Monday, 29 March 2010

A little bit of swim, bike and run......

When I last checked in to tell you about Lanzarote I was in recovery mode from a tough 20miler - the Asbhy 20. Despite everyone's assertions that you should run your LSR (Long Slow Runs) at precisely that - a slow pace, I wanted to build some confidence for Paris and I believed if I could do this 20miler (it's hilly!) in around 3hrs I would be able to go sub-4. So I decided to race! Whether this was a good idea or not I don't know. The first 10miles were a very comfortable 90mins and then the work started. It was a two lap route so we knew what was coming and there are certainly some hills to work on esp at mile 5/15. My pace did start to drop probably around 15-17miles though I think this was terrain orientated rather than major fatigue as, when it let up around 17miles, I had a fast mile (sub-9) between 17-18. Miles 18-20 were uphill back into the village which wasn't ideal so the pace slipped again though I pulled out a speedy last 800m so I obviously had a little something left in the tank!! Overall, 20miles in 3hrs and 1min (including a puppy rescue!!) so I am pretty pleased and feel more confident that with a fair wind and everything going right on the day, Paris may be sub-4 territory!

The 20miler did however, as I was told!, leave me too knackered to get much training in this week. I had Monday off then a triple training day Tuesday which probably contributed to the fatigue. I had wanted to do a tempo run but my legs were too tired so I did an hour of 10(5mins run/1min walk) to practice for the Double IM. It was very stressful physically but mentally it was tough. Doing such short chunks of running means you don't seem to get very far very quickly but it is just something I'll have to get used to I suspect! A swim and a turbo and I had a good day. Wednesday I limited to just swimming because I knew I would need to start tapering down and not knacker myself.

Thursday I was back on track with Interval training - much tougher than normal, probably from the accumulated fatigue but all the timings were there and I completed my 6x800m a happy child. On Friday I wanted to get a good solid swim in so I decided to don the wetsuit and do a 5km swim mimicking the Double IM. I stopped every 1,000m for a swig of H30 Pro and Water and swam consistently throughout. I have had to start learning to swim without tumble-turning as this is not allowed in the Double - another mental challenge! This was actually easier with the wetsuit on as it is weird tumble turning in that, and I was happy to record a total swim time (with stops) of 1hr 31mins. Maybe sub 2hrs 20 is achievable!!

I was due to have Saturday off but Adam needed to run so in the spirit of motivation (shaming him into getting out of bed!) I joined him on a 4.5mile run on Saturday morning. My legs were tired and just running sub 9.30min/mile pace was tough. I felt better by the end to keep up with Ad's sub 8.30min/mile pace but it wasn't a relaxing run! We then headed into London as Ad has an appointment with the wonderful Profeet to get his gait analysed and see if he needs orthotics. I think he found the whole process really interesting and was happy to find out that he is actually a really neutral runner and probably doesn't need as much support as his shoes have been giving him and that this could actually be the thing causing him pain. He has a pair of more neutral shoes that he wore for the marathon last year and tried them out yesterday on a 12miler and felt much better - yippee! I really pray for him to have some pain-free running especially on the day! After a lovely lunch with two of my closest friends, Aleks and Fi, we traipsed round London a bit more until our feet and legs were crying for mercy and we collapsed back onto the train home. A swift dinner and I was ready for my epic cycle the following morning!

At 7am, damning the British Summer Time, I dragged myself out of bed for the MK Cycle Sportive. I had originally signed up for the 100M Colossus route but, trying to sensible, thought, that whilst, tapering for Paris, the 100km option would be better. The route runs all the way round Milton Keynes so there were plenty of drop out points if I was struggling and Ad could always come and get me if I had problems. The first 2hrs passed and I was really enjoying the ride, however, I knew after that we were going into fairly unknown territory. Due to concentrating on marathon training my longest cycle has been 3hrs on the turbo and 2.5hrs in Lanzarote so I knew it would get harder. However, after a quick feed stop to replenish, I decided I would be cross if I didn't finish although I had good reasons and pushed on. I felt ok to just before 75kms and then I really bonked big style. It was a full on headwind for miles and I started to get very fed up! I took an emergency gel and glugged down my H30 and struggled on. Around 85kms we hit the border of MK again which was weird considering we still had 15kms to go - were we going to have to loop around the city a few times??! Still, at this point the wind was behind me, the road surface was better and flat and I began to whizz along over 30km/hr again, so I was happy. At 90kms I saw the sign for The Bowl and was ushered into the car park and onto the finishing straight. Confused I headed over the timing mat and approached an official explaining I was 10kms short and might I have gone wrong somewhere. However, it turns out the course was just short which they apologised for. I wasn't worried. After 3hrs 40mins of ride time I was quite happy to be getting off the bike! It was by no means an epic ride and I have so much work to do on the bike but I am so pleased with myself that I finished and got a little bit less fearful of the bike in general. I am going to have to rack up 1000s of miles before the Double IM so I must learn to love my little bike! On that front, I may have a cheeky solution to inspire me but as I have rambled on and on and on, I'll save that for next time!!

Monday, 22 March 2010

Where to start....!

When I have been away for such a long time it is so difficult to know where to start to get back on track! I think I may have to break this down into a number of posts otherwise anyone reading it will certainly get bored before the end! I think the first big thing was that the main reason for me being away for so long is that I have been out in La Santa, Lanzarote on a warm weather camp with the RAF. I have been to La Santa before with the swim team and it is an excellent facility - everything you could possibly need for training is there. I was a bit nervous before I went as I didn't know anyone else going and had the usual nervous that everyone was going to be much quicker than me. I was especially nervous about the bike as we were scheduled for 4hrs a day and it is hard to manage logistically if you are a lot slower than everyone else. Running and swimming are much simpler but the distances covered are a lot less so it is less important how quick people are. However, in four hours we could be covering a range of about 48-68miles depending on people's pace which is a big difference to get over and I was worried about being dropped and getting lost! However, most of the girls going were of a similar standard and we stuck together every day on the rides which was great. Riding out there makes you super super strong as the hills and the wind is never ending. I also managed to get a bit braver on my descending (I am SUCH a wimp) and clocked up a reasonably impressive 55km/hr on some of the descents.

Cycling was really the focus for the week and we rode 5 days out of 6. Swimming was less of a focus though there was still the opportunity to swim every day either in their wonderful open air 50m pool or down at the lagoon. I probably swam 3 or 4 times of varying distances between 2.5-4kms. I was worried about when I would manage to fit the run training in given that I have been sticking quite closely to my Paris schedule and when I get back I will only have 4 weeks until race day. I knew I wanted to get at least one longer run in to keep the endurance ticking over. Luckily there was a half marathon race scheduled for 7.45am Tuesday morning (good practice for an early start too as Paris starts around 8.30 I think) so I decided to race that and then add a few miles to the end. I really wanted to keep a steady pace and then add 4-5miles to the end but, of course, when it is an actual race scenario it is hard not to be competitive. The terrain out there was so tough - the roads are all very uneven to run on and coupled with heat and hills it was quite tough. I managed a respectable 1hr 56 but I knew I had pushed a bit too hard to then carry on much further. I forced myself to 2.5hrs and just over 16miles which wasn't too bad and will at least keep the mileage going. Those last three miles were down around 10min/miling though as my legs were pretty tired especially with all the riding we had been doing!

There was also a few other races organised during the week, a duathlon, aquathlon and a mini tri. We were all supposed to compete in the mini tri but a few people were suffering from the increase in training so formed teams instead. Having run 16miles the day before and wanting to get in a good bike ride in the afternoon, I also voted for the team option and swam a 400m TT in my relay. Around 6.30 which was ok but not too speedy. Still having had 3 months out of the pool it's not too bad. I used my wetsuit a couple of times during the week to try and get used to it as I will be planning to use it for the Double Ironman and need to get used to it in a pool. The first time I was in a rush to get it on and it wasn't that comfortable but in the mini-tri it felt pretty good.

All in all a really good stint of training especially for my cycling. I feel my run training has slipped a bit as I didn't make many more of the scheduled sessions (did a 4x1m interval set though which felt good) but hopefully the bike endurance will keep me on track. It has really enthused me for cycling outside again - the good weather makes all the difference though does result in very dodgy tan lines! So no excuses for the return home - I need to bite the bullet and get outside on the bike!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Herbalife - my wonderful sponsor!

Now, naturally I am biased but I just felt the need to write a quick note about how wonderful my sponsor Herbalife actually is! Not only do they have absolutely fabulous products which support my training in ways too numerous to mention but they support me emotionally as well. I have never had the priveledge of being a fully sponsored athlete before so maybe this is the norm but they have really taken the time to make this a very personal relationship and I couldn't be more grateful.

A common problem all endurance athletes will face is how to get their partner and loved ones to fully support them on whatever mad challenge they have come up with. And, believe me, this support is absolutely vital to you being able to complete something - without it your home life is going to be unhappy and when that is the case it would take a very unique person (and possibly not that nice) to be able to ignore it all and give their all to training without getting totally stressed out by it all. Herbalife have been 100% inclusive to my partner Adam, from being extremely welcoming to him when we travelled to meet them, to allowing him to accompany me to various sponsorship engagements and even giving him some kit to wear. To include him at this level is extremely special of them and has helped enormously with his 'buy-in'. He was extremely impressed with the whole set-up when we went down to meet with Herbalife at their offices and has echoed my sentiments that I have been extremely lucky to have secured such a supportive sponsor.

Herbalife - I'm very grateful!!

Sleaford Half Marathon

The day of the 1/2 Marathon dawn pretty dull and drizzly but thankfully nothing like the torrential rain we had been anticipating. It was weird to arrive back at Cranwell after the time away and noticing the start of the race was part of the old 'Mile and a Half' max run test we used to have to do brought back shivers of fear!

As the boys didn't want to set off too early I arrived a lot later than normal and felt I didn't have my noral pre-race rituals. This set me off on a bit of a weird journey I think and I think it was a bit of a lesson to try and keep your normal routine for things. Due to them also not wanting to do a bag drop so they could get away quickly (?!) we had to keep returning to the car to shed layers which meant my warm-up and loo stops were also disturbed. All in all I felt a bit rattled hitting the start line with only 30secs to go after a fruitless last attempt to visit the portaloos! Also, my foot pod appeared to have run out of battery so I wouldn't be able to record my speed during the race. These things all served to throw me and I started off not in a good place. My legs also felt extremely tired and running into into 40mph headwinds didn't help! Within the first mile was the infamous 'Devil's Dip' which we used to do hill training on and I resigned myself to having a bad day. At 2miles we were guided onto an off-road rutted muddy track which saw me slipping and sliding about for the next two miles, trying to keep balance and find a space not filled with runners also trying to do the same thing. I got fuming angry at this point which probably helped because in the first two miles I had just felt a bit tired and pathetic and not wanting to go on; getting cross fuelled the fire a bit. I was relieved to hit the end of the mud at 4miles, though the course seemed to only go up and never down (how is this possible) and jogged along to 6miles cross that my pace average was no scuppered and I had no chance of meeting my 1hr 50 target. Instead of reassuring myself that the conditions were just really poor, I started to get really worried that maybe I don't have it in me to do a sub-4hr marathon after all (sub-1hr 50 is the time cited for a 1/2marathon to put you on the road for a sub-4hr marathon).

I had a gel around 7miles and started to feel a lot better and stronger. I think this is probably because the endurance side of training was now beginning to kick in and I felt good. I felt strong to 10miles and then decided to try and push the pace a bit. The last three miles were good and slowly my pace picked up a little which I was pleased with. The last mile and a half saw the return of 'Devil's Dip' and back onto the mile and a half course (grass) for the run into the finish. I knew sub 1hr50 wasn't possible but I was surpised to turn into the finishing straight with 1hr 53 on the clock. I knew with just a final push I could at least get a PB and salvage something from a pretty disappointing race. I pushed on and managed to dip under 1hr 54 (approx 1hr 53.54 - results aren't out yet) for a PB of 20secs or so!

Things to take away:

1. I was so cross initially that I couldn't get my average speed up enough to get the 1hr 50 and started to beat myself up about it and question my ability for a sub-4hr marathon (my first season target at Paris in 6 weeks). However, I must remember, I have trained straight through this week (including a 19miler on Monday), the conditions were poor (cold, wet and windy), it was a challenging course with at least 2 miles in mud and another mile on grass. Paris will be none of these things and I will have tapered properly.

2. I got a PB! Disappointed though I was not to go sub-1hr 50, I cannot complain that I did this tough course and still managed to PB. My previous PM was set at the Brass Monkey - a notoriously PB friendly course so this has got to be a sign I am improving.

3. I didn't give up. I was really tired and fed up in the first few miles but I willed myself to keep working and encouraged myself just to push on for the next few miles and at least treat it as a training run and get the miles under my belt. That has helped me mentally to know, I can push on when things aren't exactly going my way. And, let's face it, there will be plenty of those moments over the next 18months!

All in all, a funny race which I have mixed feelings about - still not every race or every training session can be perfect and I think I have taken away some good lessons - not least check your batteries! So long as you keep learning and keep improving it can only get better and if you train hard you fight easy as they say!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Chocolate Concrete

Well, after thinking it was just going to be a nice steady week with some good training weeks it turned out somewhat different. As stated, I trained well and consistently through Monday and Tuesday but on Wednesday I woke up exhausted with a slightly sore throat which Adam also seems to have. I had grand plans for training but actually couldn't face it. I was very emotional as well for some reason, getting panicky and even a bit weepy about allowing myself a day off. Instead of just recognising I was a bit tired and accepting that and resting I got very het up and worried about losing training time etc. I think it is the biggest difficulty for a self-coached athlete to know when to put the training in and when to back off. I even wrote on the forums how I was feeling and asked for people to gee me up and get me out training. A few comments later I was motivated enough to get to the gym (normally easily enough to get me inside and training - the hard part is leaving my desk) but this time I actually just reached the car park, pulled straight through and carried on driving. Went to Starbucks for a coffee and just to try and relax and get a moment to myself. It was definitely a sign that I needed to chill and rest. Took the evening off aswell after promising myself I would work hard on intervals and a maasive bike the next day.

Unfortunately I had CCS the next day - every year military personnel are required to redo their Common Core Skills in First Aid, NBC Training, Weapon Handling and Shoots. I passed everything no problem but it took up most of the day. I managed to slip away at lunch for a short session (aiming to do the 1M Jog, 3M Fast (25mins), 1M Jog session I had missed the day before) but I felt exhuasted. Battled through to do 1M Jog, 2M Fast (16mins), 1M Jog and then called it a day. Also canned the big bike session I had planned that evening and instead had a bath, got into my big fluffy dressing gown and watched tv. What a luxury and probably what was needed.

As I was racing this weekend I also cut my Friday sessions down to only a 75min swim - I figured there was no point trying to make up the missed sessions and I didn't want to be running before the race anyway. If I had felt totally fit I would have put an interval session in but I didn't, I still fet tired and my knee has been sore since the 19miler on Monday. And I was glad I didn't as I had a really nice swim - main set was 4 x (400m Swim, 200m Pull Biltaeral) and all the 400ms were under 7:30 with total ease which I was very happy about - works out around a 71min swim for the IM which is what I did at Germany so for non-race, early season without a wetsuit - I feel like I am in a good place.

Spent Saturday off as we had to travel up north to see our friends and Adam's parents and prepare for the race the next day. We had a lovely meal with our friends - some fab lasagne and the famous Yorkshire 'Chocolate Concrete' which is a pparently a childhood staple of those round the Doncaster area and something I have been wanting to try for ages. I had a slab with some custard and was a very happy child! Off to bed by 10.30 in advance of the Sleaford 1/2 Marathon in the morning.