Keep on TRIing

I love the training journey that I am going on and recent adventures have not disappointed. Two weeks ago, I took the leap to boldly go where I have never gone before and passed the half marathon mark! Claire and I met in Llanberis and decided to tackle the last 16 miles of the marathon route. I’d already covered part of this on an early recce but this would prove worthwhile to get over two of the three major up hill sections.

We made a plan to leave my car at Claire’s, took the van to our starting position (more on this later) and off we went. Throughout this entire process the thing I will take away more than anything are the friendships that I have forged and running with Claire is just a lovely way to catch up with each other. The miles tick by without much thought and we put the world to rights. That run was no exception and she got me out of Beddgelert with relative ease (and no walking break)! I was doing my best to stick to my scheduled fuel breaks and everything felt pretty good; however, around the ten mile mark things started to misfire a bit and I started to think the next six miles were a mega undertaking and it’s at this point that having company on a run is invaluable for me… I shared my concerns with Claire and she suggested taking on some food and started to play a silly game which completely took my mind off the running until I found my rhythm again. I have to say I hadn’t expected the doubt gremlin to appear before the 13 mile mark given the fact I had comfortably run Beaumaris Half the week before but these things are all part of the marathon experience.

When we had plotted this run, we had decided that the final climb of the course, which comes around the 22-mile mark was going to be a walk as this climb is pretty beastly. We got to the Waunfawr sign and headed up. En route we found a marshal who was out on course for one of the brutal extreme triathletes and stopped for a little chat before continuing on up – that brutal triathlon sounds unreal and these athletes had already been going for about 24 hours at this point – mental. It’s funny trying to get your legs back to running after an uphill climb so things were a bit clunky at the top of this section but then the downhill started! It was around this point that we realised we had slightly messed up on the car sharing mission… We were two miles from my car, 14 from Claire’s van, my car keys were in Claire’s house, Claire’s house keys were in the van. Oops. Lucky for us we have an amazing running club family and Claire happens to live next door to one of them who came to our rescue – thank you, Kath!

We navigated the final descent and got back in to Llanberis; 16.7 miles in the bag. I was absolutely buzzing and for the first time in this whole process started to think that maybe, just maybe, this challenge is actually achievable!

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The best running buddy ❤

And now for something a little different…

Not many people know this but the reason I started to run properly was because I actually wanted to complete a triathlon. I have never had an inclination to run but I loved swimming as a kid and have also had moments in my life enjoying biking. It was running that was my nemesis and something I would need to tackle if I stood any chance of getting anywhere with this triathlon idea. Fast forward 18 months and I never would have thought running would be such a massive part of my life and one that I do not want to get rid of but the triathlon dream still remained and finally became a reality last weekend!

Given the amount of energy that is going in to Eryri training, this first foray into tri was a little bit of fun and light relief from the other miles. Always Aim High’s Superfeet Sandman Triathlon, Sprint distance. My swim training had been dodgy, and I was feeling a tad unprepared for that part but I had been and checked out the bike route twice with Chris as well as a bit of a plod on the running course.

The swim was a bit of a funny one, the waves were present and the tide didn’t exactly behave itself as stretches of the swim were walked but I was doing it! I managed to not look a fool of myself in transition and set off for a really good bike. Then on to the run which wasn’t quite as comfortable as I had hoped it would be; I think the combination of trail when almost all of my training as been road based and tiredness from the other two areas meant I was having a bit of a bimble. I managed to trip over a tree stump at one point but luckily landed in very soft sand and then met a lady who was struggling with injury. At this point, we were a mile off finishing and I knew it would get done and what was more important was solidarity and getting the finish line in the bag. Three of us walked the last bit of the course together and received our finishers medals.  I LOVED the event! Everyone had been so friendly, the marshals were great, the location is stunning and the organisation second to none. I cannot wait to have another go!  Oh, and I even got a little screen time in the S4C coverage of the event – haha!

 

Week 5

I didn’t do a running review of week 4 because it was a bit of a relaxed week in terms of not doing a speed session but instead having a steady Parkrun and then a long run. I did however get an ace pic at Parkrun thanks to SJ Photography and, of course, a selfie with my Sunday Social buddies on our really lovely route around Llanberis Lake which culminated in breakfast at Caban.

So on to week 5 and the realisation I had a plan to stick to, or did I?!

Wednesday – club run – instead of meeting on the hill we have decided to mix it up a bit and do some work in Llanberis. I had heard rumours of tempo/progression run so was pleasantly surprised when I was allowed to go for a run around the lake. Lisa, Jayne, Sarah and I set off together and intended to run at least 3.7 miles in memory of Matt Campbell, the runner who very sadly lost his life at the recent London Marathon. It was really lovely to run alongside the ladies and to stick with Sarah who kept me well paced throughout. The views around the lake really are stunning. I ended up reaching 4 miles which I figured could count as my long run for the week…

Friday – as I had done a longer run on Wednesday and I knew I would be better doing a speed session at the track on Sunday I decided to take Matt up on his offer of a post-work 5km. When I checked if these plans were okay with the training plan boss I did get the all clear but it was suggested I try to make it a progression run rather than an easy session. I hate progression runs. However, I know they have their uses so informed Matt of the plan who promptly set the workout on his watch and waited for the end of the day.

I went in with a positive mindset, I knew the first mile at 11:30 pace was well within my comfort zone and I so wanted to nail the rest. Mile 2 went down to 10:30 and I was okay with that too. It was feeling harder but I did it. Then came mile 3 and 9:30 pace. How long do you reckon I lasted?! Point 2 of a mile. Point 2 of a mile and I honestly thought I might spew. Why can’t I run faster?! I had a pause to catch my breath and tried again but to no avail. At this point I was really grateful to have Matt with me as I would probably have given up altogether and walked back to the car in a major sulk but Matt suggested we tried a fartlek session picking landmarks to run all out to and then having a short walk before going again. I actually managed that! Small victory there then. I still hate progression runs.

Sunday – in true mixing it up style, I decided to go completely off-piste and take Jon up on his offer of doing my first ever ‘brick’ session! Now, I have been in possession of my loan road bike for a few weeks now and have barely covered any distance on it so naturally lending a turbo from Han and heading to the track was a perfectly sensible idea! Jon had this grand idea of doing 5 reps of 15 minute bike, 5 minute run. I just wanted to have a go and not fall over – bar, set! I managed x2 reps and then a mile run at the end because “I hadn’t done enough running”! The legs felt so bizarre when I first got off the bike but I was absolutely delighted that I didn’t fall off or fall over. I was also pretty chuffed to manage to go a bit further on the second running leg and maintain an okay speed for the mile at the end!

 

So that was my training done for the week but we then took the pup to the beach so she could run around like a lunatic and have her own adventure. Given my ‘throw caution to the wind’ attitude of this week and have a go I donned my wetsuit and went in for a dip. Clearly a triathlete wannabe!

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I really, really, really need to stick to my plan next week but heck, this week has been such fun (well, apart from that progression)!

Week 3

This week’s running started, as usual, on Wednesday and Belmont Hill. I am now in receipt of the training plan which will take me to race day and when I saw what this session had in store I honestly felt like bringing my long run forward and heading in the opposite direction, running away. Two reps, ten minutes each – argh!

On arrival at the session that delightful set was added to… Not only did we have to keep going for 10 minutes, we also had to head to lamppost 6!!!!! For the record, I usually get to lamppost 3, think about going to 4 and then think better of it. Owing to the fact the big A race is anything but flat I have been psyching myself up to go further up the hill and last week managed half way between 3 and 4 (go me)! My hand was being forced: keep it steady, keep good form but get my butt up that hill. As a consolation prize, we were allowed to have a run to lamppost 2 in between to “break things up” but that had to be faster – certain people were loving this power, I’m sure I have used the word sadist before…!

Off we set. I kept it steady, as is my way, and just went for it. Got to post 4 and felt okay, then rounded the corner for the last 2 and that is where the burn kicked in. That last pull up is hard! I was behind the others but I did not care one bit as I had essentially doubled my climb. In the 10-minute stint I got up to that lamppost 3 times! At one point I did feel like I was just going to sack it off and walk but that little nag in your head sets in “you’ll only let yourself down”; and God dammit you know it’s right!

During our rest break I had a little chat with Menna (who had been so lovely when she passed me on the top bit shouting words of encouragement) and she just reminded me that getting up there meant a longer downhill and a better view! During the second set I really kept this in mind and made sure I looked up when I reached the top. I even kept running after the final whistle just because I was so close to the marker.

Once I got my breath back, I felt amazing and just absolutely delighted! I didn’t stop smiling all evening. Hill rep win!

Speed session?! I had a bit of a fail getting my speed session in on Friday night because I forgot I had a rehearsal and misjudged my timings. Never fear, I thought, there’s always tomorrow but this, my friends, is where danger sets in… I had already put myself forward to marshal at Parkrun so a morning run was out (I realise that there is plenty of time before 8.30 to play with but I couldn’t face setting that alarm) and when I came home the weather was so unbelievably stunning that we went to the mountains instead and once again, I ran out of time that evening to fit my speed session in – d’oh! That said, our 3-hour hike in the hills was amazing and I have zero regrets about getting out and doing something with man and pup. Sunday, however, had to be non-negotiable, 4 miles needed to be ticked off the plan.

 

 

 

Having chatted with Gem we sussed out that neither of us had any plans for Sunday so I put meeting up for a run on the table. I really enjoyed myself last week having a bit of time on my own but having the option of a partner in crime is always welcome and luckily for me, she was willing to plot out a circular route in her old stomping ground.

We met in Betws before the hoards arrived and drove up to our starting point. Up was most definitely the key to this route and I naively asked if the car had done most of the climbing for us before we had even parked! The route we took was so fun, a good mix of forest track, field and road with some beautiful scenery along the way. Not a particularly fast run on this route owing to some of the terrain/incline/traffic but when you get to experience these stunning locations does speed really matter?!

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In fact, I couldn’t help but mill over this idea in my head for the rest of the morning… “does speed really matter”?! I know I have set myself this goal of getting a quicker time at Abersoch and I am very grateful to have a good plan in place to help me get there; however, first and foremost, running should be fun and this whole process needs to be something I enjoy. I will train, I will stick to my plan (better than I have managed to this week) but I must make sure that I am still enjoying the journey otherwise there is simply no point!

Week 2

Wednesday Hill Reps – I don’t know what it is about a hill session but I actually love them. I think it might be the fact it’s broken into chunks, recovery time is factored in and the goals always seem manageable. This week’s session was written down as being 6×3 min with 3 min recovery. When we first met up it was decided to review after 4 sets and see how everyone was doing. Chris also decided to mix it up this week and actually carried out her threat of running with cardboard tubes so we can see how are arms are driving. You look like a bit of a plonker doing this but hey, we were all in it together! The only snag this week, given the shortness of the rep, was the fact you had to run hard both up and down – the kind of vomit-inducing hard – and keep your form for the entire duration; easy peasy!

On reflection, set one is probably the hardest. I think I start off a bit too hard and then realise I have to maintain this for another 5 sessions (I clearly wasn’t going to stop at 4, the decision had already been made). By set 4 I was in to the swing and even tried getting further up the hill (lamp post 3.5). 6 sessions done and it felt pretty good to be fair!

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Friday Speed Session – 15 minute warm up followed by 3 min reps with 3 minute recovery x 4 with a cool down. I headed out on to the cycle path between home and Tregarth to do this session. I’m definitely finding three minutes hard to maintain speed wise; I feel like I start really strong but after a minute it feels tough and I find myself checking the clock every few seconds. That said, I did complete the set and had a cool down “jalk” (something between a jog and walk) back to the house via a slightly muddy path – oops. Garmin over view says that this session wasn’t as speedy as the hill set earlier in the week but then that also included the warm up run down Belmont hill where gravity is clearly on side!

 

Sunday long run – my training plan stated the need to do a 4 mile run and as I have visitors staying this weekend, I needed to try and accommodate everyone’s needs in this plan. Given the fact that we were well overdue for a visit to Siabod Café, I decided to work it so I would meet the gang at the café having completed the run and therefore fully deserving the completely unhealthy breakfast I was really going to enjoy!

Lucky for me none of the others in my house this weekend are particularly early risers so I didn’t have to set off until 9.15! I took my car down to Ogwen Valley and parked up near the foot of little Tryfan having marked out on the map the fact the path between this point and Joe Browns to be just shy of my 4 mile target. I had such a fun run! It’s been ages since I have done a longer run on my own and I really enjoyed it! I met a few folk along the way including a gang of mountain bikers – I decided to stop and let these guys pass rather than risk major mud spattering/mowing down but essentially had some time to just enjoy my surroundings.

Things I have learnt this morning:

1. I was totally right to call wearing my trail shoes!

2. Sometimes, just like the Bear Hunt story tells us, you have to go through it!

3. French toast tastes even better when you have done the exercise before hand!

Week 1

So I’m pretty sure I am a week in to my Abersoch mission at least I have done three runs with guidance from Jack so that’s a week done, right?

Hill rep session last Wednesday was a gentle one (if you can call running up and down hill for 8 minute stretches gentle)! That said, the 8th minute was a killer and I did find myself willing the whistle to blow! I need to start trying to push myself to further lamp posts over the coming months but Wednesdays focus was on keeping good form and I definitely feel like I am holding myself better!

My next run was a bit of a speed session. This happened to coincide with a visit to south Wales and therefore meant I had endless options for flat routes (OMGEEEEEEEEE). The session was a 15 minute slow warm up followed by a pyramid type session of running as fast as I can for 1 minute, then 2, then 3 and back down again with the corresponding time as a rest and then a 15 minute cool down. Out of all the tasks that lay before me I think I found the going super slow most difficult which I would never have believed possible! When it came to the pyramid, minute one was okay though I shocked myself to see 7-something on my pace, minute two also not so bad but I could definitely feel myself slowing, minute three was hard and seemed to drag; knowing I only had to do that once was enough to make sure I just kept going. I also tried to make sure that I sped back up for the last 7-8 seconds of each set as I was safe in the knowledge that I had some recovery time. I felt good at the end of the session and posted my Garmin stats for Jack to see – not too sure how he is going to use this information at this stage and fear I may be in for further torture!

My second session was supposed to be a nice easy 3-5 miler which, in future, should coincide with club social runs, but, as we were still south, was one I needed to do on my own. I sussed out a route (one that didn’t rely on going past people’s houses, which I really hate doing) and set off on Monday morning. Two miles in and feeling pretty strong both legs and, most importantly, head wise and I was struck with this horrible pain in my right shoulder. Having spent the last year developing technique I try to use my arms as much as possible when I run and anything I can do to help me push my speed is called upon so I knew this was a problem. Initially, I did what anyone on a training plan does and tried to ignore it but it wasn’t easing and even a few movements in different directions didn’t help so I stopped and as soon as I did, the pain stopped. Talk about fickle! Not overly sure what could have caused this – sleeping in a different bed? Belated reaction to the bouldering session I did last week? Aversion to Mondays? Who knows! This is going to be something to watch… Humph!

I’m now looking forward to receiving my next set of instructions for the coming week!

Better Bodz, Better Brainz!

On 28th December, I took myself to Hardcore Gym in Gaerwen to meet with Oz and get my initial measurements before embarking on a 6 week fitness project. My goals? To give my fitness a decent boost to help me in the year of M; to lose weight and/or inches; to get stronger. The plan? Attend four fitness classes a week (in addition to my running) – x2 Fat Burn Extreme (FBX), x1 TotalPump (barbells), x1 Core and, if I was serious about shifting the pounds, reduce my calorie in take to 1350. Off I went with my booklet in hand and re-downloaded My Fitness Pal ready for the classes to start the following week.

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I have to say, I really surprised myself in the way I stuck to the classes and actually enjoyed feeling the burn and seeing the improvements, even setting my alarm for 5.20am on a Thursday and hitting a 6am class! Very much a case of new year, new me! The biggest thing I noticed across the weeks was the change in my head and my mentality. I think I have mentioned before the fact I started this project in tandem with starting a new promotion in work: more responsibility, new challenges and days that never went according to plan! Do you know what though? Both moves were the best thing I could have done; whatever had gone on during the day was worked out of my system in the evening and I could start afresh the next day.

So the initial six weeks finished two weeks ago and Oz decided to extend the project for a further 6 weeks. I took this opportunity to mix things up a bit further and take on a slightly new fitness challenge – swimming training (I bet you can’t guess what future events might be on the cards…). That said, I couldn’t bring myself not to do any more of Oz’s sessions so my weekly timetable is now Monday – swim; Tuesday – circuits followed by TotalPump; Wednesday – hill reps; Thursday – rest day; Friday/Saturday – short run; Sunday – long run/track. I can’t wait to see how things change and develop over the next five weeks!

Two months after my initial weigh in, my stats tonight stand as follows: 5lb down, 5cm off abdomen, 5cm off waist (16cm off in total) and a head that is in a very good place! Also, if I’m completely honest, the sticking to 1350 hasn’t really happened and I have definitely not denied myself any treats so I am absolutely delighted.

Anyone who is squeamish should look away now as I have included a before/after collage and I can’t quite believe I’m putting this out there!

 

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L = 28/12; R = 18/02

Overcoming Obstacles

The mind is a funny old thing. This was going to be my FB status update on my page for today and then I thought I better expand a bit…

Recently, I have come across a bit of a mental block with the old running. Hill reps sessions and our club socials have been brutal/lovely/interesting/necessary/vomit-inducing (delete as appropriate) but they have always contained brief rest periods so the amount of continuous running hasn’t been an issue. Then there was the Parkrun shortly after Christmas (and in the early stages of the Better Bodz fitness project) where I had to stop and walk because my legs felt like lead – quite possibly because I had done a double class the night before – and in crept the nagging gremlin – something akin to those stupid finance adverts that seem all the rage on the TV at the moment – that put a bit fat barrier in my head regarding my running endurance. Now, given the title of my blogging world, speed is not my forte; however, I’ve been quite proud of the fact that I have been building up my stamina to not stop (which resulted in me crossing a half marathon finish line) but all of a sudden I have been faced with this notion that I can’t do it and I need to walk – WT actual F! Add in to the mix whatever this stupid viral cough nonsense that I seem to have been dealing with the last few weeks and I was starting to get myself in a bit of a pickle. I love running. I love the friends it has made me. I love the challenges that it gives me and the places it lets me explore. I love the endorphins it releases inside me. So keeping hold of this knowledge, I decided today that I did not want to give in to this wee beastie of negativity.

I was supposed to be meeting my coach for a run out this evening but I got my timings all to pot and realised that I wouldn’t manage a decent run with her and get back in time to go out with Owen this evening so I decided to do my own plod. The target, 5km on the cycle path from the edge of the village up to Tregarth and back down again. I’ve been avoiding doing this route for ages as it’s a tough slog up and I didn’t want to give up on it (I have been known to abandon ship mid-way through the run to take the easier option, shameful, I know) but my mind was set. I genuinely didn’t care if it was the slowest I have ever gone as long as I just kept running. This was probably the most needed run I have done for a long time and as my trusty watch hit 3.1 on the mile counter I could’ve happily done a little gig. Take that stupid negative beastie, you’re not stopping this plodder!