Monday 29 December 2014

Getting serious about training

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to make a change, and get some help. I felt I'd lost my love for running and could quite happily never train again...despite the fact that I still loved races and earning my bling. However, running marathons when you haven't done enough training starts to get less and less fun and with such big races coming up in 2015, my training needs to become the core of my running, not the add-on!

So...I've signed up for coaching through Centurion Running, with Robbie Britton. I imagine most people reading my blog will know who Robbie is, but if you don't, here's his blurb from the Centurion website and below that a list of some of his incredible race performances:

Robbie Britton

Robbie's ascent to the top of the UK ultrarunning scene was a fast one. He began running 100s in 2010 recording some solid performances, learning quickly how to refine his training to maximise success, taking his first win in 2011. He has expanded on his multiple 100 mile podium places, earning his plance in Team GB's 24hr team for 2013 where he went on to a 17th place finish covering a total of 239km. Shortly afterwards he went on to win the Petzl South Downs Way 100.

Ultra experience (major races):
  • 24hr World Championships 2013: 239km (17th)
  • Spartathlon
  • South Downs Way 100: 15:42 (1st & CR)
  • North Downs Way 100: 19:47 (1st)
  • Thames Path 100: 16:02 (2nd)
  • Cotswold 100: 20:26 (2nd)
  • Caesars Camp 100 - 21:30 (3rd)
  • Barcelona 24hr: 231km (4th)
  • GUCR: 31:26 (7th)
  • Pilgrims Way Ultra 2014: Winner and Course Record
  • Canterbury 10: 55 mins (1st)
Getting coached by Robbie is a real honour, and it's great to work with someone who has achieved so much in some of the races that are important to me. So far, I've had a week's worth of training. Robbie is confident that he can help me enjoy training (nearly) as much as I love racing, and that with the right amount of commitment I can really improve on what I've achieved so far. My big goals are to go sub 22hrs at TP100 and to finish GUCR. The Ironman is still going to happen in July too, but that is a B race for this year - GUCR is the real A race for me now.

Robbie's suggested cutting down on some of my races to really maximise the benefits of my training plan, so I withdrew from yesterday's Phoenix Marathon, and also from Country to Capital. I did so with a very heavy heart, but it would be great to see what I can achieve under Robbie's guidance, and I'm only going to do that if I follow the advice and do what he thinks is best. The races will be there next year and I'll be in a better position to run them well and enjoy them more then.

So, following my new training plan, I ran 35 miles last week across 5 runs, mixing up easy miles with some intervals and actually really enjoyed getting back to some structured training. It all seems to be focused around running for an amount of time rather than miles and really looks at getting a bit more speed in for some of that time, instead of just my usual plodding, for instance yesterday's run was 2hrs easy, with the last 20 minutes at marathon pace.

I had my traditional Christmas Day run included in my plan last week - we were staying with Franc's family in Southwold and so my run was along the sea and it was beautiful. I took the puppy with me though, so it was definitely challenging and a bit slow as we had to keep stopping for him to have a sniff or to say hello to the many other dogs that were also out for their Christmas walks.

This week I have the Flitch Way marathon on Wednesday - the last race of the year - which I'm really looking forward to, and so my training plan from Robbie seems pretty relaxed. I have a feeling that after the marathon, training will start ramping up and getting more intense and challenging - and hopefully I will feel that it becomes more rewarding and fun. We will see!

Thursday 18 December 2014

Cycling through the winter

As it gets colder and more unpleasant outside, I worry about cycling through the winter. I've always loved going for a ride when it's beautifully sunny and warm, with just a slight breeze, stopping at a pub for lunch - the very definition of a fair weather cyclist. But getting out there in plummeting temperatures and driving rain is not my idea of fun on a bike! When you're riding through an arctic wind, it's so much more unpleasant than running, and the prospect of icy roads certainly doesn't fill me with confidence about staying upright.

So, a couple of weeks ago, Francis set up the trainer in the living room so I could try biking in the comfort of the house. It worked pretty well, and I've done it a few times...but cycling in front of the TV really isn't the same as getting out on the roads and although it'll be a great substitute for those days when the snow is a foot deep, the fact remains that I need to just prepare properly so riding outside over the next few months doesn't seem so scary.

I was approached recently about doing a blog post for the insurers LV to share some of the advice they've put together about winter cycling, and it seemed like a great idea - I need that sort of help more than most! There's all sorts of information on their website but I love the below infographic that they've put together which includes a Winter Checklist, and "Wise Up", "Light Up" and "Wrap Up" sections.

I think my biggest concern is cycling on icy roads and LV Q&A section on winter cycling has this to say:

RW: Cyclists should always be aware that braking distances are increased in wet conditions. In icy conditions it’s a good idea to reduce tyre pressure a little, as this gives you a bigger contact area with the ground.

I suppose the key thing to remember is to be careful and to be aware of any suspicious looking puddles or shimmers in the road.

The other advice my husband always gives me is to be particularly careful riding over drain covers - they can be particularly slippery even in the rain. In fact, it's best to cycle further out from the pavement so you miss them entirely. If you position yourself at least a meter from the curb, not only do you also avoid all of the ddetritus that gathers in the gutter of the road waiting to puncture your tyre, it makes a big difference to your relationship with other car users if you control your space. They are forced to wait until there's a gap in the traffic on the other side so they can overtake safely, as per the highway code, instead of squeezing by.

If you're a relative newbie to winter cycling, like me, take a look, be prepared, and hopefully cycling through the winter needn't be too scary...we just need to make sure we're all safe!