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Ultra Training Month 3: Going Long

February was a really solid training month for me, and this thankfully continued into March. My mileage has been hitting near it’s peak for the training plan and the long runs and back to back long runs have been getting longer.
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I started the third month of training with a drop week, where I lowered my mileage from 50+ down to 30ish for the week. I like to do this after every 3 weeks of harder training, as I just find it most effective for recovery and progress, and not burning out.

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The last 3 weeks have all been big mileage weeks. I’ve been getting in a hill session each week, and will continue to increase these and try and do some sessions on steps in the run up to the race. I’ve also tried to run off road as much as possible although I know it’s not really equivalent to running on the NDW.

I had a really good 12 mile run during week 10 of training but unfortunately that week ended badly with me having to drop out of the Thames Meander Marathon after 17m due to severe period pains. Thankfully it didn’t affect my training too much other than the race and a shorter run the day after, and I still managed to hit my mileage goal for the week.

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I had a really good 24m run in week 11 of training, with a parkrun at Mile End during the run. I haven’t done that parkrun before, and it was a lovely route, albeit undulating. That run was a massive confidence booster, I felt really strong, and comfortable throughout, and didn’t feel too bad later on, or the next day when I ran the Salomon Richmond half and was only 18s off my PB.

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I think that week probably took quite a bit out of my body and it has taken a while to recover from it, which explains the fatigue in week 12. I spent most of week 12 in Amsterdam, but managed to get all my training in, I had two lovely 5m runs in the Vondelpark, and a beautiful 15m run along the river Amstel which I am quite amazed I managed to navigate without getting lost. I just followed the river once I found it, it was a lovely route, and so peaceful.

Last Sunday I did my longest run of training yet at 27m, and it couldn’t have felt more different to the 24m the week before. I had flown back really early from Amsterdam that morning, and lacking sleep due to the clock change and time difference, I was pretty tired from the off. I also set off much later than usual, and it was 17 degrees in Cardiff which was unusual. After about 4 miles I was really struggling with heavy legs, and just nothing in the tank physically or mentally- I knew this run was really important in terms of going through these feelings and emotions for race day, so I just pushed on, shuffling with one foot in front of the other. I felt battered by the end, incredibly sore and drained. It was great to get the mileage in, but it was confidence knocking for it to be feel as bad as that. Thankfully it’s another drop week this week, so time to recoup and recover, ready for the last push.

I’ve been struggling for the last week with incredibly bad hayfever which I think played a role in the terrible run too. I get really bad fatigue, headaches and chest tightness during hayfever season, and these symptoms coincided with running out of Reishi mushroom capsules over the last week, which I had been taking for a few weeks- time to restock!

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I need to really nail my nutrition for the next 6-7 weeks, because I basically ate/drank everything that Amsterdam had to offer, and I need to tighten this up, to focus on maximising recovery and getting the most out of my training too.

I’ve continued with my three gym sessions a week, and I’m still training pretty hard in the gym. I did drop my leg session on the week of the marathon, but other than that, I’ve kept going in the gym and will continue until the taper. I did get to a yoga class finally too, and I am hoping to keep going this month, it’s just the thing that gets dropped when I’m struggling to fit everything else in. I’ve continue with my rolling/strength/stretching a couple of times a week, and fingers crossed that is working for now. Hoping the drop week recharges me, and ready to hit some big mileage in the coming weeks.

Week 9: 32m
Week 10: 56m
Week 11: 53m
Week 12: 58m

Salomon Richmond Half 2017

Having got my long run out of the way the day before, I was free to take it easy on race morning, and not worry about running miles before/after which was a nice relief. Sunday was my birthday and what better way to spend it than running a race- although last year ended in a DNF at CTS Sussex, so I was hoping for a more enjoyable run this time around. I realised in the week that the race had quite an early start time with waves going off from 8.30am, and with no trains running to the area that weekend-standard- it meant a pretty early start to get from East to West.

The race village was a 5 minute walk from Richmond station which was ideal, what was less than ideal was the enormous bag drop queue- luckily I wasn’t dropping a bag off- and the even bigger toilet queues. Unfortunately the toilet queue was running across the back of the pens, and as they started to fill up, those of us who had been waiting for quite a long time saw the queue disintegrate into a crowd in front of us, after persevering, I did manage to get to have a quick wee before running to the start, to go off with the sub 1.55 wave.

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The first 2-3 miles were on very narrow pavements, it was difficult to get into a rhythm, and it was very congested. I had somewhat mistakenly gone for trail shoes, but there were a lot of road sections, and the trails were very dry and hard packed, so road shoes would have been fine. After three miles we were onto the tow paths and trails, and though still narrow, the field did slightly begin to thin out. I was feeling pretty good, although by mile 4 was totally ravenous, I think I was hungry after the 24 miles the day before, but I only had a Nakd bar on me and I wanted to save it for later on. Some of the course was similar to the marathon from last weekend, so I was used to the bits along the river, which are lovely and scenic.

We completed the first loop up to Kew and headed south towards Teddington for the second loop of the run. The first couple of miles here were an out and back, so when we reached mile 5, I could see the mile 11 poster facing the other way, and gave Tom Payn a little cheer as he bombed past in the opposite direction. I was still feeling decent up to the half way point, and continued to run comfortably. I was running near the 1.55 pacers, so knew I was running strongly, I was surprised at this given the run yesterday.

At mile 8 I was starting to feel out of gas, and a little low on energy, so I had a bite of nakd bar to keep me going. The wind was making the running somewhat of a challenge, and my pace significantly dropped here as we hit a big headwind, and it just sapped me of energy. I felt like the whole race was into a headwind, it was tough out there. I knew at this point, I was running quite close to my PB, so I decided to just try and hang on to the pace I was running as long as possible. After mile 9 we headed towards home, along the river, and I knew I had to push to hold onto my pace and was counting down the miles and minutes.

I had my camelbak with me, so didn’t need to take any water, but there was 4 well stocked stations along the way. The amount of plastic cups that were just thrown onto the floor was ridiculous though, if you pick up a cup, don’t just throw it on the floor, there were plenty of bins to chuck it into.

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There was a few people cheering along the last few miles which was a nice boost. There was a little out and back and we finally ran under an underpass through to what can only be described as the longest finishing straight I’ve ever seen, it went round so many corners that I couldn’t see where the finish line was. I was so close to my PB, but unfortunately the finish was a bit further than estimated, and with my Garmin reading 13.2 my maths had been slightly off in my head. I finished in 1.54.35 (about 18s off my PB) which I was astounded with considering the 24 miles the day before and though it was hard, I never felt like I was going hell for leather, and I didn’t feel horrendous at the end, so I think I can potentially go a lot faster.

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I grabbed my medal, some water, and an excellent whole foods goody bag, as well as a t-shirt before heading out of the race village and home to celebrate my birthday. The times were released that afternoon with some very strange numbers- my chip time was 1.19, and it seems everyone chip times were well off- not entirely sure what happened but they were sorted out later on that day. The organisation in general wasn’t amazing, but this was a good training run, and I was delighted with my efforts.

Thames Meander 2017: Period Chat

If you aren’t interested in all things periods, I suggest you probably skip this post, but I think it’s something we need to talk about, and the issues it brings up need to be discussed. I’ve talked about my period issues previously on the blog, and I just think it’s important to discuss how much of an impact it can have on peoples lives, and obviously for this post, their running.

On Friday afternoon the day before the marathon I was totally laid out with period cramps, nausea and close to vomiting a few times, it’s safe to say my preparation wasn’t ideal. Annoyingly my period had come two days late, meaning the marathon would be the second day of my period-when my flow tends to be heaviest. It’s rare but not unusual for me to get cramps on more than the first day of my period, so I just thought I would see how I felt on the morning of the race.

I wasn’t actually feeling too bad in the morning despite a restless night of sleep, and headed over to Kingston to start the race. At 10am, we were under way, on a short out and back past the start and heading up the river from Kingston to Barnes.

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I ran my marathon PB at this race in 2015, so I was familiar with the course, conditions were a lot different this time around though. In 2015 it was freezing cold, but on Saturday summer had suddenly arrived, it was muggy, and hot, not the easiest of conditions for long distance running. I always tend to overheat during my period too, so I was feeling very sweaty and hot early on in the run.

I felt really comfortable and the first 6 miles ticked by in no time, I was enjoying the run, scenery and chatting to other people in the race. It’s a smallish race, but I was never completely alone at any point in the race, so it still has a nice friendly atmosphere. After going through 10k in under 55 minutes, I felt like I should probably slow down a bit even though I was still feeling comfortable, this was after all a training run, and I was a bit concerned about the heat.

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Credit to Rhianon

The race features a half marathon distance too, and they turn back at Kew, which left us marathon runners to continue on to Barnes. At Kew the lovely Rhianon came to join me for a few miles, greeting me with a big cheer and Welsh flag. We chatted for a few more miles before she left me to go on my way. At this point, I could feel the first inclination that something wasn’t quite right, and you can see from my slowing mile splits, where I started to feel quite unwell. The period cramps and pain and nausea started to come on from around mile 11, and got worse by the mile.

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At the half way turn around point, I was as far as possible from the start, and without any money/bank card on me (stupid), I realised the only way for me to get back was to run it or walk it. At that point the pain was coming in waves and still somewhat bearable, but by 15 miles, I had to keep stopping hunched over at the side of the road, the pain was so bad I was nearly sick and I was wobbling all over the path at this point. I called the OH in tears about how unfair it was that I have to suffer with this. I tried to carry on to the next aid station, but the pain kept coming in waves, so anytime I jogged for a bit, it would exacerbate the pain and I would feel so much worse even when walking, or just stopping.

I tried to get some painkillers at the aid station-which I know is totally not recommended during endurance stuff but I was desperate-but they didn’t have any and I stopped in a pub on the route to use the toilet, I then had to make a decision on what to do. Lots of runners were passing me and giving encouragement and a kind few checked if I was OK, I just wanted to have a massive sign that said: “PERIOD CRAMPS!!”.

I couldn’t walk at this point as I was doubled over in pain, and I realised after 17 miles and with 9 miles to go, that it wasn’t physically going to be possible for me to finish the race. If I continued further I was getting further away from any road or place I could try and get back from, and I just didn’t think it was worth the risk to continue. I had to make a decision to leave the course, and I got an Uber back to the start to get my stuff- Thank god for Uber, the only thing I could do after not having cash/card on me.

After getting some painkillers at the HQ and sitting down on the train home, I felt so much better, and kind of annoyed that maybe if I had continued it would have passed and I would have been OK, but honestly I couldn’t take that risk. I know in my heart I made the correct decision at that time, and though it would have been nice to finish and get the medal, it  just wasn’t meant to be on that day. On the bright side had the race been a day earlier I wouldn’t have even made it to the start line, so at least I got 17 miles in the bag, and 8 of which I was extremely happy with. Running a 2.02 half during a marathon was not to shabby for me at all, and I think on a better day health wise I would have destroyed my PB. It’s all useful training, but I am never running another race within the first few days of my period.

I previously would have felt really down and upset about this race, and the DNF, but I think dealing with this every month puts things into perspective. I’m not able to nail my training every single week of every month, and I think managing to run 55 miles that week while suffering from extreme pain was pretty decent. For me, my period does effect my running massively- even the next day I still had minor cramps and GI upset that cut my run short. The advice to exercising when you have cramping drives me nuts, if you can exercise with menstrual cramps, then they probably aren’t that bad. I have an extremely high pain threshold, and on no occasion has exercising ever improved my pain, and it’s actually made it a lot worse.

This isn’t much of a review of the race, so in brief, the course was a little muddy initially, but mostly pretty hard packed in general. It was well organised as always, and it was good that they’ve taken out the really busy section in Barnes past the rowing club as that was like an obstacle course past all the boats and rowers last time. If you want a scenic, quiet-ish, trail marathon that’s flat as a pancake, I would fully recommend it. They run the race three times a year also so plenty of opportunities to do it.

Training Month 2: Building the Mileage

January ended with me missing a whole week of training due to stomach flu, I spent the week on the sofa, binging on netflix, and recovering. I knew it wouldn’t be easy getting back to running, and it would take me a while to recover, so February was all about getting back on track and upping my mileage and long runs.

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I feel like overall February has been a good month of training, my mileage has been 40-50+ miles each week, there’s been a few sessions, and my first race in almost a year at the Maverick race Sussex (post coming on this). I’ve been trying to get some hill sessions in each week, and hitting the trails in Sussex was really invaluable, as no matter how hard you try, you really can’t train for that in London. The back to back long slow runs have been increasing, currently up to 22 and 15 miles now, and they only continue to increase from here.

I’m really tired going into March, and this nicely coincides with a drop week this week, where I will be lowering my mileage and trying to give my legs a break. I like to do this after every 3 bigger weeks of training, but due to the race this weekend I had to postpone the recovery week by a week, and I think that’s why I feel it’s overdue.

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I feel like a lot of my runs this month have sucked, I’ve felt like I’ve not been able to get my legs going on a lot of runs, they’ve been unusually heavy, and I’ve felt I’ve been unable to turn them over any quicker. The first week back after stomach flu, I was really struggling with fatigue and my energy levels, I think I was just so depleted after that week plus I always struggle with fatigue the week before my period, so it was a bad combo, and I took some time to recover properly, this last week they have started to feel much better though.

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My nutrition has been horrible this month, after my week of eating pretty much nothing while out with stomach flu, I’ve just been absolutely ravenous. It’s like my body was so starved and depleted, it just wanted all of the foods, all of the time. Which was fine for a week or so, but it has continued the whole month- coinciding with PMS and higher mileage weeks, I’ve just been living in a constant state of hunger and grazing. I need to pay more attention to my eating post exercise, and focus on increasing nutrient density, not just what’s quick and easy to grab. Definitely room to work on this for March.

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Unintentional Colour Co-ordination…

I’ve felt really good in the gym, and have continued with 3 sessions a week, I’m trying to tweak when I do my leg session and what I do in that session, to ensure it’s not affecting my running too much, as I think the heavy legged, sluggishness is partly related to training legs hard each week. I didn’t get to yoga at all this month, I just never remember to book it, and it fills up almost immediately when the sessions go online, something to work on for March. I have however been getting back into a strict habit of rolling, stretching and doing specific prevention/rehab exercises as my ITB was bothering me a bit in the middle of the month. I’d say I’m doing 30 minutes of that routine 4-5 evenings a week, and it has made a big difference, and the pain has gone away for now. I’m looking forward to a drop week now, before 2 races this month and some big mileage ahead.

Training Month Two
Week 5: 42m
Week 6: 46m
Week 7: 43m
Week 8: 53m

Maverick Race Sussex

Little did I know after completing Centurion’s SDW50 last April, it would turn out to be my last race for nearly a year. Long gone are the days of running all of the races, and even training year round. I’ve really benefited from taking an extended break from running, and though it was bloody hard at first to get back into it, I’m actually at a point where I’m really enjoying it again.

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Last weekend marked my first race back, I’ve got a few upcoming and I am using them all as training for the NDW50 in May, so I won’t be going hell for leather on them, just getting the miles in and enjoying the day, scenery and atmosphere.

I liked the idea of the Maverick Sussex, as in theory it was relatively easy to get to from London. However, at 7.35am on Saturday morning, my scheduled 7.33am train was cancelled, with the next one not for another hour, it left me no time to get my connecting train and get to the race on time. What followed was frantic, stressful and not really the way you want to head into a race. I managed to get an Uber to East Croydon, a train to Horsham, and then a taxi to the start in Amberley- all of this was bloody expensive, thanks Southern Rail. However, I did make it to the race on time, slightly frazzled.

The registration was pain free, and toilet queues for ladies short (though none of them were flushing). We had a quick race briefing, with a cacophony of barking in the background (I’ve never seen so many dogs at a race and I love how dog friendly the event is) and we were under way. There were a few familiar faces in the crowd who it was good to see, and the atmosphere as always at these kind of events was great. There were three events: short 7k, medium 14k and the long which I was doing which was 23km. All routes were signposted clearly and turn off points were easy to navigate.

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They set us off on a pretty brutal climb for the first two miles, which was one way to reunite with the trails. They don’t have climbs like that in London! The race was undulating with a few steeper sections after the first climb, but nothing too extended, and there was lots and lots of flat runnable sections.

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For February the downs were surprisingly dry, the chalk was a little slippy in places, but not until the last few miles was there any really thick ankle deep mud to navigate. What was more challenging was the wind, Doris seemed to be lingering, and some of the exposed sections were fairly brutal, in particular the headwind near the end, which made the flat sections feel as bad as the opening hill! There also didn’t feel like there was that many downhills, I was really looking forward to one near the end, but it turned out to be a severely steep set of steps which I tip toed down in fear of falling.

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It was a bit of a mizzly overcast day so the views weren’t amazing, but I do love running on the downs, there really is nothing like it.

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The finish was a bit bizarre, running round the car park, and through the Amberley museum, before crossing the line and being rewarded with a much needed trail ale. I would definitely recommend the Maverick series, it was really well organized, nice course and theoretically should have been easy to get to as well. I was really pleased with my effort for the day, and it was really good to get out and run on some proper hills and trail conditions.

Next race up is the Thames Meander Marathon next weekend, I did it in 2015 and it’s where I set my PB, although I don’t expect to get close to that this time, as it is a training run. I haven’t run a marathon “race” since 2015, which is bizarre, I’ve done 2 ultras since then, and quite a few marathon distance or more training runs but no actual races. I’ll report back next weekend.