Running Lately

I thought I’d do a little update on how my running has been going lately… 

Since returning from the Austria Run Camp at the beginning of July, my running has been a bit unfocused. I’ve been in a weird period where I didn’t have any marathons or races pending so I’ve just been enjoying some relaxed and unfocused running. I think it’s important to have some of this kind of running from time to time. I also had a minor blip where my calf/shin started to niggle a little so I backed off and gave it some space and then gently ramped up again.I’ve been hovering around 30ish miles a week for around a number of weeks which is generally my sweet spot. I’d like to get back to 40 miles a week as I didn’t find that too stressful on my delicate injury-prone body previously but I want to do this slowly. I also want to run five times a week when it fits in so these two will go nicely together.

My next big main goal is the New York Marathon. I say “goal” only because I want to run the race uninjured and for me that’s a goal in itself. It’s never guaranteed. I don’t have a time in mind for it at all. I’ve heard it’s the toughest of the Majors so I’m trying not to let that intimidate me. But I still want to enjoy it. For me this means running round comfortably, with a smile on my face, probably take a few selfies and finish happy. Therefore time is irrelevant.

New York is the beginning of November, so about 11 weeks away. It’s been a long time since my last marathon though and I’m getting the itch. My friend Mike mentioned the Goodwood Motor Circuit Marathon September 16th which sounded quite good.Eight laps of the 5k track. Maybe this sounds dull but to me this sounds cool. I can pace myself in chunks. Maybe I’ll see what I can do closer to the time in terms of time but realistically I don’t want to risk New York (which will be six weeks after). We shall see.

So with being a bit gentler with my calf/shin I laid back off the speedwork (any excuse eh…). But I’m trying to get back into it again. Over the past few weeks I’ve felt a bit out of shape in terms of my paces, which I don’t really mind too much. For me consistent healthy running will always win over sporadic high speed but niggle-risk running.

However, I had a run planned at lunch the other week and without my usual running buddy (damn injuries) I wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic. So I decided just to blitz through it to get it done. I’d run the night before with my friend Ant and my legs had felt a bit pants. We’d been running around 9-9.30min/miles for 8 miles and it just didn’t feel very smooth or strong. This is a slower pace for me but it shouldn’t have felt like the grind it was. I therefore had no expectations for a good run the day after.

Yet as soon as I started I felt like my legs were ready to go. And my first mile was the slowest… I just seemed to get faster and faster. I have a great 10k route at work that’s nice and flat (it’s basically an out and back) with few turns and minimal traffic annoyance. I just felt myself gliding along. Yes it was tough going but I didn’t find myself feeling like it was the worst thing in the world. It didn’t remind me of those horrific 10k races I’ve done in the past that have felt like I’ve left everything on the road.

So when I came to a stop at 6.2 miles and checked my watch I actually couldn’t believe that I’d surpassed my 10k PB time by 15 seconds. My original PB was 42:50 but I’d just done 42:36. Now I know this is an unofficial PB really because I PB’s only count if you get them in race (official course, chip-timing and all that good stuff) but I’m over the moon. And what’s even better is that I was getting faster and stronger as it continued.I did manage to scare a man as I came to a holt at the end because I was gasping for air and pretty spent. It was around lunchtime when people were just casually grabbing their lunch or chilling out outside. In fairness, the weather was perfect, the route was super flat and it just seemed to come together, for whatever reason. I will take it!Going forward I’ll be cracking on back to track once a week or every two weeks depending how I feel and growing my longer runs. I’m currently up to 16 miles and I’m hoping to peak at 18 miles just before the marathon and then drop down again the week before (a one week taper special due to lack of time – though personally I always prefer a shorter taper). Fingers crossed I continue to run injury-free!

How’s your running going?

What’s your next race?

Cheating on my running club…

When it comes to running, I tend not to have much of a plan. I have a rough idea of what I want to do in a week and if I have a marathon on the horizon I’ll have my long runs marked out, gradually building up the distance.

Otherwise I work out my runs in general with who else is running when in the week and what parkrun I want to do. I’m really relaxed about it. Previously I’d run all my runs around the same kind of pace as well, usually around 8 minute miles. So really no real structure. I enjoy running this way because, as you probably know, I’m not a PB-hunter. I love getting PB’s of course but realistically I’m not running every race for a time. It kills the fun for me. I find enjoyment in other ways, like collecting different parkruns, doing different marathons and basically just having a doss about.

Part of that is down to me genuinely loving this and part of it is down to not wanting to be too serious or do too much hard training because I’m terrified of injury. I love running and all the benefits I get from it (physical and mental health but also a large social element), and losing that sucks. I do believe I’m injury prone and when I increase my load (higher mileage or harder mileage) I suspect I’m dicing with getting injured. So I’m always reluctant to go too hard or put a lot of hard training into my weeks. I’d rather run slow consistently then run fast sporadically.

That said, I feel like I’m in a good position to think about jazzing things up. While I have more “fun” goals of doing the parkrun Alphabet Challenge, the Marathon Majors and things like that, I would like to get a few times under my (Flip)belt. I’ve now been injury-free for a good number of months and I haven’t had any sort of niggle even slightly raise its head. It’s given me some confidence.

I go to go the gym 3-4 times a week. I work hard to keep my legs, core and glutes strong. I definitely feel the benefits of this when I run, how fast I can recover and just my general mental wellbeing. I enjoy the gym, I enjoy the routine I have and if I did get injured I know the gym is there to tide me over.

So the title of this post… I’ve recently joined Southampton Athletics Club as second claim. This is actually a huge step for me. Southampton Athletics Club is a Serious Club. They do Serious Running. We’re talking track races. Race distances I wouldn’t get out of bed for let alone train for. 800m? Are you kidding me? As a second claim member however I can’t run for Southampton AC. I don’t see this as a bad thing at all. This year I have a number of different races I want to focus on (or at least just do for a bit of fun), and the idea of doing a lot of league races (10ks, cross country, track) just isn’t my bag of fish. Kettle of fish? Bag of…? Whatever, it isn’t my idea of fun. Despite the head coach trying to hard sell the first claim to me, I held firm (he’s a nice guy and though he didn’t quite understand my rationale, he did accept it and was super nice).

I went to a trial speed session down the track last week. DOWN THE TRACK. An actual track. This is literally Out of My Comfort Zone territory (capitals required for full emphasis).

We (thankfully) didn’t train on the track, but stayed on an area of grass near to it. When I arrived after running a 1.5 mile warm-up there, everyone was super friendly. But all fairly young and with lean, mean racing snake physiques. I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Proper drills. People in warm-up gear and then stripping off to teeny tiny shorts and vests. Then putting on a different pair of trainers.

I’m literally stood there with my FlipBelt that contained just my phone and car keys. I felt woefully underprepared. The coach asked if I was going to change my shoes… into what? These were all I had! But everyone else was switching into barely there weightless shoes and I was stood there in my adidas Boosts that, in comparison, looked like giant bricks on my feet.

But I didn’t let is phase me. I was there to add a bit of structure and speed into my training. I wasn’t there to change my entire way of running. And you know what? I held my own. Yes I was at the back of the reps but I wasn’t being totally dropped and I felt strong. I mean, it was tough. Physically tougher than had I gone out on my own as I was pushing myself to stay within a distance of the main pack, but mentally easier because of the pack. It was weird.

My first speed session: 5 mins tempo (1min), then 4x 90 secs (1min) then 4x 75 secs (1min), then another 5mins tempo

The coach said afterwards I didn’t look like I was trying hard enough (in a nice way, he wasn’t having a go). I honestly thought I was trying, but he said I should be absolutely spent by the end of the session and I guess I wasn’t. I mean I was tired, but I wasn’t rinsed like everyone else seemed to be. I think this comes with having a good understanding of speedwork and an understanding of your body and the pain barriers you need to push through. I’m a long distance runner by heart so I’m used to plodding miles upon miles in a semi-comfortable state. I’m not used to pushing my body for short bursts to efforts of pain. Not injury pain but lung-busting, muscle burning pain. I’ve shied away from that for a good while.

I came away from the session feeling really happy and motivated. It’s reinforced my mindset of how I currently want to run. Keeping my other running nice and easy (two gentle runs 4-6 miles, and a longer run 10+ miles), and then one speed session and an occasional tough parkrun when I’m feeling fruity. That’s the plan. Who knows how long it will last. It’ll only be my body giving up on me that’ll stop it right now. Fingers crossed, eh.

Do you do speedwork?

Are you a member of a running club?

What motivates you with your running?

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?

Raving time

Now normally I’d be having a few rants but actually I can’t think of anything lately that’s been bugging me. I’m pretty solidly in the rave camp at the moment!

Rave: I’m really busy. I love it when my diary is chockablock full of fun and exciting events coming up. I’m off to London on Saturday for more parkrun tourism and brunching with my lovely friend, James. Then it’s the Gosport Half Marathon on Sunday (pacing another lovely friend, Martin). And then the following weekend heading to Brighton to visit even more lovely friends (all my friends are lovely!)… Christmas meals at work and with friends, heading to London again for a Harry Potter escape room… Secret Santas. Ahh I’m just in a very happy place right now.

Rave: And continuing on this theme… having an already jam-packed 2018 planned! I have quite a few exciting events/holidays I’m (hoping) to be able to do next year. I mean, who needs money right…? Most of them in some way running-related 🙂 I say hoping because who knows what my legs will be like next year, but I hope to do most of what I have planned. If all goes to plan (and I don’t bankrupt myself) I should be going abroad FIVE times. Not for massive holidays I stress, but mini-breaks and trips.

Rave: Passing my three month probation at Wiggle. I can’t believe I’ve been here for over three months! It’s mental. And, as I’ve said so many times, I really do love it. And, as far as I can tell, I think I’m doing OK.

Rave: Now THIS is one of my biggest raves at the moment. Do you remember a while ago when, the idiot that I am, I took the wrong barcode to parkrun for a number of weeks? I tried to get the parkrun support HQ people to help me out but, understandably, it wasn’t something they were willing to amend because, let’s face it, it’s my mistake and would require a lot of faff on their side.

Anyway, after speaking to my friend, Joe, who’s been a run director at Netley parkrun, he mentioned that results for individual parkruns could be retrospectively changed. Like when people forget their barcodes and then email them afterwards they can be added. So, I emailed Netley (where I had three parkruns under the wrong barcode) and explained what I’d done. I mean, I do know the main run director, Peter, at Netley so I guess that makes it easier, but he was more than helpful (incidentally the same Peter who sold me his Portsmouth Marathon place – so hugely grateful to him!). He changed the results and lo! and behold I got three emails through congratulating me on my result!I also emailed Brighton & Hove parkrun where I’d also used the wrong barcode (and the one I desperately wanted adding to my account as I’ve only done it once and really want to do a different Brighton parkrun when I visit next). And they too have changed my result over. I am BEYOND pleased. Thank you, Brighton & Hove parkrun! The email they sent to me as well was lovely. They said they don’t usually make changes so long after the event but they like to look after their tourists. Well, I am certainly feeling the love. I know this might sound really sad but I’m literally over the moon about this now. I’ve now done 151 parkruns (and 30 different UK ones and one US). Only 99 until my next t-shirt…Rave: Running at lunchtime (runching if you will). It’s so much nicer to run at lunch than it is after work. I’m so much more motivated to run when it’s not as cold and definitely not as dark. It also means I can toddle off home quicker after work.

Wiggle has great shower facilities and also a great number of routes around the office. It’s especially good for when I do speed work (I’ve done two speedworks now!) as the lake I run round is soft underfoot and almost exactly a mile. Ideal! No traffic lights, dog walkers or hills to break the flow of trying to get some solid speedwork in. No excuses basically.

On Tuesday I did one mile warm-up, followed by two miles at 6:50-55min/mile pace, followed by 0.5 miles easy, and then another two miles at 6:50-55min/mile pace and then a cool down. I mean it was slightly awkward as I kept passing the same work friends who were having a walk on their lunch break so I must have looked a bit mad. But it was such a great feeling to hit those paces and get another solid workout in. Plus, with it being soft underfoot I feel like this is better for me (*cough* injury-prone) than doing the workouts on concrete. 2mile repeatsDon’t get me wrong, I find I do ‘fear’ these workouts and begin them with some trepidation. I know it’s going to feel hard and the temptation to sack it off and do a standard 8min/mile run is SO tempting. But I know this is good for me and the feeling I get when I finish is fantastic. I just need to make sure I stay motivated. I need to mix things up as well so if anyone has any good marathon-focused speed workouts for around 6 miles I’d be grateful for the inspiration…

What are you happy about right now?

Are your parkrun stats important to you?

What speed workouts do you do?

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?