2016: Mandy's race review

Although we are now a couple of days into 2017, I wanted to look back on my running during 2016.  

I had been looking forward to a new start in 2016 following my radioactive treatment in 2015.  My aim for the year was to run a race every month.  The intention was to start with 5ks with the aim to continue my longer runs to allow me to focus on bringing my 10k time down.  At the beginning of the year, the aim was to do three runs per week, with one speed session and one long run, coupled with two bodypump classes in order to continue to build my strength.  

The year started well with Edinburgh parkrun at the beginning of the month when I managed to run under 10 min/mile pace for the first time in a long time.  I ran a second parkrun in January to celebrate my birthday but opted for Portobello due to the wind and the snow!

In February, I ran the Devilla 5k trail race.  This was my third time running this race and despite not being 100% comfortable on trails, I really enjoy this run.  It is such a great event as they offer both a 15k and 5k, which means that both Owain and I can take part in races at distances we are comfortable with.  The 5k starts just after the 15k and it normally sees me finish about 10 minutes before Owain is due to finish the 15k so it lets me get a run and still complete my supporting duties. 

I had signed up for the Grangemouth 10k in April but didn't have a race planned for March.  Owain was heading to Inverness for the half marathon and they also offered a 5k race.  I had ran this before but didn't really enjoy it as the paths get pretty narrow crossing the river as well as having to run over suspension bridges, not fun on running legs!  In the end I decided to run the 5k as again it meant I could get my run in and also be finished in time to support Owain.  In the end I was glad I ran it as it was my quickest 5k time in over 18 months.

My key race for the beginning of 2016 was the Grangemouth 10k in April.  This was my first 10k for the year and the aim was simply to improve my 10k time from 2015.  Ideally, I was hoping to get under 65 minutes but wasn't really sure if that was achievable.  I was very pleased to complete the run in 64:45, which gave me my fastest 10k time in nearly 5 years.

Unfortunately, from there the year went rather downhill in terms of my running.  My next race was the Tiree 10k, which was the end of April.  We had typical Scottish weather while we were there, arriving to snow on the Thursday but glorious sunshine and winds on race day.  The route itself is so scenic and given you run the start and finish of the race on the beach, I wasn't expecting a fast time. However, I had not accounted for the wind and really struggled to get my breathing under control during the race and had to walk/jog most of the second half.  In less than a month, I had gone from running my fastest time in nearly 5 years to running my personal worst over the same period.  This really knocked my confidence and I suppose I fell out of love with running for a while.

Instead, I decided to focus on building my fitness levels.  I started doing morning circuits classes at the gym 2-3 times a week to build my cardio capacity.  I did continue to run but my GPS was abandoned in a drawer and instead I just focused on going out for a run with no pressure of thinking I should be running faster.   After a while, I dropped the circuits classes and instead followed a weights programme to really focus on building strength.

In June and July, we managed some parkrun tourism running Perth and Dundee while we were away for the weekend. At this point I was still running without my watch and as neither course has k markers, I had no idea what my pace was.  I think this was good for Perth as it let me focus on the course and not worry about my time.  However, for Dundee the route includes a tough hill section and I succumbed to walking some of it. I do wonder if I had had my GPS whether knowing even just the distance would have kept me running as I would have known how long there was left to go.  We'll never know!

During this time, my runs had all been shorter morning runs of about 3 miles and I felt the running bug return.  I decided to get my GPS back out the drawer with a view to start doing longer runs again and hopefully look at a 10k towards the end of the year.  In August, we headed back to Porty parkrun and I was really pleased to run under 10 minute/mile pace - the first time I have ever done this on the Porty course.  I was pleased to see that my fitness hadn't been affected too much by the lack of miles.  This gave me the encouragement to sign up for another 10k and I signed up for the Aviemore 10k.  Again this is another race that offers two different options, a half marathon and 10k.  Owain was running the half and as we were heading up for the weekend I decided to sign up for the 10k.

In order to keep my fitness up before Aviemore, Owain and I decided to have a little competition running Pitlochry in September.  Again, this is an event that offers two races, a 10k and 5k both which start and finish in the same place.  Owain was running the 10k and I opted for the 5k.  With the 5 starting shortly after the 10k, looking at our current race paces, this would see us likely to finish at the same time!  As both races involved part trail running I knew the pressure was on.  Thankfully for me, the 5k started really quickly after the 10k and so the time advantage meant I was able to beat Owain. However without it starting so sharply, I am not sure it would have been the same result!

Sad Owain, not used to me beating him!

A photo posted by Mandy Williams (@runbesidehim) on Sep 18, 2016 at 12:55pm PDT

From then my training was focused on longer distance runs and with Aviemore 10k being a downhill course, I was looking forward to a good race.  Unfortunately, I managed to injure my neck at the gym the Monday before but thankfully had managed to recover enough to race.  However, as some may have seen from my race report this didn't quite go according to plan - and it wasn't my fault this time!  A missing marshal meant we took a wrong turn in the forest and instead of running 10k we ran 5.12 miles!  I was really disappointed afterwards as I had trained really hard for the race and had ran really strong for those 5.12 miles, I think I was on for my third fastest 10k ever.  

Undeterred, I signed up for the Christmas 10k in Inverleith Park.  I had ran this in 2015 and knew it was a tough course and so my aim was to try and beat last year's time.  I kept the long runs going but during one particular run I had to walk the last half mile as I just didn't have the energy to keep going.  I had been following various diets on and off trying to lose extra weight I had gained last year but nothing seemed to be working and I was finding it really difficult to find something that worked with my training. 

In November, I signed up for the Body Coach 90 Day Shift, Shape and Sustain plan, which is a personal diet and exercise plan and I was really pleased to see them explain that certain foods had been included due to my thyroid condition. The only trade off was that the plan focused on HIIT exercises to boost metabolism rather than steady runs.  In cycle one, the focus was on just cardio and with the aim of 4-5 sessions per week, I managed some speed work and a steady run as well as three sessions.  Cycle 2 hasn't been as easy as this steps up the training to include HIIT and weights.  Each session takes around an hour and it is recommended not to do any more than the allocated four sessions given their intensity.  To try and keep my running in, I have included one steady run and one speed work session.  I am just about to finish the cycle in the next few days so we will see whether that combination has been effective.

Also in November, I signed up for the Foxtrail 5k series.  This is a new 5k series introduced alongside the main 6 race Foxtrail races over a number of different distances.  The main series races range from 10k to half marathon, all over trail.  Although I could have opted for some of the shorter 10k runs, I decided to run the 5k series given it is on trail.  The first race was in November and although it was a tough run due to the trail I felt a real sense of achievement at running the full route.  We do the same route again in March so it will be interesting to see if my fitness has improved. 

Because of the lack of steady runs, I lost my running confidence again.  On the Wednesday before the Christmas 10k, I went out for a three mile run and really struggled with trying to run constantly - I think my body is now more used to HIIT with the rests - and I just couldn't get my breathing under control.  I came home having decided on that run that I wasn't going to do the 10k.  Owain was also due to be racing and very kindly he agreed to run with me rather than race it.  This was the first time we have ever completed a race together and it was nice to have him by my side.  His pace must have rubbed off on me because I somehow managed to finish about a minute faster than last year.  It was nice to be able to finish the year with a good race.

So that's a summary of my racing year.  Although I didn't manage a race every month I did manage to complete 14 races, including parkruns, which gives an average of a race per month.   Given my running has taken a back seat over the second half of the year, I was rather surprised to see that my overall miles for the year came in at 600 miles.  This was only 32 miles less than last year, when I was running 4-5 days per week.  It's surprising what you can achieve when you don't think about it!

For 2017, the aim will be to race once a month but not including parkruns. I really feel that having a race to aim for keeps me focused.  The reason for not including parkruns? It's all too easy to decide to turn the alarm off and go to parkrun next weekend.



Mandy Williams

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