Training Walk: 20 miles – River Stort & River Lea

We are well into 2018 now, so the training sessions will naturally start to get harder and the training walks will become longer.

Sunday saw me take on my first training walk in a group. Most training walks I have completed and sessions I have taken part in have been solo. After training for the London Marathon last year I found great solace in training by myself – so I no longer find the prospect daunting.

That said, the Isle of Wight challenge will be something I have never experienced before and therefore I have signed up with a team of old Boot Camp pals. After all, at times there are comfort in numbers, and after completing 24 hour challenges in the past I know for a fact having people around in the small hours of the night will give the fight I need to carry on through to sunrise.

So, myself and four others set off bright and early on Sunday morning to get our first long walk and group training session done.

Meeting at Harlow Town train station we made our way south along the River Stort. Following the river path down to Dobbs Weir, before picking up the River Lea heading north all the way to Hertham Common in Hertford and back again.

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It was a pleasant, peaceful route. Rather desolate at 8am, meaning we made great pacing on for the first few miles (though perhaps a little too fast), without having to dodge others walking dogs, running and cycling.

At 10 miles I began to realise we were making good timing, completing in 2 hours 45 minutes, with very little discomfort. Walking so far felt so much less of a strain than running would. I was feeling rather good.

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At 12 miles we decided it would be a good time to stop for some refreshments. By this point we were heading back southwards along the River Lea and to the little town of Ware. A perfect place to stop off, have a light bite to eat and use the facilities. Less than an hour later we were on our way again.

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Though it was not long before I started to feel rather ill. During our refreshment stop I felt that poached eggs on toast would be perfect to keep me going. Yes – I felt rather energised in the first instance, but several miles into the walk back I felt this choice repeating on me – but we powered on.

Before we knew it the home stretch was approaching. Some of us used this as an opportunity to push the pace, where as some just remained steady. I was somewhere in between.

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It was at this point that I started to think about how I was feeling. I was asking myself questions. Was I in any pain or discomfort? How was my pacing? What do I need to think about for the next long walk and the event itself?

Pain wise, I was suffering ever so slightly with my hip due to an old groin injury – but this was mild and manageable. My hands seem to be suffering more than anything else, in the last four miles they had become swollen and rather stiff, with my fingers resembling chipolatas. Nothing was stopping my circulation, and it seems others had the same issue – so I need to look at what causes this and ways to prevent it happening again.

Pacing – was fluctuating depending on who I was next too. Mostly I was in the middle of the pack so it was pretty steady. Nothing to cause any concern.

There were many things I need to think about for next time. Nutrition, as always, is a problem for me. I can never seem to eat early in the morning pre-training. So I need to ensure I think about snacks that will keep me going. I also need to think about the food I take on board during training. The eggs were simply a bad choice! Something simple like toast would have been a much easier on the stomach.

My clothing is something that definitely needs to be addressed. Luckily, we were blessed with perfect walking conditions, but who knows what we will face on event day itself. I know for a fact that my current running trainers, socks and trousers will not be suitable attire for the big day – especially if it rains. So my plan of action is to look into purchasing some ugly walking boots or shoes, walking socks and water proof trousers. With our unreliable weather you just don’t know what you will face.

We arrived back at base after completing the 20 miles in 5 hours 42 minutes, rather exhausted but exhilarated at the same time. It had taken a great portion of our day, but to have completed this distance so early on was an incredible achievement for all.

So, in our usual spirit, we had a celebratory drink before heading home for refuel and rest – ready to tackle the next long walk in coming weeks!

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The 30K Spinning Challenge

On entering the Spinning studio for last Saturday’s class the instructor says – “sit next to ‘X,’ we are attempting a 30K spinning challenge today and I think sitting next to them will keep you going”

Never one to say no to a challenge I thought “why not”. After all, the worst that would happen would be that I would not reach the distance and by pushing myself just that little bit harder I would become just that little bit stronger.

So, with all the enthusiasm I could muster, along with many others, I got to work with the challenge that was set.

The trick throughout the 55 minute class was to find the right balance of speed and resistance to hit an average pacing of around 32km per hour.

My range was averaging between 28-30km per hour so I knew early on I would not hit the 30 kilometres in the first attempt. But then, not many people would. I did however give it a good go, finishing at a distance of 26 kilometres. Only 4 kilometres off target!

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I had a second attempt during the week, at a 6:30am class, which despite taking part in Saturday’s class felt twice as hard. The earlier class time meant that my body was not as warm, I had not eaten breakfast (so had very little fuel in the tank). And to top it off – I had only completed the first attempt three days prior followed by London Winter Walk the next day. I don’t usually make excuses – but to say I felt a little burnt out is an understatement.

That said, my distance for the morning class was not too far off my first attempt – coming in at 25.6 kilometres. Only 0.4 km off my previous number.

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So now I take these two numbers as two different targets.

I have the 26 kilometres to build on for the Saturday morning classes and the 25.6 kilometres for any 6:30am week day classes.

In order to build up the strength for the second attempt I will be continuing my current training regime: lots of spinning, running, walking and Body Pump, with the addition of extra circuit classes. Lots of weights to build up my leg strength so I feel less of the leg fatigue during the 30K challenge.

Will it be easy? Definitely not. This morning’s class was a pure example of how hard it can be. A interval spinning class, one that I usually don’t struggle with, felt horrendous. My legs fatigued quickly, my knees were burning and no matter how fast I pushed my legs they just did not seem to be moving any faster.

It was a struggle. But it won’t stop me getting back on the bike and trying harder next time.

So – the challenge is set.

Will I be able to reach 30 kilometre spin in 55 minutes by the end of the year?

 

 

London Winter Walk

Sunday 14th January saw me take on my first challenge of the year, London Winter Walk – A 20km walk organised by Action Challenge as part of the Ultra Challenge series.

It was the first event I have taken part in with these guys and was booked as a attempt to kick start my training in preparation for the Isle of Wight challenge, also organised by Action Challenge.

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The walk promised the opportunity to get in some early training for one of the many events they have scheduled for the year ahead.

Setting out from Southwark Park, at the break of dawn in my case, the route saw participants pass over Tower Bridge, west along the River Thames into the City – taking in many of the capitals iconic landmarks en route. A quick rest stop, lasting around two minutes for myself, just after the half way point in Vauxhall, before the route sees you walk along the South Bank, crossing Blackfriars, Millennium, Southwark and London Bridges on the way back to base camp.

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Starting in the first wave, at a bright and early start of 8:30am, gave me somewhat of an advantage. For the first half of the route, there were very few pedestrians – especially in the city area – so there were not many people to weave in and out of. This enabled me to see a good time for the first half of the challenge – 18th in my wave.

 

The way back to base camp differed slightly. Growing numbers of tourists, cyclists and runners started to appear – slowing the pace and generally making you more aware of your surroundings.

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That said, by the time I was heading into the 19th kilometre it was not even midday. As some of the final waves were heading out at the start of the walk, I was finishing. And the timing was not too shabby either – 3 hours 9 minutes! My time saw me finish 22nd in the 8:30am wave, as the 10th Female.

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Obviously, throughout the day my rankings dropped somewhat as other participants completed in each wave. However, I was still considerably high up the charts considering this was the first walking challenge I had taken part in. Finishing 64th over all (out of 1600 participants) and being the 41st Female.

I took great pride in my results. I am not accustomed to walking challenges. Don’t get me wrong, I walk fast – years of commuting has done wonders for my walking speed. However, I have never walked as fast and at distance, as I did on Sunday.

Fuelled by those around me (not that there were many after the first hour), I power walked like I have never power walked before. I saw myself becoming a tad competitive when those more seasoned walkers over took me. I hated the feeling of someone approaching from behind. And when I crossed the finish line, I did so with no one in around me at an average pacing of just over 15 minutes per mile.

A pace that will definitely not be attempting for the Isle of Wight challenge, that’s for sure.

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The London Winter Walk was something new to my training.

Having run so many races over the last few years simply walking was a nice change to the norm. In the lead up I did not feel the pressure I would normally feel when participating, I didn’t feel nerves and I felt uncharacteristically relaxed.

The walk also made me a little more mentally and physically prepared for the challenge ahead. I now am aware that despite my trainers being wonderfully suitable for running, for walking they are not. Where you need the bounce when pounding the streets at a faster pace, with walking you need a little more stability and support. By the last kilometre I could feel every cobble in the street!

It also made me aware of pacing. Whilst the 15 minute mile pace was fine for a shorter distance I need to be aware of slowing it down as my training walks become longer and arduous.

The final factor I take away from the London Winter Walk, and one that has been mentioned to me on numerous occasions, is that walking is not easy. For someone who has spent the last few years developing my running pace and mileage, it was incredibly difficult to stop myself from breaking into a run a times and keeping the steady walking pace. Its not as easy as it looks!

The event was one that I would definitely look at completing again. The organisation by Action Challenge was outstanding; the staff were friendly, the rest stop had a multitude of snacks and refreshments, and to finish off a freshly cooked hot meal upon completion.

London Winter Walk is the first of the Ultra Challenges this year; with the Easter Walk (25km from Windsor) and the massive Isle of Wight challenge (106km) both booked in.

I am sure to become an ultra challenge addict. Not stopping until I have completed them all!

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Blue Monday

Blue Monday has, in recent years, been renowned to be the most depressing day of the year.

The memories of the festive period have faded away, our bank accounts are looking rather desolate after months of Christmas shopping, the “holiday weight” has not quite shifted, the weather is typically dark and gloomy and we are all back at work with a bang.

So the third Monday of January as been dubbed as Blue Monday for some time.

However the man who coined the the term “Blue Monday,” Dr Cliff Arnall, had no intention for this day to become one that sounds so negative. His intention was for this day to be one to inspire people to take action, to have a positive outlook in life and to make bold life decisions.

As someone who has battled in the past with depression and anxiety I can’t help but agree with Dr Arnall. How has a day that was intended to bring out a positive outlook transitioned into one that encourages depressive thoughts?

Personally, I have had far too many blue days of late. When the New Year came around all I felt was positivity and hope. That is not to say I have not had blue days in 2018, I have – you cannot control the people and external factors that bring you down. What you can do is continue to look forward, forget those that are bringing you down and have a positive outlook for the year ahead.

In the hope to inspire others and to turn this “Blue Monday” around I encourage everyone with my own tips to keep the bluest at bay.

Book a holiday

Nothing beats the blues more than knowing you are soon to be jetting away. The lead up to the festive season is usually so draining for numerous reasons, it is no wonder we start the New Year utterly exhausted. For many years now, I have always taken advantage of the summer sale or Black Friday deals to book a short break away. Previous years have seen me venture to Istanbul, Paris and Dublin at the end of January or beginning of February. This year is no exception, I will be flying away to Boston. I always find having something booked and therefore something to focus on helps me get through the dark, gloomy January days.

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Get Active

It goes without saying that being active and keeping fit leads to a better state of mind. The release of endorphins are a natural mood lifter and being active will help shift those extra pounds gained over the festive period. As someone that has always been an advocate for exercise for mental wellbeing I have spent the last few weeks picking the training plan back up, pushing myself just that little further. And there is nothing like the New Year to try something new, so try a new class at the gym. This January I will be trying out a Bounce class!

Get outside

With so many gloomy days in the Winter it is inevitable that our moods will suffer from the lack of Vitamin D. So come rain, come shine – get outdoors. Use your lunch break to get some fresh air – being stuck in a office all day long with artificial lighting does no one any good. Use the weekends to complete longer walks! I often find I enjoy a walk that involves following a river or lake path. If you live near the coast, go for a coastal walk. You will find that you will feel better and sleep better for it.

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Make Plans

Use this time to catch up with friends and family. Make plans for the year ahead. Is there a race you want to enter, is there something on your bucket list you have been meaning to tick off? Use this time to focus on what you want to achieve this coming year. In the last few weeks I have certainly been making full use of my time; catching up with loved ones I did not have the chance to see over the festive break, visiting the Winnie the Pooh exhibition at the V&A, planning my race schedule for the year ahead and even taking my Niece and Nephew out for their Christmas adventure at Go Ape. You will find the more you plan the less time you have to think about those things that bring you down.

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Enjoy Life

Life is short. Be grateful that you have it. Love it, respect it, live it.

Don’t Look Back

You are not going back to don’t look that way. You cannot change the past, so there is no point dwelling on it. Not only will this bring you down, but it will also prevent you looking forward. Don’t forget the past, but let go of anything or anyone that has caused you hurt and distress. Keeping hold of bad feelings doesn’t do anyone any good.

Don’t let Blue Monday bring you down.

Instead be inspired, be forward thinking, be positive!

Oh My DOMS!

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The inability to move faster than a shuffle, stairs that have to be taken one at a time (sideways) and the real struggle to sit down – yes, enter the DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness).

Like most people who train regularly, I have a love-hate relationship with DOMS. Waking up the next day, or possibly two days later, with that sense of accomplishment is pretty satisfying. But at the same time, as colleagues race pass you on the stairs, wanting to kick yourself when each step makes you wince in pain.

Now the festive season has well and truly passed this week it was time to get back to it, get back into the morning routine. So, bright and early on Monday morning I did just that. I returned to Body Pump after a two months hiatus and just in time for the new Les Mills release.

And despite my years of experience training and against my better judgement, I packed on the weights as normal. Perhaps due to a sense of pride, perhaps pure stupidity – either way it is safe to say by that evening my body felt like it had been hit by a ten tonne truck as the DOMS started to set in.

The aches and pains did not alleviate over the next 48 hours. Day one saw the worst, the longer I spent sitting the worse the stiffness became. On the second day post Body Pump though the aches were definitely still evident, I managed to push on through with a Spinning class – it hurt like hell.

Slowly the aches and pains became a distant memory and I am now ready to throw myself into the next class – most likely pushing myself further still.

So what exactly causes DOMS?

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the stiffness and soreness that we can feel between 24-48 hours after taking part in high intense physical exercise that is new, or if we push ourselves just that little harder.

DOMS can be a sign that you have done something right during your training session. By taking part in resistance training, like Body Pump, you are creating micro-tears in your muscles. The soreness shows that fitness is progressing. And over time you will feel this less and less as your body gets used to the new activity.

The quickest way to alleviate the pain is to have a hot bath filled with Epsom salts. Rich in magnesium it helps widen your blood vessels to boost recovery and ease the aches. During my training for the London Marathon I felt the aches on a daily basis, nothing I did helped, I forgot what it was like for my legs to feel normal.

With a lack of bath, a friend recommended trying a Floatation Tank session. Using a high level of Epsom salts in an floatation pod. The session did wonders, my body felt transformed. Not only did it ease the aches and pains, but it also help lower my stress levels – leaving me in a state of total relaxation.

A little floatation therapy would have been extremely welcome this week, but sadly not possible.

In order to aid my recovery post work out and post race, and to ensure I get that much needed time out I will be including more floatation therapy sessions in my schedule in 2018.

Anything to improve physical and mental well being.

New Year Training Plan

The dust has now settled on the New Year celebrations and like most, I am carrying just a little “holiday weight” that is quite frankly unwelcome.

So there is no time like the present to get moving, get back into action and to get back on plan. And with the biggest challenge of 2018 being just a mere 16 weeks away I cannot waste time thinking about what I should or should not have done over the last two weeks.

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The Isle of Wight Challenge, 106 kilometres in 24-30 hours, round the coastal path of the Isle of Wight. It seems a world away from the challenge I was facing in 2017, with the London Marathon.

 

When I received the suggested training plan for the Marathon all I felt was fear. It was overwhelming. The suggested longest run of 22 miles (which I did not achieve in training) was so daunting in day one. I never felt I would be able to run half that distance comfortably, but I did.

 

This time round, the suggested training plan plots in the longest walk at 10 hours. I know in my mind that this works out to be as long as the London Marathon itself, but the 10 hours does not scare me.

 

I don’t feel the fear like I did when I saw a 22 mile run in the diary. Its strange how the mind works. I know when it comes to the event itself it will be closer to 30 miles than 10, with many tears and blisters in between. But for now all I have is good feelings, maybe because my reasons for the challenge are a little more personal.

So the training plan begins. Luckily, although I have not been moving a great deal over the last few weeks, I have been moving enough to get my body used to walking.

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A few weeks before Christmas I completed a very challenging 8 mile walk in the snow, I ensure that I get out daily for a lunch time walk (as much as I can in 30 minutes) and I have been steadily improving my performance in spinning classes two to three times a week.

Obviously when training for any event, you have to ensure that you have a great mix of training activities so you are strong in all aspects. This is something I did not focus on so much at the beginning of the training plan in 2017. It was all about the miles back then, seeing how far I could run.

This time round I am focusing on a mix. A mix of long and short walks throughout the week, running, spinning classes and strength, most likely through Body Pump and Circuit classes.

I will have a host of events in the lead up too, from 10k runs, half marathons and organised walking events such as the London Winter Walk, just two weeks away.

My focus over the coming weeks, is getting myself back into a regular schedule. To forget the mishaps and the what ifs of the last few months. To shake my running fear. And to get myself back in the active mindset.

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