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This is the marathon training and fundraising blog of Georgina Spenceley. Watch this space for news of my training, inevitable injuries, and my fundraising events and achievements.

Good pre-run prep…

Good pre-run prep…

  • Gordon: Go on then, run!
  • Dennis: Isnt there some kind of like... special technique?
  • Gordon: Well... yeah... you put one leg in front of the other over and over again really really fast.

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I’m now well into my marathon training, with this past week being the 3rd week of my training plans with Sally, and my 6th week of the training blogs.

This week was by far my toughest yet and I really started to feel the burn of the increased mileage and intensity.

I started the week with hill reps on Monday. I missed this last week as I’d had to ask Sally to re-arrange my schedule because of other plans, so they were slotted in on Monday to start the week off in style… or pain! I went out a bit late having had a dinner date after work and it was starting to get really cold. I thought the hill would be a bit more suitable than the one I had used previously as it was slightly longer, but less steep. It turned out it was a little too long, taking me roughly 70 seconds to climb each time. My HR was hitting the right zone and each rep was fairly consistent in pace so I was pleased that I was getting what I needed out of it. After about 6 or 7 reps I started to find the session a bit of a mental challenge, but pushed out the last few to get me to 10 and then jogged home.

Tuesday’s session was another pace run, trying to get my marathon pace to feel like second nature. I set out a route that I thought would take me about 70 minutes to cover at the target pace. I made the stupid mistake of eating a whole load of chocolate and biscuits in the hour or so before my run and really paid for it on the way round, feeling quite sick. I stuck more accurately to the pace than with my last attempt and despite the sicky feeling I finished on target with an average pace of 8:35 min/mile. My fastest mile was 8:22 and my slowest 8:44 so I really must try to keep this gap tighter.

On Wednesday I had my second sports massage of the training season. It never ceases to amaze me how many tight spots you don’t know you have until the sports therapist is manipulating them! Once again I used my well-practised technique to help with the pain – laugh my head off until it’s stopped! Nicola must think I’m insane…

Thursday brought speedwork in the form of three lots of 2400m (6 laps of the track per rep) followed by one 1600m rep (4 laps of the track). Again it was cold, so I tried to wrap up warm and knowing that I was going to be by myself I thought I’d listen to my iPod shuffle to help me work my way round and round and round… but I forgot it! My legs were amazingly tired and I really struggled to get my heart rate up to the threshold point on the first rep, but then by the second and third my HR was soon enough reaching 180+ bpm but my legs were slowing. Eventually I managed to finish the final rep and I was so relieved! This was really hard.

And this brings me on to Saturday and my 14 miler. What a great run that was… NOT! I woke up early to get ready for my run with a breakfast of porridge and tea. I had to set out at just after half 7 to get the first 2-2.5 miles done before meeting Wendy at 8am. After the first mile or so I realised this was going to be a bad run – the jacket I was wearing was making me quite hot, but I needed it so I could carry my gels and phone, which just happened to be bouncing up and down on my stomach with every step! Not only that but my legs were feeling really tired. By the time I reached Wendy’s I was full of negativity and really needed the company! Things got a bit better after that and we carried on with the route I had planned at a comfortable pace. It was at about 11 miles that I got another downer – my watch started bleeping at me and I looked down to see a message saying “low battery”…. WHAT?! I had put my Garmin on charge only that morning and checked it before I left to make sure it was at 100% - why was it now telling me that it was going to die on me?! It lasted about another 15 minutes and cut out just at the point at which I left Wendy to do the last 2-2.5 miles home. This last section was pretty tough – there was a really strong headwind and I was struggling to keep up the pace but had no idea how fast I was actually going. I picked up the pace with about 1-1.5 miles to go, again I don’t know how fast it was but I felt challenged so think it must have been about right. Finally I made it back to where I had started but by the time I finished I think I was probably closer to 14.5, maybe even 15M. I don’t think I would have done it all without Wendy.  I don’t know what my overall pace was, but it was at 9:49 min/mile at the 12M point, so I think it can only have gotten better with the pick-up, but I guess that’s one thing I’ll never know. Still, I suppose the positive to look back on is that I completed my longest ever run, without incident, and it wasn’t me that ran out of juice, but my watch!

This is my week in a snapshot:

Monday: hill reps http://connect.garmin.com/activity/142581223

Tuesday: 70 mins at pace http://connect.garmin.com/activity/142581236

Wednesday: REST

Thursday: 3x2400m and 1x1600m http://connect.garmin.com/activity/143100329

Friday: REST

Saturday: 14M with Wendy http://connect.garmin.com/activity/143984367

Sunday: REST

I had three rest days, rather than two with a day’s cross training because I had been struggling so much this week. I’ve got the same this week because it’s apparently going to be a tough week, so maybe we’ll see a bit of cross training coming back in February.

I couldn’t have chosen a better weekend to have a bad run, with a night away with my boyfriend to celebrate our two year anniversary to look forward to I quickly forgot about the run and started thinking about tea, cake, Indian head massage and a three course dinner with wine and lovely company! If only every run could be followed by that ritual :)

So on to the next week. Here’s hoping it’s more successful, running-wise. I hope all you other spring marathoners are doing well with your training.

My Sponsorship Page

I’ve had a pretty bad week of running this week, (more on that in my next blog post) and just when I was feeling really sorry for myself I received my 20th donation, bringing me to £420. That’s £10 for every kilometre I’ll be running on the 15th April. Now there’s a good kick up the bum when you need one - I don’t want to let everyone who’s sponsored me down so I’m going to get back up again and attack my next week’s training with everything I’ve got! If you want to help me along my way to the £1000 target for the Stroke Association please click on the link above to make a donation. Much love.

The Brighton Marathon has been ranked the 9th best marathon for 2011 by Runner’s World, only one place behind the VLM.

The Brighton Marathon has been ranked the 9th best marathon for 2011 by Runner’s World, only one place behind the VLM.

Garmin Forerunner 910XT

This new watch by Garmin looks incredible! I love my forerunner 405 and it’s become a staple of my running preparation and review, but the 910XT looks like a cover-all-bases device for the run, bike and swim training that make up a triathlon schedule. Definitely one to look out for!

My lovely compression socks, oooh sexy!

My lovely compression socks, oooh sexy!

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Another week passes me by. Where is the time going?

The first thing I’m going to update you on is my fundraising, as after all that is a big reason as to why I’m doing all of this! I’m now £380 towards my target of £1000, which I’m really happy with… nearly halfway there! I still have a few fundraising events to come, so hopefully those will generate a bit more towards that elusive goal. If this blog has at all entertained you, please consider making a donation to my JustGiving page – it really would make such a difference and no amount is too small.

Now on to training - my lesson from this week’s marathon training is that if I shut up I can run a lot faster… I know, it’s a novel idea! More about this on Saturday’s briefing :)

The week panned out like this:

Monday: REST

Tuesday: 4 x 1600m http://connect.garmin.com/activity/140756119

Wednesday: REST

Thursday: 60 mins at pace http://connect.garmin.com/activity/141220885

Friday: REST

Saturday: 13M solo http://connect.garmin.com/activity/142163262

Sunday: 20 min recovery run and a gentle cycle http://connect.garmin.com/activity/142163270

I should have done some light cross training on Monday, but didn’t have time to fit it in as I had dinner plans with my lovely friend Vicky. As this was a rest/easy day anyway it’s not too much of a problem that I missed it so I’m not going to worry myself over it.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not usually a fan of interval sessions, so the idea of doing mile repeats on Tuesday was a bit of a drag, but I’m so motivated for running generally at the moment that I went out there with my game face on and worked hard. Keeping myself at around 180bpm (my version of about 85% max HR) I did my first four laps of the track for interval number one and then stopped to walk around and recover, then repeated this another three times. I felt really good and found it fairly easy to settle into the proper pace to achieve the appropriate heart rate on each rep. I had to focus on counting in for three and out for four to control my breathing so I know I was at the right intensity. Overall I averaged out at 7:27 min/mile which I was really pleased with, and they were all fairly evenly paced.

Thursday runs at the HRC during marathon season are usually tempo runs, starting with a mile warm-up, then running at tempo pace for X number of miles, followed by a mile cool-down; but Sally wanted me to treat this as a pacing session and to start off at my target marathon pace from the off. My first mile was a bit slower than planned as I tried to get past the group who were doing their warm-up, and then each subsequent mile was too quick! I averaged out at 8:25 min/mile overall, so not too far off the 8:36 pace I’m aiming for – but the point was to try to keep each mile evenly paced out at the target pace and looking at my Garmin splits I kind of failed there! Hopefully, in time, I’ll become used to the pace and be able to run it on autopilot – which Sally says is the point of these sessions.

So this brings us to the weekend. Sunday was Harlow Running Club’s turn to host the Cross Country League that we’re part of and, having not wanted to risk injury, I decided to marshall rather than run, which meant that I needed to do my long run on Saturday as I wouldn’t have had time before or after the Cross Country. I mapped a route out near my mum’s home town of Sutton, near Ely, and drove up on Saturday morning after fuelling both myself and my car (porridge for me, unleaded for the car!). With only my iPod shuffle to accompany me I set out on the run a little later than planned, and was a little worried that I might overheat with the layers I’d put on, but despite the sunshine it was still very cold. And this is where the “talk less, run faster” theory came in to play: Usually on my long runs I have some company, in the form of Wendy or Laura, or both. So having set out on my own and looking more at HR as a target than pace, I realised that I was running around 20-30 seconds per mile faster than when I am nattering away with friends… who knew gossiping took so much energy?! There were a couple of “eeek” moments when the oncoming traffic travelling towards me at ~60mph didn’t see me until the last minute (look where you’re going Mr Ford Mondeo, not at the heron flying overhead – you know who you are!!) and I’m sure that’s a plausible explanation for some of the peaks in my HR, but the run went by without incident. Around the 10 mile mark I realised that I might actually be on pace to finish my 13M in under 2 hours, and against my better judgement I picked up the pace again for the last mile, following the second of the hills I had to climb, and sure enough I finished in 1:59:05. Ahh, done :)

XC day! I arrived at the running club around 9:30 am ready for instructions and it was really buzzing – lots of runners from Harlow Running Club, Ware Joggers, Saffron Striders and Bishops Stortford all ready and raring to go. I walked over to my marshalling position and waited for the first of the runners to reach me. I was roughly half a mile in to the route, which would double back and become half a mile from the finish. It was a very cold day, and my fingers and toes were becoming steadily number! The runners all did really well, and Harlow ladies finished 3rd, while the HRC men came 1st! HRC are 2nd overall in the league, with just one more race to go. Well done Harlow!

After my marshalling duties I set out on my 20 min recovery run that was scheduled. Not really much to report here, it was an “easy” run, but my legs were more tired that I’d thought. It was good to flush them out with a bit of gentle running, though, and they felt much looser afterwards.

I ended the week with a leisurely bike ride with Wendy – we were on a mission to go and get some cake, earning it on the way! I haven’t got access to my bike at the moment, so I used one of Wendy’s – a road bike, no less! It was my first experience of riding a road bike and I was actually a little nervous – the teeny tiny tyres and the low handle bars were very new to me and I also hadn’t used clip-in pedals for a long time… since falling off my bike (twice) at Thetford Forest visitor centre with my boyfriend, much to the amusement of him and everyone else around! Still, the height of the saddle meant I could still put my foot to the ground, so I felt fairly safe. It was a really nice ride, and the pit stop for tea and a slice of really tasty fruit cake was a lovely half-way point. I will definitely have to get myself some thicker socks and gloves for these things though as yet again they were numbing up. I really should try to get out cycling more often.

So that’s it – my week in marathon talk – overall it’s been another really positive week and I’m really enjoying my training. I hope you’re enjoying reading about it!

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It’s official, marathon training is well and truly under way! I’m down to 14 weeks to go already and it feels like only a little while ago I was saying “18 weeks to go”… I’m sure the 15th April is going to creep up on me veeery quickly!

This week consisted of:

Monday: 25 mins espinner, 10 mins rowing then strengthening exercises.

Tuesday: 4x800m http://connect.garmin.com/activity/138795303

Wednesday: 30 mins yoga

Thursday: 3M HRC tempo run http://connect.garmin.com/activity/139242529

Friday: REST

Saturday: hill reps http://connect.garmin.com/activity/140070541

Sunday: 12M with Wendy and Laura http://connect.garmin.com/activity/140070582

See, I told you I’d get some cross-training in!

I felt a little silly on Tuesday’s session as I went along to club even though I was going to be doing a different session to them. They were doing 400s with 2 mins recovery, whilst I had recovery jogs between my 800s – it was a little tough to see everyone stopped when I was still going round and round the track! I was supposed to keep each rep to about 4:15 but got a bit carried away and did my first one in 3:42… oops! I tried to hold back a bit for the remaining three reps and ran them each in around 4mins. I was pretty pleased with the session though because I felt strong. Sally has since told me that my reps suggest that my target marathon pace is likely to be sustainable so woohoo to that!!

On Wednesday I tried out a “Yoga Made Easy” book that I picked up. I thought it would be a good way to stretch out in a less boring way, and also want to try to work on my balance and core strength anyway. I only did about half an hour as it’s hard to do the poses for the right amount of time without an instructor there to tell you what to do. Next time I’ll put on some music and make a proper session of it.

My next run was probably my favourite of the week – I love tempo runs… call me crazy! This was with the running club and we started off with a mile warm-up then accelerated to tempo pace. I ran with Laura the whole way and we managed to keep a strong pace for the whole three miles, with an average of 8:12 min/mile. My HR was pretty much spot on what it was supposed to be for the session. We finished off with a mile back to the club, but I carried on with another HRCer to top it up to 50mins so we could flush out the legs a bit. I don’t know why, but tempos are the sessions I look forward to the most at the moment, maybe it’s my new-found faster pace!

Now onto the dreaded hill work! I couldn’t seem to think of any hills in my local town, especially ones that weren’t dark and gloomy, but thanks to some suggestions from Wendy and also Darren I found what I thought would be a suitable hill and I ran to it for my warm up. I realised after the first rep that the hill wasn’t quite as long as it should have been – Sally wanted me to run up for ~60 secs, but it only took 45-50 so was a bit short. I checked my heart rate and decided that it was probably going to be ok as I was reaching over the 180bpm that was prescribed. Another seven reps later and I was done and ready for a steady jog home. It was a really tough session and at the top of each hill I wondered if I was ever going to breath normally again but by the time I got home and showered I felt absolutely fine. I know that hills are going to be good for me so I will plough through these sessions and maybe, just maybe, I will one day come to love hill running!

On to Sunday, the final run of the week. I have to admit I was a little concerned when I woke up and got out of bed to realise my ankle was pretty sore. It’s taken a bit of a battering the last few weeks so I can’t blame it for feeling achy, but I really could do without getting injured. I put my ankle support on, had my porridge and started on my way. Wendy, Laura and I all had different distances to cover in our plans this week but we managed to figure out that if I ran to meet Laura, and then we ran to Wendy’s, did a seven mile loop from there and then ran back again we would each get our distances in – seven for Wendy, 10 for Laura and 12 for me. It’s also a really good way of breaking up a long run so it doesn’t feel so, well … long! By the time we were about three miles in my ankle had started to ease off a bit and we had set a nice pace of between 9 and 10 min/mile. This was my first run experimenting with energy gels and after an hour I proceeded to try to open my first one. Note to SiS – you really should make those buggers easier to open! Juggling a bottle of water and trying to tear the top off a sachet of gel seemingly made of rubber all whilst trying not to fall over is not an easy feat! Still, what were teeth made for huh? I eventually got in to my little pocket of energy goodness and gulped it down with a pleasant surprise at the taste and consistency. I have to say – the struggle to open was worth it when I still felt full of energy towards the end of my run. I had three of the four that Sally told me to take with me but I think that was enough for me as the porridge had kept me pretty full for the first hour. So having dropped Wendy and Laura off at their relevant checkpoints I carried on home to finish with 12.3M under my belt in just less than two hours. Not bad going.

Post-run I stretched out quite a bit today, and boy did I need it! My ankle has started to ache again, but I’ve got active recovery tomorrow, and have been using the ibuprofen gel again this afternoon and evening. I will also pick up some kinesiology tape and start to strap it up for a bit more support. Fingers crossed it holds out as if it doesn’t improve I’m probably going to have to take a week off and I’m not quite sure I’d know what to do with myself!

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Now I know this is a marathon and fundraising blog, but I’m going to go off piste a little bit with this post so please bear with me…

In 2009 I successfully (arguably!) completed my first ever triathlon. It was a “sprint” distance, part of the Bedford Sprint Series, comprising of a 400m pool swim, 24km cycle and a 5km run. I finished in 1:51:00, with the split times shown in the link below… I know there’s a lot of improvement to be made – especially on first transition, but that’s another story!

http://tinyurl.com/GSTri2009

But on that day I achieved so much personally. I achieved four PBs during that one event! Ok, so three of them probably don’t count as they were “firsts” rather than beating a time I’d already set, but the 5km run was a personal best for me. I went home that day feeling like a champ, and I wanted to do it again! Unfortunately, just a few months after that event I was only 6 weeks into marathon training when I suffered a stress fracture and that kind of ended my run/bike/swim enthusiasm for a while and I struggled to get back into any training consistently until nearly two years had passed.

Thankfully I have now regained all of my previous gusto and 2012 is the year of my return to endurance events.

Having done a Level 2 Fitness Instructor course, and having worked in a business environment for several years now, I have learned the art of “SMART” goal-setting. The elements of a SMART goal are that it is:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Relevant

Time-bound

I think setting SMART goals is a really good way of keeping yourself motivated, challenged and focussed for the things you want to achieve. And that’s why I have come up with these, my two main training goals for 2012:

  • Complete my first marathon… in less than three hours and 50 minutes. Brighton Marathon, 15th April 2012.
  • Complete my first Olympic distance triathlon. London Triathlon, 23rd September 2012.

Along the way, I have set myself other mini-goals. These, ordinarily, would be big enough goals in their own right but, because of the mountain I have decided to climb, they are now more like stepping stones to keep me feeling the way I did when I finished that triathlon in 2009. My mini-goals are:

  • Complete my first half marathon. Great Bentley, 5th February 2012.
  • Run a sub 1:50 half marathon. Silverstone, 11th March 2012.
  • Run a sub 50 minute 10k. Race and date undecided.
  • Complete my first open-water triathlon. Shock Absorber Sprint, 10th June 2012.
  • Beat my sprint distance triathlon PB.  Dunmow Triathlon, 9th September 2012.

The last goal may have to be adjusted slightly because the cycle leg of the Dunmow Tri is 1km shorter than that of the Bedford Sprint where my PB was set, but I’m sure I can time-adjust as necessary!

So that’s it – those are my SMART goals for 2012. Have you set yourself any goals for this year? Are they SMART? What are they? I’d love to hear from you!