Well, training for three half marathons in three weeks (or Project Insanity) has begun in earnest!!
For those not in the know, this is the race schedule:
- Helly Hansen Beauty and The Beast Half Marathon, Henley-on-Thames - 22/09/2012
- Ikano Robin Hood Half Marathon, Nottingham - 30/09/2012
- The Royal Parks Half Marathon, London - 07/10/2012
The first one on the list is the one that will definitely be the most challenging as it's a trail half marathon - run completely on windy dirt tracks, with a hill (The Beast!) every 4 miles!!
All of my races so far, and hence my training, have been done on roads (with the occasional dirt path in Battersea Park, Richmond Park or through a field round here) so this new challenge has required me to step up and get back to nature. Luckily my current area of residence has ample tracks and trails for me to avail myself of so, off I went to tackle Week 1 of training with gusto...
This is the flat bit!
I was very motivated to get out there and train after watching the brilliant women's Olympic triathlon on the Saturday morning. It wasn't the winners I kept in my mind while training, surprisingly, but sixth place getter Kiwi athlete Andrea Hewitt who, to my mind, had the most incredible race and ran most of the run leg solo. She looked so strong! I couldn't get the image out of my head and it definitely helped during the tougher moments of this run.
Tough training tip 1: pretend you're in the Olympics.
I did about 5km on the trails which included windy and bumpy paths, dodging cows who graze on the land up there, and then a giant hill. I found myself completely out of breath and aching so I had to intersperse the run with walking, something I haven't had to do for ages which started all the "you're so unfit!" thoughts, which was annoying!
Then I started going downhill towards the roads to run the 6 or so kilometres home:
When I finally got to the bottom I started running again along straight flat roads and all of a sudden the aches were gone and this was easy!! My fitness hadn't deserted me after all. I loved the next 2km, I felt like I was flying. But then I had to do a bit of "run until you reach that pole then walk for 60 seconds" trick but it was ok. Overall I felt strong and confident that if I keep going this will get easier.
I've also started ending runs with tricep dips and push ups like I used to do and I'm noticing some muscle definition! (as did my sister on Skype this morning, ha ha!)
My recovery runs between the trail training sessions tend to be 40-50 minutes on road, with a set of 10 x 100m strides in the middle. I am doing yoga on my rest days which is also helping with the muscle definition! You might remember me mentioning this yoga DVD to you:
I've upgraded to doing the "Fire" sequence which has lots of push ups! I also try and spend a few minutes after each run in Downward Dog because it is such a good stretch for the calves and legs. Pigeon is also excellent for stretching the thighs and opening the hips!
I swear yoga is the reason I (touch wood) have avoided injury for the last few years.
Tough training tip 2: do yoga on your rest days.
Week 2 started with another trail training run which I decided to step up a notch - not only would I do a trail run I would do hill intervals!!
I'm really not being a wuss.....this hill is a lot steeper than it looks!
I really worked the abs and the arms on the hill intervals to try and take the pressure off the legs, which were BURNING. Youch.
I ran back to the monument (all on an incline!) and then power walked downhill to the road, then ran 6km home. Apart from feeling very thirsty and hot and wishing it would rain (!) it went pretty well. Covered a bit over 12km all up.
Today I did a recovery run of 30 minutes and a bit of yoga. Tomorrow will be all yoga and then a 60 minute trail run (all trail!) with hill intervals on Thursday.
Having spoken to my coach Julia today and picked up a few tips from her for multi-terrain training, this is what I'll be bearing in mind on Thursday:
Tough training tip 3: concentrate more on rhythm than speed.
Tough training tip 4: keep your strides small.
I'm basically following the marathon training plan which Julia wrote for me last year because it is a proven regime to build up my aerobic fitness very quickly which, let's face it, with my first race only 5 weeks away, I need to do!
Another thing I am aiming for with my training and racing this time around is some fat loss which I hope will make me speedier and improve my performance. I want to take off some of the "book bulge" which, although I have been assured endlessly to the contrary, I think I accumulated over June and early July when I bunkered down to get the damn thing finished!
Racing and long distance running is an important part of my life and I really want to keep improving. Hence my diet is getting a small overhaul as well to see if it will make a difference to my performance. As I already eat very well, and don't drink anywhere near as much as I used to (!), I wasn't sure where to make any changes but I think it's mostly portion size that needs looking at (it's so easy to justify bigger portions or second helpings when you're doing training like this!), but also the types of food I'm eating as well. My mate Chris the Lucozade sports scientist has recommended eating more high soluble fibre foods, such as:
- Cooked Kidney Beans
- Cooked Lentils
- Raw Oat Bran
- Soy beans
- Pear (with the skin)
- Citrus Fruits
- Sesame seeds
A diet high in soluble fibre has been found to decrease the rate of visceral fat (stomach / mid-section fat tissue) accumulation so should help with the fat loss goal. I bought bags of chick peas and soy beans to soak at the weekend!
Coach Julia has also recommended cutting down on sugar (which my diet is already pretty low in) and also getting my body into fat burning mode by bulking up breakfast and making my other meals during the day smaller. From all the advice I've been given and what I've read, "eating clean" seems to be the overriding principle. I must stress this isn't about losing weight per se but about losing fat. I do still have a bit of it ;) It's mostly an experiment to see if it improves things.
The thing is I know I could just do what I did last time, for my most recent half marathon and the marathon, where I eat very well but carb load like a mofo, treat myself to things after races and pretty much eat as normal but can justify larger portions because I'm burning it all off. That would be fine. That's what I know. But it's important to me to keep improving at this whole running thing. I do it for me, for my mental and physical health, for my longevity and for enjoyment, but I like having something to aim for too. It's just about trying to step it up a notch really and see what comes of it. I'm already feeling the benefits of the last two weeks of eating very well thanks to the gluten free challenge and I'm keen to continue feeling this way, which is nourished, energetic and glowing! Will changing the diet as I've described improve things even more? Let's find out......
It feels nice to be working towards a small fat loss goal without all the emotions that were attached to my last weight loss attempt. It's all about performance this time. I'm thinking like an athlete! (again, watching so much of the Olympics has fired me up!) I soooo want to get a sub 2 hour half marathon one day!