The Road to London #Week 7

Monday night’s session was so tough, there’s no way I would have pushed myself so hard if I had been running alone. Coach Penny set us 4 x 6mins of Kenyan hills, which means you effort on the up and don’t really slow down as you head back to the start. It wasn’t the longest hill climb we do but it was long enough!

Kenyan hills
There are too many fantastic runners in my club to ease back and glide along. There’s always someone ahead of me to chase and someone breathing down your neck to prevent complacency; group running is brilliant for helping you push yourself to new limits. I don’t time myself at Penny’s hill sessions as for me it’s about effort, not chasing a figure on my watch. After the first set of six minutes I doubted I would be able to do four, but everyone supports each other, and somehow we managed them all. I reached the same stage at the end of each rep, so my speed remained constant. This didn’t mean I didn’t feel the need for a pacemaker by the end.

Another windy run with Sue

Another windy run with Sue

For the first time in seven weeks I was able to finish the session, do the final set of strides and warm down stretches. It’s the little things in life, isn’t it? I also shrugged off my ‘I can’t run any more’ funk that had slipped into my mind at the weekend. The speed was still in my legs.

Everyone was so happy to do shingle reps, I could see it in their faces

Everyone was so happy to do shingle reps, I could see it in their faces

Crazy people doing parkrun in crazy conditions

Crazy people doing parkrun in crazy conditions

Tuesday I need to recover, but it was time to pull up my big girl pants and get on with some proper strength and conditioning work. I’ve been slack and it’s not going to get me anywhere. So I did my leg work (forward lunges, glute activation stretches, single leg squats, calf raises) and added super mans, clams for my lazy bum, standing lunges with a weight in my hand and leg lifts while resting my arms in a chair). It was on to bridges, then adding a single leg extension of 45 degrees and finally repeated after I had raised each leg to the ceiling, so 90 degrees to the floor. Arms: half chin-ups on the bar (an embarrassing 12, I really have been lazy), tricep dips (30) off the sofa, for my core some incredibly hard leg raises while lying on the floor (instructed by Sienna who is my core conditioning coach, so these are exercises she does at gym) finished with a plank for two minutes. Then I stretched and got on the foam roller for some agony, the double ball foam roller to get right into my glutes, then the hand held one on the sofa for a top-up. That was me trying to make up for months of laziness!

Three barcode scanners huddling together for warmth

Three barcode scanners huddling together for warmth

We all need to do this, but in reality how many of us do it enough? I haven’t managed a leg massage for ages as the amazing San who usually does the best job on my legs has moved a bit further away and finding the time to fit this in, in an already packed out week is impossible. So foam roller it is.

I tried to warm up the saddle on the smallest bike in the world

I tried to warm up the saddle

I ‘tri’ed hard this week…
Wednesday was freezing, about 4 degrees, and colder on the bike with the wind chill, but as the bike doesn’t care about the cold I thought why should I. Once I’d got my work done I cycled a long route to the pool, did 32 lengths, including a warm up, 4 x 25m efforts (my strides) 400m at full effort, 3 x 50 as fast as I could then a warm down. I treated myself to about two minutes in the steam room, the same in the sauna, then cycled home and my legs were still twitchy so I ran a mile round the block, with the cold pushing me on to do it in under seven minutes. If I had done two miles I would have completed a  sprint triathlon! I’m definitely progressing. For me it’s all about slow progression. If I do this again I’m only going to add on a little extra on the run. There’s nothing to prove and no one to impress; it’s about slow steps back to fitness and maintaining my running, not burning out/blowing out/worrying about others.

Thursday was mile reps, the session you just can’t wait for. I tried to ignore the dread and think positively about my mile reps before I went out. I was also sooooo lucky that my partner David agreed to bike round with me, as doing them on my own is miserable. The temperature was almost 10 degrees warmer than when I was out on my bike yesterday… this weird winter we are having. What has happened to our planet? Mile 1 was wasn’t too bad as I did a good warm up indoors before we left, mile 2 felt like I was flying and probably went too fast, during mile three, into the wind, I realised I had gone a bit too fast in mile 2, which made mile four tough. I managed to keep the motivation going just until my legs had had enough.

6:49 (Ave HR 124 – this must be wrong I think, although if it isn’t it’s great!)

6:39 (Ave HR 168)

6:58 (Ave HR 169)

6:52 (Ave HR 171)

I’m going to keep pushing the speed and my mile 2 was almost back to what I would call decent running (for me). Please let it last. Everything seems to be coming together at the moment. I just hope I can keep up training right up to marathon race day.

Anna and I taking the first bend, only 40 more to go

Anna and I taking the first bend

Friday is leading others from my club and we were spoilt with 10 lovely shingle reps along the front of beach huts at our nearest shoreline. Everyone was pushing themselves, and each other, to give 100%. In the evening when I dropped Sienna at gymnastics in Portsmouth I also went out for a shorter run with Sue, another gym mum, and she was fantastic running two miles without stopping (she’s only just started running). Well done Sue!

‘Snow joke running a 10K
Saturday I needed to rest my legs. I wanted to do 30 minutes slow on the turbo just to turnover, but I couldn’t fit it in as I was too busy with the girls. I marshaled at Lee parkrun and the weather was hideous; I had full body shivers by the end and the wind was crazy. How long can these endless storms keep rolling in?

Friendly polar bears took time out of their busy weeks to show up at the Snowflake Run

Friendly polar bears took time out of their busy weeks to show up at the Snowflake Run

Sunday was an effort/endurance day as I had a place at the first Cancer Research Snowflake 10K in Southampton, so I wanted to run that fast (ish) then add an extra nine miles on to take me up to 15 miles. David and I headed over to Southampton Common, which I’ve run round lots as it’s where we hold our Women’s Running 10K as well, so I knew there’s a little hill round the back. It was a really good turnout for a first race and everyone was happy, despite the cold and the wind. It’s amazing what running with polar bears can do for morale.

The 10K was well organised, a two lap course with the hill twice, plenty of support from the marshals and even a snow machine to run through. There were lots of people tackling their first 10K and quite a lot of walkers, too – being all-inclusive is what these events excel at. They’re a lot less intense than competitive races, and generally much more fun! However… there are always some people who want to push the pace, and there were a few ladies (and gents) who were giving it their best. My aim was to get under 45mins.

Thank you CRUK for such a great race

Thank you CRUK for such a great race

I hate 10Ks and I am crap at them. This is why I run one a year. So I dragged my tired legs round, a little grumpy with the cold and wind. David kept popping up on his mountain bike to shout out encouragement, but it didn’t make it any less painful than every other 10K you run. How can anyone like running them? The course was quite a bit over distance, and I clocked 6.5miles on my Garmin. My time for 6.25 would have been about 44:35 I think. I was the first lady in, followed by my lovely running friend Anna from Run Verity, and Tasha Avery from Itchen Spitfires. It goes to say, if any local speedy ladies had turned up I wouldn’t have been first!

First three ladies

First three ladies

As soon as I finished I threw on some kit and carried on with some extra laps, the first 30 minutes being very shaky due to a massive blood sugar drop that a double cereal bar and two gels eventually evened out. I found it hard to keep running after a race in the cold, but it’s perfect practise for when your legs are tired in the last six miles of a marathon. I earnt my lunch.

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Once I got home it was back to the girls and a new week to gear up for, but I’ve edged my longest run up to 15 miles. When training for Edinburgh Marathon my left hip started to seize from 16 miles on, so I am nearly at that point and so far am not feeling any niggles or injuries. All I’m suffering from is tiredness, and that I can cope with.

Did you see any polar bears when out running this week?
How do you feel your long runs are going?

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The Road to London #Week 6

After our life hiccup in Week 4, which impacted into Week 5, I’m trying to catch up and do Week 6 on time! Always being behind is not good for the soul.

What did Week 6 have in store for me? My training week didn’t go to plan, but that’s what marathon training is all about, right?

I'm not going to argue with Jack

I’m not going to argue with Jack

After Sunday’s long run home from Manor Farm XC I was a bit tired, but I still made Monday night club session, I just ran it as a recovery run. I was sensible and stayed at the back. When did I become so grown up? It was one-mile reps, which I didn’t want to hit hard, so I paced Russell, another Monday night runner.

We did a mile warm up with four sets of progressive strides, then I did three slow reps before the clock struck midnight (well 7:30) and I had to fly. Well done to Russell who was looking for 8-min/mile pace, and did 7:53, 7:33 and 7:35. He confessed last night that his last effort wasn’t quite as fast.

Even though I was tired my legs were spinning round quite well. That was a surprise.

Well it is creamy and delicious

Well it is creamy and delicious

Then Monday night I didn’t sleep much (random cough), and Tuesday was blah. Still, despite having a body hangover, I’m starting to feel like I used to feel with my running pre divorce. As far as trainability goes I still seem to have the raw materials to get back up to speed.  For the last few marathons I’ve done, at a similar stage in training as I am now, I was already not doing the runs I needed to. So I feel I am doing better.

Then what happens? Life has some curious timing issues, and I found out my youngest Sienna will be doing an extra night at gym in the lead up to her National grades. This is great for her! This isn’t great for me! Keeping up with the children’s activities feels at time both ridiculous and unsustainable. What I do? Tell my 15-year-old, who’s been doing ballet since she was three, she has to give up? Tell my 12-year-old, who wants to be a dancer, she has to quit one of her 50 million dance classes? Tell Sienna that 18 hours of gym is great but sorry, it’s too much effort to get you there?

I’m so lucky to car share with all the activities, so, carry on I must, for now, knowing that at some stage this crazy busy life stage will stop. Not before race day, though. And, honestly, who wants their kids to be gone and be rattling around in a house all alone? I’d rather we were all busy than staring vacantly at various screens. I’ve told Sienna she has to live with me forever – this is only fair after taking her to gym for so many years.

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I also thought it was time to try the scales as I haven’t used them in about a year as I’m not really interested in what I weigh. Saying that,  I think I’m the only person in the country (apart from my friend Emily) who puts on weight during marathon training, despite eating a tin of rice pudding every night for supper. This isn’t my only daily sustenance, I also have first breakfast, second breakfast, lunch and tea plus multiple snacks. So I’m gaining weight nicely, and I can guarantee I will finish the marathon and won’t have lost any weight on race day. I never do. I may even gain a pound. Yes my body likes to be unique in every aspect of existence.

Wednesday I had to give in and use the treadmill for the first time in nearly a year, as the cold and damp are making my lungs sore. I relish every run outside but I’m just starting to cough more at night. Spring, I need you! Runs on the treadmill are not reality, and my short legs never seem to be able to keep up with the belt at faster speeds, but I stuck to my plans and did a one mile warm up followed by 4 x 1mile reps, adding an extra one compared to last week.

They looked like this:
Rep 1 AveHR 158, speed 7:05
Rep 2 AveHR 164, speed 7:02
Rep 3 AveHR 170, speed 6:55
Rep 4 AveHR 173, speed 6:52

I’ve been avoiding mile reps for at least a year so I’m suspicious of what is going on. I’ve done them two weeks in a row…and I’ve enjoyed them. Strange.

I can't stay indoors on days like this

I can’t stay indoors on days like this

Thursday I rode to Absolute Running in Gosport, my local running store, to see Lawrence for physio. My left glute and hip is temperamental and causes issues in my lower back, or vice versa, I’m not sure exactly where the problem originates. Having your vertebrae manipulated is quite painful, but I need this to sort out the issue for when I hit longer runs. I didn’t really mind, the sky was clear and it was a beautiful day for cycling.

Friday I lead my lovely group of runners. This week was an INSET day so I adapted the session so we could do our efforts round our local park, so children could come along, and we did 10 x 1min efforts in wind and rain. January, I will not miss you.

My long run on Saturday should have involved running to my local parkrun, doing it at tempo pace, then taking a long route home, to add on extra miles. But I didn’t feel right, struggled on the way, took it easy instead and ran with my friend Sue (again in the wind and rain) then pottered very slowly home. Well done Sue for a top run in a gale.

The amazing Friday runners

Friday runners

Sunday therefore was another day of rest, with me feeling out of sorts. I was so disappointed not to do a proper long run, which is a truly beautiful thing, as I haven’t felt this strongly about NOT running, or running, for years.

IMG_2143

Running can be a powerful and strange force in your life, and having it back in my life these last six weeks has been amazing.

What do you think about using the treadmill?
Do you like mile reps?

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The Road to London #Week 5

As you have gathered, my Monday’s are one-dimensional; I try and make club and run with others so I push myself harder. As I was doing all three girls’ activities this week, with David on strict rest, I knew I couldn’t physically get to club so I planned to replicate one of Penny’s sessions on my own (I knew I would be crap).

The field behind our house where I usually run, flooded and full of ice

The field behind our house where I usually run, flooded and full of ice

Then one of my middle daughter’s activities was cancelled, and by doing the usual of dropping her to my mum’s she could walk to ballet and I could speed to Whiteley where our Monday night sessions are held. I liked the hill session, it was 25mins of short hills, and I managed 14, a surprise as I felt completely spaced out after an intense weekend. The minute Penny blew the whistle I ran back to the car at my fastest pace to pick up Amelie. I had my usual nine minutes to get in the shower and eat tea before leaving to pick up Sienna at 8:30. Somehow everyone got into bed by 8:56pm, when I crashed.

Even at 4pm the ice remains

Even at 4pm the ice remains

Luckily Tuesday was strength and conditioning and I didn’t do that much; I realised I hadn’t stretched on Sunday or Monday so did that as well.

This is keeping me going through training

This is keeping me going through training

I was almost excited to get out on the bike Wednesday, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so keen to get outdoors in winter weather! I cycled a bit further before my swim, where I did 25, 50, 100m three times, in a completely unspectacular fashion as I am an awful swimmer. I love the challenge of persevering at something I’m rubbish at. David has been on enforced rest all week, so I seem to have achieved little work wise but you’ve got to be chuffed with a bike-swim-bike, whatever the statistics.

Dreaded mile reps
Thursday I wanted to run away from running; 1mile reps were the plan and I hate them so much I will avoid them for months, even years. Yes I have a mental block with them. My summer visit to Porsche told me this is my main area of weakness. Still I avoid them. WHY?

I thought I’d managed to get away with it again after only having three minutes sleep the night before due to my random cough (haven’t had this all 2015 due to taking the Fostair) and my youngest Sienna had to go to the docs for a nasty skin infection, and the wait was, as always, spectacular, but after a late lunch David said come on get changed, and he cycled with me for 3 x 1 miles. It’s such a challenge getting your body going in the cold, but with him cycling beside me I chipped away, and worrying about him doing something strange and uncontrollable was a good distraction for my ego from my own temporary discomfort.

Southern League - pics thanks to Bev Bell (mikebell.co.uk)

Southern League – pics thanks to Bev Bell (mikebell.co.uk). That was my favourite puddle

Friday I really spoiled my group giving them a short loop with an incline to do for 20 minutes on the seafront; everyone was awesome, with smiles rather than complaints. I was so seriously impressed that my middle daughter went for a run on her own after school, with her friend, that I dashed inside to get the iPad to get evidence – I just had to record such a momentous event. All three of my girls make a big point of HATING running, as I love it so much. They work consistently as a super troika to do the opposite of anything I want them to. I admire their ongoing commitment to complete contrary-ness! So there was Amelie, jogging off. (And I loved her training session; she ran to a café and had a hot chocolate then ran home). Sounds so much more lovelier than mine.

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Saturday was busy with ferrying around a gymnast and a dancer, marshalling at my local parkrun, and as I was racing on Sunday in the Southern League XC race at Manor Farm Country Park, near Southampton, as part of my long run, I just sat on the turbo for about 30 mins. This was what I did, as set by David the duathlon demon:

Warmup
3 mins easy, 3 mins harder gear, 3 mins harder gear
1 min easy spin
5×30 seconds hard gear with 30 secs recovery
1 min easy spin
2 mins out of saddle (hard gear)
1 min easy spin
2mins @ 135 HR
2mins @ 140 HR
2mins @ 145 HR
2mins @ 150 HR
3 mins easy spin warm down

If you want to work out your training heart rate zones (which will guide you in your effort levels) I show you how to do this here.

It's pointless to pretend you hate running THEN go for a run

It’s pointless to pretend you hate running THEN go for a run

It’s biological magic! Your heart is a muscle, work it and it grows stronger and can pump more blood to your muscles, delivering precious oxygen, so your muscles can work harder for longer.

I need as much magic in my running as I can get, and the bike is delivering a good dose every week. I am starting to love my bike and turbo.

I'm going to get this one running next...

I’m going to get this one running next…

Sunday was a 1 mile warm-up with Simon from club before the cross-country, just under five miles of race with an average HR of 171, which is a bit below what it probably should have been (175 was the target), so I obviously wasn’t working quite hard enough. Oops. Oh well, next time. These cross-country races freak me out – they are tough, and if you go off too hard it’s painful and I worry that I’m not going to be able to complete the distance. I went off more aggressively than the last race at the Hampshire championships, which didn’t go so well for me, then tried to hold on. I definitely did a better run this week and made the top 20.

As soon as I finished, I put on some more layers then ran home, giving me a total distance of 13.5 miles with about 450 feet of elevation. There were a few hills during the XC and going home so I think my legs got a pretty good workout, and it was my longest run in training so far (though I’m aware it’s still only half way there and everyone else seems to be up to 18 miles already). OK, there’s still a lot of work to do.

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I do have a sad announcement. I lost my favourite and bestest running headband. Whaaaaaaa. I know I have to accept this and just let it go. It’s hard when you are slightly OCD as well as being randomly hyper sensitive about certain things. I’m hoping this won’t seriously impede MT.

Have you got any running superstitions?
How far has your longest run been?
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The Road to London #Week 4

Monday night is the crucial pivotal point of each training week. It’s the balancing scales of whether I am still on track. I made club again, with Coach Penny setting a tricky session of long and short hills. This felt like a tough combination of a long hill, jog down about one third of the way, then back up to the top, before jogging down right to the beginning and repeating for 25 minutes. Some weeks the period of effort flies by; this week wasn’t one of those times!

We were in the grip of a mini cold spell, so were running in a minus temperature and again I had to use my wits. As soon as the session is finished (or even just before if my time has run out) I have to sprint back to the car at 5K race pace, giving me less than 10 minutes to drive to pick up my 12-year-old, Amelie, from ballet. We’ve struck a deal – I get to go to running if I’m no more than 10 minutes late picking her up. Both session and ballet finish at 7:30, approximately 4.5 miles apart.

All the gear no idea? Not me - no gear and no idea

All the gear no idea? Nope. No gear and no idea

As always evenings are a juggling act and I drive as quick as I can to get her. Then I drive her home, have about nine minutes to have a shower and tea before I have to drive out to pick up my third daughter from gymnastics. In that small window I spent approximately 1.5 minutes on the shower (no time for hairwash), 1.5 minutes on trying to convince Amelie on the importance of reading the question and proof-reading her answers in this week’s Year 8 exams, said hello to my eldest daughter for about one minute while she was doing her art homework in her bedroom (I decided it was best/had no time to discuss the blue paint on her carpet as her work was fantastic. Being creative and being tidy don’t go together) then reheated the congealed pasta I had cooked earlier, threw in some pesto, ate, jumped into the car and bombed it down the road four miles in the opposite direction to get daughter number three. Somehow I forgot my stretches.

It was all fine and the endorphins were buzzing through my veins as if they had just won a holiday to Mauritius. It was back home for tea for my youngest, get her up and into bed, say goodnight to number one and two, and then I went down… crashing just as I shut the last bedroom door and crept into my room. The important part is I made Monday’s club session, and now it’s four in a row. Normally I hide away in the winter, or my asthma is too bad to run. Surely this must mean I am a real runner again.

Tuesday’s are my rest day and I only do leg/core strengthening exercises, such as single leg squats, forward lunges, calf raises, glute activation. This helps me to recover from Monday night’s speed/hill session.

This really gets into your piriformis

This really gets into your piriformis

Wednesday was out into the bitter cold to bike to the pool then bike home. I’m loving mixing up my training, especially getting out on the bike, even though the air hitting your lungs is so icy.

Thursday is my speed session I do on my own and with the Stubbington 10K, held in my village, on Sunday I took it easy with a warm-up, 2 x 5mins at 5K-ish pace, which ended up being 7:04 and 7:03min/miling, so it was a little off. I’d been up during the night coughing, probably triggered by the cold. And it was -2 and my legs were frozen, so I was happy to do anything. I had to head to the physio after due to issues with my lower back and left glute/piriformis. Both are niggling, I’m not in pain with either but I wanted to get them checked out before I start doing my longer runs as my left hip seized in training for and during the Edinburgh Marathon. My pelvis can sometimes come out of alignment.

Friday I take out a group of runners from Stubbington Green Runners and we did 2 x 30-60-90-60-30 seconds of effort with about 90 seconds of recovery, with a brilliant work ethic from the whole group, and though it was below zero it was still and sunny, and everyone managed to finish smiling.

On Saturday the weekend was turned upside down as my partner David was rushed into hospital. He went on a bike ride in the cold, when he came home he couldn’t get warm, then fainted and had a seizure. We were both due to help in the prep for Sunday’s 10K, instead we were in hospital and had to return on Sunday so he could have further tests. He is OK, and the doctors felt it was a one-off episode, but it was a stressful experiences, and it flattened both David, then me. We couldn’t do the race on Sunday, but I managed to squeeze in some time between looking after him, the hospital and sorting out homework etc to dash out for a run at lunchtime. I was quite miserable as we were going to run the 10K together, which we rarely do, and even though the weather held out for the race in the morning, cold rain had descended by the time I got out. When I got home I was frozen.

So I banked the miles but not quite to plan. Strangely, though, my pace was OK and I almost felt like a long distance runner again. After four weeks of training I definitely felt like I clicked with running again for the first time since 2014 I think! This fits in perfectly with the science that says it takes four to six weeks to notice training benefits (Coach Jeff explains the science behind this here).

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Looking back it was a strange week, partly due to David being ill, but there may have also been other factors bubbling under the surface. I had my first full week of taking HRT and I couldn’t stop crying all week!

Even though I’m not sure if a return of oestrogen can affect your running, by the end of the week I was feeling more able to face training. I had really struggled with it mentally and physically for a few weeks. Can HRT affect your running? I don’t know. It usually takes a few weeks for you to feel the effects of HRT, so maybe it was a coincidence.

Note to self: if you are writing up your training weeks do so as you finish each one, whatever is going on. Otherwise, expect confusion!

How is your MT going?

Has anyone else noticed HRT has affected their running?

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11 things a man should never say to a woman training for a marathon

Five minutes before he asked me whether running was making me smaller

Five minutes before he asked me whether running was making me smaller

11 things a man should never say to a woman training for a marathon

1. “Can you just rub my feet, I’ve had a really busy day.” Oh no, really?

2. After your 18-mile long run… “I bought Fifty Shades of Grey today, fancy going to bed early to watch it?”  Think you’re in with a chance? Dream on…

3. “You look tired.” Just don’t go there. Ever.

4. What’re you doing with the kids this afternoon? The rugby/football/tennis/snooker/darts (delete as appropriate) is on so I’ll need some peace and quiet.” Big sigh.

5. “Why do you need another pair of trainers?” If you don’t understand that no woman can ever have enough trainers I’m not even going to try and explain.

6. “If you don’t go for a run today you’ll really regret it.” Err… I think we know that already.

7. “I’m surprised you haven’t lost more weight.” Really? Well, if you had to consume 10 tins of rice pudding a week to replace lost calories neither would you. It’s called marathon fat.

8. “Maybe you could have trained harder this week?” Oh yes, juggling the kids/work/house probably isn’t hard enough. And when did you last do what I do and train for a marathon?

9. “Is that a new top?” The pressure of marathon training often leads to spontaneous purchasing of extra kit. Don’t question it, just accept that utter exhaustion always leads to running kit retail therapy. It will stop after the marathon. For a while.

10. “Jenny in the office said her PB’s 10-minutes faster than you.” OK! So does half the running population of the whole world! Who cares!

11. Five hours after your run… “Are you not having your shower then?” No. I’m tired, I’ve taken the kids out, done lunch, homework, housework and tea. It’s activewear till bedtime. I smell. I don’t care.

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The Road to London #Week 3

Hej hur mår du? (This means hi, how are you?)

Yes, thanks to Saga Noren I’m trying to learn Swedish. It’s going very slowly due to the extreme amount of life clutter my brain carries around daily.

Training this week has been OK – nothing amazing, just OK. For this I am grateful – last week I felt awful! So whether it’s good or bad, each week I complete is a blessing. I’m convinced (in a kind of obsessive way) that the key to keeping marathon training going is making my club session on a Monday, which his led by our top coach and my friend Penny. If I make Monday nights, in the dark and cold, fitting in running around all the other stuff I have to do on a Monday, I can do anything!

The temperatures outside have plummeted and most of my runs have been with a wind chill of about -2…this really gets you focused! Monday night’s session with Penny was short hills. On paper the session would look deceptively easy, 30 secs up hill x3, rest for two minutes and repeat the block two more times. That adds up to 270 seconds of running, just 4.5mins. Why was it so tough then?! With such short repeats you commit to each one 100 per cent; there was no slacking from anyone and we finished feeling knackered.

Post cross-country shoes (Dawn lost hers sadly to the mud)

Post cross-country shoes (Dawn lost hers sadly to the mud)

Tuesday is an easy day for me. I did 30 minutes of conditioning on my legs, core and arms. Nothing too serious or strenuous. I’m starting to look forward to Wednesdays when I cycle to the pool for a quick swim then cycle home. Neither are impressive, but as I don’t usually train on non-running days they must be benefitting my overall fitness, yes? If only slightly.

This is what it looks like when you're legs don't move after miles of mud

This is what it looks like when you’re legs don’t move after miles of mud

Thursday was a challenge as I did a speed session on my own into the wind from hell, with a wind chill of -3. I did a pyramid of 1,2,3,4,3,2,1 mins of effort off about 90 seconds recovery. My highest average heart rate was 170, about 5K race pace so I just about hit target. It was 9am and freezing and my feet didn’t defrost but I averaged about 6.45min/miling; I could have so easily skipped the session so I was chuffed once I finished and got back into the warm.

Friday is my day to lead others in their running and our group repeated my Thursday session, with me at the back encouraging where it was needed. Saturday was the Hampshire Cross-Country Champs.

We have 27 children between us I think - I could be wrong!

The Friday morning ladies. We have 27 children between us I think – I could be wrong

It involved running through about 4.5 miles of bog, which was really tough and I struggled. My legs felt tired, as I did, but it was good training – and, once it was over, I was relieved. The last time I did it I had been ill and ran super slow; this time I placed 55th, which was a big improvement. 55th? Yep – there’s a whole sea of youngsters ahead of you and just finishing is an achievement!

Some of the Stubbington ladies

Some of the Stubbington ladies (in ascending order plus Will photo bombing!)

Pedal power
I thought my bike on Sunday would be really tough after Saturday’s mud, but I surprised myself by really enjoying it. I repeated a similar session to last week’s Sunday bike, 45mins, and just like the runs, it was another session in the bank that will strengthen me when the miles are melting away on race day. I’ve always found being on the bike a bit boring but I think that’s starting to change.

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Life is busy, so I’m trying to walk to school some days and listen to my meditation CD on the way. It’s perfect at grounding and centering me as my mind has been all over the place recently.

How has your training week been? Is it getting easier or harder for you?

Can you recommend any meditation CDs?

Tack för att du läser min blogg
(That means ‘thank you for reading my blog’)

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The Road to London #Week 2

How can the cracks already be showing when I’ve only done two weeks of marathon training?! Week 2 is already gone…but there’s such a long way to go and I’m already in bits! I knew this would happen. Still, if it’s just tiredness I have to deal with I can welcome it into my life with open arms. Illness can get the hell away from me.

I’m trying to allow this block of marathon training into my life and deal with what it brings, or what it doesn’t bring. I’m taking the pressure off by not expecting a PB… that doesn’t mean I may not get the time I want, just that I’m not running my next marathon chasing it.

Getting off-road
Monday was still the school holidays but I managed to escape at the beginning of the week for a gorgeous run through the tracks, mud and trails of northern Hampshire in the Southern League Cross-Country race at Lord Wandsworth College.

It was five miles of deep, sticky mud and a sharp hill on each lap (which I am proud to say I ran up both times). Last time I ran this XC I had been ill over Christmas so was chuffed with taking over six minutes off my previous time. It’s still a tough race!

Job done!

Job done!

I was knocked to the ground with a big thump by a stocky bloke on lap one, which not only saw me covered in mud, but really winded me, but this is what XC is all about. I love the total unpredictability of racing on trails. Overall I finished 17th lady (our club had four ladies in the top 20 and placed fourth ladies team).

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The mud got everywhere

On Wednesday I was somehow talked into doing three minute reps with David and Simon from our club – both much faster runners than I. It’s fine, I thought, I’ll just run at my pace and do one less than them. Again, trying not to pressurize myself to run to anyone else’s agenda. That didn’t happen as we did a large loop away from where we live, so I then kind of felt pressured to keep up as best I could. We all flew during the first three as the hideous coastal wind that keeps giving was behind us; the last three were far less impressive. Fighting against 30mph winds is never easy, but I hung on for six reps without vomiting or getting lost/left behind. Five more miles towards London and an average pace of about 6:30min/miling (when not against the wind).

New Year’s Eve
Thursday was NYE and I partied hard – training didn’t get a look in. That’s a total lie. I was asleep by 11, partly came round with the midnight chime of multiple fireworks, then was straight back asleep. Life has moved on and I seemed to have missed the party. For the last five years!

All I could manage to squeeze in on Thursday was a cycle to my leisure centre in Fareham, a short swim (time ran out: my nine-year-old loves swimming but gets cold after about 30-40 mins and as my partner did his swim session first, Sienna’s blue lips put an end to my efforts) then a cycle home. The wind made sure this was still a challenge and I had jelly legs by the end.

Gorgeous Pog

Gorgeous Pog

My long run on Saturday was severely hampered by more wind along the coast. When will it ever end! The gusts were over 35mph. I battled this for three miles on my way to my parkrun at Lee on Solent, ran the parkrun with a friend Dave from my club, catching up with his news, then was turbo fuelled home with the 35mph gusts behind me. My lungs were sore for the rest of the day.

Sue and I trying to pretend we didn't mind the storm

Sue and I trying to pretend we didn’t mind the storm

A slightly fuller wind-assisted me

A slightly fuller wind-assisted me

Sunday was the last day of the holidays – they always rush by too quickly and everyone in our house always wants at least another week, especially me. Most of the day was stormy, though the sun did appear for a short while. We all rushed down the beach for some fresh air, plus cake in our local café.

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This friendly little fella came to say hello

Number 2 on the all-time best cake list, lemon drizzle

Number 2 on the all-time best cake list, lemon drizzle

Opting for the turbo
I couldn’t face more stormy weather so sat on the turbo for a quick 40-minute session:

Warm up:    
3mins in a small gear
3mins one gear down
3mins one gear down

2mins easy

5 x 30secs hard with 30secs recovery

2 mins easy

5 x 2mins working my way up to a heart rate of 150, holding it for
about 15secs, then recovering back to HR120

5 mins easy warm down

I followed the bike with 20 minutes of strength and conditioning (single leg squats, calf raises, moving single-leg lunges, glute activation stretches). For week two I did more than I would usually, but that’s what marathon training is about. Also, it was just so easy during the Christmas holidays to fit in time for me. Next week will be much more challenging!

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What are you working towards? How’s your training going so far?

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The road to London – week 1

I’m incredibly lucky to have a place in the London Marathon 2016 and I am desperate to be at the start line in April, whatever happens during my training. I’ve run enough marathons to know everything can either a) go really well on the day, even though you can’t be completely sure why, or b) go really badly, due to foreseen or unforeseen circumstances, ranging from nausea, stomach cramps, injury, niggles, cramp, the wall, going off to fast, dehydration, struggling with the weather, failure to fuel properly, many different things happening to your feet/toes etc. At this stage the time I run is irrelevant. That I run is all that I am focusing on. However, running well would be a fantastic bonus on the day.

We always visit our local church for the nativity service on Christmas Eve

We always visit our local church for the nativity service on Christmas Eve

My marathon training faltered at about 16 miles earlier this year. Having a bad cough for two months last winter meant there was no base from me to grow from. Last year was the same – I only got up to 16 miles in training, though this was due to an injury in my left hip. On race day, at Edinburgh Marathon 2014, I got to about 17/18 miles and my hip seized, meaning I had to walk/shuffle the last seven or so miles. I cried like a baby at the end of the race.

I figure I need to take my time in my marathon training, to give myself the best chance of slowly working my way up to at least a 2.5 hour training run. I’m not planning on doing any training runs over 20 miles. I may only get up to 18 or 19. Rather, I am hoping to do quite a few that hover around the 13-15 mile distance, with a few long runs leading up to this, and just one or two longer. My body doesn’t hold together with endless long runs so I have to work with it and take it as easy as possible. I feel I almost pretend I’m not training for a marathon, get up to 13 or 14 miles without much training, try to sneak in a few more then see what happens on the day.

Walking back from my brother's house on Christmas Day night

Walking back from my brother’s house on Christmas Day night

As you can imagine, I’ve never run a marathon with a good block of solid training behind me, which means this is a goal I’d love to achieve one day! I much prefer working hard at something I am not good at, then doing anything I find easy.

One key factor in my training is NOT running my long runs every weekend. As I don’t recover quickly from them I’ve decided that I need at least 10-14 days in between. This, hopefully, will allow me to do the long runs and still train consistently in between, rather than feeling so shattered I can’t run for nearly a week.

Another insight I’ve picked up is that I need to start training early. Your normal 14 or 16 week plan won’t work with a longer period between long runs. So my official first week of training started before Christmas, and it went pretty well! Getting out for a run four days in a row – this is unheard of, but, wait a minute, it was the Christmas holidays. That means the many activities I ferry my three girls around to every week were on hold, as was the school run for the youngest, Sienna, who is nine. Oh and I didn’t have to work. Yes, I actually got some time off.

Christmas was, therefore, incredibly relaxing. No rushing around, everything was done in the nick of time (note to self: wrap presents as you buy them next year, not on Christmas Eve) and there was time to be with my lovely family AND escape to do extra runs.

Lola and Amelie with their new make-up on :)

Lola and Amelie with their new make-up on :)

I’m also not following a marathon training plan – my life just doesn’t work this way. My training has always been unconventional and of this ilk: ‘turn up and hope for the best’. This doesn’t usually give great results, but when you work, have three girls and do a lot of running around, it’s really hard to stick to training schedules.

That’s why I follow a diluted training programme that usually goes like this: one club session a week (this covers efforts/intervals/hills, usually two at the same time, with others who are faster than me therefore encouraging me to run outside of myself), one longer run every 10-14 days, one easy run (this is the Friday morning running group I take where I focus on the other runners and am not there to run myself, just to encourage and coach) and if I am lucky one threshold-type run. In an ideal week I try and squeeze a swim in, and maybe a bike, but this is pretty rare and happens more in my head than in reality. But I would like to do it – does that make it count?

With a fresh and invigorating off-road run on Christmas Day (you can see my video on my Facebook page), a parkrun on Boxing Day plus a cross-country race two days later this was not a typical running week for me! I was in running heaven though. I also got out on my bike. If I had managed a swim I would say it was a perfect week.

Friday morning regulars David and Sandra in the festive spirit for our Boxing Day parkrun

Friday morning regulars David and Sandra in the festive spirit for our Boxing Day parkrun

I was lucky that my partner David took over on Christmas Day, and as his mum, Pat, was also staying, the house was much cleaner than it would normally be. Also, as my three girls get older and can cope without me, I am able to venture further afield. It was great to join so many people for a parkrun on Boxing Day, and my tutor and PE teacher from school, Linda, was there running her first one, so I ran in with her after I had finished my run. She managed to do the whole 5K without walking, which was a great achievement for a first-timer (she has just kick-started her running after a knee operation).

Linda tries to battle the competition at her first parkrun

Linda tries to battle the competition at her first parkrun

After our parkrun at Lee-on-Solent we even stayed out a whole extra half an hour for a cup of tea at the local café. It was such a luxury – not to be rushing home to get my middle daughter, Amelie, to dancing, then picking my youngest, Sienna, up from gymnastics.

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So I’ve finished my first week and how do I fee? I am obviously optimistic as April seems a long way away, but aren’t we all riding high on the wave of excitement when we first start our marathon training? Have you done it before – you start with the aim of running a PB, then as you work your way through training and race day gets closer, all you want to do is get around?

The true test for me will be if I can remain consistent and keep up training without having to stop running between now and taper time.

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Are you running a spring marathon? Have you set yourself a target time yet?

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My best women’s winter running kit

Here’s my brief overview of my favourite winter kit at the moment at Women’s Running. Below the film there’s a link for each item. Merry Christmas!

SALOMON PEARL BEANNIE
Luxury with a pom pom! The thick knit of this hat will keep out the cold, ensuring you look stylish while everyone else is shivering in their shoes!
£24, salomon.com/uk

BUFF PLUM BOBBLE HAT
You can’t beat this luxurious bobble hat from Buff that will keep you warm while you wait to race or train. Knitted from Merino wool its thermal inner headband is so soft against your ears. It’s gorgeous!
£27.25, buffwear.co.uk

BUFF ZIGA MAGENTA
This wind resistant hat is designed for the winter trails. The beautiful fabric is brushed inside to give you thermal insulation and the reflective Buff logo enhances your safety. The colours are vibrant and the fit is snug.
£26.26, buffwear.co.uk

HELLY HANSEN CROSS INSULATOR JACKET
Such a luxurious look and featuring water resistant PrimaLoft Silver insulation to keep you toasty. Available in four colour choices, you’ll look stylish on the move, wherever you go in this quilt pattern. Keep the zip done up to the top for ultimate protection, and it’s so lightweight you can stash it anywhere.
£100, hellyhansen.com

HELLY HANSEN AIR JACKET
Stand out in this lightweight wind jacket with a stunning print! With a self-storing pocket this jacket can go anywhere with you. You’ll stay safe from the cold due to the elastic cuffs and edgeband and the quick-drying X-Cool fabric.
£80, hellyhansen.com

FALKE ERGONOMIC VEST
A slimmed down version of the FALKE insulating vest, which provides a snug and flattering fit on the trails. Primaloft lining protects you from the cold, and there are ventilation panels on the back. You get two zipped pockets and a high collar for ultimate protection. The stunning colour stands out and the design is about as feminine as you can get. Superior style.
£160, net-a-porter.com

ADIDAS GYM HOODIE
I felt snug and warm in this stretchy hoodie with two deep front zipped pockets and spacious, adjustable hood. The Climalite moisture-wicking fabric performed brilliantly and I loved wearing the striking, warm colour in low light conditions. Well-done adidas; a fashion-conscious, sustainable product made from recycled polyester.
£45, adidas.co.uk

ODLO BLACKCOMB EVOLUTION WARM BASELAYER WITH FACEMASK
How can you not love this winter kit? It’s already become an essential multifunctional baselayer for when the cold hits; all you need to do is use the facemask to protect from the wind (or as a cosy scarf). The seamless knitting technology is brilliant for staying sweat free, though the thermal insulating fabric is just thick enough to prevent overheating. The fit is super sleek.
£80.00, odlo.com

HELLY HANSEN NORVIZ LONG SLEEVE TOP
The advanced reflective fabric of this top is unbelievable – the whole top lights up when it reflects light. There’s a half zip plus thumb holes to keep your hands warm. X-cool fabric keeps you dry, but it’s the reflectivity that I was wowed by.
£75, hellyhansen.com

TRIBESPORTS HALF ZIP MID LAYER AND CAPRI TIGHTS
Affordable yet high quality, parkrunners will already know this range. We love this kit as runners have helped design it; the half zip mid later feels incredibly soft against your skin and has all the technical features you demand, the capris are really stretchy!
£52 & £32.50, tribesports.com

ODLO EBE RUNNING TIGHTS
Reversible tights with prints on both sides giving you two pairs of leggings in one. They were easy to run in, with a comfortable elastic waistband and feet light and smooth against your skin. Great winter style.
£65, odlo.com

ILU SEAMLESS TEXTURED LEGGINGS
The deepest waistband I’ve reviewed for a long time, these leggings, with a cheeky contrast of grey marl, win my winter award for comfort on the run. The design creates a slimming pattern. Mesh around the calves adds to the look and helps keep you cool.
£45, ilufitwear.com

SUKISHUFU SHOOTING STAR LEGGINGS
A stunning print perfect for winter. I loved the leather look trim on the back of the waistband that gave extra support, as did the extra deep front waistband. The two-way stretch fabric provided a perfect fit, and with anti-fade and anti-pilling material these will last.
£90, stylesportif.com

ZAAZEE ERIN AND ELLA VESTS TOPS
These beautiful tops feature an exquisitely soft and super-stretchy material. The fit is flattering with ruched detail along the straps and back, you get an inner bra layer plus a stand-out design on the back that will make you feel you can conquer the world.
£38, zaazee.co.uk

ZAAZEE ESZTHER CAPRI
Bold, two-tone capris made from figure hugging SUPPLEX fabric for extra support. Using the same stretchy but soft fabric as the vest tops, I felt comfy in the wide waistband (with double support at the front). Great design; a brand to watch out for.
£60, zaazee.co.uk

ILU DOUBLE LAYER TANK
This is such a pretty, comfortable and clever top; featuring a very flattering outer layer that hangs loosely over the areas you want it to most! The blue trim finishes the look and the longer length is perfect. I can’t fault it for style. If looking as good as you feel is important, I recommend Ilu.
£37, ilufitwear.com

ADIDAS BOSTON BOOST 5
Fantastic racing flats that are incredibly responsive due to the boost midsole. Even though it looks like a low profile shoe you get a surprising amount of cushioning. The Torsion System in the forefoot will help you toe-off with speed and energy. This is also a shoe with a conscience – a portion of each pair goes to the Boston Runs As One fund.
£95.00, adidas.co.uk

SAUCONY EVERUN ISO TRIUMPH 2
It’s got to be the shoe of the moment; the EVERUN Topsole and Landing Zone in the heel mean lots more cushioning beneath your feet, and you can really feel it, even when you’re walking. The Isofit upper also feels thicker giving you more protection, especially around your Achilles and across the top of your foot. This trainer looks exactly how women want it to – a bold colour with just a pop of pink.
£135, saucony.co.uk

ADIDAS XT BOOSTS
These have been my favourite trail shoes for a few months now. The fabric of the high-cut collar flows from the shoe up your ankle, rather than stopping with a rounded top. This in-built gaiter keeps out dust, sand, mud, stones or other debris, as well as providing extra support for your ankle. They felt flexible underfoot and the Continental Rubber lugs are strong and effective, with four biting surfaces.
£110, adidas.co.uk

BROOKS PUREFLOW 5
The PureFlow 5 is the first Brooks shoe to use DNA LT, a 10 per cent lighter version of their adaptable cushioning, for a more natural feel that still protects from impact where you need it. A wraparound collar in the heel lends an ultra-plush feel.
£90, brooksrunning.com

ON Cloudflyers
12 “Cloud” elements built from zero gravity foam provide amazing cushioning while staying lightweight. Natural shoes to support your body’s natural gait.
£130, on-running.com

HOKA ONEONE Challenger and Vanquish
More to come soon….
hokaoneone.com

Apologies for rushed pronunciations :)

Apologies for rushed pronunciations :)

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