Mint Choc Chip Shake feat. Pulsin

Smoothies are back for me in a big way. I went through the whole winter really avoiding them along with salads, which makes a lot of sense really, our bodies should be craving warming, comforting foods during winter and light refreshing ones during summertime. The recent heatwave in London has been pretty brutal, early 20’s are fine, but 30+ and it just feels miserable in and outside, and I just want to eat really cooling, hydrating foods/drinks.

I’ve been trying to cool off post run with a refreshing breakfast smoothie and one of my favourites right now is this mint chocolate chip shake. Best enjoyed in the sunshine of course!

IMG_9851

Mint Choc Chip Shake | (Serves 1)
1-2 frozen Bananas (You can replace 1 of the bananas with 1/2 avocado to make this thicker and creamier- I highly recommend doing this)
Handful of Fresh Mint
Handful of Spinach
2 Tbsp of Pulsin Pea Protein
1 Tbsp Cacao/Cocoa Powder
1-2 Cups of Almond Milk or alternative
1 Tbsp Cacao Nibs/Chocolate Chips

Blend Ingredients together, if you are drinking this I would recommend blending the cacao nibs in. If like me you like to eat your smoothies in a bowl, then use the cacao nibs as a crunchy topping.

IMG_9844

As I’ve mentioned before I don’t really feel that protein powders are all that necessary, but they can be useful at times, if you are in a rush, or don’t really fancy eating a big meal after a workout. The pea protein boosted up the protein content of this smoothie, for muscle recovery post workout, higher satiation, and less chance of blood sugar spikes causing energy crashes afterwards. It’s 80% protein, so higher than some of the other plant based proteins out there, and has a really neutral flavour so works well in sweet or savoury dishes. There are a huge range of protein powders available on the market, I would really recommend looking at the ingredients list and trying to get one that has as little ingredients as possible, many are packed with artificial flavourings and sweeteners which I wouldn’t want to be consuming too regularly.

IMG_9569

Pulsin make a range of whey protein and Vegan proteins, and it’s best to really try them out to see what you like. I like rice, pea and hemp proteins, and find they work well with different flavours. I like the Pulsin range because they don’t have loads of flavourings or any other weird stuff, just 100% pea or rice or whey protein in the bag.

I’ve been a fan of Pulsin for a while, and am really pleased to see them doing so well, and their range expanding too. The brand recently had a bit of a makeover for it’s 10th anniversary, and they have some ace looking new packaging so look out for that in stores. As well as protein powders, they also make a range of snack bars– useful if you are on the go, and they taste great too. The protein bars have a decent whack of protein and unlike many out there they aren’t super high in sugar either, they also avoid artificial sweeteners, flavourings, preservatives and colourings, which make them a win in my eyes- I love the mint choc chip one. They also make a range of delicious raw choc brownies, which are great for a treat-the newest one the peanut choc chip which I recently tried, is delicious.

We are spoilt for choice these days in terms of protein powders and snack bars, but I would really recommend checking Pulsin out if you haven’t come across them before. You can order directly from them online, they also do mixed cases of bars, and subscription boxes too if you can’t decide what flavour to try. They also have heaps of amazing recipes on their website, if you are struggling for ideas to use your protein powder.

 

Disclaimer: I was sent the Pulsin products for review, all opinions are my own.

 

Autumn Plans

During the last few weeks of my training for the North Downs Way 50, I had started to think that I wanted to train for a marathon in the Autumn. The last few years after doing a spring/early summer ultra, I have taken long extended breaks from running, focusing more on strength training. I haven’t completed a marathon since May 2015, though have done many marathon, or further length training runs during ultra training.

image1

When I look back at the marathons I have completed, a lot of them involved very little training compared to what I have been doing of late, and several of them featured pretty bad injuries- I ran Manchester marathon having missed most of my training, and Berlin having only been able to run for 2-3 weeks before the race due to ITB issues. So while I’ve done several marathons, I never felt like I’ve had a really great training period or race.

IMG_3358

My PB currently stands at 4.15, which was set at the Thames Meander marathon in March 2015, that was probably the best training I have had leading into a race, but still it wasn’t that high mileage, and I actually didn’t feel great for the first half of the race either.

IMG_8558

My long term goal is to run a London good for age time, which is under 3.45 for me currently, but to get that, means I need to actually train for and run a marathon! I want to start with little steps, so my first goal is to get under 4 hours. I think I am capable of this, I’ve run several half’s under 2.00 hours, with my PB standing around 1.54- I nearly broke this earlier in the year at Richmond half, having run a 22 mile training run the day before- so again I think this could be improved on, with some focused training, but I haven’t trained for a half in years either.

I’ve decided this autumn, I am going to have a crack at the sub-4. I am going to be following the Hanson’s marathon method plan as an experiment- this involves reasonably high mileage, but spread throughout the week across 6 runs, with shorter long runs on the weekend (maxing out at 16 miles), and more emphasis on quality sessions like speed and tempo throughout the week, along with some easy runs to keep the mileage high and simulate running on fatigued legs. The plan has a beginner and an advanced plan, and though I wouldn’t consider myself a beginner marathoner, I didn’t want to jump straight back into 40-50 mile weeks after the ultra, and I preferred the gradual building of mileage in the early weeks in the beginner plan. The marathon I have signed up for in Richmond only gave me 16 weeks to train for from the start of my training, so I would have missed the first two weeks of the advanced Hanson plan, and I thought the beginner plan looked more doable with this time frame, considering I am coming off ultra training. I have had a few weeks off running completely, but I am not necessarily starting from nothing, so I have eased back in with the beginner plan for a couple of weeks to get some mileage into the legs, and this week I started week 6 of the beginner plan which is where the real sessions start- the first speed workout was bloody hard.

So I have another 12ish weeks from now to get marathon ready, I am actually looking forward to following a structured plan, and doing some sessions as it’s not something I’ve ever really done in training before. My only issue is that I’m not sure where strength training fits in with Hanson’s, I would like to continue my three weekly sessions alongside the plan, but if this is affecting my running and ability to hit target paces and sessions then I will have to reassess.

I know setting a time goal can be quite arbitrary, like what difference does it matter if I run sub-4, but for me it’s more of a stepping stone on the way to a bigger goal, and actually setting a goal, and seeing how close to that I can get. I’m interested to try a different approach and see how that works out for me too.

 

10 things that happen during an Ultra

IMG_9008

1.Your brain will not work: This started early on for me on my recent 50 miler on the North Downs Way, as I queued up in the wrong alphabet queue to pick up my bib. I then forgot to go to the toilet at aid station 2 as I had been planning to, and forgot to fill up my water bottle at aid station 3. Basically your brains will turn to mush, it will become difficult to make the most basic decisions, and you will find it difficult to form coherent sentences.

2. The Toilet Situation: At the race earlier in the month there were only toilets at mile 14/31 and then the finish at mile 50. I only peed once in 11 hours so was clearly very dehydrated, but I did manage to use an actual toilet at mile 31. I did need a comfort break of the other kind later in the race though, obviously once I had gone past the aid stations that had toilets. For miles I was dealing with needing to go, but struggling to find somewhere sheltered off trail as it turned into miles of open fields. Basically if you are going to run an ultra, you better get used to going in nature! Pack toilet paper/wet wipes in your pack- absolute essentials on the trail.

image1

3. Weird Appetite: I wasn’t overly hungry at all during the race, dealing with a lot of nausea. You need to try to keep eating and drinking though against how your body is feeling, otherwise you will inevitably just run out of fuel. I am never hungry immediately after ultras, which is proper disappointing. My appetite post race has fluctuated from non-existent at times, to eating the entire contents of my kitchen, and craving and eating weird combinations of stuff, or not wanting to eat anything except cereal or pizza.

4. The Aftermath: You will not be able to walk for days, getting up and down from the floor requires some sort of furniture to pull yourself up and lower yourself down, and don’t even mention stairs. I would say it’s probably pretty rare to go through an event of this kind without suffering from blisters or chafe too, no matter how much you slather yourself in vaseline/sudocreme or body glide. My feet were not too bad at all, other than a sore little toe and a heel blister, but after SDW50 last year, my heels were a mess, I had to wear flip flops for a week, and every time I moved my foot the blister would crack open and weep- gross. Compeed are your best friend in this situation.

IMG_9029

5. New Friends: You might spend all of your time training alone, in fact you may run for this reason, but you can turn up at any ultra event alone and leave with a load of new running mates. The atmosphere on the trails is great, and it’s nice to chat to people along the way, and meet some new running buddies, who just get it.

6. Low Moments: I felt pretty low for most of the second half on NDW50, it’s about riding those low moments and coming out the other side. Everything will pass, so it’s important to make the most of it while you are feeling good, and just suck it up and ride it out when you are feeling bad.

7. Slow Down: If you think you are going slow, you aren’t going slow enough. It’s cliche, but it rings true. I ran quite a lot of 9:something miles in the first half of the race, and I honestly think this was why I felt so shoddy in the second half. It’s hard not to get carried away at the beginning, particularly if the course is quite runnable, but you will pay so badly for it later on, so slow down.

8. Silence your Mind: Your mind will want to quit long before your body has had enough. It’s hard to silence the brain, especially when it’s trying to convince you that everything is an incline and should be walked, and is calculating at what point you would be safe to just walk it in and still make it under cut off. It’s good to have a mantra to think of during hard times.

9. Time Wasting: Aid stations though amazing places, filled with incredibly lovely people and all manner of delicious snacks are an easy place to lose time to on the day. I spent about 40 minutes total either in aid stations, or stopping to sort out my feet, which is quite a chunk of time. When there are 6 aid stations on course, you could easily lose an hour just spending 10 mins at each. I try to be efficient, going in knowing what I want (though difficult considering points 1 and 3), refilling flasks, grabbing food and heading straight off. I only stopped briefly at the first few, but later on had several lengthy stops, mostly down to gear malfunctioning, which could have saved me some time on the day.

IMG_9038

10. Post Race Blues: You’ve spent 5-6 months training for an event, every spare moment going over training plans, gear, nutrition, and then it’s gone, that focus, drive and motivation all geared towards the big day, is over. I find I ride an endorphin wave for about 24 hours, completely wired on adrenaline and unable to sleep, and then crash really really hard. This is the time to just rest, enjoy your achievements, make some plans for races later in the year and do all the things you didn’t get to do while you were out running for 10+ hours a week. Though you may be in pain, and swearing to never run another ultra at the finish line, only a few days later you will be googling for your next challenge.

I hope this has given you an insight into the weird and wonderful world of ultra marathoning, and not put you off either. Honestly, it’s an amazing community, filled with incredible people, and I would highly recommend doing an ultra if you are considering one.

NDW50 2017

I hadn’t slept well all week in the run up to the event, my mind had been racing with a million thoughts about the race. After another restless night in the Premier Inn I headed the short way to the start at Farnham, where I showed how half asleep I was by queuing in the T-Z group for my race bib (my surname begins with an R!). After catching up with a few people and meeting a few faces from Twitter, we headed off to the trailhead and were underway promptly at 8am.

IMG_9008

The first few miles were fairly congested, we had some lengthy pauses for queues for stiles and gates, but after a few miles it started to spread out a bit more. I have never run the first half of the course before, and it was really beautiful, especially from around mile 12 onwards. There were a few changes in terrain, most notably a few sandy sections thanks to all the dry weather we’ve been having.

IMG_9013

It was drizzling at the start, but other than a few tiny spots of drizzle, the weather was good all the way, 17 degrees and sunny, although the humidity was tough, and I was really struggling with it for the first half of the run, I was sweating a lot and felt like I had a headache due to the humidity right from the start.

The first section to Puttenham aid station is fairly flat and runnable, I was feeling strong and moving through at a decent pace. I filled up my 250ml Ultimate Direction hard flask and grabbed a handful of raisins and nuts and was on my way, trying not to linger too long at the early stations.

The first real challenging climbs came around 12-13 miles in, at some point on this section I went offtrack and lost the course marking, luckily a man followed me and asked if we were going the right way, which we definitely weren’t, and we managed to cut across a path and found our way back onto the trail. I ran with Su for a few miles, and actually most of the race we seemed to be very close together, it was nice to have some company and hear all about his running.

The second aid station was at nearly 15 miles at Newlands corner, I was going to go to the toilet here but completely forgot once I got there. My brain was totally not working on the day. I refilled my flask with water again, and grabbed some more trail mix and headed straight off. I was still making good pace up to this point. I knew the first half was a lot flatter and runnable than the second so I wanted to try and bank some time, and then cling on in the second “half”.

IMG_9025

The next stretch was a long one, and the longest between aid stations all day, but I knew my brother was going to be at Box Hill to cheer me on, so it gave me something to target. I wanted to get to the stepping stones which were at 24 miles within 4hr 30, as I thought the second half would take me around 2 hours longer than this. I was still moving OK during this stretch, though slowing a little, and getting tired of long straight flat sections, I definitely started to walk a lot more from here on out on anything that resembled a slight incline.

At mile 23/24 I ran with a lovely lady called Tania, and these were actually 2 of my quickest miles of the day, including that horrible out and back bit under the A24 to get to the stepping stones carpark. I love meeting people during ultras, and hearing all about their lives, running, past races and future goals. We got to the Boxhill aid station together, around 4.22 and after I quickly filled up with some tailwind in my flask, and grabbed a bit of watermelon I was on my way up the steps to find my brother.

IMG_9026

This section of the course I was familiar with having run it 3 weeks ago on my recce run. The steps were even tougher than I remember, with the legs already battered and it hurt like hell going up. After a quick stop, chat and hugs at the top, I was on my way on what felt like a very long way to go, especially as I knew what was to come.

IMG_9056

My pace started to slow dramatically over the next few miles as the hills just kept on coming. Colley hill I found even harder than Boxhill, it is so steep, and goes on forever. The section from Boxhill to Reigate aid station is only 7ish miles, but it took me almost 2 hours, it’s so punishing, brutal climbs, horrid descents and just really not nice terrain to run on at all. This I think is where my real lack of training on this terrain started to show.

It was lovely to see familiar faces at Reigate, and the aid station was really busy at the time. I had a quick chat with Steph, grabbed some cherry tomatoes, and a massive strawberry jam filled vegan flapjack, which was all I managed to eat for the rest of the race, nibbling a bit every few miles.

I didn’t manage to eat a lot during the race, and ended up with most of the food I had taken with me still in my pack. I also had hydration issues from here on out, I was so distracted in the buzz of the station I forgot to fill up my flask, and realised shortly after leaving that my camelbak which had 1.2litres in at the start was almost empty. Luckily it was only 5 miles to the next aid station so it wasn’t catastrophic. I was getting a bit fed up of running, and my head just didn’t seem in the zone, the thought of still having 20 miles to go at mile 31, was not encouragingIMG_9029

I ran a lot of this section with another lady called Sydnee, we would stop/start in-sync, kind of motivating each other to keep pushing on. I think at this point we were both starting to count down the miles, and growing tired of running, there was a really long concrete section and we just couldn’t motivate ourselves to run it at all.

There was another big climb heading into the aid station at Caterham which couldn’t come soon enough at mile 38. I had quite a lengthy stop here as I needed to refill my camelbak bladder, once I had got it out of my pack and had it filled with a litre of tailwind, I did it up and went to put it back in my pack to realise I had done the opening up incorrectly and the liquid was pouring out of it everywhere. When I went to undo the opening, it was completely jammed, and several people at the aid station couldn’t undo it, so I had to abandon it and leave it there- luckily I had a 250ml soft-flask as well as my harder flask, so I could fill both of these up, I felt like I had stopped for a very long time here, much longer than I had wanted to. I grabbed some grapes and a few other bits of fruit and headed off.

As the miles ticked down I could start to think about the finish, though 10 miles still seemed like a long way. I didn’t want to run anymore, and my mind was trying to convince me not to- working out that if I walked from there I could still make it under the cut off. I would say in general I felt pretty low for a lot of the second half, I don’t know if it was the humidity, having run the first half quite quickly or just the brutality of the second half of the course, but I did find it really hard going mentally, which is something I’ve not really struggled with in an ultra before.

IMG_9054

I started to feel quite nauseous with about 12 miles to go, so I ate a few ginger chews and had to walk quite a bit to settle my stomach, and wait for the nausea to pass. I also really needed the toilet but there was no sheltered areas, as it’s quite open in the section on the way to Botley hill.

I think Botley is the worst hill of the lot, so I was glad to reach the aid station at the top.  I had a friend Sarah volunteering here and it was lovely to see her. They had peanut butter and jam sandwiches so I grabbed 2 triangles which gave me a real boost for the next section and the home stretch.

We were counting down the miles, and every step was taking me closer to home.  I found the last section really hard going, running round dry, hard, rutted fields is really monotonous and draining. I finally found a sheltered spot so stopped to go to the toilet, and not long after this I had a very lengthy stop as I had an extremely sharp pain in my little toe which left me unable to walk. I took my shoe off and couldn’t see anything wrong so I put it back on, but I couldn’t run, so I took it off again, took my socks off and put a plaster on it, unfortunately it was a really gravelly section, and my sock and shoe filled up with bits of stick and stones so I took ages sorting this out, all a bit annoying as I was feeling quite decent before that happened. The toe was still hurting, but it took my mind off other things that were hurting like a heel blister, and really bad chafe. At this point Su caught up with me again, and we kind of shuffled along together.

The last 3 miles of the course were unknown to me, and it was hillier than I thought it would be. I also wasn’t sure how far the finish was as I thought it was going to be closer to 51 miles than 50. At one point we went through a fields of cows, I walked past skirting the edge of the field as there were loads of calves and bulls, and one of the calves tried to follow me which was a bit scary. I was trying to motivate myself to run, but the need to walk was overwhelming at this point and the miles were passing so slowly.

IMG_9038

Suddenly we passed a sign that said Knockholt Pound 1 1/4 miles, I wasn’t sure if this was exactly where the finish was, but not long after we could see the finish gantry, and you have to do this horrible out and back for a mile or so with the finish in sight the whole way. I realised at this point I had 15 mins left to get in under 11 hours, so if I ran the last mile I could dip under this barrier. I think I managed my first mile beginning with a 10 since before Boxhill at mile 24, and finally crossed the finish line after 10 hours 55 minutes and 17 seconds.

Another Centurion run done, and 35 minutes knocked off my time from the SDW50 which is a shorter and in my opinion easier course (I really struggled with the mud last year). I was really considering one of the 100’s for next year, but this has put me off entirely. It was the hardest race I’ve ever done (even though Race to the Stones was 13 miles longer), the second half is savage, and I just struggled to hang on. I felt a bit broken physically and mentally at the end, and need a good break to recover.

IMG_9063

I met some amazing people along the way, the volunteers and everyone at Centurion were amazing as always, and these are definitely the events to go for if you want to do an ultra.

Ultra Training Done: Ready to Race…

I had some pretty good runs at the start of week 17 of training, my legs felt good, and I felt like fitness was coming back, but by the long runs towards the end of that week I was feeling really tired. I was going to focus on one more high mileage week, and another couple of really long runs, but my body was just saying no and that it was time to start winding the mileage down.

I think I wanted to do an extra few miles to make up for the missed training due to illness. I ending up cutting the planned 20 miler to 13 miles, which was just a constant mental and physical battle the whole way, my body felt heavy and niggly and I couldn’t push through one more time. Despite this I had a really good 10 mile run the next day which included a course PB at Hilly fields parkrun, so it seems like the hill training has been paying off.

IMG_8499

I haven’t done any super hilly runs since the NDW recce 3 weeks ago, as I felt like my legs took a while to recover from that, and I wanted them to feel fresh rather than battered on race day. In week 17 I managed nearly 40 miles, it was a drop from the 50-60 mile weeks I had been peaking at, but just a gentle way to ease into the taper, and still a decent amount of mileage.

In week 18 I slashed the mileage even further and dropped down to 4 runs a week from 5, and just scraped over 20 miles for the week. At the end of week 17 and beginning of week 18 I just fell into a right funk, I didn’t want to train, my motivation and mojo had totally gone. I had three rest days of moping and feeling sorry for myself, before getting my butt in gear and getting back out there. Week 18 was mostly made up of shorter runs, and I had to take it pretty easy as I had a bit of a niggly left calf which I think was stemming from my hip/ITB. I have a stretching/rolling/strength routine I put in place whenever I feel an injury coming on and this seemed to do the trick. My longest run of the week was 7 miles which freed up a lot of time! I also did a 6.5m run with my other half which was his longest run ever- super proud.

IMG_7051

This week is all about staying fresh, so I’ve just done two short three mile runs- I can’t remember the last time I ran 3 miles!- and I’ve stopped going to the gym too. I was still lifting three times a week up until last week, but last week I dropped the weights slightly and focused on higher reps, and I also dropped big compound moves like deadlifts and squats too. My legs certainly feel fresher this week for stopping the weight training.

I can’t believe how cold it’s been in London lately, it’s felt like January and been utterly miserable and grey, at least it’s been dry though. I’ve been obsessively checking the weather forecast for the weekend, it keeps changing daily between rain, and sun. The ground is going to be very very dry though- I hear it’s quite sandy in places too as it’s been so dry, if I had been training in more supportive road shoes I would probably race in them, but I’m n0t risking wearing ultra boosts for 50 miles so will still to my Inov-8 trail shoes.

IMG_8751

My nutrition was a bit crap when I drifted into the funk at the end of week 17, just eating too much packaged stuff and not enough freshness, so I’ve had a big overhaul over the last 10 days or so, reintroduced juicing into my diet, and have been loving having ginger shots and loads of green smoothies and beet filled juices. I’ve tried to focus on eating as many veggies as possible, and I am feeling really good at the minute. I would have liked to have been a little lighter going into the run, but I’ve lived off bagels, oats and energy bars for most of training which explains a lot!

IMG_8516

So that’s it, 690 miles run, 5 months of training in the bag, time to run 50 miles!

Week 17: 39m
Week 18: 22m
Week 19: 6m (plus race day!)