Richmond Park Marathon

I know I said I was totally done with long distance running after my last marathon in March, but after two weeks- the lure was too strong! I got a super late entry into the Richmond Park marathon on Sunday, and headed there with absolutely no expectations, other than to have a bloody brilliant time after two weeks of racing blues.

Credit to Ash

I met up with a load of Wmnrun100 ladies and wingmen prior to this race, we caught up and eagerly awaited the start of the race- which was at 9.30am, not 9am as I thought! I also bumped into Jess in the start pen and we chatted before the start, and fell into step with each other, running together for the first 12 miles- chatting the entire way.

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My legs felt great, the miles ticked by very quickly, there was a great atmosphere on course, and the route was beautiful- it was my first time in Richmond park-it’s stunning. I had already decided to walk the hills before the race-there was quite a few of them- as I didn’t want my legs to be absolutely trashed. Sensible decision as on Monday I didn’t feel like I had run a marathon at all.

The course was a 12 and a bit mile loop, and two shorter 7ish mile loops. I don’t like laps, and I wasn’t sure about doing a lapped marathon course, but honestly it was a lot of fun, and the beautiful surroundings helped! The course was undulating, but what goes up must come down, so after a little walk up the hills it was nice to try and stretch the legs out on the downhill.

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Credit to Jess

After about 10 miles, I became aware of the booming beats of Coolio’s Gangsters Paradise- guilty pleasure tune- and was like where the hell is that coming from? Shortly after we realised that it was coming from the backpack of Adam-who is running 15 marathons this year for MacMillan, incredible! We fell into step with him and another girl Kate, and we continued our party pace forĀ  a few miles, enjoying the tunes-I think people thought we were absolutely nuts! I was massively enjoying myself- and wished I could have enjoyed the tunes later on in the race!

I was pleased that my comfortable chatting pace was averaging around 9.30min miles, considering I had walked a few hills we were going at a decent clip. Those 12 miles were probably my most enjoyable racing miles ever, and I thought this was going to be my favourite race ever!

Coming up to the end of the first lap my stomach was feeling a little unsettled, and I decided to take a toilet break at HQ, I took a little detour off route to get to the toilets- there were no portaloos in the pace only the toilets at various points in the park. I headed back onto course, and now I was alone, but worse than that, I was feeling really really bad.

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I literally have no idea what happened, was I under fueled, over fueled, under hydrated, over hydrated, was it the heat-it was sooooo hot- or a combination of things, I’ll never know, all I know is that I didn’t think I would be able to get round the course. I stopped 8 times from mile 14 onwards, with two more toilet breaks, and a lot of stopping and walking breaks whenever the stomach cramps got too much to carry on.

This is way too much TMI, but when I got about half way round the second lap, I had no idea how I was going to make it back to HQ to the toilet, so I was keeping an eye out for some dense shrubbery for a while, thankfully when I got to about the 16 mile point, one of the marshals told me where there were some toilets, so I took another little detour to find them.

I was counting down the miles, by how far until I could get to the next toilets. At 19 miles, I honestly thought I was going to drop out, but then decided that I knew where the toilets were on course, and it was only another 7 miles, so I could walk it in if I had to.

I decided I had to run whenever I was feeling remotely OK, and then stop and sort of hunch over and walk a bit when I wasn’t. I chatted to a lot of people on course- and probably told way too many of them about my situation- TMI. I was feeling incredibly spacey, and my legs were feeling like jelly. I’ve never felt such a strange combination of stomach pain, nausea, and hunger at the same time.

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At about mile 23 I could see Jess ahead of me, I caught up to her and her brother who had joined on the second lap, and she had started to have a bit of a rough time herself with a back spasm and a long period of walking. I managed to run the whole last 2 miles without stopping alongside them, as I just wanted to be done. We finished as we had started-together. I was shocked that to finish in 4.32.59, I thought I was going to be out there for a lot longer with my dodgy stomach.

I cannot tell you how delighted I was to be done. I absolutely loved the race, I did not enjoy feeling like I did for 2hr30mins. I think it says a lot about the race, that I could call this a really enjoyable race, despite feeling horrible for over half of it! I actually think if I had felt as good as I did for the first 12 miles I would have broken my PB, which totally was not a goal/aim considering the elevation, taking it easy and walking the hills! It was the perfect first 12 miles, but battling through the rest was another one for the mental strength bank.

The event was very well organised, honestly I am so over big races now-smaller ones like this are the way to go. The park was very busy with cyclists, walkers and other runners, and the marshals did a freaking incredible job of watching out for us and helping us get across the roads- top top marks guys! The aid stations were well stocked, and Richmond park-thankfully-has ample amounts of toilets along the route. I’m already considering doing this event next year again, but hoping to never ever feel like that in a race/training run again.

I’ve been having GI issues a lot lately, and it is something I need to figure out, I’m not sure if it’s too much of a certain food, the heat, running just generally irritating my GI tract or some sort of change to the mucosal layer of the gut, it’s really unpleasant, and annoyingly I don’t know when it’s going to happen, some days are fine and others I feel like this. I’ll be trying a few things to see if I can prevent this from happening again, but my suspicions are that the long distance running is to blame, so I’m not entirely sure what to do.

I had had a pretty dark few weeks with running, I wasn’t enjoying the racing, finding my motivation for training waning, but I absolutely found my running mojo in this race- it was just hiding on the trails!

Hackney Half 2015 (You can’t win them all)

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Scenic choice of photo op-next to the bin.

You can’t win them all-or any of them if you are me, but you can at least enjoy it- I did not enjoy Hackney.

I ran 7.5 miles to the start as I wanted to make it up to a longer training run, I felt a bit sluggish on the way, but was enjoying running along my old haunts of canal, and Victoria Park on the way to the race. I didn’t feel great towards the end of the run, with a bit of a dodgy stomach, but it did settle down before the race.

I met up with my brother and his cheer crew, and stupidly got there a bit early, so I had about 40 minutes in-between run 1 and run 2. By the time we started- complete bottleneck in the pens like last year, why can’t they be bigger given the size of the fields?- my legs were absolute leaden, I tried to stick with my brother for the first 2 miles, but I knew I couldn’t sustain that pace, so I waved him onward!

It was 13.1 miles of struggle, I wanted to stop every single step, my mind was going into overdrive trying to convince me to walk, to drop out, but I didn’t. I didn’t stop, and actually if anything good has come of this run it is the knowledge that mentally I have it down.

It was just as hot as last year despite them moving the race back into May , I really really struggled in the heat-why has it been hot on the last 3 days I’ve raced and no days in between?!

I was completely knackered, so I just kept drinking water, and eating. I was starving by mile 3, and just felt completely empty. I bumped into Steph a few times along the route, who was also not having the most fun of runs and we moaned to each other about our issues-collective whining.

I wanted to enjoy Hackney, but the head and body weren’t in it at all. It’s not even a remotely hilly course, but my legs felt dead on any minor incline, I was craving the shade, of which there is none in the last section in the Olympic park, the sun just beams down and comes back at you off the concrete, it’s like running in hell! As great as running through it is, I honestly think they should just cut this section altogether, they amended it a bit from last year but it’s still brutal.

I kept plodding along, one foot in-front of the other, kept moving forward, I kept thinking I would stop when I got to so-and-so mile, but I never did. The crowd support is some of the best of any of the races I have done, everyone gets really into it, and loads of people were calling your name- I even had some girls chanting mine which was nice. I owe the people of Hackney big time, it was not my day, but they literally carried me round, and I don’t think I would have got through without them.

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I finished in 2.06.40 only 30 seconds slower than last years, which considering the pre race miles was actually decent. I met up with my brother who finished 4 minutes ahead of me, and proceeded to take the race entry fees worth of bounce balls- I am not kidding- I can only apologise if you did not get any!

I think I’m done with Hackney for now, it’s a well organised event, stellar goody bag, and the support is unrivalled but I just wish it hadn’t been such a sufferfest, and that I had actually enjoyed it.

I’ve just done the Richmond Park marathon today which despite GI issues again, I bloody loved. I found my running mojo and it was on the trails! I just think I’m totally over road running- I’ve lost my desire to push, to go quicker, to struggle, to look at traffic lights and corner shops, reading Richard Askwith’s “Running Free” has changed my perspective on so many things.

I think I’m entering a different phase of my running, and road races just aren’t filling me with joy and love. I want to run wild and free, to see new places, to have new experiences, to chat to people along the way, to stop and look around me, to be in the moment, rather than being wrapped up in whether or not I can make up that 6 seconds slower per mile than target race pace that I did on the previous mile-Come on!! Running is so much more than that, it doesn’t have to be splits, and PB’s or even medals, if I’m not enjoying it then none of that is worth anything anyway. So for now I’m retiring my road racing shoes-I’ll see you on the trails.

 

Disclaimer: I was provided with a media entry for the event. All views are my own.

Indigo Herbs High Protein Range

There is no shortage of protein available on a Vegan diet- despite the inevitable where do you get your protein question, which frankly still baffles me-from legumes, beans, grains, tofu/tempeh, vegetables, nuts, seeds and also an array of protein powder supplements on the market. It’s pretty easy to in fact go way over the recommended amounts of protein per day which in fact are fairly low. I do like to supplement with protein powder-full post on this coming soon- because I find it convenient, and it makes certain meals like porridge/smoothies more satiating and have more sticking powder.image1

Indigo Herbs recently sent me a bumper Vegan bundle from their new high protein range. I was kindly sent the spirulina, chia protein powder, pumpkin seed protein powder and rice protein powder, as well as the raw light tahini, raw almond butter and raw walnut butter. Basically I was in dreamland!

Indigo Herbs are based in Glastonbury and they produce a range of superfoods, wholefoods, herbs, herbal teas, herbal tinctures, raw chocolate and more. They are all about supporting natural health and well-being and using traditional plant medicines and healing foods to do this- basically right in line with my own ethos.

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I often use protein powder and nut butters to make batches of energy balls/bars, so I set about creating a batch with my new products:

Cacao, Banana and Almond Butter Recovery Balls

  • 2 Cups Oats
  • 1 Tbsp Cacao Powder (you can use cocoa)
  • 1 Tbsp Cacao Nibs (or choc chips)
  • 2 Heaped Tbsp Rice Protein (or any protein)
  • 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 2 Heaped Tbsp Almond butter
  • Ripe Banana
  • Almond Milk

Blitz the oats in a food processor into a fine powder (leave some aside to add in later for texture), add the banana, almond butter and maple syrup and pulse. Add the rest of the ingredients (including rest of oats), and drizzle in almond milk while blending until the mixture comes together, you want it to be gooey not wet. Roll into balls and refrigerate. They keep well in the fridge, but because of the banana, I would probably freeze most of them and just defrost them one at a time, as and when you need one!

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These balls use no dried fruit, as I think they are sweet enough from the banana, maple syrup and almond milk (I usually make my own, but I treated myself to that Rude Health almond drink because it tastes outrageous- it’s like 1% almonds, and it’s so sweet because of the rice-basically it’s rice milk!). They are perfect for a snack post workout, or in-between meals.

Indigo Herbs protein powders are all non-GM and free from artificial pollutants, they all undergo stringent testing. They are 100% pure, with no sweeteners or any other added ingredients, which is a big thing to be careful with when choosing a protein supplement. Their website is really useful, as it goes into great depth about each product, where it’s from, method of manufacture, how to use and more.

I’m a complete nut butter addict, and have to say these are some of the best I’ve ever had, sometimes raw nut/seed butters- particularly tahini/walnut can be a bit bitter, but these taste fantastic. I think the almond is the best I’ve ever had. There are no additives, and they use a slow milling process which preserves the nutrients in the nuts/seeds.

Indigo Herbs products are available online, they have a huge range, and I will certainly be ordering some of the other products to try as I’m hugely impressed with the quality and the variety of products on offer, and they are also fairly reasonably priced.

 

Disclaimer: I was sent these products for review purposes, all opinions are my own.

Red Bull Wings for Life World Run

I had been looking forward to this race for a while, simply for the pure novelty of it- a race where the finish line chases you.

Basically you set out and 30 minutes later, the catcher car-manned by former F1 ace David Coulthard-starts its chase. It gradually speeds up the further along the course it gets, and once it catches you, you are out, the race ends when everybody has been caught.

The race was at Silverstone race track and was an absolute pain in the arse to get to, thankfully the lovely Georgina gave me a lift to/from the race. The benefits of the venue is that is handily set up to deal with large amounts of runners- lots of parking, lots of toilets, and nice area for a post race party-priorities!

Credit to Emma

Credit to Emma

The weather on the way up was horrific, with torrential rain on the motorway and extremely poor visibility, it was also very cold before the race start- to be honest my excitement had waned and I just wanted to stay in the car, however just before the race started the sun came out, and after meeting up with some new and old faces, we were pumped and ready to go.

The first 5ish miles were on the Silverstone race track, I spent the first two catching up with Rhalou-who had recently run the Highland Fling:hero-and Laura who had done the London marathon- I shortly realised that I better get a shift on if I wanted to hit my planned training run of 10 miles for the day, so I left them to continue- although they were the real winners as they finished right by the post race party paddock with access to all of the free beer-winning.

I did not enjoy the first section at all, the track section was just really dull and very monotonous and just not my thing at all. I was also really struggling in the heat which had come out of nowhere, and I was totally overdressed for the race.

I was much happier to get off the track, and hit the country lanes, yes it was undulating, but there was a lot more to look at, and it brought a bit more variation to the route. Although the route improved, my mood did not. I was suffering with a bit of a dodgy tummy, which I think was probably the heat and due to the late race start at 12pm and not really knowing what to eat prior to running a that time. I also had really heavy legs, and just wasn’t really feeling it at all both mentally and physically. It was a slog.

I was pleased to see each km marker go past but at the same time, I was really desperate for the catcher car to appear and the race to be over! Not long after the 16km marker, the bikes appeared to tell us the catcher car was on it’s way and everyone just put the hammer down. A bunch of us out-sprinted it for a bit, but then we got to another hill and we were done for as the catcher car left us in it’s wake! I was more than happy to be done.

I ambled on to 17km where there was an aid station, with bananas, oranges, and haribo, and plonked myself down on a grassy verge in the sun to wait for the shuttle bus. We had to wait for an excessive amount of time for a bus-some misunderstanding about the bus stop sign that should not have been placed at this point-good job it wasn’t raining like the morning!

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I swiftly picked up my stuff and the race pack- nice buff, no small/medium t-shirts left when I got back-another one for the other half! I then headed to meet the others in the race paddock, where we stayed out on the balcony watching the conclusion of the races-two of our crew Kate and Tom won the women’s and men’s races which was pretty impressive! We indulged in free bananas, free popcorn and free beers, until the race was over. I have to say this was a really good perk of the race-can’t go wrong with beer, let alone free beer-and made the day for me!

I was sad to not enjoy the race, I think it’s hard when you are doing a race as a training run to get yourself up for it in the same manner, and I think as I mentioned earlier in the week I was just a little burnt out and tired so wasn’t really feeling it- I’d love to do it again and really push the pace to see how far I could make it! I think it’s a really unique concept, and it’s really inclusive, if it was easier to get to, it would get a massive thumbs up from me.

Race Day in Numbers

16.5 km, 2 beers, 6 bananas, too many hills, 12 hours-the amount of time I was out of the house to run 10 miles!

What to do when your motivation dips?

Marathon training is a long process, week after week of grinding out the miles, amongst those weeks there are bound to be natural peaks and troughs in terms of everything but particularly motivation. I am not currently training for a marathon-although I am running one in a week or so-but I am having a running motivation dip.

Last week, I found it really really hard to get out of the door, I didn’t want to run, I didn’t even want to put my trainers on, on my days off I just procrastinated around the house until late. This is so unlike me, I’m usually up and out, excited to run, but it just all disappeared last week. Maybe I’m a little burnt out, maybe I just need to mix things up, maybe it was just a temporary blip in my love affair with running, maybe I was bored of running the same routes.

I raced at the Red Bull Wings for Life on the weekend, and although I had a great time at the event, and hung out with some old and new friends, I didn’t really enjoy the race. It felt like a struggle, my legs felt heavy and slow, and I was so relieved when I was caught by the catcher car. I felt that I was battling against my body rather than working in harmony with it.

I am tired, my body is tired, sometimes it’s hurts to walk up the stairs, but more than the physical, I think I’ve neglected to consider the mental drain of long distance training, and it’s taken its toll a little. I have been scheduling drop back weeks, been trying to focus on my recovery, and I know I should be doing more yoga and meditation.

I don’t like feeling like I have to drag myself out the door, so on some days last week when I had planned to I just didn’t run, for whatever reason my body/mind was just giving me the sense that it needed the break, so I worked in some extra rest.

This week I have tried to change up my routine, running with the other half, running in new places, listen to something new (love the new Mumford album), running in new kit, abandoning my hill session, and putting in an unscheduled tempo one because I felt good. My mind feels better this week, a little refreshed and ready to go again.

I don’t know what brought on the lull, but I think I’ve reached the stage where everything ahead seemed too overwhelming. I needed to stop looking at the big picture, and just focus on the now, one week/one day/one run at a time. When training for months at a time, not every week is going to be a perfect one, and actually the worst weeks just like the worst runs are usually the ones that teach us the most and stand us in good stead for the challenges that lie ahead!