Learning to love winter running

Bobble hats and hot chocolates make the freezing runs worth it!

I have a real love/hate relationship with winter in England. The days are shorter, it’s dark and cold and wet, and generally unpleasant! Truth be told, 9 times out of 10 I’d rather be at home in my pjs watching something on Netflix 😉

But there are also some really great aspects to keeping your training going through the winter – not least because you’ll enjoy the benefits in your spring races!

Here are 5 things that have been getting me out the door lately.

1 – It’s dark!

Whilst it’s a bit annoying having to avoid my off-road routes in the evenings, I can take comfort in the fact that nobody can see how red and sweaty and gross I get (I’ve actually had people ask me if I’m ok when I’m recovering from a big hill…) and I also get to wear my head torch! SO MUCH FUN.

2 – It’s cold!

Yep, I’m definitely a cold weather runner. Warm summer days are great, but my pace goes out the window and I really struggle. I’ll admit that I hate the first few minutes when it’s frosty outside, but I seem to always improve my speed in the cold, and it’s also an excuse to buy wear more layers!

3 – New Year’s Resolutions

So I’ve not set any resolutions of my own, but lots of my friends have. Luckily for me, most of them are fitness/diet/health related, which makes it far easier to persuade them to run with me 😀 Win/win!

4 – Brownie points

Cold, wet, windy miles count double, right? 😉 Either way, you can’t help but feel pretty smug running past all the pedestrians in your capris whilst they’re bundled up in coats, scarves and hats and muttering about how crazy you are. Or is that just me?

5 – All the treats!

I may or may not regularly bribe myself to run. Or, yknow, use my run as an excuse to treat myself! Coffee, a long hot shower, throwing on the onesie – they’re all brilliant after a freezing cold or drizzly run! 😀

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What motivates you to train at this time of year?

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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? 🙂

Barcelona Marathon Training: 7 weeks to go!

I’m not doing a weekly summary this time, because after last weekend’s dog drama I decided to give myself a week off to rest my leg. That means that my training basically consisted of the long run: 16 miles.

As you can probably tell from the photos below, the run started out with me worrying how long my tendon would cooperate for (and wondering whether I’d need to walk home at some point!), and ended with ALL THE HAPPY when I stopped my Garmin at 16.02 miles:

Barcelona Marathon Long Training Run

What a difference 16 miles can make…

Whilst I took a few breaks to reshuffle kit, have a drink, take a gel, stretch or just generally have a bit of a wobble (long distance running, all the LOLs), my moving time gave me a 10:24/mile average, and a 14 minute PB over last year’s 16 miler at the Kingston Breakfast Run! (Though obviously my breaks were counted there, so I probably slightly cheated today).

I had a bit of a moment when I accidentally hit the ‘lap’ button (which I’d never even noticed before!) and then tried to fix the lap setting but ended up pausing the Garmin instead, losing nearly 1/4 of a mile. And being the stats fiend that I am, I obviously decided that the lost 1/4 mile didn’t count, and I had to make it up. So I technically ran about 16.25. (Grumble, grumble).

I had a moment of doubt after one of the bigger hills on the route, and turned to Twitter for some much-needed encouragement/a big kick up the backside:

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The #ukrunchat community certainly delivered, and gave me just the boost I needed. It was tough, it hurt, but my tendon behaved and I’m over the moon with my time!

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Just goes to show, sometimes your body is capable of far more than you think! 😀

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How was your week? Did you run this weekend?

Barcelona Marathon Training: Week 7/16

I’m baaack!

These weekly training posts have disappeared for a little while now, thanks to a tendon injury I’ve been trying to recover from. This was my first full week of training after a 2-week break (which still included a bit of running, but at a gentle pace and nothing over 5k). Quite frankly, I haven’t really been doing enough for a weekly summary!

Today, I cut the scheduled 17 miler to 14 miles and re-jigged the plan a bit (thank goodness for cut-back weeks giving me some wiggle room…) and I’m officially back on track! Come at me, Barcelona!

Barcelona Training Run With Head Torch

I got a running backpack for Christmas, and a head torch a few weeks back, and today was the first time I ran with them. (Yep, I’ve been skipping my run commutes – ooops!)

I felt slightly dubious before I set off. Having used a belt and water bottle for my last 2 marathons, I felt like a bit of a wannabe with my new kit! But it made my run SO much easier. I’m never doing a long run without the pack ever again, ever ever ever! 😀

Barcelona Training Run With Head Torch 2

The head torch was seriously fun, too. Now that I can see where I’m going, the possibilities for run routes are ENDLESS, and thanks to the backpack they’ll be made even better with ALL THE SNACKS! (Oh, and I can now run home without faffing with my belt/tripping over tree routes. An added bonus).

Sooo, without further rambling, my week looked like this:

Tuesday: 5k @ 9:29/mile. I took it easy as I didn’t want to shoot off and have to walk home (the physio had told me to go easy on both speed and distance until my leg was better). It was tough after a break, but given that my 5k PB was 9:40/mile back in August, hitting 9:29 on an ‘easy’ run felt brilliant. And no pain, either!

Thursday: 4m @ 9:40/mile. This was meant to be 7 miles, but I ran out of time and cut it short. I also accidentally recorded the first half a mile as a cycle, rather than a run, but as a result I discovered the funky ‘multi sport’ option on my Garmin – so there’s that!

Sunday: 14m @ 10:16/mile. I also clocked a half marathon ‘moving’ time of 2:15:07, which is a PB of 7 minutes and 3 seconds! Woop woop! And miles 13 and 14 were my fastest, at 9:57 and 9:39. This isn’t counting the breaks I took to stretch, adjust the pack, put the head torch on, cross roads etc. but it’s pretty awesome regardless!

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Do you have a spring race you’re training for? How’s it all going?

A perfect morning for a run!

I ran to work this morning. It was BEAUTIFUL.

When I got up at 6h40, it was still dark. I had a banana and some water, layered up (long sleeve compression top as a base layer; short sleeve top over it; running jacket over that; neck warmer; long running tights; double-layer socks, and my running gloves), grabbed my stuff and headed out by 7am. According to the weather forecast, it was about 2 degrees this morning, with just a veeery slight breeze. Brilliant!

I ran the same route that I cycle, although with building work going on along the river path I had to go through town instead at the beginning. I then followed the normal route, along the main roads. Thing is, even though I cycle (and run) along a big 60mph A road, the views to either side are wonderful, as it cuts straight through the Surrey countryside. I got to see the sun rise:

1

This was at the top of the biggest hill on the route:

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And, being so early, the roads were almost deserted. It was just me, the sun, the crisp Autumn air and some awesome music! Really, really peaceful 😀

I ran to the supermarket by the office, bought some lunch (got a few weird looks, but I was buzzing, so whatever!) and then walked the last half mile to the office to stretch out my legs. (That bit was FREEZING!) I ran 6.5 miles altogether; the Garmin auto-paused when I stopped (the footpath KEPT changing sides, so i had to cross the road about 5 or 6 times!), but I only walked when crossing roads, and ran the rest of the way. Including ALL of the hills – yay!

Then I got into the office, changed into thick leggings and a cosy jumper dress, and had a huge bowl of porridge. As I walked in (in my running gear) my colleagues asked if I ran the whole way here – and when I said yes, they all called me a crazy fool. I’ll take it 😀

All that I need now is a nap – but I guess that’ll have to wait!