Still in the groove!

I am pleased to report that my new attitude to training and running persists! I wrote last week:

“I also feel much calmer somehow, no longer worrying about the November date or the training that I will or will not be able to fit in my schedule over the coming months; I just run each session at a time, not worrying so much where it fits in the whole, each run a gift to myself…”

And it seems that there was more truth in that than I thought when I was writing it: my running workouts have stopped being a chore and returned to being a real treat – yes, even the intervals that really test you and make you feel your chest can no longer contain your panting lungs! It’s that new (or rather re-found) outlook that has meant I’ve sought out every opportunity to go for a run – and for a second week in a row, I’ve used a work-related overnight stay in London to will myself out of a warm comfy bed much earlier than I needed to and go for intervals in Regent’s Park – today sporting the new Huncote Harriers training top no less! I was really proud of myself (I know it’s commonplace for most runners out there, but I’ve repeatedly admitted that early morning runs are not my thing) so I rewarded myself with a decent omelette and croissant for breakfast in the hotel and walked the 2.5km to the office in the sunshine!



That was on top of the first Cooper test I did after work yesterday: not part of my plan, but I think I’ll include them on a monthly basis, just to give me an indication of how my fitness is (hopefully) improving as a result of my training. Thing is, every training session feels very tough (ok, apart from easy run days), so I think an objective measure of my fitness would help.

On other news, there was no long run for me last Sunday (every so often my plan will substitute these for a progression run, which is actually crueller in its own insidious way!), so I took the opportunity to do a strength workout as well. Unfortunately the miCoach app has been playing up recently (I think they are preparing to launch v3.0 and for some reason that has necessitated messing up the current version!), which meant I couldn’t start my next Strength and Flexibility programme, so I went with one that I had designed for me at the gym in my last three-monthly assessment. It’s short and sweet (over in about 25′), but it seems to hit all the bits that matter and how! I think it is the kettlebell swings that I find particularly hard, not necessarily when I’m doing them (although I do try to go as heavy as I can), but 1-2 days after… They leave me feeling aching all over and most surprisingly drained of energy in a way I’ve not experienced with strength training before… I read about them a bit, and they seem to provide a comprehensive workout (which could be why they seem to tax me so much), with low risk of injury so they are staying!

So I’m pretty pleased with how things are progressing training-wise, although of course there is a long way to go still. The only change I think I’ll make to my routine is to add something to strengthen my upper back: My shoulder / shoulder blade area seems to get stiff on long runs, and I think it’s calling for some attention… a desk job doesn’t help much, I suppose! Any suggestions?

My only regret is that I haven’t been on a club training night for a long time. It’s usually because I’ve been away, or because I had a specific workout of my own to do on that day, but I’ve hardly ran with the club all summer! I’ll see if I can tweak the sequence of my runs in a week to keep Tuesdays open for a general run with the Harriers.



Knackered after 0 miles

This week hasn’t gone that well… for some reason I have been feeling more tired each morning than the night before and my days have been filled with 6 -hour return commutes and full working days in between; on the days when I have managed to work from home, I’ve still had to wake up at stupid o’clock as we have work going on in the house and there have been workmen coming and going…

…Which has all meant that I’ve not managed to run once this week yet, but I still feel very tired, sleep-deprived and I’ve started to put back the (few) holiday pounds I had managed to lose since I came back… I’ll still try to salvage something from the week though: hopefully get some more sleep tonight, do a long hard tempo tomorrow (yippee…), Sunday’s LR as scheduled and – if I feel up to it – some stride intervals on Saturday (the last such session before tapering begins). So no core or strength training this week, but I finished one strength programme last week and I can start the next one fresh in a few days’ time.

On a more positive note, I did my first outdoor serious (> 21k / 13m) LR last Sunday on the usual hilly route around the villages and it reminded me that doing the same distance on a treadmill (whatever the incline settings), does not compare with the real thing: it does not compare in terms of the value of the workout (psychological as much as physical) and it certainly does not compare in term of the enjoyment of the run: the cool breeze that comes as an unexpected relief when you need it most, running along tree-lined lanes then next to golden fields in the summer sunset… Or letting your mind wander in a way that it cannot do in the confines of a gym, stationary on a treadmill (where as fast as you may run, you never go anywhere…) Absolutely beautiful, Bradgate park next!

So… a frustrating week where I feel I’ve moved backwards rather than forwards… No serious damage done though and at this early stage of the preparation I hope it won’t make much of a difference on race day  – as long as it stops here.

On the other hand… On the other hand, I was hoping I’d be in a very different position in the fourth week of my training: I had hoped that by now I’d have shed some of the excess weight, built some momentum in my training and even recovered most of my fitness. Instead, I feel like I’m starting from square one all over again.

But marathon training wouldn’t be any fun if it was all plain sailing, would it now?



Back in training!


Last week was the first of the 19 weeks of ‘proper’ marathon training after three weeks of sloth, and boy was it a shock!

Fortunately the first workout my programme had in store was sprint reps and they give you a nice feeling of speed and power, even if you’ve put on some extra weight – you don’t really notice it in the half-minute burst! Maintaining the same effort for all the reps (15 in my schedule) was a bit harder, but I just focused on technique, pushing through the elbows and lifting my heels toward my glutes to generate knee-lift (is that even a term?) By contrast, it was during the shorter (1′) recovery periods between sprints that I felt the worst, out of breath from the effort and fatigued from the number of repetitions; but win that mental battle, start the next sprint strong and it’s over in a flash!

The tempo run that followed a couple of days later was a much harder affair though – my lack of fitness really showed, and I wasn’t able to maintain the target pace on the undulating route through Huncote, Thurlastone and Narborough… In the end I ended up 5” per km off target pace and seriously out of breath, but for the first tempo run back I’m not complaining… my only concern is that the tempo section of this run was 25′, while it will be 35′ in the next one! Gulp!

I cross-trained on the Saturday (longish bike ride), and did Sunday’s progression run on the gym treadmill, sacrificing the road’s realistic training conditions (mainly in terms of pushing yourself to run at a certain pace, as opposed to having the conveyor belt coming at you) for the ability to structure the workout exactly as per the plan (being able to set the precise pace I wanted to run at at each stage of the progression). While I don’t want to rely on the treadmill to set the pace for me (there will be no such luxury in the race!), having just returned from a break I felt that completing the exercise was more important.

So, first week done and if it was a bit hard… well, it’s going to get much harder! Let’s hope I can get into shape fast enough to keep up with it!

And if this post was drier and more factual than usual, I apologise; but that too reflects the week’s training: it didn’t pay to concentrate on impressions, how I felt or what I was thinking of. It was all about overcoming the inertia, getting out there when it was the last thing I felt like doing and putting one foot in front of the other, taking it one rep at a time and getting back into training.


Summer is but one race away!

This is the last week of structured running this spring, and it culminates with the Leicester Big 10k on Sunday. After that I will be winding down and then taking a June off altogether while I go to Greece to get married (oh yes!) and travel slowly back… Then, come July, I will start my marathon training proper.

I have been giving the choice of a training plan some thought, and I think I have settled on the Adidas miCoach web-based system: I had used it for my first marathon (Athens again), and I like its approach: It is very customisable, the app gives instant feedback on how the actual run compared to what was planned and the training is a great mix of short strides, longer intervals, tempo runs and the inevitable long runs. On the website there is also a whole host of resources, including a number of strength training programmes to complement the running (I definitely need some of that!) and they too sync with the app so one can follow one’s programme at the gym (complete with exercise descriptions and clips that show how the exercise should be performed). Best of all, of course, it’s completely free! 🙂

But I think for now I will enjoy my little break! The truth is that the year so far has been quite demanding in a number of areas (work, the joys of trying to plan a wedding from a different country and so long) and I feel I can do with getting away from a challenging routine and relaxing for a change… I don’t necessarily intend to give up running altogether in June, just to escape the structure of a programme, give myself a chance to rest physically and mentally and perhaps visit a physio to make sure that the various niggles don’t come  back to haunt me during the proper training from July onwards.

So roll on Sunday! The Leicester Big 10k is a lovely flat race in and around Abbey Park in that city, which is absolutely lovely when the sun is shining (as it is forecast to on the day), and after that I can start the mental countdown to holidays!

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From last year’s Leicester Big 10k