Sunday, March 31, 2019

Marathon Training Week 13

Brighton Marathon Training - Week 13



As usual, I'm writing these posts all out of sync with real time! Hopefully I'll get caught up and have them up to date before the actual marathon...

So. Peak Week. I went into this week a bit nervous to be perfectly honest. I don't think I really mentioned in the previous blog post, but I've been getting discomfort in my left leg since my 18-miler a few weeks ago. I'd been trying to quietly ignore it, thinking it was just muscle cramp, or just having tweaked a muscle somewhere in my back that would settle, but when I finished Reading Half last week I could barely walk. I booked myself a physio appointment and crossed my fingers all would be ok.

So Monday was a rest day as usual, but I also took Tuesday off due to the pain in my leg. Worried about doing nothing I got myself booked into a hot yoga class on Tuesday evening instead - and soon remembered quite how different the normal flow class is from my typical Friday night nuturing class! It felt good thought to have a proper workout and to give my legs a good old stretch after the weekend's running.

Wednesday morning I headed out early before work for a short run, mostly just to test out the leg before my physio appointment in the evening - I think I needed to convince myself that there really was a problem and not just in my imagination. Sure enough, at two miles I started feeling a pulling in my left glute, down the IT band and into my left ankle. I'd actually had 3-mile easy run on the plan and was tempted to finish it, but decided that I also didn't want to make a potential injury any worse and sensibly came home after 2.5 miles. I saw the physio in the evening who diagnosed gluteal tendinopathy, gave me some exercises to do and also helped loosen up the surrounding tight muscles with some massage. It was reassuring to have a diagnosis, and that he was happy for me to continue running on it.

Thursday evening I decided not to run-commute because the hilly route is one of the things that aggravates my glute problem, and instead tried out a workout suggested to me by a friend from instagram. I started with two miles of steady running to warm up and didn't notice even the slightest niggle in my leg, so was confident to carry on with the workout. Avoiding hills is hard, so the easiest option for me was to head to a nearby track instead which is nice and flat. It's a tarmac track so not ideal for short, fast reps, but pretty useful for longer interval sessions like this one. I ran three lots of 1600m (1 mile) with approximately 90s recovery inbetween. It was a great workout, I felt good and hit some paces I was really pleased with. There was also a local beginners' running group using the track at the same time and having an audience always spurs me on a bit! Plus one of their coaches congratulated me on the workout at the end which is always nice. I finished off with another two miles steady running to get home and only noticed a tiny bit of discomfort when I stupidly ran up a hill... oops.

Friday was another rest day for me and seeing as I'd been to yoga earlier in the week, I opted instead for a drink and catch up with some Run Talk Run people instead.



Saturday AKA Parkrun-day I had seven miles to do, so ran to parkrun which is about four miles. Again, only very slight discomfort towards the end of the four miles which was uphill and a bit of stretching once I arrived at the park seemed to relieve it. I did a progressive four miles, warming up from an easy start to marathon pace and then a bit faster than MP. Then for the parkrun itself, I was planning to take it 'steady' - not easy pace, but not 5km race pace either. I ended up pushing a little more than planned however. Firstly, this was because I had a good chance of 1st lady finisher (and got it). Secondly, a man overtook me at about halfway as we came downhill, but then seemed to slow down again on the flat. I went past him again but before I could cut back to the inside of the path, he sped up to match me and run right beside me but not let me go ahead. I didn't really want to run behind him because the pace was a fraction too slow, but every time I tried to push ahead he kept going with me. I have no problem with people running with me to help keep their pace (I do this too sometimes), but not when I'm clearly trying to get ahead so I can get back on the inside of the narrow path. Eventually I dropped him on a hill, he bid me a good run and I didn't see him again...

Then came long run Sunday. The big 22-mile, longest of the long runs. About five different people independently recommended the Gade Valley Harriers training run to me, so I figured it was worth checking out. For just £10, they put on a fully marshalled twenty mile run, with water stations en-route and hot drinks and cake at the end. I was in two minds about whether to put my extra miles at the beginning or end of the run, but seeing as I was there early and didn't have much else to do, I opted to do them at the start. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the course was a lovely one along the canal and through the countryside and the Ashridge Estate. It reminded me a lot of some of the routes I used to run around Oxfordshire and made me miss proper countryside runs so much! Truthfully, my pacing was a bit all over the place - partly due to the undulations of the course, and partly because when I get going I can't seem to stop myself speeding up more and more until I get tired and have to slow right down again. It's something I'm working on, but definitely haven't perfected this marathon cycle. I deliberately tried to keep this a chilled out run, and slowed to a walk at a few times just to try and preserve myself a bit with the actual marathon day coming up in a just a few weeks.





I'd really hoped to break 40 miles again for this week, especially with it supposedly being peak-week, but with the slight injury it wasn't to be. I'm constantly reminding myself that the exactly mileage isn't an issue, it's more about getting the quality runs and sessions done and I think I managed that just fine. Glad to be looking towards the taper now though!
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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Marathon Training Week 12

Brighton Marathon 2019 Training - Week 12

Sage Reading Half Marathon Finisher


Ahh another cut-back week, and much appreciated! Actually, because of the fact I've not quite hit planned mileage the last couple of weeks anyway, the reduction in miles run wasn't that much but in my mind it helped...

I kicked off with another rest day, which actually ended up being a twelve hour shift at work. I'd been a bit concerned about how that would go the day after my 20 mile race - sore legs and possibly spending my evening running around a hospital didn't sound a great combination - but actually my legs felt absolutely fine and my shift was no problem! I've found that there's a lot more to marathon training than just the running - it's also about learning what works best in terms of nutrition, hydration and recovery. For me, recovering after a long run involves some light stretching immediately afterwards, home for a hot bath, eat when I'm ready, a nice chilled out couple of hours of sitting/lying down and then some deeper stretching or yoga later on before an early night.

Tuesday I headed down to the running track for some 1100m reps. I'd actually planned to take these as easily as I needed, but was feeling good and able to run them progressively faster: 4:54, 4:46, 4:40, 4:33. I can't decide whether I prefer doing fewer, longer reps, or doing more short ones, but they both have their benefits when it comes to improving speed.

Wednesday was another rest day, then I did my longest run commute to date on Thursday. Working and living in London makes run commuting quite easy as I can run to various tube stations to get the train home for the last bit of my journey. I've been progressively running further along the tube line, and this time managed 9.5 miles. Still no getting away from the hills, but I quite like literally running away from work at the end of the day!

Friday I was back at Hotpod Yoga for an extremely chilled out nuturing flow - given a few more minutes at the end and I could quite easily have gone to sleep.

On Saturday I volunteered at Parkrun in the morning - I like the idea of volunteering once for every ten runs, and seeing as I hit 50 last week, it seemed like it was time to give back, so I spent the morning taking photos and barcode scanning. Then when I got home, I headed out for a very easy 5km as a bit of a shake out ready for Sunday.

Sunday I ran Reading Half Marathon - one of the biggest events I've done for quite a while! I'd been in two minds about how to factor it into my training, but decided it was too good to 'waste' as just a training run and decided to give it a good shot at seeing how fast I could do it. Again I think I'll do a full post for this rather than write it all up here, but in summary I was only 24 seconds away from it being a PB which I was pretty pleased with. That shows that my fitness levels are pretty good, and I should be on for a good marathon hopefully.

Another good week of training banked, another week close to marathon day and another A4 page of training plan finished...
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Sunday, March 10, 2019

Marathon Training Week 11

Brighton Marathon 2019 -  Training Week 11

50th Parkrun

 I didn't get my first run done this week until Wednesday afternoon. I'd been intending to run an interval session at the track on Tuesday, but my journey home from work took longer than usual and I'd have been rushing to get to the group session in time. A handy excuse really, because I actually wasn't wanting to run anyway - I was still a bit tired from Sunday's 18 miles, and my motivation was more than lacking. Full honesty here, track sessions have been starting to stress me out. Training is supposed to be hard, but it's demoralising to keep ending sessions early, or to struggle midway. Coping with the mental side of running is part and parcel of the training, and a lot of the time I do manage these thoughts but I just felt like this week wasn't going to be one of them. Life happens. Instead I came home, chilled out and then did some gentle yoga stretches instead.

So anyway, Wednesday afternoon. I'd actually planned to try and do an interval session of some sort and make up for the 1000m reps I didn't do on Tuesday but still wasn't feeling it. At the time it felt a little bit like chickening out - if I don't run the session, I can't "fail" at it, but with hindsight it was actually a really good decision. I just needed to give myself a break this week. So I made the most of being home a little earlier and being able to run down to the lido in daylight. Five easy as anything miles had me feeling far better about running.

Run Talk Run


Thursday was more easy miles - roughly six miles in the drizzly London rain, along the canal and then through Regents Park and down Regent Street to a Run Talk Run/ Twice The Health joint run, and then about three miles with them. Again I was taking zero notice of pace or even distance really, and just made the most of running some new routes and having a good old chat. I was a tiny bit short of the nine miles I'd planned to do, but I'm learning that the exact numbers really aren't that important. (Until race day obviously. Then there's no getting away from the fact it needs to be 26.2 miles!)

Friday I booked myself into another Nuturing Flow at Hotpod Yoga. Last week I'd felt really stiff in the class, but was feeling way better this week - possibly in part thanks to having eased off with the running this week.

Hotpod Yoga Pod


Saturday was a definite running achievement - getting to fifty parkruns! I'd actually planned to either run there, or run two miles on either side of the parkrun, but I did neither of these. Instead, in keeping with the relaxed feel of the rest of the week, I got the train there, and ran a comfortable 22:20 5km (which would never have felt comfortable a year ago).

Parkrun garmin watch


Long Run Sunday. This week called for 20 miles, made much easier by doing the Hillingdon 20 Mile race. Easier in the sense I didn't have to worry about planning a route or carrying water, and easier because there were other people around to keep me motivated. There's still not much easy about running twenty miles! This was another good confidence boosting run. I started steady, chatting with Kimberley who I met at Burger Run last year, then felt able to pick up the pace a little more. It's a hilly course and has four laps, and we were contending with gale force winds at times and this was all reflected in the variations in my pacing! But I felt strong for the majority of it. It wasn't continuous running, but that was almost deliberate - I'd set out telling myself I'd have a low threshold for stopping to walk if necessary. One, because it's a training run and I don't want to absolutely knacker myself during this intense training periods. Two, to show myself that even if things don't go perfectly on race day and I need to slow down, it doesn't necessarily mean game over. I had some difficulties with cramp in my left leg around miles 14/15 and did need to walk for a little bit, and was definitely getting tired in the final couple of miles, but overall I'm pleased for completing my new longest run, and at a very respectable average pace. 20 miles done in 2:50:41 for about 8:33min/mi definitely a good way to end the week!

In all it's mainly been a week of taking it easy, slowing up and turning down the intensity - while still keeping up plenty of running. Looking forward to next week, when my long run is "just" 13.1 miles!
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Sunday, March 3, 2019

Marathon Training Week 10

Brighton Marathon Training Week 10

Garmin Forerunner 235 Longest Run 18 miles


I can still remember writing this plan (usually at work... if you're efficient with paperwork, community psychiatry can leave you with time to spare!) and these higher mileage weeks feeling unreal and so far away. Well I guess they had to become real eventually!

Again Monday was a rest day, and because I'd been a naughty runner and not bothered to stretch properly after Sunday's race, I was glad of a day off!

Tuesday was supposed to have been another track session, but even from Monday night I hadn't really been looking forward to it that. I love running, and generally I'm really enjoying this training cycle but I have had a few days where the enthusiasm is lacking and I wonder why I'm putting myself through this. I finished work a bit early because we'd had one of our exam study days and it was another beautiful afternoon. Waiting until 7 to run in the dark wasn't exactly exciting me, so I decided to get out while I was motivated and wanting to run. I headed to a local track rather than the one I normally train on, and planned to do the session on my own - 9 x 900m reps. The run there felt good, but straightaway the first rep made me feel like the session was going to be hard work. The track is a tarmac one which doesn't do my legs much good for this sort of speedwork, so I was actually running on the grass just inside the track which is obviously more uneven and this wasn't helping. I tried adapting the session to do three sets of 900,500,900, but after rep 4 I could tell I was really not enjoying it. Some days I can push through a mental block, but today I just didn't want to spoil the enjoyment of running for myself. Would I have finished the session if I'd run it with others later in the day? Honestly - probably not. It just wasn't my day for track intervals. I was going to call it a day and head home, but I'd been determined to try and meet my planned mileage for the week, so I went out onto the locals roads and did was more of a hills and fartlek style session. I was feeling quite strong running up some steep hills and managed some good bursts of speed, so I don't feel like the run was wasted at all. I think adapting the session was the best decision I could have made and I got 10km done in total.

Wednesday I did some strength and conditioning with an at home workout. Only a short one with some 4kg dumbells and bodyweight exercises, but it all helps build up the muscles and prevent injury.

Thursday I did my second run commute. I was less successful about sneaking out of work in my running kit unnoticed this week! I started a new job at the beginning of February and really didn't want to make the first thing I told everyone about myself the fact that I'm running a marathon! I know it's something to be proud of, but I'm actually quite a modest person in real life (despite having no problem celebrating my acheivements online) and feel a bit awkward about it for some reason. But I'm also a pretty useless liar, so saying I was just jogging 5km or so home wasn't an option either. I ran about 8.5 miles in total, extending my run one tube stop further along to increase the distance. This run felt hard. Really hard. I'd thought about doing some bits of it at goal marathon pace, but it's pretty much entirely uphill - and long, steep hills at that. With a rucksack and having spent all day sat down, this wasn't really a great opportunity for trying to do anything other than get some miles in my legs. I'd actually wanted to run 9 miles and had been assuming I'd get lost and therefore make up the last 0.5 mile, but I didn't! I was going to loop past the station, but decided that was probably unnecessary... although I did only stop my garmin at the ticket barrier just to maximise every last step!

I had another rest day on Friday and then parkrun on Saturday. I'd been torn between doing a parkrun sandwich to do my long run, and trying for a faster parkrun. In the end I decided to drive to Rickmansworth parkrun to meet Preena and have a go at a "how fast can I go?" parkrun. I've used the run to Rickmansworth a few times already as a long run and I'm a bit bored of it - plus it is hilly. I like hills, but not that much. Rickmansworth is a much busier parkrun than my normal one at Harrow (about 600 vs 200 runners), but this actually helped me a bit because it made me back off in the first mile rather than go haring off at a pace I can't actually sustain. We got a bit held up by some swans at halfway - they were not happy about runners on their path! I think slowing past them probably cost me the three seconds I was over 21:30... got to use these unusual excuses when you can, right? It's not an overall parkrun PB for me, but I couldn't have given much more that morning and I'm happy with that as a time when I take into account the miles run earlier in the week.

Long run Sunday. This was brilliant. I'd been a bit nervous about how this would go as it would be the furthest distance I've ever run, and it just so happened that the weather forecast was for rain and gusty wind all day. Long run prep begins with the day before and I've been trying to figure out how best to eat beforehand. On my last few long runs, I've been getting proper hunger pains quite early on which doesn't exactly make for comfortable running (and makes me spend the entire run thinking about food). I tried having an extra bowl of cereal later in the evening, and although I was feeling uncomfortably full afterwards, I think it helped! I had my normal bowl of porridge about 2 hours before setting off in the morning and didn't get any problems with hunger or feeling full so that's something I'll try again to be sure it works.

The long run itself just felt great. I meant to set off slowly and my first mile was 8:42 which is a bit quicker than planned. I thought I was keeping to that, or even slowing slightly but the next mile was 8:02! I was starting to wonder if my watch was playing up... Some hills helped me to slow down a bit and rein it in, but I was pleased to be feeling so strong with this run. And after a long, muddy hill I knew that if I stuck roughly to my planned route, the worst was over. I took a gel at about 9 miles, and another at 15, still working out when is best for them but I think I'm getting the hang of it. I was really pleased with myself for completing the entire 18 miles without stopping once - the furthest I've ever done this before is a half-marathon - so this gives me a lot of confidence for next week's 20 mile race. It's going to be a four-lap, hilly course, so if I do need to walk at some point I won't be too bothered but I'd really like to not stop on marathon day.

36.4 miles in total for week 10, and I can't believe it's just six weeks to go now!
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Saturday, March 2, 2019

Hillingdon 10km Race

Hillingdon Half Marathon & 10km 2019

Hillingdon 10k 2019
Photo by Mark Easton


Sunday 24th February

I was looking forward to this race because not only is it a local one for me, but it was the first time I'd be running a race for the second time. I ran this in 2018 just a couple of months after joining a running club and at that time ran it in 49:01, breaking 50 minutes for the first time. 12 months later, I was keen to do a bit of comparison and see what improvements had been made.

Despite the weather forecast looking good, it was actually only just above freezing when I left the house! The great thing about this race is that they make use of the sports centre at Brunel University, so there's a big space indoors for waiting around, sorting numbers and warming up without having to deal with the cold outside. 

The half marathon got underway at 9am and then the 10km set off timed so that the lead runners of both races would join together so there was one lead bike for both. I was quite nervous in the moments leading up to the start because I was feeling the pressure I'd put on myself to make this a good run. 

Last year my 49 minutes had been enough to earn sixth place, but pretty much as soon as we started I realised that this year there were a lot of fast women and that I certainly wasn't going to be in any position to challenge for a top five finish. 

I set off at a pace that felt fast, but is about in keeping with what I've run in the first mile for my two fastest 10km's to date. That 6:40 first mile was great, but it quickly became obvious that I wasn't going to be able to hold that. Could I, should I have held back a little more for that start? Maybe...

My second mile was 7:07 - not a disaster, but a little bit disappointing not to have run consecutive sub-7 miles. Then at around 2.5 miles I started to get a stitch, not ideal as shortly after this the course starts on a long, gradual incline. This was also the part when mentally it got tough. For me the 10k distance is a real love-hate thing. If I'm running well, able to keep an even pace and have people around me it can be a brilliant distance. But when my pace is dropping, it hurts and there's clear space all around me I find it a real battle and that's where I found myself this time. I kept reminding myself that pretty much whatever happens, I'll get a course PB and that this is not my goal race but part of the bigger picture of marathon training. Not easy though, and because this isn't a race that attracts spectators it was only me to motivate myself.

I was pleased to reach the halfway point and know that it was only 5km to go. At this point it really was just all about getting home. My third and fourth miles were 7:39 and 7:40 which was further disheartening, but when I later checked the elevation and compared with how I paced the race last year I realised I'd been massively underestimating just how significant the hills were to me in this race. 

For a lot of the race I just remember feeling like I was working hard, willing my legs to go faster but the pace just wasn't coming. Not surprising really when I think about all the running I've been doing lately with the marathon training - I might have reduced the mileage a bit in the last few days, but I wasn't exactly racing on fresh legs. Also, I simply haven't run that hard for that length of time in quite a while. I've done interval sessions, and I've done a couple of 5km tempo runs, but I wouldn't have said I was in prime shape for a 10km.

Towards the end of the race is a lovely long downhill (which unsurprisingly was the only bit of the course I could recall from last year!) and I tried to use this to regain some momentum and make up a bit of time. I didn't want to over-do it though, because I knew there was still a little bit more upwards to get to the end.

The final mile of the race is in the grounds of the university - another bit of the course I'd erased from my memory apparently. I actually saw the finish line but still had to loop around the roads and car parks before I could get there - so close but yet so far! I was feeling really tired by this point and realised that whatever happened at least I would know that I genuinely couldn't have given more to this race. The last stretch of road, slightly uphill, before turning into the finish straight felt like it was going on forever but the finish line did eventually come back into sight. Usually I'm able to find a last little burst of speed when I spot it, but there was nothing left - it was tough enough to just keep running!

I finished in 45:38 and eighth lady. I was a bit disappointed not to go under 45 minutes, but it just wasn't meant to be at this race. I'm also aware that I sound quite negative about this race - but I do realise that my time is not one to be ashamed of at all! I ran hard, didn't give up even when I felt like I was struggling from quite early on, and achieved a huge improvement on my time from a year ago. Maybe I'll just have to come back again next year?!

Hillingdon Half and 10k finisher's medal and t-shirt

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Marathon Training Week 9

Brighton Marathon Training Week 9

This week was a cutback week, a chance to reduce the mileage and finish the week with a 10km race rather than a long run. I'm not sure I really appreciated the lower miles enough, but it was nice to just rest a bit more!

Hillingdon 10km race


Monday again was a rest day, so the first run of the week was a track session with the running club and 800's were the order of the day. I began with a mile warm up around the track, then into the session. I ran the first three reps in 3:15 and I was happy with the consistency! I decided to turn down the effort for the next couple, trying to mindful of racing on the weekend and not wanting to totally ruin my legs all week. Two reps at 3:30 and then another two at 3:15. The eight rep I was really tiring and despite pushing hard could only make a 3:20. Running fast on the track was also making my calves tighten up - I think I must change my form slightly and be more up on my toes or something so I'm going to try and take a bit notice of this, and remember to keep stretching and strengthening my calves! (One way I've been doing this is heel raises whenever I'm waiting on the train platform going to and from work - don't even care if I look a bit strange anymore haha). Because of all this, I decided to finish on 8 reps rather than 10.

Wednesday was another rest day and I decided on a hot yoga session. I had thought about doing some weight training workouts, but I've been told not to do this during race weeks so followed that advice. Although hot yoga was still a pretty intense workout! It's a brilliant addition to my cross training, and I'm a big advocate of runners doing some form of yoga as part of conditioning - not necessarily a hot yoga class, but even just some basic moves at home with a youtube video can be helpful.

Thursday was a chance to try something I've never done before - a run commute! I've run after work a couple of times for Run Talk Run,  but have never actually run straight home. My normal commute involves two trains, a mile walk and all in all takes me about an hour door to door. It's not a bad journey, but getting home and then having to run does take up quite a lot of my evening, especially as I'm now doing 8 or 9 miles as a midweek run. Work to home is actually about 13 miles, so instead I found a tube station that would be about 8 miles and got the train the last little bit. The route I ran isn't exactly scenic - it's all high streets, and every other road seems to be called this or that "hill", but it was really nice to be home by half six and have already got my run done for the day.

Garmin watch


I took another rest day on Friday, then a gentle parkrun on Saturday. I really tried to hold back and simply just enjoy being out running which isn't hard really at parkrun!

Sunday I ran the Hillingdon 10km and I've written a separate race report on this, but in summary it felt tough and I managed 45:38 which isn't my best 10km time but does account for the fact it's a hilly course and I haven't been training for a 10k.

All in all, 23.1 miles run for week 9 which feels such a small number now that I'm seeing everyone starting to reach peak weeks for spring marathon training! But a recovery and cutback was needed and set me up nicely for week 10.
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