The best finish line…

… is the one coming up tomorrow. Now we’re talking. Spot the jump from maintenance cardio to the heavy miles at the start of the year. The last five months have been intense. Edinburgh Marathon is nearly here & then I am having a rest & a break from running & selfies.

So – here we go for another 30 mile week. Except 26.2 of them are all at once.

Monday: rest day, & working in London. This mostly involves trains, catching trains for very short distances & worrying about the timetable change, so it was physically restful but mentally a bit fraught.

Tuesday: more London. I’d asked the wisdom of Instagram whether I should run or not when I was away – results were mixed

but I had a busy day & plenty of walking to do, so that was enough. Glorious weather too, so walking was better than running.

Wednesday: home time: three miles easy & a strength session, keeping the weights low.

Thursday: another rest. Stretchy stretch time (& voting)

Friday: the intention was two miles steady along the river, keeping it the same as I did in London. However, the day before a long weekend plus the political excitement had the odds thoroughly stacked against taking a lunch hour, so I waited until the evening for this & then chilled in the garden afterwards.

Saturday: volunteering at parkrun, which is always very inspiring & good fun, & then brunch.

I like being able to bring coffee with me

The rest of the day’s been quite lazy, & the alarm call tomorrow is early. It will go how it goes. I wish I was looking forward to it more.

The weather forecast is problematic:

but I am prepped for an afternoon of celebration & an evening of watching the European election results on the sofa.

The best part of tomorrow will be the company. Although I am so grateful for support from anyone – I confessed to this marathon at work yesterday during ‘plans for the weekend?’ chat after a meeting, & the reactions reminded me that most people don’t spend their time doing this & it’s actually quite a big deal – but running pals are nice to have. London was awesome but lonely in parts, & with a huge club turnout for the official GFR spring marathon, I hope that those of us who are pushing for a similar time can keep each other going, as we’ve done in the past.

also beverages

Week before race week…

& it’s amazing how much better I feel mentally. Physically, I am needing a bit of a rest or a change, & I can’t wait until it’s all over…

Monday: rest day. Not difficult in the lovely sunshine. Did some yoga stretches in the garden, listening to the relaxing sounds of my cat’s enraged howling that another cat had dared to come within 5 metres of the house.

CONSTANT VIGILANCE

Tuesday: still sunny, but headed to the air-conditioned gym for a speed session. Kept the speed a bit more tempo-style & managed 12 reps of 250m, with 60 seconds recovery time & a short warmup and cooldown of about 1km each. Finished off with a bit of strength training, mostly back and arms to give the legs a break.

Wednesday: skipped the easy run again & went for a sports massage, which was niiiiiiice & found all the knots in my right calf that have been slowly improving since London. My calves have usually been fairly reliable so soreness & stiffness mid-race was unusual.

Thursday: 4 miles of speed work, outside when it got a bit cooler. The plan was to run at lunchtime but I was too hungry to only have a light lunch & running by the river can be tough when it’s hot.

It went well, with defined fast & slow kms.

Friday: strength session in the form of pole. Managed to get upside down for a bit, & more gracefully than last time I practiced, but my grip & core strength has deteriorated a bit & shoulder mounts just feel like pain. I’ll get there.

Saturday: was planning Drumchapel parkrun, but with the weather being a bit damp & drizzly, a flatter option seemed better to save my hamstrings. Good solid time on a moderate effort, & a nice steady run there & back covered almost 8 miles.

Sunday: A steady couple of miles with Cyclebox, later in the day than my usual Sunday run. Topped up the miles with another 3 miles on the treadmill, a good tempo pace all the way.

Kelvingrove steps fear

Total miles: 19.5. I hadn’t appreciated how much mileage the easy runs added. Skipping the midweek 6-8 milers, mostly due to time pressures, really brings the total distance down. I’ve replaced with strength sessions, sports massages or general rest, so that’s OK – I see the benefit of miles in the bank during the bulk of the training, but right now is about preventing fatigue.

Nutrition: interesting this week. I’ve been mostly vegetarian (mostly = not checking labels strictly, but all meals have been meat free). No particular reason, but I feel good for it anyway. Had a couple of alcoholic drinks midweek too, something I have been avoiding for the vast majority of the plan except that time at the end of March.

halloumi fries solve everything

Feeling: good. A bit of pain in the right hip, not sure if it’s linked to running as I first started feeling it when sleeping on my right side, but now it aches after running too. Stretching sort of helps but it’s in the soft tissue around the hip bone, not the hip flexor itself, so it does feel a bit weird. Sore to the touch.

Friday’s pole session is still being felt all over my shoulders & triceps, but there’s less core stiffness than last week, so I must be re-learning how to use my core properly rather than relying on momentum & luck.

no fear of heights though

I’m working away for the first half of next week, so rather than trying to squeeze exercise sessions in, I will concentrate on good nutrition & sleep. It’s a shame because I am working in one of my favourite parts of London that has some awesome running routes, but I can’t fit in everything. The kit will come with me, of course, but if it doesn’t happen then I won’t stress.

“Two marathons in a month?”

Yes. London was a bit of an anomaly in the plan.

Headed out this morning for my first ‘proper’ run since London, easing back into a training plan that had me taking a couple of rest days & a couple of recovery runs before hitting the proper miles again. Now LDN’s done & dusted, it’s all about EMF.

more like East Lothian marathon really but

Edinburgh is one of the nearest marathons to me, and despite it being a bit of a boring route and a bit late in the year for a spring marathon, it has a good medal, a good atmosphere & I can sleep in my own bed the night before, which is always a joy. I’ve done the half marathon twice, spectated & supported on a few more, & always had a decent race.

I noticed a few dual or triple marathoners last year on Instagram using the Hal Higdon maintenance plan, as well as getting good feedback from club mates who use these plans. This is why I went for a Higdon plan in the first place, starting from the point of view of more than one marathon and working backwards. There are a range of plans available; four weeks between seems a long time, especially after seeing folk on Instagram running Manchester & Paris/Brighton, or one of these and then London too, but it is not overly regimented & advises intermediate & advanced runners to keep the speedwork up but pay attention to how they feel.

Four weeks between has the speed work kept up twice a week, plus a couple of easy longer distances to remind your body of the long run feels. Set off this morning with the plan to do 10 miles minimum, & 12 if it felt OK.

Ended up as 15.5 because I joined the GFR group catching the train to Balloch, & that’s how long it takes to get back to my house from there. Not ideal as recovery, but the pace was very steady & I was fully prepared to stop earlier if I felt it was needed. The rest of the team are legends & did the full 23 miles back to the city.

It was nice to run the Balloch to Clydebank half marathon route in slightly better weather than last time, & running with company is nice. It struck me that during London I didn’t speak to anyone after the starting pen until the final corner, unlike any other marathon where I have always had company. It maybe had an effect I didn’t realise at the time.

Currently feeling pretty good, but slightly sore after today’s miles. Same quad ache that I had following the marathon, and calf pain has moved into the Achilles’ tendon on one side which is actually quite painful to walk on too, so I will be cautious. This is quite a lot to put my body through & still stay injury-free. Nutrition and sleep remain as important as getting the miles in – & it’s not ideal, as work has been chaotic & I have been skipping lunch, eating doughnuts & staying up too late since London. Getting back on track with a long Sunday run has helped me focus, although I’m typing this with a glass of wine in hand…

Weekly round-up:

Monday: rest, except for a brief saunter to Tower Bridge for a post-marathon medal photo & a slow walk to my London workplace which has SO MANY STAIRS I never noticed this before today. 4 hours on the train home was better than I thought it would be for soreness.

Tuesday: more rest. Some foam rolling, which was sore. A very slow jog as part of coaching GFR, which didn’t feel good at all: probably less than 500m covered in an hour long session but it was always very slow. Legs were achy.

Wednesday: a steady 3 miles before dinner. It felt a bit weird – breathing hard but my heart rate stayed low & Garmin called it ‘unproductive’. Slightly tender calves & quads were not great but this was loosened by running in a way that stretching hadn’t helped with, so that was a nice bonus.

Showcasing some of the ££££ I spent at the expo

Thursday: in the midst of a very busy work day, I managed a 4 mile jaunt up and down the Clyde, at a much improved recovery speed.

Friday: rest day. Went to see Avengers: Endgame, finally. Cried a bit.

Saturday: an easy 5 miles was the plan. Pace was all over the place, my Achilles hurt during & my hip hurt once I stopped. Recovery is weird.

Sunday: 15.5 miles down the River Leven & Forth and Clyde Canal. Point to point is fun for motivation, although on balance I prefer running out & then heading back with a coffee (unless it’s rainy). The chatty group on the train got quieter & quieter as we sped away from Glasgow towards Loch Lomond, realising just how far it is. But weather conditions were perfect & everyone did well.

Total miles: 27.7. Good, with so many rest days. No lifting or cross-training at all.

Nutrition: a few days off track this week. Wasn’t overly hungry on Monday morning, so just snacked all day & then got a takeaway when I arrived home. Didn’t get to the supermarket properly until Wednesday, so this week has been a bit off course & there have been too many poor choices. Back on it by Saturday with roast veg pasta.

Feeling: fine enough. Not too sore on Monday/Tuesday & kept stretching & walking as much as I could. Running fine by Thursday, mildly achy after the long run. Baths & stretching & kino tape required to keep me together.

My left foot is a bit damaged looking. Toenails are useful, I think – the toes without them are struggling. Otherwise all is good.

Higher mileage & higher intensity next week: hopefully I am properly recovered.

Race week

Marvellous. I am fairly well rested & spent most of Easter enjoying the sunshine, doing loads of laundry, gardening & spending time with family and friends.

Drinking tea & writing up training notes

However, with mere hours to go before the race, there is a lot going on in my head

  • very little patience for anyone coughing or sneezing near me
  • Minimum 4 cups of tea a day for hydration purposes
  • Walking up and down stairs very carefully
  • Going to bed at 10pm (waking at 5am as a result; *slow clap*)
  • What if I forget how to physically move my legs
  • Why did I think this is a good idea in the first place

Also lots of ridiculous non-questions, like can I run this far/can I run at all/am I too old/I also enjoy knitting & reading as hobbies, why not stick to that instead…

The fam group chat is way more excited than I am at this point and I had to mute it until a couple of days ago. Several questions about why does Mo Farah wear compression sleeves and do I need some (Because he likes them, and no…) Luckily I’ve had a busy week at work to keep me occupied.

I imagine, like a lot of other nervous runners, I am checking the long range weather multiple times a day & being cheerful or nervous depending on what it says. Currently it looks pretty good.

This week’s training:

Monday: rest. Easy to do in that lovely sunshine.

Tuesday: 2.5 miles as part of coaching a GFR session: most of it was steady but there were some bursts of speed. I also spent too long messing around on the canalside monkey bars & made my arms sore.

vibe

Wednesday: plan said 4 miles, but I wasn’t feeling too well & managed slightly under half a mile before packing it in. Not ideal, but running with a sore stomach will never really go well & I should have known better than to even try. That’s maranoia for you.

Thursday: got up early to fit in the 4 miles that should have been yesterday’s, & did enjoy it. I love running before work & will try for more of that this summer.

I haven’t done proper fasted cardio for a while, & the nervous energy meant I was faster than an easy run should be, but it was a nice confidence boost.

Friday: travelled to London, & managed a couple of easy shakeout miles along the river in the early evening.

CARBS

& now, it’s chill time.

Ironing the letters onto my club vest was more stressful and tiring than running. After unearthing the iron from the back of a cupboard, the receipt tucked in the box confirmed that I bought it in 2012, meaning it’s been through two house moves & I’ve still never used it. After a few minutes of failure, I realised the iron a) had different settings, and b) was on the lowest setting. That is why the first H is all messed up. Once the iron was firing at full power, progress was made.

Saturday will be rest day before heading to meet my family, go for a pasta dinner, & try for a good night’s sleep. Wish me luck!

Week sixteen

I have miscounted the weeks, clearly. Or the next 7 days does not count as training but just involves gentle jogging, anxiety & pasta. MAYBE IT’S BOTH.

 

I knew that travelling during the taper would mess up my plans a bit, but honestly I thought I would cope better. I used to be good at jetlag but this time it’s been really bad – I was more or less ready for bed by 9pm for the first few days in the US, & then it was time to come back & sleeping on the plane never happens & I was awake from Tuesday morning until Wednesday night. But as a result I’ve had the most & best sleep for months, too. I hope this continues.

Even better, it is so true what they say about rest. I have been beating myself up for a week about enjoying myself too much whilst travelling and not sticking to the plan, but when I have trained, it’s always been amazing. I have felt light, springy & energetic on each run, so clearly the rest & sleep has been good for me and it’s fine.

Monday: stretching, & 30,000 steps in the Chicago sunshine.

love at first sight

Tuesday: 5 miles on the lakefront – started easy but parts of it got a bit faster when I was feeling like stretching it out, which was usually whenever I was out of the serious headwind. It felt nicely challenging.

Wednesday: Jetlag & no sleep = rest day. Fine by me.

Red eye breakfast of champs

Thursday: First full day back at work + jetlag = a steady six miles in the evening. It had cooled down a bit by the time I ran, which was nice.

Friday: Cyclebox. Harsh, especially sprints, and there were some mild arm muscle DOMS the following day. My left shoulder is still a bit painful so when I get back into stuff that’s not running, I am going to have to figure out exactly what’s wrong as it affects my punching as well as lifting. I can run, though, so worth ignoring for now*

*bad advice, terrible

Saturday: a steady 8 (ish) miles, getting used to being on my feet again after a week or so of shorter faster runs.

Sunday: 4 miles & a strength workout, then Easter with my family. I love Easter.

It’s very hot

4 miles was made up of a warm-up run to the gym and 5x400m sprints.

Total miles: 23, which seems super low nowadays. Trust the taper…

Feeling: a bit nervous, now. Trying not to be too stressed about not following the training plan for a week, messing up my good regular pattern of rest days & exercise. I’ve just about clawed it back now, and the walking I did in Chicago kept the leg muscles ticking over, with plenty of stretching whenever I could manage. I didn’t foam roll whilst I was away but have been on it twice a day since getting back.

Nutrition: better, after taking advantage of Chicago’s amazing cuisine & the USA’s cheap 500g bags of peanut butter M+Ms. Since getting back I have been packing in the nutrients like crazy, but I do miss these pancakes.

Meals weren’t always excessive, but US portions are often a bit much. A superfood salad I ordered one evening was delicious – avocado, quinoa, radishes, celery & loads of other crunchy stuff, but it came in a serving bowl and was the size I’d make if I was hosting a small dinner party.

This salmon with pak choi and hazelnut pesto from The Kitchen was amazing, though.

This was equally amazing, but as expected from somewhere I found out about on Instagram, it was more of a photo opportunity than a food item. $8 of sugar, and happily I didn’t even come close to finishing it.

Since I’ve been back it’s all about good protein, green veg & caffeine. Fairly standard for my normal routine, but Chicago was carb-heavy & a few days of that made me feel heavy, bloated & ridiculous. There has been a brief break for Easter egg, but that’s allowed, I think. Happy Easter!

There’s a first time for everything…

Lots of info out there about how the London Marathon differs from other marathons, other majors & other cities. I do take most of this stuff with a pinch of salt – it’s still 26.2 & it’s still down to me to run the thing – but now that I have my race number & starting location, it’s time to think about logistics & top tips for this amazing experience. Trains & accommodation are booked, my bag will be packed once I’ve sorted out stuff from my USA trip last week, and finding somewhere for dinner the night before without walking & wandering the city too extensively will have to be planned in.

Logistics aside, there are some tried and tested Marathon tips that I’ll be following.

I am a slow starter, & it’s always served me well over longer race distances. For a marathon, the first 6 miles just needs to get done in under an hour & I slowly sip Lucozade throughout. I can’t remember who advised me to do this but it works for me, and it is advice I now pass on. This photo taken at 10km into Manchester 2018 sums it up – a group of us from GFR had been having a nice chat for the first few miles & once they were done (“only 20 miles to go!”) that’s when it begins proper.

Not the best of race photos, but there we are. Clutching the precious Lucozade, & doing what I think is licking my lips, but who knows. Race photos are invariably terrible & not worth the money!

Beyond the slow start – which is advised for London anyway, because it’s so crowded – the following tips seem to be standard:

Absorb the Tower Bridge moment: I will hopefully do this. I like this iconic bridge & running across it as part of the London Marathon will be great.

Familiarise yourself with the route: I know London quite well, but will work on this. I have been caught out before, running in places I know well but without considering the specific route. Hills can be surprising, especially when you’re fatigued.

Figure out where your supporters will be: usually I’m quite good at this, with a small amount of forward planning. Frontrunners tend to have a big flag so they are easy to spot, & I have former colleagues from charities I’ve worked for who have promised they will cheer me even if I’m not raising money for them, so I’ll be looking out for their flags too. Spotting my family supporters might be trickier, although I do usually manage.

Run the course: this seems fairly obvious, but as someone who runs a bang-on average marathon time & is aiming for a slight sub-4, I anticipate that it’s going to be quite crowded at all points. Slowing down due to congestion will be fine & picking up the pace will be doable at other parts of the course, without getting too stressed about it.

The other thing to do is savour the moment, of course. I am looking forward to this very much. If you have any first time London tips, please let me know!

Photo: Runner’s World

Feeding

Now that I’m in Chicago & eating too much enjoying the local cuisine, I’ve been thinking about my marathon training diet. Mostly because I’m panicking about my food intake over the last few days – there has been too much snacking due to travelling & being out and about exploring. I like cooking & making my own food most of the time, & whilst I’m not complaining about dining out several times a day in one of the best foodie cities in the world, I look forward to getting back on track when I return.

In normal non-travelling times, I am relatively healthy, but slightly overweight. My fitness Instagram focused on food quite a lot at first, & surprisingly I have only had a small amount of judgement about what I eat. Still a bit surprised that someone would slide into my DMs to criticise the food I’m posting, but whatever. The internet is bonkers most of the time.

Anyway, it generally looks like this:

  • Weekday breakfast is usually scrambled eggs, or overnight oats made with Fage 5% yoghurt & frozen fruit. Weekend breakfast when I’m running is porridge, sometimes with peanut butter, or toast/bagel with jam or hazelnut spread.
  • If I’m not running, it’s likely to be eggs again. Poached or scrambled or omelette. I love them all ways. Usually with some combination of cherry tomatoes, onions, peppers, spinach & cheese in the omelettes. Poached eggs are special & need sourdough bread & serious amounts of chilli salt.
  • Lunch can vary – but if I’m well prepped during the week, it’s either rice, pasta or cous cous with broccoli, kale, random other veg, and some sort of protein: usually cheese or chicken. I mostly work in the centre of Glasgow or Edinburgh, so there is endless choice if I need to buy something in, but for money-saving & macro-tracking reasons I prefer to bring my own lunch. If short of time & money I am quite likely to buy a packet of flatbreads & a pot of hummus – not ideal, but hits the spot.

  • Dinner can be more variable & the evenings are also when I am prone to boredom snacking. I do try to limit carbs in the evening, adding plenty of veg instead, but sometimes a bowl of pasta is required. If I’m running a longer distance the following day, it’s usually pasta or rice that I go for, with chicken.
  • Supplements get discussed quite a lot. I am back on the vitamins for this training cycle, & I do use protein powder occasionally (usually mixing with oats or yoghurt) but that’s all.

    Fuelling on the runs has usually been with SiS gels (grapefruit flavour is the best), jelly babies, and Lucozade Sport. This has been a staple of my long runs for a few years now & it quite possibly has more of a placebo effect than a sugar fix, but the taste reminds me of running now. It’s so interesting how different runners have their own favourites & plans for fuelling – I’ve learned based on what works for me but I will always listen to suggestions from others.

    Heading out for another ridiculous USA breakfast right now: pancakes, probably. I’m running today, so it’s fine…

    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.