Thursday 16 December 2010

I shouldn't have had that chocolate croissant...

Wake up early - done.
Healthy cereal breakfast - done
(Nearly) 10km run - done home to see a chocolate croissant calling to me from the kitchen side.

I couldn't resist, and gobbled it down...trying to justify it because I'd just been for a run.  Never mind the fact that there was no protein in there, loads of fat, and really not what I needed at all, especially as I'd already had my breakfast!

2 hours later I still feel guilty about it...must have a healthy lunch today and try to control my snacking urges, although no doubt there'll be biscuits and mince pies later.  This is probably why I'm not losing any weight ;)

Monday 13 December 2010

Marathon training starts today

Well, this is it - the big day has arrived. Today is the start of my 18 week marathon training programme. This is where I'm going to make or break my dream of running an awesome race at London on April 17th...and then getting round at the Shakespeare marathon in Stratford, 3 weeks later.

On the Ben Does Life blog I recently read this post about his efforts in the Las Vegas marathon, which he ran on December 5th.  Part of the blog is about time goals for finishing a marathon:

"When a runner is training for a marathon (other than the first one, where the goal is to finish), he or she has a few different time goals.
A: The public goal – as the name implies, this is the goal the runner tells people when asked what his goal is. Barring a complete meltdown, this goal is easily attainable and would even be a slight disappointment to the runner.
B: The actual goal – Usually about 5-10 minutes faster than the public goal. The runner will tell close friends and family about this goal. It’s also the time that the runner feels comfortable striving for and thinks there is a reasonable chance of hitting.
C: The secret dream goal – The runner doesn't tell anyone this goal, because he knows that the stars would have to align and everything would have to fall perfectly in place for the secret dream goal to happen, and if a runner knows nothing else, he knows that during 26.2 miles, nothing ever falls perfectly in place."

Of course, depending on how training goes, the goals I set myself may change, but as of today, I have these goals for the London marathon (although at Stratford it will just be to get round and enjoy it).  Unlike Ben's public goal, mine though would not be a disappointment, nor will it be easily's twenty minutes faster than my PB, and an hour faster than my last marathon attempt!
Public goal: 4hrs 41mins
Actual goal: 4hrs 29mins
...and as for C...well, I'm just not telling ;)

My marathon training schedule

Here it is - 18 weeks of early mornings and constant washing of running gear!

This schedule isn't too gruelling compared to some of the plans I've seen, and my maximum mileage in a week only gets up to 41 miles, three weeks before the big day.  I have three very long runs (a 20, 21 and 23 miler) and will try to swim once a week and go to the gym once a week for the duration of the schedule to get in a bit of cross training too.

I'm determined to stick to this, although I'm not going to beat myself up if I miss a day here or there, or substitute a gym day for a rest day when I'm feeling tired.  Although I desperately want to achieve my goal time in the London marathon, I want to enjoy the whole process too!

Feel free to have a look at my schedule through this link: My 18 week marathon training schedule

Sunday 12 December 2010

My mountainous half marathon

Today was my last race of 2010...the Bedford Harriers Half Marathon and I had an absolutely great time.    I had hopes of smashing my PB and having a sub-2hr run on this race, but very soon in, I realised that the course was incredibly (ok not quite mountainous) hilly, and there was no hope of achieving that...but still went out to try and get as good a time as I could.

It took me about 3 miles to settle into my stride, which is longer than usual, which I'll put down to not having run much in the last couple of weeks due to the snow, but once I got into it, I felt really comfortable as the miles passed...and also discovered that I'm actually better than many (of the people that run at my kind of pace) at hills.  There are a lot of pretty hefty gradients on my training routes and so I'm definitely used to them, but as I always train on my own, I've not really been able to compare my speed up and down them with other people.  Fantastically though, I actually found myself overtaking a fair number of other runners up and down the hills, and although I know it's all about running your own race...I did enjoy that. However, it's the exhilaration of the downhills which made the race so fun - my average pace over the 13 miles was 09:29/mile...during down some of the downhills I was going 2 minutes faster than that!  It was awesome & I absolutely loved it!!!

I'm still working on changing how I run, and only very occasionally did I find myself heel-striking - the majority of the race I was striking mid-foot and I really feel it makes a difference to my pace and how comfortable I am as I run. It's only a matter of time before I buy my first barefood-esque shoes! However, I do think that change in my strike is to blame for the burning pain that I had in my calves during the last half a mile - it was excruciating, and I really don't know how I managed to keep going...but I did, and pretty much as soon as I'd stopped running, it went that's all right ;) I know I should build up slowly to the transition, but this is the first time I've really had problems from the change, so think I'm probably getting on alright.

Well, a great race, which was also incredibly well organised by the Bedford Harriers, and a great way to round of the racing season.  I still managed a PB too...I finished in 2hrs 4mins

Friday 10 December 2010

The last race of the year

Sunday will see me running in my last race of 2010, the Bedford Harriers Half Marathon around Wooton in Bedfordshire.  It's a relatively big race field compared to some of the runs I've done, at 2000 people (I like running with lots of people) and as I've been so restricted with the ice and snow, I'm really looking forward to getting out and having a really good run...on safe roads!

With the race coming up it has made me a bit nostalgic about the year that's gone by.  Although I've been running for a few years now, this year has been defining for me, and so important in terms of my commitment and passion for the sport.

I ran my second London Marathon in April, and had a truely terrible time.  I hadn't trained enough, and really suffered on my way round, picking up injury at 21 miles and finally finishing in (what I considered) a very embarrassing 5hrs 41mins.  But that run made me realise that I really wanted to improve - bizarrely, even though as I crossed the finish line I swore never again, within an hour, I was more motivated than ever to see what I could really achieve if I put my mind, heart and soul into truly become a runner.  So, that's what I've been doing - I've been regularly up at 5.30am to run, cross training, reading about running, buying the kit, and now writing about running, all to help achieve my target of a 4hr 15m marathon in the Spring.  To improve my marathon time by nearly an hour and a half is, I know, ridiculously ambitious, but I went from doing absolutely no exercise at all, to running a 5hr marathon in 9 months, so I think this is something that with enough effort and dedication to the cause, I should be able to achieve.  My PB this year for a half marathon is 2hrs 6mins, so I do think I'm on my way...

Since the marathon in April, I've run in 5 more races (and have the medals hanging on my wall to prove it!) - my race this weekend will be my seventh of 2010 - and have really immersed myself in the the title of my blog says, "these days, I call myself a runner..."

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Finally, I ran in the snow

The alarm went off at 5.30am this morning, I snoozed, alarm went off again, I seriously thought about turning it off and going back to sleep, and then, with much effort, I successfully dragged myself out of bed and got ready for my run - my first since last Monday because of the masses of snow we've had.

It was minus 3.5oC outside, so not the minus five I was expecting, and an airing cupboard full of warm running clothes definitely added to my enthusiasm, and once I got outside I was actually really excited to be there, especially as there'd been a freezing fog overnight and the trees were all beautifully iced up - it all looked pretty and decidedly Christmassy!  Could still feel the chill through all my layers, but that's how it's supposed to be, and before long I was feeling pretty comfortable and very pleased with myself for finally having worked out how to dress for this weather...I think smug is probably the word ;)

Unfortunately the paths along all my usual routes are still covered in ice and I didn't want to risk a fall, so ran in the road until I got to the main high street, where the council have taken great care to get rid of all the snow, and it's completely safe to run on the pavement.  Not inspiring or picturesque mind...but not slippery either.  So, the plan was to run up and down the half mile high street until I got to my 6 miles target.

So, there I am, smug in my hat, gloves, ear warmer, two pairs of leggings, two tops and a sweatshirt, running up and down.  Until the weather decided that I was far too smug, and it started snowing...pretty heavily.  Within 5 minutes, I was making footprints in the snow that had settled!   Unfortunately, when working out what to wear to keep me warm, I'd completely disregarding the importance of keeping dry and an oversized cotton sweatshirt is not ideal when the snow's falling!

It was a lovely run though which I really enjoyed, and although I only did 5 miles in the end (which I think is not too bad given the dull, repetitive nature of my route!), I'm so glad I went out, and will definitely be running more this week - back on track! :D

Monday 6 December 2010

Braving the elements

Come hell or high water (or more likely significant frost and ice!) I'm going for a run tomorrow morning, my first in 7 days.  I can't bear the prospect of another gym session, so I've got my base layer, middle layer, sweatshirt, 2 pairs of tights, ear band, hat and gloves warming in the airing cupboard, and I'm going to brave the elements!  Yes, I know this is probably too many layers, but I'll never make it to the end of the road if I'm too cold when I step outside!

It's likely to be minus 5 degrees...not a good temperature for me...but I'm really starting to feel I have to go for a run!  Not really felt this before, this real frustration at not getting out there through (nearly) enforced circumstance, and am starting to understand how difficult it must be for a regular runner to be out with an injury.  It encourages me that I do feel like this though and actually do miss the run for the enjoyment of the run itself, and not just because it's something I should be doing.

I might not manage the six miles I want, but I'll be up tomorrow at 5.30am (in five and a half hours!) and I will make it out of the door.

Sunday 5 December 2010

Treadmill torture!

So, still unable to run on the streets due to snow, ice, and my general dislike of the cold...I headed to the gym again yesterday, and managed to get in a really good 2hr session.

I went on my usual cardio machines (rower, cross trainer and bike) and then, because I knew I really needed to get some running in, decided to give the treadmill a go.  Oh my god! I just don't understand how anybody runs on these things.  I set up a programme, put my gradient up to 1 (isn't that what you're meant to do to simulate road conditions?) and started off.  Bearing in mind I can run for a few hours when I need to, and can do a 10km in under an hour, I really thought that I'd be able to get a few miles in at a 10km/hr pace without too much trouble.

How wrong I was - within a few minutes, I was sooooo hot!! I really think that without the airflow that I get from running through the air outside, my body just can't cool me down quickly enough to cope.  Five minutes in, and my face looked like a beetroot and I was so embarrassed!  I wasn't feeling good, very hot, and I wasn't enjoying it, and so gave up and went back to the bike and then onto the weight machines.

So, disappointing still not to have clocked any miles for December, but I certainly don't think I'll be trying the treadmill again, unless my gym introduces a new air conditioning system...or fans in front of the treadmills!

Friday 3 December 2010

A running wimp who likes my bed too much

This morning's plan:- Get up at 5.45am.  Get to the gym for 6.30am.  Run on treadmill for 6 miles

What actually happened:- Woke up at 7.45am after snoozing my alarm and then going back to sleep.  Rushed around like a mad thing trying to get ready for work.  Dashed to the station (wading through the snow, and being careful on the ice) to catch a train that wouldn't make me late for work.

With these cold, dark mornings and all the snow, my body is making the decisions for me and keeping me confined to my bed.  But I must be strong, and get up, and do some exercise!  There's still loads of snow where I live, and running on the road would be impossible (for a running wimp like me) - down the street from my house the snow is mid-calf deep and I can only get through it in wellies - but I should at least be hitting the gym.

When I thought the snow would be here for just a few days, I'd planned just to do some cardio and weights as usual in the gym to try and retain a level of fitness, but it now looks like it's going to be here for much I have to get over my hatred of the treadmill and get running - although getting out of bed on time and actually getting there probably needs to be my first goal!

Well, tomorrow is Saturday, so I don't need to get up early to get to the gym before work - I can go anytime, and so I really can't have any excuses....

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Running in the snow?

The back garden
For the last few days, Britain has been in the grip of a (very early and unexpected) big freeze and for the last two mornings, we've woken up to an amazing snowfall over night, and loads of snow on the ground!  Our car is (nearly) snowed in, and walking to the train station to get to work has been great fun, especially as I leave the house so early, and I get to make big wellie footprints in the virgin snow before everyone has made their mark. The problem though is that I can't run in it. I know that there are loads of people who love running in the snow, and extol the virtues of getting out there in such Arctic conditions, and I've heard it's like running in the sand so it makes your muscles work harder than my usual pounding on the tarmac.  However, as much as I'm worrying about my enforced running break, I know that I'm have enough trouble walking to the station in the snow without slipping over, or twisting my ankle as I disappear down a hidden kerb, and if I try to run, I'll injure myself before I get to the end of our road!

The front garden
Oh, and it's cold...really minus 10oC with the wind chill, and I'm a bit of a wimp!

So, I'm going to the gym.  I hate treadmills, but with enough effort on the cross trainer, the rower and the bike, I'm determined to keep my fitness, and get myself ready for my next race, which is in just two weeks!

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Ben Does Life...and inspires me to do too!

I just wanted to share this really inspirational blog written by a guy called Ben Davis who, a couple of years ago, made a decision to change his life and transform himself from being a computer gaming couch potato into an incredibly fit athlete who now trains all the time, competes in Marathons & Iron Mans, and who inspires thousands of people to "Do Life" through his blog and his facebook page.  He also writes really well, is well worth following and you can buy t-shirts or stickers (like below) with his Do Life logos.  I have one of the stickers stuck to my fridge and it does encourage me!

Ben says:
If you want to do something with your life, if you really want to do it, just do it. I promise that you can. You just have to do it. And when you do, you’ll be happier for it.

I think he's an incredible inspiration - and I truly believe in what he says.  I made a decision I wanted to run a marathon, and from doing no exercise at all, ran a marathon 9 months later...that was three years ago and I'm still going.... I haven't quite managed his weight loss success, but I'm, determined that it will come.

Hope you enjoy his blog too :D

What happens when your long run...isn't...

After a pretty lazy week, I was very impressed when I dragged myself out of bed on Sunday morning and headed out in the freezing cold weather for my 14m long run.

I was less impressed with myself though when at 3.5 miles in, I decided it was just too cold, I wasn't enjoying myself and there's no way that it was good for me to run in such cold conditions and turned round to head home, so only completed a 7 miler in the end, which really doesn't count as a long run any more.  By the time I got home and the weather had got a degree or two warmer, I was really feeling very disappointed with myself for having given up.  It's something I always try not to do...if I have aches and minor pains I always try to run through it, and keep going - always keep going - but for some reason I just couldn't do it this time.  It was very cold, admittedly, but I passed a couple of other runners who were just in shorts and a sweatshirt who were managing to go along at a decent pace, so why I couldn't manage it, I just don't know.

Anyway, I didn't want to let it ruin my training for the week, so the next day (Monday) I tried again - only this time it was minus 5oC when I stepped out of the door.  Even colder.  But it was beautiful.  I very rarely run on a Monday, and if I hadn't had such a disaster on my long run the day before, I probably wouldn't have gone out, but I'm so glad I did.  There hadn't been snow, but there was a thick frost and the countryside looked absolutely amazing.  I didn't pass another soul while I was out, and there were only a few cars, and it really was one of those amazing runs that I think I'll remember.  I didn't go far at all, just 4 miles, but it was enough to really inspire me.

So, my long run was in actual fact a short, uninspiring, disappointment which, as it turned out, meant I had a really enjoyable run yesterday, and now I feel like I'm back on track and remotivated after a couple of weeks of struggling to train.

Friday 26 November 2010

Can you help me find my running mojo??

Another day, another hour and a half lie-in...oh dear, oh dear - really must try harder!

For some inexplicable reason, this last couple of weeks I've got really bad at actually getting up when the alarm goes off and going out for a run or to the gym.  After "restarting" my blog yesterday, I was determined that I would get up early this morning and go for a run with a renewed vigour and enthusiasm, enjoy the thrill of being the only one out on the streets, and relish that feeling of being warm from the effort, despite it being so freezing cold (was probably about -3oC this morning).

But no.  Again.  The alarm went off and I rolled over and went promptly back to sleep, not getting up until I absolutely had to, to get to work on time.

If this carries on, my PB attempt at my next race (12th December, Bedford Half Marathon) is going to be a disaster.  But I really have no idea why I'm feeling like this - usually I'm up 5 minutes after the alarm, and although I don't enjoy that at 5.30am, I do enjoy the run and the temptation of getting out there is enough to get me out of bed.

Can you help me find my running mojo?? Any advice/suggestions would be much appreciated.....

Thursday 25 November 2010

Barefoot running - is it the answer??

Blisters, heavy feet, slapping strides as I'm running down the road - my new trainers really haven't been working for me :(

I've always run in Asics Kayano trainers, and have lost toenails, had appalling blisters from long runs, tendinitis in my ankle, and various other issues, but have generally just got on with things. When the fabric on my trainers starting fraying though, I thought it was probably time for some new I just bought the most recent version of the Kayano and went out in them. But they really weren't right. Something about the new design on this old style doesn't work with my feet at all and I didn't need a long run to feel like my shoes were hurting - worse than that, after 200 yards, I felt that they were impeding me.

In the couple of days after my first run in my disappointing new shoes, I discovered (through a recommendation on Amazon) Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I couldn't put it down. It's amazing and if you haven't read it and you love running (or you're even a bit interested in it!) you should read this book.

This is the precis from Wiki: McDougall tracks down members of the reclusive Tarahumara Indian tribe in the Mexican Copper Canyons. After being repeatedly injured as a runner himself, McDougall marvels at the tribe's ability to run ultra distances (over 100 miles) at incredible speeds, without getting the routine injuries of most American runners. The book has received attention in the sporting world for McDougall's description of how he overcame injuries by modeling his running after the Tarahumara. He asserts that modern cushioned running shoes are a major cause of running injury, pointing to the thin sandals worn by Tarahumara runners, and the explosion of running-related injuries since the introduction of modern running shoes in 1972.

The key thing that I took away from the book and that has stayed with me (other than an insight into the lives and attitudes of some of the craziest ultra runners there are) is that running is something that people have evolved to needing to wear over engineered, expensive, gait changing trainers.

We are "born to run" and we're just spoiling the experience by persevering with what Nike, Asics and all the other manufacturers tell us we should be putting on our feet. There are many differing opinions among the various professionals who specialise in this type of thing, but from the many articles I've read about it, I believe that the numbers of people who are still injured every year running (and yep, I'm always one of them) shows that the injury preventing shoes just don't work!

All of these ideas coming at the time when I was having such trouble with my own trainers, has been very exciting for me. I'm convinced that (a simulated) barefoot running method is the answer to my problems with my trainers. I've spent my life, as most of us have, in shoes and I know for a fact that if I decided to go and run barefoot down the street tomorrow I'd be hobbling in a minute, not only because of the massive change to my running style that my body and muscles wouldn't be used to, but also because of the broken glass, snails and general detritus that I'm convinced would be waiting for my feet! However, I do believe that, with the right preparation, many runners could benefit from running in (feet protecting) basic shoes that don't offer the cushioning and fake support that alter the way the body naturally moves and the way the foot supports us.

So...I'm changing my stride from heel to mid-strike (which has immediately increased my pace and helped keep my shoulders relaxed when running) and am very soon going to be looking at some of the new shoes on the market that seem to be designed for this new barefoot running trend...or maybe I'll just buy some cheap white plimsoles that I used to run in at school!

In need of inspiration

Over the last few months, I've been really pleased with my running progress, getting up early, running decent long runs on a Sunday, and I've amassed a fair few medals for the races I've taken part in. I'm really looking forward to my 3rd marathon in the Spring and my next race, in a couple of weeks, will be my sixth half marathon. I read running books, am very interested in the idea of trying barefoot running, and spend half my time reading running articles online.

But...the problem is that this week I seem to have completely lost my motivation - all of a sudden, it's gone, I'm losing interest, am eating so unhealthily and just want to sleep!

I can't get up in the morning and am sleeping until 7.15am and then getting the latest train I can to scrape getting into work on time. I've barely seen the inside of the gym for the last three weeks, and have only run once this week, and only managed 3 miles 'cause I got bored and went home. try and pull myself back, I've going to start blogging every day. Maybe just a couple of lines, maybe a whole piece about how things are going, but I'm going to focus this blog on my running and hopefully get myself out of this slump!

Saturday 31 July 2010

I'm calling myself a runner these days

So, just over three months since running the marathon, and joining the gym, I've lost a fair bit of weight, and am much much fitter. I'm really pleased with how the whole regime is going, although we went on holiday to the gorgeous Turkish coast a few weeks ago which really screwed up my schedule! Getting back on track now, and planning to run 6 miles this morning, 9 miles tomorrow, and will be back in the gym on Monday...I call myself a runner, and have finally got to the stage of actually quite enjoying the running, even thought of course sometimes it's still really hard to get out of bed and actually get the trainers on!

I've invested hundreds of pounds in a decent GPS running watch - my Garmin 405 - which has made a massive difference to not only my motivation but also my speed. I love coming back from a run, plugging it in and analysing the data it's captured. Would definitely reccomend it!

Anyhoo, I did a half marathon last month, a 10km, and a have another half in a couple of week...and yet another booked for October.

I'm a runner now, and absolutely loving it.

Sunday 16 May 2010

Maintaining the momentum

Well, it's two weeks since my first day at the gym, and I'm very pleased to report that I've been doing well, and every day since I've been up at some god forsaken time in the morning and either headed to the gym or out for a run.

It's been good - I'm not sure I've lost much weight but I know I'm getting fitter and my attitude to the whole thing has changed...I'm feeling much more like I did when I was training in 2007 and know that I can maintain this, and I can really do it. Not quite ready to say I'm enjoying it yet, but maybe that will come ;)

Sunday 2 May 2010

First day in the gym...

If I'm going to improve on this year's marathon time, next year...which I am...I must try and get fit. I need to run and cross train. And I need to start now.

So, I joined the local gym...again...

I went along to my gym induction this morning, expecting "Mark" and was greeted by a horribly slim and fit seemingly 12 year old girl. Not the best start to my new gym experience, as I'm a bit self conscious about the whole thing...and she then went on to tell me about how in the evenings the gym is full of teenage lads ogling the slim and fit Billericay girls. I'm already looking around for the door, but must remember the massive contract I've signed up to!

Anyway, I did the induction, and thought I'd have a bit of a go on the bike, that should be easy enough, but after 5 minutes felt dizzy and sick :(...oh dear, I thought - this is not how this was meant to go! I gave up and went home, but determined to go back and try and really make it part of my life.

I ran the London Marathon and have the medal to prove it!

I ran the London Marathon last weekend! I'm so pleased with myself to have actually got round and crossed that finish line as I really didn't train as hard as I should have done, and I think I paid the price as the run was sooooo much harder than when I ran the marathon in 2008.

My finish time was 5hrs, 41mins and 36secs, against my previous time of 5hrs, 12 secs.

Regardless of the time though, I far...raised just under £2,000 for the RNLI so it was definitely worthwhile!!

Despite running the last 10 miles thinking "I'm never, ever going to do this again!" what I'm now thinking, a week into recovery, is that I'm never going to do it with such inadequate training. I joined our local gym today...and I have a year to get myself fit enough to run a marathon at peak fitness. I think my aim should be to run a sub 4hr race next spring. It's pretty unlikely that I'll get a ballot place in the London Marathon for 2011, and as people have been so generous this year, I don't want to get a charity place, so if I can't do the London I'll probably sign up for Brighton or another more local run, but I will do it!

So...this is a long term effort...not the 16 week effort that I embarked on this year. I'm going to cross train, get properly fit, lose the weight that I've put on since 2008 and do it properly, and to be honest I can't wait.

My first session at the gym is tomorrow with one of the instructors, where we'll go through what I want to achieve and they're going to help put together a programme for me. I've never done this before, but I think this is the time, while I still have the drive and enthusiasm - the motivation - to actually start a fitness habit. Here's hoping I can actually see it through this time.