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?

Marathon Talk Run Camp 2017 recap

So this was my third time going to the Marathon Talk Run Camp in Sandy Balls in the New Forest. Marathon Talk is a running-focused podcast hosted by two genuinely lovely and knowledgeable guys, Martin Yelling (running guru for lots of publications and races) and Tom Williams (MD of parkrun).

I love listening to the podcast on my long runs and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the previous two run camps I’ve been on so I pretty much signed up straight away as soon as it became available. I knew a few others who were going, though some of them couldn’t make it in the end which was such a shame 🙁 but I still got to see my running friend, Adrian, who went to the last one and I ran Fareham parkrun with a while ago.

I arrived on Friday night and met my fellow housemates. There was a married couple and two female friends who I was sharing with. What was nice was that I got a room to myself as the friends were happy to share their twin room.The cabins have a little kitchen, two bathrooms and a lovely lounge area with a fire. It’s very cosy but fairly basic. Sandy Balls is a holiday camp set in the middle of the New Forest so the scenery is beautiful with forests all around you.

That evening we headed out to meet other Marathon Talkers around a fire pit and toasted some marshmallows.It was nice to chat to lots of different people. I got to chat to Dan from Xempo, who does all the Marathon Talk clothinig. He was so lovely. A really nice and funny guy. I mentioned to him that I was considering running to the Moors Valley parkrun the next day as I wasn’t going to be able to stay for the Sunday long run. He said that his fellow housemate, Andy, was thinking of doing the same. Funnily enough I realised I knew the Andy he was talking about from Twitter. Though I found out he was a sub 2:40 marathoner so that concerned me a bit that I might hold him up a bit!

After chatting to Andy I managed to persuade him to definitely run it…and he handily said he’d figure us out a good route (the route I’d planned was all road and a bit dodgy with the traffic, true Anna-style planning of course!). He wasn’t entirely happy about getting up earlier than he’d need to for the parkrun but I won him round 😉

The next morning we met after 7am and headed out for the 9 mile planned run he had. This run was fantastic. The route was perfect. It went pretty much all along New Forest trails so off-road and through beautiful countryside. Over styles, along a river, through boggy areas… it was fantastic! We saw lots of wildlife and even had a dodgy moment of almost getting stampeded by horses but it was fiiiiiiine.

Though it was snowing when we set off, I’d worn too many layers and by mile two was feeling rather hot. The pace was good though probably faster than I would have run on my own – but that was nice to be challenged a bit. And there were several stops of jumping over styles and things like that. Though I did worry that I was going too slowly for this marathon pro!We arrived at Moors Valley parkrun with a good amount of time to spare. My pace is all over the place due to the trails and hills.Just enough time to lose our lovely warmth and get cold again! Our smugness of being nice and toasty while everyone around us was shivering quickly disappeared.We had a quick Marathon Talk group photo and then headed to the start. Moors Valley parkrun has definitely expanded since I last did (a year ago) as there were so many people – and not just the influx of 100 or so Marathon Talkers!

Source: Marathon Talk Facebook page

I was going to run with Adrian as he was semi-injured so would be going slower than normal (he’s normally a lot speedier than me!). We positioned ourselves badly though and the first 200m we were stuck behind a lot of people who were going slower than us. This was our fault not ours and we managed to politely (I hope!) navigate past them and get into a good stride.

A lovely woman, Pippa, ran with us too which was nice as did Andy. Then Andy dropped us as he speeded ahead, then Adrian and I peeled away from Pippa, then Adrian peeled away from me! It was quite funny how that worked out. I just didn’t have a sprint finish in me at all on my heavy legs.In the end I got 24:30 (151st! So many runners) which I was happy with after the 9 miles.Then we headed to the cafe to have some breakfast. I’d already decided on a fry-up because I was really craving one. And I knew I wouldn’t be eating lunch because by the time we got back and I got sorted we’d be heading out for another Marathon Talk chat and then interval session. I wanted to do the intervals (gently) as I wanted to increase my miles for the day. I’d done 12 already but I ideally wanted 16 as I wouldn’t be doing a long run the next day.The fry-up was perfection. I got to talk to Scotland’s parkrun ambassador, Terry, which was really interesting. He’d been to a previous Run Camp so he was a familiar face. it was interesting to hear about what an ambassador does and the differences with Scottish and English parkruns.

Then I thankfully got a lift back with Pippa and her husband and then chilled in the cabin with my housemates chatting about random running-related stuff. One of my housemates, Patricia, is also doing Tokyo so it was interesting to speak to her about it. She got a good for age place which I didn’t even know existed! This would be her final Marathon Major so she’d be picking up her amazing HUGE medal as well as her Tokyo one. How cool!

Then we headed to the conference area where we had a talk from Liz Yelling and Professor Andy Lane (one of my housemates!).
It was fascinating to hear Liz talk about her training, the mental and physical sides of being an elite runner and now being a non-elite and adjusting to that side of life. Professor Andy was really interesting as well, as he was last year. He talked about the psychological aspects of training and having several goals for a marathon rather than one. And not just having outcome goals but process goals so you’re hopes aren’t stacked against one thing that is in the hands of so many elements, not just your ability. For example, run with good form (like if you know the way you swing your arms needs correcting, focus on that) or focus on having fun and taking photos rather than I MUST GET SUB-4. Because ultimately a marathon is such a long way to go and there are so many factors that are out of your control that it is really setting yourself up for a fall if you just have one time goal… good stuff!Then we headed out for some intervals. I wasn’t planning on doing a full effort session but just wanted the extra miles and to “be involved”. We headed out a mile very slowly in convoy to an area just outside Sandy Balls. The views were amazing!We were divided into groups depending on our 5k time and I made sure I sand-bagged my time so I wouldn’t be tempted to go full effort. The session was 1k at tempo speed with 15 seconds break before a 300m full-on effort, then 5 minutes break – four times.In the end though I did run faster than I would have but it was nice to have some speed on my legs, even if it was fairly tough. I did feel a little bad as everyone was in pieces around me but I was OK relatively speaking.Then we headed back for a mile cool-down back to the cabins. So a total of 18 miles for the day! I felt pretty damn pleased with myself. I had a nice hot shower back at the cabin and then chilled out again next to the fire while chatting to the others about social media, races and life in general. It was great.

I was SO hungry though by 6.30pm when we all met up again for dinner. Annoyingly though we were one of the last tables to get called to go up and get our food. I was practically climbing the walls with runger. Yes, my own fault as I should have planned food better but there never seemed to be a great time to eat something – either having just run or about to get running. I did have a few snacks but obviously nothing huge.I made up for that by piling my plate high with chilli and chicken curry (weird combination but to be honest at that point I didn’t care) with rice and salad!We then had another talk from the truly inspiring and amazing Vassos Alexander who told us all about his ultra running craziness. Like how he ran around London ALL NIGHT before heading to his breakfast radio show in the morning. He said he stopped for an espresso but otherwise just kept running. He was such a lovely, lovely guy. I’ll definitely be buying his book! And he’s currently in the process of writing another one. What I liked was how he said he was offered money to write a kind of sports “tell all” book as he’s interviewed so many sports stars but he really didn’t want to as he wanted to remain trustworthy and genuine.I went up to him afterwards to speak to him and he was just so nice. I did have a bit of verbal diarrhoea though by blurting out how I didn’t actually listen to Radio 2 but was more of a Radio 1 listener and how my dad would kill me not getting a photo with him. He found this amusing thankfully!

I also got my usual photo with Martin and Tom… I do feel awkward asking for a photo from them but they’re so lovely that they didn’t make me feel like a silly fan girl.After a fun quiz, which our team (the Camp Runners) did terribly at, I had to go home. I had lots to do the next day and I needed a proper lie-in. I was sad to leave and sad to miss the next day’s fun but it had to be done. I loved the time I did spend though. I will be signing up straight away for the next one as it’s just so good. So much fun, so much good advice and information, so many nice people and a way to connect with other runners. I love it. I fully recommend coming if you can!

Have you ever been to a running camp?

Do you often do intervals?

A few things to talk about…

Impending marathon aside (THIS Sunday, Chester Marathon in case I haven’t said it enough times…), I’ve been feeling rather positive and upbeat lately. OK in general I’m a positive and upbeat person anyway so this really isn’t that much of a change.

I’m a very much “glass half full” kinda girl. This can definitely work against me at times though when I think things like, “Oh I’m sure I’ll find my way back from my run in this unknown-to-me place, I don’t need to check my route/map” or “I have loads of time before I need to leave for this important appointment…”. But in general I think being optimistic is far better than pessimistic. Just my two pence (pence? Cents? Don’t know but I’m British so “pence” it is!).

After that random tangent… let’s crack on with some stuff on my mind.

New trainers: What is better, right? Actually they’re not that new anymore really but I haven’t mentioned them on the blog I don’t think. As part of the Run Reigate blogging experience (check out my race recap; it’s a great event!), I was gifted Brooks trainers to help me train – the dream scenario right? Thankfully I got to choose which trainers as I’m quite sensitive and injury-prone. I went for the Brook Adrenaline GTS trainers, which I’ve had previously but have since retired due to too high mileage.img_4897

I love the colour of these – minty gorgeousness! These trainers are ideal for me as I need support for my rubbish flat feet to stop me over-pronating. I know people argue that pronation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I am very flat footed that I do need support. O’m continually working on strengthening my arches… though it is ongoing and painfully slow (though I’ve made a lot of improvements, hurrah).

Anyway, the trainers are very springy and supportive and I love them. I wear them alongside my Mizunos Wave Paradoxes. I’ve yet to decide which to wear for the marathon though…decisions decisions.

elete Holistic Hydrate electrolytes: I read about this initially from Lauren’s blog and was intrigued. The company reached out to me after I commented on the blog post so I happily got to try it out myself (for free, in exchange for a review).img_5435elete Holistic Hydrate is a zero calorie and zero artificial nasties product that is used to add to water in order to hydrate effectively. It contains a balance of magnesium, potassium, sodium and chloride, which are all key electrolytes, as well as over 60 other naturally occurring trace and ultra trace elements.img_5434Why are electrolytes important? Well in fairly basic terms, electrolytes help keep the body functioning as muscles use electrical impulses to do certain things and so we require a number of minerals in electrolyte form (ionical charged minerals) to help this happen. The electrolytes help keep the fluid and pH balance in your body. I’m not a scientist (obviously) so that’s about as far as I’ll go with this, but the website has lots more information. Basically electrolytes can help maintain hydration, prevent muscle cramps, sustain energy and endurance and enhance mental focus.

I’m a big fan of using electrolytes during and after running. I really like this product for many reasons. One because it has the decent line up of electrolytes and two because it’s practically tasteless. I say practically only because if you don’t dilute it with enough water it can taste slightly salty. However this is easily eliminated by increasing the amount of water you use (2.5ml teaspoon of elete to one litre of water is ideal, I can barely taste a difference). You can also add this to food!! It’s such a small dinky bottle as well that i can take it with me to races or in my handbag. Very very handy. Just a few drops and boom, your water is upgraded. Love it.

Getting the itch to speed train: This whole marathon cycle I really haven’t done any proper speed workouts. I’ve done some very informal fartleks and speedier parkruns, but in general I’ve just ran however I fancied. Now this has been fantastic and also sensible due to my hamstring niggle/issue that I was still feeling the effects of months after Boston. It didn’t hinder my running or cause me pain but it was definitely an echo and made me think twice before pushing things. (Incidentally, my hamstring is 100% fine now thankfully! *Touch wood*)

My times therefore haven’t increased dramatically. I’m minutes away from PBs in most distances. But I’m OK with that because I’ve enjoyed injury-free running and I’m not PB hunting anyway and, finger’s crossed, I’ll get to this marathon unscathed and hopefully finish similarly.

The half marathon the other day did get me itching for the buzz of a speedier run though. I decided to head out the other evening and do some intervals on my own. I did a mile warm-up which gave me a chance to see how my legs were feeling and whether mentally I was up for pushing things. I was, so decided to do three fairly fast (for me at the moment) 1km loops, with 1km slower loops in between.1k-intervals

My speeds aren’t exactly crazy fast (for me) but it’s encouraging. After this marathon I’m going to be trying my hardest to put more effort into doing speed workouts. So going to the track workout sessions with my club and doing hill sessions. It’s not with a view to smash out PBs but rather to change things up as I feel like my running has become a bit stagnant and my paces all blur into one. It’s nice sometimes to feel that “omg I’m going to die” burst of speed and the feeling of satisfaction at the end of a session.

But, like I said, after the marathon and that very much assumes I’ll survive it uninjured! And we all know, that’s not a given for me!

Do you do speed workouts regularly?

What are your favourite speed workout sessions? I love a good hills session.

How do you stay hydrated?

Getting stronger by moving out of my comfort zone

Morning! And happy Friday eve 😉 I hope your week is going well. Mine has just flown by! I can’t believe I have one more weekend until Cheddar Gorge marathon is here (16th August).

I’ve been reading some reviews and honestly it’s freaking me out. I went onto the Marathon Talk website to see if there was an event already set up for Cheddar Gorge and found some enlightening comments about the race:

image Source

To be honest though I’m already aware of how tough the course is as I’ve done the half marathon, which is one lap of the two laps that make up the marathon. So nothing will be a surprise to me. I also know it took me just under two hours to do the half and that was putting some welly into it (my recap is HERE). My expectations are definitely set!

Lately I’ve been really getting into my gym strength training. I’ve surprised myself by actually following the New Rules of Lifting for Women and consequently going to the gym has been far more enjoyable. Having someone (albeit a book) tell me what to do is fantastic! I just follow the routines and get going. I still include some of my standard strength training (single leg strength and plyometrics) but I follow the book’s workouts and the number of repetitions and sets.

IMG_2912 Deadlifting

By ‘only’ lifting 15 repetitions and for two or three sets this has meant I can really up my weight and mentally power through because it’s going to end shortly [side note: this is somewhat ironic because in running I feel the opposite; 5ks are short and painful but I hate them and would rather run longer and slower]. I feel strong and hardcore, which is always nice! And there’s a definite sense of progress as you tick through the routines and bump up the weights.

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And something else to liven up my workouts was going down to the track on Tuesday night with my running club. As you probably know, I detest short distance running (I’ll rarely ever enter a 5k race other than parkruns). So going down to the track to do specific speed workouts is possibly the worst thing I can imagine.

Why did I go then? Well, it’s easy to stay comfortable in running and let all the runs merge into the same sort of pace. If you don’t challenge your body, you don’t get stronger. Though I’m training for a marathon (or two – finger’s crossed) speed work might not necessarily come to mind as an important workout to incorporate into your training plan…but actually it is important. Perhaps not every week, but definitely having it in there compliments the longer, slower runs.

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This is what I kept telling myself as I ran to the track. I parked two miles away so I could get a decent warm-up. Speed work is hard enough for me and I wanted to make sure my body was adequately prepared for this torture.

The plan was to blast 200m, have 30 seconds recovery and repeat three more times. Then have a five minute recovery and repeat the intervals again. In total we did this three times (3x 4x200m). Beforehand we did a mile (ish) warm-up and drills and got going. Honestly my stomach was a ball of nerves. This is ridiculous I do realise. Running for me is usually about enjoyment.

Saying that though, I did really enjoy it. OK not while my lungs were bursting and my legs were pounding, but I felt such a sense of achievement afterwards. It’s funny because I thought five minutes would be ages but really it flew by and I needed every single second of it (which reminded me of Tom William’s in the Marathon Talk podcast talking about his mile training and how long his rests were when he did interval training).

And the whole workout flew by. It was nice commiserating with the others over how painful it was between the intervals and we kept each other motivated. I would never have been able to have done this alone, that is certain.

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I ran the two-ish miles back at quite a clip pace as legs felt good. Mainly I wanted to get home for dinner…I should have taken it slower but I was buoyed by the speedy workout. Yes, not sensible I know…

It’s made me realise that the track isn’t the worst thing in the world, and nor is going to the gym. Both have a place in making me stronger, healthy and good at running (I define good by “being able to run as much as I want without injury”). And lifting heavier weights won’t make me bulky or chunky or other ridiculous stereotypes of female weight-lifting. In short, I feel in a really good place right now with my body, my strength and my running. It’s been a while that all three of those things have happened for me together.

In the (very boring) film version of my life, this is where something bad happens…finger’s crossed it doesn’t!

How do you push yourself outside of your comfort zone?

Do you lift weights?

How do you make yourself stronger?

I am not an injured runner

Hello! Dare I even whisper that things are starting to look a little spring-like around the place? Let’s not mention it…we might scare it away.

My life (and blog) for the past three months has been consumed by my running injury. My knee niggle that stopped me completing my December marathon last year. Stopped me running for the whole of December. And limited my running in January.

[A big thank you for hanging on with me during what was probably a boring and depressing time in terms of content]

But it’s now coming up to the end of February. I have completely a half marathon, ran 15 miles, and gained some of my speed back. And my legs still work.

Yes I ache after a long run. Yes I still get a bit of a niggle and tightness the day after a run. Yes things feel tough and hard and I wonder how the hell I ran that half marathon PB in September last year.

But the tightness disappears. The niggle isn’t there constantly and doesn’t cause me any pain or hinder my running. The speed is coming back, albeit gradually.

My problem these days are psychological. I can’t stop thinking that I’m an injured runner. I can’t stop over-analysing a tightness or a slight twinge. I try not to push too hard in case I do something else to myself. I read every article I see on injuries and injury prevention. I obsess constantly on how are my legs feeling. I poke my legs subconsciously (I kid you not).

I need to get over this. I need to let go and just go for it. I’m not saying I’ll go out and run a 20 miler. I will still be cautious in my mileage build-up. I will still listen to my body when it needs a rest. I will still do my leg strength routine twice a week and core once a week.

But I’m not going to hold myself back from running anymore. In my very gentle, very cautious self-made marathon plan (based loosely on the Bupa beginner one) I had a four mile recovery run planned for Tuesday night.

Ben came home on Monday and said he was going to running club on Tuesday night – the interval session one. The big scary ‘I’ word that my knees tremble at. Ben is completely the opposite to me in running. He is Mr Optimistic. Mr Throw Caution To the Wind. Mr If it Hurts Just Run Through It. So of course he’d be bashing out an interval session two days after a long run.

My legs felt tired on Monday but nothing major. A bit achy, to be expected. So I thought to hell with it. Let’s do this!

On Tuesday night we set off together (aww aren’t we cute?) and met up with the club. One group was going to do a mega hill session and the other group a less hilly interval session (more of a slight gradual incline). I’m not a complete idiot, I went with the less hilly option. I’m ready to get back out there, but I am still being sensible.

And I went for it. I kept up with the lead guys (granted, not the fastest in our club – they were at the really hilly session in a different location) but I was in the lead pack holding strong. 12x just over 300m with 2mins recovery. I reached pace peaks of 5min/miles (VERY briefly)!

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With a mile to the club, just under a mile to the interval spot, then over 3k in intervals, and then reverse of the first two miles.

It absolutely killed me. And I felt bloody brilliant.

Confidence in running

Have you done something that has made you proud lately?

What are you scared of at the moment? Can you overcome it?

Intervals/HIIT – love or hate?