Dublin Marathon Training: Week 1

Hot 5k Run

Me and my smug lovely pacer 😀

How’s your summer going, you lovely lot? Are you training for anything, or just enjoying the sunshine? I can’t believe the events that people have been doing recently! Such a motivation! 🙂

As for me, today marks the end of the first week on my Dublin Marathon training plan. I think I’d gotten so used to NOT following a plan – running where and when I fancied, cross training here and there, hiking a bit – I’d let myself slip a little when it came to keeping a routine (or any kind of structure or discipline, whatsoever).

Luckily, I’ve been able to rope James in to join me on a couple of my sessions. I say luckily, as I probably wouldn’t have pushed myself so hard if I’d been alone, but I’ll admit that I was naive enough to think that he might just take it easy on me.

HAHA nope.

We set off for my third 5k of the week yesterday (it was meant to be 10k, but heat + humidity = nah), and I managed to persuade him to start slowly – by his standards, at least. Unfortunately, this meant that he then ramped things up for miles 2 and 3, taking the pace from 9:39 to 9:13 by the end. Ouch.

No pain no gain, right!?

Dublin Marathon Week 1 Training

Highs and lows: Enjoying a mocha frappe after Sunday’s cycle, and ready to keel over on Saturday’s 5k…

As I cut Saturday’s run short, I decided to get some miles in on the bike today to make up for it a bit. We found a new route along a trail we’d never heard of before (the ‘Christmas Pie’ trail, apparently!) and followed it to Farnham.

This only gave us 14 miles, but after fighting our way through brambles and nettles and hugely overgrown wooded bits (parts of which we had to walk our bikes through), we decided against an out-and-back, and got on the train instead.

We weren’t complete cop-outs, though! We jumped off at Woking, and cycled the last 6 miles home on a lovely smooth stretch of road, rounding us up to 20. Not too bad!

Surrey Cycle Finish

Enjoying the sunshine after 20 tough miles.

Overall, I’m just glad that my legs seemed fairly happy with 3 runs and some cross-training! And I’m looking forward to adding on some miles next week. Though looking at the weather forecast, I think I’m going to have to force myself out of bed a little earlier. The heat isn’t my friend!

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Week 1 summary (weeks to Dublin: 15)

Planned sessions: 3 miles easy + strides / 3 miles steady / 6 miles easy

Sessions completed: 3 miles easy + strides / 3 miles steady / 3 miles progression

Cross training: 20 mile cycle

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Meeting Chrissie Wellington at the 33 Shake Event

On Thursday evening, I ventured into central London for the 33 Shake event at Paddington Recreation Ground. Chrissie Wellington has recently become an ambassador for their brand, so we were treated to a fab talk from her as well as a chance to try out their chia seed gels!

Did I mention that I got to meet her afterwards? Sooo awesome!

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I’m new to brand events, and wouldn’t normally go (I feel a bit out of place, as I’m not a huge blogger and don’t really do product reviews etc.) but this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up! I read Chrissie’s book ‘A life without limits‘ last year, and I loved that even as a world champion she’s completely down-to-earth and has an amazing perspective on things. One of my favourite quotes has to be:

If there is one thing I have learned, particularly in my life as an athlete, it is that our limits may not be where we think the are. And, even when we think we’ve finally reached them, the next time we go exploring we often find they’ve moved again.

The way she talks, she really makes you feel like you can do anything you set your mind to – and I’m pretty sure that she could persuade anyone to try anything once. (Especially me – I’m easily influenced!) 🙂

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She’s as unfailingly positive in person as in her book, and her enthusiasm is infectious – her talk was wonderfully funny, informative and inspiring. Just as you’d expect!

I can definitely see why she’s chosen to work with 33 Shake. They seem to be a really great brand, and their chia seed gels are something else! You can find more information on their website, but the highlights are:

  • 100% natural ingredients. This means no additives, no preservatives, and nothing man-made.
  • These ingredients offer a simple blend of carbs, proteins, Omega-3s and antioxidants.
  • 90 calories per serving.
  • Natural anti-inflammatories.
  • All natural and low-GI sugars for genuinely sustainable performance without the energy-sapping spikes of traditional gel.
  • A natural electrolyte blend including Himalayan Pink salt.

What makes these gels unique is that they’re delivered in dry form – it’s up to you to add water before use. (I might have ended up with some on the floor, though this was mainly because I was standing up at the time – they’re actually easy peasy to prepare, and can even be done on the go using your water bottle!)

This means that you can adjust the consistency to suit your personal taste – a huge plus, after the trial and error I’ve had with other gels. As an added bonus, if you don’t fancy adding plain water you can up the electrolytes with coconut water, or add some more carbs with fruit juice instead – meaning that you can order a pack of standard gels, but make them whatever flavour you fancy! Once mixed, the gels last for up to 24hrs in the fridge, so you can prep them the night before your training session or race. We used plain water at the event, and they tasted fab.

How do you fuel your training? Would you ever try chia seed gels?

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5 handy tips for big training sessions

When it comes to marathon training, I’ve pretty much sussed out the weekly long run – the route, the kit, fuelling and hydration and pushing through the tough bits – but I’m still a fairly novice cyclist, so when the reality of my upcoming 100-mile cycle event hit me, I might have freaked out a little. (Ok, a lot).

I’m cycling the Prudential RideLondon 100 on August 2nd, to raise money for the Devon Air Ambulance Trust (an incredible organisation that saved my Dad’s life a couple of months ago). When the magazine came through the door, it still seemed a looong way off, and I registered without thinking too much about it. Since then, I’ve managed a few cycle commutes (14-mile round trip) and I’ve done Guildford to Brighton (42-45 miles) twice on the hybrid.

100 miles is a bit further than that.

I should have started building up my distance on the road bike weeks ago. But if I’m completely honest, the idea of heading out on a long cycle – solo, and on unfamiliar roads – scared me.

Finally, after weeks of procrastinating, on Saturday I finally bit the bullet and set off on a 100km solo cycle through the Surrey hills.

60-mile Surrey cycle

And you know what? I survived. In fact, it was actually quite fun. Yes, I got lost (multiple times – the route above was meant to be a neat loop!). And yes, I completely failed on the nutrition front and hit the wall massively at about 50 miles… But on the plus side, I didn’t faceplant instead of unclipping from the pedals; I didn’t accidentally end up on the A3; I didn’t get hit by a car; my phone (i.e. Google Maps) didn’t die on me, and I made it home unscathed (albeit with crazy tan lines). Result!

Whilst they didn’t stop the nerves completely, I found that a lot of the tips and tricks I’d picked up during my marathon training applied just as well to a long bike ride, and really helped me to feel a bit more confident about the whole thing:

1) Prepare, prepare, prepare!

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail, right? (Or yknow, something a little less melodromatic). If there’s anything I’ve learnt over the past couple of years, it’s this: You can never be too prepared! Sort out your kit, and lay it out ready to go; plan your route, and print off a map if you think you might need one; work out your fuel and hydration (not just what you’ll eat and drink, but also how you’ll carry it with you) and add it to your kit pile. The last thing you want is to be running around like a headless chicken trying to find your socks when you’re meant to be heading out the door!

2) Plan your route carefully

If you’re attempting a new distance, it can be a bit daunting, and you might want to break it up into smaller sections. ’15 miles’ sounds a lot tougher than ‘2 10ks and a parkrun’, for example! And when it comes to planning a route, the options are endless: Out-and-back? Big loop? Small loops? A-to-B? Whilst this is really down to personal preference, it’s worth thinking about the logistics: if you want to stick closer to home, repeating a smaller loop is a better option than a long out-and-back slog. And if you fancy the A-to-B option, how will you get to/from the start/finish? Will friends be joining you along the way?

3) Pick your time wisely

If you have plans that afternoon, you’re going to want to get it out the way first thing. Equally, if it’s going to be a late one the night before, chances are you won’t be heading out at the crack of dawn! And that’s fine – schedule it for a time that works best for YOU. That said, if you’re training for an event with an early start, it’s a good idea to schedule some of your longer sessions for that time of day – breakfast logistics are as much a part of training as the session itself, after all 😉

4) Accept the worst case scenarios

Fact: Things WILL go wrong at some point in training. We’ve all been there! Whatever worries you have – getting lost, hitting the wall, kit malfunctions, tummy trouble, mechanical problems, chafing – make a list, and then think about how you’ll work around them. Whether that’s getting familiar with Google Maps; planning a route via shops or loo stops; learning how to fix a puncture, or packing some vaseline – trust me when I say that you’ll overcome it in training, and you’ll overcome it on the day!

5) Avoid time goals

When it comes to longer sessions, don’t stress about the pace – especially if you’ve not covered the distance before. If you need to slow down, walk, stop and stretch, make a pit stop, throw a bit of a wobbly – do it! Leave the finish times and mile splits for race day, and just focus on getting the miles in your legs (or wheels). It might feel counter-productive if you’ve got a time goal in mind, but trust in the training and you’ll be amazed by how much the adrenaline, crowds and taper will carry you along on the day!

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What are your go-to tips and tricks for getting through the big miles? I’d love to hear them!

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.

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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.

How running helped to save my Dad’s life

Some of you might have noticed that I’ve been a bit AWOL for the past few weeks.

On Sunday 10th May, my Dad collapsed at the Bideford 10k after suffering a major heart attack, resulting in cardiac arrest.

He survived.

The heart attack came as a complete shock to all of us. Anyone who knows my Dad can tell you that he’s healthy; he eats well; he storms through hilly coastal walks and can handle even the toughest hikes across Exmoor without batting an eyelid; he’s a great runner (his marathon and half marathon PBs are better than mine!) and he cycles to and from the station for work every day. He doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink much, doesn’t eat takeaways or sit in front of the TV for hours, or any of those other unhealthy clichés.

Unfortunately, it turns out that he suffered from undiagnosed heart disease, and probably had done for decades. The symptoms are easy to brush off – feeling tired and achey, a bit of indigestion and some chest pain, breathlessness. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ve just had a few hard weeks at work, are staying up too late, or training too hard. Some even blame age – though at 56, my Dad’s certainly not old.

When my Dad collapsed, the first person on the scene was another runner, who began CPR. It was a second runner who took over the CPR, which gave the paramedics time to get to my Dad with a defibrillator to restart his heart. Bideford 10k is a small, club-run, low-key event, but the fantastic organisation on the day and the actions of the runners, marshals, and event organisers meant that my Dad was able to be transferred to the Devon Air Ambulance helicopter and stabilized enough to be taken to hospital.

The doctors told us that the reason he remained stable and handled the surgery so well is because he’s been fit and healthy for a number of years now – and that’s largely thanks to his decision to start running! The running caused him to rethink his diet, and the training helped to strengthen his heart, despite the damage having been done decades before.

The fact that the attack happened at Bideford 10k meant he was able to get the medical attention he needed at the time. Amazingly, the runner who began the CPR just happened to be a GP – and the second runner just happened to have completed an advanced first aid course the week before! Talk about amazing coincidences.

I’ll be forever grateful to that race, and to those runners, as they kept him alive long enough for the ambulance to get to him.

The air ambulance took him straight from Bideford to Exeter hospital. From there, he was then transferred to London where he underwent a triple bypass operation, and thanks to all this he is now at home and recovering well.

Without the air ambulance, he might not have made it this far. It was their incredibly fast response (they were already waiting for him by the time the ambulance got him back into town) that meant he was able to be stabilised quickly enough and transferred to hospital before any lasting damage was done.

I was amazed to learn that the Devon Air Ambulance Trust (DAAT) only have 2 helicopters for the huge area they cover – and scarily, the first was already out on call when my Dad collapsed.

DAAT is a recognised charity, and needs to raise a huge £4.5 million every year just to keep their service going. They also need to raise an additional £1 million to meet their maintenance and repair costs, and to extend their operating hours. Without our help, they can’t do their job – and that job is essential. You can find out more about their service here.

Whilst we’ve tracked down the runners and marshals and race organisers to express our thanks for what they did, it’s hard to know how to really thank someone for saving the life of a loved one. I mean, what on earth can you possibly offer to repay something that big?

Whilst I’m still trying to answer that, what I can do in the meantime is support the DAAT charity so that they can keep their amazing service going. But I can’t do that alone!

I’m going to be cycling the Prudential Ride 100 (yep, that’s 100 MILES) in August to raise money for the Devon Air Ambulance, and I would be so grateful if you could spare even a few pennies. Donations can be made either online or by text:

Online, via my JustGiving page: JustGiving – Cycling 100 miles for the DAAT
By texting PTLA58 and your donation amount (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5, or £10) to 70070

I just want to end this by saying a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to the DAAT, the Bideford 10k runners, marshals and organisers, the staff at Exeter and Hammersmith hospitals and all of the other wonderful people that have helped and supported us over the last few weeks. We couldn’t have got through this without you.

I love you, Dad.

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There are some brilliant resources on the British Heart Foundation website on risk factors and how to keep your heart healthy: www.bhf.org.uk.

Know the warning signs: How healthy is your heart?