Tuesday, 18 August 2015

A running rut

(credit: Cafe Press)

Reflecting on my training calendar, these last couple of weeks have been a bit odd. Not just physically but mentally too...

It all started post Adidas Thunder Run (you can read my race rundown here). My right ITB was really stiff and sore and I found I was very restricted to what exercise I could do. Running was a total no go, even cycling in the first few days so I made it my mission to rest up, blitz the foam roller and keep stretching. By Sunday, exactly one week after the race, I ventured out for a jog. It was slow and painful but I managed 5K. I didn't enjoy, it dragged and I was exhausted. 

It seemed in the space of a few weeks, I had gone from the fittest I had ever been, smashing Blenheim Palace Triathlon, to being what felt like a battered and bruised beached whale. By the following week, I was suppose to start training for the St Neots Sprint Triathlon in Sept but with my leg buggered, I was really worried I wouldn't be able to commit to the training plan I had devised. I've been told many a time that training hard on an injury is pointless. It will only get worse and the time it takes to heal will increase. So with a heavy heart, I decided to not proceed with the triathlon and instead focus on recovery and retrieving lost strength. 

The week following my meek 5K run, things did ever so slightly improve. I managed two short runs and whilst these were still slow, the pain had eased. The week after, I was back at my running club and evening managed 10K across Hampstead Heath! All these runs I had chosen to not go with my Garmin as they were more about focussing on distance rather than speed. However, by last Thursday, I was curious to see where I had ended up speed wise. So, I joined the 6am club and headed out on a 5K. First mile was a drag (8.48 minutes to be exact) but I did start to speed up, ending my last mile on a sub 8. My finishing time was 25.38. 

Seeing this flash up on my watch was disappointing. Whilst in my head I know I have had a) time off getting married and b) an injured leg, I really thought I was going to be faster. I am addicted to pace and speed and to see it all lost was upsetting.

Reaching this point has made me realise there is a lot of work to do. With my ITB looking to slowly be on the mend (fingers crossed!), there is no reason for excuses. I have let my training slip and I have now made it my aim to build up my running strength again. It is time for an overhaul and an opportunity to almost start fresh.

To keep on the right path, I have made a little action list which needs to be completed by Christmas:

Overcome injury
Run 13 miles comfortably
Enter two 10K races
Complete one cross country race 
Swim 1500m front crawl open water

These pointers are all positive steps to getting marathon ready for the start of 2016, taking into account cross training and decent recovery. With Brighton Marathon on the horizon, my focus now is to become physically and mentally ready to take on the big 26.2!

I'll keep you posted!

Lipstick Runner.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

RACE RUNDOWN: Adidas Thunder Run

You may have seen on my Twitter and Instagram channels that I have recently been out in the sticks of the great British countryside running for 24 hours (well running as part of team).

Last year, when my running club decided to enter a team into the Adidas Thunder Run, I was there, hand in air like 'pick me, pick me!'. After taking part in Mizuno Endure24 (which you can read about here) and loving it, I was super keen for the Thunder Run. It seemed I wasn't the only one interested in giving it a go to as we ended up signing up two teams of 8!

However, come late June this year when our team captain sent out a reminder email about the event, my reaction was 'Oh f**k'. Since entering it yonks ago, I had completely forgotten about it. Months had passed where it was all about the triathlon training, wedding planning, new job etc that the fact that I was down to attend Thunder Run had slipped my mind entirely. It wasn't even written in my diary!

Despite not having actually trained for this sort of running, nor run over 5K for months, I wasn't one to be a drop out. So I kept to my word and decided to attend, aiming to do four 10K laps, totalling 40K overall. It sounded totally doable in my head...

Arriving on the Friday night after a five and a half hour car journey (damn traffic jams!) it was pouring it down and we had to set up camp. Never have I been so grateful for a pop up tent, yet despite the ease in building my den the weather was putting a huge dampener on my feelings about what lay ahead. I did not want to be out in the woods for 24 hours whilst it rained cats and dogs.
(the night before!)
I decided to get to bed for around 11pm and despite the rain crashing down on my little tent, I managed to drift off into an okish sleep. Come morning, I was awake at 4am and believe it or not, the sun was shining! Our little camp was very relieved to have this glorious weather shine down on us.
Come half 11, we were all walking up to the start line to see off our first runners. I was in the first team for the club and scheduled in for 4th leg. The predicted start time for my first lap was around 2.30pm so I had a couple of hours watching some running action from the side lines before I needed to enter the handover pen.
(team Chasers!)
(some of the team out on the course)
Due to Saturday being so hot and sunny, runners were coming off the trail course looking rather clean, reporting that all the mud had dried up from the heavy rain. I loathe cross country so this was music to my ears! By 2.30pm, I was ready and raring to go!
Earlier on in the week, I had bought some brand new Mizuno Wave Rider 17s to test run on the course but I was a little fearful of getting them muddy (vain I know) so I opted for my old pair for the first lap. As I started off I was bouncing along the field feeling fresh and vibrant but all that abruptly came to an end when 500m in, the course turned off into the woods straight into a long steep hill. Now you know me - hills aren't my friend and I soon realised 1K in that I was in for a very undulating ride. I kept steady, around 8.45 per mile and it felt good. The only thing holding me back was the heat. I could feel my scalp burning and theres only one water stop on the course so I was lacking in fluids. Coming through to the end of the lap, my crew were cheering at the sides as I came in to hand over to my friend, Nicola. I finished in 53 minutes and was very happy with that.
I'd got some super nasty blisters on the inside of my feet and after slapping a couple of band aids over them, I decided to switch to my new trainers. My old ones were knackered (they had holes in them!) and I don't think they were fit for the terrain of the course. 

My second lap was around 8.30pm and I went out feeling pretty good. No aches from my last run and I actually found myself going faster. My GPS wasn't working for this one, so I was running to a stop watch but I definitely felt a lot faster. Half way in I was bounding along but did reach a point of discomfort where the right side of my leg, around the knee area was aching. A pounding, dull ache. I knew exactly what it is - it was the return of my dreaded ITB injury. Stupidly, instead of slowing down, I carried on at the same pace and crossed the finish line in 52 minutes.

Hobbling out of the pen, I knew I had done something bad. Bending my right leg hurt. Instinct kicked in and I headed straight for the sports massage tent. After a 20 minute wait, I was assigned Jamie who confirmed that I had a lot of tension in the muscles around my ITB. To add to this I had cramp in my calf. After a very painful rub down, I asked him if it was OK to carry on. His response: 'With the pain your in, it might be best to call it day but it is totally up to you.' Hmm ok then...

By this point it was coming up to 11pm and I was starving. All I had eaten all day was snacks and junk food. So I went and got myself a cup of tea and a big cone of chips and headed back to camp. By midnight I was in my tent, determined to get some shut eye until my next lap at 5am. Sorry Jamie, but I didn't come here to do half the job. I am going to be foolish and carry on.

Come 4am, I had barely slept. It was impossible to with all the hubbub of people coming back to their tents, giving reports to fellow team mates. I groggily put on my clothes and went for a little walk near my camp to see how my leg was. Not going to lie, it was stiff. The ache strong. But I had to carry on. I'd never forgive myself if I gave up on my team. So I popped some paracetamol and headed over to the change over pen. 

Going out on lap three, I was hobbling quite a bit. It took a while but I finally found a rhythm where I could step lighter on my right leg, allowing me to run at a steady speed of around 10 minute miles. The hills were agonising and so I opted to do a brisk walk up these but I actually preferred being in the woods on the softer surface, compared to the open fields where the ground was really hard and uneven. I was determined to get through this lap and speaking to some of the solo runners out on the course made me realise that what I was doing compared to them was very little. Some of these guys were going to complete 20 or so laps. If they can do 20, I can bloody do four!

I came back in just over an hour - a time I was actually really chuffed with considering my ITB. 
By this point, I was on the brink of tears. My leg was, to put it bluntly, buggered. So it was back to the sports massage tent where this time I met with a lady called Nicola who worked to flush out the lactic acid in my thigh. It was painful but worth it. 

By the way, to give you an idea on how you look after no sleep and 30K, this gives you an idea:
Heading back to camp, I was seriously questioning whether I could go through with lap four. I was down as the last runner of the 24 hours and the thought of bringing it home for the team was pressurising. To add to this, the heavens had opened and the rain was back pelting down on our tents. I sat in my little den and waited until the time had come for me to head out for the fourth and final lap. The morning dragged and my team mates were coming back from their final runs looking absolutely shattered. I was worried how I would make it round.

By 11.45am, the runner before me had returned and I was back out for the final time. The rain was so heavy by this point, I was dressed in leggings with a high vis jacket zipped up with my hood pulled over my head. The run was miserable. The woodland areas were so muddy and boggy, my brand spanking new trainers were ruined and where the hilly bits had turned into a mud slide, I was struggling to hobble up them with my injury. 

Not going to lie, at 2K I stopped and had a little cry. Lame I know but I had honestly hit what I've heard people call 'the wall'. I'm not a marathon runner, or an Ironman, so doing this level of exercise for me is a huge deal. I just felt utterly shattered, in so much pain, stuck in the middle of the woods in the pissing rain. 

Watching all the other runners pelt past me made me feel a little embarrassed so I did eventually man up and get going again. In my head, I just needed to reach 8K. Once I got here, I knew I was on the home straight through the fields. It honestly came round quicker than I thought and despite my brisk walk/light jog, I found myself overtaking quite a few people which gave me a much needed boost. 

When I came up the 9K mark, one of my fellow team mates was there waiting for me. I have never been so grateful for this kind of support before. He joined me by my side and ran with me up the home straight. At the very end for the final 400m, the rest of my team were there, who also joined me running up the hill and round the back to cross the finish line as a team. I have never felt on such a high as I did at this moment. Rather ironic as 45 minutes previously I was crying like a baby in the woods. 
(my team bringing me home)
I crossed the finish line in 1.06. Considering I could barely walk, this time was good going I think. But just so you know, by this point, I really couldn't walk. I had ran 20K on an battered leg and I was getting my karma. Just bending it slightly was excruciating! My team had packed up all the tents whilst I was out running, so all I had to do was drag myself to the car where a much needed cider was waiting for me...
By the time I got back to London, all I wanted was a bath and my bed. Never have I felt so knackered. This was a much tougher experience than Mizuno Endure24, but one I am definitely very proud to be a part of.

Would I do it again? Maybe. But I would definitely make sure I had trained a little bit for it. It really is a fabulous event! Along with a beautiful (yet hilly course), Adidas provided great camping facilities and a pretty hefty medal at the end. My only comment would be to consider another water station out on the course, especially when it is such hot conditions as it was on Saturday. Oh, and for the fish and chip van to stay open for the whole 24 hours. 


Course: 4/5
Scenery: 5/5 
Facilities: 4/5
Water Stations: 2/5
Goody bag: N/A (but all participants receive a medal, t-shirt and an Adidas shower gel)


To learn more about Adidas Thunder Run, visit the website here.

Lipstick Runner.