Red Wine Runner

A Scottish Running Blog

Category: Marathon Training (page 1 of 11)

February Training Round Up

So here we are in March. In the past I’ve not made a habit of meticulously reviewing each month’s training; primarily due to reasoning that if I find it boring to write about, then you’ll find it even more boring to read about. However, after a spectacular January, there came a somewhat different February, so I’ve got more to write about than just a report on another month of targets being smashed. I’m also three weeks into my London Marathon coaching plan, which has really shaken up the way I train. Mileage is down, but so are my splits; a combination which is something I would have never expected to be saying this early in the year!

It’s been a funny month; in its inimitable fashion, life has thrown me some curve balls which have challenged my ability to train like the athlete I wish I was, but it is then that I remember that I’m not an athlete; this is not my job, and sometimes other aspects of life have to come first. I’ve just been doing my best to control what I can control and let the passing of time take care of the rest. Here are some thoughts on running from this past month.

Fetteresso Trail Marathon

February started off with a stinking cold which saw me lose my voice and much of my aerobic capacity for a week. Thankfully by the time the Fetteresso Trail Marathon came around on the 12th, I was largely free of the plague. The Fetteresso Trail Marathon was a trial event, run by Stonehaven Running Club, with the aim of launching a fully licensed race next year. There were about 40 runners from various running clubs around the North East who gathered to take part, and the event took place on the trails in Fetteresso Forest, oddly enough.

Fetteresso Trail Marathon

For the trail and ultra runners of Stonehaven Running Club, this is our back yard and we know it like the back of our hands. There are endless miles of trails in the forest and I’ve spent more wintery weekend mornings bashing through snow around up there than I care to remember. This Sunday morning was no different, and we were faced with quite a reasonable amount of snow underfoot which made conditions challenging at times. I had set myself a target of 4h 45m or quicker, as I wanted to get finished and back down the road to the pub to watch the rugby which started at 5 hours race time.

Fetteresso Trail Marathon

Happily, I had a really great day and sailed through the miles with no bother at all. I finished in 4h 46m and as 5th female which although somewhat of a vanity statistic (there were only 11 ladies), being near the top was a well earned reward. I put in a hard effort pushing up and down the relentless forest hills on the snow and felt satisfyingly gubbed afterwards. I ate an entire jam swiss roll straight out of the packet like a burrito to celebrate.

Fetteresso Trail Marathon

Speedwork – Intervals and Tempo Sessions

My coach, Shaun Dixon, has delivered me a training plan which is based on a loose goal of 3hr 45m at the London Marathon. He has me scheduled for 5 runs a week with extra conditioning sessions as well; I’d be lying if I said I’ve been able to complete every single session, but once we’ve figured out how to clone a second me to take over some of my current commitments, that shouldn’t be a problem.

At first, the pace brackets set for the intervals terrified me. If marathon pace is 8:35 per mile, then everything else is a lot faster! As a certified ultra plodder who also likes the fact that 10:00 per mile makes the running time mathematics really easy, seeing pace brackets that started with a seven was initially quite intimidating. However, I’ve found that whilst I might struggle to hit the correct pace during the first or second interval of a session, by the third and beyond I’ve found my groove and it comes a lot more easily than expected.

Holyrood Park

Notable sessions I’ve completed so far include: 7 x 3 minutes at 7:45m/m (first three) and 7:20m/m (last four), 3 x 9 minutes at 8:10m/m, and 3 x (5min / 3min / 1min) at 7:45/7:20/sub 7, with 90 seconds rest between intervals, and 45 seconds rest between sets. The last session mentioned there was called a ‘Blood Buffering’ session where the key factor is completing a 5 minute interval only 45 seconds after finishing a minute’s hard push; resulting in legs full of lactic acid and RedWineRunner being sick in a hedge.

I’m really enjoying the sessions though; it’s fun to have some structure to push myself to achieve and I feel like I’m really working hard in my lunchtime runs. Unfortunately, some days this has meant returning to my desk looking a bit I’ve been dragged through a hedge,  but as long as I’m not seeing any clients it’s fine…

worzel gummidge

Long Runs – Marathon Pace Runs

The big change to my training has been a dramatic cut in weekend mileage; in my first week of ‘coached’ training, the total training hours for the week were supposed to be 5 hours and 10 minutes. Normally at this time of year I would be going out and running for that amount of time and longer in one day, and then going out again the next day. It’s been hard to decide what to do, because whilst London is important to me and I have an incredible resource on hand in this coaching for the race…I also have a 33 mile race in 6 days time, a 50k race in 4 weeks, and a 55 miler three weeks after London.

I haven’t run for more than 5 hours since my day out on the West Highland Way at the end of January, and I can’t say that this doesn’t bother me somewhat. I need to be ready for 12 hours of moorland trails and hills on the 13th of May and being a Pavement Princess right now is not going to have me in the best of shape for that. However, if I was to get a smashing PB at London, perhaps that might make up for the death march that the Cateran 55 could potentially turn into…

IMG_0073

However, today’s ‘Long’ run was very positive, and makes me think that something pretty special for me might be attainable at the London Marathon. My run was technically supposed to be a 1hour 50m marathon-paced fartlek with two chunks of time at goal pace, but I got a bit excited and ran the whole damn thing at marathon pace and completed 12 miles at an average of 8:37m/m. It was just one of those days when both your legs and your head show up and the miles just fly by with zero effort. The difference is, that that was the fasted paced long run I have ever ran, ever. My half marathon PB is 1h 53m 58s (Fraserburgh 2014, hard effort, pishing rain and snow) and today I ran 12 miles in 1 hour 43 minutes, and it didn’t even feel like an effort.

For me, that is pretty damn significant and I’m not sure I feel about it. I know I’ve been working hard on my speed sessions, but realistically – it’s been three weeks. I’ve not lost any more weight and realistically I’m still drinking far too much booze to be a good athlete. Could it be that I’ve been blocking speed from my legs for years by constantly being exhausted from running hundreds of slow miles a month? Did I need 2016 ‘off’ from hard training and racing to finally give my body a rest, in order to come back stronger than ever in 2017?

Who knows. I’m just going to keep slowly building the fire, and at just the right moment; I’ll light the match.

light-a-match

Some Very Big News

Today I am really excited to share some big, BIG news which came quite out of the blue last week. Every so often, emails from PR companies and brands stand out amongst all the nonsense in my inbox, and when I opened this particular one I had to pick my jaw up off the floor…

Let’s get straight to the point…

I’ve been offered the opportunity to run the London Marathon in April with Reebok, and I’ve said HELL YES!

london marathon logo

 

I’ve accepted a place as a part of the Reebok London Marathon team, and will be helping them celebrate the release of their new shoe, the Reebok FloatRide.

reebok logo

In addition to the marathon place, Reebok have kitted me out with a selection of shoes and apparel and are providing me with a coach to make sure I arrive at the starting line in the best shape possible. This means that my training over the next few weeks until race day is going to change a little, but I’m really excited to get some professional guidance and hopefully run my best marathon yet!

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some training insights and my thoughts on the shoes, as well as my usual assortment of running content. I’m still going to run the same Spring ultras that I had planned, but I think I’ll be working a lot harder during the week to try and get some speed to take to London with me.

2017 is turning into quite the year! After yet another disappointing result in the 2017 general ballot, I’m delighted to finally be running the UK’s most famous race – the London Marathon.

Thank you so much to Reebok for making this happen; I’m a very excited runner!

london marathon finish

 

 

Summer Running

It’s been a busy few weeks at Red Wine Towers and there are a lot of changes afoot. In the midst of it all I’ve been continuing to train as I’ve set myself some goals for the summer.  Let’s take a look at what I’ve got planned!

12th of June – Strathearn Marathon

strathearn marathon

After helping out and marshalling at the Cateran Trail races a couple of weeks ago, I came home with a lingering case of race envy. With nothing in my calendar until July and some itchy racing feet, I sneaked a little entry into this small but beautiful marathon. Renowned for its friendliness, the Strathearn Harriers put on a great show every year and the race has a super reputation. Naomi and I are heading down together and are very excited about the Squirrel medal we will be earning. I’ll be using this race as a gauging point for how I’m feeling and how much work needs to be done over the summer, with a goal of cruising around in 4hr 30ish.

3rd of July – Stonehaven Half Marathon

stonehaven half marathon

A return to my very first half marathon, except this year the course has totally changed! The course is now multi-terrain and takes runners from sea level all the way up 1000ft of elevation to Fetteresso Forest for a bit of a run around, before coming back down to the sea. The race has only grown its reputation for being the toughest half in Scotland, as now instead of the first 4.5 miles being up hill, it’s 7 miles of straight up hill. There’s no denying it; it’s going to hurt, but as long as I can get to the top then it’s a fun cruise back to town.

31st July – Fort William Marathon

fort william marathon

I won a place in this race a few months ago when I entered a competition on Twitter. The race starts and finishes at the Nevis Range mountain resort and takes in a circular route via Inverlochy, Gairlochy, and Spean Bridge. With 1200ft of elevation it’s a little bumpy, but I will be using this race as my last long training run for my final race of the summer.

20th August – Speyside Way Ultramarathon

speyside way ultra race

After enjoying the race so much last year, I really wanted to come back and give it another go. This year I am not attempting a half marathon the next day, so I am planning on target-training for this race specifically and going as fast as I can. Last year I ran over 7 hours, so I’d like to get a lot closer to 6 or maybe even under. Kynon is also doing the race so it will be a fun day out 🙂

As for the rest of the year, well I’ll figure that out when I get there. The changes I mentioned above will have quite an affect on what I get up to, because I won’t be living in Stonehaven any more! In fact, this time next week I’ll be packing the last of my bags and shipping off down to Edinburgh to start a new job. It’s all very exciting and I’m really pleased to be taking the next step in my career. This means that I’m on the look out for a new running club to train with and will sadly be hanging up my black and purple Stonehaven Kit. Ironically I’ve just renewed my membership and ordered a new hoodie, but I’ll always keep SRC as my second claim club whilst I’m in Scotland.

I’m really excited to be moving back to a big city again, but it will mean a lot less easy access to mountains to run up and forests to round around. We are truly spoiled in Aberdeenshire, but then which other city can claim to have a volcano in the centre of it? Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags will shortly become my new back garden so there will be no excuses for getting my legs primed for hills.

What’s on your calendar this summer?
What’s your favourite thing to do in Edinburgh?

 

 

 

Berlin Marathon 2015 – RACE REPORT

Berlin Marathon
27th September 2015

berlin marathon medal 2015
4hrs 19 minutes 25 seconds
706th of 1437 in Age Group
4160th of 8924 Female Finishers

 

Just under a year ago I put my name in the ballot for the Berlin Marathon, mainly on a whim. I had no specific reason why I wanted to run it, but if you like city marathons, why wouldn’t you? Berlin is an amazing city and the race, like the other five World Marathon Majors, is legendary.

2015 has been a tough year of training and racing for me. I’ve recorded five ultramarathon finishes including the 95 mile West Highland Way Race, and the accompanying Highland Fling and Devil O’the Highlands ultramarathons to complete the Triple Crown of West Highland Way ultras. In addition to this I have been completing my MSc in Digital Marketing, and come the end of September I found myself running on fumes. My running mojo was at an all time low and I was physically drained from a racing season which started in March, I knew that Berlin would be just the tonic for this ailment if I took the pressure off and allowed myself to enjoy it. Gone was the sub-3:45 goal, or even a sub-4 target; my goal changed to having fun and treating this marathon as a celebration of what I have achieved this year. A victory lap, if you will.

Kynon and I flew out on Thursday the 24th in order to enjoy a little time in the city before the race. Of course the sensible plan would be to stay longer after the race, but since my submission deadline was the 1st of October, at the time we booked the travel it was impossible to bet on whether I would be able to submit my thesis early before the race as planned, or whether I might need the extra time after. Due to our early arrival we ended up doing a lot of walking in the days prior to the race. It’s just as well neither of us were hunting for our best possible performances as we clock up 8.5, 9.5, and 14 miles walking in the three days before the race…!

berlin marathon expo

berlin14

berln marathon expo

On Friday we visited the Expo; a celebration of running of epic proportions inside the monolithic structure which is the old Berlin Templehof Airport. Images alone cannot capture the scale of this building; it is HUGE.

berlin marathon expo

berlin marathon expo

berlin marathon expo

berlin marathon expo

berlin marathon expo

After we collected our numbers and bought some race apparel (be ready to fight if you want a certain item in your size!) we browsed the stalls before refreshing ourselves with some beers at the Expo Biergarten.

berlin marathon expo

berlin marathon expo

The Expo was an amazing place for people watching; it seemed like every nation on the planet was represented. Many were wearing commemorative race t-shirts and jackets, and there were more than one individual draped head to toe in Ironman finisher gear. Also, rumour has it that once you earn a Boston Marathon jacket, it is in fact possible to remove it…but many choose not to 😉

berlin marathon expo

berlin marathon expo

After some more snaps and exploring of the venue, we headed back into town amongst the army of people carrying race bags. The atmosphere in the city was full of anticipation – the 40,000 runners and their fans were taking over!

Saturday morning was the International Breakfast Run – a celebration of running and runners around the world. The 6k run was open to everyone and included a ‘power breakfast’ at the finish.

berlin marathon breakfast run

berlin marathon breakfast run

berlin marathon breakfast run

This was great fun, but not as scenic  as the Paris one. The run finished in the Olympic Stadium though, which more than made up of the lack of sightseeing! The Stadium was amazing; both in scale and the sheer brutality of the architecture. For a fan of brutalist architechture like myself, Berlin is an absolute haven.

berlin marathon breakfast runberlin marathon breakfast run

berlin marathon breakfast run

berlin marathon breakfast run

The afternoon before the race was spent watching the Inline Skating marathon at the 40km point – a 90 degree corner. I don’t know what I thought I expected to see, but this was something else. I had no idea the sport was such a big deal and even has a Pro Division! I thought it would just be people out skating for fun…how wrong I was! The skaters went so fast and I was amazed at how they stuck together in huge packs of hundreds of skaters at a time. When they whizzed around the corner at such intense speeds and gravity-defying angles, it was almost hard to watch in case someone slid and fell, taking the whole pack down.

berlin25

berlin24

I had some delicious Kartoffeln und Bier for lunch, and a pizza for dinner. I was well and truly carb-loaded and excited for the next day when we turned in for an early night. Our apartment was only a 30 minute walk away from the race village so in the morning we enjoyed a gentle stroll down to reach the start around 8am.

berlin marathon start

Kynon and I were seeded in different corrals and also had been assigned baggage tents which were on opposite sides of the race village, so we decided to say our good lucks and goodbyes early on and went our separate ways after a couple of photos.

berlin marathon start

The weather was perfect – clear skies and a low sun rising into the perfect blue overhead. If it was like the preceding days, then it was going to be a bit too warm in the sun but it would be chilly in the shade. My fears of overheating were gone but I knew I would need to be careful about how much I drank, especially later in the race in the warmest part of the day.

After dropping off my baggage I debated whether to go straight into my corral or sit down and wait a bit. In the area where I was standing there were people peeing EVERYWHERE though, so no matter where I sat I would be getting a close up view of things that no-one wants to see first thing in the morning, or well, ever, so I decided to go to my corral after a visit to the loo myself. The portaloo queues were monstrous so I decided to join the mass public urination and found a dry bush to water before checking into my corral.

berlin marathon start

There was a peaceful walk through the woods of the Tiergarten before you emerge onto Under Den Linden and the breathtaking sight of the sea of 40,000 runners. If you’ve seen aerial television footage of the Berlin Marathon you’ll know the sight I mean, and in real life it was incredible.

berlin marathon start

berlin marathon start

I sat down on a kerb and spoke to two guys from America including one whose wife was from Forres. He was a Marathon Maniac so I recommended the Glen Moray Marathon to him, especially as he didn’t really enjoy his visit to the Edinburgh Marathon this year.

berlin marathon start

The race started at 9am but I didn’t get near the line until 9:23am. When I crossed I was near the 4 hour pacers so thought I would stick with them for as long as possible, however about half a mile in I saw people dashing into the nearby forest to relieve themselves. Standing around with nerves in the cold had expedited my need to do the same and I debated for a moment whether to join the al fresco toiletters or await a portaloo. I was quite uncomfortable at the time so decided just to duck in for a quick fix; 20 seconds later and I was feeling much better – the game was on! Hallo Berlin!

I felt like I ran the first 5k far too quickly but I recorded 29:59 so my feeling couldn’t have been further from the truth! The first water stop was chaos so I decided to skip it and just keep trucking. I lost sight of the 4hr pacer at some point and then didn’t see another pacer again for the whole race. They were wearing black balloons which weren’t very noticable, and it was also just hard to keep track of anyone due to the wide roads full of people.

The route was crowded but not overwhelmingly so. Even in the early miles the support from the crowds was strong and there were bands playing great music. I remember lots of fabulous jazz and blues outfits, brass bands, rock bands, metal bands, and most memorably…an Alp Horn Choir?!

The Danes won the award for the most enthusiastic travelling support, and the Swiss seemed to have flown pretty much the whole country out to support their runners. Mexico and all of the South American countries’ support were a riot to pass by and anyone with a Scottish flag gave me huge shouts of support. The crowds really made the race special for me. The route is flat and kind of uninspiring visually – Berlin is a city of many amazing things, but beautiful scenery is not one of them.

As the heat grew more intense I began to tire but just kept pushing at a steady pace. My rules were no walking allowed, and any pace under 10 minute miles was OK. I ran through sprinklers, high five’d kids, ate bananas and apples, and cheered back all the supporters who tirelessly applauded us. Every time my energy levels dipped and I started to feel less happy, another band or DJ seemed to appear which lifted my spirits. Whenever I felt grumpy there always seemed to be someone calling out my name on my bib and giving me a personal cheer which was just so lovely. I couldn’t help but smile nearly all of the way – these people weren’t out to cheer for hours only to be ignored by someone with a face like a punched quiche!

Other memorable moments include;

– The long, shady, narrow street with the tall tenement buildings on either side and a bar in the middle with a wall of speakers pumping out banging dance tunes that you could hear for a mile away (also the associated punters dancing along going heavy on the beers at 11am!)
– The guy and his family with the HUGE Scotland flag on a stick who popped up on multiple occasions near me screaming “C’Moooaaaannn SCOATLANNNN!!!'” in their best football terrace voices, and their enthusiastic high fives for me every few miles.
– The participants who looked even older than my Grandad, who were still pushing along faster than I was. The results show there were 5 men in the 80+ category, one of whom ran a sub-4 time!
– The Nike cheering points with their infectious enthusiasm and motivational signs, which made even this seasoned cynic well up a bit.
– The care homes which had brought their residents out to the kerbs to cheer and high five the runners.
– The American lady on the bike who gave me kind encouragement in the last two miles, even though she called me Rhonda.
– The last half mile, running towards the wall of sound at the finish, and floating on air as I ran under the Brandenburg Gate for the last 200 meters.

I didn’t take any photographs during the race as I was too sweaty and sticky and it would have been too much of a faff getting my phone out of my dry bag. Much of the race itself is a happy blur though, especially the last two miles where I was far too hot and very dehydrated. It was a huge relief to stop running and I was very happy to see 4:19 on my watch – a credible time, even if it is 21 minutes off my best. Reviewing my 5k splits, I maintained a very steady average pace of between 6 mins and 6 mins 20s a kilometer for the first 40km and managed to wing a sprint finish for the last two kilometers, pushing my average pace down to 5m 49s.

berlin marathon finish

Afterwards I began to feel very not ok and knew I needed electrolytes quickly. I shuffled along with the crowd and picked up various food items and forced myself to eat a banana and some powerade. After collecting my bag I found a shady tree and just wanted to curl up under it in my space blanket and fall asleep… thankfully my sensible sub-concious took over and got me back on my feet to track down Kynon.

So what of the results of the McKinnon Marathon showdown? Well! In the end I retain my title, and lived up to my assertions that I would beat Kynon on the day as well – but only just. Independently, and starting in different corrals, I finished in 4:19:25, and he finished in 4:19:47 – a 36 minute PB for his first road marathon. It seems the competition is on – I had better up my game for the next round!

berlin marathon finish

The next day, we wandered around the East Side wearing our medals and exchanging friendly nods with the scores of others who were doing the same. We sat down for a beer in a bar and it seemed like everyone there had a marathon bracelet, a finisher shirt, or a medal on, which just perpetuated the warm fuzzy feeling I was getting from the event. It felt like my first marathon all over again, like I had been a part of something really special. Random strangers congratulated us on the street and our waiter gave us a free congratulatory shot.

Later on in the airport, the great exodus of runners continued and the airport and our plane were packed with marathon finishers, all struggling with the gangway stairs and getting up and down off their seats. I didn’t want to take my medal off when we had a layover in Amsterdam, and wore it proudly in the airport bar and as we boarded the next plane, the Cabin Crew were full of congratulations. In a year when a marathon has been a easy training run, it felt weird at first to celebrate completing a race of the same distance, but receiving such positive congratulations from random strangers reminded me that ran slow or fast, for most people the marathon is an achievement worthy of huge commendation. It is still a distance worthy of respect, and acknowledging and celebrating that by no means changes it in context of the other distances I’ve ran this year. I guess for some daft reason I had got myself mentally into a place where I felt like I couldn’t celebrate a marathon anymore, in the same way that a multi-marathoner wouldn’t really celebrate completing a 10k.

berlin marathon medal

Anyway, looking over the various pictures and videos which have emerged of the event since Sunday, I feel proud to have been part of such a huge shared experience. It’s inspired me to better my performance at marathon again, and instead of looking at ultras for early 2016, I’m looking for a road marathon. Like many, I’m awaiting the result of my London Marathon ballot application this week, so fingers crossed perhaps the decision will be made for me…

Thank you Berlin, we will DEFINITELY be back!

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