How we’re surviving Lockdown 2.0

My blog has been a little neglected recently. It’s hard to find things to consistently post about when realistically nothing is happening.

I’m sure we’re all feeling this. In the running community, there are no races and no parkruns. And in the wider setting, with lockdown 2.0, you can’t go anywhere or do anything (again).

(I will stress that I’m hugely grateful that the lockdowns haven’t personally affected me in a big way and my complaints are very much “first world problems”).

For running, it’s hard to create any goals when we still don’t know what 2021 is going to look like. Since my first lockdown marathon in April, I’ve just been running intuitively in that I run what I fancy when I fancy. I mean arguably this is generally how I run anyway as I’m not a big PB hunter and never follow any firm and hard plans. However I do usually have a marathon in the plan to aim for so tend to have a build-up of miles and then a peak, then recovery and then we go again.

I’m very grateful that during this year I’ve managed to run three marathons, one official. I mean I know I am very lucky to have achieved these, but now it’s hard to know what to do. What to aim for. I thought I’d definitely have the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon at the end of December but as that’s been cancelled I’m now a bit lost.

Each weekend I seem to just randomly pick a long run distance and see how I feel… I feel good? Run a bit more or run a bit faster. Don’t feel as good? Slow it down or run less. There are minimal pressures in my running life right now other than slight feelings of mediocrity and lack of purpose. Injury-wise its pretty good because I’m not trying to squeeze in another marathon or pushing the mileage. And I’m being super consistent with my strength routines, despite not being at the gym anymore. Because I don’t spend as long on my strength workouts as I would have done at the gym I prioritise the stuff that I know works and keeps injuries at bay (touch wood).

So in way my running is generally been quite consistent with very few niggles. Compared to last year when I had two major injuries that knocked me out of the running game for months, this year has been pretty plain sailing. Maybe a few calf niggles here or there but nothing that has really stopped me running or caused me major issue.

But running is something which is helping me mentally. Keeping fit, staying healthy, getting outside, doing something I enjoy. It’s part of my weekly routine. And if lockdown has taught me anything it’s the necessity of a routine to stop me going slowly mad.

What also helps is that Kyle and I have something each week to look forward to. Or a few things. So Friday night is always takeaway night and we tend to get something a bit more exciting than the standard Indian or pizza affair.

Chicken loaded fries

We try and choose something local but a bit crazy (I say “crazy” lightly because in all honestly it’s not crazy at all but times are tough to reach the lofty pre-COVID excitement heights).

Crispy lemon chicken wings

We’ve been enjoying lots of hot dogs, chicken burgers, chicken wings of all varieties (of course) and loaded, dirty fries. While of course we’d love to actually go out for dinner or lunch, getting food delivered is the next best thing. And eating in your comfy clothes in the comfort of your own home is pretty damn good too.

Lockdown roasts on a Sunday help too 😉

Perfecting my roast potatoes…

Going forward? Well, I’ve run out of steam a bit for another lockdown marathon. I’m just going to continue to run whatever I fancy and just take each week as it comes. After all, a lot can happen in a few months! A lot can change.

How are you surviving?

Are you ordering more takeaways?

How do you stay motivated with your running?

Goodwood Marathon 2020

I was so nervous going into the Goodwood Marathon race.

What with one thing and another, I hadn’t done a proper marathon race since Chicago last year. Yes I’d done my “lockdown marathon” in April but it wasn’t an official race. It was just me running round my local area for 26.2 miles.

So when I heard that the Goodwood Marathon was still going ahead, and the fact it was just 30 minutes away and that I’d successfully done a few 16 milers, 17 miler and an 18 miler… well, it was far too tempting to not sign up for. Especially as this year I’ve signed up to so many marathons for them to be cancelled/postponed (Rotterdam, Southampton, Iceland and a local lapped event) . At this point I just wanted to run a damn race!

With around two weeks before the race, I’d signed up and was feeling excited. But then as the days crept closer I started to really feel not up for it. Originally my parents, Kyle’s mum and Kyle would be coming to support, until we realised that would be pretty reckless considering it was likely to be fairly crowded already and they were trying to discourage spectators. So just Kyle and I then (and even having Kyle watch me wasn’t guaranteed).

I was nervous and just feeling flat about it. It was just up the road so the commitment to go was minimal. It was lapped, so I could stop anytime really without issue. And ELEVEN LAPS. All these things just weighed against me.

Kyle massively helped hype me up though. He suggested that I could dedicate each lap to something or someone that would keep me entertained or focused. He could hold up a photo on his iPad each lap I passed him. We came up with 11 fun and random things and then Kyle was going to surprise me with the photo. I also made the best music playlist I could. One for just plodding through the miles and one for 20 miles onwards (high tempo go go go music).

Saturday I did a gentle 5k shakeout run with Kyle and had a my usual pizza for dinner (I go to the pizza counter in Asda – I get a BBQ based chicken and veg pizza with less cheese – while I adore cheese, they put loads on and I didn’t want it to be super heavy).

I prepped all my stuff ready for the next day: bag packed, clothes out ready and porridge ready to be made. Then I got a fairly early night.

The next morning I was up at 6:50am, got dressed and washed, had a small but strong coffee (in a fun mug Kyle got made for me with my face on haha), took Alfie for a 10 minute walk, ate my porridge and we were ready to go.

Because I knew the only toilets available were within the race village (which is a faff to get to from the course itself) I wanted to drink as little as possible in the morning to prevent me needing to go during the race. I wasn’t concerned about dehydration because I had drunk a lot the day before and had had some water during the night. I also knew there would be water available every single lap.

We arrived half an hour before the start, parked and walked over to the Goodwood Motor Circuit (parking is super easy, it’s in a field literally next door, and it’s free).

Before we could get in we had to sanitize our hands. The COVID safety measures were really top notch for this event – we felt very safe. All marshals wore masks, everyone was keeping apart and there was minimal contact (no bag drop for example). I kept my mask on in the race village (you didn’t have to) but mainly because it was so cold!

And because I wanted to keep going to the loo beforehand (that sounds excessive, I went twice!).

Kyle leant me his coat and we milled around a bit before they called over the marathon runners for a warm up. It was so cold! I mean I know compared to like November or January it’s not that cold, but considering the previously temperatures we’ve all gotten used to, it certainly felt cold.

And it was windy. Really windy.

The marshals then called out waves for what times people were hoping to finish – starting at 2 hours 30. Blimey! (Spoiler: the winning guy did it in 2:29:56!). When they shouted out 3:25 I decided to go for it. I knew it wasn’t likely to get that time unless I really felt good but I wanted to give myself a good shot… just in case.

We were directed over to the start in lines with markers to keep us 2 metres away from each other and they started four people at a time every 10 seconds. It was like a conveyor belt of runners. Very strange but obviously the safest way to do it.

And then I was off. We had to do a little out and back bit to make up the distance for the 11 laps (2.3 miles per lap) straight into the wind before turning round and heading off in the direction we’d be going round the track each time. 11 laps. Here we go.

I looked up at Kyle who was stood on the balcony bit to watch me and he held up the first photo on his iPad. It was a picture of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s a bit of a random one, I know, but we’ve really been enjoying watching the Buffy series (again for me, first time for Kyle) and I’m Team Spike rather than Team Angel. It made me laugh as I headed off.

Looking up for Kyle

The wind was right behind, pushing us forward nicely. But it was cold. In my vest and shorts I really felt quite exposed. I kept my music off and told myself to do at least two laps without it (always better to use musical sparingly during a marathon as then it’ll have more of an impact). We were all spaced out on the track so it felt a little lonely but it was nice and flat so I just focused on plodding away.

As we turned round the corner I felt the wind now pushing my side. Not quite as easy as it pushing behind but not too bad. As we continued round the lap we were now starting to face the wind. Urgh it was now very cold and getting harder as we were heading into the wind. It was one of those “head down, grind teeth, push forward” times. And in my head thinking “10 more times of this”.

In reality it was probably just a mile of into the wind pain, and then as we turned again it was back to the wind going across us – but definitely a relief from before. And then as we continued on as we followed the loop round, the wind was back to behind us. Whew. And then it was easy running back to towards the start again. Each lap this was the best part, turning that corner, the wind behind and heading to finish the lap and seeing Kyle. It really was a tale of two halves for each lap. A hard grind followed by easy running.

As I got close to the end of the lap I would raise my arm and wave towards where I knew Kyle was on the balcony. He would wave back and then I could spot him easier when I got closer so I could see him and the photo he would hold up. As I finished the first lap I looked up and saw the next photo: apples 😀

Then it was off for another lap. Now I knew what to expect and I knew where it would be hard and where it would be easy. I just zoned out and kept my pace as consistent as I could (well, effort level I guess). While this marathon is quite boring as there isn’t much to look at and you’re doing so many laps, it does go by fairly quickly because you’re just trying to complete the lap your on and 11 laps mentally go quicker than 26 miles. To be honest, I stopped looking at my watch for the miles because there was no point. I knew the number of  laps I had left so it didn’t matter about the miles.

The next lap Kyle held up a photo Thor (I always joke that I love him). And during that lap I made up a little song in my head to repeat over and over to just keep me occupied (don’t laugh) “Thor, Thor, I am Thor” over and over. It was just so rhythmical so it just worked (I don’t have desires to actually be Thor, I must stress). I still kept my music off. I was good for the moment.

The next lap was a photo of a dinosaur (this then went round my head as “di-no-saur, di-no-saur”) and then I starting thinking about how far I’d need to be away from a T-rex to be able to outrun it… the weird things that go round my brain during a marathon, eh.

I think at this point I’d definitely been lapped by the front runners – who were insanely fast! And they just seemed to glide along, despite the wind. I passed a guy who said “urgh this wind” and he seemed to be about to fall into step with me and moan a bit more, but I really didn’t want someone next to me unhappy and I also didn’t fancy chatting much. I needed all the positive energy I could get. Luckily I manage to up my pace a bit more and lost him.

At some point the 20 mile racers joined the course and it got more busy. Eventually they’d be the 20 milers, half marathoners, 10k’ers and 5k’ers out on the track. So throughout the race there was an eb and flow of busyness. It was cool to see the other runners join – even if it was just to keep me occupied by watching them zoom past or me pass them.

Kyle held up a photo of my parent’s dog, Dylan, for lap five. Sadly Dylan passed away a few weeks ago so it was a nice way to remember him.

At this point I was feeling very warm and decided to stop and grab my drink. There was a drinks station just before each next lap and (because I remembered how it was last time) decided to bring my own water bottle so I wouldn’t need to waste any water bottles and could keep as contactless as possible. I’d also attached a gel to the side with tape in case I wanted it. It was really nice to have my own drink – I’d even popped a couple of Nuun tablets in it so it was lovely and refreshing (in the end I didn’t use the gel).

Lap six was a photo of a cake (of course). Then on the 7th lap Kyle had gotten his times muddled and as I waved over to him I didn’t get a wave back… and as I passed he looked panicked and hadn’t got his iPad ready. He looked completely stricken bless him. It did slightly stump me tho as lap 7 was supposed to be a surprise photo so I was a bit disappointed.

At this point I was listening to my music (I had started it on mile 10). I was in the zone and just trucking along. I would be making no crazy moves for a while. Just keep running at the same effort, just stay focused.

Lap eight came around and Kyle quickly held up two photos: chicken wings and the 7Eleven logo (would have been apt for lap seven… lap 7 out of 11).

Lap 9 was a photo of my family. I thought this would be the hardest lap because three laps is still so far from the end (actually it was lap 10 that was the killer). I was around 20 miles now, but not ready to change my music and start running faster. I was feeling the drag. Then my headphones made that little noise which means they’re low battery. I had some spare in my FlipBelt so decided on the 10th lap I would change my music and my headphones and be ready to go go go.

Lap 10 was a photo of Alfie. I grabbed some more water and then headed off. I swapped my headphones and tried to get the new headphones to connect to my phone’s Bluetooth but it said it wasn’t possible… grrrr! So I switched back the headphones, switched the playlist and hoped the battery would hold out. Right, now was time to jump on a the pain train for a little bit. Now I was counting the number of times I would have to run into the wind.

The final lap there was no photo – it was “Kyle” and so he just gave me the biggest cheer and shouted “one more to go!”. And that’s all I needed to be like, “right let’s do this”. To be honest, my pace didn’t dramatically get that much faster but I definitely felt more motivated to get to the finish now. The final time through the wind was tough but I knew it was the last time. Then when I turned the corner, the wind behind me, I picked it up as much as I could and headed for as strong a finish that I could manage.

I could see Kyle cheering me on and I felt spectacular. Oh how I’d missed this!

My official time was 3:33:44 and I was over the moon. Going into this I was going to be happy with a sub 3:45, maybe  push for 3:40. When I was racing and feeling good I considered being near 3:35. So 3:33 was a big win in my book.

I finished and picked up my medal from the table, still wrapped in its plastic and walked towards Kyle. He was there with a man who I recognised lived on our road. He’d just done the 10k, what a small world!

My legs were definitely tired and done. This is what happens when you don’t have a solid lead-up to a marathon – a few long runs does not make for a proper marathon training plan! But I was chuffed nonetheless. At no point was I going to stop, like I feared I’d be tempted to. Once I had started that was it. I had so missed the race atmosphere, people running with you all trying their best, and then the flourish of a sprint finish. It just felt so nice to be doing something like this again. It’s definitely sparked me up again 🙂

But I can definitely say that I never want to run round Goodwood Motor Circuit ever again.

Have you done any races?

Have you got any races planned?

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?

Adding some focus back into my running

Is it just me or has this summer has felt like it’s gone on for eternity?

I feel like I’ve been living in shorts for an exceptionally long time. I think it’s because WFH means I can wear my shorter shorts and can go for a walk in the morning and lunchtime easily… so it feels like I’m experiencing summer a lot more “fully” I guess compared to when I sat all day in an air conditioned office.

And while that’s quite nice – not having to layer up, not having to put a coat on – I’m a little fed up of it now. It’s too hot. It makes me tired mid-afternoon. I hate feeling sweaty and lethargic. I like to go to bed feeling cold, then warming up under my duvet. I don’t like this hot, sweaty, oppressive weather. As a side note, this is how I know I’m a true Brit. I like the variations of the seasons  –  and reserve the right to complain about them at any opportunity of course. But anyway, I’m ready for it to get colder. I’m ready for winter!

My running, despite the heat, has been a bit different lately. I’ve actually incorporated a weekly speed session into my training (and I feel confident to call my running “training”). Now if you’ve read this blog for a while you’ll know I’m quite a lazy runner… Lazy in that I don’t often push myself, I don’t tend to do planned “sessions” and when I do a race I rarely go for a time. I know there’s nothing wrong with that sort of approach to running. For me it’s important I just get to run and that I can continue to run throughout my life – regardless of whether I hit PB’s. I just like to be outside in the fresh air moving. I don’t feel particularly competitive with other people’s times or even my own times. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved so motivation to improve my times is always a bit lacking.

But with no races in the near future and my running becoming a bit samey I got the urge to jazz things up. A lot of my friends do “proper” speed sessions and talk about reps and recoveries and suddenly I was motivated.

So after doing a bit of research and seeking some advice from said friends, I headed out on a Tuesday evening to do 4x800m with the same amount of time recovery. I mean, nothing crazy. I didn’t want to destroy myself or my motivation by doing too much too soon.

This was a tough session though I can tell you! I ran 1.65miles to a nice long, wide, flat strip of sandy trail and got to it. Angry, fast music on (it’s what works for me) and off I went. Ooooof!

I haven’t done proper speed work or any sort of races to challenge myself (sometimes I’ll do a speedy parkrun when the mood takes me) so I knew it would be tough and I knew I wouldn’t be breaking any records (of my own), but it’s a stake in the ground and I will take it!

I did another session a week later but this time 8x400m with 90 seconds recovery and this mentally felt better as it was shorter (weird how that works as normally longer distances mentally feel better to me in general).

Weirdly I’m enjoying this addition to my running. It’s nice to go out with a purpose rather than “hmmm I’ll just do seven miles tonight” or whatever. I don’t know how long I’ll keep it up or whether I’m going to be able to “show off” this hard work in a proper race eventually but for now it’s nice to have something different going on.

I’ve also been back to my personal trainer (@JonhPridham_rule5coaching on Instagram) to get back to some heavier leg training. He’s massively helped in the past to keep my strong and injury-free alongside my running. As a keen cyclist he understands the need for a well-rounded athlete!

My squats and general strength have diminished a lot of course as I haven’t been able to lift any sort of heavy weights for a number of months now, but it’s good to be working my way up again. Though the DOMS is unreal – three days afterwards!!

So I feel like I’m getting back to some level of focus for my running, both in terms of speed and in terms of strength. Fingers crossed I don’t lose motivation and, more importantly, don’t get injured!

And on a different note… I was sent a pair of PaMu Slide Mini Bluetooth earphones for running.

The earphones are kept in a little box that you charge up (very similar to iPhone Earbuds) and they also come with a cute little bag to keep them in. Charging is very simple – it’s just a micro USB that you put into a plug.

The earphones themselves are easy to pop in, stay nicely in my ears, even when running, and the sound quality is decent. I definitely prefer to wear these rather than the expensive Apple Earbuds!

Also, these have 30 hours playback on one charge which is more than enough for a few runs and walks.

So all in all, things are going well round here with my running 🙂

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the earphones for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

NURVV Run Insoles review

A month or so ago I was sent a pair of NURVV Run Insoles to try out and let me tell you, I was excited.

If you’re anything like me as a runner you’ll love the data you can get from a run – whether that’s recorded by your fitness tracker or app, you can dissect the minute details of your run afterwards. From the elevation, your pace and heart rate, so much data can be recorded nowadays. I mean, did you even run if it’s not on Strava, eh? (Let’s not talk about Garmin being down a few weeks ago tho…).

The NURVV Insoles give you a whole lot more data to look at for each run. Basically you put the insoles into your trainers with tracking devices that are securely fitted to the side of the trainers and then it records SO MUCH DATA about your run. Things like foot strike, stride length, pronation, cadence…it’s all there to see, even as the run progresses.

For example, I can see at the start of the run, when I’m just warming up, my stride length is shorter than towards the end when I’ve sped up a bit more and got into things. The same for my cadence. But likewise, on a long run my form starts to get a bit squiffy as I get more tired.

So to go into a bit more detail… can I feel it on my trainers during a run? No, I cant. Maybe if you’re super sensitive or if you’re really careful about the weight of your shoes. But to be honest, you’re more likely to use these on training runs rather than key races (though I’d love to see my data of a marathon, I’d find that fascinating).

It’s really easy to use – once you get the hang of it. The set-up itself is very easy and once the insoles are in your shoes (which you can’t feel, they’re very thin), you just turn the trackers on and then use the app to start finding satellites for their GPS and then you’re ready to go.

The insoles themselves

It can be a little bit of a faff to wait for the trackers to find GPS but no longer than a Garmin so that doesn’t bother me. Though it IS something else to remember for a run and potentially over-complicate things. I guess that’s the price you pay for wanting more data on a run. In my eyes, it’s totally worth it.

You see a little light flashing on the trackers once you’ve started the run on the app and then you’re off. Handily you can leave your phone at home as well and the trackers will save the data and then upload later (like the Garmin). One thing I will say is that a couple of times I haven’t pressed the start button properly and have gone for my run and got home to realise it hadn’t recorded anything, which is a bit annoying. It’s not overly clear when it’s on, asides from the small flashing light and in sunlight it’s hard to see.

Footstrike data

Aside from that though, I really love geeking out with the data after a run (when I have correctly turned it on!). It’s made me become more aware of my form as I run. For example, I try not to over stride but keep my feet landing beneath my body.

It also lets you know how much you over or under pronate. From most of my runs it appears I over pronate a fair amount on my left side. I vaguely knew this already but it’s really interesting that it’s mainly my left foot – whereas I assumed both were as bad. It also gives you helpful advice on how to improve this. Things like increasing foot strength and improving your arch strength and single leg balance.

I love the NURVV app as it gives you so much information per run (and throughout the run) and it also collates all your runs together to give you overall scores and an overall health rating across the different metrics. I can see where I need to improve on and what I need to keep in my mind as I run. I’m a big believe in running being a skill and to run better doesn’t just mean to run more. There are things you need to do outside of running to keep you strong and injury-free. Things like strength training (and single leg strength – so you can work on individual weaknesses), running drills and mobility.

What’s also good is that the NURVV team are continually improving. Since I’ve started using them there have been some decent updates, such as syncing with Strava and the data being broken down as the run progresses, and upcoming updates include auto-pause (currently you press a button on the tracker to pause), heart rate integration, elevation and manual run entry. Very exciting!

So needless to say, I’m a big fan. I’ll continue to use the trackers and hopefully improve my form and avoid injuries… it’s definitely good motivation to keep up my strength training and mobility work!

Do you like to look at your running data after a run?

Do you do anything outside of running to improve your form?

Do you over/under pronate?

Full Disclaimer: I was sent the NURVV Run Insoles for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.