This weekend I had a tough run. But instead of calling it a tough run, i’m calling it a milestone run. Let me set the scene: I was invited along on a group trail run through the North Downs, by some friends at running club, one of whom was training for an ultra on that trail.
Despite assurances that the pace would be slow and conversational, I may have misjudged the whole event. Here’s a few reasons why:
The group I went with consisted of two guys who were a week out from their ultras; a buddy who’d placed first female in her first ever (69 mile) ultra, and another who’d placed first female at Hackney Half in the sweltering heat. Essentially- four of the toughest and strongest runners my club has to offer.
A “conversational” 10-minute mile pace isn’t really an easy pace- it’s merely reflective of the fact that you have to hike the uphills, and then try to regain speed on the downhills and flats.
The elevation on this run was insane. See the course profile below…
I had either a strained hamstring, or high hamstring tendonitis. I self-diagnosed on the train on the way there after waking up in pain that morning- let’s just say, a 17 mile run probably wasn’t the best idea. Honestly, I think if I tell my physiotherapist what I did (which I’ll eventually have to), he might hang his head in disbelief. Oops.
So yeah. In hindsight this was always going to be a tough one. And frankly, i realised this before we’d even finished the first mile. And so I resolved to cling on for dear life, and hope it was over as quickly and as pain-freely as possible. And in a way, that worked. So here are some highlights:
The scenery was amazing- the woods would open up suddenly into gorgeous panoramas over the Kent countryside.
We stopped halfway through at a visitor centre, absolutely soaked through, to have a cup of tea and (in some cases) a sarnie. Sweet sweet carbs.
There were plenty of photo ops, all of which we took full advantage of.
The second half was much better than the first- mainly psychologically, but also because I simply changed my running style to a slightly more efficient (and less painful) mid-foot strike. I’m paying the price for that now, with my quads burning- but that’s simply because 17 miles in any variation on your usual gait is going to cause you some problems!
Doing a long run on a Saturday morning really suits me- although I don’t do it often- because you get so much more from the rest of the weekend!
Three days later, and my embarrassment and disappointment with the run has mostly dissipated- I’m happy to have survived and, frankly, I didn’t do all that badly. I decided to turn this negative into a positive, and learn all I can from it. Learnings to come!
What’s the toughest run you’ve done recently?Do you run trail often?
My main issue with tempo miles is the mental stress of knowing you have to hit certain paces, and to be honest they just end up looming over your head all day. Or they do for me, at least. The weird thing is that I don’t actually have that hard a time hitting my paces- the battle is entirely mental for me.
Halfway through I’m just like… can we not?
But then once I’m done I feel an overwhelming sense of satisfaction at having achieved something I really didn’t want to do. I’m trying to follow a Run Less, Run Faster -type training programme, and whilst I’m noticing the benefits, I guess i’m still getting used to having to put in 100% at every training session- no junk or easy miles here!
The point is, tempo miles are an important part of training, and let’s be honest I just need to put my big girl pants on and deal with it.
Last night, feeling particularly inspired after a yoga class, nourishing dinner and catch-up with a friend, I found myself with some time to properly reflect on some principles I want to train by in the next few months. With quite a busy schedule of races and training ahead, I want to be careful to avoid burnout. During my training for Manchester Marathon at the start of the year, I was doing way too much, prioritizing all the wrong things, and it ended up costing me dearly both in terms of injury and professional accomplishment.
So without further ado, here we go:
Run Less, with More Focus
Whilst I haven’t read the book in its entirety (yet), I want to focus on the approach set out by Run Less, Run Faster for the next few months. As much as I love love love to run junk miles, and regularly run 4 or 5 times a week when not training for a specific goal; my body can only take 3 structured (i.e. intense) training sessions a week. I’ll be keeping it simple, and supplementing the following with cross-training:
Focus on Balance
In my brand new Believe, Achieve Training Journal, there’s a section on balance, and it talks about your “training wheel” being made up of the following spokes:
“Put too much emphasis on one spoke or ignore another, and your wheel becomes weak and collapses beneath you.” Wise words to live by.
Focus on Rest and Recovery
I am absolutely terrible at allowing my body to recover, and last training season I was burning the candle at both ends, which led to burnout, both physical, and more importantly, mental. I was really unable to focus on my work, and it wasn’t a good time at all.
Focus on not getting fired
Okay, a slight exaggeration. But I want to focus on being able to deliver 110% in my current role, and take on more responsibility whenever possible. I cannot slump in my chair and let the brain fog take over.
Plenty of Race Prep ahead of the big event
The big event being, of course, the marathon. I want to get as much experience racing as I can, without overly interfering with my long runs. I currently have a good few in the diary, and seeing that I love racing so much, it’s hardly a sacrifice to add a few more when they come up (and believe me, they always come up)! Specifically I want to use 10k races as tempo runs, and do some half marathons as a way of getting over this weird mental block I have about 13.1.
This is entirely obvious, but something I really skimped on at the start of the year. I have a troubled history with food and dieting, and so it’s always a focus of mine to get better. My motto: Eat More Bananas- which is basically a shorthand way of saying “eat more real foods”. I also want to focus on eating fewer nothing foods- things like popcorn and rice cakes, which essentially keep you full but don’t really provide you with anything nutritionally. I’m certainly not swearing them off or restricting, but trying not to reach for a bag of popcorn whenever I get hungry.
Have Clear Red Alerts
These are my signs that I absolutely have to cut back on training. I know people say listen to your body, but when you have a slightly obsessive personality like I do, it’s hard to do this without having an objective list of things.
Any Work Fuckups or Close Calls
Monumental Life Fuckups
Sickness or injury
These principles will hopefully stand me in good stead for lovely, successful and not too stressful training in the months to come.
If you had to set a training principle for the next week, what would it be?
Whilst I love to run for fun, I also absolutely love racing, especially when it’s with my City Athletics crew. There’s something so fun about having a road trip to a random location, racing your heart out, and then going to the pub afterwards. So without further ado, here are my race plans for the tail-end of the year.
The Big, Scary, Audacious Goal…
…is the Budapest Marathon on 8th October. I’m not going to lie, I’m in it mainly for the holiday, but i also desperately need to avenge the horrific race day I had the first time I tried my hand at the marathon distance in April. After much umming and ahhing, I decided to just go ahead with it… I mean, I’d booked the flights months ago, so there’s that too!
A Trip to Scandinavia
Courtesy of the Reykjavik Half Marathon, on 20th August. I had a lot of annual leave left over by the time it got to June, and so I panicked, and tagged along with what started off as a small runners’ jaunt, and has since gotten a lot bigger. I have no idea what to expect of Reykjavik, but I’m very excited for the hot springs which, I can imagine, are absolute heaven after a long race. As a side note, I’ve never actually raced a half marathon before, and I have a weird mental block about the distance. So this should be interesting!
Where the ‘El
is Elmore? I have absolutely no idea, but as per usual, I signed up to the race pretty much as soon as it got posted on the City Runners Facebook group. It’s a 7-miler and forms part of the Surrey Road League, so it must be in Surrey somewhere. And as usual, I’ll probably have the night-before-the-race panic when I realise quite how early I have to get up to make it to the start line on time. Oh well, there’s always coffee.
Again, another leg of the Surrey Road League…so Surrey I guess? This is a 10k, which I think still remains my favourite distance to race. It’s also a great indicator of fitness and helps me to keep track on where I’m at, and if I’m making any progress. That being said, there’s a risk I’ll pile the pressure on- so that’s something to be wary of. But still, a day out with the runner crew!
What’s your running schedule looking like? Anyone been to Iceland or Budapest? Send me your tips!
I can’t believe it’s July already…though it doesn’t really feel like it because British Summer is doing what it always does, and the sun has barely made an appearance. But still, it’s time for my roundup of what’s been going on, and what I’ve been loving in the past month or so.
Super sweet iced coffee has been my favourite this month, especially after long, hot and humid runs. In the UK, we’re not well adapted to the unique kind of mugginess which rolls around every Summer, and so my miles have been so much harder when there’s been any kind of heat involved. Luckily though, Starbucks iced coffee with some sort of caramel flavouring has been a lifesaver. #basicbitch? I don’t really care.
Alpro Yoghurt Pots
Alpro Go yoghurt pots have been an absolute favourite of mine recently- I can’t have a lot of dairy in my diet, and these have almost entirely replaced my obsession with Skyr. They’re thick, creamy and great-tasting, plus they keep you full for a decent amount of time, and aren’t ridiculously calorific.
Racing and enjoying the off season
I’ve only raced once with my Athletics Club, but it was a lovely 10 miler, and a great day all-round. However, I’m signed up to so many more races in the months to come (hello fitness, bye bye money) -full post on those to come! But yeah, running has been great without the pressure of training, and with that in mind I’m gradually sneaking my way into mileage buildup. I’m hoping that if I do it gradually enough, I won’t notice I’m training. Sshhhhhh.
Work’s been great, with my colleagues being on top form, and we’re all getting social together with things like spin classes and outdoor movie dates. Yay for Summertime! However we’re also busy with projects, which means it can be a bit stressful- but at least it’s never dull!
I just discovered that (health food shop) Holland and Barrett have started stocking Quest Bars, and not just in multipacks. They’re more expensive than when you buy them online, but not too horrific for a treat- and let’s be honest, it’s not like I spend all my money on booze and cigarettes. I regularly bribe myself with a Cookies & Creme Quest Bar if a run is going particularly horribly. Like I said, bye bye money.
My new Nikes
In May, there was a Nike sample sale at my office- we’d done some PR work for them. I dropped £110, but managed to come away with two pairs of Nike Frees, a windproof jacket, a zip-up top and a casual tee. My favourite of all these was a pair of Nike Free Flyknits in black. I’m in love with them. Whilst they don’t offer the level of support and cushioning I need for runs of 6 miles or above, I wear them regularly for speedwork, tempo runs, and the gym. Additional bonus: they’re pretty stylish, so I can get away with wearing them to the office. #winning.
If there’s one thing Brits do well, it’s a picnic, or a BBQ. And recently, between birthdays and work events, there have been plenty going on. Marks and Spencer’s is absolutely killing the picnic game, and at my office we regularly have big family-style picnics. With all that, summer food has been one of my favourite things- think Parma ham, brie, olives and yummy sourdough.
What’s been your favourite thing/product this month?