Saturday 5 December 2015

La Rochelle Marathon

I arrived in La Rochelle on Thursday morning so a couple of days to relax before the big race on Sunday.  Weather was quite mild and hardly any wind but a quick look at the forecast and it looked like the wind would be picking up on Saturday and Sunday.  Not what I want at all.  Rain or even snow I can cope with but strong winds and the prospects of running a fast time are not likely.

Race day morning comes around quickly and I awake early and its still dark out!  I head out for a very slow warm up jog at 8am and it is quite windy!  I meet up with my coach before the race and along with Dan he gives me some reassurance that I'm in good shape and to run a tactical race due to the weather.

I'm quite nervous (although apparently I seemed relaxed)!  The main reason I'm nervous is that my achilles is still not 100% right.  It flared up about 5 weeks ago but luckily settled quickly although I'm always aware of it niggling at me.  More than anything I don't want to be dropping out of this race with an injury.  

The race starts and I haven't started right on the line.  There are several girls ahead of me but I use this to my advantage.  2 Ethiopian girls go off and then I gradually overtake the other girls in the first kilometre.  I think I'm in 3rd place but not 100% sure.  At 3.3k we join up with the men from the other start line.  I luckily find myself in quite a big group which is just what I was hoping for.  I'm feeling good and at the moment time checking every kilometre just to make sure and all is good!  We get to 10k slightly ahead of my target (but only but about 10s) and I'm still with the group.  I see Dan here who shouts out that I am in 3rd.  I can't quite believe it because if I can hold this position this will be my best ever finish here - there's along way to go though so mustn't get ahead of myself.

I get to half way with the same group of men but we've slightly lost some time.  Now I'm slightly over my target time by about 20s.  This is fine though.  I think the wind was probably taking its toll on the guys leading the group.  By the time we got to 30k the wind had picked up quite a lot and then we had a short downfall of torrential rain - luckily not for long though.  By now the group had started to disintegrate.  I was running with a couple of guys but had no group to hide behind now.  

I got to around 34k when a spectator shouted out that I was catching up to 2nd place!  This came as a big surprise to me!  At this point I then had a young lad running with me (I think he was probably running the 2nd leg of the duo) and he saw her and pointed and got me to run behind him and lead me to catch her up.  I caught her at 35k and was on such a high.  I took my final gel at 36k and then picked the pace up.  I dropped my helper (which was disappointing) and just spent the last 6k running with a big smile on my face.  

It was such a good feeling turning that final bend into the straight being in 2nd place.  I'm so happy with where I finished and it was beyond my dreams to finish in 2nd here.  I am disappointed with my time as it was 50s slower than my pb when I was hoping to knock several minutes off my pb.  Finishing 2nd was a good consolation though.  

I spent the next day thinking over about how I might have run it better but I honestly can't think of how I could have.  Apparently, the group I was with was the best place to be as further ahead there were just 1s and 2s of people.  Tactically I ran it right and there is nothing more I could have done so I'm happy with that!

Friday 23 October 2015

Recent Races

A few weeks ago I had the Cardiff Half Marathon which was also the British Champs.  After running really well at the Lake Vyrnwy Half after several weeks of hard training and feeling like there was a fair bit more to give, I was looking forward to this one and had high hopes of a good pb.  

A week before I was out running and my right glute and hamstring started to tighten up.  I managed to get an appointment on Monday morning (after it was still very tight on Monday mornings run) with my sports masseur.  I opted to miss my second run to try and let it settle.  I did a longish run on Tuesday morning and it was fine until the last 20 minutes when it really tightened up again, so back to my masseur and a physio appointment on Wednesday.  I then gave Thursday's track session a miss.  By the time the race came around it had settled but it was on my mind.  

I started off at a good pace and decided I wouldn't keep time checking and felt like I was holding the pace.  I mostly ran with another girl and apart from a bit of a bad patch mostly down to a loss of concentration I then picked off a few girls in the last couple of kilometres.  I crossed the line in 13th (10th Brit) but really disappointed with my time.  It was 1 min 30 slower than at Lake Vyrnwy.  I probably had my tight hamstring in my mind as although I wanted to do well it wasn't at the cost of ending up injured and risking my marathon which is my main aim next month.  I also think that perhaps I took it for granted I would get a pb after my last half!  

I had decided on one more race before I do my marathon now.  A nice local 10k race which Dan was timing anyway.  My hamstring had still been causing me problems in the lead up but nowhere near as bad as it had been.  I ran really within myself and finished 1st.  What was really pleasing was that a few athletes I've been coaching did really well too.  Liz finished 2nd and Carol who I'm just about to start coaching finished 3rd with Rob finishing just behind them in a solid run.  I also got a lovely bouquet of flowers from Paul Burrell (yes - the former butler to Lady Di) as he has a local flower shop!!

A few weeks of hard training now before I start easing back for my marathon!

Monday 28 September 2015

Triathletes - Why You Need an End of Season Break

So the triathlon season is at an end now for most people racing in the UK.  You've trained hard all year and then raced hard too.  If you've had a good season you are probably on a high and still keen to keep going.  If on the other hand it hasn't gone so well you are probably analysing what you could do better and also keen to keep going.

This will be the worst thing you can do!  Either way, you both physically and mentally need a break.  It doesn't have to be long, just enough to re-charge the batteries. 

5 reasons why it is important that you do take some time out at the end of your season:
  • Will help prevent getting injured at a later date;
  • Will help prevent illnesses and fatigue;
  • Your body needs to adapt to the hard work and it does this when you recover/rest;
  • Make time for your family and friends who you may have neglected over the summer;
  • Starting afresh will give you a renewed energy when you start back.

I would advise taking at least 1 week off training completely but preferably 2.  Then spend 2-3 weeks of doing short light swims, bikes and runs which very gradually build over these coming weeks.  You will then be ready at the end of this to start your base conditioning winter work.

Happy resting!

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Cardiff 10k and Lake Vyrnwy Half

A week ago I ran in the Cardiff 10k where I was representing the North of England in an Inter Countries race.  After a busy few days including travelling to and from Anglesey helping Dan out with setting up the tracking for the Ring O' Fire endurance race, my cat needing an overnight stop at the vets to remove what turned out to be a tick, plus probably my hardest training week since I've returned from injury, I arrived in Cardiff not quite as fresh as I would usually like to be for a race!  

For once I adopted a relaxed attitude of what will be will be!  For anyone that know's me well you will know how unusual that is for me as I'm normally full of nerves and putting pressure on myself.  I started near to the front along with the other girls to get a good start.  I didn't let myself start too fast though and didn't get carried away with some of the girls who probably went off a bit too quick.  About 2km in I went past a couple of girls who had gone off way too fast.  I then settled in and actually felt good.  From 5km onwards I picked up the pace and managed to pass about 5 or 6 girls.  I was really pleased to finish in what turned out to be my second fastest 10k ever!  I'm so happy that my fitness has returned and I'm up to speed quicker than I thought.

Monday morning I felt tired but managed a slow morning plod and what felt like an even slower evening plod!  By Tuesday's long run I actually felt quite good.  Thursday was a hard 5k paced track session where I just about made my target times but it was very hard going.  So not an easy training week then into Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon on the Sunday.

I went to this race really wanting more than anything to win but not sure how I was going to feel after yet another hard week of training.  Before the race someone asked what time I was hoping for and I replied that I'd like to get close to my pb (77.03).  I wasn't really sure that was possible.  I wasn't too fussed about my time as I'd rather win today with a slow time than not win but get a pb.  Of course, both would be nice but I'm not greedy!

The race started and I went off fairly steady and controlled.  My thinking was that if there were any fast girls they would think it was slow and go past me then I would be able to track them!  As it was no one went past me so I picked it up to the pace I felt good with.  

This is the second time I've done this race (was 2nd last year) and I do love this course.  Its slightly uphill for the first mile, you get to the dam and turn left and there are lots of spectators there (I think they put on a bus for them).  You then run around the lake although you don't get many views as there are lots of trees!  Its fairly quiet but every so often there are some spectators cheering you on which is great.  I ran with a man for about 5k but time checked and although I felt really comfortable the pace was just slightly quicker than I was happy with so I had to let him go.  From this point I pretty much ran on my own, occasionally picking off another runner.  

2 men went past me in the last 5/6k and if it had been another girl I could definitely have found something but I was starting to get tightness in my lower back and into my glutes.  I didn't feel at the time it was worth the effort and potential damage to muscle to stay with them.  A full loop of the lake done and back to the dam and the cheering was amazing. I felt great being in 1st place with 1 mile to go which was mostly down hill.  

I didn't look at my watch at this point but in hind site I wish I had as I might have found a bit extra to get a possible pb.  As it was I finished in 1st which was my aim and in a time that was just 9s outside of my pb!  I was so happy.  Another good race after hard training.  

Saturday 29 August 2015


I'm writing this post to share my experience and maybe it will help someone.

For the last 12-15 years I have suffered with stomach/bowel problems that mainly manifest when running.  It has also caused problems when I have been swimming too.  

The problems I have had are quite common to many runners I have spoken to over the years and that is the need to go to the toilet whilst out running (and I'm not just talking about needing a quick wee because you drank too much water before)!  Most of the time I can go up to 3 or 4 times before I leave the house and think I've emptied my bowels now surely I will be ok but pretty much every run resorts in me having to find a bush.  Most of my runs I have driven out or gone to places where I know I can find somewhere to go.  

10 years ago the problem was getting to me so I went to the doctors and they said it was IBS.  Now, I'm not ok with this as a diagnosis as IBS is so general and refers to many different issues from constipation and bloating to diarrhoea.  I wanted a more specific diagnosis and a way forward to deal with this problem.  The one thing I asked them at the time was "is it a food allergy/intolerance?"   I was told it absolutely wasn't.  I had tests to eliminate things like bowel cancer and I saw a specialist who said he'd vaguely heard of athletes having problems like this and he would look into it.  Of course I heard nothing back from him.

Over the years I just put up with it.  For my long runs I drive out to places where I know I can go and my shorter runs from home I do some out and backs by my house in case I have to nip back which does happen a lot. 

Then 18 months ago I started working with a sports nutritionist.  The main change I made to my diet was cutting out normal bread - his reasoning was the high sugars in both white and brown bread.  I then included more protein and veg with every meal and less sugars.  I replaced normal bread with rye bread.  The only times I was now eating any type of bread was at breakfast where I would have boiled or scrambled eggs with avocado or spinach on rye bread.  Lunch time I no longer ate any type of bread at all and would eat jacket potatoes, pasta or similar. 

Over a few months my problems got a little bit better.  They didn't go away but it definitely wasn't happening as often.

Then this year I spoke to my nutritionist about this and wondered about a gluten intolerance.  He suggested I read a book called Wheat Belly and try and do 30 days without any gluten at all.  So for June this year I did this.  It was quite hard to start with as I really had to plan what I was going to eat.  It meant a lot of preparation in advance too.  Gluten/wheat is in many things that us athletes think we need for energy like pasta and bread.  I now found myself eating a lot of potatoes!  I made a big batch of hash browns that I then froze so I could eat them for breakfast (only take 15 mins to cook from frozen) which I would have as usual with my eggs.  I then eat jacket potatoes (sweet or normal) or quinoa for lunch and then again at dinner carbs include either potatoes or rice mostly.  

Within about 10 days into 30 days gluten free I was finding that I wasn't needing toilet stops on my runs.  This was great but I didn't rule out that this could just be a coincidence or in my head.  Doing the 30 days of gluten free was definitely hard to do to start with but by the end I had gotten into a routine of the types of food to eat and any preparation in advance I needed to do.  There were times I didn't want to keep going with it as it seemed like a lot of hassle.  I'm so glad I did as for that time I had no stomach issues.  

Once the 30 days were up I found I was now in a good routine and didn't actually want to go back to my old eating ways.  I thought I would miss bread but found I really didn't.  The only thing I missed was pizza.  I have now found that lots of places do a gluten free pizza, although admittedly the bases aren't quite as good as a normal pizza base!  

When I was doing the 30 days gluten free I was very strict but now I am gluten free but not 100% strict with it.  I do have the occasional biscuit and when cooking a chili I add an oxo cube for example.  I have found for me that tiny amounts of wheat/gluten don't upset my stomach but large amounts do which I recently put to the test.

At the weekend we travelled up to Scotland for a wedding.  I intended to make myself a quinoa salad to eat for lunch on the way but completely forgot.  At lunchtime we stopped at a service station and was limited to what was available.  I opted for a toasted panini and accepted that there may be consequences.  The next morning I went out to do a run session.  Part way into my second effort and I had intense stomach pains and once again found myself having to stop and look for a bush.  The following 3 days I had a bad stomach every time I went out running.  Now I knew for sure that this was definitely down to being intolerant to gluten.  I had thought that maybe it wasn't really this and perhaps I was just eating better on the whole or it was in my head.  This is the first time I have really put it to the test and just shows what one sandwich does to me.  

I wish I had found this out years ago as it has caused me a lot of distress over the years and races that I've pulled out of with pains and issues.  I am quite annoyed that I went to the doctors a lot over the course of a couple of years around 2005-2007 and they just fobbed me off telling me to just take immodium before I run.  I was reluctant to be gluten free to start with as I know it seems like I'm jumping on the band wagon with a few high profile athletes going gluten free.  

The advice I have to anyone out there who has stomach problems as I had when running or doing other sport is to give the 30 days gluten free a try to start with and see if it makes a difference.  It is really important though that if you do train for endurance sport you find carbohydrates that you can replace your breads and pasta with.  I spent a week just looking at my options and writing out daily food menus before starting this.  Going into it with no plan will either see you relapsing back to bread/pasta etc or depleting yourself and not having the energy to train.

Sunday 9 August 2015

Race improvments followed by a Personal Worst!

I've been getting back into some good training and building in threshold pace effort work as well as building the miles up.  My coach and I decided I would do some 5k races just to track progress.  I haven't done any "fast" work yet so the first one will be to see where I am.  My plan was 3 Sale Sizzler races followed by my local Capenhurst 5k race all 2 weeks apart.  

The first race was ok time wise - but still 40s slower than my pb.  I then did a 10k 2.5 days later!  I felt good during this and finished 3rd but still over 1 minute outside of my 10k pb.  I'm ok with this as its about what I expected.

I then did the next Sale Sizzler 5k and went 20s quicker!  I was really pleased - just 20s slower than my pb.  Quite a lot over 5k but a very pleasing improvement in just 2 weeks.  Someone remarked at the end what had I changed in 2 weeks to go 20s quicker?  For me it is just fitness gradually coming back and I've now done a few more effort sessions but only peaking at 10k pace efforts.

I then went back 2 weeks later to the Sale Sizzler hoping that I might scrape under 17 mins and then be just 10s outside my pb.  The race started and I pretty much felt rubbish from the start.  My legs felt like jelly and when I tried to pick it up there was nothing there at all.  I didn't look at my watch and tried to be competitive so when I came onto the track and saw the clock just before  the finish I was shocked at how slow I'd run.  I thought maybe the clock was wrong, but it wasn't!  I went 40s slower than 2 weeks before and a whole minute slower than my pb.  I think this is the slowest 5k I've run for years!!  

I decided a few days later than I didn't think I could face another 5k so decided to give the Capenhurst 5k a miss which was a shame.  I think in hind site I should have missed the 3rd Sale Sizzler and done the Capenhurst 5k instead.  3 5k races all 2 weeks apart was probably too much mentally as well as physically.  I'm now getting some good training in and looking forward to the Cardiff 10k on 6th September.  

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Racing Again!

Now pretty much back to full training again and thinking about racing.  So a couple of weeks ago I entered a local 10k race (Sport in the Port).  Having only done base miles for 2 months then the last 3 weeks included some threshold pace work I was a bit nervous about not having any pace in my legs and how I would run off this.  With this in mind I then entered a mid week 4 mile race in Wigan (where I probably wouldn't know anyone!) to test my legs out!

This went well with a win but bloody hell it hurt and my time wasn't great!  It was 2 lap undulating course with an off road part to it so not a fast course but still....

After this I then spent 10 days of 1 minute I wasn't doing the 10k then I was, then I wasn't!  In the end I thought sod it - do it as at least I can see where my fitness is and it gives me pacing times to work my efforts to in training.  

I then had a surprising race coming 2nd and ran almost 1 minute quicker than I expected to run which was a faster pace than I did for the 4 mile race and felt comfortable!  I actually smiled the whole way around as lots of Chester Tri Club people were marshalling or watching which was really nice.  

I had a "great" idea to run home as I thought it would be about 4 miles but it seems I took a wrong turn then ran on the canal which was a very long way home to take and turned out it was 10 miles!  Oops!

Saturday 30 May 2015

Getting There!

A week in the sun was just what I needed!  I went to Lanzarote for a week in the hope of speeding up my ankle/achilles recovery.  No miracles but there does seem to have been an improvement.  It's still tight in the mornings and if I get up after sitting down for a while (just no sitting around then)!  

I have now included 2 threshold pace effort sessions in the last 2 weeks training with minimal reaction so I'm actually thinking of entering a race or 2 in the next few weeks!  I'm a bit scared as I know my times won't be fast and I don't like racing when I'm not near to 100% but I feel I need to put something in just to know where I am.  

I'm so happy to be running a decent amount again and a lot of it is down to regular massages from Peer and physio from Gary at Pro Physio.  Plus lots of stretching and icing!

Friday 8 May 2015

Slow Going

Patience - I have none of that!  Ankle and achilles is taking far too long to heal for my liking.  Still just doing steady running and no race plans being made until I'm completely pain free.  3 weeks ago I thought I'd turned a corner as I had 3 runs in a row which were completely pain free then it started to niggle again.  The pain free runs did seem to coincide with a spell of warm weather then the niggling and general tight feeling returned when the weather changed back to being cold.  

I have now made a last minute decision to go away for a week to the canary islands and booked my flights last night and will be leaving on Thursday!  I'm hoping some warm weather will help.  Also, I just feel I need a mini break!

Wednesday 1 April 2015

On the Return!

I am so gutted at having to miss the Wilmslow Half Marathon a week and a half ago now.  It's one of my favourite races helped by the fact that I've run a pb there twice and the third time got within 3 seconds of my pb!  I haven't even been able to bring myself to look at the results yet!

I am starting to feel happier though as I started back with some slow and small amounts of running 12 days ago!  Starting out with lots of walking and 2 x 5 mins of running I've now built up to 3 x 10 mins of running with walking in between and little to no pain which is great.  I've been sensible and kept to running every 2-3 days so I always have 1-2 days in between where I'm not running to give my ankle/achilles a chance to recover.  I ran yesterday and today will be the first time of trying a run 1 day later!  

Doing extra cycling and swim training over the last 4 weeks has made me realise how I do miss triathlon training and I'm looking forward to the day I come back to the sport.  For now I still have goals I want to achieve with my running and I'm focussed on firstly getting back to running and not rushing myself and aiming for a good marathon towards the end of the year.  

Sunday 8 March 2015

Keeping Fit When Injured

For several months now I've been trying to run through a niggle but have now had to admit that its more than a niggle and I need to rest.  Its really frustrating because March held 3 races for me 2 of which were target races that I've been focusing my training around.

In a previous post I said how I'd turned my ankle a while back then I think this combined with doing cross country has gradually aggravated my achilles.  I've been having physio and combined with lots of stretching and icing I've continued to run.  In hindsight this has been the wrong thing to do and I'm kicking myself for not resting properly back in January.  At that point though I just thought it was a niggle and how many times do we get niggles that with a bit of stretching for a week or 2 we can just keep going and it eases off?  Every so often though we aren't so lucky and resting is the only option.

I have now had to miss the Bath Half Marathon last weekend, I'm missing Trafford 10k today (which I've had to turn down running for the North of England for) and its likely I will miss one of my favourite races -  Wilmslow Half Marathon in a couple of weeks.

Whilst I am sat here feeling a little bit sorry for myself as a lot of us do when things haven't gone the way we hoped, I'm going to try and find some positives!

Cycling doesn't have any impact on my ankle/achilles so I've now been out on my bike several times this week.  Luckily the weather has picked up a bit so its been a nice change to get out on the bike.  I've got back into swimming and enjoying it!  I have been swimming 1-2 times per week through the winter but just 30-40 mins and very steady and to be honest I find it boring.  Actually doing some swimming with a purpose and adding some efforts in has been good.  Next week I will start bringing in some aqua running (this means wearing a foam belt around my waist and running in deep water).  

Most of the time when we have an injury there is always some kind of cross training we can do.  Its frustrating at the time but on the return we are often stronger and have a renewed energy and passion.

Monday 23 February 2015

Negative Splitting

Many of us watched Mo’s world 2 mile record at the weekend.  Did you notice his half way split though?  He went through 1 mile in 4.04 which had he maintained this he would have run 8.08 which would have been 4 seconds outside of the world record.  OK so Mo has a blistering last 400m when racing but had he gone through 1 mile in 4.01-4.02 would he have maintained this?  

When competing in a race where you are trying to get a fast time or personal best then aiming for a negative split is often the best way forward.  Starting out too fast and hanging on rarely works but building through really does.

It is very easy sometimes to get caught up in the moment at the beginning when you are feeling good.  All too often in a distance race though you get past half way and the wheels start to come off and you just gradually get slower and slower and that pb time just disappears.  I’ve been there myself many, many times and paid the price!

It is so important in longer races like a half or full marathon that you run within yourself to half way then build through.  It takes some belief to accept you may not be on target at half way but know that you can come through with a faster second half.  For me personally I have found my best times have always come from starting steadier then racing the second half of the race.  Running like this you will also find that you are picking off other runners (who have started off too fast) and this is a great feeling and pushes you on even quicker!

Sunday 25 January 2015

Northern Cross Country Champs

A while ago I turned my ankle whilst out doing an off road run.  Luckily it seemed ok for the rest of the run and when I got home I iced it and took some ibuprofen for a few days, carried on training as normal and all seemed ok.  

Unfortunately, with every cross country race I have done my ankle/achilles has been feeling niggly either during or after and getting worse after every race.  I've managed to keep things going in training by icing and stretching several times a day and convincing myself its just a niggle and nothing more.  

So I "attempted" the Northern Cross Country Champs in Pontefract yesterday.  I knew things weren't great on my warm up as it was worse than it has been in training all week. At this point I was still trying to convince myself all will be ok and it just needs warming up and will be fine.  I started the race and it was sore.  Things just went from bad to worse - from being sore but manageable to practically limping by 3k.  At this point I was just jogging until I saw my husband and had to pull out.  

I'm gutted.  I never expected anything amazing at the champs but just to do my best.  Doing cross country this year was to serve a purpose in doing something different (I haven't done cross country properly for over 10 years with just 2 races 8 years ago) and to gain some strength going into my road running from March onwards.  

I knew that there was a possibility of injury especially to my achilles.  I have been prone to problems from just doing steady runs on bobbly ground in the past but I had to give it a try.  

A few days rest and some physio and hopefully I can get back to training and a rethink of what I want to do.

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Cheshire XC Champs

It was the Cheshire Cross Country Champs on Saturday and held at Bolesworth Estate.  A beautiful place for a race and held in a part of it that I hadn't been in before.  It was so muddy and water logged that I should have brought my wellies to walk the course!  We had 2 large laps to do and the back part of each lap had a few short sharp hills.  I did actually expect the course to be a lot hillier that it was though.

Our race went off with the Under 20 men which when I first saw this on the timetable I was a bit disappointed as I felt it might change the way the race was run (possibility of there being men in front blocking the view of any girls that may be ahead).  In the end I was completely wrong as there weren't that many men and most of them went off quite quick!  

So the race started and after 400m I was hating it!  I really wanted to stop.  I just don't run well in calf deep water logged muddy ground!  I just had to keep telling myself that it doesn't matter what happens here, just finish it as its all part of making me stronger for my road races.  After about 1km I was in 4th place but could see a girl ahead who I definitely thought had started off too quick.  I caught her up by around 2km and by now we were on some firmer ground which was more enjoyable!  

I moved into 3rd place and once into the 2nd lap and coming up to the the short hills I felt I was making up ground on 2nd place.  With about 1km to go I had got closer but then she turned a corner and must have accelerated as by the time I got to the corner suddenly the gap had grown again.  It then just wasn't enough to make up to the finish.  I was happy to finish in 3rd and so glad it was over!