Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A time to think

It's now 2 weeks since 'that week'. I hardly ran at all the first week after- not only was I exhausted and really run down but I just didn't want to run. The top of left hamstring/glute niggle which seems to surface from time to time was also quite a problem and as my masseur was away that week I decided resting my legs was as good as anything. So mostly it was bits of yoga, icing the sore area, eating lots and not worrying about not running; a couple of runners I have a lot of time for have been nagging me about resting properly.

And having processed the experience of literally running myself into the ground and taken on board good advice, I've been doing a lot of thinking...

So now my marathon training plan has gone out the window. And you know what?- I'm not that worried! I have realised that in order to run better (and for longer in time and distance) I need to do less running. Better quality, but fewer runs a week. And rest days really need to be that- rest and no training of any sort. I had a really interesting talk with a friend at parkrun the other week. I had decided just to bimble around so I ran with her and her younger daughter at a nice easy pace and chatted as we went round. She likened training to having a budget. You have x amount of training you can do in terms of what is right for your body and whatever kind of training you do comes out of that budget. For example if I do 6 hours of karate a week (and it's hard training, not the lessons when it's mostly quite static stuff) then that has to come out of my training budget which means a bit less running. Or if I walk briskly to work every day that's around 15 miles- that has to come out of the budget too.

My plan now isn't really one that needs to be set out as a timetable. 4 runs a week (or 3 if that's all I feel like) with the long run being my main focus. I can start at 17 miles or around 150-180 minutes  and go from there, making sure it's easy pace. Sometimes I could add in race pace miles or perhaps run the last segment at race pace. Then all I need is an easy run, something for strength like hill reps or intervals, and a tempo run. A couple of S&C sessions a week would be good ( I already make sure I get one good session of weights each week) but if I can only manage one then to be honest I'll probably get a good short 2nd session of that at karate once a week anyway. Most importantly when it comes to most of my runs I want them to be off road. That will keep me at a more relaxed pace, I'll enjoy it more and there are all the benefits from running on varied terrain.

 I am also hoping to once again give karate a bit more focus. I haven't been practising regularly and I think that shows- I'm struggling to get my new kumite set in my head and my kicks are shocking. I have started to get my head and body around a couple of technical things- last Tuesday's lesson was a revelation in hip movement and how it powers forward movement as well as punches- and I want to consolidate what I've been learning. Progress is going to be slow now as the karate becomes more technical and expectations on standard become higher; if I don't get back to regular practice in between training at the dojo then there won't be much point in training at all. Put the right focussed work in and reap the benefits. Don't bother and all the hard work of the last 12 months will be wasted.

So it's time to get back on it and smash this marathon!

And you'll read about this little adventure in my next blog post...

Monday, 28 September 2015

A week I'd rather forget

7 days 7 races

Monday 7th September: a road/redway race. 6.8 miles in 46:59 40 sec taken off my 10k time

Tuesday 8th September: X-country race. 4.9 miles in 36:58

Wednesday 9th September: Track race. 1 mile PB of 6:19 (run in full morphsuit)

Thursday 10th September: race through Campbell park & redways. 4.35 miles in 30:06

Friday 11th September: a shocker of a 2 mile cross-country race, one I’ll be glad to forget

Saturday 12th September: park/redways race 6.44 miles in 44:38 1 more sec taken off my 10k time and finished 5th lady. It was the first time I’ve run 5 consecutive sub 7 min miles.

Overall finished in 36th place out of 91 runners and was 6th lady and first in my age category.

Sunday 13th September: Bacchus Half and I found my breaking point

 = more or less 38.59 miles and 182min 57sec of racing

It’s a little while since the crazy week finished. I got a couple of new PBs, I learned an awful lot (much of which I’m still processing) and it broke me. Mentally and physically I finished the week run down, exhausted and on my knees and not wanting to run another step.
You can see how much it was hurting here, in the final race of the Tour:

 I did not enjoy the Tour of MK experience at all. Yes, I know I was putting pressure on myself but it didn’t help racing in such a competitive environment. The Tour is primarily a MMKAC event and they are a ‘proper’ athletics club; members take everything extremely seriously and it’s all lots of track-based stuff and drills and things. None of the courses were particularly inspiring; Milton Keynes is a great place to run but I don’t think the Tour makes the most of this fact. Even the cross country race in Bow Brickhill Woods wasn’t the best. In fact that experience was terrifying- there were several steep technical descents and with runners hurtling past me I was scared of being knocked flying and breaking a hip. I really didn’t run well in that race and it cost me a better final placing.

Mentally it was very challenging racing every evening after a day at work and all the usual domestic things. From the Thursday I felt like I was running on empty but except for the Friday race I managed to pull some decent running out of the bag every night. I ran my heart out and my socks off every day but I didn’t take proper care of myself. Often not getting home until 8.30pm I didn’t stretch after races, didn’t foam roll and didn’t really eat properly, reverting to toast and bagels and crackers rather than lots of fruit and veg. I don’t know if that was because my body needed big doses of carbs or whether I was comfort eating because I was getting increasingly fatigued and sore.
What did I learn? That I can push myself very hard and get good results but there is a high price to pay. That I have to make time to recover- not just not run a couple of days a week but to do yoga and to eat properly all the time. No more late night carb binges!

Bacchus should have been fun but it was 13.1 miles too far. It was lovely though to meet up with a few UKRunChat people I’ve talked with in twitterland:
I'm not sure I would have got through the race if it wasn't for @beoutrunning and his Dragon. Thank you so much for your kind words, encouragement and hugs throughout the race. Here's a link to his blog if you're interested: http://www.beoutrunning.com/
Finally here are a few pictures from Bacchus. I really don't feel inclined to write about it- lovely course, fabulous race in terms of the set up, marshals, food, great live music at most of the feed stations, but I was in no position to really appreciate it. Perhaps next year I will race it on fresh legs...


Saturday, 12 September 2015


I finally got around to setting up my Just Giving page. If you have a read of it you'll understand why I'm doing quite this much running not only this week but between now and Christmas.

It's looking like by the time I finish the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon on 20th December I will have raced 127.5 miles and covered I don't know how many miles in training.

Watch this space and the Just Giving page to see how it all goes...


and you can read about the work the DAAT do here:


Friday, 11 September 2015

Running on empty

4 down, 2 to go plus Sunday's half marathon.
Wednesday's tears resulted in a 6:19 min/mile. No wonder I was so exhausted afterwards! I have never run that fast before! Perhaps if I ever run another timed mile I should try it in normal running kit because I'd probably go a bit faster! On the other hand, maybe a morphsuit is more aerodynamic...

can you spot me?

Yesterday was a race around one of MK's many parks. It was a tough one, not just because it was race 4 of 6 in the week but because there was a lot of steep-ish downhill. My downhill running is slowly improving- thanks in part to watching one of Kinetic Revolution's fab videos http://www.kinetic-revolution.com/how-to-run-downhill-faster-pain-free/ - but I do still lose time. I didn't much enjoy the cattle grids either. I couldn't risk even walking over them so I had to go through kissing gates 4 times whereas everyone else ran over the grids. But I still remember some advice a good running friend gave me last year when talking me through the Dirt Half route-
 don't see gates or stiles as a bad thing, there to slow you down. Catch your breath and use them as a moment's respite.

In the end once I was running it didn't feel too bad, although at the start I did think I was running on empty. Funny what you can pull out of the bag when you think there's nothing left. There was even enough for a sprint finish! Only just though- it took quite some time to stop shaking sufficiently for me to feel ok to drive back.

So that was 4.35 miles in just over 30 minutes. Enough to put me at 4th lady for the week's races so far. No idea how when I'm racing against 'proper' runners- people who do regular track sessions and drills and all that- and whether I can keep it up I don't know. This evening is a hill race- 2 miles in the woods. My ankles are still feeling it from Tuesday's cross country and I'm mentally drained so not sure how I'll get on today. Bit short on sleep too, but it's a good time now to have an espresso.

On which note I'll make some coffee, have a snack and get ready for the 5the race of the week...

Special thanks to:
Paul and Steve for giving me a talking to (or two) this week

and to all the Redway Runners who've turned up to give support and encouragement at the Tour races

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

3 down 4 to go

Day 3 of the Tour of MK completed.

It's really late and I'm splatted.

My legs are miserably sore despite this morning's massage. I'm tired and not having fun running.

Monday was 6.77 miles. I did quite like this race because it was a long enough distance for me to get some speed and simply enjoy the feeling of running fast. I took 40 seconds off my 10k PB and finished 6th lady, 35th overall. I think I could even have gone a bit faster but I'm very happy with that unlooked-for time.

Tuesday was an old-school sort of cross country race. Now I love off-road running but this wasn't fun at all. It was brutal and there was no pleasure in it for me.

A little under 5 miles of going as fast as I could over horrid terrain whilst trying to stay safe and not break an ankle. Considering I hated every step of it and my legs were tired from the previous evening I did ok finishing 9th lady and just about in the top half of all runners.

This evening it was a 1 mile track race. So completely not my thing at all. I had already decided not to take it seriously and given how sore and bruised my legs were feeling (despite a massage this morning) I knew trying to go flat out would be a mistake. I got to the track, all morphsuited up only to discover I'd been running well enough to be in the 3rd group of runners so I was with speedy people who expect to run sub 6 min miles. I've NEVER come close to that! For the first time I was actually in tears I was so scared of racing. I so didn't want to be last and end up running the last lap on my own.

Well, I have no idea how I did- I ran without the pink Garmin device. But I didn't come last. I didn't puke, my legs didn't actually give way. I survived and so it's all ok. It was even better when I got to the pub to meet the usual Wednesday woodland bimble crew; they hadn't arrived yet but the landlord recognised me and gave me a free half of Guinness! Hugs from my two best running friends were much appreciated too. Even if I was teased mercilessly about the morphsuit and how it does make me look like a boy.

Tonight my legs and ankles are just a bundle of pain. They are sore, aching and feel bruised. Just a 5 mile race to get through tomorrow- laps of a park with big hills; a tough but short race in the woods Friday; 6 miles or so around some other park in MK and then a half marathon on Sunday...

Next week I need to do things that remind me that actually I love running.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Marathon training begins and bigger worries

For the first time I’m contemplating a week’s running with something akin to dread.

Next week is Week 1 of training for my first marathon. That’s a bit scary because right now I can’t imagine running 26.2 miles in one go. But that’s not what I’m dreading. The marathon is just a stepping stone to what I (think) I want to do next year- my first ultra. Right now I can’t imagine running 37 miles in one go. But neither is that causing me dread.

Next week I have a race every day.

None of the races are long- the mileage for the week isn’t particularly high and is less than I would ordinarily run- but it still feels like a lot of running. I guess there are two things really getting to me. Firstly, the Tour of MK is one of MMKAC events so there will be ‘proper’ runners there- people who train far more seriously than I do and I’m afraid of just being rubbish compared to them. They are also likely to be far more experienced competitors. Don’t get me wrong, there are some awesome runners in my club some of whom are very experienced and very fast, but the atmosphere at my club is one of friendship and support. We don’t do serious track training every week, we don’t really care about how we compare in results to other clubs; we just get together to run and chat and share our love of running.

Secondly, I know how I respond to race situations. I live off the adrenaline and nerves; they give me a bit of extra speed and focus, especially on occasions when I’ve not felt up for it. But going through that every day is something else. I’m not sure I can rely on adrenaline 7 days in a row, not am I sure that I can mentally or physically get through it all. Especially as I have to go to work, run a house and look after my kids as well.

Make your easy runs really easy and the hard runs hard.

Most of your training should be at easy pace.

Sensible people have told me to pick a couple of races to really go for and to just ease through the others perhaps using them as training runs. The snag with that is that I struggle to run easy when it’s an occasion. The now infamous Stowe ‘Ultra Half’ was supposed to be a bit of a jolly. It was fun but I very quickly found myself running it hard. Turned up at Beat the Barge with no intention of running fast but stormed through it. Even the Thursday club runs usually become tempo runs for me. On one level that’s good because by myself my tempo runs aren’t always as quick as they should be whereas on club runs I can rely on a couple of speedy guys to try to keep up with.  But it could also be said that means I’m a very undisciplined runner who has issues with pace!

I know if I run hard every day next week that will be the worst start to my marathon training; it will take ages to recover and I won’t be able to build up the miles I need in my feet. But if I don’t try my best then I’ll be kicking myself because of missed opportunities and because I am representing my club and want to do my best for them.

Marathon training is in itself an unknown for me- I have no idea how my body and mind will respond to upping the mileage and time on my feet. I suppose it’s best to treat it as an adventure. Set out and just see what happens but it is hard not to place expectations on myself.
A lot has been happening and changing in my running and life in general recently- pretty much all good things- and I'm scared of messing things up. Even good change can be scary and exciting new adventures unsettling.
...watch this space...