‘Runner’ – back to basics…

I realised that I had started a blog post ages ago about getting ‘back in to running’ and it had been sat in drafts for ages so I decided to revisit it, only to wonder what I was thinking at the time of writing the two paragraphs that had been sat there. The only thing I’ve kept is the title of the blog post. Deleted the rest thinking ‘what a loada tosh!’

What I really hate about running is that I lose run fitness far quicker than I lose swim or bike fitness. Massively. I can also push myself swimming and cycling to the point of feeling sick, without feeling or thinking it’s beyond stupid. Running is a different entity for me. It also seems to take me a lot longer to gain run fitness again compared to swimming and cycling. Starting again feels like starting from scratch again.

Anyway, I have somehow started to find running marginally better. I started running with a friend on a weekend and it’s kept me somewhat accountable and I have started to feel my run fitness slowly improve and have slowly increased the number of times I run a week too. Small steps.

I have also realised I am my own worst enemy when it comes to running. I can happily swim train on my own, cycling I am somewhat similar but prefer training with people. Running – I really need to run with others to keep me on track and motivated to keep going. So running with one of my friends has really helped and because it is currently low stakes and we are both just heading out to get slowly better – I am enjoying it (and the chat!). It also massively helped my mood after a huge dip in January. I went out with another friend a week or two back post work. It was his slow run day – so we went out – well, his slow easy run was more like speed work for me to an extent but after several months running on trails – running on path felt easier than I expected and I ended up with the fastest 5km time I’ve done in ages. It also made me realise that actually  the slow running is good for me and gave me a bit of a boost in terms of achieving without setting out to do it.

The blog post title refers to going back to basics and I feel like I have – the lighter evenings (which, with the clock changes, will be even better), running with friends, running slow and just heading out really is going back to basics and it’s helping. I have also tried to be more time efficient and I am getting changed to run, at work, and parking up at local woods to go run trail so it’s done before I get home and sit down! Although note to self – carry inhaler!

Maybe I will actually start enjoying running more again. LOVE might be too strong an emotion but small steps – it’s definitely more tolerable than it was three months ago!

#RaphaFestive500

In the run up to Christmas, news and updates about this year’s Rapha Festive 500 started to appear, with the change that this year, virtual miles would be included. My ears pricked up and a thought started to go in my head. I’d pondered it in previous years but actually getting the distance in on the road just seemed unlikely – weather, riding solo, the absolute FAFF that comes with riding outside in winter etc. The inclusion, this year, of virtual miles though, made me wonder if I could actually give it a go.

Que several discussions with friends as I toyed with the idea.

I was working Christmas Eve, but despite early start and a busy morning, somehow managed to get on the turbo and get some miles in. Christmas Day came round and had some time, thought ‘sod it’ – did some more miles. Same thing Boxing Day… well, no I did two turbo sessions – by this time mates had joined in so there were a couple of us putting in some turbo mileage. Next day, I actually went outside on the bike, as well as doing some turbo mileage. Shock to the system to an extent and the company bailed on me. The rest of the week turned into a blur of long turbo sessions, with a bit of swimming and yoga thrown in for good measure but as of this morning, 500km ticked off!

What have I learnt though? Time to be reflective….

  • Group Zwfit rides, with Discord chat app running makes a huge difference to motivation and passing the time. Huge kudos to mates there for that. The ‘bunge’ also helped.
  • Zwift, my online platform of choice for this mission, is just plain strange – how the hell I was managing 45kph on 1.4w/kg is beyond me.
  • Sweat central – not unusual but still – had to make sure I replaced them.
  • Hydration/fluids/fuel – not to be underestimated.
  • 500km of riding in 8 days = increased quad definition – I have some definition that has been missing for the last 18 months.
  • The tiredness is real – but it would have been harder out on the road.
  • With little else to really do (I have made myself chill this week), I have lived the life of a pro – why stand when you can sit? Why sit when you can lie down? I have done some reading this week too.
  • Multiple pairs of bib shorts are incredibly useful – in general anyway – but I have found out quickly, which pairs are the best. Altura – is ain’t yours!
  • Two hour turbo sessions hurt your undercarriage MORE than two hours on the road – less changing of position isnt great.
  • My core strength must be good at the moment – I’ve a mirror positioned in such a way I can see my position – back and hips didn’t rock or move – no so sore shoulders either.
  • Low power/pace on the pedals kept me going without hurting myself.
  • I’ve managed not to over eat as a result….
  • I unlocked a few Zwift badges – always nice.
  • Turbo miles are dull.
  • The Mandalorian on Disney+ is awesome.
  • Decent headphones are worth the money.
  • Women are MORE SUPPORTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA GROUPS THAN men*

*I’m on several cycling Facebook pages – all the female only ones – everyone has been so supportive of each others achievements and there has been no judging on virtual/in real life achievements. LOTS of positivity. On the mixed sex groups – a bloke made the mistake of saying it was no longer a proper challenge now it included virtual miles. He has been very quickly called out on this by a lot of people. I’ve seen other scathing comments in the past on the mixed sex pages but do have to say – there are a lot of supportive blokes on those pages – but there is a distinctively different feel about them.

It has been an interesting challenge in that it has given me something to focus on and I’m glad I’ve finally done it but it pales into insignificance when one of my best friends Everested, on foot, for charity. Now that is a challenge and a half! After the crappy year events wise that has been 2020, it has been a nice way to finish of the year, and something I just did on a bit of a whim. Just need to aim to get out more next year!

Fluctuating Mojo and Lockdown #2

I’d like to say that I have been as motivated during this ‘lockdown’ as I was the first, but that would be a lie.

I am definitely finding it harder this time, partly because I am working more hours than ever so with extra commitments and diminishing light, I can’t ride to work. I can’t really run safely at home during the week really either unless I am willing to bore myself silly running up and down the length of my village (which isn’t all that far). My mood in general isn’t as great as normal either – definitely not as positive or cheery.

So this week, my mojo has really taken a hit and I have had seven days off completely. No spin, no stretch, no pilates, no S&C work – nothing.

And I am refusing to feel guilty about it, like a Twitter follower said, we’re not pros and we aren’t being paid – it isn’t the end of the world (just frustrating). I have, however, managed to get work planned for next week, new work commitments starting so hopefully some more money coming in to start reflecting the hours I am putting in.

On the major plus side – with sales starting – I have invested in a new wetsuit – and when I say invest, it was a large chunk of money but it was money saved specifically for it, so with 40% off, spending £270 on a wetsuit doesn’t seem so bad – just hoping it fits! Nervous and excited! It’s a top end suit and I am hoping I will see a difference compared to my old entry level Huub – which has served me well and got me through some pretty epic swims.

I am going to aim to get some sessions in this week as I am feeling far more organised with work (working for someone else as well as having own business has it’s advantages but equally…. can be knackering!) and I am planning to start some better sleeping habits too. I am also being dragged out for a run on Thursday morning before work – so…. hopefully the dip in mojo is just that – a dip*

*remembered on my run that I want to go sub 6 and a half hours at a 70.3 next September – helped with the last km run home. The view helped too.

Feeling fitter

I am actually starting to feel genuinely fitter and less bloated than I have done for a while. I am not complaining but I think it’s worth considering why and how I am feeling fitter so that when I am feeling unfit I can go back and check!

My last post, I outlined some of the things I was planning on doing – and they appear to be helping/working.

Planning out my week ahead on a Sunday is helping – using Training Peaks alongside my diary. My focus at the moment is getting my run fitness back and developing my strength. So far so good. I am also trying to maintain my cycling fitness (though my endurance is probably a bit shot at the moment) and in terms of swim – I’m fairly happy with that as I am training with my friend and he’s training for an Ironman, he has also changed coach which has mixed things up so it’s all good.

Not putting the pressure on to do longer sessions but keeping things short and sweet as well as feeling the gains, has helped my feel fitter – and that in turn is motivation for keeping going on. I’m probably thinking more about my run sessions in particular and following a plan to an extent too.

I am also trying to cut down on sugar in my tea – I’m trying not eat two hours before bed and I am attempting to eat more ‘whole’ food/less processed food. Trying to eat better is helping, along with keeping well hydrated and trying to develop better sleep habits. Hopefully a combination of these will become more habit.

All the little things are helping I think – although might not be losing weight as such, I am definitely getting fitter! Even TP says so….

Timeless Monthly Planner

It appears that I may actually be training like the triathlete I occasionally claim to be. Wonders will never cease I suppose!

It’s taken a while but I seem to have some sort of routine in place. A change in focus at my PT sessions has really helped along with a few other things. Most of the PT stuff since end of lockdown to September had been geared towards the swim events I was doing – and I had a lot of fun over September doing said events, but my general consistency with everything else was dire. Roll on October….

For some reason, routine seems to have settled a bit, and a shift in training focus and some new found mojo/energy, I seem to be finding some sort of fitness again and seeing some improvements, with only small tweaks too – this in turn is improving my motivation to train. I wanted to record what has been different over the last three or four weeks so that when I have a wobble – which I will, I can revisit and figure out what I haven’t been doing out of the list and see if I can get back on track!

It’s big and it’s bold!
  1. My (Big) Timeless Monthly Planner – I am a sucker for pen and paper and a decent sized diary. I have a huge wall calendar in my office next to the computer which is also highly useful for mapping out my year! In this diary – which I have personally started from October (timeless – it comes blank with 15 months worth of space!) – is penciled in all my planned and booked races. They are actually in pencil too, in case things change!
  2. I have bitten the bullet and invested in Training Peaks – and because I am a geek when it comes to data and stats – I am loving it. I can ‘see’ my week and move things about, put details in about the session and track lots of pretty things and colours! It’s actually kept me some what motivated in terms of seeing my fitness/form/fatigue numbers alter and I am learning to understand them more. I am keeping details of run/swim/bike sets too so I can go back to them and keeping a note of other stuff too on there. It is partly a replacement in once respect to my usual ‘compendium’.
  3. I downloaded the HRV4Training app and paid for it. It feds directly into Training Peaks and as I have been using it for months – there is lots of data now that is actually useful and interesting – I can see proof almost of my improving fitness and can edit to view data stats relating to sport – it pulls across info from sessions from other apps to get a rounded picture. Like I said – I love data!
  4. Change in focus at PT sessions – and the guy I go see for PT too. So this is a combined thing. I started seeing him on the recommendation of a friend who is the least sporty person I know (long story short). Former PE teacher turned PT and a fellow triathlete – so bonus is, he knows what I need to get better from a triathlon point of view and equally – means lots of useful and interesting conversations about training/coaching etc – and its both ways too so never feel I am being preached at either – its always an interesting two way conversation. He had suggested some more HIIT based stuff but I kinda wanted to keep it to the weights and S&C stuff because I have really been enjoying it and reaping the benefits – not just strength (whoop to sumo squats with a 20kg dumbbell!) but my figure and general well being. This is massively motivating, HOWEVER….
  5. I have been suffering with epic DOMS from these sessions but I THINK, thanks to a mate, that I may have found the solution. He gave me a sample of DrinkAmino. Rather than taking whey protein supplements that didn’t seem to be actually helping, I tried one of these samples of amino acids – and rather than have 3 days of DOMS like the week before, I did my PT session and a spin session (that may have helped!) and woke up day after with hardly any DOMS, and I know I worked hard – I am a heavy sweater!
  6. Better understanding of hydration – and using it to my advantage. I have been using Precision Hydration tabs before heavy-ish workouts or post heavy workout as I sweat so much – less light-headness and quicker recovery seem to be the result. So replacing the salt seems sensible. After an online course and a seminar with PH – and from using their tabs – I seem to be in a better shape and able to handle more. Talking of supplements and other such things – I still sweat by Tailwind for running and cycling however, lack of serious endurance events this year – I haven’t used it so much.
  7. Back to Spin and coaching. One of my mates is back running spin classes virtually over Facebook – which means I’ve some routine and I don’t feel like I am training alone, even though essentially I kinda am. I used to not go in real life as it clashed with yoga and was at the end of an already long day. I am over the moon that they are back! Coupled with conversation with PT – shorter, more focused sessions over winter I think will work better for me, to fit around work and other commitments – as I am back coaching swim again! Yey!
  8. Training with friends – so this is an interesting one. I have been swimming with a mate for the last year or so – as it’s easier to commit to going if you are meeting someone – more accountable. What makes this interesting is that he’s just changed his coach and the style/method of coaching too – so a shake up there has lead to a shake up in swim sets – which has brought back some more swim mojo/focus. Not to diss the other sets – some of them I loved! But a different approach/style has definitely had an impact on me in that I feel a bit more motivated at the moment to swim a full set and put the effort in – post last swim event my effort level has been rubbish. Equally, I appear to have agreed to run a 5k with another mate in November and he is much quicker than me – so do need to work on the run fitness….
  9. Smaller goals – I have set a bit of a goal for my ‘A’ race next year but that is a long way off – part of the reason for the paper diary is to record in a quick to view way, short term goals/planning, make notes of what works. At the moment I am just trying to fit in a certain number of sessions – all fairly short but aiming for constancy – so at the moment, two bike sessions, two run sessions and three swim sessions, and either yoga or stretch. Can I keep up constancy and make it habit – especially the running (it appears/feels to be getting easier – by putting less pressure on myself – and just trusting the plan is helping).
  10. Actually feeling some improvement. This stems back to talking to my PT the other week – I’d had a really good session and had been feeling strong right throughout – even admitted that I was suddenly feeling stronger/fitter, and he had noticed too – a small boost that has had lasting impact. Feeling that you are actually improving after making a few small changes works wonders on outlook, attitude and motivation!
  11. Slowing down. I still have a ridiculous commute to work in terms of detours and due to COVID-19, my business is not quite as busy/running as it should – however, silver lining – I have slowed down a bit – some tutoring is online – saving me a lot of travelling time, and my one to ones in real life are now on the same evening – so depending on how things work out – being home more and saying no to a few things but doing more things that I enjoy – whizzing through paperwork in a more focused way – seems to be working out ok at the moment – basically I have figured out some sort of routine. Meditation is actually helping with this and just being more present. I probably could still do to be a bit more organised though!
  12. Recognising I needed a week off work – bit sorry to be heading back to the day job tomorrow.

Now to see how long this will last!

Retiring From OW Swimming*

*but not yet. Well, for the next six or seven months…

Swim, Sleep, Eat, Repeat.

The actual mantra from this time last weekend. All my own doing of course, and all my fault that I dragged some of my favourite people along for the ride too!

It was a weekend that was put simply. We were supposed to be swimming the End to End at Ullswater – then, due to COVID-19, we all changed to the 3-mile event, to be held on the same day and essentially following the same course but starting half way up. Then I discovered that there was the Ullswater Epic Swim the day after…. So the plan was – Camp, swim, eat, sleep, swim, eat, home.

HA!

Yeah that didn’t quite go to plan. Obviously being the back end of summer/start of autumn, the Lakes wasn’t going to be kind. A very windy forecast resulted in the Chillswim (End to End/3 Mile event) was essentially cancelled and changed to a 1-mile lap at the Pooley Bridge end – of which we could do as many as we liked.

One mate managed three laps. My other mate and myself managed one and then called it quits. Honestly the choppiest water I have ever swam in – and almost enough to have me permanently hanging up my wetsuit. Slow being an understatement – my usual mile swim time in OW is about 36 minutes – 1900m and 59 minutes later…. Sighting just didn’t exist – my starva file for the swim is hilariously wiggly!

Roll on Sunday and the illusion of flatter water – the first 300m were fairly calm – we were at Glenridding end of the lake this time – and slightly more sheltered. Further out into the lake it got a bit choppier but not a patch on Saturday. 1600m in a slightly more respectable 40min.

To be fair – the weekend overall was pretty awesome – I’ve just about recovered enough to have blocked out JUST how grumpy I was about the swim to decide NOT to give up open water swimming but I can happily say, without guilt that’s me done for the year. All pool based from now until probably May!

Depending on COVID of course.

Only issue now is – with no events to focus on – and general lethargy – I have no motivation to train…. if anyone wants to send some my way, please feel free!

Swim Shock!

It’s back!

Swimming is back!

The joys of COVID-19 has meant three months of no swimming. The last time I had a break from swimming was after a shoulder injury a few years ago – some time around back end of 2017 looking back of my statistics.

ANYWAY – last Sunday I donned my wetsuit and went for my first OW swim since September 2019 and my first swim since March 20th.

Now I will admit – I hate the first OW swim of the year, I hate the faff, putting on a wetsuit, the lack of wall to push off – though its just the shock of cooler water usually. Each year it usually gets a bit easier but after 3 months off I was a bit unsure about how poor my swim fitness would be.

Coupled with a good group of mates, we met up to swim at a lake a bit of a way off from home, at North Yorkshire Water Park. It wasn’t as bad as expected but driving in I could feel the usual first swim nerves – but actually this is no bad thing and a good reminder of some of the nerves/anxiety that new swimmers feel about OW.

1400m later, a chat and food – it felt good to be back.

I haven’t forgotten how to swim – and after today’s swim, I still have a bit of speed when I put the effort in.

Today’s swim was shorter – chopper (wind!) and done with no watch or tracking – which, in itself, was quite liberating. I swam alongside a mate who hasn’t swam regularly for a while, chatted with some mates and was reminded why I love swimming – and why its better with mates.

So I’m off back on Tuesday!

 

Lockdown Cycle Commuting

Lockdown has had an impact on everyone. Racing on hold, training sessions with friends on hold, life in general, somewhat on hold…. nothing new there really!

It has been a bit of a strange time – my own hectic life has slowed down massively, with some positive side effects!

I’ve turned back to some of my old hobbies – in particular sewing, and I’ve been indulging my love of history researching women cyclists from the mid-20th Century.

More impressively though (no I haven’t started running), I have been cycling to work as opposed to driving. I will admit that it has partly because the weather has been so good but even on the not so great days I’ve cycled in. I have barely driven my car in the last few months compared to normal. I am hoping that it will be a habit that sticks actually – although will change when I start tutoring face to face again.  Advantage is that it’s only an extra 10 minutes travel time as there are road works – one that I can cut through on a bike but have a 5/6 mile detour in the car and I get in some miles on the much neglected winter bike. Admittedly though, it does mean a bit more faff getting changed and risking rain but so far so good. My routine is even getting quicker in terms of having what I need for work packed and layering up on the bike – I’m managed to get it about right recently. A skill in itself. It has made me more paranoid about checking weather forecasts – which comes in handy when discussing the weather at work…. (customers – it happens a lot!).

The biggest benefit though I’ve found is how much more awake I am at the end of the day. This week is a prime example. Cycled in Monday (and came home the long way) and Tuesday and Tuesday was a really busy day at work – got home, full of energy. Wednesday drove, as I had to bring home quite a bit of stuff that I would never have got on the bike, got home, really tired! Rode in Friday – tailwind home, which was awesome, and not shattered. Some correlation I think, but I have always been more awake when I’ve got to work when I have done an early morning swim, so shouldn’t be surprising. Although I have found that it takes longer to get to work usually than to get home – it takes me ages for my legs to get going on a morning!

I completely get the attraction to commuting to work by bike at the moment – not so sure id be as keen in winter, with a lot less light. Even with quieter roads, there is some awful driving going on and I am seriously debating investing in a camera for the bike.

Anyway, my love of data and statistics is happy – when I upload rides – I can see my miles clocking up – by the end of this week, I will have cycled more in the last 6 months than I did in the whole of last year! Which makes up to an extent, the depressing sight of my swim stats!

Hopefully soon I shall be back in the water….

Lil’bit of Turbo love in…

Seeing as I can’t swim – the bike has been getting all the attention. This week though – well – I thought doing two spin sessions, a virtual TT and a 50km virtual club ride was an excellent idea….

The two spin sessions – Monday and Thursday – went well – really enjoying them and loving the fact that I am getting my cycling legs back. These have become weekly staples in my week where everything else is a bit up in the air. I’ve even managed to tag along to some Zwift group rides too. More on this later.

But on Friday, sporting DOMS, I decided that doing a virtual club TT on Zwift was a wise idea. I love time trials. I love the feeling after putting the effort in. I love the single mindedness of the effort. I love the fact that its just you against the clock, it takes the pressure off thinking about what everyone else is doing. I had also forgotten JUST HOW HARD they are. In fact, I think turbo based TTs are actually harder. It also reminded me how rubbish I am at warming up before hand. It wasn’t even that long an effort! But a race mind set kicked in, in a way that it doesn’t if you are just training or riding (proving that as soon as it’s a ‘race’ mindset and effort changes). It still hurt! By the end I was wondering how the planned Saturday morning ride was going to go!

The weather on Saturday mooning, although cooler than last weekend, was almost nice enough to tempt me to sack off the virtual club ride with chat over discord so I could ride outside. I resisted though. I often work Saturdays and I miss group rides – I miss riding with people! So just before 10am this morning, set up with two water bottles, discord app up and running with headphones and sat on the turbo, so began 2 hours 13 minutes of staring at a screen and turning my legs. Longest turbo session to date and only manageable due to the virtual and distance company of knowing that six fellow club members and mates were doing exactly the same thing.

Major kudos to anyone doing longer sessions and the 24 hour challenges! The same times and distance is certainly easier outside – if only because my backside hurts less! I mean, I was happy to finish but seriously – roll on being able to go out on actual group rides!

So now I am sat here, Sunday morning, with a wee bit of a to do list and still tired legs. I was debating actually going for a run today and having a bit of a go at the IM virtual race as it’s a sprint distance this weekend however, I think I really just need to chill and stretch out! So yoga and stretch is penciled in for later on and I am going to potter through my To Do list and rest.

(And MAYBE run tomorrow….)

Run Girl Run!

I know I have said this before but my thinking is that if I write a blog post about it, I might be more inclined to do it and hold myself a bit more accountable.

It’s no secret that running is not my favourite thing. I am on 21.5km this year on the run front.

What with lockdown and not being able to swim, my focus has entirely shifted to cycling – and the odd pilates/yoga/stretch session. So really it’s even more reason to start running again.

Thing is, I don’t completely hate running. I just hate the bit between being not run fit and being run fit. I lose run fitness so fast and it takes so long to get back – and it hurts!

I do need to bite the bullet though and try it again. Surely the pilates and spin sessions will mean it’s not going to be as bad as I expect but even so…

I still keep finding reasons not to start.

In February, after being given the nod to start running (and running with no knee pain) I did run but I will admit I’ve found it hard to keep any motivation… the issue is I really like half distance triathlons……

I’m off to look for my mojo.