Taking a Break

Running and me are taking a break, it’s not that I’m not enjoying it but I just needed some time off after a hard winter of training and completing my goal race the SDW50 in early April. I took a few weeks of total rest, and now 5 weeks on I’ve run a total of 23 miles (less than most of my long training runs) and I’m feeling fairly refreshed and recovered, but still not ready to get back into it properly. I’ve been really enjoying getting out for some shorter runs with my other half, not having to plan my life around fitting in training runs, and actually spending more free time doing fun stuff with the OH and puppy.

Over the last 2 weeks I’ve also got back into the gym which I am slightly ashamed to say I completely skipped out on for the last few months. I know that it was a solid few months in the gym prior to ultra training that ensured I was able to train for 4 months injury free, and that’s why I’m now heading back there, to get my body back to being strong enough for winter running. I’ve really missed my regular gym sessions, and I’ve been enjoying getting back into strength training. I will continue with the infrequent running for now, as my focus is purely on building summer strength for winter miles!

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The only race I have left on my calendar for the summer is the British 10k, which I am massively looking forward to. I’ve never run a race in central London before, and haven’t done a 10k in about 3 years so it should be quite exciting. I’m not going to be following a specific training plan for this, just regularly strength training with a few short runs a week, as I have no goals other than to enjoy the route.

The Vitality British 10k is taking place on Sunday 10th July and will weave it’s way past all the sights in central London. Starting at Hyde Park corner, the route will take more than 15,000 runners past the London Eye, Big Ben and Houses of Parliament before finishing on Whitehall. I’m really excited to run this part of the city in a race, it should be an amazing atmosphere.

This year entry will include a free Brooks technical t-shirt, medal, and opportunity for a post race massage. It should be a great event- hoping the summer sunshine returns and makes London looks it’s best! If you want to find out more or join me at the race you can sign up at here and entries are now open. I’m really looking forward to making my race return, but first time to get some strength back!

 

Disclaimer: I was offered a media place at the British 10k, all opinions are my own.

 

Purition: Vegan Wholefood Shakes

Shakes, love them or loathe them, they seem to be the thing of the moment. I feel like every time I enter a health store there is a new brand of super shake or protein shake on the market, it can be difficult to know what to choose and distinguish between the brands.

I do regularly use protein powders within my diet, although it’s not necessarily something I feel like I need to do, I would say I use them when I am training quite heavily, and also when I just went to up the protein content of a meal, ie. oats for breakfast, to keep me going for longer.

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Purition is a brand I’ve been familiar with for a while, but most of their wholefood shakes were non-vegan based, so I was delighted when I was contacted by them to try out their new range of Vegan wholefood shakes. I would define them as a big step up from protein shakes as they are packed full of super wholefood ingredients in addition, and although I wouldn’t do this myself, they could pass as a meal replacement shake as they are nutrient dense, rich in protein and fibre, as well as being a good source of nutrients like B-vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron and zinc.

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I was sent the Vegan hemp, vanilla and chocolate flavours and enjoyed using all of them. So what’s in them that makes them so super? They are packed with protein, omega fats and fibre, designed for a slow release of energy and keeping you satiated. Ingredients include: hemp protein, flaxseed, chia seeds, almonds, coconut and many more, the flavoured varieties just use cocoa or Madagascan vanilla rather than some shady ‘natural’ flavouring. They are also raw, meaning they have not been highly processed or heated so you aren’t losing out on the nutrients in that way. Unlike a lot of shakes on the market, they are free of artificial ingredients, preservatives, sugar and are non-GMO. There’s no weird hard to pronounce ingredients here, just plenty of nourishing whole foods.

I think post long run when you might not feel like eating, or when travelling or on the go, they are a great way to get in a lot of nutrients. I have used the shakes in many ways, including just mixed with water, stirred into porridge, and added to smoothies, which made a really delicious filling thick shake. They recommending blending with non-dairy milk and berries, which would make a really quick and simple grab-and-go breakfast. I quite like hemp protein anyway, although I know some people find it a little earthy tasting, but I really found Purition’s product very easy to take, and enjoyed the flavours.

I’m not a huge fan of shakes being marketed as weight loss products, but if people were looking for meal-replacement products these are miles ahead of whats already out there. I will continue to add them to super-boost my breakfast smoothies or as a quick snack to keep me going.

You can buy a sample pack of mixed flavours from their website if you can’t decide which to go for. I am definitely going to be reordering some in future, as I think it’s a brilliant product, and I really like the ethos of the brand.

 

Disclaimer: I received the shakes from Purition for review purposes, all opinions are my own.

 

SDW50

Race week had been a long time coming, I’d spend 4 months training, the last 6 weeks of which hadn’t gone to plan and after a long 3 week taper and a fairy disastrous encounter with the South Downs at CTS Sussex doubts were beginning to surface.

This race and the Cardiff half were the first ones where I’ve really felt that nervous/excited feeling on the build up to race week that has been missing for such a long time, it was a good sign, it meant I was ready to take on whatever lay ahead.

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The weather was horrendous early morning the wind and rain actually woke me up at 4.45 battering on my Worthing B&B window. However by the time we gathered for the race brief at just before 9 the rain had stopped, and I made the right decision to take off my rain coat and carry it in my pack.

The first few miles are not on the South Downs way and due to the rather wet weather we’ve had over the last week were incredibly muddy. I had only wore my Inov8 ultra 290s on two 7 mile runs having made a last minute decision to try a shoe with a wider toe box after the Salomon Speedcross destroyed my feet so badly at CTS Sussex I had to drop out at half way.

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I hadn’t run on wet or muddy trail in them and I quickly realised they had absolutely no grip whatsoever, I was frustratingly moving sideways, slipping backwards and teetering throughout, although I somehow didn’t manage to fall over the entire race despite a few near misses- thanks core.

My goal in the race was to break it down into mini races between the checkpoints and the first one was after 11 miles at Botolphs, most of the aid stations had lovely runnable flat and downhill segments before them which meant big climbs after. I saw Steph at this checkpoint which was a nice boost, and I was quickly in for a handful of fruit/nuts and hiking up the first big hill.

I tried to run everything that was flat or downhill and then hike up the hills, the serious big ones are located after every aid station so I tended to grab some food and walk up while eating and updating the other half of my progress. I sipped water every 15 mins and had a bite of something whenever I needed, although I don’t feel like I ate much during the whole race!

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I actually can’t remember much of the race now- it seems to have blurred into one undulating muddy memory! The hills are very very long, just when you think you are at the top they keep going up further but it means there is actually a lot of runnable sections on the course.

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I made it to checkpoint 2 at 16 miles in good spirits and refilled my camelbak here as I knew the next stop was not for another 10 or so miles. The problem with my UD Jenny pack is that it is so small it’s a real squeeze to get everything in, so I had to unpack everything to get the bladder out which was then too full to go back in- bladders are not time efficient, but it’s not like I was trying to win the race! This checkpoint was wonderfully stocked, I had some more nuts/fruit and some melon which was delicious.

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The next stretch was a long one, but it was one that saw us past the half way point and I was pleased with my progress. It was turning into a beautiful day and the views were just something else- you don’t get that in London, neither do you get those hills. My training involved less than a handful of off road runs and some hills in Greenwich park, the South Downs way it is not.

I had heard the second half was tougher than the first and would probably agree, there are some really steep sharp climbs which were a struggle to get up in the mud, as well as the long undulating ones. The weather turned quite quickly and we had a pretty torrential downpour when I was around 27 miles in for about 10 mins, I quickly got my jacket on and kept it on for the rest of the race as it got very breezy on the more exposed segments. I had packed some cooked potatoes and sweet potatoes smeared with almond butter which I am glad I did as it totally hit the spot and was a change from the sweeter stuff on offer.

At the next checkpoint I had a quick pit stop and found a toilet in a cafe which I sneaked in. I washed my face and felt all refreshed. I then loaded up on some mini peanut butter wraps- best snack all day- and was off up another undulating hill. I did feel like we were constantly going up and up and up, although this might be because I had to take the downhills very slowly as I was wary of my toes and recently blackened toenails which had caused me to drop out of CTS Sussex. I also knew I should have stopped and put plasters on some hot spots on my heels, which were pretty bad by the end of the day.

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I was enjoying chatting to lots of incredible people, and hearing tales of their races past and future- I felt like there was such a good vibe at this event which starts with the staff and volunteers and is reflected all the way through to the runners, you find yourself passing and being passed by the same people all day exchanging a few friendly words which propels you forward.

At checkpoint 4 it become a bit more manageable to think about distance with 16 miles to go, I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. The next checkpoint after this was about 7 miles away, I just broke it down into time to eat/drink, and started to count down the miles.

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I had a total emotional breakdown at mile 40, I guess you kind of strip back all the layers in ultras and emotions are raw. All day we had been running through fields of calves, piglets and lambs and this one little lamb and the way it was snuggled up to to its mum just struck me to the core, how can we be so cruel and incompassionate, it really got me.

On arrival at checkpoint 5 I was informed that all the cider and prosecco to fill your bladders up with had already gone- need to be faster I guess! I had another lengthy stop to fill my bladder again-and grabbed some clementines and coke. I left the CP and immediately regretted not using the bathroom there, luckily I could walk the long hill and my stomach settled down although I started to suffer with nausea with about 12 miles to go. I knew I needed to get to the next checkpoint and was hoping there would be a toilet!

There was again a lot of very runnable sections here although by runnable I’m talking 12 min miles as it was all the legs had by this point. As I got to the final CP I was delighted to find there was a toilet for a final pit stop, I had some melon and was on my way- hoping to get off the downs before dark.

As we rounded the final hill at sunset we reached the much talked about trig point and were guided safely down the correct route, this next segment was probably the hardest of the day, narrow, rutted, muddy chalk, I could barely stay upright and tip toed down it trying to hold onto anything- I was so glad to be off this section before dark.

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The next section was absolutely never ending I had watched the video on the road section but it seemed so long in real life. I started running with Victoria and we ran the last few miles together which really got me to the finish. As we neared the bright lights of the sports ground, we realised we had to run round the track to finish and so commenced a slow shuffle for personal victory and just finishing before it was totally dark, collecting out medal from the inspiring Mimi Anderson.

I cannot put into words how good this event was, it was so well organized, the checkpoints were great, volunteers were amazing, course well marked and we were very well looked after all day. It has a very good vibe about it which they have worked hard to cultivate and it’s such a welcoming community.

I had such doubts when I had to drop out of CTS Sussex, and the days following it I actually considering pulling out of this race- was the love there, why was I doing it, but I’ve laid that all to rest now- it’s the set backs that make us stronger and make the good days all the more worthwhile and the SDW50, well, that was a good day.

March Round Up

The months are certainly flying by! March was a month of highs and low, and on the whole it’s a month I’m glad to put behind me.

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Running
I ended up Feb suffering with a horrendous blister, which I had to take antibiotics for and was told to rest for 3 weeks, in the end I didn’t rest for this long, and managed to control the blister and manage it through the first part of the month. The antibiotics totally messed up my GI system, and I had a dodgy stomach for the first part of month on almost every run.

Ran 3 races and DNS another 2. Ran the Vicky Park half as part of a 20 mile run and had horrendous stomach issues- I actually thought I was going to have to drop out. I had to drop out of the CTS Sussex  for my first ever DNF after 17.5 miles of an attempted 34 thanks to foot issues (not the blister this time), this was a bit of a mental and physical blow.

I went back to Wales for a week for Easter and it was just what I needed, I felt the freedom of running on some hilly Welsh trails, and I ran a new PB at the Cardiff half. I’m now on my second week of my taper and gradually decreasing my mileage before race day next weekend. I’m at the stage where everything feels a bit niggly, and I’m having a bit of a taper wobble!

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Gym
This has been a bit laughable to be honest. Ive been about 3 times all month. I was away for a whole week, and then I haven’t gone back during taper as I wanted to rest my legs for race day. I’m really really missing the gym, and lifting heavy, and I can’t wait until post race, so I can get back into a proper training program. The difference in my body compared to when I was solely lifting in Oct, to now with laregely long distance running is insane, I’ve always struggled with weight gain during long distance training, as it seems to play havoc with my hormones and my body just clings on to everything, but it’s interesting to see the comparison pre-ultra training and now in terms of body composition.

Food
It’s been a bit of an indulgent month, with lots of eating out, thanks to birthday, holiday in Wales and Easter. I’m looking forward to getting back to some fresh spring flavours, and simple meals- although I have a week of indulgence in New York to look forward to post-ultra! I’m carrying a bit more weight than I would ideally like to, heading into the race, but it’s a little late to do anything about it now!

March Goals
Horrible, I don’t even think I tried. My meditation totally slipped away completley, I barely went to the gym. Although the blister is now sorted, and I have blogged a few more times!

April Goals
Enjoy my goal race for 2016
Rest up and recover post race
Have an amazing trip in New York
Get back to some simple wholefood meals post holiday

Cardiff2016: Run the Worlds

My 2015 in racing does not read well: Rubbish half marathon, DNS, DNF, DNS. If I’m honest it’s been a big blow to my confidence, and heading into the SDW in a few weeks time I don’t think mentally or physically this had left me in a good place. Then came Cardiff.

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I had signed up for the Cardiff world half marathon championships ages ago, excited that such a big event was coming to my hometown, and keen not to miss out on the party. With 2 weeks until SDW50, it was not ideal timing, but I just felt like I needed to get out there, and enjoy myself and put the last 6 weeks or so behind me. It was important going into the race not to carry the baggage of the last few months, to move on, and try to redeem myself-in my own mind.

I hadn’t been feeling great in the week or two before, struggling with hayfever- tiredness, heavy legs and difficulty breathing, but luckily race day conditions meant that wasn’t an issue. The forecast was pretty horrendous for the 2.10pm start- torrential rain and 40mph wind, although to be fair considering this it could have been a lot worse.

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Pre-race, I felt like I had the excitement back, I hadn’t felt that way in any race for a very long time. I actually wanted to and was ready to run, I’m not sure if it was the occasion, being back in Wales, or just luck that day but everything seemed to click into place again, where I had been fighting against my body recently, everything seemed to click into place and it felt easy again.

I decided as I wanted to enjoy the race, to record it on my garmin but switch it onto mapmode and not check it at any point, this meant I ran completely on feel, it felt like such an intuitive way to run, I wasn’t going for any particular time goal, and I wasn’t pushing extremely hard, but I was going at a pace I felt was comfortable and that I could maintain- although I had no idea what this was.

Having ran the Cardiff half twice before, I was well familiar with the route, so I knew all the lumps and bumps, and twists and turns of the course. The course was well marshaled throughout- even telling you to watch out for speed bumps- and the support in the most abysmal conditions was amazing, the tunnels especially created such an amazing cacophony of noise, it massively helped on the day.

The rain started just before we started, and didn’t let up for the entire race, although it was only when I got to about 5.5m that it really came down. I couldn’t have been in a worse place for it, right alongside the bay, and as the hail fell, the rain slanted horizontally and the wind whipped up the water off the bay, you could only laugh. It was undoubtedly the most ridiculous few minutes of running I’ve ever experienced, and everyone was so wet it looked like we had been swimming. Ironically the race photographers were well placed here, and some of my photos are so hilarious I might have to buy them. I was incredibly lucky that my poor feet which had been so battered in recent weeks managed to cope alright despite being waterlogged!

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I felt pretty comfortable the whole way round, I had a tiny bit of Nakd bar along the route (1/4 or so) but that was all, and I felt stronger than I had felt in a long time. After the incline at mile 12, I decided to have a cheeky look at the watch just in-case I was close to any times I might want to dip under. My watch read 1.46 at 12.25m, I was pretty amazed given that I hadn’t had the best of months in training, was at the end of a very long ultra training period, ran 5 hilly trail miles the previous day and have been doing pretty much no speedwork- sometimes everything goes right! It proved to me once again that running higher mileage does effect speed!

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The last few miles were a push, but as I edged closer to the finish I realized I could dip under 1.55, and so was determined to do that. I finished in 1.54.17 which was a 3 min PB, but what meant more was running the race on my terms, feeling strong throughout, and enjoying it. I haven’t enjoyed a road race in a long time, so this meant a lot, and heading into SDW in 2 weeks time, it was just what I needed. Obviously a flat-ish road half is not comparable to 50 trail miles, but the feelings, emotions and mental strength were what I was looking for, and I feel mentally back in the game, and ready to leave everything out on the downs in 2 weeks time.