parkruns and training

I haven’t been as “on it” with my blog latey so I thought I’d do a little recap of things going on over here.

Unsurprisingly to many and disappointingly to myself, speed training has not been happening. The intention and motivation is definitely there but a few things have gotten in the way.

I did actually turn up at a speed training session with my club, Hedge End RC. The problem was I did a few miles beforehand as I arrived early and my legs were just not playing ball. It was a tough grind just to run easy. I thought after the first mile they might loosen up and things might feel better but it was such an effort to keep going.

I know what the issue was. I did my killer stair machine workout that morning (my personal trainer recommended adding this in to increase hip and glute strength). FOOLISH. Very foolish to try doing this the morning of a potential speed training day.

I saw some of my friends who tried to persuade me to stay but I knew it would be a mistake. I would either just flop in the session or I would push too hard, motivated by everyone around me, and then burn out during the week. So I canned it and went home. Weak willed? Or smart? I’m not sure.

Then the Southampton Half happened and that rinsed me…and then this week I wasn’t well yesterday (female problems I won’t bore you with) so settled for a gentle 6 miles at home instead.

Despite all this, I do feel like I’m making gains at parkrun – the marker that I test my fitness on. A couple of weeks ago, Kyle and I went to Southsea parkrun. The real reason was because we wanted to go to the Parade Tearooms afterwards (that GIANT salad… I live for it), but also because it would be nice to do a flat parkrun rather than the godawful Havant parkrun close to Kyle’s where we were staying.

Whereas Kyle was a bit more sensible and decided to have more of a gentle parkrun the day before the Southampton Half I decided to just go for it.

I started and my legs were a bit “meh”. It was tough to get going but I pushed on. There was no real wind so that was something. I managed to push the pace and was VERY chuffed with my final mile.

I got 20:22 which I was buzzing about. I’d hoped to be around 20:30! I’m nowhere near my PB (19:40) but it’s a good sign going forward and good motivation to DO SOME SPEEDWORK.

Last weekend we were at Netley Abbey and coincidentally it was the cricket pitch course. Known as the “Marmite course” because it’s five laps round a field… dull but flat.

Photo credit: Benji Vee

I was ready to give it another blast. My legs, however, were not. I started running – going out fast – and quickly realise woooahhh no this is not going to happen. I cannot maintain this.

Photo credit: Benji Vee

I pulled it a little bit and tried to just maintain a tempo style speed. It was a total grind though.

Photo credit: Benji Vee

Kyle wasn’t far behind me and that helped motivate me forward. Not that I mind Kyle being faster than me or overtaking, but it’s nice to use that as something to keep me pushing on.

Photo credit: Benji Vee

My friend Mike, who was out due to a hamstring issue, kept cheering us both – telling me where Kyle was and then telling Kyle to get a move on. It helped us both for definite! It boosted a bit of friendly competition.

I feel a bit bad as I told Kyle it was five laps, but it’s actually 5.5 laps so when we got to the fifth lap Kyle had already begun his sprint finish… and then realised actually he still had a chunk to go.

Photo credit: Benji Vee

He’d have probably caught me at the end. He’s far more powerful at sprinting than I am.

Photo credit: Benji Vee

I scraped 21:13 and it felt very much a tough grind, but hey ho I will take it! Had a little pose next to the INCREDIBLE castle and dragon carved in to a tree chunk in the new “fairy garden”. Wowza.

I was very pleased to enjoy some EXTREMELY tasty rocky road at the end made by the lovely Alana. I had two pieces and then some chocolate cake in the cafe. All before 10.30am – that my friends is a winning Saturday!

So there we have it, my speedwork update… or lack thereof. I will endeavor to do better!

How do you do with consistent speed training?

What determines if you’re going to push at a parkrun or not?

What’s your favourite rocky road additions? I love a bit of biscuit in there.

Back to speed work

Down South we are having some gorgeous weather lately.

Crisp and cold in the morning and then beautiful sunshine later in the day. The temperatures are still chilly but this only means perfect running conditions for me! I love it. It puts a spring (ha!) in my step.

Do you remember that time I briefly went to track for a bit? Yeah neither do I. A distant memory. It was never going to last due to the amount of faff it took for me to get there. I had to leave work later, drive to Southampton, park 3 miles away and wait for about 15 minutes before running there. My entire evening disappeared. Totally not worth any of the speed gains in my opinion. Yes I did enjoy doing regular speed work in such a controlled way but realistically it just didn’t fit into my routine or make me particularly happy over all.

But anyway, I do know I need to do some speed work. Doing it regularly makes me happy. It breaks up all the samey runs I do and makes me feel strong. At the moment I plan to do them once every two weeks to keep an eye on stressing my body too much and avoiding injuries but I’m quite excited about it.

Kyle and I actually did a speed session last week together round the lake at work. It’s a perfect area to do it as it’s fairly soft underfoot (so less stress on the body), there are no cars, no traffic lights, it’s flat and one loop is about 1.5 miles.

I thought we should test out some mile reps. We started with a one mile warm-up and then the reps would begin. We weren’t going to run together but just run at our own speeds. Incidentally these paces were very similar and actually having Kyle ahead or behind me really helped motivate me to keep up or keep him from catching me. After the rep we’d do a cool down jog for 0.5 miles until we got to the start point again. And then we were off once more.

The reps were hard (to be expected!). I felt it in my lungs and legs. It look a lot of concentration to hold on (but also not to blow myself to pieces too soon).

But I’m really proud of myself for reaching the paces I did. I’ve never done mile repeats this quickly. Genuinely think it helped doing it with someone else. Hugely more motivating than doing it solo.

Speaking of Kyle, we had a lovely Valentine’s Day together. We had a very relaxed evening not doing too much.

He cooked my chicken wings and ribs, which of course are some of my favourite foods. And then we chilled watching Sex Education – which is hilarious by the way (tho a weird blend of British and American-ness).

He bought me some lovely gifts, which included some of my favourite chocolate.

I adore Hotel Chocolat! I was very chuffed. Of course they didn’t last long…

Did you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Do you do speed work?

What’s your favourite speed session?

All the good stuff in life

I love this time of year. Before it starts to get really cold, before the super short days, and all the beautiful colours of the leaves and cool running weather. I’m feeling particularly happy at the moment. Life is good, running is going well and I have some exciting things coming up. Happy days. So things making me smile lately include but not limited to, are…

Bake Off delights: More tasty baking from lovely colleagues at work. Every week we have something new and it really does brighten up a Monday. In ironic celebration of the other week’s vegan week, my work friend, Trystan, brought in maple bacon cupcakes. Yes they may sound weird but they were really tasty. I’m a firm believer that bacon is a good addition to sweet things 😉And yesterday was a very zesty and tasty lemon tart. Genuinely I’ll be sad when this ends. I’ve gotten used to the constant supply of home-baked goodies.And even more on the note of cakes… It was Kyle’s birthday the other week (and his twin brother, Zack’s). His team at work bought him a “unicorn cake” from the CoOp downstairs (we both work at Wiggle FYI) so I was able to have a slice. I’ve wanted to try it for AGES, passing it so many times in CoOp so I was quite excited.If you’re not into ultra sweet and sickly cakes, I’d avoid but for me this was perfection. I’m basically a small child.

That evening, his family, him and I went out to Coast to Coast to celebrate. Before (yes more) cake, we had some really tasty food. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while then you’ll know just how often I go to this restaurant. It’s a local favourite after a marathon.I went for chicken wings to start and ribs for main (predictable AF).
We had a voucher for “buy one main and get another free” but as there were 7 of us we needed another main to make it work so Kyle and I shared a main chicken wings as a starter so we could get it for free. Happily this meant another portion of chips! Genius 😉 The waiters were really nice -Zack and Kyle got free cocktails.Then for pudding Kyle’s sister, Lucy, had made two INCREDIBLE chocolate cakes. Kyle’s was covered in Malteasers, Dime and Bueno. I had to try both of course!I did prefer Kyle’s though. Usually I’m not a huge chocolate cake fan but this honestly rocked my world. As a thank you to the amazing waiters, we gave them a slice of cake too.New trainers: My trainers have racked up over 400 miles so it was time to swap them out for a new pair. When I originally bought my trainers I bought two more pairs of the same kind because they were so cheap. £35 each in the Nike Outlet! So pleased.I love the colour! And they’re so soft and comfortable. I’m so pleased I’m set for the next 800 or so miles with this pair and my safety stock pair. I do love adidas Supernova Boosts but I’ve found these work for me really well too. They’re Nike Lunarglides. I had them in a lilac purple but I much prefer this bright colour.

Surprising speedy runs: I haven’t done any structured speedwork lately. Track…ehhh it’s just not a priority right now. I don’t have the urge to do it and the motivation is just not there. But I do like to surprise myself some days by just putting a blast into a random run. Actually this run I’m about to talk about was the day after #allthefood from Coast to Coast. I felt amazing going out at lunch and decided to see what I could do.

I randomly managed a 43:30 10k! It was a flat route I often do and the temperature was lovely and cool so really the odds were in my favour (and I was fully powered by cake from the day before).And I’m so pleased that I managed to pick up speed towards the end! Yes it was tough but not impossibly so. I’m just pleased I’m maintaining some sort of speed despite slacking on the track front. I have ideas of maybe “going for it” at the Gosport Half Marathon (November) and maybe the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon (December). Not PB attempts specifically (I think I’d need a lot more work ahead of those races to get under my current times), but just “let’s see where I’m at” kind of runs. Whoooo knows. I haven’t been injured for a bit so that’s probably in store for me soon 😉

What are you enjoying lately?

Do you like super sweet cakes? I’m very much big on icing/frosting.

How many miles do you run in your trainers before changing them? I used to be super cautious and run up to 300 miles but now I can get away with 400-450.

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?

What I’m loving lately – October

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while… all the things I’m currently loving lately.

Harry Potter clothing: During my meanderings around the delights of Amazingstoke’s Festival Place last weekend I popped into Primark. In general I don’t do much shopping in physical life. As in, non-online shopping. But occasionally I’ll pop into H&M as there’s one local to me. We don’t have a very accessible Primark nearby (it’s in the centre of Southampton and I don’t generally go there that often because the Internet and Whiteley, a little but fantastic shopping village nearby, save me from such efforts).

Anyway, I’ve digressed. So I went into Primark to hunt down a really nice sports bra someone at work wore when running (she wore it as her running top outside, I didn’t spy on her getting changed or anything weird). I didn’t find the sports bra but I DID find a Harry Potter jumper. And, weirdly, Harry Potter underwear.I bought the jumper but not the pants (and forgot to take a photo of said jumper…). The jumper will go nicely with my Harry Potter t-shirt ready for my friends and my Harry Potter-themed escape room at the beginning of December. There are four of us and we’ve each got a house that fits our personality. I’m Gryffindor 😀New boots: And as a nice segue… a few weeks ago when I was in Chichester my friends and I popped into a charity shop because the Harry Potter-themed window lured us in. Most of the window items had been sold (including an amazing looking Harry Potter chess set!). However I then spotted a very cool pair of boots in almost perfect condition. For £8.50!
OK I rarely wear heels but I’m sure I can push the boat out one day… After all, I no longer have a standing desk at work (I mourn for it daily, believe me. It just means I have to get up and move about more frequently. But it does mean I can relax a bit more at work) so really I could wear heels.

Gin: And another great segue(!), my lovely friend Charlotte and her husband, Paddy, gave me a prototype Christmas present when we were in Chichester. A sort of “make-you-own hipster gin” ingredients set.How cool is this? So each little jar contains different ingredients, like dried lemon peel, cinnamon, juniper berries etc. that you can add to a gin and tonic to spruce it up. Gin has become rather “in vogue” (though to be fair to Paddy and Charlotte, they were loving it waaaay before it became cool) and my dear mother has appointed herself some sort of gin connoisseur recently. She’s bought about five different kinds of gins! So when I showed her this little set she was VERY excited. That evening we made up a few glasses of lemon and juniper berry flavoured gin. Ooh er!So fancy! It tasted very nice. I’m not a big drinker but my drink of choice is a G&T. So crisp and delicate.

Protein powder: Speaking of tasty things. I am currently OBSESSED with the MyProtein marzipan-flavoured protein-powder. I adore it. I add about 20g (so maybe a scoop?) of it to my porridge and it rocks my world. It’s not overwhelmingly sweet or crazy strong, but subtly almondy. I was using the Chocolate Smooth flavour but this is SO much better. I got a small pack as I wasn’t sure what I would think (450g I think) but I’ve since gone back and bought a 1kg. I also bought the Cinnamon Danish flavour and the Speculoos. I had to Google what Speculoos was though. It’s a limited edition flavour (as is Marzipan) so I thought what the hell, why not.As a side note, as I’m living at home I obviously get these things delivered there. My dad also buys lots online as well (usually some random cables or part for his latest robot craze or yet another Alexa – I swear Alexa is becoming an omnipresence in the house. You can’t move for her) and he mentioned the other day that it can be quite disappointing when something is delivered but it’s for me not him. He grumbled that it’s usually “running gear or some powder of some sort”, which did make me laugh. He’s not wrong.

Cake: Cake has been very much in my life in a big way recently. The guys at Wiggle are fantastic at bringing in snacks and baking. It seems like every week we have something new to munch on. I’m not mad. On Monday last week it was one of the guy’s birthday and he brought in a chocolate cake he made. Someone else from another team had also baked him a cake too! A chocolate melt-in-the-middle cake. Obviously I had a bit of both. I was glad to have tried both as well because at the end of the day as he picked up the cake he’d baked to put in the fridge he dropped it on the floor! How devastating! I mean, it was hilarious but equally heart-breaking at the same time. RIP cake.And I’ll try not to think of just how many bits of cake I had the other week when someone left. There was literally an idea table covered in delicious home-baked goodies. I’m an absolute sucker for anything home-baked. After eating 80% of what was in the bowl I decided not to have any more (it was only 10am…). I put it in my drawer and tried to forget about it. Well, the afternoon came and the cake was promptly eaten. *Sighs* I had the best intentions at least.

Christmas snacks: And on the note of delicious snacking, I popped into Lidl before work one morning (handily located on the road from my gym to work. I love Lidl and am really glad I can frequent it more often). I love browsing supermarkets (I’m a strange breed I know) and Lidl’s Christmas selection is always worth a gander. As a side note though, their bakery is at the front of their shop and it gave off the most intoxicating, delicious scents of freshly baked pastries, bread and cakes. I almost passed out (this was post-workout after all). Once I came to my senses though I found one of my favourite Christmas snacks: lebkuchen gingerbread. I first had them when I was in Berlin visiting my friend and they were amazing. I mean the big fat ones you can get at the Christmas markets are the best (I don’t know if they’re the same things but they’re very similar). They’re gingerbread but very soft and almost cake like. I’m not a huge fan of hard gingerbread (the British creations) but these are DIVINE.Running: And finally something to do with running! I’ve “officially” started marathon training. I mean, nothing much has really changed to be honest. My long runs will be getting longer and I hope to do a speed session once a week. The speed session is a new addition to the rota because I never normally do it (other than a speedy parkrun occasionally).

Yesterday I went out at lunch with the intention to do some sort of speed workout. Originally I was going to do two minutes of hard effort, followed by 30 seconds of easy as many times as I could be bothered but during my (almost) mile warm-up I decided to do mile repeats. The lake next to the office has a gravel path around it and it’s about a mile long so I decided to just blast it round, have a jogging break, then repeat. My intention was to go sub-seven minutes for the mile as this is what I’ve been able to do on some miles at parkrun. Well, I definitely surprised myself. I managed THREE mile repeats (with 0.4 mile jogging recovery) at sub 6.45 pace. I mean it was TOUGH, both mentally and physically. But I did it! I definitely needed those recoveries between but I felt strong maintaining the pace (though it did feel like death. God I hate speed work). Afterwards though the feeling was AMAZING. In the end I did 10k total and I was around a minute off my PB! Not too shabby. SplitsUnfortunately though after showering and getting back to the office, I had the most ridiculous red face which quite a few people commented on. Wonderful.

What kind of speed work do you do?

What Christmas treats do you like?

Are you a Harry Potter fan?