36. Expectations

I’ll be honest, this wasn’t how I expected the last few weeks of marathon training to be. I’ve had a schedule I’ve followed pretty closely since Christmas, and even until two weeks ago had been completely on track with it all. Then everything started to have to be adapted slightly, and suddenly I find myself not where I feel I should be at all. Maybe I had unrealistic expectations, though I don’t think they were. It’s sheer frustration at not being able to run properly. I feel like I’m under prepared. And whether it’s pride, vanity or fear of failure, I don’t want to be walking the whole thing and look like I have just rocked up on the day having done no training – it’s been hard work! Combine this with tapering off and it’s a weird thing as you feel like you should be running more, not less. Suddenly you start to doubt if you’ll be able to get round 26.2 miles after spending three weeks running less and less.

I was back home yesterday, and went to Richmond Park with some friends. I’ve never seen so many people out running and I actually had heart ache at not being able to run with them. I felt guilty, like I should be out there, but can’t. It’s a horrible thing, injury. The last thing I wanted two weeks before the biggest run I will ever do (that is a fact!) is to be strapped up in (albeit purple) physio tape down my left leg, and be doing constant exercises to try and stabilise my knee enough to make it round the course.

I suppose I’ve been put in a position where I now have to manage my expectations of the day. Two weeks ago I would have said training was going really well and I was aiming for 5 hours 20 mins ish running hopefully the whole way. Now it’s literally a case of managing pain relief and just getting round. It’s a hard pill to swallow after more than six months of early morning training, planning your whole life around long runs and eating saucepanfuls of pasta. But that’s the risk you take when you start training from scratch for something like a marathon – part of it is to see how far I can push myself, and this is becoming more of a mental than physical game now. Do I believe I can get round? Yes. Done.

Gym 23 – After a day off from the epic cycle ride, I was back on the bike at the start of another Monday gym sesh. I went faster on a higher level than I had done to keep the cardio going – it’s quite unrealistic sitting on a static bike in a warm room compared to running outside in the chilly fresh air so I wanted to keep make myself work hard. Almost 4 miles in just under 14 mins was good.

Run 65 – This was a hard morning. I went out and tried to run and stopped the moment my knee hurt. I got to 15 mins before I stopped. This doesn’t bode well at all for my confidence in my knee over many hours. I then spent the rest of the day thinking of the best pain relief plan for over 5 hours of running.

Gym 24 – Back on the gym bike and did 65 mins, but with no distractions this time – pure cycling. I put it on a higher level than the last long cycle and kept up the speed to do just over 17 miles, so had been over 1.5 mph quicker which was good.

Physio 2 – At home over the weekend my best friend’s wonderful physio mum gave me some more physio including taping up my leg, ultrasound on my knee and working on my left foot as it’s very tight and won’t move as much as my right. I now look like a pro with purple tape on – an injured pro, but a pro all the same.

I’m doing all I possibly can to get to and actually complete the marathon. After all, it is raising money for two brilliant charities who both do incredible work with the people they meet. M-day, by the way, is 2 weeks today! Eeeeek!

If you want to support the charities I’m running for – Catching Lives and Rianna’s Fund, you can see more about them and how to donate at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/mimsmission

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.