A bit about me: I've been marathon training pretty much solidly now since February 2015. I'm officially shattered! I like to think of myself as a trail runner. I enjoy scenic runs, mud, twisting my ankles in rabbit holes and dodging cows in fields.
My marathon training plan, through a bit of trial and error, now goes something like this: Four runs a week and a cross training day (sometimes two if I get fidgety). I try to do one short tempo run, usually Park Run. Two steady 8-13 milers, and a long run at the weekend. I build my long run up adding 1-2 miles on each time. Every fourth week I skip the long run and replace it with an easy 8-10 miler. I found this the best way to stay injury free! For cross training I tend to cycle on my road or mountain bike, or occasionally go to the gym to use the rowing machine, and to pretend to know what I'm doing with the weights.
Fuel wise on training runs I tried out different gels, with no disastrous results (we've all heard the horror stories!). The ones I settled on High Five Caffeine Berry Flavour. I found these easy to open, easy to swallow (some other brands were far too gloopy for my liking), and you didn't have to take them with water. With practice, I found out the best time for me to take these were every 5 miles up to mile 15, but then I struggled with a fourth gel, I always found that one made me feel sick. A friend suggested Clif Bloks and I then use these for the last miles. On my trail marathons I also like to take Nakd bars to scoff.
During training (and for trail marathons) I also run with a Camelbak which I love. I add Zero electrolyte tablets to my water, I also use these in my water when I get home if the weather is particularly hot on a run.
Food wise any runs under 13 miles I tend to run on just a Clif Bar (peanut butter flavour) and coffee. Anything over 13 miles, I like a bit of porridge, with raisins, honey and peanut butter. (Peanut butter plays a big part in my training!) I tend to do most my runs in the morning, I find I struggle with afternoon runs, and also I have to fit them in around school runs and work. Post run, I'm not one to come home starving and raid the fridge (I'm referring to husband here). I usually have a milky coffee and some kind of cereal bar, Peanut 9 Bars are a favourite.
I tend to do a 2 week taper, my last long run being 13 miles. On the first week I still do four runs, but just drop the mileage. The second week I only run three times, and nothing over 6 miles. This works well for me.
One week before any marathon I start on the beetroot juice. I'm now used to it, its definitely an acquired taste! Does it actually do anything? I'm not sure, but as its natural I'm happy to give it a go. I start off with one large glass for a couple of days and then towards the end of the week up it to 2 large glasses. No side effects apart from the pink wee! I also start drinking more water to try and be as hydrated as possible.
I'm not a massive carb eater normally, I don't eat much bread or pasta, but in the last four days of taper I try and up the amount I eat. Instead of my usual 50g of porridge, I'll have 75g. I'll start eating pasta with one meal and bread with the other.
Race day morning is always a struggle to get food down because of nerves. If I can eat, I'll eat porridge.
Race blog for Liverpool
After my first trail marathon, knowing I could do the distance without keeling over and dying, I was intrigued to see what I could do in a road marathon. Barnstaple appealed as we have family down that way and it was along the Tarka Trail so would be scenic, and flat. Well, I didn't really enjoy that race, a bleak airfield at mile 19, no crowd support and mile after mile of flat, very flat and even flatter tarmac. I came in four minutes over my desired time. Four measly minutes, but as runners know, its all to do with those minutes! Never again am I doing a road marathon! I promptly signed up to another muddy, hilly trail marathon, The Larmer Tree for March, something to look forward to after Christmas!
Fast forward January and those four minutes were bugging the hell out of me, so with some friends signing up to Liverpool Rock n Roll Marathon, and swayed by the promise of a child free weekend away (most mums would go to a spa), I signed up.
I tried to keep my mileage up after Barnstaple so I wouldn't have to go back to square one. And my plan was to use Larmer as a training run to get miles on the legs. I actually ended up running a big chunk of Larmer with my husband (we never usually run together, we end up arguing!). I was really pleased with how Larmer went, I finished 20mins quicker than what I had predicted and this gave me confidence to get my new target of a 4 hour 15 marathon at Liverpool.
The day before the race, after porridge for breakfast and a 4 hour journey up to Liverpool, , we headed to a well known pizza establishment for dough balls, pasta and a cheeky red wine. Tea was eaten early and consisted of cous cous, chicken and salad. And then an early night.
Race day morning I was staying in a hotel, so I tried to stick as closely as possible to what Id have at home, and had muesli with raisins and my usual coffee and pint of water.
2 hours later, along with 10,000 other runners we lined up. I'd decided to run between the 4 hour pacer and the 4.15 pacer. It was extremely warm out already which made me more nervous. Not a cloud in the sky. We hadn't had much warm weather during training.
I had my three gels in my new gel belt (I had used it on one 13 miler and it had been fine). Two Clif Shot Bloks, and also a Nakd Bar which was my emergency fuel should I really be struggling. I didn't take my Camelbak as there seemed to be plenty of water stations. So off we went, the crowds were fantastic, music blaring. I could enjoy this!
Then it all went pear shaped quite quickly. By mile 3, the gel belt, which as I said was fine on my training run, well all the gels had fallen out and I hadn't realised. This completely made me panic. I knew from mile 7 there were going to be gels at the water stations but they were non caffeine, High 5's in a flavour I had never tried before. I wanted to cry. All this with another 23 miles to go.
At mile 5 I caught up with one of my friends, she too was baking hot and struggling. This wasn't how I envisaged my race! I stayed with her for a bit but then went off in front. I should be taking a gel by now and had nothing. Beginning to feel rubbish so early on, I then decided to take the strategy of walking up any major hills. The 4 hour pacer had now gone, but I was just about in front of the 4.15 still. Every mile after that became harder and harder. I got to the station around 7 miles and took one of the gels on offer. Lemon flavour, Yuck. It was really hard to know how much water to take on. It was getting ridiculously hot and I was so thirsty, but there's nothing worse than having a tummy full of water swishing about whilst you run!
At mile 10 you looped back into the city near the start and finish area and it took everything I had not to stop. I kept thinking how I cant go home after just 10 miles, and how much I wanted that medal (I love my race bling). Luckily the crowds at that point were amazing, shouting my name. Without their encouragement I really think I would have given up.
Miles 13-16 are a bit of a blur. At some point I know I ran through Chinatown, I remember the archway. But must have suffered with runners blackout as I can't remember much else! I know I took another gel from an aid station, water, and also some Haribo that kids were handing out. At every water station I tipped water on my neck and torso to try and cool off but the affect didn't last long.
I then began feeling sick quite quickly. I'm not sure whether it was the heat, or different flavoured gels, or perhaps too much water. Anyway for the first time ever, training runs included, I vomited. In a hedge in a park somewhere in Liverpool. Trying to be discreet as possible about it, I rejoined the runners to see my 4.15 pacer was well out in front. There went my dream of a 4.15 marathon. With 9 miles to go, my aim now was just to finish.
At around mile 20 we headed into a residential area and there was one street where everyone had come out to cheer us on. A family had set up their own water station and there were kids hosing off runners. A lady handed me a cup of iced water and put her hand on my shoulder to ask if I was ok. Well, I burst into tears. Again, a first, never cried or felt emotional in a marathon before! I must have looked a state! I thanked her and her kids and carried on. I then remembered my emergency Nakd Bar in my gel belt pocket. I decided to risk it, so slowed down to a walk to eat it.
The next thing I remember was at mile 24 bumping into one of my friends who had gone off in front of me at the start. I thought I was hallucinating (she was all in pink and a tutu!), how sweet that she'd finished and come back to cheer me in. Nope. She hadn't finished and was having a hot, slower than planned race too. She asked how I'd been. I just remember saying “If I talk I will cry, just let me get to the finish so I can cry into my beer!”
The last two miles along the Mersey dragged, but finally we could see the finish line. It was great to finish together and I'd never been so pleased in my life to finish a race. And that post race beer was the best beer I've ever had.
So how did I keep going when it all went wrong?
The truth is I really have no idea. I'm extremely stubborn (ask the husband), and I couldn't bear the thought of having my first DNF. Would I do Liverpool again? Absolutely, I couldn't fault the race at all. And of course now I'm going to have to sign up to another road one. I will get my 4.15!