Not the weekend I wanted

This weekend didn’t fully go as I’d planned but it was still a good one. As is standard for running and me, after doing those ridiculous runs straight after the marathon (the seven miles, then the nine miles off-road in Swindon) my ankle had become slightly swollen and very stiff.

If I’m entirely honest, I felt it start to faintly niggle on the first run… then I continued to run the 3ish miles in Bristol, then the off-road run in Swindon. I mean I really only have myself to blame. Especially straight after the marathon. My body, so delicate and sensitive, was clearly still getting over the marathon and though I felt fine didn’t appreciate jumping back into the mileage so quickly. WHY DON’T I LEARN? WHY DON’T I EVER LEARN??

I tried running on Thursday evening but it just wasn’t happy. It wasn’t painful but just very uncomfortable and stiff. So I stopped – I had nothing to gain to keep going. Finally being sensible! But too little too late. This meant my weekend of running, of which I had parkrun planned and a long run with a friend, was cancelled. Humph.

I still went down to Netley though to volunteer and see everyone as I hadn’t been for ages. It was nice to chat about the marathon and to see the usual crew.It was annoying not to be able to run but I enjoyed cheering everyone on and then being the funnel manager. I’ve never done the funnel manager job before (basically you stand there ensuring that people don’t overtake each other within the funnel so everyone gets their right barcode. You check with the timekeepers and the people handing out the barcode every now and again to make sure the numbers are corresponding). To be honest it’s quite a boring job.

And as more and more people started finishing, cakes started appearing as quite a few people had their milestones that day. I watched with envy as the tins were passed around but I couldn’t leave my post… The run director who saw me looking longingly over took pity on me and said I could go and grab some quickly (he himself had a stack of three so he could hardly stop me if I’m honest ;-))

In the end I had FIVE different bits of cake: half a chocolate cookie, a chocolate brownie bite, a delicious chocolate traybake thing, a chocolate crispy thing and, for a change, a lemon shortbread. I felt quite sick as it started to settle! The run director declare me volunteer of the week for this feat, teehee.

Then I had a tiny bit of bread pudding in the cafe that was going spare. Look, I can’t be trusted around so many different cake options!! I have no self-control.

I’d planned on having breakfast after parkrun and heading to the gym but in the end I obvious didn’t need breakfast and just headed straight there (I was in my gym gear already).Trying to get as much wear out of the t-shirt as possible ūüėČ Not that anyone at the gym cares at all! I did about 30 minutes on the elliptical machine and then some upper body strength work, such as¬†lateral pull-downs, cable face pulls, lateral raises and rows. I felt very well fuelled!

Later I went to my friends’ house for dinner and a movie night, which was great. They made slow-cooked pulled pork with potato wedges and I brought salad. They’re trying to lose weight (they’ve both done so well so far!) using SlimmingWorld so everything was really healthy and tasty.We attempted to watch a film but in the end we were chatting through it so just gave up and chilled. It was a nice easy evening catching up with good friends. They’re also going to help me host my Divorce Party. Yes, that’s actually going to happen ūüėÄ I’m officially divorced and I think that deserves a bit of cake and a knees-up.

Sunday I was meant to go for a long run with a friend… but this obviously wasn’t the wisest idea. I saw my sports massage friend, Kyle, the day before and he’d loosened things up for me and had done a bit of acupuncture to it so it did feel better but I was advised to give it a day or two.

So after a lazy lie-in I headed to the gym again. I did an hour on the elliptical machine this time, and it felt good to get a sweat on. You might be wondering why I bothered now that I’ve done the marathon…but I have a potential goal coming up and as long as my niggle disappears and I remain uninjured I think I can manage it. But we’ll see. More on that another time.

After that I did some leg strength work, such as goblet squats with a pulse (these BURN), some high rep/low weight Romanian deadlifts (for muscle endurance), some cable glute kickbacks and randomly worked on my bench press. I’m feeling really good about my strength increases in this area. I remember a time when I could barely manage any weight.

Though I didn’t get to run it was a nice chilled weekend where I could catch up with life admin and housework, having spent the last few weekends all about the place. So not a complete loss!

What’s your favourite position to volunteer at parkrun?

What do you do to cross-train when you can’t run?

What did you get up to this weekend?

Everything is good

January is the worst month of the year, I’m sure most of us we’ll agree. Conversely, however, I’m starting the year feeling pretty good.

To be honest, I shouldn’t really be in such a great mood. My leg is still feeling a tad niggly and my runs aren’t going as smoothly as they should this close to the marathon (sorry this is such a boring repetition¬†right now). There’s no pain or horrendous discomfort, but I know in myself it’s not perfect and running twice in a row or pushing out the mileage or number of times I run in the week would definitely be risky. Not only this but my longest run for a fair few weeks (months!) is six miles. Seven weeks out to a marathon this is not ideal.

That said, I’m a glass half-full kind of girl (which is one of the reasons I have so many adult fails as I just presume things are going to work out and neglect to double check or consider contingency plans). I’ve got a general fitness, I’ve run seven marathons before, I have seven hours to complete it… I mean, it could go terribly let’s be honest. My leg could really start to bother me and walking could even eventually be an issue. I might DNF my first marathon. I might be in the middle of a foreign country I’ve never been to, knowing no one, half-way through a marathon I can’t complete,¬†in tears. I mean, that’s the worst case scenario and if it happens it happens. The silver lining is that it’ll make for a great blog post ūüėČ In a very schadenfreuden way, failures and mishaps are sometimes a more interesting read than someone who succeeds.¬†Obviously I don’t want to fail. More than anything, it’s a bloody expensive failure. And also, having a marathon meltdown isn’t that fun when it’s actually happening to you.

Foam rolling like a trooper

Marathons aside, mentally and physically I’m in a fantastic place. ¬†I feel strong and healthy. Though I’m not running regularly, at the gym I’m lifting heavier weights and feeling strong. I’m still maintaining a level of fitness through running two-three times a week as well as some of my own spinning sessions and steady-state elliptical machine.Long-term readers may remember some frustrations I had a year or so ago about my body basically failing me in certain ways. Things have changed, for the better! I’ve put on about three pounds over the year – which I know isn’t massive and is probably a mix of muscle and fat. I mean, my weight probably varies a few pounds either way but long-term I’ve remained at the same consistent¬†weight. It seems be a nice happy point for me and it’s clearly¬†helped bump me in the right direction to feel and be in optimal health. I feel happier where I am at the moment and really like how I look and what my body can do. My main intention is obviously not lose any weight when my running increases but I’ve got a pretty good handle on this.

Key things that I’ve found that helped get me here:

  • Eating good food and lots of it. I tend to be fairly healthy during the week and then relax at the weekend. If I want cake, I’ll eat it. If I want a takeaway, I’ll have it. I don’t restrict anything but I am conscious of what I’m eating in general. I eat lots of good fats, complex carbs and protein. I’d say my diet is probably more protein and fat heavy though than carb-based. And I’ll tend to¬†time my carbs around when I’m running to get the max benefit. But I do eat a lot, as I’m sure you’ve seen by now! I’m a three course kinda girl ūüėČ Essentially, I don’t worry about what I eat as throughout the week it all balances nicely.
  • Sleeping enough. I get up ridiculously early in the morning to go to the gym (3-4 times a week, lifting weights). I try not to stay up past 10pm and I find that works for me.
  • Minimising stress. In general my life is not that stressful. I enjoy my job, though my commute sucks at times. I’ve just come to accept some days are good and some days are bad – learn to control the controllables and don’t worry about things¬†are out of your control. I have a great network of friends and family so when life does get hard I’m fully supported. I know I’m very lucky and blessed in this respect.
  • Being sensible with running. Running is a stressor and clearly my body is sensitive. So not training for a marathon all year round will help. After the spring I will be spending the summer and winter just enjoying running and entering races I fancy, but not a marathon. The training for a marathon is a fairly long and arduous process, one that my body might appreciate not doing all the time. I will be running marathons in the future, obviously, but it’s no longer as big a priority as it used to be.

So yeah. I’m feeling pretty happy right now. Mentally over the past year I’ve become a lot more happy in myself and confident. It’s nice that that’s also being reflected to how I feel and how my body functions.

What are important things for you in terms of reaching optimal health?

How much sleep do you get?

How is January for you?

Training for a marathon on minimal running

Over Christmas and New Year I didn’t do a whole lot of running.¬†While it’s super frustrating to still have this shin niggle, I wasn’t too bothered.

It helps, obviously, to have a lot of distractions going on with meals out, seeing friends, going to the pub and spending time with people I care about. I’ve never felt so – what’s the best word? – indifferent about an injury before. Yes it sucks and of course I’d love to run but it’s kind of an annoyance that I keep batting away as I get on with other things.

Like I’ve said before, I’m not entirely sure this is a great way to think considering my impending marathon in February but hey ho. I’m enjoying a”putting my head in the sand” kind of mentality because there’s not much else I can do.

I am running but I’m not running nearly as much or as consistently as I should (for marathon training). Ramping up quickly and steeply would frankly be very stupid. So I’m pootling along doing the odd run here or there. I’m supplementing my lack of running with cross training so it’s not all doom and gloom but it’s the pounding on the legs that I kind of need to experience. All the cardio fitness in the world won’t help if my legs get tired and worn out after 10 miles.

That said, the running I¬†am doing seems to be going OK. I left it a week after the Christmas parkrun to run again as I wanted to be super sensible. I got some acupuncture and a massage from my friend Kyle which definitely seemed to help. Instead I went on the elliptical machine and bike – either doing steady state cardio or short sharp sprints with recoveries. I quite enjoyed being at the gym and not having to rush about like I do when it’s super early in the morning.I could do my cardio first and then do my usual weights. It meant for a longer period in the gym but seen as how I wasn’t running it made sense. Plus I really enjoyed it. I like the gym and feel like it’s my “happy place” right now. And a lovely woman gave¬†me a really nice compliment one day by saying I had a fab body and clearly worked hard. That was nice because, well, yes I do kind of work fairly hard¬†so it’s nice someone doesn’t just assume it’s good genes or not eating – like so many people have said to me before. Cue dramatic eye roll whenever someone says that to me.

On New Year’s Eve I headed down to Netley for parkrun. My leg felt really good and, though I was nervous, I was keen to get out and run. I pushed the pace more than I did at Christmas. It felt quite tough and towards the end I was near my limit.

Photo credit: Glenn Tyreman

I found the hills tough going but luckily I had a few people around me to keep me going – though they did sprint off at the last bit effectively ditching me! ūüėČ

Photo credit: Glenn Tyreman

I was quite pleased with my time: 23:13 (the fastest since August, but that’s not a particularly good feat seen as how inconsistent my running has been for the past few months!).I was more impressed with my negative split. I mean the start was fairly awkward¬†because I was stuck behind lots of people, having positioned myself too far back, but then that helped stop me going too fast. I did feel fairly shattered by the end. My niggle felt fine though the entire run and at the end so I was more pleased with that than anything to be honest.

My next run was Monday. I had a great weekend of eating lots of good food and celebrating New Year’s Eve but felt ready to go in the morning after breakfast and doing some chores (those oh so fun “back to work” style chores that get left to the last minute). The run felt amazing! My legs felt smooth and it felt comfortably tough but enjoyable. I listened to some random music and just felt in the zone. The weather was crisp and cold but lovely and sunny.To be fair, the route I took was fairly flat so it was easier to push the speed but I was really pleased with being able to maintain a faster pace. I mean, I couldn’t have run much further at the pace I was going but it was nice to blast out some speed. Probably not entirely sensible I guess with the old niggle but it felt fine during and after so I’ll take it!

So basically my plan of attack for this looming marathon is to try and run three times a week. Probably two of those runs 3-4 miles and then a longer run at the weekend…But we’re not talking any crazy 18 milers. I’ll be lucky to get to 16 miles I think. I’m just going to take each run as it comes. The goal is to be able to run the marathon – at what pace I frankly don’t care, but just to not be injured or suffering through any pain or discomfort (asides from the usual marathon-induced fatigue). It’s a big ask but I’ve just got to be sensible!

Did you run over the holidays?

Have you ever had to do a negative taper for a marathon? Which is effectively what I’m going to be doing!

Winchester Christmas markets and a come back?

Oh I feel super Christmassy now. I’ve bought all my presents (wrapping is yet to be done but, details!), sent all my Christmas cards, worn my Christmas jumper, had my Christmas parties and eaten a proper roast turkey meal with all the trimmings. Yes indeed, Christmas is in full force.

The one thing I’m holding back on is the Christmas playlist. That bad boy gets rocked out closer to the day to maximise the effect (or rather, not make me want to tear my hair out too quickly after the 17th¬†time of hearing All I Want For Christmas…).

On Saturday I forwent parkrun for the Winchester Christmas markets instead. Though I obviously love parkrun and my shin/calf is feeling better, the Christmas markets was just too much of a lure. I stayed at my parent’s house on Friday night and we left super early to beat the traffic and rush (well, we left at 9.30am which isn’t that early but pretty good for us considering we’re the most disorganised family known to man).

We got the Park and Ride which is probably the best way to do it (£3 to park the car and then everyone gets a seat on the bus, pretty good and only 15 minutes away from the centre). It was busy already though!We headed straight to the Cathedral where the actual Christmas market was located and wandered around slowly looking at all the different stalls. There were lots of craft-style stalls selling handmade jewellery, scarfs, ornaments etc. There were also food-related stalls selling cheese, dried meats and fudge and then hot food stalls selling bacon rolls and burgers.

There were some quaint old fashioned style ones selling roasted chestnuts, caramelised nuts, hot mulled wine and toasted marshmallows as well which all smelt divine.

There was also an outdoor ice rink as well but we weren’t tempted! I got myself a¬†Schokokuss (a ‘chocolate kiss’) which I’d had in Berlin and loved. There were lots of different flavours, like Baileys, chocolate orange, dark chocolate, but I went for a white chocolate almond and honey flavoured one. It was delicious. Basically it’s like a teacake – waffery base topped with marshmallow fluff covered in chocolate.I shared it with my mum and dad (who didn’t want one of their own as they’re trying to be healthy – who even are they??) and it was delicious.

Obviously got a photo of the nativity scene because…Christmas. Though the sign above kept reminding me of Madonna’s¬†“Step into the groove” song.¬†Not sure why I felt the need to touch Mary’s shoulder. Perhaps I just thought¬†it made her feel more involved in the photo ūüėČ

And then the pi√®ce de r√©sistance… hot churros dusted with sugar and melted chocolate.Despite seeing the churros being dipped into boiling oil and then quickly sprinkled in sugar and chocolate and handed to me within a one minute period I still felt the need to try one immediately. And then, delightfully caught on camera by my loving father, managed to look oh so attractive in my first scorching bite. The burning was worth it though, they were damn good (but if I¬†had¬†one tiny criticism it would be more chocolate was needed…but that’s just coming from a very greedy person).Overall, the markets were really good. There was a choir, it was very Christmassy and the food was good. But it was rather small and there were no gingerbread biscuits or more snacky items like that (again, this is from a greedy person). It doesn’t help that I’ve been to Berlin where their Christmas markets really do steal the show and I’m comparing them to that.

After doing a bit more shopping on the highstreet and general moseying around, we decided to have some lunch at a lovely Thai tapas restaurant called Koh Thai that, funnily enough, my physio had recommended to me.

Usually tapas is a bit of a pain for me as I don’t share food but as I was with company who understands that (i.e. my parents) so I knew I was in safe territory ūüėČ We all ordered a main (which wasn’t really a true main, but a slightly bigger small dish that¬†you didn’t share) and then I ordered ribs strictly to be eaten only by me and some pork salad bites to share. My parents ordered chicken satay, crispy beef and fishcakes for sharing, because they’re reasonable human beings.My main was a chicken salad. Honestly the food was AMAZING. I’m actually not a huge Thai food fan (or Chinese fan either) but it was so good. The flavours were so fresh and tasty. However there were some very cheeky sneaky chillies in my salad and halfway through the meal I felt like my tongue had had a layer taken off the top of it and my eyes were streaming. The ribs were to die for though, obviously.

Though I wasn’t hugely hungry to start with because of said treats above, we left no prisoners behind. Though to be fair, the meal was pretty healthy for a meal out (quantity aside). Though my tummy was buzzing by the end.

I had planned to do a run that morning before we went to the markets but I¬†decided to leave it until later so I could be a bit more warmed-up and also not have wasted a potential lie-in (though I woke up naturally ridiculously early anyway…*sighs*). As it took a while to amble back to the bus stop, then the car journey home my stomach was in a better shape to attempt a run. I was super nervous and fully dreading it. I decided to run from my parent’s house before I left to go home just because I had a better three¬†mile route and I could moan like a brat to my parents if it went badly (aren’t I delightful?).

Expecting the worse as soon as I stated I was pleasantly surprised to feel fine. As the run continued I could feel an echo of the niggle so just concentrated on my form and breathing and tried not to over-think things. It didn’t get worse so I carried on. I actually felt great running in terms of fitness. I felt very comfortable and within myself, though I loathed to look at my watch, thinking I didn’t need to see how much speed I’d lost. So I was really chuffed to see a nice negative split.

And a good pace for having not run in a far number of weeks! Clearly my boring cardio sessions have maintained something. My calf/shin felt reasonably OK after the run – not better, not worse. Not perfect…so I’ll need to take this very slowly and one run at a time.I mean, Sod’s Law will be that my next run will be terrible and I’ll be back to square one, but hey let’s be positive. It’s Christmas after all ūüėČ

Have you been to any Christmas markets this year?

What would you buy/eat from a Christmas market?

What’s your favourite cuisine?

Injured but not down

So here I am again, the injured runner. Oh to be one of those hardy people who never gets injured. But such are the cards I’m dealt.

I did get a little angry (well, not angry just jokingly irate ;-)) at a guy at parkrun after he’d¬†written a long-winded and moany post on Facebook about how annoyed and sad he was that he was facing a similar injury to one he’d had four years ago. Bare in mind he’s not been injured since then. AND HE WAS COMPLAINING. One injury every four years? I’ll take it!!! Damn it, I’d pay money for those sort of odds.

Anyway. Yes I’m injured. I’ve sort of been in denial about it but now as the marathon training is looming in front of me I need to be honest with myself. To be fair, the two runs I did the other week that I sung the praises for on my blog¬†did go amazingly. I felt 100% fine during and after…and then parkrun happened and boom! Back to square one. It’s almost worse when that happens as you’re given a tiny bit of hope that everything’s OK and then it’s ripped away from you.

I’ve given up wondering why it’s happened because this is the part that frustrates me more than anything. This isn’t a new injury, it’s a reoccurring one. Nothing I seem to do helps. It just crops up every year, summer or winter. JUST GO AWAY. Give me a flipping chance.

It’s my shin/calf. I guess a shin splint? Just one leg. The particular area of niggliness and/or pain sort of moves up and down the area so *shrugs* I don’t know. It’s not excruciating pain though, just an occasional throb and¬†general feeling of tightness and discomfort that gets worse running.

On Saturday when I did my doomed pre-parkrun running trial it went very badly. Straight off the bat the niggle was like “hey, Anna, how’s it going?”. So I obviously stopped straight away. I finished my walk with Alfie, my head spinning with what I should do. Luckily I was staying at my parents so¬†I could have my pathetic little melt down with them, rather than on my own with just Alfie looking despairingly at me.

“That’s it! I’m cancelling Tokyo!” I sobbed to them (like I said, pathetic). It’s just too stressful. It’s just too hard. Running is my fun time, my de-stressor, my happy place. It shouldn’t make me feel this way (mentally and physically). My mum and dad calmed me down and we talked rationally about what to do about Tokyo. You know, that rather expensive holiday purely to do the marathon I had planned.

I checked the small print of the details¬†(I booked through a tour company) and counted the days until I was to go. Unfortunately at this point I’ll only get 50% of my money back. Bollocks. Excuse my French. Had I made this decision 10 days ago I would have gotten significantly more money back.

Right, so Tokyo is STILL on. Even if I have to walk the whole damn thing I will bloody do it.

Realistically, I do have a fair bit of time (12 weeks) and I may have been somewhat over-dramatic in my reaction. I haven’t got an injury that is significantly world-ending. I can still successfully cross-train fairly easily by either bike or elliptical. And I can’t imagine I’m going to be out of the game until February (the marathon is at the end of Feb). I just won’t be able to get the proper marathon build-up or training I prefer.

But even if I only get up to 10 miles, I know I can do it. Yes it’ll be painful, my expectations amended accordingly and the recovery process post-marathon a bit of a bitch. But it’s a Marathon Major, it’s in Japan (I’ve never been) and I’m at a time of my life where I can do this without guilt.

Who cares if I get overtaken by a Pikachu or an oversized HelloKitty?

So there we go. My current status is not running at the moment but continued cross-training (I can barely contain my excitement) and a few trips to my physio. Mentally I’m OK. Yes it royally sucks, but I’ve been here before. I also have a lovely Florida holiday to cushion any January post-Christmas I WANT TO RUN blues sooo it can’t all be doom and gloom after all ūüėČ

My one wish, though, is to be able to do Christmas parkrun…

What would you do if you were me?

How do you deal with injuries?