SL Marathon 2013 – Update – Running and the Race itself!

07/07/2013

So we’d had the project visits, been in Sierra Leone a few days, met new people and made new friends… and the other thing we all had in common was we’d flown over to run!

Now… my original plan had been to train up for and do the half-marathon… given I had done nothing really before but one treadmill run a week, pretty much died after 20 minutes max on said treadmill and had pushed myself to get out of the house and run on my own over several months (also thanks to Niron from ActivatePlus PT, because his personal training also gave me a kick up the ass!)… and I’d managed 12 miles non-stop by this point. Admittedly I had died with the legs refusing to move after that particular run… but I’d trained for it and had a positive mental attitude…

and then I met the mad marathoners on a bus in a Sierra Leone… most specifically the first bad influence… a certain Mr Downey… all 6 foot 3 or 4 of him who I think has been running for decades and has a “can do” attitude (helpful that when you work in the City)… and who it turns out, only lives about 10 minutes away from me… small world!

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Now Kev, remember at this point, I’m using a good photo of you… I do have another I could have used hahaha… anyway… it was at this point, that the words were uttered “well you could change your mind and do the full marathon”… several times… which I then considered. Apparently I then got a bit of a glint in my eye! But he was right. Nothing like a bit of logic. Run the half distance… and walk the rest if necessary. It was “DO-ABLE”. And so the seed was planted… which wasn’t helped by the fact that we all then kept discussing the possibility over the next couple of days!

Now, you’d think you’d need to rest your legs and acclimatise… given this is Sierra Leone, it’s bloody hot… and humid as hell. So the second evening (which must have been after the Bumbuna visit) I ended up going out for a little 2 mile run to see how it felt running in the heat… not on my own… this was with a total marathon nutter who’s been running decades (there were a few in attendance, obviously) who should reach his 30th marathon by the end of …. actually next week if you count Race to the Stones ultra… anyway, our rooms were right opposite each other and Jon was very helpful with advice… oh yes, here he is with said earlier bad influence!

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So that little run went well, nice and slow and able to breathe, but it was early evening… so… we ended up on the Saturday… yes, the day before the Marathon itself, going out at lunchtime in 88 degree heat, high humidity and running a 10km. We took it slow and careful and it was on the road. Very hot. And bearing in mind I had had an injury kick in around week 8 of my training, I felt it.

So that was that. I decided to stick with what I’d trained for, do the half marathon and be a happy bunny if I could complete it. Realistic goals. Even Kev looked a little relieved that night at the pre-race party when I went to get my t-shirt and race number… I definitely heard him mutter the words heat, death and conscience! I also double-checked with the Race Director who also advised against such a plan.

BUT… when you’re surrounded by high achieving types, who love nothing more than a challenge… when a certain Army major who shall remain nameless (ok, recently demobbed but still… yes Chez I mean you… oops) turns round and tells you not to be a pussy even if you were only military admin many decades ago… and THEN you meet another nutter and bad influence… yes Helen, I’m naming and shaming you… who says that they will stay with you, and walk the whole way if necessary, that it would be safe and therefore do-able… what can you do but just go for it!!! 🙂

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Trust me, she may look innocent but she’s not… especially where sambuca, dancing in London and almost missing my train home is concerned… but that’s another story! So anyway, what could I do but check to see if I could change my choice. And I could. So I did. Plan adopted. Run the half, walk the rest if necessary. Stay in group, do not go on own. And try to get an early night.

After a couple of hours sleep (4 actually, that was better than some got) and with full marathon race number pinned on… it was time to get on the coaches, get to the start line and see just how my legs would cope. There was an absolutely fantastic atmosphere there… loads of local people also turned up to participate, especially in the 5K race… likely helped by the fact that the President of Sierra Leone was also running it… and before you knew it, we had assembled, the President had opened the race and it was time to start! Here’s a few of the crazy participants before we lined up at the start…

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I was good. I stuck with the mad Geordie (aka Helen) and her group… until Paul decided (very wisely due to injuries) to stick with his half marathon plan and took the turning (I think around mile 6) and then Helen (yes, see earlier photo above) wanted to stop to take some photos of the kids who had high-5’d us… she said she’d catch me up so off I trotted alone (and trust me, trotting was the pace I adopted)… yes yes, I know I was supposed to stay with the Group, but I didn’t want to stop…

and from then on in it was a case of maintain pace and chat to people as either I reached them, or they passed me… but mainly I was running on my own… stop shaking your head Helen… you know you’ve forgiven me ;)… we were lucky that it was a bit cooler due to the early start and it wasn’t too hilly at that point… there were also lots of local people encouraging us in the early stages… and then we hit the quieter village back roads… or hills… the word “undulating” has taken on a whole new meaning… and by mile 11 I had to adopt a walk/trot tactic… power walk up those undulations and jog down… trust me, the energy expended trying to run up them would have killed me quicker than the heat!… and so I plodded on, finally reaching the turn back point and then the half marathon point just under my hoped for time of 2 hours 30.

Now that felt amazing, and when my runkeeper app kicked in and I knew I’d achieved it, it was quite an emotional moment! Anything hereafter would be a bonus… just needed to keep going… especially as it got hotter and the trail became narrower and more uneven… there was only one point I realised quite how serious everyone’s concerns were, and that’s when I saw one guy go down with heatstroke. They got him out and he’s ok, but I guess I hadn’t really been aware of just how dangerous high temps and humidity can be… so if anyone considers doing what I did, get some expert advice first and follow it *ahem*!

Now I’m not sure what everyone means by “hitting the wall” but I do know my quads kicked in around mile 20… not surprising given the problems I’d had since week 8 of training, but I was actually pleased… that’s not as crazy as it sounds. You see I’d also been running in custom orthotics, which had helped create the leg problems, and then the moldable orthotics I got, got fried so I was actually running in trainers that were only two weeks old with minimum mileage used, and brand new orthotics I bought and moulded the day before I flew out to Africa. Not exactly the best marathon plan in the world huh! So, the quad pain meant the orthotics were working properly and my legs/hips were actually balanced as I ran (trotted)… anyway, I pushed on and was still trotting & walking at the end and even managed a little sprint for the last 50 metres… well it felt like a sprint, thankfully I have seen no photo or video evidence to prove it was more like a slow motion pace! And looking at my timing splits afterwards… my overall average pace per mile had only dropped by 1 minute (for a newbie, I thought that was great) which included the extra walking!

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All in all, I finished the marathon with a time of 5 hours 10 minutes and 55 seconds … certainly didn’t feel like eating afterwards (but didn’t throw up)… and the legs were walking very woodenly until I got back to the hotel and had a shower. The next day, yep like a few people I had a couple of nasty-ish blisters, black toenails and one which came off… I ached a bit… but to be honest I’d had worse from a hard karate session… which showed that I’d listened to my body properly, adopted the right tactics for me and had taken it carefully and not pushed too much, especially given my lack of running experience. I did find it hard to rein back at the beginning when a lot of people raced off, but to me safety is key.

I loved it… and since I trained for the half… there just happened to be a half marathon two weeks later in the town I live… what could I do but go for it! So in the space of two weeks, I’d done a full marathon in Africa, a half marathon in Essex and a 5k in Essex… all personal bests obviously… with more to come… but you’ll have to venture back to read about those… especially a new challenge I’m creating with one of the mad marathoners I’ve mentioned previously.

If something is do-able then why not go ahead and challenge yourself, because life is just too short to do anything other than live it to the full… appreciate what you have, enjoy what you have… and if you are not in that situation, then it is down to you to change it, no-one else. The responsibility for your life, is yours alone. What can you do with yours and just what can you inspire others to achieve through your actions?

Links:

Street Child

Sierra Leone Marathon 2013

© 2013 Michelle Payne

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SL Marathon 2013 – Update – We’re here!

27/05/2013

The first post coming to you from Sierra Leone! Yes, I actually made it out here… not that I didn’t expect to… it’s just it suddenly seemed to have come round really quick!

First up, a shout out and much gratitude to Niron Noel of activatepluspt… he’s been the one who has been there every week for the past 3 months, not just helping me get fitter and build my core strength to cope with the endurance running, but also kept me encouraged me when my mental and emotional states have been battered… I cannot recommend him enough, so look him (or his colleagues) up of you’re in London and need some personal training/coaching! I will be doing a separate blog post on their company at a later date.

So yes, we’re finally here and the run a reality! The British Airways flight was good from London, only 7 hours to Freetown and ours was probably over half full with runners alone, a very friendly bunch indeed. Getting from Freetown to Makeni did take a few hours… and while there is the sweet Salone time you quickly get used to, this was also due to distance and the state of the roads… not all of the main road there has been built! Remember, this isn’t just the poorest country in the world… but its’ civil war ended in 2002… and is still recovering from… the infrastructure building is slow… but it is coming…

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It was hot and humid. Just reading and knowing that doesn’t quite prepare you for the blanket of heat and sweat that envelops you as soon as you get off the plane… Thursday night was 82 degrees to sleep in (no air con here, but fans do cool the room for a few minutes if there’s electricity and you’re not charging your phone or camera). The humidity… it was high, probably higher Friday due to a fantastic thunderstorm and downpour we had very late last night. As for running in it, at the time of drafting this, I didn’t have a clue.

… best get this published as it’s been sitting in the draft box while I’ve been trying to get enough battery power to continue drafting!

More to come…


SL Marathon 2013 – Update – Week 7 – Yasso800s #SLM13

07/04/2013

Still a week behind I’m afraid, hoping to catch up soon!

So the previous 6 weeks have been about building a solid foundation to work from, safely… Week 7 starts the sharpening section, which meant this was the week I encountered my first Yasso 800! Unsurprisingly I’d never heard of these before, but a bit of googling brought forward what I needed to know.  Yasso 800s are named after Bart Yasso, who devised his own marathon training plan which included running 800m fast, with a slower recovery 400m straight after, then repeating this up to 10 times: the theory being that whatever you get the 800m down to, once you can do the 10 repetitions (eg: 3 minutes each), then that would show what you should finish your marathon in (3 min 800 = 3 hour marathon, 4 min 800 = 4 hour marathon and so on…). For his website, please click here.

Now I didn’t think that sounded too bad… until I had to try it! Treadmill time… easy to count the distance… and worked out roughly what I thought I could push it to with more of a “jog” pace recovery. Warm up of a mile/1600m followed by 800m at 11.3 pace then dropping to a 9.0 pace for the 400m recovery (the gym treadmills are at km, which means I’m always having to google & convert my overall distance into miles for my running app) followed by a mile/1600m cool down.  Well the first two I thought were ok, then I hit the third one and felt a bit sick.  Hitting the fourth one… legs decided that they were tired and wanted to turn to jelly. But it got done.

treadmills

Since it was Easter Friday and no work, I also figured I’d try to push it a bit and do a second one that day after driving to my local gym.  Big mistake.  Got the third one done and then died. Not the thing to do when you’re knackered, not getting enough sleep and living mainly on adrenaline! When I say died, I mean felt sick, legs turned to jelly and absolutely could not push through that psychological (and physical barrier). As it turns out, I think these are only meant to be done once a week anyway (oops – what was that I said about pushing it ;))!

Overall though, happy days… I not only ran for another 70 minutes (outdoors) but did my longest distance (7.91 miles) and the fastest time… I finally got my average under a 9 minute mile. Very very happy about that!

So training for Week 7 included:

***lunchtime treadmill run of 46.21 minutes x 1

***PT session with Activate Plus PT x 1

***lunchtime treadmill run of 30 minutes x 1

***treadmill run of 43.39 minutes x 1

***weekend run of 70 minutes x 1

Total overall running: 20.76 miles / 190 minutes (3 hours 10 minutes)

No yoga or karate this week due to appointments and Easter and no chance to fit them in elsewhere. I guess when you’re stretched to full capacity, this is one of the problems you can encounter – a lack of flexibility in changing things around! Oh yeah, also had to hand in a food diary at the PT session… it’s one thing to know you have a *cough, splutter* sweet tooth, but quite another to actually have to hand over a piece of paper with everything written down, including just how much sugar you chuck into your tea and coffee! I slunk out of there pretty quick at that point *grin*.

Links:

My fundraising page: MichellePayne13

Street Child

Sierra Leone Marathon 2013

© 2013 Michelle Payne


SL Marathon 2013 – Update – Week 6 – The week Hell decided to visit #SLM13

31/03/2013

Where has the time gone?  I meant to get this posted last week but time and circumstances have conspired to pile things up to such a degree my to-do list has it’s own to-do list!  Not good!

So five weeks in and the initial euphoria was starting to wear off as I mentioned previously, and as is often the case, when you’re experiencing difficulties with one thing, then many others will very often appear to turn to crap as well… sod’s law or whatever you want to call it, this was the week that Hell decided to come calling at my door… and what a doozy it was… I don’t think one area of life was unaffected!

And then, just to add to the delights of the week, I had to slightly extend my longer run… 70 minutes along the freezing seafront… when it was attempting to rain/sleet/snow… into a nasty headwind that not only saw my baseball cap flying off (gave up on that in the end) and freeze my hands within 5 minutes but one that meant I couldn’t actually breathe when facing straight ahead.  35 minutes of that before I could turn around… there was a saving grace however… the weather was so crap and cold that it meant there was virtually no-one out… and therefore no-one to see the grimaces I pulled, the language I muttered… or the colour I turned!

It’s at times like these that finding positivity and maintaining focus is especially hard… time to be pleased with the small gains… health results that came back positive (or rather negative LOL), college work that went well, loving supportive friends and family, a fantastic personal trainer who on seeing the state of me on the Wednesday not only boosted my confidence but took the time out to give me a hug… and even of being grateful that I got to finish the cholera vaccinations (seriously… it does not taste like raspberry Andrews salts like they tell you it will!) which had been sitting in my fridge for a week. Probably a very good deterrent if anyone had wanted to raid it for chocolate…

cholera-fridge

Training for Week 6 included:

***lunchtime treadmill run of 30 minutes x 1

***PT session with Activate Plus PT x 1

***lunchtime outdoor run of 40 minutes x 1

***lunchtime treadmill run of 40 minutes x 1

***weekend run of 70 minutes x 1

***2 hour karate session

Total overall running: 19.45 miles / 180 minutes (3 hours)

Unfortunately the yoga had to get sacrificed yet again due to needing to leave the office early to get to the hospital, and much as I would have loved to do it afterwards, that was Tuesday and the worst day of Hell week and I had to go straight from hospital to college! A very long and hard day indeed. My Friday treadmill pace also was a bit slower but I put that down to the Cholera as I had the same reaction as the previous week… it’s obviously not something that agrees with me 😀

Overall, I was pleased with how the running progressed, how my hip handled the increase in exercise… and it held a valuable lesson in learning where and who I do and can learn on when I need some extra motivation to get me through the tougher times and just where my psychological challenges lie! I wonder how many other runners encounter weeks like this…

But it got done which is what matters… so to quote one of my Texan twitter friends (who happens to be in sports himself)… “I GOT THIS” 😉

Links:

My fundraising page: MichellePayne13

Street Child

Sierra Leone Marathon 2013

© 2013 Michelle Payne


SL Marathon 2013 – Update – Week 5 #SLM13

17/03/2013

And so the initial euphoria has started to wear off, aches and pains getting ramped up a bit… people actually enjoy this?

Just joking… well not the first two bits, they’re definitely true… but I am strangely getting a bit hooked.  Before, I would have begged to stay on the treadmill, in the nice warm gym, with all the equipment and most especially the foam rollers that I have to use on my legs afterwards due to past issues. But now… now I’d really rather be outside… even if it’s raining a bit… not if the heavens have opened obviously… or if it’s icy, I have no wish to stack it and end up on crutches… been down that road already and it was not pleasant.

So this week’s training had to be adjusted slightly!  Vaccination time! Which meant leaving the office early therefore working through a lunch break instead of running. Doesn’t this look like fun!

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Training has included:

***lunchtime treadmill run of 30 minutes x 1

***PT session with Activate Plus PT x 1

***lunchtime outdoor run of 40 minutes x 1

***lunchtime treadmill run of 40 minutes x 1

***weekend run of 60 minutes x 1

Total overall running: 18.43 miles / 170 minutes (2 hour 50 minutes)

To ensure I got my 4 runs in this week, that meant I had to sacrifice something else… so the yoga got kicked to the kerb. Not ideal given I love it and it’s vital for me to keep in so as to stay running healthy (according to my Coach who knows more than a bit about this kind of stuff!). And I had a wee bit of a reaction to some of the vaccinations: the usual very sore arms, a bit of a flu-like reaction and also some lovely nausea thanks to a wonderful one you had to drink, although that didn’t compare to the feeling of almost meeting the floor… I believe the term is Orthostatic Hypotension… sounds kinda cool, but doesn’t feel it. It’s basically that dizziness, where you stand up too quickly and can be attributable to many things such as low blood sugar or over-exertion like running too far too fast (I blame the vaccinations personally rather than running too fast although I did manage to get my first 2 miles that day done in just under a 9 minute mile average *happy days*). And since I was due to go do some karate training, I figured it wise to kick that to the kerb as well.  There’s pushing through with a train hard attitude and then there’s pushing through with a stupidity attitude. Having done both in the past, I know which one I choose these days.  Saturday thankfully was a full rest day from exercise with the longer run being done on Sunday.

Overall, I’m pleased with how I’ve managed to bring my average pace down especially since I’m new to training in running, and was a bit disappointed that I didn’t improve my pace on today’s run. Still, dropping the pace a bit to work on breathing was probably a very good lesson for me to learn.  Looking forward to next week where I get to increase my longer run again.

Getting addicted? Nahhhhh, of course not 😉

Links:

My fundraising page: MichellePayne13

Street Child

Sierra Leone Marathon 2013

© 2013 Michelle Payne


SL Marathon 2013 – Update – Week 4 #SLM13

11/03/2013

Wow… Week 4 has now finished. It doesn’t actually seem as if almost a whole month has passed…

So this week has been a little different in that aches and pains have started to kick in and I was rather worried at one point when I thought my ankle was going to give me real problems. Aches and pains are one thing, but when it’s joint problems, that’s something to really be careful with! Thankfully it’s eased off a fair bit but it did mean I took it easier and left the karate session after an hour of kihon, although sitting and moving in neko ashi dachi (cat stance) probably didn’t do me many favours either! Anyway, another busy week including going along to meet some other folks who will be participating in Sierra Leone and extra time spent at work, never a dull moment 🙂

Training has included:

***lunchtime yoga session x 1

***lunchtime treadmill run of 40 minutes x 1

***PT session with Activate Plus PT x 1

***lunchtime outdoor run of 30 minutes x 1

***lunchtime treadmill run of 30 minutes x 1

***1 hour karate session x 1

***weekend run of 60 minutes x 1

Total overall running: 17 miles / 160 minutes (2 hour 40 minutes)

And how did it feel?

As mentioned, I’ve had some aches and pains, a dodgy ankle and the weather hasn’t helped. It’s been absolutely chucking it down in London which wouldn’t normally have stopped me but the route I take wouldn’t be safe as I run part of the way near water: not so much worried about falling in, but I use an app on my phone to track the distance and I definitely don’t want to damage that! Priorities of course 😉 and then there was today’s weather. Windy, cold and attempted snow/rain. Just the weather you want to run in on along a seafront! Still, needs must so it got done and I was happily surprised to not only not end up in a total heap at the end, but also managed to slightly increase my average pace. And add to that my first 6 miler, which I didn’t realise until adding up the distances, I actually hit just over my first ever 10K run! Happy days! Let’s see what Week 5 brings!

Links:

My fundraising page: MichellePayne13

Street Child

Sierra Leone Marathon 2013

© 2013 Michelle Payne


SL Marathon 2013 – Update – Week 3 #SLM13

05/03/2013

Week 3 has now been and gone… and it seems to have gone so fast!

So what has this week encompassed? That would be the usual full-time job, the commuting, back at college (why is half-term only one week?)… counselling and admin, plus a best friend’s celebratory birthday cake to indulge in and a catch-up with friends.

Not bad when you also take into account the exercise stuff done, which included:

***lunchtime yoga session x 1

***lunchtime treadmill run x 1 (40 minutes)

***PT session with Activate Plus PT x 1

***lunchtime outdoor run x 2 (30 minutes each)

***2 hour karate session x 1

***weekend run x 1 (another 50 minutes)

Total overall running: 15.77 miles / 150 minutes (2 hour 30 minutes)

And how did it feel?

Not all that bad considering there was only a 10 minute increase overall but almost 1.5 miles extra which I think increases my average pace/speed slightly.  The treadmill run was hard and I’m finding that the runs outside seem easier… maybe easier isn’t the right word for it… maybe it’s because there is different scenery rather than running on the spot on a treadmill looking at a video screen that makes the difference.  And it’s cooler outside at the moment. However given the high temperatures in Africa, I’m not sure whether it would be better to train more indoors or not.

I’ve also been lucky enough to have one of the karate students accompany me on the weekend runs which means I’ve kept my pace up as it’s the longest time run I’ve done so far.  Probably a good job that I didn’t give them all too hard a time on the Friday evening when I ended up teaching the entire session (2 hours of kata anyone *evil cackle*).  And although it was cold on the seafront… it’s not a bad place to run.  I may change my mind about that when the warmer weather arrives and there are a lot more people to run around!

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Links:

My fundraising page: MichellePayne13

Street Child

Sierra Leone Marathon 2013

© 2013 Michelle Payne


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