Sunday, 27 December 2015

2016 Race Calendar

With 2015 shortly coming to an end (where has this year gone!?) and Christmas out of the way, I have been busy accessing my goals and lining up races for 2016. I must admit, I have been a rather chaotic decision maker which has caused me to self evaluate realistically what I want to do. 

My problem is that I get over excited too quickly and take action upon things I haven't really, really thought through. For example, back in April, I decided I was going to bite the bullet and do a marathon. After spending another year watching London Marathon take place, I got that urge to give the distance a go (as I do every year) and decided to enter Brighton Marathon 2016. At the time I was so excited that I was finally going to be doing a marathon. I had succumbed to taking on the challenge. Yet by June, after completing my first triathlon, my train of thought was starting to take a different direction.

I had done better than I thought in the tri and never have I enjoyed a sport so much! The thought of switching back to a sole running focussed challenge didn't seem so exciting now. Instead, I wanted to do more tri's. By this point, I also didn't like the sound of doing 20 mile training runs in the cold winter months of February. However, I hadn't yet made a decision to proceed or not. Instead, I put it down to being on a post tri high and decided to sit it out and wait for the marathon urge to return. 

It is now late December and the urge has not returned - it has barely made a slight noise. What's worse, is that I have entered two more triathlon events, plus a potential duathlon in 2016. I haven't even thought about how I am going to fit all these around a marathon but in all honestly, I'm not sure I even want the worry of trying to make it all work. Truth is - deep down I have already resided to the fact that I don't want to do a marathon next year and I have been feeling really guilty about it. Goodness knows why I feel guilt as it doesn't effect anyone but me. I guess what I am feeling is slightly ashamed at my over eagerness to enter one. A very valuable lesson has been learnt here and one that comes to all of us at several points in our lives - think before acting

Despite this glitch in my event calendar, I feel I have planned a relatively busy and challenging race calendar for 2016. It involves a mixture of events to give all areas of my training a good workout in the bid to help improve my running, cycling, swimming and core fitness. 

First up, are two 10Ks in January and February to whip my body back into shape post Christmas and New Year. These are also vital elements of my training for Wokingham Half Marathon in February. I am really looking forward to this as I am desperate for a PB in this distance. I also see this as good base training as I start to increase my distances in triathlon. 

Following the HM, I am planning on entering a duathlon in April and currently have my eye on Newbury Duathlon again as it's such a wonderful, intimate event (you can read my review here). This will be a great exercise to practise transitions and will also offer me a solid brick training session. Plus, the views make for a lovely bike ride. 

By May, I will be in full swing with triathlon training, yet have decided to squeeze in a Tough Mudder, which I recently posted about here. This event is to offer me a fun, team building day but also offer something different to break up my pattern of training. I think (hope) it will also really help me to 'buff up' my core strength - an area that is currently rather weak. 

Come Summer, I will be in full triathlon mode, starting the season off with the Cotswold's Women Only Triathlon in June. I have opted for the Sprint distance here and hoping to improve on my time from Blenheim in 2015. This event will also be a part of my training plan for my last and probably most important event of the year - Hever Castle Triathlon. Here I will be racing in the Olympic distance and it will be my biggest challenge to date. With the big day coming in September, I am hoping all my previous events will put me in excellent shape to complete this distance confidently.  

So in all, a busy 2016 so far! Let's just hope I get through it all injury free and with a big smile on my face :).


Lipstick Runner. 

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

TRAINING UPDATE: Week 2 of Half Marathon Training

I am successfully two complete weeks in to my revised Hal Higdon intermediate half marathon plan. I say revised as I have made slight modifications to his calendar to incorporate swim training too. So far, all is good and I have enjoyed following a detailed plan once again. With each session, I have followed the criteria Hal lists on his website on how they need to be executed. This has allowed me to get a good balance of pace work, strengthening exercises and distance training.

The last two Tuesdays I have headed out in the evenings to do three miles of paced running. This is where I need to train my body to run at my target half marathon pace, which for me is 7.55 per mile. If I stick to this, I am in the safe zone to secure a sub 1.45. The first Tuesday, all started well with my first mile being 7.55 but after that followed a slightly faster pace and I finished the whole run with an average pace of 7.41. For three miles, this pace was totally fine for me but I needed to slow it down a tad so my body will start to develop recognition for a 7.55 pace. By combining these paced runs with my long distance training and tempo work, it should all pull together to allow me to maintain 7.55 pace come race day. The next Tuesday that followed was definitely better paced. I managed 7.55 for the first two miles but the last one was still a bit too fast. I finished with an average pace of 7.50.
In week 1, I had to work my training around having a friend from overseas to stay for a long weekend. As many runners may know, it is hard to squeeze in sessions around, well, just life in general but I tried my best to get my training in without it interfering with time spent with my friend. Luckily, she is a keen runner and along with another training buddy, she joined us for a long run at the weekend. There was no focus on pace for this one - instead we have a nice natter and catch up whilst running around London visiting all the famous landmarks. We had a great time, except I did have a trip halfway and ended up rolling my ankle which was agonising. It swelled up slightly with bruising so I spent the following day resting and icing it.
Alongside my runs, I have also been keeping up my swimming. In the first week, I planned a technique focussed session where I swam drills of pullies (float held between the knees and the arms doing all the work), sharkies (swimming with arms coming up super close to the body), leg kicks (float out front at arms reach and the legs doing all the work). Below is the session in more detail:

250m front crawl
250m pullies
250m front crawl
250m sharkies
250m front crawl
250m pullies
250m leg kicks

The following week, I flipped over to distance training and this is where I swim front crawl until I reach a certain distance. I chose to fit this swim in at 6am before work. I have done this a few times now and I'm surprisingly growing fond of starting the day this way. The walk to the pool in the pitch black and freezing cold isn't too great though...
I normally complete 1250m in these sessions but I decided to increase the distance slightly and went up to 1375m (so basically an extra five laps of a 25ml pool). Over time, I will gradually step up the number of lengths until I am at 1500m distance training - the same as the swim in an Olympic triathlon.

My only downfall in this first two weeks was missing my first ever tempo session. For this, I must honestly hang my head in shame. The after effects of my work Christmas party left me a little worse for wear (I blame a concoction of tequila and martini's) and I mean in a bad way. In fact, I have contemplated giving up alcohol - or at least cutting back. In the two days that followed this hangover, I had awful nights' sleep, craved carbs and sugars and just felt absolutely shattered. Were the endless flow of drinks worth it looking back? Erm, no.

Despite this slight hiccup, I have been pretty good and even started week three how I have planned with another paced run - this time near my family home on the trails which was a nice change. I am now up to 3.5 miles for these sessions and again, it was a tad too speedy (average pace was 7.45 again). Being amongst the woodland and breathing in fresh, country air did the body good though.
Next week I head home for Christmas and for me this will be the biggest challenge. The temptation to sit eating a tin of Quality Street in front of The Grinch will be huge, however, I will try my hardest to stick to my plan and carry out each session planned. I have made Christmas Day and Boxing Day my rest days so I can indulge then :).


Lipstick Runner.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

My favourite speed sessions

The best part of running is seeing improvements every time you run. However, this comes with a balance of endurance, hill and HIIT training. The latter is personally a favourite of mine. As a speed driven, middle distance runner, I thrive off sessions that involve short, fast reps. 

For many, these sorts of workouts cause dread and worry - fear that they make them too tired for their long run at the weekend, or that lots of fast reps could cause injuries and niggles. In all honestly, there is nothing except benefits from high intensity sessions. As well as making you a faster runner, speed work also contributes to your overall fitness. It improves your core strength, running momentum and the ability to endure hardcore running. What's not to love!?

Here are a few of my faves that are great to do alone or with a group of fellow runners. I highly recommend trying to squeeze in a speed session once a week, or if not, alternate it every week with a hills session. 

MAKE SURE YOU WARM UP BEFORE ANY SESSION!

All of my speed sessions start with a warm up jog (or if I am heading to the track to train with club members, I will cycle there to get the heart rate up). I find this really important as it just gets the body prepped for what's to come. It doesn't have to be fast - just your steady, plateau place. Next, I will do some drills to get my muscles and joints warmed up. I always aim to do:

3x 10 seconds of heel flicks
3x 10 seconds of high knees
3x 10 seconds of high skips
3x 50m of strides

Once all this is done, you are good to go!

1. Short and sweet sprints.
This session is all about very short, very fast reps. I aim to run these 400ms at my 3K pace. If you are new to speed sessions, I would begin doing this session a couple of times at 5K pace and overtime as your stamina builds up, you will slowly see your speed increase. Saviour those rest periods too! This session does leave you huffing and puffing at the end but you will feel like you have worked your socks off!

2. Pyramids

This one is tough but a goodie. Sometimes I do this session by distance or by time (e.g. 4mins, 3mins, 2mins, 1min) so it's a choice of whatever you prefer. As the distances get shorter, your speed increases. When you come to the halfway point, the hard part is working your way back up to 1200m where your speed decreases as the sets get longer. I run the longest distance at 10K pace and then the shortest at 3K pace. 

3. The 5 5's
This looks simple but I find these session one of the toughest. I am one of those that dreads fartlek work. I cherish my beloved rest periods and thoroughly miss them when it comes to this workout, That said though, this session really does improve your endurance and it helps me to manage different level of paces for certain distances. By the time you have completed the 10K pace set, you will be so relieved to drop the speed for the last two sets. Warning - legs will feel tired at the end of this so make sure you make time to stretch properly at the end. 


What are your favourite speed sessions? I am always on the hunt for newbies! :)


Lipstick Runner.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Tough Mudder Take TWO!

That's right, after saying I wouldn't attempt it again, I am taking part in Tough Mudder for the second time.

I said I wouldn't return (you can read about my first experience here) yet, for some reason, a couple of weeks back I got the urge to give it another bash. I was at a wedding reception and was discussing with one of the groomsmen about all the crazy obstacle races out there nowadays and how much fun they are. I was speaking about my Tough Mudder experience and whilst relaying it all, I felt a pang of curiosity within me to do it all again.

Looking at next year, I have started to reassess all that I want to achieve fitness wise. A few months back, I was beyond keen to do a marathon and avidly entered myself into one for April 2016. Rooky call as shortly afterwards, I started to have doubts about whether this was actually something I wanted to do. Deep down, yes I do want to do one but realistically, not right now. What I want to do now is make the most of my time to train for triathlon more and next year plan to take part in an Olympic distance. Aside from endurance sports, I also want to try and build my strength. Pull ups, push ups, weight lifting, stomach crunches are all things I don't currently do enough of and I have realised that this sort of exercise is super valuable for any runner/triathlete in training.

Not only do I want to focus and train hard, but I also want to have fun with it all. With all these thoughts and ideas in my head, I saw Tough Mudder as a way to secure a sense of achievement for my overall strength but will also be a time to have fun. I can't deny that the first time was hilarious. Despite all the pain, I was grinning the whole way round. So when it came down to revisitng my experiences at this wedding a couple of weeks back, when I was asked 'would you do it again?' my answer was actually 'you know what, yes!'.

So on Saturday 21st May 2016, I will be taking part in The Midlands event! Here I will face 20 obstacles over 12 miles of muddy terrain. Really hoping that the King of the Swingers will be making a return as this looks super fun. Also keen to tackle Greased Lightening and Funky Monkey. At this time though, the choice of course for 2016 has not been unveiled but I have every faith that it will be as action packed as the last.
So all that is needed is for me to get in Tough Mudder tip top shape! Looks like I will be digging out those dumb bells alongside my half marathon and triathlon plans!

If you are interesting in learning more about Tough Mudder, or better yet, keen to enter, visit the website here.


Lipstick Runner.

*photos courtesy of the official Tough Mudder team

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Wokingham Half Marathon 2016 - training starts NOW!

(recent picture taken at Fixture 2 of Middlesex Cross Country League)

I have been a bit of a running geek this week and built a 12 week plan for my upcoming half marathon in February 2016. 

My choice of race is Wokingham Half Marathon and whilst this will be 4th, it will have been two years since I raced this distance and I am feeling a little out of my comfort zone. Having spent a lot of time focussing on shorter distances, I will find it tough training to achieve 13.1 miles and a shiny new PB. With a current time of 1.45.30 (Reading Half Marathon 2014) I am desperate for a sub 1.45 but currently lacking confidence to achieve this. This is just under 8 minute mile pace, which for me over this distance is rather quick!

I decided yesterday to research half marathon training plans and as next week conveniently marks 12 weeks until race day, I opted for a longer plan to allow me to steadily rebuild my speed and distance. I was browsing Hal Higdon's website (American Runners' World contributor and all round running expert) and came across his intermediate level half marathon plan (which you can see here).

This plan is for those who want to improve on previous times and experiences but still offers a schedule that is easily manageable. Over the 12 weeks, he combines a mixture of easy runs, with speedwork, tempo sessions and strength building. The latter two I rarely do so I am excited to follow a plan where these are essential. 

Of course, I'm sure I am not the only one that follows training plans down to every, exact detail (please tell me I am not!?). Looking at this plan, I did see a lot of running (in my opinion a little too much for a half marathon) and I knew that I wouldn't be able to commit to six days a weeks. I don't particularly want to either. I also want to be able to continue with my swimming so I'm maintaining upkeep of my triathlon training in the background. With this in mind, I have devised my own personalised training plan that takes 75% of Hal's version but mixes in swimming and maybe an extra rest day (sorry Hal). 

My aim is to train on average 4/5 times a week. Every week consists of a steady short run and then a long paced run at the weekend but I will be alternating each week between speed sessions and tempo runs. For these tempo runs, the aim is to build up my pace so I am carrying out a run where I test different speeds over certain time periods (e.g. a 30 minute tempo run will consist of 0-10 mins threshold pace, 10-20 mins at 10K pace and then 20-30 mins easy running). In the past, I have tried these sessions a couple of times and found them really hard so I know they will be a big challenge in my training.

For those like me who have a winter half marathon in the diary, now is the time to start planning! Never have I felt so organised for a race. With my plans stuck proudly on my fridge, all that I need is the enthusiasm, determination and strength to follow every day to achieve (hopefully) that much desired sub 1.45.


Lipstick Runner.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

A time to reflect...

Heartfelt, personal posts aren't something I normally write but I have reached a point where I strongly feel the desire to put my feelings into writing.

You will have seen my time on this blog has been, well, rather limited. Up until 4/5 months ago, I dedicated a lot of my time to building it -  it was a hobby of mine but has become one I have failed to upkeep. I have been feeling guilty for this the last couple of months in particular but in the space of a few weeks, I have assessed and evaluated my life in greater detail and have come to the resolution that I, in fact, should not feel bad for this.

We all face times in our life where we feel unsure. This could result in lack of satisfaction, confusion and even unhappiness over certain areas of your life. For me, all three of these emotions combine how I have been feeling about the professional side to my life and over time, I have found my stresses and dismay has subconsciously leaked into the personal side too.

I won't go into details about my profession, job or career ambitions as this is not what this post (or blog) is for. What I will go into detail about is how easily demotivation in one area of your life can quickly cloud over other parts. 

Sport is my passion and I live and breathe it outside working hours. Feeling fit and looking healthy is an absolute importance to me. Yet, I have found my interest in this has deceased the last month or so. Instead of looking forward to a swim, or a run, I have struggled to find the motivation to go out and do it. I still have gone but not really ever fulfilled each training session. I've stopped all forms of speed and strength building and seeked solace is 'casual exercise'. I run at a pace that feels comfortable at the time, I head to the pool and just swim 1200m and then get out. My cycling is practically non existent, including using my bike for my commute and I barely find the motivation to do any core workouts at home. What has also baffled me is how achey and tired I feel from any form of exercise I carry out. Six months ago, I trained hard five times a week. Now I scrape three times at a much lower effort and feel 10 times worse!

This is totally abnormal for me and I have felt rather worried about my general interest and energy towards exercise. My training plans are smothered in red crosses when I have just come home from work and thought 'I can't be arsed' and just skipped the session. Instead, I have headed for the booze shelf, poured a large G&T and slobbed on the sofa in my PJs. Attractive huh?

It wasn't until about a month ago when I realised my unhappiness stemmed from my work. It was this part of my life I really struggled with and felt completely exhausted from. My mind was fried and it was sending signals to my body to feel the same. Whilst I have gained success and promotion through my current role which I am incredibly proud of, I was also incredibly tired and overwhelmed from it and it was taking over my life outside of working hours too. I blame no one for this, sometimes this is just the way work can be, however it is only down to me to make the decision to continue with the struggle, or find something more suited to my current position. 

I came to the decision that this will not be the way to lead my life. Whilst I am ambitious in my career, I also greatly aspire to a healthy and happy life outside of work. I have finally learnt the importance of a balanced lifestyle. Working success and money, for me, will not be the pinnacle of my happiness. I have many friends who earn a lot more than me and are unbelievable hard working for it. I greatly admire their determination. Yet on the flipside, I also have friends who earn less than me and are also very happy and content with their lives too. Truth is - as long as you have a secure job that you love and a healthy income to lead a happy life, you are a winner. 

So with this realisation in mind, I decided to take on a new adventure in my career and was very fortunate to land a very exciting new job. Again, I won't go into details but it is a role I am very excited to start. I am also confident that it will allow me to believe in myself again in and outside of work which is what I greatly desire right now. 

I guess what I am trying to say with this post is that sometimes life doesn't go the way it should go. You try to control everything, take on too much and sometimes you can't govern what will happen.  We are only human after all. 

Despite not knowing where life will take you, there are things that you can change for yourself, but it is important to not dwell on the past. So what if I have lost my running mojo. So what that I have gained weight and so what that I have felt so low. Now is the time for me to hold my head high and make amends myself. My new profession will only be the start of this and I will make it my mission to reignite my fitness and love for sport again, not to mention dedicating time to bring it to life on this blog. :) 


Lipstick Runner. 

Saturday, 17 October 2015

TRAINING UPDATE: Extreme exhaustion yet running improvements!

(source: Quickmeme)
The last couple of weeks can only be described as exhausting. There has been a sudden drop in temperature, daylight hours have decreased and the sudden need for piping hot soup and Horlicks has returned.

I like to follow a pattern - its merely organisation. When it becomes challenging to follow that pattern, it does slightly irritate me. You will have seen that I love a good training plan (read here) and when it becomes hard to follow this regime, I automatically panic that I will lose everything I have trained for. I always wonder if this is a common concern for runners, or whether it's just me being paranoid..?

It has been mostly weekday training that has been hard to squeeze in. Due to a manic work schedule currently, finding the time (and energy) to squeeze in a run at the end of the day has been tough. Come 8pm, when I am ready to head out, my mind and body lacks the boost to go pound the streets. The pitch black outdoors is also incredibly uninviting. In my mind, I know as soon as I am out running, endorphins will kick in and I will find my running mojo but it is initially getting the foot out of the front door that I am finding hard to do.

So whilst weekday training has been in dribs and drabs, I have made sure I make the most of my weekends to work towards increasing my mileage and I am pleased to say that my goal to reach 13 miles by Christmas is looking very achievable.

I first started to see progress when I ran to Tower Bridge (read about this here) and reached eight miles. I found it tough but stuck to a controlled, steady pace of 8.27 per mile. I was happy with this but wanted to increase my threshold pace. So I followed this with a couple of fartlek sessions and hill runs in a bid to improve strength and speed.

Next up a couple of weeks later was The Mornington Chasers Regents Park 10K. Sticking to my plan to complete two 10Ks by the end of the year, this was the first. I decided to pick this race as it is my clubs own and it offers a slightly challenging, undulating course. I have done this race many times (my PB is 45.45) but my aim for this fixture was to get a sub 50. This event was to test exactly where my race pace was at.

Turns out, my race pace is faster than expected! Seems those speed sessions paid off. At times during the race, I did wonder if I was holding back. I am well aware of how easy it is to overdo it on a 10K. I wanted to remain strong with even splits and that is exactly what I achieved, plus a finish of 46.54! Each mile ranged between 7.22 and 7.42 which I am super pleased with as it shows I am starting to control and own my pace.
Following my 10K high, I decided to up the distance to 10 miles. For this, I ended up being back in my home town and took the opportunity to enjoy a relatively flat route for this. I opted for the towpath, which I thought would be nice and scenic with fresh country air when in fact I found it incredibly dull and continuous. I couldn't wait until I reached five miles as I knew I could turn round and come back! Despite my lack of interest on the route, I again felt good, despite having another awful week of missed training sessions. I completed the run in 1.22.16 which is only four minutes off my PB for this distance!
By seeing this progress, I have really started to enjoy running again. Post triathlon, I really struggled to get back into distance running. I missed my 5Ks and HIIT sessions but these last few weeks, I have reignited my passion for road running.
To finish off this post on an even bigger high, today I woke up and headed out on an eight mile run. I took a similar course to my Tower Bridge route but decided to head west when I reached Southbank towards Big Ben. As I hit eight miles by the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben struck 10am and I was so, SO happy to see that I had ran this distance four minutes quicker than last time and hit an average pace of 7.55.

I AM FINALLY BACK IN THE SUB 8 CLUB!


Lipstick Runner.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

TRAINING UPDATE: Countryside cycling, travelator giggles and ramping up the speed

September has been a pretty active month. I've managed to squeeze a lot into the last four weeks which has been tricky to work around longer working hours and weekends away. What's been great is that I have been able to mix up my training and enjoy it with others.

At the start of the month, I headed back to my in-laws for a weekend break in the countryside. Their house is literally surrounded by fields and sheep and I was itching to get out and about on a rural run. It turned out to be a rather interesting one, where I got lost (twice) and came face to face a with a herd of cows. But I did get to enjoy gorgeous views, some hefty hills and a decent lungful of fresh air.
I had managed to reach seven miles on this run and by the following weekend, I subtly cranked the distance up to eight. I was back in London for this one and to make the run as scenic and interesting as possible, I opted to take in my favourite city sights. Starting from North London, the first few miles is a slog, running all the way down Holloway Road (not the most scenic start) and then down through Angel and Farringdon. These are really busy, smoggy areas so you do spend a lot of your time weaving in and out of people however, by mile five I had reached St Paul's Cathedral - the first hotspot on my run.

From here, I head over Millennium Bridge and onto the Southbank towards London Bridge. In the early mornings, I find running alongside the Thames so peaceful and with so much to look at, these final few miles normally fly by. When I reached Tower Bridge, I was on 7.95 miles (typical) so I had to run over the bridge. For the first time in my life though, as I reached the centre, the guards closed the gates as the bridge was being raised! This was at 7.98 miles. Still, it was nice to watch and once the suspensions were brought back down, I ran to the other end to complete the full eight miles. Overall, I managed an average pace of 8.27. Not as fast as I would have liked but I'll take it.
After this run, I realised that I had been lacking speed sessions. In fact, I hadn't really done a proper one in weeks! I decided to spend the week that followed focussing my normal training runs on speed work and fartleks. For one workout, I surreptitiously headed over to my local athletics track to carry out a session with my running club, something I have not been able to do in ages. I was really nervous as I had not run with others in quite a while. It annoyed me that I had actually reached this point of being unfamiliar and out of place. I was worried how fast I was going to be and when the coach read out the session, I was a little worried I wouldn't be able to complete it. It was as followed:

1x 1600m (threshold pace)
5x 600m (5-10K pace)
5x 200m (running hard)

I started off easy, making sure I actually did stick to threshold for the 1600m. I even found the first few 600m sets really tough and I savoured the 200m walk recoveries. However, by the 4th 600m, I had found my feet and felt strong and fast. I finished the session with an average pace of 6.32. My final 200m was also at a mile pace of 5.20 and I really couldn't be happier with that!
By the weekend, my legs were feeling pretty achey from these tailored sessions I had done but I wasn't too concerned as my training for the weekend wasn't your normal run in the park. It was an obstacle run in the park! I had entered my best friend and I into Rough Runners, a gladiator style obastacle race set on Clapham Common. You may be wondering why and I can explain...

...This race had a travelator!

We adored Gladiators growing up and I always used to love the finale course where the contestants would sprint up the travelator at the end. So when I saw this advertised, I had to enter just for this reason. It was such a laugh too. It was a mere 5K run with around 12 obstacles, including zip lines, punch bag walls, hanging beams (this hurt!) and a hilarious one called Swept Off Your Feet (inspired by Total Wipeout's, Crash Mountain).

By the time I got to the travelator, I was ready and raring to go. I opted for the fast lane (who wouldn't) but was gutted to have not made it up the first time. Its harder than it looks! Second attempt though, I sprinted as hard as I could and hopped up to the platform and finished with a little celebratory dance.
I had a bit of a messy recovery from Rough Runners as I had experienced a swollen and bruised ankle, which caused quite a lot of pain. Luckily though, I was back up and running three days later and managed to complete a strong fartlek session, which I adapted from a workout I read in Running Fitness magazine. I call it the five 5s:

5 minutes warm up jog
5 minutes @ 10K pace
5 minutes @ 5K pace
5 minutes @ 10K pace
5 minutes cool down jog

I find fartlek sessions really tough as the urge to stop for a rest is hard to resist. I especially found the 5K pace really hard and was counting down the minutes to the cool down jog. I managed to complete over 5K with an average mile pace of 7.55.

Come the final weekend of the month and I was off on my travels again, this time with my beloved bike in tow. I was heading to The Cotswolds to spend the weekend cycling with my friend from University. I was sooo excited for this as I haven't ridden my bike properly since the triathlon. It has only been used for my commute to work and I was really looking forward to going out for more than five miles.

The Cotswolds is simply stunning. We managed to complete 30 glorious miles in the sunshine, heading through little hamlets and villages and even stopping off in Stratford Upon Avon for a pit stop in a quaint pub. We managed to dodge some of the really steep inclines but we were faced with some unexpected hills along the way and it was great to be back in the saddle climbing up them! It made me realise how much I miss cycling and I will greatly miss being able to go out at weekend on my bike during marathon training. The thought of having to spend these running 20 miles still frightens me...
Anyway, that's an overview of September complete! Here's to a successful month of training. Lets hope October turns out to be the same (or better!).


Lipstick Runner.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Training that has a plan

Up until 10 months ago, I never followed a training plan. I'd roughly have one in my head but the reality of it was making sure I ran three times a week - with one session focussed on speed work. It sort of worked. It helped me become a strong 5K & 10K runner and I also got up to half marathon distance.

When it came to my triathlon training, that's when I thought it would be best to try building a schedule. I kept it simple, mapping out every month the type of activity I needed to do each day and what I should aim to achieve in that session. I would schedule one week to have a technique focussed swim, with the next week being a distance session. I would alternate Thursday to be either hills or speed work for my running and for the weekend, I would list how many miles I would have to cycle.

This monthly plan took centre stage on my fridge and each day I would tick off the activity, adding in details such as time/pace etc. For days where I didn't commit to the revised plan, I would also make note. It was really interesting to see just how dedicated I was. The best part of these plans was also showing clearly which days were my rest days. These were my days to go out for dinner, meet friends for drinks, or stay in and slob in front of the TV. They were just as important as the training days.

Mid month, I would map out the following months plan. For any days where I knew I had made plans, I would make these rest days and then find time elsewhere in that week to make up for it. Before I knew it, these agendas were becoming my life schedule and I relied on then heavily. I could see what big events I had coming up (such as my duathlon, open water race and the triathlon itself) and it was clear to see how many days/weeks I had until I was due to race. This really helped to shift my mindset into a serious training mode. Never had I been so dedicated to training.

By the time the triathlon came around, I was the fittest I had ever been and I am very confident my forward planning and training timetables are to thank for this. Yes they may not have been some super snazzy template I downloaded from the internet, or built for me by a specialist coach but they gave me guidance and something to visibly work towards. They revealed when I had succeeded and when I had failed, maintaining my focus and motivation.

Even though I am not training for anything now, I still create these monthly plans. They help keep the momentum going when I am not focussed on a race. They aren't as intense as my triathlon plans but they are helping me gradually get up to 13.1 miles by Christmas. This alone is a going to be a huge achievement for me and forward planning my runs is a great way of building up the mileage each week.

Are you someone who likes structure? Or do you like to go with the flow when it comes to your training?


Lipstick Runner.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

TRAINING UPDATE: Achieving small goals

It's strange when you aren't training for a race. You almost feel in limbo, unsure what you are contributing to when you go out running. Don't get me wrong, it is nice to just go out for a run without any strings attached, to not follow any strict nutritional plans and to not feel guilty when you move your run to a different day so you can go to the pub. Despite these positives, I do slightly miss the discipline of training.

However, even though I am not training specifically for anything, these last couple of weeks I have seen only improvement. Running is at the forefront of my mind and whilst I have found it hard going back to three runs a week (during triathlon training I only did two), it is incredibly satisfying racking up the miles again.

In my last post, I set some mini goals to help me get to a fit running state by Christmas. One was to enter two 10K races. I really need to get these booked in so I have headed out twice now to try and run the distance at a strong pace. The first was tough and it felt like it went on forever. By mile five my ITB pain had kicked in but I still managed to finish in just over 50 minutes. The next weekend, I headed out again this time taking on a new, slightly hilly route. By mile five, I was chuffed to have no pain at all and instead of stopping at 10K, I carried on to complete seven miles. All in just under one hour!
(the trails have been calling me these last few weeks)
So in all, running is good. Pace is slowly creeping up (I've gone from 8.50s to 8.10s for 10K) and I have also started to get back into HIIT and speed work. Boy, do these sessions hurt though! Especially when you have taken a few weeks off from it. 

Along with my two 10K races, I set myself another challenge. This one non running related but a goal I very much wanted to achieve - to swim 1500m open water. I recently got a reminder saying my wet suit needs to be sent back soon (I opted to hire it for my first triathlon) and so I wasted no time in trying to hit this target. At 6.30am on Saturday morning I was up and cycling to my local reservoir to see if I could manage it.
(super keen in my kit)
I haven't been in open water for a few weeks now and I was actually a little nervous getting back in. Hovering on the jetty, I faffed around for a couple of minutes, getting my goggles comfy and asking fellow swimmers what the water temperature was. One lady, who was maybe late 60's, turned to me and said 'no news on the water temperature but sod it, lets just get in!'. With that, she pranced down the jetty and flung herself in the water. That was my lesson in manning up right there...
(West Reservoir, Stoke Newington)
The water was bloody cold but I took inspiration from this lady and just cracked on with it. I needed to do three laps of the reservoir and I was surprised at how fast it went. By the time I entered my final lap, my stroke and alignment was fluid and smooth and I was so chuffed to reach the end feeling pretty good. I don't have a time recorded for this but it was great to finish my triathlon season on a high, achieving this small goal. 

Next step for me is to enter these two 10Ks. I am going to research into race options this week, aiming to do one in October and the other November. Suggestions are very much welcome!


Lipstick Runner. 

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

A running rut

(credit: Cafe Press)

Reflecting on my training calendar, these last couple of weeks have been a bit odd. Not just physically but mentally too...

It all started post Adidas Thunder Run (you can read my race rundown here). My right ITB was really stiff and sore and I found I was very restricted to what exercise I could do. Running was a total no go, even cycling in the first few days so I made it my mission to rest up, blitz the foam roller and keep stretching. By Sunday, exactly one week after the race, I ventured out for a jog. It was slow and painful but I managed 5K. I didn't enjoy, it dragged and I was exhausted. 

It seemed in the space of a few weeks, I had gone from the fittest I had ever been, smashing Blenheim Palace Triathlon, to being what felt like a battered and bruised beached whale. By the following week, I was suppose to start training for the St Neots Sprint Triathlon in Sept but with my leg buggered, I was really worried I wouldn't be able to commit to the training plan I had devised. I've been told many a time that training hard on an injury is pointless. It will only get worse and the time it takes to heal will increase. So with a heavy heart, I decided to not proceed with the triathlon and instead focus on recovery and retrieving lost strength. 

The week following my meek 5K run, things did ever so slightly improve. I managed two short runs and whilst these were still slow, the pain had eased. The week after, I was back at my running club and evening managed 10K across Hampstead Heath! All these runs I had chosen to not go with my Garmin as they were more about focussing on distance rather than speed. However, by last Thursday, I was curious to see where I had ended up speed wise. So, I joined the 6am club and headed out on a 5K. First mile was a drag (8.48 minutes to be exact) but I did start to speed up, ending my last mile on a sub 8. My finishing time was 25.38. 

Seeing this flash up on my watch was disappointing. Whilst in my head I know I have had a) time off getting married and b) an injured leg, I really thought I was going to be faster. I am addicted to pace and speed and to see it all lost was upsetting.

Reaching this point has made me realise there is a lot of work to do. With my ITB looking to slowly be on the mend (fingers crossed!), there is no reason for excuses. I have let my training slip and I have now made it my aim to build up my running strength again. It is time for an overhaul and an opportunity to almost start fresh.

To keep on the right path, I have made a little action list which needs to be completed by Christmas:

Overcome injury
Run 13 miles comfortably
Enter two 10K races
Complete one cross country race 
Swim 1500m front crawl open water

These pointers are all positive steps to getting marathon ready for the start of 2016, taking into account cross training and decent recovery. With Brighton Marathon on the horizon, my focus now is to become physically and mentally ready to take on the big 26.2!

I'll keep you posted!


Lipstick Runner.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

RACE RUNDOWN: Adidas Thunder Run

You may have seen on my Twitter and Instagram channels that I have recently been out in the sticks of the great British countryside running for 24 hours (well running as part of team).

Last year, when my running club decided to enter a team into the Adidas Thunder Run, I was there, hand in air like 'pick me, pick me!'. After taking part in Mizuno Endure24 (which you can read about here) and loving it, I was super keen for the Thunder Run. It seemed I wasn't the only one interested in giving it a go to as we ended up signing up two teams of 8!

However, come late June this year when our team captain sent out a reminder email about the event, my reaction was 'Oh f**k'. Since entering it yonks ago, I had completely forgotten about it. Months had passed where it was all about the triathlon training, wedding planning, new job etc that the fact that I was down to attend Thunder Run had slipped my mind entirely. It wasn't even written in my diary!

Despite not having actually trained for this sort of running, nor run over 5K for months, I wasn't one to be a drop out. So I kept to my word and decided to attend, aiming to do four 10K laps, totalling 40K overall. It sounded totally doable in my head...

Arriving on the Friday night after a five and a half hour car journey (damn traffic jams!) it was pouring it down and we had to set up camp. Never have I been so grateful for a pop up tent, yet despite the ease in building my den the weather was putting a huge dampener on my feelings about what lay ahead. I did not want to be out in the woods for 24 hours whilst it rained cats and dogs.
(the night before!)
I decided to get to bed for around 11pm and despite the rain crashing down on my little tent, I managed to drift off into an okish sleep. Come morning, I was awake at 4am and believe it or not, the sun was shining! Our little camp was very relieved to have this glorious weather shine down on us.
Come half 11, we were all walking up to the start line to see off our first runners. I was in the first team for the club and scheduled in for 4th leg. The predicted start time for my first lap was around 2.30pm so I had a couple of hours watching some running action from the side lines before I needed to enter the handover pen.
(team Chasers!)
(some of the team out on the course)
Due to Saturday being so hot and sunny, runners were coming off the trail course looking rather clean, reporting that all the mud had dried up from the heavy rain. I loathe cross country so this was music to my ears! By 2.30pm, I was ready and raring to go!
Earlier on in the week, I had bought some brand new Mizuno Wave Rider 17s to test run on the course but I was a little fearful of getting them muddy (vain I know) so I opted for my old pair for the first lap. As I started off I was bouncing along the field feeling fresh and vibrant but all that abruptly came to an end when 500m in, the course turned off into the woods straight into a long steep hill. Now you know me - hills aren't my friend and I soon realised 1K in that I was in for a very undulating ride. I kept steady, around 8.45 per mile and it felt good. The only thing holding me back was the heat. I could feel my scalp burning and theres only one water stop on the course so I was lacking in fluids. Coming through to the end of the lap, my crew were cheering at the sides as I came in to hand over to my friend, Nicola. I finished in 53 minutes and was very happy with that.
I'd got some super nasty blisters on the inside of my feet and after slapping a couple of band aids over them, I decided to switch to my new trainers. My old ones were knackered (they had holes in them!) and I don't think they were fit for the terrain of the course. 

My second lap was around 8.30pm and I went out feeling pretty good. No aches from my last run and I actually found myself going faster. My GPS wasn't working for this one, so I was running to a stop watch but I definitely felt a lot faster. Half way in I was bounding along but did reach a point of discomfort where the right side of my leg, around the knee area was aching. A pounding, dull ache. I knew exactly what it is - it was the return of my dreaded ITB injury. Stupidly, instead of slowing down, I carried on at the same pace and crossed the finish line in 52 minutes.

Hobbling out of the pen, I knew I had done something bad. Bending my right leg hurt. Instinct kicked in and I headed straight for the sports massage tent. After a 20 minute wait, I was assigned Jamie who confirmed that I had a lot of tension in the muscles around my ITB. To add to this I had cramp in my calf. After a very painful rub down, I asked him if it was OK to carry on. His response: 'With the pain your in, it might be best to call it day but it is totally up to you.' Hmm ok then...

By this point it was coming up to 11pm and I was starving. All I had eaten all day was snacks and junk food. So I went and got myself a cup of tea and a big cone of chips and headed back to camp. By midnight I was in my tent, determined to get some shut eye until my next lap at 5am. Sorry Jamie, but I didn't come here to do half the job. I am going to be foolish and carry on.

Come 4am, I had barely slept. It was impossible to with all the hubbub of people coming back to their tents, giving reports to fellow team mates. I groggily put on my clothes and went for a little walk near my camp to see how my leg was. Not going to lie, it was stiff. The ache strong. But I had to carry on. I'd never forgive myself if I gave up on my team. So I popped some paracetamol and headed over to the change over pen. 

Going out on lap three, I was hobbling quite a bit. It took a while but I finally found a rhythm where I could step lighter on my right leg, allowing me to run at a steady speed of around 10 minute miles. The hills were agonising and so I opted to do a brisk walk up these but I actually preferred being in the woods on the softer surface, compared to the open fields where the ground was really hard and uneven. I was determined to get through this lap and speaking to some of the solo runners out on the course made me realise that what I was doing compared to them was very little. Some of these guys were going to complete 20 or so laps. If they can do 20, I can bloody do four!

I came back in just over an hour - a time I was actually really chuffed with considering my ITB. 
By this point, I was on the brink of tears. My leg was, to put it bluntly, buggered. So it was back to the sports massage tent where this time I met with a lady called Nicola who worked to flush out the lactic acid in my thigh. It was painful but worth it. 

By the way, to give you an idea on how you look after no sleep and 30K, this gives you an idea:
Heading back to camp, I was seriously questioning whether I could go through with lap four. I was down as the last runner of the 24 hours and the thought of bringing it home for the team was pressurising. To add to this, the heavens had opened and the rain was back pelting down on our tents. I sat in my little den and waited until the time had come for me to head out for the fourth and final lap. The morning dragged and my team mates were coming back from their final runs looking absolutely shattered. I was worried how I would make it round.

By 11.45am, the runner before me had returned and I was back out for the final time. The rain was so heavy by this point, I was dressed in leggings with a high vis jacket zipped up with my hood pulled over my head. The run was miserable. The woodland areas were so muddy and boggy, my brand spanking new trainers were ruined and where the hilly bits had turned into a mud slide, I was struggling to hobble up them with my injury. 

Not going to lie, at 2K I stopped and had a little cry. Lame I know but I had honestly hit what I've heard people call 'the wall'. I'm not a marathon runner, or an Ironman, so doing this level of exercise for me is a huge deal. I just felt utterly shattered, in so much pain, stuck in the middle of the woods in the pissing rain. 

Watching all the other runners pelt past me made me feel a little embarrassed so I did eventually man up and get going again. In my head, I just needed to reach 8K. Once I got here, I knew I was on the home straight through the fields. It honestly came round quicker than I thought and despite my brisk walk/light jog, I found myself overtaking quite a few people which gave me a much needed boost. 

When I came up the 9K mark, one of my fellow team mates was there waiting for me. I have never been so grateful for this kind of support before. He joined me by my side and ran with me up the home straight. At the very end for the final 400m, the rest of my team were there, who also joined me running up the hill and round the back to cross the finish line as a team. I have never felt on such a high as I did at this moment. Rather ironic as 45 minutes previously I was crying like a baby in the woods. 
(my team bringing me home)
I crossed the finish line in 1.06. Considering I could barely walk, this time was good going I think. But just so you know, by this point, I really couldn't walk. I had ran 20K on an battered leg and I was getting my karma. Just bending it slightly was excruciating! My team had packed up all the tents whilst I was out running, so all I had to do was drag myself to the car where a much needed cider was waiting for me...
By the time I got back to London, all I wanted was a bath and my bed. Never have I felt so knackered. This was a much tougher experience than Mizuno Endure24, but one I am definitely very proud to be a part of.

Would I do it again? Maybe. But I would definitely make sure I had trained a little bit for it. It really is a fabulous event! Along with a beautiful (yet hilly course), Adidas provided great camping facilities and a pretty hefty medal at the end. My only comment would be to consider another water station out on the course, especially when it is such hot conditions as it was on Saturday. Oh, and for the fish and chip van to stay open for the whole 24 hours. 

RACE OVERVIEW

Course: 4/5
Scenery: 5/5 
Facilities: 4/5
Water Stations: 2/5
Goody bag: N/A (but all participants receive a medal, t-shirt and an Adidas shower gel)

LIPSTICK RUNNER'S OVERALL RATING: 3.5/5

To learn more about Adidas Thunder Run, visit the website here.


Lipstick Runner.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Finding my feet again

I'm back! After two weeks away getting married and holidaying in Italy I have landed back into the reality of work with a bang. 

Taking such a long break was absolute bliss. The wedding was a dream and the holiday a much needed break from work, London and training. My body was shattered and by the time I arrived at my hotel in Sorrento, I was snoozing on a sun lounger in minutes. It was heavenly. 
The holiday itself was a mix of relaxing and exploring. We spent three days endlessly walking - around Pompeii, climbing Mount Vesuvius and roaming around Capri. It all seemed pretty active and I even managed to squeeze in two small swim sessions in the pool at the hotel (other holiday makers gawped at me like I was a bit odd though). Its strange because after three days not training, I was itching to do something. I guess that is when you know you are addicted to sport. 

Now I am back, I have been dilly dallying around trying to get back into the routine of working and training. My first full week was last week and I realised I actually did some form of exercise 7 days straight. After landing late Sunday night, I forced myself out of bed 6am Monday morning to go for a run. It was really tiring at first but by the end of it, it felt good to be out again.

I must have felt really keen last week as on Thursday, I opted to make my return to track for a heavy speed session with my club. I haven't done drills or intervals in weeks and I was a little apprehensive. The session seemed long when it was read out to us: 2x 1200m (90 secs rest), 4x 400m (75 secs rest), 4x 200m (200m jog recovery between). However, once I got stuck in, I was on a roll. My legs felt fresh, ready to go fast and it was brilliant!
By the end of the weekend, I had also boshed out an open water swimming session and even dabbled in an Insanity workout (although I don't think I'll be trying it out again any time soon. It killed me!).

So in all, a successful first week back and I can't wait to get stuck into triathlon training again. I already have my eye on another sprint distance early September so I will be building a plan for that and looking to improve my times across all three disciplines. 


Lipstick Runner. 

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

OPERATION BRIDAL BOD: The end result

(Left: September 2014. Right: April 2015)
The time has finally come to get married. Its strange to think that 18 months ago, the engagement ring was slipped onto my finger and now I have reached the moment where I will become a wife. Time has flown past and throughout my engagement, I have taken on the challenge to become a fitter and healthier individual in time to be a bride. I never thought I would remain dedicated to the challenge. Sure, there have been some slip ups along the way (you all saw my birthday dinner at Meat Mission) but what I learnt from this whole experience is that slipping up is OK. In fact, if I had made the decision to avoid bad food altogether, I would have given up on Operational Bridal Bod long ago. The fact that I have had bad days makes me what I am - a human - and human error kicks in at times.

Despite my up and down nutritional progression, fitness wise I have been pretty on it. I took my triathlon plan seriously and kept to the rota which has enabled me to reveal a stronger body over the months that I am incredibly proud of. I have actually come out the other end weighing the same as when I started but I look and feel far better.
In all it has, in my eyes, been a successful journey. No it has not been a body blitz from bloater to beach goddess but I have certainly made improvements. I can only aim for more improvement as I begin the journey into training for an Olympic distance triathlon. I'm really hoping the longer runs will trim down my physique and make it slightly leaner but I won't hold out hope for it. I was born to be curvy and I am for once, extremely happy with the state of my hips and bum. Result!

See you after the wedding!


Lipstick Runner.