Thursday, 22 August 2013

Challenges and Disappointments

I am happy to report I did NOTHING over the weekend that could have been classed as exercise. I drank lots of prosecco, ate a lot of cake and had a ruddy marvellous time on Saturday at the afternoon tea party to celebrate my birthday. I asked everyone to suggest a challenge for me to complete before my next birthday, on the condition they committed to doing it as well and there were some crackers suggested. I've been challenged to:
  • Play 9 holes of golf
  • Cycle all of the routes in Swinley Forest
  • Try wing walking
  • Go waterskiing
  • Go sailing
  • Complete the Yorkshire 3 peaks challenge
  • Take part in a non-sprint duathlon
  • Row a marathon
  • Go camping with a particular friend
  • Spend a day in Bluewater without spending any money
  • Meet my dad in New Orleans
  • Go gliding
  • Have a day out in Brighton
I've started researching some of them already. As much as anything it was fun to see what people wanted to do but needed a little encouragement for.

It's been a bit of a mixed week. My actual birthday was on Monday and I was working in London so got home feeling pretty tired. A few calculations revealed I could skip my run as long as I studied and packed for my long weekend away instead so I did that, whilst eating more cake :) That made it 4 days since I last worked out... such a slob!

On Tuesday I coached J through another strength session and then went out for a 9 mile run. It was a really strong run, at a faster pace than I remember doing that sort of distance in the past. On Wednesday I swam in the morning and meant to do a run at lunch but silly girl forgot her iPod with the intervals program on it and also her Garmin and then didn't get a lunch break as such anyway so it was all a bit of a wash out. I attempted my 13 miles but it was a bit of an epic failure. Firstly my iPod had failed to synch properly so I didn't have much music, no biggie, I can cope with that. Here's a breakdown of the run:
Mile 1 - stitch
Miles 2-3 - felt sick
Mile 4 - walked a bit, continued to feel sick
Mile 5 - felt trainer start to rub
Mile 6 - came very close to being physically ill, had a sit down
Mile 7 - discovered a burst blister on ankle, decide to go home
Mile 8 - was almost ill again, got home, sat on doorstep feeling hacked off

I know why it happened. I ended up eating lunch very late and didn't have much to eat at all before then and didn't leave enough time between food and setting off. What really annoyed me was that it feels like wasted effort. The distance I did isn't to be sniffed at but it doesn't fulfil the aim of the session which means I'll just have to try again another day. I had the day off work so had plenty of time to do the run. I ended up in Bluewater with mum buying a lot of new run and swim gear (clearly it wasn't our challenge day) so I was all psyched up for a great run too. Feel rather undeserving of it now. But it is gorgeous kit :) I got some new goggles as both pairs I already owned leak on the left. Apparently my face is so narrow I had to have children's ones! I'll report back on them next week.
Sweaty Betty
Sweaty Betty
Nike Women's Printed Tempo Shorts
Speedo Hydrofocus
I'm off to France tomorrow for a long weekend taking in a food and music festival in the Loire Valley. The study notes and trainers are packed so I can do the interval session I missed (plus one to keep the legs ticking over) and catch up on some study. Then when I get back next week I've got my Jet Lev experience which I'm really excited about!

How's everyone else's week of training been? Better than mine I hope.

P.S. I did get a rainbow cake for my birthday cake :)

Friday, 16 August 2013

Will Work Out For Cake

No events this week! Seems I've had a run of weeks where I've had races but there's a short break until The Madness of September as it shall be known.

Started off Monday with a 750m swim. It went well enough but I felt really off for the rest of the day (couldn't finish my customary latte) and ended up taking a half day off work and sleeping on the sofa in front of a film (A Room With A View if you must know). I scrounged enough energy together to coached a friend through a weights session which was actually really fun and I'm looking forward to it becoming a regular thing.
A young Maggie Smith and Judy Dench
I had a highly frustrating day at work on Tuesday so hit the gym hard in the evening with an intervals session and 45 minutes on the bike whilst watching the athletics. I was back in the gym at 7:30 the next morning for my PT session; never has an hour felt so long but I felt good for the rest of the day. I'm finding certain upper body weights pretty hard at the moment (shoulders and chest presses) but my legs and core are probably the strongest they've ever been and there's real definition in my thighs now.. that's new! Most people would have called it a day there but no, I had 7 miles to go out and run in the evening and on Thursday evening I somehow managed 16 miles on already very achey legs. I really didn't think I would manage it, and the second half got progressively harder but it's done and now I can enjoy a weekend of cake and wine.

I'm hoping for one of these!
You see I had to pack all my training in before the weekend so that I could relax and enjoy my birthday celebrations. I'll have a house full of people from Friday evening onwards and not only would it be rude of me to abandon them to run (I did wonder if I got up *really* early...) I know the majority would sit on me rather than let me do such a thing. I am really looking forward to spending time with my favourite people just hanging out, having a giggle and eating cake.

Next week is possibly even more frantic as I'm off to France on Thursday morning for a long weekend and although I will be taking my trainers and my study notes I am not anticipating getting any decent runs in. Maybe a few miles just to keep the legs ticking over.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Writing for The Protein Works

I have some exciting news! I've just been accepted as a writer for THE PROTEIN WORKS™.

Who are these people? Well in their own words they are an original and innovative sports nutrition brand that was created out of a passion for sports nutrition and a vision to raise the bar in terms of product quality and level of service for sports nutrition customers. Their philosophy is Pure, Proven and Personal; they only use natural flavours and colours in all thier products, specify the protein types and amounts of each product on so you have complete transparency on what you are buying and given you the opportunity to Create Your Own formula.

I'll be looking specifically at Soy Protein and you'll be able to read my articles as they're posted at The Locker Room™ and if you want to try any of their products use my referal code (VR29505), spend £10 on their first order and you'll get 250g of their best-selling whey protein absolutely free! I also recommend you follow them on twitter to get the heads up on the deals (there's always a deal).

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

OTE Nutrition

I recently happened upon a nutrition company called OTE. I forget how. Anyway I was taken with their packaging and the fact they include a soya protein recovery mix in their range as well as a whey one, for the true die-hard vegetarians out there.
The packaging for the range is pretty nifty. All the powders and gels come in sachets with rip tops, as is quite often the case with these sorts of things, the difference being that you get a choice of two tear tabs giving you a smaller opening for small necked bottles or to allow you to sip a gel, and a bigger opening to allow you to gulp the gel or for wide neck bottles. This appeals to me. No more drink mix powder spilt all over the worktop! I've tried both options with the gel and found sipping it easier, but it's good to have the choice. I also found the gel sachets easy to open even with sweaty hands.
I've tried the gels on runs of 10 miles and over as this is when I would normally use them. I took one on each occasion at around 6-7 miles and certainly noticed them helping. They didn't upset my stomach and I rather enjoyed the consistency; not too sticky or thick and fluid enough that I didn't feel the need to take it with water, as I have done with some others I've tried in the past. I'm not sure why I keep trying orange gels, I really don't like the flavour all that much. I know it's all synthetic but these taste the most synthetic to my pallet. I really enjoyed the lemon lime though, it's got a nice freshness to it and the pineapple caffeine gel did amazing things for my energy levels in the latter third of my last long run. Tastes pretty nice too! I like these just as much as the nectar fuel gels I currently use and will likely mix and match them.
I used the recovery drinks after my longer runs and made them up in my shaker bottle with 300ml water. It mixes well, leaving no clumps, but I did find the Soya Protein had a bit of a powdery taste which the Whey Protein did not. They're not quite as thick or as satisfying as the For Goodness Shakes chocolate drinks I usually use but otherwise they perform just as well.
The energy drinks are probably my least favourite products in the range. They mix really easily to give a smooth drink but I found they had quite a soft taste, as opposed to something like Lucozade which I find a bit sharper and cuts through my thirst, these didn't do much to quench it even though they certainly helped my energy levels. Blackcurrant was my least favourite, with orange coming in second and vanilla first, which was the exact opposite of what I expected from these. I think the consistency suits the vanilla well and it makes a change from fruity drinks.

You can try a gel for free when you sign up to their newsletter. Just click here and follow the instructions. They also do a starter pack for £20 including all the products I've tried here plus a sports bottle.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Weekly round up : The Good, The Bad and The Whinging

I have a bit of a confession to make. I'm not really hitting my planned weekly mileage at the moment. I should have been hitting between 23 and 28 miles a week in the past month but a few bad runs plus skipping the warm up miles when doing intervals in the gym have left me shy of 2-4 miles a week. This can't continue. I'm also struggling to reconcile the need to get the miles in so I can cover the distance at my next marathon and the desire to train for speed so I can break a couple of PBs along the way. It's a constant mental battle which I possibly wouldn't have if I wasn't cycling and swimming as well. But I'm consistently running sub-hour 10ks now which is a huge achievement and something I struggled with for a long time. I ran my first at the Yateley 10k in August 2010 but then never again until this year. I've run 4 in a row and that is excellent and I still have time to build up my long runs. Someone keep reminding me please?

Sorry, that's my whinge for the week. I need a good kick or a slap and a reminder of the amazing things I have achieved, to quell the little voice at the back of my mind that says I'm heading for failure.

All in all it has been a good week. I did a session in the gym on Monday, working on upper body strength and completing a 45 minute bike session. I attempted intervals as well but didn't have it in me so I did them Tuesday evening instead (skipping the warm up miles - bad Vikki). Tuesday morning I swam 650m, alternating 4 lengths breaststroke with 6 lengths front crawl. Yes my technique could be a LOT better I'm sure but the distance isn't a problem and I'm improving my stamina all the time.

Wednesday was meant to be an 8 miles day but I ran the Yateley 10k and didn't push myself to go out and do another 2 miles afterwards (this is how I lose the miles). Rest day on Thursday (hurrah!) and a conditioning PT session after work on Friday with some good increases on weight. On Saturday morning I went out and ran a really GREAT 13 miles (hurrah!). What a difference to last week when 10 was a struggle. But I am still going to try to organise a few more runs with people for some of these longer runs.

Next week is going to be killer as the weekend is taken up with birthday celebrations (another hurrah!) so it's all squished into the work week but I WILL prevail! Rargh! Hear me roar.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Yateley 10k : August 2013 Edition

The Yateley 10k is a race I've run and written about repeatedly (August 2010, June 2012, July 2012 and Aug 2012). It's one of the few races I will consider doing every year. It's another of the local mid-week race series we're blessed with in this neck of the woods, organised by Sandhurst Joggers for the first Wednesday of June, July and August. It's pretty inexpensive, especially considering it's a chip-timed, semi-closed road event (cars are on the roads but there's plenty of signs warning that runners have priority the marshalls do a superb job of managing the traffic) and you get a brilliant medal at the end. You can choose to order a race series t-shirt which I did one year but it was cotton so I haven't got one since. There's loads of parking, mostly on site or a short walk away, prizes for the top 3 male and female runners in each age category and a 1.5k fun run for the kids, making this a real family event.

1 Race£12:001 Race£14:00
2 Races£22:002 Races£24:00
Race Series£30:00Race Series£36:00

You pick up your race pack on the evening from the sports hall of the school that lends it's grounds to this event and head out onto the playing field where the race village is set up. There are ample porta-loos, a huge inflatable slide for the kids, a couple of food stalls and music courtesy of Frimley Park Radio. I love milling around in the field before the race, checking out which clubs are represented and spotting familiar faces. It was a joy to see some of my old club, Farnham Runners, as well as some of the regulars at Frimley parkrun and two gentlemen I saw at Woodland 5 last week, including the chap who encouraged me after the final hill and Dennis, the oldest runner I know who seems to be at every race in the area. Before the start there was a good group warm up and the starting funnel was sectioned according to predicted finishing time which meant there wasn't too much congestion at the start.
Copyright Denis Chapman Photography
The course is the same every year, a 10k circular route around Yateley. I used to think it was a little hilly but aside from the incline at 9k which seems to go on forever, I've realised it's relatively flat with some lovely down hill sections.Water stations are at 5k and 8.5k with a sponge station at about 7k. The atmosphere is friendly and fun and plenty of locals, friends and family turn out on the course to cheer us on; it's a bit of an event. I ended up running the whole course with a chap I didn't know who picked me to pace him round in under the hour due to my "runners physique". Shame I don't have the speed to match! We chatted a bit and encouraged each other making this perhaps the most social race I've run. And yes we achieved his sub hour but I do wonder if we'd have managed a bit more without the conversation :)
The finish is really well organised. You don't get a goody bag as such but after you're funneled through to get your chip cut off,  you are handed a superb medal (which this year doubled as a bottle opener and is probably the best medal I've ever had), a bottle of water and a fun size chocolate (I chose a Dairy Milk). On arriving back at your car you will also find half a dozen leaflets under your windscreen wipers. On some occasions there have been spot prizes given out or £5 Sweatshop vouchers in the race pack but not this year. I recommend milling around at the end to socialise a bit, maybe grab a burger or a drink and take in the prize giving. If you can get to any of these next year I would urge you to do so.

I was only able to run the August event this year but have previous years times to compare with. My PB was actually set at my first one in August 2010 at 59:03 and although I was hoping to set a sub 58 this time around, it was not to be. Mildly disappointed given the amount of training I've been doing and how fit I feel these days but of course I've not been training for speed and there's always next year...

Monday, 5 August 2013

How to Strength Train for a Triathlon Outside of a Gym Environment

Today I'm especially pleased to be sharing with you a post written for us by Mark Wood, BSc Lead Personal Trainer Course Tutor from Discovery Learning. Discovery Learning is a leading Fitness Training Provider in the UK, delivering training in the weight management and fitness field since 2001. Their mission is to provide and communicate accurate, meaningful information and high quality training relating to all aspects of fitness, overweight and obesity. As you know I took up triathlon this year and while I do have access to a gym, sometimes I would rather exercise at home or outside. To this end Mark is kindly sharing his advice on the best strength training exercises for triathlon and why it's so important to incorporate this at all.

How to Strength Train for a Triathlon Outside of a Gym Environment

Weight and strength training for endurance sports is a widely debated topic and can cause complications and confusion for a lot of competitors. Some athletes think it is unnecessary, while others will favour gym work and other forms of strength training to increase their performance. Personally I believe that any athlete, or member of the general public for that matter, should engage in a sufficient amount of strength training to help improve their performance/lifestyle.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of strength training for endurance events like triathlons. For most athletes you will see that the benefits of strength training outweigh the fear of gaining too much “bulk”.

Injury prevention and improved ligament and tendon strength- making athletes more robust will mean they can withstand higher demands on the body through training, competition and environments. Protecting those knees, ankles, hips and shoulders is a very important part. A large percentage of endurance athletes pick up joint injuries which could be prevented if they strengthen the musculature around that joint.

Correcting imbalances- similar to the above, muscular imbalances can cause major injuries for some athletes. If their technique isn’t perfect and as an example they push too much during the cycle, the quads will become more dominant, leaving the hamstrings weaker and increasing the risk of injury. Or similarly the vastus medialis oblique in runners is usually their weak link which will result in knee pain.

Increased power output- this is a very important factor, the fastest athlete wins!! If you are not powerful, you will not be fast. It is important that you are able to generate force in order to improve how much power you can put down to improve your speed. This will come in handy when powering up hills or pulling yourself through water, lowering your stroke count and improving your efficiency.

Improve endurance- we all have a genetic limitation to how much we can improve our aerobic capacity. Strength training will improve muscular strength and endurance making you more efficient and able to work at a higher percentage of your aerobic capacity for longer.

Increase antioxidant levels and decrease oxidative stress- endurance training has been shown to produce a high level of oxidative stress which can lead to chronic inflammation. Strength training can counter act this and help avoid long term stress.

Best ways to improve strength
Not all competitors are lucky to enough to have access to a gym environment so here are a few ideas to help you improve your strength away from a gym environment.  Cycling in big gears will help improve your bike power. Find yourself a nice long steep hill and attack it in a very high gear which will cause your cadence to drop as low as 40rpm and stay in the seat the whole way up.  Using interval training is another great way to improve your speed and strength. Try this workout of one minute on and 30 seconds off for a total of 20 rounds.

Improving your strength and power for running will have great benefits on performance. Try these following exercises and workouts to help you get faster.

Box jumps- These are great for developing some power in the legs. To perform  this exercise you have to produce a massive amount of power. Try jumping slowly, you can’t! To complete the box jump you must move quickly which means you will improve your power output.

Squat jumps- Another excellent exercise to help you develop power and strength. Combine these with sprints or hill sprints to see some great benefits in your speed and power output.

Hill sprints- A great exercise to improve strength, power, endurance and your tolerance to lactate.

Resisted sprints- This is another great way to help you improve your speed. Try combining resisted sprints followed by non-resisted sprints if speed is something you want to improve.

Glute bridges- An excellent exercise to help you strengthen your core and gluteal muscles. Which are important in both the run and cycle section of a triathlon and will help you generate and produce more power.

Bulgarian split squat- This is a fantastic exercise to really improve the strength in the legs whilst protecting the back if people find squatting uncomfortable. Its also an exercise that can be done anywhere. Try finding a park bench, elevate the rear foot on the bench and away you go.

Single leg squats- An exercise that will really test your strength. Fantastic for improving those stabiliser muscles around the hip to help you not only produce power but also prevent injury. Start by trying this exercise on a stable platform on the floor while using something to support you for balance. As you progress try performing the exercise on a box/park bench to increase your range on motion. Just be aware this is a very advanced exercise that beginners should gradually work up to.

Intervals-  4x1 minute with a 2 min rest- These can be done either on a bike, in the water or running and are a great way to increase your tolerance to lactate.

All of the above strength exercises will really help you improve your performance. Your final thing to think about is tempo. Try playing around with the speed of contractions to really get the best out of your workout. Using slow eccentric phases combined with explosive concentric phases will help improve your power output. Also try pausing for 2 seconds in between the eccentric and concentric phase to start recruiting those higher threshold motor units. 

If you've found this article interesting then do pay Discovery Learning a visit. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter. I will definitely be adding some of these elements to my training routines at home.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Not really going to plan...

Sunday... A time to reflect on the week that has been. Last week's camping trip included a couple of decent walks in the New Forest and in Milford-on-Sea. These walks also featured pub lunches. I'm not sure if it was better to walk off the pub lunches or not to have had them at all... probably the former... in any case a large amount of food was consumed and even though I dislike leaving food on a plate I was beaten on two occasions by my meals. It felt good to don walking boots and a rucksack and set off into the forest, walking, not running, for enjoyment, not as training. I even climbed a tree!

I managed to rouse myself early enough to get to the pool on Monday morning for my swim-latte ritual. I'm getting better at front crawl, by which I mean I'm more comfortable with it but my technique is probably appalling, but the pool was crowded and I couldn't get into a real flow. I left feeling less energised than usual.

My PT is on holiday this week so I had to put myself through a gym work out. Tuesday featured half an hour on the stationary bike, a treadmill intervals session and about 45 minutes of weights work. This was probably not wise in view of the fact I had the Woodland 5 on Wednesday but it was sort of a case of now or never... most of my training has to happen during the week at the moment due to other weekend commitments.
Source :
I took Thursday and Friday as proper rest days (Thursday was cinema, Friday was theatre night) and I planned my long run of 14 miles on Saturday morning before heading north of the M25 for a housewarming bash. It didn't go all that well. I stuck to my usual breakfast an hour before setting out but I felt heavy and lethargic so cut it short at 10 miles. I'm behind on my training plan but still, 10 miles. I was probably dehydrated so lesson learnt there. I also tried a new brand of gel from a range I'll be reviewing in a couple of weeks. It was orange. I don't know why I keep trying orange gels, I just don't like them. Sigh.

So good bits and bad bits this week. I'm ending on a high though as I'm going shopping for new trainers with Anita-the-crazy this morning and I can't promise I won't be spending some money...

How do you deal with the times your training doesn't go to plan?

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Event Review : Woodland 5

Last night I took part in what may have been my most local race to date. The Woodland 5 is organised by Finch Coasters running club, who are based near Wokingham, and consists of 5ish miles around the Crowthorne Woods (near Broadmoor) which were burnt a couple of year ago. This is literally 1.5 miles from my front door.
#Woodland5 July Results
Is that a Tough Mudder headband I see? Source:
As you know I like a little local midweek race and so I couldn't pass on the opportunity to take part. This is another series held in May, June and July. The entry fee is £7.50 for one race or £19 for all three which I see as excellent value. These are no frills races; you won't get a medal or souvenir (although there are prizes for fastest senior and veteran man and woman) but it is very well organised with plenty of parking, fantastic marshalls and results out within 24 hours. It's timed but manually rather than chip. The little girls walking over to each finisher and handing out cups of water to save us staggering to the water station after the finish were very sweet. I believe there's a limit of 300 places per race but only around 150 took part this month.

Oddly I didn't see any FinchCoasters vests but I did see plenty of Reading Road Runners, Sandhurst Joggers, Datchet Dashers and Bracknell Forest Runners. In fact I was in the minority NOT wearing a club vest, this is very much a race by clubs for clubs although I certainly didn't feel out of place, it is open to everyone, after all. I did wear my TNLAR shirt and got a shout out from one of the lady marshalls who had also taken part, which was really lovely.

I've nabbed the route map and elevation outline from the club website. As you can see it's sort of two laps. Starting at the far left of the line at the bottom we follow undulating woodland trail for two miles before being funnelled through a very narrow overgrow path and over a further half mile a hill. It looked more like a wall to me and you have to tackle this twice! I walked it but there were plenty who managed to keep running. I doff my cap to them. I actually enjoyed the laps because you don't pass the finish point, a nice mental trick.

As I've said the marshals were fantastic but so were the other runners. It was a very companionable race, and not just between fellow club runners. I played tag with a girl in black most of the way round, encouraging each other and just after the second time up The Hill when I was in danger of not getting started again I felt a light touch on my back and a gentleman encouraging me to keep going, which I duly did. There were lots of shouts of "well done" as people over took each other and hunting out of others at the finish to thank them for encouragement or to congratulate them on their performance.

I don't often run trail these days nor much in the way of hills but I was thrilled to cover the course in 53:38. There's that strength training paying off! I would certainly consider doing all 3 next year, especially if I'm in training.