Planning Ahead

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I’m planning. I’m actually re-planning having taken a long, hard look at myself and my current level of fitness. I struggled to stay uninjured last year and this year I’ve, maybe foolishly, entered three half marathons. I have given myself time in between them to recover (I’m not that daft) but that’s one more half than I tried last year.

I’m still adamantly and determinedly sticking to Jeff Galloway for my inspiration and instruction. I’m 50 this year, difficult as it is to believe that, and I’m wanting to carry on running for many years to come. Jeff, at 69 this year, is still running marathons. That’s good enough recommendation for me!

I had already put my training plan on the calendar. It was Jeff’s ‘improver’ plan which focused on speed training. It was giving me a predicted half time of 2:17. Today I got out Jeff’s ‘Galloway Book on Running’  and had a look at the 2:20 goal plan (the next one is 1:59, which is a lovely thought, but way out my league. Maybe one day!) It seemed less intensive. And, if I’m honest, that’s a good thing bearing in mind how stressful speed training is on the body. I realise that I need only to feel that I have finished a half marathon to the best of my ability and the last two I’ve done I’ve not felt that. Quite the reverse. I’ve been plagued by atrocious weather conditions and one injury after another and my running has suffered.

So, the answer was clear. I needed to just train to finish.

My training starts tomorrow with an easy 3 mile run, followed by a thirty minute run on Wednesday and another on Friday. I finish the week with a 1 ¼ mile walk on Saturday and then a 4 mile easy run on Monday next. Jeff’s app is going to keep me on track (and the road) and I’m just about to source some new running music.

The plan then is to cross train on the days I’m not running in order to build up core strength and stamina and I know I’ve said that before on here and done sweet F.A. about it. I recently bought a great resource in the ‘Core Strength Training’ book by DK Books. It features core training which is sport-specific, gives level of difficulty and progression for each exercise. I need to focus on those which don’t involve crunches to spare me from neck injury, the main reason (beside apathy) why I haven’t succeeded in following my own advice in the past! So I’m looking at Reverse Curls, Leg Circles, Leg Lifts, Hip Rolls and so on. If I start with foundation exercises and make those more difficult then maybe I’ll be strong enough to move onto Intermediate level! Woo-hoo.

The mantra is slow and steady, in everything. Build up gradually and try not to get hurt!

The Almosts and the Nearlys

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For the last two weeks, this has been my running track. As you will have gleaned from my last post, we were holidaying in the north of Scotland in the Sutherland town of Brora. It’s a beautiful part of the world and this holiday we were blessed with fantastic Mediterranean-like weather. We were camping just the other side of the dunes from this wonderful beach which was exactly two miles long from end to end (actually it would have been slightly longer, but at the far north end you had to pick your way through rocks, so it wasn’t worth trying to include that in running mileage.)

Depending on the heat and my mood I would run between 2 and 4 miles every other day and walk the same every day. Despite the excess holiday eating and drinking, I’ve put on no weight. It’s all good and I actually also have a bit of a tan, as much of a tan as a lass with celtic colouring can amass!

I’m home and back to earth a bit this week. On Monday I set off a little bit too late in the morning to get a comfortable run in before the heat started to build up. I had been messing about with miles and app settings whilst on holiday and was expecting a 6 mile run, but ended up doing a 5k ‘race’ with a warm up, so about 3.5 miles, instead.

I didn’t really think about which route to take and found myself running along towards the shore, which is relatively flattish. My beach running legs felt pretty good and the warm up, once my initial asthma shock had subsided, was fine. I reset my Garmin and gave the 5k my best shot. I did the first mile in 9:17 and I’m pretty chuffed with that, but in truth I was struggling to breathe properly. I think I need to run a mile before I can properly breathe, so trying to exert myself before that is probably a no-brainer.

As I started the second mile it became apparent that it was getting very warm, very quickly, and that I was running on a road with no shade and in full glare of a very angry sun! I tired very quickly and the second mile came in at 10:32.

I realised that despite this I was very close to getting a sub-30 minute 5k time, so I tried my hardest in the last mile. I think at this point I probably needed some support, someone there egging me on and I probably would have done it, but as it is I did the last mile in 9:51 and finished my 5k in 30:54.

In the circumstances I’m not displeased with this. I haven’t done much speed work lately and I’m obviously capable of slightly better than this on a cooler day, so with some groundwork I’m not far away from getting under my target. I’m off to do some speedwork this morning, but just on the local playing field because it’s quite a journey to the nearest track and I guess I have to compromise.

Compromise is a big word in our house at the moment. It’s become the subject of some conversations revolving around what we want and actually what we can presently manage to have. In order to be a successful teacher, artist, wife and mother I have to make compromises and often it’s my running that gets compromised. If the difference between running and not running means running on a playing field instead of the ‘local’ running track 10 miles away, then I run on the grass and grin and bear it. I have to.

Yesterday, free from gym membership (I struggle to justify the cost, but I’m starting to realise the benefits of a air-conditioned gym this weather!) I worked out on our decking, using my makeshift gym equipment. As I’ve mentioned before I am desperate to strengthen a somewhat pathetic core, but I have neck problems when I do regular crunches, regardless of how I approach them. My neck soon goes into spasm and I end up spending an additional £25 at the chiropractors getting fixed! I’ve been gathering some exercises, mostly from my running magazines, working on cross-training and core conditioning.

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Armed with a kettle bell, a gym mat and two tins from my larder (chopped tomatoes and mushroom soup, to be precise) I did two lots of 15 reps of squat jumps, superman stretches, back lunges with rotation (weighted), single leg running arms (weighted) and toe taps. I couldn’t do the resistance band exercise I wanted to because some bugger has nicked my resistance band! I’ll look for that for next time! I also did 1 minute of kettlebell exercises, working my cardio as well as strength building (figure of eights, single arm shoulder press, single arm swing, single arm row, single leg bend). I found the exercises where I had to balance on one leg and complete the movement really difficult and at the end the sweat was dripping off me! I still need to find more exercises to exercise my core without having to lift my head, so that’s a priority.

On Sunday I have my next race, the X Border 10k, which starts at Gretna and takes us along the M6 service road to Kingstown in Carlisle. I’m looking forward to this. I’ve even prepared myself for being last across the line, although my semi silent coach assures me that I won’t be!  I’m not sure how well I will do. My 10k pace doesn’t seem to have increased much, but it’s not decreased either. I have no expectations of the course because I’ve never run it before, so I’m just going along and will do what I can. I might surprise myself and knock a few seconds off my road 62 minute 10k time! That would be lovely.

dual-offerAfter that I start my half marathon training again in readiness for the Great Cumbrian Run in October. Again it’s not a race I’ve done before, so we’ll just go and see what my little legs and podgy body can do. Who knows, by then I could have transformed into a racing whippet.

 

Hot and Sticky

A few years back an acquaintance, who plays in a popular local band, gave us a CD of their latest album. One of the songs, entitled ‘Sticky Vicky’, was about a stripper who owns a nightclub in Benidorm, Spain which they used to play at during the summer season. After having just finished a 6 miler in 19ºC heat and 80% humidity, I know exactly how she felt. Ewwww.

I Googled 'hot stripper' and this what I got!
I Googled ‘hot stripper’ and this what I got!

I’m following my pal Jeff Galloway’s 10k app again. Not the improver plan, just the get it finished plan – well he calls it something else, but that’s basically what it is. Get it done. I’ve got it set to 10 min/mile pace (ha ha) and 4:1 run:walk ratios. Today was a 10 minute “jog” or warm up run, followed by 20 minutes of race pace running and a 10 minute “jog” or warm down run, or thereabouts. The route was going to be about 6 miles so I chose my favourite loop that takes me up away from the village, climbing steadily for a mile and a half before working up and down a series of small hills and then steady running pretty much to home, although there are a few gentle hills to test tired legs towards the end.

The hills weren’t really so much of an issue as the heat and humidity. It’s a lovely day for a walk, but a bit too muggy for running and I always find getting my breathing sorted out difficult on a muggy day. I took a couple of puffs on my inhaler before heading out, but it took a couple of miles not to still be fighting with it.

In fact that thought popped into my head as I headed out. I always find the start of any run a bit of a battle, as if my body is resisting it in every way and I have to rise above the battle in order to finish. As an asthmatic, the initial half a mile is scary. Within a few minutes you feel your chest tighten and you start to pant rather than breathe. It’s painful and your instinct is to stop and take a few minutes, but in reality you are better to slow your pace and concentrate on running. Eventually your breathing regulates and you’ve come through it. I often find trail running more intensely scary in this respect; it’s perhaps because my trail runs tend to be shorter and faster. I have to believe that I am not about to die.

Anyway, back to today’s run. I ran the first 10 minutes steadily, hitting the walk breaks on time and wasn’t tempted to stop any sooner, despite my initial breathing difficulties. The faster section came in as I rounded the first hill, which was great – the terrain is better for faster running with a combination of flats, uphills and downhills. It’s not fast, but it is testing and I think that’s a better indicator of how well I’m running than maybe heading down a flat road. I would rather put the work in on the training and hopefully reap the benefits in races. That’s the theory anyway!

The fatigue didn’t really set in until between miles 3 and 4 when the sun came out. Until then the sky had been cloudy and I’d taken my hat off to get a bit of wind in my hair and cool me down. When the sun appeared I had to replace my hat and get a bit of shelter, especially as my forehead caught the sun yesterday. I was drinking water from my Camelbak and hadn’t taken anything else. I figured that a good breakfast on top of all the carbs I had yesterday were fuel enough and water would do. The Camelbak allows me to sip small amounts, which is probably for the best. I’m sitting here now drinking pints of water and I’ll soon be as big as a barage balloon; I couldn’t do that on a run!

I ran on, not even looking at my watch – I had no idea what pace I was running. I just decided that I was running 6 miles and if I did that in an hour and a half I couldn’t care less! It was hot and sticky and I was trying to run 4 miles at 10 minute mile pace. At one point I thought it was raining, but in truth the sweat from my pony tail was getting flicked about and was landing on my hands, feeling like rain.

I was overpace by a long way. I realised this when Jeff started to do a count down when I still had a mile to do. It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve been behind pace, usually I’m ahead of it. This is the difference between me running at 10k pace and running at 13.1 mile pace! I am not a fast runner!

Mile 1 was completed in 10:55 – that’s my warm up pace supposedly.

Mile 2 was the start of race pace and was finished in 10:25.

Mile 3 : 10:38

Mile 4: I was starting to suffer – 11:08, it shows!

Mile 5: 11:36 I was, by now, on the slow down run.

I ran out of Jeffness by this point and was just running on my own at a slow pace just to clock up the miles.

Mile 5:93 : 11:26 Just glad to finish and walk home!

Overall I did 5:93 miles in a respectable 67 minutes. I’m OK with that because it was warm and it’s actually taken me until now to stop perspiring! Writing my blog before my shower means that I’ve cooled down enough to take it when I’m done!

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On another note, I started core exercises again, but I’m having to stop them. Within a couple of days my neck has started to show signs of strain and I think there is more to it than just bad posture. This last time I was very aware of my posture, but the pain this weekend has been quite bad. I even ended up at the Chinese health shop for a quick 10 minute neck and shoulder loosen massage on Saturday morning and spent Saturday night lying on a massage cushion. One of my vertebrae is so sore now I can hardly touch it! I’m putting ibuprofen gel on that and I’m researching core exercises for people with neck injuries as a way round the problem. I won’t let this stop me, so I need an alternative path. Googling core exercise for neck injury spouts up many links – I just need to work my round through them.

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Starting Again!

Last post I was talking almost enthusiastically about Garmin’s training plans. However, on a closer look the plans just ain’t gonna do. This is mostly because the plans are time, rather than mileage, based. Round here you can’t just nip up the next avenue to add a bit of time on because there aren’t any avenues. You need to plan a route according to the mileage you want to cover. There aren’t any cut through roads. The only other alternative is to run out, get so far and turn round half way, which I don’t like doing. So I’m sticking to Jeff Galloway and his plans for 5k, 10k and half marathon.

I also wondered about knocking my walk breaks out (which Jeff’s plans also cater for) and just running, but after re-reading a few of my early blog posts I’ve realised that there was a reason why I started running with regular breaks and also that with them I’ve achieved so much, without any real injury. So I’m sticking with Jeff Galloway lock, stock and barrel.

I spent Sunday planning out runs, noting the long run lengths in my diary so I knew what to expect. I set out this evening to do 7 miles. It had been cooler and cloudier today, so I was looking forward to a nice, pleasant run. I had even remembered to put Vaseline on my bra-line – how good is that?

Needless to say the sun burnt through the clouds at 0.5 miles and raised the temperatures as I ran from 63ºF up to nearer 70ºF. The sweat, as we say round here, was pishing off me! I ran a steady mile as a warm up and then 5 at race pace, before finishing with another steady mile. Had the weather been a little kinder I might have been looking at an easier 5 miles, but, in the circumstances, what I did was fine. My 10k came in just over my usual pace and that was taking the steady mile into account. I can’t complain at that.

My IPhone died at mile 6, but I wasn’t all that worried and just cruised the last mile home running at any pace I liked, which involved sprinting back into the finish. One day I’ll see the village sign and NOT think that it’s the finish line for the Olympic final of the 10,000m. Until then I will sprint.

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I’m not due to run until Wednesday now, but I am determined to make use of the rest days by doing some gym work. I know that I should do this, but I’m useless at getting motivated and maintaining the motivation. It might sound silly, but I’m thinking of putting tasks in my diary to prompt me to get my backside off the coach on my in-between days. I’ve lots of excuses why this hasn’t happened, which I won’t bore you with, but I’ve no excuse now.

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Without killing myself…

After last week’s post you may be pleased to hear that I’ve backed off a bit and that I’m not being quite so hard on myself, for a change. Doing that 13 miles last Sunday in a half decent time, without hurting myself, has made me sit up and listen to my body. I am making progress. I don’t need to make myself ill. Even if I knock a few seconds off my last half time, that’s a PB. And I think I can manage that.

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So instead of half killing myself in training, I’ve turned it down a notch or two and I feel as if a massive weight has been lifted! All of a sudden I’m enjoying running again. I might feel as if I’m going a bit slowly, but I do have the option to speed up if I’m feeling good.

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Today was an interval day, with 14km of speed work to look forward to. Yay! (Don’t worry, I am joking!)

As I’m not near a track and the roads aren’t suited to intervals, I opted to run for almost two hours on the treadmill. That, people, is dedication. Or madness, you choose!

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In order to survive two hours on the treadmill I have my TV and a box set of DVDs set up in the cabin. I am happy to run with no music at all outside, happy to run with music for short treadmill runs, but for two hours of drudgery only TV will stave off the monotony I’m afraid! At the moment I’m half way through the Teachers (series 2) box set. I find that if I turn on the subtitles I can watch it without having to worry about ear phones or having the sound blasting out. I do have headphones on, but that’s so that I can listen to my coach Jeff Galloway’s dulcet tones.

Nice one, Jeff!
Nice one, Jeff!

And talking of the good man himself, Coach Jeff informed me that this morning I had not just intervals, but a mixture of running. I started off with a slow 10 minute run, followed this with four acceleration gliders (building up to race pace, holding for a few seconds and then reducing the pace whilst using the built up momentum to carry the speed) and then into ten lots of 800m intervals. As I had knocked the pace back a bit I wasn’t sure what speed the intervals were going to come in at and I was pleased to see them still at 11.3 kph. That’s a kilometre less per hour than I was doing, but looking at my overall training (i.e. THE BIG PICTURE) it’s not making that much difference. The difference it did make, however, was that I felt more comfortable. Yes, I was pushing myself, but not over the edge.

I finished with a 10 minute slow run and felt as if I’d done a good training session.

My nutrition was a bit lacking though; because  in my head I wasn’t running “a long run”, I only took an isotonic drink. I neglected to consider that I was still running 10 miles and that I should have been supplementing that with something else. At times I felt light headed and there were a couple of stumbles on the treadmill when I just forgot where I was. Next time I will have to remember to give myself plenty of fuel.

Next weekend I had planned to run the Kilomathon in Edinburgh, 13.1 km, but I’ve decided not to. The start is at 8:30 am and unless I stay over it would be too early a start for me to drive up. I can’t afford the time or the cost of a hotel to stay overnight, so it’s going to be scratched off the list. I have to be practical in terms of money, time and how races fit into my training and the Kilomathon doesn’t really rate highly in any of those terms. On Sunday I have 15 miles to run so after running a fast 13.1 km (because it’s a race and I couldn’t help myself!) I would then need to do an extra 11 km. It’s a shame, but maybe next year I can do this instead of other races.

Next year, maybe!
Next year, maybe!

So, here I am heading into week 11 of training! Wish me luck!!

Revealing All

The last words I said about using the treadmill were to my husband the other day when I said that running 10km on one was more than enough.

So today I ran 14.1 km.

It’s week 8, day 4 of the Improve Your Half Marathon plan that I’ve been following and it’s bloody hard work, let me tell you! Improving apparently means working harder. I wasn’t expecting that. It involves running faster intervals and counting your steps and learning how to coast. I wasn’t expecting any of this. Let’s just hope that it works, because it’s bloody hard work. Did I say that already?

My training programme looks like this:

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(taken from http://www.jeffgalloway.com/training/half_marathon.html)

I’ve asked it to give me 10 minute pace which should give me  2:17 over 13.1 miles. We’ll see. As it is I do seem to be keeping to the pace on longer runs (not 10 min/mile pace yet though – the long runs are at 11 min/mile pace), but I admit that I find the raised pace in training sessions really tough.

I mentioned in my last post that my PT son had concocted an isotonic sports drink for me.

[Isotonic – quickly replaces fluids lost by sweating and supplies a boost of carbohydrate. This drink is the choice for most athletes – middle and long distance running or team sports. Glucose is the body’s preferred source of energy therefore it may be appropriate to consume Isotonic drinks where the carbohydrate source is glucose in a concentration of 6% to 8% – e.g. High Five, SiS Go, Boots Isotonic, Lucozade Sport. Taken from www.brianmac.co.uk/drinks.htm]

The recipe Ben used was:

  • 2 parts water to 1 part fruit juice (he used pure orange juice from concentrate)
  • pinch of salt

It tastes fine and, if it does the job, is a lot cheaper than shop bought drinks. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenC106 He’s talking about starting his own blog on fitness, so watch this space.

You can tell it’s nearly Christmas…

…when my updates become once weekly, if you’re lucky. Apologies.

If I’m perfectly honest that’s because I’m not up to much, running wise. I’m working six days a week and when I get home it’s too late to think about gearing up for a trip into town. My weekly mileage has been pretty pathetic recently. I use Daily Mile to log my miles and looking back I can see what difference the dark nights have had. In October I was running between 15 and 25 miles a week, which has gradually declined. One week in November I managed a grand total of 2 miles!

I really didn’t know what to do about this. I’ve thought about taking my kit to the gallery and running around town before coming home. That wouldn’t help with training up my husband – he often finishes after me and isn’t often in town. My day off is so packed full of all the jobs I can’t do during the week that, like last Monday, I was running at sunset!

Yesterday I came up with an answer.

A runstreak!

Generally speaking I’m not keen on running every day. I believe that my body needs a day to repair and relax. However I have set limits. For my runstreak I will run every day this week for at least 15 minutes. Most of the time I envisage this happening on the treadmill. On finishing I will cycle the equivalent distance on my exercise bike and finish off with my Daily Ab Workout, if I have enough time. I know 15 minutes doesn’t sound much, but that’s 15 minutes pure running time (i.e. not including getting changed, warming up, cooling down and showering.) In reality 15 minutes running can easily become an hour’s worth if you include all the faff.

I started my runstreak yesterday. I did a pyramid interval run, starting at 9kph and climbing to 12kph and down three times. It was a good workout and, if I’m honest, it was tough at the start. I’ve lost some of my speed running with my hubbie and this is a good way of getting it back. My husband ran after me yesterday (not literally – he wouldn’t catch me if he tried!), complaining about the width of the treadmill belt, but he did his 15 minutes whilst I pedalled and crunched.

This morning I feel good! Normally I would be sitting here trying to work out when I could fit in a long run on my only day off, but today I’m not worrying. I did 2.5km yesterday. If I can do at least that every day by the end of the week I will have run over 25km by Christmas Day, which is over 15 miles. If I feel good and have time, I’ll do more.

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And hopefully, come the big day, I’ll look slightly more svelte than Santa here!