I ran 100km on Saturday.
Oh my, it was TOUGH. I’ve run ultras before, but never quite this far, and those extra few miles really made the difference. Obviously I wasn’t fully prepared (is anyone ever?) but, looking back, I think I’d done a lot of good. I didn’t have a lot of miles in my training, but I’d hammered the Pilates and kettlebell sessions; I’d really researched and experimented with my hydration and nutrition and all was good there, and my kit was well-worn and well-loved. But I guess I just found my limit – after about 54 miles I was mentally so over it. Thank goodness there wasn’t far to go at that point (comparatively) and I was still in fairly good shape – at that point I was oblivious to the blood blisters forming on my toes – so I pushed through to the end and even managed to smile, coming over the finish.
It’s a first for me – I have hurt, cried and felt so, so negative during a race before, but this was somehow different. This went on too long. So I found my boundary. It’s quite an impressive boundary and I am very proud of it, but I feel a bit odd – I’m not indestructible, I do have a limit, and that’s new for me. I don’t think I’m sad about it, I just feel different now. I just know more about myself now.
Here are some pictures of me ignoring the pain.
I’ve been cultivating this new attitude: stop pressuring myself. When we enter events, we instantly start to feel the pressure – it’s official, you’re going to run or cycle or climb or whatever, on this date, for this distance and you’re going to be measured officially in some way too. And that’s all good in terms of rising to the challenge and improving your sport, but what about the pressure from peers and fellow contestants? And from yourself? Some people thrive on this, and I think I did once, too, but these days I’ve realised I need to re-shape my priorities and stop thinking about stats and stuff.
I’m training for the Race to the Stones ultra marathon at the moment and, rather than beating my best time, I’m just aiming to get there. To start. To enjoy it. Whatever happens after the gun… happens. I’ve done what I can to make my body strong and ready and that’s all I can do. I can’t control conditions, trips and falls, sniffles, hay fever, a bad night’s sleep, so why worry? All sounds very zen, right? It’s pretty hard but I am trying. Enjoying the ride is what I want to do, I don’t want to find myself dwelling what might go wrong. (Obviously, I am dwelling on what might go wrong, but I am trying not to and that’s a good first step.)
I’ll let you know how I get on. But then again, I might not. No pressure, right?
End of the road… Lyme Regis harbour
We’ve been to the coast for a long weekend. Escaping our fast-paced city lives for a few days, we were looking forward to lie-ins and copious amounts of wine and seafood. But of course we also took our running gear ’cause, you know, we’re us.
And Day One presented a bit of a problem – the idyllic Lyme Regis beach run had to be nixed because Lyme Regis beach is a pebble beach. Yeah, should’ve checked that. So we headed towards town and found the Cobb wall and harbour on our way. This is a lovely sweeping arc of a pedestrianised walkway right out to the tip of the harbour – perfect for short sprints and a bit of tag-team speedwork. Lots of fun, even if it wasn’t the run we had planned. It got me thinking about having to ‘pivot’ when something gets in the way of your route (closed roads, floods, fallen trees…. pebbles instead of sand). It’s always worth keeping some ideas in your repertoire to adapt as you go, here are some that only need a small area:
- Run 100 steps fast in one direction. Run 100 steps slowly back to where you started. Repeat 5 times.
- Choose 6-8 evenly spaced points along the route you have. Sprint past two, walk back one; sprint past two more, walk back one etc. (This is a classic hill exercise so all the better if you have an incline.)
- For two people: start at opposite ends, sprint towards each other. As you pass each other, go down to a slower, recovery run. When you get to the other end, turn and come back – when you pass each other, go back up to sprint. Keep going, switch from sprint to recovery every time you pass each other. Do high fives if you must.
- Add in some bodyweight exercises by creating a course (there-and-back, around the perimeter of carpark, whatever) for running; one person runs while the other performs squats. Switch. Do this with lunges, press-ups etc etc.
Woohoo! The sun is out! I think this might be for real this time, too. Now is a great time to be outside running/cycling/burpee-ing; whatever floats your boat. I always say that of course, even when it’s snowing (here’s me running last week – was it only last week? – taken by my awesome other half who came along for the run/skate), but I think the combination of bright sunshine and cool temperatures could just be the perfect balance for a positive workout with all the joys of the great outdoors and none of the woes of overheating or freezing your toes off. Plus it’s great for taking selfies.
I’ve had my running gait analysed this week. It’s not something I’ve ever really subscribed to as I think your body moves in the way it sees fit and, unless you’re in pain or injured regularly, you should leave well alone. But I went along to the Saucony Stride Lab anyway as it sounded very high tech and not like the shop-floor treadmill analysis I have had before.
The whole approach was a lot more holistic than I’ve previously seen; the first 20 minutes I just sat in a chair and chatted to the analyst about my running experience, what I’m doing now, what I plan to do and any set-backs I’ve had. So before I even got on to the treadmill he knew what sort of runner I was. The filming set-up was three cameras to look at my side, back and feet, so he could get a good overall look at how my whole body works when I run (which was another plus – the body is a kinetic chain and you need to focus on the whole to find out where your movements stem from).
Looking at my gait in slow motion and pause, we found that I pretty much run in a well-balanced way, but have a slight pronation that might cause problems in longer runs (and it does – ITB is an initialism I am way too familiar with in the lead-up to a marathon). It also seems I stride out slightly too far, so could be a little more efficient energy-wise there. What I really liked about it though, was that I wasn’t told “wear supportive shoes” or “you’re a neutral/pronator/over-pronator”. There were no labels, we just looked at what I do and how I might deal with set-backs and preventing problems. I came away feeling quite empowered and like I understand my running just that little bit more. It’s changed my mind completely about gait analysis – if you’re a runner, go and get it done!
Find out more here.
I’ve just crawled out of bed after days of flu and feel like I really need to go for a run. But then I made the bed and that wiped me out, so I guess a run is out. If you’re seeing results from your training and have something to aim for, it can be hard to take a step back when you feel a bit under the weather, but it’s important not to overdo it and end up bed ridden. If you’re not sure whether to train, one way to figure it out is to use the ‘neck check’. This basically means that if your symptoms are above the neck (head aches, runny nose, sore throat) you’re good to go – you’ll be able to exercise moderately and still be ok. If it’s below the neck (chesty cough, aches and pains in your body) then it’s a no.
And when you’re better, take it easy – a fantastic option for those recovering from illness is Pilates. Your heart rate stays steady, your body is challenged, but you can push yourself less if necessary, and you’re staying in one spot, so won’t find yourself out in the park or pool, wishing you were at home in bed. I can’t recommend Harri Angell’s Pilates for Runners enough – it has beginner, intermediate and advanced exercises and you can get back on track with as little as 15 minutes a day, at home on the living room rug – what’s not to like?
Super-excited this week as I am featured in House Beautiful magazine advising readers on keeping fit through the colder months. Everyone should read this, it is sage advice from a great expert.