It’s been a while……..

Don’t worry guys- I’m still (just about) alive- I’ve just been so busy with work that I’ve barely had time to run, never mind write about running! That’s not to say that my training has gone out of the window though- more on that later.

The Cardiff Half Marathon has been and gone, and I’m pleased to say that not only did I get that sought after PB (2.21.50, a good 2 minutes off my previous best!) I also finally managed to get a half decent photo of me mid race!

The face says it all I think- it was a good day. I celebrated with the club with lots of prosecco and a curry, and had a bit of a sore head going into work the next day!

I had a couple of weeks off following the race, then had the usual ‘why- am- I- doing- this’ feeling on the first session back- I got back into the swing of things fairly quickly though, and I am now officially back in marathon training! I’ve now got another race to be training for as well, as Run 4 Wales announced a new addition to the race calendar for 2018 with the Newport Marathon. I think a few people were disappointed that it wasn’t a Cardiff based run- I’m just excited to be able to do a marathon that doesn’t involve staying away from home!

I’ve started following the same plan that I used last year; very roughly, I’m doing (or at least planning to do!) two club sessions a week, at least one gym class (either Body Balance or circuits, ideally both), with a long run on the weekend. I’m up to 12 miles for my latest weekend long run now, so I’m feeling pretty on top of things. It’s also nice to be able to compare my progress with last year as I’m following the same plan. This year’s 12 mile run happened 3 weeks earlier than last year’s, and was nearly 10 minutes quicker!

It is starting to get tough now that it’s so dark and cold- I’m lucky to have use of a treadmill at home, and although I hate it, it comes in handy on nights like tonight when it’s pouring with rain and blowing a gale!

I’ve also signed up to Fitness Rewards, which I’m hoping will give me a boost I need to stay active over the winter- I’m quite competitive so the idea of earning ‘points’ appeals to me. It has the added benefit of having a huge Garmin discount, which gave me the opportunity to upgrade my battered TomTom to the most beautiful sports watch I have ever seen:

It might not make me run any faster, but I’m pretty sure I look better doing it! It also gives me a lot of clever information that my previous watch didn’t- I might even figure out what it means one day……..

I’m taking it easy on the race front for the rest of the year, aside from the local Santa run (hilarious pictures to follow no doubt), but one thing I have entered is the Run up to Christmas in aid of Mind. I raised money for Mind with my marathon efforts this year, so it’s great to have another opportunity to support them. I also like the fact that the challenge is virtual- the fab medal helps too! Hopefully it will give me the motivation I need when the gin and mince pies are calling…..

That’s all for now- I won’t leave it so long next time 🙂

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2 Weeks To Go- STOP…… It’s Taper time

Last week was a big mileage week for me. It started with 10 miles on Monday night…. well, 10.2 miles to be precise, which I completed in exactly 1 hour 50 minutes. I was pleased to maintain my target race pace of 10.45 minute miles even with an elevation gain of 564 foot! I was absolutely wrecked by the end of this- the only reason I managed to keep going for so long was because I had Mike pacing me to the finish. I do struggle with doing longer runs after work; I think by that time of night my body is just ready for food and sitting down! It was getting dark by the end of that one, so my days of doing anything much over an hour after work are probably numbered anyway- although I am looking forward to having an excuse to break out the Unilite head torch!

Thursday was a hill sprints session, 7 reps of 500m sprints- we went for 300m up the hill, 100m back down and then sprint to the end. Not much to say about this other than it was disgusting and I felt fairly sick by the end. On Sunday I did my final long run before the half marathon. I woke to perfect running conditions- dry, crisp and cool, and I was really excited to get started. There were loads of us out running which was really nice- I’ve got so used to doing long runs by myself, but it does make a real difference to your state of mind when you have others around you, even if (like me) you are generally antisocial and don’t really chat! There also has to be a massive shout out to Steve and Alexander for setting up a water station with jelly babies, and being in position to see us not just once but three times! 

I honestly loved every second of this run- I felt really strong and comfortable the whole time, and was amazed at how quickly the time passed. I’ve stopped listening to music while running since I’ve been going out with the club, and in some ways I prefer it- I can focus on my breathing and listen to what’s going on around me. I was thrilled when I finished the 11.5 miles in 2 hours 5 minutes. Had I run the whole 13.1 miles at that pace I would have finished with a 2 minute improvement on my PB. Factor in a 748 foot elevation gain on this run (compared to Cardiff’s 278 foot), and I am feeling fairly optimistic about my chances of getting a new PB on the day.

So that’s it- it’s time to taper. In some ways the best bit of a training plan, and in other ways the hardest! Mileage will be dropping down this week, with a maximum of 10km being planned for my weekend run. I’m also going to try and maintain my nutrition, but slightly ramp up the carbs. I fully expect that in a few days the madness will set in- so I thought this would be a good time to remind myself of the rules of tapering, so that when I’m climbing the walls in a week’s time, I can look back at this post!

  • Trust your training- this is the most important. You’ve done the work- you wont dramatically lose fitness in the space of two weeks. Look back at your training plan at all the crossed out sessions (I appreciate here that other people are probably more technologically advanced than me!); you have those miles in your legs now. Even if you haven’t quite stuck to your plan, don’t be tempted to try and cram in the miles towards the end- you risk injury at worst and fatigue at best.
  • Use the time to reflect- not on the meaning of life (unless you really want to), but on the training you’ve done- what went well/ felt good? What did you not enjoy? What strengths and weaknesses have you identified, and how can you capitalise on these or improve them in the future? In the build up to a race we tend to stick to our prescribed plan without questioning it- this period can give you chance to think about how you can modify your training post race day for maximum benefits.
  • Don’t change anything- although after your period of reflection, it might be tempting to try out a whole new type of training or running style- don’t. Same goes for new kit, shoes, gels, anything really. Stick with what you know, including on race day.
  • Eat well, but not too well!- as your mileage comes down, you might find that you feel a bit heavier than usual- that’s to be expected- don’t be tempted to cut calories down at this stage, as your body will need the fuel to recover from your weeks of training, and prepare for the race. That being said, don’t go crazy either- try to focus on eating better, not more. 
  • Be good- boring, but important. Drink your water, get lots of sleep, do your stretches, take your vitamins. Save the booze and big nights out for after the race. You know it makes sense. 
  • Make plans- the post race comedown is real- you will be on a high on the day and for a few days afterwards, and rightly so. Then you will have a few days off to recover- again, necessary and important. How are you going to stop that few days becoming a few weeks, or months? Book a race, find a new training plan, set some new goals to replace the ones you’re about to smash on race day!

My next update will probably be post race now- see you on the other side!

3 Weeks To Go- Breaking Barriers

So, it’s been nearly a month since my last blog post- sorry about that guys! It’s been a manic few weeks work wise and I’ve not had time for much other than work, running and spending the weekends recovering from it all.

Usually, being busy in work means that I allow my training to go out of the window- I have a legitimate excuse to duck out of my planned sessions and it’s much easier to go straight home after work and have a glass of wine on the sofa. However, I’m pleased to say that in the last few weeks I haven’t missed a single planned run- some of my gym sessions have been cut due to time pressures, but I’ve been keeping the miles up- and it’s really paying off.

I thought I’d do a little round up of the last few weeks, as there’s lots to talk about!

  • I got a Run Keeper PB for my furthest distance in a month with a total of 61.69 miles in August. I can’t quite believe that I got this now, after spending the first half of the year training for a marathon- it just goes to show how quickly shorter, but more regular runs, can add up!

  • I’ve kept going with the speed work- notable sessions included pyramid sprints from 200m to 1km (absolutely disgusting), and a session which involved running backwards!
  • The half marathon training is now up to 10 miles- a route involving 464 foot elevation gain done at a 10.51 minute/ mile pace. If I can manage 10.45 minute/ mile pace on the pancake flat Cardiff half course, I’ll be on for a 4 minute PB.
  • I did my first ever Park Run (more on this below). Yes, I know I should have done one before now. I’m an anti social runner, what can I say? Safe to say, I will be doing it again!

So, now onto the real exciting stuff- last week a did A Race. When I entered the Cardiff 10km, I was purely treating it as a warm up for the half marathon. My PB for 10km is a fairly average 1.03.06, which was done four years ago. I had zero expectations about running any specific time- until the Monday before the race when I went out with one of the girls from the club and knocked out a new 1okm PB (1.03.02) in stiflingly hot weather around a fairly hilly route. Interesting. I spent the rest of the week thinking that maybe I’d be able to take another minute off that, and getting excited for the race. Added to the build up, a few of the run leaders from my club had volunteered to pace people to their chosen times on the day.

I woke on the morning of the race to pouring down rain- not ideal PB weather! We’d arranged to travel in convoy, and it was nice to arrive at a race with other people- it took away a lot of the stress of  ‘what time shall I leave’, ‘where will I park’, etc. etc. We all gathered for a group photo and then made our way to the start, still in the pouring rain. There was a group of four of us running with Steve, who was pacing us to ‘somewhere between 1 hour and 1 hour 5 mins’. As we huddled at the start, he asked whether we had any more specific thoughts about exact timings- the unanimous response was- let’s go for an hour. I didn’t think I’d have a hope in hell of getting near it, but figured I could just hang on for as long as I could. My final words to the other guys were: ‘if I get anywhere near an hour, I will cry with happiness’. The first 5 minutes of the race were hard work- it was so congested- there were some people walking within the first 500m which was frustrating.  In hindsight we should have pushed up and got closer to the front of the pen, but given that we were in the 45 mins- 1 hour pen we didn’t think we would have a problem. The rain slacked off at the start of the race, and soon we were on our way out towards Roath park. I managed to hang onto my pacer for the first half of the race, and crossed the 5km marker in a new 5km PB of 30.o1. As we rounded the other side of the park and headed up the hill back towards the city centre I lost a little ground on the group, but thought it better to let them go- I still had another 4km to go and didn’t want to burn out completely. I made it up ‘that hill’ (if you have done the Cardiff 10km or half marathon, you know!) without walking, and pushed towards the finish. At about 8km, the rain reappeared, but by that point I was past caring- I was just focused on going as fast as I could. I rounded the corner to the finish line and risked a peek at my watch- was I going to make my target time of 1.02, knocking a whole minute off my PB? Turns out, I didn’t just make it, I absolutely smashed it. My official finishing time was 1.00.26. I have absolutely no doubt that had I been further up in the starting pen, and maybe on a slightly flatter course, I could have knocked out a sub 60 minute 10km. Now, to some people, that might not sound like much, but to me that is a major milestone. I never in a million years thought that I was capable of running those kind of times. A few people have asked whether I was disappointed not to have got under the hour, and although it would have been nice, I am genuinely not- I know I’ve got it in me, and one day it’ll happen. I also picked up new 1 mile, 2 mile, and 5km PBs that day- I didn’t cry, but a lot of people got some very sweaty emotional hugs off me at the finish!

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My shiny new 10km PB!
 

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A few more PBs….
A week later, and with a 1o mile training run done in the week, I decided that as I had no long run planned for the weekend, I would attempt my first Park Run. I was a little nervous about this- I sometimes struggle running in large groups, and just didn’t really know what to expect. I posted on the club Facebook group and soon had offers of lifts to the run and people to run with (yes, my club is awesome). On the Saturday morning, I was not feeling a run at all- I was glad I’d made plans with people, otherwise I would definitely have stayed in bed! Cath had very kindly offered to run with me and sacrifice her usual sub 22 minute Park Run performance. Before we started, she asked me what time I was aiming for, and I genuinely had no idea. I have never done a 5km race- I did a Race for Life before I started running, with no watch and no pacing to speak of. I can’t even remember my time. On the basis that I had done the 10km in just over an hour, I tentatively said ’30 minutes.. ish?’. Doing a sub 30 minute 5km, similar to a sub 60 minute 10km, is another one of those milestones that seems to come so easily to others, but that has always seemed like a distant dream for me, a self confessed plodder.

The first few kms were fine, but as we got past the halfway point, I was struggling. I was going at a pace that I’d never sustained for any period of time, and adding in the ‘hill’ (more like a short slope, but I was tired!) towards the end of each loop, I wasn’t having fun. At one point I said to Cath ‘I’m going to be sick’, to which she replied ‘No, you’re not’ (turned out she was right!). I was absolutely wrecked by the end , and there’s absolutely no way I would have sustained that pace if it wasn’t for Cath. I got my official time through- 28.18. A bit better than ’30 minutes… ish’, and a big barrier broken. I also got another new 1 mile and 2 mile PB!


So, it’s fair to say that it’s been a good few weeks. I’m on track for the half, and best of all my confidence levels are high. There’s no way I could have done it without the support of my amazing running club mates- the amount of time that the run leaders dedicate to planning sessions that are interesting and effective is amazing, and seeing people willingly sacrifice their own performances in races to help others achieve their goals is really quite special. If you’re reading this and wondering how you can improve your running, or make it more interesting, or just make a whole bunch of new friends- go and find your nearest running club- I promise you won’t regret it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 5- Running is my Therapy

I started this week off on a bit of a high after how much I was enjoying my running the previous week. I was determined to keep the momentum so I planned to go to both the club running sessions that week.

Tuesday was a sprint pyramid session- I use the word sprint in the absolute loosest of terms here- the plan was to do a set distance of sprinting, followed by the same distance at an easy jog to recover. The intervals were set at 200m/ 400m/ 800m/ 400m/ 200m.

I had only previously done one sprints session with the club, which was 400m reps- in some ways this session was a lot harder- 800m is a bloody long way!- but in other ways I preferred it- it made you think about your pace a lot more, and your sprinting pace for the 200m wouldn’t be the same as your sprinting pace for the 800m. I was an absolute mess by the end of the session, but did a total of 5.3 miles including the warm up and cool down runs, at an average pace of 10.09 minutes per mile- very quick for me!

Thursday’s session was shorter, but a technical one again- a progression run, something I hadn’t heard of before. The idea, fairly obviously once it’s explained to you, is to run each mile progressively quicker than the one before. I loved this session as this pretty much mirrors the way I run anyway- I generally feel slow and heavy for the first few miles and take a bit of time to get into my stride. This session was a total of 3.6 miles and my pace was 11.20, 10.53, 9.45 and 9.28 for each mile- nailed it!

I was up at 6am on Friday for a circuits session at the gym, and then planned my run for Saturday morning as I was going out on Saturday night for my first drinking session for nearly a month! I chose to do my weekend run on the treadmill again as I had set myself some paces to stick to and just find it easier to maintain on the treadmill. The session was 5 minutes at a slower pace of 11.30 and 10 minutes at fast pace of 10.15. It was a hot and sweaty one and I did struggle at times- I think I’ve already got used to running with other people as I found it hard to keep myself entertained. The efforts of the week were catching up with me and I was glad to get it done, get some breakfast down me and jump into a hot Epsom salts bath!

I was glad by Saturday night to be having some time out- I’ve now had 6 weeks of pretty much spot on eating, very limited alcohol intake, and at least 4 if not 5 training sessions a week. I am loving the progress I am seeing and how much better I feel about myself, but there is a little bit of me that sometimes wants to just say sod it and go out and get drunk with my friends- so on Saturday that was exactly what I did. I did find that I drank less than I usually would on a night out, and went for noodles rather than a burger and chips for my dinner out.

At the festival we went to, the queues were terrible- you had to queue to order your food, queue to collect your food, queue for a drink at the bar, which took us nearly two hours! One of my friends commented to me that they were surprised by how relaxed I was- usually I get really stressed out queuing and waiting around for things- I’m naturally really impatient, I hate wasting time! It did make me think about the impact that running has had on my mental as well as physical health- I definitely find now that I am calmer and more able to deal with difficult situations. This is particularly true at work as well- I have quite a stressful job which in the past has affected my ability to relax and enjoy myself outside of work. Now if I have a bad day, I go out for a run and leave it all behind. Running is definitely helping me to become more mentally resilient as well as physically stronger.

Miles run: 14.4

Workouts done: 5

Alcohol consumed: 1 bottle of wine and a pint of Pimms- classy!

Proudest moment: sticking to the pace on the progression run- I had to really push myself at times, and was wrecked by the end, but it was worth it! I picked up Strava PB’s over 1 and 2 miles on this run- definite signs of improvement!

What I learnt: running makes my brain happy!