Week In Review – A Less Than Fresh Start

This past week was one of ups and downs. On the one hand I had a day off work on Monday, but on the other hand I returned on Tuesday to the start of our new timetable and the final stretch to the summer holidays (schools in Scotland do this so that the senior pupils who are returning from their exams can begin their new courses rather than marking time for a month in subjects they may not be continuing with). Starting fresh with new classes is refreshing, but takes a great deal of energy to establish boundaries etc right from the start. Future Me definitely needs this to happen, but Present Me is exhausted and finding the energy for those new classes is a big ask! Somehow I still managed to squeeze in my training, so I’m once more joining the link up with Jessie @ The RIght Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share my weekly roundup.

Sticking to my well-established pattern, my plan for the week was:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps @ the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Fridaymobility rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10 miles

And around all of that I also maintained my commitment to to my Tough GIrl 100 challenge to complete at least 10 minutes of yoga or mobility work every day. On the days when I don’t have a yoga class I have been using a mixture of my usual mobility work alongside videos from Jasyoga and Yoga With Adriene. At the moment I have been using shorter sequences as my time is so limited, but as the challenge progresses and I have a bit more time available over the summer, I’d love to try some longer sequences as well as turning my attention to some postures from my Ashtanga class which I would like to work on further.

As I mentioned at the top of the post, Monday was a holiday in the region I work for so the school was closed. I used the time to catch up on some household chores and get some more of my exam marking done. Around mid-afternoon I walked down to the gym for my swim then walked home by a rather circuitous route to go the supermarket for some fresh fish. That made sure I reached my step goal for the day as well as enjoying my time in the pool when it was a little less busy.

Despite the day off, Tuesday was exhausting. I met a succession of new classes and there are always a few kinks to iron out to make sure everybody is in the right place at the right time. By the time I got to the gym for my bike reps I was feeling pretty weary, but was unsure if this was a mental or physical tiredness. I got stuck into my bike reps and the first few felt hard – I even wondered how I was going to manage the full set – but as I went on my body adapted and I was able to complete my workout feeling strong. After my stretches and mobility work I headed to the steam room for a few minutes to relax and unwind before heading home to get stuck back into my exam duties.

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Wednesday meant more of the new routine, but at least when it was time to head out for my run the sun was shining (the weather this week was so awful I thought I might have to build an ark!). I was still feeling a bit weary but again my body knew what it had to do as soon as I got my hill reps started. It felt tough, but I don’t think my performance was overly different to previous weeks, so I’ll put that down to the end of term exhaustion! A great way to celebrate Global Running Day.

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Thursday’s Ashtanga class was a much-needed moment of calm and me-time in a hectic week. Far from the outdoor class in beautiful sunshine a couple of weeks ago, this week we were watching the most awful rain through the studio windows! The class really helped me to stretch my weary legs and calm my mind which had been whirling with exam papers and new classes. Phew! I wasn’t so enamoured with the almost wintery weather though. It was so nasty that someone whose house I passed on a post-yoga walk when the rain finally stopped seemed to have decided it was time to put their Christmas lights up 😉

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Usually on a Friday I have a mobility session to complete, but with Steve away on a course I decided to take this as a rest day. I caught up on some exam stuff then walked the mile or so to pick up some Chinese food to eat – step goal met and a delicious dinner as a reward!

I awoke on Saturday to the most awful weather. On Friday night I had seen pictures showing flash flooding in the car park and parts of the path in the park where we have parkrun. The event was going ahead, but we were all warned we might get our feet wet!

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Picture from Perth parkrun on Facebook

I opted for my “winter parkrun shoes” as I thought a wash for them might be in order, and made sure to take a jacket as it was POURING! It turned out the worst of the flooding had gone, but I was still greeted by the sight of over 100 runners gathering in the foyer of the nearby sports centre questioning their sanity! After the quickest possible briefing we headed off…right into the wind! As we left the park to join the riverside path the rain did stop and conditions felt quite nice, but as soon as we hit the turn it was BAM! Straight into a headwind that we battled all the way back (and it was STILL raining in the park!). It was a strange one as I felt I was working awfully hard but couldn’t decide if it was the conditions or how tired I had been feeling. I was passing people, but my pace wasn’t spectacular and I fought hard for every second of my 25:03 finish when I know that realistically I’m in around 24 minute form. Looking at the results later I noticed that most runners were 30-60 seconds off their best times so I think this one was mainly the conditions. I headed home looking pretty bedraggled (with a bonus stop at the vet to pick up some supplies for the cat – God knows what they thought of me!)

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There was no Hatha yoga class this week, so after a shower and some marking I headed out to get some food shopping then settled in for an afternoon of marking interspersed with some other short tasks to force me to move about a bit and refresh my mind. Still, by the time it got to early evening I’d had enough so made my dinner (pizza – not up to the usual standard since my personal pizza chef was away and I had to settle for shop bought) then settled down with the cat to finish watching the latest series of Once Upon a Time on Netflix (with a cheeky G&T since it was World Gin Day – it would have been rude not to!)

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Sunday was slightly nicer. I was still feeling tired so decided that I wouldn’t necessarily push the pace on my long run but just run to feel. I also decided that I didn’t fancy another run around the same route I’ve used the last few weeks so opted for something different which would have no steep hills but a couple of longer, shallower inclines and the likelihood of some headwinds.  It would also take me here:

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I took this photo whilst sheltering under a tree to put my jacket on as the rain had come on again and was really heavy. Typically, it had cleared by the time I got to the other side of the path a mile further on so I had to stop again to take the jacket off. That’s Scottish summer time! In the end I ran quite well and was happy with my 8:53 overall pace for 10 miles as that’s at the quicker end of my ideal marathon pace and over a route with a lot less downhill to let me really go for it!

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The remainder of the day was, again, spent on my exam duties. It will all be finished in the next few days though and I’ll suddenly feel like I’ve created lots of time!

Next week my mileage cuts back a little to allow for some recovery, and I think I’m definitely needing that right now!

How has the weather been where you are? Has it affected your training?
What is your current goal or challenge?

Week in Review – A Break From Routine

Like last week, this past week hasn’t exactly followed my normal pattern, but I’m pleased to report that I still completed all my planned training. Go me! As ever, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL for my weekly recap.

The structure of my training is now pretty well established, but here’s how this week looked:

Mondayswim Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike intervals @ the gym + swim
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – mobility
Saturday – parkrun + Hatha yoga
Sunday – 9 miles

The week began with a degree of training uncertainty. As part of my exam marking role I was required to be out of school again on Monday for a meeting in Edinburgh. I got the train so I wouldn’t have the stress of driving into the centre of Edinburgh on a weekday, but this meant I wasn’t sure when I would get back to Perth. Steve dropped me off at the station as my train was at 8am and I walked from the station in Edinburgh to the meeting venue (about a mile) so was already more active than usual for a Monday. The trains are about once an hour so I couldn’t be sure what train home I would get. In the end I arrived back in Perth around 5pm and walked the mile or so home from the station. This meant there wasn’t enough time to squeeze in a swim before going to yoga (I had another missed class to make up), but had the bonus of reaching double step goal on a day when I normally have to be quite creative to meet my goal at all! I enjoyed the class and really appreciated the time to myself after another day focusing on the intricacies of exam marking, but sadly it wasn’t enough to help me drift off to sleep that night and that poor sleep set the tone for the week.

Tuesday was a bit of a struggle as I was feeling really tired from not sleeping enough, but I still went to the gym for my bike reps. I was perfectly prepared to back off a bit and go by feel, but the reps actually made me feel a bit better. I used the chance to also do a bit of mobility work before hitting the pool for a swim. I really like having a swim after the bike session but don’t always manage to fit that in. I had hoped that this would mean a good sleep, but I made the mistake of working too long into the evening and just wasn’t in bed for long enough. Oops!

Wednesday was warm, but not as much as last week so I felt much better during my hill reps. I’ve had the same session for the last couple of weeks so it’s easy for me to compare my performance week on week and consider the impact of factors like weather and how I’m feeling. Although tired, I felt my performance was better than last week so I was pleased. Still not enough sleep that night though – I just didn’t learn my lesson!

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On Thursday my day was a little different. I was in school, but only with one year group (the seniors were still on study leave and two year groups were out on various activities). It was a bit of a weird day and for various reasons I just didn’t achieve as much as I had hoped. Heading to Ashtanga that evening was a welcome relief! We were back in the studio again as the weather wasn’t as good, but it was a great class, despite my tiredness making my balance a bit iffy in some of the postures! Afterwards I (yet again) got caught up in some exam stuff and worked a little too long. Not ideal, but it’s only once a year and the marking period is relatively short so I can cope.

Friday was another different day for me and I really enjoyed it. As part of our annual health promotion week the junior classes are taken out for a day on an organised walk. I had been assigned to accompany the year group heading out on Friday and was pleased to find myself with a really nice group of 50 pupils. Their walk was taking place at Loch Leven (where I recently ran the half marathon) but on a portion of the heritage trail. Our starting point was where we had registered for the race and we were led from there onto the path which we followed for about 3.5 miles around by the loch to reach our lunch venue. Fortunately it was dry (in fact, conditions were ideal for walking – dry and mild but not too hot) so it was really nice having our picnic on a nice grass area. We spent about an hour there and the pupils had a group activity to complete about responsible behaviour in the outdoors. After lunch we set off again for a slightly longer stretch (not quite 4 miles) to our bus pick up point (there were two other groups out walking around different stretches of the trail so we were a bit more spread out and unsuspecting walkers wouldn’t have 200 young people suddenly descending on them!). The kids were brilliant: super behaviour and no complaints, although I was amused at the fact that they had covered less than half a mile before they started asking when lunch was ha!

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Once back at school I had a bit of a chat with my colleagues (we had all been on various activities over Thursday and Friday so hadn’t all been together) then drove straight to the studio for a mobility session with Steve (I had spent the day in workout gear so there was no need to change). We worked through a series of exercises targeting the usual spots: upper back, hips and core. The temperature picked up during the day so I did have to clean myself up a bit afterwards before I was fit to be seen in public when we went out to eat lol!

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I had been hopeful of a longer sleep, however the cat decided to allow me just half an hour extra before declaring that starvation was imminent and I had to get up and fill her bowl. I did manage a short doze afterwards, but it wasn’t quite the same.

It was pacer week at parkrun so I was down sharp to collect my pacing bib. I had 29 minutes this time and to be honest I found it pretty tough to settle into the required pace and ended up finishing in 28:39! Oh well, I can’t imagine anyone would complain about getting a faster time than they wanted! I ran most of the course with a lovely woman who is quite new to running. Turned out she had met with Steve during the week to discuss some training and we had a nice time chatting while I gave her a bit of advice on her running. It was only her second parkrun and she did brilliantly, sprinting off in the last kilometre while I tried to keep the pace even and encourage some others around me. Much as I love to run a hard parkrun, I also really enjoy pacing as it gives me a chance to chat to new people and run at a more leisurely (for me) pace. I would definitely recommend it if you ever get the chance.

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After parkrun I had a quick change then headed off to my Hatha yoga class. I really feel the benefit of that post-run stretch and it sets me up for the rest of the day which, right now, is mostly centred around the exam marking and my team management duties.

On Sunday Steve headed off on a long cycle as part of a brick session for his forthcoming half ironman. I, meanwhile, had a bit of a tidy around the house then got ready for my 9 mile run. It was sunny but not too hot, so shorts and a vest were ideal. Of course the weather suddenly became very changeable and I got soaked in a midrun downpour, but it was still a good run. I have been running a very similar route every Sunday, with slight tweaks to vary the distance, and my plan remains the same: capitalise on the endurance I’ve built by running a bit faster so that after my holiday I will (hopefully) find marathon pace feels a lot easier as I build up the miles again towards the Loch Ness Marathon. Given that my route features a pretty big hill, I was pleased to finish with an overall average of 8:46 per mile, only a tiny bit slower than last week, but with much more of a headwind through large chunks of the route. Needless to say, by the time I was finished I looked pretty bedraggled!

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Next week I’m hoping to get my sleeping pattern back under control. The marking process should level out a bit, with my team perhaps not needing quite as much input, and I’ve changed my bedding as I know clean sheets help me to sleep better. A day off work on Monday should help too! I’ll let you know how it goes…

How has your training gone this week?
What is your next event?

Week in Review – Race Week

And just like that, it was race week! Looking back, it hardly seems like any time at all since I began the year with the New Year Triple, but in reality there are many miles between the 1st of January and the first week of April. Today I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share my preparations for race day.

Since it was the second week of my two week taper, things were a little gentler this week, while still maintaining the rhythm of my training. I also had the benefit of being off school for our spring break, so that meant more opportunity to relax at home and feel better rested for the big day. Here’s how my week looked:

Mondayswim rest plus sports massage
Tuesday – bike intervals at the gym then swim
Wednesday – 4 miles easy
Thursday – PT session plus Ashtanga yoga
Friday – travel to Paris
Saturday – Breakfast Run
Sunday – marathon!!

As you can see, I made a little tweak at the start of the week by removing my Monday swim. I’ve written a couple of times about my elderly cat (she’s 16 and a half!) who now has an age-related health condition. This can be managed, but she can be prone to infections and other side effects of her condition and she had been unwell over the weekend, indicating a need for a change to her medication. I hadn’t slept well due to listening out for her through the night (I suspect it was a bit like having a sick child!) and had an appointment for her at the vet on Monday afternoon so I decided to stay at home and keep an eye on her instead of going to the pool. The good news is that her new medication has her bouncing back and much more herself again, which has been quite a relief for me. To get a bit of movement in my day I simply walked to my sports massage then shifted my swim to Tuesday.

IMG_1093That swim came after my bike workout. I made this my final hard workout of this training cycle and completed 20 reps of my intervals – the peak number at every stage. It felt a bit different doing them in the morning, but I felt strong and this gave me some confidence in my fitness which was consolidated by a decent swim afterwards. I then enjoyed a short time in the hot tub and sauna before heading home for a restful afternoon. My post-bike selfie also provided some entertainment for people on social media. Clearly I worked hard lol!

IMG_1094On Wednesday my traditional hill reps were replaced by an easy run to keep my legs turning over. Steve suggested about 4 miles and I set off on a loop I quite like, guessing a bit at the distance. It turned out to be 4.75 miles. Oops! Still, it was a nice start to the day and in the afternoon my parents, fresh back from a winter in Florida, visited for a cup of tea and a discussion of the cat’s medical needs since they would be taking care of her over the weekend.

IMG_1096Thursday was a beautiful day. The kind of day that makes you want to go for a run, but by this point my running legs were being rested ahead of the marathon, so after I had done all the things I needed to do to get organised for the weekend (by which I mean making lots of lists. I do love a list!), I decided to take a walk in the sunshine and enjoy poking about some of the nearby paths that I run along while I could take advantage of a more leisurely pace. I’d have loved to stay out longer but had packing to do!

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IMG_1151In the early evening I then headed to the studio for my usual PT session with Steve for some final work on my upper back mobility. Yet again, he couldn’t resist diving into my selfies!

IMG_1159After that, Ashtanga yoga. I REALLY enjoyed the class this week. I felt centred and like I flowed well between postures and in some I felt like my flexibility had improved a little more. I suspect things will feel a bit different next time in my post-marathon body! If I can get anywhere near my toes it will be a miracle lol!

Friday is usually my rest day, but this time it was my travel day. I got up early to make sure I had time to not only get myself ready, but to make sure I had given my furbaby all her assorted medications before leaving so that it would be a little easier for mum later in the day. I had packed everything for my trip the night before, so it was just a case of popping in the last minute items then we were off to the airport. We had expected to bump into Simon, who we had first met under similar circumstances last year, but before that we also bumped into Steve’s friend Fiona who now lives in Paris but had been back in Scotland for a few days and was heading back home to run the marathon as well. The departure gate at the airport is starting to feel like an annual reunion of the Paris marathon runners ha! We chatted a bit while waiting to board which helped to pass the time. Once on board, we discovered that there was an ITV film crew involved in making a documentary about becoming a pilot on board the flight. They were mainly filming in the cockpit but were also getting some shots around the cabin. I’ll now have to watch out for this coming on TV just in case I can spot myself!
IMG_1167The remainder of the weekend will be covered in more detail in separate posts, however I’ll include some highlights here:
Our first port of call in Paris was the Expo to collect our race packs. We ate there at the pasta party, had a look around the exhibits then headed for the hotel to unpack and get some rest (after a quick walk to pick up some bottles of water, during which I “returned the favour” with Steve’s selfie!).

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IMG_7550Saturday we were up bright and early for coffee and croissants before heading over to the Place du Palais Royal for the start of the Breakfast Run which was using a new route this year. I always love this event as it truly has such an international feel and we always find ourselves chatting to complete strangers, bound by the spirit of the marathon, and often stay in touch with many of these people via social media or our blogs afterwards. This year was no exception, and of course I have a photo or a hundred to remember the experience! Afterwards we enjoyed a second breakfast of coffee, pain au chocolat, banana and water while taking in a lovely view of the Eiffel Tower across the Champ de Mars!

IMG_1252 IMG_1268We then meandered back to the hotel to get changed then headed out for some lunch and a few “errands” before opting for an afternoon nap and some chill out time back at the hotel before dinner. Basically it was a day revolving around food and marathon preparations!

IMG_1340On Sunday we were up early to get breakfast as soon as it was available, before getting organised for the short walk to the start/finish area. I had been watching the forecast all week and every time I looked, it was getting warmer. Walking up to drop my bag off before 8am without any need for warm clothing was already an indication that temperatures were going to soar. In the end, that put paid to my plans for a sub-4 time. I’ll write more about this in another post, but I know from speaking to others that practically everyone was much slower than anticipated and had to reset their goals in order to complete the race. It may have been disappointing on the day, but my time of 4:32:07 is actually my second fastest marathon time ever thanks to my oddly chequered history with the distance, and knowing that this was a below par performance gives me hope that I CAN do it under different circumstances. Once I’m recovered, I’ll be thinking about my next marathon and having another go at that elusive goal.

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IMG_1389And that’s it. A valuable reminder that it doesn’t matter how well your training goes, there can still be a spanner in the works come race day. You can only control so many things, and sadly the weather isn’t one of them. By resetting my goal I finished feeling healthy and injury-free so I can pick myself up, dust myself off and live to race another day. That’s way more important than risking my health over a finish time.

Look out for further Paris-related posts later this week with all the details!

Did you run or race in the heat this weekend? How did it go?
Anything you’d like me to write more about in my Paris roundups?

Week in Review – Taper Time!

Wow! It hardly seems like any time at all has passed since I began this cycle of marathon training, yet here I am into my taper and writing my last pre-race week in review! As always, I’m linking up with Jessie at The Right Fits and Jess at Jess Runs ATL to share my weekly training.

Tapering means a bit of a cut back in mileage, but maintaining the intensity of the workouts. That means feeling fresh and ready to race when you need to. I’ve found in the past that the traditional three week taper leaves me feeling sluggish on race day, so this time I’m trying out a two week taper to see what difference it makes. Based on the pattern of how I’ve felt in longer runs versus cutback weeks throughout this cycle, I’m feeling confident that this is going to work better for me.

So for my first taper week my plan was:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike intervals
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – PT session plus Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun plus Hatha yoga
Sunday – long run

And I even did all the sessions as planned – nothing missed or swapped around. I think that makes three weeks this year with no changes lol! But I have to say, my week didn’t get off to the best start. I’m not sure if I was tired from my 20 mile run, tired because it was the last week of a veeeeery long term, or something else, but I was an absolute clumsy clot. I was late for work on Monday due to the aftermath of an accident on the road I was on (hopefully everyone involved was ok) then when I set my cup down to go and make a cup of tea, I managed to nudge it off my desk and smash it. I was fond of that cup too 😦 I did survive the rest of the day and headed to the pool for my swim. It probably wasn’t my greatest performance ever as the pool was really busy and there wasn’t much space to really get into a rhythm, but it really helped my recovery. If I hadn’t known otherwise, I wouldn’t have known I had run 20 miles the day before!

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The irony of the calendar that day was not lost on me!

My clumsy behaviour continued into Tuesday when I began my work day by dropping (and smashing) my plastic water cup. On the plus side, this was the last thing I broke during the week – phew! On Tuesday evening I headed to the gym for my bike reps and although I was still feeling tired (I was fairly certain this was work-related by this stage) I still felt strong throughout the workout and was thinking about where I started with these reps towards the end of last year when they were shorter and at lower intensity. I would never have believed I could progress to where I am now had you told me back then. Fitness really is a funny thing as you never really “feel” any different, it’s only when you have a tangible measurement that progress is more apparent.

fullsizeoutput_1ccaWednesday was a return to my hill reps after a two week break. To be honest, I wasn’t feeling overly motivated to go and do them, perhaps because it was in my head that this was the last time before Paris, but I headed out and got it done. My splits were slightly slower than the last time, but I was ok with that given I had missed two sessions of hill reps, had run 20 miles on Sunday and was, like my colleagues, just generally on my knees and crawling towards the school holidays!

IMG_1042I always enjoy my Thursday sessions. First it’s my PT session with Steve where our focus has been on core strength and mobility, particularly my hips and my upper back/shoulders. We repeated some of the work we have been doing in recent weeks, then Steve repeated his “photo bombing” manoeuvre so I couldn’t take a post-workout selfie for laughing!

IMG_1052I then headed to my Ashtanga class which has become a real marker of the end of the week for me. The focus on breathing and working through the postures helps to calm my mind from a busy week so I feel much less stressed afterwards, and the postures themselves have made a huge difference to my overall strength and flexibility since I began last May. Once that class is done, I also know I only have one more day to work, and this week it was the last day before a long-awaited two week break. Bliss!

By the time I finished work on Friday I felt completely done. This is our busiest term with coursework and assessments, which are all really exhausting for the pupils as well, especially those who are coming back to exams. When the bell rang at the end of the day, it was like someone pulled the plug out on my energy as well. I had to keep moving until I got to my car as I knew if I stopped it was going to be a battle to get going again. Once home, I enjoyed the chance to relax before dinner, and this week chose a steak in celebration of a tough term completed.

IMG_1057Since Saturday was the first Saturday of the month, I was a pacer at parkrun and had 26 minutes again. Following a course inspection the day before, it had been decided to stick to the alternate route as the main route was still pretty waterlogged and I saw this as an opportunity to really nail my pacing since it would be flat tarmac the whole way around. All I had to do was lock into the right pace and stick to it. I have tried resetting my watch to kilometres in order to get more frequent updates on my splits, but this time opted to stick to miles since that is how I usually have it. A quick check of a pace calculator revealed that to run a 26 minute 5k I would need to run 8:22 per mile and I’m pleased to report that I absolutely nailed it – 8:21, 8:20, 8:23 and the final bit at 8:24 for a finish time on my Garmin of 26:01 (I always run through the finish line before stopping my watch so there’s usually a second or two added to my actual time). I was so pleased to have got it right that I was actually a bit disappointed when my official time came in as 25:53. It’s not often a runner is disappointed by a time being too fast haha! Still, I know I got it right and the runners using me as a pace guide should theoretically have a good time against their names, so job done.

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Wearing my 2014 Paris marathon finishers’ top in the hopes it would be lucky!

IMG_1076Parkrun was followed by the last Hatha yoga class of the term and I really enjoyed relaxing into the class (and the holidays) and stretching out my body. I could feel all the stresses of the term melting away. However I was feeling a little “off” (and had been since the end of school on Friday) so decided on a fairly long nap on Saturday afternoon, after which I felt back to normal so I was clearly in need of some sleep!

Sunday was my last long run before heading to Paris and I had “just” 12 miles on the schedule. It was a beautiful morning so I was able to wear shorts and my souvenir Tshirt I got in Paris last year. I followed the same route as my previous 12 mile runs on this cycle and just ran to feel – no deliberate slowing, no aiming for marathon pace, just running comfortably and enjoying the day. In the end my average pace wasn’t too far outside goal marathon pace so I’m feeling optimistic that my endurance and speed work can come together next Sunday to propel me to a good time. My fingers are firmly crossed for a PB and my ultimate goal is sub-4 hours. I’ll definitely be giving it my best shot!

IMG_1078 IMG_1079 IMG_1080So that’s it. The hay is in the barn (so to speak) and my focus now is on making sure I’m well rested and well hydrated. I’ll use the week to keep some training ticking over, but have plans for an afternoon nap each day, a bit of blogging and turning my attention to organising my kit ready to pack for our flight on Friday. If you want to keep up with what I’m up to in Paris, remember you can follow me on Facebook and I’ll be writing all about it once I’m home.

Keep your fingers crossed!

If you have a goal race soon, how are you feeling about it?
How do you prepare in the days before a goal event?

Week in Review – The Big One!

I can’t believe this training cycle is nearly over! It began in the depths of winter and now the clocks have actually going forward for British “Summer” Time! I’m linking up as usual with Jessie at The Right Fits and Jess at Jess Runs ATL as I review my peak training week.

There were one or two minor changes this week thanks to life getting in the way, but I still feel I had a solid week of training. This was the plan:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps at the gym
Wednesday – hill reps short run
Thursday – PT session plus Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – long run

I stayed a bit later at work on Monday which meant I got to the pool a bit later. It was busy as there was an aqua fitness class on in part of the pool and a couple of others using the swim lane. I was keen to get home so probably swam a bit quicker than usual. Unfortunately this resulted in a bit less finesse in my form due to my rushing so I wasn’t overly satisfied with that, but I still felt it was a good workout.

On Tuesday I was back at the gym for my bike reps. Having missed this session during my recovery period last week, I wasn’t sure how I would feel and asked Steve if I should repeat the previous number of reps or move on. In the end, we decided I should aim to move on, but if I got to the number of reps I had completed a couple of weeks before and felt I couldn’t manage another two, then I could stop. As it turned out, I was able to complete all the reps I should and felt strong in the workout. I then enjoyed the chance to relax in the hot tub and sauna before heading home.

Wednesday threw a bit of a spanner in the works. I was due to resume my hill reps, however my elderly cat (who has a health condition) had been unwell and when I got home I wasn’t happy with how she was doing and felt the need to seek advice from the vet. The upshot was a bonus trip to the surgery for me to collect some new medication, followed by a couple of other errands while I was out. By the time I had done all that and tended to the cat, I felt mentally drained. It was also around 7pm and I was hungry. Getting changed and heading out to complete a set of hill reps just didn’t appeal. I sent Steve a message and he suggested just going for a straightforward run to clear my head, then if I felt like doing the reps once I was out, to do them. I really wasn’t fancying the hill reps, but knew the run would make me feel better so stuck some kit on and got out the door. I ran a loop of a little under 3 miles, maintained a reasonably hard pace and zoned out with a podcast. By the time I returned I felt much better and the cat was doing much better too. Phew!

Things got back on track on Thursday with my PT session. I had slept a bit funny and tweaked my upper back/neck so we focused again on upper back and shoulder mobility, which helped a great deal. By the time I had completed my Ashtanga yoga class, it was feeling so much better and my head felt much clearer too.

My Friday rest day was incredibly welcome. This term has been really busy with coursework to mark and we’re just one week away from our spring break now. I was home reasonably sharp after a quick errand, wrote my Friday Finds post then decided I felt quite sleepy so thought I would have a quick nap before Steve got home. That nap ended up being around 45 minutes as he finished work a bit later than we had expected. I still felt a bit “spaced out” as we headed out to eat, but was soon revived by my now traditional curry and beer. Once home, we watched a little TV (I wanted to see the Love Actually sequel and Carpool Karaoke with Take That on the Comic Relief TV coverage) before heading to bed.

Saturday morning dawned bright and early. By which I mean it was a nice, bright day and the cat made sure I appreciated it good and early as she wanted fed! With her needs taken care of, I had a bit of time to myself before parkrun. It was another week on the alternate route as the weather hasn’t improved enough to firm up the grass section and I was feeling pretty good. My legs were fresh and wanted to run fast, but I was consciously reigning it in as I knew I had 20 miles on the schedule the following day! I still sneaked it in under 24 minutes with a 23:53 (and rather surprising second mile of 7:37!).

IMG_1009Sadly there was no Hatha yoga this week as my teacher had a wedding to attend, so instead I headed home to shower before meeting Steve for the weekly food shop. Since the weather was so nice I opted to walk into town and enjoy the sunshine. Errands done, I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon to ensure I was well rested ahead of my long run. This included some quality time with the cat (and yes, there was another pizza-related “incident”!).

IMG_1018Sunday also began with an early wake up call from the cat, but at least with the clocks going forward it could be considered to be at a more civilised hour! I had decided not to get worked up about the loss of an hour overnight and instead focus on getting enough sleep and just dealing with the fact that I would be about an hour behind schedule all day. Since it was a nice day it meant I was finally able to hit the country roads for my long run. I don’t like to use these routes through the winter as it can be pretty lonely and miserable, whereas on a sunny spring day I usually see lots of other runners and cyclists as well as all the newborn lambs in the fields!

IMG_1026I’ve been trying to overdress a bit on my Sunday runs in order to get some acclimatisation since the chances are it will be warm in Paris in a couple of weeks. If it turns out to be a cool day then that’s a bonus for this pale Scottish runner! This week was probably about as warm as I’m going to get before race day so I opted for similar kit to what I plan to wear in Paris, but with an extra lightweight top which I could remove if I felt the need.

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My route was much hillier than the marathon profile (and hillier than all my previous training routes!), so my overall pace was not quite as quick as I would like, however I know that I was hitting goal pace on the flatter sections, even towards the end of the run, whilst slowing right down on the hills in order to give me a better chance of recovering over the next few days. To be honest, simply getting this far in my training plan fills me with joy after the way things have gone over the last few years, and hitting that peak mileage gives me the confidence that I’m as ready as I will ever be for this race. Will I get my PB? That’s in the lap of the running gods, but I’m going to give it my best shot!

IMG_1034And now, the taper. I’m experimenting with a two week taper rather than the traditional three as I’ve found that leaves me feeling a bit sluggish and heavy-legged for race day. If a training schedule is tailored to an individual and a recovery plan is different for every runner, then surely the nature of the taper is too? I guess we’ll soon find out…!

What will be the peak mileage in your training plan?
Do you use a three week taper or have you tried something else?

Week in Review – It’s All About Recovery!

Phew! Not long to go now until marathon day! For now it’s time once again for my week in review. Linking up as usual with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL.

This week, my plan was completely different as I needed to make sure I recovered well from the Inverness Half Marathon. The last thing I wanted was to run a PB then pick up an injury that would put my marathon at risk! I’ve done the majority of the hard work now, so a recovery week could only be a positive. Here’s how my week looked:

Monday – sports massage
Tuesday – 10 mins easy on bike then swim
Wednesday – recovery run
Thursday – PT session then Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun then Hatha yoga
Sunday – long run

On Monday I was tired and my legs were pretty weary and tight – not a big surprise given I had run a hard parkrun and a half marathon PB on consecutive days! I kept moving thoughout the day then headed to my sports massage in the evening. It was good to have my muscles worked and reassuring to know there was nothing untoward going on, simply that my legs had been worked hard!

My calves were still tight on Tuesday, and I decided it would be good to move my legs a bit more but without any impact so Steve suggested an easy 10 minute cycle before heading for my swim. I definitely couldn’t have done a set of higher intensity reps, but 10 minutes of moving my legs was nice and I had a good swim afterwards. I even got some useful tips afterwards from a very proficient swimmer and I’ll be working on those next time.

By Wednesday my legs were feeling better, but not completely back to normal so a recovery run was definitely in order! I chose a route I like which is gradually downhill for the first mile then flat, finishing with a brief uphill to finish. I could feel the weariness in my legs and I felt tired, but I knew this run would help get things to get back to normal. It wasn’t my greatest run ever, but it served its purpose and I still spent a little time afterwards wearing my medal from the International Women’s Day virtual race the previous Wednesday which had arrived that day. I can confirm that it’s a pretty chunky bit of bling!

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IMG_0973I felt really exhausted on Wednesday evening so practically as soon as I finished my dinner I was scooping up the cat and heading to bed where I fell asleep almost immediately. Poor Steve thought he was going to have to sleep in the living room with the two of us taking up all the bed! I definitely felt so much better the next day though 🙂

From Thursday my training routine was a bit more as normal. First there was a PT session with Steve and we did a little more work on shoulder/upper back mobility (the tightness in my right shoulder had been noticed by my “swim coach” on Tuesday) using both the core momentum trainer and another highly technical piece of kit…a broom handle!

IMG_0975Then it was off to the yoga studio for my Ashtanga class. I feel like this made the biggest difference out of everything I did to recover from the half marathon as my legs felt great afterwards and when I awoke on Friday morning I finally felt like I had my own legs back!

Friday was my usual rest day and meal out. That pint of beer with my dinner always gives me something to look forward to and feels like a mini celebration of another week survived! On the way home I spotted this little guy, who narrowly avoided being stepped on!

IMG_0977Saturday was a bit cooler again, but still decent conditions for parkrun. We were on the alternate course again, but since I was taking my recovery seriously I didn’t want to run as hard as last week. I ran the first mile quite conservatively, but once I had completed the first lap of the Inch my legs seemed to remember what it was like to run faster and wanted to push on a bit. I ended up running each mile a bit quicker, but with an official finish time of 24:19, I stuck to my self-imposed limit of a 24:XX time.

IMG_7309 IMG_7314As usual, parkrun was followed by my Hatha yoga class which felt really good this week. Lots of lovely work on the floor which I did with my eyes closed to enjoy the time to myself and I felt really relaxed and well stretched out when we finished. As has become my habit, the rest of the day was spent relaxing and napping with my suPURRvisor. Perfect!
IMG_0979Sunday saw me with 16 miles on the plan and I decided to run near enough the same route as my previous 16 miler, but with one minor change which, although including an extra hill, would then mean a direct run home rather than a slightly circuitous route to make up the mileage. I also decided to keep the pace nice and easy. I allowed my legs to go a little faster on my 18 mile run a couple of weeks ago, but since I had stuck to lighter workouts during the week I didn’t want to push it too much – the long run is about distance rather than pace and the fact that I was able to run a half marathon PB last week following this method gives me confidence that it is working. But despite the easy pace I was surprised to discover afterwards that I was actually a bit faster than my previous 16 mile run, further proof that my fitness is improving. I also discovered that thanks to a predominantly purple kit selection, I pretty much looked like a berry!

IMG_0997All in all, I’m pleased with my week. My performance in my long run tells me that taking the time to recover properly was the right decision and has actually helped to improve my fitness. Now to hope it all comes together in Paris next month…

How do you recover from a hard workout/race?
Do you have a goal event coming up soon?

Race Report – Inverness Half Marathon 2017

When training for a marathon the received wisdom is that it’s a great idea to race a half marathon around 4-5 weeks out from the event as a “tune-up”. This is the time to test out race day routines, clothing and paces to see where you are. Despite currently training for my 9th marathon, last weekend was actually my first ever tune up half thanks to my tendency to pick up injuries during the training cycle. The race was written into my training plan right from the start, however I held off entering until mid-February, right before entries were closing. Apparently even with training going well so far, I still retained a degree of caution!

As the day of the half marathon approached, I began to consider my plan. Since I have been running my long runs quite slowly, this was going to be my first opportunity to see if I could hold my target marathon pace for the duration of the race. But I also saw an opportunity to FINALLY get a new half marathon PB. I wanted to beat my time of 1:56:35 from Aviemore in 2012 and a little bit of runner maths showed me that if I could run at the top end of my target pace, I would finish around a minute quicker than this. The challenge was on!

With the race not starting until 12:30pm, we opted to drive up on the morning of the race, setting off around 8:30am. To save time, I organised all my kit the night before, but somehow neglected to take a “flat runner” photo, however my selection was similar to what I wore in Paris last year, just a different colour: Under Armour running skirt and top, Bondi Band calf sleeves, Lululemon arm warmers, Adidas Ultra Boost shoes and my trusty Spibelt to hold my phone. I was so beautifully colour co-ordinated that during the race a woman actually ran alongside me and complimented me on my outfit!

The drive up to Inverness was pretty uneventful. I’m not overly fond of the journey as it’s quite long and can be slow, but some of the scenery is absolutely stunning. We did, of course, make a pit stop at the House of Bruar for a “comfort break” as they have really nice toilets!

IMG_0954Not long after Bruar we were at the Drumochter Pass where the view really opens out to some spectacular hills.

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IMG_0958Once in Inverness we opted to use a multi-storey car park in the city centre then walk along to the Bught Park, an area we are pretty familiar with from marathon-related trips. To register, we had to walk through the Bught to the sports centre on the other side, and this is where I began to get a bit irritated. We had plenty time until registration was closing, but we immediately found ourselves in a queue. There were people trying to register for the half marathon, people trying to register for the 5k, people trying to get in to the toilets: people, people, people and no real order. I felt like there were too many people in the available space and nobody there to manage it so we couldn’t really be sure we were even in the right queue! By the time we got in to the sports hall, I was pretty grumpy and this wasn’t helped when I was told they were out of small T-shirts so I had to take a medium – and a “unisex” medium at that, which is basically a men’s top that’s far too big for little old me! I always wonder why race organisers can’t sort things out so that people are given the T-shirt size they requested on their entry, rather than whatever is left when they collect their race number – if you have to show ID to get your number, then your T-shirt size could be part of the same process to save disappointment. Grrr!

IMG_0970By this time I also wanted a pre-run toilet stop but was feeling so claustrophobic that I just couldn’t face heading back into the queues of people we had fought through. Instead, I found a different exit and located a different toilet. Still a queue, which I fumed my way through, but a little easier. I then stomped my way down towards the start area, still in a bit of a mood!

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Steve has antlers. I seem to have a head sprouting from my shoulder!

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IMG_0960I stood just to the front of the 1:50-2:00 section, still grumping about how busy it was, and waited to get underway. There was that heartbeat music that seems to be de rigeur at big races these days, followed by the obligatory countdown to the the start, huge cheer…and no movement whatsoever. Soon, though, I was moving towards the line, starting my watch and settling in.

The start, which is the final part of the marathon/10k in September, is fairly narrow so I found it difficult to settle into a rhythm. Already grumpy, I caught myself muttering about preferring training by myself so I can do my one thing. On the plus side, I was quite disciplined about not wasting energy weaving around people, knowing when the field stretched out a bit I would have plenty of room to run. There had been lots of announcements about record numbers, so perhaps the race is becoming a victim of its own success and organisers now need to consider ways to streamline registration and perhaps using a wave start to help ease congestion.

By the time I was about a mile in I had space to settle into my pace and began counting down the miles. Target marathon pace is between 8:50-9:00 per mile so my plan for this race was to have each mile average out at, or faster than, my target, taking account of the fact that I would be slower over hills. I found myself keeping a very close eye on my Garmin to see how I was getting on and right from the start was running faster than marathon pace. I wasn’t sure how this would pan out, but just let my body dictate the pace.

fullsizeoutput_1cb9I sustained a pace quicker than marathon pace through the first 8 miles, but then as I began the 9th mile, the rain began, I found myself running uphill into a headwind and there were a couple of tight turns. It was a bit of a miserable mile with the rain washing sweat into my eyes and it feeling harder to keep up the pace. Mentally, I checked out a bit and had to refocus myself on what I was doing. Steve had told me that there was a great downhill section at 9 miles and I clung to this information to get me through. Sure enough. towards the end of the mile I turned a corner and saw not only the 9 mile marker, but a fantastic swooping downhill. I leaned forwards and went for it. I might as well have been screaming “wheeeee!” as I went!

By the 10 mile marker we were retracing our steps from the start of the race. I was feeling much better thanks to the downhill section and a gel, so was ready to keep on going to the finish. The only thing was, the finish was NOT at the start line, but about 1/2 a mile or so further on behind the sports centre. That last mile felt absolutely endless and I have a recollection of a headwind. I also wasn’t entirely sure how far I still had to go. I trusted the distance on my Garmin, but since I couldn’t actually see the finish line it was hard to judge. At long last, however, I entered the running track which formed the finishing straight. I had half a lap on that lovely, bouncy surface before crossing the line.

I stopped my watch at 1:53:03, a time confirmed almost immediately with a text containing my official result. And what a result it was! At long last I had a new half marathon PB, and a much faster one than I had anticipated. I’ve often thought I might be capable of a 1:52:XX so those pesky 3 seconds were a little irritating, but I soon forgot that in my joy at running so well. Every mile except the 9th was faster than target marathon pace, and that was a very positive result.

fullsizeoutput_1cbaI made my way though the finish area to collect my medal, as well as a banana, Clif bar, packet of pistachios, water and somewhat ironically, suncream! Given that I was a bit of a bedraggled mess from the rain earlier on, this item was probably a bit superfluous on this occasion. Perhaps it will come in handy for another race where there is actual sunshine rather than “liquid sunshine”.

IMG_0961Steve, who had also run a PB, was waiting for me and we got some photos before I headed off to get changed into some warmer clothes.

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A “Highland Spring” tiara!

IMG_7260 IMG_7264We were both starving thanks to the lunchtime start, so made our way to McDonald’s to refuel (with me eating a protein bar on the way!). McDonald’s may not be very healthy and normally I would turn my nose up at it, but I must admit I don’t mind it after a race. Once refuelled, it was back to the car (via a quick stop for a takeaway coffee) for the journey home. We had to pull in a couple of times for Steve to stretch and get some air, so we were glad to get home and inhale the steak pies and rosemary potatoes we had waiting for us. Then it was time for a bath and bed, worn out but happy.

IMG_0962 IMG_0969Overall I have mixed feelings about this one. Obviously I’m delighted about the PB and the race itself was really nice. The negatives for me were the crowds that I think the organisers need to look at as the race continues to grow in popularity. There’s also the long journey there. We would have happily got the train, but there wasn’t one early enough on Sunday morning to get us there on time so we had to drive. The only other option would have been to go the night before, but that would have added to the expense with the need for a hotel. If we could have been earlier at registration I would have felt much more relaxed, but that just wasn’t possible for us. Still, I would recommend this event, with the caution that it is very popular and there will likely be crowds.
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Week in Review – Time For A Tune Up

Things continue to be busy at work as the deadlines for coursework loom, but somehow I’m still managing to fit in my training around it all. Here’s my regular week in review, linking up with Jessie at The Right Fits and Jess at Jess Runs ATL.

Believe it or not, I actually managed to complete all my workouts on the planned days this week with no changes or omissions – I think that means a grand total of two “perfect” weeks since the start of January! I keep mentioning this as a reminder that sticking rigidly to a plan doesn’t always work, but I know I’ve made progress and am now stronger and fitter even with some shuffling around of workouts each week.

Here’s how this week looked:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – bike reps at the gym
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – PT session plus Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun plus Hatha yoga
Sunday – half marathon

Monday was the morning after the run before. I was tired (18 miles at the busiest point in the school term will do that to you!) but my legs felt ok. Weary, of course, but not really achy which was good. Still, it was nice to get in the water at the end of the day. I did find it a bit harder to get into a rhythm with my breathing though, probably because I had worked my body hard the day before, but felt much more refreshed for getting in the pool and having a swim anyway.

Tuesday is bike reps day. Nothing of note to report here, it was just two more reps onto the workout I did last week. It’s tough, but I’m tougher and I know I’m much stronger now because of working through these reps each week since late last year.

My Wednesday hill reps also formed my entry to a virtual race organised by Women’s Running magazine for International Women’s Day. There was something so inspiring about listening to my favourite podcast (The Tough Girl Podcast which had a special episode for IWD) and thinking about the #BeBoldForChange message for IWD that gave me that extra oomph for the one final rep that I’ve now added to this workout. Basically it’s the same workout as before (5-4-3-2 reps to a series of lampposts) but by adding one rep to the final lamppost I now run right up the hill. Even saving a little something for that last rep, I still managed to run some of the earlier ones a bit quicker again which is really pleasing.

IMG_0942On Thursday I asked Steve to take me through some exercises for my hips. I’ve had a sensation that there was an imbalance between them and wanted to make sure I addressed that given my history of problems with my left hip. The issue seems to be less that my left hip was weak, more that my right was taking over, so we worked through some movements to help even things up. After that I had a really good Ashtanga yoga class. There were just two of us again this week and I felt really strong and centred throughout my practice. Just what I needed!

Friday was my rest day. I always look forward to this as I’m so tired at the end of the work week, especially right now as so much coursework is due and we’re close to the end of a very long term. This week I had a few errands then, as usual, Steve and I headed out to eat. I DEFINITELY needed my beer this week! Usually I have a curry to eat with it, but this week there was a ribeye steak on the specials menu and I really fancied that instead. It was delicious!

IMG_0946Parkrun this week was a little different as the team had opted to switch to the alternate route since the grass section has been getting so boggy. The weather hasn’t really helped it to firm up, so giving it a rest for a couple of weeks should help a bit. The alternate route is two laps of the Inch which, as regular readers may remember, is a route that always makes a little piece of my soul die! On the plus side, it’s a flat and fast route and the conditions this week were grey but still, offering the opportunity to run well. Parkrun rules state that alternate courses should be a little longer than the regular route so that there are no PBs set that will be too difficult to beat on the regular route, but I was still presented with a bit of a dilemma: on the one hand, I knew I had a half marathon the following day so didn’t want to overdo it; on the other hand, I was really curious to know what sort of shape I was in over 5k as I knew the state of the grass had been slowing me down recently. In the end I decided to treat it as a tempo effort and run comfortably hard but with the knowledge that I could speed up at any point. I was therefore delighted to run each consecutive mile a little faster and to finish with my fastest parkrun time since August (23:39). A very encouraging sign for my fitness!

IMG_0947Next up was my Hatha yoga class which I always really enjoy as I find the stretching really helps to reset my body after my week’s training so I feel ready for my longer run on Sunday. I then continued the relaxing vibe with an afternoon on my recliner watching TV and taking a nap with the cat (she’s in charge of rest and naps, remember!).
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And then it was Sunday. This year we decided to enter the Inverness half marathon as a tune-up for Paris. Steve actually did this race last year, but I wasn’t at that point ready for the distance after my stress fracture so didn’t go up there. Like Saturday, I was unsure what to do. If I want a sub-4 hour marathon then my goal pace needs to average out faster than 9:09 per mile, so my target is 8:50-9:00 per mile. Since this was my tune-up, I wanted to make sure I could hold that pace, however I also knew that my half marathon PB of 1:56:35 averaged out at 8:58 per mile, so saw the opportunity to FINALLY run a new PB – it’s been my PB since 2012 after all! In the end, I decided to run to feel with the aim of running each mile at, or faster than, goal marathon pace. This would allow for slowing on hills but some faster sections downhill over the undulating course. I’ll be writing a separate race report, but spoiler alert, I got a new PB with my 1:53:03 finish! Delighted doesn’t even come close!

IMG_7263The race starts at lunchtime so despite a big breakfast and pre-race banana, we were both starving and made a bee-line for McDonald’s afterwards. Not exactly healthy, I know, but ok as a post-race treat for some fast energy until we got home. It was a long drive back so we finished the day tired but happy (Steve got a PB too).

IMG_0962So as weeks go, this has to be a good one. I recovered well from my 18 miler, ran a solid time at parkrun then followed it up the next day with a half marathon PB. Now to see if I can convert that into a marathon PB next month…

How has your training gone this week?
Any PBs to share?

Week in Review – The Monster Month Begins

March means the big miles in marathon training, so this week my focus has really been on looking after my body to ensure I complete these longer runs healthily. As ever, I’m linking up with Jessie at The Right Fits and Jess at Jess Runs ATL for my weekly training roundup.

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Just for a change, I moved things around a bit again, but this time it was to accommodate changes I had to make last week rather than issues this week. Here’s how my week looked:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – bike reps at the gym + swim
Wednesday – hill reps
Thursday – PT session + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun + Hatha yoga
Sunday – long run

After missing out on both my yoga classes last week, I decided to begin my week with a Hatha class to stretch out my body and get the week off to a good start. It was a great class focusing on hip opening and I really enjoyed it. Staying a bit later at work for a meeting meant there wasn’t quite enough time to squeeze in my swim but I had expected this and was quite happy to move my swim to Tuesday.

Before that swim I had my bike reps to do. It was the same work/rest intervals as last week, but with two more reps added on. I knew that last week I had been a little tired thanks to some broken sleep (not such a problem this week!) so was interested to see how I felt during the workout. Overall I felt like I was much stronger throughout the workout and was able to work harder. I also enjoyed my swim yesterday as I finally progressed from swimming single lengths with a stop at the end to turn, to turning right round to swim continuously in “doubles”. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep progressing this. After all that I was ready for a nice relaxing evening. I think the cat was tired too as she tried to take a nap inside my training journal!

IMG_0880Wednesday is hill rep day and I had my last set of my current workout to do and I was pleased to find I was able to run some of the reps a little faster again. It was particularly pleasing to run the last two to the furthest lamppost faster than before. Next week I’ll have one further rep to add to the top lamppost on the hill. It will be tough, but it’s just one rep – I can do it!

IMG_0882IMG_0885On Thursday I headed to Steve’s studio for my PT session. We worked a little bit on knee drive, but the main focus was on shoulder/upper back mobility as Steve has observed a tightness there when he watches me finish parkrun. It was a combination of the good old core momentum trainer and a gym ball for this one. Once that workout was done, I was off to the yoga studio for my Ashtanga class. I really missed this last week and really enjoyed this week’s class. It was great to stretch out and feel my body getting more flexible.

By Friday I was ready for a rest, but first it was a trip to the vet for a followup appointment – the joy of having an elderly cat! She’s doing pretty well though so fingers crossed there won’t be any more trips for a couple of months when she gets her next check. Once home, we chilled out on the armchair for a while until Steve came home and it was time to go and eat. I’ve slept much better this week, but was still tired as we’re pretty deep into a busy term alongside all my training so I was pleased to get to bed.

When I woke up on Saturday (early as the cat wanted fed!) the weather was pretty poor. Once The Boss was fed I headed back to bed to sleep a little longer, but sadly the weather didn’t improve in that time: it was going to be a soggy parkrun! As it was the first Saturday of the month I was a pacer again and had the 26 minute bib. Last time I was a little slower at 26:11 so wanted to work on getting a bit closer to 26 minutes. I completely reset my watch to kilometres so I would get more frequent alerts and checked my required pace. Despite the rain and very boggy grass section, I was pretty much on pace for more than half of the run, but was a little too fast over the last kilometre or so and ended up finishing in 25:37 – oops! I don’t think I had anyone running with me, but if I did then they maybe got a better time than they were expecting!

IMG_7187 IMG_7215Following a quick shower to wash off all the mud and warm up bit, it was off to my regular Saturday morning Hatha yoga class. It was a quiet class this week as lots of people had other things on, butI don’t mind that as it means a bit more attention from the teacher when needed. I really enjoy the stretch after parkrun, especially through my hips and hamstrings, so I feel good ahead of my Sunday long run.
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Sunday began much like Saturday with an early call to feed the cat then a return to bed to snooze for another hour or so. On the plus side, the weather was much more settled so I wasn’t going to get a soaking! This week was the first of The Big Ones as I had an 18 mile run to complete. Up to now I’ve been keeping the pace deliberately slow on my long runs, aiming for somewhere in the 9:30-9:40 per mile range, but since I’ve often caught my legs trying to go faster, I decided for my longest runs to just go with how I feel, keep it fairly comfortable and see what happens. For this run I came out with a 9:22 per mile average, but this included running up some pretty steep hills so clearly I was much quicker over the flats and downhills. At several points in the run I was running at, or faster than, my goal marathon pace without having to try – even towards the end! – so that leaves me feeling optimistic that my training is falling into place and that I CAN continue to target my goal for Paris. Next week I have a half marathon which I’ve entered as a tune-up race so it will be interesting to see how I perform in that. It all seems like it’s getting so close now!

IMG_0928All in all, I’m pleased with my training this week. I felt strong on the bike, strong on the hills and ran my 18 miler better than I ran my 16 miler. Lots of positive progress – fingers crossed it continues this way!

Any positives in your recent training?
How will you progress your training in March?

Training Talk Part 2

Last month I found myself very interested by the Training Talk segment in the episode of the Marathon Talk podcast I was listening to. It was all about using the end of January to check in with your marathon training and gave advice for progressing in February. On my Sunday long run this past weekend I was again treated to a Training Talk segment, this time with advice about the long run as anyone training for an early spring marathon such as Paris or London will be hitting their biggest runs in March, and I thought I would use the points raised to consider my own long runs and reflect on how effectively I’m using them to progress my training.

Going Long

1. Progress
The main point here was about sensible progression in distance. The hosts focused on recovery and made clear that if you’re still not fully recovered by Friday after a Sunday long run, then you’re probably overdoing it. Personally, I have been taking my progression really seriously as I’m sure mistakes here have contributed to past injuries. I was adamant that there should be a cutback every fourth week, my long runs never increase by more than 2 miles from my previous longest run and I have a tried and tested recovery strategy that works well for me: stretching, legs up the wall, recovery shake when I’ve run 10+ miles, a nap if necessary, compression tights/socks and an Epsom soak. I also make sure my long run is followed by a much easier day, usually a swim and maybe some yoga to help ease out my muscles. This has all worked really well through January and February, and I have a clear plan in place for progression in March.

IMG_0872 2. Fuel
Here, the importance of knowing what your fuel strategy will be for race day was discussed. Some people might not take any fuel at all, some might rely on water from aid stations, others might carry specific drinks/gels they want to take. Whatever the choice, it’s important to test it out in training. Even if you plan on taking nothing more than a sip of water, it’s important that your body is trained for this (and it was recommended that you stil carry something during training just in case, even if you don’t actually take it). Fuel is something else that I have pretty much tried and tested. Although some people are happy to use the on-course nutrition/hydration (and train with it to ensure it agrees with them!) I prefer to be a bit more self-sufficient. My preferred hydration is High 5 Zero and I carry this in a hydration pack so I can sip it whenever I want. I always carry more than I need so I’m used to carrying the pack (crucial for race day preparations) and know I can supplement this with bottled water from the aid stations along the course (plus in Paris that pink drink they give out around mile 18 that acts like rocket fuel for me!). As for nutrition, my strategy has always been a gel every 5 miles as this should be about every 45 minutes or so (longer and I start to feel a bit sluggish). I then take an extra one with 5k to go and carry a spare in case I need it! I have changed the gels I use and have been training with them throughout this month so I’m happy that fuelling for me is under control.

3. Pace
Pacing can be a tricky thing in the marathon and even the best of the best can fade in the final miles. This part of the discussion was all about building in marathon-paced segments to our training and the recommendation of a tune-up half marathon around 5 weeks out from race day to see how well we can sustain the required pace. I have thought a great deal about pace in my long runs, and have been using the philosophy that the long run should be slower in order to build endurance. In theory this endurance, combined with the speed work I’m also doing, should all come together on the big day. But while I’m trying to keep the pace down, I’m trying not to be a slave to the watch and running by how I feel, hence why my second 12 mile run was faster than my first – I was fitter by the second one and was therefore moving faster with the same effort. I have also noted a few occasions when I have run a bit quicker towards the end, hitting the sort of pace I’d like on race day, so I know it’s in there somewhere. As for a tune-up race, I do have a half marathon factored into my training plan for March and that will be a great opportunity to test out my race day kit and see if I can maintain a faster pace for the duration of the race.

4. Mind
I found this really interesting as it was a great reminder about how powerful the mind is. It’s important in training for a marathon than we don’t just train our bodies to go the distance, but our minds as well. Our mind will always give up before our body, so we need to find strategies to be able to push past that. The idea here was to be more mindful, to focus on the moment – the phrase used was, “don’t judge, focus on the process”. What this means is rather than thinking I can’t do this or I can’t run at the pace I need to, we focus instead on the moment, the process of running and what needs to be done to meet our goal. One recommendation to stay focused was to get used to running alone: no company, no music, etc. Training solo is something I’ve done for a long time now so I’m quite content out there with my own thoughts, and have battled through enough tough races to know that tenacity might as well be my middle name! As for not having music, well I do like to listen to podcasts when I run, but that’s more about using the time to fill my mind with useful or inspiring content than looking for a distraction. Come race day, I find it quite hard to focus on anything other than the race and am barely aware of anything playing through my earphones! In general I’m feeling positive about my long runs and am trusting my training. I want a PB in this race so if it’s my year then that’s what will happen. If not, there’s always next time!

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5. Mix Things Up
The last part of the segment focused on ways to mix up the long run training e.g. progression runs, marathon-paced sections, etc. I have been focusing on keeping my long runs slow in order to build endurance, but I do try to run strongly through the final miles (which are often up hill!) in order to simulate the latter stages of the race. This will be really important on my longest runs as it will give me confidence that I can keep on going as my body tires. Playing around with paces and routes is a great way to stop the long run becoming tedious (especially if you’re running solo) but I have to say, I quite enjoy the time I’m out there as it gives me a chance to clear my head and have some time away from all the other demands in my life. Perhaps that’s just me though – I’ve always rather enjoyed marathon training!

Now it’s time to get my head down and embrace The Monster Month!

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How has your February training gone?
Are you making any changes as we head into March?