What I’m Loving Lately – July

There have been so many things I’ve been loving lately.

Let’s start with some good old running stuff. I was really chuffed to be chosen to do a review of the VERY cool running tracker gadget Nurvv. Basically they’re electronic soles you put into your trainers and when you run it tracks how you run. Data such as cadence, pronation and foot strike is collecting (amongst other information) throughout the run so you can properly geek out afterwards.

The trackers sits outside the shoe

As someone who loves seeing splits, elevation and information like this from my watch (I use a Garmin) this was a dream come true. It gives a real insight into how you run and, importantly, how this changes throughout a run and between the different kinds of runs you do.

Some data from the app after my run

For example, when I did a quicker 5k my data was a lot different to when I did a long slow run. This makes a lot of sense because your feet turnover is greater and your moving in a different way than more of a “plodding” run. I find it very handy because I’m so injury prone that I need to be wary of my form and keep it the best I can. And with these trackers on my trainers it helps me concentrate – don’t over-stride, don’t slump, keep my feet landing beneath my centre of gravity… things like that. Anyway I’ll do a proper post on this soon after I’ve got more of comprehensive experience of the trackers. But needless to say, I’m enjoying them!

I’ve also been challenging myself in a different way lately. I’m attempting to get better at handstands.

I want to be able to hold myself on my own without support… but it is HARD. So far I can last mere seconds before dropping back down. I’ve been practising up against the wall in our house and trying to keep my body straight, push up through my hands and keep my head aligned, but that’s about all I can manage. It’s fun though. I can do headstands find, but handstands are a whole different ball game! I’ll continue to keep practising every week and watching YouTube videos for advice.

Another bit of running coolness is the fact that my incredible grandad made me a calf stretcher! My calves get very tight and my physio recommended getting a device to stretch them while I did other things, like brushing my teeth, and as I was Googling them I had an idea that my grandad might be able to build one himself. He’s such a talented carpenter. I mentioned it to him and he loved the idea.

While he’s over 80 now, he still likes to be busy and loves helping people out (he does a lot for charity and goes up to help out with looking after the reindeers in the Cairngorms Reindeer Centre every year.

Anyway he made the most amazing adjustable (!) calf stretcher which I now regularly use while working from home.

How cool, right?

I’ve also recently been sent an anti-chafe cream, called Slipstream, for when I’m running. I get such bad chafe under my arms when it’s warm and this has been an absolute life-saver. It’s easy to apply, doesn’t leave horrible white marks or anything like that and reduces my chafe SO much.

It only uses natural ingredients, waterproof and vegan. Love it!

And I’ve finally got my Six Star medal up in the frame that Kyle bought me for Christmas.

My favourite medal without a doubt. So much time and effort. And to think no Majors have happened this year (to the public, Tokyo was only for the elites). Chicago has recently cancelled and London… well, who knows? I cannot imagine how they could still go through with it. And is it responsible if they do? I imagine there are a lot of talks behind the scenes going on and a lot of it to with contracts, insurance and, most likely, money.

I’m so grateful I was able to run Chicago Marathon last year and get my medal. I almost didn’t run because of my hamstring and then my knee issue. I’m just SO glad I went ahead. Though I feel terrible for people who had planned this year to be the year they got theirs. But hopefully, next year.

Is there a race you were looking forward to doing this year?

What’s your favourite medal?

Can you do a handstand?

**Full disclaimer: I was sent the anti-chafe cream and the running trackers for free in exchange for a review. All opions are my own honest ones.**

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?

Oh how I’ve changed

Running and I have come a long way. Not just in terms of PB’s or times or parkrun tourism…but in terms of how it affects my life and my views on it.

My yearly calf niggle has cropped up again. This always happens from time to time and to be fair I’ve had a good run (ha) of not having any issues so it was really only time before it happened again. I’ve done a lot recently – three marathons very close to each other. I can feel my body saying “can we please have a rest?”. I like to think I’m good at judging this, but clearly I need something to actually stop me. I’m good, but I’m not that good.

Of course I’m a bit bummed out – I love running. I do it frequently through the week and enjoy the freedom, the endorphins and the mental “ahhhh” I get from it. It makes me sad when suddenly I can’t run, or can’t run as much, and when things aren’t feeling as good as they felt before.

But that’s all – I’m bummed. I’m not distraught, or depressed, or feeling angry. I know this is my fault and I know I just need a bit of rest to clear it up. Time and TLC (tender loving cake? No?) and I’ll be back in no time. It’s a nice reset and refresh for my training if anything.

It did make me think though. There was a time when running was everything. Where getting injured literally ruined my week. I would become very down, very sad and everything else became tarred by the same darkness. Looking back I think this is because I was putting a lot of eggs into one basket. My happiness was quite dependent on my running. If I didn’t run, what else did I have?

Not to sound too pathetic, but a big part of my life was to do with running. I hated my job (the job before this one) and felt unfilled, lost and indifferent. I clearly didn’t have a marriage that was working (though at the time I kind of just ignored this, assumed all was well and didn’t question niggling doubts or feelings). I had my family and friends, but I was very focused on my running and became somewhat isolated in the relationship I was in. It wasn’t healthy.

Then when my marriage fell apart all I had to focus on was my running. Running would get me through the hard times. And it did. I love running for that. I was able to put a lot of emotion into it and use it to strengthen me mentally. It hugely helped and I’ll never regret that. The only problem is when you use running to make you strong, to keep you going and to enjoy life… when it’s taken away things become hard very quickly. What do I do with myself? How do I define myself? How can my body be so weak? Why have I failed?

I had no happy job to keep me focused. A lot of my friends are runners. My whole social media was just about running. My spare time was about running.

Today things are a lot different. Of course I still love running. It’s a huge part of my life. It makes me very happy and I love doing it. It’s one of the reasons Kyle and I got together – it brought us a closer than just talking in the office at work. I hope to always have running. But the difference is, I have so much more to me now than just running.

I have a great boyfriend. I have a fantastic job I enjoy. I love the gym and pushing myself there – the strength gains and being one of the best in circuits class some days. I still have running friends but I also spend quality time with non-running friends – and the close running friends I have are always there for me with or without running. I use social media for more than just talking about running (heyyyy Instagram food accounts). I don’t define myself by my running. It doesn’t control my happiness.

So yeah, I have a niggle. But hey, so what?

Is running a big part of your life?

What’s a niggle you always seem to get?

Running Update

This week I’ve been super sensible. My calf was causing me a little bit of annoyance last week so I’ve taken just over a week off.

It’s frustrating to me because it felt absolutely fine during the marathon, during and after. And then when I started running again when I got home it felt fine. Even my eight miler was great. My hamstring was *slightly* niggly, but my calf felt normal. But the week after my two shorter runs didn’t feel good. My hamstring was also annoying me and so was my calf (both same leg). I decided the safest thing was just to stop running to let it rest.

I have Marathon Talk Run Camp approaching which I’m super excited about and want to get involved in (which is next weekend). I also have the Reading Half Marathon mid-March which I’d like to be fit for. I say “fit” as a relative term here. I won’t be PB-chasing as I’m not in any sort of shape for that. But I really like the race and want to be able to give it a little bit of welly.

So taking the time now rather than later is the wisest decision. The hamstring thing is interesting to me. I’ve had this issue since just before the Boston Marathon. In general it’s fine. It crops up occasionally in long runs at the end and is especially noticeable when I sit down for long periods of time (it’s basically just below my bum at the top of the hamstring, and niggled there and my foot recently). But mostly it’s not there when I run or in daily life. I found that avoiding direct hamstring exercises like deadlifts really helped. It’s a shame as I really enjoyed doing deadlifts, especially heavy deadlifts. But I’d rather run without issue so it was a sacrifice I gladly made.

Anyway, being the idiot that I am, since Christmas I’ve been adding in more hamstring exercises. Nothing heavy but some lighter, higher rep hamstring focused work. And this niggled it each time I did it. And yet I carried on (because I’m essentially an idiot). It aggravated my sciatic nerve.

Anyway, I wonder if the calf issue was made worse because of my hamstring being all angry – whether it’s annoying the calf directly or my calf overcompensating because my hamstring is feeling rough. I saw my physio (fully recommend if you’re in the Portsmouth/South Coast area) last night and he agreed that it’s probably all connected (as everything in the body generally is…). He commented that my hamstring injury area felt like “spaghetti” with the scar tissue. Bleurgh.

He worked on my back, “stretching” my spin (which was bizarre let me tell you), manipulated a few things, massaged and did acupuncture so I’m hoping that will help. Her didn’t seem too concerned though. I’m planning on doing Upton House parkrun tomorrow (yessss my “U”!) with friends so fingers crossed eh.

So needless to say I’ll be avoiding those pesky hamstring exercises that cause me issue. I won’t be bossing out any fast running either…but I hope to be getting back into more consistent running. But I won’t hold my breath 😉 I’m just going to jinx it all by being to hopeful.

Any advice on hamstring/calf/sciatic issues always welcome 🙂

Have you ever had any sciatic or back issues before?

Are there any exercises you avoid?

What are your weekend plans?

Dubai Marathon Goals

Having missed the Stubbington 10k on Sunday because I was being sensible, I decided to try running at lunchtime on Monday instead.

When I woke up Monday morning and headed to the gym (for strength-based training – not to run) the weather just looked awful. It was tipping it down. Even Alfie was not amused on his early morning walk! But I was resolute that I would run, come what may (dependent only on my calf feeling good of course).Thankfully come lunchtime my calf was feeling perfectly fine and the rain had stopped. I quickly got myself together and headed out. My plan was run the 10k distance I’d missed the day before. Not race it of course but just cover the distance. I was prepared to cut it short if necessary and had a good route for this with several points to turn back around.The run felt great. Well, my calf and other body parts felt great. My fitness…ehhhh. That said, I was running around 8 minute miles and my shiny new watch (well, “new” since Christmas) was telling me that according to my heart rate (around 140 bpm) I was running at an “easy pace”. I mean, it didn’t feel tough and I wasn’t out of breath – I could have chatted to my imaginary friend if I’d have fancied 😉 I guess I was just aware of how far a mile is… and how far a mile followed by 25.2 more would be. I’ve only run 10.6 miles since the Portsmouth Marathon so we’re talking three weeks of no long runs.

Without sounding arrogant or complacent though, I’ve run enough marathons now to know I can complete one (providing I don’t have a show-stopping injury or problem during the race). I’m not worried I won’t be able to finish and I’m certainly not questioning whether or not to do it. I’m going to Dubai for goodness sake – even if it takes me six hours, I’m doing the marathon!

It’s kind of like knowing that your car can get you to a far away destination. It might not be the smoothest drive, the weather might suck, the roads might be tough, the car might not be a race car but instead a little Fiat 500, but you know the engine can cope as long as it’s got the fuel. You can never guarantee, of course, that something won’t happen along the way outside of your control but in theory the car should be OK to complete the journey.

Knowing I can complete the distance isn’t my worry. It’s how tough it’ll feel and how bad my legs will feel after the marathon. The worse the training the worse the recovery. I’m not so stupid to assume that because I’ve run 12 marathons before will mean it’ll be a doddle. A marathon is NEVER easy. It’s a physical and mental battle however many you’ve run before. It’s not a walk in the park or indeed a parkrun. Those miles can tear you apart and laugh in your face. Hours of running. HOURS of mental and physical grit required.

Initially my goal was to be somewhere near my 3:24:06 PB but that realistically is not going to happen. I’d need to set out with that intention to hit that time and I’m not going to (I’m not sandbagging here I assure you). To be thoroughly boring and same old same old I’m going to hope to get around 3:45, anything under that would be marvelous. I’d absolutely love to get sub 3:30 but again realistically this is going to be a tough ask fitness-wise and I don’t really want to cause any further issues for my calf now that it’s on it’s way back to normal. The closer to 4 hours I get the bigger the issues I’ve had, I imagine, but we’ll see. Heat and humidity could play a factor here. It should be around 25 degrees during the day but the marathon starts 6am so it should be 10-15 degrees hopefully for a big portion. The course is entirely flat with few major turns (joy of joy, I can almost feel my mind melting in boredom). So it’s anyone’s guess really. I’ll decide how I feel closer to the time.

Happily the marathon is on the last day of the holiday so I can enjoy Dubai without issue beforehand. Oh sure I probably need to be a bit careful what I eat the day before and get a good night’s sleep but I can’t see this being an issue. I suppose ideally having the marathon at the beginning would be best but actually I’m happy with how it’s planned. After the marathon all I need to do is eat (which I’m pretty good at) and then later get on a plane to go home. It’ll probably be a super uncomfortable journey home but least I can just chill to some degree.

**Just going to add the necessary disclaimer right here: I’m fully aware I’m probably jinxing things here by saying all the above. Famous last words and all that…Fingers crossed it does turn out OK.***

Excitingly before I head to sunny Dubai, this weekend I’m heading to sunny Birmingham to meet up with some running buddies. Also, now brace yourself as this is super exciting, I’ll be getting another letter for my parkrun Alphabet Challenge! (Yes OK it’s not that exciting, but it is to me). I’ll be doing Kingsbury parkrun, whoop whoop! Following this I’ll be going to The National Running Show. I’m only staying for the Saturday but I’m quite excited. I’ve never been to one before. I’m imagining it to be a big running expo type thing. Exciting stuff.

Have you ever been to The National Running Show?

Are you confident with your running ability when it comes to races?

If you could be any car, what would you be? I’ll stick with my Fiat 500, cute and dinky 😉