Blood, blood, glorious blood

You may have noticed that I have worn an incredibly bright and most unlike my usual style of running kit in some of my recent events.

This little beauty

This little beauty

I first came across the #bloodnotmoney hashtag on twitter and I was hit by the beautiful simplicity of Rick Mill’s campaign. Usually I ponder and procrastinate over things before they slide past without me having actually done anything about them. This was different. Giving blood is something that I feel is hugely important. Other than the biscuits there’s no reward, well apart from the fact that you could be saving someone’s life. Saving someone’s life! Can it get much better than that?

Anyway, today I have not run because (a) my plan dones not tell me to run and (b) even if it did, I was too busy having my arm emptied at my local blood donor session. So this is my chance to offer some advice to all of you who want to start (or get back to) donating?

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Just do it. Visit blood.co.uk to find your next local session and you can just turn up.

But…If you’re anything like me, you have lots of good intentions to do The Thing, but when the day of The Thing arrives you find that you’re too tired, have too much on or completely forget about it until a week later when you suddenly shout “Gah! The Thing!” thus startling your family and friends. So my advice really should be, visit blood.co.uk and book yourself into a session. It doesn’t matter when. If it’s in your diary, you can forget about it until you get your reminder text and appointment letter and it’s already sorted. It’s better to wait for a month or two rather than never actually getting around to it. Get it booked.

If you’re not sure if you can donate, ring the lovely people at the helpline (0300 123 23 23) for a chat. Seriously, it’s the most lovely call centre ever (even nicer than the one you ring when bits of your Saturday Guardian are missing). If the blood people ran all of the utility companies’ phonelines, the world would be a much better place. You can also tweet them and they’ll either answer queries on your timeline or by direct message if it’s about personal details (@GiveBloodNHS).

I go on about the biscuits, but if you’re not a biscuit person (and the choice is rather good, I favour a fruit shortcake but there’s loads of choice, even Penguins) there are crisps available, if they’re more your thing. And there’s lots of free drinks.

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And stickers.

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So. I don’t really mind if you’re motivated by crisps, biscuits, altruism or stickers, if you can give blood, have a good think about getting yourself signed up and visit blood.co.uk.

Wigan 10k

My magic training plan had me down for an easy hour and ten minutes on Sunday. However Sunday was the day of the sell-out Wigan 10k and I had a place booked on the start line. I was kind of ok with the idea of using the race as a training run with a medal but… oh, who am I trying to kid? I wanted to run the race as a race and try to improve on July’s Manchester 10k time. So I asked the chief training plan sorcerer and with his blessing, shifted my threshold run forward a day and went for it on Sunday.

All the running wisdom out there tells you to make sure you have a good night’s sleep before a big race. I have yet to find a book or a blog or anything that recommends being up at 1 o’clock feeding Calpol to a grizzly child. This is because it is a rubbish idea and only an idiot would recommend it. I am an idiot and even I do not recommend it.

Luckily the race had a 10am start, although Mini-Ginge had  other ideas and I was up ridiculously early, trying (and failing) to guard my breakfast from a small porridge thief. God bless toddlers and their approach of “what’s yours is mine and what’s mine’s me own”. So, with most of my porridge scoffed by me, my timing chip carefully looped through my laces, my number clipped to my #bloodnotmoney vest and Tim strapped to my wrist, we set off f’t Wigan.

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At nearly 3500 runners, this was one of the biggest races I’ve done for a while and the race organisers had gone all out with live music, outdoor bars, massage tables and a whole European food market in the town centre. After queueing for the loo, I parked myself somewhere between the 65 and 70 minute pacers, hopeful for the former but not ruling out being nearer the latter. Away I went, running comfortably, occasionally glancing at Tim and being alternately pleased and terrified by the pace he was showing. I have to confess that my glorious feeling of “I could run forever!” was probably helped by the steady downhill of the first mile and a bit.

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It was also helped by the amazing support of Wiganers. All around the route, people were out of their houses to cheer us on, children were banging pots and pans (I overheard one weary mum tell her daughters “not all of the time” as they emerged from the house with the contents of the kitchen cupboards) and on the return leg, two girls were offering glasses of water. It was brilliant – I think Autumn sums it up perfectly in her race report, describing it as being “like a mini London Marathon but with more space to run and a lot more smiles”.

On the only section without many cheering crowds (around the DW stadium) there was a steel band AND a brass band (it’s official, any run of 5 miles or more, I want my own band, or at the very least a trombonist to follow me round). I love a band during a race, it makes me ridiculously happy and you can always see a spike in my pace when I pass one.

I knew that what went down, must come up and the return uphill leg was certainly my slowest mile, but I did surprise myself by plodding all the way to the top without walking. After this, there was another bit of an uphill into Mesnes Park and then a slightly frustrating but brilliant for being cheered zigzag back and forth around all of the paths of the park. At this point I realised that I have become one of those people who high-fives small children sticking out their hands (at one point I nearly high-fived a marshal before realising just in time that he was just pointing the way). I also got a personal cheer from my own support crew, which always puts a spring in my step. 

 
Coming up to the finish, I tried to put a bit more effort in (not that you can tell from the official photos) only to be suddenly confused by someone shouting my name. There at the finish was my friend and her bloke (who had run the race a good ten minutes faster than I had) cheering me on. I looked up at the clock and was gutted to see my time as being slower than at Manchester, I was certain that I’d run way better than that. God bless chip timing though – by the time I had collected my medal, goodie bag, banana and water, my phone had binged to tell me that my chip time was 1.03.25. My fastest 10k time since having Mini-Ginge! I genuinely hadn’t realised how far back I had been and how long it had taken me to cross the line.

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Would I recommend the Wigan 10k to a friend? Definitely, in fact I already have. The race was brilliantly organised, hugely well supported and blessed with perfect weather – I absolutely loved it and will definitely be back next year.

Marathon training: An update

So. How’s my marathon training going? Honestly? I have no idea. My original plan (increase my long run distance each week or so) was going ok, I was up to 12 miles, but there was a lot of walking and no consistency to my pace. I was also horribly aware that there was little to no consistency to my training and that I was entirely focused on “must do my long run”, but was neglecting my training during the week. And then I got talking to Kat at the Spitfire Scramble, who told me about her training plan which is flexible and designed to get you to train smarter, not just blindly claw out ever increasing distances. I trust Kat because she signs herself up for a ridiculous amount of ridiculously long races. Clearly she’s mad, but she must be doing something right with her training.

I ummed and ahhed about it. It sounded scary, but intriguing and after a couple of days, I gave up and asked Kat where I could find out more. She pointed in me in the direction of TrainAsOne, an app that is currently at the beta testing stage. I took a deep breath, sent off an email, signed myself up, filled in my training requirements and lo and behold I had a training plan. Admittedly it was a training plan that started on the wrong day because I got my days mixed up… Don’t worry, said Kat, it will just readjust itself. So I did my first assessment run, uploaded my TomTom Tim (have I mentioned that I’m calling him Tim? RIP Miles,  my sweet Garmin) and lo and behold, the whole thing had shuffled itself along and rejigged itself to accomdate my thickery.
It doesn't get much more hi-tech than this.It doesn’t get much more hi-tech than this.

There is lots of science and evidence behind the plan, but I do not know about this and quite frankly, I do not want to know about this. If I understand (or worse still, think that I understand) it, I will be tempted to try and tweak things because I know best. However,  I do not know best. I am an idiot. If I do not understand it (and basically treat the whole plan as if it some kind of witchcraft) I will follow it to the letter. This is mainly down to blind fear that if I do not follow it to the letter then it will all go wrong and I will find myself making an even bigger arse of myself in Dymchurch.

So how is my training going? Well I’ve alarmed myself by being able to go faster than I ever thought possible (in my assessment run, I did 2 miles at an average pace of 9.04 minutes/mile – to put this into context I am normally chuffed to mintballs by doing 10 minute miles). I’m definitely working harder (evidenced by the fact that I’m returning home sweatier and more red-faced than ever) and I’m going out 3 times a week (and wanting to go out more). My pace is consistent and I’m hitting most of my target paces there or thereabouts (weirdly, the hardest one is my very easy pace). And you know what, I’m enjoying it.

So I don’t understand what I’m doing, I’ve no idea how long the marathon will take me and I haven’t a clue if I’m progressing in the right direction. But I’m enjoying myself, so I must be doing something right.

Running birthday

It was my birthday a few weeks ago and it turned into a bit of a lovely running fest. I am now the proud owner of a running diary and a special pen in which to record my efforts (must try harder with my appalling handwriting) AND some sweatshop vouchers to spend on some proper kit (instead of scratting around the bargain bin at Sports Direct).

  
I have also been entered into two races, one real and one virtual.

  

And I treated myself to Tagnix id bracelet so that when I next fall over, I can be retrieved from the gutter and returned home safely. I had mentioned my birthday to the lovely people at Tagnix and when I got back from the Spitfire weekend, I had an extra little treat in with my order!

This was my second set of Event Clips that weekend (technically my third as I lost my first set within hours of being given them) as I sported by UK Fitness Bloggers set for the whole weekend and they are rather good. No more stabbing yourself with safety pins. Oh, that’s just me then…

All products mentioned in this post were either given to me by lovely people cos it was my birthday or were paid for with my own hard earned cash.