab in water when I finish.

Nutrition

Back then I tried gels and they were horrible! I settled with clif blocks, jelly tots/ jelly beans, and nakd bars. Recently I have gone off using jelly beans in races (the sugar just seemed to leave my mouth feeling dry and thirsty) so have opted for fruit yoyos and some sort of cereal bar. I might pack some jelly beans for the final few miles as I have a little bag of them, and maybe a few dates. I used to have porridge before long runs but that has not worked so well this time. What does work is toast, coconut oil and jam, so I will be taking that with me. We are staying in an apartment so hopefully there is a toaster there!

Pace

First of all, how are you meant to work out your marathon pace? I could work out a 5K pace because I run 5k most weeks and know what it feels like to push myself and still be able to finish. But even in my training runs I have not really hit a certain pace- the advice tended to be to run them as slowly as felt comfortable, and to just complete the distance. Last time my time was 5.21.59 (I was aiming for 5 hours, but I was on antibiotics for a UTI which turned out to be the cyst that had to be removed)- this time I want to beat that and I feel that 5 hours is an achievable target for me. I have looked at the pacer bands (make them here, I love them), and I would need to do 11.24 min miles. I think that is OK, but some of my longer runs have been around this speed (the 17 miler and one 20 miler) but others have been faster (my first 20 miler). So am I capable of going faster? I don’t know! I don’t want to mess a 5 hour potential time going for something shorter, but also being out for that long is tough, so if I can be out for a bit less time it might not be so bad. The logic is disappearing…

Weather

I can’t control this, I know that. But the weather for Stockholm was pretty much perfect. A bit cloudy, and cool. All my training has been done in the cold- I think I wore capris once, and wore a t-shirt once to a parkrun and was pretty cold. But this week the weather has been hotting up. I am planning on wearing my club vest, and was originally going to wear it over a thin long sleeved top, but the way the weather is going I might just wear the vest. I will pack my visor and capris and sun lotion, and just hope for some cloud.

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I bought some calf sleeves this week to put on when I finish- I do love compression socks for after a long run but they can be a bit of a battle to put on, so I am hoping they might be easier for immediately after.

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And I bought this top (John Lewis were having a sale on sportswear)- might have it in my bag for when I finish.

Letting myself down 

I am not running to raise sponsorship, I am just running to beat my time pretty much, or to finish a marathon while I am healthy. With Stockholm, it ended up being very tough, and part of that was my cyst for sure, but being on antibiotics and flying the night before didn’t help either. Originally my plan was to sign up for a second marathon once I did a 2 hour half, because I felt that running for nearly 5 1/2 hours was such a long time to be running. I got close at Bath last year (2.06) so decided to sign up, giving myself a year to make that target. In the end I didn’t achieve that-I only ended up doing two half marathons- one half was a hilly trail, my slowest ever, and the other was in the midst of my marathon training (Brighton- 2.04) so I didn’t want to push too hard and jeopardize my marathon. I feel a bit like this is my only chance to beat my time, because the training has been so tough- I took on more responsibility at work this year so the hours have been harder, and I have found myself pretty shattered at the weekends. I am not saying never again, but I can’t see myself signing up for another one in the near future (Stockholm was my 30th birthday present to myself, so maybe for my 40th I’ll do another?…), so I want to make the training count for something.

But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I have put all of this pressure onto myself, and of course ideally I would get my ideal time, and enjoy it, and finish it. But if I have to stop, then who cares? Only me. If I struggle and finish slowly, who cares? Well, maybe Andy because he will be waiting for longer, but they have deck chairs and beer….

Tess wrote a super blog post this week (15 Taper Commandments)- which reminds me, I need to go to bed a bit earlier. She also linked to a previous post (You Are Ready) which made me tear up a bit.

I think I am ready. I know I am ready. I want it to be over. I want to enjoy every second. Why did I sign up for this again?

How do you calm the pre-race nerves?

Creme Brulee experiment

(And because of how I roll, I have got that High School Musical song in my head)

Sainsbury’s kindly sent me a creme brulee kit (sorry, can’t work out how to insert the right symbols), so this weekend I had a few attempts. I have never made it before, or made any fresh custard thing as I always imagine I will end up with a pan of scrambled eggs, so it seemed a good way to try it without that fear.

The kit contained a mixture (made up of cornflour, sugar and free range egg) to which you added cream and milk. It then magically thickened as you heated it.

2015-04-03 18.26.48I used Alpro cream because when I went shopping the dates on the normal creams were not good, and I also thought it would be more fun (?) to try something I had never made before and not follow the recipe. Anyway, it worked- phew!

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It looks very pale here because we have no natural light in our kitchen, and it was night time anyway.

You then just poured it into ramekins and chilled, before topping with demerara sugar (also included) and grilling.

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That part didn’t go quite so well for me- I think I should have smoothed out the custard before chilling- for some reason I thought it would settle down but of course it didn’t. This meant that the sugar crisped up in places, but didn’t make the proper crunchy top layer. Anyway, it tasted good.

As the pack contained 4 servings, I decided to make something else with the other half of the mixture- a sort of hot cross bun bread pudding (yup, carb loading here). A good way to use up any left over buns.

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The start was the same- make up the custard part using the mixture, cream and milk.

I then cut up the hot cross buns, spread them with a little marmalade and poured the custard mixture over.

2015-04-06 20.50.57I baked it in the oven for 15 minutes just to warm the buns through. Super tasty and pretty easy to make.

Are you a creme brulee or custard fan? I quite like them but they are never the top of my dessert list.

*I was sent the kit but all opinions are my own.