Well this last weekend ended somewhat differently to the last few weeks in that I didn’t include a long training run or even make it to park run on Saturday. We had friends over for my husbands birthday and coupled with some recurring insomnia at the end of the previous week I just couldn’t get it together to hit the road. For the most part though I was feeling ok about it and kept telling myself that I had worked really hard the previous week and had a big run planned for the forthcoming weekend so this was part of my tapering to be race ready for Sunday.
What I was not expecting was actual nightmares; two nights in a row, in fact. My first nightmare was very vivid, depicting me in the London Marathon running with a non identifiable companion with no other runner in sight. Foolishly the race organisers hadn’t put together any directions for me. Try as I might I just couldn’t navigate the course and didn’t have a clue where I was headed however I did make time to stop for an extended lunch break which saw me enter hour 6 after completing just seven miles (not ideal race pace then). I woke abruptly at 4.30am after this with a pounding heart and dry mouth and didn’t really make it back to sleep much after this as I chewed over the fact that I hadn’t put in any miles over the weekend. The same happened last night and again I woke up at just after 4.30am harboring the same horrible anxiety as the previous night! I tossed and turned but did manage to cat nap until the shrill tones of my alarm disrupted my slumber. At 6.20am I heaved my weary body from bed and into the car for a spin class but not before loading the dishwasher, putting a wash on and a quick tidy of the kitchen (I feel procrastination may be creeping in at this stage). I found the class much harder this week and had made myself a little bit late after my chores but at least I’d made it. Tonight I will make time for some core and strength training before the Brighton Half Marathon beckons on Sunday.
A few weekends ago provided a welcome change of scenery for my longer run. Heading up to beautiful North Yorkshire with full running kit packed I was excited to take in a coastal run and shake off the cobwebs. The run did not disappoint and I enjoyed taking in some absolutely breathtaking sea views on my 13 mile Sunday morning run. I find running by the sea really exhilarating and this part of our small island really is breath-taking. Looking out at the sea truly remind you how insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things and how small your struggles are, I find this helps to keep my mind in check and my motivation high. It really was much more inspiring than a cold, grey day pounding the pavements next to busy traffic which I seem to have done lots of in the last few weeks. However I have to fly the flag for the East Midlands at this point- we are really lucky here too! I regularly enjoy runs around a very special local nature reserve (where I have enjoyed watching my first swallow murmuration), through beautiful parks, Stately homes and deer parks so it’s not all bad!
On this particular weekend I decided not to do my regular getting up an hour before I needed to run for two reasons; one I was shattered and couldn’t face setting my alarm for any time before 8am, secondly I wanted to see how long I could realistically and effectively run my body on its fat reserves before I “bonked” (a very technical term for very dramatically running out of energy). It was a real experiment and about a mile in I realised I was going to be out for a lot longer than I had been advised for a fasting run, I struggled a little at my mid-way point but had a protein bar squirreled away so after two bites I slowly started to get my pace back. The run provided lots of beautiful views including taking in the striking Whitby Abbey in the distance, I did pause the Garmin a few times to take a few snaps which I will try and add in when I get the chance.
This run also made me realise that my training is providing me with lots of opportunities for a running anecdote; this run saw me doing a convincing impression from the 90’s family entertainment show ‘Gladiators’. The wind was so fierce at the beginning of the run that I must have looked like I was taking on the travelator, static style. Any dog walkers that were out took to the benches along the trail as they were literally being blown backwards but I knew if I stopped I’d find it hard to get going again so I kept telling myself it was resistance training (literally)! As I struggled to make any progress in moving forwards, almost doubling over to force myself through the wind tunnel. I couldn’t suppress the laughing as I caused some very perplexed looks from sheep along the route who turned slowly round to look at me and take a good look at the nutter who had just disturbed their breakfast. It’s at times like this you really question the lengths you go to in order to make your training quota for the week!
The mud added the second comedy element; at times I slowed to almost walking pace as it was so thick and treacle like that it became impossible to move my feet through it quickly enough and keep my balance. During my last bout of training I had felt really smug about doing all this at the time of year when it was reasonably warm and I could make the most of the light evenings; this time has been an eye opener as I’ve really had to consider when I can get my runs in safely and I’ve definitely had to embrace mud and the challenges of winter weather including not being able to run outdoors when it has been icy or snowy to reduce the risk of injury.
There has been so much to consider and it has been much harder to motivate myself this time but I know I am getting there and last week felt for the first time that my fitness had noticeably improved. This weekend I did NO RUNNING (shock horror) as it was my husband’s birthday but I figured that’s ok as I’ll be heading down to Brighton to do the half marathon on Sunday. This week I will work on getting some slow, steady miles in to keep everything ticking over.
So after attending the running workshop it’s fair to say that this has impacted how I think about training and nutrition a fair bit. I’m trying to do more of my shorter runs (up to one hour) before eating to kick start my body into burning fats, making it more efficient in preparation for such a big physical effort. The other big difference is checking in on my heart rate a little more often than I have done before. The result of this is that I am actually working less vigorously but for a longer time keeping my heart rate in that all important zone two.
I managed an 11 mile run last weekend which was better than I’d anticipated after really struggling with my back all week so I’m pleased to get a few more miles in my legs. My longer run was mainly solo again which I wasn’t looking forward too but my lovely husband agreed to keep me company for the first half an hour which was a welcome novelty. This time for the first time I tried navigating a more interesting run on my own (after a frantic google maps session the night before and scribbling a vague plan on a piece of note paper)- my current watch doesn’t have a navigation tool which hadn’t been an issue until now. It felt good running at a slower but strong pace and I even managed to get some dreaded hills in, keeping my form in check rather than being bent double and almost crawling up some of the more aggressive inclines. I’d had 10 miles in mind for this run but as I approached home I was at around 10.6 so in true runners style I just had to run around the block to hit 11. Everything had gone well and although my hips and lower back were pretty tight (standard practice for me) I felt ok. Lesson learned AGAIN- cool down properly. I got home and we were rushing to go out again so I was showering, cooking some quick scrambled eggs (whilst simultaneously doing some token kitchen stretching) and tidying up so after being sat in the car for an hour immediately afterwards I felt like someone had locked my knee joints. You really can’t overlook the importance of a good dynamic pre run warm up and taking time afterwards to properly cool down and stretch out your body you won’t escape the after effects. The effects have been longer lasting with the back of my thighs being really quite sore at the beginning of the week so bouts of yoga and back to the despised foam roller to help alleviate things.
I didn’t let this hold me back though as I managed an early morning spin session at the beginning of the week and although the instructor had devised a new, tougher routine I felt really strong all the way through so hope this is signalling a real upwards trend in my fitness.
I’m hoping to make it to my second outing with the athletics club tonight, this time armed with a friendly face who I did quite a few of my longer training runs with last year. Wish me luck!
So this week (w/c 29th Jan) has been a bit off plan as somehow I’ve tweaked my back so I have taken the opportunity to go along to a local running workshop/ talk (somewhat ironically sitting down the whole way through). A very knowledgeable chap- Andy Brooks from Peak Running delivered the session (thanks to Kerstine at KH Physiotherapy for organising this) and I had quite the epiphany around things my husband has been trying to explain to me for years about fitness, training and nutrition. As a side note it’s heart-warming to know the use of PowerPoint still has its place! So although I hadn’t been able to get out running I felt equipped with new information to make the best of the time I was able to train. I learnt how to work out my different heart rate zones which is actually really helpful and knowing that I should actually try and keep my heart rate a bit lower than I had been during training to teach my body to be more efficient with burning fat for energy rather than carbs and what tactics to use for race day as well as some more about cadence.
The nutrition section backed up what I had been researching and trying to practice for a while, I’m at a point where I’m trying to stay off the sugar wagon (on the whole) for good! Take a look at ‘That Sugar Film’ for an interesting view about the sugar industry and the effects on society- it makes for pretty terrifying watching. However having said that I’m only human and I am mightily excited about a Reece’s Peanut Butter Easter treat or three post marathon (other peanut butter treats are available).
Over the last few months and particularly since I started training for my first marathon last year I’ve really enjoyed doing more cooking from scratch and experimenting with different recipes. Being veggie I never found a cookbook that really inspired me but about a year ago I bought Deliciously Ella Everyday and honestly it has been an absolute game changer. To be able to dip into a book and choose any recipe (not having to flick past fish and meat ones) with recipes that don’t list 300 ingredients and don’t require three hours prep has been fantastic. I have since bought another of her books and also use her app, by doing this I have discovered the style of food I love and now feel confident to look online for new recipes which has opened up a whole new world in terms of cooking. This new style of cooking did mean that in the beginning I had to re stock my store cupboard with lots of unfamiliar ingredients which was expensive at first but they are now a staple and they last. My best friend jokes that I now have a ‘hipster cupboard’! Initially I tried to buy only what I needed, keeping things orderly but it turns out I have a radar for heath food shops and now visit one each time I am within a five mile radius stocking up on things I will definitely use, will perhaps need and will never use in a million years. All these items are now precariously rammed into the bottom shelf of our larder unit much to the amusement of any visitors as at least four or five items drop out each time we open the cupboard.
Other than that this week has consisted of a few very tentative gym sessions, plenty of yoga and rolling my hips over tennis balls (as painful as it sounds), hot baths and some massage but I’m learning to tune into what my body is telling me and not to simply carry on regardless. I’ve also tried to get back into some mindfulness practice this week as I figured that might help to give me some mental resilience so I don’t reach a point where I feel overwhelmed with to do lists, training schedules and the guilt complex (as mentioned in a previous post). A calmer approach to everything will be more productive in the long term and I know from previous experience that even just 10-15 minutes practice a day can make a huge difference.
For me running is as much about mental effort as it is physical so I’m trying my best to look after both.
So the latest and most exciting news of my training so far is I have finally joined my local Athletics club! I found the group a mere 18 months ago after I quite literally ran into the group during a social run. My first impression of this formidable force was unbridled terror! To me in that moment they all projected a glossy sports magazine like appearance and seemed to have similar physiques to the likes of Paula Radcliffe and Mo Farah. They were an impressive but, at the time equally scary sight and I remember quite vividly stopping and turning to one of the other women in the group in absolute transfixed wonderment and gasping “Who were they?” (commence the open mouth fly catching stance that took hold for the next few seconds).
The feeling of seeing this perfectly synchronised, fast paced Athletics group running speedily through the trees like a herd of sleek gazelle’s never left me and despite my fear, the overriding desire was wanting to be a part of it. As I mentioned in an earlier post athletics is something I loved at school and quite honestly my biggest regret in life despite being offered chances to compete at a higher level was that my lack of confidence held me back.
I thought my chance to get involved in an athletics club was long past. As an adult this fear of failure was still bubbling away somewhere near the surface and despite finding an exciting looking club on my doorstep when I relocated, I kept talking myself out of joining. Therefore taking a leap of faith and going along to the group for the first time has been a real milestone for me, not only proving to myself that I can be a competitor but that fear shouldn’t rule your choices as surely the biggest failure would be not taking the opportunity at all. I’m realistic and know I’ll never be the fittest or fastest member of this group so really there’s no failure to be found.
Being part of the group even just once has reinvigorated me and has provided a new focus and a challenging element to my training.
So this is a familiar emotion in training for me and I’ve heard lots of other runners talking about it in various forums and social media groups. I’ve always lived with this trait as a bothersome weight on my shoulders but since commencing training for my last marathon I have found a new level of guilt slipping it’s pesky tentacles into every precious corner of my weekends and in particular my longed for weekend mornings. Although I’ve never particularly been the sort of person to enjoy endless lie-ins of a weekend it’s always nice to consider that this kind of indulgence is at least an option, I find even just the thought itself can help the pressures of a busy week seem more manageable.
So after my most intense week of marathon training to date came to a close (equating to my hardest spin session to date, three yoga sessions, one very hilly and quick seven mile mid week run, one pre work gym session and a core session) I set my alarm for my local Park Run on Saturday and thought I’d get back into this as a good habit before my much longer training run on Sunday. However the first hurdle presented itself on Friday evening when I felt prematurely smug at the thought of compiling all my kit ready for the next morning to give me that blissful extra 10 minutes in bed. At this point I realised I had put my Park Run barcode through the wash after my last festive jaunt out (you need a barcode to receive an official time), arrgghhh! Ah well I thought, I know where my spare barcodes are, or so I thought. As my husband will gladly tell anyone I absolutely hate losing things, to a completely irrational level in fact though the irony is I do this on a daily basis so having turned the house upside down trying to find a barcode, I madly googled if I could take part just using my runner number or via my phone but the answer was obviously and quite simply no. Hmmmm!! Although a minor setback to most people, this really changed my motivation towards a Saturday morning run, making me realise just how competitive I am and how much I anticipate the ping of my Saturday lunch time e-mail updating me on my run time. However I thought it would be silly to forgo taking part so set my alarm in readiness for the morning.
Saturday morning arrived more abruptly than I (and I imagine the rest of the nation) would have liked and as usual I was wide awake by 7am already making mental lists of jobs to do over the weekend and feeling quite honestly absolutely shattered. I thought for a second and rolled over to turn my alarm off, I just couldn’t help thinking enough’ s enough for this week, I really needed some more sleep before my long run tomorrow. I could have lived with this idea in theory but as it turned out my mind continued whirling through the pro’s and con’s of not getting up and out. In the end after an hour and a half of tossing and turning the guilt levels at the prospect of not running hit a crescendo and it was clear I wasn’t getting anymore sleep. Somewhat reluctantly I heaved my achy legs out of bed and away from the warmth of bed and pulled on my running uniform, strapping on my activity tracker watch and arming myself with an Ipod full of motivational music. Heading out of the house it was much milder than I thought and the street was already bathed in a golden glow, mornings like this make it much easier to hit the streets. However it was a particularly muddy Park run and felt more like cross country but I felt better once I had started, much more productive than staying in bed and being kept awake by worrying anyway. So despite my lack of barcode, the Garmin went on and I even achieved a PB so in the end it all seemed worthwhile, despite the stitch just over a mile in!
A productive start to the weekend, (roused by runners guilt) if not a little sleep deprived.
If you have never given Park Run a go I absolutely urge anyone to give it a try, it’s a fantastic community and people of all abilities take part with friendly volunteers and spectators along the way and all for free. Park run is the sort of unique initiative that really brings communities together and helps people to feel there is a place for them in sport, encouraging people to look after their physical and mental well being without having to pay for an expensive gym membership!
So last Saturday was the first of my longer training runs and boy was it a shocker!! I really thought I’d be ok fitness wise as I’d done a few runs since the marathon in October and had kept up my weekly gym and spin sessions. However it seems all the mince pies (which might I add at any other time of the year would be snubbed in favor of nearly anything else) and copious amounts of Christmas curry did not in fact contribute towards marathon training. In fact my eating habits over Christmas apparently temporarily disarmed any sense of early warning system for overeating I may have had but rather disappointingly did nothing to build my stamina in a running sense. Who’d have thought it?! It definitely felt like a test of physical prowess at the time.
So onwards and upwards and back to pounding the pavements early on a weekend morning. Alarm set for 6.30am on a Saturday (I’m pretty convinced marathon training is an actual sickness) to get up and get a big bowl of porridge down in plenty of time for my 8am run. Thankfully I had a running buddy for my first one back and thank goodness as it really was a shocker. Even the warm up, done begrudgingly in a cosy kitchen in the company of a very confused pet rabbit was enough to see me reaching for my inhaler! Trying not to panic I realised I was pushing it to get to our meeting point on time so thought a pacy jog would be an effective crescendo to my warm up- ( 5 minutes in total). This caused me to be greeted by a concerned looking face enquiring… “Are you ok?” Hmm perhaps not quite the start I’d been aiming for. After catching my breath we set off aiming for about 10 miles. I was already crying inside but know from experience the biggest challenge from previous training was the mental battle to keep positive. I really tried but even as 2 miles approached the familiar red hot needle pain in my left knee reared it’s ugly heard again and I found it more and more difficult to silence the voice telling me “What on earth are you doing this for again?”, “You’ve forfeited the chance for a bit longer in bed for….?” “6.30am on a Saturday, really, you honestly want to give up your weekend AGAIN when you’re already this tired?” “feel that knee pain again, yes again, what on earth are you doing, just stop, go home, have a cuppa and get back into bed- that sounds much nicer doesn’t it?” “You don’t NEED to do this marathon do you!” This effectively carried on in a torturous loop for most of the time I was out. At times I was physically shaking my head as if trying to shake this critical voice out of my mind- goodness only knows what I looked like to passers by!
However as time passed I slowly started to find my pace again and even find enjoyment in the small things like the beautiful sound of morning bird song that I knew most other people were missing at this time on a weekend morning, this feeling of freedom is what draws me back to running. However I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was finding it much more challenging than anticipated though reassuringly we were keeping up a good pace and getting some hills in.
We stopped for a comfort break towards the end and boy oh boy did we pay for it, we both struggled to get our legs even moving again let alone running. I was swinging my legs from my hip as one stiff and inefficient lead weight which did provide a source of some hilarity for a short time at least. However after five minutes or so they started to feel back to normal again and that feeling of being on the homeward stretch is hard to beat. I ducked off a little earlier than planned as my knee by this time was really twingy so I headed home to get some yoga in and roll around the floor on a tennis ball- the way I would now spend many of my evenings during my not so rock ‘n roll period of marathon training.