Monday, 19 December 2011

Second 30 mile ultra training run done

I've now got three ultra runs under my belt which I'm pretty pleased about. Two 30 milers and the 38 mile "race" around half of the capital ring.

Last Sunday was the second 30 mile attempt. The route I took was along the capital ring to Finsbury Park, along to Stoke Newington, down to the canal, a lap of Victoria Park, along the Limehouse Basin past the Blackwall Tunnel and back again.

Cute cottage in east London next to Regent's canal

The actual run itself was fine. My left hip is still playing up slightly but it was well behaved on Sunday. I even slashed my time down to 5 hours 35 mins - 25 minutes faster than my first attempt (this works out at around 10.8 minute mile, so with walking included in that my actual running pace is probably more like 9-9.5 minute miles, which I'm happy with).

Houseboats on the canal

The thing I am having trouble with is my head. I got to 10 miles and had a minor paddy attack that I didn't want to carry on. I thought I had run further than 10 miles. It was only the thought of having to run back 10 miles anyway that spurred me on to get to the 15 mile halfway point. From there it was plain sailing. I'd passed half way so it was downhill from there.

I'm having real difficulties at the moment with breaking the run down into manageable sizes during the first half, and remaining positive. I get bored quite quickly and then start thinking of how many more hours to go and fantasizing about what I want to eat (currently I'm obsessing about mince pies and cheese - though not together!). So this is definitely something I need to work on - and I'm sure I'll have looootttssss of practice over the next couple of months with the looming scary long and back to backs ahead.

On a positive (see! I'm trying!) I experienced the endorphin trick again at around mile 28, which was great. Absolutely stormed up Finsbury Park hill and along the last mile of the capital ring to home. It's such a great feeling. It feels a bit like the first few seconds of setting off on a really fast run and feeling invisible before the lactic acid kicks in and your lungs start screaming. Very very cool.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A little bit of mid week running psychology

I took it really easy last week after the effort of the first proper ultra "race", with just a couple of runs in during the week. My left hip and my right knee are also feeling a little niggly so I thought it wise to ease off the training too. Oh that's the excuse I gave myself anyway...

However, not running does really seems to affect me mentally. I get moody, tearful and irritated about things that usually would not affect me. How do non runners cope?!

I think running helps with stress on two levels. First is on a physical level. Anger and stress can be shaken off along a run. Endorphins help make you feel better inside yourself. Second is on a mental level. I find I am able to work through things in a more fluid yet abstract way in my head on a run. Things that may seem important or overwhelming can be taken down in size. Nothing ever feels quite so bad when thought through on a run.

Maybe it’s the sense of control over things that you have when running. Maybe it’s the setting or maybe it’s that you’re working so damn hard to keep going that takes the edge of other problems! I don’t know but whatever it is, I always – without fail – feel 100% better after I’ve been running. So that's my little bit of mid week running psychology for you!

This week, I hope I'm back on form and am planning on runs in all this week with two long runs at the weekend, to try and start building up the "horizontal" running stamina (day after day of running) as well as the "vertical" running stamina (ultra runs). It will take a lot of running psychology for me to tell myself I do really, really want to go out in the freezing cold EVERYDAY and run lots of miles.

Friday, 2 December 2011

First 38 mile ultra race completed

I've done it! Wow. Big pat on my back. Technically we were all ready and signed up for the Hereward race - 38 miles around Peterborough. But we decided against going as it would have taken us 2.5 hours to drive there, god knows how many hours to run it, train back to the start point, then drive home. Plus it was on a Sunday so no rest day before work on Monday.

It just highlights the realities of trying to train for these sorts of things. Any other distance - even a marathon, is doable in a day round trip. Or I guess if you are a fast ultra runner - which I am not, that also helps to squeeze in these races.

So we decided to run it on the Saturday in London using a garmin to track distance and time. We took the capital ring loop from Highgate around to Wandsworth via Richmond, and ended in Clapham South, before hobbling onto the Northern Line back home.

Here's the route. Nuts. I expect we'll do the other half at some point soon too.

View Larger Map

As predicted times were snail pace. A huge 8.25 hours (9 in total with 2 stops) which equals 13 minute miles. Pretty slow. I'm hopeful that the times will get faster as we go, but because it's a completely new area and I'm not sure how my body is going to react I'm erring on the side of caution. That plus I basically couldn't go any faster. He he. To put into context how slow we were the winners of the Hereward Race did it in 3:45:42 male and 4:19:24 female - though this is insanely fast.

The first half of the run was pretty awful. I moaned a lot. Stopped a lot. Ate a lot. Walked a lot. My left hip unfortunately also moaned a lot (I think I've damaged the top part of my ITB (iliotibial band) but am hoping it is recovering now).

Bu then! the golden arches appeared from nowhere through the gloom and drizzle of Greenford. Like a fly to an electric zapper we headed in and ate an extremely healthy lunch to exit and storm the next 10 miles from Greenford to Richmond.

It was like Mr Negative had left the building and Mrs Positive was now sat on my shoulder. I'm starting to see that the biggest part of ultra running is the mental attitude. 38 miles is such a long way, it's difficult to break it down at the beginning of a race.

I don't know about other runners but I always break races down into sections. For example if I'm running a half marathon I would break it into the first three miles - relax and try and get into a good rhythm. The next five miles maintain a steady pace, the next three miles crank it up a bit, the final two miles, just hang on in there!

Doing this helps makes it all a bit more manageable and also staves off the boredom, as it gives you something to concentrate on at that moment rather than thinking, ugh 10 miles to go, so far! But for 38 miles I found this really difficult to do until I got to half way, then I found it much, much easier to break down.

We had another break at Richmond. Climbing over Twickenham bridge rather felt like an out-of-body experience as my legs were wondering what the f I was doing and didn't want to participate in climbing as well.

The next section though was even more extraordinary. We had limited light left and still had to get through Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common so knew we had to get a move on. It honestly felt like I was running on air. We must have been running at 8 minute mile pace. It was ridiculous. I don't know where it came from. People talk about endorphin highs and I guess this was it. I've never experienced anything like it before.

Similarly, I just put it down to mental attitude. We knew we had to get through that section before it got dark so had a deadline so the head said go and the feet followed. The light also helped as it just made both parks stunning to run through. I remember thinking I must have had sunglasses on as the colours in a lake and on the trees were so vibrant.

Another strange thing which started to happen was I saw a few odd things. Now I think this was just because I was tired and it was getting dark but it was a little wierd. I kept thinking someone was running alongside Pete, and I thought a leaf was a rat and I screamed and jumped over it. Dear me.

The best bit was eating curry at home in the evening. This does also worry me slightly as I know the desert is not going to have these luxuries. Again, it's going to be something I'm just going to have to reframe in my mind. We're going camping for a week with a few runs in between. Yeh, that will work!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Back-to-back runs

Another week down, another week closer to D-day. I have 20 weeks to go.

Because I have my first ultra race next week I decided not to increase the mileage further last weekend, but to do shorter back-to-back runs instead so I'm not too exhausted.

So my routine last week was:-
Mon Rest day
Tues Supposed to run but didn't - oops
Wed Short run into work 4.5 miles, fast (ish)
Thurs Rest
Fri Hill reps
Sat 15 miles, slow
Sun 10 miles, fast (ish) with intervals

With a splash of the gym and yoga in between. Surprisingly I actually find yoga much harder than running. But I'm happy to report that I'm only 10cm away from being able to touch my toes rather than 20cm. The yoga teacher at my gym is a little scary too. Last week she shouted at me "Why can't you STRAIGHTEN YOUR KNEES?? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??"

Not me. Impressive shoes though.

The route I took for the 15 miles was the Dollis Valley Greenwalk. I'm beginning to struggle to find decent routes in London that avoids the crowds now the mileage is getting longer, but this is a good one. It randomly starts on the A1, which is a very pleasant way to begin a run.

But after that delight it ventures off into the rural fields of High Barnet, over to Totteridge and Whetstone, and then follows what must be the Dollis river through woodland down to Hampstead Garden Suburb where you can pick up the Capital Ring all the way back through East Finchley, Highgate to home.

Kind of like the northern Northern line, but nicer.

Higher power

Not quite TFL, but nice try.

Though this route was really pleasant to run I wasn't in the right frame of mind. I think the main reason for this was I had drunk 2 pints and 2 glasses of wine the night before. Not sure that part was ever in the training plan. Though perhaps this will be good to include as presumably there will be beer on tap at each checkpoint in the desert.

The 10 miler on Sunday was miles better (and miles shorter, which is probably why it was miles better). My legs felt great so I decided to run it fast, with intervals. I mainly did this as I had lots of other stuff I wanted to do on Sunday, but I also realised I actually do miss shorter faster runs.

Running many miles sloowwlllly is very very different to running shorter miles faster. I may be stating the obvs here, but it takes it out of you in a different way.

For example, running 30 miles super slow is pretty tiring after about 10 miles when you are running it, with the wierd stabby, joint pains. Afterwards your muscles are generally fine, but you just feel very tired and could eat and sleep for a year.

Running a shorter distance, like a half marathon, fast is exhausting the whole way through, like you want to vomit, and it's 90% certain you'll have some muscle damage the next day and you'll feel stiff, but there is less of the tiredness or joint pain.

Now although I realise neither of those descriptions sound particularly enticing, they both actually are! On Sunday I was thinking "oh fast runs how I have missed you!" I just love that feeling of speeding along at threshold pace and feeling so awake, followed by the lovely endorphin high.

But the longer slower runs give you that "full and sleepy after Sunday roast" kind of feeling.

This is the first time I've put long (ish) runs together like this, and it's something I'll have to start increasing as the weeks go on, but I have been pleasantly reassured that's it's not too bad, if you pace it right and can still function at the end of a run.

I'm still counting on MDS having spa facilities and sofas though each night. Right?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Official ultrarunner!!

Whoop whoop. I ran my first ultra training run at the weekend. 30 miles. I woke up the next day feeling like something exciting had happened and remembered that it had! 30 miles.

For anyone running their first whatever distance - you will get this feeling. It's brilliant. It's like you've gone out there and achieved something all by yourself, for yourself, and no one can take that away from you. This is partly why I run. So I can feel proud of myself.

Whenever you're having a bad day, the inner you can go "yeh but you smashed that run the other day!", and that will sit with you forever.

Anyway, my point is any milestone run should be celebrated, whatever level you are at. You'll never run your first again so make the most of it when you do.

Pam Reed, ultrarunner extraordinaire said a similar thing in her book "The Extra Mile" when she said she got a little jealous of her friends when they ran their first marathon. I feel the same. I remember thinking during the last few miles of Edinburgh marathon (my first marathon) that I had to remember this bit. And I did, and I still can picture the pain! But also that feeling of absolute elation when I'd crossed the finish and could stop and seize up in agony (joking, kind of).

So, yes, I'm fairly chuffed about reaching past the mara post, though also painfully aware I'm at the start of training still. Got a 45 miler race looming on the horizon in January and still not quite sure how I'll manage all these back to back long runs in the desert.

The route I took for 30 miles (just to remind you I ran 30 miles! 30!!) was from Embankment along the Thames Path to Richmond Bridge and back again.

I started off pretty slow. This was helped by listening to audio books rather than heavy trance and house music. Little bit of running, little bit of walking. No stopping. Lots of eating. Probably too much eating.

The first half felt fairly easy, though it seems that this sort of training is a whole different ballgame to marathon training as it's all about endurance, not speed. So a 12 minute miler pace rather than 8 for long runs.

Started to feel a little tired towards Richmond, though I am sure this is a mental thing, as I knew I could stop and have a drink/sort my trainers out/sit for a minute.

On the way back, I ramped it up with some music to stave off the boredom. Again felt okay till I had about 6 miles to go. Then felt really tired. Though strangely it was easier to jog than walk. Walking gave me wierd stabbing pains in my legs. Really I should have stopped and stretched. The worst pain was in my hip and knee joints rather than my muscles. Though even that disappeared the next day. Result!

It's a lovely route once you get past the tourists around Embankment and Westminster. First there is the glorious Battersea Park to run through. Then sporty "Jack Wills" Putney, with all the rowers out on the Thames. Always love to watch them. Then you hit the offroad part of the path. Just lovely all through the year, but particularly at the moment with all the trees still in their autumnal colours.

For anyone who doesn't get why people run, being outside is one of the reasons, especially in such a busy city as London. Being able to enjoy places like the more rural parts of the Thames Path takes some beating. I don't know if I would have liked to be anywhere else at that point than jogging along between trees and river, saying hello to dog walkers, and seeing the sun through the trees. Happy days.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Full steam ahead

I've been neglecting the blog of late. I would love to say it's because I've been too busy running but alas! it's more too do with the fact I've been on my holidays.

Fortunately I HAVE been doing some running and feel a little more confident in what lies ahead. First run of note to mention is one early morning 11 miler through a stunning Hampstead Heath. Not sure who else ventures onto HH at 7:30am (well I do have some ideas but that's another blog entry) but in reality it isn't many. Which means hogging the whole loveliness of the Heath all to yourself.

Wot! No one about Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath and Pete, early morning

Hampstead Heath, early morning

Running up Parliament Hill I reflected on an article I read in the evening papers about things that made people feel good – the top ones being “climbing into bed made up with freshly washed sheets” or “sitting by an open fire when there’s a blizzard outside”. Another one should be “stopping at the top of Parliament Hill to admire the view after sprinting up there”. Add to that a sublime sunny autumn morning, a cheery hello from a dog walker and I'm happier than the Greek Parliament who have just been told someone fucked up the maths and in truth they are cruising with £100 billion credit not debit.

Further ramping up the miles was a 21 miler along the sleepy Suffolk coastline. I've finally managed to get the MDS shuffle under control so am at a 12 minute miler pace for long runs now. Doing this has really increased my confidence that I will be able to run a marathon, then another one, and another one, and another one, the do 50 miles then finish with a half marathon in 50 degrees, with a bag, in sand, and up yeh.... Anyway running along the coast was a "pleasant" wake up call to how tiring running in sand is going to be. But again - pretty fun day (if you can call it that). A day out on one of England's most picturesque coastlines, having a chat with the other half, stopping for lunch along the way, enjoying the sppppaaaacccceeee that Suffolk is pretty good at - can't be bad. And sunday roast never tasted so good!

Suffolk coastal - Dunwich

Dunwich Heath

Last run of note to date was last weekend's 25 miler along the Lea Valley Way. Urgh! Has anyone else been here? It's depressing. Oh maybe that was just how I was feeling? I started at Tottenham Hale and ran up to Broxbourne in Essex. The first few miles are pretty grim - industrial estates, electric pylons, shady "fishermen" fishing under flyovers in polluted water. Bleurgh.

Gratuitous picture of Robson Green

It does get better once this bit is passed. People say hello, and there was definitely less paranoid thoughts of murderers in the bushes on my part.

Lea Valley canal - the nice bit

Another negative was I had a fish finger sandwich half way and then had bad fish thoughts for about an hour afterwards. Need to learn the art of running on the move (though perhaps fish finger burgers not the cuisine of choice...)

So I'm now preparing for my first ultra - gah. 38 miles at the end of November. Little bit scared but

Monday, 17 October 2011

Training plan changes

My excuse for not running very far last week is that I think some changes are needed to the training plan.

First running into work and back every day sounds good in theory but in reality is
1) boring
2) a bit of a logistical problem
3) probably not doing very much good for the stamina aspect of training

None of these actually give me a real excuse not to have done much last week but anyway. So last week I have mainly been:-

1) running in a measly 1x week
2) started hill reps
3) back to back 8 miler
4) still eating a lot of food

Really enjoyed first hill rep session. May have had something to do with the fact that weather was glorious and I chose Alexandra Palace to begin this part of the new training plan.

Ally Pally, as it's more affectionately known, is an area of North London which has pretty cool panoramic views over London. It's a bit of an odd place as well, like a Z-list star - could have been really, really big but never quite made it. It's probably most famous for being the site of BBC TV in the 1930s but other than that it's a bit of an anomaly. There are occasional enthralling but random events held there such as darts, a dolls house fair and a model engineering exhibition. Mix that in with a gold course, ice rink, and a pub which is more Phoenix Nights than Phabulous and you have Ally Pally.

But, it still has something a little bit special about it, and more importantly for me, it has hills. I thought I would be able to do 10 reps up and down the grassy hill. Nope. I managed 5 reps half way up and down the slope, but it's a start at least! Here's the bit of hill that foiled me..bah..

One of the eight miler's done was through the Capital Ring/Parkland Walk again but this time from Crouch End up to Finsbury Park, around Finsbury Park and back to Crouch End, then the usual route into work.

Me getting out of bed

Not happy about the heavy rucksack

But pretty nice running territory - who'da thought this is zone 2 London town?

And to top it all off I have FINALLY joined a gym! Only taken 2 months to decide which one. I've gone for LA Fitness, only because it has a pool, it is marginally nearer to my work and the gym instructors are less hairy.

About me

I quite like running which is a good job as I'm running I ran the Marathon des Sables in April 2012!

Yes. Quite scared. True but I did it.

Other than that I'm a pretty typical runner really.

I started running at university and joined the athletics team, but never actually competed as I didn't think I was any good, and I was too frightened. After uni I took part in a few low key 10k and 5 mile events, and remember feeling really nervous beforehand but buzzing for days afterwards at the achievement.

Then when I moved to London in 2008 my enthusiasm for running really took off. Other than cycling it's the quickest way to get around the city, and meant I got to find out more about our amazing capital - it's by far the best way to understand what London's all about.

I started running with a local running club and signed up for my first half marathon. Running with a friendly club gave me the confidence to think I was able enough to try a half marathon - it's not just for elite runners - runners are nice approachable people! I even surprised myself by getting under the 2 hour barrier.

Following another few half marathons (my favourite distance along with 10k) came my first marathon - Edinburgh. I still fondly look back on the experience. Just unbeatable.

London marathon followed and I managed to get my time down to 3:38. Fairly respectable, though as any runner knows, there's always a faster time in you, you think.

And now my eyes have been opened up to the ultra world. I've enjoyed the experience (and enjoyed eating all the extra food too)!

I started writing this blog to put down in cyberspace all the rubbish that comes out of my mouth or that I think about before, during, and after runs, about everything to do with running. I also wanted to capture why London is so damn cool, and provide others with an amateur account of training for a multi-day ultra, so I hope it will be of some use as well as maybe a little bit interesting/funny/informative etc etc.

Why is the blog called "just a jog"?

I figured the way to get over my scaredycatness of running across the Sahara was to break it down - it's just a jog in the sand right? Obviously you got to do some training and take it seriously but it is something that could, in theory, be done by anyone if they put their mind to it.

Which is ultimately why I love running. You get out what you put in. The irony of running is that it can be "just a jog" but it can also be so much more.

Running gives you confidence, a positive mental attitude, stress relief, a free way to lose weight, time to yourself to think, time to talk to your friends if they run, and a way to sort and sift through all the stuff life throws at you, and I wouldn't be who I am today without it (though would perhaps still like to shift those last few pounds and gain a few ounces in confidence but it's a work in progress..)

Want to get in touch with me?
Mail me at and I'll reply.

PS You can now find me at my other blog Mum who Runs where I'm mostly trying to find time for running away from around my family.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Increasing the miles, increasing the food :-)

So we're aiming to do a 50 miler soon (though I'm still a little hesitant about this!) so figured that if I'm at 10 miles now, I need to increase pretty rapidly to make 50 miles by first week of November. Decided a little hazardously to run for 3 hours this weekend non stop to test out the old leggies on the road. Here's the route (battersea and back)...

View Larger Map

Verdict? As suspected - hard. So now a little bit worried about the whole race. Though also I think this is quite good - a little like a reality check. It's supposed to be hard - that's the point. If it wasn't, everyone would do it, and it wouldn't be seen as a pretty damn cool thing to try. On the plus I didn't feel too bad the day after - I could have run again if I really had to.

I think I may tinker with the training plan slightly and focus more on longer back to backs but not running every day. Hoping this will also keep my interest up too.

Anyway, other than that I also remembered how absolutely lovely you feel afterwards and also how much food you can eat!

I ploughed through:-

1) Porridge with apricots
2) Big bowl of pasta with peas and salmon
3) Alpen crunchy bar
4) Two slices of toast with jam
5) Takeaway curry - onion bahji, veg dopiaza, rice, naan, poppadom, dahl, saag paneer, beer, more beer, bit more beer

I've read in articles that you burn 100 calories for every mile you run. I reckon it may be slightly less than this, so say it's 75 calories and you run 10 miles that's 750 extra calories of food you can eat!

What could 750 calories get you?

2 1/2 Gu chocolate souffles

25 carrots

4 1/2 cans of tomato soup

Stay tuned for slightly more appropriate recipes for runners..

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Late summer sun running

Weeks are now flying by. Kinda scary. I've now successfully managed a full week running in without finding some genius excuse to miss training. On top of that I've also managed my first back-to-back run.

So I've run into work then added 10 miles Saturday and 10 miles Sunday then carried on running into work. Legs still feel pretty good though I'm not going to win any prizes for speed. The MDS shuffle takes some practice but I'm getting there.

Here's not quite MDS shuffle, but you kind of get the picture - training is not particularly serious at present.

Back to back runs are also a nice way to see the best bits of London. This weekend has been particularly gorgeous. Here's Hampstead showing off some of its loveliness...

Regent's Canal is also pretty special. Here's the route taken on Sunday which included the canal from Camden leading west to Little Venice and back again. Don't think much can beat hot(!) autumn day running along the towpath, through the eclectic food stalls in Camden, past the animals of London Zoo and by gorgeous old homes framed in old willow trees, and with their own rowing boats waiting patiently to be used. I particularly like the smells and sounds - crunchy autumn leaves underfoot, barbeques smoking lazily, lots of laughter and that summery air smell!

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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Missing the motivation...

Okay so second week is done. That means I'm one week closer to April. It's going to come round before I know it! Having some troubles finding the "want" to run. Probably has something to do with the fact that.. a) I'm running to work - not the most of inspiring of goals sometimes and b) I'm running through Holloway. Now as much as I think Her Majesty's Prison does a good job keeping all those naughty people locked away, it wouldn't be the first choice of places to run past. Anyway needs must. I may start running home as at least the drunk people on Holloway Road give a few minutes entertainment. I bailed on Monday and Tuesday which meant had to make up the miles on Sunday. Did 10 miles along the capital ring from Highgate through East Finchley. Was a good run. First few miles always tough, but running through Queens Woods always lifts my heart. Just feel healthier smelling the damp woody air. Slightly preferable to bus farts on a Monday morning.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

First week of the training plan. Done.

I've successfully navigated through the arduous first week. Run in or out of work every day (4.5 miles) meaning a total of 20 measly miles. I'm pretty pleased with this though seeing as I've being doing sod all recently, though other blogs do concern me a little. Take this guy two years worth of training, or this one - another two years. Um... will six months be enough?? Let's hope so. Started off this week really well. Thought about running in to work. But didn't. Thought about running home from work. But didn't. So it's 9 miles today. Here is the route I'm going to take. (I can't seem to work out how to embed maps like this onto blogs - if anyone has any bright ideas let me know!)

Monday, 12 September 2011

First run of the training plan. Done.

4 1/2 miles jog home from work. Yeh it counts! Chancery Lane to Crouch End. Not the most pleasant of journeys - the wonders of Holloway Road - but still beats the bus. Felt good. Caught the last few rays of summer sun before they disappear forever. Am trying to slow my pace down to MDS shuffle pace to get used to it. Truffle shuffle!

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