Marathon Training: Then and Now

In a week’s time hopefully I’ll be feeling human again, and will be able to walk down the stairs without grimacing. Or maybe that’s wishful thinking!

 

Now that my training is over, all I can do is wait…. and obsess! With every twinge in my foot I’m plunged into a world where plantar faciitis strikes me down like the plague and I’m hobbling along the route for 24.2 miles. So that’s fun.

tapering

 

This training period has been 100% different to my last marathon. Last time I was training as an individual for her first marathon and was at the height of my fitness. Now I’m climbing back after having a bubba, who is my perpetual sidekick.  So now, as I’m waiting impatiently for another starting line, here is a comparison on how it’s all gone (and please be aware… there is a blister pic there):

 

The hardest bit

Training for Edinburgh: pushing through those crazy training sessions. I can’t believe how many hill sessions and fast mile intervals I was doing.

Training for London: trying to fit in training while looking after Baby B. And shutting down the voice in my head that either told me I should be doing more, or that I should be doing less and just spending time with the baby.

IMG_6531

The best bit

Edinburgh: doing long runs with nobody but Beyonce in my ears. It was the first time I realised I could actually manage a marathon.

London: going to the gym and working on my running, core, and overall fitness. That’s where I started to feel like I was getting fitter.

 

Training in….

Durham: loads of hills to help overall fitness, and very pretty running routes. Plus the satisfaction of running from one town to the next – it does wonders for your ego!

Nottingham: very flat, which is great for the buggy. Running around the river and canal was nice, but kind of repetitive, and there’s no lovely cathedral to look at.

Aw man, remember this?

Aw man, remember this?

 

Biggest challenge

Edinburgh: continuing my training once those awful blisters set in

London: trying to fit in my long runs. I haven’t done as many as I would have liked, in fact I’ve only managed three runs over 13.1 miles.

Sorry guys. Thank god these bad boys haven't returned. Again... sorry.

Sorry guys. Thank god these bad boys haven’t returned. Again… sorry.

Keeping to the schedule….

Edinburgh: it was relatively simple. Do what it tells you when it tells you and don’t back out unless you’re feeling too tired. It was nice to follow a plan and take the thinking out of it. A lot of mental effort was needed during those training sessions, but following the schedule was fine.

London: went out the window. I used a plan for a rough idea of what I should be aiming for, but I had to work out in my mind when I was going to fit it all in and how I was going to up the mileage. This one took more mental effort in between training sessions (to try and stop panicking!), but was easier during the training itself.

 

Proudest moment during training

Edinburgh: realising I could run 20 miles in 3 hours and not need to spend the rest of the day in bed

London: running 12 miles with Baby B in the buggy. And also doing my final 20 mile run, which is when I realised that completing this marathon is a distinct possibility!

 

 

Coming back after having the baby has been strange. Running felt like an old friend who you’ve not seen for a while, and who has changed but you can’t put your finger on how exactly. My technique was still there but my speed wasn’t. The motivation was there but my energy wasn’t. Basically I had to take it easy, and I found that my fitness returned pretty quickly as long as I was patient and didn’t push myself too hard.

photo 1-32

Now I’m at a place where I can run comfortably and reasonably quickly, but trying to get back to where I was before is just too hard! I don’t have enough time, and I don’t really want to either. Which is a very new feeling for me cos I’m usually so stupidly competitive with myself.

 

 

Overall I’m very grateful to have had this goal to work for. It’s been fun, tough, boring, exhilarating, guilt-inducing, cathartic and endorphined. Sure, that’s not a word, but it should be.

 

So now we wait for Sunday. In my other pair of trainers to support my high arches. In case plantar fasciitis comes a-knocking.

 

Ellie B

Last Race of the Year and SA-Yes!

Saturday is my last race of the year! Unless I sign up for more.  First of all, I can’t believe it’s November 12 already. Second of all, this has made me all nostalgic for the year just gone. Let’s all ignore the fact that it’s still technically ‘only’ November: there are Christmas decorations in the shops, so it’s definitely not too early for a yearly-round up.

 

So today, ladies and gents, I will look back at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of running in 2014!

 

The Good:

  • I started the year with my favourite race of the year: the Stubbington 10k, with two of my oldest friends. Sunny race by the Solent, followed by a pub lunch. Running at its best.

photo-76

  • THE MARATHON! My first and absolutely not my last, even though I still hear that voice at mile 18 saying Please don’t ever make me do this again. Please. This was a definite life achievement, and I’m still stoked with the time of 3:43.
  • Running in Stockholm was an unexpected delight, and gave me some of the prettiest running memories

photo (30)

 

The Bad:

  • 20 miles in the pouring rain. They were the longest three hours ever. Longer than being stuck on a plane for 24 hours, longer than waiting for my meal to arrive after I’ve ordered (I’m a very impatient restaurant diner), and longer than Christmas Eve. Thank god for Beyonce telling me who runs the world (GIRLS!), and for Hamish & Andy keeping me company  on the way around, or I might have cried.
Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 14.22.32

This is Beyonce’s outfit of choice when she’s running. Away from Cops. Don’t worry – this is for a music video only. Source

  • Not being able to do either a half marathon or an obstacle course this year :( The half is my favourite distance, and I like to do the obstacle courses so I can show off how hard I am. That is, until someone mentions snakes, and then I turn into a trembling wreck. So take note: obstacle courses with mud, walls and electric shocks are ok, conversations about snakes are definitely not ok. 

 

The Ugly:

  • There’s only one proper contender here: my marathon-blisters. These bad boys developed about half way through my training, and got bigger and bigger til the week before the race I was running an average of 1:30min slower than I wanted. Luckily on the day, I pulled it out of the bag, but these war wounds hung around for about 8 weeks afterwards. I felt bad for everyone who attended my pole classes at this time, and had to see them.
photo 1-1

I’m sorry, everyone. But if I had to look at them, I think you should too. At least I’ve made the photo smaller for you all.

  • The end of the marathon: my face was covered in a grit-like substance, which I soon realised was dried sweat mingling with my foundation. I looked like something from the Zombie apocalypse. Smarter people would choose to run without make up on, I guess….

 

This year I’ve covered loads of different distances and events. If I’m honest, I’m not in the shape that I wanted to be for the end of the year thanks to a really busy August-November. However, looking back on all this reminds me that for me, running is 50% fitness and 50% because I love it: the places I get to see, the experiences, and the memories I now have. So there you go. A bit of personal growth thrown in here today too.

Saturday’s race is a 10 mile road race from Brampton to Carlisle. In keeping with my new approach to charity running, I chose to support a charity which works to protect children who are vulnerable to being trafficked at my last race. For this race, I wanted to choose a charity that supports young adults. SA-Yes works with young adults in South Africa who have been in children’s homes, providing them with a support network once they leave the social system and have to look after themselves at the age of 18.

 

I was an emotional ball of mess at 18: I was both terrified of the world and scornful of it, and I was really naive too. I relied on certain mentor-figures who helped me work out my values and priorities. So now I would like to support young adults who need the same guidance, but who are in much more vulnerable situations. I needed help on what to study at university, but these teenagers need stability, and help to finish school, and in finding housing and jobs so they don’t end up in trouble.

 

Anyway, that’s my chosen charity for this event, and I have made a donation. If you are interested, you can also make a donation here.

 

I hope you’re all having a wonderful Wednesday!

 

Ellie B

 

 

 

What do you do after a marathon? See EVERYONE

After a mad rush at work, a Friday evening flight, and hours of public transport in between, what’s the best way to calm yourself?

P1110255

That’ll do it.

 

Since finishing the marathon, I’ve had loads of time on my hands and can actually catch up with people without worrying about trying to fit a 12 mile run in as well! It feels like I’m on holiday.

 

Last weekend I went to the South Coast to visit some pals who I have known for TWENTY YEARS. The days were filled with beaches, babies and BBQs.  And then the weekend ended with a crisp white wine with another friend – not too shabby at all!

P1110423

 

 

I also met up with my 21 year old cousin from Adelaide who was in London for a few days. Shout out to the bouncer who let us jump right to the front of the queue to the bar  – my cousin now thinks I’m the Sarah Jessica Parker of London! 😉

photo 4

Good view for out of towners, don’t you think?

 

The next run on my agenda is a 5.6k dash around Battersea Park as part of the global JP Morgan challenge. Last year my time was 26:30 (I think) and I’m desperate to beat it. Yesterday I did 5.5k in 26:10, so the next few weeks will be full of fast sprint work I think…..

 

However. Yesterday morning I woke up with the worst cramp in my left calf muscle – SB woke up to me screaming like a baby. Since then it’s been really tight, so perhaps a 5.5k run wasn’t the best idea?! I was in London for work for three days this week, and I think my left calf is protesting at all that time in high heels. Sure, I can knock 26.2 miles over without any issues, but give me three days in high heels and I’m a broken lady.

 

Finally – my feet are healing!! Hurrah! Soon I will no longer scare my poor pole dancing students, I will be able to wear pretty sandals again, and I’ll be able to run without pain! It has come to my attention that writing about my blisters sounds like I’m the biggest wuss. So I’m sorry to have to do this, but I have put a picture of my feet so you can see what I’m dealing with. I’ve not had normal, pink skin on my feet for two months now!

photo 1-1

Sorry (not sorry)!

And with that gorgeous view burned into your brain, I’ll leave you to enjoy your Friday! 😉

 

Ellie B

Eleven Days to Go

And here we are – the final stretch. People are asking me in hushed tones ‘when is it? What’s the date? Do you have a plan?’ They look at me with bewildered respect and unashamed sympathy. They know this journey is almost at an end, and that your body is about to take a beating.  It’s not unlike how you would treat someone who’s heavily pregnant, but instead of a child, I will ‘produce’ 26.2 miles of Edinburgh tarmac.

 

And that’s where all similarities end (let’s be honest, it wasn’t the strongest metaphor in the history of the world).

 

Saturday’s run was much tougher than the week before. I set out to do 20 miles, knowing that it wouldn’t be a breeze. It was raining hard, and almost immediately my blisters returned. During the run I felt like a champion battling the elements – only Rocky Balboa could possibly have beaten me – but afterwards, I was walking like my left foot was falling off.

Grey  and rainy Durham

Grey and rainy Durham

 

There was plenty of time to consider this during the 20 miles: I think it all comes down to my tread. I land 100% on the balls of my feet, which worked swimmingly until…. well, now. I can feel just how much my foot shifts in the shoe, and how much I rely on my poor big and little toes to keep everything balanced. And they are paying the price! By the end I was heel striking to keep my toes from feeling the pressure.

 

Anyway, I did 20 miles in 3:08 – three minutes slower than I did 21 miles last week. So it wasn’t my best effort. And if I did that on the day, honestly, I wouldn’t be happy. But it was helpful to know what it feels like to run slow, knowing that you can’t actually run faster. Good for the psychology of it all.

This will be my strategy for the day!!

This will be my strategy for the day!!

 

And all that has led me to this: The Protection of the Left Foot Until Race Day. Or the Week of Epsom Salts. Otherwise known as early taper. I’m only planning a 14 mile run on Saturday, and then two short ones next week. Either I’m being over-dramatic about the whole situation, or my plan will work and I’ll be set for next Sunday. We’ll see which it is!

 

In other news, my Dad is visiting with his wife from Sydney, and came to my running group on Monday. Here we all are after a good 5.3k effort from everyone:

 

photo (58)

 

Happy Wednesday running everyone! I hope that wherever you are, you have sunshine.

 

Ellie B

 

 

*I like to think that nothing gross happened to the bottle while it was on its own in the hiding place. No animals marked their territory, no toddlers put it in their mouths and down again. In fact, I’m pretty sure the whole area was freakily sterile.

 

 

 

Things You Learn on a 21 Mile Run

On Saturday I ran 21 miles. It’s the furthest I’ve ran so far, and I really wanted to break the ‘final 6 miles’ - loads of people have told me how tough that final 6 are, so now at least I know how one of them feels.

 

After the 18 miles, I was prepared for a challenge, but I wasn’t looking forward to it. On Friday I chatted with Gilly, who said that it will be hard, but that it will also prove that I could do it. I treated myself to a sleep in on Saturday because – thanks to jet lag – it felt like I had woken up at 3am every morning last week. And by 11am I was off.

 

Aw gorgeous bluebells on the run before I was by the road

Aw gorgeous bluebells on the run before I was by the road

In Aussie, 11am would be a ridiculous time to start a 21 mile run. Perhaps even in London. God bless the North East with it’s lack-lustre temperatures, making for flexible running.

 

Mentally I broke the run down into 5 mile chunks, as that’s when I had an isotonic gel. And it helped. I could run at a pace of 8:45-9min miles without feeling like I was pushing myself too much. In fact, when I was at mile 12 I started running 7:30-8min miles and had to make an effort to slow down for the last bit. So…. at around mile 15 I was feeling a lot more confident about this whole thing.

 

I finished in 3:05. That’s a long time running, and you don’t go through something like that without learning a thing or two:

  • Cola isotonic and caffeine gels aren’t a good choice. They taste like vodka and coke. No one wants to be reminded of those one-too-many-vodka-and-coke-student-nights when they are in mile 15 of a marathon.
  • Chafing!! I knew about chafing already thanks to my sports bra. But my bellybutton bar against my belly button? My arm against…. what? The shirt that I wear all the time???? Vaseline will be my new best friend for the next three weeks.
Olly Murs chafing

Even the biggest pop stars aren’t immune to chafing. Poor Olly Murs.

  • A running belt would be nice. Usually I stuff my gels down my sports bra (which might explain the point above), but it gets a bit ridiculous when you have 4 smashed in there, all vying for space. Plus, others might think I am a mutant am…. unusual.
  • My left foot is destroyed at the end. By the time I finished, I had two angry blood blisters (my little toe looked like one giant bruise), and a ginormous normal blister covering my big toe. After a night of dreaming they would burst in the bed and I’d wake up to a scene from a horror movie (or something a little less dramatic), I burst them this morning. It’s glamorous stuff, this marathon training!
  • I need a super play list to take me to the finish line. For the first 1:45 I had Beyonce for company, and then Mumford and Sons. But all my awesome running tunes were required for the last bit. So I’ll create a special playlist for the final hour on the day to kick my butt to the end.

 

The last 5 miles were tough. The blisters affected my tread, and I think I was getting pretty dehydrated (who goes out on a long run without liquids? Idiots, that’s who). But at the end, could I imagine going for another 45 mins? Yes. The Edinburgh route will also be much flatter than D-Town, so that will (hopefully) work in my favour.

 

Ellie B