Thursday 25 August 2011

The big race is in just 10 days

So, on Sunday 4th September, I'm running the Kent Coastal Marathon which is organised by the Thanet Road Runners. It'll be my 5th marathon (my 3rd 26.2 this year) and I'm really excited about it!  I think I am better trained for this one than I've been for the others, I'm lighter than I've been for years, and am really looking forward to seeing how I do, and how differently I perform having trained more than in the past.  I'm in the middle of my taper now, but not taking that as an excuse to slack off which I have done in the past. 

We're going on a mini-holiday tomorrow, to visit family, with a couple of days in Liverpool and then three days in beautiful Whitby, in Yorkshire.  I'll run 6 miles tomorrow morning before we leave, and then, for the first time ever on a holiday, I'm going to take my trainers with me...I want to get a 10 miler in on Sunday!  I'm looking forward to that - we'll be in Whitby on Sunday, so am planning to find myself a lovely coastal route for my run which will be part training, part exploring.  Just hope the people we're staying with don't mind me disappearing for a few hours!

The only thing that's really worrying me about the race though is my footwear and my feet.  I'm really not happy with my trainers and haven't been since I bought them - I carried on wearing my old ones for ages until they fell apart, and then foolishly just put up with the new ones not being that comfortable. I'd planned to buy some replacements, and specifically wanted to get a different pair in time to break them in before this marathon, but typically haven't managed it yet.

After last night's run though I've had some very strange pain under my big toe joint and really don't think I can put off getting some new trainers that fit me better although after reading this interesting article, about this type of pain in the big toe, which actually seems to be in my sesamoid bones shown in the picture, I think this particuarly problem might be to do with having worn 3 inch heels all day for the first time in ages earlier this week!  Anyway, I have 30 miles left to run before next Sunday, and although that's not ideal, it's just about time to get new shoes ready for the marathon and will hopefully be a psychological boost too, as I'll stop worrying about them.

So, my lunch break from work today will be trainer shopping :D Here's hoping I can find my perfect shoe that will help me run a PB race!

Tuesday 23 August 2011

I'm a 10%'er

I started Weight Watchers 10 weeks ago (have a look here for my first post about it) on their ProPoints plan.  I promised I wouldn't make this a weight-loss blog, and I haven' fact, I think I've barely mentioned Weight Watchers since then.  However, indulge me today, because I'm very, very pleased with my progress after today's weigh-in.

Today, I reached my first major milestone.
I've lost 18lbs which equates to just over 10% of my starting bodyweight! 
10% milestone

I'm absolutely over the moon - despite all my years of relentless yo-yo dieting, and more recently, my marathon training, I have never been on such a successful plan that has worked for me so well.  I haven't felt deprived or hungry, I've eaten pretty much the food I want (although have made alcohol for special occasions really is empty calories) and have just made intelligent choices, completely re-evaluated the amount I eat, and changed my portion sizes - it sounds horribly clichéd, but it's not about being on a diet, it's about changing my whole attitude and approach to food.  I've had a few bad days and blow outs, have eaten chocolate, birthday cake and doughnuts, and haven't stopped eating out in restaurants, but the way the programme is devised, that doesn't screw it up, and it's easy to make it all part of the week's food points - it's all about balance!

With all the running I do (over 70 miles over the last fortnight) it is so easy for me to overindulge, which is what I've always done in the past - taken the exercise as an excuse to eat what I want and to eat far too much of it.  With the Weight Watchers plan, you can personalise it so much that I have been able to eat exactly the right amount of food to keep me losing weight, but still able to fuel myself and feel satisfied.   I can't believe it's working so well! :D

Anyway, enough of my next big milestone will be losing 25lbs, and after that, it will be reaching my goal weight!  Not sure how long it's going to take me,  but after being on the plan for 10 weeks, I know that I have the commitment and the tools to achieve this, and I know it's going to work.  I have never felt like this before, and it's absolutely amazing.  The only downside though is that practically none of my clothes fit anymore and I'm going to have to go shopping, and contrary to the norm...I'm one girl who hates shopping unless it's for trainers and lycra!

Monday 22 August 2011

I may be socially inept but I still want to belong...

A couple of weeks ago I posted about my first visit to, and run with, my local running club, the Billericay Striders.  I said how wonderful it all was, and how I was definitely going to return, and I wanted to join the club.  It's three weeks later now, and I haven't been back.

I get home from work too late to ever be able to go out with them on a weekday training run, and it seems that I am too lazy to get up early enough to go out on a Sunday morning...although I know in my heart that this is not the real problem.  The real issue is that although I really enjoyed my run with the Striders, and the other members were really very welcoming, the prospect of going back and having to make small-talk with people I don't really know does fill me with dread.  I know it's the only way to make friends, you know, talking to people, but as bizarre as it may sound to a more sociable person, for me it is very stressful and I always find it difficult - I frequently avoid situations where I have to talk to "new people", in fact whenever I can think up an excuse!

So, I have ruled out going back to the Striders.  After 3 weeks, it has become too much of a big deal in my head, and as much as I want to, I know myself well enough to know that I'm not ready to go to a "real " running club on a regular least this year....

However, my Purple Patch membership has now expired, and I don't want to renew with them as I don't feel I've really had much benefit from being a member - there wasn't really any contact from them, and most of the races they put on are on the other side of the country.  So, I started doing a lot of research online about other virtual clubs, and what other options I had as someone who didn't necessarily want to regularly run with a group, but did want to belong to a club, so I could remain affiliated, and also have a sense of camaraderie with other runners at races. I still want to be part of a group, even if I can't quite be an active member.  In the end, I came up with joining the Sepentine Running Club who are based in central London.

Serpentine is a massive club, with over 2,000 members.  Although they started as a running club, they now cater for triathletes too, and have many different training sessions across the disciplines.  I always see members from Serpentine at the races I do (never saw another Purple Patch member from one month to the next) which would definitely make me feel more connected, and might even help me talk to other people at events.  Another bonus was that they have midweek runs twenty minutes away from my office, and particularly important for me, they have a fantastic internet presence, with a comprehensive website, online groups (which is a form of communication I can manage) and lots of email contact.  They also offer extras like discounts at London sports shops... they seem to be able to offer me much more than Purple Patch did, or Billericay Striders could, and I have the added option of going running with them after work or at weekends, if I ever decide I'm ready for it.

So, I've now joined them, and just waiting for my membership pack which will be arriving this week.  The next step will then be going along to one of their after work meets, just to pick up my kit, which I'll manage without worrying about it too much - I have a reason for being there, something specific to talk about, easy!  There's no pressure to go back, but I will be a bona fide member, so if I ever feel like it, I can go and run with day...hopefully....maybe!

Homepage image

Sunday 21 August 2011

The Pride Run 10km race

PR2011LogoSaturday morning saw me jumping on an early train into London, and heading to Victoria Park for the Pride 10km race, organised by London Frontrunners who are a London club for gay & lesbian runners.  The race, last year, had got fantastic reviews on the Runners World site, and I was excited to see what all the fuss was about - I wondered if it would be a bit of an extension of the Gay Pride festival....

My first impression of the event was that it all seemed really well organised - the most important thing for a race as that can really make or break the experience - and that Victoria Park is actually a surprisingly nice location for a run.  I'd been a bit nervous about running laps, as that has bored me in the past, but it worked out absolutely fine, especially as there was lots to look at with so many other people using the park.  It was blazing sunshine on Saturday morning too, which is always a concern, but there was so much tree cover, it was shady with dappled sunlight falling on the paths and pretty nice for a race.  So, I enjoyed it.  There was someone running with a rainbow flag, a few very camp guys running in fabulous kit, lots of people had rainbow ribbons and bands and the start/finish arches were made of rainbow balloons but there was nothing too outrageous: the whole atmosphere was just really friendly. 

I found myself racing other people again (although they were all entirely oblivious to me I'm sure) but enjoyed getting someone in my sights, and overtaking them, particularly as I really made an effort to beat a whole group in the last half a mile.  I didn't quite manage to beat all of them though...a guy in his 60s managed to keep ahead of me - it's always the way! lol

I was very pleased with my time on the run - finished in 55:49 which was a PB for me in a 10km, and averaged out at 9:00 min/mile.  Unfortunately though, when I got home and checked out my Garmin, I ran every mile faster than the last so it seems I'm really not pushing myself as much as I should do...if I'd ran the whole race at the same pace as my last mile (8:41) I'd have finished in 52:55!  I must start working harder....

Because of my "episode" on Sunday night, and subsequently taking Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday as rest days, I ran Thursday and Friday so didn't get a day off before the race.  I'm not sure if that made a big difference to the time I could have achieved, but either way it was a PB run, on a great course with an unusual medal (always important!) a decent goodie bag (a real rarity!) and I'll probably be back next year :)

Friday 19 August 2011

Boys, look away now...this post's all about the bounce!

Timing is everything. I've been thinking I really need to get myself a new sports bra for a while, as my two seem to have started falling apart at the seams, and definitely aren't giving me the "support" I need. I know every time I run I'm doing more damage to myself, and accelerating the dreaded droop, so, when I was offered a Nike Pro Victory Compression Sports Bra to try out and review, I jumped at the chance.

It's a really well styled piece of kit, and I loved it on sight.  I've been meaning to get a racing back style bra for ages as they look so much better with the tops I prefer to wear (and reduces those awful strap tan lines!) and I sample I got was in a pretty blue, like the picture, which suited me just fine.  I got a "medium" size to try - I'm about a size 10 and thought that would be fine for me. I wasn't flowing over the sides or back of it, and when I first put it on, I was very pleased - if I was a few lbs lighter and a lot more toned, I might be persuaded to wear it as a top on it's own, as it definitely looks the part.  The only other point to note about the design is that it's cut very low under the arms, which is a big plus for me - makes it much more comfortable!

So, I headed out for a 6 miler on Thursday night to see whether it would be as functional as it was good-looking!  The bra definitely did what it said on the tin...absolutely excellent "bounce-reduction" (is that a real bra-related technical term or have I just made it up?!) and even on a couple of quick downhill sections I didn't notice any movement at all - usually, with my currently bras I have to fight the urge to run with my arms folded across my chest.  So thumbs up on that one, which is, of course, the most important element of a bra - does it actually give you the support you need!  It was also pretty effective at the whole wicking thing - unfortunately I do sweat a hell of a lot, but I stayed comfortable, and didn't get that dreaded cold back you sometimes end up with when running!

Unfortunately, the only draw back was that I think I could have done with a size bigger.  The whole compression element of the bra was great for the level of support it gave, but it seemed to really affect my lungs too, and I didn't feel that I could breathe properly!  I've never worn a compression bra before, and  although when I put the bra on it seemed to fit fine, I think I'd have had a much better time if I'd been running in a "large" size, so I think I might head over to the Nike store to try out one of those :)

Monday 15 August 2011

Horrible hyponatremia!

Well, it seems my last blog post (which went on about how good my running has been recently, how I'm injury free, and feeling very confident) was a step too far and I tempted fate.

Last night I suffered a really frightening hyponatremia episode after a weekend of doing 21miles on the Saturday and 6 miles on the Sunday, in the August sun.

Hyponatremia is a condition that affects different groups of people, including long distance runners (although usually people at the beginning of their marathon career as more experienced runners tend to know better).  The definition from the Wiki page is: "Hyponatremia is an electrolyte disturbance in which the sodium concentration in the serum is lower than normal."  Although there are other causes, for runners, essentially it happens when you drink too much plain water and don't sufficiently replace the salt and mineral content that your body has lost through sweating during long runs, resulting in a dilution of the fluids around the body's cells.  It's worse when the temperature starts to soar outside because you think you should be drinking more, and, if you're like me, the sweat levels increase too - the dried salt crystals on my face and body after my 21miles on Saturday were a sight to behold.

Eat more Salt Dog T-Shirt
It's something I have suffered from before, but never as badly as last night.  Although on my runs I drank sports drinks which contain electrolytes and so, I thought, would replace what I was losing in sweat, and so stave off hyponatremia, I didn't really eat anything containing salt and didn't add salt to any of my food over the weekend - I grew up in a house where salt was very bad for you and we never had it in the house, never mind on the table! To top it off last night, because I was thirsty, I ended up drinking about 4 pints of squash through Sunday evening.  My lack of salt, combined with that extra fluid, pushed my body over the edge...

Come about midnight last night, I went up to get ready for bed.  I started to get a headache, which within minutes became incredibly intense, I started to feel nauseous, then dizzy and then faint.  As I've had these episodes before (most recently when on holiday in a very hot India) I recognised the symptoms and laid down on the floor before I fell, and think I must have passed out.  A short while later I came too and realised how bad I was, and managed to stumble into the bedroom where Francis was.  I had started to lose control of my breathing, which was very fast and shallow, and my heart was beating incredibly rapidly.  I was disoriented, couldn't open my eyes, and just lay on the bed...oh, and then I started shaking.

The four main causes of death in marathon runners seem to be heart disease, genetic heart defects, heat stoke and hyponatremia - I wondered if this was what was going to be my fate, and as I lay on the bed I was desperately wondering if Francis was going to call am ambulance for me but wasn't able to say anything.  It was very, very frightening.

As Francis has seen me through these episodes before, he sensibly didn't call an ambulance but just got me to drink a rehydration solution that we keep in the cupboard, and before too long I was breathing normally, my heart had calmed down, I was feeling a bit better, and, about 40 minutes after it started, I promptly fell asleep.

Although I still feel a bit woozy this morning, I've had another of the rehydration drinks, and am well on the way to recovery.  I really mustn't let this happen again - it is a serious condition, and if I don't start to pay as much attention to my hydration and nutrition on a day to day basis as I do during my runs, I really could end up in hospital, in a coma, or worse.....

Sunday 14 August 2011

21 miles yesterday, 40 miles this week, 830 miles this year

Today ends my last week of full-on training before my taper starts next week in preparation for the Kent Coastal marathon on September 4th...and I'm very pleased with how it's gone. I've run 40 miles which is the highest mileage in a week I've ever managed, and although I'm definitely feeling the distance in my legs, most importantly I haven't (so far, touch wood!) picked up any injuries.  Below is my graph from my account, showing my running over the last 20 weeks - you can see I've not had the most perfect training, but bearing in mind I did my other two marathons this year in weeks 16 and 19 (this week is 33) I don't think it's been too bad.  My total mileage so far this year is 830 which isn't quite where I wanted to be by middle of August, but it's still a number I'm proud of.

Right click to save image

I went out for this week's long run yesterday - 21 miles - which is the furthest distance I've run on this round of training. I ended up picking a pretty uninspiring out and back route - it was all pavement along main roads between and then through various local villages but there were quite a few hills. In the past, I've picked very flat routes along canals for my 20-odd mile runs, but decided that this time, that would be copping out - I wanted to really see how I'd cope along a more normal route at that distance, especially bearing in mind that my forthcoming marathon is pretty undulating.

As it turned out, the run went very well and I think I got my hydration and nutrition just right during the run (had 1.5litres of Lucozade Lite & a cereal bar at half way) which always makes such a massive difference.  My legs were really burning as I got closer to home though, and pretty much as soon as I got back (just after doing the obligatory stretches!) I set myself up on the sofa, with my legs outstretched onto the coffee table, a pack of frozen peas under my right calf, and frozen sweetcorn under the left! It was bliss :D

Although I'm sure the ice helped, needless to say this morning I was definitely feeling the aches in my legs.  I knew I needed to get out for another 6 miles today but wasn't looking forward to it!  I took it very slowly until my legs had loosened up a bit, and really didn't push myself at all, and after a couple of miles, I felt pretty comfortable. Although I could tell from every aspect of my run I was tired after yesterday, I got out & I did it.  Unfortunately though, for the first time with this pair, I also felt my trainers rubbing a bit on the tops of my toes - I'm not quite sure why, but it does mean I'm going to have to make a decision about whether I need to buy some new ones.  If I do want to, I'll have to buy them in the next couple of days so I still get enough miles in them before the marathon to make sure they'll be comfy!

Anyway, I'm very proud of my total of 40 miles!  So, now, to rest and recover, enjoy the taper (35 miles next week, the one after 25 miles), and then get ready for the marathon the week after that!

Friday 12 August 2011

Running scared?

It's been a very strange, tragic week in London, and in some of the major cities in England.

Although I've had a good week with my training, in what is my last week before my marathon taper, the London riots have been all anyone has talked about, and I honestly didn't know what I could post on here which didn't end up trivialising everything that has happened.

Luckily, no longer living in town but being perfectly safe out in leafy Essex, I wasn't directly affected by any of the violence but I have lived in London, still work here, and consider myself very connected with our capital and watching the reports on TV and following the twitter and facebook updates, was truly sickening.  Unlike those poor people who had to try and stay safe inside their houses while the pandemonium raged outside, hoping that it wouldn't be their house that was set alight, when I just couldn't bear the devastation anymore, I was able to turn off the TV and go for a run.  It made me realise just how lucky I am to have found running, and to be living under the circumstances where whenever I want, I can get away from everything, to retreat into the serenity and personal space I find when I go out training, and on this particular night, was even able to run past the farmers working late into the night harvesting the wheat - an idyllic country scene.  It was truly a world away from the urban disaster movie that was playing out just 30 miles down the road!

This blog is not the place for me to go into my ideas on what caused the riots, the problems we currently see in certain sections of our community, what should be done, or how the country, politicians and local leaders should move forward after this. I do believe we all owe a debt of thanks to the emergency services who worked to bring some sanity back to the streets, and to all of those in the community who have pulled together, clearing up the mess, and donating goods and money to help those families who have been left with nothing.  However, I'll finish my post by saying that the whole episode has been frightening and shocking; my heart goes out to all of those innocent people who were affected, injured, made homeless, and most horrifically, killed.  I only hope this isn't the start of things to come.

Friday 5 August 2011

Can I be a Billericay Strider too?

Last Sunday, I went out for my first run with the local running club, the Billericay Striders.  I wanted to join them about this time last year, but after getting in touch with them, realised that my pace was so slow I would have been so far behind everyone else, I didn't think it was worth it.  However, I've now reached the point where I definitely want to be part of a real club, and start to run with other people (rather than just being a member of my online club (Purple Patch Runners) to get my England Athletics license) and now I think that I'm fit enough to manage it too.  The Striders let you go out with them for a few weeks to see how you like everyone, and feel about the club, before you pay your membership fee, and this was my first meeting with them.

The night before the run, I came so close to deciding not to go along - I'm always very nervous about meeting new people and find the whole process quite stressful.  I really wasn't sure, but after reaching out on Twitter about my nerves, I was convinced to go along, and I came to the conclusion that if there was one group of people I should be able to get along with, it's runners!

I'm really glad I did go. Although it was nerve-racking, and I didn't feel entirely comfortable, everyone was lovely and very welcoming, and it was really nice to feel part of a group.  It's the first time I have ever run with other people, except in a race, and it was such a world away from my runs on my own: they made me keep going rather than keep stopping every time I felt like it, which is so much better for my training.  I had run 16 miles the previous day, and really felt it in my legs so found the 7 miles we ran pretty hard going, and was definitely at the very back of the group, but I don't think it really mattered and was never on my own.

Second only to a race, it just seemed the nicest thing to do on a Sunday morning and I'm definitely going to go back this week.