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

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.