This week was a funny old one… Ive not been in the pool once due to a hip injury I have been struggling with for a while now, I missed my long run again due to said injury (although it was only supposed to be a fast half and I’ve given up on speed now remember), and then I almost missed my brick but decided at the last minute to just go out and do it. This week I was supposed to do a 56 mile bike ride and a 10km run so I looked at the map and found a place called Hell, Michigan, that was about 25 miles away and set off on my way. Spoiler alert… I didn’t make it to Hell, but thats because google maps tried sending me on a dirt road for the last 3 miles and my little road bike just wasn’t built for that kind of surface.
Mentally however, I probably came closer than 3 miles to Hell. On the face of it it was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and it was almost warm enough for shorts… but (and I didn’t realise this until I was a couple of miles into my journey) it was also extremely windy which makes for less than ideal cycling conditions, and I found myself asking “why am I doing this?”. At first I didn’t have an answer, I don’t have anything to prove to myself anyone by doing an Iron man and I certainly wasn’t enjoying the ride, but then I hit the Border-to-Border trail. The B2B will be a 35 mile bike/walking trail connecting the county I am now living in when it is eventually completed. Right now there are only sections complete, one of which is in Ann Arbor but yesterday I discovered another in Huron Mills Metropark. This trail was a bit like Richmond park but with less deer and more water, and it was BEAUTIFUL. It was here that I realised that if I wasn’t training, I wouldn’t have discovered this hidden gem just 10-15 miles from my home, and I came to the conclusion that I am doing this because I can. Will I do another full Iron distance triathlon? Probably not… the training is just too time consuming, but I will finish this one, and that is all that counts.
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Yesterday marked a year to the day since I ran my first ever marathon in Barcelona, and today marks two years since I ran what still stands as my half marathon PB at Silverstone. A reminder of these two things probably couldn’t have come at a better time for me as I put in my first real long run in my prep for London as seeing pictures of myself as both made me remember that I don’t have anything to prove. Yes I want to improve my time but as I heard on the podcast I was listening to during my run on Sunday not every race is going to be a PB.
Training for a second marathon is definitely very different to the first and its hard not to compare how training is going now against what it was like last time. For example, my most recent 20-miler was slower than when I was training for Barcelona (although not as slow as strava would have you believe due to some inefficient watch pausing on my part), and it definitely felt harder so I came home feeling a bit disheartened on Sunday but have I mentioned its cold here and that running in the cold is hard? Its no surprise that I found this weeks run more difficult that putting in a downhill plod one balmy March day like the last time I ran this distance.
My goal in London is to come in under 3hrs 30 minutes (I was 3:35 in Barcelona). This would give me a qualifying time for Chicago and maybe even Boston, but seeing the photo of my at the finish line reminded that all I wanted to do in Barcelona was finish. No watch, no time pressures, no racing, just get to the finish line, and I am certain that I will finish at London with my friends and family there to support me. Last year, I didn’t know if I had it in me to complete the course, this year I know without fail I will cross that finish line, maybe not with a sub 3:30 time, but I will definitely finish, and somewhere in my training schedule I forgot that completing a marathon is a huge achievement and that is all that really matters.
After last weeks brick workout, I spent some time reading over my plan and realised that I am actually almost 3 weeks ahead of where I should be in my triathlon plan, but slightly behind in my marathon training plan, especially with my long runs. This means I didn’t even have to do the ridiculous freezing cold ride I did last weekend… but thats a different matter.
To fix this I decided I would put in a 16 mile run on Saturday to get myself back on track, however I only managed just short of 13… and I wouldn’t have even got that far if it wasn’t for a new found friend. This weekend I experienced the worst part of Michigan’s winter, the ice!! Running in the cold is hard enough but about 10 miles into my run on Saturday morning I hit a patch of thick ice and then the pavement in quick succession. I fell so quickly that my knees and face hit the floor at the same time… my arms didn’t even try to get involved. Now normally an incident like this would have sent me home in tears (I wasn’t seriously hurt but I did end up with a few scrapes and bruises and a hole in my favourite leggings), but luckily for me I had made a new friend over the course of the run and he pulled me up and we kept on going. Pretty impressive since he went down about 1.5 seconds before I did. He also gave me a lift home from the run cutting off my last 3 miles which given the cold and my sore knees I was totally grateful for.
I did notice that I found the run really tough, and I don’t know if its because I am out of shape, or not used to running in the extreme cold. If anybody has any advice about this please let me know but I am hoping that 13 miles in the freezing cold = 16 in regular temperatures?? If anyone can advise me on how true this is, or how to get over it, please drop a comment below because either way I am going to have to man the hell up and put in some serious miles next weekend to get myself back on track!
So its been a while since my last post and the 5K-a-day has gone out of the window because on top of my bike or run commute, gym routine, and ironman training it was pushing me close to injury. However, a lot has changed since I wrote that post just over a month ago. I am now living in Ann Arbor, Michigan where I will be working for the next few years. Now that I am settled in and have an internet connection, I decided to it was time to get back to the blog to document my tri-training progress.
Since I have been here I have experienced temperatures as low as -18ºC, and as high as 28ºC in the space of 4 weeks… this can make training or even planning a training schedule a little tricky and as a result I have missed a few long rides due to cold/treacherous roads and some runs because I don’t have any trainers suitable for running in 12 inches of snow. I have tried to replace them with a treadmill and turbo training work but its not the same, and anyone that says it is is lying. I have however found an indoor running track that is slightly more suitable, but most importantly I have found a park run! Its over 30 miles from my house, but I have managed to get there 3 out of 4 weekends so far.
Coldest (Parkrun 1)
Colder (Parkrun 2)
As a result of the weather conditions I have only just managed to fit in my first long distance brick, despite being 6 weeks into my training plan already (you can find the plan I am following here if you’re interested). As the weather had picked up I decided that I would ride the long way to park run, run the 5K and cycle a shorter way back (although I actually set off too late and had to do the short ride first). It turns out the weather hadn’t actually picked up, I was absolutely freezing and totally underprepared for the weather. I finished the trip but it was extremely tough and I really didn’t enjoy the ride, and nearly turned back half way through but I knew I just had to try and get through it. The run in the middle was a welcome break from the cold, I ran the whole 5k with one of our run directors and we had a blast!
So all in all the brick wasn’t great, but I do think I fuelled well (honey sandwiches and orange segments), and I recovered enough to go for a 12 mile run this morning, again thanks to run director Tim who came over to Ann Arbor to scout out some potential routes with me.
Little did I know this was the start of a 3hr 15 min journey home.
6 ACTUAL HOURS OF TRAINING!!!
In other news my swimming is really coming along and I have started to find my rhythm… plus I joined a tri-club this week so I am really looking forward to training with them next week too!
So I am 7 days into my 5k-a-day (only 358 left to go!). Here are a few things I have learned from my daily 3 mile challenge that might inspire you to get your shoes on and get out of that door.
1. The thought of going for a run is much worse than the run itself
A couple of times this week I really did not want to go running. It didn’t fit in with my schedule, and it has been cold and windy outside, however, once I got out there it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
2. Its so much easier to run with friends!!!
3 of this weeks runs were done with friends. I ran home from work with a friend from my office, had a 4 mile time trial with the Crystal Palace Fun Runners, and then made it to parkrun (with seconds to spare) to pace. Without a doubt these three runs were 100 times easier than the ones I had to do by myself!
3. A slow run feels better than no run at all
Almost every single run I have done this week has been slower than my normal pace. As a friend helpfully pointed out this is partly laziness and not wanting to push myself (Thanks for that by the way!), daily running has also taken its toll on my legs. I am finding my legs are getting heavier by the day but as it was my first week back on the bike and at the gym I am just going to keep going and hope that I get back up to speed in the next few weeks.
4. Stretching is essential!!
My 5k-a-day challenge has coincided with another challenge I have set myself to get more flexible. I started my 10 mins a day of stretching on Thursday and it has definitely made my runs feel easier, even if they are not getting any quicker!
This week I am focussing on trying runs at different times of the day to see what works for me but I am trying to avoid the treadmill where I can!
In other news.. Its T-7 days until my Iron man training starts (ARGH!!)!!!!
So after a long break from blogging I am back. It’s less of a “new year, new me” thing, and more of a “finally having something to blog about” thing. By my standards I have spent the last few months in an off period. For me this has meant missing a few gym sessions, not really sticking to any plans for long runs, swims, or rides, and eating a FAR too many carbs. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing anything at all since I took a break from blogging, I have tried to get to parkrun every week and this year I did my first ever boxing day swim (and it was my FAVOURITE THING EVER), followed by the race of the year, the Chevin Chase.
Taking a bit of a break has actually allowed me to build muscle because my calorie intake is increased and I have started to even out a glute imbalance that has been the root cause of all of my running injuries to date, but now its time to settle back into a proper training routine and look at my targets for the next year. These are:
5K A Day:
Inspired by a very good friend and someone I saw on Instagram, my new years resolution is to run 5km every day for the next year. I have started well with the traditional new years day double park run hitting Pontefract at 9am followed by a very muddy Rothwell at 10:30am.
Sub 3:30 at the Virgin London Marathon
This year I have managed to get a good for age place at the London Marathon in April. I was tempted to defer my place because I am moving to Ann Arbor in January but I decided to use it as an excuse to see my parents and come back to run. Then I realised it was exactly 12 weeks before my Iron Man so what better way to get in shape that get my legs ready for marathon distance??
Complete my first Iron Man
In a moment of madness a few months back I signed up for my first Iron Man event. I have never done a half-Iron Man, or even a full olympic tri so this is going to be a huge test for me to complete the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile ride, and 26.2 mile run in under 16 hours but I know that if I can stick to my training plan I will get there eventually!
Anyone who reads this page regularly will notice that I did not post at all last week but what can I say? I’ve been busy… but not at the gym.
I feel like since I got back from my holiday I have lost my mojo a bit and struggled to get back into my routine so I decided that this week I would write about what I intend to go to get back into the swing of things.
Workout with friends: This is always a great way to get yourself back into the gym! I am lucky that I have a good friend from work who is always up for trying out my work outs with me and she is back from her holidays this week so I have no excuse for missing a workout (starting tomorrow morning!).
Get someone to hold you accountable for sticking to your plans: I haven’t been to running club since I got back from my holidays but tomorrow I have committed to a friend that I will be there. Even though there is nothing she can do to make me go, the fact that I have told her I am going to go should be enough to tempt me out of the house on a miserable Monday evening. I am also not checking the route before hand so I really have no excuse!!
Write a plan down on paper: Okay so the paper part isn’t important… but it needs to be written down somewhere you can see to keep you motivated
Reward yourself: Make a deal with yourself that if you do all of the sessions you intended to do you can have a treat at the weekend. My treat is always food related so if I manage to get everything in that I want I will get myself a cream cake from the bakery but yours might be a nice long bubble bath or a massage or anything else you that is a treat to you.
Its always hard to get back into something after a longish break… but you have to remind yourself you did it before and you can definitely do it again!!!
If you follow me on Instagram you might notice that I have spent the last 3 weeks on holiday. As I intended to jump straight into my Iron Man training as soon as I was back I tried to think of ways I could keep my fitness up without it feeling like I was ruining my holiday. Here is a list of a few of the things I did to stop myself turning into a big pile of jelly, or jello since I was in the US…
Got a week long gym pass: Now I know that putting this first is an easy way to lose you all but I don’t expect this option to be for everyone. However hear me out before you close the page… While we were in LA I chose to get a gym membership for a week so that I could finish up my Ghofitness plan for the month and it was the best decision ever! We were staying in an Airbnb which was great but it meant no pool… my gym however not only had a pool but also a jacuzzi and sauna. Best $20 I ever spent.
Equipment-free workouts: Before I left, I had the team at Ghofitness send me some bodyweight only workouts. I did these 3 times a week while I was away, and they definitely helped to keep me in shape. There are loads of workouts you can find online and most of them just take 30 mins. They are a perfect way to start the day (before a bucket load of pancakes obviously!)
Beach yoga: There are hundreds of videos online for you to follow if you’re new to yoga, or if you have done a few classes before then just take yourself through some vinyassas on the sand.
Walks/Hikes: Sometimes keeping fit is a simple as getting in lots of long walks at a half decent pace. This is something super achievable for everyone on holiday and if its all you want to do then it is definitely enough to keep you ready for cardio when you return. We did our hike at Runyon Canyon with the people and dogs from the Free Animal Doctor, giving money to the charity and walking the dogs was the most rewarding experience of our holiday!
Swimming: If your hotel has a pool or you’re staying near a beach swimming is not just a perfect way to cool off, its actually really good exercise!
Working out on holiday might not be for everyone, and I definitely thought I would do more than I actually did. But I think I am still in good enough shape to pick up my training (although my body fat is definitely twice as high as when I left!!!!)
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.