33. Are we nearly there yet?

Well, what a difference a week makes. Last week was a really good week of training and feels the complete extreme to the week before. The frustration is that there is often no reason why it’s a hard run, it just is. And that’s annoying because it feels like there’s nothing you can plan or control to make it better. Good job it is better than last week – remember I said I couldn’t walk normally after 24 hours? Right, change that to 60 hours! Yep, it took till the Monday morning to be able to walk up/down stairs without using the banister to hold on to for dear life. Not cool. And I genuinely thought my legs wouldn’t ever feel normal again, so was quite relieved when I realised I could finally stand and sit without having to lower myself using my arms.

Gym 15 – Monday morning I was back in the gym but man it was painful! By this point I’d decided I had to push through and get my legs moving or they would never get any better. I sat on the bike and cycled 3.5 miles in 20 minutes. And that was all I could manage…but at least it was something!

Run 58 – Hills: If I’m honest, I always think I’ve done a pretty good hills/intervals session, however it goes – mainly because they’re meant to be hard work and I’m always quite tired afterwards. But I’ve decided more commitment needs to be involved, as in actually using them to their full potential as high intensity training to get maximum benefit. So today was the day I ran for 40 minutes in the rain, almost stopped after two laps but instead had a voice saying ‘this extra lap could make the difference’ and pushed on for another one, making it just over 3.6 miles. Was a good pace from the start (11 min miles), and really worked hard to keep it going. It was proper hard work and I was tired by the end, but it felt so good. Funny that.

Gym 16 – It was raining (again!) so ended up running down to the gym as I was getting pretty wet. After the usual 5 minutes on the bike, and using the machines, I tried some of the exercises FI had given me the week before to make gym sessions a bit more interesting. It was much harder than I remembered, probably because I didn’t have someone telling me if I was actually doing it right or not. But it made training more interesting, so all good.

Run 59 – 18 miles. Wowzers, now that was a good run. A whole other world to last weeks nightmare. I managed to properly carb-load leading up to it, and got a good nights sleep. Even though it was an early run (7am start, eugh!) it was super speedy (well, for me, anyway) at 3 hours 23 mins woohoo. It rained the entire time, not hard but just constantly. I wanted to test my theory that whatever pace I’m doing after 3 miles is what I end up finishing on. This turned out to be a little bit daunting as I was on 11 min 15 sec a mile after 3 miles, which was a minute a mile faster than the week before! However, I went with it, preparing to slow down by the end, but actually finished up on 11 min 17 secs a mile, which took me by surprise! All I can hope is the marathon is like this run and not last week. I was totally desperate for the loo and after 12.5 miles I was passing work, so quickly ran in. This raises the issue of loo stops for the marathon. I know there are some along the way, but I really don’t want to stop at all. It may be a case of trying to time when I’m consuming water…and heeding the advice from the book saying that all you do when you arrive is stay in the loo queue until it is time to start. Sounds good to me! I managed to stomach enough gels and water to keep me going. Also  did a 10 minute walk afterwards to try and help reduce the muscle tightness which I was determined NOT to go through like before. My legs felt much better after the run and they were pretty much fine by the evening. Thank goodness for that!

Gym 17 – Back to the Monday morning grind and the realisation that in six weeks time I’ll be recovering from the ACTUAL marathon was suddenly quite scary. Oh dear, the real thing. I’m excited about it, really, I am. It’s just come round so quickly and it also feels like there is still a long way to go. But every little bit of training helps; there is no point in slowing down now, this is the home straight!

Run 60 – Intervals: Yesterday I went for it with the intervals. No holding back, it was hard. Glorious sunshine made such a difference in wanting to go out. Back and forth on the same bit of road, running flat out and trying to recover before the next one. 2.5 miles, 27 min 37 secs, 10 min 50 sec a mile. Boom. Again it felt like a good run, you feel like you’ve earnt a second breakfast after it 🙂

Sunday evening I realised I have been fooling myself. I’ve been telling myself (and others) that I only have 1 long long run left (as opposed to a short long run which is any long run up to half marathon. Ha that’s ridiculous, can’t believe I would now call an 8 miler a shorter run!). Well, sadly it’s a lie, I have a 20 miler to do first. I can’t decide if that’s a good thing so it’s a smaller jump from 18 miles, or it’s bad as it’s an extra long run I hadn’t planned in my head. Either way, there are now only 2 loooong runs, and 3 shorter long runs until the big day. I reckon it’s about another 80 odd miles of training till the real deal. Oh my.

If you want to sponsor me for being bonkers, you can do here: http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/mimsmission

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31. Far from ideal

Time for another update on training. A fair few significant points have been reached in the past two weeks…

Gym 10 – The gym routine has now become exactly that; a routine. I know what I’m doing on each machine and how much to push it. I’m kind of getting in to it…worryingly. This is not me.

FI 3 – I’ll be posting a more detailed blog on this session in a few days. It was really helpful as we discussed race practicalities for the up-coming half marathon that I had a week later. All the small details to think though which each contribute to making things a bit easier. It’s about controlling all the factors you can so you know you have done everything possible to make it the best opportunity for a good run. We reviewed my training so far and looked at pushing through these next few weeks to keep the training going in these middle distances.

Run 53 – Time to break the half way distance, and go for 14 miles. Eeeek. Just about kept sub 12 min miles (11.58 to be precise) in 2 hours 47 mins 30 secs. Started out too fast but eventually got in to a rhythm even though it was a little bit slower than usual. Tried out new energy gels which were much better. New shoe lace tying also helped! First time for ages on a long run that I’ve got back and thought I can’t run any more. Totally spent. Became so engrossed on auto pilot to make my legs move constantly that changing speed is really hard work. Good run in sunshine, was blinding at points! Need to think about the weather – sun as well as rain – for the marathon!

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Gym 11 – It’s been taking a couple of days for my left knee to recover from long runs. The gym on a Monday is now low impact so I’ve got quite in to cycling. It’s a nice start to the week, sitting on a bike and letting your mind wander without having to think about steering and crashing in to anyone.

Run 54 – Hills: I was pretty stressed so felt like I needed to get out and run but was very distracted. Also didn’t have much time due to something coming up so was frustrated I couldn’t run for longer. It was a bit wet and windy, pretty miserable weather which didn’t really help that morning. It’s times like this that I’m glad I can actually get out and run though, channeling energy into something.

Gym 12 – Another resistance session. Starting to recognise people in the gym, but there is an unwritten rule of no talking/communicating; everyone acts as though there is no one else in the room. It’s a bit weird sometimes.
It was also the day to start carb loading for the half-marathon race. Trust me, it’s harder than you think to eat a mountain of pasta.

Run 55 – Human Race half-marathon at Lake Dawney, Windsor. This is my only opportunity to experience a ‘race’ environment before the marathon, so I really wanted to be able to use it well. I don’t run with other people so even getting used to other people being around and overtaking was really important. It was all very touch and go as the weather had been so awful with the flooding, that mum and I only made the final decision to run it on the morning. I think it was what you would call ‘far from ideal’ conditions! It was 4 laps around Lake Dawney rowing lake which is over a mile in length, with very short ends, and not the most breath taking of scenery to enjoy. We had 25mph winds the entire time, and as it was going across the lake all the time we spent the whole race leaning to one side then the other to try and stay upright! The whole thing felt hideous. It was a flat course so that helped – it would have been a nightmare with any hills in! It was such hard work to keep going, the wind was mad, but I stuck with the 12 minute pacer the whole time which was really helpful. Usually I would have been quicker but with the wind that was about as good as it was going to get! RunKeeper decided this was the perfect time to tell me there was no GPS so annoyingly I couldn’t record the race. However you get a tag for your trainers which records your laps, which turned out to be very equal splits. I did it in 2hrs 35 min 54 secs so averaged 11.53 a mile. It certainly wasn’t the right conditions to be doing a fast race, just more a keep going race!

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The closest I’ll get to being an Olympian…standing in front of the Olympic rings! // Some words of wisdom in the port-a-loo

Gym 13 – I’m now completely out of netball (as FI said it’s not worth the risk, and not helping with knee recovery) – sad times. Tried rowing for the first time as all the bikes were taken. 20 minutes flew by, and I quite enjoyed it. Maybe I’ll be back at Lake Dawney soon as a rower…or not.

Run 56 – Intervals – used a new road for intervals this time, a bit of variation; I live a wild life. Just makes training a bit more interesting and less predictable. It’s these hill and interval sessions which are hard intensity that really help build for the longer runs. So easy to want to bail on these sessions, but you just have to remember what it contributes to the overall training.

Gym 14 – Rowing was so much fun last time, I did it again. And some time on the bike. And the usual resistance machines. Man, I still have pathetically weak arms. Good job I’m not trying to become a weight lifter.

FI 4- It’s only been two weeks since the last time I saw FI, but it was good to go over the race and work out training for these last few weeks leading up to April…less than 8 weeks to go! We’ve switched up when to do the long runs and shorter-long runs, to get an extra one in. I wanted to be able to get to 22 miles which breaks through the 20 mile barrier, and on the marathon course it means you know you can get through the depressing bit round the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf and you are running back along by the river. I’ll crawl the last 4 miles if I have to. FI also went through some other gym exercises to make sessions more varied and to work on different things. Now to remember it all for Monday morning!

Run 57 – 16 miles. What? 16 miles? Errrr since when?! It is a bit out of body experience thinking about running that far. Obviously I knew I’d have to do it at some point; the marathon is an extra 10 miles on top! But some how it just seems so strange to think that I can actually run that distance now. However, it was a hard run, a bit of a mixed bag. It felt like the first mile was too fast, then I slowed up too much and couldn’t pick it up again. This is a bit of a recurring problem – my first 3 miles sets the pace for the rest of the run, and I find it almost impossible to change pace. Whatever I’m on by then I just keep going like a machine, so it needs to be right. It was lovely warm sunshine, then suddenly rained pretty hard around miles 10-12. Nice. Just what I wanted – wet feet, my fave. I was also wearing glasses so had to run holding them as I couldn’t see a thing (note, wear contact lenses even if it looks nice outside!) My thighs went numb in the rain and I couldn’t feel myself running. The first 7 miles were the hardest I’ve done, even more so than the crazy winds at Lake Dawney (well, in a different sort of way), but the last 5 miles were actually okay. By the end, even after a terrible start, I felt like I could keep going a little bit more. My legs just feel like they can’t stop. 16 miles, 3 hours 16 min 46 secs, 12 min 18 sec a mile. Slowest pace by a long way, but at the end of the day that’s still sub 5.5 hours for the marathon, which I’m totally down with!

And that’s the problem. When my legs stop, so does my entire body. As I sit and type this 24 hours after the longest run of my life, all my muscles hurt a lot, and it takes 10 minutes to go up or down the stairs. I have to use my arms to push myself up from a seat, my thighs just kill. Right now I’m not convinced I’ll ever walk properly again, let alone run!

But remember, ‘pain is temporary, quitting is forever’.

Assuming I’ll actually make it to the marathon, if you’d like to sponsor me for this madness you can on this page: http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/mimsmission

29. Fight for it

Very often when everything is going right we don’t realise how good it is. But then sometimes things don’t quite go right, in fact they feel like they are going very wrong. I’ve been fortunate that so far my training has felt like it has always been on the up, even if there has been varying degrees of improvement at different times. But now I’ve come to face the reality of training when it feels like it’s all going horribly. And this is the time when I spend entire sessions repeating ‘fight for it, fight for it’ out loud over and over to myself.

Gym 6 – I usually like doing the gym sessions as it breaks up pounding my poor feet on the pavement and gives them a bit of a rest whilst still being active and working out. I can’t say I think the gym and I will ever be best of friends, but our relationship is certainly better than I ever expected.

Run 49 – Time for the long Friday afternoon run – this week was 12 miles. Trouble was I was feeling physically exhausted from a very busy week, and with no let up in training, I was feeling the effects. I got ready to run, sat down on the sofa, and before I knew it I shocked myself awake having dozed off for five minutes. I really wasn’t feeling very up for a long run, but knew it had to be done and the light outside was starting to fade. I’d worked out a rough route, beginning with what has become quite a standard first 5 miles now – twice round a lap which is a long slow incline up one road and long slow decent back down the parallel road. I like this because it is familiar, which means I can mix up the last half of the route and make it more interesting when I need something different to keep me motivated. 12.13 miles later, and after 2 hours 22 mins 7 secs I was absolutely shattered but pleased I’d done it.

Gym 7 – Evening netball training meant a rare lie in, wahey! Was good to run about and do some sport with other people, having fun. Brings a bit of light relief to the intense isolated training I’m doing for the marathon.

Run 50 – Hills: This is what I wrote as soon as I got back from a 2.5 mile hill training session. ‘Ugh that was horrible on a whole new level. Whole body was a dead weight from the first step- and that was going downhill. Arms ached. Legs wouldn’t move, I had to drag them round. It was hideous. Felt like I had already run 10miles before I started. Probably didn’t help that I forgot to eat till I got to the door to leave. BBC weather was saying it was raining. I’ve never been more pleased that the BBC were wrong. Half way round I stepped on the edge of a paving slab and a ton of water came up and soaked my feet, contributing to the draining enthusiasm for the morning. Having said all that, the loop was longer than I thought it would be but felt shorter. Which is always a good thing. That was the worst I’ve ever felt running. Glad it’s over.’ Get the picture? Now you see why I spent the whole session saying ‘fight for it’. Somehow I still did it in 29 mins (though it felt like 29 hours), and averaged 11 min 38 secs – ironically, better than some other ‘easier’ runs.

Gym 8 – Thursday’s workout was frustrating as it felt harder to lift lighter weights. In my mind I would always be improving; I’d never get to a day where I struggled with something I previously could do. I soldiered on and got through it all, and just have to keep reminding myself that some days are going to be harder than others.

Run 51 – I was away at a work conference in Eastbourne over the weekend so the normal long Friday afternoon run became Saturday morning. It was a drop back to 6 miles, so I ran for 3 miles along the very windy South coast and then back again. Regretted wearing a t-shirt under a long sleeved top to begin with, but by the end I was rather glad I had the extra layer. Gloves were a lifesaver – I usually get annoyed after two mins and shove them in my trousers, but again, I’m so glad I had them. Being the coast meant the route was pretty flat the whole way. I’ve not run that far with no breakfast before- not the best idea, won’t be doing it again in a hurry. I was able to get into a rhythm and stay consistent through it, averaging 11 mins 43 secs a mile over 6.5 miles. 1 hour 16 mins 31 secs later and I was ready for a cup of tea.

Gym 9 – As it was a match night for our netball team I did a gym session in the morning. I’m totally bailing from playing in a match until after the marathon – by which time the season is over, but I’m cool with that. Right now, my legs are too precious to risk injury! Was quite good actually, cycled for 18 minutes then did some upper body resistance. There’s something odd but relaxing  about cycling on a machine whilst watching BBC Breakfast.

Run 52 – Intervals: 2.5 miles covered, but with some hard intervals in the middle. Again, ‘fight for it’ was on repeat.

If anyone comes to see me at the marathon and I’m looking like I’m loosing the will to live (which could well be for most of the way round) just shout at me. Don’t worry, I’ll fight for it the whole way.

28. Life Lessons

I realised I’ve been apologising if I haven’t posted anything for a few days and been feeling very guilty for it. Then I thought about it and decided that a) I don’t actually expect people to read my blogs anyway and b) I need to succumb to the reality that there is in fact still only twenty four hours in a day, and thus I am still unable to do everything I want to everyday. For the moment, this means that blogging has taken a bit of a back burner as training has ramped up since Christmas and takes up more time. Lets just call it the ‘January blog lull’ whilst I try and balance my time across various activities. Thing is, I need to do the activity to be able to blog about it, so the actual training kind of has to take priority here. I do however find it helpful to blog a bit about it as it gives me a chance to think over the latest training. And seeing as a few of you also seem to read this every now and then, I thought I’d better get back on it.

So let’s take stock and rewind the last two and a half weeks of training. Here goes…

Run 42 – First run of 2014 (the plan to run new year’s day didn’t quite happen, so the 2nd had to do) and it was a long one. In fact, it was longer than planned, and probably a bit too long to be honest. At 10.23 miles it was the first time hitting double figures which was quite exciting. I’d planned a straight forward flat route along by the river. Trouble was I’d kind of forgotten that the flooding would mean the river was a complete no go, so when I got there I had to quickly think up a new route as I went. Just making it up as I went really wasn’t the best idea as I had no clue how far anything was apart from the voice on my arm shouting every half a mile. 2 hours 1 min 30 secs and over 1,000 calories later, I’d managed to average 11 min 53 sec miles which I was pleased with. Everything was going fine until mile 9 when my left knee was so painful I wanted to keel over. I’d also run out of water and was desperately thirsty. Maybe I should have stopped and walked back, but I’m not very good at walking if I’ve decided in my mind I’m going to run the whole thing.

Life lesson 1: Stop running if your knee hurts. 3 days later and I was still icing it to help recovery.

Life lesson 2: I’m wrong sometimes. I know, it’s hard to believe, but I am. And here it is – running with headphones is the best idea ever. Having previously said it is impossible because the wire flaps about and the earpieces fall out, I am now using super cool Apple Earpods which came with my new ipod nano, and have literally revolutionised running for more than half an hour. I would never have got through that run without background music on; it was the only thing that kept me going at many points. I’ve refined my wire technique so it doesn’t fly about, and I love it. Now I use them even if its for 15 mins. Amazing.

FI 2 – I met with my fitness instructor again in the hope that by doing so early in the new year I could get as much training in as possible and get in to a good routine quickly post holidays. I was worried about my knee and apparently I’d increased the distance too quickly which is probably why it hurt, but would be fine. Phew. We went through a few different training programme options and worked out what would be ideal for me to do. The main differences from my training thus far are cross-training sessions and hills and interval sessions. I was quite excited about adding something different in to the training, and relieved that the gym membership would be put to some use. I was however not so sure on the actual benefits of cross training – I’m not doing a triathalon, just run run run, so why do I need to do other things in training? But as he’s the expert I’ll go with it…

Run 43 – Intervals: The first attempt at running intervals was better than expected. I used the park in town as it has a long path straight through the centre of it with a fountain in the middle, useful as a marker to aim for. I have to say I was really surprised that even over 2.91 miles my average pace was down to 11 min 34 secs, which was really good.

Gym 3 – My first actual proper gym session. Using the machines and everything. The gym sessions will hopefully go something along the lines of: low intensity warm up, legs (leg press, leg curl, leg extension), upper body (chest press, lat pull, shoulder press), warm down and stretches. It took a bit of a while working out the right weights and settings but I got there in the end. There was huge relief to see that guys were clearly not committed enough and don’t get up at ridiculous o’clock in the morning, meaning it was a woman only gym for nearly the whole time. Winner.

Run 44 – When working out the long runs, it is important (so I’m told) to not just keep increasing the distance each week, but to drop back every few weeks to let your body recover. This was a drop back week to 6.21 miles. It was a Saturday morning run, and having had a decent breakfast it was good to feel like I could have kept going more. After 1 hour 11 min 34 secs I averaged 11 min 31 secs a mile – and could already start to see the benefit of the cross training. Okay, so maybe this gym stuff is a good thing after all.

Life lesson 3: My fitness instructor knows what he is talking about. Listen to him. When he says ‘don’t make up excuses to miss out cross training’ he means it – it’s what will make the most difference to enduring the long runs.

Gym 4 – Monday morning back in the gym. What a way to start the week. The resistance training felt harder than the first time. Still working out the right weights to put on. It is bizarrely fun though, you do feel good afterwards – you’ve done a workout and most people are just getting up.

Run 45 – Hills: This was another new thing for me, but once I decide to do something I’l do it. 3 mile run, with hills thrown in. I say hills, I’m talking short steep mounds as opposed to the Peak District. But hey, you have to start somewhere. Running up the mound in the park was hard work but having said at the bottom I won’t stop the whole way round, I wouldn’t let myself take it easy. Though it was kind of fun being at the top, looking out over the road and being high up, only to then run back down again. Just for a few seconds you feel on top of the world. Again, I was really surprised at my time, and how it does actually help!

Then came the slight interruption to proceedings with my birthday on the Thursday. I have to say, I managed to milk it for all it’s worth for over a week – huge thanks to all who came and did anything with me to celebrate, it was all brilliant fun and I loved it.

Run 46 – I was worryingly excited about the 10 mile run on the Friday. The training schedule said 10 miles but being competitive and always wanting to push it a bit, I decided I wanted to run 10.5 miles just so I would go further than I had before. It was a really good pace, and I managed to drink water at a much steadier rate. I also tried to have an energy gel after an hour, which I started on the second hour and took a full 27 minutes to consume. It was a bit gross, eating a very sickly frube, but appeared to do the trick. I was able to push myself more than before, particularly getting up hills. Energy gel along with cross training (and talking to myself) paid off and I ran it in 2 hours 1 min 14 secs – at an average pace of 11 min 32 secs which seriously surprised me. That’s about 4.5 mins off the last 10 miles I did. It’s always encouraging to see improvement like that. Let’s just hope I can keep it up.

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The delightfully sickly energy gels that kept me going 

Run 47 – Sunday I decided at the start of a new running week that I would really try and do every training session this week. So far, because of various things going on, I’ve always missed one in a week. I wouldn’t usually do a short run in the afternoon but I was so tired in the morning it didn’t quite happen (in fact I couldn’t remember why I’d set my alarm to get up early, and went back to sleep). A refreshing 3.43 miles later, and I’d woken up a bit and quite enjoyed it. Running makes me happy.

Life lesson 4: When you put your socks on, check they are sports socks not slipper socks. You will soon notice after a few minutes of running if you have put the wrong ones on. Really hot feet aren’t ideal.

Gym 5 – As I play netball on a Monday, this counts as a cross training session. I knew I wouldn’t be playing that evening, so decided to try going on the bike for a longer time instead. I usually hate cycling and haven’t been on a bike in years. Using it in the gym was okay and I quite liked it. Being a bit of a geek I like having all the data on the screen so I know exactly what I’m doing. 18 mins 20 secs and 3.79 miles later I felt good. I could have pushed the resistance up a bit – that’s the challenge next time.

Run 48 – Intervals: It was haaaard work. By the time I’d run down to the park I didn’t have any energy to run back let alone try and run back and forth at high speed. I did it purely because I decided that with the effort it had taken to get out of bed, and that it was so cold I had long sleeves and gloves on, I might as well do it and get it over with. That said, I probably didn’t do it for as long as I should have done, but at least there was something done. I’m happy knowing I’ve done something rather than nothing.

Wowzers. That was epic. If you’re still reading this you deserve a gold star. Well done. Now go and have another cuppa (assuming you’ve had a few to get you through to the end) as a well earned reward. As for me, it’s back to the hills and headphones as the training continues.

Life lesson 5: Get a drink and biscuit ready before reading any of my blog posts. They’re usually long and require nourishment to keep going to the end – and if they aren’t long it’ll be a nice surprise for you.