Category Archives: Running

For the love of Lycra

Well, the big news of the day is that I’ve been back in Lycra, hurray! I’d forgotten just how comfortable my thermal Kalenji running tights are (must check to see if they’ve got a sale on) and to feel properly sporty again. Oh dear, that means I have to admit to doing my exercise bike stints in my pjs, ok, it’s true, but just because it’s been first thing in the morning and I have worn sensible trainers.

I’ve only ever done one Pilates class before, and it was years ago, but the class times didn’t really work for me then so I didn’t make it back. Then in 2014 I became a yoga convert, to the point of being evangelical about it to anyone who would listen and many who had no choice but to.

My physio said it was ok to go back to yoga or Pilates, so I decided that perhaps the latter would be more sensible and I think I made the right decision. There was no real pressure on my foot and very little I felt unable to do. I’m going to stick with it for a bit, I think, I’m definitely not ready for any downward dog or child’s pose yet but getting through a whole hour long class has given me a real lift.

So today, day six, has been my most uplifting #janathon day so far, especially when I add in the two mile walk to the class and back and, of course, 20 mins on the bike (in pjs), a few core exercises and a longer plank.

It’s not cheating, is it?

Day five of #janathon and my blog is in danger of becoming very repetitive – a bit of yoga and a stint on the exercise bike is about all I’ve been able to do – then I managed to add in a swimming session.

It was my physio appointment today, so I did my exercise – yes, yoga and bike – early, although I did throw in an extra plank just to liven things up, and headed out to the session.

The last appointment was two weeks ago with the holidays and all, so I was looking forward to it. I optimistically took my swimming stuff with me thinking I could go on the way home, but no. Foot was far too sore, still that was kind of the idea, massage, ultrasound and electrotherapy will have that effect I discovered.

So, instead I took all the Christmas decorations down, packed away the tree then cleaned and vacuumed the flat. If I add “vigorously” before cleaned and vacuumed, can I claim it as contributing? Just makes my efforts seem slightly less dull!

On the upside, I am allowed to try a Pilates class, so that’s tomorrow livened up. I’ll have to be careful, but just to be doing something different will be fantastic. Hopefully we can look forward to a more upbeat blogpost then.

#Janathon so far so, well, mixed

Ok, so January 1 and 2 were a bit of a write off exercise wise. In 2014 I’d got off to a great start with a New Year’s Day 10 mile run including parkrun, but not to be in 2015.

If you count dancing until 4am, I did a bit of exercise on 1st, then just a two mile walk on the 2nd, I neither blogged nor tweeted about either. Sorry.

On the 3rd I managed a tweet about my 15 minutes on the bike and a bit of yoga. Still this was progress.

Today, day four, was a bit more like it. After some early morning core strength / yoga work, I hopped on the exercise bike and pushed the time up to 20 minutes, right leg was really feeling it, but this is why I’m doing it. The sooner I can build up strength in that leg, the sooner, hopefully, I’ll be back running again. My short-term goal is to be back on an ordinary bike by next weekend.

Feeling inspired and raring to go, I headed off to the pool for half hour swim.

I finally feel like my #Janathon has kicked in and I really hope to keep it up, even though there’ll be no running at all involved (recovering from a broken foot) which seems a bit odd, as the rules say, you don’t have to run everyday, but slacking is not an option!

Ending the year as I mean to start the next

Oh dear, oh dear. I’ve been a bad blogger this year. I can’t believe I haven’t written anything since May 20th, which means I didn’t share my two most exciting running things this year. I smashed my marathon PB in Liverpool on May 25 finishing in 3 hr 22 mins 39 secs, the seventh woman to finish. I was made up when this got me my second highlight, a good for age place in the 2015 London marathon.

This was also the year of yoga! I’d started doing a bit towards the end of 2013, then it all took off in a big way in 2014 when I discovered Hot Bikram Yoga! I’ve been doing a couple of classes a week and my regular Iyengar class too. Along with swimming, I think this definitely helped with my core strength and kept me injury free for (most of) the season. Hmm, more of that later.

Sport was becoming an ever bigger part of my life, I added badminton too, and reminded myself how competitive I could be. Running was still my first love.

After the high of Liverpool there were a couple of other great races to look forward to; the inaugural Hackney Half in June – my first half marathon – and my second half in October, the Royal Parks Half. I got another first in September with the London Duathlon. I’d done a triathlon back in 2003, but no cycling races since so this was a great new thing for me. I learnt that I’ve got a lot of work to do on the bike, but was pretty happy with both lots of running! I’ve signed up for next year, and another cycling event too.

Over the years, my interest in my sport, and sport in general, has increased, so as a step towards working in the area, I decided to apply for a degree in sport and exercise science, which I started in October, I’ve really enjoyed getting technical about sport, getting a deeper understanding about how the body uses energy, for example, has been fascinating, and pretty useful too.

This was all going really well, running or cycling to and from University, fitting in all other bits and pieces of exercise around study, when, running downstairs to get the parmesan cheese to go with tea (I know, ridiculous), I slipped on the stairs and bang, or rather, snap. I broke some bones in my foot. I knew straight away as I’d done the same thing, on the same step (different foot though) four years before.

After only two weeks of the course, there I was in a full non-weight bearing cast, hobbling about on crutches. Not even a sporting injury. After six weeks in that and another four weeks in one of those moon boots, I’m finally in proper shoes, walking unaided, but still a good couple of months away from running.

Not being able to run has been hard, but not being able to do anything has been horrible! I’m allowed on the exercise bike now and can head back to the pool too. The advice at the moment is running in March, I daren’t say how many races I’ve booked in for next year with my optimistic head on. Then I look down at my withered muscle and think how will I ever get back? But I will, it will take time, but I will get back and beat that marathon PB, and then some.

At least I’ll have missed the cold winter training and get going again in spring for my comeback in the Hackney Half in May.

And I promise to be a better blogger too.

Happy New Year everyone!

Missing training and the importance of a good plan

I’m not very good at having rest days, I get twitchy and start to feel guilty or that I’m missing out, especially if it’s a sunny, slightly cool, not too windy day – my perfect running conditions.

To fit in with family, I usually have my rest day on a Sunday, so we can do stuff and they’re not waiting for me to do my run / come back / stretch / shower / plug in my Garmin to check my stats / tweet about the run etc etc… which make an “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll just do a quick 10k,” into more like a couple of hours.

I try to make sure I get to parkrun on a Saturday, I’m back and ready for the rest of the weekend, sometimes even with a new PB to give me an extra lift for the weekend.

Every now and then, I have to miss a session on a Saturday, then I insist on going out on Sunday, but run early and try to reign in the other bits. I think it’s better for the family in the end than being niggly, and a bit grumpy all day.

When other things scupper my training plans, like waiting in for a delivery or having to attend a doctor’s appointment, I have to compensate by getting up extra early or squeezing another or doing a double session the next day.

Keeping a proper training diary with notes has really helped balance things for me. If something does come up I am more comfortable about changing things around as I have a much clearer picture of what needs to be done and what can be switched around easily.

This is the first year I’ve made detailed training plans, making sure that I fit all the training elements in and given me confidence if I need to move things around.

Keeping my mojo for marathon two

“Get out and do a recovery run on the day after marathon, about 20 minutes, don’t worry about pace.” That was the advice I was given to set me on my way to marathon number two, the Liverpool Run Rock’n’Roll, seven weeks after the Brighton Marathon.

Given that walking down the stairs was little, er, tricky, I wasn’t sure how this would go. Still, I stuck my running shoes back on and headed out into the rain which had finally arrived.

Once I got going, everything felt fine, I chose an easy, flat out and back and a comfortable pace. Whether this helped my legs to recover or not, I couldn’t honestly say, but it definitely helped my head get into the right place.

It was the school holidays and it would have been really easy to have taken a couple of weeks off, using “I’ve just run a marathon”, as an excuse, but getting straight back out there kept my rhythm going. I made sure I got up for some early morning runs, and even though my longest run was only 10 miles and I’d done no swimming or yoga, I felt like I’d my fitness and energy levels up and my legs strong, ready for the last five weeks of full training when the kids went back to school.

First thing I did on that Tuesday was fill out my training plan for the five weeks to race day. I’d been holding off to see how the legs felt. Putting it all down on paper made it all seem doable – and real.

Friday was my last long run, a cheeky little 24 miler, and I’m now back into tapering again before the race on the 25th.

This time last year, if you’d told me I’d run a marathon in 3 hrs 30, then plan for another seven weeks later, I’d have thought you were talking about someone else. Well, I did and I am. I’ve no real target for this one, just planning to enjoy the music, atmosphere and a nostalgic trip around my home city. Oh, and picking up another nice bit of bling at the end.

Is it really four weeks since Brighton?

Does this still count as a race report nearly four weeks later? I think I was in shock after not only getting inside the time I had hoped for, but by a satisfying 20 minutes, that it didn’t seem quite real and writing about it felt weird.

Anyway, I’m over it now, I’ve checked, double and triple checked the results page and it’s definitely true. I finished the Brighton Marathon in 3 hours 30 minutes and 27 seconds which is well inside the London Marathon good for age qualifying time of 3hrs 50. Yippeee!!

To be honest, it couldn’t have gone any better. It was as though all the running gods had got together and decided that it was going to be the perfect day for racing.

All week we’d been promised rain, cold, and strong winds, but I woke up Sunday morning to see that the rain had been removed from the forecast, the temperature was up and the wind was down.

I joined the throng of people walking up to Preston Park for the start of the race, the atmosphere was buzzing, there were lots of marathon stories being swapped and last minute advice being offered. This continued during the traditional half hour wait in the queue to the toilet.

Still, it meant that I got to listen to an interview with Paula Radcliffe, who was there to start the race. It was interesting to hear her coping strategies for the distance, like counting to a 100 three times to pass a mile. I’ve been known to do something similar with times tables.

With 10 minutes to go, I headed down to the starting pens and joined my fellow reds, my Garmin successfully located the satellites, just needed to get going now.

The loop round Preston Park, with its bottle necks, means that you can’t go out to quickly, so avoid that early mistake that can mess up your race.

I settled into a comfortable pace and had to keep telling myself to slow down, I didn’t want to burn out.

I searched around in the crowd about mile three as the family were going to try to get there, didn’t see them, but I hadn’t been hopeful so wasn’t too disappointed, also, got distracted by the new loop to replace the post-Ovingdean hill.

Still, I saw them at 5 miles, was able to nip across to kiss the kids and hand my gloves over – yes, shockingly, I was warm enough to do that. (I’ve been known to still be wearing a jumper at 25C.)

On the way to Ovingdean, about mile 6-7, saw the first of the elites coming the other way, their speed definitely helps inspire you to get up that hill.

One of my big worries coming into the marathon was the number of ‘natural breaks’I might need, eating into my running time. I managed to stick it out till 11, at the bottom of the hill on the way back into Brighton, result!

Saw the family again just after halfway, a great psychological boost ahead of the 14 mile marker, which was where, two years ago, my Achilles had screamed at me to stop and I’d staggered round the last 12.2 miles. I passed the marker with a very loud internal “Whooop!”and started to really relax and enjoy the support around me.

There seemed to be so many more people out this year cheering and holding some inspiring and funny banners.

Checking my timings after another sneaky loo trip at mile 19 and I was pretty confident I was going to hit my target.

After the not-so-picturesque trip round the docks, coming out at mile 23, I felt strong, happy and a little excited.

My last three miles were the fastest of the race and I knew I had a big grin on my face as I passed the family just ahead of the finish line. The crowds were amazing on the last strip down towards the sea front and really spurred me on.

Crossing the finish line felt wonderful, especially as I’d knocked an hour off my last Brighton marathon.

The family where there at the meeting point when I got to it and we headed off for a pint and a slice of pizza.

All that’s left is to say a big thank you to all the organisers, marshals and supporters in Brighton. I hope to run in the London Marathon next year, but I’m sure I’ll be back one day.

Last minute nerves

The last run has been run, kit is all washed and ready to go, train ticket bought and legs rested. I’ve been pretty happy with training and preparation for the Brighton Marathon on Sunday, more than ever before a race, maybe that’s why I seem to be suddenly really nervous. I feel like I’ve got the running version of stage fright.

I can’t seem to settle, am really twitchy and have persuaded myself to write this so I sit still for a little bit – the up side is that flat is probably cleaner and tidier than ever. Don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep properly for the next couple of nights, but then I expect I’ll sleep like a dream on Sunday to make up for it.

I think it’s a mixture of nerves and excitement. I sort of know what I’m in for, this is my fourth marathon and my second in Brighton, but this time I’ve got a goal that has (hopefully) a bonus prize of a good for age place in London next year. Stakes seem a bit higher now.

To calm myself down, I’m off to do last minute checks on all my lotions and potions and recovery bits and pieces, then tonight I’m aiming for a long soak in the bath and a good comfort food meets carb loading pasta tea.

Here’s hoping I don’t freeze up on the start line.

Good luck to everyone marathon running this weekend, looking forward to all your race reports.

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Some of the “essentials” coming with me

It’s taper time

Ah, the taper, it always makes me a bit anxious. Even though I’ve read lots about the importance of tapering and have always done it in the past, I worry that it’ll leave me less fit or prepared, but still, it’s the right thing to do.

That said, my tapering has gone pretty well, touch wood – and I’m doing a lot of that at the moment. I’ve stuck to my schedule, reducing distance or intensity as advised and am eating sensibly – banana cake is fruit and carb loading in one right? – and trying to keep well hydrated.

My big fear at the moment is tripping over some random bit of sticking up paving stone and ruling myself out of running. Of course, I’m constantly checking the weather forecast too – will I have to run in a jacket, can I ditch the gloves? It’s only adding to the PMT (pre-marathon tension).

There’s now only five sleeps till the big day and I know I’ve got two runs, a swim and two yoga sessions left. Friday’s will be a short shake out run before trying to rest on Saturday, although I can see myself frantically running round the expo, credit card in hand wanting to buy everything. That doesn’t count though surely?

Partly to appease the kids (“Aww, why do we have to come and watch another marathon? It’s sooooo boring.”) and partly to enforce rest upon me we’re planning on going to see the Muppet movie on Saturday afternoon. Otherwise, I can imagine a little light shopping might turn into an afternoon trekking round the city.

We’re staying in a family room that night too, which means an enforced early bed time, a bonus given that I usually find it hard to sleep the night before a race – too excited and nervous – so at least I’ll be resting.

I’ve enjoyed reading other people’s taper blogs and tweets over the last couple of weeks too, good to know we’re all in it together.

Entering the final straight

Passing the 10 week mark of my 16-week marathon training programme is always a big milestone for me. It means there’s just the ‘school holidays’ to go. Only three weeks to tapering, so it all suddenly starts to seem more achievable. So I thought I’d wrap up my training and thoughts so far.

I’m aiming for a PB this year, and have been trying really hard to give myself the best shot at it. This has included doing a marathon workshop with the Run Doctor and actually implementing some of what was said!

I’ve always known that some speed work or interval training was good, but I’ve never really enjoyed it before. This time, after the workshop, I decided to have a go at the Yasso 800s, which seems to have worked well for me. They’ve had a positive effect on my parkrun times too, I’ve watched my 5k PB fall over the past few months, an added bonus.

The other thing that I’ve been doing this time, which I’ve always shuddered at and avoided in the past is strength work. I’ve got a set of exercises that I tried to follow, but doing it at home doesn’t do it for me and I can’t face the gym, so I’ve taken to yoga.

There is a downside to this, I’m now really enjoying yoga too and hate to miss a class! I’ve been doing three a week, two of them bikram or other hot yoga and a cooler, less sweaty, iyengar class. Somehow a 30 day plank challenge seems to have crept in to my schedule too. I’ve definitely seen a change in my body with this and I’m happy, so I think that I can say strength work gets a tick.

Another new thing for me is energy gels. I’ve always been reluctant before, but after my stomach was growling at me after my first longer run, it made me think. I’ve tried a few and settled on my favourite, for now. Still a bit rubbish at tearing open the sachet, but that’s what training runs are supposed to help sort out.

With less than six weeks to go, I’m also off the booze now. I’m trying not to think too much about that first cold pint of beer after the race, but somehow it keeps popping into my head. That and pizza.

There’s just over four weeks to go now, hopefully I’ll be arriving at the start line in Brighton the best prepared that I can be.