Saturday, 17 October 2015

TRAINING UPDATE: Extreme exhaustion yet running improvements!

(source: Quickmeme)
The last couple of weeks can only be described as exhausting. There has been a sudden drop in temperature, daylight hours have decreased and the sudden need for piping hot soup and Horlicks has returned.

I like to follow a pattern - its merely organisation. When it becomes challenging to follow that pattern, it does slightly irritate me. You will have seen that I love a good training plan (read here) and when it becomes hard to follow this regime, I automatically panic that I will lose everything I have trained for. I always wonder if this is a common concern for runners, or whether it's just me being paranoid..?

It has been mostly weekday training that has been hard to squeeze in. Due to a manic work schedule currently, finding the time (and energy) to squeeze in a run at the end of the day has been tough. Come 8pm, when I am ready to head out, my mind and body lacks the boost to go pound the streets. The pitch black outdoors is also incredibly uninviting. In my mind, I know as soon as I am out running, endorphins will kick in and I will find my running mojo but it is initially getting the foot out of the front door that I am finding hard to do.

So whilst weekday training has been in dribs and drabs, I have made sure I make the most of my weekends to work towards increasing my mileage and I am pleased to say that my goal to reach 13 miles by Christmas is looking very achievable.

I first started to see progress when I ran to Tower Bridge (read about this here) and reached eight miles. I found it tough but stuck to a controlled, steady pace of 8.27 per mile. I was happy with this but wanted to increase my threshold pace. So I followed this with a couple of fartlek sessions and hill runs in a bid to improve strength and speed.

Next up a couple of weeks later was The Mornington Chasers Regents Park 10K. Sticking to my plan to complete two 10Ks by the end of the year, this was the first. I decided to pick this race as it is my clubs own and it offers a slightly challenging, undulating course. I have done this race many times (my PB is 45.45) but my aim for this fixture was to get a sub 50. This event was to test exactly where my race pace was at.

Turns out, my race pace is faster than expected! Seems those speed sessions paid off. At times during the race, I did wonder if I was holding back. I am well aware of how easy it is to overdo it on a 10K. I wanted to remain strong with even splits and that is exactly what I achieved, plus a finish of 46.54! Each mile ranged between 7.22 and 7.42 which I am super pleased with as it shows I am starting to control and own my pace.
Following my 10K high, I decided to up the distance to 10 miles. For this, I ended up being back in my home town and took the opportunity to enjoy a relatively flat route for this. I opted for the towpath, which I thought would be nice and scenic with fresh country air when in fact I found it incredibly dull and continuous. I couldn't wait until I reached five miles as I knew I could turn round and come back! Despite my lack of interest on the route, I again felt good, despite having another awful week of missed training sessions. I completed the run in 1.22.16 which is only four minutes off my PB for this distance!
By seeing this progress, I have really started to enjoy running again. Post triathlon, I really struggled to get back into distance running. I missed my 5Ks and HIIT sessions but these last few weeks, I have reignited my passion for road running.
To finish off this post on an even bigger high, today I woke up and headed out on an eight mile run. I took a similar course to my Tower Bridge route but decided to head west when I reached Southbank towards Big Ben. As I hit eight miles by the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben struck 10am and I was so, SO happy to see that I had ran this distance four minutes quicker than last time and hit an average pace of 7.55.


Lipstick Runner.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

TRAINING UPDATE: Countryside cycling, travelator giggles and ramping up the speed

September has been a pretty active month. I've managed to squeeze a lot into the last four weeks which has been tricky to work around longer working hours and weekends away. What's been great is that I have been able to mix up my training and enjoy it with others.

At the start of the month, I headed back to my in-laws for a weekend break in the countryside. Their house is literally surrounded by fields and sheep and I was itching to get out and about on a rural run. It turned out to be a rather interesting one, where I got lost (twice) and came face to face a with a herd of cows. But I did get to enjoy gorgeous views, some hefty hills and a decent lungful of fresh air.
I had managed to reach seven miles on this run and by the following weekend, I subtly cranked the distance up to eight. I was back in London for this one and to make the run as scenic and interesting as possible, I opted to take in my favourite city sights. Starting from North London, the first few miles is a slog, running all the way down Holloway Road (not the most scenic start) and then down through Angel and Farringdon. These are really busy, smoggy areas so you do spend a lot of your time weaving in and out of people however, by mile five I had reached St Paul's Cathedral - the first hotspot on my run.

From here, I head over Millennium Bridge and onto the Southbank towards London Bridge. In the early mornings, I find running alongside the Thames so peaceful and with so much to look at, these final few miles normally fly by. When I reached Tower Bridge, I was on 7.95 miles (typical) so I had to run over the bridge. For the first time in my life though, as I reached the centre, the guards closed the gates as the bridge was being raised! This was at 7.98 miles. Still, it was nice to watch and once the suspensions were brought back down, I ran to the other end to complete the full eight miles. Overall, I managed an average pace of 8.27. Not as fast as I would have liked but I'll take it.
After this run, I realised that I had been lacking speed sessions. In fact, I hadn't really done a proper one in weeks! I decided to spend the week that followed focussing my normal training runs on speed work and fartleks. For one workout, I surreptitiously headed over to my local athletics track to carry out a session with my running club, something I have not been able to do in ages. I was really nervous as I had not run with others in quite a while. It annoyed me that I had actually reached this point of being unfamiliar and out of place. I was worried how fast I was going to be and when the coach read out the session, I was a little worried I wouldn't be able to complete it. It was as followed:

1x 1600m (threshold pace)
5x 600m (5-10K pace)
5x 200m (running hard)

I started off easy, making sure I actually did stick to threshold for the 1600m. I even found the first few 600m sets really tough and I savoured the 200m walk recoveries. However, by the 4th 600m, I had found my feet and felt strong and fast. I finished the session with an average pace of 6.32. My final 200m was also at a mile pace of 5.20 and I really couldn't be happier with that!
By the weekend, my legs were feeling pretty achey from these tailored sessions I had done but I wasn't too concerned as my training for the weekend wasn't your normal run in the park. It was an obstacle run in the park! I had entered my best friend and I into Rough Runners, a gladiator style obastacle race set on Clapham Common. You may be wondering why and I can explain...

...This race had a travelator!

We adored Gladiators growing up and I always used to love the finale course where the contestants would sprint up the travelator at the end. So when I saw this advertised, I had to enter just for this reason. It was such a laugh too. It was a mere 5K run with around 12 obstacles, including zip lines, punch bag walls, hanging beams (this hurt!) and a hilarious one called Swept Off Your Feet (inspired by Total Wipeout's, Crash Mountain).

By the time I got to the travelator, I was ready and raring to go. I opted for the fast lane (who wouldn't) but was gutted to have not made it up the first time. Its harder than it looks! Second attempt though, I sprinted as hard as I could and hopped up to the platform and finished with a little celebratory dance.
I had a bit of a messy recovery from Rough Runners as I had experienced a swollen and bruised ankle, which caused quite a lot of pain. Luckily though, I was back up and running three days later and managed to complete a strong fartlek session, which I adapted from a workout I read in Running Fitness magazine. I call it the five 5s:

5 minutes warm up jog
5 minutes @ 10K pace
5 minutes @ 5K pace
5 minutes @ 10K pace
5 minutes cool down jog

I find fartlek sessions really tough as the urge to stop for a rest is hard to resist. I especially found the 5K pace really hard and was counting down the minutes to the cool down jog. I managed to complete over 5K with an average mile pace of 7.55.

Come the final weekend of the month and I was off on my travels again, this time with my beloved bike in tow. I was heading to The Cotswolds to spend the weekend cycling with my friend from University. I was sooo excited for this as I haven't ridden my bike properly since the triathlon. It has only been used for my commute to work and I was really looking forward to going out for more than five miles.

The Cotswolds is simply stunning. We managed to complete 30 glorious miles in the sunshine, heading through little hamlets and villages and even stopping off in Stratford Upon Avon for a pit stop in a quaint pub. We managed to dodge some of the really steep inclines but we were faced with some unexpected hills along the way and it was great to be back in the saddle climbing up them! It made me realise how much I miss cycling and I will greatly miss being able to go out at weekend on my bike during marathon training. The thought of having to spend these running 20 miles still frightens me...
Anyway, that's an overview of September complete! Here's to a successful month of training. Lets hope October turns out to be the same (or better!).

Lipstick Runner.