Monday, 27 February 2012

Week 10 complete - one day late!

This week has been a bit strange for me training wise. We stayed in Brighton on Sunday night after the half marathon and then flew off to Iceland for 4 nights on Wednesday. I managed to fit in a 3 mile run on Tuesday and then again once we were back on Sunday afternoon but apart from that I didn't do any other running, or my usual yoga classes.

I did do some cross training while we were away which you can read about in my previous post here

Knowing that I wouldn't get much running in over the course of the week I took today off work as well so that I could do my long run. This week it was scheduled to be 15 miles. Although the mileage was daunting I was looking forward to trying out some slightly different fuel and also wearing my hydration rucksack for the first time. Up until now I've managed to cope with just a water bottle but as the time I'm running increases the volume I can comfortably carry in my hand just isn't enough to keep me going.

I got the Nathan Intensity Hydration vest as a Christmas present from Mr J. It's a nifty bit of kit.

It's a small rucksack that has two main compartments, a small one for holding a mobile, keys and anything else you need to take out which for me now includes an Oyster card and some cash, just in case of emergencies. The larger compartment is for the water which is contained in what looks like a hospital drip pack!

Attached to the pack is a tube with a valve on the end which cleverly dispenses water when you bite down on it, but not at any other time. The water pack goes in the large compartment and the tube goes through a hole in the top of the compartment.

The shoulder straps have additional compartments which are perfect for holding gels and an mp3 player. There is a strap that fastens across the chest and also has a clip for the water tube so you can fix it there and stop it flapping about when you run.

I filled the water pouch up with the maximum two litres of water. I wanted to test out what it felt to run with that amount of water on my back. I was really surprised at how comfortable and light the rucksack felt once it was on my back.

The first couple of miles of the run were good, I kept a relaxed comfortable pace. The hyrdation pack made it easy to sip water when I wanted to and was much easier than carrying a bottle of water. At around 3.5 miles I managed to twist my ankle. I'm not really sure how it happened but it felt quite painful and for a while I was concerned that I'd sprained it. I walked on it for a while and it started to feel better again so I started running slowly and it felt OK so I decided to continue.

At around 4 miles I started to feel a bit tired so I took the first of my gels - this was earlier than I have done in previous runs but I thought I'd better listen to what my body needed. I took a High 5 gel which had added caffeine - not something I've tried before as I'm quite sensitive to caffeine and need to be careful with how much I have. To be honest I didn't really notice any difference to the regular one.

Miles 5-7 felt quite tough. I'm not sure how much of this was mental as mile 7 took me practically past my front door, not something I've done before on a run. However, by mile 8 and a couple of jelly beans, another new fuel I was trying out, I felt more relaxed and back into my stride.

I arrived in Victoria Park and took the opportunity to run a couple of miles on the grass/mud path to give my legs a break from the relentless concrete that I tend to run on. By this time I had switched to my 8:2 as my legs had started to feel tired. I was taking a couple of jelly beans every 20 minutes or so - they seemed to help and were quite palatable.

By the time I had left the park I was well into mile 11 and things started to get tough. I took some extra walking breaks to help and kept telling myself that I had run this far last week and that I could do this, I just needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Once mile 13.5 arrived I was into new territory and not far from home. I took another gel for the last push and managed to get back into a good running rhythm again. As my Garmin ticked over 15 miles I had a huge smile on my face. It had been tough but I had done it.

So that's week 10 of training complete, albeit a day late. With now less than 8 weeks before the big day things are starting to feel quite serious but I feel like I'm on track to achieve my goal of completing the distance with a smile on my face.

While we were away my running vest arrived from my charity. It's a rather fetching flourescent green and already has my 'colour co-ordinated' head working overtime trying to plan the rest of my outfit!

The vest is a size 12 and while technically it fits me I don't think it's going to be comfortable to wear for 26.2 miles so I'm swapping it for a larger size. Marathon day is not the day to be wearing clothes that aren't comfortable.

This afternoon I went into Canary Wharf for a bit of active recovery, otherwise known as shopping. The new spring running clothing was in store and I couldn't resist buying a new pink Ronhill outfit. I took a risk and bought a size 12, I know this range comes up slightly large and wanted to see how far away I was from being able to fit into it. I was absolutely delighted to get home and find that it fits!

So today I ran the furthest I ever had and bought the smallest clothes I have done in my adult life. I'm pretty darn pleased with that!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

The coolest cross training ever?

This week we went to Iceland for 4 nights. It's somewhere I've always wanted to go and we planned the trip for Feburary hoping to see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately the weather was against us and we didn't see the lights but we did have a great time and saw some fantastic sights all the same.

I had packed all my running gear with the full intention of getting out for a run but the combination of terrible weather - ice cold wind, rain and snow and the fact that it doesn't get light until 9am meant that I didn't manage to get out for a run. Not that my legs had a rest, we walked a lot, quite a lot through snow and were generally very active every day.

On Thursday I did what must rank among the coolest cross training ever. We went snorkeling in Silfra, a rift valley between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It cuts through the Thingvellir National Park of Southwestern Iceland. I've only snorkelled once before and that was in Hawaii in warm tropical waters. This couldn't have been further from that experience!

We were taken to the dive centre of Scuba Iceland where our guide for the morning, Finni, talked us through what we would be doing and then got us kitted out in our thermal 'base layers'. Mine was a little on the large side!

He then drove us out of Reykjavik to Thingvellir, a 45 minute drive which took us through some amazing, snow covered countryside. After a quick toilet stop at the visitor centre we arrived at Silfra

We walked to the edge of the fissure to the place where we would soon enter the water and Finni took us through exactly what we would do and where we would swim. From the surface it all looked pretty unremarkable, I could see the water was clear but that was about it.

Back at the van we started the difficult process of getting into dry suits. These are large and cumbersome and we all needed assistance from Finni to get into them. It took a group of 4 of us about half an hour in total to get kitted up. I've got to say that it's not the best of looks but with the temperature of the water at around 2 degree celsius I really wasn't too concerned about asthetics!

After the suit came gloves, a hood and finally the all important mask and snorkel and after that it was off to the edge of the fissure to get into the water. I was brave and volunteered to go in first. After helping me get my fins on and making sure my mask was secure and watertight Finni pushed me off into the water and told me to 'relax' and have a look around.

As soon as I put my face in the water I realised what the fuss was about. The water was crystal clear and the visibility was fantastic. There are no fish in the water, just rocks and algae, so you might wonder what there was to look at. Unfortunately we didn't have an underwater camera so I've found some pictures on the net to show you what we saw.

The colour of the water was just amazing. So many different shades of blue and green which changed as the depth of the water changed.

Once everyone was in the water we began to swim along the fissure. My feet were a little bit cold but apart from that I didn't really think about the fact I was floating in near freezing water - it was so fascinating to see the colours in the water change as we moved along. To begin with there was a bit of a current to help us along but soon that changed and we needed to swim against a different current to move us in the right direction.

The dry suits gave us amazing buoyancy but also made moving around quite difficult so kicking our way along the fissure was actually quite hard work. But so worth the effort

After making our way through areas called the Blue Lagoon and The Cathedral we made a left turn and swam back towards the edge of the fissure to clamber out onto the rocks. We had been in the water for around 35 minutes and my legs were telling me that they'd had a pretty good workout!

Once out of the water we walked back to the bus and got out of the dry suits - a far easier process than getting into them. Finni produced hot chocolate and cookies - just what we needed to warm us up and replace some of our lost energy.

It was a great experience, something I'm really glad I've done and although I didn't manage to run while I was in Iceland I certainly did some very 'cool' cross training!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Brighton Half Marathon - reflections and lessons learned

So two days after my first half marathon and I've had time to reflect and think about what I've learned. I want to record this here so I don't forget about it!

* Porridge and banana works really well as a pre-long run breakfast

* There is little point in running one of your fastest miles in mile one of a half marathon - better to save this for a 5k or 10k race

* It's easy to get carried away at the start because it 'feels comfortable', slowing down takes discipline but will reap rewards later on

* One gel an hour was enough for a half marathon, I may need to increase this as the mileage increases

* High 5 gels are definitely my favourite, for consistency if nothing else

* Too much Lucozade Sport makes my mouth feel quite sticky - I need to follow this with water

* Switching from a 9:1 to 8:2 strategy helped a lot in the later miles and made only a little bit of difference to the mile times

* Always trust your Garmin. It is right!

* Active recovery works - walking around in the afternoon helped to stop my muscles from completely siezing up

There are some questions that I still need to answer during the second part of the training:

* Can I survive 26.2 miles on gels alone? Will I be able to stomach it?

* What made my feet cramp up from mile 11 and how can I stop that happening again?

* Can I do 26.2 miles without any music - there will be a lot more going on on the streets for the London Marathon but a bit of music might provide a bit of a lift during the tougher parts - I know it would have helped on Sunday

* I averaged 11.50 minute miles for the half marathon - what is realistic for a whole marathon? I need to know this so I know if I am going off too fast at the start

* My hamstrings really weren't that happy from mile 8 onwards - how do I stop that happening again?

There's plenty of miles to be run in the next 9 weeks that should allow me to answer some, if not all of these questions. Some I will probably only answer for sure on the big day itself!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Halfway through and halfway there!

This week I completed the 9th week of my training for the London Marathon. I'm amazed that it's come around so quickly. I've come a really long way in that time but there is still much much further to go but I am feeling excited about the next 9 weeks and ready for the challenges that I know it's going to bring.

This week was all about the Brighton Half Marathon. I entered this race last year before I ever really thought about getting a place for London. So it's always been there in my head and my calendar as my next goal. Brighton is somewhere that we love and have visited a lot so I was excited to be running my first ever half marathon there.

Since getting my place for London the Brighton Half has taken on much more significance, not just my next goal but the halfway point in distance to my bigger goal. A chance to put my training to the test and see how I'm doing, a chance to try out my fuelling strategies and a chance to run with one of the people that I'll be running with for the London Marathon, the amazing Darin McCloud. If you've not read his story you really should - it's all captured in his blog here and it's one of the most inspiring stories I've ever come across.

After a week of tapered training Mr J and I travelled to Brighton on Friday night and booked into our favourite B&B The Twenty One. On Friday night we had dinner and a couple of drinks and then on Saturday we had a relaxing day wandering around town and a lovely lunch at Dermot O'Leary's restaurant Fishy Fishy. When we left the restaurant at about 3pm the weather, which had been cold but dry, took a serious turn for the worse. The rain was pelting down and the wind was really strong. I had heard horror stories about freezing cold, soaking wet Brighton Halves in the past and started to get seriously concerned that we were going to have awful weather the next day.

Thankfully when we woke up on Sunday morning the sun was shining and the sky was blue. It was cold but it was great weather for running. I was feeling a bit nervous but mostly excited about my first ever half marathon. After an early breakfast of porridge and banana we met Darin and his partner by the Brighton Wheel - a new addition to the Brighton skyline since the last time we visited, and something which would become a bit of a landmark for us throughout the race.

We established our post race meeting points and then got into the queues for the toilets. There were several other people who were making use of the local facilities!

Having said goodbye to our other halves, Darin and I made our way into the crowds to get ready for the start. With around 7500 runners and what felt like as many spectators it was quite a spectacle

After an aerobic warm up it was soon time to start. I wasn't feeling too nervous, I knew that I had trained properly and would be able to do the distance. This wasn't about time, it was about getting around comfortably without killing myself and giving myself the confidence to move into the second half of my training knowing that I had got halfway.

The serious athletes at the front of the pack got underway at 9am.

Soon the pack had moved forward enough for us to start running and we crossed the start line at about 9.07am. Amazingly Mr J managed to pick us out among in the crowd and managed to get a photo of us starting - I'm in the light blue top.

The first mile took us up into Brighton town before turning us around and heading back towards the sea. It felt comfortable. Both Darin and I were conscious of not wanting to run too fast and so were keeping things at a comfortable pace. We have both trained to a 9 minute run, 1 minute walk strategy and implemented this from the start of Brighton. We were both amazed to look at our Garmins at the end of the first mile to see a 10.34 figure staring back. It's one of the fastest miles I've ever done. I knew we needed to slow down a bit, but we both felt good.

We dropped the pace a bit for the next couple of miles knowing that we had a long way to go. As we headed out towards the marina the sun was beating down straight into our faces and I began to regret my layering. It was getting quite warm and I was very glad of the first water station. Around about mile 3-4 we noticed that our Garmins started to get a bit out of sync with the mile markers and by mile 5 the Garmin thought we had run 5.4. It seemed really odd, I knew it wouldn't be totally accurate as each course has a racing line which we couldn't have been following the whole time, but 0.4 of a mile felt like a lot extra.

By mile 6 we were headed back towards Brighton town with the wind blowing in our faces, I was now very glad of my extra layers, it was cold. I was feeling pretty good, our pace had been reasonably consistent and still felt comfortable. At the 10K mark Mr J popped up with the camera and some encouragement.

Miles 7 to 8 felt really hard for me. My hanstrings started to complain quite a lot, not something that has happened to me before and we took a few more walking breaks that we had previously. At around mile 9 I took my second energy gel which helped a lot and we got the the 10 mile mark (on the Garmin) at 1hr and 55 mins. We were delighted - a whole 7 mins off my time for the Great South Run and a whole 16 minutes off for Darin. Amazing progress in just 4 months.

Miles 10 - 12 involved quite a lot of walking. My hamstrings were playing up and Darin's calves started to cramp. We decided to be sensible and listen to our bodies, no point in pushing things when we still have another 9 weeks of training to do. So we walked and then ran, ran and then walked. Darin was brilliant at this point, gently pointing out how long we'd been walking for and checking if I was OK to run. I am sure I would have walked more if I had been on my own but with his encouragement I managed to get running again.

At mile 12 the Brighton wheel was in sight and we knew the finish line wasn't far beyond it. Up popped Mr J once again with the camera and more cheers of support

We were really nearly there. The Garmin was still showing that we had covered 0.4 of a mile more than the mile markers which by this point had started to get a bit disheartening. We had a final walking break, knowing that we still had another half a mile at least to get to the finish line and then picked up the pace to cross the line with smiles on our faces in a time of 2.39.50. I was delighted with the time, although we'd had to walk more than I wanted I didn't feel like collapsing, I felt pretty good all things considering.

We picked up our medals, bananas and much needed lucozade and made our way back to our meeting point. We were feeling pretty proud of ourselves - does it show?!

So that's it - I'm officially a half marathoner. Who'd have thought it. Halfway through my marathon training and able to run half the distance. And I'm also delighted to add, over halfway to my fundraising target. Quite a day.

It was brilliant to run with Darin and test out the strategies that we've both trained with. It was so great to have someone next to me, going through the same thing as me and there for encouragement when it got tough. I know that I did better for having him there so a huge 'thank you' to a quite remarkable man.

On Monday through various updates on Twitter and Facebook I realised that a lot of people thought that the course was too long. The organisers published an official apology confirming that due to human error the course was actually 13.42 miles rather than 13.1!! My official finishing time was adjusted to 2.36 - not that it really matters.

After getting back to London on Monday Mr J treated me to lunch at our local pub which just happens to be on the London Marathon route. As we left I noticed a sign outside which confirmed what I already knew. It's happening and it's happening really quite soon. Bring on the second half of the training. I'm ready!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The magic of sports massage

This morning I went for a leg massage to get things limbered up for Sunday and the Brighton Half Marathon. Over the last few months I have become a regular client at Blue Eye Osteopathy and have become a complete convert to the wonders of osteopathy and sports massage.

I first went to see Glenn at Blue Eye before I started training for the marathon - I was suffering from pain in my hips that came on after a couple of miles and stayed with me all the way through my run and often for several days afterwards. I had never had any osteopathy done before and had experienced a brief sports massage but nothing specific to any particular issue I'd had.

Within a short space of time Glenn had worked out what was causing the pain, an imbalance in my glutes and had me lying face down on the treatment table while he administered some incredibly painful deep tissue massage. Incredibly painful but amazingly effective. After just two sessions with Glenn combined with new stretches that he advised me to do the pain had all but disappeared. And it's never come back.

As my training for London started and the frequency and intensity of my training has increased, other niggles have presented themselves. I started to get pain up the inside of my calf and was suffering from a stiff back after many of my runs. Glenn quickly identified that this was probably being caused by biomechanical issues with me feet - I have low arches and a tendency to roll onto the inside of my foot, or overpronate, when I walk or run. This puts additional strain on my calves which in turn causes pain elsewhere. The cure for this was orthotics which I now wear daily and have worked like magic. Calf pain gone, back pain gone.

Even when I've had no particular pain, I've gone to see Glenn for regular leg massages - my philosophy being that prevention is better than cure. I am consistently amazed at this ability to feel a part of my muscle and ask me "is that painful there?" just before I say "ouch" - how he knows that it's tight or sore before I do is beyond me but he's right every time. And then he knows how to sort it out there and then. He's a bit of a magician in my eyes.

Equally miraculous is the osteopathy - Glenn can identify in seconds areas of my spine that are 'blocked' and quickly release them through a series of slightly strange moves that generally result in a big crack followed by a feeling of release in my back. He's also done this on my feet - a very strange sensation at the time but it always leaves things feeling more flexible.

I'm really glad that I found Glenn and Blue Eye - I now see my sessions with him as an integral part of my training - part of my plan to get to the start line injury free. I think it's really important for this kind of thing that you find someone that you trust and feel comfortable with - afterall you have to spend a fair bit of time in your underwear with them! You want to know that they know what they're doing and aren't going to do anything to you that could be detrimental.

Within about 20 minutes of my first session with Glenn I knew that I was in safe hands. I'd would really highly recommend him to anyone who is looking for an osteopath or masseur. He has reminded me on several occasions that he also does 'nice relaxing' massage as well as the deep horrible stuff he does to me!

Glenn has kindly offered to support my fundraising efforts by donating 15% of any treatment fees from anyone that books an appointment with him and mentions my training and this blog. The details from Glenn are as follows:

Blue Eye Osteopathy works from two locations near Canary Wharf. The main location is Docklands Medical Centre (2 minute walk from Mudchute DLR) and there is an alternative at West Ferry Studios (1 minute walk from West Ferry DLR).

In addition to osteopathy and massage (sports / deep tissue or relaxing style), orthotics (shoe inserts) are also available.

Further information or bookings: and 07816 108812.

15% of treatment fee will de deducted and transferred to Becca's fundraising page. (Excludes those claiming on private insurance plans.)

So if you've got any niggles that need sorting or just want a relaxing massage - book a session with Glenn and help a good cause at the same time! Just rememer to mention that Becca sent you!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Week 8 complete!

It's fair to say that I started this week feeling very frustrated at having missed my first long run due to the snow on Sunday. I am very pleased to report that I've ended the week on a bit of a high having just comfortably completed the longest run I've ever done.

After the frustration of last Sunday the Glow Yoga studio was the perfect place to start the week. It was so lovely to come in out of a very cold and frosty Monday morning into the inviting warm studio with it's SAD lighting

Monday's class was Core Flow which as the name suggests concentrates on building strength in the core of the body through a serious of pretty stenuous poses. This week we focussed a lot on opening up the hips starting with lizard pose

and moving through some other challenging poses. It's such a great thing for a runner to do as it really helps to stretch out and open up areas which can be a real problem for runners. I went back on Tuesday for the Foundation class, a much slower but still challenging session that each week focusses on a different 'basic' of yoga. This week was all about getting in and out of poses safely. I always leave these classes feeling like I've learned a lot as well as having had a really good workout. It's a great partner to my running and something I'll definitely keep up once my marathon training has finished.

Tuesday saw me back at my now regular run with the ladies from Boutique Sport at Boutique Running Club. I think it's fair to say that it was the coldest run we've ever done, a great incentive to pick up the pace and get round the 4.2 mile route as quickly as possible! However, we also had to be careful as some of the pavements were still quite icy and as the north part of the Outer Circle of Regent's Park is pretty dark we needed to take care. So the pace was slightly slower than normal, but only just and I actually felt quite comfortable. When I got home it was good to see that my average pace was 11 minute miles - to feel comfortable running at that speed for 4 miles is real progress for me!

On Wednesday I worked from home and took the opportunity to have a lunchtime run. Having missed the long run the weekend before I decided to make this a 'longish' run and set out with the intention of running 10 miles. What I hadn't taken account of was exactly how cold it was outside. I had on 3 layers, hat, gloves and a neckwarmer and I was still cold at points on the route. The first few miles were OK but after about 5 miles my calves were screaming at me and my quads were feeling very heavy indeed. Taking my own advice for once I listened to my body and cut the run short at 8 miles and jumped on the DLR to get home and out of the cold.

Thursday was a rest day and Friday morning was a short interval session. It had snowed again briefly on Thursday night so I was dodging the ice as I ran but managed to complete the session.

Today thankfully the temperature rose into positive figures for the first time in about a week. I had a bowl of porridge with banana for breakfast and set out to run 12 miles, my longest run ever. I had been getting a bit stressed about this during the week, worrying about whether I could do it, how long it would take me - I don't think missing the long run last weekend helped matters to be honest. I took the decision to switch off the function on my Garmin which tells me my pace per mile. I decided just to go back to basics and run at a pace which was comfortable for me and where I could keep my breathing under control.

It turned out to be a really good decision. I had a comfortable run, the first 4 miles were great, I ran through the City, through Clerkenwell and up towards the Euston Road and King's Cross. I ran past the beautiful St Pancras Renaissance Hotel

This was where things got more tricky - more busy roads to cross, more pedestrians to dodge and miles 5-6 felt quite tough. Soon enough I was into Regent's Park and rather than running around it as I do on Tuesday night I ventured inside. I ran through Avenue Gardens which is where Mr J and I had some of our wedding photos taken - it looks pretty different at this time of year!

I then ran around a bit of the Inner Circle before passing the lake which was still pretty much frozen over before heading back out onto the Euston Road and heading for home.

From mile 8 I changed my running strategy from running 9 minutes and walking for 1 to running 8 and walking for 2. This really helped me to conserve my energy and my legs thanked me for it as they were starting to get tired.

Before I knew it I was back on The Highway and nearly home, I ended up doing half a mile more than I'd intended but I was feeling good and could have gone on for longer. I decided to save the extra 0.6 miles for next Sunday and the Brighton Half Marathon - my first race at this distance.

So at the end of this week I am feeling far far better than I did at the end of the last. I have broken a huge barrier distance wise and mentally and feel far more confident having done that. I'm going to have a mini taper week next week to make sure my legs are in tip top condition for next Sunday. Bring it on!

Miles this week = 26.5

Total mileage so far = 146.22

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Week 7 sort of complete

So here I am at the end of week 7 of my London Marathon training and for the first time in my training so far I haven't been able to stick to my plan. To be honest I'm really frustated about it as it's all thanks of to the great British weather!

My week started as usual with Glow Yoga on Monday and Tuesday mornings. I had a bit of a breakthrough this week with part of the class that I've always struggled with. As part of the flow we often have to move between downward dog or three legged dog as shown here

into a forward fold

and you do that by 'flicking' forward the raised leg so that the foot lands near to your head with the shin vertical and then bringing the other leg through to join it. My foot usually ends up somewhere under my tummy, if I'm lucky and I then have to help the leg forwards with my hands. This isn't unusual for beginners but I find it frustrating as it breaks up the movement and feels awkward. The teachers always point out that this movement has little to do with leg strength and a lot to do with core strength. So imagine my surprise when this week, I decided to really concentrate on moving from my core and managed to flick my right leg nearly to the place it needed to be. Just the once, but it felt like real progress for me!

My feelings of progress continued on Tuesday night when I joined the ladies from Boutique Sport for our regular run around Regent's Park. It was a very cold evening to start with but I soon warmed up as we got into our stride and made our way around the Outer Circle. I felt good and knew I was keeping a good pace and was delighted to get home and find that my 3 mile split time was a personal best and a whole minute and a half quicker than my previous fastest time.

I ran home from work on Thursday night, a 6 mile route this time. I managed to leave work in the light again. It was a bitterly cold evening but still sunny and London looked lovely in the setting sun

Despite the cold I enjoyed the run and was pleased with my time given the number of roads I had to cross. Not quite so many tourists to dodge this week - I'm sure the cold weather had something to do with that!

Friday morning was a short interval session, just under 2 miles running with the AudioFuel pyramid track. This felt tough and I was glad it was a short session, short but intense.

On Saturday I went to the London Marathon 'Meet the Experts' day with Darin. You can read all about the day here. It was a great day and I felt really fired up about the marathon on the way home. I had a 12 mile run planned for Sunday, I'd got my route mapped out and was looking forward to upping my mileage and breaking another distance barrier.

Snow was forecast for London from 3pm on Saturday so when it hadn't started by 5pm I started to think wishfully that it wouldn't arrive. But seeing updates on Facebook and Twitter from people living nearby I soon realised that we weren't going to escape. By the time we went to bed there was a good inch or so on the ground and this morning we woke up to this

I have never run in snow and I didn't think that trying it out 11 weeks before the marathon was a very good idea. The potential for injury seemed too great. I had bought some gym passes a few weeks ago in anticipation of bad weather and so decided that I would go and do some treadmill running. I am not a fan of the treadmill at all and the thought of trying to do 12 miles on one filled me with dread. I knew that I probably wouldn't make it through to the end of the session as I'd get bored and that that would dent my confidence if that happened. So I decided to skip the long run and choose to do something else useful in the gym.

So I decided that I'd do some hill work. It's not something I get to do as most of where I run regularly is pretty flat. It's supposed to be excellent for building strength and stamina. So I did 3 miles of varying gradients, power walking the most steep but running the rest and recovering in between. My quads and glutes were burning which must be a good sign. Having done 3 miles I knew that there was no way I would have made it to 12 on the treadmill. Doing the hill work provided a distraction but I would have found it very hard to keep running at the same pace for that long. One of the things I love about running is being outside and being aware of the distance that you're covering. You just don't get that on a treadmill.

So the week is over but there are missing miles so I don't really feel as if the week is complete. I will be sensible and not get out there until the snow has cleared. I'm going to try and fit in a longer run in the middle of the week - it won't be 12 miles as I need to be careful not to overtrain next week. But with only 2 weeks to go until the Brighton Half Marathon I know I'll feel better if I manage to get another decent distance in somewhere along the way.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Meeting the Experts

I have just arrived home from the London Marathon 'Meet the Experts' day and my head is buzzing with information! It was a great day packed with advice about training, nutrition, avoiding injury and probably most importantly what to expect on the big day itself. It was a free day for everyone with a Golden Bond or charity place and was held at the Institute of Education near Russell Square.

Darin came up from Portsmouth for the day so I met him at Euston and we made our way down to the IoE. We got there just after 10am and the first of the presentations didn't start until 11am so it gave us plenty of time to check out the Adidas merchandise that was all on special offer, including an incredible deal on trainers which effectively worked out as buy a pair, get a pair free! As one of the official sponsors of the race Adidas were offering everyone a free footscan, a very clever piece of technology that analyses your running technique.

I had to run up and down in my socks and over a sensor which captures the amount of pressure which you place through each part of your foot as you run. According to the footscan I run mainly on my forefoot and don't put much pressure through my heel at all. I have a relatively neutral running style, with a slight overpronation. Given that I have orthotics for flat arches I was recommended a neutral running shoe with good cushioning - the Supernova Glide.

I had decided that given the excellent deal that was on offer that I would buy some new trainers. I have already put over 100 miles onto my Brooks that I bought just after Christmas and I had read that it's good to have a couple of different types of trainers to run in. So I am now the proud owner of two new pairs of shiny trainers. One to start training in and one to put in the cupboard for when the others need to be retired from active duty! I will try them out next week for one of my shorter runs.

We then made our way into the lecture theatre for the start of the day proper. We were greeted by the CEO of the marathon who gave us an introduction to the marathon and outlined the charity background to the event. I hadn't realised that it is the single biggest one day charity event in the UK. I was heartened to hear that the average charity runner raises over £2000 for their charity. Thankfully the target set by my charity is a little lower than that and I'm currently 30% of my way towards that target so it was good to hear that many many people manage to raise an awful lot more. While we're on the subject if you'd like to help me on my way you can do so by visiting my Just Giving page here

The Race Director then outlined some of the elite runners that will be taking part, along with some of the celebrities also taking part - from Ben Fogle, to Will Young to Katie Price. The Course, Start and Finish Directors took us through what to expect on the day. This covered

*Going to the Expo to register sometime on the Wednesday-Saturday before the race

*How to get there - on the train or DLR which are both free on the day for runners

*What to do with your baggage - put it on a truck which gets driven to the end of the course for you to collect at the end

*What to wear while you're waiting to start - an old jumper or a bin liner that you can discard once you've started running

*An explanation of the course, the mile markers and timers and where water and fuel will be available

*What happens at the finish - timing chips, medals, goody bags and meeting up with family and friends on Horseguards parade

I found this all really helpful and it answered a lot of the things I'd been wondering about from a logistics perspective.

Next was a session from Sam Murphy one of the UKs leading health and fitness writers on avoiding injury. She gave some really good advice about not overtraining, varying running surfaces, warming up and cooling down, stretching (scientifically proven to be unnecessary before a run but very effective at preventing injury if done properly after a run) and strength training. At this point she had us up on our feet trying out a couple of strength exercises for running specific muscles.

This was all good and useful information and re-assuring to hear that I'm doing most of what I can to avoid getting injured. The one thing I did take away from this is that I need to get off road a bit to vary my training surface and not run on pavement the whole time. I'll look at adding some park based work into my long runs so I can run on grass for a while and maybe even consider heading into the gym and doing a shorter session on the treadmill. I am loathed to do this as I hate the treadmill but if it's going to help me avoid injury then I may have to relent.

After a break from lunch we came back to hear from the editor of Runners World about the pacing groups they have on the day to help people looking to achieve a specific time. This was followed by some information about online fundraising and the London Marathon website.

The next session was all about nutrition, what to eat through training and specifially before, during and after the race itself. Carbs featured heavily in this talk, the advice being to eat them the night before a long run and definitely in the days preceeding the race. Refuelling during the race via sports drinks, gels or snacks was highly recommended as the body doesn't have enough energy to run for more than about 20 miles - this is why people hit 'the wall' if they don't re-fuel effectively throughout the race. Eating a mix of carbs and protein after a long run and the race is also recommended to aid recovery.

We were given samples of Lucozade Sport drink and energy gels to take away as this is what will be available on the day and also Nestle Pure Life Water which is available at every mile after mile 3. The mantra repeated several times during this session was practice and don't do anything different on the day.

The next session was hilarious - David Bedford the Race Director taking a light hearted look at the day and what to expect. He was a real character and had some very amusing tips - it was one of those 'had to be there' things and I'm sure that I wouldn't do his jokes justice by trying to regurgitate them all here so I won't try to. However, the one tip that does stick out for me was that if you decided you were going to have celebratory sex with your partner that evening to remember to move your medal onto your back rather than front to avoid knocking their teeth out. As I said, you probably had to be there!

The last session was Liz Yelling - elite marathon runner and coach and her husband Martin who is also a coach, talking about training plans. I was really pleased to realise through this session that I am doing everything that they recommend at the moment. As the day gets nearer I do need to start to think about target time and pace, if nothing else to avoid 'going out too quick' which apparently is very easy to do on the day when the adrenaline is flowing and leads to a very difficult second part of the race.

Overall it was a great and really informative day. I picked up some useful information about the day, some bargain new trainers and most of all was re-assured that I'm doing pretty much everything right at the moment. With just 11 weeks to go until the big day that gives me a lot of confidence. I'm now itching to get out for my 12 mile run tomorrow and willing the snow to stay away from London!