2013 The Adventure Begins

Back in February I was a slob. I was working 1-9pm at RAC Motoring Services and had no real goal that I was striving towards. I drank a lot in the evenings sometimes a whole bottle of wine and ate takeaways because by the time I got home it was often 11pm in the evening and I only had enough time to feed the cat.
Then I broke away from all of this and realised that I wanted to be better than all that. In October of 2012 I had a cancer scare and I realised there was so much I hadn’t managed to get done yet. Bucket List stuff and when I recovered from the illness after weeks of being bed ridden I realised I had nothing stopping me getting my plan done. I needed direction so I wrote down a list of all the things I wanted to do before I’m thirty. I didn’t want to look back and have any regrets on how I lived my twenties. One of them included visiting Mount Olympus as I’ve always been fascinated by Greek History. I absolutely loved it as a child and found it much more interesting than all the World War lessons subjected to at school. At first I looked up group walks and then found that there was such a thing as the Olympus Marathon.

44km across the very mountain itself in under 10 hours in June. As I write this the marathon has been going ten years and will celebrate its 10th anniversary at the end of June. It is coined Sky Running because of the elevation and is amongst the top twenty European Sky Running races. Practically Running With The Gods which is the races tag line. The race takes place at the end of June each year when Greece sees temperatures like 33 C as relatively normal compared to British 14 C as a summer day.

Most people think I’m bat shit crazy when I tell them that is my goal. I’m aiming for next year (2014) if not the year after (2015) which is more likely as you have to have done a 30km similar race either trail, mountain or fell before the registrations open in January. This just spurs me on. It’s not a case of will I do it? It’s when I’ll do it? No matter how long it takes I’ll do it and document it as next to motherhood possibly one of the biggest scariest things I’ll face.

January – Quitting Smoking

This was the month of quitting smoking cigarettes. I’d had the idea of giving up the smoke on December 21st which was supposed to be the end of the world or see the coming of the zombie apocalypse and by late January I’d gone four weeks. I quit cold turkey as I didn’t like the idea of nicotine patches or supplements and I didn’t get on with the E-Cig. With poor lungs anyway due to asthma I didn’t want to upset this further with full time smoking. I now only have the odd one when I’m out drinking which now I run and fill my weekends with races or training is a great deal less.

The great thing about stopping smoking was that without these things you are a completely independent human being. I absolutely hated relying on something just to get through the day. With deciding to run I knew I had to clear that crap out of my system and give my lungs a chance to redevelop. As such quitting through nicotine patches didn’t seem a good plan either due to then being dependant on the nicotine substitute rather than the cigarettes.

February – The First 5K

I started small so that I could build up to 5K. My first ever run was 2.07 miles on the 18th of February that took 25:31 minutes. That was all it took to decide that yes I was going to run every other day no matter if it was stupid am and freezing February temperatures and all I wanted to do was stay in bed. Due to asthma and feeling queasy from the cold I struggled a lot with endurance and had to take breaks to get my breathing back on form but I kept going. I first logged 5K in 42:28 on the 27th of February. That’s when I booked in to run the Bristol 10K in May.

March – Tendonitis

In March I was set back with various bouts of tendonitis most specifically in my left ankle, right hip and stomach. I put the ankle down to poor foot ware as I didn’t yet have proper running shoes and was just wearing a beaten up pair of old trainers from my college days. I realised I had to seek medical advice when it was so painful that I couldn’t walk let alone run. Sometimes the hardest thing is to admit defeat and recognise that the human body is not invincible.

I focused on not running on my rest days and with adequate physiotherapy coupled with recovery running I got through it determined not to have to drop out. I found the tailored exercise plans for stretches and freeze gel worked wonders. It was incredibly painful and depressing to get through seeing the run times get slower but it was important for recovery so I took the ego hit knowing that it’d eventually get better. At that time a walk of 5 miles in an hour was enough to require a three hour nap afterwards! I look back on that as a tough but inspirational time purely because I didn’t give up.

April – The Morning Run/Walk/Run

When I started pushing myself back out there I found that the best time for me to run was early morning. I liked the idea of getting my run done before work. It gives one a sense of achievement before even having entered the office. It also sets up your endorphins so that you have a good base of happy emotions to balance out a hectic day of office work. I would use the time during working hours for my body to relax whilst I was doing administration work which didn’t require much physical activity.

I logged 7 miles in 1 hour 22 minutes knowing that my first 10K was a month away I was getting back into my 5K (still at 40 minutes at this point) stride whilst wanting to make sure I could endure the distance. I used the run/walk/run technique so popular with runners who are returning to running after a break. It was important for me so that I could make sure I regulated my breathing whilst running otherwise I would become slower the tighter my breath got.

May – Two 10K runs in one month

Bristol 10K on May 5th was the first ever 10K race! It was part of the bank holiday so whilst everyone was out getting drunk I stayed in and poured over the course map and running magazines knowing that tomorrow was a big test on my training over the past months. I had a prawn noodle stir fry to mix protein and carbs the night before and watched Star Trek movie whilst nervously getting my race gear ready.

On the day the weather was quite uncertain. Warm accept for in the winds which picked up as we started off and brought the temp down a fair bit. I finished in 1 hour 5 minutes with some walking. I was so happy to finish with such a good time compared to my training runs.

Forest of Dean 10K Trailblazer hosted by the reputable Rat Race was a fantastic event. The 65 minute wave started at midday and only had a group of twenty to thirty runners but started with an intimate workout hosted on the main stage getting us to stay on our feet until the moment we set off on the run. That was a challenging work out! I felt like I’d never been on my toes so long. I hit this run with the help of my running partner Matt in 63 minutes which beat the Bristol 10K time. This was despite a quick toilet stop, hurdling over trees that had fallen in the night and the surprise presence of llamas.

It was a hot day even under the canopy of the Forest but the views were truly beautiful of the surrounding area. Even with the busy runners it was quite peaceful away from the noise of the Runners Village. The terrain was trail paths that worked up quite a dust by those in the front and some loose rock. I really felt the straight towards the end of the run and was incredibly glad to finish in good time by that point.
The event area seemed pretty well organised with a kids section, beer tent and a running shop. The goodie bag was the best that I’ve received yet and the black tee shirt was awesome. I love the Bristol 10K red shirt as pride heritage at Parkruns but it’s not so great for running in parks alone as you feel incredibly visible in bright colours. There was a great deal of nutritional goodies including a sports sized water bottle and magazines.

June – Gym Goer

In June I had a couple of weeks’ break from work where I left the RAC and began working for a Bank. This freed up a lot of spare time so as well as my regular weekday runs I signed up for Parkrun and joined up with Anytime Fitness. This with a mind of adding a social element to my training and building up through core body work to improve overall fitness.

At the moment with the Gym I only go about once or twice a week. I try to fit in some alternative Cardio on a running Rest Day such as using Cross Trainer or Bike if I want to burn calories and I do a few reps on each weight at 50KG mainly focusing on the upper body. I want running and other Cardio activities to do most of the work for my legs but I can leg press up to about 80KG pretty easy.

I am seeing a huge difference in my general muscle tone. I actually have noticeable abdominal muscles and arm muscle. I think this hopefully means I’m becoming more toned evenly as I am making sure that everything is getting a hard workout.

I’ve found that nutrition wise for gym workouts I try to focus on post workout recovery. I’ll have a chocolate protein Maximuscle shake at the ready. On my way home I’ll pick up some watermelon to make a salad with kiwi and feta cheese. I am not sure why but after a workout I always crave watermelon. One cup contains approximately 46 calories, 12 grams carbs and 1 gram each of protein and fibre. In one hit of watermelon you get 21% of your Vitamin C allowance and 19% of your Vitamin A allowance. Lycopene is an important antioxidant found in abundance in watermelon and the fruit replenishes your water stores after a run or work out.

July – 5K fine tuning and beach running

I spent July attending Parkruns every Saturday morning at Ashton Court besting that 300 ft elevation and getting my time down for the 5k.  I know with the Half Marathon coming up I should be focusing on long runs but I figure with a quick burst of 5k’s that’ll see me on my feet less and less throughout the coming weeks that should equate to a good overall time.

I hope.

Over the next few weekends I focused on speed and got my time down to 30 minutes.  My amazing feat even featured in the Parkrun news letter.  Ok so my name isn’t quite in lights but it’s a good start after only a few months running.  “Eleanor Duvivier recorded the weeks biggest gain cutting 4 minutes off her run time thus breaking thirty!”  I’m so proud to have been mentioned… let’s just hope that I can keep it up.

It certainly builds confidence that’s for sure.

At the end of July I went to France with the family and we stayed in a caravan type home in a campsite called Domain De La Yole.  They sold wine in bottles for 2 Euros.  Very dangerous.

The heat was a tremendous 35 degrees most days even from the early morning.  This meant that this was perfect opportunity being so close to the coast to do some coastal beach running.  So yes I took my running shoes on holiday with some lightweight gear to run in.

I ran a 10K distance for my first beach run up the coast towards the nearest market village.  It took 1 hour 20 minutes to get there and back again to make up the miles.  Here’s why.  The magazines make beach running look effortless.  It isn’t though.  There is no good part of the beach to get a firm foot hold so the sand slows you down.  I tried it in the wet sand by the surf, the slightly damp sand where the waves end, and the dry sand up the dunes.  Each step felt like it weighed a few grains of sand more than the step before it.  When I managed to chance upon a stretch of boulevard in the village it was with glad feet to be hitting something solid.  But hey a challenge is a challenge so back into the sand I went for the 3 miles home.

August – Going The Distance Half Marathon

August 18th started out a mostly dry day to begin with although noticeably colder than previous weeks with cool autumn biting the summer air.  The kind of weather that gets a few degrees cooler when you’re in the shade and makes you ponder the implications of wearing an extra layer on what will be a very long 13.1 mile run.  This week has had people wondering whether our fantastic British summer has waved goodbye in favour of an early autumn.  Perhaps we’re just noticing the cold more due to the abnormal heat we’ve been enjoying throughout July.

Either way I met Matt on Platform 6 to get the train to Weston and from Weston we got a Taxi to Cheddar Gorge where we registered for the Half Marathon.  As we walked up the short hill to the registration station the Gorge’s distinctive hills loomed in on the small town.  Matt had said it was, “only a bit hilly,” which I think maybe a slight under exaggeration.   With an elevation of 1722 feet difference between that and my regular elevation is was not surprisingly deemed, “challenging,” by Relish Running Races.

As we trekked 300 metres up relenting rock littered hill towards the start it began to rain.  We then realised baggage drop off was at the finish line and trekked back down to the finish line to throw our bags at the handlers before begrudgingly joining the other runners on the ascent back up the hill.  To the right we could see Glastonbury Tor nearly shrouded in a cloak of low mist in the distance.  Other runners begun the apprehensive queue and pre race information before the horn blew and it was too late to go back down the hill and return home.

It started with a grassy ascent through rolling fields and then woodland with lots of gates to hurdle over and sludge to navigate through.  I slipped on my ass at least three times in what I hope was mud.  It then opened out into a steep slope of rocks to vertically slip down and climb back up into open ground at mile three.  Most challenging 5k of my life.

Then there was at least a couple of miles of fields, cows and rolling hills paired with the worrying presence of animal bones left here and there.  Perhaps, the bones of past failed runners?  Then there was a valley come stream of red rock and water that led up into a low tunnel made of trees that one had to crawl through.    After that the land opened up again into bog land where hidden wet patches sucked the shoe in like quick sand.

Once back on dry ground, ish, it was more fields full of cows and then sloping forestry towards the start then lastly slteep steps going up that had me struggling with each step that I took.  I finished in 3:49:21.  Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  Reality hits though due to the challenge I need so much more training but for my first Half Marathon it was tough.  Bristol is flatter so I will hope for a better time.  My time can only get better after that but it gives me something to beat next time.


September Bristol and Forest of Dean Half Marathon

September was another crazy month.  I ran the 25th Bristol Half Marathon (in my 25th year, somewhat poetic) and the Forest of Dean Autumn Rotary Half Marathon within a week of each other.  I remember walking to @ Bristol with a guy who, whilst asking for directions to other nearby places, gave praise and wished me luck.  The Bristol Half, despite having done the Cheddar Half, was still tough towards the end although the terrain was easier on the feet.  The route incorporated the Bristol 10k route but extended the bit up the Portway towards the Zoo and taking runners back down towards town under the Suspension Bridge to the now traditional shouts of “ollie ollie ollie oi oi oi” echoing out across the Avon.  Once back amongst the crowds picking the best spots along the Cumberland Basin it looped up through the Harbour with a lap of Queen’s Square finishing with a mile through St Mary Radcliffe before heading back towards the finish line @ Bristol via Cabot Circus and Broadmead.  The day was cloudy with sunny spells but no rain.  I found the section along the cobbled harbour and gravelled Queen’s Square tough as this was in the last 5k of the race when I was already tired from 10 miles of running with sensitive feet.  I finished in 02:27:00 minutes which is a huge gain from my Cheddar Half time so I’m super pleased with this cutting of an hour and fifteen minutes out.  This shows that I’m either speedier or run better on road.  It’s also proposed that trail running is great for speedier gains on roads because the terrain is softer on the feet rather than the other way around.  The goodie bag included a commemorative tee that was too big to wear even with a small, a branded anniversary water bottle and of course the medal!  That afternoon after a bus ride home I slept when I got back and celebrated with the family with a roast dinner for recovery after a hectic day.  I’ve noticed when I sleep after a heavy run my legs twitch me awake after I settle.  I guess this is the muscle fibres relaxing after the build-up and doesn’t seem anything to worry about.

One Sunday morning at the end of September my Mum drove myself, my Dad and the dog Lily to the Forest of Dean for the Autumn Rotary Half Marathon.  The day started out with grey skies heavy with drizzle which created a low fog on the ground.  This made for a slightly unpleasant time waiting around at the start.  There wasn’t as much in terms of distractions on the field compared to the last Forest of Dean event with just the pavilion for registration and a tent for food.  I decided to consume a hot chocolate before the start for warmth and it was a Cadbury one made simply without milk which didn’t settle too well but at least it was warm.

There was no warm up or staggering of times so we all started promptly together in the line-up pen.  The route took in the valleys and the Forest at a similar route to the 10k at first before branching out through the valleys.  I remember most the routes amongst the rolling trees being cool and damp but also very pleasant since the summer heat had passed.  It was nice to be relatively cool despite starting off chilly once we’d started the system had warmed up a few miles later.  The smell of pine was a strong one as the needles littered the ground underfoot.  We crossed a small bridge over a silver lake on dusty paths towards the end which brought us back up to the field where I promptly collapsed from joy at having finished.  I started off with great pace keeping up with the 10k time and the packs of runners.  By the end I was one of a few left and most of the field had gone by the time I reached the finish.  This was upsetting for my ego as at a 2hrs 37 minutes half marathon time I wasn’t that far off my Bristol time but hadn’t been alone there.  It’s always different on the trails.  I guess it’s impatience waiting for this to change.  Dad finished in 2hrs being in his mid 40s and having just recovered from a rib cage injury whilst golfing with his cousins.

Bath Skyline

It seemed like this winter lasted forever.  It was dark and cold on a continuing basis but not the fresh kind like the frost we had at the beginning of the year when I started running in February … more like the tearing wind and torrential rain kind.  Not very pretty.  It made terrain difficult to trudge through at the best of times and the Bath Skyline races over the winter period were races that became quickly known for the mud.  The Bath Skyline runs along the Bath University campus grounds taking in the hilly trail routes in the view of Bath and Bristol in the distance with the signature castle remains mid route.   Liam, Matthew, myself and my Dad were interested due to the collectable interlocking medal of the castle profile if you ran three events there being also a date in January on my birthday.  Unfortunately I was drunk through most of my birthday weekend so didn’t quite make it up to run the January date and in consequence ran the February one with Liam instead.  Relish alternated courses on the four dates so you had course A in November, course B in December and then I ran course A again in February to mix it up for those frequenting the event.

November was miserable not just because of the wet British winter that saw floods across the lands but because I started a three month contract with a nursing agency dealing with training administration which turned out to be a complete waste of time.  I’d hoped that it’d be an opportunity to move away from phone lines in a call centre setting  (more to the point I needed to get away from my boss who’d followed me from my last job and was making life at the Bank hell) but it was phone lines with administration to boot.  I spent months trying to get to grips with stuff they didn’t train me on and in the end they said I hadn’t learned enough by that stage and let me go in January despite their trainer having left mid programme and only having served one of two allotted weeks with my new trainer.  Needless to say it felt like I wasted many man hours doing 8-4, meaning I had to be up at 5am to get to Long Ashton and not get home until 6pm, which meant virtually no time to train for the upcoming marathon over the Christmas period.  I barely had enough energy to get through the working day having to snack every two hours just to not calorie crash due to the cold.  This meant that the Bath Skyline runs and training for these races during November and December were the only real training I did.

November with a time of 1:21:37 was mud mud mud.  I found it hard to decide where to put my feet in the woods.  The rolling fields weren’t so bad although I admit I did fall on my ass a few times and saw plenty going heads over or knee deep in puddles along the potholed paths.  Mum wasn’t too please about the car which we’d managed to get covered in mud as well as our selves but it felt like a well-earned victory and we were buzzing afterwards.  We went for Sunday lunch in a local pub near my parents afterwards for a celebratory pint.  I felt happy with this time on the trails.  I didn’t feel like it defeated me as I enjoyed it and got back up again after every fall with renewed determination to get to the finish.

In December I finished with a slower time of 1:25:28 on the slightly tougher course.  The trail was more uneven and technical with bigger accents through the woods before reaching the open fields.  Matt and I started writing zombie break out scenes as we went through the foggy university campus noting where the victims of the plague would escape from and the direction in which the unsuspecting victims would run to the safety of the pavilion on the other side not knowing that the course was slightly longer than normal and only just getting to the end in time to be saved…

Porstmouth Waterside Coastal Marathon

So based on my Bristol Half Marathon time of 2 hours 37 minutes I predicted back in September that I would be able to run a marathon in 5 hours 27 minutes.  I think having to be at the half way point by 3 hours or risk the tide of the Portsmouth Coast and the thoughts of Mulled Wine and rum at the end will be pretty good motivators … right?!

Good but not strong enough.

My Dad was originally going to run the marathon as well but ended up having to work so I went down to Portsmouth, a city with a lot of family ties, with my Grandma and her husband Dennis the day before the race.  We found Believe and Achieve, the running shop hosting the event, and registered my entry.  They gifted me with a minced pie, a decanter of mulled wine and my choice of old memorabilia from previous races and I chose a mug from last years 10k in the area.  I also purchased a technical tee shirt that had the race slogan “It’s not just about the run (rum)” on it and a blue, white and red colour pattern.  We then found the house we intended to stay at which belonged to Grandma’s friends who were away in France and settled for a large duck Chow Mein and a glass of wine.

The next day was race day.  I had a large bowl of fruit and fibre for breakfast but it probably wasn’t enough.  We didn’t have a huge amount of time and Holly was irritable so we rushed to the Pyramid Centre where the start was located about 15 minutes before hand and I was dropped off there.  I can’t remember how my Gran entertained Holly for the rest of the day.  I stretched whilst wondering around groups of people to the starting point and lined up in the general area with nothing much to do in the time but prey to Zeus that it goes well today.  It was chilly on the harbour front with the pale waves crashing against the pebbled beach a few yards to my right of the start line.  The fair and sea life centre behind me.  To my left a group of drummers danced and sang a beat that runners warmed up to.  As it was the day of the winter solstice I reflected upon this day chosen for a run.  Today is a day one year after I stopped smoking and 10 months into my training as a runner.

It’s a huge test of everything I’ve put my body through this past 10 months.  The drums stopped at 9am and the heavens opened.  That’s when the run started after being in the crowded pen of anxious damp runners it was great to finally start building movement along the pathway running along the pebble beach.  The first 4 miles were along this pavement building pace underfoot amongst other better paced runners until we came out into the open banks of the harbour damp and squelching from the recently departed tide.  It was easy to find footing but the wet ground sucked feet in and in some places runners had to progress single file to manage the width and the roads.  Before long my feet were soaked at 6 miles in and then we came up to the loop along the bend at 13 miles after this long of mud paths full of potholes having to mind other faster runners coming back along the same track.  I stopped for some snacks, oranges I think and a jaffa cake, before heading back round at this point having clocked my fastest 10k time and fastest half marathon time of the year so far.  I slowed down here knowing the worst was over but I was wrong.  People began to thin out as I was amongst the slower bunch I didn’t see other people for miles towards the end.  I officially crashed at about 18 miles when I hit the wall and decided to walk jog it the rest of the way.  By 6 miles I was walking determined to finish the rest of the race, pleased I’d gotten this far, but with pained feet knowing how far I’d yet to go trying not to loose heart at how long the finish line seemed to be.  I saw the occasional person over taking me but I wasn’t the last to finish.  Indeed there was a whole page of other late finishers and I pegged a time of 05:48:00 which is respectable for my first marathon let alone a coastal run.

By the end I was exhausted, hobbling, wind swept but there was Holly waiting at the finish line and I ran the last 10 meters hand in hand with her.  It may have been incredibly slow but I still did it and didn’t crap out half way.  I’m proud of my efforts considering my time wasn’t that far off my predicted time to start with.  There is room for improvement though that’s for sure.

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