Monday 17 September 2012

5miles in 39 mins & 90miles in 3 days

The 5x50 challenge has been going really well for me, and I have rediscovered a total enthusiasm for my enthusiasm I didn't even realise I'd lost. Today will be day 10 of my runstreak and as well as this new found motivation to actually pull on my trainers and go for my run, I've found that the quality of my training has really improved too, even though my mileage hasn't been that high.

Of my last 9 runs, 6 of them have been under 6 miles. As the runs have been shorter than usual, I've found myself wanting to ensure that I'm making the most out of them, so I'm generally running much faster, thinking about my form, concentrating on what I'm doing rather than daydreaming, and I feel that I'm benefiting from training more than I had been. This can only be a good thing!

On Sunday, I had the Ingatestone 5 mile race, in the (unexpectedly undulating) tree-lined country lanes around the village.  I didn't know whether I'd really enjoy a 5 miler - I've never raced the distance before, and am obviously more used to longer distances and had only signed up as it was very local to me, and thought it would encourage me to get my long run done in the morning, rather than wait until late afternoon!

It was a very small, understated, "clubby" race and I don't remember anyone who wasn't wearing a club vest, so I was relieved I'd worn mine although it all seemed pretty friendly. The route was lovely, there were enough hills to make it challenging, and I was pleased with how I ran, finishing in under 40 minutes which is what I was aiming for (Garmin time of 39:15, average pace of 7:52), with enough in the tank for a bit of a sprint finish...although unfortunately the guy I was racing finished ahead of me - doh! No medal at the end either, just a cotton t-shirt, which was a shame and had to pay for refreshments which I wasn't too impressed with, but nevertheless, a nice start to the day.

Anyway, after the race, I ran 9 miles home too (I'd caught a taxi there) taking my day's total to 14. I had planned to run 13 miles home, to give me 18 for the day, but my legs started to complain about the earlier race pace, and I didn't have any water (during or after the race) so by the time I got to the crossroads where I could choose to go home, or to add an extra 4 miles onto the route, I chose home!

So, overall, very satisfied with my efforts last week, but now concentrating on preparing for this weekend's exploits which are going to be entirely different - my first time doing back-to-back long runs. Still can't believe I'm doing it - 90 miles in 3 days just seems crazy, especially in the middle of a run streak. However, my pace doesn't matter, it's going to be along a flat course for a change, it's across beautiful scenery, and it's really just about experiencing what it's like to run back to back runs...and enjoying myself (mustn't forget that one!).

My beetroot juice!
Nevertheless, I'm still doing all I can this week to be as well prepared as possible. Although it probably wasn't that sensible to have a really heavy session at the gym this morning, I'm making sure my hydration levels are high and eating well - I'm even drinking beetroot juice every day as people say it helps with endurance, despite it being disgusting!! I've found mixing it with orange juice makes it more palatable but'd better make a difference ;)

So there we go, that's what I'm doing...27 miles on Friday, 33 miles on Saturday, 30 miles on Sunday. Wish me luck, the nerves are already starting to build!

Tuesday 11 September 2012

My 12 week plan

I took a minute this morning to review my race plans between now and the end of the year. I seem to have got a bit over-enthusiastic about filling in race entry forms and over the next 12 weeks, I've managed to get myself signed up for quite a few more races than is maybe sensible! ;)

Looking at the list has made me a bit nervous, but hey ho...this is what I'm doing:-

Currently taking part in the 5x50 challenge. Running at least 5km (or doing equivalent exercise) every day for 50 days. Today is day 4 of my run streak.
16th September - Ingatestone 5 miler. I've never done a 5 mile race before, but decided I needed to do something to remind me what it's like to run fast! It's very close to where I live, and I'm interested to see what I'll manage.
21st September - The Toad Challenge. 90 miles over three days. Voyage into the unknown. A bit terrified! Just trying to complete the distance.
21st October - The Stort 30 miler. Going to take this easy but would love to get a PB and run about 4:45. No time pressure though - this is going to fun :)
4th November - Billericay 10km. I haven't run a 10km since November last year!! Want to get about 52 minutes at this, my home town race.
18th November - Luton Marathon. After the Kent marathon a couple of weeks ago, I need to perform much better at Luton. I want to be back in sub4hr shape, ideally more like 3:55 & will be very disappointed if I don't have a good race.
1st December - Saxon Shore Marathon - this is going to be a much more relaxed affair and I'm even planning (shock horror!) to run without my Garmin.

So, this is my 12 week plan.  Compared to some amazing runners I know who are running marathons quite literally every weekend (yes Heather, this means you!) I know this must seem like a pretty relaxed race schedule, but for me it's a bit crazy, especially with the mix of distances and paces.

I'm not sure how I'm going to get on, or whether I'll meet all my targets, but there's no doubt that all this running is going to be good training for the 10in10...just need to try and make sure I don't get injured along the way!

Monday 10 September 2012

5km (at least!) for 50 days

Yesterday was the first day of the 5x50 challenge that I've decided to take part in. It's not really aimed at me but I'm not going to let that put me off. 

The online blurb describes the 5x50 as "a charity challenge encouraging people to run, walk, jog or cycle 5km every day for 50 days with the aim of changing habits for a lifetime.  It started with a vision to make sport part of everyone's daily life. Not everyone will run a marathon, however anyone can complete the 5x50 challenge and experience the physical and psychological benefits that come from taking part".

That made me chuckle a bit, as I'll find it harder to keep a 50 day runstreak going than any marathon I've ever run, but there you go!

The reason I want to do this is that recently I've been finding it a bit difficult to find the enthusiasm to go out for my runs, and have been struggling to get as many miles in as I should.  This culminated in last week's planned mileage of 42 being reduced to an actual mileage of 29, including cutting short my long run yesterday to just 13 miles.

Part of me wonders if I just need a bit of a rest but there's another part of me that realises that's just an excuse, and I know that actually I need to rediscover my mojo and just get out there more! When I did the Runner's World Holiday Run Streak last Christmas, of 38 days, I found myself becoming really commited to my running and enjoying the feeling of accomplishment that came with maintaining the streak - I feel that's what I need again, and so this is the perfect challenge to get motivated.

As well as motivation though, I'm also hoping that by commiting to run every day, when we go on holiday (two weeks in the Dordoigne in France after the Toad Challenge is finished) I'll be able to maintain my fitness.  I'm running the Stort 30 mile race two weeks after we get back, and I know that if I spent the whole fortnight without any running, I'll find the ultra much harder than it needs to be!

So, that's what I'm doing.  Hopefully it'll be a great incentive for me, and I'll come out of it the other side much more dedicated to my training....I really need to - all of these races I've got lined up are going to be hell if I don't actually do the training in between! ;) 

Sunday 9 September 2012

Spot the difference...

Both are one half of a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12s but with 15 weeks and 457 miles between them. 
Love getting new shoes :)

Thursday 6 September 2012

I'm going to run 90 miles in 3 days? Really?

In two weeks time, I will be packing my kitbags and getting ready for the start of my furthest event yet - the Toad Challenge. It's a 3 day run (or walk!) along the Thames Path from Oxford to Walton-on-Thames, and covers a distance of 90 miles, with each overnight stay spent in a school hall in a sleeping bag.  There will be about 80 of us taking part, and although it should be pretty straight forward (follow the river!) we do need to navigate the route.

It's fair to say I'm nervous - although I was scared about the 50 miler (which of course turned out well) this is going to be another totally different experience, and it's a trip into the unknown as I've never done a multi-day event before so really don't know how my body is going to cope. However, although I'm apprehensive, I'm positive that I will finish because I know that's my only option - I have to prove to myself that I can. If at this stage I couldn't do three flat stages along a river, I would lose all and any confidence that I have about being ready for the 10in10 by May next year!  However, as yet I really don't know how much I will end up running or walking, and haven't decided whether I'm going to aim for any particular finish-times.  I think I will see how my running goes over the next couple of weeks, and decide nearer the time but it's likely that finishing will be my only goal.

So, I have the sleeping bag, I think the kit, hopefully I've got the legs for it...all that's left is to actually do it! 
I was chatting the other day to Traviss Willcox, ultra-marathoner extraordinaire (he ran 114 marathons in 2011 alone) and he's run a couple of days of the Toad Challenge too. He emailed me some very useful advise about multi-day running, which I have copied for you below.  

Traviss also made two comments which weren't in his top 5 tips, but I thought were great and I will remember them both: carry some money with you as ice creams can be very tempting on a warm day and 75% of it is in the mind (at least), the most important thing is to wake up and think, "this is what I shall do today"

Top 5 Tips: Multi-day racing advise from Traviss Willcox

1) Make sure you get some protein in as quick as you can after the day's run. I prefer powders with creatine and HMB...but anything will do.

2) Wear more than one pair of shoes, my feet swell a little bit so I have day one trainers and day two trainers half a size or size bigger. Helps with blisters...and if your feet get soaked on day one, can be a right pain to get them dry by day two. 

3) Eat a bit more than you think you need and you need more than you think! If you eat too much probably the worst that happens is you feel a bit sick and throw up, if you eat too little you'll keel over and all sorts of trouble can ensue. Same with fluids, drink plenty...and electrolytes, salt...take plenty of stuff on board

4) Make friends with ibuprofen...and take them before soreness or pain gets bad as they'll likely prevent damage as well as mask the pain. Just make sure you eat something with them, even a jelly baby will do, they can be harsh on an empty stomach.

5) If you get a problem, fix it. With a marathon, you can do the last 5 miles with a stone in your shoe, 10 miles with a blister you know is forming etc. When you've got to do it again tomorrow you'd best sort it out straightaway or you'll regret it in the morning, nobody cares about times....

Monday 3 September 2012

Respect the distance: the rules of marathon running

There's a lot of advice and information available out there on how to run a marathon.  Over the last few years, based on what I've read in magazines, on-line, and from my own experience, I know the rules I need to follow to run my best race, aside from (obviously) putting the miles in during training.  Unfortunately, yesterday, running my 34th race, and my 11th of marathon/ultra distance, I managed to break pretty much all of those rules, and definitely paid for it! 

I was running the Kent Coastal Marathon, which is a friendly, picturesque and well organised race along the sea front and cliff path around Margate. Although I knew it'd be hard work, and didn't expect a particularly fast time, as my training has been a little sporadic recently, and I hadn't tapered at all, I ended up having a much more difficult race than I'd hoped for, and unfortunately it's all my own fault. 

So, the rules....

Carb-load before a race
Although I was trying to carb-load in a sensible, healthy way instead of my usual, disordered, "eat as much junk as I can" way, I really didn't get the balance right.  Too obsessed at the moment about not eating too much, and trying to lose weight, I didn't start changing my diet for carb-loading until Friday, and even then didn't eat enough calories. After a pasta meal I was still hungry when I went to bed on Saturday night - although I got up and had some more to eat, by that stage it was really too late.  I didn't load up sufficiently, and suffered during the race as a result.

Get to the race early
I like to arrive at a race at least an hour before the start time - this gives me enough time to get there if the traffic is bad, or I get lost, to find the start (which is sometimes quite a way away from the parking) to generally get myself together and in the right mind-set, go to the toilet before the queues build up, and spend 15 minutes or so warming up.

Yesterday, I made the fatal mistake of only setting one alarm - it duly went off, I silenced it, and promptly went back to sleep.  When I eventually woke up, I was incredibly late and very thankful that I'd prepared my race bag and kit the night before! By the time I got to the car and turned on the satnav, it told me that my anticipated arrival time at the marathon was 9:35am...five minutes after the start!  This is the sort of thing that I, quite literally, have nightmares about.

At that time on a Sunday morning, it's generally not too difficult to beat the satnav, as the roads are so quiet, so I was determined that I could make it. Not that I'm advocating it, but I drove very much faster than I should have done...and then spotted a policeman hidden by a bridge column on the motorway, with his speed gun pointing straight at me. I was the only one there, so I know he was clocking me, and no doubt there is now a speed ticket winging it's way to me in the post with the first ever points for my license.

By the time I got to Margate, and had parked up (as close to the start line as I could) it was 9:10am.  I had 20 minutes to get vaselined, apply suncream, put on my shoes and socks, try to find a toilet, and head to the start...stressed is not the word!

As a result, I forgot to vaseline everywhere I should have done (hello chaffing!) and have patchy sunburn in the places I missed while putting on the suncream in such haste - as a result I look pretty ridiculous this morning.  Anyway, by some sort of miracle the race director delayed the start for 5 minutes, and I was able to get to a toilet and over to the start line, but with barely a minute to spare!

Stick to your plan
I knew I wasn't in shape to run a sub 4hr race, so was just aiming to beat my time from running this event last year - 4:09 - and planned to run at about 9:20 minutes/mile.  However, when the gun went off, I felt pretty good, and ignoring the plan, ran 9 out of the first 13 miles at sub 9 minutes, with a fastest mile of 8:35.  There's no excuse for this - it's such a rookie mistake - and I paid for it later on in the race, with my pace dropping off dramatically (coinciding with running out of energy from poor carb loading). Obviously, what I should have done was just enjoy feeling strong for the first half of the race, maintaining my planned pace while the course was quite hilly, and then if I still felt good later, try and run a negative split, taking advantage of the flat.

Don't try anything in a race you haven't tried in training
Now this is where it gets really stupid.  I ran with a bottle of High-5 Energy Source drink and a High-5 Energy Plus gel - two supplements I have never tried before. 

Because it was hot, I was taking water bottles from pretty much every station and forgot to drink a mouthful of the energy drink each mile too, which is how I normally fuel myself - a mouthful of Powerade or Lucozade every mile. I felt ok about my nutrition though, up until about mile 14 when I started to get hungry...which is never a good sign. I realised then that I couldn't have carb-loaded effectively enough and also that I hadn't been drinking enough of the energy drink. So, I started drinking more of that and decided that at the water station after mile 18, I'd try the Energy Plus gel.  

When I got there, I picked up a bottle of water in case I needed it to help the gel down, but that meant I had to stop as I didn't have enough hands to carry my bottle, the water bottle, and open/eat the gel.  Such a palaver.  The gel was ok though, didn't taste too sickly, and so I thought it was going to work out well.  A mile or so later, when I had some jellybabies from a marshal, the mixture of the sweets, the drink and the gel made me feel immediately very sick. My stomach didn't settle again until after the end of the race and I couldn't have any more of the Energy Source drink either.

Look after your fellow runners
I'm very pleased to be able to say this isn't a rule I broke, but one that I was really shocked to see other runners ignore.

Not sure where, but I think about mile 20, there was a runner laying, spreadeagled with his eyes closed, in the grass beside the path.  I ran over when I saw him to see if he was ok. Managed to get him talking and he said he was absolutely exhausted.  Someone else (who wasn't in the race) came over just after me and agreed to stay with him, while I ran on to the water station which was only 300 yards up the path, around the corner, where I got a marshal and a first-aider to go back to him.

I can't believe though that I saw other people run past him! Just appalling - no PB run is ever going to be worth leaving someone by the side of the road...although I suppose if you are so commited to your time, the least you should do is tell the next marshal you see that someone's in trouble. Having been at a number of races over the last couple of years where runners have died, this is something which I feel really strongly about.  I didn't have the foresight to note the runner's number, so I can't check if he was ok, but I have been thinking about him.

Don't stop running!
Now, this isn't a rule for everyone, and I know that many people find great marathon success in run/walk methods...but I don't.  I run a marathon best when I keep going. Obviously, with the ultra training and races, I've been doing a lot of run/walking (it's the only way I was ever going to get through 52 miles) but this seems to have have affected my mental strength when it comes to running the whole way through a race.  When it got hard yesterday, I stopped to stretch or to walk, which completely threw me off any rhythm.

So...I made mistakes and it wasn't a good day.  In light of all of this, I'm lucky to have come out with a 4:10 but the time is a bit irrelevant to be honest - I'm more annoyed that I ran a bad race. In hindsight, I was complacent about the marathon after the ultra, and I broke the biggest rule:

 "Respect the Distance!"

Saturday 1 September 2012

What's better than going for a run?

Yesterday, after work, I'd planned to go for a quick 4 miler at marathon pace just to remind my legs what I want them to do at Sunday's marathon.  Instead, we ended up going to the Olympic Park, on what was the second day of the Paralympics.

No tickets for any venues unfortunately, just for entry to the Park, but still had a fantastic evening which included watching some of the sport on the Park Live screens, seeing the Gold Medal presentation for Hannah Cockroft (T34 100m) and getting to wave my flag while the national anthem played.

I've been absolutely blown away by the Paralympic athletes - I really was so ignorant about how amazing they are, putting on incredible performances regardless of their various disabilities. I don't want to be clichéd but it certainly is inspiring, especially when so many of the athletes seem to have been injured later in life. Some of the stories are harrowing and I can only begin to imagine how they have had their whole world turned upside down, but then adapted and become these incredible sportsmen/women..

I'm enjoying the Paralympics as much as the Olympics...all bar the terrible TV coverage from Channel 4, with adverts every 5 minutes instead of the excellent programming from the BBC!

Wish it didn't all have to end though...maybe next up we could have the Schools Olympics....