Wednesday, 21 January 2015


For my regular readers, you will be aware that just before Christmas I set myself a 5K PB challenge, which you can read about here. My plan was to start focussing on this over the festive period (with the luxury of having some time off work to plan specific training sessions that were also triathlon friendly) however that all went to pot when I fell really ill for my whole break. Sucks I know.

Despite this setback, I've been doing some work either side of Christmas to kick start this journey. In the last week of training with my running club before we all set off out of London for the holidays, a few of us opted for a 400m relay in pairs with each person running 12 laps to reach just under 5K. I love doing stuff like this as I'm my most strongest over super short, speedy sessions. After finding out the athletics track was closed, we decided to map out a route for the session at Primrose Hill. The lap was a little undulating so all the more challenging. When we were paired up, we set off with me going first in my team. I noticed on my Garmin that the lap was in fact around 500m, so we decided to drop the quantity down to 10.

I found this session harder than expected. First off, it was freezing and secondly, the lap was rather bumpy and uneven making it even harder to keep a fast pace. Still though, the plan was to push hard and thats what I kept doing. It was nice to have the recovery breaks when my partner, Alice, was out in the field on her turn and overall I felt like I was doing a good pace. I suffered a slight technical glitch after lap eight when I forgot to pause my Garmin an despite this happening I still managed to finish the whole session under 20 minutes!
Looking at my splits, if I take off the 20 seconds (roughly) that I left my watch running on my rest after lap eight, I actually managed to keep a sub seven minute pace for each mile, which I was super pleased with. This is my ideal 5K pace if I want to go under 21 minutes and, at this time, I am still finding it quite hard to get my head (and my energy levels) around this. 

As I mentioned above, shortly after this speedy session, I fell ill with an awful cold which then developed into a nasty chesty cough and one that lingered for almost a month. I took a whole week off training as I could barely walk from the sofa to the kitchen without wheezing and I was worrying all my hard work would be wasted from this break. In the second week, I managed to jog 5K (and I mean jog, borderline crawl) a couple of days and I did get the hump thinking about how I was going to get my strength and speed back. 

That said though, it returned much easily than expected. By the first week of January, I kicked off the New Year with a five mile run and finished with an average pace of 8.17. Not bad considering the cough was still lingering (the coughing fit I had when I finished this run wasn't pleasant but who cares, I managed to run!)
By the weekend, I plucked up the courage to attend my local parkrun after a fellow running pal persuaded me to join her. We both were guilty of not going for a long time (the last time I graced this particular course was 18 months previous) and despite strong gale force winds, we braved the undulating/hilly 5K at Finsbury Park. I personally find this parkrun ghastly. I hate the inconspicious hill that looks, yeah steep but rather short when in fact it is beastly and tortuous on the quads. To make it even worse, you also have to head up it twice. Add in the horredous stormy winds and you have yourself quite a challenge when your almost two years out of parkrun shape. 

I finished in 24.30, a minute slower than my PB on this course. Secretly I was rather pleased as I was expecting far worse but it has made me see I have a lot of work to do if I want to achieve my dream sub 21. I most definitely won't be getting it at this parkrun but I do have another course in mind to target this time.

Finally, my latest 5K focussed drills were a couple of days ago on the track. Myself and a few fellow club runners boshed out a fartlek style session of 10x 200m, jogging 200m in-between each set. It was harder than it sounds as when you run each set, you practically sprint. By having no static rest periods, it was tough to keep going but I'm glad I did it. This again set me an average pace of 6.22 so I am able to get more and more familiar with the type of pace I need to hold for my 5K target. 
Overall, I'm still a long way off and whilst the horrid cough has pushed me back ever so slightly, I cannot use it as an excuse. I'm glad I have started up this training focus again and I'm hoping for a few more parkruns and HIIT sessions to get my legs more and more comfortable with speed. 

Lipstick Runner.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

TRAINING UPDATE: Cycling 40 miles

At the weekend, I accomplished my biggest cycling achievement to date - cycling 40 miles! A year ago, I would have never predicted I'd be spending my Sundays heading out of London on bike rides but after arranging a ride with my fellow triathlon girls, I felt confident I could give a long cycle a go. I had already reached 20 miles (which you can read about here) and we were predicted to do around 30 on this ride.

We headed from Finsbury Park out of London up through Enfield to Epping Forest. A lot of it was very urban with lots of busy streets, weaving in and out of traffic. Luckily we had a leader, Beth (who is an incredible cyclist!) who knew the way and so we stayed close (well as close as we could keep up) behind her. The course to the forest was relatively flat and by the time we reached the edge of Essex, the country roads started to open up. 

It was nice to finally be on quiet roads surrounded by countrysides and after turning off a main A-road onto a little narrow lane, Beth said we were near Epping Forest. We just had to take this track to the forest and she did warn us of a short steep hill near the end. Beth was clever here by stating 'short'. In actual fact, for me who is a wimp when it comes to hills, it was a long, practically vertical climb and definitely the steepest hill I have tackled to date. Halfway up, my quads were starting to burn and the hill just got steeper and steeper! I was wheezing so much when I reached the top I had to stop for a break. My legs were shaking but I was secretly super proud of myself for actually get up it.

Soon after this mega slope, we reached Epping Forest and were quick to park our bikes for a break at a little tea stop by the car park, where apparently a ton of cyclists stop for snacks!
By this point we had reached roughly 15 miles and I personally was relieved to have this break. I stupidly only ate an apple for breakfast and so I was absolutely famished when we had reached this point. Not to mention bloody freezing! Cycling in the winter months really takes it out on your toes and fingers. Mine were all numb and painful. So we all took a pew and had a nice hot cuppa with a Snickers bar (as you do).
After our much deserved refreshments, we were off again and this time we cycled around the forest, taking in the beautiful scenery. Beth is really familiar with this area and took us on a lovely course along a secret path and through some really scenic trails. The weather, albeit it icy cold, was absolutely divine so I got some great pictures!
I really enjoyed this part of the route. I felt a million miles away from London and as it was such a bright, sunny day I felt like I was on a weekend break somewhere. Going along this particular route took us back through some small villages where we were back on roads but this time very undulating roads. We zoomed down windy slopes to then be met with a steep hill at the bottom which we would push on up. Ascending and descending was great practice for me in terms of speed work and I did secretly enjoy using the speed from the down-hills to get up the up-hills quickly. 

By going through the villages and residential areas, we found ourselves back on track for the road to London and Beth lead the way. Sorry to share what could be perceived as too much information but by this point my bum was killing me! I don't own cycling shorts and without the luxury of a padded butt, I was beginning to bear the grudge of not wearing a pair. Each and every push on the pedal ached and what happens when I start to feel this fatigue? Oh thats right, another massive hill! This one was dead straight and you could see all the way to the top. It was long but a tad less steep than the previous hill. I'm glad Beth didn't warn us as I would have thought about it all the through the cycle and so when I was faced with it, there was nothing to do but go up! It felt like it took light years but we struggled to the top, with me again collapsing at the side of the road huffing and puffing. Hills are so tough!

It was really hard to gage my whereabouts at this point but I kept looking at road signs where I could and we were in the E10 area of London heading for Hackney. It was these last few miles that were probably the hardest as I was feeling really tired, not to mention so hungry and absolutely frozen from the icy cold winds we faced. They literally made my eyes water. Being back on the busy streets with all the buses and cars also meant 200% concentration and so mentally I felt pretty pooped too.

We however made it safely back to Finsbury Park, with Beth using her Garmin to gage a route of just under 40 miles. I couldn't believe it! I set out to do 30 and I added on another 10 without it feeling too much. I was on cloud nine! After bidding farewell to my friends, I then had to troop back to my house which was another mile or so and rather unfortunately, uphill. By the time I got home, I devoured all the food I could get my hands on instantly, including a banana and cinnamon smoothie which was super yummy! I also added in a scoop of my fiancé's protein powder to help aid muscle repair. After cycling this distance, I wasn't sure how I was going to feel the next day!
That night, I had my first full nights sleep since I caught a horrible chesty cough on Christmas Eve. It was bliss and I can definitely thank this mammoth bike ride for it. The added bonus was that I didn't ache one bit come Monday morning. Hurrah!

Knowing I have the potential to cycle 40 miles has reassured me for the triathlon (which is a mere 13 mile cycle but obviously with swimming and running either side). I am also really keen to get out there again and explore more cycling routes out of London. Next time, I am thinking some down south. 

Are you a London cyclist? What are your bike ride hot spots?

Lipstick Runner.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

OPERATION BRIDAL BOD: Surviving Christmas (week 16)

The festive period is over and we are back into our daily routines in what seems like a blink of an eye. I was fortunate enough to have 10 whole days off work to spend with family and friends. I had also planned my training activity, making the most of countryside runs and my parents gym bike.

What I was unlucky with is falling ill two days in. Christmas Eve to be precise. Brilliant huh? It started off with a dry tickly cough and a wheezy chest. I can deal with that. By Christmas Day night however, I was hot, sweaty, bunged up and really heady. By the weekend, my cough was so violent it made me feel sick. I had also lost my voice and hadn't slept for four days. Even by New Years Eve, I still wasn't sleeping fully and my cough was refusing to budge.

So, as you can imagine, I haven't had the most eventful Christmas. In fact, I didn't exercise for a whole week. I could barely climb stairs without reaching for an inhaler! Still though, whilst I haven't been able to work out, I have however avoided the traditional binge on beige food and enormous gorge sessions on chocolates. Being ill over Christmas does have this benefit. In fact, I curiously weighted myself recently and was delighted to see that I had in fact not gained a pound. I was exactly the same as I was at the beginning of December. Right on!

By New Year's Eve however my appetite had returned slightly and I did indulge in one too many Celebrations and Lindt chocolates over boardgames. I may have also had a couple of oversized dinners but I swear (hands above my head) I was merely catching up on lost time. 

Along with Christmas and New Year, another big event for me in December was purchasing my wedding dress. I actually feel really relieved to have ticked this off the to-do list as I now know what kind of dress I am wearing, how it fits and what I need to work towards in terms of my physique.

However, whilst I have been (kind of) good over the festive period, this illness has caused a delay to my all important triathlon training. Even 10 days in, I still have the horrendous cough that refuses to budge. I have managed a couple of 5K jogs but once I get back home I enter extreme coughing fits where I can barely breathe. Not cool. I am desperate to get out there cycling daily, heading to the pool and running club but in myself I still don't feel 100%. I've read that if its a cold that has hit your chest (which in may case it has), to be cautious when exercising. The cold weather conditions also don't help when breathing in lung falls of icy cold winter air. 

So basically, I am sat here impaitently waiting for the cough to go, my ears to unblock and my nose to stop running faster than my legs. It's not fun. Due to lack of exercise, I am trying my hardest to watch what I am eating, especially with chocolates and sweets from Christmas stuffed in my fridge. They stare at me long and hard every time I open the door to grab the milk for my tea. I have strategically placed satsumas and apples next to them so I am more inclined to pick this healthier snack option.

In all, I have just about survived Christmas. I may have contracted the worst chesty cough I have known to date, my training has fluffed up and chocolates are taunting me but in all, things could be worse.

Until next time.

Lipstick Runner.