Category Archives: Running

Summer adventures and Ironboy prep

My mum rightly asked me the other day if an iron-distance triathlon was an Ironman, was a 70.3 an Ironboy and shorter races Ironbabies? I still don’t fully know the answer, but since running the relay at The Lakesman, I’ve been enjoying the summer sunshine, chipping away at training for my Ironboy on September 3rd- so here’s what I’ve been up to…

Becoming an FY2

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One unavoidable part of summer as a doctor is the chaos of August changeover. For me that meant stepping up in seniority, and my August has featured two weekends at work, one on long days and one on nights. I love the new hospital I’m working in, but the step up in responsibility is a challenge, and the hospital being smaller doesn’t make it less busy on call- about 20 minutes after taking this selfie, a patient very much tried to bleed to death on me- though fortunately didn’t manage it!

Swimming
It’s no secret that swimming is by far my weakest triathlon discipline, but I feel like I’ve made huge leaps in progress with it, just by doing the work this summer. I’ve sought feedback on my stroke from coach Rach and at club swimming sessions (a special kind of arm-deadening hell), and really got comfortable in open water, with gorgeous swims at Salford Quays with pals in the sunshine, and, the highlight of swimming to date, swimming in this gorgoeous loch (Loch an Eilein) at the foot of the Cairngorms- having an entire loch to myself was pretty special!

I still might not be the fastest by a long chalk, but I’m swimming faster and more confidently than before, and feel happy in open water now, which I’m hoping will all add up to a smooth swim and a time I can be proud of in my Ironboy.

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Biking
When you live within a stone’s throw of the Yorkshire Dales, motivating yourself to go cycling is something you very rarely need to do, but I’d got all too comfortable with just going on my club’s Sunday C ride, pootling out for coffee and cake, and not really pushing myself. So this summer, I’ve done what can only be described as heat training with some short, sharp turbo sessions, gone on a fair few solo rides into the Dales, spun round the beautiful Scottish coast in the sunshine with James on holiday, and my personal favourite, ridden my first century ride, from Ilkley to Scarborough. I’ve not followed a set plan on the bike, but I’ve tried, like with swimming, to do things in training that will boost my confidence for race day and leave me feeling mentally strong- which I’m discovering is most of the battle with long-distance racing!

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Running

Of the three disciplines, this is probably the one I’ve worked on the least, but whilst I know I’m lacking in speed at the moment, I’ve got a big endurance base, and the two marathons I’ve run this year have 100% taught me how to suffer through when the going gets tough. That said, as my last brick session for the race, I did a tough turbo session into a 10 mile run with the first 5 miles of it at target race pace, and was pleasantly surprised to find that whilst I still have a suspiciously high heart rate, my running legs are very much still there!

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Holidaying

I couldn’t post up a summer recap without mentioning our gorgeous little trip to Scotland. Time off together is pretty hard come by, so we were happy to get a week off together, and not just that, a week in Scotland during a heatwave!

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We kicked off the week by heading up to Fort William and after a stay at the Ben Nevis Inn bunkhouse, did the wonderfully scenic but very tough hike up Ben Nevis- an experience we both underestimated and which left our legs ruined for days! We had absolutely beautiful weather for it, so could see for miles from the top- and even got sunburnt…

From there we headed up into Moray, better known as the whisky country, and stayed in one of Braehead Glamping‘s super cute camping pods. We went for the deluxe one and it was perfect, with a proper comfy bed, an all important kettle and a TV so at the end of the day’s adventures, we could watch the Olympics action from the day.

podThe pod was a perfect base for a week’s adventures. We went cycling together around parts of the beautiful coastline, James went on the attack cycling up Cairngorm Mountain whilst I explored some of the lush running trails, and I went loch swimming whilst some of the locals pondered whether or not to try and rescue the mad English girl diving into a secluded loch.

Despite all that activity, it was a wonderfully relaxing week away. James and I are both hugely guilty of spending time glued to our phones and Strava, so staying somewhere with no 4G coverage was the dream- we actually spent proper time together and appreciated each other, away from the usual cycle at home of work-eat-train-eat-sleep-laundry that can dominate our household. We enjoyed a BBQ and toasted marshmallows over our campfire, al fresco breakfasts and a few wee drams on a tour of the Glenfiddich whisky distillery and, I think it would be fair to say, generally fell in love with Scotland just a little bit!

whiskey cycling firePhoto credits: other than those taken by myself, James took a lot of these, and I borrowed the phrase about keeping going from Oiselle.

 

Running legs & Iffley Road shorts

I’ve written about it before here, but I don’t think marathon recovery is something to be rushed; I think the impact on both your legs and body can’t be overestimated, and recovery looks different to everybody. Before The Lakesman relay, I received some Iffley Road shorts to test, and it took great patience not to run a marathon in them despite some promising test runs, and then not to rush my recovery just so I could run in them!Iffley Road Shorts

Once my running legs came back to me, I’ve carried on testing the Holly shorts from Iffley Road in Gravel Black, and despite them being pretty far from what I normally choose in shorts, I actually kinda like them! My norm is tight-fitting, stretchy, slightly longer cycling-style shorts, so these short, looser-fit shorts are a little bit different. Designed in Britain, they’re made from technical fabric in a flat-fronted, quite minimalist style- quite traditional in design. Iffley Road Shorts

I tested a size small, and found them to be really comfortable for my shorter runs, though those prone to the chub rub may want to give them a miss, as the looser fit and short length could make these a chafe-prone short. They stayed lovely and cool to run in though, even in the warmer weather, and I barely noticed them, apart from a quiet ‘swish’ to the fabric which even James noticed! The design is subtle but classy, and compared to the more garish Lycra in my wardrobe, I really like them for a more subtle piece of kit.Iffley Road shorts

So what’s next for these running legs now I’m all recovered from the Lakesman and I have new kit to play in? I spent a very interesting session with Tom at Trimechanics this week, where after getting over the horror of watching myself run in slow motion, I learned a few things about the way I run and why I get tired when I do, and get the niggles I do, and most importantly, picked up some homework for before my runs. This mainly revolves around’switching on’ the right muscles before my runs, and harnessing good natural posture to run in the most efficient way possible- got to be pretty handy with an ironman coming up!

Disclaimer: Iffley Road sent me the Holly shorts to run in and try out in exchange for my honest opinions about them after a decent period of testing. 

Stepping stones to your dreams

As I alluded to in my last post, I’ve set myself a fairly lofty goal for next June- to race the iron-distance Lakesman triathlon. At the moment, it’s in equal measures terrifying and exciting, because I know I’m a long way from where I’ll need to be, and I have a lot of hard work to do to make sure I not only complete the race, but actually enjoy doing it.

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Laura Fountain wrote a piece recently on base building for marathon training, which really chimed with me- I’m guilty of thinking the shiny training plan stuck to the wall will take care of everything for my goal race, and not always putting in the prep to hit the ground running, so to speak.

Training for the Lakesman is going to require a lot of good habits, and they aren’t going to magically embed themselves by January, so here’s a little of what I’m planning as the stepping stones to my A goal. The B goals along the way that will motivate me, give me confidence and allow me to learn the craft before I dive straight in.

Stepping stone races

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A couple of pals of mine recently raced  iron-distance triathlons as their first triathlons, and both absolutely nailed them, but I know diving straight in the deep end isn’t the thing that would give me confidence. 140.6 miles of swim, bike, run is a big, big question mark for me, so stepping stones in the form of Olympic distance triathlons at Allerthorpe Classic and Jorvik Olympic and a 70.3 at the Rubicon will build my confidence at longer triathlons.  To keep me interested in running I’ve also got a couple of local half marathons and the Paris marathon pencilled in for 2017. I might even chuck a swim race in to make all those lengths worth it. Smaller goals to break up a long slog of training.

Getting some helpWharfeSwim
I’m very, very aware that in particular my swim, but also my bike and run have technique flaws that need addressing to be efficient over that distance of race, so I’ll be calling upon people much more learned than me to help me. I’m off to see Tom at Trimechanics this week to start working on making my running form more efficient and ditching the big clunky stability running shoes, will be calling on Mother Mermaid Rach to help sort out my inefficient swim stroke over the summer, and nearer the time, will find a coach to help me write a training plan well-suited to my life, my goals and where I’m at now.

Being realistic
One of the ways I spent a fair bit of the Lakesman last weekend was grilling both athletes and their nearest and dearest that I knew, about how much training they’d had to do, how they’d managed it around life commitments, and how their races worked out for them off the training they’d put in, before I signed up- I wanted to be confident I could put in the work that would be needed.

Fuelling it properly
I’ve been quietly chipping away at getting my body composition in a better place for endurance sport with the help of fitnaturally, and am making reasonable progress. Learning to think about what I’m eating and why, and how much of it, has helped me to shave off over 3kg of unnecessary ballast, so I’ll be keeping going whilst I get ready for ironman training, because that training volume will need me healthy, and with a strong engine in a light body, not carrying around lots of extra cake weight 😉

Relay recap: The Lakesman Triathlon 2016

If you know me at all, you’re probably familiar with the fact by now that if you promise me endurance sport somewhere pretty, with good company, I’ll be there like a shot. So when Team Bear pal Rach needed a pair of running legs for her relay team for The Lakesman Triathlon (Keswick’s brand new iron-distance triathlon), I snatched her hand off for a place.

Before the race
Unlike from WTS Leeds last weekend, the communication from the Lakesman organisers couldn’t have been better in the run up to the event. From the small participant numbers (limited so they could get it right for the first year) to their engagement with social media and answering athletes’ questions, the overall impression was that this was an event team who really cared.

My iron weekend began on the Saturday morning, when I packed up my little car and headed off to Keswick, via Skipton parkrun for a little leg loosening jog since it was en-route. I checked in nice and early (top marks) to my lovely B&B Skiddaw Croft in Portinscale, which I was very happy to discover a) had a room for me with an incredible view of Derwentwater and b) was practically on the run route and only a short walk from Keswick. Perfect!

I then met up with Team Bear, donned my wetsuit and went for a little dip in Derwentwater, which has to be one of the nicest lakes I’ve swum in- clean, warm and calm. Run done, splash in the lake done, and later on that evening, carbing up with a yummy pizza done, time to set a very early alarm to be able to watch Rach out of the swim onto the bike, and head to bed!

Race day
Being in an iron relay is a strange experience; you wake up super early and excited, but still know if you’re doing the run that you have a long day ahead of you. Still, I excitedly got down to the lakeside to watch the first swimmers emerge, with Rach heading out of the water well-placed in the women with a 1:09 swim.

After giddily cheering on just about everybody onto the bike (I LOVE iron cheerleading), I headed off to Wetherspoons for a classy and expensive pre-race brunch of £2.47 Nutella toast and coffee, and before I knew it, it was time to head back down to transition and be ready for Rach arriving. Our plan was for me to take the timing chip and Rach join me for lap 1 of 5, as a brick run for her. However, as my favourite ball of ginger magic arrived in T2, her hips didn’t want to play, so I grabbed the timing chip and skipped out onto the run to wrap up this Team Bear relay- and beat the other Bear relay team!

A lapped run course was never going to be easy, much less given that I hadn’t run over 6 miles since London, but that’s not to say it wasn’t fun. It’s impossible to be out on the run course of an ironman like the Lakesman and not be inspired; from regularly seeing the male leader to briefly running with the female leader on her last lap (both incredibly gracious, lovely athletes), to seeing people battle their toughest demons to drag themselves to the finish, there’s a lot of inspiration to be had.

My race got chewy at about 18 miles, as I’d expected it to, and I no longer bounced through the aid stations; I walked through, taking the chance to guzzle much-needed sugar to keep me going. It was tough, especially mentally, but I take great pride in finding my limits and overcoming them, so I did just that.Lakesman

As I ran down the slip road towards the lake one last time, past the last aid station, I grabbed Rach by the hand and before I knew it, we were running down the red carpet towards that magical archway, hands reaching for the finishers’ tape the marshals were holding across for us (an excellent touch that makes us all feel pretty pro), and nailing that 11:49:34 finish.

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Post-finish

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I thought I’d been well looked-after at the finish of a race before but this was nothing compared to the Lakesman. We were immediately ushered into a marquee filled with tables and chairs and a veritable banquet of food to go at, from a yummy giant cheeseboard, to proper baked potatoes with chilli or curry, Lancashire hotpot (I knew this was the better side of the Pennines for a reason) and endless supplies of hot drinks to warm us up after the rainy run.

The marshals and volunteers were incredible too. No sooner had I wondered if my legs would work to go get pudding, than a bowl of Cartmel sticky toffee pud (the Lakes’ best secret) was delivered to me! Northern hospitality doesn’t get better than that…

Sure, there are bits of feedback we’ll all be giving the organisers, but they’re minor blips in a fantastic race, run by athletes, for athletes- the thing that shone through all day was how much the organisers had lived and breathed the race for years, and wanted their baby to be a much-deserved success!

The aftermath

As I sit and write this, my body is in Yorkshire, after a dreary day back at work. My heart is still in Keswick though, and my brain is full of dreams, after watching both teammates and complete strangers push themselves past limits I never even thought were possible.

So, if you know me at all, you’ll know I’m pretty impressionable. One of the reasons I went along to the Lakesman was to find something to put me off racing; a rough swim, or horribly hilly bike leg, or terrible organisation… But I’m sure you can tell I didn’t. Not one thing to put me off.

So…. I’m in. Let 2017 be the year I become a Lakeswoman. *insert terrified emoji here*

NB: I have fully thought through the decision to do this race, unlike previously where I’ve entered on a whim, failed to fit in the training properly and DNS’d/DNF’d/had a really shit race. Cathy wrote a really good blog this week about how you have to respect the distance. No winging it. No half measures. The time in your life has to be right- like where I’m on a GP job for 4 months of the training build to the Lakesman, where I’ll have no evening, weekend or night shifts to get in the way of training- and importantly, resting and recovering from training too. I’m committed to giving it my all, and I have a few months before the build starts to get my swimming in a better place, fix up my run technique and get a good base of endurance on the bike- as well as racing some shorter triathlons as practice.

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Marathon recovery

Recovery is a very personal thing; that much is obvious to anyone who does endurance sport. Whether it’s the recovery needed between reps on a track, or recovery after an A race, it’s a very personal thing.

After running the London Marathon two weeks ago, I was in massive need of some good recovery time. I raced carrying an illness (FYI, not something I would ever advocate as a doctor, but we do make the worst patients), and had a really tough time of it. Afterwards, my cough came back with a vengeance, I was utterly knackered and absolutely everything hurt.

Fairly soon, my Strava filled up with people going for ‘recovery runs’ with their clubs barely slower than their marathon race pace only days earlier. My Twitter and Instagram was filled with selfies of runners out showing off their race tshirts. Have they all recovered spectacularly quickly?! Are they clearly a lot fitter than me?! These were the thoughts I initially had.

On reflection though, I remembered that recovery is far more important than most people give it credit for, so I focused on doing my own thing. On not running a single step until my body felt ready and I really wanted to; something I think is very underestimated but pretty important in recovery from a big race- not starting training again until you feel the need to train coming back. Until you feel ready.
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So what have the past two weeks involved for me? A full week initially where other than work, I did nothing taxing. I had plenty of hot baths (Radox Muscle Therapy, you are a bath soak of dreams), and gave my legs, particularly my battered quads, some gentle massage. I did some of the easiest Jasyoga videos and really focused on how my body felt during them. I ate well, focusing on balanced meals, with plenty of protein and carbs, and the odd treat in there, because 4 months of training and a marathon is a long slog. I also watched a LOT of TV. Hello new Game of Thrones! As far as I can when working, I prioritised sleep too.

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This week, I was itching to get moving again, but I made sure I did it gently. An easy spin on the bike out to my favourite cafe for lunch with James. A 20 minute easy jog around my village, focusing on just enjoying it. A welcome return to my favourite club ride out to Bolton Abbey for coffee. All things I wanted to do (especially with a new bike begging for a test ride), and none of them with any pressure on pace, or distance, or anything but fresh air and enjoyment. And you know what? It’s made me hungry to get out there and back into proper training now.
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All these things are underrated, but reading more into recovery and how elite athletes do it, these are the small things that add up, and keep the fire for training and self-improvement burning, rather than burning out halfway through every season because the athletes have completely overdone it. It’s how other than odd niggles that have required a bit of rest and extra attention, I haven’t had a proper injury for over two years now.

There’s a lot to be said for recovery, and I think it’s an underrated art.

London Marathon 2016

The week I had leading up to the London Marathon on Sunday was not an easy one. Taper flu reared it’s ugly head on Monday with a sore throat, and despite me resting hard and praying I’d be better, on my last day at work on Thursday I had a hacking cough and my consultant was threatening to put a ‘danger of infection’ label on my forehead. Not ideal marathon prep.

Knowing that the London Marathon organisers allow a generous cutoff for deferrals (8pm the night before the race), I headed down to London to collect my number anyway, figuring I’d either be well enough to run, or could defer, catch up with friends and have fun cheering on the runners. I caught up with wonderful Rebecca who I hadn’t seen in AGES, ate lots of carbs and tried to remain positive.

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I went for a short test run on Saturday afternoon and barring a lot of snot rockets, felt okay- my chest had cleared pretty well, I was hardly coughing, and running felt relatively easy. 7pm came and my head was still a swirling conflict of ‘respect the distance; only idiots race ill’ and ‘this is the race you’ve always wanted to do; just adapt your goals and try to enjoy it’. As 7:59pm came and went, I made up my mind: to run the race, aiming for 9 minute mile or so pace, 40 seconds per mile slower than I’d trained for, but would still see me round in sub-4 hours.
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I won’t drone on with a mile-by-mile recap, but for the first 16 miles or so, I felt great, running an average pace of 8:40min/mile or so without issue, and really enjoying the massive crowds and iconic route. I briefly ran with super strong Cathy before she headed off to bag herself another stellar time, and then things started to get hard, with my legs starting to seize up and my cough making a re-appearance. I knew Steph was planning to be at mile 21, so focused all my attention on getting there, telling myself if I made it to her it would all be okay.

Mile 21 came and went, and through the dense, wonderful, cheering crowds, I sadly never spotted her. It became harder and harder to keep going now that carrot dangling in front of me had gone, with searing pain in both quads, and sharp pains in my chest whenever I coughed or took a deep breath. It’d have been oh-so-easy to pull out at that point, but with the ghosts of Snowdonia Marathon fresh in my mind, I stuck it out, having a disciplined walking break at the next few mile markers, but forcing myself to run in between, buoyed by brilliant encouragement from the crowds. After an age, mile 25 appeared, shortly followed by James, and I held my head high, determined to run and enjoy every last agonising step of my victory lap to the finish.

I rounded the last corner, saw the finishing line and promptly burst into tears, partly at the sheer relief that I could stop running, and partly with emotion at having overcome a few of the demons that have taken residence in my mind since last summer and the start of a disastrous run of races.
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4:01:01 is a bittersweet time when I was aiming for sub-3:40 all the way through training, but I’m proud to have stuck it out, I mostly had a blast, and I will 100% be back to conquer that brilliant course in the future. London, it was a pleasure! In the meantime, I *may* or may not have entered Paris as next spring’s project. One to crack on with when I can walk down stairs without a handrail and looks of alarm from fellow hospital staff, perhaps….

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PS. James and I stayed with the wonderful Sarrah and Chris via Airbnb for the race, and I can’t think of a more welcoming, obliging pair of hosts for a weekend. If you’re racing in London, I would highly recommend staying with them- details here.

10 things the Hansons Marathon Method has taught me

After 14 weeks of mostly following the Hansons Marathon Method training for the London Marathon, I thought I’d share a few important lessons it’s taught me so far, that I can definitely take into the marathon I’m planning next year- a sunny jaunt to Barcelona!

  1. If you’re going to run more a la Hansons, you really do need to slow right down. There’s a world of difference, if you’re going to run up to 50 miles a week, between a 9 minute mile and a 10 minute mile, even if they don’t feel that much different in terms of effort, and you need to do the easy miles truly easy to reap the rewards.Hansons
  2. In the same vein, recovery runs should feel almost comically slow, like an exaggerated version of slow running. Only that way, do your legs feel better at the end than they did at the start. World record holding marathoners racing at sub-5 minute miles will do recovery runs at 8 minute miles, so if they slow down that much there’s probably a lesson in there for all of us to put our ego to one side and go for a granny jog.
  3. Spreading mileage more consistently through the week really works, as opposed to some traditional plans that have you running 20 of your weekly 35 miles on a Sunday. Spread the miles, spread the injury risk, and trust me, you still get used to running on very tired legs!Hansons
  4. You don’t have to follow a plan to the letter to use its training methods. I learned very quickly that the best way for me to recover is to skip the Monday recovery run that Hansons schedule in, and use the evening for a really good stretching and foam roller session. Just because a session is on the plan, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s what your legs need that day!
  5. The little things for recovery that you can do really add up when you’re clocking up pretty big mileage. Stretching, massage, getting plenty of sleep, eating enough carbs before/during training and plenty of protein after- all boring, and nothing groundbreaking, but they really do add up, and when I look in my training diary at the weeks that I haven’t run well, I can ALWAYS trace it back to slacking off the little things, being super busy at work or overdoing things. My personal favourite new recovery boost is after a tough session in the evening, instead of dessert, I make a proper hot chocolate with full-fat milk just before bed to top me up with goodness overnight. Yummy and good for sleep!Hansons
  6. Speedwork for a marathon doesn’t have to mean absolutely smashing yourself so you can’t walk the next day. Each session should stretch you a little, and the progress comes from being fit to do them, at a consistent pace, week in week out- not nailing them once and being unable to move the rest of the week!
  7. Sundays don’t have to mean massive long runs of 20 miles or more that ruin me for the day any more. A strongly paced 16 miles is more than enough training benefit, and actually, is a far bigger confidence boost than dragging myself round a terrible 22 miles!
  8. The best confidence boost for trying to race a marathon PB, it turns out, is getting out and running the miles at marathon pace. A 12 mile run with 10 at race pace on a weekday might feel like an overhead, but that time teaching your legs to tick over at a set pace is really, really confidence boosting!
  9. Strava is not everything. If you’re going to train the Hansons way, you really have to let go of segment chasing. Though you do top the distance leaderboards without too much hassle 😉
  10. And to end  on a lighthearted note, Hansons has taught me that if you buy nice enough kit (I’m looking at you, Lululemon), it doesn’t need washing after every run. You generate enough laundry on this plan without fresh kit for every run!

If you’ve trained the Hansons way, what did it teach you? And if you haven’t, would you consider it?

Liverpool Half 2016 aka how to make a race hard work…

On Sunday, after winning a Brooks competition on Twitter, I ran the Vitality Liverpool Half Marathon in a time of 1:49:20, as an end to my absence of racing since last July. The time was good, but the race itself felt like hell on earth, so I thought I’d share my guide for how to make racing really hurt for yourself…

1. Make sure you plan the race for the end of your biggest mileage week so far, after a fortnight of night shifts.

2. Make sure everywhere you either run or hike in the week leading up to the race is either uphill or downhill whilst you’re in the Lake District. Definitely no flats.

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3. Whilst you’re away for the week, make sure you really enjoy the local food, and lots of it. Bacon every morning is mandatory.

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4. Instead of a light, nourishing dinner the night before, stay at your mum’s house, and have a roast beef dinner with all the trimmings, followed by two types of pudding, so you feel optimally weighed down for the race.

5. Do a really bad job of stretching and looking after your legs in the week leading up to the race, so everything feels tight and twangy.

6. On the warmest day of 2016 to date, when you find yourself thinking your race vest and shorts look tiny and chilly, definitely add a long-sleeved baselayer so you’ll sweat LOADS and feel really hot all race.

7. Whilst we’re on kit, make sure you choose your shortest shorts with highest chance of chub rub to test out in the race.

Voila! The perfect way to make you hate what was actually a really nicely-run race. I’m definitely going back in the future with better training to try and nail a PB there!

The ups and downs of marathon training

After those first few weeks of building up regular running again, marathon training has ramped up to what I’m more used to, with tempo runs, speedwork and longer runs starting to build up. But, as ever, with my job being the way it is, I’ve had to be flexible in how I’m training, and adapt the Hansons plan as I go along (with the help of the ever-wise Simon), so here’s a bit of a run-down of how it’s been going!

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Speed work
I have a massively love-hate relationship with speedwork. When I’m fit and I’m ‘fast’ for me, I love speedwork, feeling my lungs and my legs burn as I fly around the track or along the path. Other times, like recently? If I have a target pace in mind for my reps that my legs just won’t produce, I find it really frustrating. I try to relax into the running and let it flow, but I end up angry my legs just won’t ‘fly’ like they used to!

Recovery runs
There’s no hate between me and recovery runs- unlike some runners I actually love them- the only difficulty I have is slowing down enough to actually recover on them. ‘Easy days easy, so the hard days can be hard’ is a mantra I try to follow, but if I’m enjoying the run, sometimes I can glance down at my watch and realise I’m not far off race pace!

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Tempo runs
I might not love a speedwork session, but I LOVE a tempo run. I don’t know if it’s that I know I’m directly practicing race pace for the big day, or that consistent pacing comes pretty easily to me if I know what speed I’m supposed to be doing, but I’m up to 8 miles at marathon pace now, and I’m starting to find my legs are naturally ticking along at that pace without too much stress. All good reassuring stuff this far out from the big day!

Long runs
Long runs on the whole are going okay. I’ve had to adapt one or two, and missed one completely (what can you do when you’re working 13 hours of your Sunday?!), but the ones I’ve done so far have felt controlled and strong. It’s hard on the Hansons plan sometimes not to feel like I’m really far behind those following conventional plans, but I’m trusting the process and having faith in the plan!

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Adapting the plans for difficult weeks
On standard weeks at work, fitting in training isn’t difficult. Okay, so it means I have to make reasonably quick dinners, and sacrifice a bit of time lounging on the sofa watching TV, but it’s not difficult. Long on-call shifts and night shifts make it difficult though. I was initially stressing about those weeks, because I was either missing runs completely or having to shorten runs to fit them in at 10pm after work. Simon has had a job on his hands to convince me of it, but during these weeks, I’m trying to just run if I feel good, but if the shift at work takes it out of me or I feel really tired, having no panic about just resting. One of the hardest lessons to learn!

Fuelling
When the plan was mostly short easy runs, fuelling runs didn’t take any thought, but now the runs are getting longer and more taxing, I’m paying more attention to fuelling them and recovering from them. I’ll cover it more in a separate post, but it mostly means making sure I stay well-hydrated even when I’m super busy at work (something I’m terrible at!), using my trusty favourite SiS Go Gels on runs of 10 miles or more, and if I won’t get a meal soon after the run, kick-starting recovery with either an SiS protein bar or some yummy chocolate flavoured Rego recovery drink until I get home to a proper meal. Having liked and used SiS products for a while, it’s ace to have a steady supply of them to support me, as well as trying out new ones as an SiS ambassador.

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Mobility and strength work
Again, this is one of the bits of training that I’m absolutely terrible at. When I get super busy, it’s the first thing I ‘forget’ about doing, but as part of my #LimberLent promise, I’m making sure I do some each day, whether it’s 20 minutes of Jasyoga mobility videos, some quality time with the foam roller and massage stick, some simple bodyweight exercises or even some balance work and calf stretches whilst I cook dinner (or even whilst typing discharge letters at a standing desk at work!). It’s early days yet, but I’m feeling strong on tempo runs so far- now just to rid myself of these pesky tight calves.

How’s your marathon training going so far? Are you looking forward to spring as much as I am?

Hansons Marathon Method: the base building

As you might have read about here, I’m giving the Hansons Marathon Method a whirl for training for this spring’s London Marathon. In an ideal world, I’d have arrived at late December with a really strong running base and started on the Advanced plan, a favourite of Cathy, that from the beginning is all tempo runs, intervals and plenty of easy running all up in your trainers.

Hansons Marathon Method

Life rarely goes to plan though, and after a November and December that could be generously described as gentle on the training front, and that a mean person would call a trainwreck, I instead opted for the Beginners’ version of their plan, where the first five weeks are a gentle build into running 5-6 times a week, with plenty of short, easy runs to break your legs in gently, before the tempo running and speedwork starts.

So, how’s it been so far? Well, at the moment I’m writing this, about to tackle the last run of the fourth week, and it’s going well. When I first read the plan, I scoffed internally a little at starting off marathon training with such low mileage weeks, when the last time I trained properly for a marathon (the Yorkshire Marathon) in 2013, I was running around 40 miles a week from the outset. But you know what? I was wrong. I’m starting training this time around from a very different place in my life, and a different fitness level, and now I’ve swallowed my pride and diligently put in those easy miles, I can completely see the point.

Hansons Marathon Method

I haven’t fully settled on a time goal for London yet, mostly because it’s always hard (as the last few months have proven) to predict how training will go, so instead of getting hung up on a particular time goal, I’m going to aim in the region of 3:30-3:45 and see how training goes- hopefully once I’ve done a few tempo runs I’ll start to get a feel for what sort of pace is realistic! So far the easy runs have been, well, pretty easy. Slowing down properly to make them actually ‘easy’ has, as always, been a bit of a test, so I don’t fall into mid-pace no-man’s land, but I’m starting to feel my running legs returning. Running legs and the old niggles, that is- some serious Jasyoga is happening before and after today’s run, to sort out my old lady hips and creaky quads!

If you’re training for a marathon, how are you getting on? Are you taking the early days steady like I am with Hansons Marathon Method, or are you bashing out the track sessions and the long runs right from the word go?