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! ūüôā

It was at this point that¬†I went to take one of my gels, only to realise it went out of date last June.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 ūüėČ 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 ūüôā 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:

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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 ūüėÄ

 

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Paris Marathon Training: Long run #3

Yesterday, I managed my first double-digit run since Brighton.

This time, I made sure I went out earlier in the day, so that I could make the most of the river path and the disused railway (now a footpath/bridle path) that stretches from Shalford all the way down towards the south coast. As I had 12 miles on the plan, my turn-around point was just short of Cranleigh.

The river path was a whole lot of this:

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Somehow, I managed to NOT fall flat on my face – so there’s that!

After about 2 miles, I turned off the river path to join the footpath:

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Last year, I did almost all of my training runs on pavements along main roads and residential streets. Whilst running off-road is a little tougher on the legs, and takes a bit more concentration, it’s SO worth it. I’ve always been an avid road runner, but the miles and miles of beautiful. peaceful countryside might just convert me! It’s a shame that it’s too dark to run this route during the week ūüė¶

I was extremely lucky this weekend, as I managed to convince my boyfriend to cycle (well ok, there was quite a lot of free-wheeling…) alongside me for company. What a¬†difference¬†it makes when you have¬†someone smiley and chatty to keep you going¬†on a long run! Plus, it meant highlights like him accidentally squirting one of my gels down his front when I offered him some ūüėČ However, it’s worth noting that when a very tired runner says ‘are we nearly back to the road?’ a better response than ‘eeerm, probably?’ is something like,¬†‘YEP! Also, you’re super awesome!’ (P.S., you’re allowed to lie).

The first half flew by, especially as the river path was so slippery and muddy – good distraction! It was also surprisingly busy – I spent the first mile or so dodging walkers and cyclists and dogs (one dog ran right into me, though luckily that was on the footpath rather than inches from the river…), and trying to keep my footing in the mud and puddles. (Good practice for the Brutal 10! Eeek!)

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I’d stashed some dark chocolate along with a second water bottle in my boyfriend’s rucksack, and had some at half-way. It was a brilliant little treat after 6 cold miles! And I think my body is still getting used to the gels. I made the mistake last week of taking one in a single go, forgetting that I need to take them in small doses over about half a mile to prevent a stitch. Luckily, I tend to only make mistakes like that once!

I’ve been taking it easy on the long runs so far, as I’m still trying to adjust to the¬†training volume after¬†having 2 weeks off over Christmas (boo, cold!) But I’m feeling stronger every run, and the post-run recovery is going well – though I should probably foam roll and stretch a bit more! I managed to keep my splits fairly consistent yesterday:

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Check out the average moving pace for miles 9 and 10! Skills!

Whilst I want to eventually get my long runs back down to the 10:30-11:00/mile mark, for now¬†I’m happy to¬†leave the speedier¬†miles for the mid-week sessions ūüôā

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:

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.. 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?

Looking ahead to Paris Marathon 2015

The marathon is a funny one, and unlike any other running distance I’ve tried so far. With a 5 or 10k, or even a half marathon, you can get a very good idea of your potential¬†finishing time¬†during training. With the marathon, you can make all the plans you want –¬†but you can never really know how it’s going to pan out until the day itself.¬†Even if you hit your target pace for every single training run, it doesn’t mean that your body will stick to the plan for 26.2 miles.

It’s a bit of a bugger in that respect.

For Brighton this year, I didn’t want to give myself a goal finishing time. It was my first marathon, and I had no idea how my body would hold up for that sort of distance. My parents had run close to 5 hours the year before, so I told myself that something around the 5-hour mark would be awesome. But even so, I didn’t make any plans. I set off at a comfortable pace which I kept up for the first 21 miles (letting my parents go on ahead at the 10k mark) before taking¬†close to¬†a 1.5-mile walking break at 21 miles. I admit that I glanced at my pace band here and there, but when I saw that I had lost my chances of a sub-5 finish, I didn’t feel upset or disappointed in any way.

In fact, by the time I hit 22 miles, I started to get excited – because I know, at that point, that my body was capable of getting me to the finish line. And for my first marathon, that’s all that really mattered to me. I came in at 5:16:15 (with my Garmin showing 26.4 miles), and cried happy tears as I crossed the line – with my parents on either side of me (I managed to catch them up just after the 25 mile marker).

Paris will be my second marathon, and after almost 2 years of training for Brighton, I feel like I should have a more concrete goal this time round than to simply ‘finish’. When I met my personal trainer for the first time last week, we discussed my history and also my fitness goals – with the main one being Paris. He asked me what time I wanted to finish in, and I’ll admit that I was almost scared to say a time out loud.

I mean, I’m not a great runner. I’ve never really stuck to a proper plan, besides ‘run X miles X times a week’, and my fastest mile EVER was 8:40. This was at the start of a 5k run on Christmas day last year with my little brother (who happily runs 7:00/mile without breaking a sweat), and I ended up walking for a good few minutes afterwards just to recover. My comfortable pace is 11:00/mile, and a good pace for my shorter runs is 10:00. Sure, I’d love to be able to bust out an 8:00-9:00/mile average on my shorter runs, but up to this point I’ve never been great with speed and pace.

I told him that I’d be happy just to beat my previous time, or to come in at under 5 hours. His immediate reaction was ‘oh, you can definitely get under 5 hours. What about 4h30?’

I almost laughed out loud at this point. But at the same time, a little voice in my head started whispering ‘what if?…’

Maybe, just maybe, by stepping outside of my comfort zone and pushing myself a little, adding in some proper¬†speed and strength training and knuckling down for my long runs, by sticking to a structured plan and focusing a little more on recovery… Am I capable of more than I give myself credit for? Can I really give myself such an ambitious goal?

I’m excited to find out.

For those who have done multiple marathons, how did your training change after the first one? Have you been able to shave off much time?

Making the most of the sunshine

Here in Surrey, it’s been glorious sunshine (except for a couple of thunderstorms) for a good couple of weeks now. Usually, it’s hottest during the week whilst we’re all at work, and cloudier/cooler over the weekend, but this time we’ve been lucky – it hit about 28 degrees today, and has been bright and sunny with a cool breeze. Lovely!

Yesterday evening, my boyfriend and I decided to go for a little wander to explore the area around our building. We headed out of town to one of the nearby footpaths, where we found the ruins of a medieval church at the top of the hill. It looked stunning at sunset:

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I think sunset is my favourite time of day during the summer – I love the orange glow.

In other, more training-related news, I had planned a morning run with a couple of friends for today. The idea was to head out this morning to Woking for ice cream sundaes, which we spent the entire run thinking about in a sort of ‘this hurts and I’m definitely melting and don’t think I can go on but if I don’t carry on I won’t get ice cream’ kind of way. Unfortunately, when we got there the ice cream place had shut down so we didn’t get our sundaes anyway! This was¬†more than a little disappointing after running 7 miles for them, but as we’d finished the run by the time we found out,¬†it had at least served its purpose as the proverbial dangling carrot.¬†Whilst¬†the heat meant that we went much slower than some of our recent runs, it was nice to get out and give it a go regardless, and we definitely felt better for it.

As usual, I did the first mile solo, mostly along the river path:

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I even got to break out the sunglasses, yay! Though I now have a rather fetching tan line across my nose. And 2 sets of racer-back tan lines from my sports bra and running top. But hey, can’t complain!

The rest of the run was basically our usual route to work (with a slight adjustment for the last mile to get to the town centre), which was good as we had actually missed this week’s run commute. Whoops! As expected, we didn’t improve our time this week – but it was nice to do the route without the pressure of getting to the office for a particular time (or in this case, at all!)

Once we discovered that the ice cream place had shut down, we had a bit of a mini adventure. We headed back to Guildford on the train as planned, and the next THREE places we tried to get either ice cream or a milkshake from were shut or closed down. What is with you, Surrey!? We finally ended up at Neros, where we all got awesome frappes. I had the mocha one, with a ton of cream and chocolate sprinkles on top. Definitely worth the hassle.

But I’ll tell you one thing ice cream’s good for – coffee floats! We discovered these when our neighbour invited us over one evening. All it takes is iced coffee, a few ice cubes, and a huge scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream. If you’re feeling adventurous, I would recommend adding Amaretto. Sooo good.

I’ll admit that I did end up getting my ice cream today after all. After meeting up with my boyfriend and his friend, we first trekked up the LONGEST HILL OF MY LIFE, before plonking ourselves down to enjoy the view across the Surrey hills at the top (this might have resulted in a few more tan lines).

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When we headed back down to the river, we found an ice cream stall, and of course had to get one¬†with a flake, because no ice cream cone is complete without one! ūüôā¬†It was wonderful to sit on the grass under a tree and enjoy the¬†cool breeze.

river1In hindsight, a hilly walk might not have been the best plan the evening before my first ever spin class. Tomorrow morning is going to be interesting, to say the least!