My next running challenge

So my running lately has been a little bit without focus or a goal.

And I’m sure this has been the same for so many other runners out there too because of COVID and races being cancelled and rescheduled left, right and centre. And entirely understadable and the right thing to have been done.

But while I’m not really the type of runner who is strongly motivated by PB’s or getting faster, I do like to have a race in the diary to schedule my training to. An endpoint so I can schedule my peak in miles and then have a finishing point. It feels a little like groundhog day week and that makes scheduling my runs somewhat tricky.

As someone who really enjoys long runs, it’s hard to not go overboard and end up running a long run every single weekend (like 15+ mile long runs). While I enjoy them, I know it’s not particularly sensible or even necessary. During marathon training it makes sense, but without that goal it can end up just being long run after long run without an end in sight and my body gets worn down unnecessarily. As an injury-prone runner, very risky.

However, this has now changed. I now have a marathon in the plan! I mean this could all change and it could be cancelled of course because, well, COVID really loves ruining things, but SO FAR it’s still to go ahead.

Despite not entirely loving the experience and probably ranking it down the lower end of my top marathon experiences, I’m going to be doing the Goodwood Marathon again 27th September. I ran it two years ago and while it was a fairly fast time for me, it was mentally a tough course to run because you do 11 laps (2.3 miles per lap) around the Goodwood Motor Circuit. It’s flat and an ideal course to get a good time, but it is dull.

However, at this point I’m so desperate to do a race and a marathon again I will take that. I have no idea what time I’m going to aim for, but I’ll do my best. My running has been fairly decent recently. I’ve been doing speed sessions every week, I’ve been doing some solid long runs… will it be enough? Who knows and, frankly, who cares!? It’s an organised race! They’ll be actual runners near me! They’ll be a medal!

I ran 18 miles last weekend. I hadn’t firmly set out to do 18 miles but I decided that if I managed it and felt good for it I’d do it, and then that would dictate whether I would do a marathon in the near future. I managed 18 miles and it felt good and I felt happy with the distance.

At that point I hadn’t entered Goodwood. I was going to run another marathon on my own (similar to how I ran the “lockdown marathon” a few months ago on my own). I just need to get it out of my system again. So I’d planned to do it round Portsmouth. Then I heard about Goodwood still being on from a friend and with it being soon I was sold.

So I’m excited and nervous – which I think is a healthy outlook to have for a marathon. The race organisers seem to have good COVID safety measures in place and it’s not a particular big race, so I’m not concerned about that. I’ll be as safe as I can while running – wide berths with any overtaking (positive thinking on that front), masks where appropriate, minimal contact and touching things I don’t need to… it’s a big track as well so I can’t imagine there being any great risk during the race anyway.

I just can’t wait for the whole shebang, you know? The night before’s pre-marathon meal, setting my clothes out ready, getting up early, eating porridge, getting there and having a million wees. I just love it. Then standing there ready to go with everyone else. BANG, you’re off. One mile in and over 25 to go. It’s daunting, terrifying, hard, tedious, boring, relentless, but exciting, fun and one of my favourite things in the entire world. That last 5k. Knowing how far you’ve come, how long you’ve been running. Just a parkrun to go. Push the pace a bit if you’re lucky. Smile for the cameras (turns out you grimaced), sprint finish to the end – which is never ever a sprint, but in your head your Mo Farah and you’re winning gold. I cannot wait.

I just hope it goes ahead.

Do you miss races?

What race would you love to do right now if you could?

Old favourites and getting some structure into my running

A lot to catch up on recently…

So firstly, I’ve become a bit green fingered in our new house (and garden). I never thought this day would come. I’ve never been interested in plants or flowers before but now I’m loving that we have a beautiful little garden. I’ve planted some flowers, got some lovely little house plants and I’m carefully looking after them.

I’m trying really hard to not let them die, reading up on how to care for them and watering them as often as they should be. Who’d have thought some don’t like too much watering and some get very sad without it (my temperamental little peace lily drooped significantly when I forgot about him for a bit).

Well anyway, it’s bringing me great joy, much to my parent’s and Kyle’s amusement as I’ve never shown such an interest before.

The other weekend we also had a very lovely visit from my friend Emma. She popped down from Reading for a run and some brunch. Originally we’d planned 14 miles but when it came down to it neither of us were feeling it and decided to bump it down to 5 miles instead.

It was a lovely relaxed run and we were able to catch up whilst seeing the sea and enjoying some trails nearby to where I live.

Chicken, bacon, potato, cheese, coleslaw, beetroot, tomatoes, cucumber, corn, onion, salad, berries

We then walked with Kyle down to Southsea for brunch at The Parade Tearooms. I had the rather un-brunch-like Jayne Salad which was, as always, ginormous but so tasty.

We then walked to The Tenth Hole to pick out some cakes – it had to be done of course! The Bakewell slice was particularly delicious I must say. We are so lucky to live within walking distance to these places – though not close enough to be a real danger thankfully 😉

This weekend gone Kyle and I house sat/dog sat for my parents while they visited my grandparents in Wales. At first we were very happy because my parents have a hot tub (!!) and we were able to get a takeaway from our favourite Indian restaurant (honestly, I’ve never found as good an Indian as the Stubbington Tandoori).

But then during the middle of the night the happiness drained away as their dogs barked several times during the night and I had to stand in the garden at 3am while they did their business. This happened every single night we were there… it was exhausting. How my parents live with this I do not know. I couldn’t remember them being that bad when I lived there so perhaps they were sad my parents weren’t there, who knows. Either way it was ANNOYING. It also meant one morning we didn’t wake up until 10am!!

Anyway, despite these problematic sleeps, Kyle and I had a lovely 6 miles walk along the Titchfield Canal and Hill Head seafront. Thankfully we were sensible enough to put on suntan lotion as it was very sunny and warm. It was a lovely walk. Asides from running, I just really love to walk, explore and be outside (you might already know this I expect).

Sunlight making us squint

We also enjoyed a lovely 4 miles run down to the beach followed by a huge full English fry-up at the Penguin Café (another of our favourites in the area).

It was delicious. It was lovely to sit outside in the sunshine with the sea breeze and eat a ridiculously large breakfast. Then we walked the 2.5 miles back – which certainly helped the full stomach I can tell you!

Then the next day I got up and headed out for a solo long run. I really didn’t know how far I fancied going or where I wanted to go so just went with enjoying some of my favourite routes at random.

I listened to the new-to-me podcast RunPod which I’m really enjoying. Lots of good interviews with people about running and in the end did 10 miles. It felt exactly like what I needed. Not too hard, or too far, or too fast… just a nice gentle plod. I’ve started paying attention a bit more to my heart rate. I won’t say that I’m specifically training using my HR, but I definitely want to keep an eye on it. When I say I’m going to go and do an easy run I want to make sure this actually happens.

So much of my running is just one pace. I feel a bit of a fraud compared to other runners who do specific sessions. They run their easy runs easy and their hard runs hard. Whereas I just…run. Sometimes I go a bit faster, sometimes a bit slower. There’s no real rhyme or reason to it. And while I like to have a bit of freedom with my running and never want to go back to when I was going to the track every week, I do think a bit of structure would help. My motivation to run is never based on times or PB’s, but to some degree I know I need to have a bit more structure to at least keep me motivated and interested. With no races around the corner, my running is becoming a bit stale.

And on the subject of races… I was half-way through writing this post, about to say “guess what! I’ve just signed up for the Reykjavik Marathon – in like two weeks!” and was super excited. And then literally just got an email to say it’d been cancelled. That email came through mere hours after signing up.

I know I was probably too hasty to sign up with everything going on but it seemed like Iceland was fairly safe and they seemed pretty confident. *Sighs* guess not. I think Kyle and I will still go to Iceland (I was so super organised I’d booked flights and an Airbnb – yes, I KNOW, super keen). We’ll only go for a few days but hopefully it’ll be nice. I’ve been to Iceland on my own ages ago so it’ll be lovely to go back with Kyle 🙂

Are you going anywhere on holiday?

Have you got any races planned that are still going ahead?

My yearly calf niggle, home improvements and potential races

Life lately has continued to be fairly hectic.

Work has been busy and house stuff has been ongoing. I also picked up a little niggle in my calf – the ever present yearly calf niggle I get. So lots has been going on.

Firstly with the house… I’m so so happy with our little home.

It’s really coming together. We’ve got most of our furniture sorted now and now it’s more a case of getting pictures up, cushions and those little details that make the house inviting and “ours”. It’s definitely an ongoing and slow process, but one I’ve very much loving. Building a home with Kyle is making me very happy.

I have a never ending list of the things I want to get done but I’m trying not to let it overwhelm or stress me. We have time. And to be honest, working from home has allowed things to happen so much easier than if we weren’t at home… getting deliveries, being able to build furniture in our lunch breaks and things like that.

So my calf niggle. Well, it was time really for it to crop up. With running around 40 miles a week and a consistent 16-17 miler every week as my long run, it was really tempting fate. It’s so weird that my calf niggle (always the same, a sore spot that feels uncomfortable when I run and, when it gets bad, when I walk) always happens to me. I can’t seem to ever escape it.

That said, I’ve become really good at spotting it and backing off. Though I don’t know how to completely cure it, I definitely have a tried and tested mechanism to nip it in the bud. The main thing being to back off from running and reduce my mileage, which (amazingly for me being all sensible) I did. And shock horror, it faded away.

Previously I’ve tried calf strengthening, I’ve tried foam rolling… it just seems to be something that will always crop up when I’m beginning to do higher mileage. It’s like an adjustment. But then when it’s gone it’s gone.

Basically I took about five days off of running (and jumping – the YouTube workouts do love a squat jump don’t they?) and then added back some lower mileage runs in with space between each to recover. And now two weeks later I’m  pretty much back to feeling normal. Of course I won’t just jump back into 40 mile week mileage right away as this would be stupid (watch this space…).

To be quite honest, I’m quite glad to have had a break from the high mileage. Without a marathon to do it was getting a bit pointless to keep running so far every week (as much as I did love it). It’s nice to have dropped back down to eight miles for a long run, and then gradually build up again – something during marathon training I really enjoy doing.

I also got new trainers. I tried the Nike Epic Reacts and while they felt OK I did wonder if they were just a bit too different for me. They’re very tight across the top of my feet and have quite a loose back of the heel. I’m not sure how I feel about them. They just didn’t feel “right”.

So I’m going to try some Saucony Guide ISO 2 shoes which are more supportive. My feet pronate and are quite sensitive to change so fingers crossed this will work a bit better. I think I tried to get too jazzy.

So I ran eight miles with Kyle at the weekend as my first “long” run post niggle and it went well.

It was windy and on the verge of raining but it was just nice to be out running.

My calf felt almost perfect and afterwards was good. So fingers crossed this continues!

I have a few race question marks coming up. Obviously everything is very much in the air at the moment so who really  knows what’s going to happen. One of them was a marathon… only problem is that it’s in Canada! The plan was for my friend Emma and I to stay with our lovely friend Cortney in Toronto (like I did last year) and then we were going to do the Niagara Falls Marathon, which crosses over the border into the New York state in the US. But due to the borders being closed the marathon can’t happen, so I was planning to drop to the half. The latest on flights from the UK to Canada though involves a two week quarantine both sides so that is currently not possible. It might change I guess… it’s in October so who knows!

The race might not happen but I still hope to go to Toronto (as long as there’s no quarantine). I’ve got my flights already booked – though of course that could easily change.

The Rotterdam Marathon date was postponed from March to 25th October, which incidentally is the same day as the Niagara race! So that adds to the confusion too. Obviously I can’t do both… but if I can get to Canada that’ll be my first choice. Then Rotterdam with Kyle supporting (he’s bailed which is understandable from someone who isn’t a big long distance fan. I’m happy to train for a marathon and it not go ahead whereas Kyle isn’t).

I’ll just keep on running regardless with the vague aim of an autumn marathon. Maybe there’s a chance the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon at the end of December will still carry on? With around 1,000 runners maybe? But again, WHO KNOWS. This might be the year I run no races.

Have you got any races still in the diary?

How has your training been affected through all of this?

What I’m Loving Lately in Lockdown

So post lockdown marathon, things have been fairly slow round here.

I’ll do a more thorough post on the things I’ve been doing to keep myself somewhat sane in terms of fitness, but immediately post marathon I didn’t do a whole lot of running. This was mostly intentional. I felt quite chilled and had a lack of urgency to get back into any sort of formal training again so gave my legs a bit of a break. Unfortunately this intentional break turned into an enforced break as I then got a tummy bug which wiped me out for a number of days.

At first I thought it was food poisoning because of the symptoms but then it recurred a day or so later for another wave of rubbishness. I felt very weak during this time so avoided anything other than just walking. I did attempt a run when my stomach felt better but it felt dreadful and I canned it.

But anyway, I’m feeling far better now and back running. So I thought I’d do a bit of a what I’m loving lately but in lockdown.

So weekends can sometimes be a bit tough as normally I’d spend the majority with Kyle. But as we’re currently self-isolating at our respective homes, we’re separated. And of course I can’t really go anywhere beyond walking and running, so this has left somewhat of a gap in my weekend.

My dad and I have watched a number of films together which has been lovely. We’ve delved into a few documentaries: McQueen, Diego Maradona, Supersonic, Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist, as well as some classics like Saving Private Ryan, A Few Good Men and some newer films like Hustlers and The Founder. I must say, all have been pretty good. Any recommendations welcome 🙂

As well as films, my family and I have been enjoying a Sunday roast, something we’d stopped doing for a while because, you know, we’re all busy people doing different things. But it’s been so lovely us all cooking together this family meal. And I really feel my cheese sauce has come to perfection now 😉

My favourite roast is pork, followed by lamb… my least favourite is beef. Of course I love chicken but I don’t see this as a proper roast meat? Is that weird? Possibly because I can eat a fair amount of a chicken on my own that it just shows how greedy I am.

Another thing I’ve been loving are my Aussie Soles, which I was sent recently. They’re flip-flops that have orthotics for your toes, heel and arch to help support your feet when walking.

Now I tell you, I’m doing a lot of walking in lockdown! When I’m not running I’m doing a long walk each day and as the weather gets warmer I love going out in flip-flops. I’ve been told by many a physio that flip-flops are quite bad for not only our feet but our posture and the way we walk, but having the additional support built in it means they’re far better for you.

There are several different colours and types, but I went for the Starfish variety. And they’re sooo comfy. I love them. Actually it’s funny because my mum gave them a try (we’re the same size) and instantly fell in love with them and bought herself a pair too!

The other good thing about them is they’re vegan too – so guilt-free 🙂

They’ve also given me a cool discount code to use at the checkout for 20% off. Just put in ANNATHEAPPLE20.

Also, I’ve been recently trialing TRR Nutrition products and they recently shared with me a 14 day workout plan for me to share. It’s also full of great recipes and nutrition tips from one of their advisors of nutrition and a High-Performance Nutrition, Claire Fudge RD (@the4thdiscipline). Worth a gander if you need some inspiration!

I love the TRR Nutrition products and have previously reviewed their advanced collagen supplement (you can find my review HERE). I’ve also tried out their whey protein which I adore as well. Perfect to vamp up my porridge with a bit more protein and some tasty chocolatiness. They also do a vegan variety too.

No aftertastes and not too sweet!

I love their products as they’re such good quality, sports approved and just a solid way to get some added nutrition into you.

And a final add… I received this so incredibly thoughtful and lovely medal from Kyle in the post celebrating my marathon. It was such a sweet thing for him to do and I had no idea it was coming, so it was a lovely surprise. Ahh 🙂

What have you been lovely during lockdown?

What’s your favourite roast?

Do you like flip-flops?

**Full Disclaimer I was sent the flip-flops and the TRR products for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Running a marathon during the pandemic

I was meant to be in Rotterdam last weekend but of course due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it didn’t happen.

The Rotterdam Marathon that Kyle and I had trained for was not to be. It’s since been rescheduled for October. Who knows where will all be then, eh!

I’ve been feeling very out of sorts, down and just a bit meh – as I’m sure everyone else is too. To be honest, I have nothing really to complain about as my job is secure (for now); I’m WFH, Wiggle is still trading (and customers still buying! Everyone wants a turbo trainer it seems…), my family and friends are healthy. I’m just sadly separated from Kyle, which is tough.

Anyway, I had in my mind that I needed an endpoint to all the training I had done. I was running well, I wasn’t injured and I was finally feeling out of the woods. The end of last year was tough with my two major injuries which dragged on. I now felt like I had nothing to look forward to, nothing to celebrate and an endless span of days ahead with the same old nothing.

So I decided to run my marathon anyway.

I must stress several things about this first. I didn’t take this decision lightly and there was a lot of stress involved in my brain whether to run it or not. Not because I was worried it would be hard (undeniably it would be), not because there was really no point, no medal, no glory, and not because it wouldn’t count to anything anyway. My angst was down to “should I be doing this?”.

Realistically no I shouldn’t. Realistically there was no good reason to run it. But something was eating away in my brain, niggling me: not being able to close the door on last year’s injuries. I also needed something to focus on because, other than work, I currently have nothing. Days blend into days.

I decided the weekend before that I would run on the Saturday, and that gave me a solid week to psychologically prepare for it. I planned my route, planned my other runs around it and mentally got it into my head that I would run on Saturday all being well.

The route was a quiet 13(ish) mile loop. I was going to set my alarm just before 6am and start running no later than 6.30am. I would do my best but ultimately have the freedom to stop at any point for whatever reason. Only my family, Kyle and Kyle’s family knew my plans. I didn’t want to advertise what I was doing, sing and shout about it, as I knew people would have opinions about it. And I also wanted zero pressure.

Friday I did a gentle 5k shake out run, as I always would the day before. I also (jokingly) did a flat lay of my kit.

I had an Indian takeaway for dinner… crazy I know, but it’s a meal I’ve often had the night before long runs and it’s worked well. It’s not that spicy and it’s something I really enjoy and my body has no issues with.

Tandoori chicken, chicken tikka and a lot lof poppadoms (I adore this meal)

I woke up at 5.50am, I had a small black coffee, I went to the loo, I got my kit on and did a few dynamic warm-up exercises before leaving the house just after 6.20am. I didn’t have breakfast. Now normally I would of course have a bowl of porridge before a marathon but as I didn’t want to get up any earlier I decided to forgo it. I’ve run many long runs fasted before (up to 20 miles) and thought I’d be OK. I wasn’t pushing the pace and because my loop past my house halfway I could pick up some fuel to keep me going from there.

My dad (bless him) wanted to come out and support me and cycled to meet me at around 6 miles, then he was there at halfway with my fuel and water ready, and then at 20 miles.

It was cold and super misty that early but it wasn’t windy, and it wasn’t raining. Perfect marathon conditions really. I listened to the MarathonTalk podcast which actually really helped my nerves. I wasn’t nervous per se about running but more about what people would think about my run. But Martin and Tom actually debated about length of runs and the government guidelines during the show and it really put me at ease. I wasn’t breaking any of the guidance by running my marathon. I would give two metres spae to everyone I saw (very few during my first loop – more cyclists than anything) and I was technically on my “one exercise” for the day.

I got to six miles and my dad appeared on his bike and cycled alongside me for about a mile and a half. It actually really broke it up for me and one of the roads was a bit of a windy road (rather than go onto the promenade of the beach where it would likely be more busy) so having my dad there to see ahead for cars and keep me shielded was helpful.

I had hoped to use the public toilet at around 7.5 miles but of course they weren’t open. I hadn’t even thought about them not being available (of course they wouldn’t!) so this was somewhat of a blow as I really needed a wee. My dad took a quick photo and then I headed off on my own again, and he headed home (only about four miles from our house for him).

Mentally it was a good way to do the run as I knew it so well having run round these areas many times in the past. So things sort of flew by. I knew I’d be doing it all again so just focused on getting my first loop done.

I got to my house for just over 13 miles and my dad was standing outside with the fuel I’d asked for and some water. I quickly headed inside for a wee (what a total luxury – a wee in MY OWN HOUSE) – and as I would during a “real” marathon I left my watch running. I wanted this to be relatively realistic.

Then my dad handed me my fuel. I say “fuel” but again this was a bit out of my ordinary. I wanted something I could enjoy, something sugar-rich and easy to eat (and something I had easily available). So that meant some Hotel Chocolat Salted Caramel chocolates!

I’d put them in a little sandwich bag and my dad handed them to me and I ate one there and then with the water he handed me (my watch still running). I decided to leave the water with him (to give me later at 20 miles) and take two more of the chocolates for the road (I had six ready for consumption in total).

I headed off for my second loop. Now lighter, less misty but still quiet. As I got to mile 15ish Kyle rang me. He’d planned to do this after he woke up and sometime after my first loop. Unfortunately this meant just before the one large hill of my route. Thankfully the rest of my route is almost pancake flat, but this hill goes on for almost 0.5 of a mile and is a bit of a grinder.

It was so nice to hear from Kyle regardless and I huffed and puffed my way through a conversation. He was lovely and it really boosted me. Unfortunately I then heard my Airpods beep at me to say the battery was running low. Oh no! I quickly messaged my dad to ask him to bring new headphones when he saw me at mile 20 (another luxury!).

Kyle kept me company for a number of miles and then we said goodbye and I listened to some music. At mile 18(ish) I saw my dad. I hadn’t eaten the other chocolates as I was worried about needing water so I ate two more as I ran alongside him as he also had the water. It was tough to chew and breathe – which reminded me of why I prefer gels. But the chocolates were delicious and I was happy to accept their disadvantages in order to enjoy them!

I saw other runners and walkers out and about now but was able to keep my distance quite easily (the joys of quiet roads now, eh!). I chatted away to my dad and felt quite happy with how it was going. I knew the route so well and knew exactly what was to come, it wasn’t daunting. It was just time before I’d get back.

My dad left me again at the same point and now I had around 10k to go. As I turned a corner and was intending to go up the path to get onto  the road rather than stick near the beach I saw an elderly man coming down it. Instead of navigating the hurdle of trying not to get too close I decided to run up the steep grass to the side (oooof that was not fun!). He smiled so nicely at me and clapped me on – he actually clapped! And it made me smile wryly to think this is probably the first marathon I’ve run where I’ve only had one person clapping. Another nice lady later on shouted at me to “keep going, keep going” – it was weirdly like they knew. It really did help.

And then I was on the home stretch. As I ran down my lane I saw my watch creep to 26.2 miles. I saw my parents at the bottom of the lane cheering me on. It was surreal. As the miles ticked over to 26.28 I decided “that’ll do”. And just stopped, metres from my house. No finish line. No big time on the wall. No medal. No cheering. Just me coming to a stop. Clicking my watch. Done.

3:37:05 – but I guess it’s arbitrary really. It counts for nothing and had I run a metre or so further or less the time would be different.

While I know some people might disagree with me running all those miles for so long and potentially increasing the risk of catching/spreading the coronavirus, I don’t regret it and I’m proud of myself for doing it. I managed and reduced the risks as best as I could. I didn’t break any rules. I was sensible. I saw less people on my entire run than I had the other day when I walked to the local shop and stood queuing outside.

You could argue if we all ran a marathon it would create a problem. But I very much doubt there are many people that would want to go out and run a marathon so that risk is low. What if I fell over and needed medical assistance? Well, this has never happened during any of my running career before, marathon or not, so why would this suddenly be an increased risk?

And yes, my immune system will be somewhat lowered post run, despite how easy I took it. So for the days afterwards I avoided shops and busy places. I also stayed inside for the rest of the day, of course.

The run itself went really well. Surreal really. It felt odd, but good. I think I had one wobble during the entire run at mile four (so early on in the game!) where I realised I had 22 more miles to go. But other than that it was, dare I say, not bad at all.

Of course I would have loved it to be different. To have been running with Kyle in Rotterdam. To have had crowds cheering us on. To have a medal to show for it. To say I’ve run 21 marathons not 20. But it isn’t to be and that’s OK. I learnt a lot about myself during that run – that sometimes I can overcomplicate things. I stripped everything back and just ran. No pressures. That hugely helped. I could stop if I wanted – who would care? Who would know?

Anyway, it’s done. And I feel so much better. Like a weight off my mind. I can remember the experience fondly. And I’ve closed the door on that chapter.

What are your thoughts?

How long would you run for?