Tag: Talk Ultra

Inside my marathon head …

Welcome to the weird (and scary) world that is INSIDE MY HEAD!! If you want to know how to train for an ultra – or how to run a marathon – then may I direct you swiftly AWAY from this blog?? If, however, you’d like a list of ‘what not to do’, then … put the kettle on!!

So here we are again – Brighton Marathon time. I really REALLY want a PB. I want a particular number that will excuse from marathons guilt-free for the rest of my life! That’s not to say that I won’t run longer or shorter – but I just don’t particularly like this distance! So I want to see a ‘4’. If you’ve been following this blog you should know by now that when I say ‘4’ that’d be 4:59:59. That’ll do.

What have I done to train for that? Em … let’s see. Four weeks ago I ran the New Forest 50k. That’ll be my over-distancing, then lol My legs were great after that – or so I thought. I was ever so happy. A decent run and the only thing that got in the way was my headspace. And then? Can you believe that suddenly, five days AFTER the race and for no apparent reason at all, my IT-band started screaming at me, with my Plantar Fasciitis quickly joining in? So … training was quickly changed from ‘just keep the miles going, no need to taper’ to ‘Sweet F.A.’


It was hard to get psyched up for a run with a niggling injury so I put in place a Plan B. Plan DNF should perhaps have been an option but I just haven’t been able to bring myself to accept those letters yet, so Plan B was going to have to do. As I voiced said plan to my best buddy, I could hear Talk Ultra’s Mark Laithwaite’s voice in my ear … Episode 22  the Talk Training section. I could almost see him banging his head on his desk in disbelief. He’s laughing away, telling stories of people who’ve set their half-marathon and 10k PBs in a marathon! ‘Well, how does that work?’ he remarks (somewhat indignantly). I must add that although I’m jumping up and down on the couch yelling ‘Oh yeah, Mark, look over here, I’ve done that, too’ … it’s fascinating to then listen to his explanation of, indeed, ‘how it works’. I say ‘fascinating’, because it is. Encouraging, it’s not. But hey ho, I’m one of those people currently ‘stuck’ in the battle of contact v. cadence v. core v. coordination and if YOU are relatively new to running, then you need to listen to Episodes 21 and 22 of the above-mentioned Talk Ultra podcast! So it was with muted apologies to Mark, that I actually ‘planned’ to run a reasonably decent (for me) half-marathon and then reassess. If at that point I could feel that persevering further was only going to lead to unnecessary injury, then I would consider accepting the dreaded DNF – but at least with a half-marathon PB!! *cue Mark Laithwaite* ‘If you race shorter, you can run faster and harder.’ Well, in a way, I was racing shorter, wasn’t I? Hmmm. Besides, I’ve never actually run a half-marathon as a race in its own right, so there! Lol

So … now you know exactly what NOT to do – EVER – let’s just skip to the start line! Was I ready? No. Was my knee hurting? Yes. Was I going to pull out? No. My wonderful physio Jamie Webb constantly reminds me that if I tell myself something’s going to hurt, it will! So I start the race quashing any ITB complaints, mentally sticking my fingers in my ears and shouting LA-LA-LA-LA-LA at the first sign of any moaning from that region of my leg. It kind of works. I say ‘kind of’. Around Mile 7 or 8 there’s quite a decent downhill and whereas I’d been hoping to pick up a few seconds with the help of the slope, that was probably the most painful section of the course. I was forced to stop and stretch. It didn’t bode well so early on but I picked up, stuck with my plan and ran for the halfway mark and a PB it was. Yeah, yeah, it doesn’t really count, I know – but it’s good for the soul. 🙂

It wasn’t fast by any standards. I don’t do fast (yet!!) #everhopeful But if I’d been able to sustain that pace (roughly 10.30/mile) for the rest of the race I’d have been ecstatic. Unfortunately, an unforeseen toilet break brought me to a standstill for almost ten minutes!! I’ve never had to stop before but just didn’t have an option (at least when you’re trail running there are TREES and no queues!!!!). I took advantage and stretched and this was probably helpful but my pace – mentally and physically – took a massive dive after this. Note to self: This is something I’ve REALLY got to work on – this pace drop mid race – no matter what the distance! Hmmmm! The death-defyingly dull and ugly course that is Brighton marathon didn’t help, either. However, I had a man in a red tee-shirt with HEAVY LOAD written on the back – a wee bit in front of me. I spent the time making sure he didn’t get away from me. Once I came out of the power station and onto the home stretch I did a better job of sucking it up and getting the job done. In fact, I was really pleased with my own personal performance over the final 4-5 miles. Too little too late, perhaps, but I finished feeling good about those final miles. I set off on my little ‘seek and destroy’ mission and reeled in the ‘Heavy Load’ man – followed by another targeted ‘pair’. I passed a LOT of people on those four miles and, even better, I stayed in front of them!! My final target for the race was a pair of yellow tee-shirts who I’d chased for MILES!! (I’d picked them up at mile 15!) I caught them in the final 800 metres – my day was made!

Even the sun came out – HEAVEN!!

I’m happy. I didn’t see my ‘4’. Dammit! Got to do another one now  I did, however, still see a PB. 5:11 over last year’s 5:17.

Next time.

Next time I’ll see a ‘4’.


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 – http://iancorless.org/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!


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