Barcelona Marathon Training: 4 weeks to go!

Dude, how did this happen? How are there only 4 weeks left? How is there just 1 long run between me and the taper? (This week is a cut-back week, with Bramley 10 tomorrow).

I’m suddenly feeling super under prepared. I swear I had more miles under my belt at this point before Paris and Brighton. I’m probably just paranoid, right!?

However, despite last week’s minor freak-out, I did in fact manage my long run last weekend – 16 miles along the Downs Link and Wey Navigations river path. It was long, it was fairly flat, it was out-and-back and the scenery, whilst quite nice, was pretty repetitive. I thought it would be fairly easy going, but mentally it was quite difficult as there wasn’t much to break up the miles!

I felt like a bit of a wally when I set off, as I was wearing 2 watches to test out the Epson against my Garmin. It didn’t half make the Garmin look like a brick!

Garmin and Epson Watches for 16 Miler

The things I do for science.

I could probably have picked a better time of year to run this route. It was absolutely stunning on my cycle to Brighton last year!

But on a cold, grey morning in February, it was ever so slightly uninspiring. Peaceful, quiet, and more pleasant than main roads, but it all began to look the same after a while:

Downs Link and Wey Navigations Long Run

Trust me, it’s a dream in the summer. And I’ll definitely be back to run it again after the marathon!

To prove that I did enjoy it just a little bit, I took my first ever run selfie:

16 Mile Run Selfie

A bit blurred, but you get the gist. I also took a photo of my poor shoes, which saw more mud that day than in the 2 months beforehand! (Though I didn’t actually get a picture of the muddy bits. I was too busy trying not to faceplant and/or stumble into the river…)

Whilst I did still take quite a few breaks (the river path was quite hard going, it was muddy, it was early, I found it hard to zone out…) my average moving pace was 33 seconds/mile faster than the Kingston Breakfast Run last year, and only 3s/mile off the pace I did my last 16 miler. Result!

16 Mile Run Splits

Now I just need to man up and cut out some of the walking breaks. Oh, and add on another 10 miles.

Ah, marathons. I do love you really.

– – –

Have you run/got a long run planned this weekend? What sort of route have you picked?

Advertisements

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.

Bit of a lull

I don’t know about you, but ever since the marathon, my motivation for running has taken a nosedive and a half.

Sure, I’ve squeezed in the odd 5k – but my pace hasn’t been great and I just haven’t really been feeling it.

So I eventually decided that enough was enough. For now, I’ve put running on the backburner, and have been trying out other exercise options. The key: I’m doing it just for fun. No training plan, no targets to meet or PBs to get or minimum weekly mileage. Just what I feel like, when I feel like it – which is a bit of a novelty!

By taking the pressure off, I’ve had a chance to get back into other sports that I love. For one, I’ve started swimming again, albeit pretty slowly! I’ve been getting up and to the pool for 7am once a week before work, for a half hour lanes session, and I’m feeling great as a result. I used to swim in clubs, for yeeears and years, but since Uni I don’t think I’ve swum at all until now. It’ll take me a while (!) to get back to my old shape, but I’m looking forward to a new challenge!

I’ve also managed to fit in some lovely bike rides. I haven’t been cycling to work recently (I’ve been waiting for some new tyres to arrive – those will be fun to fit, given I’ve never even touched a tyre lever before …) but I’ve been getting out at the weekends and exploring. I went down to Devon last week with my boyfriend to visit my family, and on the one day of (glorious) sunshine we got, we cycled 7 miles to the coast for ice-cream and back:

icecream

Granted, not the longest or toughest cycle in the world. But it was fun, and the scenery was gooorgeous:

tarkatrail1

I really miss living in Devon sometimes!

As expected though, the sunshine disappeared as suddenly as it appeared, and for the rest of the week it was grey and gloomy. But we were determined to get out to the coast – the coast paths are amazing, and there are SO many walks to do. So we grabbed our boots, wrapped up in waterproofs and headed out! At the start it was almost dry, which meant I got to snap some pictures:

coast2

Definitely worth the rain! The hills were a bit tough (little out of shape right now!), and the steps got pretty slippery as the rain got heavier, but being able to stop and look out at views like these made me so happy 🙂 It was enough to make you forget the rain for a bit!

coast1

This weekend, we were lucky enough to get a bit more sunshine in Surrey, so we headed out on the bikes again and cycled from Guildford to Cranleigh and back, via the River Wey and Shalford. I think most of the track was the Downs Link? Whatever the exact route was, it was warm and sunny and beautiful!

surrey1

I think we ended up doing around 18 miles in the end that day (but no ice-cream stops, unfortunately). Our next challenge is to cycle to Hampton Court! Once I find a route, that is.

Whilst I do miss running, I think I’m going to leave it a while before I throw myself back into it. My next half – the Thames Meander – is in August, so I’ve got plenty of time to build up the distance again! In the meantime, I’ll be working on my front crawl and bike maintenance skills ..