Sunday, 22 April 2018

Every session counts

With 75 days to go, every session counts.  It means that when I'm on holiday, I'll have to be training as I can't afford to miss any more sessions.  I'm now running over 60 km a week with the long runs at the weekend.  Running on tired legs is a well tried and tested method and after yesterdays 27km run I had to follow that with a 18.5Km today.  But we'd friends visiting last night and I served them the "full Scottish" before sending them on their way.  That resulted in a later than normal start and I really wasn't feeling like venturing out on my own.
I watched the leaders come home in the marathon for some inspiration and then the rain started and the wind picked up - I really didn't want to go out, but I really didn't have a choice.  I changed into my running tights as it was cold, not like the blue skies in London, and headed out.
My legs were telling me they were tired but that's the point.  It's impossible to replicate what it will feel like running/walking a 22 hour race so running on tired legs is as close as it gets.
It's sessions like this that really count because they are as much to do with your mental state as they are your physical state.  Once the run was finished I hydrated, showered, ate and am now resting with my feet raised watching the footie.  Rest is a critical part of training and at some stage I'll have a "cat nap" and wake up feeling refreshed ready to go again.
During the week I was live on BBC Radio Scotland talking about Callum Hawkins who was leading the Commonwealth Games Marathon and collapsed just over a mile from the line.  Based on the interviewers questions and also what the doctor was saying, people don't seem to understand the limits you can push yourself to and the reasons why we do it.  As I've always said, you need a WHY which keeps you going when it gets tough.
As those that have completed the London  Marathon today will know, the event is the icing on the cake.  The hard work is done every day, or for me 6 days a week, and it's only by delivering the results on these sessions that you are able to attain your goals.  Congratulations to all those that have attained their goal this week.  The question is, what's next!

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Just has to be done

Another week goes by and it's been mixed.  On Monday my shoulder was too sore to swim.  On Tuesday I ate a "dodgy burger" at Stansted Airport and that wiped me out for 24 hours.  On Friday, I swam as my shoulder was fine but I was at the physio and she sorted a muscle/fascia on a rib in my back - felt like I went through 12 rounds with Mike Tyson but the treatment has worked.
On Friday night I caught up with one of my pals, Bart, from G2G who had a heroic race finishing with a badly poisoned leg and ending up in A&E in Vegas when the shooting occurred - not something he'll forget.  But it was great to share our stories of living under canvas in the Grand Canyon and the amazing people we met - a really family feel to the event.  These are the moments we all train for.  At the same time, as we were drinking beer and eating good food, my pal Bobby Wotherspoon was finishing the Marathon Des Sables having had an amazing race - can't wait to hear his stories of the sand storms and the mental challenges he will have faced.
On Saturday I was due to run 22km which would be my longest run this year.  I picked a route but got the distance wrong - it ended up being 28km.  I felt good and dialled in the target pace and finished strong, but I new I'd worked hard.
This morning was a 1.5 hour run and the question was going to be, how tired was I from yesterdays extra effort?  Having run on tarmac yesterday I decided to run at Chatelherault knowing it was going to be tough but easier underfoot.  Right from the start I could feel my legs were tired but I tried to ignore that.  I struggled in the 1st lap and was wondering if I'd manage the 2nd lap - mind games.  If I binned the 2nd lap then it would have taken the shine off the run yesterday.  In addition training with tired legs is important, but I felt grim.  Then I thought of writing my blog and having to say I'd binned a run when really this shouldn't be a problem - I'll feel a lot worse when running the Great Glen in 12 weeks time so I need to practise feeling crap!
It just had to be done - rule 5 (MTFU).  My pace dropped off but I kept going.  It's sessions like this that make the difference when preparing for a tough race.  I've a day off training tomorrow and aim to take full advantage.  I've come home, got cleaned up, fed and am now resting - a very important part of training.  I'll probably have a "cat nap" this afternoon before the footie!  You don't get to the start line of a 71 mile race without having pushed yourself at times when you felt like stopping - it just has to be done.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Blistering pace

If you've been following my journey you may remember that until 2 months ago my training wasn't structured.  I was ticking over going out for the odd run with no real science behind it.  You'll also know I don't do science or anything technical for that matter.  But I know someone who does!
I'm sure many will be able to relate to how I felt before starting a structured training plan with my coach, Genevieve Freeman.  I wasn't committed, despite having an event to aim for, I didn't feel fit with my heart rate all over the place and was carrying a few pounds too many.  When I saw my first few weeks training it brought back memories from other events Genevieve had trained me for namely  Ironman Lanzarote and Grand 2 Grand.  I knew she'd build up the training making sure it took account of any injuries or my work schedule and the stress that can come with it.  But I also knew it would be hard work but if I stuck with the plan I'd start to see the results after 2 months.
It's not been easy and there is many a day where I have thought I'd rather have a long lie or go out for dinner, but I've stuck with it.  And after 2 months I'm feeling great.  My heart rate is under control and heading south.  I feel my core is stronger and my pace is picking up and I'm able to finish strong.  Yesterday I ran a hilly route for an hour at my fastest pace in almost two years.  However I mustn't get carried away, I've a 71 mile ultra to complete in 89 days and my longest run so far is 13 miles!  But I just wanted to "celebrate" the two month point of structured training to recognise the benefits I am enjoying having stayed the course.  If you are struggling with your training this might make you feel better knowing if you keep going the results will come through.
I also solved a shoe problem this week.  My road shoes had been discontinued and I bought a pair online that I thought were similar - rookie error!  I kept getting blisters on 2 toes on the same foot.  Within minutes of showing the assistant in Run 4 It in Glasgow he explained the issue and showed me the evidence through the wear and tear.  It turns out the new shoes that were causing the blistering had a different type of tongue which caused my big toe to overlap.   He then fitted me with the right shoes and the difference was noticeable immediately.  Worth paying the extra money for that advice - I even renewed my trail shoes which we past their best following huge mileage in the last year so they owed me nothing.
There is still a "mountain to climb" over the next 2 months and I know the mileage is going to build up but I don't know what I'd do without goals.  When I was a kid kicking a ball up and down a field I found it boring, but as soon as we put down a couple of jumpers (as goal posts) then I had something to aim for and knew when I'd achieved it.  I hope you are working towards your goals and enjoying the journey.  It isn't always smooth but the good times sure make up for the bad times.  Go smash it!

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Life's adventures

Happy Easter, whatever that may mean to you.  For me it's some family time, an overdose of chocolate and a long weekend.  It's been good to have the boys back and my daughter will be here tomorrow.  It will have been at least 5 months since the family have been together and I'm looking forward to the "banter" round the dinner table.  They grow up so quickly but it's great to see them make their way in life, an adventure in a way!
We're now into April and race season is about to begin.  The hard training during the winter is about to pay off and my pals have entered many different events.  One of then leaves for The Marathon des Sables in the Sahara desert on Thursday and I'll be tracking his progress on a daily basis.  It's such a special race and one that strips you of all creature comforts - a real mental challenge.  There are others that are making their final preparation for the Highland Fling, The Manchester Marathon and The London Marathon so April will be an exciting month.  Every participant standing at the startline has their own story, there own reason for being there and they have already achieved a lot - now for the icing on the cake that they've been dreaming about and worked so hard for.
This week has been a break through for me.  For the first time in 3-4 weeks I feel that my heart rate is under control.  In addition it's heading south which indicates my fitness is improving.  My shoulder held up in the pool and my foot didn't misbehave which is a real result as I've run 61km in the last week.
There are many kms to be covered before my 71 mile ultra in 96 days and it's difficult to imagine being fit and strong enough for that distance, but I will be.  It's another adventure that I am looking forward to.  The training adventure while watching all the stats to see the continual improvement and the the adventure when I step across the startline.
We all know the end of this "movie" so make sure you enjoy the adventures in your life and if you don't have anything to look forward to on the horizon, then now is the time to get it in your diary!  Life is one big adventure.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

6 in a row!

After a tiring weekend of running last week I was shattered.  But had a run on Monday that left me completely knackered for my fitness test on Tuesday.  Before I went off to sleep I wasn't sure I'd be able to run on Tuesday never mind push the pace for 20 minutes - I smashed it and the results were encouraging.  Then off to the pool for a workout - good double session which made my swim on Friday the best yet.  The chiropractor diagnosed my shoulder problem and gave me some exercises to stablise it so here's hoping.
On Saturday a couple of laps of Chatelherault set me up for my first Munro of 2018 - Ben Lomond.  You may remember that last year I climbed Ben Lomond five time and never once saw a clear summit.  Today the forecast was good so when I picked up my pals we were all looking forward to a good day.  This was Staurt's first Munro but Graham is an experienced mountaineer and it's just as well.  The blue skies clouded over and the summit was above the snow line.  At one stage we had to reverse back along a narrowing ridge as without crampons or ice axes, we couldn't continue in that direction.  Graham's kept us safe but at one stage near the summit we got close to a shear drop which could easily have been missed.
At the top we were met with snow and hail and the temperature had plummeted with the visibility was getting worse.  That's 6 in a row!  We wasted no time and ran down the mountain.  Difficult conditions but Stuart flew down the hill - it was a joy to see the smile on his face and he'll definitely be doing more of this training as he prepares for his 1st ultra.
Today was a good lesson on how quickly conditions can change and fortunately we were carrying the right gear with us.  However, having an experienced climber with us meant the risk was reduced.  It he hadn't have been there we'd have turned back at the snow line.  By the time we got to the bottom and found a coffee stop, people we having coffee outside and the sun was shining!  There's going to be a lot more of this type of training in the coming months.  I just hope o have a view from the summits!

Sunday, 18 March 2018


The weather continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing anyone training out doors with high winds, extremely low temperatures and snow flurries.  Apparently today is the last Sunday in winter and I bloody hope so.  My cold is almost away, still a few lingering signs but this morning a sore throat started and I'm hoping that won't develop into anything - I can't afford any more time off as I try and build the miles.
My coach has rejigged my schedule cutting back the miles that were scheduled but trying to build them back up in a way my body can cope with.  We've worked on heart rate this week but it's still not behaving which makes me thing the cold hasn't disappeared yet.
My swim went well and I actually enjoyed it.  My shoulder was a wee bit uncomfortable afterwards but I'm getting an MOT from my chiropractor on Tuesday to make sure my alignment is correct before I start putting the heavy mileage in.
This week I got a flat tyre (in my car!) which knocked out my schedule for that day, but I still managed my run.  Thanks to Audi Assist I was back on the road but unfortunately £460 lighter for 2 tyres.  Then my daughter was home from University and I noticed some damage to her tyre.  This dictated where I ran this morning and I lost some more pounds - £150 to be precise.
So it's been an expensive week while I try and get my runs in and stick to the schedule.  I could have binned both of them due to the tyre problems but had to rearrange my runs to make sure they happened.  The good news is I dropped 3 pounds in weight which shows the benefits of regular running.
For my last two runs I've had company which helped.  Yesterday I ran with my nephew who is new to running but an absolute natural.  He'll be kicking my ass in due course.  We kept a sensible pace and the time passed easily.  Today I was out in the howling wind with my running pal Stuart who made sure I finished the run.  My heart rate was through the roof as I had a pace target to reach and I had to walk at a number of points.  Not a good run but an important one and it was good to have someone encouraging me to finish it.  The running is building which is needed so hopefully I'll stay healthy and injury free.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Listen to your garmin

Man down.  I've managed to avoid the cold that's been doing the rounds all winter but it eventually caught up with me.  The signs started on Saturday a week ago when I found it difficult to settle my heart rate on a run.  The same on the Sunday and on Monday when I attempted a slower run, my heart rate was way too high.  The garmin doesn't lie and it was telling me I was coming down with something - a cold.  We've all been through it and I tried the well tested remedies, even spent £22 on Manuka honey!  But after a few days of that, lemon and ginger I switched to red wine!  Felt better but it didn't cure the cold.
It's been a very frustrating week, doing nothing except coughing but today, a week after my last exercise I went on the scales and got a fright - 2.5 pounds heavier!  I went out for a 6 km run and did it on feel.  I ignored my garmin but recorded what was going on.  No surprise I was slower than normal but towards the end I was really suffering and my form went out the window,  just as my coach's husband cycled past so I got a critique sent to me.  Turns out I had run too fast for my first time back in a week but I'm going to take a few more days to start to feel normal.
It's a set back as I've only 116 days before I'm running 71 miles in under 22 hours.  Losing a weeks training and starting back on shorter runs is difficult but my coach has restructured the training to take account of my health and the impact on my immediate fitness.  Hopefully by taking the rest I'll come back quicker than if I'd tried to train through the illness.  Tomorrow I have an early morning swim session so fingers crossed my shoulder copes with it.  Again I'll be wearing my garmin and there's no hiding from the data it will be sending back for my coach to analyse!  I'll be listening to it that's for sure.