Month: November 2012


So my first week back to any semblance of running has been interesting, to say the least. As described in an earlier post, during one session I had to throw in a surprise sprint interval in order to catch the thief who I spotted disappearing down a path with all my gear – hat, gloves, phone, car keys, windbreaker … Two days ago I had a surprise strength session thrown in as I was obliged to climb over the doors of the public toilets having somehow locked myself in!! And no, there was no point in yelling for help. It was chucking it down outside, the wind was howling and nobody in their right mind was on the seafront – apart from me, of course 

So it was with a little trepidation that I set out this morning. What would be in store for me this time? Well, I am happy to report that this morning’s session was one of those magical ones when everything more or less went to plan. How often does that happen? Not very often in my book!

I knew the minute I started out that I was being treated to an early Christmas present of nearly-new running legs! After three months or so of pains, aches and niggles my reconstruction strategy appears to once again be working for me. Early days, but ever the optimist! It’s been a cautious week back and I’ve been very tentative but a 40-mile week will do just fine. It’s looking-after-No-1’s-knees time and I’m not going to jeopardize that too soon.

Today it was time to step up to the 10-mile mark. I was on the road by 7 a.m. and on the Downs by 7.30. Gorgeous. Not a cloud in sight and the lack of wind somewhat made up for the chilly temperatures. Over the Downs, across the race course and back along the seafront – perfect! Of course, there was walking involved but I will happily ignore all the rolled eyes and raised eyebrows from other runners and stick with my own plan. And I DID have a plan. Today I was working on an aspect of running that was completely new to me: CADENCE! See, now I’m showing my true ignorance, aren’t I? I love it! I love that I’ve discovered this new insanity called ultra and with it has come a whole new life of learning!

Cadence! From my triathlon days I know about cadence on the bike, but I have never thought about linking that word to running. Silly, really, but – and I’m hoping I’m making typical beginner errors here and not being totally and utterly stupid (??) – I always thought of running in terms of strides and pace/speed. I thought about ‘running faster’ but usually more in terms of lengthening stride. And if I’m going to be totally honest I might as well reveal just how much of an idiot I’ve been … lengthening stride really aggravates my knees quite a lot so in my head that meant I would just have to run slowly all the time – with short strides!! It never occurred to me that maybe if I just turned my legs over more quickly ……… D’OH!!

Thanks to Ian Corless’s fantastic Talk Ultra podcast – I had a fun session this morning noting, for the first time ever, what my natural cadence is and then trying to bring that up to a more acceptable 85+/minute. Fascinating! It didn’t take that long for me to relax into that slightly faster cadence and I already feel that this is going to help my running a lot. Yes, it was too easy to slip back into the cadence that I’ve been running/jogging/crawling at for the last two years, but once I consciously switched to watching my cadence again I found I could naturally hit a very steady 87/minute for several consecutive minutes without much effort. The aim will be to improve on this. It’s exciting finding something new to work on.

Thanks to another Talk Ultra programme I’m also going to start working on my running confidence. I realise I’ve talked myself into accepting that I’m the slowest runner on the planet but I need to fight for some more PBs on shorter distances. The programme was talking about beginner runners hitting PBs as ‘part of’ a longer race (e.g. hitting a half-marathon PB during a marathon race!). The reason? Because, like me, they have just one running pace and, like me (guilty!!), they don’t dare to run faster in the shorter races!!!

So … that’s the new plan! I’m going to try and dig up a little more faith in myself on shorter races, go out a little harder and see what happens (that is SUCH a scary thought)! And I’m going to work on … Cadence!


Donning my SIU hat – 10 weeks to Pilgrim

It is time to catch up, get a grip, suck it up and do whatever it takes. The Pilgrim Challenge is, in training terms, just around the corner. I think this might be an early mistake of mine for the new year. I’ll let you know. Meanwhile, I’ve just realised it is merely TEN WEEKS AWAY and I’m struggling to run 5km. This does not bode well but miracles can happen. Nah, scratch that. Miracles WILL happen. If I discovered ultra-running in 2012, well 2013 is going to be my year of ultra-exploration (within my own limits, of course).

Now, I haven’t been sitting on the couch ALL the time these last couple of months. Since the Paras 10 I’ve taken time out and I’m now attempting to crawl back to something resembling running. I’ve done loads of cross-training and strength work so my problem isn’t going to be fitness. My problem is just my bloomin’ knees – but that’s about to change. I have now donned my SUCK IT UP hat and we are MOVING!! Besides, I need to be running these days. Stress! What do you do when you’re stressed? Well, run, of course! And when you’re sad/confused/pissed off? Run! And when you get up in the morning and have a crick in your neck? Why that’s easy …… Run! I guess I’m not the right person to ask if there’s something wrong and you’re looking for a quick fix because running is sort of my cure-all for everything. These days I’m even hoping maybe it’ll turn me into a better parent LOL Three solid weeks of being told every single morning that you’re the worst mother in the world and that your child hates you is not good for the soul  At this stage, I’m almost starting to believe it, but at least I know how to escape from it – RUN!

No point rambling on with details. I did an easy 7 miles the other day. Started fine, Mr ITB came to visit quite quickly though and really pissed me off. That’s when I put on my SIU hat. Out again this morning – another 7. Enough with this rehab stuff. The strength is there, everything’s there and I think at this stage that many of my ITB woes are in my head!! I could be wrong, of course, but we’ll see. This morning I went back to old tactics – I did a run/walk. Right now I’m interested in time on feet and getting a wee bit of distance in on at least a regular basis. 7 miles will do for now and knee feels GOOD!! The walk/run strategy seems to work for me so I’m going to stick with it, increase the distance and gradually drop away the walking bits – rather than the other way around. Feels good to have a plan!

Meanwhile, had a great session with fellow runner Keith Jackson on Brighton’s Jacob’s Ladder – one of my favourite ‘alternative’ outdoor playgrounds  Ten times up and down the 153 steps makes for a great glute-firing workout. It can be death-defyingly boring on your own but doable all the same. The trick, of course, is to add an ‘element’ to every second ascent – so pace and strategy are varied. Yes, yes, I know, to the Killian Jornet’s of this world this wee set of steps is akin to climbing to the top of your kitchen stool, but for us mortals it’s quite a challenge and 3000 steps makes for a great leg blast. Of course, neither Keith nor I were expecting an impromptu sprint interval in the middle of our session. There’s nothing like surprise to add fire to your workout and when you spot a gentleman 153 steps below you disappearing into the middle distance WITH ALL YOUR GEAR, it’s time to step up the pace a smidge!!! *Note to self: Don’t leave backpack at the bottom of the steps* You might well say ‘serves you right’ – but those steps are hard enough without carrying extra. Besides, we were the only people there apart from this man who, I might add, passed us on the steps on his way down and even said Good Morning and made a comment about our efforts!!! What, you think it was too hard to put two and two together? You really believe he saw all our stuff and didn’t for a second think it might belong to the two people he’d just passed??
Well, anyway … takes all sorts, I guess, but jeez I took my life in my hands coming down those bloody steps. We’d spent the first couple of descents trying to push a lot of the wet leaves to the side, half the steps are broken, they were all wet (it was raining – is it ever not raining?), so the entire flight was pretty scary. Anyway, I flew (how could I not? I was in my Hokas!!!!! Attn. and then I sprinted and all I could think was ‘Shit! I don’t have a plan! Shit! I don’t have a plan!’ … I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do when I caught him – only that I was definitely going to catch him.

To cut a long story short, catch him I did, grabbed my jacket, my backpack (complete with phone, car keys etc. etc.), hurled a few non-too-complimentary words in his direction and went back to complete the workout! Couldn’t be arsed with any more involvement. Need to save my energy for another two flights …

Why is there always a drama when I’m out and about? I think I’m jinxed.

Did I mention that on this morning’s run I got locked in the public toilets? And since it was chucking it down outside do you think there was anyone within miles to come to my rescue? #hadtoclimbovertopofdoor

Of inspiration, motivation and Hokas

‘Run with your eyes closed.’ So says Kilian Jornet (article in Trail Running magazine – Oct/Nov 2012). Come on. Really? That made me truly laugh out loud. I mean, what planet is he living on? Well, certainly not mine. Jeez, doesn’t he realise that most of us have enough trouble running with our eyes open? Complete nutter!! He goes on to suggest one should try running for 5m blind. Erm … I’m hoping that’s not 5 miles! Oh – and let’s not forget that he’s talking about running downhill and, of course, one must remain ‘relaxed’. PAHAHAHA  It’s articles like that – and quotes like that – that confirm just how brilliant these elite runners are at what they do, not to mention completely crazy. Mostly, though, they’re just fantastically inspirational. I love reading about runners really ‘running’. It constantly reminds me that what I do barely stretches to be called running. And when I read how far the ‘real’ runners push themselves to achieve what they want to achieve, it definitely motivates me to try just a little bit harder – even if that means, in ‘my’ world, running to the next telegraph pole instead of collapsing at this one!

But enough about the elites. You don’t have to be an elite runner to impress me. I’m motivated every day reading facebook posts about people I know (or about friends of people I know) who are running HMs and marathons, 50k, 100k and 100-mile races every other weekend. Does it make me want to give up because I discovered this passion far too late in life and I’m so far behind? Like hell it does! I LOVE reading of their successes, their hiccups, their training … Their triumphs – YOUR triumphs – simply make me want to run another few kilometres tomorrow – and run them I will, be that 5k, 10k or a little more. I guess the world really is full of crazy people – and some are definitely a little (or a lot) crazier than others.

Today I managed my first 5k in a while. In my bid to hold back on the running and rebuild my knees, I’ve been avoiding anything to do with running. I’ve managed a few Run 60 secs/Walk 60 secs sessions to ‘test’ my grumbling joints. Not as niggle-free as I’d hope, but easy does it. This morning, though, in fine drizzle and my new Hokas I couldn’t resist. I decided to do a wee lap and just go with it and see what happened – and I flew!! I have to say they do just what they say on the box, these Hokas! Definitely my new ‘go-faster’ shoes (bearing in mind that most people walking backwards could overtake me – I’m that slow!!). I flew along (it’s all relative, all relative haha), chanting ‘Follow the Hoka One trail … Follow the Hoka One trail …’. I wish I was clever enough to play with photoshop and the image I have in my head of those Hokas on Dorothy’s feet … But seriously, for someone plagued, as I am, with unrelenting PF which has moved from just a ‘morning’ thing to all bloody day (!) … my new trainers are a godsend. Yes, I’m converted and will be looking to get my hands on some trail ones very soon *thinks  ‘Christmas is coming’!*

Otherwise, on the training front I’m really pleased that to the sweet sounds of Amy MacDonald I had the first run that I’ve actually enjoyed since the High Peaks 40. ‘Enjoying’ a run, for me, means that I suddenly realise I’ve been running for 10+ minutes without being aware of niggles in my knees. Yes, they started to bother me a little in the last couple of hundred metres and some might say I should’ve stopped immediately – but how the hell do you stop 200 metres from a finish line??? I still puzzle over that. I still can’t believe that man with the walking poles in front of me at the High Peaks 40 … climbed the gorge just ahead of me, reached the final checkpoint together and … with 3 km to go he pulled out. Of course, he must’ve been gutted and had all sorts of reasons – but I only have what I heard to go on. I’m sure there was plenty more, but the argument with his friends – who were urging him to get those 3km done to the finish – was that he was ‘too tired’. Yes, yes, I know – that’s probably harsh and I’ll go to hell for saying it but

Dear God, could you please grant me just one race where I can simply say close to the finish that I’m ‘too tired’ – without having to refer to ITB, PF, pulled muscles, cuts, bruises, throwing up blah blah blah blah? I’d be ever so grateful.’

Meanwhile, I shall just have to defer to my current favourite quote (not sure who said it):

I don’t stop when I’m tired. I stop when I’m done.

My new go-faster shoes 🙂  They do to feet what hot choccie does to the soul (especially when the boiler’s broken)!

Bench Blast and a Little Magic

Bench Blast:

Brighton Beach. I’ve just finished a session with a client further up the beach, but hey, since I’m here, why not do a mini-session to consolidate my glute-blasting session of the other day. I haven’t got a plan. My legs are still feeling the effects of Wednesday’s workouts combined with yesterday morning’s swim session followed by kickboxing (so much for taking a day off lol). I’m keeping to a gentle Walk 60 secs/Jog 60 secs with no intention of anything too strenuous. I refuse to be cajoled into ‘running’ before my knees are ready. But wait! Benches – there are plenty of benches. I’ll start from The Meeting Place Cafe and do some kind of resistance exercise on each one. Keep it up for half an hour or so and that’ll be plenty.

Change of plan … need a random number … ok, count to 10 then look up. The number of seagulls I spot will be my number. I count, I look up. Three it is, then. ‘Phew’, I’m thinking. I’ve decided I’m going to do some box jumps on each bench and now I know how many.

I round the corner, jog past The Meeting Place to the first bench. Whoa! Hold on a minute!! The Council have been busy. BUSY ADDING BENCHES TO THE BEACH! They’ve all got ‘messages’ on them … all the new ones, that is. The give me something to read at least … but hang on one bloody minute … HOW MANY???

Sixteen! NINE BRAND NEW BENCHES!  But, well, I made a plan and plans need to be followed. Sixteen benches it is, then x 3 box jumps on each. Sixteen on the way there … and sixteen on the way back. Yup. NINETY-SIX BOX JUMPS! Not bad for a day off, I guess.

But wait because the best is yet to come; a little piece of pure magic. I’m jogging back to my all-too-regular finishing point – Brighton’s Beach Hut Cafe . Grey sky, drizzle, windy, chilly … I can see that the cafe is closed – not much point opening on a day like this when you have no indoor area … but then … THEN … Oh Look!! In the middle of the terrace there is just one table set out, with one chair facing the sea, and on the table one steaming mug of tea … with the Beach Hut owner waving me towards it! How fantastic is that! I was so happy and I’m still grinning from ear to ear. Ah, the little things, the small gestures, the magical surprises that turn a grey day into something ever so special.

Do Vegans Dream of Electric Friends?

I say this because I could imagine they must struggle to ever be invited anywhere … I’m thinking ‘robot’ friends might be the only option HAHA That said, It’s been an incredible eye-opener, my vegan journey. And not just from a nutritional standpoint, but it’s given me a whole new perspective on society and how we think about food. Fascinating.

I completed my two-week vegan adventure on a massive physical and emotional high. It forced me to so radically think about my nutrition and my body loved me for it. I had more energy than I knew what to do with, which in turn had an enormous positive impact on my state of mind. Wonderful.

But while my mind and body were loving me, my friends weren’t. Tell somebody you’re a vegan and they look at you in shock, horror and total incredulity. Seriously. I never realised it was a sin, but apparently it’s pretty close to one. On one level I ‘get it’. Veganism and the real world just don’t mix. It’s fine if you’re at home and do all your own cooking and don’t have families to cater for, but in the real world it’s impossible. This was quite interesting in itself. I never realised just how reliant we are on dairy. You can get vegetarian meals everywhere nowadays – but try and find one without cheese and you’re stuffed (or not, fact!)! Even more interesting, there are products all over the place which are labelled ‘vegan’ but when you look at the ingredients they’re not vegan at all! Yet another lesson that one should always read the ingredients! I was reduced to hysteria (in a good way) on more than one occasion during my steep learning curve as I looked for what I thought might be reasonable ‘quick fixes’ for easy meals …. and discovered that so many foods that I thought (obviously without enough thought!!) would be vegan were nothing close: quorn (why did I think that might be an occasional safe substitute?), protein shakes, tinned vegetable or lentil soups, granola, nut breads … the list is endless because I’d go shopping thinking of the best of vegan nutrition but forget how difficult it was to find what’s good without the presence of dairy! Fascinating!

Most interesting of all, though, was people’s perception that veganism is unhealthy. It’s not unhealthy at all. Quite the opposite – but it’s not for the uncommitted, the unadventurous or the idle! That was the key problem. Veganism is hard work – and in a world that relies on fast food, fancy food and/or quick results it doesn’t fit in. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sitting on a high horse here saying those things are wrong, either. Give me a break – that’s what I eat, too (usually) – but veganism also requires a certain amount of targeted and intelligent focus which most would not be prepared to give. Not to mention that veganism is, frankly, hassle! As a society we eat far too much protein on a daily basis, but a ‘lazy’ or ‘faddy’ vegan will soon see the consequences of probably not getting much protein at all and I can understand that’s a massive problem for the majority of the population. Again, a healthy vegan needs to be on top of their nutrition and I have to admit I spent a lot of time researching exactly where I could get all the protein I needed and making sure I had constant balance in my diet. Combine that with the fact that a healthy diet has got to have variety and yes, veganism takes effort! A daily portion of falafels and lentils just isn’t good enough!

So there you have it. This is the end of any ‘record’ of my vegan travels. ‘Was it worth it and what was the point?’ you ask. Well, the initial ‘point’ was to renew my own interest in food by challenging myself to think about what I was putting into my body. I think I can definitely say that the journey certainly accomplished this and I’ve come away with new knowledge, new tastes and plenty of new meal ideas!

And was it worth it? Well, this week I went back to eating along with the rest of the family – the usual variety of healthy, balanced nutritious meals including meat, fish and dairy. I can’t be arsed to get up off the couch, I feel bloated and I’m grumpy. What can I say!! Lol

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