Little Runner Gal

Running, eating, sleeping and all the bits in between

Race Review: Yateley 10k – Race 2

OK so this was a couple of weeks ago now and I’ve been terrible at getting the write up down, sorry!

As with the first race, I arrived with my brother Jack. He was going for a PB, as was his friend. I’d decided I’d run a hard race but not aim for a PB as I was pacing the Women’s Running 10k that weekend and I didn’t want to turn up injured.


I’d seen a lot of club team mates collecting their numbers, and some twitter friends taking photos near the start. Everyone was in good spirits. The weather was quite ideal. It had been a nice day, with some rain the day before, and had cooled off for the Wednesday evening.

We set off for a short warm up then took our places in the 40-50 min finish area at the start.

And we were off! As I was planning on an easy one I wanted to focus on the effort and not the pace, so would only check my watch at the mile beeps. I thought I’d come in about 47 minutes.

It’s the same course every race so, as with last time, it’s up hill straight away. My pace was good though and felt good. It was cooler than last time and the first mile beeped at 7:09, quicker than I’d anticipated.

The second mile continued up hill, getting warmer. I closed in on some of the runners that had gone off a bit too fast. The watch beeped 7:06. It had felt harder than the first mile, so I was pleased with the time.

And finally the downhill came! A relaxing breather and a 6:57 for mile 3!

The next mile took us down to the straight and was pretty consistent at 7:08.

The straight mile should be easy. Everyone says tuck in behind someone and pick people off, but at 7:27 for that mile, I’m sure it was me being picked off! That and the number of people that passed me!

The final uphill mile was ok and I managed to get passed a few on the way. 7:33.

A nice coast downhill towards the end and I was surprised to see I came in at 44:48, 1 second slower than last time! It had felt a lot easier and more comfortable.

Jack and Adam got PBs, along with a lot of other friends.

Being the sad stats geek that I am, I’m really excited to compare the miles of the 2 races so far as I plan to smash out a good run in the final August race, so I want to see where I can make up the time!

The August race is a sell out. It’s such a popular event. Fingers crossed for good conditions and a PB!

LRG x

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Pacing at Women’s Running 10k Nottingham

Last weekend I had the immense pleasure of pacing one of the Women’s Running 10k events. A series of 10km races (also a 5km option) for women of all levels of running experience, sound the country.

As part of a fab race package, including technical t-shirt, medal, and packed goodie bag, the event offers 10k race pacers pacing 50, 55, 60 and 70 minute finishes.

I paced a 55 minute finish at the Nottingham event.

Despite a rainy start, the eager runners and families arrived in huge numbers with smiles and waterproofs! The race village was buzzing, and the warm up, led by 53 Marathons:53 Days legend Amy, had nearly everyone involved and the sun emerged to start the race. I was interviewed on stage to explain the role of the pacers, then we walked around the friendly crowd, displaying our huge time flags, so that people could come and ask us questions.

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The other pacers, Nicki, Annette, AJ, and I got positioned in the start area and the race got going. I saw Nicki’s flag disappear off into the distance and settled into a comfortable pace with my 55 minute group. We took a lovely route back and forth along the scenic Victoria Embankment, which made it not only a beautiful course, but a great atmosphere as we all kept passing each other so everyone could cheer each other on, and the pacers and groups around us got very vocal!

Some of the ladies around me wanted to talk more, others were happy just keeping up. I made it a point to cheer at every kilometre marker and let them know how well they were all doing.

As the race went on it became a bit quieter around us, but a core group of ladies stuck with me. Every time I congratulated them one lovely lady congratulated me back for the good pacing while being cheery and with a flag strapped to me!

As we came up to the final 200m I turned round and explained I was expecting sprint finishes from everyone. As we approach 50m I told them I’d be moving to the left and they were all to fly past me on the right, and sure enough they did!

I came in at 54:31, so a bit under 55 mins but pretty darn ideal.

Runners came to find me after to say thanks, which was lovely. To be part of so many people’s journey was amazing.

The event and the team behind it was fantastic. There were a lot of people running their first race and it was well organised to make it easy for them. The Women’s Running team and the volunteers made it a great day.

I continued to receive lovely feedback on social media afterwards.

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Loads of people have asked me since how you get in to pacing. These events, and the organisations that run them, are often looking for pacers. Just contact them and ask. settle on a pace that will be VERY comfortable for you (not too close to your PB or anything daft!) and make sure you get some practice runs in at that distance and pace. You’ll likely be carrying a flag. The ones I’ve used aren’t heavy but they can be a bit unwieldy, so take that in to account.

Well done to everyone involved in the event. Runners, organisers, volunteers, pacers and supporters.

And if you fancy it, HAPPY PACING!

LRG x

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Race Review: Mizuno Endure 24

I don’t even know how to start this one! It might be the sleep deprivation, but every time I think about the weekend just gone I have so get all overwhelmed!

Endure 24. 24 hours of solo runners, pairs, and teams of 3-8, running 8km laps around the woodland of Wasing Park, Aldermaston.

After hearing about last year’s event, a club mate and I started talking about entering for 2015, and by September we had roped in 6 others from our club and we were registered.

Fast forward 9 months, 3 marathons and countless other events later and I’m at Decathlon the week before frantically “investing” in a tent!

Me and my new investment arrive at the Endure 24 site after work on Friday and promptly (very promptly as it’s a pop-up job and was up and pinned down in next to no time!) set up camp with some other teams of friends. One big happy Endure 24 village! When you’re in a large team you spend most of your time in the camp, so having some amazing people around you really helps with encouragement, motivation and just general fun.

I then take the easy way out and go home for a final night in my own bed, with running water, before getting back to camp the following morning with my cousin, Beth.

breakfast

Before long everyone from our team and the other teams in our “village” are all arriving, unpacking cake, cake and more cake, and we head off to the race briefing.

camp mates

Donning the baton band, Sarah, our first runner, starts with the huge pack at the beginning and we all cheer them through and off to complete lap 1. The rest of us head back to camp and wait anxiously for her arrival.

start

She arrives back in no time absolutely buzzing and telling us all about the course. All I hear is “huge hill just after the aid station”….!!

Koji and Joe were up next, our fastest runners, so I knew my turn would be soon. They fly round the course and we all gave them a huge cheers as they passed the course right by our camp.

Standing in the changeover area the atmosphere was electric. A lot of us were just waiting for our first lap and we’re all craning our necks to see if our runner is that streak appearing round the final corner darting towards us.

And then Joe was there and I was off! The start of the course was through the camp, so the cheering was great. All my teams and friends cheered me passed, and then I was up the first incline and in to the woods. The course is really beautiful. An undulating, firm trail path through the woodland. At 3 miles there’s a great looking aid station, but I don’t stop! Then just afterwards an amazing camper-van with music blaring and very encouraging volunteers. Then, the hill that everyone had been talking about. It was as bad as they said. Pretty long and steep, but I managed to run it, lungs burning once I was at the top. All that cross country training in the rainy winter months was well spent.

lap 1

Zig zagging through the trees on the decline back down to the camp site was great. No sooner had I emerged from the trees than my team mates and friends were there cheering, a few more back and forths through the tents and I was through the finish gantry and flinging the ‘baton’ band at Ben.

I LOVED IT!!

Back to camp for a stretch, refuel and a sit down.

As people came and went we were all comparing stories and looking forward to our next lap.

Ben, Beth, Kerry & Lisa all enjoyed it just as much as I had.

We cracked open the prosecco, beer and cake (Beth’s birthday, you understand….all in the name of celebration!) as our rota of laps continued.

Birthday

My second lap came around 7:30pm. It was still relatively light and the course conditions were similar. We were pretty lucky as, although it had been raining the night before, the course was pretty dry and fairly stable. I kept a good pace around the course, not stopping at the aid station again, and managed to run the full hill once again. The solo runners and the pairs are amazing! At this stage they’d been going for 7 and a half hours, and every single one I saw was still in crazily high spirits. Huge respect to these people and their support. Passing friends, I bounded back to the handover once more. A practically identically timed lap, excellent!

lap 2

More prosecco, more cake and a bit of maths to work out when my next lap would be.

prosecco

It would be around 2am. So we retreated to the pop-up palace to attempt some sleep. It didn’t happen for me. And despite knowing that Koji would be back to wake me up in time for me to get ready for my lap, I was kitted up, donning my head torch and sitting around in camp way before he returned.

I was worried I wouldn’t spot Joe at the handover but it was pretty easy and I headed off, following the trail of bobbing lights, into the darkness. My head torch was bright but I was still unsure of my footing for the first couple of miles. That, coupled with the sleeplessness, was making me feel slow, but the other runners around me made it easier. Still loads of solo runners out on the course. You can’t complain about anything when you think about what they’re going through!

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The course became lit up with glow sticks and the aid station (which I didn’t stop at again) was a welcome beacon on the trail. The blaring music of the camper-van has been replaced with flourescent lights and isotonic ‘shots’ and ‘cocktails’, which I admired but didn’t take…my stomach was already in bits with the interesting version of refuelling that I’d been practicing.

Not ashamed to say I walked the final third of the hill this time and thanked the glowing strips of the volunteers’ jackets. Then the magical zig zag forest was lit up with fairy lights all around the tress, which made this stretch a lot easier to negotiate. Another good lap, an easy change over to Ben and back to the camp for some sleep. It didn’t go well as I was buzzing from the run and keen for my next lap, which would be around 7am.

I must’ve finally drifted off for a couple of hours, but as soon as the sun rose I was back up for coffee, porridge and watching very sleepy heads emerge from the tents! We were all tired but excited.

Off for my final lap. Despite the lack of sleep I felt fab and had a fantastic run. And the solo runners were still out in force, the cheering for them getting louder and louder. As I sprinted through the finish I remembered to soak up the amazing atmosphere of such a great event.

One by one the rest of our team finished their last laps and we all joined Kerry on the last few metres of her final lap to cross the finish line together. What an accomplishment!

finish 1

finish

I’m so proud of the team, and so proud of everyone out there. All my friends that took part. Parkrun friends, twitter friends. All the solo runners, the volunteers, the event organisers. It was truly an amazing experience.

group medals

We all felt sad packing up our village, although the talk of showers, baths and beds was plentiful!

medal

I enjoyed a pub celebration with my medal! And a bit of stat analysis….pretty chuffed with my times!

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my laps

A huge well done to everyone that took part and everyone involved.

If you’ve not done something like this before I can highly recommend Endure 24. I’m not a camping convert, but the whole atmosphere makes the sleeplessness pretty irrelevant. Being in a big team with even more friends around me too, made it such a fantastic experience.

Top marks for the technical tee and the medal too.

I’ll most certainly be back in 2016.

LRG x

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A Marathon Education; the good, the bad and the indifferent!

So this is my 4th marathon training cycle. And, to make it a little different, I’m doing 2 in 2 weeks – Brighton on 12th April and London on 26th April.

Every time I go through this cycle I learn A LOT along the way, so here are a few things I’ve learnt and how I’ve changed or worked with them this time.

Club sessions – last year I ditched most of the club sessions as they didn’t fit with my training plan. This year I’m coaching the sessions, so I’m always there! And keeping up with the front runners (OK, occasionally getting close enough to inhale some of their dust!) has really helped with my speed and endurance. I feel quicker and my times have come right down.

a good 

Long runs – the structure of these have stayed the same, and the way I built them up week by week. But, again, I’ve managed to get together with the club on a couple of occasions to knock out 16+ miles. It has made it a heck of a lot less lonely and soul destroying, and has helped drag me through some of the dark miles. I’ve done a lot of my long runs on my own too, I think finding your own pace is key and learning to tune in to your own body. I’ve even ducked out of a couple of long runs early when things didn’t feel right. I’d have never done this before, but now I know my body a bit better I feel like I can do this. Also, I’ve done 3 solid 20+ milers this time, more than before, and I started the higher mileage earlier. This was more of a mental thing than anything else, so I knew in my own head that I could do it.

 

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Intensity – I’ve done a similar amount of hills, sprints, threshold and progressive sessions, but I’ve based it around a) my club schedule and b) how I’m feeling. The mixture of fast and slower paced stuff always worked for me before so I’ve kept it the same. The only thing now is that fast is faster! But I’ve had to make sure that I do the slower sessions too and have had a few people comment on how my slow sessions don’t seem very slow, so have tried to control it even further!

 

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Frequency – I’m still running 5-6 days a week, as I have been in previous marathon cycles, but less double days than before. My mileage has increased to 52 miles per week, at its peak, which is similar to last year, but I’ve been having a few more lie-ins or doing some other activities instead.

 

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Cross training – Despite the fact I claimed to have cross trained last time, I only really went swimming when I was injured. I couldn’t fit anything else in when I was running 8 times a week. So this time I have done a BIT more, still nowhere near what I wanted. I have my bike on the turbo trainer and sometimes do that early instead of running, and I am doing a yoga routine 2-3 times per week. I think this has helped but I still want to be fitting in more cross training, even if it means substituting a run here or there.

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Stretching – I learnt a great stretching routine for London last year, and this hasn’t changed much since. If anything I have been a little worse at stretching, spending less time after runs stretching. No excuses. It’s not a good idea. But then I do yoga the following morning instead. OK, I’m looking for excuses. I should do more stretching like I did last time.

 

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Nutrition – Thanks to a lot of research and good advice about nutrition over the last couple of years, I’m quite good at knowing what I SHOULD be eating to fuel, recover etc. Despite that I have used previously used the fact that I’m running a marathon as an excuse to eat what I wanted. This year I focused on an intelligent running diet, whilst trying to lose the weight I piled on after Berlin Marathon (Sept 2014) making sure that I have the right about of carbs, protein and fats depending on my runs and recovery. It has worked out well. I don’t weigh myself, so I’ve no idea how much weight I’ve lost, but I’m back to what I would consider a better running shape and weight for me. And because I’ve been really thinking about what I eat I’ve used the correct things to feed my muscles at the right times, which I’m convinced has helped with recovery and injury prevention.

 

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 As a separate note on nutrition, I tried a carb depletion, carb loading strategy the week before Berlin Marathon which I think worked well, so I’ll be doing this before Brighton Marathon. 

Gels – I have a tried and tested gel strategy that will never ever change! Perfected before London last year, I’ve stuck with it throughout my long runs on this training cycle and it’s still as perfect as it has always been. High 5 gels, every 30 minutes. Easy.

 

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Recovery – I’ve been better with my nutrition, worse with my stretching and better with my sports massages! I feel a lot more in tune with my body now so I know what I need to eat after a run or when I need a massage or some treatment. I give myself recovery time if I need it and I skip a run or do some recovery cross training instead. But I still need to do more stretching! 

 
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Injury – Now I don’t want to speak too soon, but *whispers* I’ve not had any injuries during this cycle. So all of the above must be working!

 

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So, here we go, not long now until the most challenging 14 days of my running “career” to date. Writing it all down shows me how much I’ve learnt in the last 12 months. Now….let’s get to the start line! 

LRG x

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My New Journey

Like many runners out there I’ve often wondered where it’s all going. I love running and everything that goes with it. I’m not going to be an Olympian, so how can I make an impact with it all?

Well this blog started off for that reason. To help me, to help others, to support, inspire, ask questions and maybe find answers. With my Twitter presence and work on the UKRunChat team I have a great time interacting with other runners daily.

The next logical step was to be able to do this face to face with others.

In March I went on the England Athletics Leadership in Running Fitness (LiRF) course, a great day taking a group of us through leading a group or club of runners through a training session. This included goal setting, warm ups, different session types, overcoming barriers, injuries, stretching, fitness and support. A really inspirational course, I was desperate to put it in to practice.

6 months and 2 more marathons later, I received a call from our club coach asking me if I fancied joining the coaching team. I didn’t even need to think about it, it was an honour to be asked. I love the club sessions and wanted to be able to give something back to a group that do so much for so many.

So, my first session came around and I was terrified! Leading a group of 40+ through a warm up, 400m sprints session and trying to keep their attention, collectively, in a busy housing estate, was a challenge! But after it was done I loved it. I learnt a lot, straight away, about what went well and what went not so well.

We decided to take the next session by splitting the group, as barking instructions at more than 40 people up and down the inhabited, quiet roads we work on was getting more and more difficult as the group got bigger. So hills with half the group was less daunting and easier to manage. I enjoyed it a lot more.

My next session was a fartlek style run within a 5 mile loop, so burst of 30 second sprints and 60 seconds recovery, all the way round. Luckily I’d thought ahead on this one and got the faster runners to loop back to me, as a back runner, so that I could keep the group together. That was pretty challenging but everyone loved it.

Last night we did 100, 200, 300 and 400m sprints and for the first time I was really looking forward to it. Everyone had a great session and worked really hard, and for the first time the love for it properly outweighed the fear.

Seeing everyone work hard, progress and enjoy it is massively rewarding, I can see why so many people do it.

Getting my head around what works and what I can play around with is part of the learning process, and I’m loving it. I welcome any session ideas you have, it would be great to hear what others enjoy.

Oh, and I bought a whistle!

whistle

I’ll keep you up to date on how it’s going.

LRG x

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Marathon Nutrition: A Trial Run

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As my time goal at the Berlin Marathon was no longer an option, I decided to try a few new things out in preparation for the big day to see if they would work for future marathons…yes, there are more, of course!

This post comes with a warning. This was something I tried to see how it would go. I’m not a nutritionist, I’m not a dietician and I love my food. I would just like to be able to run a marathon in the best way possible.

Don’t go out doing anything crazy!

Why

So, the very basic science behind this (oh yes, I’m no scientist either!) is that you deprive your muscles of carbohydrates for a few days in the week before your race and then load back up in the days before the race. This supposedly maximises your glycogen stores, the main source of energy for your muscles.

How

My race was on the Sunday, so the week before I spent Sunday to Wednesday (inclusive) eating a very low carb diet. Then Thursday to Saturday was high carb, about 90% of my food over those days. Then normal pre race breakfast on Sunday and off I went.

What

During the low carb days I was eating lots of the following:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Dairy (full fat)
  • Leafy veg
  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Water, tea and coffee (unsweetened)

And none of the following:

  • Sugar
  • Sugary drinks
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Potatoes
  • Porridge
  • Breakfast cereals
  • High energy fruits e.g. bananas
  • Cakes and sweets
  • Desserts
  • Artificial sweeteners and products containing them

Yes it was a very boring few days!

Obviously the high carb days were lots of pasta, potatoes, rice etc. Not crazy amounts. My normal size plate, just with much more of the carb option and much less of the protein part of the meal.

The day before race day, some simple carbs (hooray, it’s cake time!) were also on the menu as the body can use simple sugars as well in a marathon situation (any excuse really!).

So…

Here’s how it went.

Oh, I forgot to tell you, I’m still training and running in this week as well, tapering for the race.

So Sunday I went out for my long run of 75 minutes without any carbs for breakfast. Normal porridge was replaced by an omelette. It was tougher than normal but possibly psychological. I had glycogen stores in the tank. I had no gels either (sugar) so by the end of the run was pretty fatigued. Not being able to replace the carbs I’d lost was hard as my body normally craves the right things, so it knew it needed carbs and I was all “no, no, here’s a chicken breast”.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were all easy 20-40 minute runs which got progressively slower as the days went on and my glycogen stores disappeared. I felt week and by the Wednesday I was highly irritable!

Thursday was beautiful. Porridge and banana for breakfast was like heaven! My progression run that day ended at much faster than marathon pace (oops!) I just had so much energy!

Friday I was travelling, the most cereals bars you’ve ever seen in 1 tiny suitcase and a good ol’ Italian for dinner.

Also sought out some bircher muesli, milk and yogurt to make my pre race breakfast and store in the hotel room mini fridge.

Tested that on Saturday morning before a short run and it worked a treat. More pasta on Saturday night and I was ready to go!

Well…?

How did it go? LIKE A DREAM! I continued with my normal gel strategy, 1 at 45 minutes, then 1 every 30 minutes after that, with the last 2 being caffeine gels. I felt strong throughout the whole race, with no lulls in energy or periods of excess fatigue. The 18 mile mark at London was where I hit the wall, but this came and went. The 20 mile mark can be where it is said to fall apart, but that came and went. I felt as strong coming up to the final 2km as I had for the whole race, my legs were fine and my head was too.

So while there are many facets to a successful race, and a successful nutrition strategy, I can say that this worked for me, and I will be doing it again.

Just steer clear of me the Wednesday before a marathon…there’s no rage like it!

LRG

x

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Berlin Marathon

Berlin Marathon. The flattest, fasted marathon course in the world. The PB course.

Going in to 2014 this was my A race and I was aiming for a sub 4 hour time. Having got London under my belt in 4:15 in April, I’d kept up the training, pushing myself harder and harder, faster and faster, and sub 4 was looking good.

If you’ve read my blog before you’ll have seen how this fell apart. I picked up numerous injuries in my right leg (glute, hip flexor, patellar tendon, calf, and nerves in my foot…just a few) and 5 weeks before Berlin I could barely walk. I stopped running and worked hard on rehab. I stupidly went into a half marathon 3 weeks before and made the decision at 10 miles that Berlin would be a marathonless city break instead. By the finish line I was the limping wreck I’d been the previous week. All rehab work wiped out.

The next 10 days was back to the rehab – mental and physical. I started doing a little running on grass. Slow, short and just looping about the local park. It was frustrating, but better. I could run Berlin, just not how I’d hoped. So, with the help of my coach, Plan B was formed. I wanted to get SOMETHING out of this marathon that would help me in the future, not just “get round”.

Plan B
– Practice a carb-depleting / carb loading strategy the week leading up to the race – there’s glycogen store science behind this!
– Run the marathon at a comfortable pace but aim for negative splits – the dream!

Sounds simple right?!

Here’s how I got on…

On marathon day we set off for Tiergarten, to the start. It was only a short walk from our hotel and as we got closer the throngs of people grew. And there it was, the start line.
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I made it to my pen in plenty of time and waved off my boyfriend who was off to wait for me at our agreed waving point number 1! All was looking good until I realised that the bag drop was over the other side of the pen. No worries, I’d go through the pen and drop off my bag. Oh no, it was WAY over the other side of the pen. And the park. And my number was the furthest away. Mild panic ensued.

Bag eventually safely deposited (although I was close to just abandoning it in a bush!) I got back to my pen to hear the elites being announced and the waves in front of me started to go. I felt calm. I took it all in and was ready to get my race underway.
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Crossing the start line and heading up towards the iconic Victory Column was amazing. The crowds and other runners were so supportive.
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What struck me straight away was how wide the roads are. Everyone who has run it tells you but it’s amazing, you have so much room almost immediately, there’s no tripping over others or struggling to get your pace. I was still really calm and settling into a comfortable pace. The route was lined with supporters but not stifling amounts. There was a lot of cheering and banners (very little of which I understood) but it didn’t feel too crowded or claustrophobic. Just perfect.

As ever, my tried and tested gel strategy was going well. An hour in and I was still feeling great and my pace was consistent. I wasn’t even looking at my watch too much, just happy with how everything with feeling. Knowing I wasn’t going to be pushing it too hard, I’d taken my phone with me and called my boyfriend as I was coming up the mile markers we’d agreed he’d be at. Not that I needed to, the tracking on the app was spot on, and my pace was so consistent that you could pretty much guess my position at any given time and be within about 30 seconds! Even I was pretty impressed with me.

2 hours in and I was feeling great. Gels going to plan, no pain and pace spot on. I was enjoying it as I said I would and taking in the sights. The great thing was that every time I planned to see my boyfriend I could see him and he could come and check I was OK, bring me water, and run alongside me for a bit. That added to the enjoyment massively for me. The anxiety I felt trying to scan the crowds looking for my family during the London marathon earlier this year added to the panic of the race.
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Despite my pet hate, the water out of plastic cups situation, the fuelling stations were actually really well positioned and organised.

I managed to chat to a few other British runners when I saw a club or charity top I recognised. It helped to keep my pace steady (knowing I could talk) and made the race more enjoyable, especially when I could barely understand any of the supportive words being shouted by the crowds!

3 hours in and I was still feeling strong. I’d started to get a few twinges in the base of my back, from my piriformis and glute issues I think, but as long as I kept my body upright (no slouching) it was fine, which served as a great reminder to keep my form good.

30km was where it got dark at London. I’d never known pain like it. The wall in every sense possible. But this, Berlin, this was going swimmingly. I was smiling, I wasn’t in any pain, I was still chatting to people where I could. Whether it was the slower pace or the nutrition plan the week before the race, it was working. I like to think it was a bit of both.

I got to 40km in 4:15, the same time I’d completed London, but feeling on top of the world. 2km to go and this was quite literally the most enjoyable run of my life.

Running through the Brandenburg Gate was, as you’d imagine, incredible. Everyone was stopping to take selfies! Although I wasn’t that bothered about my time, and had my phone with me, I still wanted to get to that finish line. My finish was a full on, arms in the air, big fat smiley finish.
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Then I stopped. And my glutes seized up. And I couldn’t walk. Not even to get my medal 10 metres away!

When I finally got to it, the beer helped.

So, how did Plan B go….

– Practice a carb-depleting / carb loading strategy the week leading up to the race – I feel like this went well. I would definitely do it again. I didn’t hit the wall, which could have been for many reasons (I was fit enough, in stamina, to run a lot quicker), but I do feel, and did feel through the marathon, that my energy levels were super consistent. I’ll definitely do it again for my next marathon.

– Run the marathon at a comfortable pace but aim for negative splits – well it was extremely comfortable. I wouldn’t have pushed it any harder, I’d have risked the injuries kicking in and it could have fallen apart. Negative splits, not quite, 2:14:13 & 2:15:00 for the first and second halves respectively, so close, and all in all a bloody consistent run – see below.

Berlin split

And here’s how London went, so you can see to difference and how, I think, I’m learning as I go through these things.

London split

The ballot for Berlin 2015 is still open. If you fancy an international marathon then I would highly recommend it. It was fast, flat, well supported and more relaxed than London. It’s a bit pricier than others, and you don’t get much in the way of finisher gear for your money (medal, 700 leaflets and an apple in a bag and the beer! No t-shirt of any description) but I had a great time, so it was worth it.

I’ll be back one day to do Berlin properly on that PB course, and get the time I deserve for the training I put in. But for now, Berlin, you were awesome!

LRG
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Runners of the world, light up your life!

So, we’re well into head torch season now. Along with the darker mornings and evenings, we’ve now been met with the rain. And with the clocks going back soon you’ll be hard pushed to find more than a few hours in the day that are light! So, in the spirit of autumn, I’ve been trying out the Unilite HV-H4 head torch on my early morning and evening runs.

Industrial LED Headlight

The first thing that struck me about this head torch is how light it is. My first foray into the world of night running came in July at the Adidas Thunder Run. I bought a rechargeable head torch from ebay, it shipped from China. It did the job but it was so heavy, dug in to my head and the battery pack was cumbersome and bouncing around in my bum bag. Luckily the Unilite HV-H4 is nothing like this. The 3 x AA batteries (which are provided with the head torch) are in the pack on the back of your head, so it’s all in one and no wires getting caught around your arms, and this means it’s not heavy and balances it out well on your head.

light4

It’s so easy to adjust in various places that it fitted snugly quickly. The padding means you can wear it directly on your head without the need to have anything in between. I’ve worn it straight on my head, with a buff and with a cap too (different weather conditions) and it works well with them all.

light1

So, after checking the bright colour matched my jacket (tick!) I ventured out. The torch head is adjustable to 90 degrees (up/down), so I had a good play around with where I wanted it to shine while I was running, which was so easy to do. There are 3 brightness settings plus a flashing option. A simple touch of the button on top of the lamp changes the setting, so as the sun comes up or goes down I change it easily without breaking my run.

I’ve had loads of use out of it so far and haven’t had to change the batteries, and the lamp doesn’t seem to have faded at all.

All in all a fantastic, comfortable, light head torch which will keep me going all winter.

The customer service is great too. Contact Unilite with any questions and they’re so quick to get back to you.

Keep safe in the dark guys!

LRG x

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Inactive legs lead to overactive brains!

When I’m running, or rather when I am able to run, I know where I’m going. Not literally (well yes literally too, although I have been lost on a handful of occasions) but I know what my goal is, what I’m aiming to achieve and theoretically what I need to do to get there. Therefore my brain has its main topic of focus nicely covered and spends the rest of its time wondering what to eat next. When my ability to run, albeit for a short period of time, was compromised, my brain found itself a little lost. Even thoughts of food went out the window (momentarily) and that’s when I really had to question things!

brain

This blog post started as a summary of my thoughts and musing during my injury, but as I started writing I realised what had happened….I had actually been through some sort of grieving process. Now this is not to say that my injury is akin to grieving for something lost, not at all, but just helped me to draw parallels with a process that was understood, and make sense of why I was feeling as I was and how I could get myself through it in the best way possible.

The recovery process is a mental one as well as a physical one, so whilst this post will still address my musings during injury, it might hopefully help me makes sense of why my brain behaved as it did.

grief

Denial – running for a week pretending there was nothing wrong with me and it was actually down to poor fuelling, when my calf muscle (and, so it now turns out, most of the other muscles in my legs…yes both) was gradually getting more and more painful until the moment I woke up and couldn’t even walk. But I’d be OK tomorrow right?!

Anger – in my case this came coupled with upset. I was inexplicably upset and annoyed at my leg, my boyfriend who was trying to calm me down, the local leisure centre for having aqua aerobics on in the pool when I wanted to swim, my car just because, the stairs to my flat and the ice pack for my leg which wasn’t making it any better and definitely had it in for me. And I cried, lots.

Bargaining – this was mostly with my coach, about what I could, or rather should, do (or shouldn’t) and with myself about what the marathon really meant to me, could I shift my goals. Also looking for anything to help speed up recovery, which was a good thing; sports massage, acupuncture, foam rolling, stretching, applying heat, wearing compression sleeves, I’d have probably bathed in capers (my one and only food hate in the whole world!) if I’d have thought it would speed up my recovery!

Acceptance – I am injured. And I need to take time off to recover. And the world will go on turning. And I will run again.

During this whole process my overactive brain, and body, found new interests in cycling and swimming, which has obviously led to thoughts of swimming lessons, duathlon and triathlons. I’ve had a chance to read some amazing articles including this one from Dr Nick’s Running Blog about listening to your body and not being a slave to the GPS (guilty as charged!) and properly invest my time in the advice of the professionals, including this gem from Gary at Primal Movement Solutions 

I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s alright to get crabby and sad and angry and emotional and do things which make no sense to anyone but you, cos it’s all part of the process. You’ll come out the other side and you’ll probably have learnt a bit about yourself along the way.

capers

I’m off to see where I can bulk buy enough capers to fill a bath…

LRG x

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Unplanned Rest….

unplanned  adj. – Not intended; unintentional.

rest   n. – Cessation of work, exertion, or activity.

Unintended cessation of activity. Or, to a runner….injury!

And so last night I sat there in floods of tears, not due to the pain, but because I was missing a run.

My calf pain has been on and off for a week or so, nothing too intense, once I got running the pain eased. But yesterday I woke up and walking was an issue. I iced and rested it at work all day knowing I had a nice threshold session planned for the evening, and quietly hoped for the best.

When I hobbled out of work I knew it was time to admit defeat.

I got home and cried. This seems ridiculous now, the following morning, but at the time it was the worst thing ever. Everything rushing through my mind; 6 weeks til Berlin marathon, my long run at the weekend, the hundreds of miles I’d put in over the last 10 weeks, my goals, my fitness, the fuelling I’d done that day…I mean, really, just over 1 missed training session.

I advise people all the time on social media when they’re injured. Rest, cross train, rest, ice, do what you can, etc etc. yet there I was and my whole world had fallen apart!

rest

With some calming words and a hug, I pulled myself together. I knew I had the option to cross train. Plans are flexible, right?! My control freak was still rocking back and forth in the corner.

On the advice of my coach, I dug out my swimming costume and headed for the pool.

My swimming history is sketchy. My parents attempted introducing me to the obligatory swimming lessons as a child but, much like the beginning of this story, I cried, a lot. They relented. We went home.

Pool of hard knocks … swimming with kids isn't all it's cracked up to be.

(not actually me)

 

I enjoyed splashing around in the fun pools and on holiday, and eventually learned a basic breaststroke. On a school trip to Wales we visited the local pool and I got singled out by the lifeguard for my lack of ability. I never had the badges on my costume and couldn’t join in the chats about having fetched a brick from the bottom of the pool in my pyjamas (a feat that, for some reason, so many seem to have accomplished). Despite all that I’ve always enjoyed the water and, throughout my twenties, have visited the local pool sporadically to hone my breaststroke, normally pausing after 15 or 20 lengths to catch my breath and watch the front crawlers with great amazement. The last time being maybe 8 or 9 months ago.

Anyway, I digress. I set myself up in the ‘medium’ speed lane (I like to think I’m pretty quick at this breaststroke malarkey) and set off. This seemed easier than normal. I was powering through the water with relative ease. 15 minutes later I’d done 20 lengths, and I definitely didn’t need to stop for breath. 30 minutes and I’d completed 40 lengths, 1km, my “normal” maximum, and I still hadn’t stopped. I was even keeping up with the front crawler in my lane. So I set my sights on completing a mile. Some basic maths (which is just as hard when swimming as it is when running) and I’d worked out I needed to complete 65 lengths in total. Only 25 to go, and I still hadn’t stopped, I even thought I might be speeding up.

In 45 minutes I completed 68 lengths of the pool, 1700m. I Googled it, this is no kind of record, but it was mine! And I didn’t stop once. In my own head I’d gone from zero to hero within the hour. My calf hadn’t been affected and my arms felt like I could lift a car!

When I got home and checked Twitter I read this fantastic blog post by Carys Matthews and it just felt like it was meant for me, what great timing, give it a read.

This story has a load of lessons. My calf isn’t much better today but I don’t feel half as helpless. My marathon training will suffer, but not as much as if I tried to run through the injury. And clearly my fitness has improved dramatically since the beginning of the year.

My plans will alter and my control freak will learn to control its tantrums.

CF

I’ll rest tonight and see what tomorrow brings. And if I can’t run, I’ll swim.

And it’s solidified my decision to get some swimming lessons after the marathon and learn to crawl, then enter a beginner tri in 2015.

In conclusion, I need to chill the heck out, get a grip and follow my own advice sometimes!

Unplanned rest isn’t a drama, it’s an opportunity.

LRG x

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