The new normal

So. With increased total blood volume & ligaments relaxing all over the place, how does exercise fit into all this?

Opinions vary. The traditional advice for expectant women to rest & take it easy is no longer chucked about with as much sincerity as it used to be, thank goodness. But there are plenty of people who say stuff like that to me anyway, when I was marathon training or even when just generally maintaining fitness. It’s easy to forget that exercise isn’t part of a lot of people’s routines at all. “Have a rest! Put your feet up! Just relax!” is the battle cry of people who have never racked their bodyweight across their shoulders & dropped 5×5 like a boss, or ran for two hours without stopping & unravelled all the problems in their mind.

The other side of the coin is aspirational social media/generic internet positivity. “You can do anything! Pregnancy is not an illness!” which must be a terribly grating thing to hear for people who are quite unwell during pregnancy. Although they’ll be stuck in the bathroom most of the time & won’t really care. It’s usually illustrated with pictures like this:

from a website advising no supine positions after 13 weeks (which is outdated anyway) clearly doing JUST THAT
I really hope that’s not been cleaned from the floor

& again, not illustrative of most people’s experiences. Exercise is hugely important for my mental & physical wellbeing, but I’m out of breath sometimes now if I walk up a few flights of stairs carrying a heavy bag. My body is changing already, & my diet is a little different, so my training will have to change too.

Sad face

The internet is fantastic & full of wonderful tips & tricks, but it’s also full of nonsense, & separating the good advice from the well-intentioned-but-terrible, as well as the genuinely bad, can be difficult. NHS, Mumsnet & similar recommend that exercise should be the usual triad of gentle walking, swimming & pregnancy yoga. I have actually been to pregnancy yoga and it was quite nice, although the hippie nonsense relaxation practice has never appealed to me & it’s even less appealing now the guided savasana involves bonding with the baby. At least no one can see my rolling my eyes because there’s an aromatherapy bag over my face. But still.

I love the NHS but they’re obviously terribly cautious with the advice and need to appeal to the mainstream, who tend not to exercise at all. So far I’ve found specific lifting/CrossFit advice for women to be the best, as sensible suggestions about listening to your own body is key. The importance of what a lighter weight means to you specifically is also mentioned in this type of advice, rather than the generic ‘light weight’ or just no heavy lifting at all.

The first few times I went to the gym after finding out about the pregnancy, I did my all usual sessions with no change to the weight on the bar, but then panicked a bit, went too light & wasn’t feeling the benefit. Right now, the intensity depends on the lift I’m doing. Cleans, snatches & deadlifts feel less comfortable already so my weights are lighter for these lifts, & I have modified some of the techniques for more support & less risk whilst still getting a benefit. Squats & overhead lifts all feel fine, so I’m sticking with weights only slightly lighter than my pre-pregnancy efforts.

Listening to my own body is a little bit more difficult than I expected because I’m half a stone heavier than 2 months ago & full of weird twinges. Ligaments hold your uterus in its normal place in your pelvis – in my head it’s like BB8’s retention cables when he’s rolling around on the Millennium Falcon

& when these stretch to accommodate the expanding uterus, it aches a bit. Mostly it’s when I stand up too fast (all the time), forget that I shouldn’t lie on my front (more often than expected) & earlier this week it was when I tried a set of hang cleans with a weight only 5kg lighter than my 1 rep max. I managed three reps before realising it was a bit of a dick move; I’ll try this exercise with lighter weights for the next couple of weeks, as I want to keep to my normal routine for as long as I can.

Luckily, I am surrounded by some incredible women who have been there and done it all. PTs/fitness instructors with pre & post natal specialisations or experience are definitely on my radar at the moment – please recommend resources, people and accounts to follow!

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.

Week 15

Not long now!

Taper has involved more rest than I expected, after travelling, the midwest’s VERY VARIABLE WEATHER & a weird ankle niggle took more time to get over than I expected. But all training I’ve managed this week has had a purpose & been very well focused.

Monday: Morning Cyclebox. Can you do an hour of spin & HIIT less than 24 hours after knocking out 20 miles?

of course

Seems like it. Struggled a bit on some of the longer sprints but the climbs were fine. I had to down a double espresso 20 minutes before the class started but it worked well enough.

Tuesday: No time for running but I read lots of books, chilled out & drank lots of water as well as the complimentary wine.

Trainers in the hand luggage, obvs. I did actually consider going for a little shakeout run in the evening after I’d got a bit of a second wind, but the tiredness & jet lag hit me like a tidal wave about an hour later, so probably for the best that I was crashed out asleep by 8:30pm. I did see a lot of runners whilst I was wandering around, though.

Wednesday: took some time to explore this city o’skyscrapers & deep dish, with over 30,000 steps walked. No running, though. Still tired after a 5am start to the day (jetlag blows) & it was absolutely freezing with occasional hailstorms, so I ended up having another rest.

It is VERY COLD

Thursday: With the best of intentions, I did not manage to get out for a run today either. I am sleeping so much & eating at the wrong times, & walking around the city a lot has given me a bit of foot/ankle/calf pain that doesn’t feel great to run on. Also the first item on the local news was about someone being attacked in the park I was planning on running through, so that wasn’t the best.

Friday: finally felt up to running, & got my lazy self up for 3 miles on the dreadmill. After a few days of rest it was fast & enjoyable. Sunday to Friday has been the longest break I’ve had from running since December, & it felt very strange & I did get a bit anxious for a while, in between the sleeping.

Saturday: 5 miles: met up with Chicago Frontrunners for their Saturday morning session in beautiful warm weather. Nice & speedy, but the conversation kept me distracted & I barely noticed the good pace.

I was worried about missing the meeting point, but no

Sunday: no more blue skies in Chicago, but a snowstorm. Not that cold but slushy underfoot, so not ideal for running & far too windy. Another day of resting, reading & stretching, but I started with some HIIT & weights.

Total miles: 8! Not quite what I wanted, but enough speedwork to keep my hand in and miles in the bank. The sleeping & resting has more than likely been better for me than running, or at least as good.

Nutrition: average/excessive. Travelling can be a bit of a nightmare for good nutrition but I tried hard.

Are you even flying if you don’t get an airport Wetherspoons

It’s a bit early for carb loading, sadly, as USA style breakfast food is my forever love. But I’m seriously considering the Chicago Marathon just so I get to legitimately fuel this way.

Feeling: good, surprisingly. After meticulous planning at the start of the year, I got a bit nervous about this break because of the potential to mess up the routine, & because work has been very busy. But this trip was booked & planned before either the marathons or the no-longer-new job were a reality, & I do need this break. I have been sleeping so much, & really needed the opportunity to get out of my usual routine & away from reality for a while. Chicago is amazing & I will be coming back here for sure.

Fitting running into a disrupted routine isn’t always easy & couldn’t be done the way I wanted due to tiredness & lack of opportunity, but it’s OK. Reading, sleeping & having fun is good too.

Books & travel is all I need

Onto the second taper week, with hopefully a bit more running…

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 13

Guys we are so deep in this plan now, where does the time go

Genuinely measuring the time in days, now. SCARY.

Monday: I initially scoffed at rest day because I was still high af after the excellent 20-miler the day before. Packed a gym bag & everything. In the end, work & life admin took up a lot of time & energy so I spent the later part of the evening watching TV under a blanket. I did stretch & foam roll though, which is going to happen EVERY DAY from now on (…)

Tuesday: 7:00am at the gym for 8x400m sprints and a 1500m warm up/cool down. I wanted consistency here so kept the speed slightly lower than flat out, & each repeat was fine. The speed will therefore increase for the next session & 8-10 reps will be challenging & unpleasant again, hooray.

New shoes went well tho

7:00pm was gym for strength training. Enjoyable to just keep things moving, with a light weights full body workout of

  • 4×3 push press
  • 4×5 back squat
  • 4×8 lat pulldown
  • 4×8 RDL

Plenty stretching too, and some core work. My shoulder is still pulling a bit on the push presses, but we’ll see how that goes. It could well be under-use as my arms and shoulders have been rather neglected in the past few weeks.

Wednesday: easy 5ish  miles home from work, then straight into the shower &  to the cinema, which wasn’t great for a proper post-run stretch but was enjoyable for sure. Slightly faster than easy due to the time pressure, but hey ho.

mostly because of this

The actual run was average; it was very mild weather and I had a jacket on because of a need for pockets, but it was too warm despite the riverside breeze. I started feeling a bit sick which may or may not have been related. Ended up fine though.

Thursday: Running outside didn’t happen due to work nonsense, so a treadmill 5 miles with steady increases of speed happened instead. Pleased with how it went, but it was dull. Treadmill is good for pace consistency.

Friday: another rest! Truly I am spoiled.

(only a rest from running, though. I did go & lift some stuff & stretch for a bit)

I also went to the pub, drank lime & soda & talked about my training with people who don’t run & feigned interest very well. Marathon training turns you into a difficult friend, for sure.

I learned that they read this blog though, so HI GUYS YOU’RE AWESOME

I stayed out longer than intended & was eventually on the vodka instead. It was nice to kick back a bit – in this training cycle I have been mostly not drinking at all because of the training volume. I don’t drink much anyway but it does feel like a proper focused training plan should be completely sober.

I sent this picture to my best pal for reasons that are not obvious

Saturday: usual parkrun sandwich, but after two speed sessions this week I swapped a fast Victoria for a steadier Drumchapel. Oh, the hills. 2 minutes off my January time, though. Appreciating the downhills, although that 200m finish sprint feels like about a mile.

The anticipation is worst

Afterwards, I celebrated with a doughnut at Tantrum Doughnuts, & a nice walk around the West End.

Yum

Sunday: the plan was 12 miles easy, partially with a GFR 5 mile group to Ruchill Park flagpole. Lovely weather again, making the snowy Sundays seem a long time ago.

 My legs were heavy for most of it though, & once I’d stretched & cooled down with the group, sticking it out an extra 4 and a bit miles was not appealing. It was warm & I needed coffee: when I saw two friends sitting outside a cafe & I still had two miles to go, I just stopped immediately. Several flat whites & gossip later, I couldn’t be bothered to slow-jog home either…

Total miles: 32.5 for the last dropback week. 188 total in March.

ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY EIGHT MILES

I am a bit speechless at this, to be honest. It is so many miles, & there are so many more to go, & I am surprised at how my body is handling this. Compared to the last quarter of 2018 it’s a huge jump, but as I’ve noted before it is so much higher compared to this time last year too. I can’t understand how I feel so much better on this volume of running.

Nutrition: mostly good, if slightly excessive some days. There has been a lot of snacking, & not always the best choices. I am so hungry all the time.

After Tuesday’s long day & double gym session, I made cheese on toast with a can of beans (with spicy sauce added in…) & a poached egg: yes yes yes.

*homer simpson noises*

I noticed a skirt I bought before Xmas feeling a bit roomy on the waist so I jumped on the gym scales & I am 4kgs down from January. I dread to think how much of this is muscle loss, but am already counting the days to being back on the weights & protein.

Me in a few weeks, perhaps

I was chatting to a running buddy about supplements last week, & Instagram archives reminded me that I was double-dosing multivitamins this time last year, so I will be doing that again. I am considering electrolyte tablets as I am definitely a bit dehydrated sometimes, despite drinking plenty. It’s fine when I am in the office but when I am out on sites or at meetings I get distracted or drink far too much coffee & forget about the water.

The meals have been good this week though, even with a couple of meals out.

Feeling: very well. Achy hips this week, possibly from strength training, but running is good & I am mentally feeling much better. Two rest days this week seemed excessive, which illustrates the relentless grind of marathon training, but both of the days were spent well so there is definitely a benefit.

Next week is high mileage again & a really long long run, & then it’s magical taper time. I am absolutely pumped to cheer people on for Manchester Marathon too – can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since that brilliant weekend.

Week 9

Big mileage jump after last week’s chill, and the first of three heavy mileage peak weeks. Various last-minute changes to the planned sessions wasn’t always great, but it’s been a good overall.

Monday: wattbike & weights, split over two sessions. Wattbike was dull but did 30 mins pedalling with mixed resistance. Weights were upper back & arms focused, hooray.

Tuesday: 8x400m sprints, 1km wu/cd. 4 miles total. Felt quite good – sprinting at about 13kph, which is sustainable over all the reps. Faster would be good, but I start needing walk breaks between the last few reps so I’d rather get to continuous running first rather than speeding up the faster bits. Improving all the time though.

Wednesday: easy run home from work, with some looping to get it up to 7 and a half miles. I couldn’t find an extra half mile in my legs or my mind, & I left work later than intended so I was concerned with getting home for dinner anyway. Nice weather made it OK though.

Thursday: when it all started unravelling a bit. Had intended a 6 miler with GFR, but the following events occurred:

  • Worked through my lunch break & also stayed at work too late to get to the club run, even though I was leading one of the runs
  • Decided to go to the gym on the way home instead
  • Got to gym, started to get changed, realised I only had half a bag of kit with me anyway

I dealt with this by having a bit of an angry cry going home. Decided dinner was a better idea than trying to force anxiety & stress into a 4 mile late evening jaunt; if the run hadn’t gone well I would have been beside myself with irritation & even closer a sneaky hate spiral, if crying in the gym changing room wasn’t close enough to that anyway.

The fretting about being a ridiculous excuse for a human only lasted a couple of hours, & I was fine with an impromptu rest day. Work has been stressful and I was quite tired.

Friday: Ended up as a better day for a quick 4 miles as I had a couple of long train and road journeys and an early start so I was more than ready for it by late afternoon. Managed a good progression, increasing the pace on each mile.

Saturday: easy 8 miles, then a nice brunch and also a nice lunch because why the hell not. Hit up Absurd Bird for chicken & fries.

Sunday: 17 miles, & the first time I’ve followed a proper nutrition schedule with regular gels at 6 miles, 10 miles & 14 miles. Also a Lucozade towards the end because I was thirsty. By the last couple of km I was getting achy hips and legs, so I’ll need to keep an eye on form and posture over the next couple of weeks to stop this from getting any worse.

Total miles: 41. 136 total in February, which is the most mileage in one month EVER.

Nutrition: fairly good. Thai curry, scrambled eggs, aubergine & grilled chicken all featured, as well as spicy overload at AbsurdBird. On a couple of the busy work days, I mostly had biscuits and coffee, which isn’t great but I do prefer running on an empty stomach over a full one and 4 miles is fine to do on just caffeine (NB this is not official coaching advice, do not do this)

Getting back into overnight oats rather than porridge now the weather’s a bit milder. Still eating too much frozen fruit.

Yum

I really fancied Supernoodles after the long run, so that also happened. Made up for it with real food later.

Feeling: Physically, fine. Plenty of stretching time and plenty of quality sleep. Getting to the stage where I’m more than happy to go to bed at 10pm. Not enough foam rolling, because I haaaaate it I keep forgetting about it and need to keep the rollers in the living room to remind me they exist.

Mentally, not so fine. Thursday was particularly not good: after being at work 8-6 and the entire day being really stressful, I was quite looking forward to a run, but getting annoyed with myself for firstly missing the club run and secondly not even having a full set of kit with me put me in a really shit mood. Friday was almost the same until I actually got out running, because I’d spent the day driving around with only half a mind on work, then when I finally got back to the office after 4pm there was still loads to do and I had to make a decision to leave things unfinished and put my trainers on instead. The run itself was fine enough, but I am prone to negative thought patterns and I spent most of the run worrying about work, and then an hour afterwards worrying about the run, & then more worrying about how stupid I was to have forgotten my kit the previous day, plus work, along with several other uncontrollable aspects of my life at the moment. I am starting to recognise what I need to do to get out of these thought patterns and stop them from getting too catastrophic, but it’s not always that easy.

I’m glad the weekend miles went well. The longer runs are easier because I’m not under (much) time pressure with them. The midweek speed sessions, never more than 5 miles, are sometimes stressful because I am trying to fit them around the working day. I haven’t managed a lunchtime session for a couple of weeks due to other commitments, but the double benefit of getting the miles done and making sure I have time away from my desk during the day is really important.

With only 55 days to go until the first marathon, I’m heading into the next peak week keen to stay injury-free. I have another race coming up  but if I’m not feeling the pace on the day, I’ll certainly be taking it steady. The medal will still be there at the end.

February miles: game changer.

Week eight

HALFWAY THERE & it’s a deload week!

Monday: Mini strength sesh at lunchtime, practicing snatch/clean/jerk technique. Cyclebox after work, which was a nice stretch for the legs but also made me feel a bit sick. HIIT is brutal. Good times though, & good recovery for the 20 miles total from the weekend.

Tuesday: 4 miles speed. Did the local hill repeat again to try & get my times more consistent: it was better than last time, with 5 250m repeats and 400m gentle recovery. Not ideal distances but that’s the way the hill is. It will get brutal in the next couple of weeks when I go up to 7 miles of hills.

for now, though, 45 minutes on it & straight home for dinner.

Mushroom, spring onion & cheese omelette with spinach & too much chilli sauce

Mini lifting sesh today as well, mostly training back & biceps but threw in some front squats too.

Wednesday: 5 miles easy. Ended up as 5.92, as that is how many miles away my house is from my office.

Thursday: 4 miles on the treadmill. I had aimed to increase the speed with each km until the last 400m was flat out. Did manage this, but my Garmin doesn’t show treadmill lap splits quite as well as when running outside & the pace has averaged out. It was OK though. Also managed a strength session today, & went a bit heavy as it’s the day before rest day & I can spare the DOMS.

Squat rack sulk

Deadlifts, overhead press, split squats, tricep dips, face pulls & tuck jumps, though. There is no part of my body that is not slightly achy after that.

Friday: Rest day. Nice after a busy work week to have another Netflix evening.

Saturday: ALSO A REST DAY. When I first started this plan, random Saturday rest day seemed so far away I barely registered it. But now it’s here!

I did go to the gym, I’m not some kind of maniac. This rest day is basically the last one before a fierce few weeks, so I am appreciating every little last bit.

Sunday: 13 miles, very easy. Took a GFR squad for 7.5km of hills, & added on an extra 15km on my own. Took in the latest episode of the marvellous From Your Big Sister podcast by all-round legend & superstar Last Year’s Girl as well as some inspirational tunes on the way.

Good view from the top of the hill

Total miles: 27. What a treat to drop the miles by a third. A huge part of marathon training is getting used to the feeling of running under fatigue, & a lot of folk I follow on Instagram who are doing earlier marathons are hitting the cumulative fatigue point this week. It’s harsh and horrible & you start to hate flights of stairs with a passion. I am not looking forward to that when it comes to me, but this week has been a nice break from it all.

Yaaaasssss

Nutrition: very on point this week. I am not overly concerned with my actual weight as I am tall & muscular, which distorts things, but I am 3kgs down since the start of the year & that is with no change to my diet, plus regularly eating quite a lot if a long run has made me hungry. I haven’t ran enough miles this week to be so careless, so I have been tracking well & making good choices. Except for half a box of baklava, but I could not resist.

more pad Thai, but my boss paid so it barely counts

Feeling: Good enough. A cutback in the miles was certainly due, & I feel better for it. The 4 mile tempo run was the worst this week, but that was more to do with the treadmill. Too hot & didn’t have a hair tie (again…) so my hair was everywhere & annoying. Also: more sleep, more reading, less time fannying around online or watching TV. It’s good for you.

Also getting quite a lot from plan deviser & veritable running sage Hal Higdon on Twitter:

 

I think this is genuinely a thing – every time I have tipped over 20-21 miles in training, I’ve either cried during the run or had some sort of hysterical breakdown within the following 24 hours. It clearly does not work for me. That final 10km of a marathon is incredibly strange, & I have had some very dark moments during it, but also some wonderful chats with people. It is also forever associated with questionable music choices: Twisted Sister’s ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’, Starship’s ‘We Built This City’ and Laura Brannigan’s ‘Gloria’ have all featured in the last 6 miles & a mild PTSD feeling is now associated with the opening bars of these tunes.

Week 9’s ramping up the miles again, so I will drop back the strength training & stay hydrated.

Data nerd

I am, it has to be said, a little bit envious of runners who can just run off into the distance without an app tracking their distance, pace, heart rate, route, weather and wind speed. WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT AFTERWARDS ON YOUR PHONE 

Yeah. I find my stats motivating. Most of the time.

I started off using MapMyRun which is popular for a reason: it good. I still have it installed & my current kit syncs with it, as well as Strava and MyFitnessPal. (I should probably have more data sharing concerns.) Anyway, after using the app for a while I bought my first Garmin watch a few months later. Started with the Forerunner 10, then moved onto the Forerunner 15 when I wanted to track my daily steps more. I went fancy with a 225 a few years later, and then last year after Manchester, I treated myself to a Forerunner 235.

here it is

Not much of a difference, except a cool black & white colour scheme. What I mostly wanted from this was wrist-based heart rate, because I do like keeping an eye on the heart rate even though I don’t really do HR zone training. Also each new model of Garmin is getting sleeker and less like a 1987 Casio throwback, presumably due to increased competition – I wear the watch constantly, so I have to like the way it looks. & this is hot.

technical bradycardia

There are hundreds of kit reviews already floating around the internet: this one is probably the most comprehensive and is what I pored over whilst trying to figure out which Garmin model I wanted. I’ll keep mine short & basic:

Good points

  • fast GPS lockdown
  • bluetooth uploading
  • Accurate heart rate measurement (it was consistent with an exercise ECG I had, & both I & the medical staff were impressed at the accuracy)
  • Good nerdy in-depth stats like training effect, race times predictor & VO2max estimates. I don’t get full use out of some of this data because I don’t know why I need it, but it’s nice to have
  • Charges quickly
neeeeerd

Improvement points

  • Very short time between ‘low battery’ indicator and no charge left
  • Bluetooth connection can be a bit random sometimes

Meh

  • smart notifications – I don’t reeeeally care about getting texts or calls whilst running, & forgetting to mute an active group chat before going on a long run is incredibly frustrating. Setting off for a long run always seems to reactivate a dormant group chat and my arm buzzes once a minute until I start to hate all my friends. I find this feature much more useful when I am not running, such as if my phone rings at work.
  • recovery advisor: advises too much recovery for my lifestyle & training level, and I’m not sure what metrics it’s based on anyway.
  • training plans: I see people using this function and I am interested/envious. I don’t really do intervals outside, but maybe I would if I planned a training plan into the watch
  • sometimes stops syncing with Strava for no obvious reason (general Garmin issue, rather than this specific watch, but still annoying)
  • the app is not very intuitive sometimes

I do stick with Garmin because I’ve got an app full of comparative data going back years now, but they are good quality watches & I haven’t seen a make or model that I’d like better except Apple. The fancier models look good, especially the ones that play music, but they are expensive & I wouldn’t be running without my phone anyway, so I don’t see the need for it.

But yeah, stats are motivating. I like seeing the map of where I’ve run. Strava QOM challenges can get quite heated, whether it’s within GFR or that random stranger who cycles down my street faster than me. But mostly, if I have a bad training session, I can see it adding to miles in the bank anyway, or just compare back to when I first started running & see how much better things are now.

 

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.