Reaching my full potential

Recently I’ve fallen out with running. I’ve not been making a lot of progress and I’ve been finding the long slow runs really dull. So when we arrived in Portugal for the running training camp I was at my lowest ebb. I told myself I’d taken up running too late and I’d reached my peak. I had zero expectations and was convinced that somebody would tell me that I wasn’t proper runner and that my cover would be well and truly blown.

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I’m happy to report that I am now back in love with running and I’m really excited about the marathon. I’m perhaps not going to do as well as I could have done (due to inconsistent training), but I’m just going to enjoy the amazing opportunity and go back to basics.

You see what I realised last week was that I have only just started on my running journey. I’ve spent 30 years of my life being largely sedentary in nature and this is just the beginning of a long relationship with fitness and running.

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The week (or 2 week) training camp is run by the fabulous coaches and experts in their field at Full Potential. You get to live, breathe and sleep running or, if you prefer, you can just go there to relax with the odd run along the cliffs thrown in – it’s entirely up to you. You stay in the Alfamar sports hotel rubbing shoulders with athletes from various olympic teams and making the most of the excellent facilities.

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The hotel itself is basic, but clean, which is fine by me as I didn’t plan on spending much time in my room!

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I, naturally, chose to take every opportunity to run, get some tips and advice and soak it all up like a sponge. I lived like an athlete for a week (well, apart from the giant ice creams, the pizza…) – training twice a day, listening to talks on nutrition and finding out about the best types of mobility and strength exercises to do along side running training. In between all this I got to sit by the pool in the glorious sunshine bikini-clad. It’s a hard life, but someone’s got to do it, right?

IMAG0069 We arrived on the Monday, took a walk along the gorgeous beach (literally just out the back of the hotel) and joined in on the evening recovery run where we caught up with some of the other people and the coaches, Ben and Rich. What followed was a week of track sessions where I learnt what a threshold run was, aqua jogging, a cross country race (where my Rich who ‘hates’ running came 3rd!) and one of the best long runs I’ve had in ages.

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I had video analysis done, and contrary to what I previously thought, I don’t run like a crazed baboon. I just need to shorten my stride and work on some drills. With the help of Ben (my new running coach – get me), I’m determined to nail a 1:50 half marathon.

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It was truly an inspiring and fun week and I learnt such a huge amount. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom:

  • For marathon training, don’t stress about the mileage and just focus on time
  • Train smart – make sure there’s a reason for every run
  • “Don’t have you best marathon run on a training run” (thanks Rich) – keep marathon training runs up to a maximum of 3 hours
  • Aqua jogging is a great way of training without the impact associated with running – you don’t need to spend a fortune on a belt either, you can just use a noodle float (probably about £5 instead of £20)
  • Forget spinning and Crossfit – instead I now have a marvellous personal trainer who does running-specific strength training with me and checks my form, something that is often lacking in classes
  • The things that need fixing with my running form mean that there is HUGE potential for me to improve and grow as a runner

Anyway, I’ll leave you with this video to give you a flavour of the experience.

Big thanks to everyone at Full Potential for making my holiday so brilliant and helping me to realise that I can achieve my running dreams. See you again in September. 

sian

Rock solid race – the one with the man up pills

I’ve wanted to at least give one of these military style assault course races a go for a little while now. Just for the sheer hell of it really. It’s never going to be ‘me’ as too much faffing around and not enough PB possibilities for my liking (I’m shallow like that!).

I was given the opportunity to check out the Rock Solid Race in Exeter though and I thought ‘what the hell’. And thereafter I kind of forgot about it, ignored it, and sort of hoped it would go away. Well it didn’t folks and I have the bruises to prove it!

You see, I am a total and utter wimp and being in a military assault course is so far outside of my comfort zone it’s practically in space.

The worst of it was that everyone I saw who had just completed the course looked decidedly clean so I was lulled into the false sense of security that this was going to be a run with a few hay bails and a couple of puddles – you can tell how much I had actually looked into this can’t you?

The course started with a nice little amble down a grassy hill and then we had to jump over a few hay bails.

Comedy moment number 1: running down to the hay bails, lifting myself off and jumping into what I thought was a small puddle, which turned out to be about 3 feet deeper than I thought – cue face plant.

We were shortly then in the forest where we were soon met with puddle of waist deep mud, which felt like quick sand and there were some trainer casualties along the way. After wading through endless seas of mud and me wondering if I was ever going to get the mud out from under my nails, we had one of the first proper obstacles – the wire.

The wire was by far my worst obstacle – the water was icing cold and I almost went into shock crawling under the barbed wire. I totally lost the ability to breathe properly and just couldn’t wait for it to be over!

Then came one of my favourite things – the Lumberjack. This involved lugging a ruddy great log over you shoulder and running up and down a very muddy hill. I loved this so much – bit of strength training and hill work at the same time. Right up my strata.

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After endless other forest obstacles and meeting my new BFF Austin, we were back out in the open again. My next favourite obstacle – stepping stones. Essentially planks of wood floating in freezing cold water and you have to jump between them.

Comedy moment number 2: We have been wading through mud, balanced precariously hanging off walls and climbing rope ladders, and this dude tripped over a blade of grass at the water station.

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The rest is pretty much a blur to be honest, but I remember (in my head at least) that I was awesome at the rope crawl!

DIVA rating: 3/5

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The verdict:

– It was good fun for a while, but I would do the 5k next time not the 10k (too long – actually took me 2h38 to finish!)

– It’s definitely one to dress up in a silly costume with friends or impossible to find your picture

– Completing some of the obstacles on your own is tough – I just couldn’t do the A-frame on my own at all! I would recommend doing it as a team

Would I do it again? Yes, but only dressed as wonder woman. 🙂

sian

 

 

Healthy Quorn and avocado jacket potatoes

Here’s a little simple and quick week night recipe for you. It’s absolutely packed with protein and good fats, tastes delicious and is vegetarian for all you veggies out there. I’ve used Quorn chicken pieces simply because they are so easy – all you have to do is heat them in the microwave for 5 minutes.

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Prep time: 5-10 minutes

Cooking time (potatoes only): 45 minutes

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Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1/2 bag of frozen Quorn chicken pieces
  • 1x tub of 0% Total greek yoghurt (170g)
  • 1x ripe avocado
  • 1/2 bunch of spring onions
  • 2x large potatoes or 4 smaller ones
  • Sprinkle of paprika
  • Teaspoon of mustard
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees C (gas mark 4), rub vegetable oil into the potato skins and sprinkle on some rock salt. Put these in the oven (if you have a partner who gets in from work before you – get them to do this!). You could of course microwave cook the potatoes, but I like the crispy skin.
  • Heat the Quorn chicken pieces in a covered dish in the microwave for 5 mins (from frozen) and allow to cool.
  • Watch your favourite TV show or go for a 30-minute run.

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  • Chop up the avocado, into bite-sized chunks and chop the spring onion reasonably finely.

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  • Mix the yoghurt, mustard, paprika and seasoning together with the avocado, spring onion, and Quorn chicken pieces.
  • Stuff into the potatoes and there you have it – a mega quick, tasty and healthy mid-week meal.

Enjoy!

sian

Race review: Banbury 15 – the one with the guardian angel

Apart from the marathon, Banbury 15 is the longest race on my schedule this year. That, coupled with the fact that Banbury, unlike other parts of Oxfordshire, has some pretty gnarly hills in it made this race a pretty formidable challenge.

My pacer was Rich’s friend Ewan. He does all of his running for Helen and Douglas House because of a little boy Thomas who sadly, only about a week before the race, passed away.

Ewan is way faster than me and also has the constitution of an Ox (his mantra is ‘man the fuck up!’), unlike me who goes into every race thinking I’m instantly going to fail and fall flat on my face. He agreed to stick to my pace of 9.30 min/mile (or there about) aiming to finish around the 2 and a half hour mark.

We were just packing the stuff in the car before I had a quick last-minute costume change and threw on my running skirt instead of my black running tights – best decision of the day as what was probably 18 degrees felt more like 28 degrees when running!

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The Banbury 15 is a local race run by the local running club – it’s a no frills race with no timing chips and not many spectators along the course, but sometimes that’s nice!

The first gnarly hill hit about a mile in and I was feeling pretty good – I’ve almost nailed this hill thing, in fact I enjoy a course with a little bit of undulation in it.

Ewan was running the race in memory of Thomas and that’s what drives him to run. I run for the (minimal) glory/achievement and the bling to add to my already overflowing collection. It was nice to have a little bit of that positivity rub off on me though. At mile 13 we were sure little Thomas was watching over us as a yellow butterfly (his favourite colour and he loved butterflies) fluttered by.

We were both feeling pretty strong until around mile 14 when all I could think about was water and I came over feeling decidedly odd, and Ewan’s knee started playing up. We both pushed on though to finish in a respectable 2 hours and 20 minutes – 10 minutes quicker than I had hoped.

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The good…

–       Great undulating course – gives you confidence that you can complete a flat spring marathon

–       Well organised

–       Easy parking and easy access to the train station for those who don’t drive (race starts in the middle of Banbury)

–       Good value race entry

…the not so good

–       No timing chip – didn’t bother me, but might some

–       It was an unseasonably hot day and I think we could have done with an extra water station

Diva rating: 4/5

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What did I learn? 

–       Maybe running for a cause would be nice and would give my running a sense of meaning rather than being a selfish, self-indulgent pursuit

–       Don’t do your shoe laces up too tightly as your feet swell up massively on a long run – my poor little toe is really feeling it now!

Helen & Douglas House has the time and expertise to care for children and young adults with life-shortening conditions and support their families. The two hospice houses offer specialist symptom and pain management, medically supported short breaks and end-of-life care, as well as counselling and practical support for the whole family.

sian

 

 

 

 

 

Silverstone half marathon: The mental challenge

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I was really looking forward to the Silverstone half marathon, not least because I knew it would be well organised (being sponsored by Adidas) and it was a mere 15 minutes drive from my house – boom!

BUT, what I had mistakenly forgotten about was that it is still only March, we’re in the UK and Silverstone used to be an airfield – cue bitingly cold wind. I haven’t been that cold since I turned up to watch Brighton play on a July day in shorts when a freak weather front came over and the heaven’s opened! What was a real shame was that I knew a few people would be there, but both Rich and I were so cold we just wanted to ‘get it done’ and get home.

Silverstone is a extremely flat half marathon course and although you are not literally running around multiple laps of the track, it can feel like that. However, if you are looking to get a PB it is a good one, just be mindful of the fact that although it’s flat it is a very exposed and can be quite windy. I was going great guns to start with, despite major bra chafing that appeared at mile 1 (not ideal) and  a very strong head wind. I hit the first 10k at 54 minutes, but by mile 8 I became a bit bored and hit a mental wall. After downing a few jelly babies I had a burst of energy and managed to hit 10 miles at 1:29 (think this may actually be a 10-mile PB). Sadly, I wasn’t able to maintain this pace though and finished in a marginal PB of 1:58:31 – 26 seconds faster than Oxford half back in October last year. What it does prove is that I am actually a lot fitter this season than I thought and it also shows me that Oxford wasn’t a total fluke!

What surprised me the most is what a race can teach you and that is I’m not quite as much of a PB hunter as I thought I was because the PB didn’t make me wild with excitement. What I realised as I ran multiple flat and windy rings around the course was that I am knocking on the door of 35 and I started running properly at 32, I’m also not built to be a runner so I’m unlikely to ever be a fast runner now, but the best I can hope for is maintaining a level of fitness, knocking maybe a handful of minutes off my times, and enjoying myself. Perhaps with my build and strength, and my boredom with road running maybe I should reinvestigate trail running?

What I also realised during the race is that my Adidas Boost trainers are superb and super comfortable!

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DIVA rating: 3/5 – not my thing, but may well be yours!

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The good

– Superbly organised – timers on every mile marker, lots of drinks stations

– Loved the Adidas shop

– Lots of eateries and things to entertain the spectators

– Prestige associated with being at the Silverstone track – great if you’re into F1

– Ideal for a PB

– Best bling ever!!

The bad

– Lack of atmosphere – probably due to poor weather conditions in fairness

– Slightly monotonous course

Big thanks to Adidas for giving me a place on the race!

sian