Barcelona Marathon Training: Stop! Taper Time!

With just 3 weeks to go until Barcelona Marathon, I had one more big challenge to conquer before I could settle in to the lovely taper: my last and longest training run.

As I peaked at 18 miles for my last 2 marathons, and I’ve been struggling with a niggly tendon through a lot of my training this year,  I hesitantly aimed for 18-20 miles. The route itself was 20, but I wasn’t at all confident that I could finish it.

20 Mile Run Route

I like seeing this route on the map – it looks super far and makes me feel a bit awesome. The splodge at Weybridge was where I got lost and ran around in circles for a while. That was a little less awesome.

Despite the doubts, I was up at 6h00 on Saturday morning and on a train to Hampton Court by 7am. My logic was that if I stranded myself 20 miles away, I would have no choice but to run home. Also, I figured I could treat it like a day out, and that the navigation would take my mind off the miles.

It actually kind of worked!

Without further ado, here’s my 20 (!!) mile run summed up in 20 thoughts that popped into my head along the way 😉

1 This is going to be SO MUCH FUN. I totally don’t want to get back on the train and go home. Though there iiis one leaving in about 6 minutes. NO. Bad Lucy.

2 Wow, that’s a strong headwind. And I’ve really cleverly picked a route that has me running in the exact same direction for 20 miles. The wind has got to change at some point, right? It’ll totally change direction.

3 Oooh, 2 people have said good morning now! People are so friendly around here! I’m going to see how many more I can get!

4 Ok, 2 people have ignored me now. That game was fun while it lasted.

5 It’s actually quite muddy along here. Maybe I should have worn my trail shoes. The river is preeetty close. I’ll just make sure I slip left. I do NOT want to fall in.

6 Yes! I found my way off the Thames path! I am a navigational genius! Now it’s just a quick detour through Weybridge to the Wey river path…

7 Ok, I’m not a navigational genius. In fact, I’m lost. How hard can it be to find a flipping big blue RIVER?

8 Phew! I found it! I’ll be in Woking before I know it!

9 Ok, the Wey path is longer than I remember. I’m pretty sure I was meant to come off and into Woking around 13 miles. Did I miss the turning?

10 Ah. I seem to have added 1.5 miles somewhere. I should probably let my friend know I’ll be late. Scratch that, I’m already late. I wonder how long it’ll take to get to Woking station now? Where am I?

11 Woking station! And company! And a banana I just remembered I had in my bag! I’m going to be completely spontaneous and eat this now. Training is all about trial and error, and besides, I only have 6 miles left to go. What could possibly go wrong?

12 I bet my friend’s legs are feeling way fresher than mine right now. But I’m not jealous. My legs are STEEL. I can do this! I am a machine!

13 Ouch, ok, note to self: you can’t sprint across roads after 16 miles. Slow-motion hobble-sprinting only. Turns out, that’s a thing.

14 I’m going to walk this big hill. It’ll be a nice treat. Pft, yeah – heading up a hill, in the rain and wind, after 18 miles of running. Some treat, Lucy! Plus, the hill is taking too long. I’m going to run up the rest of it.

15 I could totally stop right now. I’ve already passed 18 miles, so it’s officially my longest training run. But my house is still miles away. I should probably keep going. It’s too cold to walk that far. And why is there still a headwind!? I hate you, England.

16 Traffic lights, DON’T YOU DARE TURN RED! If you stay green, I can stop and stretch and I can pretend I’m just waiting for the lights. NO! YOU TRAITORS! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME!?

17 Whatever. I didn’t want to stretch anyway…

18 .2 miles to go. I’ve got this. No more walking. Hm, I think my Garmin is broken. Maybe I’m actually at 20 miles now, and it just hasn’t updated?

19 Nope, that now says .1. Maybe it’s delayed. Is that a thing? Then again, that fence over there doesn’t seem to be getting any closer. Am I moving? I’m definitely still moving forwards, right?

20 IT SAYS 20 MILES! Take THAT, legs! I WIN! But wait a second… I’m still 1.5 miles from home. Looks like I’m going to be getting a warm-down walk. I can totally just tell people I planned this…

End of 20 Mile Run

The lovely @Pandy_Cakes met me at 13 14.5 miles and whooped and cheered me through the rain and the wind to the finish. When she would totally have rather had a lie in. She’s an absolute legend. Thanks Amanda!

In summary, I surprised myself. My energy levels were pretty constant, I was cheery for almost the entire thing, and I felt like I had something left in the tank at the end. My legs ached, but I felt good. Yay!

And to make things even more awesome, according to my Garmin stats, I’m still on track for my sub-5!

Garmin Stats for 20 Mile Run

… Which makes my face do this:

After 20 Mile Run

20 miles DONE, and 7 minutes faster than my 3h45 target!

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How was your weekend? 🙂

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Are built-in HRMs really a match for chest straps?

I was lucky enough to be picked as an Epson Runner, which means that over the past month or so I’ve been testing out the Epson Runsense SF-810 against my trusty Garmin Forerunner 910XT.

Garmin and Epson Heart Rate Monitors

Phew, why do sports watches have such flipping long names!?

One of the selling points of the Epson watch is the built-in HRM, which uses an integrated optical sensor to monitor your HR from your wrist. Epson claim that this is just as accurate as a chest strap. Needless to say, I was a wee bit dubious – as were the friends I mentioned it to.

The question is, can a built-in sensor really give you the same accuracy as a chest strap?

Or on the flip-side, is a chest strap really the only way to get an accurate reading?

In the name of science, I risked looking like a complete numpty with my 2 watches and tested the Epson alongside my Garmin on this week’s long run:

Garmin and Epson HRM Comparison

#techwanker alert…

By about 40 minutes into my 10 miler (i.e., the top of the first nasty hill!), the watches were around 2-3 bpm apart. There was a bit of a glitch at the beginning as the Epson decided to split the first mile into 3 laps of 0.08, 0.00 and 0.91 (no idea how that happened!)

But besides the squiffy first mile, the readings seemed fairly close between the 2 watches:

Garmin and Epson HRM Breakdown

As my handy little diagram above shows (lol…) the overall average for the Garmin measured as 159bpm, whilst the Epson showed 168bpm.

In a slightly more readable format, the HR splits were:

M2: Garmin 139, Epson 162

M3: Garmin 170, Epson 167

M4: Garmin 168, Epson 170

M5: Garmin 167, Epson 171

M6: Garmin 167, Epson 171

M7: Garmin 169, Epson 165

M8: Garmin 169, Epson 171

M9: Garmin 168, Epson 170

M10: Garmin 173, Epson 168

Whilst I found this experiment quite interesting, I’m not an expert when it comes to training by heart rate. According to various places – including Runners World – my LSRs should be in the 60-70% zone (117-136) and hills should peak at 85% (165), which means that I was way out of the target heart rate zone if either of those watches were correct.

How can I have run 10 miles in a zone that Runners World reserves for 5-10k race efforts!?

Do you use a heart rate monitor, or train to heart rate zones? Any tips?

Do I reeeally have to slow down as much as I think I do!?

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Disclaimer: Whilst this isn’t a sponsored post, in exchange for leaving 5 video reviews I am allowed to keep the Runsense, which I tested without charge.

Race Review: Kingston Breakfast Run 2015

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Kingston Breakfast Run. No closed roads, multiple loops, and the longest road race I’ve entered besides the marathon. Added to that, I woke up to grey skies, drizzle and a freezing cold wind.

Luckily, I managed to rope my friend into running with me! She entered the 8, and I was running the 16. One good thing about the multiple loops was that I could do her entire run with her before heading off on my own.

The route was well signed, the marshals were fab (though having to stop at side streets for cars was a bit of a pain, and meant that we lost the 11:00 minute pacer about 4 miles in), and it was nice and flat. The race village was easy to find from the car park, though the loos were tucked away down the road and around the corner. Luckily for us a policeman tipped us off that the queues were far shorter at the far end, with most people queueing at the first portaloos they saw – which resulted in a huge long line on one end, and no waiting further down the road. For good karma, we passed the message on as we headed back to the start!

I love that the pacers were for an actual pace, rather than a finish time (6:00 to 12:00/mile). It meant that we didn’t feel pressured to speed up at any point – and I could stick to my planned 11:00/mile! The 20 milers headed off at 8am, whilst the 8 and 16 milers started at 8h30 – this reduced congestion a little, but it was still a bit of a squeeze on the river path out to Hampton Court (especially as it was still open to the public).

A lot of people finished at 8 miles, which meant that the second loop was MUCH quieter. I took my first walking break at about 8.5 miles, to grab some water at the aid station – my calves were tight, and I was worrying big time about the second loop.

kbrhalf

Eyeing up the aid station and inwardly grumbling at my friend for being able to go and hole up in a cosy cafe whilst I spent another 1.5 hours in the cold!

Luckily by the time I hit the river path again, my legs were starting to loosen up and I was beginning to settle into a comfy rhythm and enjoy myself. I was taking a gel every 3 miles, which seemed to keep my energy levels pretty stable. Not sure I can stomach it for the marathon (I think I took one every 4-5 miles last year), but we’ll see! I tucked in behind a couple of other women, which meant that when I felt like walking up and over Hampton Court bridge, I instead sucked it up and kept on plodding when they showed no signs of slowing down. It’s all about keeping up with the runners ahead!

kbrsmile

I got a little bit cheerier once I settled into it!

I made a deal with myself that I could only have one more walking break – I wanted to run as much as possible, and this would mean less walking time than during the Surrey Half the week before (and with no stopping to stretch things out). I decided to walk through the aid station at about 13 miles for another cup of water, and then forced myself to keep going to the finish line. This meant giving myself quite a stern talking-to (in my head), but it seemed to work! I leapfrogged a couple of runners who kept walking and then sprinting, but left all but one of them behind by the time I hit the finishing straight. It’s always a boost to overtake people (especially after 15+ miles!!)

Whilst a lot of the route was very quiet, once we got back into Kingston we found ourselves running through big crowds, which was brilliant fun. There were also a couple of Breast Cancer charity spots, and the volunteers were AMAZING!!

I was a bit confused when we passed the 8, 20 and then the 16-mile markers a good few hundred metres before the end on the first go round (the 8-mile course was advertised as 8.2, so we expected to pass that marker before the finish, but the others were just 16 and 20 so it came as a bit of a surprise). I’m glad we learned about the extra distance early on, or it would probably have thrown me a bit!

Somehow, I found a bit of extra energy on the final straight, and pushed the pace a little for the finish. Having struggled in the first half, I was extremely happy to be able to finish strong, and I crossed the line just 38 seconds over my 3-hour goal! If I can keep it up, I should be on track for a sub-5 finish in Paris next month, which is EPIC 🙂

kbrsprint

I think the smile says it all! That stupid hand, though ..

To top it all off, my lovely friend met me at the finish with a big hot coffee. Topped with cream! I don’t think a hot drink has ever tasted so good 😀

Unfortunately the event didn’t offer a medal, but the goodie bag provided by Lidl was a bit (!) impressive – and I’ve popped the mug on my desk at work to show it off!

kbrbag

All in all, it was a great event – and I’ll definitely be back next year.

I might even step up to the 20-mile option, if my legs are up to it 😉

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.

reebokrun1

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? 🙂

Race Review: Surrey Half Marathon 2015

After a hot, sunny, festival-esque debut last year, I was seriously looking forward to the Surrey Half this month. And it didn’t disappoint!

Although, on a side note I did notice a few lost and confused runners at Woking station – some signage might be a good idea next time. (Pays to be local!) But once you got to the park, it was brilliantly straight forward. Signs and announcements led you straight to the bag drop, which then led you out to the portaloos, and then directly into the pens. There were exactly 2 people waiting for the portaloos when I got there at 8h45 – winning! And being at the back, I only had to shuffle a few feet down the road to wait for the start.

The Surrey Half Marathon #running #racephoto #sussexsportphotography

Being a complete numpty I forgot my Garmin, so I decided to stick behind the 2h20 pacers and see how it went. Given that my PB is the 2h22 I got last year and I haven’t come close to beating it since, I had no idea what to expect; but I decided to hang on for as long as I could, and then just focus on enjoying the run.

I stuck with the pacers for about 4 miles, before the big hill up towards Jacobs Well forced me to ease off a little. After that, I just stuck to what seemed like a fairly steady pace – and I felt pretty strong, which was a confidence booster 🙂 I finished in 2:25:13, which is slap bang in the middle of my half marathon times. I’ll take it!

The crowds lining the route were AMAZING, and the live bands were brilliant, too. The course was well marked, there were plenty of water stations (long enough and with enough volunteers that I never had to slow down or queue or zig-zag around other runners), and every volunteer I saw gave me a smile and encouragement. Thanks, you wonderful people!

But it wasn’t just the volunteers that made the day so great. Whilst they were all legends, 3 lots of spectators stick in my mind: Firstly, the women at the top of the big hill at 7 miles, who were calling ‘Come on ladies, keep going – let the men do the walking!’ which made me LOL, and stopped me from slowing down (I actually managed to hold out until 9.5 miles before I took a walking break, which I’m giving them credit for). Secondly, the little boy stood just before the 10-mile marker, who with each high-five exclaimed ‘You can make it to the end! You can all make it to the end!’. And thirdly, at 11.5 miles, someone spotted my name on my race bib and yelled ‘Go Lucy! Do it for the Lucys!’ whilst another added, ‘You’re looking fresh, dear!’ (Hahaha .. Haha..)

I love that the Surrey Half bibs have your name printed under your number. I got 3 lots of direct shout-outs, which put a huge smile on my face! Other races, take note!

The live band at the 13-mile marker were playing ‘Run to You’ as I passed, which got me a teeny bit emotional. Silly really, but still!

However, note to self – regardless of the race endorphins, DON’T SPRINT AT 13 MILES. You WILL feel like throwing up by the time you see the finish line. Luckily, I held it in, but the photos at miles 13 and 13.1 say it all:

sprint1

There was just one negative point I’ll mention: The guy doing the announcements. He was pretty patronising, and riled me right up before I’d even started when he said:

The runners towards the front are probably just taking this as a marathon training run, but for those towards the back this will be one of the biggest achievements of their lives!

Excuse me, Mr, but what does speed have to do with experience? For all you know, the guy up in the front pen could be running his first ever half – whilst, I might add, plenty of us in the back were ACTUALLY using this as a training run for a full marathon.

I completely appreciate what a big achievement a half marathon is, but it’s as much of a challenge for the 1h30 runners as it is for the 2h30 ones.

It got even better when my boyfriend mentioned what the guy was spouting at the 2-hour mark:

Wow, with the 2-hour finishers we’re STILL getting sprint finishes!

Again, what!?

Despite that, the atmosphere was brilliant. I had a bit of a chat with a couple of runners around the course, and the whole thing was cheerful, loud, encouraging, and just plain FUN. Whilst it might not have finished on a track this year, the crowds lining the finishing straight made it even better!

surreyfinish

Disclaimer: In the end, the banana was just for the benefit of the photo. I actually tucked into the Wispa I had stashed in my bag…

The medal was pretty great, too:

surreymedal

Are you entering for next year? I know I will!