Paris Marathon Training: Over half way!

(Well ok, technically I’ve still got weeks and weeks to go – but I’m over the 13.1 mark!)

The past couple of long runs have been a bit of a way off what I thought I’d be capable of by now. Lots of 12:00+ minute miles, heavy legs, aches, pains and grumbling.

As a result, I was quite nervous when I headed out this morning for 14 miles – I had no idea if my body would even cooperate over that sort of distance. But I figured I’d give it a go anyway (despite the SNOW as I left home!)

Miles 1-3 were uncomfortable, to say the least. I was supposed to do the first 10k as an out-and-back along the river path, but it was iced over, so I turned round and headed for my standard (hilly!) loop instead. My calves were extremely tight, and my legs were aching and heavy – I was really worried that I’d have to cut the run short. The weather went from snow, to sleet, to rain, to wind, to rain, to (finally) sunshine.

Miles 4-5 were better – after a few breaks to stretch out the niggles, my legs loosened up a bit and things started to settle. Still a bit tired and heavy, though.

I met my friend at 5 miles, as she wanted to run a 10k (I was supposed to do 7-8 before I met her, but thanks to the route change and various breaks I fell behind a little.) Chatting took my mind off the legs, and we settled into a comfortable pace quite quickly, which was nice. A runner passed us in the opposite direction at about 8 miles and my friend called out ‘HIGH FIVE, DUDE!’ (it worked), which made me laugh out loud. Just what you need on a long run! 🙂

It was at this point that I went to take one of my gels, only to realise it went out of date last June. Running fail. Luckily, by tweaking my route a little I could stop off at Sainsburys for CHOCOLATE at the 10 mile mark – obviously the most effective substitute 😉 This meant that this was the furthest I’d run since Brighton without a gel, and I was pretty impressed to find that I felt pretty comfortable from miles 6-10 without one! Peanut butter on toast for breakfast was clearly a good call.

14milesI counted my friend down to the end of her 10k, which was mile 11 for me – and she waved me off for the last 3. Those were a lot tougher than the rest, and I ended up taking a short walking break almost every half mile. At 13, I passed her (we were doing laps of the park – her walking, me running/jogging/shuffling) and she gave me a cheer, which was hilarious but brilliant 🙂 When I saw her next, I was 0.9 miles from the end and she jogged alongside me, with a ’14 miles! Yeah! You can do this!’ and a bit of a whoop and a cheer. Got quite a few looks for that, but it gave me the energy to pick up the pace for the last stretch! (Why can’t every run come with a cheer squad!?)

When I looked at my Garmin, I saw that my final mile was under 12:00 – a great sign, given that the last 2 were shorter runs and much slower. But it wasn’t until I got home and uploaded my run data that I realised just how much of an improvement this week was:

14m split

An average pace of 11:32 (30 seconds/mile off last week’s moving pace average, despite the breaks), and an average moving pace of 11:14!

I was even more excited to see that the average moving pace of FIVE of those miles was under 11:00, and only one was over 12:00!

I guess the hard work is finally starting to pay off 😀

 

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Marathon training – lessons learnt the hard way

When I signed up for Brighton, I spent hours putting together the perfect training plan. I included hill training, tempo runs, and a steady increase in mileage, with a cut-back week every month. I told myself I would run before work, that I would go to strength classes at the gym and swim twice a week and squeeze in some yoga and stretching sessions for good measure.

As with most things, it didn’t turn out quite the way I had planned. I completely underestimated how easy it was for life to get in the way, and ended up burying my head in the sand and swapping many a mid-week run for a hot chocolate, comfy sofa and a couple hours of 4oD (time well spent, not).

Looking back at the year leading up to Brighton, there are a lot of things I would go back and change if I could. As I can’t, I decided to write them down instead and hopefully learn from my mistakes next time round. Please tell me I’m not the only one that got these things wrong!

1) Entering a marathon 10-12 months in advance doesn’t mean that I can be an absolute slacker and just ‘cross train’ (i.e. ride my bike to work a few times a week) with no running until Christmas, when I then panic and try to jump straight in to training 4-5 times a week. Sure, the 4 months ‘official’ training will get you to the finish line – but it won’t be pretty!

2) Whilst cycling 14 miles a day is great for quads, calves and cardio, it’s not an excuse to skip my weekday runs – and the long Sunday runs will be TOUGH (and get TOUGHER) if I don’t do any other running in between. This means more than one or two 5k lunchtime jogs!

3) I thought I was an evening runner, and last year I was; but the storms we saw this year had me throwing that idea out the window. Despite my best intentions, by the time I got home after cycling through the wind and the rain and the dark, soaking wet and freezing cold, the last thing I felt like doing was changing into my running gear and heading back out. Figures.

4) Unfortunately, I’m not much of a morning runner, either (or an early morning person in general!) But desperate times call for desperate measures, and by leaving my garage key (no access to my bike) and debit card (no money for the train) along with a change of clothes at work the evening before, I managed to force myself to start run commuting the 7 miles to the office once a week (though I didn’t manage it every week!) And it turned out to be way better than cycling, driving or getting the train.

sunrise2

The sunrise can be pretty special!

5) Stretching and foam rolling genuinely make a difference to recovery times and performance! I can’t stress this enough. I noticed a substantial difference between the long runs when I had stretched and foam rolled well the week prior, and the ones when I hadn’t. When I forgot to stretch (i.e. couldn’t be bothered), my legs would ache for days longer, and would feel heavy for a good mile or two during my next run. The real test was directly after the marathon – I had an eye-wateringly painful but brilliantly thorough quad and ITB massage on the Wednesday (I felt bruised for a day or so afterwards, but it was SO worth it), and could instantly walk down stairs again. I even managed a comfortable 10k on the Saturday! But I was told quite sternly that the massage wouldn’t have been half as painful if I’d been stretching and foam rolling regularly. D’oh.

6) I really need to refuel properly after my long runs! There were a couple of times where I did a long run on the Sunday, and then missed breakfast on the Monday morning (see point 4), and I felt AWFUL as a result – almost hung over! I was tired, light headed and sluggish, and often wouldn’t be back to my usual self until late on the Tuesday – assuming I ate well and rested enough. Tough times! In future: snack regularly, and eat proper meals!

7) I think the most important thing that I got wrong was my expectations for the marathon itself. After cutting down my times in 5k and 10k races, and clocking regular sub-10-minute miles (not constantly, but much more than last year), I had high hopes for my marathon time and pace. I assumed I would be able to average 11-minute miles for the whole distance, with time to spare for a few walking breaks, and saunter over the finish line in under 5 hours. But the longer my training runs got, the more I realised that my body simply wasn’t used to such high miles – and as a result, I slowed down towards the end of them, bringing down my average pace. On the day itself, I barely looked at my Garmin once, and decided to just focus on enjoying the experience. After all, I had worked for 2 years to get to the starting line. I had raised money for charity, put in countless solo training miles in all different conditions, studied the course map and practised fuelling and hydration and technique. At the end of the day, I would only ever have one first marathon; I didn’t even know at that point whether I could FINISH, let alone in what time. It was a brand new challenge, and getting to the finish line was all that really mattered. And ultimately, I did it.

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I didn’t do it in under 5 hours, and I certainly didn’t average 11 minute miles – but I loved every. single. moment.

What mistakes did you make when training for your first marathon? Anything you would go back and change?

 

Into the Swing of Things

I finally made double digits last Sunday – I ran 10.10 miles, and only needed one gel. Progress! I’ve been trying really hard to move away from using gels and drinks etc. too much, as last year I became quite dependent on them and hit the wall much earlier on. This time round, I can go for an hour and a half before I need anything more than water, which makes things much simpler! For my long runs I’ve been opening a High5 gel at 10k, and taking it bit by bit over the second half, along with some High5 Zero electrolyte drink (I find the usual sports drinks to be too sugary, so this is a nice alternative – and the flavours are SO GOOD!) and it’s worked really well. The only issue I’ve really been having is a niggle in my ankle and hip, and tired legs. I had happily blocked out all memory of forgotten all of those little complaints that appear the further you run ..

On Friday I had a little adventure with a couple of my colleagues. Lots of the route didn’t even show on Google Maps, and as I forgot my Garmin, I had to try and figure out where we’d gone using the River Wey Navigation map and the two or three road names I remembered seeing, as well as judging roughly how far we ran based on the time we were out.

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I think I found vaguely the right route in the end, and it turns out that our scheduled 2.5-3 miles ended up as 4.1. We were supposed to head back along the opposite river path as a sort of out-and-back thing, but missed a turning and ended up taking a bit (!) of a detour through Westfield. Whoops! I had a great time, but I don’t think the others appreciated having to run an extra mile – especially as one of them had never run more than 30 minutes in his life. (I don’t see our lunchtime run club lasting much longer ..) I felt kind of bad, but I also felt pretty hyper, so I found it hard to be sympathetic – though I did offer lots of praise and encouragement, and they seemed quite pleased to have run so far! And for the record, I didn’t choose the route. Yknow, just sayin’ ..

The pretty river, wide open countryside and deserted lanes, along with the perfectly cold, dry weather and light breeze were wonderful, and for the first time in a long time I felt like I could run forever. My breathing settled really early on, my cadence was nice and fast, and I felt relaxed. Brilliant!

But it has to be said, the long runs are really starting to feel long. I know that sounds like a really obvious and redundant statement, but up until now I’ve not really had to worry about the distance – I’ve only begun to feel uncomfortable towards the end. But today I felt quite uncomfy for a good couple of miles, and I know it’s only going to get further and further from here on in. I’m very steadily creeping towards my longest ever run – less than 10k away now, and then it’s all out of my comfort zone. Gulp.

Today the plan said 2hrs (I love that it measures sessions by time, rather than putting pressure on to reach a certain distance) and without measuring or timing my route I hit exactly 1:59:59 as I stopped my Garmin. Win! My splits looked really good, too. (For me, anyway!) This time last year I was averaging 11:00/mile, with my longest run at an 11:13 pace. Today I managed 3 of my 11 miles at under a 10:00 pace, which was awesome:

pace
I may not be the speediest runner in the world, but I’m flipping pleased with my pace today, given the weather (which was MUCH LESS AWESOME). Today was torrential rain and 17mph winds, and with my out-and-back route (seemed like such a good plan at the time, and actually worked really well – I knew I’d feel fresh for the first half, and by the time I got to the turn-around point, I had no choice but to run home. Cruel, but effective!) I ended up running back into the wind for the last 6 miles, at what felt like a 45 degree angle! Boo.

rain

I had quite a boost (and a giggle) at around mile 4 – I was heading through a little residential area, and a couple of guys were working on a car on their drive. As I passed them I heard them wolf whistle behind me! Definitely unexpected – and being such a wet and bedraggled mess, the only explanation I can come up with was that they reeeally liked my jacket. (Can’t blame them for that, it’s a pretty awesome jacket). Either way, it cheered me up – and check out the 9:50 mile 5! Result!

Hope everyone’s training is going well – here’s to some better weather next week! I think I’m going to need to bribe myself with chocolate to get through the foam rolling. My calves have been niggling all afternoon, and I know they’re not going to cooperate. I guess I just have to focus on how good they’ll feel afterwards!

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Back into double digits!

I’ve mentioned before just how stubborn I am. I don’t like to be beaten (though given I’m a very average runner, it happens an awful lot!). I consider it as a sort of ‘motivation in disguise’, as the minute I feel like someone’s running further or faster or more often than me I want to get out there and do one better!

My lovely Mum recently ordered me 2 new running vests. She got one for herself a little while ago, and thought I might like one. I picked it up today to use at the gym and dude, it’s the comfiest running vest I’ve ever worn. It’s flattering, the colour is awesome, and its the thinnest, lightest material which means that it’s lovely and cool. It’s designed to be loose, and has a drawstring along the bottom hem to pull it in at the hips to stop it from moving around:

top(Granted, it looks far better on the model than me. But I love it anyway!)

I have the beautiful bright purple version, which I wore today, and I also have the equally lovely lilac one. They’re officially my favourite. The only issue I have with them is that when I get sweaty (which, shocker, happens without fail every time I run!) it really shows, as the material goes a lot darker.

On the upside, if you run for long enough, it all goes the same colour again and nobody can tell any more! 😀 Not that this happened to me today .. Ehem ..

So as I mentioned, my friends went and ran the full scheduled 10 miles yesterday morning, despite copious amounts of Mr Darcy and a distinct lack of sleep. They did take walking breaks, and I’m not sure on their overall time, but even so – I was officially slacking. (I just accidentally typed snacking. I’m not gazing wistfully at the Mars bar on my desk. Nope. Not me ..)

I decided this afternoon to sort it out, and do the full ten miles at the gym. I did want to run it outside, but as it was 29 degrees .. Not so much.

Given that most people were being sensible human beings today and enjoying the sunshine by lying in the grass with magazines and cool drinks, the gym was almost deserted (and I outran the three people that used the other treadmills whilst I was there).

I took the treadmill nearest the door, and that – in combination with my lovely loose top – meant that it felt nowhere near as hot and stuffy as usual. I felt absolutely great for the first 7 miles! After this point I decided to just focus on the time I had been running, rather than distance, as it was officially my longest run since I stopped my marathon training back in March, and I wasn’t sure how far I would manage. I ran without a break until about 1h20, and between then and 2h07 – when I eventually stopped for a warm-down walk – I took 3 more short (20-30sec) walking breaks. By 1h30, my calves were feeling quite tight, and my legs were starting to ache. I had forgotten how challenging it is to push on through all of the niggles and aches that long distance running brings.

I got a nice boost at 1h50 though, as I outran the treadmill – it cleared my session and tried to get me to warm down – so I stopped the machine and started fresh. Whilst it’s usually pretty demoralising to see all my hard-earned mileage disappear, today it really helped – I started again at 0:00, and focused on the fact that I only had to run for 20 minutes. I pretended that I had just got on the machine – I tried to kid myself that my legs were fresh, by giving myself a short walking break and a few sips of sports drink – and then I mentally reset, with just that 20-minute goal. Anyone can survive for 20 minutes on the treadmill, right?

In the end, I finished with a sports band total of 11.11 miles (you can guess where that extra 1.11 came from). I was really pleased (and surprised), as I didn’t use a single sports gel – I had a banana half an hour before, and regularly sipped on a 500ml bottle of Lucozade light during the run. I think I had gotten it into my head that I needed gels for anything above a 10k, and really used to let the longer distances intimidate me .. But today went really well. I think it helped that I was on a treadmill, and could ignore the total distance by breaking it down. I’m quite looking forward to experimenting with fuelling this time round, and moving away from the sports gels a little.

Can’t lie, I don’t think I’ll be cycling to work tomorrow.

How was your weekend running? Anyone brave the heat?

The long run

038162671acb504460943d7b2f925836I was supposed to run 5 miles this morning. I set my alarm and everything – I was actually looking forward to it. But as with most plans, it wasn’t quite meant to be. I had a pretty restless night, waking up sporadically from 4am .. Which wasn’t really conducive to a 6:30 alarm and 5 mile run! Sigh.

I had considered going this evening, but decided against it. I have a long run on Saturday morning, and given that I’m still getting used to running 3-4 times a week alongside my daily cycle commute (without completely nackering my legs) my recovery time is slightly longer than before. I didn’t really want to push my luck with just 1 recovery day (especially as ‘recovery’ still includes 12 or so miles of cycling) before Saturday.

The schedule says 10 miles for Saturday morning – I’m going to play it safe and set a goal of 8, as I know I can at least manage 10k at the moment. What’s 2 more miles, right? Especially with fuel as awesome as this:

p (1)Apple and cinnamon porridge, courtesy of my Graze breakfast boxes! It comes with raisins, honey and chunks of dried apple, and tastes like scotch pancakes .. Heaven!

I’ve decided that rather than forcing in the mileage, I’m going to take this evening to stretch and foam roll, and give my legs a chance to recover properly before I try my long run on Saturday. It’ll be my longest run in a good few months, and I’m a little nervous .. But at least if I go out early enough, it’ll be deserted! (And cool, as opposed to stiflingly hot!)

As for tomorrow, I have a date after work with Mr Darcy (Colin Firth, obviously), parfait, wine and 3 lovely ladies from my office!