Week 14 and 15 of 40: I like the bike & joining in the Brighton Marathon

April 2nd to April 15th

In this two-week block I did some long bike-rides and long runs, including joining the Brighton Marathon for 18 miles.

I will return to blogging about my training weekly from next week as it helps keep me focussed on where I am.  But for the last two weeks have both been four-day work weeks, which means cramming… so here goes:

Longer Bike Rides and some good hills

Looking at my Strava records, the blobs I’m happy about, include the two longer rides (big mauve blobs), both of which included a climb up the infamous Ditchling Beacon, which has the following stats: length 0.9 miles / 1.45 km; height gain 143m; average gradient: 9%; max gradient: 16%. It hurts!

The Joy of Off-Road running

I was also very happy about my two long run blobs. First it was so good to get back on the Downs on Saturday as I practised leg 4 (out and back) in preparation for the South Downs Relay in June. Since moving to Brighton I’ve got out of the habit of regularly running off-road – a big mistake, as I really love it. In Eastbourne ,the Downs were less than a mile from my house and I had many tried and tested routes. Where I live now requires a little extra running to and from, but with the South Downs Ways sign-posting there’s really no excuse not to go off-road.

Support team: Triathlon Coach and Physio

I’ve also got started with triathlon coach, Dave Powell, who reminded me to invest in some Whey protein, for post-workout recovery fuel. I’ve also started taking supplements again. Every extra boost helps in preparation for the Ironman. I take CurraNZ, Alive Ultra 50-plus, Spatone liquid iron, which I’m adding to my smoothies and Pro D3 Vitamin D tablets for bone and muscle health.

Dave has started me off with a rough guide of four runs, two long bikes and a My Ride, and two swims (more to come once shoulder rehab is further along).

I also saw the Catherine, a new physiotherapist, who’s given me some exercises for my shoulder, which is still a little weaker post collar-bone break – but I’m confident will now get stronger.

The Sort of Brighton Marathon

And finally, today I joined in with the Brighton Marathon running 18.67 miles at 7.55 (sub 3.30 pace). I decided to run it last week as I realised that I couldn’t defer my place a second time and I think I probably spent around £150 over the two years on my number! I wanted to do a long run and I wanted to be involved in the marathon, which is literally on my doorstep. But I didn’t want to run a marathon without having done a long run of more than 17 miles.

I felt slightly fraudulent as I stood in Preston Park before the race started. As the announcer said things about ‘all those long runs’, I shuffled about nervously (I hadn’t done them!). I’ve done 20-plus marathons, and turning up at a start line this untrained was a first (an average of 25 miles per week as opposed to 50), but I knew from the start that even though I could complete the marathon, I wasn’t going to, because my focus now is the Ironman, and because in some ways I felt I hadn’t earned the right. I wondered if it was a of a bit stupid idea … but as soon as we started running, I was happy I’d made the right decision to run.

I loved been part of the race. I did my marathon morning ritual having porridge, lots of water, and energy drinks, but I was a lot more relaxed knowing I was really just doing a long run and not racing. And because I knew I wasn’t completing today, I chose not to wear my club vest or tell too many people my plan. I enjoyed running along comfortably at sub 8 min mile pace (I’d never do this pace on my own) with lots of other runners to keep me company. I love marathons… and today being so close to my new home town felt really special. A brilliant touch was the row of vintage ford escorts, minis and mods on scooters cheering and hooting their horns as we headed up towards Ovingdean. I felt the race love…

The lack of marathon training started to show after mile 15 as the pace dropped off slightly. I did wonder if some of it was psychological as I’d told myself I might continue if I was comfortably running along at sub 8 at 18 miles. But in some ways I was glad that the pace dropped off, as it reminded me that there is a reason for doing mileage when I’m marathon training. If I could go and run a marathon well off no proper training, then I’d have to ask myself why I’d bothered all those other times. Around 16 miles my hip flexor tightened and the tiredness of yesterday’s bike ride may have kicked in. It was good to feel the discomfort as it reminded me that the more time and consistency I apply to IM training the better the experience will be!

I got to 18 miles, and thought, I’ll just go a little further and then find a good place to stop. A huge part of me wanted to just finish the race. I worked out that the pace was dropping off and would probably mean the last eight miles would average 8.30-8.45, which would add up to at least another 1 hour 10 and that would get me in (totally knackered) in around 3.40. I knew it wasn’t worth it, but I still had grabbed an energy gel.

Thanks Rachael

It was then I spotted Rachel From Girls Run The World. I’d cycled with Rachael yesterday and she was one of the few people I’d told about my plan to stop. I hesitated before going over, but then when I did, and I stopped, that was it – I knew I wasn’t starting again. Rachael got me back in rational mode and reminded me, (as I think I’d asked her to if I saw her) that ‘Today’s not your race… your race is the Ironman’ (wise words Rachel, and as you say, one mile at a time ;).

So… now I’m a bit weary after two long days of training, but, I’m also ready for another week of swimming, running and cycling to prepare for the Ironman in 25 weeks. And to all my club-mates and friends who did train for and complete the marathon – really well done!

 

 

 

 

Week 12 and 13 of 40: Bri Tri Camp & Cycling (& Happy Easter)

March 19th to March April 1st

A good week of training at Triathlon Camp… here’s a piece I wrote for The Bri Tri Club about our week away.

And a good week after it, too. My first 10-hour plus week for a long time and I hope I can stick at this.

As I indicated, training is easy when life doesn’t get in the way. Getting out of bed and running in my swimsuit and dry robe out the door and into the pool, then eating a big breakfast,  and on the days it wasn’t raining, following this with a bike ride, and then a run along the prom, if you fancied… It was fun and do-able – without work, family life, washing, cooking and the general day to day stuff we’re all engaged in.

Being in Mallorca got me back on the bike and in a group of cyclists. And on Saturday I  went out on the bike again – and I hated it. I hate cycling. It takes ages, I’m no good at it and I don’t get fitter by doing it.

Oh dear… maybe I should have thought about this before I entered and paid for an Ironman… But seriously that was a low-blood-sugar-level rant written yesterday when I felt exhausted after my 50-mile jaunt to Eastbourne and back again.

The truth is, I’m very pleased with the last two weeks of training. I’ve managed to keep to my personal baseline for running at 30 miles (it was 50 when I was marathon training). Under 30 miles and I really think I’m no longer a runner – and I know lots of people (most) disagree with me on that one. But having run 20+ marathons I know what works for me when it comes to running (miles) and what doesn’t (less miles). I’ve also done a long bike and a spin session and a swim. But for now I’m off to eat some Easter Eggs, so all that’s left for this update is to say a very Happy Easter – and for anyone who saw my facebook post today, April Fool’s!

 

 

 

 

Week 11 of 40: Swim Smooth Stroke Analysis and pre-camp training

Monday 12th March to Sunday 18th March

This week was a pre-training camp week, so not too much work before arriving on Sunday, when the bulk of my week’s training was carried out, with the week’s IM training tally being three runs, three bikes, and one swim, which included some fantastic Swim Smooth stroke analysis.

The week started with a ‘just do it’ nine-mile easy run after the weekend. I decided to run for an hour to an hour and a half and not look at my watch and thoroughly enjoyed it. On Tuesday I returned to an old favourite of 6 x 1K with a 60-secs instead of 90-secs recovery. I went as hard as I could which on current form was my current half marathon pace (4.40).

On Wednesday I settled for a 30-minute My Ride spin session. I missed the slot on Thursday morning for a run, then it was back to the club My Ride session on Friday AM, with a killer 3 x 3 minutes at 120% FTP.

An unexpected turn of events on Friday meant no sleep at all before travelling on Saturday, so I was pleased with Sunday’s four-hour block on Day one of the Got To Tri Camp.

Swim Smooth Video Analysis: Work on the Catch

We were videoed to see how we swam and coaches Graeme and Rachel gave us excellent and detailed feedback using Swim Smooth Stroke Analysis.  My weakness is  in the catch and therefore I need to train myself to ‘reach over the barrel’. I lack power due to not engaging the big muscles in my back (latissimus dorsi). Our coaches base their analysis on Swim Smooth Training. In 2016 I had my style analysed by Fiona Ford, a leading Swim Smooth Coach who analysed me as a  Kicktastic swimmer, with a stroke characterised ‘by a very dominant and propulsive leg kick’ but one that ‘lacks catch and feel for the water with their arm stroke. As kicking is a relatively inefficient method of propulsion, and uses very large muscle groups, this swimmer is often short of breath.’ At the time I was probably running more frequently and more miles. A year on and my upper body and position in the water has improved, as has my cadence and rhythm, but the kick is similar, if not as robust. This time the coaches classified me as Bambino where, ‘Co-ordination in the water is a key concern and learning to improve their rhythm, timing and catch will really aid this’.  As someone who swam competitively as a child (6am in the morning for three or more years)  and loves open water swimming I think there were some limitations in the description from Swim Smooth, however, having not trained for three months I can see how this label fits. The focus for me in the run up to Barcelona is, says coach Rachel, about improving the catch and feel for the water by sculling/doggy paddle and trying a slightly increased stroke rate.

Check out the video of me in action!

Week 10 of 40: Fitness tests in the pool and on the bike

Monday 5th March to Sunday 11th March

This week was low in volume but I was pleased to fit in some fitness tests on the bike and in the pool. I also decided that I may swap the marathon for a half marathon as I focus my energy on the six month countdown to Ironman.

I had given myself a pass on hard training this week, as after three half marathons in five or six weeks and the start of the triathlon season, just around the corner, I thought I deserved a bit of recovery. But the recovery was a bit more than planned due to another turn of events, called life.

On Wednesday on what was hers and my dad’s birthday (he died last January), my aunty in Ireland died.  Being Ireland, funeral arrangements were quickly organised and we flew out on Saturday morning and back Saturday night.

Fitness Tests

Earlier in the week I’d managed a couple of swims and three My Ride (spinning) sessions, including another unexpected FTP test (see last week’s post). This time I scored a little higher, 164 (it was 159 the week before), but I’m not sure it was totally correct as I didn’t hit stop after I’d finished in time to record the result accurately, so I’ve given myself a FTP  of 162 (or 2.89 watt/kg) and am using that for sessions going forward.

I also attempted a Critical Swim Speed (CSS) test for swimming, which includes a warm up, then 400M at pace, with five to 10 minutes of easy swimming/drills, followed by 200M at pace. The times are recorded and from this you can estimate your goal time for 1500M and race pace in general. It tells you what your lactate threshold is, and, just like in running and cycling, training at this threshold pace once a week, can help you get fitter – and faster. You can read more about CSS testing here. I completed it at a busy public pool in a session time popular with senior citizens, so there were a few stops and diagonal lengths and for a more accurate result I will do the test again!

Maintenance now. Hard core very soon!

I have to confess to some bailing out and procrastination this week. For example, opting for a cup of tea with Bri Tri Club mates on Friday instead of going straight out to run (saying that the spinning session had been tough!). I did have the tea break and chat justified as I’m not in the six months red training zone!  However, I think this is the last month I can get away with this. After Easter it’s six months to go, and then I have to get my head down and get training, consistently – and up the volume of training. And from Easter onwards I have to say no to tea breaks and yes to running off the bike.

I’ll have a half!

However, when it comes to running the Marathon, I think it’s looking less likely. I had decided last week I’d need to do four 20 mile long runs to get me in shape. I’m now a long run – and a whole week of running – down. I think even my planned ‘tempo’ marathon maybe counter-productive when it comes to the longer term goal of the Ironman. And I’ve done enough marathons to know what training I need to do to enjoy it and run it well – and that box has not been ticked. So I’m going to stick with the half marathon, and soon after the 2018 triathlon season will be in full-swing.

To keep base building and for my peace of mind, I’ll try to fit in three more long runs before tri season starts. I love long runs (here’s what I think about long runs). And I haven’t forgotten that this summer, I also need to fit in long bike rides.

 

 

 

 

Week nine of 40 (part two): My 3rd Half Marathon for 2018

The week started slowly with three days of no training. And finished with a four-day cram and my 3rd Half Marathon of 2018.

In my last post, which I wrote half way through week nine on Wednesday night, I talked about the lack of training, due to work and family and life. Writing it down helped get me motivated – and I’m accountable – so with just four days left I had a renewed sense of purpose on Thursday morning kicking off the week then with a treadmill run and finishing on Sunday with a half marathon.

Week 9: cram training

The Dreadmill

The crazy session was 17-miles on the treadmill. I’d been inspired by fellow Endurance Woman Wendy Oates, who had shared her 18 mile treadmill run with the Facebook Group. Energised, I realised there was really no excuse, and the Beast from the East wasn’t getting through the doors of Withdean Stadium gym. I’m not a treadmill fan. The longest I’ve run in the past is around 10 to 15 miles. But, I found the experience really useful at this stage in training. For one, as my meditation course was drawing to a close on Thursday night, it gave me an opportunity to consolidate what I’ve learnt, and to practise mindful running. I find my biggest issue on the treadmill is a wandering (bored) mind. I get obsessed with numbers, time drags and my RPE is much higher relative to running outside. But, once I started to run in the moment I realised I felt fine, it wasn’t difficult, the pace was right for a long run, and I’m only where my mind is whether I’m up on the Downs or staring at the gym car park and listening to Absolute Radio. I believe all of this is good training for an endurance athlete, so with accountability in mind, I commit to the following:

I will do a long treadmill run once a month in the run up to IM (that’s six more sessions from April).

There was snow stopping Wendy – and she inspired me!

FTP Test

Ignoring all sensible advice and what I know about training and performance, I decided to follow Thursday with a hard FTP /Ramp test on the bike with the Bri Tri Club on Friday morning at 645am. Ideally, any test of V02 Max (which essentially is what the test measures)  should be performed when an athlete is well-rested. But at the moment I think it doesn’t really matter. I wanted a rough idea, and I think the test was fairly accurate. The problem with doing back to back hard sessions isn’t so much the short-term, it’s the longer term impact on recovery. But in my mind the psychological damage of not doing what I  had planned would have been worse. As it goes as I’m a fairly average cyclist so the test didn’t go on for very long,  but I do have a benchmark from which I can measure my bike fitness – and an incentive to get on my bike. For anyone who’s an expert in FTP and Ramp tests (I know that there is a difference) and the sports scientists among you, I’m still learning about the variables, so don’t want to give any incorrect information. I did the Ramp Test on a My Ride bike at the gym, and from this I can train in colour zones/intensity relative to me: https://www.teamicg.com/is/bikes/ic7/wattrate. My score was 159 which if I divide by 55.5Kg (my weight) gives me this score, 2.86 which is my watts/kg.

Tri Training: Trying to fit it all in

I had hoped to fit in another bike session, but tiredness did kick in, so on Saturday I ran an easy five miles and swam 2.5K at a steady pace. Then on Sunday, on a mission to race myself fit I took on the Eastbourne Half Marathon, revisiting the town I left in August last year.

Eastbourne Half

The treadmill session, FTP test and the 2.5K swim did catch up with me. The half marathon was perfectly manageable, but there was nothing in me that would let me race. I crawled up the infamous hill (9.27)  and decided to try to get it back by picking up the pace to a nice 6.44 on the down. When I reached the seafront I decided to race and try to catch the women ahead, which I did… but not for long. In the past (or when I’m rested) I can inject some speed in a race and then go back to the pace the other runner was at and stay ahead, in this case 7.22 to overtake, and then back to just under 7.30. But it didn’t go to plan. Yes, I was quite happy at 7.22 for one mile, but rather than settle back to 7.30 for the rest of the race, I only managed one mile at 7.30.  Once I realised I was slowing down, I consciously decided to stop racing and just run the race at a tempo pace, which turned out to be an average of 7.54 for the remaining six miles and a race average of 7.47, which for where I’m at now was just fine. I followed the race with a 1K swim and sauna (surprisingly I had achy arms when swimming not legs) – and had a satisfying Sunday lunch and complete crash, rounding off another week’s training.

Week eight and half of nine of 40: Start, stop, snow, go…

Monday 19th February to Wednesday 28th February

Winter Triathlon Training

Week eight’s training was good. I had a busy work week with two London work days, but I was feeling enthusiastic to get going again after skiing. I went back to My Ride and the track at running club on Monday, I swam for the first time in 13 weeks on Tuesday, and I got back on the bike on the road (well the flat prom) for the first time since my accident in bitterly cold wind, but sunshine. Finally, after a busy few days in London including visiting the Tri Show in London I ran the Brighton Half Marathon on Sunday at the goal pace of sub 7.30 (on my Garmin). There are 168 hours in a week and I trained for six hours and 47 minutes and I felt satisfied with a good solid week of training and focus on my goals.

Thanks to Ant Bliss from sussexsportphotography.com for sharing this pic with me on Facebook.
A great race photographer and friend.

Snow Go

The first half of week nine however has not been so good. We’ve had the dreaded Beast From The East, the snow and the freezing cold. I don’t usually let weather stop me, and have always chosen to run in the snow, but this time I thought I’d be a bit more cautious, as I didn’t want to risk falling on black, or any other kind of ice. So I gave myself a day off on Monday. However, yesterday, Tuesday was one of those training days that just went wrong from the off, largely due to indecision and procrastination.

I put on my kit first thing intending on running outside, then I saw the snow and decided to do an interval session at the gym later in the day. Then I started work. I had to go to town in the afternoon and decided I’d run after that, but a variety of hold ups and becoming extremely cold (I’d gone out in my running gear and lightweight jacket) meant I simply ran out of time and motivation, and if I’m really honest I gave myself an excuse not to train.

False Start

This morning, I got up early to go to My Ride spin class at the gym, with a plan to follow this with a treadmill run. I arrived at 635am and could see that the gym was closed. A sign on the door said, it was opening at 8am.  As it turned out this was a blessing in disguise as when I got home I got a call from family about a close relative who’d been rushed to hospital, and all training and other plans were put on hold.

I know that running and training makes me feel good and not running and training makes me feel bad – and I also know that consistency is vital for success. I could have run when I got back from London this evening, but I chose not to. Family is more important than Strava logs and sometimes stopping, reflecting and resting is what’s needed.

If you can…Start again

If we’re lucky, every day is a chance to start again and presents us with a blank canvas. Every day my alarm call is Feeling Good  by Nina Simone,  ‘It’s a new dawnIt’s a new dayIt’s a new life. For me. And I’m feeling good.’  So, let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Last week:

 

This week so far:

Teach A Girl To Swim

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

Mum of three children (ages nine, 11, 13), Malini Mehra, 50 is determined to make 2018 a year that counts. She’s set herself a goal of swimming 500K, which includes swim training 10K per week (as well as running and cycling) and taking part in swim events in cities around the world (totalling 150K of racing). She’s also lined up a marathon, 100-mile bike ride and Ironman Barcelona. She’s combining her experience from a 30-year career in sustainable development, climate change and human rights with her love of a challenge to make life better for women and teach girls to swim.

‘Climate change is the major issue of our times and it’s devastatingly obvious that it’s here to stay. Its impacts are many and you only have to look at how floods are affecting us all globally – including here in the UK. However, our losses and suffering are nothing compared to what those in coastal areas of Bangladesh, Cambodia and other Asian regions experience.

‘Floods are the most common form of climate disaster and they’re becoming more frequent – with women and girls are most at risk. Women are twice as likely to die in a flood, and four times as likely as men to die in a disaster in the developing world. In addition to this, women are the last ones to respond to emergency warning when disaster strikes as they’re often taking care of young children or elderly relatives.

‘This is a very real gender disparity and explained by the different social roles and status of men and women in these societies. Females are more likely to die than males in floods, for the simple reason that women and girls are generally not taught to swim.

‘There are also important cultural reasons due to notions of modesty and the taboo of menstruation that prevent the same freedoms for girls as boys enjoy. It’s common to see boys jumping into the water and enjoying themselves, but not girls. This isn’t fair or right and needs to change. Everyone should be able to enjoy the wonder of water and swimming. And no-one should die because they haven’t been taught basic safety swimming.

Time to Take Action

‘In my day job I’m the chief executive of GLOBE International, the world’s leading cross-party network of parliamentarians committed to green issues. I could see that there are a number of small organisations doing what they can to help out, but they lacked the resources and political know-how to do more. I decided to use my position to try to make a difference. I’m a mother, a feminist, I’m passionate about action on climate change – and I can swim! So, I came up with Teach A Girl To Swim (TAGS) to raise awareness of the issue and connecting those working on climate change, gender equality and disaster risk reduction around the world.

‘The attention-grabbing part of the TAGs campaign are my 10k swims in different cities – Kolkata, Dhaka, Beijing, Manila, Tokyo etc – which bring media attention to the epidemic of drowning deaths around the world, climate change and its differential impact on women and girls. But the bulk of my work is about raising funds for local organisations doing work on drowning prevention, raising awareness and putting in place national policies and measures, – and money! – to ensure that swim safety (for girls and boys) is a basic part of the national curriculum and a fundamental part of a country’s response to climate change and disaster risk reduction.

‘So, that’s it in a nutshell. Some people think I’m a crackpot, but I hope this publicity will spark dialogue and drive action and make a difference.

Family life

‘In 2000, I founded an NGO working on corporate responsibility, sustainability and climate change in India and the UK. It meant a lot of travel for me back and forth. I’m Indian and my husband is British. It was especially tough when my kids were very young.  I was a militant breastfeeder, which meant I took the kids with me everywhere for the first year of their lives – all around the world, to my offices in India and international board meetings and conferences. My husband is in the same field and we had consecutive travel all the time, so someone was always at home with the kids. We had no nannies and it was exhausting. So, I’m really glad I don’t have to travel with them anymore!

‘Thankfully, we live in a very different world now to our mother and grandmothers. My grandmother had her first child at 13, my mum at 23 and me at 36. That’s a massive change and we have many more choices now. IT has also transformed the working world for women and given opportunities for many modern mums to work at home and grow the ‘kitchen table economy’. We don’t have to compromise family life in the same way as before. Parenting is very different now. I really like working from home and being a hands-on mum. So, now I’m working flexibly with a portfolio career and therefore able to structure my day so that I can prioritise family and also be committed to work and training. I’m lucky, I know this isn’t the case for everyone and the trade-off between family, work and training is very real.

Training

‘I train five days a week, which includes a three to five-mile run after the school drop off and one hour of swimming (2.5K) four days a week. I have focussed my training on swimming and do 10K per week in between four to four and half hours. I also train with Mark Kleanthous (@ironmatemark) for expert coaching. I’ve run more recently as I’m running a marathon on March 11th. I’ll be swimming throughout– it’s the bit of the Ironman that I’m least anxious about – and I’ll begin to focus more on getting cycle fit over the summer so I build my bike legs, and can get off the bike after 180k and still have the legs to run a marathon and have a good finish to Ironman Barcelona!

Teach A Girl To Swim: the Legacy

‘I’ve always loved swimming and as a child growing up in Delhi, I splashed around in pools before learning to swim at school in London when I was 8. I was lucky to learn in the UK when I did. This country is very unusual and our kids very lucky that the national curriculum includes basic swimming skills. This should be the case everywhere. I want this year’s commitment to my goals and challenges to be meaningful, not just a flash in the pan. I hope to raise awareness about teaching girls to swim, to raise money and in the longer term to create a foundation for TAGS, so that I can leave a positive and lasting legacy.

‘Inspiration for me has come from many sources. Back in 2009, I started working with a fabulous Indian ultra-runner, Dr Rajat Chauhan, who had started this amazing Himalayan ultra-run – on the highest peaks  in the world – called  La Ultra – the High. We worked together to use the run to promote awareness, in the run-up to the Copenhagen climate summit, of the impact of climate change on the Himalayas, where glaciers are receding rapidly. The High is an incredibly tough ultra trail race. You’ve got to contend with thin air, altitude sickness and crazy trucks flying past you like juggernauts. I’d love to do it one day though. Events like these are powerful catalysts for change. I’m also driven on to keep going by women like Diana Nyad, the unstoppable endurance swimmer, motivational speaker and author, who’s now almost 70 and an absolute force of nature.

‘And after this crazy year, I’ve got more planned – I love endurance sports and women do get better as they age! We can get better PBs as we age, while men flag and wilt.  So, that’s a real upside of aging – as long as one keeps one’s health. For next year, my son and I are planning to cycle the length of the UK – from Lands End to John O’Groats – when he’s 12, so we’ve got a lot of long training rides in store!

‘I hope 2018 is the start of something bigger and I can inspire people to make a real difference by engaging with and supporting the Teach A Girl to Swim campaign.’

More info

Support Malini: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/teach-a-girl-to-swim 

Check out Malini’s impressive professional profile: https://globalchallenges.org/en/about/ambassadors/malini-mehra

For great coaching advice: http://www.ironmate.co.uk

#endurancewomenstories #realwomen #justdoit #ordinarywomenextraordinary

 

Week six and seven of 40: End of five-week spin block and this week being ‘ski fit’

Monday 5th February to Sunday 18th February: Ski Fit

Week six started the day after my first half marathon for two years. The good news is that I felt no fatigue at all from the race, no aches, no tiredness. The week started with an early morning My Ride Spin session and I was pleased to complete another week of three sessions, bringing to close a consistent block of five weeks of three times a week spinning classes since the accident.  Running was made up of three runs, two long slow runs and one treadmill session with steady intervals.

 

Getting Ski Fit

On Saturday 10th February I travelled and on Sunday I went skiing. I wore my Garmin but didn’t really give an exact record of what I did as I was too cold to run it on when we started! I did however record 25 miles worth of skiing and found my heart rate averaged 81 and maxed at 116pm – so for me it seemed it’s not an aerobic activity. (It’s worth noting it was day one and I  was skiing cautiously because of my recent collar-bone break), However, exercising at altitude, being outside all day, working out in the cold leaves me feeling, well, knackered. And according to Harvard Medical School, a  person who weighs 155 pounds burns 223 calories in half an hour of downhill skiing.  And three days in I’m feeling ski fit! I’ve noticed  the burn in the quads after a long day, and the satisfying tiredness from being cold and active at altitude. I did wonder if five weeks of spinning had helped me ski better, but I’ve read that quads are not worked eccentrically on a bike, as they are when you ski.

Strength, balance, agility

However, from my experience over the last few says I feel my body being challenged to be strong, to be flexible and to balance and be agile. I’ve focused on using my core muscles and am aware as I twist and turn downhill I’m working my legs as if I were doing repetitive squats at the gym. And once again I’ve been reminded that I must stay flexible as I get older (I want to be able to get up when I fall on or off the ski slopes!).

I’ve also hit very, very cold points (including getting so cold today I was reduced to tears)  and I’ve had some serious shivering episodes. However, I’m reassured that my shivering means I can scoff more tonight. As Outside Magazine reports, ‘A 2010 review of studies on shivering, published in Frontiers in Bioscience, found that 75-to-80 percent of the calories consumed by shivering came from muscle glycogen stores. So if you find your teeth chattering, you’ll want to increase your carb load’.  And as I know from experience of preparing to swim in cold temperatures for the Ben Nevis Braveheart Triathlon, brown fat activation happens when you’re cold for an added calorie burn boost.

 

 

 

Bigging up the bag lady look

Week five of 40: My first half marathon for two years!

Monday 29th January to Sunday 4th Feburary

Back to racing is a joy – especially when there’s no pressure…

I’m so pleased that I’ve managed to get back out there and run a half marathon again. Last year was the first year in at least 10 that I hadn’t completed a half marathon. My dad died in January and when I lost him, I lost my running way, fracturing my ankle 45 seconds after the start of my only half marathon attempt at Paddock Wood.

Two years ago I was very disappointed to run 1.37 for the half marathon at Watford (I went on to run 1.35 at Worthing a few weeks later), but yesterday I felt delighted to finish the race in 1.39. Having no expectations and feeling totally relaxed helped. And with no pressure to run a time, I loved the experience: being on the start line; hearing the pounding feet as we headed off on the first fast mile (something I also noticed the first time I ran Watford, which was also my first half marathon ever, in February 2002) and enjoying the miles ticking by, the hills and the camaraderie of running.

It was a perfect running day, cold weather, but sun shining. As I ran along with the group I realised I’m lucky. I can run a  half marathon on a Sunday morning because I have the time, the resources, the fitness. I also noticed that being at the slightly slower end of my average half marathon time, there were more people around me.

I think, not thinking, is on my mind (I know the irony of that), as I’ve just completed my second meditation and mindfulness session and have started to fit in meditation. Running is the perfect partner to meditation and mindfulness what my friend Julia Chi Taylor calls Meditation on the Move.

Relaxed & Mindful Running

So as I raced a half marathon yesterday without focussing on numbers and a time, the experience felt more mindful. I did look at my watch to get a rough guide to where I was, but I wasn’t trying to stick to an end time. I  was guiding myself by what I felt in the here and now, not where I wanted to be at the end of the race. I left looking at the watch until I was three miles in as I knew that I’d kick off fast and would take a few miles to settle into a pace. So I played around with sub 7.30 as a guide, then as the hills arrived aimed not to go over 8. I didn’t go over 8 and I ran an average pace of 7.38.

I didn’t think about what overall time I was aiming for until around seven miles when the sub 1.40 pacer appeared, then I thought, okay, put your foot down, and don’t go over 1.40.

The Week’s Training

As for the week’s training. I once again managed to do three spin classes and ran more miles than I had for a several weeks, a total of 46.4. To get these miles ran, I had to fit in a 16 mile run on Wednesday. I looked back and discovered that it was my first long run in 11 weeks, but I ran at an easy 9.25 minute mile pace, and took myself off on a magical mystery tour, running up the hills to the Downs and back down again heading towards  the sea! The rest of the week’s running was easy apart from a treadmill session on Monday when I had a go at intervals because I can’t do anything else on a treadmill, managing 2 x 800 at 6.50 pace; 1 x 800 at 6.59; 1 x 1 Mile at 7.15 off 90 second recoveries.

Week four of 40: A week’s training in four days

Monday 22nd January to Sunday 28th

My training blog for last week is brief! The training was crammed into four days, from Tuesday to Friday, due to a busy work week and family commitments.  I ran  33 miles over three slow runs with the longest being 12.5 miles, and I did three My Ride Spin Classes.

I feel very mileage-depleted and am a little worried about the lack of long runs for my ‘tempo’ marathon. But I am pleased with what I managed to fit in this week, as commitments on the off days just got in the way of training. It’s all about adaptability.

Friday’s brick session was challenging, a tough My Ride, followed by 12.5 miles of running – but very satisfying.

I also saw my physio at Studio 57, who gave me some great exercises to do for the recovery of my broken collar-bone*. She also taped me up as I may give a race a go and I want to avoid too much vibration and irritation to my broken bone.

I’ve done a little video of my exercises which I will share if the guys at Studio 57 are happy for me to so. You can see the ‘still’. And also how I was wrapped up should I choose to race.

*Note I am a little ahead and this might not be right for everyone at this stage.