The Hills are Aliiiiiive!

On Thursday night I attended a Women’s Running event at Runner’s Need in Victoria hosted by the editor, a life coach, personal trainer and a physiotherapist. The main focus of the event was to discuss motivation and training techniques and thankfully the crowd were all relatively new runners, training for half marathons, so we all had very similar questions.

My main challenge at the moment is getting my pace up when running on my own. I find it incredibly hard to push the speed element of the training without someone else’s slightly faster pace to mirror. Interval training I can manage, but its the longer stamina runs that end up falling back to 11:30 min miles, rather that the 10:30 I’m aiming for.

The feedback from the experts then was to give hill training a go. Great for stamina, a form of interval training and also adds in an element of strength training for the old legs. Clearly I am thrilled about this. Hills – not a fan. Intervals – make me want to vomit. Fantastic.

The plan they recommended looks like this:

  • Warm up for 10 minutes regular tempo
  • 1 minute or thereabouts hard up hill 
  • Recover on the down hill
  • Repeat for 15 minutes (with a 2 minute recovery jog if needed half way)
  • Cool down 10 minute tempo run

This looked pretty doable actually and lucky for me there’s a pretty killer hill about a mile away from my flat, just enough time to warm up then.

I set off in my brand spanking new running kit (discount sale at the seminar! I am a sucker for a deal) feeling pretty positive about the session. One minute up hill – pfffft! Easy.

Walk? We ran!

Stella contemplates the hill
Stella sets the pace

And so we hit the hill. One minute up hill, fine. I’ve done that hill a hundred times before. But just the one time per run. One minute up that hill six times over? Not so fine. Although very amusing for passers by, and very confusing for Stella the Dog who actually sat down at one point. Clearly the hill even got to her.

Really pleased I managed it and what a way to clear the better part of 5kms and get the heart rate hitting the threshold. HELL YES! (I say this after I collapsed in a heap on my kitchen floor)

Four to the floor
Stella in Recovery Mode = Hiding

Suffering: Optional

With the 2012 Olympic spirit blazing through London at the moment its hard not to get completely engulfed in it and then attempt some huge personal record breaking feats. And why not? Mo winning double gold in particular, and emphasising, “its all hard work and grafting, then anything is possible” inspired me to get out there and train. No more excuses. 
I’ve also found inspiration in another form, as I am finally reading one of the definitive running autobiographies by the brilliant Murakami; What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. He writes about the idea that pain is inevitable, but that suffering is optional. This was a philosophy he read an ultra-marathon runner discussing when coping with huge physical stress over a prolonged period of time without giving up, and its an idea he’s taken to heart with his training. 
So yes, basically it is going to hurt. Potentially a lot. There’s no getting round that, but it’s whether or not you give into your doubt or fear of coping with that pain that makes all the difference. There’s a choice there, which seems so obvious and simple. But when I’m breaking new ground, be it that extra kilometre, faster pace or steeper hill, its a choice I have to keep making, sometimes over and over again while running. 
Thankfully though I am not training for an ultramarathon, so let’s be frank and do away with my drama queen antics, the pain won’t be gut-wrenching (we hope!). 
It’s all in the eyebrow
Nevertheless, my training run today of 7 miles (11.3kms) was not off to a great start and I was feeling pretty lack lustre. That pain in the hip started niggling again and then a nasty stitch developed around the 3 mile mark (that will be that apple danish, more fool me!). But with a few well chosen mantras, some old school Chemical Brothers (Dig your Own Hole, ironically fitting) and consistently making the choice to push on through, in the end I managed a decent pace and finished the required mileage. 
Even if I did end up looking a bit like this. Ouch. 
This snapshot doesn’t quite show you how red in the face I actually go (crimson). Having pushed through the discomfort, and locked another training session in the bank, I do love those endorphins and the red face, dry mouth, salt in the eyes, burning muscles that they bring. Pretty fantastic after all. 
Plus I get to demolish a huge guilt free seared beef and mustard BOSS sandwich. Full credit to Mr R for making sure there was delicious post run food in the fridge. Gold!

The Good Run

Running and I did not get off to a good start this week. Still recovering from my Sunday long run, I wasn’t feeling very clever on Monday morning. With an early start looming, and the bus rounding the corner faster than I could walk it, so I made a run for it, thinking I could clear the distance Usain Bolt style. Forgot I was wearing heels, forgot I am not, in fact, an Olympic gold medal sprinter. Forgot to look out for misplaced dustbins. And predictably, found myself upended on the pavement, flat on my face on Ladbroke Grove with the contents of my handbag strewn far and wide. Thankfully I was wearing trousers.

A very sweet 10 year old boy stopped to help me collect my oyster card, mascara and notebook, while three very able young men pretended not to laugh. No cut lips, but my blood was boiling nonetheless. I think my pride was more hurt than my scuffed hands and knees but Ouch (capital O). Oh and I missed the bus.

Tuesday’s rolled around and I’m still feeling a bit battered from the fall (no blood it did some kind of mischief to my shoulder and I’m playing up the drama). But the training schedule is what it is. And there’s less than 9 weeks to go to the Royal Parks half marathon. No more excuses.

Recently I’ve been trying to incorporate the tips on form that I was given a few weeks back during one of the Run Britannia sessions, and its beginning to really make a difference. I’ve picked up a few bad habits over the past 18 months that I have been running, which they say is very normal, the hardest thing is just getting out a doing it in the first place. But now that I’m trying to increase speed and pick up the distance, I need to start looking at being more energy efficient. Which isn’t as hard has it looks.

So I’m trying to unpick the habit of heel striking and shifting to mid foot running which means I’m dragging my feet less and using stronger muscles (activate the hamstrings – OUCH). I’m straightening my back and pulling my shoulder blades back rather than up, so less slumping forward and less tension. And lastly I’m relaxing. Yes really. Just going with it.

And what a run it was! Not overly quick, or long, but I felt pretty goddamn amazing. A few aches and pains as per normal, but less fatigued, much lighter. And the niggling hip pain seems to be easing. Even in the pouring rain. YES!

Hardcore. Oh Yes. 
New Route! 

Super Sunday

It must be Olympic fever. I managed the 6am start twice this week, even got R out and about for a quick 2 miler and managed a decent 10K this morning – partly motivated to get to the screens in Hyde Park to watch the ladies marathon as they approached Pater Noster Square. 

Completely inspiring to watch the city get behind team GB. And in particular watching the ladies clean up  in the medals!

Hyde Park Olympic Screens
Ladies Marathon – 2 hours and counting!

Having allowed myself a short break to watch the action, I headed back to Ladbroke Grove – when the heavens opened. Which after 8kms is actually welcome relief – one of the great perks of summer running, cooling off!

Headed home to finish off the long run of the week, treated myself to Yazoo (best run recovery drink on the market in my humble opinion) and a salt beef, pickle and mustard sandwich. Standard.

Like crack for running addicts