Friday, 24 May 2013

London Marathon pleasure and study horror (in that order)

As the title suggests, and as the London Marathon was over a month ago, I am in the depths of study hell. Should I be posting on my blog the day before my first exam (of about 10 over 10 days)? Probably not, but I need to shed some stress...I'm going mad sitting studying all day: every single hour of every single day. And when I sleep, I dream of drug names (the good, medicine kind (; ) and processes contributing to blood coagulation or cancer development...

...I have been doing my best (and as I keep reminding myself, that is genuinely all a person can do) but, that said, I still don't know how things will go. Watch this space, I guess. I did sign up for this, after all!

But, on a nicer note, I did have an absolutely amazing time at the London Marathon back in April. I ran for Macmillan and could not have asked for better support from my amazing friends and family. Or from the Macmillan team, to be honest. Definitely an amazing charity whose work deserves to be supported.

My training was fraught with injury - 2 weeks off (completely - I mean COMPLETELY unable to run) with a hamstring problem, then 2/3 weeks recovering from some weird agony along the outer edge of my foot (stress fracture???). I had managed 23 miles off-road in the snowy hills of Aviemore on that foot problem which I don't think helped matters. I had done a few 15milers too, but nothing constituting marathon training.

Some photos of myself and my "cycle-mates" on our amazing run in Aviemore...

My lack of training didn't seem to matter though. Never before have I been so impressed with the atmosphere ANYWHERE! I don't say to be offensive, as the people who cheer and support in ultras are wonderful and make the race worth doing. Same with the Loch Ness Marathon supporters in the wee villages and city centre. But London is on another level. I didn't see a break in the crowds once in the whole 26.2miles. And people just shout your name, clap for you, cheer, hold up funny really was such an experience. I don't think I stopped smiling the whole way round!

A race report wouldn't really consist of much, other than I found it quite difficult to eat from about 18miles onwards. Those of you who read this blog will know I usually have no problem stuffing my face during races (it has been commented on before!!) but I think I was going a bit faster than I should have been given my lack of proper training. Maybe that was why. I felt a bit sick at one point and also think I was drinking too much water so I cut back towards the end. Spending a good portion of my run thinking about the homeostatic mechanisms in my body which are altered when I run and how I could restore normal balance is something I didn't think I would ever do, but there you go...

On the plus side, no injury pain. The only thing which really hurt (and this is the only real problem I ever have in races) is the ball of my foot. I get a horrible pain there, probably pressure induced, when I run for long periods of time. Afterwards its all swollen and bright red.

So yes, after no injuries, lots of smiles, a little physiology revision and amazing crowds I finished in 3hours 34mins. A new pb by about 2 mins. And I loved every minute of it (: I was happy to see, too, that may splits weren't really too bad. For someone who doesn't look at a watch whilst running I must have quite a good internal body clock!!

Oh, and I forgot to mention I was wearing a tutu and supporting my lovely country (:

Monday, 25 February 2013

February 2013

It seems my posts from now on may end up being a month apart...but quality over quantity hopefully!

Since my last post I have been busy as usual, but still keeping plenty of time to run and spin. The weather has been awful though - so cold. I suffer from Reynauds which means that I'm ok when I'm running, but once I'm finished running and my body cools down, I suffer massive vasoconstriction and  lose all circulation in my fingers (palm up) and toes. It doesn't sound serious, but it can be pretty uncomfortable...

Pretty gross really! In addition, the routes I run are very muddy, and running in the mud is incredibly difficult. I don't think I ever quite appreciated it, as running on bridleways isn't half as bad. I don't think I will ever do fell running - it's so frustrating pushing as hard as you can and not getting anywhere! Plus there are a lot of horses in Cambridgeshire who seem to just destroy any trace of a footpath. For example, mid way through my 14miler on the Inknield Way...

So, I think I have pretty much settled into my yearly training plan. 
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - 5.5/6m (fast...think I can include some small sprints in this if I can motivate myself) + spin
Wednesday - freestyle...varies each week, just what I can fit in as Weds are my busiest day
Thursday - 7-9m (steady) + spin
Friday - Rest
Saturday - long
Sunday - Cycle 

I know it doesn't seem like I'm going to be cranking massive mileages but it is what I can manage, and moreover it's what I WANT to do. I don't love running so much that I want to spend all my free time running (although that's slightly different when I'm home in Scotland) plus, as I mentioned in my last post I am seriously respectful of my body now and it really isn't healthy to be pushing it hard every day. My poor joints won't thank me when I'm 50...although maybe my heart will (:

In February my long runs have been 11.5miles, then I got ill for a week and missed my long run, 13.9miles and 14.5miles. This week I will be back in Glasgow so plan on doing a nice easy 15miler somewhere to round off the month. I have been quite happy with my runs, except times perhaps - like I say the mud and slippy conditions underfoot have added a bit of time onto them. Interestingly I have been using my Nike+ again and am laughing at the paces of my usual routes...I tend not to keep a very uniform pace through my runs!!

To be fair, I do know what the big dip at the end is...I come off the hard surface onto a really slippery bridleway and have to really take care not to go over on my ankle, then after about 1/2mile I hit another road. My long runs are slightly more uniform...luckily!

Something else which I have been looking at this month too is new running headphones. I don't always run with headphones, especially as I sometimes have Derek cycling alongside or am just enjoying being out in the country, but I do love to listen to music. I had a pair of Sennheiser PMX80 until recently...
...but unfortunately after many years of being battered and used one of the ears stopped working. I was really impressed with them but when I looked on amazon to get another pair, they weren't being sold anymore and had received not so great reviews. I'm surprised, and it made me a bit sceptical about believing some of the other headphone reviews. I thought about running with my old Sonys for a while but they are over the ear (i.e. DJ style) ones and I don't like running on the road with them. I eventually settled on these Sennheiser/Adidas MX685 ones:

So far I haven't been disappointed. I wondered about the wee bit on the top but it actually hooks quite well into your ear and holds the headphones in place, despite the constant jiggling around. I listen to loads of dance music with heavy bass and the headphones seem to convey that pretty well only gripe is that they don't go up very loud....well, in the house they do but outside it doesn't seem so loud. This could, of course, be my 5+ year old ipod nano packing up on me. Either way, its probably best for my ears if I don't have the music up too loud. I have been listening to quite a lot of new tunes recently and think I have some perfect playlists for these wee sprints I try to do on my 6miler.

I think I will save that for another post though...

Monday, 21 January 2013

A round up of 2012

So, always a little late, but I thought I would do a little overview of 2012 and talk about some goals for 2013.

2012 was a bit of a mixed year for me, some very, very good times, some not so good times. I'd rather talk about the positive though! After Rutland Marathon I took it easy and had a few weeks of simple 7,8,9 mile runs, amounting to 62miles in November. Plus I did a lot of spin - I absolutely love spin and swear my running has benefited no end from it. In December I started to build my mileage back up, long runs of 9 and 10 miles, then a longer run of 18miles at the end of the year, plus plenty of spin.

The 18 mile route was from Pitlochry out west across the river and then back. It was a really cold day and threatened to rain the whole time but very luckily it never did! We did the run/cycle in about 3 hours (+a lunch break). I like this photo from the day: (very threatening!)

The day before that Derek, his brother and I went a walk near Glenmore in the Cairngorms. The snow was quite heavy and the path had been snowed over, so at the advice of another walker we hiked up one of the hills and scrambled to the top to see the view below, which was phenomenal:

Since the start of JAnuary, I have been running 3-4 times per week (depending on what I can manage with Uni), spinning twice a week and maybe doing a cycle or a walk at the weekend as well. My long runs have been 10.5, 8.5 and 11.5miles and I'm trying to do a fast weekly run of over 6miles. Studying physiology has really taught me the importance of allowing my muscles to rest and become stronger, so I actively take rest days now. I do think I am getting faster...on the flat certainly. I was also really relieved when I came home to Glasgow a few times since Rutland and all my runs were very hilly (I basically tried to find any hill I could and incorporate it into my run!). I coped really well and it's nice to see that Cambridge hasn't sapped the stamina out of me!

Personally, 2012 was a really hard year. I was incredibly homesick and it led me to being in a really bad place for a while. If I hadn't had D's support and been able to keep up running and going away to the Peaks/Essex/Surrey etc I don't think I would have coped as well. I realised something towards the end of the year though - I am almost half way through my course. The course is very hard, it's very intensive and I forget that sometimes. The fact I can still keep up my running, am getting stronger and am still doing well on the course is something I really need to remember and be proud of. We plan on moving back once I'm done, and at that time I won't have the same chance to do long runs on the flat, or nip to London or the Peaks for a wee weekend away (running or otherwise!) so I may as well make the most of it. I love the gym I've joined and, like I say, the spin classes are fab. I have invested in a pair of clip-in shoes which make the class a lot more of a challenge! I'm certainly working all my leg muscles (hamstrings included!) now. I also got a road bike and plan to continue cycling in and out of town come the better weather.

So 2012 was a good year marathon wise - Loch Ness in 3h39 and Rutland in 3h41 (in horrible conditions!). The Devil was probably the highlight for me, which I finished amazingly in 8h30 feeling really great.
And our run/cycles in the Peak district were another highlight - I love it up there and it's very handy for us.

Cycling-wise, Glen Affric was definitely the high point. A great 2 days cycling from Beauly to Kyle of Lochalsh (despite my complaints hiking over the boggy grass!).

So for 2013 I have decided to focus on marathons. I am really, really gutted as I won't be able to run the Devil this year ): I misread times and have booked to go away on holiday the day before the Devil. Of course I am not complaining about going on holiday! And at the end of the day I had a great Devil race last year and maybe taking a year out means I can get sub 8h30 in 2014 (:

Marathon wise I was lucky to get a good for age place in the London marathon - I am SO excited about it! I hear it's just one of those things runners have to experience and I can't wait to run it. It will be my 11th marathon and I am running it for MacMillan, making a provisional goal to finish it in 3h30. I will soon enter Loch Ness (beginning of October - wouldn't miss that for anything!) and have also entered Snowdonia marathon at the end of October. I know its ages away but I have always wanted to do it...and this way we have a perfect excuse to go across for the weekend and scout out the route before October! I am debating doing another marathon - maybe the South Downs marathon in June. However, I have been reading about the Lochalsh Dirty 30 - a road/trail 30 miles in Skye on the same day as South Downs. I am in a bit of a pickle about what to do! I would really like to do another ultra (30 miles is just an ultra!) but maybe I should stick to my plan of races in England!? We will see.