Originally posted on Runner’s World

In the eleventh week of her training our Online News Ed Rhalou goes in search of inclines and company.

Rhalou and Ed Prince

Week 11 and my training plan for the Hoka Highland Fling stipulated two 35-minute tempo runs in the morning and evening on Tuesday, an interval session on Wednesday, some strength and conditioning work on Thursday, a fast 5K followed by a 25-minute cool down on Friday and a long paced run for 3:30 on the Sunday.

My training has been going remarkably well and I feel fit and strong. It really helps that the sun is out and spring is in the air. But there has been one niggle in the plan. I may feel fit as a fiddle and ready to tackle those monstrous Scottish hills, but after 11 weeks of training my ass off, I’ve also started to get a bit bored.

The lonesome long distance runner

By bored, I don’t mean fed up of running (God forbid!) I love training and the feeling it gives me, and nothing makes me happier than a long day out in the world embracing the sky. But after nearly three months of intensive training, I have started to feel lonely. I’ve listened to my favourite disco soundtrack a thousand times, dragged my usual running buddies around the block so much they’re stopped answering my calls and I feel like I could draw every pathway on Hampstead Heath in my dreams.

I have also been panicking about proper hill training and can’t keep pretending Primrose Hill is a mountain. Sadly I just don’t have the time to nip up to The Highlands and a pre race recce is not an option. Those Scots will definitely have an unfair advantage come race day. So what does a lonely southerner do when in dire need of mountainous fun? I decided to find my own elevations and head down to Box Hill to run around the North Downs Way. The problem being, left to my own devices, with my preference for shunning gadgets there was a strong chance I would get horribly lost or fall off a hill and die.

Running buddy

Thank God for Twitter. A fellow runner (who has been reading this very blog as he’s also doing the Fling) tweeted me about training, and before I knew it I had a running buddy for the weekend. It’s probably not advisable to meet total strangers off the internet in the wilderness, but I have always been very lucky. I credit Twitter with introducing me to some of my best friends from the running community.

I had an absolute ball with my new pal Ed Prince. I’m also glad I ran with a new Twitter friend, because now there will be a familiar face on race day, making the Highland Fling a bit less intimidating. We had lots in common; his wife is from where my family live in Scotland, and he was happy to run at my pace and laugh like a teenager instead of taking training very seriously. He also has a fancy watch and a keen sense of direction, dramatically reducing my chances of dying.

Thanks to my new running buddy I managed to get a long day of hill training in (Box Hill is a monster) which was great for the legs and my running confidence. Making a new friend also reminded me why I’m doing this in the first place. I love running and training makes me happy, but the real reason I put myself through insane challenges has nothing to do with sporting prowess. I know I’m never going to be particularly fast or win any prizes. I like entering crazy events for the adventures, but most importantly the amazing people I meet along the way.

If your running has hit a stalemate or your solitary runs are driving you mad, go and find a new running buddy, or Tweet me! @Rhalou I’m always up for an adventure.

 

 

 

Originally posted on Runner’s World

In the tenth week of her training our Online News Ed Rhalou experiments with ultra running fuel.

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In the tenth week of my training for the Hoka Highland Fling the repercussions of sneaking a marathon in have started to show, but not necessarily in a bad way. In the immediate 72 hours following a marathon I am usually struck with an all-consuming hunger that just won’t leave me. But since I’ve continued to train through my marathon recovery, I’ve taken the hunger with me, all week long.

It feels like there just isn’t enough food in the world to sustain me and I can never stop eating. The only time I don’t feel hungry is while I’m eating, or immediately after I’ve finished eating. The rest of the time I am like a food crazed maniac shovelling everything I can get my hands on into my gob.

This week my training plan stipulated a 45-minute easy, an interval session, some strength and conditioning work, a 75-minute easy run and a 20-miler at the weekend. Given that I’d much rather be eating than running right now, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore race day nutrition.

Ultras differ from marathons because the aim is for steady endurance as opposed to speed, so I don’t want to rely on the quick fix energy gels provide. But with a 53-mile run to contend with, it’s important to consume lots and lots of calories. The problem being, I might technically feel hungry, but I also struggle with the idea of eating real food on a long run. Like a fussy Goldilocks refusing lumpy porridge, it turns out I am a bit picky. But have you ever tried to actually eat food while you’re running? It’s not as easy as it sounds, and people in the park give you weird looks.

My diet is also restricted by the fact I’m a lifetime vegetarian. I was raised on a plant based diet by my hippy mum. No I haven’t eaten meat or fish before. Yes I know this is a bit weird. No I don’t miss it; how can you miss what you’ve never eaten? And yes it is perfectly OK to never eat meat. I’ve run five marathons and two little ultras and I’m not dead yet.

After some trial and error, I have come to the following conclusions about ultra running fuel. (Please bear in mind I am about to run a 53-mile race so eating a load of crap is sort of justified).

Food I definitely cannot eat while I run

Fig rolls – Too dry.

Sandwiches – Too heavy.

Sweets – Too sickly.

Boiled eggs – No idea why I ever thought eggs were a good idea.

Hummus – This is a disaster. I LOVE hummus. But the garlicky lingering after taste is deeply distracting.

Food I can eat while I run

Snickers bars – Why they changed the name from Marathon to Snickers I will never know. They are perfect long run fuel. I could eat a whole party bag.

Salt and vinegar crisps – But only if consumed at the same time as aforementioned Snickers. On their own they are too dry and salty.

Cold pizza – The same theory that applies to hangovers works for ultra fueling. Any time, any place, any where, I will happily eat cold pizza. Give it to me in the rain, give it to me in the dark, give it to me right now. I love cold pizza.

Chocolate eggs – Sweets are too sickly but for some inexplicable reason, choc eggs are great. Especially the really gooey ones. This is just as well, as it’s Easter and they’re in all the shops.

Jaffa cakes – The little cakey biscuity discs of joy are just the right amount of squidgy and I could eat them all day long. In fact I have been. I keep eating them on my rest days and wondering why my running tights don’t fit.

As you can see my extensive race day nutrition is far from healthy and the search for the perfect running fuel continues. What do you lot eat? Let me know, I’d love to hear your race day nutrition tips. Find me on Twitter. @Rhalou

Originally posted on Runner’s World

In the ninth week of her training our Online News Ed Rhalou struggles with imposter syndrome.

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After nine weeks of training like a bat out of hell, I am now well over the halfway mark for the The Hoka Highland Fling. In many ways the past two and a bit months have gone by in a flash. Despite putting the miles in and starting to feel like an ultra robot, the concept of effectively running a double marathon in the mountains in seven weeks’ time is still overwhelming. No matter how many miles I run, I often struggle to shake the feeling that I’m winging it and not really supposed to be here, otherwise known as imposter syndrome

I’m at the stage where a 60-minute run feels like a sprint compared to all the long runs I’ve been doing and my speed has definitely picked up from regular interval sessions. But last week I was still haunted by the fear of rocking up to the start line in Scotland and being laughed at by bona fide ultra runners. ‘Who do you think you are?’ The demons in my head whisper. ‘You’re just a flaky city chick, you’re not supposed to be here.’

Training run

Last week my training plan stipulated a 45-minute easy run, a speed session, some strength and conditioning work, a 40-minute easy run and then a half marathon at race pace on the weekend. But being a reckless soul as I said in last week’s blog, I ignored my training plan (and the demons in my head) and flew to Palma to run the 261 Women’s Marathon. I deliberately didn’t taper as I was taking it as a training run, so I enjoyed a couple of glorious sea front runs and then even let myself have a few drinks the night before race day. In my head it was important to treat the event as just a normal long run rather than a race, as I didn’t want to injure or over extend myself only seven weeks before the big day.

A real runner

I am delighted to say that my laissez faire approach to training paid off and the 261 Women’s Marathon was a dream come true. I won’t go into too much detail as a race report is coming soon, but I didn’t look at the clock once, skipped round in the sunshine feeling like a real runner and somehow managed to bag a 12-minute PB in 04:29. The race not only cemented my passion for running, but reignited my confidence in myself and my ability to run the Fling. I have no doubt in my mind now that although I won’t be breaking any course records, I am a legitimate runner and I will finish that race if it kills me.

When faced with a challenge, you have to believe in yourself. No one out there really gives a toss whether I finish this race or not and the demons don’t exist; the rest of the world are too busy thinking about their own lives. The only person imposing an imposter syndrome upon myself is me. Thanks to the 261 Women’s Marathon and nine weeks of solid training I have new found confidence and can’t wait to prove (to myself) what I am capable of. Bring on the Fling, I am ready for you!

Follow me on Twitter  @Rhalou for training updates, silly jokes and conversations about the weather.

 

Originally posted on Runner’s World

In the eighth week of her training our Online News Ed Rhalou rebels and mixes up her training plan.

261 Women's Marathon Palma

Week eight of my training plan for the The Hoka Highland Fling stipulated a 35-minute run, a couple of interval sessions, some strength and conditioning work and a 22-miler at the weekend.

Despite trying extremely hard to stick rigidly to the plan, I’m going to have to come clean and admit that I made an executive decision to mess with my training plan for my own gain. I’m off to run the 261 Womens Marathon in Palma, Mallorca next weekend because my colleague Annie couldn’t make it, and running 22 miles the week before seemed like a bonkers idea. So I ignored my training plan and ran a half marathon distance instead. I really hope the running Gods don’t strike me down with great vengeance and furious anger.

On the plus side, running an impromptu marathon is an excellent dummy run for the main event and has reminded me just how neurotic I can be in the run up to race day. In the last few days I have self-diagnosed flu, gastroenteritis, Ebola and a broken foot. Who knows what ‘maranoia’ I will have to look forward to for the full 53-mile race. I suspect I am due some life threatening illnesses.

But pre-race neurosis aside, this little wobble in my training schedule has highlighted the importance of being flexible and remembering to live my own life. At first I felt wracked with guilt and convinced something untoward would happen if I didn’t stick rigidly to the plan. Over the past eight weeks I have come to realise that training plans are a great tool for progression and provide a useful structure. However, after careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that feeling relaxed and happy when I rock up to the start line in April is considerably more important.

There are no laws about running ultra marathons. From stinking colds to impromptu marathons, you never know what life is going to throw at you in the in the run up to race day. As long as you put in the majority of your training, everything is going to be OK. Beating yourself up and agonising over the details is not a constructive way to spend your time.

So to that end I’m off to Palma to throw caution to the wind and celebrate International Women’s Day surrounded by amazing female runners. Skipping around Spain is going to be a far cry from scrabbling over the West Highland Way, but what the hell, it’s still miles on my feet. Wish me luck! @Rhalou

 

 

Originally posted on Runner’s World

In the seventh week of her training our Online News Ed Rhalou gets a stinking cold and tries to focus on prehabilitation.

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Inevitably with any dedicated training plan, there’s going to be a week where the wheels fall off, things don’t go to plan and you’re forced to reassess your tactics. For me this was last week when, seven weeks into my training plan for The Hoka Highland Fling and nine weeks away from race day, I got a stinking cold. Although a runny nose and a sore throat are nothing to write home about, it can have a devastating affect on confidence and throw your race strategy out of whack. Fortunately I was struck by the lurgy on a relatively easy week, so I only missed a couple of medium sized runs and a bit of speed work.

Having suffered with an infected wisdom tooth a fortnight before The Istanbul Marathon and flu before The Edinburgh Half and still managing to bag a PB at both events, I should know by now that a little cold is nothing to worry about. But it got me thinking about the importance of rest and looking after myself, so I compiled a list of ways to make sure I’m in good shape in the lead up to a big race.

Sleep

It’s an obvious one but an important one; I try to get lots of sleep. I don’t just mean going to bed early. I try not to look at my phone an hour before bedtime, and I sleep with it outside of the bedroom. It makes the world of difference to my sleep quality and encourages me to read more books.

Sports massage

The first thing we do when we get a twinge or God forbid a serious injury is book an appointment with a physio or sports masseuse, completely ignoring the old adage that prevention is better than cure. This year I’ve been trying to practice prehabilitation, by getting regular massages as an MOT as opposed to a quick fix. It’s not only great for overworked muscles, but hearing a professional tell you in person that your body is in good working order also provides a reassuring confidence boost.

Hobby time

When you’re running crazy miles, it’s extremely easy to forget who you really are and start to feel like you’re a running machine. I try and fit in at least one night a week where I do something that has absolutely nothing to do with running. As my career and the majority of my social life is based around my favourite sport, this can be a bit tricky. But switching off and focusing on something completely different is integral for keeping me sane. For me it involves cooking for friends, making stuff (I secretly love to sew, don’t laugh) reading and hanging out with my girlfriends. During this time I consciously try not to talk or think about running and it definitely gives me some much needed head space.

Eschew booze

This one sucks a bit, as I love a drink. But when you’re trying to focus on your performance (and the aforementioned snooze time) booze is the first thing that has to go. A couple of months before race day I try to stop mid week drinking and cut it out altogether in the final weeks. It means I usually get utterly plastered post race, but that’s all part of the fun!

What do you do to make sure you’re in good shape for race day? Tweet me your #prehabilitation tips@Rhalou and if anyone has a cure for the common cold, I would love to hear from you.