Tag Archives: PB

Southampton Marathon – possibly the best race I’ve ever had!

24 Apr

When I heard that there was going to be a full marathon in Southampton, I immediately wanted to enter. I’ve never been lucky enough to get a place in London Marathon, so this is the next best thing (for me). I also thought it would be a good comeback race after having Baby M… there’s nothing like fear of failure (and a hungry baby) to get some ‘quick’ training miles in.

My training plan was somewhat unconventional. Previously, I’ve relied on the FIRST three runs a week training plan. This year, my schedule was 1 STC swim, 2 Buggy Mums classes, a parkrun and a long run combined with leading fortnightly half marathon training runs.

I tried to rest a bit this week and had a 90 minute nap on Saturday afternoon, which is just as well because although Baby M went to sleep at 9pm, she woke at 10pm, 11pm and midnight. After that she woke up half hourly until 7am. Not my best race prep!

We picked up my training partner, Pete, and drove into town. On leaving the car park, I was surprised (and pleased) to see that mist had descended. Hurray! I can’t bear sunny weather for running.

We walked to the Sir James Matthews building, where the pacers were congregating, where met up with my friend, Kate. After a last-minute snack for M, I hurried out passing Sandra and Barbara from the Tri Club, but there was not enough time to chat.

Chris Rees sneaking up on Tamsyn

Chris Rees and Tamsyn

©Aron Kelly

Kate, Pete and Tamsyn before the race

©Kate Budd

We walked past the warm up and lined ourselves up in the appropriate area. It was nice to see my old friend, Dave, who was tackling his first marathon as part of a series of challenges he is undertaking this year. There was also enough time to chat with my lovely sports masseur, Becky, who was taking part in the half marathon.

All too soon, it was time to go.

On leaving the park, I stepped on someone’s dropped gel. It exploded and covered my legs – yuk! That is not how I wanted my race to start! I also realised that I had tied my shoes too tightly, but it was too busy for me to stop and adjust them.

We looped around and then went up the High Street where various friends from Lordshill Road Runners were watching the start of the marathon.

Crowd of runners

©Teri Pragnell

The agreed plan was to maintain a 6:00/km pace to the Uni and then press on a bit at the downhill. The plan for lap 2 was to hold on for as long as possible and to walk up Church Lane.

The route to The Common wasn’t exactly as I had expected, but there weren’t major changes, so it was fine. When we got there it was lovely to see some friends who were waiting to cheer us on.

Pete, Tamsyn and Kate running on The Common

© Lawrence Chen

Pete, Tamsyn and Kate running on The Common

© Lawrence Chen

The first real hill of the course is on The Common and we tackled it well. We were still in a group and Pete warned me that we were going a bit quickly. We slowed a little and after turning at the crossroads, we saw Jo, another running friend. That’s what I like about local races – seeing familiar faces running and spectating.

Tamsyn and Kate

©Jo Findon

We then had another slight route change before a lovely downhill section. However, at the end of the downhill is the toughest hill on the course: Church Lane. Kate and I pushed up it, but Pete had a slight breather to save his legs, before catching up with us.

After passing University of Southampton, we were onto a fantastic long downhill section, where we were able to let go a bit.

Pete, Tamsyn and Kate

©Kelly Kilpin

After an ugly urban section, it was great to be in Riverside Park, where my favourite race photographer, Paul, was positioned.

Tamsyn surrounded by other runners

©Paul Hammond

Tamsyn surrounded by other runners

© Paul Hammond

Tamsyn surrounded by other runners

© Paul Hammond

Tamsyn surrounded by other runners

© Paul Hammond

Tamsyn surrounded by other runners

© Paul Hammond

Pete waving his arms

© Paul Hammond

Tamsyn surrounded by other runners

© Paul Hammond

Tamsyn surrounded by other runners

© Paul Hammond

Tamsyn surrounded by other runners

© Paul Hammond

Pete, Tamsyn and Kate

© Paul Hammond

Pete, Tamsyn and Kate

© Paul Hammond

tamsyn giving a thumbs up

© Paul Hammond

Close up of Tamsyn

© Paul Hammond

Kate had a comfort break in Riverside Park, so Pete and I pressed on alone. I was feeling a bit enthusiastic, so Pete had to keep telling me to slow down. I was trying not to go too quickly, as I hoped that Kate would catch us up again.

We saw our friend Di who was on her bike. She commented that we must have passed her husband, Mike, but I was fairly sure that we hadn’t so we must have started ahead of Mike.

Unfortunately, by the time we got to the 10 mile marker Pete started getting calf cramps, which got worse as it got hotter. He had trained really hard and prepared perfectly this week, so was very unlucky.

We had a short walk at the start of the Itchen Bridge and then started running again. I love race sections where you see others who are taking part. It doesn’t bother me seeing how many people are ahead of me as I know that on the return, I will see people behind me (or at least, that’s how I always hope it will go!)

At the far side of the bridge, I saw Steve Doncom. I used to do karate with his sons and haven’t seen him for about 5 years, but he recognised me and shouted out, which was nice.

As we were finishing the bridge, Pete and I saw the lead 10k runner (Abdi Mahamed) starting to cross the bridge. He was looking very fast.

We ran through a small park, where lots of children were cheering and offering water bottles, before turning onto Below Bar. I could see my in-laws and Baby M at Boulangerie Victor Hugo. We were ahead of schedule, so they didn’t expect us!

We ran past the Bargate and then turned into the park, ready to begin the second lap. In the park, I heard Sergio cheering us on, which was a nice boost.

The first half took 2 hours, which is far too fast for someone whose marathon PB is 4:29, but I was still feeling comfortable. I think that if I had been doing the Half Marathon, I could have gone for a PB.

As we got towards the Cenotaph, we were passed by the lead 10k runner… but he was on the wrong course. Oh dear. Apparently several people took the wrong course during the race, which is a shame for them.

The route up to The Common was hot and felt hard. At this point, Pete and I were joined by Mike and Patrick in their Beefeater costumes. Pete and I stopped for water  and lost Mike and Patrick at that point.

As we went past the pond on The Common, I saw a familiar face – my friend, Isabel from Buggy Mums. She had been out cycling with Laura earlier in the day and was doing a brick run as part of her training for an Olympic distance triathlon. It was great to have her company all of the way up the hill.

Pete’s calf was starting to hurt, but he was able to pick up the pace a bit on the downhill towards the crossroads, passing Patrick on the way. We went through the subway and then walked up the slope. I heard Patrick talking to us and assumed that he was ‘telling us off’ for walking, but then realised that he was saying he had fallen in the subway. His back and legs were covered in mud, but he seemed to be uninjured, which was good.

When Pete and I got to Church Lane, we walked up it again. There were quite a few students there cheering people on. It was hard to ignore them and walk, but I didn’t want to leave Pete.

There was a water station by the University, so Pete and I had another drink, before starting the downhill section. We hadn’t got far before we spotted the bring orange shirts of the motivators.

Kim and Vicki

Kim and Vicki ©Rees Leisure

It was lovely to say hello to Kim and Vicky and have a bit of a laugh.

Pete and Tamsyn

©Kelly Kilpin

As we got towards Bitterne, Pete was struggling more. He kept telling me to go on, but I felt bad as he had kept me going through all of our training runs, even though I was very slow when we started in January. At 31k, not far from Cobden Bridge, Pete finally convinced me to leave him.

I was feeling good on my second run through Riverside Park and spoke to a few other runners, which was nice. However, the section out of Riverside Park and back to Bitterne Triangle was very hot. I managed to get a pebble in my shoe, and hoped that it would work itself into a less uncomfortable position. I passed the first-placed wheelchair half marathoner on this section and was impressed by how hard she was working as I imagine the course must be very tricky in a wheelchair.

As I got to the ukulele band at Bitterne Triangle, I saw Kim and Vicky again. I wasn’t expecting to see them, so I guess that their last place walker must have dropped out.

I enjoyed the section towards Bitterne Station. There were some shady areas and I was feeling strong. As I passed the pub, there were people outside with pints of lager that looked really refreshing.

I started to get annoyed by the pebble in my shoe. My friends think it’s funny that I always get pebbles in my trainers – I even picked one up in my hallway before I went on a training run with Pete. When I shake them out they are often tiny, but definitely big enough to be seen and not figments of my imagination. I started looking for a bench or wall that I could sit on. I didn’t want to sit on the kerb as I have low blood pressure and worried that if I sat down that low I might faint on standing. After a while I saw a wall that was the perfect height, so I stopped, took off my shoe, shook the pebble out and then retied it more loosely. If I’d thought about it, I should have done the other shoe at the same time as I then had one comfortable shoe and one that was a bit tight.

After crossing Northam Bridge again, I headed towards the stadium. It was sad to see a female runner sitting on the ground by the underpass. She didn’t have any obvious injuries, but was in tears. Luckily, there were people with her.

This time, there were very few people with me as I went through the stadium, so I imagine there are loads of terrible photos of me taken by the automatic cameras.

As I headed towards the Itchen Bridge, I saw fellow tri club member Sandra, who had been a bike marshal earlier in the day and was now enjoying seeing the runners. It was lovely to see a friendly face.

The Itchen Bridge felt like a bit of a slog the second time around. I had a brief walk and then forced myself to start running again. I saw Paul and Chris from LRR on the other side of the bridge and for a few seconds I wondered whether I would be able to catch Chris. Unlike the first time around, the crowds of supporters on the bridge had thinned (and I definitely don’t think they were as vocal as last year, which was a shame).

On my way back across the bridge, I saw Tim from LRR and was also surprised to see super speedy former SUTRI team-mate Flo. She caught up with me and we ran together for a while, but I think we were both quite emotional at that point. It was Flo’s first marathon and I realised that even if I ended up walking, I had a strong chance of getting a PB.

As we got to the park by Ocean Village, Flo really picked up the pace, but I was unable to run that quickly.

I wondered whether Stu and his parents would be by the cafe where I saw them earlier, but there was no-one there. As I got to the Bargate, I realised how busy town had got. It was a little disorienting as there were a few people in the way who didn’t care about the race.

I then headed into the final park and saw Stu, his mum and Baby M. I gave them a thumbs up, before continuing towards the finish.

© Stuart Smith

The last half mile seemed to go on forever. The streets were lined with crowds and there were lots of familiar faces (and strangers) shouting my name. The barrage of noise for the last 200m was overwhelming and I managed to break into a sprint.

What I didn’t realise at the time was that I was immediately in front of my friend Dave who had spoken to me at the start. he had called out to me, but I think I assumed it was people in the crowd – sorry Dave!

My time of 4:14:44 was a massive improvement on my previous PB of 4:29:33. I didn’t quite manage to make the top half overall, but was pleased to finish in the top 25% of females 🙂

After the race, I caught up with a few friends before meeting Stu and the others. I got changed and then Pete arrived back. Although his race hadn’t gone to plan, he still finished in 4:26, which is great. We then waited for Kate who got a PB, before heading to Nando’s for some food.

Medal photo with Pete and Kate

©Kate Budd

We also had time to watch the mascots race, which was quite funny.

Mascots lined up for their race Chris organising the mascot race The start of teh mascot race

I have no idea which mascot won.

Overall, I had a great day and would do this race again. I didn’t train as much as usual, but managed to knock 15 minutes off my marathon PB!

Finisher t-shirt and medal

Finisher t-shirt and medal












PBPB – getting back on form

28 Feb

Well, I’m fully into the swing of marathon training now. On 16th, my buddy Pete managed to get me around 17.5 miles, which is the longest run I’ve done for a very long time. I had been nervous about doing the run after doing Buggy Mums, but that class was cancelled, so I went for a long slow walk with some of the others instead and saved my legs for the run.

Pete is really good at planning routes – we go somewhere completely different every week and I’m seeing parts of the city that I’ve never seen before as well as visiting locations that I’ve not seen for a few years.

Our long run took us through Riverside Park in the dark, which would have been fine, but the river was so high that the path was flooded. Pete and I thought we had found a way around, but in the end we had to wade through freezing cold ankle-deep water. This part of the run was fairly near to home, but the last section of our run was all uphill. We were nearly there when I suggested a minor shortcut, which brought us out by my house. I was delighted, but Pete was less pleased as my house is at the bottom of a steep hill!

I was delighted that the baby slept really well that night… but I was so full of adrenaline that I just couldn’t get to sleep 😦

That weekend, I had my first jogging parkrun with baby M. We had to start at the back (like all buggy runners) and as Southampton is a very busy parkrun, that meant that the first km was tough going. I tried to go on the grass at one point, but that made it even harder, so I went back onto the path.

I was pleasantly surprised by how well the run went:

Southampton parkrun February 18th 2017

Southampton parkrun February 18th 2017

I’ve now got a bench mark for future buggy runs 🙂

Last Tuesday, I had another long run with Pete. We covered 14.5 miles, which was tough, but not as tough the previous week’s run. It was also a lot warmer, which was good. At one point, I thought we were heading towards home, when Pete turned towards town. I had a moment of panic, but Pete said to trust him. He then stopped at a friend’s restaurant, where he was able to refill our water bottles 🙂

I had been told that Buggy Mums was cancelled for half term, which was incorrect, but did give me a lazy week last week. Instead of doing Buggy Mums on Thursday, I went for a lovely long walk in the New Forest with my friend Ellie. It probably wasn’t our most cunning plan because of Storm Doris, but we got home safe and sound!

In the evening, Teri came around and we did a turbo session. I can’t say that either of us broke into a sweat, but it was good to be back on my bike… and also to have a catch up.

Turbo training with Teri

The next day, my legs were fine, but I was glad I didn’t have to sit on a saddle again!

On Saturday, I got in some more gossiping with Teri, as we ran parkrun together. Well, we chatted for the first km, but after that our competitive urges kicked in. I was delighted to get a PBPB – post baby personal best.

parkrun PBPB 25th February 2017

I was 344/829 runners, so in the top half. I was also 65/343 women, which is in the top 20%! I was 9/53 in my age category. I’m still 90 seconds away from my ‘real’ PB, but I’m finally making progress. It was also my 29th fastest parkrun (out of 208). I’ve only gone under 26 minutes 19 times, but I am absolutely determined to do it again this year (and to eventually beat my PB of 24:42). I’ve not run that quickly since January last year 🙂

I felt particularly pleased with my run as Teri and I were chatting at the start and the crowds meant that we had a slow start. Teri is still coming back from an injury, so it was also a comeback PB for her.

The following day was Sunday Runday. It was fairly tough as my legs were more tired than I expected after parkrun. However, the distance wasn’t a problem. Stu was pushing the baby, but he joined us in the 10 minute/mile group, which was nice.

Another exciting thing that has happened this week is that I finally ordered a replacement road bike. It’s currently being shipped and should be with me by the end of the week. I deliberated for a long time between a pretty bike and a better spec for the same price point… and eventually bought a pretty bike, with an even better spec at a higher price point – oops!

Today, I booked Stuart and I onto Decathlon 5k in Southampton. It clashes with a local 10k race, but I’ve prioritised this as we’ll be able to run with the baby.

Decathlon 5k 2017

My full tri club membership kicks in again tomorrow, so I’ll be able to get back in the pool. I’ve found another baby friendly exercise class (kettlercise), so there’s lots to look forward to.

How’s your training going?








Friday Five – Five ways to measure your running success

1 Jan

Alice the pug ©Julia McGovern

Many of us measure our running success with numbers – most often, our personal bests. Improving your time over a measured distance is the easiest way of recognising success, but it’s not easy to get a PB and it can be demotivating when you keep training and trying, but that PB eludes you. However, it’s not to only way to measure your running success. Here are five alternative ways of feeling good about your running…

  • Running by feel
    Mentally take note of how you feel whilst out running and compare it with how you felt last month or last year. Maybe you can run further than before without needing a walking break, or perhaps you are able to complete a longer run without feeling tired. You can also try to mix it up a little by trying out some new terrain – leaving the Garmin at home and challenging yourself to a trail run can leave you feeling invigorated. Keeping a training log that records how you felt after each run can help you to see your progress… and can help you to guard against over training by making you aware of when you are fatigued.
  • Number of events completed
    Instead of worrying about your race times, consider focusing on the number of events you complete each year. You can also work on collecting the three Ms, if that’s your kind of thing: miles, memories and medals. Maybe sign up for one event each month. It can also be fun to try something completely different, such as an adventure race, multisport event (duathlon, aquathlon, triathlon or swicle/aquabike) or an endurance race based on time not distance. If you live near to a parkrun, then you could aim for your next milestone, whether that’s 50, 100, 250 or 500.
  • Completing a running streak
    Perhaps you should try a running streak, where you run every day for a period of time, regardless of the weather. Your runs can be as long (or as short) as you like, as long as they are at least 1 mile. This can have some disadvantages, as you may be ill at some stage or have other commitments that make it difficult, but you can set your own rules about what you can achieve – maybe a 30 days streak is all it will take to get your mojo back. An alternative, is to aim to complete a certain mileage by the end of each month or by the end of the year.
  • Consider your time logged/years running
    Look back on your running history. For how many years have you been a runner? There may be times when I feel like I’m not achieving anything, but I started doing parkrun in 2010 , so I’ve been able to call myself a runner for over 5 years. I’ve had short periods of time when injury has got the better of me, but I’ve always returned to running.
  • Find out your age grading
    This is one of the most magical of stats for me. Each birthday does not need to be treated with gloom as for runners it’s a chance to receive a better age grading without doing anything different. parkrun tells each runner their age grading, but if you don’t do parkrun, you can calculate it for yourself. This way, even if you are not beating old PBs, you may still see progress as your age grading for specific distance may have improved.

How do you measure your running success? Do you even feel the need to measure it or are you happy to run for the sake of running? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

My longest ever swim (and a cold dip in the lake)

30 Apr

It has been such a busy week, so far, so I think tomorrow may be a rest day.

On Monday morning, I had a cross fit session with SUTRI for the first time in a few weeks. There were only 4 of us there and Olly made it quite a relaxed session, with a lot of stretching. I was amazed by how flexible I felt, but I think it may have been down to the super-painful sports massage that I had on Saturday. We did 40 dead lifts (in 10 minutes). I started out with a relatively easy weight and finished at 55kg as I didn’t want to over-exert myself. We also did a lot of wall ball, which I’m terrible at – I think I’ve got a lot of muscle imbalances and throw in a wonky way, which makes me feel self-conscious, which makes me even worse.

I went to STC swimming at 7pm and decided to stay for a double session. A problem with my parking permit meant that I started a bit late, so I was really pleased to be able to swim 3750m. It is by far the furthest I have ever swum (I’ve only swum 2000m or more 12 times, with my longest ever pool swim being 2250m and my longest open water swim being 2.6k. I would have liked to have swum 3800m (as an iron distance swim is 3.8k), but at least I have a goal for another week.

On Tuesday evening, I went to the STC track session, but there was no coach and the others who had turned up decided that it should be a hills session. We did just over 6km with much of it up and down golf course hill, which is a particularly tough hill at the best of times. By the end of the session, I was feeling better, but my legs were tight to start off with. Thanks, Donna for choosing the session!


Lakeside © Try Tri

After coaching yesterday evening, tonight’s session was my first swim in the lake. Unfortunately, a series of accidents and football traffic meant that what can be a 20 minute drive at the right time turned into over an hour and three-quarters 😦 A;though I had been told that the lake was a balmy 17C, I decided to start off wearing my new bootees and orca vest. I have to say that they both worked brilliantly, but my fingers were very cold and my face was freezing. Fortunately, my breathing took much less time to calm down than last year. I did one rubbish lap (mainly doggy paddle!) and then a full lap of front crawl, but the sun was going down and I didn’t want to get colder, so decided that that would be enough for today. Hopefully, the lake will be warmer next time and it won’t take me as long to get there. Stu arrived earlier than me and managed to swim 2 miles!

One good thing about the lake is that the old changing rooms have been demolished, so there are new portacabins, which are really cosy (although the shower temperature still fluctuated between very hot and icy cold). I also felt a bit safer as my NOWCA wristband was scanned in before I started swimming and scanned again when I finished, so hopefully there won’t be any bodies drifting around in the lake!

It’s also been a week when a lot of my friends have been signing up for marathons – Paris, Bournemouth, New Forest and Brighton have been particularly popular choices. I’ll enter the ballot for London next week, but if I don’t get a place, I’m OK with that. I’ve not received any emails about my mysterious free place at Lisbon Rock’n’Roll marathon, but I don’t think it would be sensible for me to add it to my training schedule. It’s really hard being picky about what I will/won’t do. I’m really tempted to do a 5km swim at Stithians Lake in Cornwall on 19th July – it’s the day after I swim around St. Michael’s Mount, so I’ll be in Cornwall, and that seems like a good enough reason to enter!

My first triathlon of the season is on Monday: May Day Tri. Stuart is in the first wave of the day at 8am and I’m in the 4th wave at 8:30am. I’m in a lane with 3 blokes aged 30-45, which seems to be a competitive age, so I’m hoping that I’ll be OK. Some of my friends are much faster than me and they’re in later waves, so I’m not sure how the waves were allocated. In the afternoon, my niece is taking part in her first triathlon, so we’ll stay to cheer her on, which will be fun. She’s a brilliant swimmer and is in her school cross-country team, so I’m sure she’ll be able to hold her own.

What I’ve been reading this week:

Finally, following the perpetuation of unattainable physiques by Protein World, it was refreshing to see this fantastic video by my favourite female endurance sportswear brand SOAS:

We Are SOAS from SOAS_RACING on Vimeo.

If you watch closely, you might see a familiar face at 1:20!

First PB of 2015

8 Mar

My first PB (or PR for my American friends) was at Salisbury 10 mile on March 8th.

I met several friends at number collection, and was also snapped by the official photographer whilst getting ready:

Salisbury number

I ran with my friend, Pete, who is coming back from injury, so we both appreciated having some company. Pete is better at going uphill than I am, but I think I had the edge on the downhills.

In previous years, I’ve grumbled about the lack of water at this race, but this year, it wasn’t a problem.

I wasn’t in many official photographs at this race, but there was one with Pete that made me laugh – he’s usually such a gentleman, but in this pic, it looks like he’s trying to pinch my bottom!



My asthma started to fight back in the last couple of miles, so Pete went on and I did the best I could.

I was pleased when I finally saw LRR Captain Emily by the track.

Salisbury 1



…and even more pleased when I finally made it onto the track. I absolutely love track running, but knew that I needed to wait until the last 150m before I tried to sprint.

Salisbury 3Salisbury4Salisbury5Salisbury6

Sadly, there are no photos of my sprint finish, but I know that it happened!

I was really pleased with my final result:


Salisbury 10 2015

A chip time of 1:26:09 is 1:35 off my previous best. I still think I can do better, so maybe next year, I’ll be able to achieve <1:25.

I placed 128/293 women and was 46/102 in the FV35 category, so I managed to make the top 50%, which is always my goal.

Here’s my activity file: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/714257162

I was also pleased to receive a lovely technical tshirt at the end of the race:

Salisbury tshirt


What have I been reading recently?


A slow start to January

4 Jan

I went out for my first run since I had laser eye surgery yesterday. I’ve been desperate to go out for a run. I didn’t want to push too hard and was looking to have a social run, but I didn’t see anyone I knew who was going to be running at conversational pace – possibly because it was cold, wet and windy.

first Soton parkrun of 2015

Nearly finished!

I knew that the run was going to be tough as I’ve not eaten well for the last two weeks, which was made worse by the total lack of exercise. I also realised at the start of the run that I had forgotten to pick up an inhaler, so I had to be careful. Every time that I started to have breathing problems, I slowed down a bit. Fortunately,  this strategy seemed to work. It wasn’t a fast run, but I finished:

parkrun 3rd Jan 2015

Now, I just need to start eating healthily again and get back on the training wagon, to knock three+ minutes off that time!

Amusingly, in the evening, I received this email:

Fastest pace 2015

Clearly, if I want to receive a cheerful email, I need to go out at a fast pace on my first run of the month!

I read this post on RunKeeper this week: Brian: Losing 365 pounds and getting my life back. It’s really inspirational, so I urge you to read it.

If you use RunKeeper and want to connect with me, I’m here: http://runkeeper.com/user/fatgirltoironman

I tend to ‘use’ quite a few exercise trackers (mostly as I use tapiriik to sync my data to all of them)

GarminConnect is my main tracker, but I quite like what Strava does. I also like their new code of conduct: Stand with us.

Strava stand with us

If you want to find me anywhere else, you can also find me:

I’m also doing Jantastic again this year: https://www.jantastic.me/ It’s a challenge that runs through January, February and March, where you set your own goal sand then aim to meet them. I had to reset my goals as I had intended to swim at least twice a week throughout January. I’m not allowed to swim again for a few more weeks, so I had to change that goal.

This morning, Teri and I had agreed to run, but she also needed to go to junior parkrun with her children, so I agreed to go along and marshal as well before we went for our run.

Volunteer at junior parkrun

Initially, I didn’t think it was very cold out as there wasn’t any frost, but after standing around for just over half an hour, I was definitely feeling the cold. I took off my jogging trousers and put them in Teri’s car, but couldn’t bring myself to remove my running jacket as I just had a short-sleeved t-shirt on underneath.

We started off at a steady pace – mainly because I couldn’t go any faster. We ran around Riverside Park, which was a nice change from running on The Common. Then we headed along some of the route of Southampton Half Marathon. It’s quite hilly, so I know that I need to do lots of hill-training between now and April.

On the way to The Common, we saw Irene and Alice from Lordshill Road Runners, then on The Common we saw Rob and Nick out running. It’s lovely that whenever I go for a run I see people I know.

Teri and Tamsyn

Still wearing sunglasses to protect my eyes

This afternoon, I’ve been in the kitchen. I’m hoping to plan all of my meals for the week and also prepare my breakfast and lunch for tomorrow to try to get the week off to a good start. For tea tonight (and tomorrow and Wednesday), we’re going to have a home-made chilli – yummy! It’s quite a simple dish:

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • chilli powder
  • paprika
  • coriander
  • cinnamon
  • ginger
  • 2 tsp chipotle paste
  • 2 tsp molasses
  • miscellaneous dried herbs
  • 2 tins tomatoes
  • 1 small tin tomato puree
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 carrots
  • red pepper (capsicum)
  • green pepper
  • spinach
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 4 mushrooms
  • 1 large courgette
  • 1 can borlotti beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can pinto beans

It’s a smoky bbq type chilli as a consequence of the chipotle paste and the molasses. It’s also a dish that improves after a day or two. I quite often cook large one-pot meals like this, so that I don’t need to cook every day.

As I’ve not been able to go out and exercise, I’ve watched a few TV programmes online. I finally had a chance to watch ‘The Adventure Show’ on BBC iPlayer. The episode that I was interested in was episode 5, which is one that focused on a group of cyclists doing an Audax event in Scotland. This is something that I would like to do one day, but I need to build up my cycling quite a lot before it happens!

I also watched an excerpt from the Graham Norton show, featuring Bradley Wiggins:

What have you been up to?

It’s taken 32 months, but I finally did it.

13 Dec

In April 2012, I ran 5k in 25:08. It was 14th April – a week before my first marathon. Afterwards, I was so broken that I struggled to run well for months. Since then I’ve only run 5k in under 26 minutes 6 times, with only two of those being this year.

I’ve tried everything I could think of – speed work at the track, focusing on my diet, attempting to lose weight, every variation of breakfast (including none), pacers, all of my trainers, a running coach – but nothing seemed to help me get close to my goal, but suddenly everything has started to come together.

I’ve tried to identify the secret to success. This year, I’ve done a lot more cycling and swimming, so there has been less stress on my legs. I’ve also recently started going to strength and conditioning classes with SUTRI. I trained with RunCamp for most of the year, have been going to track sessions led by Huw from Southampton Tri Club and I’ve started going back to Lordshill Road Runners training on Monday nights. I also had a successful training camp with Embrace Sports in November. However, I think the big turning point for me has been getting my asthma under control, combined with the fact that I like running in cold weather.

Last week, I ran really well, so I decided that I would aim for a PB this week. I’ve tried hard to eat well all week and I chose not to swim last night as I was feeling tired and thought an early night would be better for more than more exercise. Also, I wanted to get a PB before the end of 2014 and there are not many chances left for me.

Fortunately, the weather was on my side. It was cold (just above freezing), but completely still and dry. This meant that I was able to wear shorts and my lucky Team SOAS vest… although I paired these with some compress sport calf guards and a Bondi band headband, to ensure that I didn’t get too cold before I started. There weren’t many other people with vests on… most of the women seemed to have tights, jackets and gloves on.

My first challenge was that when I tried to turn my Garmin on, it beeped, but the screen was blank. It hadn’t been charged. I panicked a little, but there was nothing to do, but run naked.

Teri convinced me to start a little closer to the front than I normally would, and I knew from recent runs that I needed to make sure that I didn’t set off too quickly. Teri’s original plan had been to aim for a PB, but after a night out, she just wanted to go for a steady run, which would be close to 25 minutes for her, so she suggested that I tried to keep her in sight, with the closing phrase, “What could go wrong?”

James from LRR and STC was running today, so he said that he’d be happy to pace me. Unfortunately, just a short way into the run, he had to answer a phone call, so I continued on my own. The route is a loop that has to be run twice, with a long hill. On the second hill, Stu and I drew level, so he started encouraging me, and a short while later James caught up with us. At 3k, James told me that I’d done it in 15:06. This made me panic as I worried that I was running too slowly, so I tried to run faster.

Eventually, I got to the top of the hill, but I knew that I couldn’t relax. I tried to pick up the pace going downhill. I didn’t want to feel frustrated that I narrowly missed out on a PB by not trying hard enough. I got down the hill and turned the corner, so that I could see the finish. Stu encouraged me to keep pushing, so I did what I could to run faster even though I was breathing really heavily. I was so pleased to cross the finish line.

Today I finally got a PB. I knocked 29 seconds off my fastest time at Southampton parkrun, and 23 seconds off my fastest ever 5k time as well as going under 25 minutes for the first time. I feel so happy 😀

parkrun PB 2014

My friend Teri was also aiming for a PB today. She first went under 25 minutes almost two years ago and has managed it 13 times since then, but sub 24 minutes has eluded her. In recent weeks she has been tantalisingly close with 24:11, 24:07 and 24:02, so I was delighted for her that she managed to finish in 23:50 today.

Teri and Tamsyn PB

Teri and I celebrating our PBs © Teri Pragnell

I’ve got one more 5k run this year, so I’m going to see how well I can do at that. I now have a new goal – can I run 5k in under 24 minutes in 2015?


Update: 13th December 2015
Well, I haven’t managed to run 5k in under 24 minutes in 2015. I did manage to get another PB in March 2014, but I only ran under 25 minutes twice this year. If you’re interested in how I’m doing, you can view my latest parkrun results.

Catching up, CrossFit, Ironman Dublin 70.3, Marafun, stir-fry and Santahampton.

7 Dec

I’ve been so busy recently that I’ve not had enough time to blog. I hope that I can find more time in 2015 – I think that perhaps I need to be more productive in my lunch breaks. As I’m struggling to find enough time, I’m trying to add more frequent social media updates:

One of my aims for 2015 is to focus a little more on my diet and nutrition. I’m good at sticking to a training plan, so I think I need to be as rigid about what I eat to try to stop me from making unhealthy choices. I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve… more will be revealed later.

I’ve been busy for several reasons – one of which is work, but the main one is that I’m trying to get back into regular training, so that it’s not too difficult for me to pick up my half marathon training in January. I’m also desperate to get a 5km PB before the end of the year as I feel like I’m making some progress with my running. I’m also back to Run Leading/coaching with Lordshill Road Runners. I now regularly help Ben on a Wednesday, which is great. It means that I get a rest day in the middle of the week whilst helping other people to achieve their goals.

A month ago, I blogged that I had achieved my best ever race pace. Later I looked at my run on Strava and was surprised to see how well it ranked against my other runs:

Strava results

I know that I’ve run 1 mile faster than 7:32 (my PB is 7:27), but I’ve never run 5k in under 25 minutes! 🙂 This is great as it means that I’ve a little hope that I might get a 5k PB before the end of the year.

I’ve also been doing a lot more training with SUTRI. I’ve regularly been attending Tuesday night spinning classes. They’re quite different from what I was used to at Bournemouth University. I used to do 30 minute classes and these are an hour, but I don’t find them as challenging – I think this is because I’m fitter and now ride a bike every day. The music is also very different from what I’m used to.

I’ve also been going to SUTRI strength and conditioning classes which are led by Ollie at the local CrossFit box. CrossFit seems to be a Marmite activity, as it divides people into those who love it and those who hate it. The lovers enjoy the group mentality and camaraderie about working with others to push yourselves to the limit; the haters point out the extreme risks that are taken in some gyms where the instructors have received minimal training and rhabdo is common. What we’re doing is a modified version of CrossFit that is tailored to triathlon. Also, I’m confident that the coach knows what he’s doing and isn’t going to get anyone doing multiple reps of an exercise that they don’t understand with a weight that’s too heavy for them.

So far, I’ve been to three strength and conditioning classes. The first one was the day after Gosport Half Marathon, so my legs were a little bit tired. We did a whole range of things that I’ve not done for many years including some pull ups using rings and some squats… lots of squats. There were squats with a medicine ball, squats throwing a medicine ball and just plain squats. I’ve no idea how many squats I did, but the next day my legs hurt and by Wednesday I wondered whether I would ever be able to stand without groaning again!

In my second class, the focus was on inversions. This was much safer territory for me. I stopped doing gymnastics in 2008, but muscle memory means that I still know how to do a handstand. We did a variety of handstands in groups of three and also had to walk up the wall into a handstand position for me. It felt good as I knew that I could do it. We also had to balance in crow position (from yoga). I used to spend a lot of time doing various balance on the beam and have practised this position in yoga, so it was something that I knew I could do. I felt great when the class finished and was pleased that I did not ache afterwards.

Last week, my friend Roelie came along to the class with me. I’m significantly older than the other participants, so it was great to have a friend who’s not in her early twenties to train with. The focus of the session was using kettlebells. A few years back, I did a kettlebell workout with my karate instructor, Sean, but I’ve not used them since then. We spent quite a bit of time working on doing a Russian/Turkish get up (as demonstrated in this video). We also had to do knee-lifts, which involved working the lower abs by raising our knees to our chests whilst hanging from a bar. We had to do this in sets of 10. My biggest concern was whether I’d be able to reach the bar. Some of the taller blokes could reach up and touch it with their hands, whilst I was hoping that I would be able to jump high enough to reach it! Fortunately, I managed it, but it’s a long time since I’ve done anything like that, so my hands didn’t like it!

The only frustration that I’ve had so far is that each class seems to have some burpees in it. Unfortunately, my low blood pressure means that I’m not allowed to do burpees as I always end up fainting. I’ve been told to do the burpees slowly, but I’m not convinced that it has any benefit for me and just makes me look like I can’t do them 😦

Ironman Dublin logo

On 24th November, entry to Ironman Dublin 70.3 opened for people who had pre-registered. Stuart and I were fortunate enough to get places, along with three of our friends from Southampton Tri Club: Suzanne, Huw and Steve. Unlike Weymouth, I won’t be able to train on the course in advance, but I’m more confident now and I’m hoping that I’ll head into HIM training on the back of some successful half marathon training. My aim is to finish in under 7 hours, which will require me to improve on all disciplines. I think I wasted a lot of time in T1 at Weymouth and my run was poor, so they should be easy places to lose some time.

On 29th November, Rob and Stuart agreed to pace me at parkrun. I had several aims:

  • Beat my fastest time at parkrun this year (25:45)
  • Beat my Southampton parkrun PB (25:12)
  • Beat my 5k PB (25:08)
  • Finish in 24:59 or faster

I’ve blogged about how it went – I didn’t achieve all of my goals, but it was my 3rd fastest ever parkrun and I’m confident that with some consistent training and a healthy diet I’ll get there.

I’m now running again with Lordshill on a Monday evening. The pace of the groups is a little inconsistent at the moment, so it’s not always easy to work out which group to run with. I was dithering about joining Stu’s group (Group F) for some sprints when I was asked to help out with Group D on Monday. I agreed to tail run, which was probably a good decision. Before we started running, Teri got me to pose for a quick photo with James who won the Best New Male Athlete award by Southampton Tri Club. Teri humorously referred to us as the ‘king and queen of tri’ – I’m not sure I’m at that level yet, but I’m still proud enough to keep polishing my trophy!

Celebrating my tri club win with Jmes, who was awarded best new male

Celebrating my tri club win with James, who was awarded best new male

After running, I headed down to swimming. It had been cold outside, which meant that the pool felt warm for a change… the pool at The Quays is always really cold! It was a tiring session, but it’s always hard to swim for an hour when you’ve already done an hour of strength and conditioning, an hour of running and have spent nearly an hour commuting by bike!

On Thursday evenings, I’ve been running at the track with Huw from STC. He’s a great coach – I find him very supportive and motivational and I love running on the track as it has such a lovely bouncy surface. This week’s session was 600ms. We had to jog/walk/recover for 200m before running 400m at 5k pace followed by 200m at faster than 5k pace. I managed to do six reps before calling it a day. It was a tough session, but I know that it’s what will make the difference when it comes to getting a 5k PB.

On Friday evening, I did a 750m swimming time trial that I’ve blogged about. It was tough!

Yesterday, I didn’t go to parkrun. I’ve been considering having laser eye surgery for a while, so I booked a consultation for Saturday afternoon. I was not allowed to wear my contact lenses for 24 hour beforehand, which meant that I couldn’t do parkrun as I cannot run with my glasses on. As an alternative, I went swimming with STC. I knew it would be tough as it was only 12 hours after I finished swimming with SUTRI.

I hardly ever swim with STC on a Saturday morning, so I had no idea who would be in my lane or what I could expect. Fortunately, it wasn’t too busy and the other people in my lane were not significantly faster than me. I was quite proud of myself for managing 4 lengths of butterfly (my previous best was 1/4 length). It wasn’t great – I’m quite surprised none of the lifeguards tried to save me – but I didn’t drown. Sadly, Garmin thinks I was doing freestyle… but at least it recognised that it was a swimming stroke! I should probably admit that I had fins on… But I also had to do another 4 lengths single arm without fins, at which point I nearly died! Afterwards, we went for a hot drink with some of the others swimmers. It was so difficult to recognise people without their swimming hats and goggles on!

On Saturday evening, I made a lovely dinner: sesame, honey, ginger and tofu stir-fry.

Sesame, honey, ginger and tofu stir-fry

Sesame, honey, ginger and tofu stir-fry

It’s based on an old recipe that I had for cabbage stir-fry.  Ingredients:

  • 1 chopped clove of garlic
  • Small piece of chopped ginger
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • Some sesame seeds (I used a mixture of black and white seeds)
  • Any stir-fry veg (I used mangetout, red pepper [capsicum], baby corn, spring onions [scallions], broccoli spears and a red chilli
  • Tofu

It worked out really well 🙂

Today has been a busy day. This morning, Stuart and I ran up to The Common for another training run with the Marafun crew. I dithered a bit, but went into the 9 minute mile group again. If I’m going to get a PB then I’ll need to manage faster than that pace on race day!

After we finished the group run, Stuart and I ran home, where I made some spirulina smoothies.

This afternoon, we joined Coach Ant’s fun run: Santahampton.

We arrived a little late, but it was easy to see where we needed to go as there were plenty of people out with costumes on:

Arriving at Santahampton

Arriving at Santahampton

The local newspaper had sent a photographer and also a journalist (who turned out to be one of my former students. I love it when I hear about my people I’ve taught doing well).

Coach Ant briefed everyone about the route, and then we were off.

Ant starting the run

Ant starting the run

I jogged with some people that I know – we were at the back, but that was fine as it was a fun sociable event. I really enjoyed having a chance to say hello to people that I know.

Afterwards, we were all rewarded with a mince pie.

Any with Sandra and her huskies

Ant with Sandra and her huskies

My favourite Christmas elf

My favourite Christmas elf – Liz and her medal.

Secret Santa (aka Rikki)

Secret Santa (aka Rikki)

Papping the photographer - a quick snap of Jules

Papping the photographer – a quick snap of Jules

How’s your week been? Have you got any festive runs scheduled?

Embrace Sports 06/10/14 Portimao boardwalk reps

6 Oct

Monday 6th October

This morning, we headed out to Portimao for some boardwalk reps. Stu and I have visited Portimao before, but the session that we did last time was a pyramid sessions (200m, 400m, 800m and then reversed).

We started out with a group warm up jog around the marina, which is a lovely location. Then we had a quick breather whilst Neil explained a few points relating to running technique and heel/midfoot/forefoot striking.

IMG_9840 IMG_9841

We were then divided into groups to do the 6 x 1 mile reps along the boardwalk, with a 2 minute break between each one. Andy was the coach allocated to my group.

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Stu was having a few twinges, but I was really happy to see him towards the front of the lead group each time that we passed each other.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. The fast group (L-R): George, Gaby, Nico, Marcus, Darren & Stu.


I’m not sure why this photo is so distorted – it makes my running form look terrible!

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The reps were tough and I wasn’t sure that I would make it through them. I had realised on the way to the start that I had left my inhaler in the minibus, so I hoped that I wouldn’t need it. Unfortunately, I started to have breathing problems after I’d run 3 reps, so Pamela kindly let me use her inhaler. What a lifesaver! At least I had remembered to bring my drinks with me: a bottle of water and a bottle of nuun. I could only drink form them every two miles, but that was fine.

The reps got harder as we became more tired, but this was also exacerbated by the temperature rising and the increasing number of pedestrians on the boardwalk that we had to run around. The wind also picked up in the middle, which made some of the runs harder than others.

I was surprised at how well I fared during the reps:

  1. 8:32
  2. 8:23
  3. 8:37
  4. 8:43
  5. 8:53
  6. 8:35

However, I’ve added this up and it come to over 51:40, so goodness knows how I ever managed a 6.2 mile race in 51:06!!!


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Sam made a new friend!

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When everyone had finished recovering, we headed up the steps to a lovely cafe with a stunning panoramic view.








© Embrace Sports, 2014. Andy, Neil and Jen.

I had a fruit juice at the cafe, but quite a few people decided to indulge in beer or ice-cream. Stu and I also had a chance to chat to Sam, who is from our local area (well, she’s a Pompey Jogger, but that’s close enough!) After a while, we decided to go for a wander on the beach and a paddle. Pamela and Caroline joined us. The water was so refreshing.

In the evening, we headed out for a coastal recovery run. We had hoped to stop at a bar for some drinks to start off Andy’s birthday celebrations, but they said they had too many reservations, to let us in, so we stayed outside.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Rachel, Andy and Jan.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Some of the partycamp crowd: (L-R) Dan, Bernadette, Rachel, Sally, Jan and Darren.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. A moment of silent contemplation for Dan, Darren and Andy.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Darren and Dan.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Rachel and Sally.

The weather stayed nice, so in the evneing, we ate outside. It was Andy’s birthday, so the coaches produced some cakes and Jan had even made some lovely chocolate coconut cakes.

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I think the pictures show what a great time everyone was having – there’s a reason why the October running camp is known as ‘party camp’!

It was great to check my email before going to bed and find another PB message from RunKeeper:

New PB for running October 6th 2014

I won’t maintain that average for the rest of the month, but it’s a good start 🙂


New cycling PB!

5 Sep

Cycling PB 5th September

That’s just over 23kmph!