Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Snow, Stetsons & Socialising

The last three weeks have been eventful to say the least! The week after the Wokingham half marathon was a mixed bag. I had to shuffle my training sessions around a lot to allow for work and a weekend with the children. As such my "recovery run" became a 10 mile "comfortable run" which I nailed - felt really strong and had some good pace. It all fell apart a bit after that mind you. I had a sports massage on Wednesday and also a review of my training plan with coach Ellie. We discussed the outcome of the race and how I felt about it, what was coming up in the weeks ahead and as such my training plan has been tweaked and a couple more events signed up to (for training purposes only).
Two hours of ice skating for a child's birthday treat... better than a long run?
I routinely shift longer sessions planned for the weekend, to during the week. This isn't because I necessarily have more time but there are chunks of time where I'm not working and I'd rather train then than take time away from Dean and the kids on the weekend, so this is something that is changing in my plan. I also struggle with going outside on my bike. I freak out. I don't know where to go, worry about traffic and a number of other things, so turbo sessions are becoming more structured and I've signed up to a sportive and some social rides.

Monday 19th - Rest day
Tuesday 20th - 10 mile comfortable run
Wednesday 21st - Rest day (skipped track session)
Thursday 22nd - Swim & bike intervals
Friday 23rd - 2h bike ride & Tri club swim session
Saturday 24th - parkrun
Sunday 25th - Rest day (skipped bike intervals)

Reading with the cat
The week of the 26th was the week of the Beast from the East, with snow that caused a fair amount of upheaval. The beginning of the week was fairly straightforward, swims, cycles and so on all completed but several sessions got cancelled due to the snow and I felt unnecessarily guilty about that. Out of my control but I hated missing sessions when I had the energy to do something. I switched track for strength work (which I don't do nearly enough of) and my rest day on Thursday coincided with the snow laying thicker on the ground and the organisations I freelance for deciding to cancel all classes. It was like having a mini holiday! I read, caught up on some admin and drank copious amounts of tea. I completed my turbo session on Friday but got a notification later afternoon that the triathlon club swim session was cancelled as the sports centre was closing early, by which point I couldn't get to any pool to do any kind of swim, and there was no hope of fitting it in at the weekend!
Strength and stretching kit
Dean and I joined some friends on Saturday for a snowy run in the forest, punctuated by walking breaks, photo stops and much chatter. I know full well neither of us would have gone out on our own on the roads or in the woods and having committed to meet up with others meant we couldn't back out. And a snow mile is worth at least 1.5 road miles right?
Monday 26th - Swim
Tuesday 27th - 1h15 bike & 20 minute run
Wednesday 28th - Strength training (track session cancelled)
Thursday 1st - Rest day
Friday 2nd - Bike intervals (swim session cancelled)
Saturday 3rd - 11.5 mile comfortable run
Sunday 4th - 2h bike intervals
Breakfast at Carluccios

Last week was a great week training wise. I knew I was spending the weekend at the C2C country music festival at the O2 with acts starting around 10:30am on Saturday and Sunday and so would only have time for shorter sessions early morning. I'd discussed this with Ellie previously and she had adjusted things accordingly. For the first time in I can't remember how long, I completed every training session last week, getting up early on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to fit in my training. Not all went according to plan... I couldn't hit the heart rate zones in one ride, cadence monitors failed and a swim had to be cut short, but all in all I was really pleased.
I had another session with the osteopath who reassured me that my posture is improving and I have been more diligent with my stretches since. I found time to meet up with friends for lunch and breakfast and booked a flotation session for a few weeks time. I drank too many cocktails at the festival and ate out more times that I was truly comfortable with and have had a string of very late nights but all in all a good week and weekend.
Sunday's early morning run
Monday 5th - Swim
Tuesday 6th - 1h bike ride
Wednesday 7th - track session (fartleks), osteopath
Thursday 8th - 1h bike ride
Friday 9th - Swim
Saturday 10th - parkrun
Sunday 11th - 1h negative split run
Lattes with a friend. Poncy lattes. They were very good.
This weekend I'm doing the Finchley 20 on Sunday, provided we don't get the rumoured snow to disrupt things. I'm going to use the event to practise my marathon pace and nutrition strategy. I'm feeling quietly confident at the moment!

How did the snow disrupt your training if at all? Did you accept the time off or find alternative things to do?

Thursday, 1 March 2018

The Power of Comparison

Comparison: a consideration or estimate of the similarities or dissimilarities between two things or people.

Training is time consuming. Not only is my training taking up my time but it's consuming my brain power. I find myself thinking a lot about what I'm doing, how well I'm doing it, what sessions I have to juggle or move this particular week to fit in with other things. It's exhausting, and that's without actually completing the sets!
But in all seriousness it's comparison that's really occupying my mind. I am training for a full distance triathlon. That is my end goal. 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling and 26.s miles of running. There's a few intermediate goals along the way but they are all going to help me reach my end goal. The only other person I know well who's training for a similar thing is my husband Dean. I know several people training for marathons, Swimathon, personal bests, long distance bike rides. I even have a friend whose marathon goal is exactly the same as mine; same event, same time. But no one else is doing exactly the same thing overall. 
So why is it that I keep on finding myself comparing my efforts to theirs? Comparison is a natural thing for us to do I think. It's a way of validating our efforts, of answering the question "am I doing this right"? But with it often comes frustration, disappointment, feelings of inadequacy. The friend who is doing the same marathon as me recently obliterated her previous 10k PB. My speeds have been coming down but nowhere near to what she's achieving. We are doing different things and we have different goals; triathlon vs multiple running events.
Is comparing yourself to others always wasted energy? The positive aspect of comparing myself to someone else, as long as it's someone with similar goals, is that I can look at what is different and decide if there's anything I can bring into my training that would help. For example I'm training over three different disciplines, not just running, but my friend is doing more gym work than I am. So perhaps I could add in some focused strength work once a week which would make me more resilient, less prone to injury, stronger and faster. If I feel that my schedule really doesn't allow for that then I need to accept that I won't get those benefits.
The best kind of comparison is between my achievements now and my achievements a week/month/year ago. I keep a training diary with not only distances and times but energy levels, moods and of course PBs. I'm seeing my PBs coming down, my body better able to cope with the training volumes now than it was a month ago, my training more structured than it was last year and it also helps me to identify times when I might be overtraining.

So I'm making an effort not to compare myself to others, but if I do, to only take the positives from it, and to take time to look back on my journey from time to time to see just how far I have come.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Race Recap : Wokingham Half Marathon

My first event and target for the year has been ticked off the list. On February 18th I, along with a couple of thousand other people, took part in the Wokingham Half Marathon. I'd set myself the challenge of a sub 2-hour half marathon but it became clear in training that I wasn't going to be able to maintain the speed to do that so I re-adjusted my goal to achieve a PB, anything below 2h10. It had been a long time since I'd been quite as nervous before an event.

In the week and a half leading up to the event, my training went mostly to plan.
Thursday 8th - Rest day
Friday 9th - 1750m swim
Saturday 10th - Zumba Basic and Zumba Gold instructors course. A 10 hour day with a lot of dancing but I'm now qualified!
Sunday 11th - 1hour ramp run and an hour on the bike
Monday 12th - 1950m swim
Tuesday 13th - 45 minutes of fartleks and a couple of easy miles in the evening with clients
Wednesday 14th - Got talked into skipping track my the husband in favour of a Chinese take away on the sofa for Valentines day.
Thursday 15th - 1h10 on the bike
Friday 16th - 1hr on the bike and 1750m swimming
Saturday 17th - Rest day
Sunday 18th - RACE DAY!
The race started at a very civilised 10am. Car parking was located around the town with a 10-15 minute walk to the start. We ended up cutting it slightly fine with just enough time for me to visit the portals (plentiful) and Dean to do the bag drop. Lots of people, a well set out race village and plenty of shouting from the Race Director to tell us how little time we had left before the start. I placed myself roughly where I thought I needed to be in the start pack, Dean placing himself some distance behind me so I could concentrate on my race. We took about 3 minutes to cross the start line and it felt as though there was less jostling for position than usual. There was plenty of support along the entire route, from marshals, clubs and general public. It was a closed road event, on wide roads, country roads and taking in two motorway flyovers... twice. Otherwise it was largely flat.

I was aiming for 9:40 per mile for the first 8, which I managed relatively comfortably, edging a little quicker at times. Then miles 9-12 fell apart. Rather than speeding up I was taking an extra 45 seconds per mile. Shocking. I tried to dig in, pick my heels up, took my gel slightly earlier than planned... nothing worked. I feared a repeat of Oxford Half Marathon. A couple of shout outs helped but the photos from the race show grimaces and appalling form. Eventually I hit the last mile. A couple of women I knew drew alongside and told me Dean wasn't far behind. I swore a bit. I kept the feet moving as best I could, sped up a fraction and crossed the line taking 2 minutes off my previous PB time. And promptly collapsed on a nearby fence.
Dean crossed the line shortly afterwards, having completed the course in 2 hours 6 minutes to my 2 hours 8. We gathered medals, space blankets and bags (no goody bag for this event) and hobbled back to the car. I have to admit, despite the result I felt disappointed with my performance. It shows I rarely truly race events, completing them in relative comfort. And that's fine. If I do that from now on (after the events I've got goals for this year) then so be it. I'd rather still enjoy running than fear it. But it has opened my mind to what I can achieve.
I've learned a few things from the race:

  • Pace at the beginning of a race is crucial, especially when racing
  • Setting A, B and C goals helps to avoid disappointment, and sometimes that means readjusting goals before you get to the start line
  • It's hard to train for speed whilst training for endurance events
  • I am capable of more than I thought and with some more training a sub 2-hour half marathon is possible
  • I need to work on improving my running form 

I ran the event for the Anthony Nolan charity. I'm trying to raise £1,500 for them via my events this year and I would be so grateful if you could spare a few pounds for the cause. You can find my Just Giving page here:

The next event is Brighton Marathon which I'm aiming to complete in 4 hours 30 minutes. Why not donate the amount equivalent to the time you think I'll actually run it in? For example £4.30 or £4.40. If you get it spot on I'll send you something as a thank you!

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

What's In My Swim Bag

Swimming doesn't come easy for me. I really have to work at it. I still get freaked out if there are too many people in the pool, get worried that I'm holding people up (there fore swim faster and knacker myself out) and feel like I only ever have one pace.

I'm going to the pool twice a week these days, either to my Tri Club coached session or to the leisure centre to do a set dictated by my coach. Gone are the days where I just went to the pool and ploughed up and down until I'd covered a distance or time I had in mind.

As I'm getting more focussed, so my swim kit has expended a little. Here are the basics that I have in my swim bag most days.

  1. Costume - The all important swimming costume. My first swim suit (Speedo) was from Decathlon. My second from Speedo directly. Both were funky but they are wearing out and I decided to treat myself to something a little different. This one is by HUUB and you can find it here
  2. Cap - A cap keeps my head warmer and my hair out of my eyes. I've collected many swim caps over the years but it's nice not to wear a race branded one sometimes. I won't be able to wear this open water swimming (you need to be visible) so I'm making the most of this swim cap in the pool for now. I love a sugar skull! Find it at Decathlon.
  3. Goggles - I can't do a proper swim set without goggles and I finally found some that seem to fit me. Bonus is they were only £10! Find these Lomo goggles here.
  4. Antifog Spray - Despite my goggles fitting they still get steamed up. That was until I tried this Anti-Fog spray from Muc-Off. Now my vision is clear for the whole set!
  5. Ring Protector - Rather than take my rings off and risk losing them, or worry about them falling off in the pool, I invested in this ring protector from Amphibia, which keeps my rings in place and protected during my swim.
  6. Towel - Normal towels can be a bit bulky so I got an XL microfibre towel just for swimming. Plenty big enough to wrap up in, quick drying and cheap! Find other colours and sizes at Decathlon.
  7. Waterproof phone case - I get my sets via Training Peaks. I have an app on my phone so I bring it poolside to remind me what I'm meant to be doing. Some of those sets are long and complicated! I got this waterproof phone case years ago and I don't think they're available to buy but it's by the sports brand Ashmei.
I also have a variety of training aids that I've built up over a few months. I take them to every Tri Club session and some pool sessions depending on the set.

  1. Pull buoy - for isolating the arms and helping lift the legs.
  2. Fins - for improving kicks.
  3. Paddles - for improving the pull with the arms.

What do you have in your swim kit? Anything you consider vital that I'm missing?

Thursday, 8 February 2018

A Week In Training: Turbo, Tiredness & Tantrums

The weeks seem to be flying by at the moment, which is good because it means they are full and interesting enough not to drag but I do have to keep an eye on things to make sure I'm not squeezing too much in (as is my usual way of things). So I thought this week I'd keep it simple with an overview of my training and work-life balance in the week from the 1st to the 7th of February.


Starting on a bit of a low here. After morning class I set out for a 2hr endurance run. This meant one hour at target race pace plus a minute then the second hour at race pace. I hadn't planned a route as such but set out in an uphill direction with the logic that a downhill on the return would help me hit my pace. Cheating? Probably but I knew I'd been struggling to hit race pace. The first hour was ok but the second, well it all fell apart really. Despite a chap walking his dog congratulating me on how far I'd run (he'd seen me twice on my route at points significantly far enough apart to impress him) I stumbled home after 90 minutes feeling deflated that I'd not got closer than 20 seconds to my race pace. I curled up to finish off a book before evening classes.


I like Fridays. I teach one of my favourite classes in the morning and have the rest of the day to myself so a perfect day to tackle the two training sets in my plan. I tackled a bike test on the turbo trainer before work with the intention of swimming after class before meeting a friend for coffee. The bike test went well except my coach had neglected to mention that I should wear a heart rate monitor, so I'll be re-doing it tomorrow! However I failed to get to the pool and we were out for dinner with friends in the evening when the triathlon swim session takes place so only achieved half my training that day.
Turbo training means I'm in a vest with the window open and he's in a down jacket!


I'd pushed my rest day from Thursday to Saturday. I didn't make it to yoga in the morning but had a chilled out day with a few house viewings thrown in. Oh yes, we're looking to move house. Let's just add that into the mix why don't we?


Social bike ride day! Originally my plan said to do cross country in the morning followed by an hours bike ride in the afternoon. But. It was my grandmother's birthday party that afternoon and I knew I'd only have the morning to do any training. Then we got invited out for a bike ride which clashed with cross country. My logic was that I rarely if ever get out on the roads on my bike, especially at this time of year, so the lure of a ride that I didn't have to plan, with friends and a coffee stop was strong. Coach agreed this was a Good Choice so despite freezing temperatures and nerves about junctions we went. And I loved it!
Velolife cafe for our coffee stop


Should have been a swim day but after the travelling on Sunday I was knackered. I called it a rest day with the promise to myself that I'd swim on Wednesday instead. Taught three classes and got home at 8:45pm.
I've discovered a rather good alcohol free wine!


Had a great turbo workout after first class of the day! Got to play around with efforts which made the hour go really quickly. Yay! Taught a further four classes that day, one of which involved me taking part with light weights and another leading a 3 mile easy run. Got home at 8:30pm.


Swam in the morning and did the set I should have done on Monday. My pace was all off and I had a mini-tantrum at the poolside when I couldn't find my speed. Covered the distance though. Got a killer headache and started to ache all over as the day went on. Treated myself to the cinema (one of the perks of being active and having a Vitality Life Insurance is a free ticket each week I earn enough points) but two hours in a darkened room didn't help. Come 6:30pm, after teaching my two afternoon classes, my headache was still bad, I'd developed stomach cramps and a mild temperature so skipped track in favour of an early night. I did get my first Reading in Heels subscription box in the post though which perked me up temporarily. The Scentered balm is incredible!

So there we have it. I skipped two out of seven planned sessions which isn't ideal but life happens. I certainly couldn't have run last night but I do wish I'd made more effort to swim on Friday. Some weeks are better than others and I don't see any issue with completing the next seven days training as planned. I've not been so good at rollering and using the massage ball this week so that's another aim for next week.

Do you try and make up sessions when you miss them? Any tips on dealing with tiredness whilst training? 

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

But My Back Feels Fine!

At the beginning of the year when my coach was setting my training plan up for the month, she got in touch to see how I doing generally and what my thoughts were about training. It was around the time I was under the weather, again, and as well as recommending I got checked out by a doctor she also strongly urged me to go and see an osteopath she visits herself, to see if she could shed any light on why I was being struck down so often.

I'd never have thought to have gone to an osteopath. They deal with backs right? My back feels fine! What's she on about? Anyway I gave Lower Earley Osteopaths a call, full of cynicism and phrases like "I'm not sure if this falls under your remit", "don't want to waste your time" and "my back feels fine". However the lovely Emma patiently and kindly explained that she takes more of a holistic approach to women's health, using a combination of lifestyle and exercise advice to complement more traditional osteopathic treatment and that an appointment would certainly be worthwhile. So that was that.

My first appointment was a bit of a wake up call. We started with a chat and a run through of my work. activity and medical history, my stem cell and white blood cell donations, an overview of my diet/supplements, sleep patterns and quality, hormonal and energy fluctuations. Laying it all out on the line like that in itself made me realise things hadn't been quite as stress-free as I'd made myself believe so it was no surprise when I was told that I had put my body under a lot of strain and it is running on reserves. Although not anxious stress, my adrenaline levels have been high for a sustained period of time and unable to fully recover.

Next she looked my my posture. The verdict? My spine is out of kilter towards the bottom and my right shoulder blade rolls forwards pushing some ribs out of alignment and compressing kidneys. My knees roll inwards and some prodding of my legs revealed that my ITB is fraying and a quarter of the size it ought to be! My poor posture is from years of working at a laptop (which I still do) and causing compression of some vital organs isn't allowing them to get as much blood as they need to work effectively which if  left totally unchecked could ultimately lead to autoimmune disease. Just to top it off, if not remedied my ITB could snap leaving me unable to race again. Gulp.

Emma then proceeded to do some work on my spine, cracking and releasing it. She stuck needles in my ITB near the knee and manipulated my kidneys and liver (!) to allow more blood flow. this left me with a feeling somewhere between ache and tingle. Finally she manipulated the base of my head and neck which gave me a snotty nose as things opened up. I also got a big list of "homework":

  • Get my running gait assessed to check for hip hitching
  • Roll my ITB twice daily until cursing her name
  • Try to set up a desk area with USB keyboard and mouse
  • But a peanut for lower back and neck release
  • Stretch my hip flexors daily
  • Pay attention to my posture and concentrate on sitting correctly with shoulder rolling back

The peanut
The appointment had put the fear of God into me and I did get quiet emotional over the next few days. But I'm doing my stretches, rolling (OMFG) and am typing this on a proper keyboard at the dining table as an interim measure. I've also got an appointment to get my gait assessed. On my second visit, things were much less scary. Emma could see some improvements in my posture already which was reassuring. I'm interested to see how quickly improvements with my ITB will happy and what difference all of this will make to my health and energy levels. To say I'm a convert isn't quite true yet but I can certainly see the logic behind what we've discussed. Watch this space to see what happens next!

Have you ever seen an osteopath? Was it for something you didn't think they could help with? Or has there been another "specialist" that helped you for something you wouldn't have originally thought to have approached them for?

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

A Message, Motivations and Making Time For Myself

A couple of weeks ago I was checking my email between classes and saw one from Anthony Nolan. It was entitled "Message from your recipient". After donating white blood cells, my second donation for my match, I sent a short message to my recipient via the charity. I had no way of knowing if my recipient was in the UK or if she would want or be able to return my message, but needing white cells led me to believe she was doing ok and I felt compelled to get in touch, even if my message was rather clumsy. I had no idea what she's going through and even less what to say. Nervously I clicked on it and the content left me feeling very emotional. All communication is anonymous and I'm not able to share it with you but suffice to say it was a beautiful message and it seems she's doing really well. It was a good reminder of why I need to look after myself, and why I'm putting the effort into training this year.
It's been with some trepidation that I returned to training on the 5th of January under the watchful eye of my coach but I seem to be doing ok. I've been giving plenty of feedback on how different sessions have felt and although I've substituted rest day Thursdays with yoga for the past two weeks (thereby only having one day clear of any activity since the 5th) I've found it a useful part of my routine, something I really enjoy that I also consider part of my self-care routine. For the first week or so, training felt like a novelty again but it quickly becomes another thing to fit into the diary so keeping the driving factors in mind helps. My motivators are that I've signed up to big events this year that I don't want to fail at but perhaps more importantly because I am hoping to raise £1,500 for Anthony Nolan by completing these events. I also use bribery to get me through training sessions! Promising myself a chocolate bar after swimming for instance (see above), or spending the last 15 minutes of an uncomfortable turbo session discussing the relative merits of gin versus wine as a post training beverage with Dean... I went with gin.
I was less smily at the end of the session.
This leads me neatly into an update on my self-care resolution for 2018. In addition to treating myself now and again (I must stress that I don't give myself a reward after every training session) I've already managed to cook from two new recipe books this year, even getting Dean to accept that tofu isn't all that bad.
Vietnamese Pho from the Mindful Chef cookbook
I've met up with friends once a week or so (something that got rather neglected at the end of 2017) and allowed myself a guilt-free hour or two each day to watch something on TV. Sometimes that's been while I'm training on the bike... I can catch up on my Nordic programmes despite the noise from the turbo trainer thanks to subtitles! I've also been reading more, substituting time on the phone in the morning and on occasion TV in the evening for a book. My favourite one to dip into has been Lagom... very much in keeping with what I'm trying to achieve this year.
That's all been for my mental wellbeing. For my physical wellbeing I've indulged in bubble baths, had my monthly sports massage (tight lower back, calves, quads and forearms), booked in to see an osteopath and gotten a flu jab. When I've felt tired I've rested or had an early night. I'm taking my vitamin supplements and trying to eat well. Oh I know perhaps at the moment it's all sounding a bit smug. I'm not looking for any recognition here or to guilt anyone into doing anything, it's just a snapshot of my life at the moment. This blog has always been about documenting my endeavours including the ups and downs of training and how I deal with those. If it helps or inspires anyone, that's a bonus as far as I'm concerned!
Afternoon treat of scone with blackberry gin jam!
To that end, are you getting to the end of January on a high or a low? What's your driving factor this year and how are you staying focused?