Category Archives: Training

Weekly RUNdown 27/11/17

Good evening! It’s actually Monday as I write this, so that’s a good start.

I would start out by saying that I’ll try not to ramble too much, but we all know that’s not going to happen, so…

On Tuesday I finally made a decision I’ve been dithering about for a while and signed up for a gym membership. I chose the gym that my physio is based at, partly because the familiarity I’ve already developed with the place helps it seem less scary to go there, but mainly because it offers a rolling membership so I’m not tied in to paying for it for 12 months.

After work on Wednesday I went for an induction and got a tour of the facilities, which were rather impressive! The gym is bright and open and split over two levels, with the  cardio and resistance machines on the top level and the free weights downstairs. There are two big studios for group classes, a spin studio, a dance studio (I think they even offer cardio barre-type classes – will I be brave enough?) and something called a Kinesis studio which was full of inexplicable ropes and levers. After I’d stared at it confusedly for a minute or two the woman showed me around said: “Yeah, I’d definitely suggest taking a class or two.” Intriguing… Oh, and there’s a swimming pool too, but it’s kind of a water treadmill. You set a flow-rate and then just have to swim against it! It looked slightly terrifying but I must try it some time.

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Sweaty gym selfie is sweaty. Also trying to take pictures without anyone noticing requires a surprising amount of concentration!

Before I could change my mind I went straight to the gym after I left work on Thursday. Since I’d basically not done any cardio except for running for years, I wasn’t at all sure what kind of workout I was planning, but I headed to the least scary machine, the elliptical trainer, hopped on, and went for it. After warming up I went for a hard effort for 15 minutes, and then switched to the bike and then the rowing machine for 10 minutes each. I ended up in an unintentional competition  with a guy on the next rower, as I noticed he was matching my speed and couldn’t resist upping it. I finished up with 10 minutes brisk uphill walk on the treadmill and called it a night. I was Sweaty with a capital S and badly wanted some dinner! Before I left I booked in with a trainer for a “goal setting” session next week, which will be the first time I’ve done any such thing so that will be interesting.

On Saturday morning Matt and I dragged ourselves out of bed for Parkrun, although to be fair it is far less of a struggle than it used to be! Cheltenham was celebrating its 250th Parkrun so it was extra busy, and I couldn’t help but be amused at the way we all huddled together like penguins in the bitterly cold air. I was super determined to crack the 30 minute barrier for the first time in Cheltenham, so at the whistle I took off pretty swiftly, in fact it was swift enough to leave Matt behind for a few yards (sorry darling!)

After the first two laps something happened in the backs of my legs, right at that point where the butt ends and the thigh begins. Honestly it felt like someone with really long nails jabbed their fingers into me and squeezed. I gasped and just sort of… stopped. Matt glanced over his shoulder, doubled back and grabbed me, absolutely insisting that I keep going. So, with gritted teeth, I did. It took a lot of focus to ignore the pain and carry on, and I guess some might argue that it wasn’t a good idea. But I think over time I’ve developed a good sense for when these sorts of pains have sinister origins and when they are more innocent. In this case I knew my hamstrings were tight because (a) they pretty much always are and (b) because my physio commented on it last time I saw him. Add this to the fact that I’ve been consciously trying to change and improve my running form recently and I wasn’t that surprised that part of me was complaining!

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My pace profile from Saturday’s Parkrun. Can you spot the place where my hamstrings complained?!

With a fair bit of encouragement from Matt and only a tiny bit of swearing under my breath I got to the finish in 29:39. HECK YES!

Boy was I tired though, and when one of the volunteers spoke to me I could not for the life of me understand what she wanted. For some reason my brain decided I was being told off and I just burst into tears right there, crying into Matt’s shoulder. The RD came over to check that I was okay, which I thought was really lovely of him and just shows the supportive environment that Parkrun offers. Of course I was fine once the moment of anxiety had passed, and I could start to feel the satisfaction of a run well done.

Saturday evening was a friend’s birthday bash in Bristol and we went to one of these “escape room” games, where you get locked in a room full of puzzles and have to work as a team to get out within a certain amount of time. This has nothing whatsoever to do with running, but I am a massive fan of these things – if there’s one near you and you haven’t tried it you must! They are great fun, and you get a real sense of achievement if you make it out in time. The best part is that the most successful teams are the ones with a mix of different types of people. I’m the nerdy academic type, and Matt’s the practical engineer type, and put together with some of our friends who add patience, lateral thinking or an eye for detail into the mix we make a formidable team. For me it’s an excellent metaphor for the way that a mix of different types of training and fitness activities make me as a whole a better runner and a more well-rounded person.

And after that completely smooth and not at all forced segue I will sign off for now. This week will be a busy one at work, but the reward will be a long weekend for me as I’m on leave on Friday, whoop! See you next Monday.

 

 

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Training Recap Weeks #9 – #16

I must confess that I haven’t looked at this blog since I wrote the week 8 recap. The second half of my marathon training was a bit of a rollercoaster, to say the least. This post is just a quickie just so that the record is complete before I post about London itself.

Week 9 started out really well, with a couple of shorter, speedier runs. On Friday evening, I started to feel a pain on the front of my left leg, just below the knee. It seemed to improve through Saturday so I set out with Matt on Sunday morning with the intention of running 16 miles. The first 6 miles of our route were almost all uphill, and there was a decidedly unpleasant drizzle that kept things feeling just the wrong side of okay. Just as I started to settle in and look more positively at the remaining 10 miles, the pain in my knee became unbearable and I felt like the joint could collapse at any moment.  I stopped, stretched, paced back and forth, tried to jog, gave up. The only slight problem was that we were at least 3 miles from home (although, thank god we’d planned a figure-of-eight route and weren’t 10 miles from home) and I could hardly walk without stabbing pain. But with me half riding Matt’s bike and him walking/jogging alongside we made it. There were more than a few tears from me.

I rested my knee for the rest of the week, and hoped furiously that it would recover. I was desperate to run the Bath Half at the end of week 10 as I was craving the race day high and a new bit of bling to add to my collection! Unfortunately it was not to be, I couldn’t risk damaging the knee more when London was the race I was really aiming for.

I saw a sports therapist during week 11, and to my surprise he concluded that my pain was caused not by a knee problem, but by hamstring tendonitis, likely brought about by tight hamstrings and poor core stability. The therapist threw every treatment he could at me for the next few weeks, and I did the prescribed strengthening exercises religiously.

I was, as you might imagine, extremely emotional about the whole experience. I felt like I had been robbed of the opportunity to find out what I was capable of, and what was worse was that I felt like the robber as well as the victim. My head was full of weasels screaming at me, and they were loving all the down time. It really gave them a chance to sharpen their claws. And oh, the words they were saying: I shouldn’t have ran those 6 miles that Sunday morning. I should have built up my mileage more gradually. I should have worked harder on my core. I should be a better person. I shouldn’t be so useless… It was almost impossible to keep anxiety at bay, and I couldn’t face posting here or on social media about my lack of running. I felt like a failure, especially as I watched everyone on Instagram do their longest runs and start to taper. I almost felt like I had done no training at all.

All in all I managed a couple of 4-5 mile runs during the 3 weeks before London.

My goal – to finish the London Marathon – was still (I believed) within my reach, but I had given up on the idea of a time to be proud of! I told my friends and family that I was going to do my damnedest to complete the course, hobbling if I had to, and that I was going to smile while doing it.

Ready or not, it was marathon day.

 

 

 

 

Training recap week #8

trainingweek8

Week: 8/16

Runs: 4

Miles: 27.9

Legs: Ouch!

Mood: Thoughtful

And that was week 8! I’m now half way through my marathon training plan. Half way! Half. Way. HALF! WAY!

Okay, so that is a little* scary. But I’ve no reason to think I’m not on target – I completed all my workouts with some degree of success, and as I write this (it’s Tuesday lunchtime) I’m not too terribly stiff or sore in the leg department. Several really quite significant things happened this week, so I’ll take them one by one.

  1. I did my longest EVER run! Fourteen miles. Okay so it’s not a lot further than the 13.1 distance I’ve covered several times before, but psychologically it’s a pretty big deal, as my anxiety means that I feel the fear of the unknown more than most! Last week I would have told you that I couldn’t have gone further than 12 miles, and this week I could tell you that I couldn’t have gone further than 14. But I’m working on changing that thinking a bit. I think it’s more helpful and less scary to say “I don’t know if I could have gone further, but I’m looking forward to giving it a go next week” than “Nope, no way, nuh-uh, no! I was DONE.” Although to be frank, that second one is a lot closer to what went through my head at the end of 14 miles!
  2. My fundraising received a HUGE boost from Matt’s colleagues. I am humbled and overwhelmed by their generosity. Matt said some of them even chose to share their own, or their loved ones’, stories of mental health issues with him when he asked if they’d be willing to sponsor me. I think it’s incredible how the conversation can flow if someone is brave enough to start it. That’s the main reason why I’m doing this.
  3. I had another tempo run where I had to shake off the doubt instilled in me by looking into the runner’s crystal ball of negativity (which I’m going to talk about more in another post) and managed to completely smash it! I had to do 2 times 12 minutes at tempo pace with a 3 minute rest in between. For the first I held a 8:38 pace, and the second 8:57, and I am thrilled! I had pretty much given up on the idea of aiming for a 9:10 pace for the Bath Half in a couple of weeks, but now I’m thinking I might not be as far off as I thought. On Tempo Friday this week I have to hold a tempo pace for a solid 20 minutes, and I’m going to see how close to 8:30 I can stay!

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Storm Doris gave great post-run hair!

I wish that I could say I was feeling totally capable and positive about the coming weeks! But, of course it wouldn’t be true. I am very proud of myself, and my body feels stronger than ever. But the unknown is scary, and I can’t deny that I’m tired and hungry a lot of the time, which is very draining and lowers my mood quite a bit. But, I am determined, I know I’m much loved and supported, and I’m not giving up. Let’s go, week 9!

*This is totally true. At least it is if I redefine “a little” to mean “a whole damn lot”…

I’m running the 2017 London Marathon for Mind, the mental health charity.
If you’d like to sponsor me please go to my fundraising page here!

Training recap week #7

trainingweek7

Week: 7/16

Runs: 4

Miles: 23.9

Legs: A little tired and sore

Mood: I am runner, hear me roar!

Tearful outbursts: 0.5* 

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I was dreading this week a bit as I knew I’d be really busy at work and wasn’t sure how I was going to fit in all the runs I needed to do. But in the end, it got done. I even managed two before-work runs which is a pretty big deal for this definitely-not-a-morning person! I had short tempo intervals on Wednesday morning, which was fine, but I underestimated the length of the route, had to dash the last mile and missed breakfast, which meant that come coffee break time I was off to Costa like a bat out of hell!

Friday was a couple of 8 minute tempo repeats, and for the first time I kind of understood what it’s like to not let yourself back off when things get a little tough. I know 8 minutes might not seem that long, and I have run faster for longer in the past, but where I’m at right now, holding 8:56 pace for 8 minutes was hard. I managed to partially detach the part of me that was thinking and feeling pain from the parts that were keeping me moving, and a silent mantra of “I can and I will” got me through. It was a tiny bit of a breakthrough to notice that my desire to keep my legs moving could override my brain going “ugh, slow down”…

Sunday was actually my longest training run ever! Although I’ve run several half marathons I haven’t ever done more than 10 miles in training, and I’ve got to be honest, it hurt. Why? Well, here’s the elevation profile:

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Yeah. That last section was not pleasant on tired legs! (*This is where the half-a-breakdown happened. I panicked a little, shouting at Matt “I can’t, I can’t” but he wouldn’t let me have a full-on meltdown! He just kept telling me that I had more in the tank than I thought, and even made me pick up the pace for the last few yards for a mini sprint finish. I love that man!) It’s funny how the body can do things that the mind doesn’t think it can. Maybe that’s the theme for this week!

Next week’s long run will officially be the furthest I’ve ever run – 14 miles! Matt and I have the route all planned out and I’m looking forward to it. It feels like a particularly scary thing to do, to go further than ever before! But once I’ve done it, what’s to stop me from doing it again? Bring it on, week 8!

 

I’m running the 2017 London Marathon for Mind, the mental health charity.
If you’d like to sponsor me please go to my fundraising page here!

Training recap week #6

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Week: 6/16

Runs: 4

Miles: 23.5

Legs: Powerful

Mood: Buoyant (and chilly!) 

Boom! Week 6 in the bag! I don’t have anything at all negative to say this week. I did all my runs (although I did move Wednesday night’s to Thursday morning), battled my way through 8 “sprint” repeats (a lot of mental gymnastics was involved in that one – after the first fast 60 seconds there was no way I was doing 7 more, but somehow 1 became 2, became 4, became 7…), and did my first double-digit run of the year.

wp-1486919233417.jpgOne thing I did struggle with was the short intervals. It was okay on Thursday with 60 second repeats, I just stayed pretty much glued to my watch. But on Friday I was supposed to be doing 5 minute tempo repeats, but I couldn’t pay enough attention to the watch as I was running on unfamiliar roads. So for wp-1486919270821.jpgthat reason and because of failing battery power I have ordered a replacement for my old Garmin Forerunner 15. I went for the Forerunner 235 because I like the round face and the colourful options for the strap. This combined with a new pair of shoes (I want to alternate with my old ones so they’re good and worn in by April!) my bank balance is suffering a little this week! But… new toys! 🙂

I’m ready to square up to week 7!

I’m running the 2017 London Marathon for Mind, the mental health charity.
If you’d like to sponsor me please go to my fundraising page here!

Training recap week #5

trainingweek5

Week: 5/16

Runs: 4

Miles: 12.7

Legs: Strong

Mood: Impatient

This week was a lighter week, which, according to my plan, would allow my body to adapt to the training. To my surprise I have really noticed that I was not running as much, and have been feeling a strange sort of impatience, almost like a craving to feel really tired! The good news is that the pain in my shin seems to have mostly gone away, so hopefully this week has done its work and I’m ready for the training to move up a gear.

At the beginning of the week I decided it was time to send an email to all of my work colleagues announcing that I was training for the marathon and why, and basically ask them to sponsor me. It was the first time I’d admitted so publicly that I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression, and I was very nervous before I hit the send button. But I needn’t have worried. I got a really wonderful response, with several people emailing me to share their own experiences and to thank and congratulate me for doing what I’m doing. I had a fantastic surge in donations as well, with many more promised! I also got asked if I would agree to being interviewed for the staff newsletter, which will hopefully be another great way to raise awareness.

Next week, week 6, I will get my first taste of structured speedwork, which is both exciting and just a little bit scary. Let’s dive in!

I’m running the 2017 London Marathon for Mind, the mental health charity.
If you’d like to sponsor me please go to my fundraising page here!

Training recap week #4

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Week: 4/16

Runs: 3

Miles: 17.6

Legs: Strong

Mood: Determined

Tearful outbursts: 4 or 5

Running related tearful outbursts: 1

So that’s the end of week 4 of marathon training, and for the first time I didn’t complete all 4 scheduled runs. As those that follow me on Instagram or Facebook will have seen I have struggled quite a bit this week with my anxiety. When I woke up last Tuesday morning it was like something heavy but restless had settled on my shoulders and something flighty, breathless and skittish had taken up residence in my chest. I couldn’t shake the dreadful anxiety that I was somehow completely unacceptable as a human being. The brain weasels took the biscuits I ate and enjoyed the night before and turned them into something shameful. They took the fun pictures of me running on Sunday and turned them into a horror-show of flabby thighs and cellulite. They took my long to-do list at work and turned it into a list of failures. They took everyday interactions with colleagues and made them feel dangerous. 

These kinds of feelings are no fun at all, but they’re not as scary as they once were. I know that sometimes they come, with little warning, but more importantly I know that always they go. 

In terms of running, I was damn proud of my Wednesday night (nearly) 6 miler. It was cold, dark, the air was full of dampness and mizzle, and I was tired after a day or normal work plus the extra drain of all that anxiety. But I did it, and I didn’t hate it, and I had pizza afterwards!

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All smiles on Sunday!

I ended up skipping my Friday easy run because I’d had a niggly little pain in my right shin for a while and it seemed to be linked to tightness in my calf that came on during Wednesday’s run. I was hoping that a rest would help it to feel better, but weirdly it actually got worse the longer I didn’t run on it. So on Sunday out we went, Coach Matt and I, for 90 minutes in the park. It felt incredible. My legs felt strong and my pace was pleasingly steady. Matt commented that my stride looked stronger and that I was picking my feet up much better than last week. I am definitely getting stronger, and my positivity about the marathon has returned. I can totally do this!

Next week, week 5, is a low-mileage week, in theory so that my body can adjust before some speedwork gets added in in week 6! Exciting times.

I’m running the 2017 London Marathon for Mind, the mental health charity.
If you’d like to sponsor me please go to my fundraising page here!

Training recap week #3

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Week: 3/16

Runs: 4

Miles: 19.14

Legs: Bruised and battered

Mood: Fearful

Scraped knees: 3

Tearful outbursts: 1

Week 3 is over, and I am very glad to see the back of it. I completed all the runs on my plan this week, even managing to keep to a 10 min/mile pace for a couple of sessions. But overall I am feeling a bit negative and afraid of what the coming weeks will bring. Can I really become a marathoner?

First, my body is shouting at me pretty loudly tonight, as I’ve managed to fall over my Friday and Sunday runs. On Friday I tried to really test my speed on a popular Strava segment, and then really struggled to get my breath back and find enough energy to finish the run. Whilst running tired I failed to pick my feet up, and went flying. I landed on a patch of rutted frozen mud, and bashed both elbows, both knees, both palms and all down the outside of my left thigh. Ouch. I managed to talk myself into completing the intended number of minutes, so there’s that… On Sunday, 20 minutes in to an 80 minute session, I tripped on a drain cover (Coach Matt tells me I veer to the left and so basically run myself into the rough edges of the pavement… sigh…) and hit the ground again. Scraped knee #3.It was around then that the tears happened!

But, attempting to look on the bright side, I completed all my runs and felt relatively okay during them. We even managed a couple of 4ish mile walks over the weekend to make the most of the beautiful sunshine. According to my Fitbit I’d done nearly 27,000 steps come Sunday bedtime!

I hope week 4 is kinder to me…

I’m running the 2017 London Marathon for Mind, the mental health charity.
If you’d like to sponsor me please go to my fundraising page here!

Training recap week #2

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Week: 2/16

Runs: 4

Miles: 17.5

Legs: Somewhat stronger

Mood: Determined

Week 2 is done and dusted! I’ve had a few up and downs this week, with my legs feeling much stronger at times, but one session that I nearly quit halfway through. I’ve had a bit of pain in my right shin as well, so I’ve been concentrating on recovery, doing lots of stretching and strengthening exercises. And I’ve been reacquainted with my foam roller (ouch!).

My long run on Sunday was one of those runs that just feel amazing. Matt came with me on his bike, and rode alongside the whole way. It was great to have someone to talk to (at least after mile 3 and I’d settled into the rhythm!) and the fact that he was willing to ride around for an hour in the rain made my heart feel very full, and I’m more grateful than I can adequately express.

Wednesday’s run was supposed to be “steady” pace. As my plan explains, this is the pace that requires 10-20% more effort than “easy”. I find it very difficult to assess my effort levels, especially in shorter runs where I don’t ever really feel like I’ve got into the swing of things. So I paced it by just pushing a little more than what felt like minimum, and didn’t worry too much about the actual speed! And then on Friday, for some reason I felt like I was flying, and I completed the same distance in the same time, but without having to put in nearly as much effort! As I go further with the training journey I hope I’ll start to figure out what makes different runs different, and learn a lot about myself as a runner!

Bring on week 3!

I’m running the 2017 London Marathon for Mind, the mental health charity.
If you’d like to sponsor me please go to my fundraising page here!

Training recap week #1

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Week: 1/16

Runs: 4

Miles: 13.79

Legs: Slightly sluggish

Mood: Optimistic

So that’s the end of week 1 of 16 of my marathon training plan. I’ve chosen a plan aimed at “improvers” as although I haven’t run a full marathon before, I have done several half marathons and I have a pretty good understanding of how my body handles running longish distances. The first 4 weeks of the plan focus on easy or steady pace runs, with time rather than distance goals. Other than making it rather more difficult to plan a route when thinking in minutes, this really doesn’t make much difference to me! I know that my easy pace is around 11 min/mile, so that has been my target this week.

I think this first week actually went really well, I haven’t run so consistently for a long time, but I had virtually no aches or soreness beyond the very very minor. In fact the only issue I had was on Saturday evening after an hour walking along muddy tracks up on the Ridgeway. At that point my legs felt super sore and tired, but happily a bit of foam rolling and a massage from Matt sorted it right out and they’ve been fine since.

I’m looking forward to week 2!

I’m running the 2017 London Marathon for Mind, the mental health charity.
If you’d like to sponsor me please go to my fundraising page here!