This September and October, I’ll be running two tough races, three weeks apart: the inaugural Ring of Steall Skyrace and then Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon. Every week, I’ll be reflecting on my training – what worked, what didn’t, changes made, fueling, diet, sleep.. everything.
What I learned this week:
- You can think outside of the box when it comes to mid-race fuel for long distance trail runs and ultras. It doesn’t have to be typical energy gels or chews – which for me, get sickening very quickly – it can be actual food that you can eat on the go and carry in your pack. This week, I bought a bunch of higher carb, paleo-ish, real food options to experiment with during long trail runs: dried mango, dried mixed fruit (mango, pineapple, coconut), Bounce protein energy balls (roasted almond), Kallo organic milk chocolate-covered rice cakes, gluten-free pretzels (super high carb and salty!), Nakd salted caramel bites.
- I could take an easy week because I had already had a few training weeks under my belt, (though not all have been blogged about), and because I have a huge hill run planned for week 3, so I needed to save my legs a bit.
- A hill running tip from my friend Dee, who is like a mountain goat when it comes to running up huge hills: she makes it straight to the top! She said to keep your torso straight up and down, pump the arms, small steps and just shut out the pain, the toll. I can do all of that, apart from the shutting out – I’m working on that.
This year I’ll be running the two most challenging races of my life so far:
- The Ring of Steall Skyrace: a 16 mile trail and sky race summiting and running along the ridges of four Scottish munros. The race has a total altitude gain of 8200 feet (or 2500m), and is the most dangerous trail and hill running I’ll probably ever do. This race takes place Saturday, 17th
- The Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon: my very first marathon, on the 9th of October. I’ll be running it with my Primal Eye boss and blog friend Georgie from Greens of the Stone Age.
With fifteen weeks until the Ring of Steall and eighteen weeks until the marathon, training needs to start now. I am shitting myself. There is so much – too much – to think about for these races. On top of the usual day-to-day work to-do list, meal planning and prepping, and trying to be a free-lance writer, most of my thinking has been focused on these races and my many complications involved with them. These complications, or worries, are pretty stressing, and I’m making my way through each one, trying to find a solution.
Over a month ago, I ran the Glacier Energy 15 mile trail race around Balmoral Estate. I wish I could write that the race was amazing and that I got a new personal course record. I wish I could tell you that racing in my Inov-8’s went smoothly and will set me up well for Ring of Steall training. Finally, I wish I could write a timelier, proper race recap, but instead lots of living and weekly Primal Eye deadlines made that difficult. So here I am, a month on, having done a lot of thinking and learning along the way.
Race goodies + my cat photobomb
In short, the Balmoral Trail Race didn’t go nearly as well as it did last year. I had hoped to best my 2:28:47 result from last year, knocking minutes off my time as I’ve (slightly arrogantly) grown accustom to, but that just didn’t happen. My time was instead 2:30:57, and rather than running the entire race and all of its hills, like I did last year, I stopped to walk a few times, especially during the last few hills. My feet hurt (real bad!) and my calves were so tight, and I finished the race with a huge blister on sole of my foot, below my big toe. I confess, I whimpered as well.
As a teacher I can’t help use this comparison to describe me at the moment. I am here, although I haven’t been here on this blog for a bit. Life has gotten in the way: many deadlines for the magazine that have now passed, lots of time with friends and family, work is easing off and we’re nearing our next holiday; now I finally feel I have the energy, motivation and space in my head to compose a blog post.
A lot has happened since I last touched down here.
Work has gotten so much better. I don’t feel I’m missing out anymore and I feel far more settled. I really enjoy my job and working with primary children again, but part of me will always love working with teenagers.
I ran a few races this year but didn’t do any recaps. Truth be told, I find recaps a chore to write, and feel there’s only a certain window of time afterwards where it’s acceptable to write about a race. Weeks and months later aren’t acceptable to me. In January, my running club had four teams entered in the Devil’s Burden relay race, a 4-leg off-road race of trail running, fell running and navigation. Some legs required two people to run them because there was much navigation required. My leg was all fell running: up a steep, big hill without a designated trail, and back down the other side. It was 5 km and a 900+ foot climb. You get the idea.
I ran up that… and by ‘ran’ I mean walked. I walked up that. Quickly.
This past week on my Instagram account, I posted a series of running tips describing strategies I use to help with race recovery. Last week, I ran the Glen Clova Half Marathon, and my recovery started immediately after the race. If you’re looking for ways to help promote recovery, stave off illness and prevent injury, but you missed my Instagram series (or you’re not even on Instagram) don’t worry: here they are.
When you’ve got a bit to say about a lot.
….all the beet(root), all the time. I just can’t get enough of it! I buy organic beets from Tesco (which are on special this week for a £1), then toss them in olive oil, sea salt and pepper, and roast in the oven at 200’C (almost 400’F) for 50-55 minutes. These get eaten immediately, and always in a salad. I’ve got two salad recipes for beets, which I’ll hopefully post in the next few weeks, as these delicious and nutritious root vegetables are currently in season.
“Ireland is the same as Scotland, just different accents,” was what someone from running club told me leading up to our annual summer, ferry+camping holiday.
I confess, before I went to Ireland, I didn’t know much about it. What I did know was through the literature of Roddy Doyle and Frank McCourt, so I guess you could say I was familiar with working class, Irish colloquialisms, the damp and the drink 😉 I kinda knew about the history between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and of the sectarianism. I also know that Ireland has a great rugby team. Other than that, nothing more. So much so that I had to ask Miriam at Paleoirish two very burning questions:
- Do they drive on the same side of the road as the UK? (yes)
- Do they have the same power sockets as the UK? (yes)
After having finished an extremely stressful term at work and running to a new, sub-2hr half marathon PB, I didn’t really spend much time thinking about and anticipating our holiday. I went into it having no expectations whatsoever. This was good thing.
When I was little, I loved the book Three Days on a River In a Red Canoe by Vera B. Williams. One line that sticks out to me to this day from that book was something we did much of in both Ireland and Scotland: we drove. We drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove and drove. It felt like we drove all day!
We drove across Scotland to Cairnryan, and stayed the night in our tiny tent, in the rain and wind. I was tired from the half marathon and hating the hassle of having my stuff all over the car. I literally was not a happy camper.
The next day, we sailed two hours to Larne in Northern Ireland, which is just north of Belfast. Someone recommended to Pat that we take the coastal route up to the Giant’s Causeway, and we did. It was so beautiful!
We arrived late in the day at the Giant’s Causeway, in the low cloud and drizzling rain. This was to be a theme throughout our holiday.
Sunday, I was listening to the episode 71 of the Primal Blueprint podcast, an interview with big wave surfer Laird Hamilton, done by Mark Sisson. Two pretty impressive names in fitness. Two memorable messages stuck with me from that episode: train smarter, not harder, and approaching training more holistically. I found this last message most important because it perfectly describes my current approach to training for the Stonehaven Half Marathon.
I’ve been harbouring a secret from you all for over a month now. As some of you know, I have aspirations of becoming a writer and taking paleo and primal eating, and nutritional advice, to the next level. Last month, I took it. I got a job as a resident freelance writer for Primal Eye Magazine, the UK’s first paleo magazine, writing in the categories of fitness and health. I have deadlines to meet every other weekend. You may have noticed the blog is a tad more food-oriented and otherwise quiet lately; this is because I’ve been putting my efforts into creating great content for the magazine. Some ideas I’ve had to write about on the blog will go on the magazine instead, but I will link up all of those posts for your reading pleasure.
The magazine is full of talented, UK based paleo writers. There are some pretty big names, that I know only from Instagram, that write for the magazine. I’m feel privilged to be among them. Currently, the magazine is only online, but it is hoped to be in print by autumn.
Today is special because my first article has been posted! And it’s one that’s been forming in my head for a while. It’s called Paleo + Running, and discusses how paleo is possible for runners of all distances, as well as provides guidance on what to expect when becoming a paleo runner. Click here to read the full article.
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And yes, I’m still teaching full time, for now 🙂
This weekend is my big Balmoral race weekend. Saturday, I will run the 10km race – a race I’ve run the past two years to dismal results. Sunday, I will run the 15 mile trail race; this will be the longest distance I’ll run to date. I set myself this challenge because I wanted to test my current fitness level, but also because I didn’t want to wait another year to run one of the races. Why not just do both?