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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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Paris Marathon Training

A Positive February Flop

Well, the last three weeks (pretty much the whole of February) hasn’t gone to plan. Very much off plan. Plan, has not been life.

The wheels first came off with a hip niggle that was fine to run with, until I took part in another trail night race. Although a fantastic race, the uneven ground, mud, tree roots and almost waist high ‘water features’ left me a hobbling mess. To be precise, running across a field with a severe camber…. really finished me off. Unfortunately this was at the beginning of the race, which left 5 miles of hobble. I’ve no doubt this would of been fine had I not had the underlying hip niggle. Lesson learned. Don’t tough it out.

To add insult to injury I then developed a horrible ‘flu type virus’ that absolutely wiped me out for the best part of two weeks. Joint aches and pains, and absolute exhaustion. Horrible.

Not quite over any of the above I then decided it would be a great idea to tough it out at Llanelli half marathon. I’d heard it was such a lovely route, along the coast, nice and flat. Part of me maybe even thought I could sweat out the remaining bit of flu. In case you haven’t realised by now, my great ideas are normally ridiculously stupid. It was the most painful race I’ve ever run, and that’s saying something after my horrid London Marathon last year. The first few miles flew by, but then it hit me. Every bit of me screamed and hurt. The big flu telling me I’m a fool. The hip, groin and quad all telling me I’m a dick, and this is payback. Run, walk or crawl resonated in my head….. the crawling so appealing. As it was, it was a slug shuffle at best to a 2:08:55 finish.

There is something about ‘runners’ that will keep us from admitting to ourselves that we need to slow down. We need to take care of ourselves. We will hit the training sessions hard, give it all. Obsess over plans, paces. Do all the research, how do I become faster, how can I go further, how can I get stronger? Yet when injury or illness comes knocking on the door, we try to fight it. Work around it, just keep on going. We very rarely, listen. One of the hardest parts is acknowledging and accepting there is a problem. That actually, you need to take a step back. For me, admitting there is a problem has meant admitting there’s a weakness. That I’m failing. Who likes to say that out loud? In fact, who wants to admit they may not be able to run for a while?

But by acknowledging a problem before it explodes, you can take positive steps to correct it. Accepting you have a problem, gives you a priceless peace of mind. There’s an issue, but it’s ok! We are all works in progress, from the runner just starting out to seasoned ultra marathoners. It would be a very rare thing to find a person immune to injury and illness. It happens. It’s normal. I’ve tried to retain a positive attitude during the last few weeks, and done my best to be proactive once I realised that I had to stop. I’ve done the resting, the cross training, all of the stretching and strengthening that was lacking previously. I’ve visited the sports therapist, and necked vitamins. I’ve stayed away from Dr Google (once a professional had informed me of the problem…..before that I was most definitely heading for a chopped off leg) Just tried to be patient and ride it out. I’ve accepted that this is a big dent in the marathon training, and that actually I will need to adapt my goals for the 8th April. 6 weeks to go and I’m just happy to be able to do a few miles. To be able to build up some base mileage again, whilst paying attention to my body. Hopefully normal service has resumed. If not, well I’ll keep working at it until it has.

So here’s to running, run happy, run short, run long…..but most of all listen to that body of yours.

Paris Marathon Training, Uncategorized

Don’t expect it to be perfect. It won’t be.

Marathon plans. You write them, colour code them, print them. Dutifully tick off training sessions, swap them around, do everything in your power to not miss a session…. because we all know when you do, the feelings of guilt and failure come in. Which in itself is ridiculous, missing a few sessions will not ruin the rest of the hard work! There’s something about a ‘plan’ that means even when a leg is hanging off, or you can’t move your head without a needing a whole pack of Kleenex shoved up your nose, you will still try and stick to it. But reality Is, that I know of no one who hits every session, who has had the smooth perfect training cycle for a marathon. There are far to many external factors, there’s life. And doesn’t that like to throw a spanner in the works!

Week 4

Well the luck bucket seemed to have half emptied for the last two weeks of training. Not so much running wise, that’s been pretty good, apart from the standard tired legs.

Week 4 was supposed to end in a half marathon race plus a bit extra to make up my long run. Since most of my long runs are solo affairs, I’ve booked events with the aim of going steady and at least having some company to break up those long slogs. The event was the Windsor winter half marathon, held by F3 events at Dorney Lake, a 2 hour 30 minute drive from me, but hey…. would be worth it for a ‘flat and fast course’ and a bit of bling.

Well that wasn’t to be. After dutifully doing my bit and driving to the event, I was then met with a huge queue of traffic. Standstill less than 2 miles from the car park. As race time approached I realised it would be touch and go if I would make it! Then I received a message to say the half marathon had been cancelled and downgraded to a 5k or 10k. I was sat stuck in traffic to get into a car park of a cancelled event. Wonderful. As the original race time came and went I turned the car around, with a fair few choice words and began the long trudge Home. By the time I got home I was tired. A near enough 6 hour round trip (thanks to weather and traffic) a Burger King stop and numerous costas weighed heavy! Still, there was a long run to do, so I headed straight out to get it done before I could think about how much I wanted the sofa and comfy clothes!! 16.5 miles later, soaked to the bone the job was done. And actually the rubbish fuelling and lengthy car journey didn’t have too much of an impact. Mentally it was tough.

Week 4 total – 43 miles

Week 5

Pretty uneventful…. until again, the long run curse! First of I’ve broken my hydration pack. To be fair, for only a cheap one it’s done it’s fair share of work. I’m currently researching hydration vests before making another purchase, and will be sure to share the results. So the eve of my long run I decided I would stick to 4.5 mile loops, which went past my house. That way, I could create my own little aid station, therefor saving having to carry a cumbersome water bottle. Friday came, and it was set perfect for my long run…. glorious weather, the older two at school and the toddler at nanny’s for a good few hours. Friday was my day, a weekend of night shifts approaching and the last thing I wanted to squeeze in was a long run on very little sleep. So off I trotted on this perfect day, to come across a dog playing in traffic 4 miles in. I stayed for a while watching it, coaxing it on to the pavement, thinking it would bound into one of the many open gates surrounding me. It didn’t. I started off thinking if I went away it might go in. It didn’t. It just kept picking up twigs and following me on the pavement. Concerned it would start playing chicken with the traffic once more I ran back to the place I had come across it. Still no sign of owner or it wanting to go home. I couldn’t leave it. Luckily I was wearing my spibelt, so off it came to act as a temporary lead in order to take little Houdini back home then to sort finding owners. I didn’t realise quite how much he would pull and my poor Spibelt along with my long run was soon destroyed. It took an hour of waiting outside before pooch was reunited with the most ungrateful owner. Long run ruined, but dog safe and sound. Completely worth it.

On a side note, I had been storying the whole thing on Instagram, and the wonderful people at Spibelt had seen the story, and are sending out a replacement for me! So nice, epic customer service.

Week 5 long run was completed a day later, yesterday. It wasn’t meant to be. I had gotten a few hours sleep following my night shift, had woke up and feasted on cheese scone and coffee before deciding on getting a few miles done. The few miles soon ticked by into 17 miles at an easy pace. I’m thoroughly enjoying catching up on Marathon Talk podcasts at the moment, and I’m sure that contributes to the miles going by when on the longer runs!

Week 5 total – 41 miles

At this point I’m feeling really good with, for me, the high mileage weeks. Whilst training for London Marathon 2017 I ran 100 miles in January. So far this month I have run 171. A huge difference. I was plagued with injuries during London training, never felt quite right. For some strange reason my legs are seemingly loving the higher mileage. I’m not complaining though. Perhaps it’s because I’m more diligent with stretching and strength training. Perhaps because I am sticking with the majority of my miles being easy paced. Whatever it is, long may it continue in February!!

Paris Marathon Training, Uncategorized

Week Three. Who dares, wins.

Week Three of Paris Marathon training has been such a fantastic one, following on from a great week 2, I’m almost too scared to start week 4. It’s been a week of fun, with two very different races completed, and still running every day for the Run Every Day Challenge for the charity Mind.

It’s been a lower mileage week (40 miles) than last week (47 Miles) as technically, following the ‘Advanced Marathoning’ plan it should be a recovery week. Now, I am a little behind on the 16 week plan. More like I just missed the first couple of weeks. December and Christmas lead up happened. We all know what that is like. But since kicking back in to it, I’ve decided to follow with the recovery week as scheduled, so as not to mess with the remaining plan anymore.

This week has consisted of

Monday – 1 Mile warm up (to continue run streak) followed by 40 minutes of HIIT

Tuesday – 8 Miles (general aerobic with 10 x 100m strides

Wednesday – 5 miles (easy)

Thursday – 5.3 miles trail night race

Friday – 5 miles (recovery)

Saturday – 3.1 miles (easy, grass running)

Sunday – 13.1 miles half marathon race (completed at a steady effort)

Sprinkled with core work, strengthening and stretching (a lot of stretching)

The races (side note…. absolutely loved my bib numbers this week. Containing my lucky number 8… winner, winner!)

Race one. Rogue Runs, Beechenhurst night race.

Based in my home stomp of the Forest Of Dean, 5.3 miles of wonderful woodland paths, tracks and bridleways, hills, ankle deep mud and all in the dark of the night? Glorious. Such a fun, wonderfully organised event. When the race director advises at the start line to run is at your own risk, promptly followed by holding up a local newspaper showing a man with the tip of his finger bitten of by our mean looking wild boar residents, you know it’s going to be a good one! There’s something very primal about adventuring in the woods in the black of the night. For someone who has the elegance of a baby elephant wearing roller skates, it was as much as I could do to stay upright during some of the more difficult mountain bike trails. Which seemed to slope off in every angle all at once, covered in tree roots, rocks and mandatory mud. That’s mandatory mud before the actual ‘mud bath’ now that woke me up!

But it was so much fun. It did cross my mind at various points how sensible I wasn’t being considering one wrong step could of resulted in no more spring marathon, but I felt alive. It was fun. And sometimes, that is just what is needed to keep the mind fresh and focused on the relentless marathon training.

Race number two. Gloucester Half Marathon.

Again, another well organised event, with the most friendliest of marshalls! By no means flat. But lovely country lanes for the most part, with some ‘inclines’ I wasn’t expecting much from this one, other than to use it as a training run. Having so far remained unscathed from winter bugs, a lovely breathing restricting but snot flowing cold had come and taken its hold. I tried to keep it easy and relaxed, although I was aware at quite a few points I was working far too hard for that, and had to have a few walk breaks to try and regain some control of my breathing as my chest tightened!

Absolutely over the moon to have walked away an official PB by 12 minutes! This excites me more than I can describe, because it shows me that the hard work is paying off. I’ve taken a gamble doing a high mileage training plan, and so far it’s working wonders. I’ve been questioning all the easy paces, it’s hard not to, but if it’s working….. I need to trust in it a little bit more!

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A good week for the dreams

So last week two huge nuggets of wonderful news happened. Firstly, my awful history of zero ballot luck changed and it was a yes for Chicago Marathon 2018. It’s booked. It’s on. You see, my whole ‘good for age within a year’ kind of hinged on finally getting some ballot luck (there’s some irony there somewhere) due to my last day of the challenge being 7th October 2018. Chicago will be my final chance, on the very last day to obtain GFA. It’s set up perfectly. It would be perfect wouldn’t it, to swan in at the last minute and smash my goal at such an iconic marathon.

However I also don’t have much luck when it comes to something having the capacity of being perfect, and it coming to fruition. Just seems to work out that way. However, just as my ballot luck had to change at some point so does this.

Second bit of news, was a surprise gift from my husband of race entry to Race to The Stones. 100km non stop. All being well, I can also add ultra marathoner to my accomplishments. This makes my belly do all sorts of funny dances, both a mixture of excitement and fear. But I can’t wait for another challenge. It’s food for my soul! In all honesty, one I may not have had the balls to go ahead with, so the much needed gentle push has been very welcome. It’s all or nothing!

So there it is. Next year is firmed up and ready to be tackled head on.

First up though, Paris marathon training is in progress. I have decided to follow an 18 week plan from a wonderful read ‘Advanced Marathoning’ there are so many different plans and training ideas when it comes to marathons. One size does not fit all, and your choice of plan to follow or create is ultimately a very personal choice, a balance between what works for you with life commitments, fitness levels and what your body favours. Some may go for plans based on time, mileage or even just plucking one out of thin air. Having been through two marathon training cycles and trying two different plans, I’m hoping that I’ve learnt enough to be able to say this will work best for me. I shall be doing a separate blog post for this, along with documenting my weekly training. It’s just a little hectic right now, and I’m trying to make it through the festive period without turning into a self combusting turkey. Can’t imagine that would be pretty.