Data is beautiful

Sundays are strange now. Even if it wasn’t a long run day, I would usually go to running club and brunch afterwards. More recently it’s been a gym day. Today it’s been neither, & although I was awake before 8, the dull skies and rain made it very easy to take a cup of tea & breakfast back to bed.

Running has taken a back seat recently due to dark evenings and busy weekends, but I’m aware that every week I don’t run, the more likely I am to not get back to it. There has been plenty of walking, which is apparently just as good for keeping up cardio fitness. A few months ago I was sceptical of this, but these days the data proves it.

This graph shows my heart rate getting consistently up to around 140bpm with a day of nothing but intervals of steady walking. Fair enough it was a busy day of doing things, but usually I would get to about 100bpm with a very brisk and uphill walk, and this is off the scale. Resting heart rate has increased from 45-50bpm to around 70bpm and I’ve never felt so unfit in my life. Keeping an eye on data & metrics does attract eye-rolls from certain people, but it has been useful for me to see the slow decline and keep an eye on my fitness in this temporary weird state.

In the past few weeks I have felt physically out of breath from periods of walking too, as the space available for my lungs & diaphragm keeps decreasing. I went on an 8km hike around my favourite loch last week and was pretty tired by the end of it, & very glad that I’d changed course from the planned 20km hike due to snow & poor weather.

still amazing, though

Next week I’m planning a couple of steady treadmill running sessions, to keep out of the rain & so that I can keep an eye on speed & heart rate a bit better. Lifting still feels good, but my big lift loadings are now around 50% of my 1RM and I aim for 30-50 reps over 3 or 4 sets. My muscle tone is holding up fairly well, and although my abs are still just about holding it together, the next few weeks will be the challenge to that. Will be making an effort to cat/cow every day, not just on yoga day…

Running for two

Are you still running?

Is it safe?

Are you sure?

Several times a week, this happens.

Running is fine. CrossFit is fine. Depending on your specific circumstances, almost everything is absolutely fine.

As I’m lucky enough to be healthy, I wanted to keep up my race commitments this year as much as I could. Mostly because entry fees are steep, & I’ve already lost out on two race entries in the last 12 months due to circumstances beyond my control. So I’ve still been completing races (but not racing) πŸ˜€

Edinburgh Marathon doesn’t really count because it was so early in the first trimester, but I am slightly pleased to know that my breathlessness, perceived effort & generally feeling ‘off’ was probably due to making a human from scratch rather than not training well enough. I look forward to telling my offspring that I ran a marathon with them when they were an embryo.

Run The Blades was already entered, & was never going to be a pb effort for the distance even if I was at full fitness: a hilly trail race on a midsummer Friday evening has enough factors making it difficult . Never at my best during evening races, it’s tough underfoot, has a lot of narrow sections and a selection of steep & long hills. I stayed very steady and kept an eye on my heart rate, dropping the speed if it got too high. Which it did, but I am sure a one off is fine. I am sure that hill is more than 30m elevation.

Great North Run was unexpectedly hot & as noted in the debrief, probably a bit too far. Had it not been a race I would have called it a day at 10 miles. The evening & the next day was quite like post-marathon stiffness, which worried me a bit, but with proper rest and stretching, I was back at the gym a few days later.

So far, running’s been consistently ok. Perceived effort is difficult to manage, mostly because working harder for a slower pace is messing with my brain a bit. I thought I would get frustrated with going slower – parkrun is the worst, as all my local ones are 3-4 laps and I am getting overtaken a lot – but it’s for the right reasons. In the couple of weeks when I felt very tired and nauseous, gentle running or training in the gym made me feel better, which was a great help once I’d actually managed to get out the door. Iced water also really helped, as my sense of smell was very heightened & the chemical scent of room temperature tap water was very unappealing.

My last race this year will be the Great Scottish Run 10km, tomorrow. It’s a race I’ve done every year since I started running properly, except 2018 when I failed to start due to not feeling well on race day, and I missed it a lot. Things can change on a weekly basis in terms of how I feel and what I can achieve, but for now it seems like a good way to end the season: seven races, over half of them pregnant. Back in December, when I was planning my marathons & everything else around them, I had no idea it would end up like this. But I’m grateful for every day I feel able to exercise, & much stronger & happier for doing so.

Three weeks to go…

Well, two weeks and six days. Counting down, now. Nerves & excitement in equal measure. Got my number & my starting colour for London, started planning travel logistics for Edinburgh. It is getting very real.

It’s taper time! How do we taper?

like dis

Fair enough. Early Cyclebox to start the week (too many lunges for the day after a 20 mile run), followed by coffee & errands to run in Finnieston.

damn fine

This week is a bit calmer. Slightly lower mileage at the same intensity through the week, then just a nice steady 12 miles on Saturday, which I am really looking forward to because half of it will be with Chicago Frontrunners.

The rest of it will be fitted around flights & jetlag & deep dish pizza. I’ve been salivating over foodie Instagram for a few weeks now, & if anyone has some science-y evidence that mainlining pancakes, churros & Chicago-style hot dogs will have some sort of demonstrable benefit on 28 April, bring it to me please.

I am going to get fat

I am also excited about art & architecture as well as food & sleeping; Chicago is really one for the bucket list. There’s a fitness suite at my accommodation, so I can treadmill train if required, but I have packed for all weathers so getting out & running the city will be fab. A change is as good as a rest & I can’t wait!

I’m so pleased & inspired reading about everyone’s Manchester Marathon successes. Three friends all ran a fantastic race, & loads of Instagram folk got good PBs or ran brilliant first marathons (which is still a PB, of course). I only got sliiiiight twinges of marathon envy yesterday evening – it’s a good medal & finisher shirt, & what everyone says about the crowd support & cheering in Manc is very true.

Sixteen miles into it in 2018

Hoping to take these good vibes with me for the next few weeks. Tapering & resting is really important, I trust in the plan & I am not going to lose fitness. I am going to have to try really hard to not eat my body weight in pizza, but I have faith in myself & my bank balance to stay strong.

Week six: training stage 2

T-12 to London. This week’s been… OK.

Monday: a nice enough strength day. Not great, as the gym is still far too busy & I was stepping over people trying to get set up in a corner with my barbell. But the moves were all fine & I finished up with a gentle 30 mins on the bike. Nice for the legs but indoor cycling is still boring unless it’s Cyclebox.

Boxing boots, giving the running shoes a rest

Tuesday: 4 miles of speed work. I had talked myself into making the step outside for this – there is a 400m Strava segment near my house that I have been keeping an eye on my time over for a while now. The heavy rain was off-putting, but I warmed up for 10 minutes before finally using my Garmin to nearer its full capability by running the segment hill 5 times & jogging back the long way, about 700m & flat/downhill.

I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, despite the rain & forgetting to lap one of the repeats & messing up the stats. I took my head torch, which came in handy, but my reps got slower, which is something to work on in the future. Outdoor speed work is now definitely something I’ll make time for, as I only need 15 seconds off the time for the segment QOM. Currently 4th fastest.

Forgot to split lap 3 like a twat

Wednesday: strength session, finished with an easy 7 miles. Strength training is still working well for me at the moment, but I will be cutting the weight soon as the weekly mileage increases more and focusing on volume & leg strength.

The run was meh. It felt easy, but was dull. The books / blogs say you should finish an easy run raring to go again, and I wasn’t quite there, but that was probably more mental than physical.

Thursday: 4 miles tempo. Planned my usual lunchtime route, but work was busy & I didn’t feel like pushing myself after a not-so-good night’s sleep, so I left it to the treadmill to set the pace properly but even that worked less well than I thought. Too hot, tired, and still sore from Wednesday’s strength session meant I was not able to push past the can’t-be-bothered feeling and ended up resenting most of the 4 miles. Even had a couple of walk breaks.

Friday: rest, praise be. Made some pretty epic beef rendang & had a glass of wine. I don’t drink much, but spicy food does call for a good wine or beer. Stretched and foam rolled everything & watched a lot of Netflix.

Curry, cat, & Brooklyn 99

Saturday: parkrun, with a 6km slow warm up. Feeling a bit better this week and managed a decent enough parkrun effort of just over 27 minutes, after keeping the rest of the run super easy. Blaming the relative slowness on the harsh winds of Storm Erik, as running in the headwind was unpleasant.

Sunday: 15 miles easy. Hooked up with Frontrunners for some of it; it’s great to be able to attend club runs even though my pace & distance doesn’t match the club runs very well at the moment.

Gorgeous day for it

I didn’t really feel into it at the beginning, but had a new podcast on & the first 8 miles flew by with that. Middle five miles with GFR, then was chatting about distance & route at the end with someone who said I might as well run home. So I did.

The best part is I felt like I could have kept going. Really trying hard to keep the easy runs to an easy effort, & did well with that.

Total miles: 38 – slightly more than intended. I really have to get better at sticking to the planned distance… an extra half mile on almost every session is adding up.

Nutrition: very good, mostly. Felt like I needed a bit of a soft reset so have been on the fruit & veg constantly, but also went out for a lovely meal with a friend midweek and had pad Thai, cheesecake and a beer. Everything in moderation, even though I could cheerfully eat pad Thai every day.

Some comments this week at work about how much I eat for lunch/is that healthy?/I can’t believe how much oil you put on your food/how long does that take to make?

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Chicken, aubergine, courgette, peppers, broccoli
  • It’s not that much (rice not pictured, but it’s still not that much)
  • Yes, it’s healthy
  • Olive oil is good for your brain
  • Leftovers are your friend

Honestly, this is from people who don’t eat breakfast, eat a Cup-A-Soup or a crappy supermarket sandwich for lunch & wonder why they’re in the biscuits at 3pm. Eat some protein, I beg you. I know that people have busy lives, different priorities, varying finances etc but really.

Feeling: pretty good. Committed to training consistently this week & it has helped my sleep & my mental health a lot, even though the actual training hasn’t always been great. I don’t need to work 8-6 every day & I should not feel guilty about taking an hour to run or go to the gym, especially on the days when work is stressful. Working in a busy communications/press office is not good for work-life balance, but it’s always necessary to have some time & head space away, despite everything seeming to kick off as soon as I step away from my desk.

A switch up in my strength training midweek gave me some quite long lasting lower back DOMS, and I have a bit of calf strain which isn’t great but I am stretching all the time. Also foam rolling & using this slightly suspect looking massage ball:

torture device

Week 7 sees more of the same, with just one more mile on the long run. I’ll try not to wimp out of a threshold run this week: 4 miles shouldn’t be such a trial. I’m mixing up the days too due to other commitments at the weekend.

Week four

Busy busy.

Monday: strength session with Allan, & a further light gym session in the evening because you don’t let gym buddies down even if your training plan no longer matches theirs. Worked on some Olympic lift drills, which was good for me as I have been doing some different strength work in December & January & neglecting the oly a bit, but it leaves interesting bruises and sore spots.

Tuesday: 3 miles intervals. It was very icy & sleeting at 6:30am which put me right off outdoor running, so I went to the gym for a treadmill 6×400 again & it felt way better than last week. Only felt like I was flagging on the last repeat, & I’d increased the speed for that anyway so it would be over faster. By the time I finished it was full-on snow so I’m glad I didn’t try to run outside. Mini strength session in the evening.

Wednesday: rest day. Rescheduled from Friday because of work nonsense, but I was glad for it because of lifting DOMS too.

I’d had a half serious thought to get up at 6am and do 6 miles before work, but no: still icy & unpleasant outside, & I didn’t get home from work until very late. An early 6 miles would possibly have finished me off. Some press-ups before bed were in place of a proper strength session, & that was bad enough.

Thursday: Wednesday’s easy 6 miles got shoved to today instead. Milder weather, which is better, & I went with Frontrunners, which is always better. It was still a bit icy in places, but running in a group is good for spotting & warning. I did get told to ‘fucking smile’ by a drunk woman in Govan, but them’s the breaks.

Never not posing

Friday: 3 miles easy; so easy it was basically still a rest day. Another strength session too. Then haggis & mash. I love Burns Night.

Saturday: 7 miles, 3 (the parkrun miles) at 10km race pace. Nice but muddy and sweaty. Stats show me getting slower during the parkrun, which isn’t ideal but meh.

Proud of this – an actual easy run/tempo run/easy run split

Sunday: 14 miles, & the first long run following a Saturday night out. It wasn’t a heavy night, but I have enjoyed my January hibernating too much. Running is way better with enough sleep and a quiet evening beforehand, not carb-loading on Staropramen & pizza. But it was a nice split of 4.5 miles with music, 4.5 miles with GFR, and 4.5 miles alone. The weather was absolutely beautiful and I tried to keep the pace as steady as possible.

Good company helps so much

I ended up running for 2 hours 15 minutes, which is fine as the long runs need to be super slow. The next few weeks, getting up to 17-18 miles, is a bit more of a psychological jump & always makes me feel more capable, but the thought of keeping it steady & being out for 2-3 hours is a bit grim, especially if the weather’s grim.

Total miles: 35. January’s total miles are already well over 100, more than December and November combined. I think I should probably be more tired?

Maybe I will sleep for days

Nutrition: good enough. Lots of prep because of being busy, & lots of work stress, which kills my appetite a bit. Not enough vegetables.

Feeling: OK. Work & life has been stressful, & running is mostly good for mental health but I occasionally get too caught up in negative thoughts & just go over the negatives repeatedly when I’m running and end up in a downwards spiral of doom. Lunchtime runs are good when I can fit them in & get away from work for a bit. All my longer runs have been with people, which helps that negative thought cycle a little.

My sleep could definitely be better, & I hope in a couple of weeks’ time I am just so shattered that the physical need to sleep overrides everything else going on in my brain.

Week 5 is, wonderfully, a bit of a deload. Mileage drops down a bit but the consistency of 5 runs a week remains. There will be an interval session and a tempo session if I’m feeling into it. Going to try and fit in all three strength sessions, giving me a good base for the increased distances that February will bring.

Week 3

Week 3!

Monday: strength session. Still a deload week, so it was alright, but I finished off with half an hour on the spin bike just to stretch my legs out. It was dull. I managed about 10km, so that can be my benchmark for the next few weeks.

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One minute in: no.

Tuesday: 3 miles intervals. I wanted this to be outside, but work had been quite full-on and stressful, & I knew if I went home I would struggle to get back outside again, so I did 6x400m sprints on the treadmill after a 1km warmup, then cooled down to the 5km point. Recoveries were about 1-2 minutes jog. It didn’t feel great, & I was tired by the third repeat, but I made it to the end. I am very inspired by what other marathoners are doing for interval training & will mix it up depending on how I’m feeling, what’s inspired me, or what I’m advised.

Wednesday: 3 miles easy, & a strength sesh.

Thursday: 6 miles easy. Was meant to do this on Wednesday, but I had jog-leading duties so swapped it round. It was below freezing so quite a tough run, but good company makes up for that. Big group though, & trying to keep it easy by leading from the back can be difficult.

January at GFR: busy

Slight anxiety at diverging from THE PLAN, which is on a Google sheet (so my mum can see what I’m up to without having to WhatsApp me) but also stuck to the kitchen wall just in case. Once it has too many scribbled-out bits I’ll print out a fresh one.

Friday: rest day. I really like having the rest day on a Friday, as I am in a relatively new job which is quite tiring and involves a lot of travel. I was absolutely ready for Netflix & chill tea & no running.

Saturday: Plan specified 6 miles, I made this a bit tempo by running slowly to parkrun, going for a 27 minute-ish time there, and then running slowly home. It was still January-busy so I got stuck in a slow-moving group for a bit, but there is a clear difference in pace from the 5km point once I broke out of that. Actual time was 28-something but 3 MP & 3 easy miles were all in there so I am happy.

Parkrun began at 4km

Gym in the afternoon for more strength work. I am getting to know the regulars at my new gym, & probably need to stop being heart-eyes emoji towards a woman who squats 120kg for 5 & a man with nice hair who manages an effortless-looking heavy power clean.

I am basically a gym creep now

Sunday: 12 miles easy. 9 of it with GFR and an extra bit for me at the beginning & end. I usually want the extra miles on the start of the run so I can cool down & brunch with the crew, but it was logistically not possible today so I jogged miserably around the West End until I got to 20km. Then I realised I had left my keys in the flat.

This is a woman who is about to lock herself out of her own house

Thank goodness for Uber, Apple Pay, the many coffee shops in my ‘hood, & locating a set of spare keys within half an hour. Hanging around in Glasgow’s 2Β° January, slightly sweaty without a jacket, wasn’t great, & I spent 20 minutes just tucked up next to a radiator thawing out when I eventually got in. I didn’t stretch either, which hopefully doesn’t affect me too much. Bath & stretch tonight should solve it.

Total miles: 30. This is more like it.

Nutrition: fine enough. Had a couple of early starts, missed lunches, and travelling days which make it less easy to prep, but I’m happy enough.

Feeling: Meh. Not sleeping well, legs are slightly heavy, & I am stretching a lot. Making sure to alternate heavy days with easy runs is good, but requires easy runs to really be easy. I am reading The art of running faster & it’s a good reminder on technique – long runs are about time on your feet, not speed, & easy runs should leave you feeling fresh at the end.

Week 4 approaches. I am not looking forward to it, as I am working all over the place & I fear it will just be about carrying a gym bag everywhere & jumping on a treadmill whenever I can…

100 days to go!

All over Instagram today. 100 days until the London Marathon. That both seems like a long time & not that long at all.

Easy run in the cold

Tonight’s easy run with Frontrunners felt good, & the company was good. Not sure how I’ll feel in a few weeks, when I only have about 20 non-running days out of that 100. Feels like a proper countdown now though. Hotel is booked. New trainers will be bought before the sales are over. I still need to stock up on gels & Lucozade, but I am excited.

Week Zero

I am not really a new years resolution type of person, so couldn’t possibly start a new training plan in the first week of January. I’ve been plenty busy with other stuff this week too, including a stressful week at a relatively new job, a stupid and unexpected DIY project, and lots of other Xmas/New Year disruption, so I am starting the proper plan next week and have blended weeks 2-3 to make up for it πŸ™‚

Week 0 was an increased mileage and general prep week, and ended up being:

  • Running to Victoria parkrun on New Year’s Day – a nice 5 miles at marathon pace
  • Two strength sessions.  My usual lifting routine would be three or four sessions a week, which I’ll start winding down in February as the running miles increase, and potentially focus on leg, glute and hip strength work to complement my running. Cross-training on Mondays will usually be strength-focused, but won’t be the same high weight/low rep lifting I do when I am not training for races.
  • An easy but cold 3 miles by the river one lunchtime
  • Drumchapel parkrun, for the fun of hills. As usual, the inclines started to bite on the second lap but I got a good strong finish and a few seconds shaved off for a new pb. Sub-30mins is in my sights, but I’ll have to find the extra seconds on the uphills.
  • Long run was 9 miles as a support leader with GFR – a nice East End and South Side route that visited several former picture houses and was a lovely social run with fantastic local knowledge and facts. I love Glasgow’s architecture & will definitely remember to look up more. Can’t believe I’d never noticed the beautiful window detailing at Waterstones on Sauchiehall Street before.

 

 

Total miles: 18

Nutrition: average. I’m not doing veganuary, dry January or anything like that, but I’ve had a couple of boredom/tiredness induced snacking times without the running miles to make up for it. Back to proper routine next week should help with that.

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Lunch after nine miles: not ideal, but needs must

Feeling: pretty good, really. Not too much festive over-indulgence & a small increase in weekly mileage makes it a good week. Felt slightly tired on the long run, but that could be due to anything & has made me resolve to stretch properly & go to bed early tonight.

Preparation

I only run a couple of times a week at the moment, as I’ve been focusing more on strength training & enjoying a bit of fun with HIIT, spin and pole fitness too. That’s definitely what I’ll miss when the marathon training gets heavy, but I am committing to at least one strength session per week in this plan and will try and fit more in on easy running days too, depending how I feel. Probably not on the days following the 20 miles or hard intervals.

So I’ve just been maintaining running fitness since about October – it’s been nice. Concentrating on easy running & not really caring about pace has been good for me, but I’ve often chosen a gym session over a run and going back to five times a week might be a bit stressful at first. October and November were my lowest mileage months this year, according to Garmin:

But I’ve been able to pick that up in December, with 36 miles so far and hopefully a few more to go before the year closes out.

I do like the routine of T/W/T/S/S running, with Mondays and Fridays devoted to other stuff or rest, which is why I’ve chosen a Hal Higdon training plan for the spring. This programme of running fits in well with my club commitments, and Fridays are a good choice of rest day if you work regular office hours. Saturday parkrun can be very flexible – hills, speed or a longer run (it’s 11km if I run to and from my nearest parkrun) and last time I was marathon training, I quite looked forward to the easy run to or from work. I usually did this on Wednesdays and it could be anything between 5-10 miles depending on plan. It’s fairly similar this time round, except I work somewhere else now which adds about a mile onto the distance. Looking forward to less looping around Glasgow Green!