Monday 28 January 2013

Steady training

Last week I managed to defeat the evils of snow, cold weather and work to complete a week of training pretty much as planned. The most important parts of each week are probably the long run, and making sure I get 4 runs in. I did all that, so success!

It went like this:
Monday: Nothing - should have been strength but I never got round to it ...
Tuesday: Easy run - 4 miles & 30 mins Strength training (from yesterday..)
Wednesday: Fartlek run - 4.2 miles
Thursday: Cycle - 8 miles & 10 mins Strength training
Friday: Long run - 10 miles
Saturday: Easy run - 3.5 miles
Sunday: Rest

So I only did 1 1/2 of the 3 Strength training sessions planned, but as long as I don't follow this pattern every week, it's obviously no big deal. The bike ride was a short one due to time constraints, and also the fact that I was cycling very slowly. The long run was ok, but at an average of 9.23 min/miles, it was a long way from the speed I was running similar distances at last summer. I'm hoping the speed will improve over the coming weeks but I'm not too confident.

On Saturday I was very achey after Friday's 10 miles, but I wanted to go to Eastbourne Parkrun as it was their 1 year anniversary. I had been to the inaugral run last January, but then only made it to 6 more Saturdays since then. We are so often busy at the weekend, and I had definitely intended to go a lot more often than I did in 2012.

But it was great last Saturday. When I arrived there was a huge group of runners, along with a banner at the start and balloons. There was a photographer from the local paper, homemade cake for finishers, and best of all, the sun had come out for a change! The atmosphere was great, and they achieved their aim of beating their record attendance with 132 runners.

My run was my slowest ever, but that was expected. Having run 10 miles less than 24 hours before, it felt like the last 3 miles of a half marathon, and I got round in a leisurely, enjoyable 28 minutes something. I'm really glad I went, and I'm going to make it another goal of 2013 to go more often.

Waving hello to the photographer
The other thing I did last week was see my physio, and she declared my left leg (giving me pain since November), much better. The stretches she gave me have really been working - hooray!

Friday 25 January 2013

Zipping up my Mansuit

In the last couple of weeks I have not been chomping at the bit to go out for every run. Doing extra work and being busy has left me having to do a few runs in the evenings, and I've found myself lacking motivation to go out in the dark and get cold.

On the Marathon Talk website they often refer to runners 'zipping up their mansuit', as they are forced to dig deep and tough it out. I'd like to think that this could equally be referred to as a 'womansuit', although I'm not sure it has quite the same ring. Anyway, I've felt like I've had to do a bit of this recently.

The weather has been so cold, hovering around 0 degrees Celsius (32 F) most days, and dropping lower at night. I've been wrapping myself up in 3 layers, gloves, scarf and woolly hat before stepping outside the back door to let the Garmin out to find its satellites. By this point I am always completely convinced that I'm going to freeze to death.

But I always pull myself together enough to venture out of the front door and get going. During the first few minutes I gradually realise that I'm running way too fast, in a subconcious attempt to warm up. However, I have to admit that after a mile or so, I generally feel, if not warm, then at least a bit less uncomfortable. And then very often, towards the end of the run, I remember that I actually really like running in the dark at night.

When I get home, I'm all warm and glowing with that particular smug satisfaction that comes after a good run. At least I haven't recently had to force myself out of my warm bed for an early morning run, and at least our back garden has gone from this:

to this:

Mwa-ha-ha! Come on spring...

Sunday 20 January 2013

Bloody snow...

How come all my friends on Facebook get so excited about the arrival of snow? To me it's just a big fat inconvenience. I mean I suppose I get a little tiny frisson of pleasure at making footprints in fresh white snow, and it's fun for the kids etc etc... but that's all overshadowed by not being able to get on with life as normal. Yes I am grumpy.

I thought my biggest obstacle to training this week would be work. I was covering for a teacher and teaching every morning. There were a few meetings thrown in, lesson planning too, and I was examining on Saturday as well, so I went from not working at all to a 6-day week. With the kids finishing school at 3.15pm, I didn't have a lot of spare time. But actually I did better than I thought I might.

I stretched every day (just about, some days it was only once through each stretch), did 3 strength training sessions (although they were a bit shorter than I might have liked), and I ran 4 times - 2 easy runs, 1 hill repeats session, and 1 long run.

The long run was on Friday, which was when the snow was first forecast here. As I looked out of my classroom window that morning, it started to come down earlier and heavier than predicted. I told my students I was planning to run after the class and they looked at me as though I was nuts. By the time the class finished, the college had decided to close completely, due to the weather.

I got home at about 1pm to find Pete home from work - they'd had a lot more snow in Brighton and had shut up shop too. At least that meant he could pick the kids up and I had a bit more time. I'd eaten a sandwich in the car on the way back, so I was ready to go!

Garmin finds satellites in the snow
The snow wasn't too deep yet, and most of the roads and pavements I ran on had been cleared. The worst problem was the icy wind in my face. It was horrible, and at times felt like running into a wall. However, to avoid icy or snowy paths, I had a boring route of 4 miles in one direction on a main road, then turn around and come back. This meant that it was a LOT easier on the way back, with a strong tailwind!

So while my speed was pretty crappy, it was faster on the way back, and I was glad to get 8 miles in despite the snow.
Snowed under
The snow was pretty feeble by Saturday and I had high hopes, but today it has been coming down all day. When I got up it was snowing and settling. I ran 3.6 miles which was tough in parts due to snow getting clumped in the heels of my trainers so I seemed to be running on platform heels. I got cold and wet, and I couldn't see out of my snow-covered glaases - frankly I've had better runs.

Most annoyingly I thought I'd run 19 miles this week - when I plugged the Garmin in it was actually 18.92m - aaaargh!

I'm hoping the snow won't last all week, as I can't cycle in it, and that was something I missed this week. At least the kids have been enjoying it though:

I had no part in this - I was warm inside

And I do have something to be happy about - great new shoes which I won't be wearing again until the snow has cleared off! 

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Marathon training - a start...

Last week I had a really good week of proper marathon preparation. I had a plan, and I managed to complete it. This is how it went:

Monday: Strength - 40 mins of core and upper body work
Tuesday: Easy run - 3.7 miles
Wednesday: 'Long' run - 7 miles
Thursday: Cross training - 10m bike ride + Strength - 30 mins core work
Friday: Speed training run - 4.1 miles of intervals
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Tempo run - 3.1 miles + Strength - 30 mins core and upper body work

Total: Ran 18 miles, Cycled 10 miles, 3 sessions of strength.

Wow, that looks so good. It felt really good too, especially as I finally managed a longer run without any problems, and felt that my fitness was returning. I've been doing strength training for a couple of weeks, having failed to meet that goal all last year, and I've even been stretching every day since 1st January.

I liked that training plan, which was adapted from various books, and I was going to stick with it. However, things have already changed. This week I have been asked to teach every morning to cover a teacher's absence at a nearby college. I'm enjoying it and it's great to have some extra income, but it's messed up my training!

My plan was based on the fact that I could get most of it done during the week when the kids are at school, so as not to spoil family weekends, and so we can still go away for weekends and have visitors. But this week it's proving tricky. Between getting back from work and picking the kids up from school, I only have time for a 4-5 mile run at most. I've been too tired to fit anything in in the morning (sleep is also an important part of my plan!), and by the time Pete gets home from work, it's so cold and dark out that I don't fancy a long run. (I've also been a bit sniffly and the temperature has dropped to friggin' freezing).

I'll have to fit it in somewhere though. After this busy week, I've been asked to teach Mondays and Wednesdays for another 4 weeks, which should be more manageable and fit in with my training. I liked the layout of runs, cross-training and strength in that first week, so I hope I can go back to that, or just adapt it a little bit.

I realise that I'm very lucky to be able to do most of my running during the week and during the daytime. Maybe I'll think about getting a proper job after the marathon - I've got my priorities right!

Thursday 10 January 2013

Current Concerns

So here we are at the start of a new year of running, and for many runners, the start of a training programme for a spring marathon. My marathon (Brighton) is on 14th April, which is now only 13 weeks away - a terrifying thought.

I booked a place in the marathon months ago, and hoped a long build up would see me start specific training with a great base mileage. Of course it hasn't worked out that neatly. Although I was consistently running 10 miles+ long runs all summer, I was stopped in my tracks in November by illness, injury and general tiredness.

I thought a few easier weeks would see me back to full fitness, but the pain in my leg has hung on, and I ran very little and ate very much in December. As a result, I seem to have lost a huge amount of fitness.

I've seen a physio, started doing targeted stretches, and the leg pain has got a lot better. It's not completely gone though, and meanwhile, I have been trying to build my long runs up again. After the Half Marathon in November, I hadn't run more than 4 miles as a long run. Last week I managed a 5-miler, which was extremely slow, and this week, I was relieved to get up to 7 miles.

However, I'm aware that I should be nearer 10 miles for my LSR at this stage, and with a much higher weekly mileage. So I am a little concerned. The pain in my leg, which recurrs after a few miles, is not slowing me down, it's just my general fitness holding me back.

April 14th does seem a long way away, but I know that marathon training should be underway by now. I'm hoping that my fitness will return over the next few weeks, and, obviously, that I won't have to deal with any more injuires.

On a happier note, Emma had her fifth birthday last week and we had a great weekend, involving a party, swimming, bike riding, and a trip to a local farm. This week has been back to school, and - AT LAST - the kids are in the same school, after Robbie being on the waiting list for 15 months. This means we can walk there and back everyday, it saves me time, and has made my life about a billion times easier. It also means more time for serious training - bring it on!

Happy cyclists!

Monday 7 January 2013

2013 Goals

My goals for last year were quite restrained (as I was worried that injury would recur), and I achieved most of them quite comfortably. So this year I am setting tougher and more specific goals, and if I don't meet them all, then at least that means they were challenging!

1. Complete my second marathon.
My first marathon was in Edinburgh in 2010, and I didn't come away with the feeling of wanting to do a load more marathons. But I wasn't happy with how it went, so I've signed up for another chance, this time in Brighton in April.

2. PB at the marathon.
In 2010 I was hoping for a time around 4h30 mins, and I ended up with 4h59mins. This had a lot to do with incredibly warm conditions on the day which I wasn't prepared for, but my training was also lacking in many ways. I had really trained just to finish the distance, so this time I'd like to get a better time, hopefully around 4h20m.

3. Run 10+ races.
I ran 9 races last year, so hopefully this should be do-able.

4. Run 1000 miles.
This could be a tough one. Last year I ran a high mileage for the first half of the year, but it dropped dramatically at the end of they year as I got tired and injured. So far this year, I am still struggling to get my fitness back, but I finished 2012 with 861 miles, so 1000 seems a good target to aim for.

5. Cycle 500 miles.
Again, this seems like a good number to aim for to build on 368 miles in 2012. I can only really get the bike miles in when the kids are at school, so I'll be aiming to do a lot of cycling in term time!

6. Do regular, consistent Strength Training.
This was a big fat fail of last year, so it's about time I got stuck into this. It should help with marathon training too, and I'm hoping it will help prevent injury.

7. Do stretches EVERY DAY!
Having been given some specific stretches by my physio in November, I've been pretty good about doing them almost every day since. I'm supposed to do them 2-3 times each day, and they take about 10 mins, so there's really no reason why I shouldn't be able to do them daily. (7 days done, 358 to go...)

8. Keep swimming! Learn to do front crawl and build up to swimming 20+ lengths regularly.
Last year I learnt to do a proper breaststroke, but it's not a good stroke for my lower back, where I have a few problems. So I need to learn the crawl. I'm pretty hopeless at it so far - I can barely manage a length. The furthest I have swum in one session is about 16 lengths in 35 minutes (breast stroke that is), and I'd like to get up to 20 with front crawl, and add it to my regular routine.

9. Get a top 3 placing in my new age group.
Having turned 40, I will be in the 40-44 age group next time I race. This is still a pretty competitive age group for runners! I got my first running prize last year when I was 3rd woman in a small trail race, and the success of this year's goal will have a lot to do with the size of the races I run and how many middle-aged woman are in them!

10. Keep Plantar Fasciitis at bay (again)!
This is my vaguest goal as I'm not sure how to achieve it, but I'm hoping the strength training and stretching will help.

Bring on 2013!

Thursday 3 January 2013

2012 - review of the year

A lot of people seem to be very glad to see the end of 2012 as a bad year, including bloggers, friends and family. But I can't agree - for me 2012 was a really fantastic year in many ways. Since I started running seriously, (some time in 2009), this was the first year in which I ran consistently every month - almost every week in fact - without having to stop for injury, illness or recovery.

In terms of personal life, we continued to settle in to our home town, having moved here the previous summer. Robbie finished his second year at school with a really good report, Emma started school in September, and we got to know new friends through parents of her classmates. We had a fabulously relaxing week in France in the summer, where the weather was beautiful. I also celebrated my 40th birthday, and ended the year with a fantastic surprise trip to San Francisco, which was very exciting and fun.

One of the biggest events in the UK in my lifetime also took place - the Olympics. I absolutely loved watching a lot of the tv coverage - especially the many Gold medals acheived by Team GB! And we were also lucky enough to attend some of the events too. It started when the kids and I saw the torch procession as they went near our town.

During the games, I went by myself to see the women's marathon, which was great fun in spite of pouring rain and chilly temperatures. Then Pete and I had tickets to women's basketball, which we preceded with a morning in Hyde Park where the 10K swim in the lake took place. It was a brilliant day. Finally we took the kids to London to see the men's marathon, and met up with my sister and her family there.

The whole event along with the Paralympics, was an incredible time, and even the most cynical commentators were forced to admit that London 2012 was a great success. If only it could happen every year...

In terms of running, it was by far my best year yet. I ran 861 miles in total (compared to 481 in 2011), and I cycled 368 miles. I did 9 races, including my first 10-miler, and my first repeated race (the second time I'd run the Bexhill 10K). I got PBs in Half Marathon, 10 miles, and 10K. Most unexpectedly of all, I got my first ever prize in the Tillingham Valley 5m trail race, where I was 3rd female, winning a bottle of wine! Even better, Emma was 1st (only) girl in the children's race.

The kids took part in the Sports Relief mile in March, and then ran in 3 other races attached to my races. Emma learned to ride a pedal bike without stabilisers, and they both made great progress with their swimming. I also learned to swim underwater!

As for my goals, they were as follows:

1. PB at Half-marathon
Done on 4th March 
2. Go under 2 hours at Half-marathon
Done on 4th March - 1h58m38s 
3. Run over 600 miles
Done - 861 miles in 2012. 
4. Run more races
Done - 9 races last year compared to 3 in 2011.
5. Keep up the cross-training
Not bad. I cycled most months, although my bike mileage was almost 40 miles lower than 2011. But I did start swimming properly too last summer.
6. Do more Pilates and weight training
Er.... no. Need to keep working on this one. It's a time issue - I always prioritise running when I have spare time.
7. Keep Plantar Fasciitis at bay!

So far so good. I have felt the odd niggle in my heels, and I feel that it could come back any time, so I need to keep being aware of this, and not overdo it.

I think my goals were fairly modest, as I was wary of the return of injury, after all the problems of 2011, so I'm going to make some more challenging goals for 2013. I hope 2013 can live up to 2012 - mostly I just hope I can keep running consistently without injury.

Finally here is my mileage for running and cycling in 2012 in graph form. Very happy with this!

(click on graph to make it bigger)