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?

Celebrating good runs with burgers

It’s incredible how different runs can be.

A couple of weekends ago I was knocked down by a bug. I feel like whenever anyone mentions feeling unwell everyone immediately assumes it’s COVID-19 related. Happily mine was just a bug that made me feel a bit lethargic and meh with a bit of a dodgy tummy. Alfie and Kyle actually had similar issues as well – can dogs get ill from you (or vice versa)?! It was very weird, for two days he kept sporadically throwing up, which was just lovely.

I didn’t actually realise I was feeling ill though until I got back from a very unwise long run. I woke up in the morning without being aware that I felt different, then headed out and it just felt so hard. Half-way through I had a little sit down on the curb and just had to take stock of the fact that I was 5 miles from home without any easy way to get back (Kyle’s motorbike had a flat battery and he can’t actually drive our car yet).  In the end I managed to claw my way home. On finishing I felt so drained.

After a few days though I was back to normal and my runs felt SO much better. I decided to leave the speedwork (check me out being all routine-like with my speedwork now) and just do some “whatever I fancy” running to make sure I wasn’t pushing my body when it was just back to normal. Then at the weekend I headed out for my long run without any real ideas of how far I was going to go. I have a great route that I can basically cut short very easily… from 6 miles all the way to 15 miles. I have easy points to add on and take-away.

As I headed out I realised I felt pretty good and decided to go for a longer run. My pace was strong and I felt full of energy. The weather was perfect with barely any wind (such a problem with living on the coast!) and it was relatively cool. In the end I did 17 miles which just felt great and has tempted me to consider running another marathon on my own in a few weeks… Rotterdam  Marathon is doing a virtual one in October so I’ll see how it goes. But I’m putting no pressure on myself.

After running the 17 miles, I got showered and Kyle and I walked down to 7Bone for some lunch. The fact that we can walk to 7Bone is dangerous indeed. I mean I love that we can walk to some fantastic favourites of ours but it can’t be good for our wallets and health!

7Bone were fantastic. They took our temperature before we went inside and had hand sanitizer EVERYWHERE – even on your table. We felt very well looked after and safe. The food, of course, was fantastic too.

Both Kyle and I went for the Winner Winner chicken burger and added an extra halloumi patty and had halloumi fries on the side too. Kyle went for loaded cheesy fries and I went for some Rasta chicken wings. It was a feast! The burger is honestly one of the best chicken burgers I’ve had. Though the chicken wings are always a bit disappointing. But then you don’t go to 7Bone for the wings.

We then walked home – which definitely helped our fullness.

The next day I went for a very gentle 5k and then headed to meet my mum in Southsea for coffee.

It was a lovely mum and daughter time. We had a drink in the Watkins & Faux, a tennis themed café, on the seafront and then walked along the Southsea parade. My mum had a tasty chocolate milkshake and I had a cappuccino.

A solid weekend full of good food and good times (and good health!).

Have you ever run when you felt ill?

Have you been tempted by any virtual races recently?

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?

Back to normal running and eating

I’m happy to update that my calf niggle has gone.

My runs feel back to normal and I’m slowly building up the miles again. As there are no races on the horizon it’s tricky to plan how to run right now, where I would have a peak to an end point then a rest for a bit before building back up. So I think what’s clear is that I shouldn’t just be smashing out 16-17 mile long runs every single week and plan in a cut-back week once in a while. So ideally mimicking my usual race schedule.

At the weekend Kyle and I went out for our long run on Saturday morning. I’m really loving our weekends together in our home. We set an alarm for 8.30am (so we don’t sleep too late – we have black-out curtains which are both amazing and dangerous) and then loll in bed with a cup of tea for a bit before getting up and heading out.

The long run is my favourite run of the week (whereas for Kyle…well, he’s less enthused). My plan was to run seven miles with Kyle, then he would run the final mile home, whereas I would head off for a few more miles solo. I had in my mind that I’d like to do at least 10 but see how I felt.

What’s nice about where we live is that there are lots of ways to cut back home without being stranded for miles or having to make decisions about the length of the route early on.

We ran down Southsea seafront which is lovely and flat but has no shade at all and in the beating sun it was quite hard work. While it’s lovely to be near the sea and run by it, it’s so open to the elements. When it’s windy it’s WINDY. When it’s hot it’s HOT.

As we got to where Kyle was to head off I’d pretty much decided to do 13 miles. I felt good and my calf was absolutely fine. I put on the MarathonTalk podcast and just zoned out. I had to do some quick mental maths and thoughts on the route I was going to do though while I listened. While I definitely could have just done an out and back style route I always find them so unsatisfying, so chanced it with more of a loop. I knew though it would likely be about 14 miles but I felt good so went with it. I finished the run happy, no calf issues but very hot.

Kyle and I then headed off to visit my parents and then off to Red Dog Saloon for some late lunch/early dinner. We, like everyone else, haven’t been out for food in so long. Red Dog Saloon was actually the last place we went to before lockdown happened and knew they were “on it” with their safety measures so felt safe heading back there. And as we assumed, they were. Waiting staff wore masks, tables were far enough apart etc. They sadly had a reduced menu though.

At first we were a bit worried they wouldn’t have what we wanted but turns out to get what I wanted I’d just have to order three chicken wings starters… yep.

The food was SO good. I’m  guessing because they have less on the menu they can really focus on doing the stuff they do offer really well. Honestly, it was some of the best buffalo chicken wings I’ve had in the UK! Previously they had been drenched in the buffalo sauce, which while I do love can be too overpowering and spicy, but now they were just lightly coated with such a tasty crispiness. Kyle equally enjoyed his Philly cheesesteak burger. A big thumbs up for our first meal out!

The next day we took a long walk down to Southsea with Alfie.

The weather was just perfect. Not too hot but warm and sunny enough to enjoy a quick dip in the sea with Alfie. Though it did take him some persuading to come into the water. He was very apprehensive. He’s been in water before but he’s not one of those dogs that throws himself in. He did several swims though (as long as we were in there too). Though he did look a little grumpy afterwards 😉

(And even more grumpy later when he had to have a bath).

Then we grabbed a drink and sat on the pebbles enjoying the rays. I just adore being close to the sea, it feels like being on holiday. All the smells of chips, doughnuts, coffee and suntan lotion. I love it.

We then walked back. All in all it was a 5 mile round walk. This nicely set us up for an appetite of roast pork later. I popped the meat in the oven then dashed out the door for a quick 5k (nothing makes me run faster than food, I tell you).

It’s the fastest 5k I’ve done in a while, so I was quite pleased. And a solid 29 miles for the week (a good 10 less than I was running previously before my calf issue – I’m trying to be cautious and sensible).

Then I was back in the kitchen sorting the roast out.

I rustled up home-made roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, cauliflower cheese, with veg and stuffing.

It all came together nicely. I can’t tell you how proud of myself I was! It tasted incredible (if I do say so myself…).

So a very satisfying and fun filled weekend!

Do you like roast dinners?

Do you like going to the beach?

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?