Monday, 27 April 2015

Twenty six point two

Despite having looked forwards to this Monday morning off for the last couple of months I have definitely got post marathon blues this morning! Today feels very ordinary in comparison to the elation of yesterday and it's odd not having the event looming over me.

Hanging up my current trainers - new ones needed!

So, the important bits (for those you who don't want to read the whole thing) I managed to complete the London Marathon is respectable time of 3:35:06 - a little outside my ultimate goal of 3:30 but this just means I can give it another go! Plus, I exceeded my fundraising target thanks to all the amazing support of friends and family which i'm extremely grateful for.

Thank you from my training partner
There were two big highlights of yesterday, firstly seeing my support crew, Charlie's Army, at the 600m to go mark which brought tears to my eyes and gave me the last push to cross the line. Secondly, I am so inspired and humbled by the runners taking part with various disabilities - everything from blindness to amputations - you guys are all absolute hero's and I can't put into words how much I respect I have for you all.

Despite having been really nervous all of last week, I woke up feeling very calm and relaxed. Breakfast was two slices of wholemeal toast, a small bowl of porridge with 2 big cups of tea and Beetroot Juice. After this, I headed off to Victoria Station to catch the train to the Start (Blackheath as I was in Blue). Arriving at Victoria, it was pretty obvious where the train was thanks to the swarm of runners. I managed to get a seat so the 25 minute journey passed in a flash. I arrived nice and early at the start enclosure so made a beeline for the loo's. My attention was caught firstly by the 'female urinals' but after seeing the paper cups being given out I changed course and went for the classic portaloo option!

Looking significantly fresher pre race!

I then made my way to my start pen, warming up enroute - then before I knew it we were off, crossing the line just 3 minutes after the first wave. The route over first 3 miles was very congested and slow - the pace was around 8.5 minutes and getting past people was almost impossible. At around mile three we were joined by the other starters making the route even busier. I was trying to increase my pace as much as possible to recover lost time but it was very challenging simply because of the amount of people.

Time was absolutely flying and before I knew it the Cutty Sark was looming into view just after mile 6. I pushed on, having managed to recover a minute or so but still off the pace I needed for 3:30.  Next came Tower Bridge at mile 12 which was something I had really looked forwards too as all the iconic images of the London Marathon are from here. It didn't disappoint - the atmosphere was just incredible and the noise so loud that it drowned out my music!

 Just the other side, the course doubles back and I was lucky enough to see the Elite Men coming the other way - they are something else! Their pace was unreal but a great boost to keep pushing.

Reaching half way, I was feeling really good! It had gone so quickly and all my fueling and hydration plans were on track. Then I reached mile 16 and at that point I had a little wobble thinking about the last 10 miles I still had to cover but quickly recovered and kept going. At mile 18 another runner asked me how I was doing and I remember saying 'its starting to hurt' to which he replied 'only 8 miles to go, chin up!'. By mile 20 I started getting a pain in my right quad so I decided to stop and stretch briefly to avoid making it worse. After this I noticed my pace start drop and my legs started to feel increasingly heavy but I reached mile 21 and took my final Gel which definitely helped.

By this point I was getting lots of encouragement from the crowd, hearing people shouting your name is such a lift and really helps to keep you going. Despite feeling like I slowed down a lot, I was still managing just over 8 minute miles and the route had thinned out so I was able to overtake more than being overtaken. Then I saw the mile 24 marker and although I knew I wasn't going to come in under 3:30 I knew the end was less than 20 minutes away so really started to push again.

The last couple of miles were my favorite as we ran along South Bank. A group of people with a Megaphone shouted out my name and told me to smile (as I tend to have slightly miserable look about me!) which made me laugh and did put the smile back on my face.

Then Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament came into view just as the course turned right and suddenly it was the final straight of the Mall. As I passed the 600m marker, I saw my support crew at which point I was holding back tears as I started to feel really emotional but was so happy to have seen them! Next thing I knew, I was going under the 365 yards to go bridge and then the finish line was in sight...just before the line I joined hands with a complete stranger and we crossed the line together which I was so happy about as I really liked the 'hand in hand' concept from the first ever London Marathon.

And that was that! The race was over and I fulfilled a life long ambition - I was so happy with my race, time and the overall experience. I made my way down the finish straight collecting my medal (which felt so heavy around my weary neck!) followed by my goody back, on to the meet and greet area to await being collected.

As I was walking I was in a lot of pain - it felt like my muscles were literally screaming at me. At this stage I thought I was going to be in a lot of trouble the next day but after a long walk back to the station (thanks to my brother who took us Via Piccadilly) I was starting to feel much better. Following an amazing feast of burgers, chips and garlic bread I was pretty much back to normal again.

Luckily this morning I'm feeling pretty fresh - I can definitely feel I have done a run but i'm not in pain which is a bonus. I'm already starting to think about what's next but I have promised to not sign up for anything for a least a week.

I'm planning on taking the next few days nice and easy to make sure I don't do any damage to my muscles but after that it will be back to business as usual! It seems very strange that my journey to complete the marathon is over but I have sneaky feeling this won't be my last so stay tuned ;)


Friday, 24 April 2015

Can Juicing enhance performance?

As I write this, its exactly 1 day and 15 hours until the start of the London Marathon and I have just broken one of the golden rules - don't try anything new in race week.

What I've done isn't exactly heinous and I have done so under good authority (my colleague the multi marathon smashing and cyclist extraordinaire) but none-the-less i'm a little nervous.

I have just consumed my first beetroot juice.

Numerous studies have linked the consumption of Beetroot juice to increased stamina and speed, which I simply couldn't resist ahead of Sunday's marathon. Beetroots are high in nitrate, which when ingested is converted into nitrite then nitric acid.

Nitric acid has two effects on the body, firstly it causes blood vessels to dilate so you can provide more blood through them. Secondly, it makes the mitochondria (the powerhouses of cells) more efficient so they create the same amount of energy whilst consuming less oxygen. These basically means you are producing more oxygen but utilizing it more efficiently which can only lead to good things!

So to make my juice I juiced a whole cooked beetroot with an apple and Satsuma and a little water. The taste was ok - very beetrooty. Luckily i'm a fan of the taste to it works for me. The maximum effects as described above take place between 2 and 2.5 hours from consumption, so assuming I don't experience any untoward effects, I will have another with my breakfast on Sunday morning and hopefully reap the rewards and hit my goal of a 3:30 finish!

My nerves are slowly turning to excitement and i'm feeling pretty pumped right now. Bring. It. On.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Carb Loading 101

With the London Marathon just 4 days away, the running side of training is done (I actually have just one easy 10 minute left!) all efforts now need to be concentrated on fueling. As I have been tapering for around a week already, my muscles are already starting to refill with Glycogen following the months of constant depletion from long, intense training. Physically I can feel this, especially over the last few days when during my last runs I have felt heavy! I have to keep reminding myself this is a good thing as fuel is what's going to get me round the course.

Carb loading is a term used frequently in running and endurance circles but what does it actually mean? Put simply, it the process of increasing the amount of calories you consume from Carbohydrates in order to maximize the amount of Glycogen in your muscles. This is essential in endurance events as Glycogen will be your main fuel source and is most efficiently converted into energy. Once depleted, you will be forced to burn fat and finally muscle which won't provide the same amount of energy and is slower to metabolise meaning you will find activity much more challenging despite levels of fitness.

Historically, it was advised to completely deplete Glycogen stores by consuming a low carb diet for around 4 days, then switching to high carbs to refill. Thankfully, more modern research has demonstrated there is no need to empty first (which is a great thing for all us Carb lovers!)

So how much Carbohydrate actually constitutes loading - well, it varies from person to person but typically you should aim for 4 grams of Carbs for each KG of body weight. So, if you weigh 60 kg  then you would need 240g. Each gram of carbohydrate is 4 calories (on average) so this is a total of 960 calories. You can start loading from 5 days out - I personally plan to start tomorrow as my diet is already pretty carb heavy. Try to distribute your intake evenly throughout the day and by meal to get the most from your diet.

You can get some level of Carbs from pretty much every food group out there (meat and fish being the exception for the most part) however the volume and quality varies dramatically. Below I have rounded up the highest carb containing foods by group, along with their volumes for reference. By focusing on these foods, you can ensure you're able to hit the needed intake amounts as focusing on lesser carb heavy foods, you will become full before hitting the requirement.

Fruit Measure Carb content in Grams
Blueberries 1/2 cup 25
Banana 1 Whole 27
Mango 1 Whole 31
Papaya 1 Whole 33
Pear 1 Whole 26
Vegetables Measure Carb content in Grams
Sweetcorn 1 cup 44
Potato 1 Whole 43
Sweet Potato 1 Whole 28
Grains Measure Carb content in Grams
Bagel 1 Whole 35 - 50
Bread 2 Slice's 25
Bulgar 1 Cup 34
Cous Cous 1 cup 36
Croissant 1 Whole 26
English Muffin 1 Whole 25
Muffin 1 Whole                     29 - 28
Noodles 1 Cup 40
Pita 1 Whole 33
Rice 1 cup 44
Spaghetti 1 cup 40
Beans Measure Carb content in Grams
Baked Beans 1/2 Cup 24
Misc Measure Carb content in Grams
Frozen Yogurt 1 Cup 36
Cake 1 piece                    34 - 50
Brownie 1 piece 36

Note that I whilst have included some desserts, the Carbs here come pretty much entirely from sugar which will be expended much quicker than those in whole foods. However, given what we're about to undertake, a little indulgence is as good for the body as it is for the mind!

Good luck to everyone running London or any other race this weekend - remember, all the hard work has already been done so relax, smile and enjoy!

Saturday, 18 April 2015

1 week to go

The big day is almost within touching distance - this time next week i'll be in London in Carb heaven!

This last week the miles dropped from a total of 50 down to 30 and I have been feeling much fresher as a result. My long run today was a steady 10 miles which felt great. The sun was shining and there was a nice breeze (which turned into a strong wind from time to time). The sun being out did mean I was feeling more dehydrated than usual and needing to drink more and often than what I was used too but all good prep for the big day.

I ran today in what I plan to wear on the 26th to make sure everything is comfortable to avoid any nasty surprises on the day!

I will be keeping a close eye on the weather for the 26th to ensure I have the right strategy from the start. Weather can impact everything from outfit to hydration and fueling and so is essential that you prepare accordingly.

The week ahead, miles are really low - I think I will do a a max of 12. I will also be limiting other training to bare minimum to make sure that i'm in the best possible shape on the start line.

I'm planning to go to the exhibition to pick up my number and race kit on Thursday. I'm looking forwards to checking it all out, in particular the new gear! I think i've earned some new kit following all the effort i've put in over the last four months (not for the day itself though of course).

Diet wise I will be on high carbs throughout the week - making the most of them since I will be moving to carb cycling diet post event.

I'm really excited but also nervous and a little anxious mainly about the time i've set myself - I have to keep reminding myself that time isn't everything and to make the most of the experience which could well be once in a lifetime!

The countdown is on!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Feeling fruity

There are so many health benefits of Oranges you would be crazy to not be eating them. I eat at least one pretty much every day and when i'm feeling run down up this even more as they contain so much goodness.

Starting with the obvious, they are jam packed with Vitamin C which helps to boost immunity thanks to its role in protecting the body from free radicals. When you exercise frequently at high intensity you are more risk from free radicals because of the stress this induces. Antioxidants fight off free radicals so a diet high in these is essential and have even been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease. A single orange can provide almost all the RDI of Vit C so the more the merrier here.

For the same reason Vit C helps with immunity, it also helps to prevent skin damage and can even help with the appearance of anti-aging. As well as being high in Vit C, Oranges have high levels of Vitamin A the properties of which keep the body moisturised, in particular the eyes.

They contain high levels of insoluble fibre which not only makes you feel fuller for longer but is key to maintaining healthy bowel function by preventing constipation and can even prevent IBS. The rich fibre content also means they control blood sugar levels making them a great choice for everyone but in particular diabetics.

For all these reasons, they make a great snack so next time you're snacking, reach for an Orange!

Saturday, 11 April 2015

530 miles...

This is how many miles I've clocked up training for the London Marathon so far - having just done a quick Google this is roughly the distance from London to Aberdeen which is CRAZY!

With two weeks to go i'm starting to taper my training so my legs are in good shape for the big day. This morning I did a solid 15 miles which felt good despite the wind and rain (I am not going to miss this!) and came home dead on 1:55.

Puppy is so heavy now - its a workout just lifting
him up!

The next couple of weeks will continue to consist of interval training and steady runs but the distance will drop hopefully leaving me feel fresher than I do currently. I've been feeling super tired for the last month or so (going to bed at 8:30pm has happened) which I think is a side effect of all the training.

I have started to work on my training plans post marathon which i'm really excited about, especially to get back in the gym and start building some muscle again! Plus i'm going to completely overhaul my diet plan which has changed drastically from where it was pre training. I will of course be sharing this once its finished and keep you updated with my progress from Cardio Queen to Gym Bunny. Running will absolutely still be a part of my plan as I love it but I will be more focused on shorter distances in preparation for the 2 10k's I have over the summer.

In other news this week, I got discharged from the Osteo I had been seeing for my back and neck which means I'm fixed again! it definitely feels good to be running without the distraction of a painful neck and crunchy back. Turns out, my back problems stem from my old hip injury, meaning the way I carrying myself as a result is causing the symptoms. I hope to get that worked out post marathon but now isn't the time for that!

Short and sweet update this week - happy Saturday x

Saturday, 4 April 2015

3 weeks and counting

I cant believe its Marathon month already - 3 weeks today I will be in London, collecting my race kit and getting prepped for the big day!

Training over the last 2 weeks has been tough for me. My neck continued to be a problem after Reading for about 10 days, plus I got a sickness bug last week meaning I was in bed for two days without eating anything. I went to an Osteopath last Friday who fixed my neck through a combination of joint manipulation and massage which made me feel a million times better but I was still feeling rough from the bug and having not eaten. However, me being me, got out of bed on the Saturday morning all set to run 21 miles (my final big 'Big' run) however as you can imagine, failed miserably.

The first 2 miles were ok but I started to fade quickly after that, feeling dehydrated and fatigued. I ploughed on to mile 5 and consumed pretty much all the water I had with me which was a worrying sign but I was determined to continue. From mile 6 I was in trouble, having to stop every half or mile or so as I just didn't have any energy (showing the importance of fueling and hydration!). I made it to mile 9 and had enough, calling in the cavalry to come and collect me as I was a long way from home. I know better than to run when I'm not feeling 100%, especially when i'm not fuelled effectively but unfortunately my stubbornness got the better of me on this occasion.

This really knocked my confidence and for the first time since starting training I began to think I couldn't do this, so much so, I was started to struggle to sleep and just felt anxious all the time. So I spent all day Sunday eating every single carb I could lay my hands on to try and get back in the game, which seemed to do the trick. I managed all my planned runs in the week (which wasn't easy and I had by means got my pace back) and decided to take on the 21 miler again today, just to prove to myself I had it in me!

Luckily today went well and I completed the route in 2:42:12 putting me back on track for a 3:30 finish on the day. Today was definitely tough, especially the hills and I could really feel it in my legs but knowing I finished has given me the boost I needed.

So from here on, my distances will start to drop. I've still got some demanding interval sessions planned and will cover more miles than ordinarily I would but i'm hoping this will help me get to the pace I was at a couple of weeks back.

Plans for the big day are becoming more and more of a frequent topic. The day itself requires a fair amount of planning from a logistics point of view - i'm going to leave Coach to co-ordinate the spectators as he's a pro in that department but I need to confirm day before plans including the all important 'last supper', my route to the start line and morning routine.

Lots to think about over the next couple of weeks but the end is in sight - at this stage, i'm still feeling as confident as I was but really hope that by the end of next week i'm back to my best!

I'm sure a healthy intake of Easter eggs tomorrow will be me the world of good - chocolate is for sure the greatest medicine :)