|At a Glance Profile
Running: 2 1/2 years
Half- Marathon experience: Eight including two Bupa Great North Runs. PB - 1:36:59.
Determination and pigheadedness
Most looking forward to: Meeting Liz Yelling and seeing what I can achieve with the right schedule.
Favourite Races Great North Run for the atmosphere but otherwise muddy, hilly, crosscountry races.
Did you know? My annual holidays are to Whitby Gothic Weekend in October and Leipzig Wave-Gotik Treffen (Europe's largest Goth Festival) in May. Beach? What's a beach?!
• My RW profile
View Catherine's Training Schedule
Bupa Great North Run: Race Day
Catherine says: Today was really tough – I put a lot of pressure on myself to hit my target and found myself constantly looking at my watch or my pace band. It certainly didn’t help when my watch lost signal under the flyover and stopped itself – I then had no idea exactly what pace I was running. I also got a stitch at about mile 4, which forced me to slow down for a while. That said, I did get a PB – it might not have been what I was hoping for but it is still the fastest I’ve ever run!
The whole race seems like such a blur. I really had my blinkers on and barely noticed the crowds, let alone anything else. I did see the Hash Harriers with the beer though, and spotted Elvis in a bus shelter! I also ran behind Tony Audenshaw (Emmerdale) for a while, which was quite amusing – I had to remind myself everyone was shouting for him and not for me!
I’ve always been an active member of the runnersworld.co.uk forum – in particular on the GNR thread – but having my own thread has been a new experience. A lot of people passed me on the course actually, and told me they had read my training reports and wished me well. I was really surprised they had been following my progress!
I’ve going to take so much away from this experience. Above all, it’s been great having a proper schedule to follow and a coach to give feedback on my training. Normally I tend to make things up as I go along, and just participate in whatever club sessions are happening. Having someone telling me what I need to do or change in order to change my goal has been so helpful.
What am I up to next? Well, on Saturday I’ve got a club cross-country race, then it’s the Worksop Half-Marathon on October 26. Hopefully I might also have a place in the Flora London Marathon – I entered the ballot but don’t know whether I’ve got in as my magazine will be at home! Fingers crossed…
Weeks 9 and 10
Catherine says: Having essentially tapered this week and last due to illness, I'm worried I won't have done enough, especially as my schedule doesn't have much running next week.
I was pleased to have finished the Midland Counties Road Relays – 2.68 miles – in 18:05. However it's a slower pace than my recent 10Ks, which isn’t great for less than half the distance.
I was ultra-confident after the Robin Hood Half-Marathon and the successful speed session that followed. But what a difference a week makes! Now I'm worrying that I'll have lost fitness and actually run a slower time than I did at the Newark Half-Marathon in August.
Taper madness has already kicked in and as of right now it's time to embark on my usual race preparations, beginning with caffeine depletion. My plan is to cut down my caffeine intake gradually this week and not have any on Saturday. Then I shall have a cup of coffee and a Lucozade Caffeine Boost on race morning.
Sadly there is caffeine in chocolate so that's also off the menu this week...
Steve says: Catherine began the period with a very good 15 x 300m session just two days after setting a new half-marathon PB. However, she had to miss the long recovery run due to a cold and have a few days off. She returned to run a good club relay - around 50 seconds up on her time of the year before - but she wasn't well enough to run the next day.
Nor was she able to complete a speed session on Tuesday, but she did manage two good 2K reps at inside 7:00-miling. Her next run went better and she was able to run around 11 miles in just over 90 minutes for her final long run.
While effectively losing a week's training, Catherine has quickly got back on track and assuming she is fully healthy on race day, should have a good shot at breaking her recent PB from the Robin Hood Half-Marathon.
Tess (LSPT) says: Catherine came into this experience with quite a lot of previous nutrition knowledge after reading books and information on the Internet. From me, I feel she has learnt how to apply this to her differing training sessions and how it can benefit her performance and recovery more effectively.
Catherine feels that getting into a routine is key and realises that it's important not to go into a race unprepared or try something for the first time. Time constraints have been a constant battle with her - juggling training, work and the right nutrition - but towards the end she has managed to do all of these well.
Weeks 7 and 8
Catherine says: My average pace for the Great Yorkshire Run was 6:39 so theoretically, I should have had a PB. I'm really annoyed to have missed it (and 45 seconds over seems like rather a lot), but I'm pleased with the overall pace. I did go off too quickly and paid the price for it later.
At the training day with Liz Yelling, we did a track session comprising three minutes at half-marathon pace followed by one minute at one minute faster than HM pace, four times with three-minute recoveries. At one point I heard Liz Yelling say "Fantastic running, excellent change of pace!" Yay, Liz Yelling thinks my running is fantastic! Huge thanks to Liz, Martin, Steve and the guys at Lucozade and Runner's World - it was a truly amazing day.
I ran the Robin Hood Half-marathon the day after and my Garmin recorded my time as 1:35:35, average pace 7:15. I'm absolutely over the moon to have run that time with no taper. It gives me the confidence that I actually can get 1:35 at the Great North Run.
There was no pressure on me to perform, which may have contributed to me doing rather better than expected. The same happened at last year's Great North Run when I had no intention of going for a PB but got a massive one. There's a lot to be said for having no expectations of a race!
Steve says: Catherine started her fortnight with a highly encouraging 1000m rep session in the rain. She paced herself perfectly and showed good speed (averaging 6:45 miles after the first one). She followed this with a good steady run and then a 30 minute run with the middle 10 minutes at 10K speed to remind her what pace she needed to run at the Great Yorkshire 10K at the weekend.
It didn’t seem to work as Catherine went off far too fast on race day though perhaps not as quick as the 5:32 her Garmin recorded! She still seemed to be on for a PB, but the tough hill finish (and a measurement suggesting the course may have been long), cost her a PB, but it was still a fast run and 43:00 suggests 1:35 is still possible for the Great North Run.
At the track session with Liz Yelling, Catherine ran some of the reps at a more conservative pace to conserve energy for the Robin Hood Half-Marathon the next day. And while the build-up wasn’t perfect, everything went well and she ran a sub 1:36 chip time to show she will be ready to break 1:35 at the Great North Run.
Tess (LSPT) says: Over the past few weeks Catherine’s diet has changed dramatically. She now easily has sufficient intake to fuel those runs and is allowed those treats post-race for glycogen replenishment!
Since the start of her Great North Run campaign, she has started to think a lot more about race-day nutrition preparation and what fuel she needs to maintain the speed she wishes to run. Recovery fuel has also now become a habit for Catherine and, better still, she tops this up every hour post-race with more carbohydrate.
I have been really pleased with Catherine’s enthusiasm and progression with her nutrition lately - good timing with the race approaching fast. And given her current routine, her nutrition preparation will help - rather than hinder - her achieve her target time.
Catherine's Video Diary
We caught up with Catherine at the training day with Liz Yelling (Week 8). Here's what she had to say about her experience so far...
Weeks 5 and 6
Catherine says: My speed session after the Bank Holiday didn't go entirely according to plan. I forgot to program my watch to lap pace rather than average pace, so for the first rep I had no idea what pace I was running at.
I fixed it during the recovery but then didn't have time to retrieve my drink before the next rep. This one felt harder but I had to jog the recovery to get to my drink before the next rep. Rep Three was really tough. I didn't even make it back to the start point before the watch beeped to start the last rep. It was like running through treacle. Looking at the stats afterwards it was clear I did the first rep far too fast and paid the price.
The Thursday sessions are always tough too. Maybe because my body still thinks Thursday is cross-training day so it objects when I make it go for a run. This wek was no exception. I just couldn't get into a rhythm and I kept messing up my Garmin as well - forgetting to start it after stopping to cross roads.
I love the hill sessions though. I really am a glutton for punishment! I even found myself looking forward to it all day. I suspect this was because I knew I'd be running it with my group at my club and I hardly ever get to run with them any more because the schedule doesn't fit in.
Steve says: Catherine started Week Five with an excellent 4 x 2K session at well inside seven minute miles, where she got faster in each rep, despite a few dogs and children in the way. A good recovery run plus a strong three-mile race at the Newstead Abbey Dash – averaging close to 6:30 miles were good efforts midweek.
On the Sunday, Catherine completed her fastest ever training run, where she ran 12 miles at 7:30 pace and she held her pace well and felt strong.
The speed session in Week Six was another solid effort with four mile reps, though the pacing wasn’t quite so good and the speed was probably affected by the hard run on Sunday.
After a well deserved recovery run, the Thursday tempo run with a fast stretch at half- marathon pace went well. That was followed by a very good hill session, where in contrast to the Tuesday session, the reps got faster – beginning with a 1:29 and finishing with a speedy 1:19. The final session of the fortnight was a quick but controlled long weekend run.
Catherine has run a record number of miles in August. Overall it was another excellent fortnight of running featuring a good range of speeds, and her target remains well on course, even if she did pick up a minor injury at the end of Week Six while shopping!
Tess (LSPT) says: Catherine has made a lot of progress over the past two weeks with carbohydrate ingestion during her runs, including carb gels and increasing her Lucozade Sport intake. She has been thinking about new ways for this to be possible, as well as trying to run at her optimum race pace.
Preparing with the same Lucozade Sport pouch pack that will be given out on the day means Catherine goes to the race fully prepared having an ideal fluid and carbohydrate intake during training and race day. She has also done really well to fit a good meal in at ‘tea time’ as well as having a large meal (usually pasta) at dinner time, on top of Lucozade Sport vitamins to boost her intake.
As she continues to work hard during training she has done really well to realise that nutrition also plays a really big part in a half-marathon, so correct preparation in that aspect is also key.
Weeks 3 and 4
Catherine says: My usual style is to go off like a loon at 6:30 pace, pass the 10K mark in close to a PB for that distance then hang on for dear life!
I'll give the 1:40 pace a go though at the Newark Half-Marathon. I haven't run a half that slowly since 2006 and I really couldn't be happy with anything over 1:38 unless it was really hot, really windy or really hilly. I don't think it will be any of those things. I will make a real effort not to go off at a crazy pace at Newark and aim for a 1:38 pace instead, then try to pick up the pace a bit and try to beat my current PB of 1:36:59.
After an incident with a marshal and a cordon I forgot to stop my watch. As a result, my estimated time for the Newark Half-Marathon, based on running the last 0.1 miles at an estimated pace of 7.30 was 1:36:48. This would have given me an average pace of 7:23.
One thing does bother me though. Going into last year's GNR my 10K PB was 43:20 and I ran 1:36:59. Going into today's race my 10K PB was 42:15, so surely I should have been able to take a bigger chunk off my half PB than one measly second?
The logical part of my brain perfectly understands the theory of starting slow and becoming faster, but the emotional part fears that my legs won't be able to go any faster than they already are. Maybe I need to try some of those progression runs.
Catherine began with a very good 12 x 400m session followed by two solid runs, one with a half-marathon pace section, all of which exceeded expectations – despite a few aches and pains.
Her run at Newark on a hot day wasn’t easy, but she reached her pre-race target of 1:36:58 to the second, setting a new PB. A few days later she was back in action in a 5.75 mile race (perhaps not the wisest move) and she found it difficult. Moving her speed session to later in the week, she found the short recovery 200m sessions difficult but still managed a good pace.
The best training run of the fortnight came last with a well-paced 14 mile run, with a faster section in at. Overall it’s been a very good fortnight of training and Catherine is on track to reach her target.
Tess (LSPT) says: Catherine’s training is going well. She has added more protein to her diet now that she is doing harder sessions. For runs up to 13 miles, Catherine uses a belt with three small drinks which provide a litre of fluid – enough to compensate for sweat loss. For longer runs, she has been using a Camelbak hydration pack. This is a great way to carry fluids but so far she has only drunk water. Isotonic drinks are the key to performance for longer distances so she will start to use them. One method that Catherine uses on her laps around the local lake is to stash a bottle so she has one every time she goes around.
Her general nutrition is looking good, with pasta at lunch to fuel her evening sessions. She still needs to overcome the time constraints in the evenings that result in her not eating enough in the evenings. She has some hard runs at a fast pace coming up so we have talked about the extra carbohydrate she’ll need for the increased intensity and how she is planning on get this on board.
Weeks 1 and 2
Catherine says: Week One was the first time I'd ever done a speed session on my own and I have to admit I was dreading it. You come to rely on the people you train with to pull you along and chase you down so this was definitely my first challenge of the schedule! I’m a little annoyed that I got slower with every lap, but at least I managed to keep my pace within the boundaries Steve had set.
As usual I went off too fast in the Heckington 10 but I wasn't too worried about it to start. However, by mile 5 I started to feel cold. Why on earth was I cold running on a course with minimal shade on the hottest day of the year? I tried desperately to work out what this could mean, but just kept getting slower and slower with every mile. I tried to pick up the pace for the last mile, but the clock showed a time well beyond what I wanted.
Steve says: Catherine's first main session of three-mile reps was good in terms of speed, but starting out fast and getting slightly slower indicates the need for better pacing and control. However, her mid-week steady run and tempo run were spot on.
The Heckington 10 was Catherine’s first scheduled race. Her time of 74:47 doesn't look great on paper – it equates to a 1:39 - but it was one of the hottest days of the year, and it seems the effects of dehydration played a part.
Her next speed session shows she adapts and learns quickly. She ran five steady 800s (around 3:25) and then blasted the last (3:13). She followed this with a good steady mid-week run, mixed pace tempo run and excellent long weekend run.
A great initial first fortnight's training schedule, and I'm confident that unless it’s 80ºC on October 5, Catherine will comfortably run sub-1:35.
Tess (LSPT) says: After looking at Catherine's nutrition diary, it seems that she is really lacking bigger meals and some days the energy intake she requires for the longer training sessions. This is to some extent compensated for by the regular snack bars she consumes throughout the day, but we are hopefully going to include a larger evening meal around Catherine’s busy schedule. Once she managed this with beans on toast, which is quick, easy and contains a good amount of protein for her.
Catherine has done well to integrate the Lucozade Sport products into her daily sessions, since she used to feel holding a bottle disrupted her gait. A good solution is her training belt which holds three small bottles, but we will also look at placing drinks en-route for the 10-mile-plus runs. She has not yet tried carbo gels on a long run, so we will look at this soon to maximise her carbohydrate stores on race day.
Catherine says: In 2001, I almost died from septicaemia and pneumonia, but was lucky to be young and otherwise healthy so made a full recovery. Five years later, I decided to raise some money for Meningitis Research and entered the Great North Run. I'd only ever completed 5K in a Race for Life before.
I found training on a treadmill unbelievably boring, so – since I was scared to run alone - joined my nearest running club instead. I must have sent them a thousand emails beforehand as I was so convinced I wouldn’t be good enough. Eventually I plucked up the courage to go along, and I’ve never looked back.
I’m now a dedicated club runner (as well as club secretary) and frequent racer. I even won gold in the Notts 10K County Champs last month.
My half-marathon times have fallen from 1:40:30 to 1:36:59, but according to the WAVA calculators, I should be able to run under 1:35. I’m not sure I believe them, but am looking forward to using my ability and determination to put them to the test.
Catherine is a highly competitive Redhill Road Runner and seems to be racing almost as much as she trains! Her half-marathon PB is 1:36:59 (at the Great North Run) and a time of 1:35, or possibly even significantly faster, is possible based on some shorter recent road race results.
Catherine also likes to fit in weights, gym work, core work and the odd bike ride which, together with her race commitments, call for a slight adaption to her training. Her social long runs over hilly and sandy terrain are slower than I would normally recommend, but with frequent races, there is less need to worry about speed on the longer runs.
Tess (LSPT) says:
Catherine's diet is already very healthy, consisting mainly of pasta, kidney beans and tuna. I've asked Catherine to keep a food diary so we can closely monitor if the amount of food she consumes is sufficient to fuel her five training sessions a week.
Catherine needs to eat more protein post-training and post- competition and I would also like her to introduce more variety to her diet, although the supplements she currently takes may already compensate for the lack of variety.