Sunday, 27 December 2015

2016 Race Calendar

With 2015 shortly coming to an end (where has this year gone!?) and Christmas out of the way, I have been busy accessing my goals and lining up races for 2016. I must admit, I have been a rather chaotic decision maker which has caused me to self evaluate realistically what I want to do. 

My problem is that I get over excited too quickly and take action upon things I haven't really, really thought through. For example, back in April, I decided I was going to bite the bullet and do a marathon. After spending another year watching London Marathon take place, I got that urge to give the distance a go (as I do every year) and decided to enter Brighton Marathon 2016. At the time I was so excited that I was finally going to be doing a marathon. I had succumbed to taking on the challenge. Yet by June, after completing my first triathlon, my train of thought was starting to take a different direction.

I had done better than I thought in the tri and never have I enjoyed a sport so much! The thought of switching back to a sole running focussed challenge didn't seem so exciting now. Instead, I wanted to do more tri's. By this point, I also didn't like the sound of doing 20 mile training runs in the cold winter months of February. However, I hadn't yet made a decision to proceed or not. Instead, I put it down to being on a post tri high and decided to sit it out and wait for the marathon urge to return. 

It is now late December and the urge has not returned - it has barely made a slight noise. What's worse, is that I have entered two more triathlon events, plus a potential duathlon in 2016. I haven't even thought about how I am going to fit all these around a marathon but in all honestly, I'm not sure I even want the worry of trying to make it all work. Truth is - deep down I have already resided to the fact that I don't want to do a marathon next year and I have been feeling really guilty about it. Goodness knows why I feel guilt as it doesn't effect anyone but me. I guess what I am feeling is slightly ashamed at my over eagerness to enter one. A very valuable lesson has been learnt here and one that comes to all of us at several points in our lives - think before acting

Despite this glitch in my event calendar, I feel I have planned a relatively busy and challenging race calendar for 2016. It involves a mixture of events to give all areas of my training a good workout in the bid to help improve my running, cycling, swimming and core fitness. 

First up, are two 10Ks in January and February to whip my body back into shape post Christmas and New Year. These are also vital elements of my training for Wokingham Half Marathon in February. I am really looking forward to this as I am desperate for a PB in this distance. I also see this as good base training as I start to increase my distances in triathlon. 

Following the HM, I am planning on entering a duathlon in April and currently have my eye on Newbury Duathlon again as it's such a wonderful, intimate event (you can read my review here). This will be a great exercise to practise transitions and will also offer me a solid brick training session. Plus, the views make for a lovely bike ride. 

By May, I will be in full swing with triathlon training, yet have decided to squeeze in a Tough Mudder, which I recently posted about here. This event is to offer me a fun, team building day but also offer something different to break up my pattern of training. I think (hope) it will also really help me to 'buff up' my core strength - an area that is currently rather weak. 

Come Summer, I will be in full triathlon mode, starting the season off with the Cotswold's Women Only Triathlon in June. I have opted for the Sprint distance here and hoping to improve on my time from Blenheim in 2015. This event will also be a part of my training plan for my last and probably most important event of the year - Hever Castle Triathlon. Here I will be racing in the Olympic distance and it will be my biggest challenge to date. With the big day coming in September, I am hoping all my previous events will put me in excellent shape to complete this distance confidently.  

So in all, a busy 2016 so far! Let's just hope I get through it all injury free and with a big smile on my face :).

Lipstick Runner. 

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

TRAINING UPDATE: Week 2 of Half Marathon Training

I am successfully two complete weeks in to my revised Hal Higdon intermediate half marathon plan. I say revised as I have made slight modifications to his calendar to incorporate swim training too. So far, all is good and I have enjoyed following a detailed plan once again. With each session, I have followed the criteria Hal lists on his website on how they need to be executed. This has allowed me to get a good balance of pace work, strengthening exercises and distance training.

The last two Tuesdays I have headed out in the evenings to do three miles of paced running. This is where I need to train my body to run at my target half marathon pace, which for me is 7.55 per mile. If I stick to this, I am in the safe zone to secure a sub 1.45. The first Tuesday, all started well with my first mile being 7.55 but after that followed a slightly faster pace and I finished the whole run with an average pace of 7.41. For three miles, this pace was totally fine for me but I needed to slow it down a tad so my body will start to develop recognition for a 7.55 pace. By combining these paced runs with my long distance training and tempo work, it should all pull together to allow me to maintain 7.55 pace come race day. The next Tuesday that followed was definitely better paced. I managed 7.55 for the first two miles but the last one was still a bit too fast. I finished with an average pace of 7.50.
In week 1, I had to work my training around having a friend from overseas to stay for a long weekend. As many runners may know, it is hard to squeeze in sessions around, well, just life in general but I tried my best to get my training in without it interfering with time spent with my friend. Luckily, she is a keen runner and along with another training buddy, she joined us for a long run at the weekend. There was no focus on pace for this one - instead we have a nice natter and catch up whilst running around London visiting all the famous landmarks. We had a great time, except I did have a trip halfway and ended up rolling my ankle which was agonising. It swelled up slightly with bruising so I spent the following day resting and icing it.
Alongside my runs, I have also been keeping up my swimming. In the first week, I planned a technique focussed session where I swam drills of pullies (float held between the knees and the arms doing all the work), sharkies (swimming with arms coming up super close to the body), leg kicks (float out front at arms reach and the legs doing all the work). Below is the session in more detail:

250m front crawl
250m pullies
250m front crawl
250m sharkies
250m front crawl
250m pullies
250m leg kicks

The following week, I flipped over to distance training and this is where I swim front crawl until I reach a certain distance. I chose to fit this swim in at 6am before work. I have done this a few times now and I'm surprisingly growing fond of starting the day this way. The walk to the pool in the pitch black and freezing cold isn't too great though...
I normally complete 1250m in these sessions but I decided to increase the distance slightly and went up to 1375m (so basically an extra five laps of a 25ml pool). Over time, I will gradually step up the number of lengths until I am at 1500m distance training - the same as the swim in an Olympic triathlon.

My only downfall in this first two weeks was missing my first ever tempo session. For this, I must honestly hang my head in shame. The after effects of my work Christmas party left me a little worse for wear (I blame a concoction of tequila and martini's) and I mean in a bad way. In fact, I have contemplated giving up alcohol - or at least cutting back. In the two days that followed this hangover, I had awful nights' sleep, craved carbs and sugars and just felt absolutely shattered. Were the endless flow of drinks worth it looking back? Erm, no.

Despite this slight hiccup, I have been pretty good and even started week three how I have planned with another paced run - this time near my family home on the trails which was a nice change. I am now up to 3.5 miles for these sessions and again, it was a tad too speedy (average pace was 7.45 again). Being amongst the woodland and breathing in fresh, country air did the body good though.
Next week I head home for Christmas and for me this will be the biggest challenge. The temptation to sit eating a tin of Quality Street in front of The Grinch will be huge, however, I will try my hardest to stick to my plan and carry out each session planned. I have made Christmas Day and Boxing Day my rest days so I can indulge then :).

Lipstick Runner.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

My favourite speed sessions

The best part of running is seeing improvements every time you run. However, this comes with a balance of endurance, hill and HIIT training. The latter is personally a favourite of mine. As a speed driven, middle distance runner, I thrive off sessions that involve short, fast reps. 

For many, these sorts of workouts cause dread and worry - fear that they make them too tired for their long run at the weekend, or that lots of fast reps could cause injuries and niggles. In all honestly, there is nothing except benefits from high intensity sessions. As well as making you a faster runner, speed work also contributes to your overall fitness. It improves your core strength, running momentum and the ability to endure hardcore running. What's not to love!?

Here are a few of my faves that are great to do alone or with a group of fellow runners. I highly recommend trying to squeeze in a speed session once a week, or if not, alternate it every week with a hills session. 


All of my speed sessions start with a warm up jog (or if I am heading to the track to train with club members, I will cycle there to get the heart rate up). I find this really important as it just gets the body prepped for what's to come. It doesn't have to be fast - just your steady, plateau place. Next, I will do some drills to get my muscles and joints warmed up. I always aim to do:

3x 10 seconds of heel flicks
3x 10 seconds of high knees
3x 10 seconds of high skips
3x 50m of strides

Once all this is done, you are good to go!

1. Short and sweet sprints.
This session is all about very short, very fast reps. I aim to run these 400ms at my 3K pace. If you are new to speed sessions, I would begin doing this session a couple of times at 5K pace and overtime as your stamina builds up, you will slowly see your speed increase. Saviour those rest periods too! This session does leave you huffing and puffing at the end but you will feel like you have worked your socks off!

2. Pyramids

This one is tough but a goodie. Sometimes I do this session by distance or by time (e.g. 4mins, 3mins, 2mins, 1min) so it's a choice of whatever you prefer. As the distances get shorter, your speed increases. When you come to the halfway point, the hard part is working your way back up to 1200m where your speed decreases as the sets get longer. I run the longest distance at 10K pace and then the shortest at 3K pace. 

3. The 5 5's
This looks simple but I find these session one of the toughest. I am one of those that dreads fartlek work. I cherish my beloved rest periods and thoroughly miss them when it comes to this workout, That said though, this session really does improve your endurance and it helps me to manage different level of paces for certain distances. By the time you have completed the 10K pace set, you will be so relieved to drop the speed for the last two sets. Warning - legs will feel tired at the end of this so make sure you make time to stretch properly at the end. 

What are your favourite speed sessions? I am always on the hunt for newbies! :)

Lipstick Runner.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Tough Mudder Take TWO!

That's right, after saying I wouldn't attempt it again, I am taking part in Tough Mudder for the second time.

I said I wouldn't return (you can read about my first experience here) yet, for some reason, a couple of weeks back I got the urge to give it another bash. I was at a wedding reception and was discussing with one of the groomsmen about all the crazy obstacle races out there nowadays and how much fun they are. I was speaking about my Tough Mudder experience and whilst relaying it all, I felt a pang of curiosity within me to do it all again.

Looking at next year, I have started to reassess all that I want to achieve fitness wise. A few months back, I was beyond keen to do a marathon and avidly entered myself into one for April 2016. Rooky call as shortly afterwards, I started to have doubts about whether this was actually something I wanted to do. Deep down, yes I do want to do one but realistically, not right now. What I want to do now is make the most of my time to train for triathlon more and next year plan to take part in an Olympic distance. Aside from endurance sports, I also want to try and build my strength. Pull ups, push ups, weight lifting, stomach crunches are all things I don't currently do enough of and I have realised that this sort of exercise is super valuable for any runner/triathlete in training.

Not only do I want to focus and train hard, but I also want to have fun with it all. With all these thoughts and ideas in my head, I saw Tough Mudder as a way to secure a sense of achievement for my overall strength but will also be a time to have fun. I can't deny that the first time was hilarious. Despite all the pain, I was grinning the whole way round. So when it came down to revisitng my experiences at this wedding a couple of weeks back, when I was asked 'would you do it again?' my answer was actually 'you know what, yes!'.

So on Saturday 21st May 2016, I will be taking part in The Midlands event! Here I will face 20 obstacles over 12 miles of muddy terrain. Really hoping that the King of the Swingers will be making a return as this looks super fun. Also keen to tackle Greased Lightening and Funky Monkey. At this time though, the choice of course for 2016 has not been unveiled but I have every faith that it will be as action packed as the last.
So all that is needed is for me to get in Tough Mudder tip top shape! Looks like I will be digging out those dumb bells alongside my half marathon and triathlon plans!

If you are interesting in learning more about Tough Mudder, or better yet, keen to enter, visit the website here.

Lipstick Runner.

*photos courtesy of the official Tough Mudder team