Each week she’ll be sharing a post here and a video on our social media channels (@puresportsmed) so that you can follow her journey.
I call this week ‘Unknown territory’
This week my mum and I took on our longest run ever, and it will be our longest run until Comrades day. The plan was 55km, with an estimated time of 7hrs. After reading lots of advice, we have decided to take on a run/walk programme for Comrades, in the hope that it will actually get us through 90km. This involves running 10mins, walk for 1 min. The idea being that the minute walk will get your muscles working differently and give you a period of ‘rest’. The plan is to start this right from the beginning and keep my pace consistent over 12hrs. We planned the route and had 3 ‘checkpoints’ along the way where my family were waiting with extra food/water. Running long distance is both physically and mentally challenging so breaking the route down into sections definitely helped and seeing their faces was a huge energy boost.
My legs started to feel tired at about the 21km mark, but it soon passed and they felt ok again. The eating/drinking went well for 30km, relying on nibbles of cereal bars, salt and vinegar rice cakes, salty potatoes, pretzels, Torq energy bars, electrolyte drinks and S‑caps. And then…. The eating did not go so well which meant 20km of just relying on small sips of water. This is the point where I wanted to pack it all in and go home. But I persevered (with some support form my mum!) and my stomach eventually settled and I could start eating again with 5km to go. I finished the distance feeling tired but felt that I still had a bit of energy in my legs, which was a huge confidence boost.
My post-run nutrition was a pint of milk with a few scoops of instant dried milk powder (very high in protein and much cheaper than buying protein shakes), followed by an Epsom Salt bath. Then I ate all the food I could get my hands on.
I call this week ‘50 shades of red’
This week I did an 3x 1hr 20 min runs during the week and a 4hr run at the weekend.
The temperatures this week reached 27 degrees and was a massive shock to the system. Running in the heat is a whole new obstacle. So I started taking S‑caps (electrolyte capsules containing sodium and potassium) on my long run. The idea is that they provide a buffer against the acid formed during carbohydrate metabolism. Unfortunately I failed to keep up the water and apply suncream and ended up with heat exhaustion and sunburn!
Comrades temperatures are going to reach up to 26 degrees so the more I can practice running in the heat over the next 6 weeks the better. I also had a new Strength and Conditioning programme by Graham Ferris, cue the DOMS complaints.… again.…
Check out my S&C programme on instagram. Next week I take on my longest run yet!
I call this week ‘ The calm before the Storm’
This week has been my easiest week of training yet. It started with some recovery Pilates with David Johnson to work on my very tight hamstrings following Manchester Marathon. This was followed by 3 short runs — 20mins, 30mins and 40mins.
The reason why my training has reduced this week was partly due to recovery from Manchester marathon and the risk of overtraining. You can only sustain a high level of training for about 8 – 10 weeks. At this stage, as a novice, it is better to undertrain than overtrain. The last thing I want is to be standing on the start line in pain with an injury. I stole a quote from a previous comrades runner “getting over the finish line isn’t about how hard you train but how smart you train”
Since there wasn’t much to report on my running this week I decided to recap on my top tips thus far for those novices thinking of doing an ultra marathon.
Just be sure what you are committing to. It will dominate your life for the next year, and all you will think about is running (and probably have reoccurring nightmares like I do, involving forgetting my shoes and having to run The Comrades barefoot).
2. Get a good support team behind you
You will need all the support you can get from friends and family. There are many times that I have had to turn down social events, not been able to drink, or leave the party early because I know I have a long run to do. The more supportive your friends/family are the easier it is to commit to your training and get up for those early Sunday morning long runs.
3. Don’t get annoyed if you don’t always stick to your training plan
I used to get really annoyed when I didn’t complete the set runs/times in my training schedule. The fact is this would already have been factored into the training plan, sometimes life and weather (thanks to the snow) gets in the way. Take the occasional rest day or swap it for a gym session.
4. Start practising eating/drinking whilst running very early on
I used to run 2+ hours without any food or water. Which has meant that now that I need to start doing it I’ve found it really challenging. Eating food is still my biggest hurdle, so I would recommended trying lots of different foods/drinks during your training runs to see what works for you. And the big rule is don’t try anything new on race day!
5. Train with someone who is an equal pace to you
I am lucky that I get to train with my mum and we are fairly similar paces on the longer runs. It means you relax into it and you don’t panic that you are holding someone back / or get annoyed that the other person is holding you back.
6. Constantly ask for advice
I have read so many blogs, forums, chatted to people about the Comrades and learnt some interesting things I wouldn’t have even thought about. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice. I am lucky that I work with some incredible clinicians so I have constantly been asking about strength and conditioning, diet, recovery etc.
I have been very lucky so far that I haven’t had any major injuries, sure a few niggles but nothing that has stopped me running. If you are worried about some re-occurring niggles go and seek some expertise sooner rather than later. My mum has attended PSM to see Neil and Alex a few times for some ankle issues. With some great advice and gait analysis she has been able to carry on getting the long miles in.
Get properly assessed/fitted for shoes! Do not buy them online and hope for the best. Bad footwear is a recipe for injuries.
9. Get a good running watch
Running watches are great for tracking everything you could possibly need. Collecting your running data (miles, gradient, surface, cadence, etc) is very important especially if you start to notice injuries, allowing you to look back on any spikes/changes in training. I am a fan of Garmin and just upgraded to the Forerunner 735Xt and love it so far.
10. Get organised
The more organised you are the easier it is to fit in your runs. On a Sunday night I look at the training schedule for the week ahead and then compare it to my work/life schedule. If they clash then I can shuffle the training around a bit and fit the runs in elsewhere, for example bringing my running stuff to work and running home. If I have a social event at the weekend then I try and fit that run in during the week (it has meant a 30km run in the rain before work but since I was organised it wasn’t an issue at all!).
11. Enjoy the training
I always get asked if I get bored running for hours. The answer is no not really. Training with my mum just means we chat for hours on (and if you cant talk while you are running during a recovery, easy or long run then you are training too hard!) Vary your routes, pick routes with scenery, run to/home from work so you have a purpose, listen to music or podcasts.
This week I took on Manchester Marathon, one of the best marathons I have done. Very well organised and great support from the locals. Managed to go 12mins quicker than Wrexham marathon four weeks ago so pretty pleased! My hamstrings, however, seemed to give up on me so I had to stop and stretch a few times. I was very grateful that soft tissue therapist Elissa Millhouse squeezed me on Monday morning to get some much needed soft tissue work.
Apart from some sore muscles, my biggest challenge throughout this whole training process has been eating / drinking while I run (thanks to the commentators on the finish line of Manchester Marathon for highlighting where the ‘sick buckets’ were). I’ve tried lots of different types of energy bars and gels (Tribe and Torq go down well on shorter runs). Dietician Sharmain Davis gave me some good advice, making sure I stay well hydrated before I even start to eat and making sure I get 30 – 60g of carbs in per hour. Going to need to keep practising keeping food down if I’m going to be running for 12hrs!
Now that the marathons are over.… it’s time to get the slow and very very very long miles in.
Check out my vlog on Instagram @puresportsmed for an insight into this week’s training and Manchester Marathon.
I have been following the Comrades finishers programme.
The problem with training is trying to fit it in and still live a relatively normal life. This week Easter got in the way of my running plans, with a trip to Scotland already planned. This meant I had to fit my long run in during the week.
Tuesday – Strength and conditioning session, week 4/4 of my current plan set by Graham Ferris, Strength and conditioning coach. I moaned to him that I was getting too much DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness) after my sessions and it was affecting my running … Never thought I would say that! So we planned my week a bit better so that I could still fit in one strength and conditioning session and it wouldn’t affect my running.
Wednesday – 30km before work on Wednesday.… in the pouring rain…… I thought I was going to really suffer but I actually felt pretty good and legs barely felt tired.
Friday and Saturday – I traveled to Scotland for the Easter weekend and managed to fit in a 1hr run on Saturday and I 2hr run on Sunday in the beautiful (but hilly) Scottish countryside. Good job there was lots of Easter chocolate to keep me going.