Marathon training: An update

So. How’s my marathon training going? Honestly? I have no idea. My original plan (increase my long run distance each week or so) was going ok, I was up to 12 miles, but there was a lot of walking and no consistency to my pace. I was also horribly aware that there was little to no consistency to my training and that I was entirely focused on “must do my long run”, but was neglecting my training during the week. And then I got talking to Kat at the Spitfire Scramble, who told me about her training plan which is flexible and designed to get you to train smarter, not just blindly claw out ever increasing distances. I trust Kat because she signs herself up for a ridiculous amount of ridiculously long races. Clearly she’s mad, but she must be doing something right with her training.

I ummed and ahhed about it. It sounded scary, but intriguing and after a couple of days, I gave up and asked Kat where I could find out more. She pointed in me in the direction of TrainAsOne, an app that is currently at the beta testing stage. I took a deep breath, sent off an email, signed myself up, filled in my training requirements and lo and behold I had a training plan. Admittedly it was a training plan that started on the wrong day because I got my days mixed up… Don’t worry, said Kat, it will just readjust itself. So I did my first assessment run, uploaded my TomTom Tim (have I mentioned that I’m calling him Tim? RIP Miles,  my sweet Garmin) and lo and behold, the whole thing had shuffled itself along and rejigged itself to accomdate my thickery.
It doesn't get much more hi-tech than this.It doesn’t get much more hi-tech than this.

There is lots of science and evidence behind the plan, but I do not know about this and quite frankly, I do not want to know about this. If I understand (or worse still, think that I understand) it, I will be tempted to try and tweak things because I know best. However,  I do not know best. I am an idiot. If I do not understand it (and basically treat the whole plan as if it some kind of witchcraft) I will follow it to the letter. This is mainly down to blind fear that if I do not follow it to the letter then it will all go wrong and I will find myself making an even bigger arse of myself in Dymchurch.

So how is my training going? Well I’ve alarmed myself by being able to go faster than I ever thought possible (in my assessment run, I did 2 miles at an average pace of 9.04 minutes/mile – to put this into context I am normally chuffed to mintballs by doing 10 minute miles). I’m definitely working harder (evidenced by the fact that I’m returning home sweatier and more red-faced than ever) and I’m going out 3 times a week (and wanting to go out more). My pace is consistent and I’m hitting most of my target paces there or thereabouts (weirdly, the hardest one is my very easy pace). And you know what, I’m enjoying it.

So I don’t understand what I’m doing, I’ve no idea how long the marathon will take me and I haven’t a clue if I’m progressing in the right direction. But I’m enjoying myself, so I must be doing something right.

What did I learn at the Spitfire Scramble?

Well a week has now passed since I completed the Spitfire Scramble and I have just about stopped grinning. I may or may not have worn my medal for a bit yesterday (it needed taking upstairs, alright?) and I have gleefully devoured each of my teammates blogs (Alma, Andrew, Corey, Helen, Kat, Mollie and Sabine if you want to collect the whole set) as a lovely reminder of what a brilliant weekend it was. But naturally I am a reflector, so what have I learned from the weekend?

  1. If there is a Tesco nearby, you do not have to pack food as if there is an impending apocalypse (even if you have a gannet-like toddler in tow).
  2. Even if there are food vans, it is highly likely that you will want to eat something that is not served in a bun. Although there was the option of pasta or jacket potatoes (and I managed to keep missing the jackets) , the rotation of burger/sausage/bacon onna bun has its limits. When we arrived home, Ginge asked if we could have vegetables for tea. I have never known this to happen in eight years of marriage.
  3. I LOVE RUNNING IN THE DARK! I am not foolish enough to think that all night runs are like this one, but this one was pretty near perfect and I loved it. As a woman, I don’t often get chance to run alone in some dark woods and feel perfectly safe, so it’s great to be able to do this. I am toying with investing in a headtorch, but can’t help thinking that it would be wasted for training runs. My theory is that if I’m running somewhere dark enough to warrant a headtorch, I probably shouldn’t be running there alone (mainly because my mum will be cross). I am however frantically googling the National Trust Night Run (I promise that I’m not sponsored by them, but I enjoyed last year’s so much that I want everyone to do one. Having said that, if they do want to sponsor me, I’m well up for that…) and wondering if there are any more local events that I can brave in the dark.
  4. I suspect that I am capable of more than I have been doing. I wasn’t sure if I could do Spitfire, it turned out that I could. I wonder what else I can do….
  5. I shouldn’t freak myself out with pacing. During the night run, I barely looked at my pace. I felt strong and steady, whereas in the afternoon I was aware of going off a bit too fast, checking my watch and then having a walk. I have taken people’s advice and changed the display on my TomTom (who I am currently calling Tim) to show constantly show my time and distance, which means that I have to make a conscious decision to have my pace displayed. This seems to be a nice compromise as my new training efforts require me to have some awareness of my speed.
  6. I should probably invest in some nicer kit. Until not long ago, I was still running in the men’s T-shirts that I bought from Sports Direct when I was 6 months post-baby. They served a purpose, but they don’t do a great deal for your self-esteem. When I saw photos of myself in fluorescent pink and yellow, I barely recognised myself.
  7. I like being part of something. Maybe it’s harking back to my days in the Brownies, but I loved being part of a team for the weekend (and during all of the before and after stuff on facebook and twitter). Yes the prospect may have made me a bit anxious, but I wore my pink headband with pride!
  8. You can learn a huge amount from other runners. I am not really a kit junkie, so I didn’t really have much to contribute to conversations about watches, trackers, hydration packs etc, and I don’t really know what I’m doing, so I had nothing to add to discussions about nutrition, training and so on. However, I did get to run alongside some brilliant people and absorb their knowledge. A chance conversation with Kat has led me to embarking on a whole new training regime that I am finding terrifying and exciting in equal measure.
  9. Embrace the post-event massage. On the one hand, it did make my legs feel sore for 24 hours and I did end up with a little bit of fingertip bruising on my left thigh, on the other hand, it did make me feel like a Proper Runner Who is Hardcore.
  10. Do not agree to ANYTHING in the 24 hours post-race. Well maybe except doing it again next year. But do not get swept along into agreeing to sign up for something like the Trailblaster 12 when someone like Helen says “wouldn’t it be great to do this as a pair?”. Similarly, don’t get distracted by a lovely shiny Ultra medal while you’re trying to find a link on the race organiser’s website…

Hello stranger.

Crikey it’s dusty round here. Are those cobwebs…?

I have been absent from the blogging for absolutely ages because of a lack of both time and inclination (I’ve felt like I’ve done nothing of interest that I can write about, but it’s suddenly dawned on me that this has never bothered me in the past). I’ve also gone back to work and am still getting used to the highly skilled art of juggling that this requires; let’s just say that many balls have been dropped during this transition.

Annoyingly, my running has been a bit like a drunk being kicked out at last orders – a definite case of one step forward and two steps back. On the one hand, I have earned my first post-baby bling (which was a bit of an adventure and defintely warrants a post of its own when I get round to writing it just three months after the event),  but on the other hand I still haven’t managed to run more than twice in a week. Or two weeks in a row. However! I am starting again (again). I’ve been inspired in part by Lipstick, Lettuce and Lycra who has managed to sum up my attitude to going back to square one with far more eloquence and positivity that I could ever muster.

My mindset has been shocking. It’s been slow progress, but finally I have gone from actively avoiding running (sample conversation in our house: “Do you want to go for a run?” “No” “Why not?” “There’s no point/I can’t do it/I’m not a runner anymore”) to passively avoiding it (basically letting the day slide away so that, oh look, there’s no time for a run) to actually getting my lazy arse out of the door.

Tonight was only 20 minutes because I had let time slide away so that there was only 25 minutes before Ginge was due to go out. It would have been very easy to let another 10 minutes escape and provide a convenient excuse for staying at home in the warm, so I think that this is progress.

Not Juneathon day 15

As has been the case for the past few Athons, I have let myself slide gently off the Juneathon wagon. I had a sudden realisation that I had started to do crap yoga, was writing increasingly boring blogs and that doing yoga in the front room has limited scope for posting photos of wildfowl. So I put my weasel pants on and weaselled on out of there. Worryingly, I actually managed a longer Juneathon last year when I was full of baby.

Ah well.

Today though, I ran. Alright, so it was after the usual procrastination (I tried to declare that my running kit was actually pyjamas. When asked, I explained that it had hi-vis on it in case of emergency. Pressed for further details I elaborated that there was a risk of “a bed emergency”) I hoofed out of the door in the opposite direction than normal. The route that I’ve been doing during the C25K is the flattest that I could think of, whereas turning left out of the front door is a slightly more undulating route.

I’m very proud to report that I managed a whole TWO miles!

One thing that I’m finding tricky is slowing down when I need to recover from a hill or a burst of misplaced enthusiasm. I know that sounds daft, especially as my pace isn’t exactly blistering right now, but all I seem to be able to do is walk or come to a standstill. What I can’t do is just plod on, moving my body in a way that looks a bit like running only much, much slower. I’m not sure if this is important (I think it is) and have a dim recollection of being advised to slow down, not walk, when I was first starting out. Is it important? Are there any tricks to getting your breath back? Preferably ones that don’t involve a nice cup of tea and a sit down (although you do know I would love to do just that).

Juneathon day one – couch to 5k week 5 day 2

Even though I started this year’s Janathon, it was only a couple of months after having Mini-Ginge, I was still banned from doing any high impact exercise and I felt I had a decent excuse for taking it easy. He is now nearly eight months old and I’m slowly but surely getting back to running. I feel that I should make a proper go of Juneathon. I thought that I’d considered all the issues that would make this year more challenging; the tiredness, the wonky pelvic floor, the difficulty getting out for early morning runs, the dodgy hip and back, the potentially still lax ligaments, the tiredness… What I didn’t account for was that even leaving the house would take so flipping long.

With hindsight, it might have been my own fault, but before I left I decided to peek in on Mini-Ginge just to make sure that he was settled in his cot. As I looked in the room, a head popped up and a pair eyes stared out at me in the gloom. His gaze met mine. I tried to back away, but it was too late. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.

A few cuddles and a couple of verses of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star later and I thought it was safe to leave. I stood up. His face crumpled. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.

At this point I handed over to Ginge but the WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHs continued, punctuated with a few of his hungry cries. This was a situation that I was hoping to avoid because once my sports bra is on, the door to the buffet is firmly locked. If wearing a nursing bra is like nipping to the cash machine when you need a tenner, wearing a sports bra is like getting your tenner from deep in the vaults of the Bank of England*.

I left the boy blowing raspberries in his cot and legged it.

Today’s legging it consisted of 8 minutes running, 5 minutes running, 8 minutes running. This was the first time that the return leg would see me running all the way home and it was both liberating and frustrating not looking at my watch to see how many minutes I had left. Instead I kept on picking out landmarks in the distance to split up the distance until I was home.

My next session sees me leap up from 8 minutes to 20 minutes of running. I have no idea who was doing the maths for this one, but clearly they forgot about all of the possible numbers between 8 and 20. I am a little terrified.

*I originally wrote Fort Knox, which does read better but then the pedant in me realised that you’d really struggle to get a tenner from there.