Four weeks until Paris!

Yesterday was my last beast of a long run before the Paris Marathon, and it was my longest ever training run – 23 miles!  Training for marathon number 2 has been, seemingly, much easier than the first time around, and despite starting off with a bit of an injury, and managing to bag only 1-3 runs a week, I’m feeling stronger and more confident than I was four weeks before Loch Ness.  Maybe it’s because I’m not stressing out about it as much (since I know now that even if I feel horrendous from mile 9, I CAN finish a marathon).  Maybe it’s because I haven’t been killing myself as much during the week with monster ‘mid-distance’ runs at a faster pace than necessary.  Maybe it’s because I have been more consistent with gradually upping my long runs, and including adequate drop-down weeks (bliss, by the way).

Just for comparison, here are my ‘long runs’ from Loch Ness next to my long runs (and expected runs over the next few weeks) for Paris:

Loch Ness: 16   7   10   16   13   18   5   20   17.5   13   10   13   9   26.2

Paris:  10.5   15   17.5   13   19   16.5   21   10   23   13   13   8   26.2

I mean, I’m no expert, but my Paris plan looks WAY better than my haphazard approach to training for Loch Ness.

The other thing I have been sensible about is sticking to a steady pace for all of my long runs.  Instead of starting out thinking ‘I’ll slow down when I get tired’, and looking down at my Garmin to see I was running 8:xx minute miles, I have dialled WAY back, and now aim to average 10 minute miles throughout.  I realize this is a practically geriatric pace for some of you speed demons, but I’m still trying to get rid of a stubborn ten pounds I put on after surgery a couple of years ago (but I’ve lost the other 20 – seriously, not being able to work out is not fun), and I am also still finding my marathon feet, so just finishing kind of gives me a semi.

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Anyway, what I have noticed with these slower runs is that I don’t feel completely disgusting after 13 miles, and I have even managed to run 21 miles non-stop!  In fact, yesterday’s 23 would have been non-stop, but being a bit of a dick and not really eating much for breakfast meant I had to stop for some hula hoops and orange juice, and I opted to walk while I was eating because it was freezing, and standing still would have resulted in the loss of my extremities.  In fact, I have felt so strong that during both my 20+ milers, the thought of going that extra 3/5 miles did not reduce me to tears or make me question my sanity.  It felt achievable, and I was even tempted to just go for it, before my various running companions rather aggressively urged me to not do that because we all just wanted our now traditional post run hot chocolate.

Admittedly, I was feeling fatigued at the end of the long runs, and I have adopted a new mantra of ‘fuck you cars’ which I repeatedly murmur in my head grunt aloud whilst crossing a street brazenly in front of drivers, because stopping and starting is a complete bitch when you’re half a mile away from finishing, and people in cars can just fucking wait.  I did also run into a bus stop near the end of yesterday’s run because I genuinely did not notice it thanks to minor delirium.  But considering the 21 and 23 mile runs, had I continued at the same pace, would have both been faster than my time at Loch Ness, I am stoked. I mean, I wasn’t even (that) angry when I got home yesterday afternoon and the sun decided to come out despite playing a very successful game of hide and seek all morning:

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Having run 23 miles, just sitting on my sofa causes extreme happiness.

I am also stoked that I will be back on the medal-collecting train next weekend, as I have the Inverness half marathon (which is officially my nemesis after last year, and I am in two minds about whether or not to race it), and the following weekend is the Garioch half marathon, which I dread thanks to my hilly-as-fuck experience at the 10k last year.  But  since this is a relatively positive post, I’ll end on a high.  I am beyond ecstatic that I ditched the gym yesterday and got in my long run instead, because this morning?  Well, THIS is what I was greeted with when I drew back my bedroom curtains:

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A weekend of pain, and still no medals.

Thankfully I had today (Monday) off work, because the fact that I spent 90% of my time on the sofa or in bed told me that I needed a bit of rest.  Between work, the gym, and running, I don’t have an awful lot of spare time.  Typically, I leave my apartment before 8am and don’t get back until 8-9pm.  Then I eat, shower, and sleep.  It can get pretty gruelling, and having a day off every once in a while gives me a rare opportunity to be lazy – apart from, you know, the half hour on an elliptical machine, and one hour spin class I just got back from, and cleaning my apartment.

But last weekend was particularly draining.

Friday night I went out because a girl I know was having a launch for a book she has written.  It’s classified as ‘dark fantasy’ as well as ‘erotica’, and the launch was suitably geared towards the kind of person that would be interested in reading about magic/goth stuff/sex with knives.  I mean, there was a reading, a burlesque performance, and a magician, and a few people I knew were going, so I thought I’d use it as an excuse to dig into my teenage wardrobe and goth it up for the evening.  I should probably learn to exercise some self-restraint, because I may have been ‘slightly’ overdressed for the occasion.  Or, you know, under:

Significant cleavage

Significant cleavage

Anyway, despite planning to stay for an hour or two, I ended up there for longer, and got home with a white pudding supper in hand, because beer makes me crave hot food.  Unhealthy, but delicious.

Lightweight - already on the soda/orange juice combo.

Lightweight – already on the soda/orange juice combo.  Also, more near-obscene cleavage.

Saturday morning I was up bright and early to hit the gym for an hour of weights before being picked up by Danielle for a CrossFit taster session.  The sun was shining, the skies were blue, and I was almost reluctant to go indoors again.  Almost – it was freezing.

The taster session was similar to the one I did during Fitness Week at school, but we worked on perfecting technique for different moves (to be incorporated into the WOD).  On the menu?  Squats (ugh), and kettle bell thrusts.  Before I realized it, there were only 15 minutes left, and we were onto the workout.  We were told it would be a ‘partner’ workout, and we had to pair up with someone we’d never met.  I ended up with Olly, a guy in a triathlon shirt, and my initial plans to take it easy evaporated instantly when I heard the words: “For time”.  The WOD was:

  • 200m run
  • 80 squats
  • 80 KB thrusts
  • 200m run

Thankfully, the 80 squats/KB thrusts was the total number to completed as a team, so 40 each.  I was also pretty glad that it only had to be done once, and it looked a hell of a lot easier than my first CrossFit experience.  Spoiler: it was.

Olly and I managed to finish first, in 7:09, and I didn’t feel like I was going to throw up.  Excellent.

Danielle + me after our CrossFit experience.  (Photo: Danielle's)

Danielle + me after our CrossFit experience. (Photo: Danielle’s)

After CrossFit, we felt we had earned a delicious meal at Nando’s, over which we had some quality girl-chat time, before Danielle set off to catch the tail end of the rugby, and pack for her holiday!

By the time I got home, it was pretty late, and Ian and I just relaxed and watched some brainless TV (and I intermittently checked Sunday’s forecast with increasing horror)  before getting an early night.  I also foam rolled my calf, because even during a pitiful 200 meter jog, it was aching.

Torture.

Torture.

I woke up to the sound of the wind howling and hail hitting my window at about 6:30 on Sunday morning.  Gross.  Today I was scheduled to run 19 miles.  I was not enthusiastic about leaving my bed, but I had created a  Facebook event to dissuade me from backing out, and I knew there would be people waiting for me at 8am.  I re-checked the forecast (hoping that it would tell me summer would magically appear in an hour), and resigned myself to the fact that the weather was not going to make the morning pleasant, while I shoved tasteless porridge into my grimacing mouth.

Not inviting.

Not inviting.

I got to our meeting point with a minute to spare, and Ishbel poked her head around the corner and joined me.  Shortly afterwards, Claudia arrived, and after deciding everyone else had either bailed or was opting to join us for the tail end of the run, we set off.  Within a couple of minutes, we ran into Naomi, who wasn’t initially going to run with us, but had set off earlier and chanced running into us.  We did a 3.5 loop through hail, sleet, and biting wind, and decided we would avoid loops along the beach promenade (where we had arranged to meet any latecomers) for as long as possible as it is particularly exposed.  Instead, we headed onto the Deeside Railway line for ‘shelter’, and enjoyed more of the horrendous weather.  Naomi split at this point as she had unwisely had a spicy pizza the night before, and she was experiencing some discomfort.

We ran as far as we could before the ice on the path became treacherous, then turned back, bringing our total to 10 miles.  A few circular hill reps (not well-received) helped bump up the distance, and at 13 miles, Ishbel left us to continue without her:

Smiling because she is done.

Smiling because she is done.

Claudia and I are PUMPED to continue.

Claudia and I are PUMPED to continue.

The last 6 miles are a blur of awful weather conditions, running past Naomi, flying sand, dodging pedestrians, and wanting to be done.  We managed to time it so that we finished right in front of the coffee shop where planned to go for our now traditional post run hot chocolate, and where we eventually recovered feeling in our fingers:

Lobster red skin courtesy of Scottish weather.

Lobster red skin courtesy of Scottish weather.

Sitting in the coffee shop, looking outside at bundled people struggling against the snow and wind, we were not keen to walk home in just our running gear.  In fact, we were so desperate to be rescued that we managed to convince Ronnie to come and pick us up to take us home (he lives about 2 minutes away, so it wasn’t a ridiculously crazy diva demand).

Showered and defrosted, I slapped on some compression calf guards and thermal socks, and listened to the windows rattle in the wind and the hail pinging off the panes.  I wont lie, I felt pretty smug.  And sore.  Definitely sore.

Thankfully this week should be less crappy, as next Sunday is a 6 mile cross country race – and one which should yield the first medal of 2013!  Oh, and there is the small matter of my birthday (the most important annual holiday – naturally).

If consistency is key, I suck.

Considering I have run a grand total of one excruciating, poorly executed, full marathon, I am hardly what anyone would consider to be an expert.  I am fine with that.  I have, however, done a lot of reading up on the best ways to train for a marathon, and the thing that seems to be common in all training programs, from ‘I just want to finish with my legs still attached’ to ‘5 minute miles?  No problem, sucker!’, is consistency.  Well, shit.

After Loch Ness, I had a few more races in 2012, but from about mid-November my weekly mileage dropped.  Significantly.  Part of this was down to the fact that I felt like I had earned a break, and part of it was down to my very, very, very painful calf/shin combo.  A pain that was bad enough that every time I even considered going for a run, my shins would speak up:

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This pain stayed with me through December, and while it is still lingering, the rest has made a big difference.  I’m no longer wincing every time my left foot makes contact with the ground, but it isn’t perfect – that’s why I’m getting regular sports massage where my leg is turned into mincemeat, and I cry, and I squirm, and I shout obscenities, for £38 an hour.  Bargain.

While the rest has obviously benefited me in the sense that I have less pain, I am acutely aware that I am running a little bit behind in my training, highlighted by the fact that the two lovely ladies I will be going to Paris with are currently doing some monster long runs.

Plagued with guilt, and ignoring all sensible advice, I have opted to ramp up my long runs, despite doing little more than zero miles throughout the week.  My last 3 long runs were 10.5, 15.35, and 17.5 miles.

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Now, before you throw a side eye in my direction, I’m not doing nothing throughout the week.  I do spin twice, weights 2-3 times, and plenty on the elliptical machine to keep fitness up.  However, it isn’t running, so I’m going to start sneaking a few extra runs in here and there to stop my training from looking like this:

Mon: gym stuff
Tues: gym stuff
Wed: gym stuff and half-assed 2 miles on a treadmill
Thurs: gym stuff
Fri: gym stuff
Sat: gym stuff
Sun: LONG ASS RUN

I mean, what I am doing just now has consistency, of sorts, but not the kind I want – running consistency.  Hopefully, as spring gets closer, I will be worried less about a spectacularly catastrophic, ass-over-head fall on the ice, and can enjoy being blinded by the early morning sun, risking a head on collision with a bus instead.

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This weekend will be the Forfar multi-terrain half marathon, and I’ll be running with a group of myself and three others at a relatively non-killer pace.  Our aim is to get some miles in and demolish the ‘gigantic feast’ that we are promised will be presented for hungry runners upon finishing.  A ‘drop-down’ week, if you will.

“Thank fuck.” – my legs.

40 mile weekend

So it looks like I’m in that painful part of marathon training, guys.  I’m also going back to work tomorrow after 7 (beautiful) weeks of summer holidays, so my mind and body are crushed.

Saturday started off bright and early (for a Saturday) and I left my apartment at about 8 to get some miles in on the (boring) railway line.  At 8:35, I turned back, and continued past my place towards the beach, where I just managed to arrive at parkrun on time!  3.1 miles later (at a faster speed than I’d have liked, but still way slow compared to just a 5k), Ronnie and I set off for some laps of the beach.  We had originally intended to do one massive loop starting with parkrun, but as I’d started early, we settled for the beach, agreeing to hit the gym’s cafe afterwards for some freshly squeezed orange juice.  As the miles ticked by, I was aware that I felt a lot better than I did during the 18 miler a fortnight ago.  My muscles felt as though they could go on and on.  Unfortunately, the chaffing in unmentionable places did a pretty good job making me want to stop.  However, having company with me for that last 9 miles was amazing and really helped me through.  It wasn’t fast, but I ran my first 20 mile training run, and I didn’t collapse.  Result!

At 19.92 miles, ‘Chariots of Fire’ starting playing in my head. No joke.

The freshly squeezed orange juice was amazing.  The shower when I got home was less pleasant (I imagine) than using a dildo made of sandpaper and glued on pieces of broken glass.

Chaffed delicates + hot water and soap = tears and swearing.

Anyway, that night, Ian, myself, Liell and Grant all indulged in a curry.  And beer.  I pretty much inhaled everything that was placed in front of me, and even shared a desert with Liell, using a cocktail umbrella as a utensil (times were desperate).

While I was out running on Saturday, Ian was finishing up my bike, which he has been working on for the last few weeks whenever the weather is nice enough to work outside after he finished work at his day job.  I tell him ALL THE TIME that he needs to wear sun block when there is actual sunshine, but he just says he’s ‘building up a natural immunity to burning’.  Well, it seems to be working really well….

Bad sunburn

Despite his terrible sun care, he’s pretty good at cleaning and fixing up bikes, and because the weather was gorgeous today (the best day of 2012 by miles), we decided to give my bike a test ride.

We chose the railway line because it’s pretty flat (and my legs would shout out a ‘heeeeeeeeell no!’ if hills had been suggested).  We cycled about 10 miles out, and it was amazing how many other cyclists were out today – they were obviously all in the summer spirit today!  We soon realized, however, that life would have been a whole lot easier if we had a bell (like everyone else) to warn people when we wanted to overtake.  Luckily, my front brake squealed when I stopped abruptly, so it became our impromptu bell for the day.

I’ve posted photos of the railway line before from some of my runs along it, but today we went a little farther.  Some of the sections are like country roads, some are like trails, some are totally overgrown and bursting with stinging nettles.  We also passed loads of different animals; horses, sheep, cows, bunnies.  And my insect kill count for today must be through the roof (I’m sorry bumblebee!).

At the point where we turned back, I took a few photos, and stopped to take a few more along the way home:

My fixed up bike! Her name is Juliet.

Ian working on his guns. And sensibly covering up.

Cows. Ian didn’t want to pose with them because he felt guilty that we’d both be eating them later…

This bridge actually shook when cars went over it…

 

So, things I learned this weekend:

  • 20 miles is a long way.
  • Cycling 20 miles is easier than running 20 miles, though chaffing and a saddle do not mix as well as I’d have liked.
  • Wearing heels after a 20 mile run is ill-advised.
  • I am glad that swimming comes first in a half ironman, because holy shit, it would sting after cycling over 50 miles and running a half marathon.

Back to work in T-minus 10 hours.  I am already in a grump!

Hasta la vista, July.

Well marathon training is in full swing, and I am feeling it.  A lot of people have been saying that despite the love/hate relationship you develop with long distances, as soon as you cross the line after running your first 26.2 mile race, you’re already thinking about the next one.

I’m going to go ahead and call bullshit on this, without having completed my first marathon.  I just have a feeling I’m going to buck the trend on this one.  I like running.  Until this year, 10k’s were my happy distance, but I have really taken to the half marathon distance.  In my head, though, I still break it down into 2 10k’s and a bit.  And as much as I like the idea of cracking out a couple of marathons a year, the reality is a LOT of training goes into preparing, and I miss my gym classes.  I also kind of miss running for no reason, instead of dreading 9 miles because it’s ‘on my schedule’.

The mileage buildup is evident when I look at my dailymile training statistics.  Just so you guys don’t think I was Miss Lazy Beans, I only joined dailymile on New Year’s Day (in Australia), so it’s not like 2011 consisted of lounging around on a chaise longue whipping buff men when they draped grapes into my mouth too slowly.  I had, however, only run a handful of times thanks to injuries and operations, so no wonder I’ve had so many niggles!

 

139 miles in a month seems like an awful lot, and that was with a week out because I had pulled a muscle in my neck!  Also, what this doesn’t show you is that I also did 7 spin classes, 6 Body Pump classes, 5 yoga-esque classes, 2 abs classes and a Body Combat class.  No wonder I’m tired!

But the real kick in the teeth is this number, according to my laminated training plan, is only set to get worse during the month of August, which shall henceforth be referred to as Augross, or possibly Arrrggghhgust, or maybe even just ‘Shit month, 2012’.

Still, let’s not forget why I’m doing this.

Yes, I have colour-coordinated.

Sore bits and good support.

It’s no great surprise that parts of my body are suffering with marathon training.  Some of you may remember one or two photos of my feet I uploaded (I am still unapologetic), and blisters are no longer a real shock to me.  I know men suffer with bleeding nipples, and I am glad to be a woman, because chicks (one would hope) wear sports bras when they run, which prevents chaffing.

At least nipple chaffing.  Part of the problem with having sizeable (even after a reduction) chest pillows is that they are more difficult to keep locked down.  For as long as I can remember, I have doubled (and sometimes tripled) up on bras to avoid painful bounce.  Even after my reduction I am a DD cup, and although I have noticed enormous benefits to having a smaller chest, they’re still big enough to need some serious support.  I have forever relied on Shock Absorber bras as my main man for such a task, and although they’re great, wearing one, and sweating in one, and moving in one for hours a week causes some unique problems.  Witness:

This is an improvement.

While the photo above doesn’t look too bad, it is a VAST improvement to the raw, seeping mess my underboob area looked like a week and a half ago.  Take a moment to imagine the searing pain (and hissed swearing) that occurred in the shower recently.

I haven’t backed down on training – the past two weeks have been my highest ever mileage weeks, back to back.  What I have done is switched to a different sports bra for my longer activities to minimize painful rubbing on this weirdly vulnerable area.  It’s still a Shock Absorber, but it’s their specialist running bra.  I can say that this bra has saved my skin recently.  But more than that, it has the power to hold my chesty junk in its trunk.  Seriously, my mammary meat is firmly strapped down, and it is as though I had an extra pair of hands holding me in place.  I cannot sing this bra’s praises any more.

Oh wait, yes I can.  It comes in the standard black/white colour choices, but also some jazzier colours.  The most recent one I’ve bought is this beauty:

I can get into this contraption solo, but it is helpful to have a drowsy boyfriend to clip you in on early Sunday mornings, I will admit.  This particular colour combination is the one I have linked to above, but unfortunately I do not have an Olympic women’s beach volleyball player’s figure that fills me with enough confidence to go for a jog wearing it sans t-shirt.  But I know I’m wearing a nice bra.

The quest continues, however, for socks that prevent all blisters, end up dry at the end of a run, and massage your feet throughout your workout….