Tuesday, 25 November 2014

TRAINING UPDATE: Targeting a sub 21 minute 5K

Throughout my journey to completing my first ever triathlon, I have decided to set mini targets along the way. One of them being a shiny new 5K PB. I haven't dabbled in this distance for over a year now and I think I have ran 5K about three times this year, one of which was a parkrun. 

The distance itself is actually great for all sorts of abilities. Whether you are new to running and making it you first target, or using it as essential strength building time during marathon training, everyone really should be boshing out a few 5K every now and then.

In the last four years I have been a runner, I have rarely chosen to complete the distance. Mainly because I always saw it as 'too short' and not relevant to my training but really, it can make a nice change to pounding the pavements for miles and miles. I am also a stronger competitor over shorter distances so why I have never seeked regular 5K PB has left me a little clueless. Still though, with a 5K in my triathlon, there really is no excuse now to set up some training sessions to improve my speed over the 3.1 miles.

Why 5K?
What's brilliant about 5K I guess is parkrun. One of the greatest events to be funded by the UK government, it's is a free 5K race for anyone to take part in. Taking place around the country at 9am every Saturday, thousands and thousands of Brits descend on their local parkrun to take part. The timed run is something many people I know dedicate their Saturday morning too and I really must pluck up the courage to squidge one or two into my training regime.
My current 5K PB is 21.58, which I achieved almost a year ago (above is where I achieved this at Newbury parkrun). If I was to go out now and run 5K, I'd be lucky to go under 24 minutes. Not good. So what time do I target? I feel like I could play it safe and aim for sub 22 minutes again but then part of me is thinking it's time to push myself and so why not try and aim for sub 21. I guess I am being an eager beaver but it would train me to work at 110%, which in turn will be very beneficial to me come further triathlon training.

Looking deeper into my reasons for this target, in all honesty I also am in desperate need of speed, endurance and most definitely a decent core, so fitting in some 5K tailored sessions will help tick these boxes. You could even say I am starting my New Year's resolution early!

The strategy 
How will I achieve this? Well I guess I am already halfway there in terms of tailored training with Thursdays spent at the athletics track enduring numerous sessions to get the body working at VO2 max and so I will definitely continue with this part of my normal training as it already helps with my speed. I will then make sure I balance our these intensive workouts with consistent running, aiming to do 3-6 miles for each run I do. I will try and do this twice a week, along with the cycling and swimming I already do as part of my triathlon training. Phew! 

The idea overall is for my track and running sessions to gel together, meaning that interval training will generate speed and muscle whilst consistent running will build endurance and efficiency.

More importantly, I need to fit 5K events into my diary and for this, I will most definitely turn to parkrun. By fitting these in, I will (hopefully) notice increased speed as my times get faster and faster with the aim to end up with that sub 21 minutes (20.59 here I come!). I did back in August take part in a parkrun and crossed the line in 23.09 so I am hoping I can land back around this sort of time and work my way up from there. Still though, hope is no guarantee so whatever time I do, I must accept it, be patient and build on it.

Key 5K training tips
For anyone who, like me, are also hunting down a 5K PB, here are some key training tips to remember when working towards smashing this distance...

1. Integrate speed work into your training. Opt for sessions that involve short bursts of hard running with small rest breaks. Pyramid sessions are great for this:
2. Hit those hills! This is rich coming from me, the Queen of hill dodging. I will however put my hands up and surrender to undulating courses and steep climbs. Hill training will really help to strengthen your core, not to mention your endurance. Head to a local park where you know a decent hill lies and again aim to do intervals running up and down the hill, followed by short sprints across flat ground. 
3. Master your stride. 5K is fast and requires lots of speed training so perfecting your stride will help to avoid injures and niggles. Lengthening your stride will also assist you in securing that all important PB. Short hill reps will help you achieve this.
4. Plank it. Like I have said throughout this post, a solid core makes such a difference when racing. To speed up the process of toughening it up, mix up your training with static workouts, such as planks. I have recently discovered walking planks to where you lean down on your elbows and push up so your arms are straight. It burns so bad but is totally worth it in the long run!

All of the above I will most definitely be adopting into my training regime (even the hills!). After all, I have a long journey to take to reach that sub 21 minutes, with the aim to hit this milestone by my birthday in April 2015

What PBs does everyone else have on the agenda? Are you aiming for a 5K personal record too?

Lipstick Runner.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Blenheim Palace Triathlon: Venue Visit

As I am about to endure my first ever triathlon, I took it upon myself to organise a day trip to where it will be taking place - Blenheim Palace.

Now, I have never done a 'reccy' as some people call it (basically cast your beady eyeballs over something) but triathlon is unfamiliar territory to me, especially the outdoor swim so visiting its location and getting a good grasp of what surroundings, terrains and conditions I will be facing was essential to me.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire is the only place in Britain to be given the honour of being called a palace (the only other place is Buckingham Palace, which is a royal ground). Owned by the Duke of Marlborough, it's renowned ownership in the past has been the Churchill's (Winston Churchill who was Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Second World War was born here). But, along with the history of this magnificent building, it is also home to a large annual triathlon event! June 2015 will see around 7000 triathletes enter through the gates and take part in either Super Sprint or Sprint distances.  The latter I am doing and I was really keen to head off for a long, relaxed walk around the grounds of Blenheim to check out the course and what I was going to eventually face. 
The swim is my most uncertain area. Having never swam in open water, checking out the lake was really important and working out where I was going to swim. Looking at the course map on the event website, it looks like I will be swimming up this part of the lake:
I really can't imagine myself actually swimming up this. But on race day, the atmosphere will be buzzing, I'd have practised in open water so will (hopefully) be feeling confident to get round the 750m lap.

I also made sure I snooped around the actual palace as well as the grounds. It was great to see the space which will become the transition area where all our bikes will be lined up. It's crazy to think this will be brimming with rows and rows of bikes!
Looking at the grounds, the pathways are quite undulating, so I reckon I am going to have to get solid training in for my running and cycling. I will need to ensure I am well practised on courses both flat and hilly. Building strength will help me get round when my legs are probably going to feel like wanting to collapse! Deep down I know cycling is my weakest of the three sports so I will be looking at my training plan and seeing where I can fit in beneficial training sessions. It's a good job I've got a duathlon in the diary for April too!

Overall, it was great to walk around the grounds of Blenheim and envisage the triathlon and how it will work. Now I have seen the lake, I know what I am in for and even being aware of the course and it's flat and slightly hilly areas is powerful knowledge for my training. I know what I need to work on and more importantly I know what I am going to face.

Have you ever checked out a venue prior to race day before? Have you found it useful to know what you are facing?

For more information on Blenheim Palace Triathlon, visit the website HERE

Lipstick Runner. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

TRAINING UPDATE: Facing Cross Country

Cross Country. These two words either bring joy to someone or sheer dread. For me it is the latter. Don't ask me why but for some reason me and cross country have never really hit it off. I think its the extremely competitive nature of it, the field of performance and the fact that is involves mud and hills. My running club take big pride in being part of the Met League which consists of a set bunch of races taking place in the winter months. As members, we are encouraged to try it out as it is a great deal of fun. The social aspect certainly is for me (and the post race cake) but the idea of running in the actual race makes me so nervous.

Despite my dread and misery for the event, I do drag myself along to at least one meet in the league as really, cross country is one of the best forms of training. The short distance (women races normally vary between 5-8K) means speed is required and notching up a gear or two over hills and muddy terrain makes the challenge even more beneficial to your endurance, strength and speed.

I recently made my one off appearance at the second fixture of the league which was based in fields and woodlands in Stevenage. I strategically chose this one as a) I didn't have other plans that day and b) it's the flattest course of them all. I very much had my tail between my legs too as I didn't actually get round to taking part in the league at all in 2013 so I was very nervous at returning to give it another go.

I guess you could say my main fear of cross country is that I might come last, which I know sounds ridiculous but I find the field of ability is so much more elite to what I'm used to in my local 10Ks and parkruns that really, I feel quite daunted. I have learnt from the past races that I have taken part in (my last was the Southern Championships at Parliament Hill which was the hardest run I have ever done!) that positioning yourself near the back is a good starting point (unless your an absolutely whizz at XC of course). This allows me to pick people off as I go through the course, meaning I never get overtaken and the feeling of passing other runners is a great confidence boost!

So, positioned at the back of the pack at Stevenage the gun went off and I started off nice and easy running around the outer edge of field, which involved short steep hills. I managed to keep with a fellow club member and decided early on that my goal was to keep her in close sight. After the first 1K in the field we then entered some woodland which was really pretty to run through. The terrain wasn't that muddy but was soft enough to need spikes. By the time I popped out the other end of the woodland to complete lap two, I actually was feeling really good. With my trusty Garmin notifying me of the distance by the time I was back in the woodland I had reached 5K and I knew with my last kilometre to go that I had the energy to push it. Advancing forward, I passed my team mate and powered through the woodland as fast as I could. As I was reaching the end, I could feel my core begin to tighten - I knew my body was working so hard. The final straight involved popping out the woods, heading down a steep grassy hill to a 50m sprint finish. I came out in a group of five and managed to overtake three of them on the final stretch, crossing the finish line 132nd place in a time of 29.06.
(me in action (no: 763) coming into my second lap at Stevenage)
Now 132nd may not sound great but for me, well, I was bloody chuffed! Out of 180 runners, by starting at the back I had managed to overtake around 40-50 people throughout the 6K distance. Not bad considering I am no cross country lover. But that's what surprised me more - I actually really enjoyed the race! A first for me. By being a little strategic and planning how I was going to tackle the route, I was able to reserve energy, keep my pace steady and run it controlled. Much better than my tactic before which was to bolt off at the start to get a good position to then crash 2K in, with a painful stitch and tired legs.

Overall, cross country is in fact enjoyable, if you run it right and realistically. Plus the post race cake and biscuits makes it totally worth it! I aim to make my next appearance in February. When are you heading out for it?

Lipstick Runner.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

My race wish list

The blogging world is huge and many bloggers post wishlists for clothes, beauty, eating out or even holidays. Then there is my wish list, which is mostly made up of races I want to enter. In fact, my desire to dip my toe into different challenges has grown immensely since joining the running and fitness blogger community. I read so many inspirational stories on peoples training, races and experiences and it's made me incredibly hungry to expand my running CV!

I have found myself bookmarking lots of events that occur annually with the plan to do some in 2015 and even hold out to complete others in the future. Here are my top five that I simply must do.

1. Virgin London Marathon
(source: telegraph.co.uk)
I think this one is on every runners radar and so it should be. The biggest event in the UK marathon calendar, London Marathon is where I want to debut at the distance. For the last two years, I have ventured down to mile 20 and stood on the sidelines whooping people along and even got to witness my best friend smash it in 2014. Each year, the ever expected 'no' letter lands on my doormat but there is that little part of me that clings onto hope that one year my time will come.

2. Blenheim Palace Triathlon
I think everyone knows by now that this is my key event for 2015 and I am so excited! I've always been curious about triathlon. I absolutely love watching it on TV and knowing that I will be taking part in one is crazy! I think it is the challenge of learning to swim, cycle and run back to back that gets me. Tackling open waters and battling across a bike ride with a hundred or so people is a tad daunting but accepting the challenge is the best part!
(source:Triathlon Business)
The event itself is very pricey (I parted ways with £91 for the female sprint distance) but the experience you will get I am confident is totally worth every penny. Plus, I've heard this is a great beginner course as a mixture of abilities take part. So first time triathletes- hop on board with me!

Blenheim Palace Triathlon.

3. Race To The Stones
(source: Race To The Stones Facebook Page)
I've come across this event very recently after seeing a retweet on Twitter. This race is one to soak up the beauty of the great British countryside. A 100km route from Oxfordshire to North Wessex Downs that can be completed over two days, the course follows in the steps of Romans and Vikings along the Ridgeway (one of the oldest roads in Britain) to the finish line at the 3000 year old Avebury stone circle. Looking at the website it looks stunning, with runners taking in some beautiful sights across fields, trail paths and woodland.

Organisers for this event offer several options. You can complete the 100K in one day or even just choose to take part in 50K. There are also solo and team entries available. To bask in the experience of it though, there is the option to stop halfway overnight and this seems the ticket for me. I'd absolutely love to run this with a group of people - in no particular rush of course. I just need to find in myself the strength and endurance to actually complete 100K. Hmm...

4. Adidas Thunder Run
Another confirmed date in my 2015 calendar! After learning that Mizuno Endure24 clashed with Blenheim Palace Triathlon, I was keen to find an alternative. When my running club announced they were forming two teams for this, I didn't even hesitate at signing up! Based in Derbyshire (so quite a trek from London), this 24 hour relay race (which can also be ran solo) is a 10K trail run which looks like a challenging, undulating course. I am confirmed in a team of seven so looking to complete the route four times. After my experience at Endure24 (you can read my review HERE), I am so excited to be taking on a new challenge. I love the atmosphere these events bring. Camping out and cheering along the sidelines at all hours of the day really shows the camaraderie from everyone involved.
(source: Adidas Thunder Run Facebook Page)
Cost wise, I think I struck a reasonable deal. To enter in a team, with camping included was around £50 each. For a weekend away, it's not to be sniffed at!

5. Keswick Mountain Festival 10K
(source: Keswick Mountain Festival Facebook Page)
A festival for running!? Well ok then, if I must.

Another find on Twitter, the Keswick Mountain Festival is a weekend packed full of running, cycling and swimming shenanigans. Set in the heart of the Lake District, there are many events on offer from 5K up to marathons and triathlons. I perused over all the distances on the website and found myself ogling the 10K trail run. I'm not a trail runner so if I am going to do one, it certainly isn't going to be a marathon or half marathon but the 5K option also seemed too short for me. The race description says you have to take a ferry out across Derwentwater to the starting pen and looking at the pictures, it sure looks like a jaw dropping, scenic course. 

The 2015 festival takes place 14th-17th May 2015. 

What sporting events do you have your eye on? Are you like me bookmarking challenges you dream to complete?

Lipstick Runner. 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

OPERATION BRIDAL BOD: Falling off the wagon

This post basically replaces my eight week update. Mainly because I am embarrassed to show the current results. I guess you could say I have slipped off the weight loss wagon. OK, maybe hurtled off it landing like a sack of crap on the floor. A heavy one at that matter.

My reasons? No reasons at all. Just excuses but ones that we all are guilty to at some point in the weight loss journey. When I began Operation Bridal Bod weight loss wasn't my main goal. It was physique. I wanted a strong, athletic body but one slim and toned to pull off a swanky wedding dress. My mind was set and driven and by week four, I was doing brilliantly (as you can see from the results HERE). My tummy was a lot flatter, I appeared slimmer and my skin was glowing. Hurrah! After a check up at the doctors, it was also revealed that I had lost 5lbs. Added bonus!

So what happened next is, well, life I guess. In the month that followed my routine became a bit misshapen. I wasn't training regularly, just fitting in odd runs and swims here and there, plus my eating habits got a little out of control. And then there was the alcohol consumption too.*guilty face*

The last few weeks have been very social for me. I have caught up with lots of former work colleagues which always results in eating out in the heart of Soho, gorging on all sorts of foods and sipping wine. I didn't just go for one odd meal. I went for four, back to back. Disgusting I know! From delicious Spanish tapas to Nandos to Honest Burger, I ticked all the unhealthy food boxes. *guilty face again*

Along with my restaurant picks, I have also let me hair down in other areas which can only really be described as binge drinking. I am not a big drinker. Never have I come home from work and cracked open a bottle of wine to unwind. Never have and probably never will. However, that doesn't mean I don't like a drop of alcohol from time to time. Or a gallon of gin. Combining a day at the races with a catch up with best friends was always going to lead to a haze of slimline gin and tonics. And that it most definitely did (plus the £53 I lost on bets). I got to wear a nice dress though which made a change.
There have however been some highlights amongst all this. I have completed two races - Cabbage Patch 10 and Tough Mudder. Both of which aren't a walk in the park (the latter especially!), these two events have helped to keep me focussed and I completed both of them in a far better time than I imagined. I even think for the first time, a race photographer papped me looking in a half decent state!
That said though, both events resulted in this:
*guilty face AGAIN*

Along with eating out alot, I have also found the sudden change in weather has had an impact on my foody habits. The UK has gone from mildy cold to absolutely freezing almost overnight! The heating in my flat is cranked up full notch, the slipper socks are out and my sports gear cupboard has rotated onto full leg leggings and base layers.

This instant change in weather has also had a damaging effect on my appetite. I literally cannot stop eating! It's like my body is never full. Work has been the worst. I am finding myself constantly picking at food and my willpower has been left back in Autumn. From the Hobnob biscuits in the cupboard, to birthday cake and mixed nuts left over from an event, I have spent 9am - 5.30pm munching down on food as if it was going to be taken away from me at any moment. This I think has been the hardest part and one I need to stop NOW!

So how do I rectify this? Well with my first ever wedding dress hunt taking place in two weeks, I need to think of something fast! Whilst I currently think that starving myself seems the only hope, I know I need to make changes that will carry on long term.

Weekly food shop - I need to make sure I am preparing my lunches to be healthy but hearty. By ensuring I eat a lunch big enough to fill me up, my snacking will hopefully ease up. At the moment I am eating small meals meaning I never feel satisfied and so turn to all sorts of bad snacks. By also stocking up the fridge with fresh fruit, I know that if I do want a snack, my options are not unhealthy.

Cut the sugar - I am literally cringing as I write this as I feel a little nauseous thinking about all the sugar I have consumed these last few weeks. Sweets, chocolate, cakes and so much more have been around me all the time. I think the turning point was when I bought a huge pack of Moam's for Halloween trick-or-treats. Not one knock at the door and a week later I had consumed the whole pack. *yet another guilty face*

Get focussed - I need to seek the goal again for what I am doing all this for. I must imagine I am walking down the aisle in eight months time, in a dress that I look fricking fabulous in. I need to see that if I carry on the way that I am, this will not happen. Making small goals in the lead up to this big goal will also help carry me through. For example, my small goal now is to get prepared for my first dress fitting and this means banishing the bloated belly.

On a final note, my week 12 aim is to be able to SHOW my results on here, rather than hide behind the *guilty face*.

Lipstick Runner.

Monday, 3 November 2014

FUEL FOR THOUGHT: Home-Made Spelt Birthday Cake

This weekend it was my fiancé's birthday and I decided to make a spelt based birthday cake for him! For regular readers of my blog, you probably know by now that I make everything that is flour based with spelt flour as a wheat free option and this cake turned out super scrummy! I opted for a chocolate loaf cake as it made a handy size for just the two of us. I could tell if I made a huge Victoria sponge, we would be eating it for days!

For loaf:
175g unsalted butter, melted
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
140g white spelt flour
85g ground almonds
0.5 tsp of baking powder
100ml semi-skimmed milk
4 tbsp cocoa powder
100g milk chocolate, grated
150g Nestle Smarties
2 packs of Cadbury's Chocolate Fingers

For frosting:
250g icing sugar
75g butter
Splash of milk
Hot Chocolate powder to flavour 

1. Set your oven to 160 degrees (fan oven) or Gas Mark 3. Line a loaf tin with baking parchment.

2. Whisk together the melted butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Add in the eggs, flour, ground almonds, baking powder, milk & cocoa powder and mix together until fully blended.
4. Add in the grated chocolate and once fully mixed together, pour into the loaf tin.
5. Bake for one hour, checking regularly past 45 minutes. Use a skewer to check the centre is cooked.
6. Whilst the loaf is cooling, start to make the hot chocolate frosting. Pour into a bowl the icing sugar and butter (softened or melted) and mix thoroughly until whipped together. Then add a few spoonfuls of hot chocolate powder (I opted for Cadbury's Wispa) and add until you reach your desired flavour.
7. Once the loaf is cooled, using a palette knife smear the icing sugar around the sides of the loaf. This will be the glue to add the Cadbury's Chocolate Fingers. These will form the chocolate biscuit 'wall'.
8. Next, smear the reminder of the frosting over the top of the cake and apply the Nestle Smarties all over to finish!
This cake is extremely chocolately and the dense form of the loaf means a small slice is plenty, which in turn makes the treat guilt free (well in my eyes anyway!).

Lipstick Runner.