It’s marathon week!

I’ve run 235 training miles this year. 235!! And with just 3.1 more to go before the big day, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple of weeks giving in to the maranoia, and questioning whether I trained often enough, ran far enough, pushed myself as hard as I should have, whether my fuelling strategy will work and whether I should have done more cross training, more foam rolling, more strength work…

Realistically though, whilst my times have been a bit slower than last year, I’ve managed to stick to 3-4 runs a week, along with a weekly 2k swim, pilates, personal training sessions, spinning, cycle commutes, and even a few threshold and progression runs here and there. My recovery times are improving, and my body feels stronger, with none of the niggles I had to deal with last time round. It’s been a pretty epic few months!

There have been frosty run commutes:

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Cold, dark, wet cycle commutes and muddy river runs:

darkwetmiles1Some of the long runs were TERRIBLE – torrential rain, strong winds, thunder and lightening during one – but some of them were also epic fun (with medals at the end!)

badgoodrun1Lots of miles were run alongside my favourite people, and were full of smiles, chatting and laughter:

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There were moments I asked myself why on earth I was running at all, and moments that made me wish I could run every day:

awfulbrill1There were plenty of early-morning gym sessions where I desperately wanted to just crash out afterwards – and evening sessions where I did just that!

sleepearly1It’s been a bit of a mixed bag, and just like last year, a roller-coaster of emotions! But I can honestly say that I feel fairly well prepared for my marathon on Sunday. As for whether I get my target time, who knows? But I can definitely give it a good shot!

And at the end of the day, it’s PARIS – and the forecast is for glorious sunshine! If all else fails, I’ll stash a few macarons in my belt, enjoy the sights and have a bloody good time.

Who else is marathoning this weekend? Good luck, and ENJOY!

 

 

 

Paris Marathon: 7 (!) weeks to go

Training so far has been a bit of a mixed bag. It started with a nasty cold that set me back over a week, and then about a month ago I developed a foot niggle (I’m refusing to call it an injury!!! Don’t make me!!!)

All in all, it’s been a bit of a struggle.

But despite the setbacks, I’ve worked my way up to 16 miles for the long run, which I’m very pleased about! I’m averaging a slower pace than last year, but I think all of the extra strength and conditioning work I’m doing will make me a much stronger runner this time round.

Last year, despite all of my good intentions, my weekly training was generally a 5k or two + a few cycle commutes + a long run, and a few half-assed gym sessions. This year, I generally manage 3 runs (a lunchtime 5k, a 7m run commute, and the long run); a 1-hour pilates session; a swim session (1 hour, which is usually 1600-2000m, depending on how energetic I’m feeling!); a 1-hour PT or gym session (which often includes sets of 200m sprint intervals at 12.5kph), and a cycle commute or two.

I was quite worried about cutting back on the cycling, as I found that my legs initially felt much weaker. Turns out that once I started working the muscles that I’d ignored for years (hello, hamstrings!) everything kind of balanced out, and I started to hold a better posture and even increased my cadence! Win! (Still working on the speed…) I’d still like my quads back, though.

For Sunday’s 16 miler I tried a new route, taking the canal path from Woking out towards Weybridge. It was cold, sunny and crisp – perfect running weather! 🙂 And the views were gorgeous, which along with some Maroon 5 helped to take my mind off the distance.

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I took a gel every 4 miles, which worked great; my energy seemed really consistent over the whole run. The last 1.5 miles were extremely tough (as expected) and I really had to grit my teeth to keep going, but I averaged 11:09/mile which is only 9 seconds off my pace in the Cranleigh 15 last year! I’m getting there!

This weekend I’ve got Brighton Half, which I’m running with my parents and uncle. It’s an event I’ve not done before, but after Brighton Marathon last year I have high hopes!

If someone had told me a few years ago that I’d be excited about a half marathon, I’d have said they were mad…

Are you training for anything? How’s it going? 🙂

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! 🙂 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!

Getting back on track

I’m learning now, more than ever that time and perseverance are the only things that will get me comfortably to the start line of Paris Marathon next April. In previous years, my training has been quite erratic – I’d do the odd short mid-week run one week, and four medium runs the next, back-to-backing them in order to make up for missed sessions and completely neglecting any cross training at all.

This year, I’ve been trying to ease back into my training by simply making myself exercise regularly. I’m not stressing about miles, or formal training plans as yet (though with my next half marathon just under 5 weeks away, that should probably happen sooner rather than later). I’m just working on getting my running and cross training into my regular routine, and trying my best to be consistent.

So far, it seems to have worked. I’ve been running 5k (ish) during my Monday lunchtimes, running 7 miles to work on a Thursday, and swimming for 40 minutes on a Friday before work. Whilst cycling has taken a bit of a back seat since Brighton, I’ve still been trying to cycle to work once a week – and boy, is it tough being out of shape!

My friend and I ran to work for the first time after an extended break 5 weeks ago, and whilst the first week was awful – slow, painful, and with tons of walking breaks – we’ve continued to drag ourselves out of bed at 6h30 every Thursday and into our running gear to give it another go. I genuinely thought for the first couple of weeks that I wouldn’t ever get back to my old fitness level – but during one of my early morning grumbles, my friend turned to me with a bright smile and exclaimed:

But our fitness .. We’re chasing it down right now! And each run we do, we’re catching it up!

That was exactly what I needed to hear. Running with someone so positive has had a big impression on my own motivation – and when you’re plodding along at 7am on the way to work, half asleep, aching and wondering how on earth you ran a marathon just a few months ago … Having a friend beside you who whoops, cheers and punches the sky every time you pass another runner (in the opposite direction, of course) is a fab way to snap yourself out of all of the negative thinking. No, it doesn’t make the run hurt less – but a smile can do wonders!

And, as it turns out, so can stubbornly heading out every week to try and try and try. Our average pace has gone from 12:32, to 11:32, to 11:20, to 11:14, to 10:57. The early mornings are paying off, and we’re finally sneaking back down to our old pace. It feels AWESOME. And it’s nice to see my own times go down, too – I run a solo mile to her house before heading on towards the office, and that mile has gone from 11:50, to 11:11, to 10:50, to 10:35, to 10:05. Not particularly speedy by most people’s standards, but brilliant for me – and I’m the only person I’m currently racing 🙂

On top of it all, today was our best lunchtime 5k since the marathon, with an average pace of 10:09 and a best mile of 9:50!

I think that’s worth giving up a lie-in or two.

Running post-marathon

I didn’t expect the marathon to transform me into Wonderwoman, but I did think that it would make a difference to my running in some way. Through all of those tough solo miles in training, I would tell myself, ‘this is the hardest it’ll be’ – that once I’d done the distance a few times, my body would adjust and I’d be busting out 15-milers with ease.

Unsurprisingly, it’s not really turned out that way. Being a marathon runner doesn’t make me a good runner, because I wasn’t a particularly good runner beforehand. I was just a very stubborn, determined runner. The only difference now is that instead of being determined to reach that elusive 26.2m goal, I want to speed up – which is going to be DIFFICULT. I’m not a fan of hills or intervals (that’s putting it lightly – I avoid both like the plague), but I guess the only way to speed up is to, well, speed up.

Last Saturday, a friend and I headed to our local parkrun. I ran 1.5 miles there, did the parkrun, then ran 1.5 miles back, making it up to a nice 10k. Since then, my big toenail has been throbbing and getting darker and darker. Ironic really, given that it was fine after the marathon. Beaten by a 10k … Pft. Whilst my legs didn’t hurt too badly afterwards, I found the run itself really tough. I had to take a brief walking break after half a mile! Shameful! And the parkrun itself HURT. To be fair, it was hilly – but oh my days, I wasn’t feeling it. And all I could think was ‘how on Earth is this so hard, after all of the uber-long runs I ticked off in training!?’ Luckily, I managed the 5k without any breaks, but it certainly wasn’t my fastest.

This morning I decided to bite the bullet and give it another go. I set off at 6h55, picked up my friend 1.5 miles down the road, and we ran to work. By the time I got to the Sainsburys by my office, my Garmin registered 6.59 miles (food is definitely more important than a round number) and I saved the run and went in to grab some bits for lunch. This time, I managed to get a 10:05 first mile, and only walked the road crossings. I also got to admire the view from the top of the big hill, in the beautiful sunshine, which made the climb worth it:

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I made the rookie mistake of not eating anything beforehand. Normally, I’d be fine without breakfast before a run of this length – I never eat before parkrun – but given how much I struggled on Saturday, I think a banana or some toast would probably have given me a bit of a boost. As it was, I seriously lacked energy, and my legs felt tired for almost the entire thing. I think it was only after 5 miles or so that I really settled into it!

Whilst I’m not running my best, I’m really loving being able to run for the pure enjoyment of it, rather than having a set distance to reach on a certain day, in a certain time. The pressure’s off – I finished the marathon (albeit with lots of walking breaks from 17 miles!), and now I can run where I want, when I want, and for as long as I want. I just need to make sure that I keep getting out there; it’s a bit more difficult when there’s no training plan to push me out the door!

To keep the motivation up, I’ve signed up for a few half marathons: the Thames Meander in August, Royal Parks in October (the first ever ballot that I actually got lucky in!), Brighton in February, and Surrey in March (I highly recommend this one – this year was AWESOME!!!).

Now I just need to figure out which marathon to run next spring! So far, my name’s (provisionally) down for Paris, and I’m going to be entering the London ballot on the 22nd (though never much luck there). Whichever marathon I end up doing, here’s hoping that I walk a little less next time round!