Cheating on my running club…

When it comes to running, I tend not to have much of a plan. I have a rough idea of what I want to do in a week and if I have a marathon on the horizon I’ll have my long runs marked out, gradually building up the distance.

Otherwise I work out my runs in general with who else is running when in the week and what parkrun I want to do. I’m really relaxed about it. Previously I’d run all my runs around the same kind of pace as well, usually around 8 minute miles. So really no real structure. I enjoy running this way because, as you probably know, I’m not a PB-hunter. I love getting PB’s of course but realistically I’m not running every race for a time. It kills the fun for me. I find enjoyment in other ways, like collecting different parkruns, doing different marathons and basically just having a doss about.

Part of that is down to me genuinely loving this and part of it is down to not wanting to be too serious or do too much hard training because I’m terrified of injury. I love running and all the benefits I get from it (physical and mental health but also a large social element), and losing that sucks. I do believe I’m injury prone and when I increase my load (higher mileage or harder mileage) I suspect I’m dicing with getting injured. So I’m always reluctant to go too hard or put a lot of hard training into my weeks. I’d rather run slow consistently then run fast sporadically.

That said, I feel like I’m in a good position to think about jazzing things up. While I have more “fun” goals of doing the parkrun Alphabet Challenge, the Marathon Majors and things like that, I would like to get a few times under my (Flip)belt. I’ve now been injury-free for a good number of months and I haven’t had any sort of niggle even slightly raise its head. It’s given me some confidence.

I go to go the gym 3-4 times a week. I work hard to keep my legs, core and glutes strong. I definitely feel the benefits of this when I run, how fast I can recover and just my general mental wellbeing. I enjoy the gym, I enjoy the routine I have and if I did get injured I know the gym is there to tide me over.

So the title of this post… I’ve recently joined Southampton Athletics Club as second claim. This is actually a huge step for me. Southampton Athletics Club is a Serious Club. They do Serious Running. We’re talking track races. Race distances I wouldn’t get out of bed for let alone train for. 800m? Are you kidding me? As a second claim member however I can’t run for Southampton AC. I don’t see this as a bad thing at all. This year I have a number of different races I want to focus on (or at least just do for a bit of fun), and the idea of doing a lot of league races (10ks, cross country, track) just isn’t my bag of fish. Kettle of fish? Bag of…? Whatever, it isn’t my idea of fun. Despite the head coach trying to hard sell the first claim to me, I held firm (he’s a nice guy and though he didn’t quite understand my rationale, he did accept it and was super nice).

I went to a trial speed session down the track last week. DOWN THE TRACK. An actual track. This is literally Out of My Comfort Zone territory (capitals required for full emphasis).We (thankfully) didn’t train on the track, but stayed on an area of grass near to it. When I arrived after running a 1.5 mile warm-up there, everyone was super friendly. But all fairly young and with lean, mean racing snake physiques. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Proper drills. People in warm-up gear and then stripping off to teeny tiny shorts and vests. Then putting on a different pair of trainers.

I’m literally stood there with my FlipBelt that contained just my phone and car keys. I felt woefully underprepared. The coach asked if I was going to change my shoes… into what? These were all I had! But everyone else was switching into barely there weightless shoes and I was stood there in my adidas Boosts that, in comparison, looked like giant bricks on my feet.

But I didn’t let is phase me. I was there to add a bit of structure and speed into my training. I wasn’t there to change my entire way of running. And you know what? I held my own. Yes I was at the back of the reps but I wasn’t being totally dropped and I felt strong. I mean, it was tough. Physically tougher than had I gone out on my own as I was pushing myself to stay within a distance of the main pack, but mentally easier because of the pack. It was weird.

My first speed session: 5 mins tempo (1min), then 4x 90 secs (1min) then 4x 75 secs (1min), then another 5mins tempo

The coach said afterwards I didn’t look like I was trying hard enough (in a nice way, he wasn’t having a go). I honestly thought I was trying, but he said I should be absolutely spent by the end of the session and I guess I wasn’t. I mean I was tired, but I wasn’t rinsed like everyone else seemed to be. I think this comes with having a good understanding of speedwork and an understanding of your body and the pain barriers you need to push through. I’m a long distance runner by heart so I’m used to plodding miles upon miles in a semi-comfortable state. I’m not used to pushing my body for short bursts to efforts of pain. Not injury pain but lung-busting, muscle burning pain. I’ve shied away from that for a good while.

I came away from the session feeling really happy and motivated. It’s reinforced my mindset of how I currently want to run. Keeping my other running nice and easy (two gentle runs 4-6 miles, and a longer run 10+ miles), and then one speed session and an occasional tough parkrun when I’m feeling fruity. That’s the plan. Who knows how long it will last. It’ll only be my body giving up on me that’ll stop it right now. Fingers crossed, eh.

Do you do speedwork?

Are you a member of a running club?

What motivates you with your running?

Marathon Talk Run Camp – part 2

On to the Sunday of the Marathon Talk Run Camp at Sandy Balls in the New Forest, we had a 10 mile “eliminator” style run planned.

*Catch up with Part 1 of the Run Camp here!*

So the idea was that we had a 10 miles race, but there were two stipulations (asides from a set course over the New Forest countryside – following a similar route to the Heartbreaker Half): one was that we had to finish at 12. You were given on point for every second you finished before 12 and two seconds for every second after 12. The more points the worse you did. The second stipulation was that you weren’t allowed to wear a watch, or if you did it had to be taped over. Essentially you had to pace yourself on feel only.

This did make me somewhat anxious. Not knowing my pace or the number of miles I’d done… I mean, what! I already knew I was going to run it as an easy long run but this meant I really had to tap into my body as to what easy actually was without having any paces fed back to me. Tough. Especially as I do tend to run quicker than I should for easy runs. I decided to go with starting at 10:40, to give myself an hour and 20 minutes, which would mean 8.30min/miles…not that i would be able to properly tell!

In the morning, the lodge was all up around the same time. John decided not to run to be super sensible about a pesky niggle he was experiencing – very wise of him. But the rest of us would be running and would be leaving at different times because of their different paces they’d be running and time goals. I didn’t have any breakfast as I never do before long runs so could have a little bit of a lie-in (thank god for finding my ear plugs). James, Michelle and I walked down to the start area together as we were roughly going around the same time and wanted to walk. I mean, just to be clear, I wasn’t going anywhere near as fast as those guys  but it was nice to have the warm up walk beforehand together.Unfortunately I left it a little too late and literally arrived at the start with about 20 seconds to go before I needed to start. Happily my fried Ade was there starting at the same time (what a nice coincidence!) and a very lovely lady called Jenny. We all decided to run together which was great. None of us wanted to push the pace so it was a good conversational run. Because the course was a T shape it meant there were a few out and back sections so we could cheer on other runners who had gone out before us and were coming back down a path we were running along, making it a lovely social run.Unfortunately, because we were talking so much we missed the TWO turnaround arrows on the floor. We didn’t realise until we reached a car park – about 0.25 miles on from the turnaround. We quickly headed back in a bit of a panic (no wonder it had suddenly got quiet with no other runners about!). This meant we’d added about half a mile to our route. As if pacing 10 miles wasn’t hard enough with having no watch, we now had to either quicken up to make up the over-distance or find a way to lose 0.5 miles.We were now no longer plodding along happy as Larry… we were brainstorming where to turn early or what time it was or what pace we were doing. Argghh! We decided that we’d turn around early at the next part of the “T”. I was concerned I hadn’t seen Michelle or James… when we finally saw them heading back along the other “T” they looked at us confused as this was far too late to be seeing us now. We decided a few minutes further to turnaround because at this point we’d never catch up with the main group of people – and therefore would not finish before 12.God, honestly it hurt my brain to try working everything out and adjusting ourselves to other people. Of course we assumed everyone else had their pacing strategy perfect which of course invariably they did not, making it even more of a mess.We even panicked further on thinking we might not even make 10 miles if we’d have turned too soon. What would be worse than finishing too late would be finishing the run having not even completed the 10 miles! So we collectively decided to turn around again and do a tiny out and back to make sure we’d hit 10 miles…just to be safe as we were worried we’d turned around too soon. We agreed we’d rather do over 10 miles than under. This did make us look a bit silly as other runners passed us… they must have thought we were trying to cheat which just mortified me. I tried to explain what we were doing but mostly people just looked bemused at us. Dear oh dear.Regardless of this silly mess-up (the curse of running with the idiot that is Anna? Quite possibly), it was a lovely lovely run. The sun was out, the views were beautiful, it wasn’t that windy and we were still enjoying each other’s company. Despite feeling somewhat stressed and generally in a state of confusion (my natural state perhaps), I was thoroughly enjoying the run. As we got closer to the finish we picked up our speed. The end finishes on a horrible horrible steep uphill. James was at the top looking all chilled and fresh having finished about 10 minutes before (he over-shot it) while we scrambled up, everything burning, and me trying not to look like I was dying. Probably failed there ha.
In the end we finished 1 minute and 40ish seconds over 12… so not too bad considering we’d also run 0.6 miles over the 10 miles!! Ahh what idiots we were 😉 But we all agreed we enjoyed the run, chat and the farce of trying to figure out how to rectify the situation. Smiles all round. John was at the finish cheering us all in which was nice.James and I then walked back to the lodge… James had forgotten that he’d been looking after Chris and Kate’s key for their car so while we were walking back, blissfully unaware, another car caught up to us with Kate in it asking for the key back as they couldn’t drive back… oh dear. For once not an Idiot Anna Move – not my fault at all ha.

We got back to the lodge and I got into the shower pronto as I needed to wash and blow-dry my hair (I was so grateful that the guys let me go first, very kind of them – sharing a shower between six people is tough!). And then we headed off to the lunch with the Marathon Talk crew – a delicious Sunday roast dinner with all the trimmings. Delicious!Then it was a case of saying goodbye to everyone. Obviously this also meant getting my standard photo with Martin and Tom…I’ve now done this every year I’ve been and the motage is quite cool.I know this is going to sound like overly sentimental guff (of which I rarely like to do) but Marathon Talk is such a fantastic community of people. I’ve met so many good friends through it and had such brilliant times with the different events (not to mention the actual podcasts themselves being a good listen). I hope to continue being involved in more events they put on! So big thanks to them.

For once I’d decided this year to stay until Monday as James, John and Michelle were too and it was nice not to rush off. So we headed back to the lodge to chill for a bit and then later we decided to head to a local pub down the road for dinner…the roast dinner clearly hadn’t touched the sides.Happily a few others joined us: Mark, Vicky and Stuart from the Austria Run Camp and Mark’s friend Caroline. Such a lovely bunch of people!I went for rump steak with a jacket potato and Stilton sauce….SO good. Followed by a large wedge of bread and butter pudding with ice cream. Perfection. We said goodbye to the others who were leaving and then headed back.The next morning, we got ourselves sorted. Michelle, the crazy girl, went out for a 5k run while James, John and I went for a walk to find the actual Sandy Ball, which I didn’t realise existed! The weather was lovely and it was a perfect way to end such a great weekend.Happy legs, happy tummy, happy heart.

Are you involved in any running or fitness communities?

Have you met friends through running that you stay in touch with?

Have you ever gone wrong in a race?

Running lately – snow and long runs

Running has been a little up and down lately. There have been good and bad runs thrown into the mix and I’m less than seven weeks out from the Brighton Marathon. But this is Standard Anna so I won’t stress (too much) over it. I mean, same ol’ same ol’, right?

The calf/hamstring issue is slowly dying away. I know what not to do to annoy my hamstring and my calf niggle seems to be disappearing. It’s a pesky thing and one I’m not sure entirely what’s going on there but the discomfort is definitely easing up on most of my runs now to almost nothing. Progress? I certainly hope so.

So I’m currently running four times a week – two runs at work (usually Tuesday and Thursday “runches”). I tend to run one of those runs with my friend, Kyle, who’s recently got into running. He’s progressing really well, breaking 22 minutes significantly already at parkrun. We tend to do just four easy chatty miles on a Thursday which is nice.

Though I did have probably one of the coldest runs I’ve ever done last Thursday – just before all the snow came down. Literally the coldest, iciest wind in Kyle and my face the entire time. I think we managed one normal conversation between us both swearing and saying how cold it was. It was awful. I’d sensibly packed leggings instead of my usual shorts as I knew the Beast from the East was about and as we were running easy I didn’t want to be absolutely freezing (ha. I was anyway…). It always feels so weird running in leggings though! So used to my shorts – I just feel a bit more free?

Anyway, despite there being no snow on the ground yet (we had luckily gone out a couple of hours before Portsmouth turned into Narnia) I still managed to slip over. We turned round a corner and there was a large puddle iced over and I just couldn’t change my trajectory in time and ended up running straight over it – well, I say running but what I mean is skidding over it and then landing on my leg and bum.It was actually a really painful fall. But thankfully only on a superficial level – like my skin had been torn up and it was a bump on the fleshy part of my ankle rather than any bone. Whew. Kyle helped me up (probably trying not to laugh as it was so ridiculous) and I tested it out walking and, though it felt tender, it was fine to bare weight on. We decided to run for a few metres to see how it was and luckily it was OK so we carried on for another three miles. So actually it was a really good thing I’d worn my leggings! Thankfully they hadn’t torn.And then the snow came down… meaning most parkruns were cancelled on the Saturday. It was a shame but fully understandable. Instead I went out for four miles in the snow.This did mean a nice lie-in and no rush to get out of a lovely warm bed. It was a fun run but SO tough. I mean, it was like running on sand. The snow was really dry and powdery so pushing your feet off and working out where to put them was physically and mentally tough work.It wasn’t actually that cold though so I was happy in my leggings, despite people on social media thinking I’m mental. If anything, in my two layers and a buff I was too warm by the end!The pace was obviously a lot slower because it was harder and to be honest I was just happy to be outside running. The air was still and crisp and it was a very invigorating run if that makes sense?The next day’s run however was a lot colder – not on my legs or body  but on my feet. The snow had melted a little and was very slushy but still everywhere. I wanted to get between 10-15 miles, depending how everything felt. Running on the pavements was the best option because that’s where the good routes were for a longer run, but this meant a lot of running through slush. My feet got soaked and cold VERY quickly. It made them feel like dead weights at the end of my legs.But the run went well. I felt my calf a little bit at the beginning but eventually it disappeared and everything felt fine. I’m SO pleased you would not believe. It was such a solid good run. I felt like I could have carried on. My fitness seems to be in a good place (not necessarily speed, but general endurance). I felt comfortable and at ease running. My legs did feel tired though running through the slush. The extra mechanical process of foot placement and moving them over trickier ground did tire them out. But thankfully it was slippy. There was no ice and the snow wasn’t that nasty slippery kind. It helped going a lot slower of course. Usually I’d do my long runs around 8-8.30 mins/mile but because of the snow I was forced to slow down. This is something I REALLY need to do more of. When I was training with Mike last year for the New Forest Marathon to get him his sub-4 we were training at 9+min/miles and I had my most consistent and strong period of running. WHY DO I NOT LEARN. So my long runs, snow aside, will be a lot slower now. I just need someone to keep pulling me back….So I feel really positive at the moment. I still don’t have any time goals for Brighton but I’ll see how the coming weeks go. The Reading Half Marathon will be an interesting one to test my where I’m at. I’m looking forward to that race as a good tune up and to help me plan for Brighton. Hopefully another solid long run this Sunday and then Reading the week after. It’s all go!

How’s your running going?

Did you run in the snow?

Do you prefer to wear shorts or leggings?

Post Dubai Marathon and what’s next

As is probably patently clear, my Dubai Marathon experience wasn’t the best. It felt very tough, mentally and physically.Despite this, I’m actually really happy with my time (3:39:58). It was faster than expected. What was nice was that my body fell into a very natural rhythm and pace which I thankfully didn’t have to think too much about while I ran.

I’ve just realised I didn’t actually put my time in my race recap (I’ve updated it since). I had all the splits ready to insert through the text but clearly was too busy putting the selfies in! Whoops. But I guess this shows that times weren’t something that was weighing me down. In fact, I felt like I could probably have run without my watch and maintained that speed. I literally didn’t need to think about slowing down or running faster. My feet just found their perfect speed.Looking at my splits I was quite consistent, though you can tell where I went to the loo twice!I went at mile six (the beach bum saga) and then again at mile 13 (thankfully a proper loo this time).
I’m really happy with how I ran and that I could step it up at the end. I think I’ve just gotten myself into a really good place where I can judge my body and it’s capabilities. Like going out at 8 minute miles was not going to end well, but 8.30s felt good and left enough in the tank to step it up a bit at the end.

Interestingly I found this graph in Garmin that showed the rise in temperature (Fahrenheit annoyingly).Basically the marathon started around 13-15C and then increased to a high of 29 degrees towards the end! Blimey. But thankfully it was lower than that for the majority of the race.

So anyway. Number 13 ticked off the list! I had a lot of worries going into this one, mainly due to my calf. It had felt a bit rubbish leading up the race and I’d reduced back my running substantially so that the longest run I ran was a week after the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon (10.6 miles). I did do some lengthy sessions on the elliptical machine (up to 75 minutes) so that helped. But my actual running was really inconsistent and no further than six miles. Not ideal. And probably why after the marathon my legs felt VERY tired and achy, like they did when I ran my first marathon. Walking down steps was comical. Walking in general was tough!

Surprisingly though my calf felt fine during and after. I mean, I haven’t run yet so who knows what it’ll feel like in reality but at the moment I’m quietly hopeful.

What’s next then? 

Well, the next marathon is the Brighton Marathon and I would love to have a solid training run for that and give it a good stab. I love running marathons at whatever speed but I’d quite like one where I don’t have any issues leading up to it so I can give it a bit of welly and aim to be under 3.30 again. But we’ll see!

Between now and then I have the Reading Half Marathon (entries are still open!) which I’d quite like to use as a tuning-up race to see where my speed is. My best time there (I’ve run it twice) is 1:39:35, so getting a course PB would be nice and maybe nearing my PB (1:34:30) would be AWESOME. Again, depends on how my training goes and how it feels post Dubai. Also, I don’t like pressure as it’s a fun sucker so I’m quite relaxed about these goals.

Reading is 18th March so I have a solid seven weeks ahead of me. It’s a relatively flat course with great crowd support so I’m excited about giving it a bash again. I do only have 11 weeks now until my next marathon but I don’t want to rush jumping back into training. Mentally that’s quite tough and I want to get back to running without issue before any structured training gets started. I desperately want to do this one right! I don’t want to get injured.

If all goes well, when I am back into marathon training I’d like to get some solid long run training going and a bit of speed work (but not be silly about it – aim for once a week only). So if I do a speed session on Tuesday I don’t then blast out a parkrun. No rookie errors…

What races are you training for?

Have you ever done Reading?

Do you like having time goals?

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?