Taper Time

Whoah, it’s April. Marathon Month. How did that happen? Seems like it was only yesterday  that I inadvertently signed up for the London Marathon 2013 via facebook.

Lucky for me, training for the marathon has been more consistent than writing about it, though Facebook & twitter has been with me through every step of the way. Fundraising is going pretty well too.

After two helpful training days under my belt [Asthma UK and London Marathon respectively], my first (and only) half marathon [adidas Silverstone Half Marathon] and my longest run before the big day, my trainer has handed me my Final Program – the tapering off one.

Tapering will allow my body to reach optimal performance before the marathon by decreasing the amount of exercise I do in the lead up to the big day. The trick is to ensure the muscles are kept in good working order but also have a chance to rest.

So as much as I hoped it was going to be three weeks of telly watching, sleep and chocolate – my plan looks more like this:

Final phase of Marathon Training

Final phase of Marathon Training

Not bad, eh? Very doable. And the best thing is, I think I can squeeze in some telly watching, sleep and chocolate too.

Running with Big Tits

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When I was at the gym the other day I was reminded of the importance of a good sports bra. There was a girl, going hell for leather on the treadmill, followed by her large breasts. I thought lives were going to be lost. Well, perhaps just a black eye or two.

As luck would have it – and I do consider myself very lucky, I’m a fully paid up member of the Big Tits Brigade. Fortunately, I didn’t actually have to pay for them but I do have to pay attention and look after them properly. By that I don’t mean putting them in a steel box with only a dehumidifier for comfort but wearing suitable structural support.

Sweatshop rightly says that there are two vital pieces of equipment for a female runner, good running shoes and the right sports bra. I want to concentrate on the latter piece of hardware. Choosing the wrong bra not only hurts like hell but can also give you terrible Runner’s Droop. And no one want to be part of SagNation™.

Seeing that it’s impractical – though not illegal – to employ (one or) two people to run alongside me, cupping my breast(s), I invested in some good bra action as soon as I signed up for the London Marathon. I use these ones for normal gym sessions when the bounce is minimal. For running, I wear bras without an underwire but with a double clasp. I also wear running tops with a secret shelf for extra support. The double clasp takes a bit of getting used to, especially if I go for an early morning run as my arms struggle to reach the back. I usually have to do up the first clasp at the front, twist the bra round and put my arms in. (Sexy!) I then busy myself for about 20 minutes getting ready and then attempt to join the second clasp. Very Challenge Anneka. Sometimes, it takes me several attempts before I’m successful. (Yet another reason for continuing with my weekly Yoga and pilates sessions.) Haven’t tried the front fastening ones yet.

I have three months left until the Marathon so we’ll see how I get on, especially as I’m going to be running for longer distances and time. I have been told that chaffing can occur. Eeek!  If my running shoes are anything to go by, I will need to invest in another bra (and maybe some vaseline?) in the next month as the material becomes less supportive with more running and washing machine action. On reflection, I do have several bras which I alternate wearing as opposed one pair running shoes.

But it’s not all bad news, LessBounce offer a Sports Bra Amnesty which gives you £3 discount off their bras when you post back your old one. Perky!

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I’ve just picked up my flatmate’s book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Japanese author and translator Haruki Murakami.

Whilst I have heard mention of his name, I have not yet read one of his books.  Up until now. Something which delights me no end as I’ve suddenly got a brand new author to get my teeth in to.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a departure from most of his bibliography apparently. It’s more of a memoir about Haruki and what running has meant to him as a person.

Seeing that Murakami took up running at the grand age of 33 (I’m 35) and has run more than 25 marathons, (I’m running my first on April 21st 2013), you can understand why I’m enjoying it as much as I am.

I have come across tons of sections that have inspired me and I’m only on Chapter 3. The most overriding factor, however, is that I need to blog more often to keep a handle of my progress. Time is whizzing by so fast and I need to be on top of it both physically and psychologically.

So here we are: Stage 3 out of 5 in my marathon training.

Having plucked my 10k cherry at the beginning of November, my sights now move to the 10 mile mark. And as Murakami’s words float around my head,  I know that it’s within my grasp.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional”

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If you can suggest any other inspirational books you think I should be reading, please feel free to comment below or tweet me @runwithfrankie. Many thanks.

Running with the Running Community

At the beginning of November I ran my first ever 10K at the Mornington Chasers Regent’s Park 10K Winter Series.

Having (unfortunately but sensibly) forgone friends’ parties respectively celebrating 40th birthday and hen do the night before, I turned up at Regents Park at 8am in preparation for a 9am start. A valuable lesson I learnt from my first ever 5K.

The weather was heinous. Super cold with torrential rain.

Lovely.

But it didn’t matter really. It just added to the excitement of my task that lay ahead. Besides, I had psyched myself up sufficiently. Luckily Chris, my trainer, had bestowed a few words of wisdom the night before when the panic in me began to rise as a head cold suddenly developed.

Runners (of all ages) started piling in to register their number. The feeling that I had been internalising became a shared group experience as more than 250+ people gathered and excitedly talked to friends and strangers alike. The atmostphere was thrilling. There was a real buzz. Everyone was so friendly.

And that’s one of the things I love about this new hobby of mine. The running community.

I didn’t really know it existed. Or rather, I wasn’t fully aware of it’s magnitude or reach before I spontaneously decided to run the London Marathon.

But I love the running tips you receive from different people – either online or face to face – as they share their own experiences of the sport (a reason why I started this blog)

I’m indebted to:

  • the woman who registered my number and advised me to only wear a vest top and waterproof jacket (3 layers she said was overkill – and she was right);
  • the 45 year old man I met before the race began who broke down the race into laps (that got me through the difficult second ‘already halfway there’ lap and gave me an unbridled energy for the third ‘practically home’ lap);  as well as
  • the unflinching encouragement of the stewards who stood in the pouring rain and spurred me on when I felt like stopping.

Running is a strange beast. You get a sense being truly part of something and yet we all have to run our own race. Even amongst all those runners, the only person we are truly running against is ourselves.

When I crossed that line at 1: 09 the feeling of achievement pumped round my body with the same robustness as the blood in my arteries (and I sprinted the last 200m). Although I did stop three times to stretch my calves with each lap, there were even times where I entered into a meditative state. (albeit briefly)

The next one is on Sunday 2nd December. Will you be joining me?

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Running with Asthma

I’ve just come back from my monthly check up at the Asthma Clinic rather proud of myself. My no-nonsense asthma clinic nurse  Chris – who has been monitoring me during the last few years – was also chuffed.

Having expelled a short forceful break into her peak flow meter, I hit the giddy heights of 500 P.E.F. Pretty frickin’ good considering I could only muster 270 before the increased exercise and steroid medication.  Even better when the average peak flow for a non asthma sufferer of my age is 400-450.

For the uninitiated, a peak flow meter helps monitor the condition of my airways. Measuring the wind in one’s sails through this contraption is more efficient in quantifying the severity of an asthma attack than say weighing up the various symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.

Now that the clocks have gone back it is officially winter. Running in the mornings as I do, I am noticing the effects of the change in temperature. It basically feels as if I’m inhaling shards of glass. So it’s no surprising that, at the end of the run, my lungs often feel that soreness you encounter when you have a nasty chest infection.

Asthma UK advises to warm up indoors for 10-15 minutes before your run. As every second counts for me in the morning, I have taken to wearing a bandana or buff until the air warms up or my lungs do! I also make sure that I have two puffs of the blue ventolin (reliever) before any exercise as well as taking it with me just in case. (This is in conjunction with the preventer medicine that I take morning and evening.)  Asthma UK also suggests cooling down properly in order to reduce my respiratory rate before I go in the warmth. Of course, I could train indoors but taking in the natural surroundings is one of the things that makes running so very (almost) addictive.

Living with asthma is a strange phenomenon as breathing is meant to be involuntary yet learning how to control my breathing these last 12 weeks has been a big part of the training. I never really gave my asthma the attention it required to improve it and only now I realise how shallow my breathing has been. My training has actually been a lifesaver; the running and the strength sessions teach me how to stand tall and strong allowing me to take in as much air as possible. Pilates helps me understand how to use my diaphram whilst yoga ensures that I do.

This sunday I’m running my first 10K and yes I’m nervous. But will tackle it as I did the 5k. One foot and one breath at a time.

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Photo by Crinan Campbell.

Overcoming a Mental Block

As I reflect upon my second organised 5k park run this morning, these last few weeks have presented an incredible number of firsts:

And now I have experienced another first; how to run past a mental block.

This morning’s park run was HARD. The weather was fresh and the sky deep blue. A stupendously beautiful morning with colder than cold air.

But last night I hosted a dinner party and we all got carried away with the prosecco, red wine and cheese. Slumber didn’t arrive until the very small hours of the morning. As I hit snooze for the umpteenth time, I realised I was going to be late and jumped out of bed.

Turning up to the race with only 5 minutes to spare meant I didnt have time to line up my music – my rhythmic driving force  – and was still faffing with my HRM watch when the race began. I was also holding on to my ipod instead of it being neatly tucked away in the case strap on my arm.

My body felt so tired. I hadnt rested properly. The 15 minute run before the race to ensure they wouldn’t start without me didnt make things any easier. I was struggling to catch my breath. Struggling to muster up some energy into my muscles.

I must have walked for half of it. Felt like I was taking forever. All the stewards had gone, I felt like a failure. I kept starting and stopping. Berating myself for not being able to run, not being able to breathe deep enough, not sticking to water the night before a race, not getting an early night. But as I saw the other runners mill around the finish line, I realised I had 25% of the course to go. “Not long to go now” I said to myself, “don’t worry – you’re here and doing it” I kept repeating and I soon found myself at the finish line.

I ran the first 5k in 36.09, the second in 37.02. Not bad considering I walked for more than half of it..

So when the running angel and walking devil are vying for my attention, I know that mind over matter and a strong focus will help to get me through. That plus more sleep and less alcohol.