Thursday, 1 March 2012

BACK from my Holiblogs!

I’ve been on my holiblogs!  I’d like to be able to say that they are a bit like holidays, but unfortunately, the rest from the infamous blog has been less about holidays and more about the Urgent things taking over the Important things!

 On that note, I’ve been in work for 14 hours so far today – 3 of which were spent going pretty hard core on a Studio Cycling bike so at least I’ve had my exercise quota today. I’m now planning for the Urgent once again, and what my body is demanding above all else is sleep.  I’m going to ease myself back from my holiblogs gently tonight with short and sweet.

I like to always think that life is a series of only two things – Good times or Adventures!  Since I last checked in, I’ve been on a few adventures.  Luckily for you, this is a Runner’s blog, not my therapy!

Life, business and as yet a delayed ability to overcome the sleep demon have meant that my training as planned for has been very difficult and the ‘Urgent’ things at work and home have overcome the things which are vitally ‘Important’ to me – like Health and Fitness and Running.  I have found that when I have managed to squeeze it in, or wake up refreshed, it really is what keeps me sane, and it has been sorely missed.  However, all is by no means lost.  Residual fitness has been maintained with running at least 3 times a week – varied between 1 – 1 / 2 hours and up to 10 miles outside and some HIIT - High Intensity Interval Training on the Treadmill (seems to be the new buzz word, but who knew some of us have been doing it for years!)  Teaching or partaking in Studio cycling 1  - 2 times a week and some yoga to help tame the sleep demon have all helped to ensure that I can get back on track this weekend.

  Before beginning to write, I checked in with my programme which says I’m due for an 18 miler this weekend.  I have a deadline as I need to be home by 3pm on Saturday and am booked out all day Sunday.  So on Saturday morning, wake up, fuel – go.  I actually can’t wait!  I can’t wait to have that time on my own, no matter how tough it will inevitably be.  I can’t wait to get that 18 miles below my belt so that I can get as close to back on track as possible.  My times and endurance are never going to be what I’d hoped for, but having approached races in the past with obstacles just as great to overcome – like a twisted ankle,  (cue the reminder of the thoughts of pain pain pain whilst running over London Bridge!)  I know I can and will complete the 60 miles over two days.

 I wonder if you have been inspired at all by the mammoth task undertaken by Comedian John Bishop for Sport Relief?  He has so far this week cycled 185 miles from Paris to Calais, then rowed 26 miles across the channel to Dover.  He has completed 2 marathons, with one further marathon to go before an epic finish in Trafalagar Square tomorrow.  He was sick all night last night through the sheer torture of it all.   Can I complete 18 miles on Saturday despite February’s deviation from the plan – absolutely!

So, I’m looking forward to getting back on track and checking in more often.

  I found ‘The Runner’s High’ this week.   It does such a good job of describing what running means to people who have built it as a habit. (habits are usually formed by doing something 21 days / times in a row)

A final quote before I fall in to bed, an hour later than planned with two jobs outstanding.
 ( naturally!) – simples  ‘Tough times don’t last, tough people do!’

See you next week – 18 + miles further down the road!

H x X x

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Sleep Running Through my Mind

Wow, look at me super early this week!  Hum, unfortunately I haven’t managed to turn over the habit of my adult life in little over a week.  Strangely, as a child at primary school and early Grammar school I was always very early and very organised.  I might have to analyse what changed and how to change it back, or forward! The astute among you (or rather those who have little better to do than read this!) will notice, that I am in fact not early but very late, and writing again very late at night.  I have become nocturnal, and I figure that rather than lie in bed, running over all the things that are keeping me awake, or daydreaming about hot holidays with hot boys in faraway lands it would be best to use the fact that I am at least 1 / 4 awake to try to catch up on the easiest thing – my weekly therapy,  I mean running blog!

 Last Thursday, when I last wrote seems like an eternity ago, and if I hadn’t noted down at least a few of the exercise related events that have occurred, I would have no idea what to write, no memory of what I have or haven’t achieved, and the likelihood is that the reality would be that I have achieved very little!

  I promised to write a program on the Saturday so that my planning would become a reality. I wrote it. It’s called H’s superduperwinning program! I haven’t looked at it much since last Saturday though, so I guess that’s the first thing that needs to change.  Presently I have a ‘When the exhibition is over I will’, ‘When I’ve prepped for the teaching course I will’, ‘When I’ve prepped for the motivational interviewing I will’, ‘When I’ve prepped for the lecturing job I will’, ‘When I’ve copywrited the website etc etc  there will be time attitude, but you can already see that very easily there is always something else.  Until the last few days where utter exhaustion has invaded me, I have been managing enough short bursts of high intensity training throughout the week, but I lost this weekend for my long run, so feel that I am a week behind on this.  The goal now is to finish early on Friday and have long run number 1 then, and long run number 2 on Sunday.  Fingers crossed. It’ll take more than that though.  The preparing for an early finish on Friday starts now.  We are working on Sunday morning, so the preparing to get out of work on time starts now. I also haven’t uploaded the program because, well it’s mine, and despite the fact that I said I’d share it, I changed my mind, because it’s mine and I get to keep at least some of this personal!   I have a great 16 week sample program though, so let me know if you’d like some help with your running.

With program advice in mind,  the following have been amongst the questions I have been asked this week!  1) “Should I try cross fit?” I needed a little more information – what do you want to achieve, what are your fitness levels now etc. Cross fit is tough and intense and a great workout, as long as you can complete the exercises correctly with good form.  2) Why does my second toe hurt when I run? Em..well now I’ve got a bit more information on this, and I’ve just found myself in the shower for at least an extra ten minutes staring at my toes, moving my feet to remind myself where I’ll feel it, I’m pretty sure I’ve cracked it.  It’s all about the core, believe it or not.  I have also been asked if boxing would give someone better or bigger breasts, or even worse make them hurt – well it would if you were boxing with them! Breasts are made mostly of fat. When you work out, you may lose some of this fatty tissue and at the same time work on the pectoral muscles beneath the breasts, improving their shape.  But I would try not to make that the main focus of your daily exercise – you might be disappointed in the short term!

What can I tell you about last week?  There were some funny episodes as usual, and I saw the beach every day.  Twice on one of the days actually. Where I am in danger of thinking, how can I achieve this with the time and sleep problem I have, I have also been reminded today on a few counts how lucky I am.  I can put on my trainers and run out the door knowing that if it is dark I have almost constant access to footpaths yet also be on a beautiful, calming beach within 5 minutes. When I visit my parents, trainers in tow, I always notice a little more planning is required – there are no footpaths in rural Ireland, and there aren’t too many road rules either. Running in the dark without the appropriate lights and gear is definitely at your own peril. My virtual running partner falls down rabbit holes, has to wear headlights, reflective gear, and by the sounds of it an unsavoury character alarm is necessary from now on too!

 I have been preparing among other things, a teaching course in pregnancy today.  I have no ties, like children to prevent me from running, even at 1am when I can’t sleep, if that’s what I want to do (this may be next week’s edition) This little video also came to mind  If you can find a spare ten minutes you should watch it.  24 hours in one day – can we do all our other ‘stuff’ in 23 ½ and make at least ½ hour for exercise.  Guaranteed we can.  What are the priorities?  I bet I was on Skype or facebook, or the phone or drinking tea for at least ½ an unnecessary hour today.  I was even thinking about my weekend in London.  On Saturday I left a show we were exhibiting at, ate, went to bed and didn’t sleep.  I bet if I’d gone for some polluted London air, the sleep would have come a little easier, and then tonight one of the things on my list wouldn’t have been ooh no it’s been 3 days since I trained!

So... last week.
Friday morning was an early start.  I was out the door for a run at 6.30am.  That wasn’t easy, but I was so happy that I achieved it.  It meant that I could go straight from work, meet my friend for a drink and a chat and fall into bed, and sleep.  Perfect.  On Saturday I wrote my own program, this got me excited and fired up for a run – so off I went on the first of my long weekend runs.   I completed 10 miles and added another 6 mile walk / run / fartlek with Mr C.  Not too shabby.  My long run, became a little longer due to 5 minutes spent splayed across the pavement feeling sorry for myself as I’d fallen on the uneven ground in the dark.  Cut hand, cut knee, hole in running pants, hurt pride – and now I have a super duper new nerdy head lamp, can’t wait to go on my next run in the dark and actually be able to see where I am putting my feet!  Later that same evening when out with Mr C another person, Irish as well was out rollerblading on the beach, in the dark.  They also fell, really hard and I had a fit of laughter which I know they saw.  We stopped to see if he was okay, he wasn’t, but he was young and Irish and was definitely not going to let us help or believe he wasn’t okay.  I’m sorry I laughed.  Mr C shouted at me for laughing, but he was airborne by at least 2 feet before falling and it was very funny to watch.  

On Sunday I cycled for about 1 ½ hours, played planking games and had a little 20 minute bare foot run. When unprotected by trainers you use your lower limbs a lot more than normal, especially if not using your Transversus Abdominus (deep stomach muscles off which lots of other movement muscles attach)  enough.  Sure enough, on Monday, my heels wouldn’t touch the ground when I got out of bed, so I limped everywhere on Monday. I ran 4.5 miles in trainers again on Monday evening and it felt good.   I love getting fresh air just before bed. 

Throughout Tuesday and Wednesday I was time poor so did short intense bare foot runs on both days, and as I’m sure you have predicted, could barely walk on Thursday so instead did Spin and lots of stretching in the gym and the sauna.

  Friday night was a beautiful London run.  We ran over Tower Bridge where all I could think about was the fact that I was in so much pain at this point when I did the London Marathon that I was crying.  I very stupidly did the London marathon in 2008 with a very badly sprained ankle, having fallen off a pavement about a week before.  I began the run on Friday without having consumed any food or water, after a pretty hectic day, so we stopped off for sandwiches on the way!  Not great planning again, but a good story and I was pleased that we went running, because I just wanted to climb into bed!

So I’ve reached the end of last week’s blog, 2 days away from writing this week’s blog.  I am also writing it in my sleep now. There is still time, but lots has to change.  The planning and the nutrition and the sleep must improve.  My running needs to become a priority over other things and the sleep bank needs to be reloaded. On that note 1, 700 words serve as the best sheep counting I’ve ever known.  So off I go. I’m worried that I’ll look at this with fresh eyes tomorrow and be horrified at what I’ve written!

First though the quote. While I’m feeling a little upset with myself and the world about the level of achievement and the things that keep getting in the way, or I keep putting in the way, I thought of this:

I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed. 
Michael Jordan

I’ll be back – in three days time!

H x

Friday, 20 January 2012

A Finely Tuned Sleep Deprived Eating Machine

So here we are again.  Another week has flown by and not surprisingly I sit down to start writing as the clock on the laptop says 23.15.  I’d like to ‘blog’ as quickly as possible and be in bed by midnight just one night this week, but I’m preparing for the fact that it won’t happen.  I already know that to fit a run in around tomorrows other commitments means it has to happen early doors or not at all. I will get up when the alarm goes off!  Also, at the minute my fingers won’t move as quickly as I’m willing them forward – they are freezing as I’ve just been semi walking, semi running but mostly talking on the beach for 2 1 / 2 hours, and it’s cold!

Presently in my time poor life it’s not ideal that at least 3 or 4 nights a week I seem to spend 2 - 2 1/ 2 hours speed walking the beach.  But I have the most awkward personal training client anyone could ever meet.  He comes back to me now, injured, having been off living the highlife for over a year because I am the only person who has ever been able to put up with or stick with him.  He’ll be reading this, and laughing and agreeing.  He demands that I give him two hours of my time, and he only pays me for 1.  This makes me crazy, but it is a relationship we have had on and off when he is in the country for years, and he usually pays me back dividends, in the end.  So I make the choice to give a little now and help him return to his pre ‘too much of the highlife’ svelte self.  Furthermore I heard the best, most amazing story I think I have ever heard tonight.  It made my toes curl up and my stomach hurts from laughing.  So, as much as he takes up too much of my time, it’s sort of a fair deal. I complained about not having enough time to run and so we made another deal that I’d be able to do some Fartlek or Interval training, whilst we semi walk /  semi run together.  He will love barking orders at me and seeing me sweat for once.  It should be interesting on a sandy, uneven, dark beach promenade!    I told Mr C. that I had to blog tonight when I got home so he had to let me leave at 9.30pm.  This is why we went even further tonight and were still semi walking / semi running at 10.30pm!  He thinks he did me a favour by giving me an opening topic. 

Before my late night stroll, I hit the treadmill pretty hard for 20 minutes.  I was blog planning whilst on the treadmill and even tried to save what came into my head on my phone whilst running.  This is not good treadmill practise, but I think I gave everyone behind and beside me a laugh at my careless treadmill driving attempt.  My thought was that I have ‘Runners blog’ and  ‘Writers fog’.  These are not phrases which I picked up whilst reading the urban dictionary but my reference to the fact that it kind of feels at the minute as though I have blogged more about running, than actually running, therefore ‘Runners blog’ and whilst on the treadmill I felt unsure as to how I’d write tonight’s blog, therefore ‘Writers fog’. Luckily Mr C. helped with the writer’s fog!  My blogs take up at least two hours a week and this week I spent at least 2 hours writing programs for others joining me at some point in the run.  This is about the same amount of time that I have managed to run this week.  However, it’s all a learning curve, and making better use of time, is part of that curve.  After tonight I’m guaranteed an hour of speed training at least 3 times a week – where before the time would have been lost to another one of Mr Cs jaw dropping life stories! This makes me feel better about the task of finding time as I enter week 3.

So what other challenges have I faced throughout this week? Time and sleep  or lack  of have been the greatest challenges.  My work is never 9 – 5, which is in itself a challenge but until at least the end of February, the stakes have been raised somewhat at work!  Projects which were started a year ago, are now suddenly ready to move to the next level, and time isn’t waiting for me and some running!

 Motivation is on the rise, and although my own personal programme is still a work in progress, those I’ve written for others have framed the time for me.  15 weeks, now almost 14 sounded like plenty of time to me Ms  However, I want to do myself proud.  Once you take out the weekends at work, the weekends cramming before a big job, the weekend in London, the likelihood of the weekend away, Easter, the ‘ooh another weekend slipped by weekend’, the bank holiday weekend,  pancake day, Paddy’s day, evening meetings and the very time demanding Mr C, that leaves me about 2 weeks....not much time eh?  That’s why it’s important to set times and time frames and plan short medium and long term goals.  All of which I have done this week.  On Saturday morning it will all go on paper, into my 14 week count down, accounting for the time I’ll have off so that the enormity of the challenge will smack me in the face!  I have a local 10Km race in February an 8.2mile and a 20 mile race in March and the usual Bournemouth Bay ½ Marathon in April, all planned in to help me towards my goal and give me milestones along the way.  I will also plan in a few trips to the New Forest or Purbecks on weekends in between (if there are any left) so that I can get used to some hilly undulating runs.  Uneven ground is hard on the hips, knees and ankles and I want to get my body used to it.  So they must be planned. This is the key.  If they are not planned and set on paper as goals, they won’t get achieved.  I learned this, this week, when in true Helen style I had booked in 4 different things for one evening – 3 of which had to go.  I did write them down at the time – 1 on a scrap of paper, 1 in a note on my phone and the other 2 in 2 different diaries! This was poor planning. Buying a work diary and a personal diary it turns out was a bad idea though with good intention. I was going to make a better note of what I plan and do and achieve every day in my personal diary so that I could keep these things on target.  I fell down at the first hurdle which should have been ensuring that I made enough time to actually write these things down!

A brief synopsis of how things have gone this week.  I almost achieved my goal of being on the seafront every day.  Tuesday got the better of me with a busy day, a lack of sleep on Monday night and dinner plans.  However, if I can overcome at least one of my challenges of time and sleep this week, I know that I’ll manage to see the sea every day in week 3.  Earlier to bed, early to rise and a little 6.30 am run before work. Perfect. Then a lack of time throughout the rest of my day, won’t be an issue because the run is already complete. I know that the trick is to get to the point where running doesn’t feel like another thing that I have to squeeze in, but rather the thing which must happen because I love it, and here too there is progress this week. 

On Saturday I did 20 – 30 minutes of speed training followed by one of those 2 hour beach front sessions.  It took me a while to throw myself out of the door on Sunday, but when I did I covered about 10 miles 1/ 2 of which was facing into a bitter, driving wind and to add to the lunacy, I finished it off with a swim in the sea!  I was determined to get enough fresh air and exercise on Sunday that I’d fall fast asleep that night, and I did!  Monday night was a bit of cross training with some Spinning and 20 lengths of the pool. Well maybe 10 and a bit of steam room.  I always find that the steam room is a great place to stretch, though I get some pretty strange looks. I have very tight hamstrings and hipflexors and need to work hard to keep flexible if I’m going to achieve my running goals.  Tuesday, as I said was a fail on the training front but that was partly due to writing a program, which I suppose is all a necessary part of the training.  Wednesday’s run was fast and strong, and not very long, but I was reminded that I must find the time because it’s slowly becoming something I love again.  Tonight I hit the gym.  I did intervals on the treadmill with a go hard or go home attitude followed by some lateral squats and lunges.  I’m glad I did.  I’ve done very little strength training lately, and it shows.  I learned tonight that I lunge perfectly on my left leg, and am very wobbly on my right.  As soon as I start to bump up the mileage, this imbalance will start to show, undoubtedly for me in the form of knee or ankle pain.  I will be back in the gym this week, working on plenty of closed Kinetic chain exercises like squats and lunges on one leg and with added rotation, to help replicate the movements I will make whilst running.  Running involves a constant, consistent propelling forward, whilst on one leg and rotating through the core to prevent us from falling over whilst doing it.  Better start working on the Core and Balance and Co ordination and Flexibility and Strength in that case!  If I prepare for running, simply by running, I prepare to fail.  I need to cross train, build strength and endurance through my quads and glutes, ensure that my whole Kinetic chain is working together as one, and I guess I need to do some work on my arms as well.  They tend to get quite tired after about 3 hours of running!

So, as I enter week 3, there is progress.  I can safely say, that whilst I’ve certainly not fallen head over heels in love again, I am on my way back to making running my acquaintance, almost friend, maybe soon to be lover!  I have mostly eaten healthily this week, but all that sea air has meant that I’ve eaten far too much of everything.  Whoever said they run to lose weight, this has never worked for me and my ability to eat has been a point of laughter among friends for years. I have slipped up a lot on the chocolate front this week also.  My hand slipped and picked up 3 Yorkie bars- cause they’re not for girls.  I felt the need to hide, I mean eat the evidence as quickly as possible.  Tonight, at 11pm whilst getting milk, who knew they’d have a whole selection of Kit Kat Chunkys to help me through the blog and make me Chunky.  They had white chocolate, dark chocolate, chocolate orange, mint, caramel and peanut butter. I chose Peanut butter.  Definitely to be recommended, especially dipped in tea!

This week  I will be more innovative with my time. It’s not just Mr C’s session now, it’s mine too.  This is the price he pays for not paying enough!  I will somehow get to bed earlier, and I will remember that the odd run is not the right of passage to chocolate land.  I’ll make more time for some MSE training too and next week I’ll fess up about my actual running mileage total for the week, which means wearing the GPS.
I’ll check in and upload my program on Saturday so that you can keep an eye on my behaviour this week as well.  That’ll make me more accountable and much less likely to misbehave.  Yeah right!

Have a great week, and if you’d like to sponsor me, join me or ask any questions about Running, Nutrition, Program Writing or anything else, fire away!

And the final word. This week’s quote is very simple, but seems appropriate, when I weigh up my reasons, or excuses this week;
Someone who is busier than you is running right now!

H x X x

Friday, 13 January 2012

False Start or Trial Run?

Throughout my entire adult life I have carried two dominant traits; the need to constantly be in a rush and yet somehow to always be just a little bit late. You’d think one would cancel the other out, but it doesn’t seem to happen that way!

 In keeping with my promise to make the blog a personal, honest account of the lead up to the big Ultra event, I decided in true Helen style to blog a day late this week. I take no responsibility for my lateness, or the rush in which I type so that I can begin my weekend / go on another training run / train my client / catch up on some zzzzzz’s and meet my friends.  Not too much to fit in then!  You see it’s all the fault of my parents. My Mother is constantly in a rush and my Father always late, thank god I also got his little feet gene rather than the one which accounted for his youthful baldness and therefore my lasting memory of the comb over!

Anyway, my introduction leads me straight to the conclusion I’ve reached this week. Getting fit for 5th and 6th May is all about taking responsibility and not shifting blame.  It’s about preparing, slowing down the rush, and not leaving it too late.  Thank goodness it is still 16 weeks away.  That leaves me plenty of time to recover from this week’s ‘false start’, or ‘trial run’!

 I have been reminded that if you fail to plan, plan to fail.  This week, like every other week, has gone so fast, and had I approached it without at least a semblance of a plan, I could have easily arrived at ‘blog date night’ having not achieved a single run!

I certainly haven’t achieved what I would have liked – and much as I’d like to put the blame on the number of hours there are in the day, the busy ness I like to create in my life and the odd unplanned for events of the week, the real blame comes down to the fact that although I wrote the word RUN in capital letters in various places in my diary, I didn’t set SMART goals – until now! However, the event is 16 weeks away, and for me, for once, beginning this early is planning.  So my failure to set SMART goals perhaps represents a lack of commitment to this plan!

After our ‘Thursday date’ last week, I reached the end of the working week, and again had to push myself out of the door, in the dark for a run.  I’m not yet at ease with this concept as I’d much rather complete my run in the daylight, but the hardest part is the mental commitment to put the gear on and ‘Just Do It’. The first obstacle / excuse for Friday’s run was the lack of music.  I find it very difficult to run without music.  Because I didn’t have any, the focus became my breath, and every step. It couldn’t be about the surroundings because I couldn’t see them.  It couldn’t be about keeping up with the pace I’d set for myself in the plan, because as yet there was no official plan.  So, on reaching the end of Friday’s run, the first plan was that somehow I’d have noise in my ears for the next run.  I went to bed semi excited about having that all important time on Saturday to sort out the Ipod and enjoy a day light run. 

Cue Saturday morning.  I am ill.  Sick as a dog.  This was not in the ‘there is no plan yet, plan’.  I won’t bore you with the details , but not very pretty -  rash, headache, fever and a few too many sitings of the toilet bowl.  Convinced it would miraculously disappear by 4 o’clock I made my outward commitment to running by telling a few friends that I was too busy for coffee, because I had to run.  This usually works for me – but alas not when I need to be near a toilet.  Sunday panned out a little better, but I still wasn’t well enough to run.  I did briskly walk 5 miles with a training client though.

So far this week, and we’ve only just reached Monday morning, sleep has been this elusive untouchable thing.  This, coupled with a diagnosis of adrenal fatigue is not great for training.  Training outcome can be related in equal measure to Training Potential, Nutrition, Rest and obviously the actual training itself.  So – not doing so well so far.  My training potential to date being hampered by the rushing around gene, the lateness gene, and the little feet gene.  My lack of ability to sleep in the last week has also firmly gotten in the way of my non set goals. 

This week has been a busy one at work too.  Two working evenings, an afternoon off to make up for somewhere else in the week and commitments to something or someone every night of the week. 

Mondays run is lovely – on the edge of darkness and squeezed in between jobs.  I find the best trick for me is to be ‘rushing around’ and have just enough time to complete the (sort of) planned route, otherwise it takes me longer to get changed and convince myself to go running than it takes to actually complete the run itself!  I have noise in my ears once again due to finding someone elses itunes on my portable hard drive.  Albeit, I’ve never heard of most of them, but it’s one step up from silence!

The plan for Tuesday  is to run before I start work. I know this because it says RUN BEFORE WORK in my diary.  The alarm is set for 6am.  Monday night sleep banked is about 3 hours.  Tuesday morning arrives, my alarm goes and I repeatedly hit snooze until 8am.  Tuesday morning run – nada.  Tuesday was another time poor day because I had a commitment to some time off on Wednesday...and I was determined that this was going to go to plan! So at 6.30pm on Tuesday I had a twenty minute interval run – well fartlek is a more appropriate term.  I speeded up and slowed down to varying degrees depending on how far away the next lamp post was, how fast or slow the noise in my ears and what my inner voice was telling me I could or couldn’t achieve.  I returned home to do about another 15 minutes of kettle bells and greet my evening pheasant plucking guests hot and sweaty with a kettle bell in one hand!  Ooh well, at least I achieved something. I begin to make my guests feel unwelcome at about 11pm so that I can try and replenish the sleep bank.  They leave at 11.30pm.  I tidy up and check my diary.   It says spin 6.45am – awesome, can’t wait.  Gym bag packed, clothes laid out, water bottle at the ready.  1am bed.  Sleep banked – about 3 hours.  I go to Spin.  I am feeling very noble!  I cycle approximately a further 20 miles over the Purbecks on that day.  Go to bed feeling even more noble.  Sleep banked – nada.

Thursday – starting to feel like death now – the non planned plan is really not going to plan.  This is my first fail.  However, I’ve begun not planning the plan 16 weeks in advance of the event.  So there is still time, no need to rush around. Perfect, all is going to plan.  Thursday is a busy day.  I squeeze in the same run route as earlier in the week in 40 minutes – 5 minutes faster than before because I have to so that I am not late for my meeting, not because this is the plan. My meeting finishes at 10pm, I come home planning to have my Thursday blog date.  I answer emails.  It is 1am.  My brain is alert enough to not want to sleep, but not to write a blog.  My blog will be written in line with my dominant traits – late and in a rush.

Friday – I am so tired now that I feel a little drunk which is at least a great way to start the countdown to the weekend.  It is now 6pm and I aim to have completed this very public journal of my life by 6.30pm, eat and run before 8 – that’ll happen right?  Tomorrow I will wake up, write a periodised, progressive 16 week programme monitoring variables such as load, time, speed and intensity and it will be Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed.  It will have Short, Medium and Long term goals to cover the whole lead up to the 5th of May, so that I will reach the start of the race a super tuned, finely honed running, racing, injury free, winning machine.  Oops, think I finally just fell asleep and this was all a dream.  However, as I sign off to train some other poor mug, I do commit to writing a program tomorrow so that next week’s plan can go to plan and I can be smug at having met my goals and blog all about it! 

On the positive – I have two people firmly committed to walking the 30 miles on at least one of the days and one joining me to run the whole 30 miles on day two.  That’s got to be good news. The pressure is now on to help these people achieve their goals, and to set an example by being fitter, faster and stronger.

So, as I look forward to the challenges that week 2 brings, firstly I commit to writing a programme for myself and others who are joining me.  Secondly, the nutrition will also get better; that won’t be hard.  As I’ve been busy rushing around a little bit late, breakfast has been a veritable feast of too much coffee, nothing, a very large block of cheese, 1/ 2 pint of jersey milk downed straight from the bottle, an interesting combination of red bush tea and coffee, ½ bag of pretzels and as sleep deprivation and blood sugar lows kicked in I will even admit to having two cookies for breakfast one morning. Thirdly, for the sake of all those who have the pleasure of my company in the coming week, I WILL bank some sleep.

Wow, feels like I’ve just been to confession!

Until next time

H x X x

P.S. If you ‘d like to join me, get in touch.  If you’d like to read more about why I’m doing this go to

If you’d like to sponsor me you can do so here

P.P.S  I have attached the actual route...looks like fun eh?


P.P.P.S  How could I forget this weeks quote......
If you learn to laugh in spite of the circumstances that surround you, you will enrich others, enrich yourself and more than that, you will last!!

Laters Helen x

Friday, 6 January 2012

New Year, Old Me

Perhaps not the title you’d expect, but maybe it’ll all become clear when you read on.  I’ve just been for a run, it was 45 minutes long, my first this year and only my 3rd since completing a Marathon on 23rd October in Venice.  I’ve been reminded how lovely it feels to jump into the shower afterwards, and emerge refreshed and invigorated!  

Just before I finally kicked my butt out the door for this long overdue run, I caught a glimpse of a book on my bookshelf.   The book is by Murakami and called ‘What I talk about while I talk about Running’, and it is a great read. However, the whole time I was running this evening I was convinced it was called, ‘What I think about when I think about Running’.  It made me acutely aware of just how much thinking and growing and planning and reflecting occurs whilst I am running.  For most of my run tonight, I thought about this blog!  This was in addition to a vast array of other intermittent thoughts and dreams and wonders, like, I wonder if I will ever own a grand piano and a horse and a lamborghini and meet a hot attentive man and have 5 children (who will of course look after themselves while I go on a daily run) quickly followed by of course you will, you can do anything. Running makes me feel invincible, even tonight where it was a little tougher than I remember. I started out thinking how much I was dreading this blog, and by the end of my run I was excited about sitting down to write it!  I couldn’t get out of the shower quickly enough.

 I wish I had started to write it straight away, rather than try to be clever and sync my Ipod to Spotify and in doing so manage to wipe over 1000 songs from my Ipod – oops, that’ll make the next run harder.  Anyway, I made lots of decisions about the blog, whilst on my run. The first was to be honest and to write from the heart, not over plan, over think, strive so hard for perfection that it doesn’t get done at all, which is a Helen trait. So please forgive the rambling. 

You see, prior to tonight’s run, I made a commitment, not only to begin regular run training again, but to blogging about it weekly.  For many reasons, this is a very hard thing for me to do. Running has always been very personal to me.  It’s something that most who know me, know that until just over 1 ½ years ago I did regularly and avidly.  They know this because every so often I raise my head looking for sponsorship for the next ‘big’ event.  Friends know I run because the latest marathon sponsorship thank you is released, or I silently slip off semi sober from a night out because I have an early morning training date.  Beyond that it is something I have quietly got on with myself.  There are no smug facebook updates about being the next Forest Gump, I just run, (or did) as part of my daily routine.  It was my thing and I liked to keep it personal.  I’ve never been in a running club, I’ve competed in many races, and encouraged people to join me along the way, but the competition has only ever been with myself, no one else.  A commitment to blogging about running (can’t believe I’ve just used the term blogging -  it took me two hours to even set up the site!) and where it might have taken me in the past – bad and good, where I am with it now, and where I will be with it by the beginning of May is harder for me than getting back into formal training itself.

  However,  the lovely people at XNRG events have awarded me a place in a 60 mile Ultra Marathon at the beginning of May in return for some blogging, some promotion and some sharing of my wisdom and tips on all things running and nutrition with others entering the event. They’ve given me this free place because I have committed to raising money for  Hannah Bradley has brain cancer and together with her partner Pete Cohen they are working to raise in excess of £150,000 to cover the expense of pioneering treatment in Houston, Texas so that they can beat the cancer and look forward to a great future.  Pete can then get back to helping others on their weight loss journeys by motivating them as only he does best.

I’m going to call my weekly blogging event my Thursday date!  Every Thursday, I’ll check in, let you know what training I’ve completed in the past week, the ups and downs I’ve experienced, and how I’m progressing towards my goals.  The blog will never be as long as tonights especially as it’s already 1am!  I consider tonight the background knowledge that you need to travel on this journey with me, and hopefully be inspired to join in, change something in your own life and of course donate to

So why do I say New Year, Old Me?  Well, with regards to running, the old me used to run 7 days a week, every week.  I ran 7 days a week, every week for at least 18 months but probably longer, and before that, at least 5 times a week (I can’t be exact, as I’ve never kept a blog or diary before, but you know that already!) with only a break for weekends away with boyfriends who said an absolute no to trainers in the suitcase. I ran every day like this because I enjoyed it, because I was lucky enough that I could and because I worked in a gym every day so felt inspired to run and wanted to be inspiring. I ran also because I know the discipline helped me in other areas of my life!  I had rest days every week – to me a rest day meant only running and not doing weights. Running (only about 5 miles or so) was still considered a rest – I’d clear my head, get fresh air and ensure that I had a productive day.

Life stresses,  job stresses, relocations and an autoimmune disorder thrown in for good measure, meant that running took a back seat. Change in our routine is often the catalyst for relapse in physical exercise.  This however is a whole other blog about the Transtheoretical Model of change. I moved from motivating people in a gym every day, to sharing my health and fitness knowledge from behind a desk, and the daily running that had slipped away due to illness etc, never quite came back to the extent it existed at before!  Helen likes to compete with Helen, and when the winning form went, the desire to be just okay, just didn’t quite cut it.  The commitment now isn’t to run every day of the week – it’s not realistic for my life anymore.  It wouldn’t be a SMART goal because it wouldn’t be Achievable, but the commitment is to work smart and hard in the time I’ve got. I’ll talk more about setting SMART goals later! 

What do I gain from running? I had a reminder tonight.  I hoped this would happen, it was part of the reason I went running before I wrote the dreaded blog.

I am running whatever my job is, whatever my car is, whatever my life circumstances are, whatever has happened before or will happen after that run.  When I am running, you don’t know these things, they don’t matter, nor do they make a difference to what I can and will achieve.  They are not there with me – it is just me and my music-less Ipod out pounding the streets.  I don’t need equipment, I can do it wherever, whenever, and with dedication and discipline, I can be good whether or not I have all the latest gear. When training I do treadmill interval speed work, but my long slow duration runs are always outside.

The old me, the one that has made a commitment to moving forwards into getting back to running loved to be one of the first people to see the sea in the morning, to make the first footprint in the sand. The Helen that ran every day, got to see the sea, every single day –sometimes first thing in the morning and sometimes, as tonight, guided only by the moonlight.  That makes me feel very very lucky.  I can’t wait until next week when I will say that I have seen the sea every day again.  Having made the commitment today to get back to running I didn’t go out and get all the gear (no idea). I won’t look pretty when I run, no matter what I wear.  I don’t care.  My trainers aren’t old, but even if they were, I’m going to be running on my toes, bouncing forward without even using half of the sole of my trainer.  I might even do a few beach runs in my bare feet (and now that I’ve started this blogging malarkey, I feel sure that at some point I’ll talk about the wonders of using our feet properly!) The discipline I need to get back to my best is inside, some pretty new lycra won’t matter.  Though I might treat myself with the Under Armour discount code in a few weeks!

I gain the chance to give the biggest smile I can to everyone I pass, and when running, people often smile back, or even say Hello!  Who knew that this could happen in England?  Somehow people are more ready to smile at you when you run, whether they are walking or running.  It’s a nod of respect – I respect you for trailing yourself out of bed, when you didn’t want to, or I respect you for moving your body faster than I ever thought humanly possible (this tends to come from the walkers!)

The old me, could sit in a room, usually quietly confident that I was the fittest, fastest, strongest person in the room.  There is somehow a safety or satisfaction with this.  I would like to have this quiet confidence again – though this blog is going to do away with any chance I ever had of keeping it quiet.  There is lots of satisfaction to be gained from every semi sporting boyfriend I’ve ever had joining me on the odd run only to be whipped into submission by a sprint finish, which they certainly weren’t expecting as I keep my relationship with running so personal.

The sweating – there is nothing better for your body than a good hard cleansing.  I usually have an afterglow from a run for at least an hour. I know only one other way of creating this afterglow, and presently running is working out a lot more simply for me!  I love jumping into the shower after a summers day run, when you are so hot, that you simply must make the shower ice cold.  On the contrary, I love jumping into the shower after a winters day run when you are so cold that you stand unmoving, immersed in the water for at least 15 minutes.

Those who know me well will know that it usually takes a tank of water a day just to keep me moving forward.  I’m looking forward to getting even more hydrated again.

There is nothing like running, at a pace which elevates your heart rate, to build the heart muscle.  I am looking forward to the silent peaceful security that my heart is bigger and stronger and therefore better able to do its job.

 I love it being just me and my music, and quite often the sea.  This is a great feeling, though I may have a little music problem now that the Ipod contains precisely no songs. The contrast between Jayz and U2 provides the scientific basis behind my interval training.  I’ll pound it out, or slow it down to the beat of the music.  Note to self though – when I finally do get some songs back on the Ipod – George Benson is never good, he is especially not good for running.  Why was he on my Ipod!? I also love it when I am joined by my running recruits Jen or Kev.  We have trained for and completed marathons, put the world to rights, and over a 3 hour session, it has been the best form of free therapy I, and hopefully they have ever had!  I have also got very vivid memories of rescuing Kev from the most severe and potentially dangerous bonking (hitting the wall, low glycogen levels) I have ever seen!!  He never came running with me having had a digestive biscuit for breakfast ever again.

I love that I have explored many areas, roads, cul de sacs and houses from Sandbanks to Lymington because of running.  Yes, I have ran from Sandbanks to Lymington on more than one occasion, though the thought of doing that at the moment gives me a slightly sick feeling! I used to read Dean karnazes book ‘Ultra Marathon Man’ (another one on the shelf) and relate to him running all through the night just because he could, now I think he’s really rather odd!  I have had the time to look at the sea, and appreciate my surroundings and when training for my previous Ultra, I have run through four seasons in one day.

I have always in the past made it my priority to go for a run when I arrive to visit a new city, or when on holiday.  This has led to some calamities and some good stories.  I’ll mention only one in this blog.  I was spending some time working in Washington DC, and on the Saturday of the 1st week I decided that a long run was in order, with Ultra Marathon preparation in mind. I don’t prepare for things like this, I assume that I have a mouth and I can ask for directions or I will always find my way back.  It is another Helen trait – perhaps I think it makes for a better story if it becomes a little interesting.  Anyway, 3 hours later in the sweltering heat, I had absolutely no idea where I was, but I knew that perhaps I was somewhere that I shouldn’t be; it definitely wasn’t the right neighbourhood.  I asked someone, I eventually took a lift, the journey was over an hour, and I knew that I was completely at his mercy, but, again at least if anything happened I’d arrive at the pearly gates with a good story. He was a very interesting person, some sort of music lawyer, and I vividly remember him telling me about an unknown band called Fat Freddies drop, who he was sure would make it big. I got a lift right to my door, safely.  I listened to Fat Freddies drop last year.  They are pretty big now!!

What else do I gain from running? I love experiencing the tiredness that comes from fresh air and working your muscles rather than the mental drain you achieve by staring at a computer screen all day every day. I love that I never have a phone or a computer (strangely) with me when I am running.

The planning, the doing, the conquering of the world and of the relationship between mind and body reminds me that running is good for me.  Every run I have ever participated in, be it training or racing has started out the same way, no matter how cardio vascularly fit I am.  The voice in my head says, ‘You can’t do this, you can’t complete this, you are going to stop soon, you are finding this so difficult, this is so hard, you are so unfit, stop, you are going to stop, stop now.’ I love overriding it, feeling better, settling into the run finding a song that isn’t by George Benson and feeling great. When I settle into the run I can plan my day, or reflect on my day. What can I do better, what do I really want, how am I going to get there. During my runs you will have been cursed if you have upset me, and then forgiven and I will have said sorry to you if I upset you (even if you don’t know it, I said sorry on my run, I promise.)

I love the challenge that is laid down with myself.  I have begun a few marathons with injury or illness and a great deal of doubt as to whether or not I will complete hanging over my head.  No one else needs or expects me to complete, except me.  The mind keeps going, long after the body wants to stop.  Running is good for my body mind and soul. 

 The body changes are a secondary thing to me.  I know how to work my body smart.  I’m happy that when I run every day my legs are pretty toned and my calves and glutes are solid, but I’m really not that vein.  I was reminded tonight just what it helps achieve though.  My back was hurting a little where the TVA ( transversus abdominus -  deep internal abdominal muscles) weren’t quite as strong as they used to be.  I’ll be happy when these are strengthened again and I constantly walk tall and feel strong.

Running keeps me positive.  It reminds me what’s important to me and helps me put what matters less in its place.

So as I reflect tonight on why I ‘lost my running feet’ I recognise that it was perhaps a process I needed to go through.  When you run every day of the week without fail clocking up between 45 and 55 miles weekly, running each race harder and faster, the pressure is on, with myself.  I have to keep raising the game.  I cannot return from the next race saying that I have completed it in a slower time than before.  I cannot let an injury get in the way when I can just pop a valium and run on through the pain (this is a great story, for another time) and if life changes, I will persevere.  Competing in an 80 mile Ultra marathon when I was suffering from exhaustion, had just started a new job and had commitments to Weddings in 3 different countries 5 weekends in a row just before the event was perhaps one ask too much for my body!!  It didn’t cross my mind that something could, should or would give.  It would be okay. I’d just get up at 4.30am 3 mornings a week.  I’d be my fun self at the weddings (this did not happen - I slept through most of a wedding in Paris and thoroughly pissed my boyfriend and the groom off.  I felt rough as hell through most of a trip to Germany for a wedding, where I arrived minus a personality. I lost the ability to converse completely at the other weddings and my constant thought was I should be running, I should be running, I should be running.) I completed that Ultra Marathon. It was one of the toughest things I have ever done due to the circumstances.  I am now officially the 6th fastest runner in the Uk at this distance.  I completed the race, I became ill for months, and I fell out of love with running, strangely.  It was not worth it. There are a few things though that I didn’t miss when I wasn’t running!  My feet are almost pretty for the first time ever.  This will soon change as they revert to their scaley, hardened, bruised nailed former ugly selves.  I am also slightly worried in my current financial plight about the impending extra food I will require.  Running makes me eat and eat and eat, and we all know that I’m pretty good at that when not running.  So while I reflect, I commit to regaining my love for running, in balance.  It won’t overpower the other things that I have to be committed to, and that I enjoy.  I am looking forward to becoming a rising star, rather than maintaining the pressure of a 3:08 marathon time.

So here are my goals in planning. To train smart.  To get the fast twitchers stimulated again and get my pace back to 7 min 30 sec miles.  I didn’t wear the forerunner tonight, there didn’t seem any point when I only had the old running me to compare with, and there wasn’t a chance in hell of making that pace.  Let’s see if I can pluck up the courage to start timing the runs and monitoring the distance by next week. My first goal is that when I revisit next Thursday, it will be with some SMART – that’s specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed goals and an official training program that suits me.  Then you’ll really know I’m serious about running 60 miles in two days on the 5th and 6th of May for Team Hannah. 

A little request – if you are thinking of getting married on any of the 5 weekends before the 5th and 6th of May – please don’t, or at least don’t invite me to the wedding!  My 33rd year is going to be my best running year yet, closely followed by my best duathlon year yet!  So actually, again on reflection the title should be New Year, New Me!

It’s been a week of firsts – my first ever sharing of the running experience that is very personal to me, and tomorrow, I’m off to be horsewhispered for the first time! I’ll let you know all about that next week as well, and I promise not to make it as long!

I'll leave you with one of the many quotes that have gotten me to the finish line!

Nobody trips over mountains.  It is the small pebble that causes you to stumble.  Pass all the pebbles in your path and you will find that you have crossed the mountain!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading.  As it’s my first ever blog, I’d love some feedback.

Big Phat (very late to bed) Running Love, Love Love... H x