FitBits - fitness for fun and wellbeing: August 2013


Thursday, 29 August 2013

Stairs, stones and slopes - knees back in action!

I don't wanna jump the gun here, but after over a week of feeling sorry for myself not being able to run and blaming it all on Ben, I think my knees might just about be back to normal! Or as normal as they ever will be.

Steve Ovett Olympian statue brighton seafront
I always run strong when I run past this statue of Steve Ovett

The accidental knee test 

I wasn't meant to be running tonight - me and the boy have joined a local sea kayaking club in Brighton (I love this city!) and were meant to be out riding the waves. These said waves were too rough for me though on only my second time in the water for years so I opted out and thought I'd attempt a run to test the knees. 

Being on the seafront I took advantage of the pebbled beach, stairs and sloping ramps up to the road, just to test things properly on different terrains. 


I didn't go for long, only nearly three miles, but I ran hard and strong where it mattered and felt good, not as slow and painful as last night's attempt at a test run. Gonna try a slow five-six miles on Saturday and have a go at a long run on Sunday to see if I've got the stamina for next weekend's Run to the Beat. As I only had four weeks to train in total anyway it was never gonna be the performance of a lifetime - it's gonna hurt and I'm fully aware of that. It's just a case of whether it's gonna hurt because I'm undertrained but have the stamina to carry on, or whether I have to pull out as it'll hurt from a proper injury. 

I'm really hoping the latter isn't the case, but I've got too much coming up to be doing myself any massive damage, so will see how it goes this weekend and make a decision.

Have you got bad knees, joints or other niggling injuries that keep flaring up? Any tips on knee supports por moi? :)

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Monday, 26 August 2013

Climbing Ben Nevis & the broken knees: A Scottish Highland Adventure

I refuse to be negative about the impact that climbing Ben Nevis has had on my stumpy little legs. The fact that I haven’t been able to run since last Tuesday, and have been nursing my painful knees after abandoning yesterday’s attempt at the Sunday Long Run is not changing my mind.

It’s a temporary glitch. I don’t need a double knee transplant, honest.

Glen Nevis campsite at the foot of Ben Nevis
Our view from the campsite and at the foot of Ben Nevis

Well prepared

I’m glad we didn’t underestimate it. We’d read up on it lots before driving up to Fort William to set up camp at the foot of the mountain, so were well prepared with trusty boots, wet weather gear, warm clothes, walking sticks and food/drinks. Even though it was the middle of August it was FREEZING at the top, so don’t think about strolling up in your shorts and flip-flops, like someone we saw did or you’ll get a shock if you actually do make it to the top. (Incidentally, he did, but he didn’t look too happy about it).

I, on the other hand, was so prepared I even had my Garmin ready and charged to record the mission ahead – this is what climbing to the top of Britain’s highest mountain looks like:

Our campsite was past the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre, so we took a much steeper, massive, never-ending-staircase-of-rocks shortcut to join the main path instead of going back on ourselves to begin. If you start from the Visitor Centre, it’s a much gentler incline, and a nice flat path, although it quickly gets very hard when you do join the rocky staircase of hell.

Climbing Ben Nevis
Never-ending rocky staircase

Stepping into Mordor

The craggy path hugs the mountainside all the way up, with beautiful cascading waterfalls, streams and an isolated loch dotted around the route. The clouds rolled in and view disappeared behind a mist once we get to Red Burn – the zigzag halfway point. The landscape became much harsher and ‘mountainous’ from here on in – big stepping-stones, streams and lush greenery were replaced with dark grey craggy rocks and steep inclines. We were lucky enough to still see in front of us, but I can see how easy it would be to lose the path in bad weather so make sure you have a map and compass.

The closer you get to the top the quieter and eerier it gets – it’s like trekking to Mordor. About half an hour from the top we started to come across triangulation stations and rocky shelters, and these combined with the mist and shadows of people walking in the distance made for some really creepy photos. We also came across a massive gorge near the top that was pretty terrifying to look down into through the mist.

Climbing Ben Nevis
Stepping into Mordor

Nearly four hours after we set off, we finally reached the summit and spent about half an hour exploring the old observatory, emergency shelter, and massaging achey legs before heading back down.

The Ben Nevis Summit
The Summit!! 

What goes up…

It wasn’t the actual climbing of Ben Nevis that’s killed my knees, but the descent. It took 3 hours 46 minutes to get to the top – a long, seemingly never-ending uphill slog, punctuated with numerous tea and water breaks and lots of heavy panting/empathetic-smiley-nods to other walkers.

There was also some considerable awe-struck acknowledgement of the machine-like fell runners who were ploughing past us as we plodded on. I was proud of myself for doing a Sweatshop 6k hill run round Brighton the other day, let alone running up and down the country’s highest peak. Turns out these mentalists are training for the Ben Nevis Race in September.

Either way, any resolve I had on the way up to one day join them and do it myself was swiftly snatched from beneath my broken knees once we started the painful (but beautiful) descent down to the bottom. 

Ben Nevis descent
The painful descent... 

I’ve got dodgy knees anyway, so I did expect some pain and discomfort, and the full extent of it became clearer the steeper it got on the way up that coming down wasn’t gonna be much fun. Within five minutes from the summit every slamming downhill step was excruciating. The never-ending rocky staircase was much worse to negotiate on the way down than up. I’m so glad I had a walking stick in one hand and a sympathetic boyfriend in the other.

Despite the pain though, I don’t regret doing it – it’s such a challenge and is so worth it for the views and experience, I’d recommend it to anyone. And with views like this, who's to argue? 

Just make sure you go prepared and preferably take a strong partner/willing friend to piggyback you down to save the broken knees.

Or you could always jump on the back of a fell runner, they seem pretty capable…

Have you climbed Ben Nevis? How did your climb go? Or are you planning to do it?

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Training for a half marathon in just 4 weeks...

Er... so I've only gone and won a place for Nike+ Run to the Beat haven't I! Slight problem in that it's 4 BLOODY WEEKS tomorrow!! That means I've got exactly 28 days to get from a ploddy 10k to a relatively pain-free 13.1 miles.

I say 'relatively' as I'm fully aware that 4 weeks is by no means sufficient time to train for a half, so this is gonna be more of a pain limitation thing rather than a quest for a PB. Maybe it's a good job I kitted myself out after all! (You know I'm *definitely* gonna have to buy the trainers now, right?)

Nike+ Run to the Beat 2013 logo

Anyway, for those of you not in the know, Run to the Beat is London's biggest and most unique half marathon, with music stages and live DJs 'pumping out motivational tunes' along the 13.1 mile course that starts and ends at Greenwich Park. I'm interested to see what they deem as 'motivational tunes' as I already know what I like to run to.

At the end of the race there's apparently a 'euphoric set' from the headline act to look forward to - so it sounds wicked, and obviously much more fun than your average half marathon race. I'm hoping the music and atmosphere will carry me through last couple of miles when the heavy legs set in. 

Nike+ Run to the Beat 2013 route
The route

Time on feet 

Seeing as I've only got 4 weeks, my goal for the next month is all about time on feet rather than worrying about pace and times. Chasing my 25-minute Parkrun will have to wait. I just wanna finish this alive. I'm gonna have to build up the miles again sensibly and swap my bootcamp sessions to get used to running 4-5 times a week, throwing in some hills, speed work, long runs and strength training to be as ready as I can for race day. Hopefully the month's supply of Vita Coco coconut water that comes with my free entry will help with training.

Oh, and just to make it that bit easier, me and the boy are doing a camping road trip round the Scottish Highlands for a week next Saturday, slap bang in the middle of training. 

Although, we will be doing lots of walking (up Ben Nevis on one of the days), and I've scheduled some runs in for that week once we set up camp in the different areas. The boy can chill with his book at the campsite while I go and find a nice big hill to run up. 

Training plan 

4 week half marathon training plan
Not sure this will be my 'best half marathon ever'...
I had a good look online for training plans last night, and dug out the running magazines for tips, and have drawn up a plan based on a combination of what I found. The general consensus in various forums was that if starting from a 6-7 mile beginning, being ready in 4 weeks is possible, but not ideal, and is not going to be the greatest race experience in the world. 

I'll take that. 

Here's my training plan, working around our Scotland holiday. Not sure if it's too much, but I workout 4-5 times a week anyway with bootcamp classes so it's not like I'm starting from nothing. 

4 week half marathon training plan

First run done this morning, 7.5 miles along my favourite route - Brighton's undercliff path, from the Big Wheel to Rottingdean and back. Last week I did from the Big Wheel to Rottingdean and only back to the Marina, so going all the way back added another mile on, and it wasn't too unbearable. 

Two miles easy run tomorrow then  full week of training starts Monday - I feel some Sweatshop Run Club hill sessions coming on... 

What do you reckon, am I being stupid? Any tips to get me race-ready in 28 days? HELP!! 


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Thursday, 8 August 2013

Trying to be a better runner - my essential kit list.

As I keep banging on about, I'm trying to get back into regular running and be better at it in general - in terms of pace, technique, endurance, the whole shebang, and I've convinced myself that this can't possibly happen without the following items, all of which I'm happy to say are now in my possession:

Garmin Forerunner

My what a big watch you have
Despite having a passionate love affair with MapMyRun, after having used it for a good couple of years, I can no longer stand having to strap my phone to my arm, faffing about with tangled earphone wires whilst trying to settle into my pace and nursing post-run-sores left by the unforgiving velcro on the armband. So, I decided to get a GPS watch and do things properly. As sexy and sleek as it may be, I couldn't afford the Garmin Forerunner 610 so looked for the older models, and came across the 405cx for a bargain price on eBay.

What I didn't think about was the fact that it would look ridiculous on my puny wrists (there's a reason they do a women's range), but after testing it out it's not as uncomfortable as I thought so I'm gonna keep it for a while. (That translates to 'until someone lovely buys me the 610 for Christmas/birthday/just-for-being-me').

I'm a patient person, I can wait.

Below is my first proper run with it, I ran10k on Sunday along the beautiful undercliff path of Brighton seafront. As you can see, a little work to do to get under an hour for the Brooks 10k in November, but plenty of time, so I'm not too worried.

iPod Shuffle 

If I don't have to rely on my phone for GPS there's no point taking it out for music either - so I found an iPod Shuffle on Gumtree for the grand total of a fiver. It's tiny, it's pretty and I love it. Why did I never have one before?

Protein supplement

Ever since getting some proper nutritional advice back in February I knew I needed to up my protein intake and be better with carbs if I was to fuel my body better for running and other sports. It's actually pretty difficult sometimes to get all of the recommended portions in, so a protein supplement is perfect for when you just need to get that last portion in, or to refuel after a tough workout. The lovely people at the Supplement Centre sent me a big bucket of Vanilla whey protein to try, so I'm hoping it will help improve my muscle growth and recovery over the next few weeks. (Review to follow soon). 

New kit
Before you say anything, yes, I do need new kit. Of course I do. It needs to be colour coordinated and beautiful and comfortable. And cheap, as I'm not meant to be spending money (some of us have a wedding to pay for!)

Anyway, the point is, I accidentally fell into Sports Direct and came out with new shorts, a new sports bra and a new Nike top. All for £30. Job done.

One thing I haven't got yet is new trainers (can't really cut corners on those). I've realised that even though my current trainers are only a few months old, I really should have one pair for running and one for bootcamp, as they've already lost their support and need replacing.

I skipped down to Sweatshop Brighton last weekend to get my gait analysed (again, just to make sure I was definitely neutral), and found two potentials, so counting the days until payday to make one of these babies mine (I'm hoping the Adidas are still there as they're half the price!):

Left: Brooks Ghost 6 - £105 at Sweatshop      Right: Adidas Supernova Glide 4 - £54 in the sale at Sweatshop

I also ended up talking to a random customer about running and marathon training for over  two hours. TWO BLOODY HOURS. Just stood there amongst the technical tees and running shoes chatting pace, training, long runs, short runs, run clubs, injuries, ice baths, bad runs, good runs, the lot. The poor shop assistant gave up trying to sell me the trainers and buggered off a long time before we left. This was the weekend of Brighton Pride, when the city was buzzing and everyone was outside having a great time, and there I was talking minutes per mile.

Oh how I love talking about running. Just need to bloody do some now!

Do you have an essential kit list? What's on your shopping list for your training? 

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