Making Plans

After such a big year in 2016, particularly with my personal challenge of running #500kin5days with Marina Ranger in Simply Runderful; my body needed a rest.  So did my heart and my mind. I’d had a lot going on in the back end of the year with my husband, Dion living in China from August until January with Finding Gobi and this had left me drained emotionally, the extent of which I didn’t realise until even after a DNF (Did Not Finish) at UTMB in August but into September when ‘life’ began to feel all a little too much for me and I resigned from my full time job to take some time out and focus on Finding Gobi with Dion and support him until we could all be reunited.  Needless to say effective training and eating went out the window as there wasn’t much time or desire to push myself physically.

I think it’s important for everyone to take stock sometimes and realise that you have to prioritise and it may not be exactly how you planned it in your head but life never goes to plan after all does it?!  Plans are meant to change and although it was a tough end to the year it was worth all the heartache and stress throughout as I now have both Dion and Gobi home with me safe, sound and most importantly happy.

Dion & Gobi enjoying their new Scottish playground

Now it’s time to refocus on my challenges for the year.  I’ve managed to kick start my training with my new job managing the Village Hotel in Edinburgh, which in case you didn’t know has state of the art leisure facilities of which I am making good use of and have just started getting some personal training with Huw Davis to focus on building some strong glutes for the upcoming mountain racing season.  I’ve had a couple of good weeks getting back into serious training, building up the miles consistently.  In my week I try to always fit in a strength & conditioning session, speed intervals, hill repeats and a long run as the basic week and fill around that; always with a rest day or more depending on how my body feels.

What is the plan for the year then I suppose your wondering?

I’m heading to Morocco in a few weeks to run the 3 day race Tizi n Trail, which is a chance to escape the Scottish winter for a few days in the hope Moroccan sun, it’s no Marathon Des Sables, and the crew of the race carry all your luggage, cook for you, provide accommodation and there’s even showers and the runners run from point A to B each day with approximately 20km distance to cover each day.  It will still be challenging terrain but it will be stunningly beautiful and a great way to revisit Morocco and kick start the years racing.

In April I’m running local!  I’m running The Highland Fling which is a 53 mile race along the first half of the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Tyndrum.  It’s a challenging day out and the race is always full of a strong field of runners.

Then it’s time to head off to the mountains!  As I didn’t get into the ballot for UTMB I’ve entered the Zugspitz Ultra in Germany, a 100km mountain race with 5,400m of ascent it will give me valuable points to enter the ballot for UTMB again for next year as well as ‘if’ I can complete the race in under 22 hours it’s a qualifier for Western States Endurance Run which I’d love to run one day.

The Scottish hills call again and after running the Vertical Kilometre last year as part of the Skyline Race series, I’ve decided to run the 110km Ben Nevis Ultra which is a new addition to the series this year with a hefty 4,000m of ascent.

Climbing the VK route last year – photo(c)

With a deep love of the Scottish hills I couldn’t go past running the Glencoe Marathon this year, road marathons don’t interest me but the trails certainly do and with Glencoe being billed as one of the most beautiful and challenging off-road marathons I couldn’t resist.  This is on the 1st October and I’d love to see some familiar faces joining me so if you fancy coming along then enter here and get a 10% discount off your entry (discount code: VHLcjGMG2017, valid until 31st May 2017 so be quick!).  Or take on the half marathon or 10k if you don’t really fancy the full 26.2 miles.

Glencoe Marathon (Photo from Glencoe Marathon)

I’m still throwing around some ideas for the other months of the year, and making good use of a fab new website Race Base World where you can search by month or location to find that perfect race, but this is certainly a good start to the calendar.  Let me know if you’ve done some of these races or if you are coming along to them this year, would love to hear all about them or say hi at the events.

Incorporating strength training

Runners run, right? But what about strength training? I have come to realise through my own experiences with strength training and research into how the top runners train that it is an integral part of a runners training plan if they are to succeed.
I dabbled in crossfit last year for a few months from July to October when I was training for Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon (KAEM), and was going twice a week to Crossfit Edinburgh in conjunction with my running training plan and a session of Bikram yoga (also great for strength and flexibility). I did really well at KAEM as my first ever multi day self sufficient stage race (you carry your own food & kit so approx. starting with 8.5kg without water on my back) coming 2nd lady and 16th overall so I must have done something right in the lead up.

Crossfit in Edinburgh in action

Crossfit in Edinburgh in action

On my return from KAEM I took some time to recover and then we moved house, then it was Christmas…..excuses, excuses and I didn’t make it back to crossfit before Marathon Des Sables(MdS) in April. The reason I chose not to go back was firstly I felt that crossfit had hindered my ability to train effectively on my training runs as I was suffering a lot from DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) purely due to being new to it and possibly not going regularly enough, and secondly money, I couldn’t afford to do both Bikram yoga AND crossfit so chose yoga as I felt it was the better of the two (I certainly was ending up with less DOMS after yoga). But then MdS came. And I struggled. The race is dubbed the toughest foot race in the world so it was bound to be tough, but something in me was lacking. With similar distances and the same self sufficient style as KAEM I personally felt I didn’t run well enough and to me it was all down to strength, okay the 48 degree temperatures and endless sand didn’t help, but it was strength that was really missing. My pack felt really heavy, yet it was lighter and smaller than KAEM and I could feel this in my back, shoulders and arms. My legs weren’t powerful enough to drive myself up those high sand dunes but I could see other runners doing this well. Watching them closely afterwards at camp, you could visibly see they had seriously defined leg muscles and looked strong overall. By comparison I didn’t. Of course I probably look fairly fit to most, but not when you start comparing yourself to those ahead of you, so there was plenty of work to be done.
I’ve been back at crossfit for about 6 weeks now, and yes the DOMS are affecting me, but I am planning my training around them better. I know I will be sore 2 days after, so I don’t plan a heavy mileage day or a hill/speed session for that day, I try and plan that to be a rest day or an easy day at least so I am not feeling that I am letting my running plan down. I can already feel the strength when I run up hills in my legs and not only I notice, but others have commented that I am looking strong. I can see definition in my legs and arms that haven’t been there before which is great.

Starting off with some light weights for squats

Starting off with some light weights for squats

With a couple of events coming up, 40mile Clyde Stride in September and the KAEM again in November the proof will be in the pudding as they say.
At first crossfit can look intimidating and you might think it is full of muscled up, competitive lifters but from my experience it is a very open and welcoming environment with a wide range of people with a range of goals and everyone gets the same support. I would recommend before signing up to a contact of any term that you check out your trainer, make sure they have the relevant qualifications and the training environment is a safe and encouraging one as incorrect form in this type of exercise can be very damaging so please ensure that you are being trained by someone that will look after you with this.
If you are in Edinburgh I can’t recommend James at Crossfit in Edinburgh highly enough, he is a great trainer and with a running background himself he is ideally suited for me as he understands the other element of my training and how it corresponds and affects my performance and ability in crossfit so he can take this into account.

Ball slams to wall slams

Ball slams to wall slams