Monday, 26 August 2013

When life (and knees) get in the way

Half marathon in t minus 13 days. 

It was all looking good: training was going so well, was feeling strong. Then... a new job! 

This week I took the first step on my new career path, which is great, exciting and interesting. But boy has my training for the half marathon suffered! There is nothing - nothing - that kills your energy and drive to run like 6 hours a day of online policy learning. I barely managed a 2 mile run round the common during the week! Eugh. 

On top of that I knew my Saturday was going to be a write off as it was the touch rugby end of season party on Friday. On a boat. If anyone knows my team, Magic, then they know that our nights out are carnage. And it was supreme carnage, but great fun! (Yes, we were the only people wearing stupid hats on the boat... it's not a Magic night of there isn't fancy dress!)

That's me, front right, with my umpteenth G&T. Saturday morning: definitely not a run day for me :( 

Fortunately it was the bank holiday weekend - hurrah! - so I had earmarked Sunday morning for the biggie (I need a day of recovery before going back to work!). The longest run to date, and probably my longest run before the half marathon. Dun, dun, duuuuuuuun! Saturday's weather was a washout (as anyone who was at whatever rave party was going on at Clapham Common will testify to - welly sales in SW London must've been through the roof!), but Sunday morning brought the sunshine - it was a sign: this was going to be a good run.

I had mapped out a 10.5 mile route which would take me from home to meet the boy at his tennis club. Shoes laced up, tunes on: off I went. As usual, the first mile felt like hell - does anyone else have the same problem that in the first 10 minutes of a run you feel like your legs are filled with lead? Anyway, by mile 2 the legs started to lighten up, and with the sun on my back I was feeling good. 

I hit Battersea Park and crossed the river at the 5 mile point, heading along the embankment towards Chelsea and Putney. Running through an area I'd never really seen before definitely distracted me, and a few more miles passed without me even noticing. Then, the 8 mile stage: the point where my knees say "hey, it's been fun while it lasted, but we've had enough, thanks!" Ouch, step, ouch, step, ouch, step. And still 2.5 miles to go (so I thought!). No, knees, I will not give in!!  

Then came what could perhaps be described as a saving grace - I realised I was lost. Nothing distracts you more from the fact that your knees are killing you than realising that you are going the wrong way. Hmm. I fought on, aimed for the river, and managed to find my way back on track - just a 1 mile detour then! Blocking out the knee pain, I surged on, and even managed to lift my pace for the last mile. I pulled up at the tennis club and saw the distance on my Nike app - Distance: 11.4 miles. Time: 1h40min. Happy days!

On the whole I'm feeling confident that I can hit the 2 hour mark on race day, and anything under that time would be a bonus. It's my first half though, so my main goal is to enjoy myself - it might be the first, but I'm pretty sure it wont be that last, and I'll have time to improve on my pace in the future.

Nothing left to do after that run than to rest the knees - thanks for keeping going knees! - and chill out by the outdoor pool at the club. Bliss!

Hope your bank holiday runs/swims/spins were successful too!

Lesson learned this week: even if you get lost - be it with your training plan or while on a run! - keep going. Never give up. 

Katy | City Girl Fit

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

New shoes, first long run, and a shed-load of coconut water

The best thing about getting in to some serious running? The need to buy new shoes! And no, I do not mean of the high-heeled kind, I mean of the best kind.

On the quest for new trainers, I trotted down to Runners Need in Clapham Junction on Tuesday (was hoping to cycle there, but the boy helpfully took the keys for our bike locks to work with him...). The girls there were very helpful, and suggested some video-based gait analysis to work out what level of stability I need in my running shoe.

In a pair of 'neutral' shoes, which give no support across the arch of the foot, the slow-mo video showed that I overpronate on my right foot. My left foot, however, gets a gold star as it showed "beautiful balance": I'll take the compliments where I can! I suggested to the lady that perhaps this unbalance had something to do with my left-handedness - cue strange look and a 'quickly moving on' change of subject. However, the scientist in me had to do some research (thanks, Google!) and there may be something in it after all! Go science! I digress...

Shop lady (sorry, shop lady, I forgot your name) suggested I try some 'mild support' shoes, and brought three pairs down to try. A bit like goldilocks (but without gold locks. Or porridge. Or, come to think of it, bears.) the first two just weren't quite right, but the third pair fitted a treat and corrected my silly right-foot and it's overpronation: my shiny new Nike trainers are born!

New shoes!
After dancing around the house to check that the newbies were comfy and fit for purpose (that's the way to check, right?!), I decided to try these bad boys out on my first 'longer than 10K' run since... since... The Edinburgh Marathon Hairy Haggis Relay Race 2008! Jeez - it's been even longer than I thought, and quite a daunting prospect. 

Fortunately, I had a read of Liz Goodchild's blog today on 'How to keep working towards your goals even when they scare you'. Her question to the reader was: Is there a small step you can take, today, towards your goal? A small step that feels less scary for you? I took Liz's advice, weighed up what was reasonable and not too scary, and aimed for a sensible 8 miles today.

So, with the phone armband strapped up and the keys stored in the little back pouchy thing of running capris (does it have an actual name? No? 'Pouchy thing' it is.), I stepped out boldly in my shiny new shoes and began on my 'little step' journey. Despite the mild panic of my Nike+ running app having a meltdown at 1.29 miles and having to restart the bloomin' thing, I managed a grand total of 8.35 miles (13.5K) at an average pace of just over 9min/mile: pretty chuffed with that! 

The legs felt like lead on the last mile and a half, so I will need to get in a few more long runs before the half marathon to be sure that I've got the distance in me. On the whole I felt good, and the beautiful sunny day helped a lot - scenery running across Battersea Bridge was amazing, but I was too focused on the pace to stop for a pic! Sorry! Next time, promise...

Then, to top off an already awesome morning of running in the sunshine, I had a delivery: my month's supply of Vita Coco that I won along with the Run to the Beat entry! Plus a lovely wee message from the Vita Coco team. Ahhh! 

The fridge is stocked, and ready for rehydration...

Right, need to shoot, I'm off for a 7.5 mile cycle to Regent's Park for my touch rugby team's final games of the summer season. Nope, never do things by halves! 

Katy | City girl Fit

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Can you train for a half marathon in 4 weeks? I hope so!

I've never won anything. Well, nothing that counts; a tenner on the lotto doesn't really count as 'winning' - you need the whole £7.5 million-odd in my eyes. So, yeah, nothing. I enter competitions fully expecting never to hear back again, which is exactly what I thought when I entered a Women's Fitness competition by VitaCoco UK to win entry to the Nike Run to the Beat half marathon - London's 'music marathon' - and a month's supply of coconut water. 

Lo and behold: I won! This means that I have exactly 4 weeks to get half-marathon fit from never EVER having run further than 15K, and that was 6 years ago. Oh. Dear.

Fortunately, before I even knew I'd won the competition, I'd been offered a place at a Run to the Beat track-training session at Battersea Park Arena on 10/08/13, which was organised by Nike Running UK and advertised on their Facebook page last week. 'Perfect way to kickstart the training!

I'd been pre-warned by Nike Master Trainer Gil Cramer (Coach G) that it was going to be a tough session *gulp!* but I thought, what the hey: what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and all that...

I cycled down to the track  - which, as will be come apparent, was a bad idea - on Saturday morning, raring to go. Seeing a lot of fit-looking (and I mean that solely in the fitness sense. honest.) people hovering around a track that is a lot bigger than I remember from school days, the butterflies began. 

Battersea Park Millenium Arena
What was I thinking?! A track-training session with no half-marathon training whatsoever?! Fortunately I started talking to the lovely Josie, who it turned out also won a place on RttB thanks to VitaCoco, and we calmed each others nerves a little. 

Gil and some of the other Nike trainers, including the awesome Gemma (aka Good to Tone PT. Ladies: if you're looking for an inspirational fitness role model, then look no further!) talked us through the plan for training. We got in to a 'warm up' of dynamic hip-flexor stretching (ouch! but in a strangely nice way), planks, sprints, high-knees, squat-jumps and a 3min tempo run. No, your eyes do not deceive you,  I did say 'warm up'.

We were then split into Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced groups. Although I'd normally be the first to throw myself at the beginner group, 'sprints' was mentioned a lot, and I have a strong aversion to the 's' word. So I opted for the Intermediate group as the word 'pyramid runs' sounded much more fun. 

Wrong! This is what a pyramid run involved:

200m sprint, 200m jog
300m sprint, 100 walk
400m sprint, 400m jog
200m sprint, 200m jog
400m sprint, 400m jog
300m sprint, 100m walk
200m sprint, die on grass at side of track.

Despite feeling like my heart was about to explode out of my chest and my legs jellifying on the second 400m sprint, I managed. The training I did as a teenager for 400m and 800m really came back to me, and I actually sort of enjoyed it. Albeit only a tiny little bit. And only well after I'd stopped running. Specifically, when I was at home with a glass of wine and feeling smug.

Cool down time (thank god!) and a chance to guzzle some VitaCoco and some snacks provided by Kaffiene. Josie and I also got chatting to some other girls at the session including the lovely Jen, and Em of lunges & lycra, about training, running and triathlons. We chatted to the organisers of Run to the Beat, who were telling us about the training runs on a Monday night in Box Park: info can be found on the Run to the Beat Facebook page. 

Jen, me and Josie at the track
I also spoke to super-coach G about my 4-week training plan - or lack thereof. His advice at this late stage was to get in long runs on a Sunday, as that's the day I'll be racing, with maybe one or two shorter runs in the week, but also to mix my training up with a bit of swimming and strength training (specifically, only running 3 times a week). I already do 10K most Sundays, so I just need to extend that out over the next few weeks and hope for the best!! It's slowly starting to sink in that 4 weeks today and I'll be running my first ever half marathon... *deep breathing to avoid panic attack* 

Oh yeah, the cycle home was pretty painful! I really need to rest my legs tonight so I'm ready for Gemma's NTC class at Clapham Common tomorrow morning. Given the way that the past week has gone, 'Jump in at the deep end' should be my middle name!

Thanks to Vita Coco again from Josie & me - we are really look forward to it despite the mild panic of last minute training!

Katy | City Girl Fit

And so it begins...

This is City Girl Fit – the blog of a London-based, slightly overweight but somehow semi-fit Scottish girl with a serious gin habit, tracking my journey – dream?! - to becoming a lean and mean triathlete (with a serious gin habit). I could never give up gin – it makes me so happy, see:
I’ve been toying with the idea of training for a triathlon for a few years now. I can run (albeit slowly, never further than 15K, and only if my stupid knees allow) and I’m a pretty strong swimmer; as Meatloaf says: “two out of three ain’t bad”! But really, for a triathlon you need a bike, which I lacked – the perfect excuse for why I can’t do a triathlon. Then the boy bought himself a fancy new one for his John O’Groats to Land’s End cycle and I’ve inherited his old one (see below. Yes, he is named Lancelot. No, not by me) - so my excuse is out the window!  It’s not a tri bike, but I have to stop making excuses and start somewhere.
Through this blog I will track my journey from tri virgin to… popping my tri cherry, I guess?! But also, more generally, I’ll update on the runs, swims, spins, trips and falls on the road to improving my fitness and flexibility, ensuring that I hit my 30′s swinging (or at the very least with the ability to touch my toes!). It’s going to be a long hard slog, but I’m ready for it.
It’s time to tri… let’s do this!