Training Update: Week 12

This week was going to be a crucial one, following the downer that was last week’s long run. I needed to learn how to keep going with training and not let one bad run define my training experience and that of the marathon itself! Building yourself back up after a knock to your confidence is tough to do in only a couple of days, but time isn’t waiting for me and 23 April 2017 is hurtling towards me at full speed.

Tuesday was a 50 minute recovery run, which went fine apart from a terrible stitch that plagued me throughout. I started my run aiming to adopt a different approach to running. I told myself I would pay my running app no mind, and that I would just enjoy running for the liberating, miraculous act that it is. Being close enough to the Thames to run along it is also something to treasure, so I just soaked in the surroundings, paying attention to the ducks and geese on the river and to the beautiful architecture of the Old Royal Naval College. I felt so rejuvenated in terms of my outlook on running, that I resolved to tackle my recovery runs with the same attitude every time.

After that, I was gearing up for an interval run in a city I’d never visited before. Work took me to Leeds for 2 days and 1 night, and I asked around for good running routes. I was consistently told that the canal was the best place to run, so on Thursday morning, I laced up nice and early and set off to explore.

The run went something like this: 10 minutes easy run, (6 minutes tempo run, 2 minutes walk/recovery jog) x 4, 10 minutes easy run. Once again, I slightly dreaded this as I’m no good at intervals. However, the case really must be made for running through uncharted territory and how much it boosts your running. The novelty of the location combined with the early morning sun shimmering off the water made the run a breeze. Well, I say a breeze, but that’s in comparison to previous interval runs where I thought my heart would literally rip through my chest it was working so hard. Time simply flew by. Looking back, I think the interval made me slightly more optimistic for this week’s Sunday long run. The change of scenery did wonders for me and for my mood.

Saturday evening, I went to see An American in Paris at the Dominion Theatre. Now, you may be thinking, “What does a musical have to do with running?” I’ve always firmly believed that dance is a sport, and I am in awe every time I watch professional dancers, of any genre of dance, perform. It boggles the mind how athleticism and control marry with artistry and a semblance of effortlessness, to create sheer magic. There is no doubt in my mind that dancers are athletes. The stamina required to train relentlessly, to give your all in every performance, day in and day out… It makes you realise that the human body is an incredible thing, and that so much of what dancers do applies to running as well!

I was on cloud nine after the musical, which was an absolute tour de force. Go and watch it! There’s a reason it has won 4 Tony awards. Here’s a taster (just imagine doing this 7 times per week, and as part of a wider show!)

Onto the long run…

During the week, it occurred to me that I had experienced that mysterious feeling of “hitting the wall” on last Sunday’s run. The time had come to look into fuelling during the run. Because of my IBS, I had always been fearful of energy gels, jellies and bars as they contain caffeine, fructose, and loads of other ingredients I am confident my tummy could not handle. I spoke with people at the London Marathon store on Bishopsgate to see if they had any experience, first-hand or otherwise, with GI issues on long runs and how to fuel adequately. I left the store with an energy gel, jelly blocks, and energy jelly beans to trial them and see what works best.

I set off today overwhelmed with apprehension about the fuelling and about the run itself. I opted for the jelly blocks to begin with, but had no idea how my gut would react to them. I did feel better and more hopeful than I did last week, though, so that was a plus.

I felt in control up until I had to cross the river at Waterloo Bridge in my third segment of 28 mins easy run + 2 mins walk (repeat 6 times), but with the quote from last week’s post on my mind, I kept moving forward by walking. By the time I reached Tower Bridge, I felt it was time to break out the jelly blocks. I knew I was going to hit the wall within 10-15 minutes. They had the texture of a Turkish delight – halfway between gummy sweet and jelly – and were sickly sweet. I was advised to take two blocks and to help them along with some water.

I braced myself for intense cramping and made a mental map of which toilets were on the route home. Imagine my pleasant surprise when the cramps never arrived! This spurred me on, and allowed me to focus on not giving up even though my knees were screaming at me to stop. If I ever felt like giving up, I would walk for a minute, then start jogging again.

Nearly 3 hours and 26.8 kilometres later, I flopped down on a bench outside my local supermarket, utterly spent. My head was racing not with thoughts about my run today, but about the run last week, and how defeated I felt then. After remembering that, I looked back at what I had just achieved, and felt like this whole week was a success in overcoming the bad run and the proverbial wall. The change in outlook, learning about fuelling during the run, discovering new places, the power of dance… It appears I have found the 4-part remedy to the bad run blues!

Next week’s long run will be the longest of the entire plan, and I intend to cover 20 miles. You will find me at the Marathon store stocking up on jelly blocks!

You can sponsor me for the London Marathon 2017 by clicking here. I am running to support Anthony Nolan and Crohn’s & Colitis UK.

Training Update: Week 11

I had a completely different plan for this post, much like I had a completely different plan for my long run this Sunday. I had been hoping to end the weekend on a strong note, by conquering yet another longest-run-ever.

For the week’s first training run, I was exhausted but riding on the high from finishing my first half marathon the previous weekend. So 40 minutes of easy running came and went, and all was right with the world.

As the interval run on Friday loomed, doubt set in, particularly because I hate intervals, and this upcoming one was going to be tougher than any interval run before (10 mins easy run, (5 mins tempo run, 3 mins recovery run/walk) x 5, 10 mins easy run). Still, I went out thinking I’d take it one interval at a time. I managed it, but rather than being elated at having overcome the negative thinking, I focussed instead on how wiped out I felt for the rest of the day.

Then today’s long run happened. The target was 2 hours 30 minutes, and between 14 and 16 miles. I set off feeling tired mentally and physically, and had already told myself that I was more likely than not to give up when the moment came. At 2km, a nasty stitch made an appearance, and it took a really tough kilometre to get rid of it. Even then, it still lingered as a mini stitch for the remainder of the run.

Just as found my stride, it started to rain. Cue my cursing the Met Office for the gross misinformation (they had said it would only be overcast for the entire day). Rain on a 30 minute run, I can definitely cope with that. But for over 2 hours? Hell no. Especially not when I decided to cross the Thames at the Millennium Bridge, which has the slipperiest surface.

I crossed the bridge and had to stop as the area outside the Swan at the Globe was shut off to pedestrians for a couple of minutes to allow for filming. While it was fun to witness the action, it did screw up my rhythm. Coming to a standstill made me acutely aware of the growing pain in my hip flexors and my knees, and also of how tired I felt. It all started to go downhill when they opened up the South Bank again to pedestrians.

At 16km, I had to stop and walk, and with the rain intensifying, I was just sick of the entire thing. I rang my boyfriend to get encouragement or to ask for a lift (still not sure which of the two was my true reason for calling), but he offered to come and fetch me. He said wouldn’t be another 10-15 minutes, so I agreed to meet him 1km further on. I ploughed through until 17km and simply couldn’t put one foot in front of the other anymore.

The relief when I stopped was quickly usurped by regret. If I could still run another kilometre after that call, why couldn’t I have run another 5? What I perceived 5 minutes prior to be an all-consuming intense pain was now a dull ache. I was disappointed in myself for not persevering. After all, I had previously pushed through awful stitches, mind-numbing leg pain, stomach cramps (and the emergency pit stops that came with them), snow, and I had always finished what I set out to do.

Then I realised this was my first real bad run. When that dawned on me, the disappointment increased hundred-fold. The marathon is only 6 weeks away, and I’m supposed to be rising up to the challenge of the weekly long runs, not giving up on them!

Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up. – Dean Karnazes

Having reached out for encouragement and support, and read around the topic of bad runs a bit more, I have had a nice shot of positivity to kickstart the process of bouncing back from today. As a beginner, the novelty of training for an event provides a really steep learning curve. I am sure that more advanced runners have experienced and overcome the mental setback of a run that just didn’t go well.

I am still feeling slightly down about the whole thing, but Week 12 starts tomorrow. It will be a clean slate, and a new opportunity to prove that this cannot and will not stop me in my tracks. I look forward to reporting back next week with insights on how I conquered not just a certain distance or duration, but most importantly the shock of my first bad run.

Onwards and upwards!