Marathon training, speedwork and injuries

As this is a running blog I guess I should talk a bit more about running… How is my marathon training going?

Technically I’m training for two marathons right now. The Portsmouth Coastal Marathon is scarily close – Sunday 17th at the gloriously early time of 8.30am. And then a month or so later, the Dubai Marathon on Friday 26th January.

As always I’m just going to put my usual disclaimer of: I’m an injury prone runner and writing about how “well” my training appears to be going makes me feel like I’m tempting fate. But there we go. I continue to be grateful for every successful run and the fact that I haven’t had an injury since August, despite having run two marathons. TOUCH WOOD.DP9oUdJX4AAVwQtSo anyway. My training. For once in a good long while I can talk about actual training I’m doing. Previously I would run four times a week, whatever pace. Usually it would be two “whatever pace” runs in the week, then maybe a speedy parkrun if I “felt like it” and then a long run on Sunday.

This has somewhat changed in that I have now been doing at least one focused speedwork a week. Amazingly I have done this now five weeks in a row. I can barely believe this. I’m the girl who would rarely ever do any sort of speedwork. I did used to do some hill training when I had a great hill nearby to where I used to work but again that was quite irregular (and impossible now).

Before talking in more detail about what I’ve been doing exactly I will hasten to say that I am a) not a coach and b) plucking these sessions (sessions! I sound like a proper runner!) out of thin air as to what I think is a good idea. If you’re looking for science about slow and fast twitch fibre recruitment and lactate thresholds, this is not the place. So, the speedworks I’ve been doing are:

  • Mile repeats: one mile warm-up followed by three 1 mile sprints (faster than 5k pace), with a break in between of slow jogging. Originally the break I took was about three minutes (I was dying) but I’ve managed shortened this to 2 minutes. The aim being that the speeds I’m sprinting at will eventually be (running god willing) my new 5k speed. But yeah, it feels pretty awful at the time. Then I’ll do a mile or so cool down.

3 one mile sprints

  • Two mile repeats: one mile warm-up followed by two 2 mile repeats, with 0.5 miles easy in between, followed by a cool down. The speed will be around my current 5k speed. This felt even worse than the mile repeats because of the longer length of time of being in that “urgh this feels awful” zone.

2 mile sprints

  • Tempo run: one mile warm-up followed by 5 miles of sustained difficult pace. You’re not going all guns blazing but you are in a level of discomfort. You can hold onto the pace but not forever.

Tempo runAs I said though, I’m no expert and am actually highly clueless when it comes to this sort of thing. I regularly message two different running friends about what the hell I should actually be doing (thanks James and Mark for your understanding) as I am essentially an idiot.DQSHnRHW0AAZHmFI also hugely stressed myself out wondering if I was doing too much because I’ve also been running parkrun at a hard effort… Am I doing too much? Am I stressing my body out too much? I know only I can really tell but it helps having other people to check-in with. I’ve also put stupid pressure on myself to try and hit sub-20 minutes for a parkrun. This was never how I used to run. I run for fun. I’ve always maintained I’d rather run slow but long-term rather than fast and continually have to take time off for injury. I need to not lose sight of this and ground myself back into my happy running zone.

That said, I am in a great running place right now. My legs do feel good though – no niggles, hurrah! But I want this to remain that way… especially with two marathons happening in close succession. And I’m also highly aware from speaking to other runners who get injured who typically seem to say, “but I was running so well and then got injured”. So no focused speedwork now until a week or so after the Portsmouth Coastal. I’ll be running that marathon a minute or so slower than my usual marathons but it will still put stress on my body so I can’t carry on blasting out mile repeats too close to this. I will however continue to make an effort at parkruns (although I’ll judge each one as I come to it).

After getting Portsmouth out of the way and (running god willing, again) as long as I come out unscathed I will then do a few more weeks of “marathon training” before I taper for Dubai. I imagine this will mean two proper long runs (16-18 miles) and maybe a speedworkout or two within January. But again, it’s hard to imagine not having any sort of injury from now until then so I’ll hold off making any firm plans until I can be more sure of what the state my body will be in. I hope to start 2018 strong but running is never a guarantee for me.

What speedwork do you do?

Do follow a training plan?

Have you got any races planned for 2018 yet?

What I’m loving lately – October

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while… all the things I’m currently loving lately.

Harry Potter clothing: During my meanderings around the delights of Amazingstoke’s Festival Place last weekend I popped into Primark. In general I don’t do much shopping in physical life. As in, non-online shopping. But occasionally I’ll pop into H&M as there’s one local to me. We don’t have a very accessible Primark nearby (it’s in the centre of Southampton and I don’t generally go there that often because the Internet and Whiteley, a little but fantastic shopping village nearby, save me from such efforts).

Anyway, I’ve digressed. So I went into Primark to hunt down a really nice sports bra someone at work wore when running (she wore it as her running top outside, I didn’t spy on her getting changed or anything weird). I didn’t find the sports bra but I DID find a Harry Potter jumper. And, weirdly, Harry Potter underwear.I bought the jumper but not the pants (and forgot to take a photo of said jumper…). The jumper will go nicely with my Harry Potter t-shirt ready for my friends and my Harry Potter-themed escape room at the beginning of December. There are four of us and we’ve each got a house that fits our personality. I’m Gryffindor 😀New boots: And as a nice segue… a few weeks ago when I was in Chichester my friends and I popped into a charity shop because the Harry Potter-themed window lured us in. Most of the window items had been sold (including an amazing looking Harry Potter chess set!). However I then spotted a very cool pair of boots in almost perfect condition. For £8.50!
OK I rarely wear heels but I’m sure I can push the boat out one day… After all, I no longer have a standing desk at work (I mourn for it daily, believe me. It just means I have to get up and move about more frequently. But it does mean I can relax a bit more at work) so really I could wear heels.

Gin: And another great segue(!), my lovely friend Charlotte and her husband, Paddy, gave me a prototype Christmas present when we were in Chichester. A sort of “make-you-own hipster gin” ingredients set.How cool is this? So each little jar contains different ingredients, like dried lemon peel, cinnamon, juniper berries etc. that you can add to a gin and tonic to spruce it up. Gin has become rather “in vogue” (though to be fair to Paddy and Charlotte, they were loving it waaaay before it became cool) and my dear mother has appointed herself some sort of gin connoisseur recently. She’s bought about five different kinds of gins! So when I showed her this little set she was VERY excited. That evening we made up a few glasses of lemon and juniper berry flavoured gin. Ooh er!So fancy! It tasted very nice. I’m not a big drinker but my drink of choice is a G&T. So crisp and delicate.

Protein powder: Speaking of tasty things. I am currently OBSESSED with the MyProtein marzipan-flavoured protein-powder. I adore it. I add about 20g (so maybe a scoop?) of it to my porridge and it rocks my world. It’s not overwhelmingly sweet or crazy strong, but subtly almondy. I was using the Chocolate Smooth flavour but this is SO much better. I got a small pack as I wasn’t sure what I would think (450g I think) but I’ve since gone back and bought a 1kg. I also bought the Cinnamon Danish flavour and the Speculoos. I had to Google what Speculoos was though. It’s a limited edition flavour (as is Marzipan) so I thought what the hell, why not.As a side note, as I’m living at home I obviously get these things delivered there. My dad also buys lots online as well (usually some random cables or part for his latest robot craze or yet another Alexa – I swear Alexa is becoming an omnipresence in the house. You can’t move for her) and he mentioned the other day that it can be quite disappointing when something is delivered but it’s for me not him. He grumbled that it’s usually “running gear or some powder of some sort”, which did make me laugh. He’s not wrong.

Cake: Cake has been very much in my life in a big way recently. The guys at Wiggle are fantastic at bringing in snacks and baking. It seems like every week we have something new to munch on. I’m not mad. On Monday last week it was one of the guy’s birthday and he brought in a chocolate cake he made. Someone else from another team had also baked him a cake too! A chocolate melt-in-the-middle cake. Obviously I had a bit of both. I was glad to have tried both as well because at the end of the day as he picked up the cake he’d baked to put in the fridge he dropped it on the floor! How devastating! I mean, it was hilarious but equally heart-breaking at the same time. RIP cake.And I’ll try not to think of just how many bits of cake I had the other week when someone left. There was literally an idea table covered in delicious home-baked goodies. I’m an absolute sucker for anything home-baked. After eating 80% of what was in the bowl I decided not to have any more (it was only 10am…). I put it in my drawer and tried to forget about it. Well, the afternoon came and the cake was promptly eaten. *Sighs* I had the best intentions at least.

Christmas snacks: And on the note of delicious snacking, I popped into Lidl before work one morning (handily located on the road from my gym to work. I love Lidl and am really glad I can frequent it more often). I love browsing supermarkets (I’m a strange breed I know) and Lidl’s Christmas selection is always worth a gander. As a side note though, their bakery is at the front of their shop and it gave off the most intoxicating, delicious scents of freshly baked pastries, bread and cakes. I almost passed out (this was post-workout after all). Once I came to my senses though I found one of my favourite Christmas snacks: lebkuchen gingerbread. I first had them when I was in Berlin visiting my friend and they were amazing. I mean the big fat ones you can get at the Christmas markets are the best (I don’t know if they’re the same things but they’re very similar). They’re gingerbread but very soft and almost cake like. I’m not a huge fan of hard gingerbread (the British creations) but these are DIVINE.Running: And finally something to do with running! I’ve “officially” started marathon training. I mean, nothing much has really changed to be honest. My long runs will be getting longer and I hope to do a speed session once a week. The speed session is a new addition to the rota because I never normally do it (other than a speedy parkrun occasionally).

Yesterday I went out at lunch with the intention to do some sort of speed workout. Originally I was going to do two minutes of hard effort, followed by 30 seconds of easy as many times as I could be bothered but during my (almost) mile warm-up I decided to do mile repeats. The lake next to the office has a gravel path around it and it’s about a mile long so I decided to just blast it round, have a jogging break, then repeat. My intention was to go sub-seven minutes for the mile as this is what I’ve been able to do on some miles at parkrun. Well, I definitely surprised myself. I managed THREE mile repeats (with 0.4 mile jogging recovery) at sub 6.45 pace. I mean it was TOUGH, both mentally and physically. But I did it! I definitely needed those recoveries between but I felt strong maintaining the pace (though it did feel like death. God I hate speed work). Afterwards though the feeling was AMAZING. In the end I did 10k total and I was around a minute off my PB! Not too shabby. SplitsUnfortunately though after showering and getting back to the office, I had the most ridiculous red face which quite a few people commented on. Wonderful.

What kind of speed work do you do?

What Christmas treats do you like?

Are you a Harry Potter fan?

Running Lately

So last week I  felt pretty rubbish. I mean, it was a kind of unspecific rubbish. Like I felt overwhelming tired and really nauseous when I woke up in the morning but then I’d feel relatively fine (asides from tired) in the day. In a parallel universe these symptoms might suggest pregnancy, but yeah: NO.

And when it came to running it was awful. I ran 10k on Tuesday and it was such a grind.It was a combination of the tiredness/bug thing and the fact that I’d done some heavy squats and glute workout at the gym the day before. So my legs were basically giving me the finger (what a sentence…).

On Thursday I ran with Mike and, as we were both doing the D Day 10k on the Sunday, we decided to do our long run that evening together. But those 10 miles, Jeeeeeeeesus. I felt bad for Mike as I was just dragging and literally counting down every 0.1 mile.I was glad to have run with Mike though as I’m almost certain I’d have binned this run had I been on my own.

Then at parkrun I felt terrible again. The only way to describe it is like I was trying to run 6min/miles and failing.

Photo Credit: Ken Grist

But I was running over 8min/miles…and failing. In the end, I just stopped looking at my watch. I chatted to a guy who fell in step with me and that helped take my mind of the struggle. As the run went on though I felt more alive.

I finished feeling a bit better than the previous week, in 24:03.

Photo Credit: Ken Grist

As I headed back to my car to grab my barcode I saw a girl who was still running suddenly fall over. At first I thought she’d injured herself and tripped but then I saw she’d basically almost fainted, like I’d done the week before.

I ran over to help. Others who were still running stopped too but as I’d finished I said I’d look after her while they carried on. She was OK but a bit out of it. She was adamant to finish so myself and another girl helped her walk the last 400m of the parkrun to the finish while she lent on us. Then I guided her to some shade and gave her some water. Eventually she felt a bit better and I told her about my wobbly the week before. Happens to the best of us 😉 I think she was OK in the end, just a bit overly hot.

Happily it was my friend Geoff’s 250th parkrun (amazing, right??) so there was lots of cake.Cake definitely helped improve my mood and how I was feeling. Sitting in the sunshine in the cafe as well afterwards was fabulous. I’d taken Alfie with me to parkrun and he’d been immensely spoiled and fussed over by some very helpful volunteers, my friend Carlos’ daughter and Mike’s daughter. So I had no reason to rush home. A few of us also managed to plant the seed of having a BBQ in Mike’s mind. He’d just oomphed up his garden and bought a BBQ so really it was an absolute necessity to test it out on such a sunny day.

A few of us reconvened a bit later for lots of tasty food and just general chilling outness, of which, again, Alfie was able to join.It was a modest selection (*cough*) of burgers, sausages, ribs, pork chops, lots of chicken skewers, a rogue couple of turkey skewers and chicken wings. It’s entirely possibly that I ran so well at the D Day 10k the next day purely because I was so well fed. Either way it was very tasty and a nice way to spend the afternoon.

So this week I FINALLY went to speed training. Occasionally, when I’m feeling good, I’ll go out and do my own speed training session. There’s a killer hill near where I work and I tend to use that as some hill training on my own from time to time. But recently I’ve lacked the enthusiasm. On a Tuesday night I’ve gotten into the habit of just plodding round 3-4 miles.

But I’m adamant to make more of an effort. I’m always wary about speed training with others as I’m scared I’ll push myself too hard and injure myself. I’m so competitive that I’ll try and keep up with people and won’t listen to my body. That said, when I train on my own I can be lazy and lacklustre when it comes to speed… so there’s a balance somewhere but I’ve yet to find it. For now I’ll try and get to speed sessions once every two weeks? It’s entirely possible this won’t happen, but at least I’ve acknowledged what I need to do…*sighs*

So I ran the 1.5(ish) miles to training and then did a hill session with my running club. We did two different hills and paired up with someone else. One person would sprint up the hill and back down and then their partner would do the same, giving the first person some recovery time. We did this for two different hills which kept it interesting. But wowza it was tough! Check out my splits though – never have I had such a fast pace for me.I paused my watch during each recovery and obviously I was sprinting the entire time (and so many downhills) so this is why it looks so fast. Pretty cool though. Afterwards I ran back home. So a fairly tasty Tuesday night run!

I’m definitely feeling better compared to last week, of which I’m obviously very pleased about. I’m just under 13 weeks away from the New Forest marathon and feeling in a very good place. I’ll be starting to increase my long runs soon and I just hope that everything continues as smoothly. With me, you never know. I’d like to think that I’m being sensible though in my training but I guess we’ll see!

What’s your favourite speed session?

Do you run when you’re not feeling 100%?

Do you often get tired during the week? I tend to get quite a solid amount of sleep. I get up very early (5am four times a week) but find I naturally get tired early so am in bed by 10pm which tends to give me a solid amount of sleep.