Mon carnet d’entraînement 2016


Running races is all very well, but there’s that little matter of putting in the training if you don’t want to come last. And after a trio of races bringing up the rear in 2015, I’m going to have to do something about it, or just retire to my rocking chair with my knitting and comfy slippers.

Granted, I was last in races of a couple of hundred wiry, gnarly runners (and Noel) so the odds were never in my favour, but still, I don’t want to repeat it this year if I can possibly avoid it.

So I definitely need some inspiration and encouragement. I’ve done, and will continue to do charts on the fridge door. They are an excellent way of reminding me what I need to do, how often and for how long, it’s particularly satisfying to tick off the sessions with a big, fat felt pen, but that’s not enough!

Apps are just gimmicky, I can’t do with all the noisy binging and bonging and animations of runners-not-like-me tripping up impossible hills at silly speeds, then making a graph out of it and posting it to every social media link available with the message ‘hey, look what I just did’.

And I do like a nice notebook, something I can write in, or maybe draw pictures. And being a true Yorkshirewoman, I like a free notebook. So when I spotted such a freebie on offer with the Running pour Elles magazine when I was on holiday in Chamonix, I snapped it up. The ‘carnet d’entraînement’ (training journal) would be just le billet to encourage me to get a move on, and learn more French.

The handy pocket-size booklet invites me to write ‘mes meilleures perfs – pour l’instant’ (PBs – for now) and to add ‘mes bonnes résolutions persos pour 2016’ and ‘mes objectifs’. Then each week there’s a little table to complete and a natty little French saying which I assume I can chant as my mantra.’Si elle le peut – je peux!’ (If she can do it, I can!) So I’ll be filling in the my little carnet each week as I head towards the races I’ve entered.

In a nod to the native language of the carnet, and an opportunity to make use of all my new French vocabulary, we plan a nice little run in the Swiss foothills this summer with our friends who live out there. It’s a linear run, starting at the bottom of the hill in Monteux and then heading up, stopping 1600m higher and 18km later. My mantra then will be ‘plus haut, plus vite, plus fort’ (higher, faster, stronger) followed by ‘et pas le dernier’ (and not the last!).

No train, no gain

The training plan

I remember when I was at grammar school and entering the 400 metres on sports day. Yes yes, it was so long ago that we were using old money to buy two ounces of Yorkshire Mixtures from the Tuck Shop for tuppence ha’penny. I wasn’t really an athlete and to the best of my recollection I had only run 400 metres in multiples of 100 spread over days, possibly weeks. But somehow with my young, confident legs and supreme self-belief (well I was a grammar school student) led me to put my name down to bring glory to the Bronte house.

It wasn’t until the loud ‘go’ that followed the ‘ready’ and ‘set’ that I appreciated just how far 400 metres were. Helped by the slight decline of the grass track and the cheers of my Bronte house friends, I wasn’t exactly flying to begin with, but I was certainly fluttering fast. Somewhere between 200 and 300 metres those legs lost their confidence and as the others left me way behind I began to wonder where I’d gone wrong. Maybe just believing I could do it wasn’t enough. It certainly wasn’t, Bronte came bottom thanks to me. I was not popular.

I’ve certainly learned from my mistake. So much so that when, in a moment of madness, spurred on by the enthusiasm of my mates in Eccleshill Road Runners, and the promise of genuine seaside fish and chips and beer to follow, I entered the Bridlington Half Marathon and made a promise there and then to all Bronte housers that I’d rely on more than confidence.

To be honest I was scared to death at the idea of actually running just over 13 miles, I was struggling with seven miles and being an ex grammar schooler wasn’t going to help me with the headwind on Bridlington seafront come 21 October. I definitely needed a plan. Thankfully, a chance conversation with Peter May over a sports massage gave me a personalised plan and one that my inbuilt aversion to structure and rules could cope with. Five activities, most of it running, and two rest days a week, building up the miles with a long run getting longer. Five weeks in and I noticed the difference, the same hills weren’t quite as hilly and my ploddy cadence started to lose its ploddiness. I even got two personal bests in three weeks at the parkrun  and knocked four minutes off last year’s time in the Kirkstall Abbey Seven on Sunday.

Today I ran 11.5 miles. Today I knew that my hope to run the 13-and-a-bit miles would be well-placed, even if I wasn’t. Today I was glad I’d worked hard to train rather than rely on self-belief and not-so-confident legs. And there’s still three weeks to go!

Lists and hills

Brid and grid

I’m not really one for lists, they are too restrictive, too orderly. They require action to be taken, boxes to be ticked, some sort of obedience, all of which goes against the grain. My shopping list says ‘something for tea’, then ‘x 5’, I leave the other two days to chance. We’ve never starved. Yet.

But for ten weeks and ten weeks only, I’m living by a list, a list that will help me run my first half marathon, without dying or breaking anything. As we say in Yorkshire, I may be green, but I’m not cabbage-looking, which means I’m prepared to put up with lists and obedience if it makes sense, and according to everything I’ve read or been told, when it comes to running 13 miles in this old body, it definitely makes sense.

Over seven days I have to do five things, most of it running different distances, but one is going up and down hills. I get two rest days and, bonus of bonuses, because I’m spending more calories, I have free cake, cake that doesn’t go straight to my thighs.

I had to insist on making my own list with hand-drawn gridlines and stickers to record activity or achievements as I like to call them. It’s smartened up the fridge no end and I quite like the way the grid is filling up with stickers.

So roll on October 21, the Bridlington Half Marathon, the last day on the list. Then it’s back to listlessness.