So as a few of you might know, I am on holiday in the USA at the moment having a wonderful time driving around California. I was undecided as to whether or not I would blog while I was away but I wanted to write about a run I did yesterday while it was still fresh in my mind/legs.
I am training for the Beachy Head marathon, a trail run around the South Downs in the UK, and decided that as my marathon plan included a half that fell this weekend I might as well sign up for a race while I was here in the USA. That race was the Berkeley trail adventure, a gruelling trail run held in a park called Wild Cat Canyon just north of San Francisco. Now since Americans call anything longer than a walk to the corner shop a “hike” I am sure I could be forgiven for expecting this trail run to be nothing more than a run on some gravel around the base of the canyon but I was very very wrong… Hike = walk but trail run = full on mountain climb!!!
During this run I experienced pretty much every single emotion known to man…
Fear when extremely tight calves resulted in both feet going numb going up the worlds steepest hill 2 miles in to the race. I was actually in tears and didn’t think I was going to be able to get back down the winding trail with a sheer drop into the canyon and two completely numb feet… If anybody has any ideas why this happens or how to avoid it then PLEASE comment!!
Exhilaration when the next steep down hill section came on a smooth path through a woodland so I could just let go and enjoy it
Tranquility when I got to the top and saw the view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge over the bay.
Surprise when I heard a buzzing in my ear and then got stung a few seconds later (first time I have ever been stung and I was definitely freaking out for the last 2 miles of my run incase I was allergic)
Excitement when I saw I was approaching the finish line and my husband
Pride when I was awarded 2nd in my age category.
This was without a doubt the most difficult run I have ever done but I would 100% do something similar again!! I love trail running in the UK but we just don’t have trails like this! Maybe I need to get into fell running???
TOTAL MILAGE THIS WEEK: Swim 0.5 miles | Cycle: 85.2 miles | Run: 13.2 miles | Comment: Sometimes you just have to accept that life gets in the way
This week I haven’t managed to get much of anything done really… although I did reach all 5 gym sessions (I consider this to be my cross training, something I think is more important than getting in the miles). Although I don’t feel great about not doing a run commute this week (I’ve been unable to run with a backpack after last weeks long run disaster) or missing my LSR, I think that the benefits I will gain from “resting up” for a week can only help me in the long run. With that in mind I decided to share my top tips for staying well during periods of intense training.
If you have any small niggles, go see a physiotherapist. It is quite apt that I am writing this post on the same day as the great north run because it was this race two years ago that I learned just how important this little piece of advice is. I trained really hard for what was to be my third ever half marathon, and had been ignoring a slight twinge in my knee choosing to patch myself up with kinesiology tape and get on with it. It was a beautiful day on race day, I started off running the fastest first two miles of my life and bumped into an old school friend on the way (what are the chances??) so I was in pretty high spirits when at 2.5 miles in my IT band gave in and I had to run/walk the remaining 11.5 miles in agony. I finished the race eventually but I was out of action for several months afterwards. When I finally gave in and saw a physio he diagnosed me with a glute weakness and gave me some exercises to do and within weeks I was right as rain. The injury still bothers me from time to time but I now know that doing my exercises will sort it out before it becomes a problem. If I had just gone to see a professional as soon as my leg started hurting, I would have had a much more pleasant experience at the GNR and maybe even prevented future injuries.
Practice a little self-massage. Now I am as terrible as the next runner about getting the foam roller out and doing some rehab but one thing I always make time for is the power plate machine at the gym. Its fantastic for a post run massage! The pictures below demonstrate my favourite positions using this machine so next time you’re in the gym, instead of ignoring that weird machine in the corner that nobody uses… get yourself on there and give it a go.
IT band:high setting, 30 seconds each side
Hamstrings: high setting, 60 seconds, gently roll knees in and out to deepen the intensity.
Calves: high setting, 60 seconds. Pull up toes to increase intensity
Quads: high setting, 60 seconds. Lower onto forearms to increase intensity. As a runner/cyclist I normally do this one more than once.
Make some time for yoga and mindfulness. So, I am a bit of a yoga nerd. I only tend to make one full session a week but I often practice little poses by myself at home or in the gym (especially balancing poses which are my fave!). I favour a vinyasa or ashtanga style of yoga but every now and again I try and do a bit of yin to help get into a really deep stretch. Even if you can only manage 15 minutes a day, there are loads of youtube videos that you can follow, although for me nothing beats an instructor led class, especially if you’re new to yoga and would like some guidance. If yoga is not really your thing, you can still benefit from spending a little time focussing on you, with a bit of meditation and deep breathing. This week I have been lucky enough to try out a new app by Thrive that made me take some time out of my day and practice some breathing and relaxation techniques. You can read more about the app here.
TOTAL MILAGE THIS WEEK: Swim 1.25 miles | Cycle: 61.2 miles | Run: 34.6 miles | Comment: Not bad for a four day week.
This week has been a bit of a mixed bag for me. A bank holiday always scuppers my training plans as I don’t cycle to work and running club is cancelled, so my milage is generally reduced on these weeks. Despite the fact that there was no running club, I still managed to significantly increase my running miles to the furthest I have done since I finished marathon training. Also, since I had some really nice and dare I say enjoyable runs last week, I did something stupid and committed to Beachy Head marathon (even though a few weeks ago I said that people who did multiple marathons in one year are crazy). Now the thing about Beachy is that it is notoriously tough, and there is no point going for speed, so the important thing is getting in the miles and the hills so that your legs can cope however long runs all the time are super boring so I tried several things to mix it up a little with varying amounts of success.
Run, swim, run (10.1 miles): I had left my bike at work last week, so on Tuesday I decided I would run to the serpentine swim my first mile, and then run to work. This didn’t quite work out as I got too cold to reach a mile so had to get out after 3/4s, but the run was a success. After the swim I threw my shoes on, and set off running to work without even removing my swim cap, and actually I quite enjoyed it! Things that worked: Knowing that I was going for a swim (aka going to my happy place).
Things that were difficult: Even though it was just two miles, its not easy running when your whole body is that cold.
Running with friends (5.1 miles, WU, 6*800m with 200m recovery, CD): This week saw the introduction of our new weekly Wednesday lunch runs where me and some girls from work have committed to dragging each other out of the office and into the park for a run. We don’t necessarily need to run together, we just need someone to motivate us to run! This week I did run with one of the girls, but she is much fitter and faster than me so I definitely won’t be holding her up every week. Things that worked: Having someone to motivate me to get out in the rain and run, as well as planning my route and speed splits… If you read this then thanks a lot AO!
Things that were difficult: I had trained legs 18hrs before the run. This definitely made the splits we were running much harder to achieve. Also I could have done with eating something before hand I think!
PARKRUN (3miles): This week it was our run directors 250th park run (well done Tom!!!!), so he decided that for a special occasion he would send us on a magical mystery tour of the park and do a single lap park run. This was without a doubt the best park run I have ever done and I believe people are petitioning to keep this route permanently which 100% gets my vote. Also, just call me Melania Trump because I was FIRST LADY!!!! (only because our regular first lady is on holiday but I am not normally second either so its still a huge achievement and it got me a mention in this weeks run report. Things that worked: They say a change is as good as a rest and that was definitely true for me this week. Also I had a good breakfast a few hours before setting off for the run so that definitely didn’t do any harm. Oh.. and I wore my lucky hat. Things that were difficult: To be honest this was pretty much an ideal run for me! I can’t really fault it.
LSR/3 Parkrun Challenge (16.2 miles): Now, as you can imagine by this point in the week I was feeling pretty confident in my running ability, and decided to design myself a 3 park run challenge for my LSR. Now let me tell you something very important… putting in 3 good runs of 3 different lengths literally does not help you at all in the mental game that is the LSR. The 3 park run challenge is a simple concept… you pick 3 park runs that are close enough to each other, and run between them. If you’re looking for a shorter distance you can choose to do a junior park run route, or just a single lap of a multiple lap course, but if you want more distance then you put in the full 5km at each location. I picked South Norwood County Parkrun, Dulwich Parkrun, and my new home run at Crystal Palace. I planned to do 18 miles but ran out of time before junior park run at Crystal Palace so came in just a little bit short. This run was the worst run I have done possibly ever… but please don’t let that put you off the idea! Things that went well: I saw a man doing something similar in one park, and we met up again in another. Having someone to chat to for a couple of minutes really made the run more bearable for that short amount of time. Eating fruit while running (which was surprisingly easy) Things were difficult: RUNNING IN GENERAL. Today I picked up a blood blister the size of a 20p coin, didn’t eat enough before hand so my stomach was actually rumbling the whole way through. I squashed my post run sandwich, and I picked up a horrendous marathon tattoo from my camelback.
So in conclusion, the main point of this post is that every run is going to be different. There are some things I learned that will help every run though I think. These are:
Get a lucky hat and wear it whenever you can
Running with friends where possible
Don’t wear a vest and backpack combo
Make sure you eat a good breakfast and have plenty of time to digest it before setting off
Wear proper running socks
Orange segments in a bag in your pocket make a pretty good pre-run snack
Hopefully reading about all of my different run experiences this week might help you with yours in the future!