Thursday, 30 October 2014

Accountability is my key!

The past few months have been a bit bobby, up and down and up and down weight wise. I haven't seemed to be able to re-grasp the wagon as firmly as I have in the past. I've been fobbing it off with every excuse under the sun. "Oh but I gave up smoking" or "Sure I'm training for a marathon". Now while I am not discrediting any of these, I think the time has come to draw a line in the sand and move beyond these crutches as excuses for what is going on.

After the wedding and honeymoon this Summer I hit 14 stone which scared me a little. Not because I felt I was slipping back towards 19st John but more so because I couldn't believe I let myself put back on 2st. Looking back over my weigh-ins from the last ten weeks, I have been playing around with the same bloody pound. It's so unbelievable disheartening to put in a good week and then be down half a pound. Likewise, there have been plenty of weeks I have been bonkers (nights out, 3 course restaurant meals etc) and its only shown as half a pound up.

The weeks you expect to be up and are up (but not as much as you had thought) are actually harder to recover from as you lull yourself into a false sense of 'I really should be giving myself a kick up the arse but seen as the damage wasn't too bad, it's grand'. It can be really hard to stay motivated week on week when you aren't seeing any results however the one thing that I do know is how important it is to weigh-in each week. 

For me, Accountability is key! Not to anyone else, just myself.

I wasn't go to go to Weigh In this week. I just felt like I had had a bad weekend and I fell into the "if I just had another week I'd really go for it and then I'd be down next Tuesday" trap. Something made me go, I think I knew deep down that if I didn't that I'd fall (and fall hard) as I'm on holidays from work this week so the usual schedule would be out the window.

Going back to my old mantra: If you change nothing, nothing will change. Clearly what I've been doing for the past 3 months has been enough to sustain - I've been exercising & running loads but I've also stopped tracking. I'm at a 13st 9lb block I can't seem to jump. I do think a lot of what is going on with me is mind over matter and for that reason I've set myself a mini-challenge, a goal inbetween goals. I have 8 weigh-ins until Christmas and I will be 13st.

If I'm going to put in the time to train for the Tralee Marathon (in March), I am going to put myself in the best possible position I can. What is the point training for the next 20 weeks weighing 20lbs heavier than I was the last time I ran a marathon. Surely its counterintuitive. My mini-goal is 13st by Christmas. I'll figure out the rest of it after that :)

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Skinny Doll's Countdown to Christmas

One of my all time favourite bloggers The Skinny Doll is doing a Countdown to Christmas challenge over on her blog. The 12 week challenge is to keep us in check as we trundle towards December 25th (and 2015!).

It's been ages since I last guest posted on her blog (November 2013) so I was more than delighted to jump at the opportunity to appear as part of this challenge. As The Skinny Doll and so many others know - its always so much easier to dish out advice rather than pay heed to your own. 

Have a read of the post - Where is the Finish Line? Click here:

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Marathon FOMO

For those who don't know, FOMO is defined as:

and I am suffering from a gigantic case of marathon FOMO. I would attribute 22% of this to the fact I received a 'Sorry' magazine in the Post from London Marathon. 31% has been caused by seeing so many others taper in prep for the 2014 Dublin Marathon (Michelle, John & Bernie to name a few). 10% is nostalgic, like I imagine child-birth, its been too long I've clearly forgotten the pain. The final 37% of my FOMO lies from something inside me, my desire to go the distance again and to beat only myself.

Its a NO from London

I had registered for the London Ballot back in April along with 125,000 others and to be honest, I wasn't really expecting to get a place but a part of me did hope I would. Imagine how brilliant it would be to get one of the Big Six (World Majors) under your belt. With London out of the picture and Tokyo, Boston, Chicago, Berlin and New York not even on the radar, I'm stumped. I had wanted Marathon #3 to be special.

For the past few weeks I've been toying with a few ideas. I could still secure a London place through a charity but most of these places require at least €2,000 to be fundraised for the charity. My other option is the Paris Marathon which takes place the weekend before London. This however kind of poses the same problems geographical and logistical problems as London as in, by the time you add in flights, accommodation etc, the thing ends up costing over €500.

That is when it hit me - the challenge of a marathon shouldn't be in its organisation, it should be in the training. 26.2 miles is 26.2 miles regardless of where you run them. Ok, I will admit while it would be epic to pass Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower, a mile is still a mile. For that reason I've made a decision about the glamorous location of Marathon #3 - but first, a quick flashback:

I didn't realise the importance of Marathon #1 at the time but on reflection I now understand exactly what it meant to me. You never get to run your first again and I'm so glad mine was everything I could have hoped. I loved following the online running forums, making up a colour coded training plan and clocking up the miles on the road.

Myself & Brad - the morning of the Dublin Marathon

Marathon #2 was more for me. I followed the same plan as before, but trained on my own, ran it on my own. I didn't know anyone else doing it. I finished one minute faster than Dublin (3 hours 51mins) but most definitely finished on empty. My legs cramped immediately across the finish line and I lay in a ditch at the side of the road crying while my poor mam & other half tried to help as best they could (By the way, them just being there was more than enough!).

Post Connemarathon

Marathon #3 is going to be about goals! I've signed up for the Tralee Marathon. Yep... Admittedly its not as sexy as Paris or as slick as London, this is the marathon I hope to run in under 3 hours 30 minutes, so does it matter where I do it? 

That means aiming to knock TWENTY ONE minutes off my previous best. 
Marathon #3 is TWENTY ONE weeks away (15th of March).
Better get to work...

Monday, 13 October 2014

Running to the beat of my heart...

I've just finished the first week of following the training plan set out for me by Matt in Fitness Analytics and I have to say I found it really interesting. It was so different to anything I've ever done before as there was variety and because I've had to fight every instinct to run for time. This weeks plan had 2 x Threshold Runs, 1 x Interval Run and 1 x Recovery Run. Matt did point out that speeds will vary on a day to day basis for a number of reasons such as environmental conditions, how fatigued the body is etc so I have to trust the master and follow his plan.

First off, let me introduce you to Walter, my watch! Yep, my husband went out and bought me a fancy watch with a heart-rate monitor so I can maximise my training efforts - how sound is that! I would say 'Yippie, I just saved myself a fortune!' but now that we are married isn't my money his and his money mine... so YAY - He saved me half a fortune! (I'm joking BTW incase anyone thinks I'm serious).

Walter - My new Watch

So first up, I'll talk about the Threshold Runs. According to the report 'running around your Lactate Threshold improves aerobic endurance capacity. This is important as it is at this point fatigue occurs due to lactic acid build up. My threshold heart rate was determined as 151-155bpm and I never realised how hard it is to keep your heart rate within 5bpm before but I think you'll see from my Friday run, I've managed to get the hang of it:

One Hour Threshold Run - 11km

It is so interesting to see my run data laid out like that. Normally I'm so used to focusing on time that I never pay attention to anything else whereas here you can see after my first km warm-up, I stuck pretty much bang in my Threshold Zone (151-155). What was interesting was how great I felt after the run. I'm looking forward to seeing that time come down for the same heart effort.

Next up was the Tempo Run where I had to target a BPM of 156-169. I used this run as an Intervals so I divided my time between the Threshold Zone and Tempo Zone as follows:

1 min Tempo, 1 min Threshold (x 3)
2 min Tempo, 1 min Threshold (x 3)
3 min Tempo, 1 min Threshold (x 3)
2 min Tempo, 1 min Threshold (x 2)
1 min Tempo, 1 min Threshold (x 2)

 HR during the Tempo/Interval Run

The run was more difficult but I really enjoyed it. I found it quite difficult to get my heart rate back down into the Threshold zone within the minute but it thought me more to speed up with effort, slow down quickly. I'm looking forward to tackling this one again to see the difference Intervals make.

The final 'new' type of run this week was the Recovery Run. The purpose of this type of run is to help the body recover by keeping the heart rate relatively low (140-150bpm). I was quite surprised with my pace for a recovery run (way slower than I'm used to). 

Recovery Run around Oranmore

So I'm one week in and after my 4 runs, 2 bootcamp sessions, numerous walks with the dog and one day off, I have to say I'm feeling incredibly charged at the end of Week 1. I love the structure and am looking forward to getting tucked into Week 2. Nothing changes this week, its back to the same again but I feel more confident with knowing what I'll be doing this week. Matt's report has recommended that once a firm base has been laid down, things can be changed around within the program so I am looking forward to giving him my feedback after 3/4 weeks.

I'm still finding it hard to ignore the time as it flashes up on the watch but I trust the program and hope to see improvements in the coming weeks. The final recommendation was to choose a target event in 6/8 weeks time to test my fitness. I have chosen a Half Marathon in Laois (Off The Laois) on November 23rd. At the moment this is the only race I have in my diary. I'm interested to see if this type of training will help me break last months Half Marathon time. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

19 km - 27 obstacles - 1 Tough Mudder

Back in August I signed up for Tough Mudder, primarily because my friend Aisling had but also because I was curious to test my own level of "toughness". I've said before how I love Bootcamp (post here) and love the feeling of being able to do things that I couldn't do before, be it running around the building carrying a wall ball or pulling a heavy sleigh up and down the room. I love the variety each Bootcamp brings, we could be sprinting or skipping, kettlebelling or Russian twisting. Anyway, it was that curiosity that brought me to the start line of Tough Mudder last weekend. (Well, it was actually Reaney's Bus that brought me to the start line but you know what I mean!)

Myself and Aisling were up at 4:30am and at the Galway Cathedral at 5:30am for the bus journey to Punchestown Racecourse. We arrived shortly after 8am where we had time to grab a quick bite to eat and have a coffee. My scheduled start time was not until 11am while Aisling was due to start at 9am however there didn't seem to be anyone guarding the start line so after we picked up our race bibs, checked in our bags and painted our faces - myself and Aisling were ready to kick some ass!

Pre Tough Mudder selfie - Fresh off the bus!

The start line holding pen was filled with a huge gang from Pat Divilly Fitness in Galway who were doing it for Cystic Fibrosis. The picture below is like a Where's Wally but you can spot me - I'm one of the only ones NOT in Orange (awkward!). The PA done a great job riling everyone up and getting the adrenaline pumping for the course which lay before us. I had no proper idea of what to expect. Shortly after 9am the horn sounded and we were off!

Start Line Holding Pen

Pretty soon it became apparent how this was going to work, people ran in groups. There was a great sense of camaraderie as we made our way through the first few obstacles (big ground holes, high fences, wading through a lake). As Aisling was the only other person I knew there, we stuck together. I boosted her up over one wall, she'd wait for someone to have boosted me over on the far side.

The first obstacle that made me pause for a second was the Arctic Enema - a skip full of ice and water with a bar of tyres across the middle. The only way to the other side was by going under, so off I took. It was freezing, and I was so relieved to come out the other side only I was missing Aisling. She was still on the far side. When the marshal told her she was the first girl today to hit that obstacle, I could see the fire flicker in her eyes as she dived under and popped out beside me.

After that we hit a few more obstacles like the mud crawl and a rope wall. We passed through each obstacle without much effort. It was great to chat with other runners as they passed us as they competition element was stripped from the event, everyone was more than happy to run alongside and talk to you about how they found the previous obstacle or if they knew what was coming up. We seemed to be running a lot without much in the way of a challenge.

The Map

It wasn't until we got back into the grounds of the racecourse (around Mile 8) that the obstacles seemed to come at us properly. The Mud Mile was great craic - a series of high mud mounds that you had to cling to in order to get over. We were running with three others at this point so there was great banter and help at each mound of mud. The hanging monkey bars were the only obstacle I didn't finish, as in, I fell from the second rung into the water and wasn't going back to try again. We ran up and down like the aisles of a supermarket until we got to the Cage Crawl - the obstacle that reminded me that I am a bit claustrophic. 

We passed outside the starting point so knew we had to have been close to the finish line and knew the Electric Shocks and Everest (high ramp) were still waiting for us. Everest was tough, a slippy tall ramp. I fell on my face first attempt but thanks to the guys at the top, they caught me second time round and pulled me up off the ramp. We hung around and helped the few behind us. One of the marshals informed us that at this point Aisling was the 4th girl to reach this point, and the Finish was just around the corner.

We took off with Chris (who we had spent most of the run with) and got to the last obstacle, Electroshock Therapy. Heads down, we just ran through while the shocks popped off us. The three of us crossed the finish line together. We were given our coveted Tough Mudder headbands and a beer as a reward for completing!

Tough Mudders!

We hosed off and got changed back into our warm clothes and we enjoyed the atmosphere watching others come across the finish line. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Was it fun? Yes. Would I do it again? Meh - Don't know! If the challenge of competing was to test my "toughness" and I didn't find it that tough then I don't know what that says about me, the course or my expectations. Aisling was the 4th girl to cross the finish line - I'd like to think thats because we are bad-ass but feel it may have more to do with the fact we couldn't take the run out of the event. We barely walked once during the event, so finishing it within the 2 hour mark was pretty impressive.

On reflection, the hardest part of Tough Mudder was definitely getting up for the 5:30am bus. The second hardest part was spending over 5 hours on the bus to/from the venue. The best part of Tough Mudder was realising how kick-ass myself and Aisling really are! Now... back to Bootcamp!

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Lactate Threshold Test

I turned up at Fitness Analytics at 7pm on Monday, straight after work. I had been advised to drink plenty of water beforehand and to have a towel and water with me. Matt brought me in to his office which apart from the treadmill, felt very like friendly doctors office. We sat on the couch and he went through the questionnaire and feedback forms I had sent him before arriving. We discussed my current training methods (which is just going for a run - no intervals, no fartlek, no speed sessions. We talked about my running goals and PBs.

Once the formalities were out of the way, Matt took some measurements like height, weight, % body fat etc before explaining how the test was going to work. Lactate Threshold is the exercise intensity point at which lactic acid starts to accumulate in the blood. This is measured by ramping up exercise over time and measuring blood lactate every 3 minutes. I was fitted with a Heart Rate monitor, and a Cadence monitor and was shown to the treadmill.

Where the magic happens...

The test started at walking pace. I simply walked for three minutes and using the RPE guide (Perceived Exertion Rate) below, had to provide feedback to Matt on where I felt I was operating out of. There is something very psychological about thinking about how hard you work while exercising as I normally never listen to what is going on inside myself, so I found having to report both my perceived effort along with seeing my heart rate on the monitor was extremely interesting for me - it provided me with a window into what was going on inside me.

RPE Scale

The test progressed in 3 minute chunks from walking to warm up, my marathon pace (5:25/km) through my half marathon pace (5:00/km), my 10K pace (4:30/km) and to my 5K pace (4:15/km). At the end of three minutes running, a blood sample was taken and the Lactate was measured. Matt was also recording my cadence (steps per minute) and Heart Rate. When the test appeared to be coming to a close (5K pace), I was asked if I wanted to push for another 3 minutes at a faster pace (4:00/km) and once that was done, I went again for a 3:45/km. Bloody hell, that was hard!

As the treadmill was put into cool down mode, I chatted with Matt about the results. He gave me the initial feedback but said I would get a report containing all data collected after the session. It was brilliant to hear that my cadence was bang on perfect for the entire test falling at 89 on average (90 being perfect). I know this to be extremely important for injury prevention as over-striding (doing less than 180 steps per minute) is one of the main causes of impact related injuries.

The test was longer and way more detailed than I had original thought but it was so thorough. I know the report I will get from Matt will be crammed with information, recommendations and training advice along with identifying the zones at which I should be training. My next post will go through the findings from the report.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Lets get Technical...

As you'll know from reading this blog, I like to run. In fact I'd go as far to say I love to run. One of my favourite parts of any run are the pre-run ritual which involves lacing up my runners, doing a warm-up and putting in my earphones before heading out the door. Another favourite part is when the run finishes - usually covered in sweat, there really is no better feeling than having run! I also love the run itself. I love the time I have with just my thoughts, I love taking in the view, I love the fresh air.

My running has mostly been dictated by time. When I started running I was more concerned about getting the distance covered before focusing on the time however I've become a bit of a time-monster. I rely too much on my time rather than how I am feeling. What I've noticed is, I like to keep myself under 5min/kms. Looking back over my past ten runs (one of which was the Marconi Half Marathon), my average pace has consistently been just under 5:00/km.

As long as my time is clocking under 5:00 minutes, I'm happy out. I don't push myself beyond that pace when out for a run yet expect myself to perform 'better' than a standard run. I also haven't been clocking any PBs, in fact my most recent one was back in May. I remember the exact moment I decided to quit smoking was when I'd signed up for my first marathon last year and I thought: If I am going to put in this much time and effort, why am I immediately disadvantaging myself by smoking. 

I am having the same thoughts about my running now... If I am going out for a run, I may as well make them the best runs possible and do the best I can with the time and energy I am already spending running. I am still doing my cross-training (Bootcamps) twice a week which I feel is super for maintaining my core and strength - I trust the process, I trust the trainer and I can see the results (Yesterday I clocked my first 5 minute plank!). When it comes to running, I've only ever relied on myself, how I feel and my clock time.

About a month ago, I started looking for something to help me understand me - not in a 'philosophical inward reflecting mirror kind-of-way' but more in a 'I want to understand how my body works, what it needs and how I can run/train more efficiently'. Say for example, I want to run another marathon... If I am going to put in the 18 weeks training, I want to do be better than the last time. I've said it before but the thing I love about running (and most things in life) is: You are in competition with one person and one person only – yourself.

I'd heard of a guy, Matthew Bidwell, in Galway who was doing fitness/running training and analysis so I have him a google. Anyone in and around Galway will know Matthew from a lot of the races - his name appears at the top (or close to the top) of each race results list, so who better to turn to for training advice. I contacted Matthew at Fitness Analytics and made an appointment for a Lactate Threshold test. The test calculates the correct training intensities for all types of run sessions. I was interested to see how I would get on, what Matthew would say and what advice/training he could give me.

Fitness Analytics (Website Here)

My next post will tell you what happened at my appointment and the feedback I got.