Finding Speed, Postpartum Running, Uncategorized

What next?

What do you do when you reach a goal? Or when something you have been working towards has been accomplished, or in the current climate, cancelled? At the beginning of the year, I, like many of you, thought I had my goals for this year mapped out. This goal, that race, these PBs. Bish bash bosh, job is, as they say, a good un.

I’ve been pretty lucky during the whole lockdown period. It coincided with my ‘postpartum comeback’ and by comeback, I mean building up my fitness again, in a strong and safe way. That was always in my plan, so I found it really easy to maintain my focus and continue building the miles each week to the point of pre-baby running fitness. Of course there were smaller, shorter races cancelled that I wanted to include in said return, and no parkrun meant I had to use another scale to judge how I was progressing each week, but these were minor things in the grand scheme of that part of my journey. What I was very vocal about, was wanting to smash out a PB at Amsterdam Marathon this autumn. That was the big goal. the A Goal. Now Autumn marathons have been cancelled or changed pretty much worldwide, I have no A race. No big goal. So what to do? For the record, even if there were an autumn marathon available to run in, I probably wouldn’t do it. More than likely these will be on a time trail basis, or even virtual. I thrive for race day atmosphere, the encouragement, the spectators, the post run beers, doughnuts and sweaty hugs, and of course the camaraderie of fellow runners. Marathons come as a package to me, not something I necessarily want to go and battle out in that quiet place in your head. Although, during ultra training, that’s acceptable. Enjoyable even. Anyway, I digress.

So the postpartum has been checked off, I built up to a solid, consistent weekly mileage by 6 months postpartum and probably as fit as I have ever been during any previous marathon training block. Working hard during lockdown has given me focus. It’s been my escape. Of course I want to continue with my ‘base’ but I found I went a little stale. I need something to aim for and I found myself dwindling in motivation with continued base building, with no race in sight. The virtual Race To The Stones Ultra marathon was a great week, and gave me a little pick me up for that week. I loved getting stuck in to completing the 100km over the week, and running my highest ever weekly mileage. It gave me a sense of accomplishment. I felt proud of myself. yes, I’m that type of person who responds well to a little pat on the back, even if it is myself giving it. Fatigue kicked in the week following VRTTS (last week) and I found my mojo dwindled again. But here’s the thing. Races and challenges doesn’t define you as a runner. I had a long hard think about it, and realised there is so much I want to achieve with running, that doesn’t have to be specifically race orientated. I have an absolute bucket list of little, medium and big goals (goal life) all sat on the master list, begging to be embraced by the priority list. (Yes lists are also now life) But also on a much simpler level, I run for enjoyment, for me, for the benefits it provides physically and mentally. For the places it can still take me to even whilst we are in these strange times. There’s a whole host of trails on my radar I’m wanting to experience.

So I’m back to what I’ve always done. Setting goals for some motivation. Short term I’m going back to what I have never really tackled. Although the last time I blogged about this I ended up pregnant, so kind of had a good excuse as to why it wasn’t accomplished. Speed. I am not a naturally fast runner. More of a ‘plug her in and see how far she goes’ kind of runner, hence my love of all things trail and long distance! But I would love to see if I can sharpen up and tackle the 5k and 10k distances with more specific training geared to these. Just to see what I can do. My 5k and 10k PBs both stand from a half marathon race back in 2018. Firstly I have done a lot of running since then for it not to have come down, and secondly, you know something is slightly out of whack when your short PBs have been set in a half marathon race! So yes, short stuff over the summer. I have entered a couple of time trial races, firstly to experience the new format going forward, but also as they *should* help with the goals. The first one is this week, a four mile trail race, mainly for fun I should add (although the nerves feel very real right now) the next will be the Severn Bridge 10k in August. I have also entered a trail marathon in October. But this is for fun, something for me to look forward to. It is not the flat road type of marathon you need for setting PBs, so it will be included and used for training/fun, but mostly, food for my soul! So there it is, my immediate goals that made it over to priority list. Why not. Hopefully I will keep up with the weekly round up of training as I used to do during marathon training, to keep you all updated as to what specific training I am doing to do to get maybe, possibly, a bit faster (not fast really) over the summer.

In the meantime, if you are finding yourself in a place where running motivation has taken a bit of a dive, please do check out my top 12 tips for finding some mojo again over at YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ztchKRhThQ) hopefully there will be something of use to you there. And if you are in the position of having no goal thanks to a cancelled race, or just simply not knowing what to do next, find yourself something that gets you excited, it will keep you going. Here are just a few ideas that you might like to try.

  • Improve Speed. Aim for improving speed over a shorter distance. It’s much easier to find a 5k or 10k route close to you to try and improve on, and also a distance that you can have a go at much more frequently than the longer distances. Do a time trail on a route, then try and beat that time once a fortnight or once a month.
  • Speed isn’t everything. Maybe try and up your distance. If you currently go for shorter distances, aim to build up to a 10k, or half marathon distance.
  • Sign up to a virtual race or challenge. There are SO many options out there now for this, with most big races offering a virtual option. Something to aim for and you still get bling. Win, win.
  • You don’t have to be too structured. Perhaps a goal could be to run somewhere new once a week. take a new trail, or try alternative routes. Coincide with a trip to somewhere new.
  • Strava Segments. Perhaps try and improve your Strava segment times. I’m not saying you have to go full on and try and take crowns (although they are nice. I had one once, for about ten minutes) but go and see if you can beat your own time on them.
  • Fix your weaknesses/issues. This is a great time to really work on yourself. If you want to become a stronger runner, learn about strength training, or start practising something that will benefit your running (for me during lockdown, that was yoga/Pilates).

Just a few thoughts, It’s very hard to come up with goals, because lets face it. Unless they are personal to you and what you want from your running, they probably won’t stick around long. Your why, is different to another person’s why, but whatever it is, run safe, run happy, and run for you!

Chicago Marathon Training, Running and Pregnancy, Uncategorized

Hello Baby Pear

Weeks  12 – 15. Hello Baby Pear.

The last few weeks have flown by. I guess there is one thing that helps time pass quickly, and that’s being busy. It’s been pretty full on, with two 10k races at Porthcawl and London 10k, more days in the classroom for the sports massage course, a full on weekend in London with the ASICS FrontRunner UK team, and of course general life and family madness. I’m caught between the passing weeks of pregnancy and baby growing, and the countdown of weeks until Chicago Marathon, but either way, they are both passing quickly.

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On the whole, training has kicked back up again. The first trimester symptoms have pretty much vanished, it’s been a welcome break. Nausea sometimes pops it’s head in to say hello, and I’m still relying heavily on regular carbs to keep it at bay but it’s no longer constant. Just don’t let me get hungry. I think this could be applied in normal circumstances, let alone when I’m pregnant. The fatigue has improved, and energy levels are back! Although now instead of being in a general, fatigued filled haze I do find myself exhausted more often than not by the time the afternoon rolls around. But it’s a feel good tiredness from training and growing this little thing. Granny naps are definitely an essential. Not always manageable though. I have found the best time to run the last few weeks is a couple of hours after breakfast. This seems to be my best time energy wise, and the rumbling tummy backs off long enough to get the job done. If it’s not possible, snack life is a definite must prior to attempting exercise. Pee breaks on the other hand have been an absolute nightmare the last few weeks. My routes are mostly now planned around substantial bushes and trees. It’s a good job trails are my thang, and also a good job I have no qualms about alfresco peeing. Although I think the dog is slightly miffed that he has marking competition. Funnily enough it’s not so bad cross training. I’ve been loving hitting the trails on the bike, and have been including lots of bike miles to compensate for lower running miles.

I have completely switched off from worrying about my pace. The last two races have been my slowest since I starting running. Each run my pace is slowing, and even the smallest things make it that little bit harder. But right now it isn’t about speed, it isn’t the need to set PBs. It’s all about the number one priority, and remaining as fit and healthy as I can do to support that. If it doesn’t support that, then it simply doesn’t matter. I’m just enjoying being able to get out. Porthcawl was super hot, and a delayed start by 30 minutes meant a little nausea hit as we set off, just because I had completely mistimed eating something before hand. Still, it was such a fun race. I really felt the love from fellow runners during this one, particularly familiar Instagram faces, Many took their time to come over and say congratulations to Matt and I, but a particular shout out to Jayne (https://www.instagram.com/pinky_pants_/) who was an absolute diamond, keeping tabs on me, and giving encouragement as we slogged it round, still smashing her own race.

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London was the same. Not in your face sunshine, but phewy it was muggy. An extra minute added on from Porthcawl, but this did include hug stops, laces stops, and taking my time to cool down through the mist stops. C’est la vie. I was also extremely tired from all day on my feet on the Saturday, doing the ASICS thing. So much fun, but completely topped me off. The heat is something I’m now trying to avoid. I’m not great at hot weather running as it is, but running avec bump, means I only have to feel a few degrees rise in temperature and I feel like I’m melting into a goey marshmallow.

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One thing I have trialled this last week is run/walking my long run. I know I’m going to be huge for Chicago, I have always carried big with previous pregnancies so expect no different his time around. I’m already feeling uncomfortable at times as it is, I can really feel the extra weight. So I decided to try a 3/1 run/walk ratio, and was pleasantly surprised. 8.5 miles later, I felt much fresher, and to be honest, happier. I looked forward to taking those walk breaks and it all seemed much more manageable. Until Chicago it will just be a play around with run walking and seeing what fits best with me and bump. I see some women continue to run fast and a lot during their pregnancies, and I am nothing but in awe. But this isn’t happening for me right now. And that’s more than ok. Although, maybe a slight break in the constant needing/going for a pee cycle might help that a little.

So there we go. Pretty much pee chronicles for the last few weeks, but training is carrying on, we’re chipping away!

Chicago Marathon Training, Running and Pregnancy, Uncategorized

It’s Crazy, Baby

I know, I know. It’s been a while since I last blogged. And many a thing has changed.

Following another lay off due to injury in April and May, I had decided to not go ahead with my planned Ultramarathons this year. After much discussion with friends, people who I trust, I decided to focus on getting stronger over shorter distances over the summer and work on my form and sorting the wonky mechanics. Give the Ultras a miss for a year and get sorted. Little did I know, as I was coming to this decision, something magical was happening.

Funnily enough the first sign something was different was a parkrun. I had held a steady effort, feeling really good, but had noticed my heart rate was much higher than normal . I’m not one of these with a high max heart rate anyway, but it was showing the max heart rate I can ever get to on hard intervals and speed sessions, not what felt like a stupidly comfortable pace. The heart rate stayed the same throughout that parkrun. Later that day I had a few more episodes of feeling faint when standing up, something was not quite right. Add in to the mix the now very late period, and we realised that maybe, it would be a good idea to rule out pregnancy. I would like to say when we did the test, it was a wonderful, romantic moment. However, it was pee on a stick, followed by childish squabbles over how to hold it whilst waiting for the results, who was going to hold it and how to interpret said result. Of course, when we realised it was positive, it was pure happiness. Maybe a few Oh Shits from me. I know what’s ahead.

 

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So just like that, everything changed. We were expecting a baby. For now, my journey has turned to running during pregnancy. Considering I have been through four pregnancies now, I have never been active during any of them. In fact, the opposite. My running journey didn’t even begin until my youngest was 6 months old. So this, is a whole new thing. I’ll be honest, a daunting thing. Having been there and got numerous tshirts, I know full well how hard pregnancy can be on the body. My pelvis and back have never forgiven me. I also know just how much I rely on running now. Mentally and physically. And my goals. How on earth can I train for a marathon in October. The last one is completely selfish, but we are all human. Selfish thoughts are ok!

Cue searching on the internet for advice, tips, anything to help someone with a bun in their oven wanting to keep to their current active lifestyle. As with any google search, there was lots of conflicting information, outdated information, everything from don’t run to crazy badass pregnancy feats. There is a wealth of information out there but as with we all know when it comes to Dr Google, interpreting and sorting the wheat from the chaff as they say is a tricky one.

First Trimester Running

What I did learn is that not over exerting yourself is a must. I found this to be true. I have stuck to my usual chest heart rate monitor for accurate readings when running. Wrist based data can be so inaccurate and vary wildly during an activity. Advice used to be for pregnant women to keep their Heart Rate to 140bpm and below. Now its more, keep to a conversational pace. You should be able to talk easily whilst running, cycling whichever your preferred activity is. So, simply put, keep it easy! I have stuck to using a heart rate monitor to keep an eye, as I have found at times my heart rate can increase for my usual easy pace, and because I am running by myself, I lose track of a conversational pace. Obviously if you are huffing and puffing, its a sure sign you’re going too fast. Already I have found that my ‘easy pace’ heart rate equals a slower pace than normal. My heart is already working harder. I have kept it between 140bpm and 150bpm. I have certainly found that if I have pushed it a little more, even as little as 155bpm, I feel fine during the run, but my nausea has doubled for a while following that run.

Talking of nausea, I have struggled with this in a huge way. Best way to describe it as constant motion sickness. Snacking has helped take the edge of this at times. I have actually gained a stone in weight during the first 12 weeks, simply because a constant stream of food seems to keep the worst parts of nausea at bay. Since announcing our pregnancy  I have had a few women message to say they can’t run because of nausea. How can they? In all honesty, you can only take it day by day. Some days, I headed out for a run, only to abort as it didn’t help. I’ve had a couple of runs getting strange looks by passers by as I’ve stopped to heave. Some days, running at a gentle pace, actually helped with the nausea. There’s no magic wand to remove the nausea, you simply have to play it by ear, take each day as it comes. Week 8 was the worst for me. Nausea levels through the roof. It did settle down a little after that.

Tiredness is another factor stopping many from running through the first trimester. It’s ground me to a halt many a time. In fact week 10 and 11 of my pregnancy I practically came to a stop with any kind of training. We shall call them down weeks. It works for me. It can be hard being overcome by tiredness. Especially when you’ve got a family, when you’re used to rushing around like a headless chicken. I stopped berating myself for missed runs pretty early on. Your body is busy creating a little human being. It’s magical. Listen to it, it will tell you what you need. If that’s an extra nap or two, go for it. Have a nap, then go for a walk. Winner, winner.

I have continued with strength training. More so actually. I’m not yet at a stage where I need to adapt it yet, but this will come shortly. I’ve particularly been paying attention to hips and pelvis. The more strength sessions I do, the more hopeful I am that it will help me to continue to run in this pregnancy as long as possible. I really enjoy the strength training, because unlike a run, nothing is different. I still feel strong.

I still raced. Well, when I say raced, I still kept to an easy heart rate. It was very early on when I completed the Liverpool Rock N Roll 5k, and half marathon the following day. I absolutely loved running these, taking the pressure off, and just enjoying a race. Although the nerves of speaking on stage at the runfit expo, certainly did kick up some nausea. My last 10k race, was the same again, keep the heart rate down, which was incredibly difficult on a hilly route. But I loved it. I felt really empowered that day, nausea was behaving, and I felt strong. I just kept thinking, this is great, I feel amazing, my body is incredible growing this little thing and letting me do this at the same time. I think that’s the other thing with running through pregnancy. It is extremely empowering.

 

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So there’s my first trimester in a little nutshell. I’m still planning on running Chicago Marathon in October. I say run. Who knows what will happen between now and then, how my body will cope with an active pregnancy. I’ve had pelvic issues with previous pregnancies, and awful sciatica to boot. No doubt it will rear its head again. But I will be marathon training in the hope of being in one piece come Chicago. Albeit, adapted marathon training. Having spoken to my consultant and midwife regarding everything I have spoken about, and my plans for Chicago, I’m extremely lucky to have their backing and encouragement. Although they do think I’m a bit bonkers wanting to do the marathon, but I will have their go ahead providing nothing pops up.  You probably wont see any ‘sessions’ from me. Well I can tell you now, you won’t.  Just a bucket load of aerobic running and strength. But however I go about it, whatever happens, I’ll be sharing with a weekly update. You lucky, lucky things you!

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Uncategorized

Seeing Sense

If you are questioning whether or not you should be starting a race, then the you most likely shouldn’t be doing it. We’ve all done it. We’ve all done that race carrying an injury, when we haven’t felt well, or done that spur of the moment one with lack of training, which will inevitably hurt. This time of year especially, marathon season is upon us, and months of hard work has led to this. The lure of that race you’ve been training months for can override all sensible thoughts.

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Last weekend I made the decision not to run Paris Marathon. It was incredibly hard to make even though I knew it was the right one, and despite numerous people who I love and trust giving me numerous reasons why Paris would be a bad idea, it was a decision I had to come to myself. I didn’t make the decision until late on the Saturday. The weekend was non stop as the marathon coincided with the ASICS International Frontrunner meet and I headed into it, thinking I would still be running Paris. I had convinced myself that I would be running, that despite the ankle niggle and the glute issues from Manchester, that I could just ‘take it easy’ enjoy the sights of Paris whilst completing 26.2 miles. Sounds easy right? I had a rude awakening during the marathon breakfast run on the Saturday morning. The whole thing was agony. That was only 5k.  It’s no surprise really, if you are limping when walking, you are going to feel it more when running.

 

Not starting any race is a really hard decision to make. I found it especially hard being surrounded by people who were racing it, in a city tingling with marathon atmosphere. But when I stopped to think about why I should or shouldn’t run it, it came up to being brutally honest about what I actually wanted, what was important to me and weighing up the pros and cons.

What is making you question starting a race?

For me it was physical. I have been carrying these niggles for a while, and still limping from Manchester. 26.2 miles is an awfully long way, the marathon has a hunter skill set. It will seek out any physical weakness and leave it nowhere to hide. Even ‘taking it easy’ would of been a slog.

How important is the race to you?

This wasn’t wasn’t my goal race. That was Manchester. I had run Manchester with these niggles because it WAS my goal race. But it had been horrendous, and the memories of the pain of the second half were still at the forefront of my mind. It would have been amazing to run such a huge race, but the experience of it will still be there another year. Was I prepared to go through the physical pain for another medal. No.

Are you prepared to take a long period of time off?

For Manchester, I was happy to accept that I may need a while off from running to recover. I just wanted to complete it. That was my only aim. The trade off was worth it to me. But knowing if I ran Paris, that I would need an even longer amount of time off, that wasn’t worth it. If someone sat me down and told me I could chose only one option for the rest of my life, running almost daily wherever you like, or races only, of course I would go for the first option. I’ve been through extended periods of time away from running due to previous injuries. I want to limit that, it’s inevitable it will happen from time to time, but I don’t want to extend that time through pig headedness. Running means so much more to me than showing up and getting a bit of bling at a race.

As hard as it was not racing Paris, it was completely the right decision. Races will always be there. Running longevity is far more important than risking far too much to complete one event. And as much as I had huge FOMO, I actually thoroughly enjoyed the morning cheering on and witnessing all the determination and emotions associated with marathons. Hopefully the decision not to run this time will pay off, and mean that I am able to continue with the remaining races I have planned this year. Short term, I’m focusing on cross training and strength training to try and maintain some fitness and correct my weaknesses until the ankle has fully settled down. I have an Ultra marathon next month as well as Liverpool Rock n Roll marathon to look forward to, all being well. I’m still trying to hone my sensible streak, it’s very much a work in progress!

 

 

Manchester Marathon Training, Uncategorized

Manchester Marathon

Manchester marathon was memorable for so many reasons. I headed into marathon weekend full of doubts and questions following a less than perfect taper, of little running due to a niggle I have been babying for a few weeks. The weekend started on Friday with the ASICS UK Frontrunner meeting which was coinciding with the marathon. We spent a lovely Friday and Saturday meeting new members of the team, doing a treasure hunt through Manchester, and lots of photos, presentations and of course all the food. Anyone who follows me on social media knows that I have a huge fondness for all things doughnuts and of Nutella. I was presented with a surprise birthday cake during the weekend which incorporated both of these things, and I’m sure was perfect fuelling day before the marathon!

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Race Day

I felt good upon waking on race morning. I stuck with the usual banana, porridge and coffee combo 2.5 hours before start time and the blood sugars were behaving. During taper I had accepted the fact that sub 4, or even any of my time goals were no longer an option thanks to the ankle. I had barely run and I could still feel it whilst walking. I taped up my ankle and stuck with lets just see how it goes. The only plan was to just run as much as I could and aim for a finish. It felt strangely comforting walking to the start line from our hotel in Salford Quays, knowing that the pressure was off. It is what it is. There is nothing I can do, so just go along with whatever happens next.

Getting into the start pens was straightforward and the usual mix of excitement of nerves hung in the air. You’ve only got to look around you at a marathon start line to see that you are all in the same boat. You are running your own races, but you are still all in it together. Matt @thewelshrunner had said he would start with me. Coming back from his own injury, it was a only meant to be a long run for him. Just run some easy miles alongside me, then drop out when he had done enough. That changed pretty rapidly.

The first few miles flew by in a blink of an eye. We just had fun, chatted, had a giggle. I felt pretty good all things considered, and the ankle, although not perfect, behaved. Mile 11 things started to change, as we dipped in to Altrincham. I loved seeing the faster runners coming back past as they came out, and spotted a few runners to wave hi to. But my glute was starting to seize up, on the same leg as my bad ankle. Before I knew it, it just went on me. Mile 13 onwards was an epic battle just to get home. I really struggled mentally and physically. I could of pulled out, and in all honesty, it probably would of been the wise thing to do. But all I could think of were the months of training that had gone in to this marathon. I was in it, I was doing it anyway, so I adopted the ‘head down, and bollock on’ approach.

It wasn’t pretty. I fashioned some sort of hobble run/walk combo. Even slight inclines were horrid, and the pain of someone stopping directly in front of me causing me to jump to the side or halt was enough to send me slightly crazy. The second half of the marathon was a huge pot of the above, tears (I became ridiculously emotional) and non stop encouragement and unwavering support from Matt. Whatever I was going through, he was there. He didn’t leave my side. He ran the whole thing with me, casually completing a marathon a few weeks after coming back from weeks off with a stress fracture. Not for himself, it’s obviously less than ideal. But for me. It’s quite hard to put into words the emotions and feelings that you go through when doing something as intense as a marathon with another person. I wouldn’t of done it without him. Although, being honest, I did hate him slightly at points, bouncing around grabbing the majority of Manchester’s sweet and Jelly baby supplies from the amazing supporters out on the course. Having that much energy is unnatural. I was done by this point, and couldn’t face another gel or sweet, and this probably led to being incredibly confused towards the finish. I actually dug my heels in like some sort of golden haired mule at mile 25.5 stating I couldn’t finish, I wanted to pull out now, even though I could see the finish just up ahead! Don’t ask.

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I loved Manchester, and will certainly consider it again for next years spring marathon. The crowds were wonderful, the atmosphere electric. I didn’t seem to notice many quiet bits. There were a few dotted here and there, but they didn’t last that long. It hurt (marathons do) it was emotional, and it was far from the original goal I had set myself at the beginning of the year. But I crossed the line with a 24 minute PB. I was elated. I still am. I don’t care I didn’t get the time I trained for, or felt that I deserved considering the training. I am just over the moon to have finished, to have won the battle. A PB to go alongside it, is just the icing on the cake. It taught me a huge amount about mental strength. I’ve absolutely loved my training for it, and cannot wait to go through it again once the summer of ultras is over. Chip away, and go again.

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First though, I have the small matter of another marathon this week, in Paris on Sunday as part of the International ASICS Frontrunner meeting. Again, I’m heading in, with no expectations. This one is about sightseeing whilst tacking 26.2 miles one bit at a time. Hopefully.

 

 

 

 

Manchester Marathon Training, Uncategorized

Invisible Weight

Week 12 and the penultimate ‘hard week’ before taper, and didn’t it kick my ass. I had put a lot of pressure on this week. The big 20 mile race was looming, and I was going to smash it. I was going to pace it wonderfully and would be filled with all the confidence heading into the marathon. About that.

This week had started off well enough, I felt good after The Big Half, then comfortable easy miles, trail miles and a nice bash at a 5k which left me super happy as it was the quickest in a long. long time!

Week 12

  • Monday – 3.1 Miles Recovery
  • Tuesday – 9 Miles Easy
  • Wednesday – 10 minute WU, 5k, 10 minute CD
  • Thursday – 10k Easy
  • Friday – REST DAY
  • Saturday 20 Mile Race (fission 20/20)
  • Sunday – REST DAY

Total Miles – 43.3 Miles

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I cried a lot after the race. Just an outpouring of emotion. It was one of those, where nothing went right. I mean nothing. I didn’t feel great to begin with. From the off, my legs wouldn’t move. I couldn’t get anywhere near target pace heading straight into ridiculous winds again. The wind was on another level ,and seemed like the majority of the two ten mile loops had all the headwind with little tailwind to compensate. But even so, my legs just wouldn’t move. By mile three I needed an emergency portaloo stop. Damn, that was early on. The last 9 miles were a sorry affair, convinced I could feel pain in the old stress fracture site. Which of course is extremely unlikely. Everything hurt, I struggled every step.  But I finished. I still completed 20 miles. Who cares it wasn’t the time or race I was hoping for. 20 miles is still a bloody long way, and in horrid weather conditions. Of course now I am not sore, tired and emotional, I can think about it all rationally. The race itself was wonderfully organised with amazingly cheerful and supportive marshals every 5k or so manning water stations or significant turning points. I couldn’t help but admire them as we passed, we were at least moving in the weather. They were at its mercy just waiting for us runners to pass by. However not being a big commercial event it was a predominately very lonely affair on quiet country lanes, with no crowds to cheer you on, and as it wasn’t a closed road event, no headphones meant no music or podcasts to distract from the task ahead. I guess this is also why I started thinking. Why I got even more emotional. The chips were down, it was quiet and my mind drifted of to the invisible weight I carry.

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We all carry some. We are all going through one thing or another at some point in our lives. Sometimes it’s more significant than at other times. It weighs heavy on our shoulders. Running is an amazing source of release, of escapism. Enormous benefits both mentally and physically, it can leave us better equipped, more ready to tackle problems we may be going through. But it’s still a weight. Running is my escape, yet I have found the personal stresses of the last few months alongside marathon training has at times left me drained. Sometimes I feel like I can physically feel all the worries and stress perched on my shoulders. Adding lead to my legs,  it makes my heart beat faster. Sure mostly its a benefit to run your stress away.  But marathon training is a huge challenge in itself.  It’s time consuming. It’s physically and mentally tiring. Recovering well, being mentally in the right place play a huge part of  training for your marathon, yet these have all been put out of kilt. We forget, I have certainly forgot how much impact stress has on our physical and mental wellbeing. Couple that with marathon training, and it can slap you in the face. It comes as no shock that two of my three races this year, the two bad ones,  have immediately followed highly stressful or emotional situations.

I don’t tend to share much personal information. Of course, like any other person, I share what I feel I need to. If I posted on social media the ins and outs of my personal life, I would give any soap opera a run for it’s money. Sometimes I feel like a fraud, that I should share more. Stop the smiling, stop the ultimate filter. But that’s my defence. That is, how I greet the lows in my personal life. Even after losing my son, I was back in the office in a matter of weeks, back to being the joker. That’s just who I am. That’s me.  I wouldn’t shake a strangers hand and introduce myself  ‘Hi, I’m Kelly, I’m now a single mum, going through a very difficult separation after a 10 year relationship’ We all naturally hide our problems, wanting first impressions to be positive.

Divorces, moving house, pressure at work, money problems, new babies, fall outs, family issues, you name it there are stresses a plenty to add on that invisible weight.

Sure the stress has caught up with me on many an occasion throughout this training block. That’s inevitable. I’ve had far too many naps. Far too many occasions of hiding under a blanket not wanting to deal with a single thing. And I’ve spent far too many times crying. But I have also slowly found some coping mechanisms to try and recover properly and to minimise the negative impact of stress.

  • I’ve discovered an unhealthy obsession with Epsom salt baths. Bliss. Super hot and therapeutic. great physically for the muscles, and just as awesome to lie there and drift off for a while. If they are not incorporated into your training schedule, they should be!
  • If I’ve felt that tired, that wiped, I’ve taken an extra rest day, or swapped days around. I won’t allow myself to feel guilty for having an extra rest day. Just the opposite. I’m pleased I’m listening to my body, and not starting another unwanted argument. I love the Banksy quote. If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit
  • Taking time to foam roll, to stretch. I imagine the tight spots are little balls of stress. Just as I am working out the physical knots, I’m also releasing little bits of stress.
  • Make time for yourself away from training, away from your role as being there for another person, whether that be work, personally or family. I thoroughly enjoy going to a coffee shop on my own. People watching is a favourite. It distracts me from what is going on in my own life. I love shutting myself away and getting lost in a book in an evening. Find the right book, put your feet up, and you soon disappear to a far more relaxing place
  • Finally, I am learning to prioritise. What actually needs my attention first and foremost. Concentrate on that first, don’t over complicate it, or add additional stress by thinking of too much all at once. Deal with what you have to deal with, then move to the next thing.

If you are going through something stressful, and training at the same, don’t forget the impact it has. Sure you are carrying invisible weight, and that will have an effect, but you can shift it some, you can manage it. You know it’s there, you know it’s having an impact, but hopefully by being aware of it, you can compensate for it. Being aware of it’s effect is half the battle. And as always, be kind to yourself.

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Phew, that got a bit deep there. I’m off to look at some funny kitten videos on You Tube. Final hard week before taper. Lets do this!

Manchester Marathon Training, Uncategorized

Getting Over The Hump

The weeks seem to be flying right now, and it’s another double catch up! Weeks 10 and 11 of Marathon training.

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Week 10 saw yet another attempt of a 20 miler, beautiful weather and the feeling of starting to fall apart in a bigger way. Queue a week of backing off any intensity, and banking all the easy miles. I needed it. I didn’t recover well after Brighton half, which surprised me as it really wasn’t a great run. Anyhow, the 20 miles turned out to be the worst day weather wise. I ran 19.65 miles and not a step further, finishing at a pubs front door for a well earned pint after battling in horrid winds. The run had been great up until mile 12. I then had a complete wobble, the wind had picked up, a hard section of trail, and a little switch went off in my brain. I can’t do it, this sucks. The difference in that run from that moment was astonishing. The run of two halves, yet again completely ruled by the mental side of running.

Week 10

  • Monday – 3 recovery miles
  • Tuesday – 7 easy miles
  • Wednesday – 4.2 easy miles (and a lovely catch up with a friend)
  • Thursday – 5 easy miles
  • Friday – Rest Day
  • Saturday – 19.65 miles long run
  • Sunday – 1.6 recovery miles – abandoned due to niggles.

Total Miles – 40.4 Miles

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Week 11

I really felt the benefit from an easier week. The niggles I was beginning to feel backed off again, and I felt like I could ‘crack on’ a little more.

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  • Monday – 5.6 easy miles
  • Tuesday – WU, 3 x 2 miles at MP, 3 minutes recovery, CD (8.1 Miles)
  • Wednesday – 4.6 recovery miles
  • Thursday – Rest Day
  • Friday – 4 easy miles
  • Saturday – 3.1 Shake out miles
  • Sunday – The Big Half

Total Miles – 38.6 miles

Ah, the big half. The week finished with a road trip to London to participate in The Big Half. The winds also decided to show up and the yellow weather warning wasn’t nonsense for a change. The differences between this race and Brighton, were huge. I didn’t get the time I was hoping for, I’m still far off my PB. I still went off a little fast. But I was over the moon finishing this race, because I did actually run it better, and some confidence was restored. It also felt extra badass as the wind was horrific in places. Tailwind is great, but turning into sections of the course with rip your face off headwinds was hard. I was astonished to hear of so many PBs, extra kudos obtaining those in the conditions of the day.

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I’m going to be honest. My struggles the last few weeks haven’t been physical. I’m putting the miles in, staying consistent, and generally feel really good for it. I certainly couldn’t have asked for better especially coming back from the stress fracture. Sure I’m tired, my legs are fatigued, but I’m running. I’m putting the effort in. My struggles are mostly in my head. For some reason, I’ve become a little doubtful, Brighton knocked my confidence a lot, not hitting paces I should be hitting, and struggling to run full stop left me feeling a little negative. Just feeling tired, makes everything seem a little harder. But two weeks later, it was a different story at Big Half. 6 minutes off my time from Brighton, feeling strong. I didn’t push it as I could have done, I just needed a solid race to get some confidence back. It’s getting to that crunch time, where you question your goals, paces. Can I really run a whole marathon at that pace, when I struggle to hit it even for a short time in training? I’ve been questioning my abilities, rather than thinking logically about the whole cumulative build up of marathon training. About poor preparation for long runs or races. Or even about difficult weather conditions. Or even if I haven’t had a doughnut that day. Whatever. Point is, there are so many factors, and it’s all about going through these, learning, adapting, ready to put it all together on the big day .

There are just two more big weeks of training left to get through. Then it’s a two week taper. Just enough time to freshen up, and get ready to go go at Manchester. Then again at Paris the following week. Nothing like a marathon to recover from a marathon.

Hang in there folks!

Manchester Marathon Training, Uncategorized

All The Ps

Another week in the bank, one littered with errors. I’m hoping the bad dress rehearsal superstition also applies to marathon training. It does feel a little theatrical at times. However the beautiful, and unseasonal weather we are having right now has certainly helped take the edge of it.

Week 9

  • Monday – 3.6 recovery miles
  • Tuesday – 7.9 Miles Interval session
  • Wednesday – 2.6 Easy Miles + Strength Training
  • Thursday – 18.2 Miles Long Run
  • Friday – REST DAY
  • Saturday – Missed run – REST DAY
  • Sunday Brighton Half Marathon

Total Miles – 45.7 (If you have a little OCD like I normally do when it comes to rounding up to whole miles, I apologise. This looks messy)

The week began with a speed session interrupted by a hypo (low blood sugar) Fortunately these don’t appear too often now, I seem to have mostly gotten to grips with controlling my sugars and running. (If you are a type 1 diabetic looking for some tips, check out an earlier blog post Type 1 Diabetes and Long Runs But this is Diabetes. It doesn’t always like to play ball, and sometimes a spanner can be thrown into the works, just because.

Thursday saw another attempt at a 20 mile long run. I decided to try somewhere new to try and keep things interesting. It was a lovely route, 10 miles out and 10 back along the Gloucester to Sharpness canal. Again, beautiful weather, everything was set up perfect to get at least one decent long run in. It wasn’t to be. This time tummy gate. I’ll talk openly about it, because lets face it, if you are here, reading this blog you are more than likely a runner, and have more than likely encountered this problem at least one time or another. If you haven’t, consider yourself very, very fortunate. Around 7 miles in my stomach started cramping up. I hadn’t done anything different to normal. As I tried to continue running along, I prayed it was a bit of trapped wind, alas releasing hurricane kellogs did nothing to help. The cramps got worse, until the inevitable happened. The alarm went off, and I had around 10 seconds max to find somewhere discreet. I will add, that discreet poo stops were far and few between along an open canal route. It is amazing, how inventive one can be when it really is an emergency dash. Did you know you can almost make it look like you are just taking a breather and pausing for thought whilst crouching with your ass in a thorn bush. I think I carried it off anyway. So poo gate ruined this one. It didn’t get better, just much worse. I don’t know how I managed to get back (and to 18 miles) without shitting myself.

Anyway time to move on from that. Time to look forward to the first race of the year, Brighton half marathon. Saturday preparation for the half was far from ideal, but I was still excited to get to Brighton and give it a good bash, see where I am at. A good bash I gave it, and chucked every rule book out of the window. I ran like a knob. I dashed off, running the first half mile quicker than my 5k pace. What on earth was I doing. I slowed a little, giving myself a good talking to. I then slowed more, and more and more. I pretty much POSITIVE split the whole race. I literally ruined any chance of running a good race in that first mile. I know I was keen to have a go at it, but that was just stupid. Even as I was out there running, the 5 Ps were whirling around in my head (Proper Pacing Prevents Poor Performance) in fact even the old army adage of 7 Ps might have been apt (Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance) even the fact that I had been told only a few hours earlier, go out, run the first few miles easy, then pick it up. I have to say, it was lucky it was such a beautiful day, a lovely route with lots of support, and an overall wonderful race. Because without that, I think it would of just been miserable. Lots of distractions meant I actually enjoyed the race despite the above. A well earned ice cream on the beach was also worth it.

 As with every other week, lots to take on board. Still trying to work out what gives me a tummy flare sporadically, and I really do need to work on pacing. And planning. And preparing. And not being piss poor.

Have a great week!

Manchester Marathon Training, Uncategorized

Toddlers, Tantrums and Treadmills

Is it even called marathon training if you don’t start to fall apart at the seams a little? No, I didn’t think so. The last week of training has involved the spotty chicken pox toddler needing a week in confinement, unable to go to pre school (A whole week off before half term even starts) Many a tantrum on my behalf, not hers, and having to resort to mostly treadmill running in order to maintain any sort of consistency with my weeks training. Joyous. I missed another session. Still wiped from sinusitis. A quick granny nap, turned into a mammoth sleepathon, and the planned hill session on Tuesday got binned in favour of my dressing gown and junk food. I had no regrets. It was the right call. You’ll be pleased to know my tantrums over trying to fit in training and feeling like poo on a stick have subsided. I/m feeling much better.

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Week 8 Training

  • Monday – 5.1 Miles Easy/Recovery
  • Tuesday – Rest Day (Binned Hill Session)
  • Wednesday – 5.3 Easy miles catching up with a friend and eating cake.
  • Thursday – 8.9 miles including 2 x 15 minutes at Marathon Pace
  • Friday –  5 Easy Miles
  • Saturday – Rest Day (Two in one week!)
  • Sunday – 15.4 Miles Long run. Should of been 20 miles

Weekly Mileage – 40 miles

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The drop in mileage this week, reflected the missed hills and shortened long run. The long run started out wonderfully but, life happens. Or in my case, stomach cramps (probably from over indulging in a lovely Mexican restaurant the day before) and a punctured tyre on the coach’s bike! But you know what, I was ok with it. Even with the best will in the world, sometimes it just goes a bit wrong.

One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist…..Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist

Stephen Hawkin

Treadmill Running

About resorting to the Treadmill, commonly referred to as the Dreadmill for many of my runs this week. It’s not that bad. Shock horror. I love my trails, I love being outside, so probably sounds a bit strange for me to openly admit….. I quite like it. It serves a purpose, allows you to get the job done, and in many cases, can be a really helpful tool when it comes to speedwork or controlling your pace. I find my legs cope much better doing speed sessions on the Treadmill rather then hitting the roads. I get a lot of messages on Instagram about the treadmill. So here’s my little nuggets of wisdom when it comes to resorting to the hamster wheel.

  1. Change it up. Many say to me I can only do x amount of time and that’s my limit. Often it’s very short. I always change something every 5 minutes or every K. Whether it be change the incline a little, or change the speed. Short bursts of faster speeds every five minutes, work wonders, It doesn’t have to be for long, just a little pick up for 30 – 60 seconds. It breaks the monotony, and I also find it helps with making the usual pace feel a little easier again. Interval sessions are much easier to tolerate, but if you’re just plugging in some easy or steady miles, or eve a long run, do some little changes.
  2. Multi Task. Take advantage of being stuck in one place. Catch up on your favourite Netflix series, listen to an audio book or podcast, learn a language. The last one is great for easy runs to make sure you are still able to talk. Although you may get a few stares splurting out Spanish [phrases if you are in a gym and not in the comfort of your own home.
  3. Ah….Comfort. I have done a fair few long runs on the treadmill. one added bonus is comfort. You’ve got your own personal aid station right in front of you. Water, gels, and a toilet meters away. Makes a refreshing change to a mad dash to find a big enough bush al fresco. There’s no need to layer up. You know you’re going to sweat a bucket load so know how to dress accordingly.
  4. It’s not running outside. It’s a tool. It makes it much easier to think of the treadmill as a tool. You are not replicating running outside. There’s no wind, rain, traffic, stray dogs, potholes, you name it. It’s not the same in any sense. Some people run faster on a treadmill, some run slower. It doesn’t matter. The effort level of the session you are doing, matters. You can still put in the same amount of effort.

When it comes to either missing a session, or jumping on the treadmill at home, then I will always go treadmill. I use it, only when Mummy duties prevent me from going out. It’s amazing how much you can fit in whilst a toddler naps. Luckily, I am mostly out, and that is always the best way.  But when circumstances mean the tool needs to be used. Move over, and pass me the TV remote. I’m binging.

Now for this week, it’s survival of half term, and my first proper race since the stress fracture with a half marathon on Sunday, I cannot wait! See you on the flip side.

 

 

 

 

 

Manchester Marathon Training, Uncategorized

A Testing Fortnight

I know, I know…. I’m cheating. Catching up with two weeks marathon training in one post. It’s been hectic. I’m tired just thinking about the last two weeks. Or maybe I’m just tired. We are at that point.

Week 6

The one that brought all the artic weather, and a nice humdinger of a cold to go with it. This is the first week since October, I’ve missed a session. Not only did I feel vile, the cold settled on my chest. We all know the golden rule. Above the neck, go and try. On your chest? Hold it right there. I missed a session completely in favour of a rest day (if you can call constructing flat pack, rest) The idea being, I would benefit enough to still be able to attempt my long run the following day. I probably felt worse the next day, so decided to just go out for a few miles with Fred in the remainder of the snow. No pressures, just go for a pootle.

Week 6 training

  • Monday – Rest Day
  • Tuesday – Easy 10k. Strength and conditioning session.
  • Wednesday – 5 miles Steady
  • Thursday – 15 minutes warm up, 20/15/10 minutes (Increasing pace each time) with 3 minutes recovery between each) 15 minutes cool down
  • Friday – (Snowmageddon) 1 hour Easy
  • Saturday – Missed Session/Rest Day
  • Sunday – 7.5 miles easy paced (Pootle with Fred)

Total weekly miles – 32.5 miles

Aside from being knocked sideways by the being poorly and the snow issues, it was a productive week, learning more about strength and condition under the guidance of a local gym. I have previously, worked on this by myself. At home, When you fling a few weights around or swing a kettlebell trying not to take out the TV (or small child) but felt like the time was right to get more running specific workouts, under guidance to make sure that my form was correct and that I’m not actually doing more damage than good! I will be delving into this a bit more in a separate post.

Week 7 (I think it’s probably actually more like week 8) 

I’ll be completely honest here. I think I should of taken more time off to recover from the nuclear cold. Total rest, instead of rollocking on with easy miles and continuing with training. I’m still not 100% and I do wonder if this might have shifted totally by now had I just stepped back. But anyway, as it is, I didn’t and the week wasn’t too bad, although I have felt pretty much wiped from every run! Add into that lack of sleep from trying to study towards my PT qualification in the evenings, and I’m on the edge! The week finished with the youngest sprog being struck down with Chicken Pox. Did I mention that I hate this time of year? Spring marathons are definitely the hardest to train for. Anyhow, poorly child meant a confined one with her little spotties. Which also meant, that if I wasn’t to miss a second long run, I would have to fit it in around her. Cue Netflix and Treadmill. 18 miles split between nap time, and bed time. I can’t say I hate the treadmill, I can’t say I would ever want to run 18 miles on one again either. But its a good tool. And a far better alternative to missing out on a run altogether.

Week 7 Training

  • Monday – 9 Easy Miles
  • Tuesday – Alternating Miles. 1 Mile Warm up, 4 x mile on, mile off, 1 mile Cool Down. I bailed on this one, The head was just full of cold and I struggled. I do almost all of the miles, but bailed on the last off and cool down. Oops.
  • Wednesday –  Easy 10k
  • Thursday – Easy 4 miles. Wasn’t feeling great after lunchtime chorizo. Learning something new every day.
  • Friday – 10 minutes warm up, 20 minutes MP, 5 x 2 Minutes 5k pace, 20 minutes MP, 10 minutes CD
  • Saturday – 3 recovery miles
  • Sunday – 18 miles Long Run

Total weekly mileage – 57.2 Miles

 

 

So that’s pretty much summed up the last couple of weeks. It’s been full on, and just get along with Marathon Training as best as I can. There are a few things I know that need improvement, and rapidly if I’ve any chance of getting sub 4 in Manchester. The lack of sleep is something that needs to be addressed, and also incorporating more strength and conditioning. So this week, along with just trying to fit it all in, I need to pay more attention to what my body needs right now! Mini goals, one week at a time.

For us mere mortals, just trying to train for a marathon alongside everyday life, work, family and commitments is a tough ask. It becomes all about the juggling act. Inevitably something gets out of kilt, something is sacrificed, or put on the back burner. Tuning into your body, what it needs most and prioritising that, is all we can do, so we are not feeling totally overwhelmed or that we are failing. You never know when a spanner will get thrown into the works, whether it be illness, or being missing a session in favour of something else that is more important that day. It’s part and parcel of marathon training.

Have a great week you guys. If you’ve got this far, you rock!