The time I cycled 45 miles to Brighton

 

A few weeks ago, I cycled 45 off-road miles along the Downs Link from Guildford to Brighton on a whim. I liked the look of the route, so I figured I might as well give it a go. Why not, right?

I hadn’t trained; I cycled it on my cheap old hybrid, and I filled my backpack with Soreen and Snickers and peanut butter bagels and chocolate coated raisins. It was over 20 miles further than I’d ever cycled before, and hillier than I expected, and I got lost a few times .. But it was sunny and warm and beautiful and I loved every single minute of it.

brighton1

I was apprehensive, to say the least. I had never gone further than Cranleigh on that route (9 miles), I’d never had to fix a puncture before (or any other mechanical bike problem) and was cycling solo. I pretty much just crossed my fingers that nothing would go wrong and decided ‘to hell with it’. Plus, I really wanted fish and chips…

The first part of the route was a lovely flat disused railway line. It was nearly deserted for the first couple of hours, except for some charity walkers, a couple of other cyclists and a horse rider or two. It was also very easy to navigate, with easy-to-spot Downs Link signs at regular intervals.

The second 10 miles or so were reeeally beautiful:

brighton blue

Carpets of beautiful bluebells. Miles and miles of them, surrounded by woodland. I got lost on this stretch, as there were a few different paths through the woodland, but a very kind runner spotted me and helped me out! And once back onto the path after a slight diversion, it was smooth sailing again for another hour or so.

brighton grey

A lot of the second half of the route was through open countryside, which was brilliant. As well as it being easy peasy to find your way, you could see for miles and the views were stunning.

Whilst the majority of the route was along the Downs Link, there were a couple of diversions onto quiet country roads:

brighton roadsBut these were very clearly signposted and I only saw one car the whole time. Perfect!

It got a bit tricky when I reached the South Downs Way and Coastal Link – there were signposts and coloured arrows everywhere, and I got a bit muddled trying to work out which one to follow:

brighton beachBut after a few false starts, I managed to find the path to Shoreham on Sea, and from there it was one straight (main) road into Brighton.

I didn’t take my Garmin, so I have no idea what the exact distance was, or how long it took me, or what pace I was going; but the moment I clambered off my bike and stood there looking out at the sparkling blue sea, none of that mattered. The pride I felt when I finished my little adventure was epic.

I think for a while now I’ve been a bit caught up with times and paces and mile splits and distances and endless targets. Whilst training for events is great, and the crowds and medals and goodie bags are awesome, I think in many ways my cycle to Brighton topped it all.

There’s nothing better than pushing yourself up a crazy huge hill in the middle of nowhere, on your cheap old bike, with no real idea of where you are (but hoping you’re still vaguely on track), just to feel the sun on your face and the wind in your hair as you free-wheel back down the other side, wobbling and bumping over the loose gravel and getting splattered with mud and unable to wipe the ridiculous grin off your face.

I think I need a bit more of that.

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Paris Marathon: 4 (!!) weeks to go

I wanted to do a bit of a round-up for this week. Firstly, because it’s just 4 weeks (!!) until Paris – but also because this is the first week that I’ve really felt on track with my training, and my sub-5 marathon goal. Happy face!

countdown

My colleagues have drawn me a countdown on one of the office whiteboards. It’ll be down to the 20s tomorrow – Gulp!

Monday: I gave myself a recovery day after the Surrey Half, but my legs felt pretty good.

Tuesday: My friend and I joined the ladies at the Reebok run club for a social, relaxed 3.6 miles.

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Photo from the FitHub Facebook page

Wednesday: I forgot my pilates kit, so took another rest day – whoops!

Thursday: 4.1 hilly miles at an average of 10:31, with splits of 10:25, 10:32, 10:37 and 10:29.

Friday: 1 mile swim in 46 minutes.

sunrise

It was almost light at 6am! Spring is coooming!

Saturday: Guildford parkrun’s 3rd birthday! 32:07, with splits of 10:40, 10:21 and 10:26.

Sunday: Kingston Breakfast Run 16 miler. 03:00:28, so an average of 11:15/mile. (Race report up soon!)

Assuming I can keep up the pace for the full 26.2, I’m currently looking at a time of 4h50ish for Paris, which would be AWESOME – but I’ll have a better idea of my expected pace after my 18/19 miler next weekend. (And then it’s the taper! Eeek!)

Are you signed up for a spring marathon? How’s your training going? 🙂

Training for a second marathon

There are upsides and downsides to training for your second marathon, compared to your first.

One the upside, you know what to expect.

On the downside … You know what to expect.

I’m only into week 3 of my marathon training plan, and it’s already had all manner of ups and downs. Week 1 – Christmas week – was spent fighting off a nasty cold, with all of the Lemsip, Strepsils, ‘hot toddys’ (port, hot water, brown sugar and cloves – genius!) and cups of tea I could get my hands on. Unfortunately, the cold lasted the best part of 2 weeks – so with Week 1 written off completely, Week 2 started off with a 4.5 mile walk along the Devon coast:

devon1

.. Which was followed by an unpromising 2 miler on the Tuesday with my Uncle. It was icy and freezing cold, even in the number of layers I had on, but luckily the cough held off until I got home, and I managed the 2 miles (with a steep hill thrown in) without walking breaks.

Did I really run a marathon less than a year ago? What happened!?

On Sunday, I gave the long run a go. Having missed the first one (and having slacked on the base building), I aimed for 9. I managed 9.4 – they were slow, uncomfortable and miserable, but they were better than nothing.

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I was quite pleased with myself, given the lack of training over the weeks beforehand!

Then I heard that my friend (running her first marathon in Paris with me) had managed a 12 mile run at my 10k PB pace. Suddenly, all of my insecurities and worries came back.

Has missing the first 2 weeks of training set me back too far? Will I still be able to reach my goals for Paris? What if my speed doesn’t come back?…

Having run Brighton last year, I know how much training I need. I didn’t do enough last time round, and I found the marathon much harder than I should have. I know that if I don’t knuckle down and start ticking off my training sessions, I’m going to struggle in Paris. I can already feel myself slipping into the same pattern as last year, and I need to snap out of it and push just a little bit harder. After all, it’s more than worth it – there’s no better feeling than training hard, and having it pay off on the day. Surrey half was that race for me in 2014 (SO excited to run it again this year!) – and I really want Paris to be even better.

Last summer, another friend and I started running to work again once a week, after a 2 month break. The first week was awful, and we averaged over 12 minute miles; but by week five, we were consistently under the 11:00/mile mark, and the love for running was starting to come back. I think that’s what I miss, more than anything – the joy I used to find in lacing up my shoes and heading out for a few miles. But then my friend’s words came back to me:

But our fitness .. We’re chasing it down right now! And each run we do, we’re catching it up!

At the end of the day, I know I’ve got it in me. I just need to get on with it – and leave the panic for the taper!

Are you training for anything at the moment? How’s it going?

First ever weights workout!

I have puny arms. Like really, really puny arms. My legs, on the other hand, are solid. They can carry me for miles, and thanks to my quads and calves I generally have a serious issue getting into skinny jeans – but my arms? They even start to ache if I take too long to blowdry my hair.

I decided that this needed to be fixed. I’ve nailed the running (well, the doing it part) and the cross training (again, getting there!) but I’ve definitely neglected any form of strength training. Mainly because the weights area in the gym is full of really big people making funny noises, and I find it slightly intimidating.

Luckily, my boyfriend has a ton of weights at home, as well as all of the other bits and pieces to go with them:

weights1

I quite liked the gloves, though they were a bit big and my fingers kind of disappeared once I relaxed my hand.

My boyfriend kindly went through his usual routine with me, and guided me through either the same, or an equivalent exercise (obviously at a MUCH lower weight!) Through the session, we covered:

Pressups as a warmup. I managed .. Erm .. One and a half? (Baby steps ..)

Bicep curls I started with a tiny 1kg weight on the bar, which still felt pretty heavy – these exercises look so easy, but flipping heck, keeping your form over an entire set is HARD. In a word, I sucked at this – I couldn’t for the life of me keep my upper body still. I definitely need to work on this one.

Tricep extensions I did these seated, as I didn’t really trust myself with a big metal bar next to my head with my lack of arm strength. I stayed at a 1kg weight, and just focused on my form more than anything else (my elbows kept moving all over the place). I still felt it though!

Tricep Kickbacks This one I quite enjoyed, though instead of isolating the triceps I kept accidentally using my shoulder muscles; but by the second set (and with my boyfriend keeping my arm in the right place) I got the hang of it and managed to up the weight a bit to 2kg.

Hammer curls Again, I found these quite hard. I couldn’t isolate my upper arms, and found it hard to target the biceps – but I’m sure this one will get easier with practise.

Bent over row‘ I really liked this one, and managed to up the weight to 2.5kg. I guess my triceps and back are stronger than my (non-existent) biceps! My arms were definitely aching by this point.

In the end I managed 2 sets of 10-15 reps for each exercise, which I was pretty happy with for my first try 🙂 And we even finished things off with a plank session! I lasted 30 seconds. Again, I definitely need to do this more often.

Not sure how happy my muscles will be when I get to the pool tomorrow morning, but that’s another story! Maybe I’ll just swim without using my arms ..

Getting back on track

I’m learning now, more than ever that time and perseverance are the only things that will get me comfortably to the start line of Paris Marathon next April. In previous years, my training has been quite erratic – I’d do the odd short mid-week run one week, and four medium runs the next, back-to-backing them in order to make up for missed sessions and completely neglecting any cross training at all.

This year, I’ve been trying to ease back into my training by simply making myself exercise regularly. I’m not stressing about miles, or formal training plans as yet (though with my next half marathon just under 5 weeks away, that should probably happen sooner rather than later). I’m just working on getting my running and cross training into my regular routine, and trying my best to be consistent.

So far, it seems to have worked. I’ve been running 5k (ish) during my Monday lunchtimes, running 7 miles to work on a Thursday, and swimming for 40 minutes on a Friday before work. Whilst cycling has taken a bit of a back seat since Brighton, I’ve still been trying to cycle to work once a week – and boy, is it tough being out of shape!

My friend and I ran to work for the first time after an extended break 5 weeks ago, and whilst the first week was awful – slow, painful, and with tons of walking breaks – we’ve continued to drag ourselves out of bed at 6h30 every Thursday and into our running gear to give it another go. I genuinely thought for the first couple of weeks that I wouldn’t ever get back to my old fitness level – but during one of my early morning grumbles, my friend turned to me with a bright smile and exclaimed:

But our fitness .. We’re chasing it down right now! And each run we do, we’re catching it up!

That was exactly what I needed to hear. Running with someone so positive has had a big impression on my own motivation – and when you’re plodding along at 7am on the way to work, half asleep, aching and wondering how on earth you ran a marathon just a few months ago … Having a friend beside you who whoops, cheers and punches the sky every time you pass another runner (in the opposite direction, of course) is a fab way to snap yourself out of all of the negative thinking. No, it doesn’t make the run hurt less – but a smile can do wonders!

And, as it turns out, so can stubbornly heading out every week to try and try and try. Our average pace has gone from 12:32, to 11:32, to 11:20, to 11:14, to 10:57. The early mornings are paying off, and we’re finally sneaking back down to our old pace. It feels AWESOME. And it’s nice to see my own times go down, too – I run a solo mile to her house before heading on towards the office, and that mile has gone from 11:50, to 11:11, to 10:50, to 10:35, to 10:05. Not particularly speedy by most people’s standards, but brilliant for me – and I’m the only person I’m currently racing 🙂

On top of it all, today was our best lunchtime 5k since the marathon, with an average pace of 10:09 and a best mile of 9:50!

I think that’s worth giving up a lie-in or two.