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 was recently made a TRR Nutrition Ambassador (so fancy eh!) and have been trialling out their 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.

And you can get 15% off their products using my code ANNAAPPLE15 – happy days all round!

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?

Well that escalated quickly…

Life has really taken a dramatic twist hasn’t it?

Since the last time I posted (blissfully happy in a bubble of long running and marathon hopes), well, everything has changed.

For us in the UK things have really ramped up quickly in the last week. From advice of washing hands regularly to now schools closing and instructions to work from home, avoiding social spaces and parkrun cancellations.

It’s undoubtedly a scary and uncertain time but I don’t want this post to be all about that because let’s be honest we all know what’s happening and it’s pretty overwhelming and consuming. I’m actually quite glad to now be working from home because it’s all everyone talks about in the office. So I’m at home with a little set-up in my room adjusting to this new way of life.

Anyway, on to what this blog is about: RUNNING. Of course all the races I’d signed up for have been cancelled or postponed. I had the Eastleigh 10k this weekend, of course Rotterdam, and then I’d optimistically signed up to the Southampton marathon as a back-up, but that too has been postponed. Rightly so. And parkrun being cancelled.

Of course this is all the right thing to do. Not going out to social areas, not mixing unnecessarily, limiting chance of exposure. My dad has a heart condition so I’m worried. But we can only control what we can control and there’s point wasting emotional energy on things outside of that. Obviously easier said than done, but I’m trying.

So no marathon in the near future and a bunch of long runs and weeks’ of trainings that seem worthless now on paper. However, for me I really enjoy the process of marathon training so personally it’s not a waste. It’s just a shame there’s not a big shebang of a race to celebrate those long runs.

That said, I’m almost certain I will run 26.2 miles in April. My plan is to run the distance around where I live. I mean, it’s going to be ridiculously tough – so much harder than if it was a race as it’ll just be me on my tod running along. But part of me is curious as to whether I can actually do this… We’ll see. My plan would probably be to run it over the Easter weekend. I’d properly plan a route, maybe get my family out to support me, do everything I’d normally do. Well, watch this space!

Last weekend Kyle and I ran 18 miles together. We both knew Rotterdam had been cancelled and potentially the miles were “pointless” but we wanted to do it anyway as we’d planned it and had mentally geared up for it. Kyle is not a huge long distance fan and now that Rotterdam isn’t happening he’ll drop his mileage back down. It makes sense.

It’s such a shame for him because he did so well with the long runs – far better than last time when he trained for the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon and got injured halfway. He was very much on for a solid race. But such is life right now. He’ll be able to train up again if he wants to (Rotterdam is technically postponed until later in the year so this is real possibility all being well in the world, of course).

The 18 miler we did around where I live, my usual along the coast style long run which I love so much. We reversed the route and set off Sunday morning. We had a more relaxed start as no parkrun to get to (this was to be a “true” long run in the sense we wouldn’t be stopping or sandwiching anything in the middle). The wind was a bit blustery which was somewhat annoying  but generally the run went really well.

It’s funny though because when you’ve been doing a run route in one direction for so long, when you change it suddenly it makes everything different and you notice all these hills that you previously hadn’t!

However, we maintained a decent pace and then towards the end I stretched it out a tiny bit just to get my legs going. It’s my usual way of running long runs that I like to speed up a bit towards the end if I have the energy. Kyle wasn’t far behind at all though.

When we got back to mine my parents handed me a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts that a lovely friend had dropped off after I’d done a favour for him. What a fantastic way to finish a run, I tell you! We didn’t eat them straight away 😉

Instead we showered and then celebrated with an almighty carvery. Honestly, so satisfying and extra delicious after all those miles!

I had roast gammon with all the trimmings. It was glorious. The doughnuts were had later when we were chilling. Perfection!

Delicious Lotus Biscoff

Anyway, stay safe and healthy everyone!

What’s your favourite doughnut flavour?

Are still long running if you’ve had a race cancellation?

Training for the Rotterdam Marathon

So Kyle and I are currently training for the Rotterdam Marathon, which is on April 5th.

We’d signed up to it last year. I’ve always been interested in this marathon because people say it’s very scenic, it’s flat and it’s a bit different to the more popular Amsterdam Marathon (which I would still like to do as well at some point). I needed a spring marathon to look forward to and this made sense.

Kyle decided to sign up too as he wanted another crack at the marathon after his not so great Portsmouth Coastal experience (it’s a very tough first marathon and he only just scraped under his goal of four hours). We’re pretty sure he can run faster and Rotterdam gives him the opportunity to try on a much better course.

Anyway then the whole knee drama happened and I was resigned to not doing it (which Kyle was more than happy about – he’s not a natural long distance runner and to be honest was quite happy for any excuse not to do it). But then my knee got better and by the time I was back running we had enough (ish) time to train for Rotterdam. As Kyle had pretty much stopped running as regularly when I was injured we were both on the same starting block and could do most of our training together as we’re very similar in our paces.

I created a plan and while it was a fairly steep climb, it was doable. We have a limited taper (one week basically) but I tend to prefer this anyway. Long runs increase each week from 6, 8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 18, 18, 10-13, to the marathon. If we had a few more weeks it would have been nice to have dropped down again after the 17 miler, and/or in between the 18s, but we sadly don’t have that time.

So how’s it been going? Well with all the storms recently it has been tough.

Handily we were able to run 10 miles with work on one of the Wiggle Run/Ride Outs which happen every month. It was such a fantastic run.

I felt like I really got into it and got strong and stronger as it went on, finishing with a sharp blast at the end. I’ve had to sit out of these Run/Ride Outs for a number of months so it was so good to be back at it again. A nice way to bond with colleagues and get out of the office.

The weekend after we ran 13 miles from Kyle’s house (near Waterlooville) to Fareham and it was a toughie. The weather was horrendous and it was just so taxing.

For the entire 10-11 mile mark we were straight against the wind. We saw a chap running towards us who looked like he was absolutely loving life – being pushed along nicely, while we were gurning our hearts out just to push forward.

But we survived. It was a gruelling run and character building.

Good for the marathon bank at least!

Last weekend we ran 15 miles. I had planned a nice route round where I live, lovely and flat for the most part and along the sea front. It follows part of the Stubbington 10k route, then the Gosport Half Marathon route. It’s my usual long run locations and I love it because I can run anywhere from 6 to 18 miles around that area without looping back on myself. It’s a very satisfying and pleasant route.

Despite the weather beautiful GORGEOUS, the run didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. As we got into it my hip just started to niggle very slightly. I had somewhat expected this as the other day it had randomly started annoying me when I was at work. Very bizarre. Nothing crazy painful, just a little nag.

During the 15 miles the nag got a bit worse and it just felt uncomfortable. It wasn’t making me slow down or change my gait but it was generating some horrible thought processes in my brain. What if this develops into an injury? What if I’m out for months and months again?

When you’ve had a couple of injuries (and close together) then any sort of niggle gives you The Fear. What if, what if, what if. I have just got going again! Don’t do this! It really killed the vibe of the run for me as I sunk into my brain and ruminated on the worst case scenario. Afterwards I felt a bit “meh” about the run. My brain was in overdrive.

That week I foam rolled and iced and did all the good stuff I know I needed to do (or avoid doing) and went for a trial run on Wednesday morning.

Pre-early morning run

The run went absolutely fine. My hip was fine. I couldn’t believe the relief. What a panic over nothing! And my run the next day equally felt as good. My hip niggle has disappeared. I’m so relieved.

I wonder whether the hip thing was something entirely unrelated to running and then putting it under pressure during the 15 miles aggravated it a bit to inflame it a bit more. But then it died away as quickly as it had arrived.

This weekend is 17 miles and I feel a lot more positive. Kyle’s running has been going well as well. He had a minor misstep in trainer choices and felt his shins start to annoy him. But he switched to a more cushioned shoe (Hokas) and things have hugely improved. Happy days indeed!

Have you ever done any of the marathons in the Netherlands?

Do you like a long taper?

How many weeks do you train for a marathon?