Adventures, Fitness, Races, Training

London Marathon Training: Week Three

It has taken me some time to put words together that can summarise the third week in my London Marathon training – mainly because I have been a week long strop.

I began the week with the ultimate rest day, waking up at the Champneys resort in Henlow.

The temptation to book myself into high intensity classes and go for a country run was extremely high. However, with a slight niggle in my ankle from the previous weekends activity and a poor night sleep due to lack of heating in my room, I gave myself a stern talking to. Simply allowing myself to relax by the poolside before my treatments later in the day was the one thing I needed right there and then.

Tuesday, still in a rather relaxed state post treatments, I allowed myself a gentle day of walking before ramping up the mileage at the latter end of the weekend.

The rest of the week started well with spinning sessions and treadmill running. But on Thursday evening, whilst attempting to complete my long (10 mile) run that little niggle I felt in my ankle during the week got progressively worse.

Only 3 miles away from my 10 mile goal, running was no longer an option. I started to experience shooting pain all the way from the ankle joint to the hamstring – bringing training to a complete halt.

Hobbling home, I made a swift decision to book myself into the sports therapist the next day. Lucky enough, SV Therapy were quick to respond to my desperate messages and a tough session followed to determine the source of my pain.

The verdict: Peroneal Tendonitis.

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Not only did I have a touch of this painful condition, but I also had ligament damage and scar tissue from a previous ankle injury that had not healed correctly.

It is safe to say that my session with the therapist was not easy. The pain was intense and I left for the second time in two weeks feeling rather bruised and battered – but also relieved to have a action plan to strengthen my ankle.

First port of call? Rest. My least favourite activity. Meaning no running for a good few days. In addition lots of exercises and icing the affected area.

You can imagine the mood of a runner who has been benched, particularly when training for a big race. It was not great.

Riddled with another injury made me question, yet again, if I should be taking on such a enormous challenge. Despite many assurances by others that it was still only week three and I still had plenty of time to get the miles in – once I had recovered – I have spent every “rest day” since the diagnosis thinking I should defer my place. With loosing valuable running time I keep thinking of the long runs I would be doing had I not had this set back.

Analysing and overthinking the situation does nothing for confidence. So yet again I had to start then new training week telling myself to forget about the miles I have not achieved and take each day at a time.

And so, as I entered week four, my only goal was to take baby steps, to plan my training a day at a time and to find myself fit enough to run the London Winter Run this coming weekend.

But most importantly – I need to stop beating myself up about miles and training I have not been able to do.

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures, Fitness, Races, Training

Adidas City Runs: Clapham

Sunday 16th September saw my return to Adidas City Runs, with the Clapham 10K route. After my pleasant run with them a year previously with the Shoreditch 10K I was looking forward to seeing what South London had to offer.

As with most race days, it started with a very early morning to ensure that I arrived in plenty of time to get myself sorted before the start: multiple toilet breaks, adjustment of kit and filling up my running bladder for the miles ahead.

There was not much time to hang around, as within 30 minutes of my arrival the first waves were being called to the start pens. My wave (wave C) was soon heading in the same direction. Very little time passed before the runners were off!

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Starting at Larkhall Park the route saw participants head north towards Vauxhall before turning back towards Clapham, along Wandsworth Road, skirting the east of Clapham Common before winding round the tree lined streets of Clapham Old town and North Clapham towards the finish line back at Larkhall Park.

The race started off well. Despite the recent balmy temperatures the morning was over cast, cool and saw a welcome gentle breeze – making running conditions seem perfect.

From the first to the third kilometre I found myself comfortable, setting a good pace (albeit, slightly faster than previous races due to my training with Harlow Running Club) and generally feeling rather relaxed after a recent break away in the sunshine.

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However, perhaps due to my lack of training in the lead up owed to my holiday or my faster than normal pace, or perhaps a mixture of both, I started to find myself tiring rather quickly between the third and fourth kilometre. Add in a couple of unexpected hills around the “flat route,” slowing down my pace further, I found my spirit wavering slightly – stopping to walk the hills that I would not have caused issues previously. I also started to spend more time looking at my watch, trying to work out if a PB was on the cards. During the first and third kilometres this was looking likely. After four kilometres I started to give up on the PB yet again, deterred by my post holiday fitness level, and to simply use this race as a way to return back to training after a very inactive break away.

The route itself was not without challenges, as mentioned above there were a number of hills thrown into the mix that were completely un-expected, the twists and turns around the residential streets became tiring and to top it off, as with the Shoreditch 10K, residents ignored the signs about road closures and decided they were well within their rights to drive down the closed roads. I saw at least three drivers, with very little regard for the runners around them screaming at the marshalls, obviously putting both at danger with their stupidity to pay attention to the signs around them.

And the water stations? Where were they? There was nothing available until after the 6KM mark. Many runners were overheard asking the marshalls “where is the water station?” And on what transpired to be a rather muggy day once we got well under way, this was an error of judgement on the organisers part. Luckily, I always run with water so it did not cause an issue for me. But there were many participants clearly struggling with the lack of hydration.

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That did not put runners off enjoying the course, however. Many participants around me were clearly enjoying themselves (some more than others) and there were many smiling faces as we approached the final turns to the finish line.

Despite my lack enthusiasm throughout the route, I was undeterred as we came towards that final stretch. Any energy I had was used for a sprint finish, allowing me to come under my British 10K time from July (just).

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Was I bothered about failing to get a PB and a sub 60 minute time yet again? Not really. I had enjoyed my much needed time off, coming back feeling refreshed and ache free. I always say “next time.” And I will get there one day. With the ability I have gained training with Harlow Running club, teamed with regular Spinning classes – I have no doubt that I will eventually reach the goals I set for myself.

In the meantime, it’s time to head off to running club……….

Adventures, Fitness, Training

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?

 

 

Adventures, Fitness, OCR Race, Training

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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Diet, Fitness, Health, Nutrition

Keeping fit over the Festive season.

Yep – it’s that season of tide and joy. That time of year when no matter how much you try to avoid it you find yourself surrounded by mounds of festive treats, and the exercise plan starts to waver to make way for the multitude of Christmas parties and gatherings.

Its no surprise that we come out the other side with a few extra pounds and finding getting ourselves motivated to exercise just that little harder.

So what do you do to stay focused and to stay on plan over the festive season?

Over the last few years, as I find myself wanting to go to “out, out” less and less I am finding sticking to plan comes a little easier too. However, like everyone else I have my downfalls and I will no doubt reach for a mince pie or two over the coming weeks.

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So I make a plan, to follow the following rules where possible:

Plan ahead! 

Not every meal I have is going to be Slimming World friendly. There will be some exercise classes that I will no doubt miss for some reason or the other. What I will do is plan ahead. Plan for those meals that may cause me to eat things that I know are not good. And if I know I will be missing a class or two, I will work around it. I will ensure that I keep to my lunch time power walks and throw in a few more for good measure.

I know that for Christmas Day itself the rule book will go out the window. I will enjoy every bite possible. So in the lead up I will do everything in my power to ensure that I am making the better choices to account for that.

Become the Designated Driver

One thing I enjoy these days is my freedom to drive and get about. I also enjoy the freedom to leave a party whenever I choose to, to not rely on cabs and other people to get home. Becoming the designated driver gives me the flexibility to do so.

It also means that I limit my alcohol consumption and therefore less likely to be hungover – which could lead to over-indulging and the likeliness to miss training sessions and classes.

Driving keeps me in control. I still drink, though these days it mainly tends to be at home, controlled with dinner.

Eat before you leave!

If your social event involves more drinking than eating make sure you eat before you leave the house. Years of not following this advice myself has lead to many nights getting drunk at super speed and mornings spent pre ordering Dominos to cure the hangover caused by overindulgence. Eating before hand means you are also less likely to head to the kebab shop at 2am too – though I make no guarantees!

Make wise choices!

Yes – we are all going to eat our share of indulgent foods. But that does not have to be every meal for for the next three weeks. Make better choices. If you know you are going out for a three course dinner, make a better choice for breakfast and lunch. One indulgent meal does not have to lead to an indulgent day.

When you are out and about think about what you are eating. Can you swap those chips for a side salad? Do you need to have starter, main and desert?

Don’t skip breakfast!

Its a given. The golden rule. Leave the house with a full belly and you will be set up for the day. You will be less likely to snack throughout the day. There is a saying – “eat like a King for Breakfast, a Prince for Lunch and a Pauper for Dinner.” Reversing your meals so that breakfast is the biggest meal of the day will mean you have more time to digest your meal throughout the day and not go to bed with a heavy stomach! I personally hate having a heavy meal after 7pm, I always find in doing so I feel ill and wake up feeling rather sluggish and bloated the next day.

Load up on your Vitamins!

It goes without saying that fruit and vegetables should be the most important part of your diet. Getting your five a day is key and loading up with Vitamin C is vital – especially as the temperatures drop and coughs and colds are wide spread.

Load up with a mix of the two by preparing a Nutri-Bullet each morning or prepping healthy snacks to take on your travels.

I always have a box of satsumas on my desk and take a pot of crudities and hummus to munch on between meals.

Allow yourself the rest and cheat days!

Giving yourself a break every now and then will mean you are less likely to fall off plan completely. We all need those days of rest, make sure you plan them in. If you have a cheat day or a cheat meal so be it. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Draw a line under it, move forward and look to the next days plan.

Its an exhausting time of year. Give yourself a break. Its allowed!

Focus on the long term goal.

In the grand scheme of things the festive period is only a small portion of the year. Yes we become very indulgent, over excited and sometimes allow things to slide. However, it is short term. Think about the long term goal, how far you have come and where you want to go. Then make the next plan – the New Year plan – and get right back on the horse ready to keep going.

Whatever you are doing over the next few weeks to celebrate; enjoy yourself, relax, rest and remember to keep going!

Enjoy a happy, healthy holiday!

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Adventures, Races, Training

Training Walk: 6 miles in Epping Forest

A few months ago, as I signed up to the Isle of Wight Challenge (the big one planned in for 2018), I was told something that I did not quite believe.

“Just because you can run, don’t assume you can walk.”

I did not think that much of it again, until I decided to get a head start in training for the big event next year.

65 miles will be no mean feat. With all kinds of terrains following the coast of the Isle of Wight, in what I estimate to take around 24 hours, and throughout the night too. If the miles don’t get to me, the sleep deprivation certainly will.

So, I took the time to start racking up the miles before Christmas and before the training plan kicks in in the New Year.

I have progressively increased the walking miles over the last few weeks, even covering around 30 miles whilst in Bordeaux. And this weekend I took to Epping Forest to start covering some mileage closer to home.

My first outing to Epping Forest came around a month ago. One wet, miserable Saturday afternoon I ventured out, got lost and found no joy in the route – which was rather desolate. It was not until the end of my walk that I found the “main path” detailed on the map and I kicked myself for not finding it sooner.

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This time I headed in the right direction. Again; it was wet, raining and generally a rather miserable day. Starting at the Wake Arms Roundabout I headed south into the depth of the forest following that “main path.” I did not get lost, I did not find it desolate – instead it was one of the most joyful walks I have had in a long time.

Despite the weather the forest was full of like minded walkers, runners, cyclists and even several horse riders. It seems I was walking in the right direction this time round – the forest had a wonderful bustling atmosphere.

Two miles in I reached the Kings Oak Hotel and continued along the main path a little longer. This is where the path changed considerably. What started as a predominantly flat route became one that saw some of the biggest hills I had trekked for some time.

Some runners were bravely powering up and down the hills. Although I was tempted to follow them, I stuck to my strong walking/ marching pace, which was a challenge in itself on the downhill stretches.

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Shortly after the hills my Garmin buzzed for the 3 mile marker and it was time to turn back on myself. Back up the challenging hills, that had a definite impact on my heart race but also left me feeling like I was having a great work out.

And then the Garmin died! I stupidly forgot to charge up before I ventured out, so after four miles I had to guess my pacing and overall time.

Quickly retracing my step I made it back to the start feeling a little worn out, but with a sense of exhilaration – that feeling I get every time I finish a work out that I am pleased with.

The next day I realised the comment my friend made rang true. My legs, glutes and calves were all tight. Walking is tougher than you may think.

And It was only six miles. Taking a total of 1 hour 46 minutes – averaging at around 17 minutes per mile. A great base to build up on over the next few months. At this pace, without stoppages, I would be looking at a finish time of around 18-19 hours. Not realistic, as lets face it not only am I going to have to account for rest stops but anything the actual day will through at me too.

However, I will use this timing as a guide to push myself forward and improve over the coming months.

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Fitness, Health, Training

Winter Walking

Though we are technically in the Autumnal season, the temperature has dropped so significantly in the last few days you cannot help but think it’s already Winter.

And with the Winter months comes the planning. The planning for the New Year, the new training plan and the new adventures.

This time last year I was planning the winter months training for the London Marathon. And whilst I am extremely satisfied that I ticked one of the greatest races in the world off my bucket list, I am equally glad that I will not be spending months upon months over the Winter waking up at 6am to run.

Instead I will be taking my training in a different direction. I will be walking my way through the Winter in preparation for the Isle of Wight Challenge. 65.8 miles around the coast of the Island, hopefully in under 24 hours.

Lately I have been talking to a few friends. Friends who have completed challenges run by the same company, Action Challenge, and those who have completed marathons. The one common comment made by all was “just because you can run, don’t assume you can walk.”

This comment has thrown me somewhat.

I always thought running a marathon would be far more difficult than walking. Your heart rate and exertion is higher after all. Right?

I believe that I am going to prove myself wrong over the next few months. Because not only am I going to have to deal with walking long distances, for hours and hours, I am also going to have to deal with sleep deprivation and cold temperatures; whilst dealing with anything that Mother Nature decides she will throw at me throughout my challenge.

However with several 24 hour challenges under my belt, thanks to Mission 24 two years running, I know that I have the mind power to get me through the small, dark hours.

What I need to do in the lead up is just rack up the miles.

So with that in mind I have been thinking about the routes I could complete and the miles I could cover. The training plan issued to me by my chosen charity partner, Mind, is no where near as extreme as the one I received for the London Marathon. The Marathon plan showed many days running; running short distances and long ones. At this stage I cannot remember how many hours I spent running. And I did very little else. A little spinning, a little yoga here or there. But mainly -running!

This plan has the longest walk in the lead up as 10 hours long. And for some reason I find this less daunting than the longest run I had scheduled for the Marathon, at 20 miles.

Luckily, as I live in the Home Counties, on the Herts- Essex border, there are plenty of routes I can look at over the next few months; not only to change things up so I don’t get bored but also to ensure that I cover the required milage.

The Lea Valley – One of the flattest routes I took to train for the London Marathon. It was flat, it was picturesque – it is perfect to cover the miles I need for my longest walk in preparation. Starting from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park I will make my walk along the river path up the River Lea – passing through Hackney, Walthamstow, Cheshunt, Broxbourne, Harlow and finishing at Bishops Stortford – around 30 plus miles.

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Epping Forest – a walk I tested today and did not enjoy. Following what was a “bike” trail to being with, I lost my trainer in a swamp of leaves. Plus it was pouring down with rain, so I got back to the car cold, wet, shivering and muddy. I am determined that the forest will be a cornerstone of my training in the upcoming months. If I plan it right and scope it out enough I could easily cover 8-10 miles each time.

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Shorter Walks will be key, just like the 3-4 milers when training for the London Marathon. They will keep me ticking over. And lately I have discovered more around my area than I ever have before. I like the off road routes – so the likes of Broxbourne Woods close to home will be a definite player in the short walk routes.

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Old childhood stomping grounds in North London will also be key. Family and friends still live there so why would I not incorporate shorter routes with friends into the training mix?

The likes of Hampstead Heath offers miles of wild wondering, with plenty of hills. To this day I still get lost on the heath. Yet every time I visit I still feel the joy of a first time visitor.

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Aldenham Country Park offers a short route – which you could easily lap in your visit. A country park that is a stones throw from the area I was raised offers a little day out for the family, or an opportunity for someone like myself to train – lapping here will rack up the miles around the lake.

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Whatever happens over the next few months I know one thing – the routes need to be long and the routes need to be those that offer pleasing scenery.

I will not be able to cover boring paved streets; I need country parks, I need rivers and I need countryside. If I am gong to cover 65 point something miles – I need to be pleased by the views.

So whatever I plan over the next few months I need to take this into consideration. I need to feel appeased. I need to ensure that whatever route I plan, it involves a route that offers me something to look at, that stimulates my mind and offers me mileage to challenge me physically.

It is a challenge I said I would never do, but a challenge that will come from the heart. A challenge that raises money for Mind. A charity that has become so meaningful and so dear to all my family.

There may be times when I don’t believe I will complete. But I know that i will. Finishing is the only option. And I hope, just like the London Marathon, he will be there to cheer me on. It won’t be in person – but I will hear his voice, I will feel his warmth and I will make every step count – for him!

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