Sunday, 15 November 2015

Running isn't always pretty!

Sometimes  it just doesn't flow or feel good and the Dirt Half was one of those days

No LSR today. I had intended to do a slow 10 miles or so on the back of yesterday's race but woke up this morning very sore and full of niggles. A rest is going to be better training than a painful run. I did sneak in some S&C work though and felt better for it. Active recovery, right?

Well it was about time I had a 'bad' race. I wasn't out for a fast one yesterday; getting long slow miles in ready for Portsmouth has been more important than half marathon speed sessions. Nevertheless I was excited to be running the Dirt Half again- it's a great course, lovely atmosphere and a great selection of cake at the end- and with a lot more off-road miles in my legs I was looking forward to a strong, steady run.


No, no, no, no, no.
I didn't feel fab from the start- all a bit clunky and slow. Sometimes it takes a couple of miles to get going so I didn't worry but by mile 4 I knew it wasn't going to happen for me. Legs were empty, body and mind were so very tired. All I wanted to do was stop and go home. But my children had come to cheer me on and I'm stubborn as 100 mules so no way was I going to give up. It was time to draw on what I've learned from some of my long Sunday runs: dig deep to reach that meditative state and focus the mind on cadence, breathing and form. Make the legs turn over. Concentrate on every single step. Keep moving. Don't cry.

Crossing the bridges over the canal wasn't fun

About half way up the 1 mile hill

Almost at the top of the 1 mile hill

It was the hardest run I've ever done. Much tougher than those flat out efforts during the Tour of MK in September. Back then although I felt used up, once I was running everything just flowed and worked. Yesterday I had to battle for every single step of all 13.1 miles.
I will say right now that I walked in places. Briefly on the 1 mile hill, in a couple of places I can't remember where, over the slippery bridges and that very last short incline with about 3/4 mile to go. I remember last year yelling "who the f#@* put that there?!" at that point and it caught me out again this year. But I never stopped moving. Even managed to find a short sprint for the finish.

But although it wasn't a 'good' race I can take quite a few positives from it:
  • Completed about 4 minutes faster than last year. So that's good.
  • Lost a lot less time on the hill.
  • Felt way more confident through the woods and on downhills (it was a good call wearing my new Innov8 x-talons!).
  • I was able to keep focussed.
  • I dug deep and kept going.
  • Finding and using that meditative state and mental strength is becoming easier.
Stuff I got wrong:
  • Not eating my usual pre-race foods the night before or in fact for a couple of days before (had some trouble with food going straight through me and I fear that the veggie's friend- tofu- isn't my friend)
  • Including a few short intervals in my run the day before.
  • Not enough stretching/foam rolling in the weeks before.
  • Not stretching straight after the race (maybe keep a roller in the car or tennis ball in my race kit in future)
  • I have also underestimated what racing does to me. I think the mental fatigue was from last months Exeter GWR. I stormed that race and although there were plenty of moments where all my training just fell into place and it felt effortless, I did have to dig deep for the last few miles. It was less than a month ago and an effort like that needs proper recovery time.
So plenty to take away from it and as ever lots of things I can learn from and work on to make me a stronger, more resilient runner. Every step and every race is experience and experience is good as long as you do something with it!

And eventually I was able to smile again:

Team Bradbug

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Wandering thoughts on a wandering LSR

Today was one of those days when any plans just had to go out the window. The unravelling began yesterday when I noticed my tonsils had turned into golfballs. I didn't feel ill; maybe a bit tired but no fever or aches or anything. Nevertheless I prepared myself for the eventuality of having to ditch the week's long run. The thought of only having completed 11 slow miles for the week wasn't a happy sort of thought but if I've learned anything on this marathon training journey it's that you've got to listen to your body and do whatever it's telling you.

I woke this morning feeling ok but a bit tired and I really didn't want to get out of bed. Once the clocks go back I do struggle with mornings so the early start for today's run just didn't happen. We decided that even though I felt fine we'd not have any plans other than to see how I felt with an hour's run then take it from there, so no set route, no target mileage or time on feet,  just the intention to run 9:00 pace.

Coffee, fruit toast, out the door. Yuc- it's raining and cold and dismal. The worst kind of November morning. Now I feel really bad that not only have I made my fella start the run 2 hours later than planned but I'm making him run in the most uninspiring weather. He doesn't need to be doing these long runs with me really. But we set off anyway grumbling a bit, both of us thinking probably we'll be turning around soon and heading back for coffee and cake in the warm and dry. However the rain stops, we settle into a relaxed pace and grumbling turns into chatting.

I don't really know where we ran. Just out and about. Lots of lakes and some of the canal. A bit of mud. Oh yes, and steps! A few sets of steps just for me! We talk about all sorts of stuff and also run in silence quite a bit, both of us lost in the gentle meditative rhythm of relaxed running. I am so fortunate to be able to run with my fella and share the sheer pleasure of running. I love his sense of play when running and I do think when you run with someone who is having fun it's infectious. And anyway we're not athletes, we run because we want to so there's not much point if you're not having fun.

It's also a wonderful thing to run with someone whose pace seems to fit with your own. I think I might have said this before but very often when running with others it's a constant battle of trying to keep up or trying to stay slow so you stay together, but we just seem to be able to run together without that. It's a great gift and I treasure every moment of it.

As for the physical process of this run, it felt good. Mostly a really consistent pace too which is great and shows I'm learning a bit of discipline at last! The usual aches set in, perhaps a little earlier than before but they didn't get as bad and I felt comfortable running through them. (I think once this marathon is done I'm going to spend a month in the gym really working to make sure my muscles are well balanced and strong.) I didn't eat so much this time, and had decided to try Mini Cheddars rather than my rocket fuel flapjacks. Nice, but not so easy to eat on the go. I'd also decided to listen to advice and added electrolytes to my water. High 5 Zero Citrus flavour I think I tried. Still didn't drink enough but managed a lot more than normal. Hormones were beginning to settle too (I can say that some of last week's fatigue and reduced endurance was due to hormones). So actually there were so many changed variables compared to last week's LSR I can't say which (if any) made a difference but there was a difference for sure. We got back and my fella wanted to round up another half a mile to 15 miles but I felt really up for rounding to 20. So I did. And there was definitely a bit in the tank still when I finished: 2hrs 58min for 20 miles.

I'm happy with today's run. Very happy!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Another long run with a dip into hard-core tri

I'd meant to write this quite soon after last Sunday's long run so that it would be a fresher take on the miles but it's been a hectic week so far with lots of things vying for my attention.

Sunday's run was another longest ever run- 23 miles!

The plan was to run an early 'lap' before meeting up with friends to run 12 miles or so through the woods and fields. I slightly misjudged my early run and ended up needing to do a few little circuits of the village to get the required minutes done (I wanted to do 90 minutes), then got to the meeting point a bit early and had about 10 minutes of fidgeting around but otherwise all pretty much went to plan. I even remembered to eat and got through 3 or 4 snacks but still don't take on enough fluids though which is something to work on.
(see for my most successful running fuel)

The morning was very misty but actually you could sense even at 7am that the sun wasn't far away so instead of it feeling a bit ominous being out in the fog-filled silence there was a sense of promise.
Running by myself I was determined to keep to a sensible training pace- so I set the pink Garmin device to 9:25 I think. The solitary bit of the run was all road as I really wasn't sure I was up for doing the whole 3.5 hours on trails but knowing how easy it is for me to go off at what feels like easy pace only to discover that I'm actually running perhaps a minute quicker meant it was a real challenge to stick to training pace. I did run a bit quicker than I 'should' but not ridiculously so- in the first 11.5 miles my quickest mile was 8:45 and slowest 9:25 (which was the first mile).
By the time I'd nipped home to change into trail shoes and got up the monstrous hill which is Church Street I was feeling a bit tired. The early lap was quite hilly and I'd let myself walk up bits of incline when I felt like it but I could tell the next segment was not going to be plain sailing. And for sure it wasn't!
The start was ominous- I love running through big puddles but this time totally misjudged the depth, went in well over my ankles, stumbled and put out a hand to balance myself only to grab hold of some barbed wire that was entwined with a wooden fence. Thank goodness for my running gloves! Although they were very thin, just that extra layer prevented any injury. A few weeks back a friend sustained a really nasty barbed wire cut in the same woods so I was lucky. It was all kind of funny though- my friends just looked on and laughed uncontrollably and I must have looked a sight! Next time I embark on some kind of hard-core triathlon maybe I should bring armbands to float me through the puddles. So glad no one took any photos!

Composure regained and we settled into a lovely sunny run. We ran through the woods, out and over to Woburn Abbey, up a few steep and long inclines and over the treacherous Greensand Ridge mud. It's horrid to run on as it's quite clay-y on the top and with all the rain we'd had it was more like ice. Note to self- look out for trail shoes that do well on mud.

I can't really remember details- fatigue set in fairly early and although aches and stiffness held off until about mile 19 it was hard keeping up with the others. They were great and would ease off of stop and wait for me in places, but I'm learning that on long runs I need to go at my pace and rhythm. The longer the run the more important that seems to be. But these days I don't mind running at the back of a group as you can see:

That's my fella in the black- just checking I haven't been mown down by deer (or fallen in the lake...)

The last 3 or 4 miles were a real test. I hurt- my hip flexors in particular got really tight because I guess although there'd been lots of ups and downs, sticking to a fairly even slow pace is going to do that. As the fatigue really set in I did remember to keep checking form and cadence and I'm pleased that neither suffered too much. I only have a FR10- it can't measure cadence and so I have to count-but even the process of counting means I'm straight away paying more attention.

This is what was waiting for me at about 21.5 miles:
I call these Greg Rutherford Steps as he trains on these (photo is from previous week)

Now usually I love these steps, but at that point there was no love at all and I did say something very rude. But I walked up them and then just kept going at the top. I think at that point one of the others said something about there must be a button on my back- press it and I'll just start running again! Well, this little machine was feeling broken but very determined- at this point I could have taken a short cut home instead of facing the final long, steep climb through the woods. However when confronted with the aforementioned long steep climb I just said to my fella 'Don't wait- run on with the others and wait for me at the end; I'll just walk up this hill'. But he wasn't having any of it and told me I could run it. So we did. It was painfully slow in places, but he talked me up that hill and I didn't stop. I even kept going to round up to 23 miles when we got back to the start.


The signs of a successful trail run!

Monday, 2 November 2015


A quick post as I've promised a few twitter running friends some recipes. I haven't invented either of these, although I've given the flapjack recipe a bit of a tweek.

Green Apple Cake (from a recipe in the Guardian)

for the green goo you need:
150g baby spinach, 2tbsp water and 3 tsp vanilla extract

for the cake you need:
2 medium eating apples, grated
75g butter or baking spread of your choice
100g full fat cream cheese
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
100g plain flour and 100g spelt flour (or use all plain)
1tbsp cornflour
2 tsp baking powder.

  • To make the goo put the spinach and water in a pan and cook until wilted- about 1 minute.
  • Then put in a blender with the vanilla and blitz until really smooth.  Set aside.
  • For the cake, beat together the butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy then beat in the eggs one at a time.
  • Next stir in the green goo along with the grated apple.
  • Finally sift in the flours and baking powder and mix until well combined.
  • Either spoon the mixture into muffin tins (you will get around 20) or into a greased and lined 18cm square cake tin.
  • Turn on the oven to 180C/160C fan/ 350F or gas mark 4.
  • Bake the muffins for around 15-17 minutes or until they spring back when touched lightly. Bake the cake for about 35 minutes. Let the cake cool in the tin, or turn out muffins when they have cooled for 5 minutes.

These work well when topped with chocolate cream-cheese frosting and make great Hallowe'en cakes.

Sinead's Rocket Fuel aka Banana-Peanut Butter Flapjacks

These have become my rocket fuel for long runs. If you use a natural, sugar-free peanut butter like the one from Meridian then it gives a slightly savoury hint to these soft flapjacks.

80g baking spread and 60g coconut oil (you can just use all butter if you prefer)
100g soft brown or light muscovado sugar
2 tbsp. golden syrup
about 4 heaped tbsp. crunchy peanut butter
350g porridge oats
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed

  • Heat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ Gas mark 4. Grease a 23x33am Swiss roll or similar tin.
  • Melt the spread/oil/butter in a large saucepan along with the sugar and golden syrup.
  • Then stir in the peanut butter followed by the oats, cinnamon, and baking powder and mix well.
  • Finally mix in the mashed bananas and mix until well combined.
  • Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and press down firmly with the back of a spoon or a potato masher.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until turning golden brown.
  • Mark into section but leave in the tin until completely cold otherwise it will disintegrate.

Pack small squares into resealable bags to stash in your trail vest or belt for natural, energy-filled goodness on your long runs.