Category Archives: Thames Path Challenge 50k

Thames Path Challenge 50k race recap

My first ultra is in the bag and I’d have to say I’m mighty pleased. All in all it was a steady, normal race where pretty much everything clicked into place nicely. B. O. R. I. N. G. I know. No tales of superhuman feats, no stories of crawling over the line with shredded feat, no fable concocted about channelling my spirit animal to push through adversity…
But maybe, just maybe, for a first ultra ‘uneventful‘ is where it should be…

Sure, my legs were trashed on the Sunday, and Monday was spent trying (and failing) to move faster than grandma on a winter morning, but I’ve been worse after shorter races.

Yes my ITB played up and I needed 20 minutes of physio at the half-way point to get it working, but I was able to keep running so it wasn’t that bad.

And no, the toilet paper I’d (cleverly) stashed in the outside pocket of my backpack didn’t remain unused…

But, it pretty much all worked. I say pretty much because the only thing that went awry was the battery going flat on my heart rate monitor. Real schoolboy error that, not replacing a HRM battery before a 6+ hour run. Sheesh! Luckily I was already well and truly in the zone when it went flat so I just ran on feel.

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A lot of my night was spent with this for a view. Trail seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Luckily my Petzl NAO reactive headlight has a mean output…

All of this leaves me in a unusual position – I don’t feel like I have a race to recap? Certainly not in the blow-by-blow sense. Instead, I thought I’d list out some of the highlights, lowlights and tips I learned throughout a thoroughly enjoyable, but uneventful, 50k nighttime ultra:

  • The Thames Path Challenge is a multi-distance, ‘single effort’ event, built around a 100km walk from Putney in London to Henley in the West. Participants can choose to undertake 25km legs, 50km legs or go all out for the 100km leg, and can walk or run their chosen section. And the best part;
  • You have to be raising money for charity to enter, with minimum sponsorship amounts, so the whole event is about supporting others while achieving a personal goal.
  • As a runner used to half and full marathons where water and energy drink is about all you can expect, being presented with aid stations complete with hot food, snacks, tea and coffee, first aid and dedicated blister and physio stations was just something else.
  • Sitting around before my 10pm start time I’d got a bit cold, and consequently misjudged my attire, so there I was at 5km stripping off in order to remove my base later. Not an uncomplicated affair when wearing a backpack and head torch, and no doubt bemusing for the walkers I had passed just seconds before!
  • A nighttime trail requires a lot more concentration than daytime. A few stumbles in the first 10k taught me to pay attention. I was on trail afterall. Mentally it was a lot tougher than normal trail just because of the lack of light…
  • When your ITB blows out 20k into a 50k race it is a godsend to find a free physio station at 25k that will work on it for 20 minutes to get you back into race-completing shape. And when that starts to fail at the 40k mark you chew even more ibuprofen and thank your past self for popping the two Solpadeine tablets in your first aid kit.
  • If you know that every junction is marked by two reflective arrows and confidence markers before and after, do NOT continue to run across the bridge and into suburbia for a kilometre when there are no confidence markers. Instead, take the trail to the side of the bridge which does have confidence markers. D’oh!
  • It’s really eerie to round a corner and find yourself in a cemetery, past midnight, with only your head torch lighting your way. Funnily enough you increase your pace…
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Yes, this is a cemetery. Yes, it really is on the trail. Confidence marker can be seen in the left of shot. Slight increase in pace through this section…

  • Cows that are eating at night do not like having their photo taken and will shy away. Jog away slowly.
  • Cows that are sleeping at night definitely do not like have their photo taken and will stampede. Run away quickly.
  • No matter which way you look at it, running 50k at night after an entire day of eating high-carb, high-fibre food is going to leave you needing a ‘comfort break’. Unfortunately it may not come anywhere near an aid station and making like a bear could be your only option. Always take toilet paper on big runs like that
  • Remembering to take toilet paper on the big run
  • Being given a glass of bubbly at the finish, to go with the beef, cheese and bacon burger inside the kitchen tent. So much better than a Gatorade and protein bar!
  • Packing my sleeping bag into the backpack I sent to race finish…

 

Anyone for seconds?

Would I run this race again? Yes?
At night? Maybe…

Running at night was pretty cool and a great change from normal ‘dark’ running (like pre-dawn or after work). Starting close to 10pm and running well into the early hours of the morning brings with it a different sort of fatigue and pain level, but also being in the dark with only your personal bubble of light, and virtually no crowds, provided a freedom of ‘spirit’ like no other race I’ve done before. It was literally six and a bit hours of solo time. I finished the race feeling completely zen. Spent, empty, centred, but at the same time full of energy. I know I’ve just slipped well and truly into ‘new age’ but that is truly how I felt…

But would I run another night race? I’m not sure. I really loved the solitude, but it also missed the ‘racing’ component of normal daytime races. But it was still awesome.

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Happy finisher. Prior to rapid champagne consumption…

Anyway, moving on, I’m now recovered from the race and trying to focus on building my strength and pace back up. I’ve still got another week of so of easy running, then it’s into preparation for the Ragnar Relay. Gulp…

Happy running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

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Thames Path Challenge 50k: Let’s do this!

And I’m off. See you in six hours or so…

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Happy running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

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Thursday Training Tip : Carbo loading for endurance races

Carbohydrate loading for marathons and ultras

This weekend is my first Ultra so for this week’s Thursday Training Tip I’ve decided to re-look at carbo loading as a way to maximise race performance. Carbo-loading is an important part of race preparation, and in the days leading up to your race should receive the same level of focus as your physical and mental preparation. Optimising your energy levels before the start of the race, coupled with good in-race fuelling, will increase the time before you reach ‘energy-deficit’ – that point when the fabled ‘wall’ starts looming.

Firstly, if you’re about to start your carbo-load and you’re still running, STOP RUNNING! Everyone should be following a taper plan before an endurance race, but some then freak out in the last few days and think if they don’t run they’ll lose their edge. This is simply not true. The repair and fuelling of your muscles you will be able to achieve in the last few days will help to deliver you to the starting line in the best possible condition to race. Your race performance was already set 3-4 weeks before the race, running lots right up to the event will hinder, not help.

Ready to load? Here are my 8 tips to help you get the most out of your carbo-loading:

1) Don’t jump the start:

If you are tapering properly, keeping your same healthy training diet during the two weeks before your race will yield a natural carbo-load as your energy expenditure drops. As the intensity of your sessions drops, those extra calories will manifest themselves as glycogen in your body. However, it is important that you eat carbs for energy, not fat. Carbs will convert to glycogen, fat doesn’t…]

2) Keep your carbo load close to the race:

It’s the last 72-48 hours before the race that you need to start ‘loading’. Doing it beforehand or over several days won’t top your glycogen levels up even more, and can in fact leave you sluggish as your body struggles to deal with the massive carb intake (or worse, decides you’re now living the high-life and starts storing it as fat).

3) Eat what you know:

Don’t drastically change your diet for the carbo load – doing so can lead to stomach upsets. Start to move your diet towards your ‘load foods’ in the two weeks before the race by slowly cutting out the things you won’t be eating.  Try to stick to unprocessed foods if you can, the nutrients are unlikely to have been lost in the processing stage and will be better for you. Pasta, rice, wholemeal breads, oats, beans, lentils and beans are good sources for your extra carbs.

Pasta is a usual favourite for runners when carbo loading

Pasta is a usual favourite for runners when carbo loading

Image Credit

4) Water, water, water:

Drink lots of water! For every gram of carbohydrate stored as glycogen, your body needs to store 3 grams of water. If you weigh yourself regularly then expect your weight to jump up about 2kg if you’ve loaded properly. TMI warning – Make sure you’re producing a good volume of urine every 2-4 hours (that’s about 5-7 trips to the loo a day), and that it is pale yellow in colour. If it looks like pure water, it is, and you should reduce your water intake.

5) Three days to go – It’s ‘load’ time:

A 70kg runner needs about 350 – 490 grams of carbohydrates a day (5-7g per kg of bodyweight) making up about 60% of their total calorie intake when training. In the load period 72-48 hours out from the race, increase this intake to 8-10g per kg of bodyweight – our 70kg runner is now looking to intake 560-700g of carbohydrate per day and take 75-85% of calorie intake as carbs.

This is hard work as you will be eating more than usual, however it will be easier and better for you to add meals into your day instead of making your meals larger. 5 small meals is a lot more palatable than 3 massive meals and will also help keep your sugar levels from bouncing around too much. Your partner might thank you too, smoothing out your sugar levels will help minimise mood swings, one of the usual side effects of the ‘taper crazies’.

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Also, supplement your food-based carb intake with carbs from liquid as well. Sports drinks are best, try drinking 1-1.5 litres of your favourite sports drink to help ‘top up’ between meals, but you can use fruit juice and small amounts of caffeine-free fizzy drinks as well. But don’t stop drinking water. Just gauge your hydration levels from your urination amount and colour.

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Sports drinks come in all sorts of types and flavours, just make sure they are isotonic so they contain the right balance of minerals and salts

 

Here’s an example of what to eat during your ‘loading’ phase (courtesy of the Australian Institute of Sport)

Breakfast 3 cups of low-fibre breakfast cereal with 1 1/2 cups of reduced fat milk
1 medium banana
250ml orange juice
Snack toasted muffin with honey
500ml sports drink
Lunch 2 sandwiches (4 slices of bread) with filling as desired
200g tub of low-fat fruit yoghurt
375ml can of soft drink
Snack banana smoothie made with low-fat milk, banana and honey
cereal bar
Dinner 1 cup of pasta sauce with 2 cups of cooked pasta
3 slices of garlic bread
2 glasses of cordial
Late Snack toasted muffin and jam
500ml sports drink

6) 24 hours to go:

On the day before the race make sure 85-95% of your energy intake is carbs. Try to eat dinner early, ideally you want to be finished eating 12 hours before the race start so you have time to digest and get the carbs to your muscles (and your food through your digestive tract). Drink a sports drink before bed, and maybe add a small snack like a sports bar, but definitely not anything heavy.

 7) It’s Race Day:

Start eating 3-4 hours before the race starts, trying to get about 150 calories of carbohydrate in if you’re marathoning. If you’re doing an Ultra then the energy expenditure is gong to be massive and a proper breakfast 4-5 hours before the face of 300 or more calories is a good idea. Just keep it light – don’t overeat! You’ve already loaded your body with glycogen, the breakfast is just to replace the calories lost from your sleep. As you make your way to the race, make sure to be drinking sports drink to ensure optimum hydration and ‘brim your tank’ with energy. Tip: if you’ve got an early race start, get up, eat, then go back to bed. But be sure to set your alarm again! Twice…

8) During the race:

OK, this isn’t technically carb ‘loading’, however the energy deficit I discussed before means that you need to keep up your energy intake during the race to reduce the energy deficit and the impact of the wall if you hit it. Gels, sports drink, candy, flat coke and bananas are good sources. If you’re ultra running then items with more substance like Clif Bars are a good idea. Over the time period of an ultra you will get hungry. Properly hungry! Something like a Clif Bar will give you a mix of fast and slow release energy and a bit of volume in your stomach. Again, don’t gorge. If you’re reasonably fit (you should be, you’re running a marathon/ultra!), your body can handle a maximum of about 380 calories per hour when running. Any more than that and you run the risk of a GI upset and a frantic search for a porta-potty. If you eat 1.5 gels (one every 45 minutes) and drink half a bottle of sports drink you’ll be around 300 calories per hour. Add half a banana and you’re near to the limit. Ultra runners often eat every 30 minutes, but a little less each time, to even out their intake. Avoid getting to an aid station, taking a walk break and squeezing a gel, eating a banana, half a Clif Bar and then some gatorade to wash it down! At best you’ll give yourself a stitch but at worse, well, better hope there is a porta-potty nearby…

 

I hope with these tips you can master the carbo-load and give yourself the best chance of having the energy you need for your race. Speaking of which – my spaghetti carbonara is ready…

Happy running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

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Thames Path Challenge – 72 hours to go!

“Daahhhh, da duh duh duh…dah daahhhh daahhhh…dadadahhh…”

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I’ve used that joke before but I figured the oldies are always the best…

72 hours until the Thames Path Challenge 50k and I’ve just finished my last run. It was a very slow, easy 5km ‘dress rehearsal’. I had my backpack loaded up with everything I’ll be carrying, plus wore all my race clothing, shoes, chosen socks, hat, gloves and head torch just to check it was all good and there were no surprises.

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Going into Saturday I’ll be stretching loads to make sure my troublesome glute and ITB are as loose as possible, and along with eating well, making sure I’m hydrating right. And getting lots of sleep. With a 10pm kickoff (it’s a night race after all), I’m going to need as much in reserve as possible.

All I have left now is my favourite part of the taper – the carbo-load. Did someone say pasta feast? No sorry, you said chicken and rice. Also good…

Mentally, I’m feeling pretty relaxed. More than I have a right to be, to be honest. I think it comes from the fluffed build-up. While there is some trepidation about the distance and my lack of conditioning, I have no real performance related anxiety because, well, I’m only aiming to get through it. There is no focus on a time goal which, when you’re splitting minutes, can lead to fretting. Instead I know that I just need to run easy, watch my heart rate, and get through the distance. That and being completely happy with taking walk breaks to get through it!

Is anyone else in their taper at the moment? Big thumbs up to anyone else who’s racing this weekend!

Happy running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

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Who wants some Llama-nade?

Thames Path Challenge 50k is all go! I completed my last long run on the weekend, a very slow 34+km meander along London’s canals and riverside, and now I’m into the taper. I didn’t blog anything about my run beforehand because I found myself feeling trepidation that despite my improved running of the last couple of weeks, the 22mile distance would be beyond me.

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Hertford Union Canal. Feels like the countryside but is only 20 minutes jog from central London.

Tell you what, after completing that run I’ve really felt a lot of pressure drop off. I’ve had a compromised build-up and while it won’t be an easy race, I’ve got a bit of confidence back having made it through the three long runs without injury and pretty good recovery. Of course, I’d be lying if I didn’t say my pace is way off where I thought it would be six months ago when I embarked on this madcap scheme, but I can also say that I’m content with having shifted my goals and am now happy with aiming for a ‘completion’ for my first Ultra. It’s like being back at my first marathon all over again…

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Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford. ‘The Pringle’ velodrome in the background, coolest building of the 2012 Games.

So, into the taper now. Two short weeks of reduced running to let my body recuperate without losing too much conditioning. I would normally have done a three week taper, but after a successful experiment with a two-week taper before my last marathon (Marathon de Paris), as well as the reduced running I’ve done in the build-up, I figured two weeks would suit this time around as well. I certainly don’t feel like I’m carrying too much fatigue in the legs, that’s for sure.

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East London grime. Or is it? Inside the seemingly derelict building are hyper-cool loft style studios…

Funnily enough, I think the hardest thing for me to do over the next two weeks is sort out my caffeine taper! Caffeine is a stimulant and gels almost always have it added to give you an extra boost during your runs. However, if you always intake caffeine during your normal routine, the ‘boost’ you get from gels etc on race day can be comparatively less. To counteract this I’m reducing my caffeine intake – this week I’ve cut out all coffees, and only allowed myself two cups of tea a day. Next week will be a caffeine-free zone. Hopefully this will be enough to allow my body to reduce it’s caffeine desensitisation so the gels will have full effect on race day. Apologies in advance to all the people around me who have to deal with a withdrawal case!

In other news, I stumbled across a petting zoo on my long run on Sunday. Right in the heart of the docklands in London. Who would’a thunk it?

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“Me!” Get it?!? The clue is in the title. Very droll I know…

Anyone else tapering for a fall race at the moment?

Happy running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

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Thames Path Challenge – two and a bit weeks…

Just over two weeks to go until the Thames Path Challenge 50k and things are looking up. My long run on the weekend went well, completing the planned 30km of my amended schedule. It was also a hilly 30km spent almost solely on trail so probably worth 32-35km as a flat run, so I feel like I’m not that far behind where I wanted to be. In terms of distance I’m probably one week behind my schedule, although I’m far off the pace I was hoping for. However, as I said in my previous post, given all the things which have been detrimental to my running leading up to this race, being able to complete is the goal.

Anyway, that’s enough about TPC – it seems to be all I talk and write about lately!

Instead, I’d thought I’d share some pics of my run commute. I live in East London, in trendy but terrible-sounding Haggerston; and work in beautiful but also terrible-sounding Shad Thames, near Tower Bridge.

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Quirky Shad Thames with it’s layers and layers of warehouses from a by-gone era

Starting from work, my commute takes me through Shad Thames and the delightful converted warehouses of Butler’s Wharf, onto the banks of the Thames.

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London water taxis in need of modernisation. Oh, and Tower Bridge

Passing Tower Bridge I continue along the bank-side through More London, with views across the river to the Tower of London.

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Tower of London on the right, somewhat dwarfed by The City…

Shortly after I pass the Greater London Assembly (basically the Town Hall of Greater London – where BoJo works), which looks suspiciously like someone modelled the building on a melting mango.

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A melted mango, right? Tell me it’s not just me.

Moving on, I pass HMS Belfast as she sits provocatively opposite from The City – London’s famous Square Mile financial district. There’s a metaphor in that I’m sure…

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HMS Belfast watches on. Is it just me or are the guns pointing directly at the ‘Walkie-Talkie’?

A bit of a water-fountain to dodge (or run through on hot balmy evenings);

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Definitely worth running through, not around, on warm balmy evenings

then onto the very solid looking London Bridge (get it – because it’s not ‘falling down, falling down’? Well, I amuse myself at any rate…) where I get a glimpse of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral as I mount the steps to the bridge-way itself.

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St Paul’s Cathedral dome obscured by a not-falling-down London Bridge.

At the mid-point across the bridge I’m rewarded with a view back to Tower Bridge in the distance. As I work my way up through Monument I pass this ‘beauty’, the aptly nicknamed ‘Walkie-Talkie’ office building nearing completion.

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‘Walkie-Talkie’ car-melting big fat office block. Though the public roof garden on the 40-something floor will be amazing when it opens!

Rumour has it that one sunny day, the concave surface focussed the sun onto a man’s Jaguar and melted all the interiors, and that’s why the screening is hanging temporarily over the glass. I’m not sure what they plan to do when they finish it and have to take the screening off? Issue everyone in the area free sun-block and sunglasses whenever the sun is shining?!?

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Typical East London, abandoned railway grime overlooked by gleaming hyper-modern office blocks. It’s a weird fusion but it works!


Northwards from Monument I start fighting the crowds on the footpath as I get into the Liverpool street business district which seems to be dominated by large modern skyscraper office and residential blocks, many of which carry the same design theme…

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For some reason I have Darth Vader’s theme song in my head looking at this building. Though Duck and Waffle on the 42nd floor has stunning views over London. And they serve Duck and Waffles. Together. On the same plate. What’s not to like?!?

Pretty quickly the crowds lesson as I get into the smaller scale and much cooler vibe of Shoreditch;

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Christ Church Spitalfields. Delightful church sitting right next door to the Ten Bells pub which was a favourite haunt, and rendezvous location for victims, of the infamous Jack the Ripper…

and then Hoxton, as I work my way towards Haggerston and the Regent’s canal – home.

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I live in the building on the right. Not in a house boat. Not that that wouldn’t be cool, but I’d rather a modern flat with oddly coloured balconies…

So that’s my run commute. Just over 5km, past some of the great attractions of London, bustling business hubs, hipster areas with impossibly cool looking people in cafe windows, a bit of grimy East London and then home to my little sanctuary overlooking the Regents Canal, which in itself is a great place to run.

Who else has a run-commute that they enjoy?

Happy running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

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Thames Path Challenge 50k: 4 weeks to go

4 weeks to go. Ouch. I’m going to get this over with early in the post – this is the least mentally and physically prepared for ANY race I have ever been. Ever.

keep-calm-only-4-weeks-to-go-PANIC

You can use the quantum of my blogging and interaction with other bloggers a yardstick for how much race preparation I’ve been doing. Very little…

  • This is the part where I open up my little big book of excuses.
  • This race is closer to the end of the football season than my previous fall races, cutting preparation time
  • I’ve recently started a new job and figuring out how to fit training around a 7.30 start has been difficult
  • Over-share warning – I’ve been going through a breakup and that has proven a big distraction from running, not to mention the training time spent reviewing new flats and, sigh, flatmates
  • I’ve been struggling with a football induced glute injury
  • I went to Ibiza the weekend before last and ate too much, drunk way too much, had too little sleep and did even less training. But geez it was a fun time!

Anyway, you know how the saying goes – Read the rest of this entry

Thames Path Challenge – seven weeks to go

Seven. Weeks. Left. Gulp…

The footy season is over, and I now how seven weeks to prepare and taper for the Thames Path Challenge 50k. Sheesh!
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I’ve completed a marathon only 8 weeks after a footy season previously, but a nighttime 50k is a different matter. I’m pretty confident about completing it as my base fitness and endurance is OK, but I am going to have to take a serious reality-check about my time goal. But that’s the best thing about goals – they are flexible.

I’m normally a 4:00 marathoner, so I figure if I allow 4:55 to run the 50k plus an hour for planned walk breaks (because my endurance will be lower than usual) along with rest at food/aid stations, a sub-6:00 seems doable.

‘If I’m sensible’ is the obvious big caveat here. I had a physio appointment today and I’ve been given the go-ahead to start running again. That said, I’m not planning to run until Saturday. My footy final was last Sunday (we lost, boo) and I’m still bruised and have some soreness in my knee where I got a big knock. I think a few extra days of rest now will really help me in the next seven weeks so I’m being patient. Trying to be patient…

The other thing I need to be careful of is raising my volume to quickly. Firstly I need to build up to running four times a week while continuing my strength sessions. Only then can I add distance. Many a runner, myself included, have been undone by increasing volume too quickly, and with such a short period of time until the race I really need to pay attention to my body. Any injury caused by ‘too much-too fast’ will certainly reduce/end my chances of completing the event.

So my little mantra for the next couple of weeks is “Goals are flexible, be sensible, protect your body”.

He says…

Happy running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

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Mojo rising…

Lovely Girlfriend is a writer and editor, and has a saying when writing features about events that ‘once is a fluke, twice is a coincidence, but three times is a trend’. I personally like that notion. It’s hardly a habit if you only do something a couple of times before stopping, right?

My last post was definitely an admission that I’d lost my mojo. I’m happy to say I’m feeling more positive lately, and after yesterday I’m ‘trending’ towards running again.
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Yep, I managed to run to work for the third Monday in a row. In fact, I managed to run home from work as well yesterday. It’s no habit yet, however I feel like I’m getting back into the swing of things. The important thing for me is that I enjoyed it. I ran because I could, not because I had too. I could have easily said to myself ‘you played Aussie rules on Saturday, you’ve got tag-rugby tonight. You don’t need to run’. But I went anyway because I felt like it. It didn’t hurt that it was a beautiful cool spring-like morning in London either…

Looking forwards I’ve still got another month of Aussie-rules so my running is still going to be curtailed to once a week. That’s not much I know but if you count the riding to work on football training days I’m doing 7 definable training sessions a week, almost 8 hours of some form of exercise. Add in some home-based strength stuff and I’m already feeling on the cusp of being unable to recover properly from football games, so I’ll have to leave it at that.

However, I’m going to have to switch to running pretty pronto once footy is over. I’m 14 weeks out from the Thames Path Challenge 50k and I’ve not run more than 10k in one stint since Marathon de Paris. Gulp…
I think I might need to add a loop to my run to work to up the mileage a bit!

Is anyone else trying to get through a slump in their training at the moment? If you recently pushed through one, what was the thing that most motivated you to keep going?

Happy running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

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Running Amnesia

As runners we suffer from some form of pain related amnesia. I’m sure of it. I mean, it seems like just two minutes after we finish a race we’re already thinking about ‘what next?’.

True to form, I ran Silverstone on Sunday and by today I had forgotten about any pain I had in the race and went ahead and enrolled in the Thames Path 50km event for September. It’s part of a 100km ultra, but I’m not up for that distance yet. Instead I signed up to one of the 50km sections. To be precise, the second 50km leg. The one that takes place at night.

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