And the sunshine continues!

I’m pleased to say that the training is still going strong!

After Saturday’s skating trip, I took it easy on Sunday, but come Monday the 14-mile daily cycling commute started all over again. I have to say, it certainly feels easier in the beautiful sunshine! The Surrey countryside is gorgeous! I’ll have to take some pictures along the route at some point – I keep meaning to, but it’s so easy to forget when you constantly have large vehicles passing you with barely an inch to spare ..

(Swearing at them in response, however, is a great stress reliever! At least, so I’ve been told ..)

Today, I jumped back on the marathon bandwagon and got out for my first (official) training run. The schedule said three miles, but with the weather as beautiful as it is, I made it 3.25. (I had promised my friend we would only run 5k – though she seemed quite pleased when I showed her my sports band at the end! Longest run yet, and at a consistent sub-11 minute pace! You rock!)

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Summer running gear makes me happy! This is actually the first time I’ve run outside in a sleeveless running top, and the first time I’ve run my short route in daylight! Winter lasted foreeever last (this?) year!

As the photographic evidence proves, I even foam rolled. It hurt. Cycling has really tightened my calves and quads, and falling out of my running routine has also thrown me off of my stretching/rolling routine. I’m definitely going to have to put aside more time for it each day, even if I’m not necessarily running.

As for the My Fitness Pal app, I’m loving it! I’ve stuck to my 1360 daily calorie goal for three days now. In fact, as it stands I still have 620 left for this evening! Extra snacks for the win!

It’s a great motivator for working out. I got home yesterday evening, and had eaten a bigger lunch than I had planned – I really wanted some chocolate, but didn’t quite have enough calories left for that and my evening meal. So what did I do? I speed-walked up the big hill to Sainsburys to buy said chocolate, burning off the necessary calories in the process (and a little extra. Woo!)

My friends have told me that it isn’t supposed to work that way, and that I’m not meant to burn calories as an excuse to eat more .. But where’s the fun in burning calories, if you don’t get to use it as an excuse to eat more chocolate!?

I don’t understand this dieting malarkey.

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Skating in the sunshine

I’ve been fairly healthy the past few days. A friend introduced me to a new Android app – ‘My Fitness Pal’ – which calculates how many calories you should have each day to maintain/lose weight. You have to enter everything you eat, and all of the exercise you do, which makes it a great source of motivation for healthy eating as you instantly feel guilty if your calories go too high! Cycling to work is awesome though, because by the time I get to my desk, the cycle has cancelled out my breakfast! More snacks for me!

For the past few days I’ve been having low-fat vanilla yoghurt and sliced strawberries for breakfast. It’s light, tasty and low calorie – a brilliant combo!

yoghurt
I mean, I do love my porridge/toast, but if I have either of those, I inevitably add honey or peanut butter (to the porridge and toast respectively), which aren’t particularly forgiving on the calories/sugar front.

As a slight contrast, this has been a bit (!) of a burger weekend so far. Yesterday evening my boyfriend and I went out for dinner, and somehow I found myself with a reeeally tasty burger and mojito:

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Best combo ever – I’d forgotten how much I love a good mojito. Sooo much lime .. Yum!

Today, the two of us and a couple of friends decided to make the most of the glorious sunshine and headed into London, to skate in Hyde Park. With it being a) sunny and b) marathon weekend, there were tons of people about – and even more than usual because of an event called the ‘420’. I didn’t know anything about it, so was extremely confused when the guy behind the till at M&S mentioned he was heading to Hyde Park to smoke pot this afternoon, and was that why I was going, too?

I assumed he was already a little high, if I’m honest. But it turns out that it was a perfectly valid question – ‘420’, I learnt is the police code for pot smokers, and every April 20th (4/20) hundreds of people congregate in Hyde Park to smoke pot, listen to music and generally chill out. Unfortunately, this meant that every now and then a waft of pot smoke would drift past us, which was disgusting .. But the fun we had skating was definitely worth it!

I hadn’t actually skated since I was back in school, so I was a little rusty (read: wobbly and hazardous to pedestrians) at first:

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But with a little help (ok, a lot) from my boyfriend and friends, I was skating along quite comfortably by the end. They tried to teach me to ‘t-stop’, but I didn’t quite master it – instead, I found a much better alternative: Stop moving my legs, and slowly roll towards whichever friend was closest, hoping they would either not notice me (the preferable option, as I was then able to grab their backpack and stop entirely) or catch me (which, to be fair, also made me stop moving .. when they actually agreed to catch me, that is).

.. I’m assuming this is why they took it upon themselves to actively teach me to stop in a variety of different ways that didn’t involve me rolling into inanimate objects or living things.

What can I say? I’m creative!

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And here’s the expert! (Though I clearly look more professional ..)

After nearly three hours of skating (I’m pleased to say I didn’t fall over once!), we headed to an American diner near Euston station, for American burgers and milkshakes. I caved and went for the cheeseburger, which was delicious! In true American style, the portions were really generous (awesome!) and they served my milkshake in the metal jug that they made it in, and gave me a glass on the side – I got 2 and a half servings!

Needless to say, I’ve not filled in today’s calorie count. Maybe I’ll start over with the app on Monday ..

I’m beginning to think I should probably squeeze in a run tomorrow.

Back on the running scene – Race for Life!

My quads are reeeally unhappy with me right now. I’ve just begun to get used to cycling 12 miles a day – though the weather hasn’t helped! 19mph winds are hell to cycle into, and somehow my friend and I end up cycling into the wind both on the way there and on the way home!? The Universe is clearly trying to tell me something ..

Half marathon training has started this week in earnest. This time I’m taking it slowly and building up very gradually (my friend and I still have 20 weeks before our half, and I have 18 weeks until another half I signed up for), but whilst I’ve shortened the length of the weekday runs I’ve added a fourth each week. In theory, we’ll do 1 interval session, 1 recovery run, 1 tempo run, and 1 long run. This week, all of them are 30 mins/3 miles, so hopefully my legs won’t hate me too much!

Yesterday I got home, swapped my bike for my running gear and headed out 10 minutes later on a 3 miler along the river. It was cool, sunny and not too windy (I’m beginning to think the wind waits until I get on my bike to pick up!) and the views were gorgeous:

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I’ll admit, I didn’t take this picture yesterday (I took it another evening). I never take my phone on my runs. I kind of want to though, as I use my longer runs as an excuse to explore the surrounding countryside, and Surrey offers some looovely scenery. I’ll have to dig out my arm band!

So, back to the unhappy quads. A while back, when I went to the physio about my shin/foot pain I was told I needed to strengthen my knees (along with a number of other things). One of the exercises I was recommended was 1-legged squats. For some reason, last night it seemed like a really good idea to do normal AND 1-legged squats. The problem is, I was reading my Kindle as I did them, and lost track .. I ended up doing 100 normal squats, 50 1-legged squats on each leg, and then 50 calf raises. My legs didn’t hurt at the time (except for during the calf raises – they’re killer! Who knew!?), but flipping heck, cycling into 19mph winds all the way home this evening made my quads constantly burn. And they’re still aching!!

Serves me right I guess!

On the plus side, the knee pain that flared up recently was much better today. It’s hard to say whether the exercises did any good though, as I also slathered my knees in anti-inflammatory gel (which I think they probably appreciated more!!)

On the topic of 3-mile runs, our team’s race packs arrived today for Race for Life! Exciting! It’s been far too long since I had a race number:

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For those of you not from the UK, Race for Life is an annual women-only 5/10k running event to raise money for cancer research. In an act of shameless self promotion, if any of you lovely people want to donate to a good cause, please support our team through our sponsorship page here!

I also spontaneously signed up for a 10k this Saturday, thinking I had an extra week .. But then I was invited to go rollerblading in Hyde Park. 10k undulating trail run, or skating in Hyde Park? Given we’re predicted sunshine over the weekend, I think London might just win that one .. I’m such a fickle runner.

In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy an evening of doing no exercise whatsoever. And I should probably make myself foam roll properly – though I don’t think I’ll enjoy that quite so much!

Week in review 13/04

Bit of a lengthy post this time, as I didn’t have a chance to post anything earlier in the week!

To start off with, I had a standard check-up at the doctors a few days ago. The result was a very healthy blood pressure – something that hadn’t been discussed with me before. Usually, they take my blood pressure, nod, and move on. When I think about it, I’ve never really considered how healthy I am (or not)  – my blood pressure and other things haven’t really crossed my mind before. I guess when you’re young. you just assume you’re healthy, unless you feel otherwise!

I’ve checked my resting heart rate a few times, having briefly researched the idea of training according to heart rate rather than perceived effort (given that my sports band doesn’t have a heart-rate monitor, this didn’t really catch on), and I found that my resting heart rate is particularly low. Now I don’t feel suuuper healthy – I’ve never had any real health problems, sure, but I didn’t think I was in a particularly good shape (especially as I feel like keeling over at the end of any big hill)!

My resting heart rate came out at 56 bpm. Taking a look at the table below, this puts me in the ‘athlete’ category:

bpmThe thing is, that table only goes down to 54bpm? How can I be that healthy!? I’ve checked this out on a few different sites, and they seem to offer the same categories. I’m still not convinced.

As far as my blood pressure goes, I was told mine is 107/70. I had a look around, and it seems that the healthy range for blood pressure is 90/60 to 140/90 – which means that mine is comfortably on the low side. Whilst I’m not a great runner by any means, it seems that running has really done me some good over the last year. My body is stronger, and of course my heart and lungs have benefitted! (Also, legging it through Waterloo to get the fast train home works a lot better now that my legs aren’t fundamentally opposed to going faster than a brisk walk).

Talking of running, today’s parkrun was a VERY muddy one – and I nearly fell on my face a number of times! But despite the treacherous conditions, I knocked 1:55 off last week’s PB, coming in at 33:54. Woo!

I awarded myself accordingly:

parkrun

A very muddy pair of trainers, and the world’s tastiest dark chocolate EVER!

Whilst I might have fallen off of the healthy eating wagon this afternoon (by eating half of the aforementioned chocolate in one sitting), my week on the whole has been pretty healthy. I made a lovely batch of strawberry and banana smoothies last week! It almost feels like spring! (Until you look out of the window at the torrential rain).

strawberries

I’m quite disappointed that I won’t be running Brighton tomorrow. Then again, I think it’s for the best, as my knees are still niggling. I managed to defer my place to next year, which means that I’m definitely in, and I’m glad that I have a whole year to build up the mileage slowly.

In the meantime, I’ve signed up for a couple of half marathons, to motivate me to keep the miles up; the first will be the Thames Meander half marathon, in August. It’s meant to be a beautiful (and mostly flat) course – fingers crossed for some sunshine! It’s a ‘moderately undulating’ trail run, so I’m going to be putting in some hill work over the next couple of months in preparation. It’s going to be painful.

Two weeks after the Thames Meander is the Bacchus half marathon. Now, this one looks particularly good, and I’ve managed to rope in a few workmates to run it with me! It’s hosted by the Denbies Wine Estate, which means that we get to taste test different wines all the way round the course. Instant win! I would say I’m running it for the challenge of an off-road race (given that I suck at running on anything that isn’t flat!) and the gorgeous views:

The route is undulating and multi-terrain with a bias towards off road.  Using footpaths along the North Downs Way, you will be guaranteed breathtaking views over the Mole Valley, Ranmore Common and the North Downs.

But if I’m completely honest, what stood out to me most was this:

‘.. in addition to the expected, you will also find a perfect opportunity to sample some of the best wines that local vineyard Denbies have to offer.  Fancy dress, although not compulsory, is strongly encouraged.’

All I need to do now is get back to running! To be fair, cycling 12 miles a day, 5 days a week is definitely good cross training – but my weekly running has now gone down to 2 40-minute treadmill sessions, and a parkrun. At least this time I’m only (!) building up to 13.1!

.. Until the full marathon training starts, of course.

A little wander over the moors

There are endless training plans for running 26.2 miles; endless resources for ways to build up the distance, manage your hydration and nutrition, kit and everything else.

But what about training for a 31 mile hike across the moors?

According to the organisers:

This circular long distance walk, the Exmoor Perambulation, is a traditional walk dating back over 725 years. It’s one of the most challenging walks in the Exmoor annual calendar and during the 31 miles of cross country walking you will be taking in breathtaking views and accessing parts of the National Park not normally open to the public. You will also be participating in a bit of history! Every June hundreds of people from around the country come together to tread the boundary of the old Royal Forest of Exmoor and pass through some unique areas of Exmoor not normally accessible to the public.’

Granted, I’ll be walking it. But with a notorious hill dubbed ‘Green Mountain’, streams and rivers to cross, stiles and boggy fields to navigate, it’s not exactly a gentle Sunday stroll.

I’ve tried this event twice before. The first time, in 2010, my parents and I did the half distance. Not realising just how serious the event was, I turned up in a vest top and cardigan, with cheap trainers on my feet:

Surrounded by serious and seasoned hikers, and completely unprepared.


If it hadn’t been dry that year, there’s no way I would ever have made it to the end. Somehow, I did – and it was brilliant.

Last year, we decided to try the full distance. My parents had attempted it the year before, but severe weather conditions meant that they were stopped at the final checkpoint, with just 5 miles to go.

It was a bit grey and misty when we set off, but the skies cleared, and we enjoyed a little bit of sunshine as we passed the half-way point. We were in high spirits, and this time I was wearing sensible walking shoes, various layers, and had a waterproof coat in my rucksack (yes, I even had a rucksack that year). Unfortunately, the weather decided to shake things up a bit, and as we passed the checkpoint just before the FINAL checkpoint, the heavens opened. The volunteers asked if we wanted to get a lift back to the start, but being so close to the final checkpoint and those elusive five miles to the finish, we pushed on.

We soon realised that our waterproof jackets weren’t waterproof. We shuffled along an endless road, visibility decreasing by the minute as the fog rolled in, a bitter wind pressing our wet clothes against us and making us shiver. My legs had never felt so stiff. We never made it to that final checkpoint; instead, one of the organisers’ buses pulled up alongside us to pick us up, telling us that the event had once again been cancelled due to dangerous weather conditions.

Psychologically, it felt as difficult as I expect a marathon to feel towards the end – my whole body hurt, I was stiffening up, I was tired and miserable and wanted to give up. My legs ached for days afterwards. My parents had run Brighton a few months before, and agreed that both events were on a similar level.

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When the sun came out, the views on the moors were spectacular.
You can just make out a few teeny people on the bottom right of the left-hand image!

But we refused to be defeated, and signed up once again to try the full distance. This summer, we’re determined to get to the finish line – this time, with waterproof jackets that are actually waterproof.

And preferably, without the torrential rain, bitter wind, and crazy amounts of fog.

Third time lucky, right!?