(Pregnant) Life Is A Rollercoaster

Today, I am just having what I guess you can call ‘one of those days’.

The day started off well. I woke up and felt motivated to do an early morning home workout (I had planned to do this but there have been many days where I have chose to turn the alarm off and stay in bed instead!) so before I had a chance to change my mind I got out of bed, got dressed and headed downstairs.

I planned out what I was going to do, put a good playlist on (very important!) and began the workout. Well, almost straight away I knew something didn’t feel quite right. Almost as soon as I started moving I felt really lightheaded & dizzy, and my heart rate felt like it had gone sky high.  I finished off the exercise (squats) I was doing and then paused for a moment and took on some water to see if that helped. Luckily, I felt a bit better so I decided to carry on. I attempted the next exercise (modified burpees) and that did not go well. Again, pretty much as soon as I started the dizziness came back and I just felt really out of breath. I sat down, took on some water and decided to call it a day.

At first I felt frustrated, but then realised I had made a big mistake in not having anything to eat before I started to exercise. I used to do fasted exercise all the time before I was pregnant, and have even done it a couple of times since but today, my body was having none of it.

It was a big reminder of how different things are now, and that certain things that were easy before are now the complete opposite, some days even going for a walk can knacker me out! But don’t worry, I am not beating myself up about it at all, and I do keep telling myself that my body is already working hard enough to grow a baby and keep it healthy, and that anything extra I do is just a bonus.

I can’t really explain it, but then for the rest of the day I just felt a bit ‘ weird’ and something didn’t feel quite right. I felt super tired, hormonal, constantly hungry and kept getting dizzy spells. I think it knocked me more than usual as I thought I was over this rubbishy bit – after feeling pretty lousy for most of my 1st trimester I was finally feeling more energised and like my old self, then bam I woke up today and felt like I had gone back in time. But again, it was just a big old reminder of how pregnancy is a rollercoaster, and until the day starts you never really know how you are going to feel.

What I am also learning, is that pregnancy is a completely unique journey, and no two are the same. I have spoken to friends, read forums, books etc and everyones experiences are different;

Some women feel completely rotten for their entire first trimester, others don’t even know they are pregnant.

Some women can still run marathons when they are pregnant, some women can’t exercise at all due to exhaustion.

Some women absolutely love being pregnant, and some women really struggle for the entire time.

But as long as you are doing YOUR best, listening to YOUR body, and YOU and YOUR baby are healthy, that is all that really matters.

So if you are reading this and feeling the same, please just go easy on yourself & make sure you listen to your body even more than before. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place to push yourself during a workout, but when you are growing a tiny human that it certainly not one of them!

I really wanted to have a productive & energetic day today.  I wanted to do my home workout and then go for a run later for my daily outside exercise, but right now.. as I am writing this with my feet up on the sofa, I really don’t feel like doing much else (apart from maybe bake some cookies!) So I am just going to take the pressure completely off and see how I feel later, and if all I can manage is a walk, then so be it. And I will try again tomorrow!

Lots of love

Jordan xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Pregnancy Journey… So Far!

I think like most women (well, those that want to have children) at some point I had thought about what I would be like when I was pregnant. And of course, my perfectionist brain kicked in and I thought I would do everything by the book.

I would eat all the right things.

I would do all the right exercises

I would have a perfect little bump and not gain weight anywhere else. 

I would be rational and enjoy every second of my pregnancy.

Well, let me tell you, pretty much all of these things went out the window after we found out the news.

I found out I was pregnant when I was just over 4 weeks, and apart from the tiredness, I pretty much felt normal! I cut back on intense exercise straight away but I was still running & going to the gym regularly, but already the enjoyment was fading and motivation was disappearing even quicker.

I think the main reason for this is because I have always exercised to train for something. Every run had a purpose, as did every gym session. I was always working towards something – whether it was a PB, or to run further than before, or to lose weight. Whereas literally over night, that all changed. I was no longer training, I was just exercising to stay healthy, and although that should have been motivation enough, I did find it really hard to motivate myself to get out and go.

I definitely felt the pressure on social media too before we announced the news. I had always shared my training & been open & honest about how it was going and how I was feeling, but now I had to keep this massive secret and try to make up excuses as to why I wasn’t running much or racing, which was really tough. Nobody ever questioned me outright, but in my head I thought everyone would notice something was up and wonder why I wasn’t training like I used to (chances are, nobody cared, let alone even noticed!) 

I have always had a good appetite, so really it was no surprise that this continued into my pregnancy! I wasn’t eating for two as such, but I was just hungry ALL THE TIME and eating was pretty much the only thing that stopped me feeling nauseous 24/7 between weeks 6-10.

Ohhhhh that lovely pregnancy nausea. I read something online that really made me laugh, and it was that a man had clearly come up with the term morning sickness, because only someone that never suffered it would call it that! My nausea kicked in at about 6 1/2 weeks. I was never sick, but just felt constantly nauseas pretty much from the moment I woke up until I went to bed. It was pretty grim – and alongside that was the metallic taste in my mouth, and excessive saliva (pregnancy is SO glam!) so to help with this, I was constantly snacking, as that was the only thing that really helped.

Unfortunately, the foods that helped the most were good old stodgy, plain carbs – so things like crisps, bread, crackers, biscuits were my go to. Which was great for the nausea, not so good for my waistline!

I didn’t really weigh myself during the early stages, mainly because I didn’t want to get obsessive but I knew early on I gained weight. Now I am not being hard on myself – I know some of this was was pregnancy bloat (which is also very real, some days by the time I went to bed I looked 6 months pregnant!) but some of it was quite simply that I was still maintaining quite a high calorie diet, but not burning it off during exercise.

Clothes started getting tighter pretty quickly, I didn’t want to splash out on new clothes before I really needed to (and plus I was going to get a lot bigger anyway!) so I pretty much lived in leggings, sports wear & baggy jumpers for my first trimester. I did cave and get some maternity jeans though (which are so bloody comfy!)

I will be honest, I didn’t exactly feel great about myself. I didn’t have that pregnancy glow,  I didn’t look pregnant. I just felt frumpy,  bloated & uncomfortable. I was starting to get really nervous about how I would feel when I actually got a proper bump and got even bigger!

When I started to tell a few close friends & family that I was pregnant, a lot of them all said the same thing

‘Oh you will have such a cute little bump’ 

‘I bet you will be one of those people that doesn’t put weight on anywhere else’ 

Now I know that they were said with the best intentions, but that already made me feel pressured that I should stay slim during pregnancy, and just have the ‘perfect’ bump, and already making me feel ashamed that I had gained some early pregnancy weight.

This is also where the comparison monster came out to play – I spent A LOT of time on the internet in these first couple of months. Whether that was researching in general about pregnancy, picking out future outfits and bedroom furniture, or just stalking pregnant women or young mums on Instagram and already comparing myself to how they looked, or that they looked like they were doing the whole pregnancy thing better than me.

Since we announced the news, everyone has been so lovely and supportive and its been so nice chatting to other mums and mums to be that are on the same journey as me. One thing I have been asked a lot already though is if I am still running a lot – and the truth is, at the moment, no I am not.

I think again I put this pressure on myself that everyone would expect me to be some sort of super human pregnant woman still bashing out 50+ mile weeks and running marathons (if they were still going ahead) but the truth is, I just haven’t really felt like running, so I haven’t been, and thats totally fine, especially with everything else going on in the world right now.

I am hoping that over the next few weeks when my energy levels pick back up I will get out there some more, but right now I am just enjoying walking and as we are only allowed out once a day, I would much rather do something I enjoy then force myself out for a run!

I am going to get back to blogging more regularly now, and I am looking forward to sharing all the highs & lows with my pregnancy journey, and if there is anything in particular you would like me to write about, then please pop it in the comments below!

Love

Jordan (& the bump!) xxxx

 

 

 

 

Taking a step back, to move forward…

Hello!

Well, it has certainly be a while hasn’t it? Once again I have let my blogging slip – a mixture of work, general life and then perhaps not being ready to talk about things has got in the way, but I know that in the past, when I have opened up and shared how I am feeling, not only has it helped me to feel better, I know it has helped others to, so.. here goes!

Let’s start with the positives. It is safe to say that 2018 & 2019 were two of the most life changing, incredible & exciting years of my life. I achieved my dream running goals, I set up my own business, I went on incredible trips and I moved to London! I will be honest, I felt like I had made it. I was busy all the time, saying yes to everything and throwing myself into work, training & events 100% – life was great! Now again, I get it.. you may be reading this and think ‘okay so what has she got to moan about’ and I completely understand, because I would probably say the same if I was reading this about someone else, but just bear with me.  And I am not for one second saying I am not grateful for everything that has happened over the last 18 months, but it has come at a cost, and it has started to have a negative effect my mental health.

Last year I opened up about some of the problems I was dealing with behind closed doors – missing periods, REDs and subsequently burning out ahead of the London Marathon, and although I spoke about it, I didn’t really do anything about it. Instead, my answer to burning out was to sign up to ultra marathons instead (good one Jordan!) and again, for a little while this seemed to be working – I was enjoying training again, I was doing well, I got my periods back (wohoo!) but then again, the same issues started to crop up, but this time everything felt that bit worse.

Things hit a low point once I got back from Jordan. At first I just put it down as post event blues, and the fact my body perhaps just needed that bit of extra time to recover, but weeks (and now months) have passed, and I am still not right. Now I don’t think that all my problems are because of this, but I think it was the straw that broke the camels back so to speak and that event, combined with everything else over the last 18 months has just pushed me that little bit too far, and it feels like all of the plates I am spinning are starting to fall one by one.

It really hit me last week, when my 16 week London Marathon Training Plan kicked off. Usually this is what I live for, I love having a plan to follow and working towards a goal, but this time around.. I just felt empty or when I did think about it, I was dreading it. And again this made me feel even worse as I just felt like a fraud and a failure. It is my job to help people train for marathons & to motivate them, yet here I am unable to motivate myself!

I am not ashamed to admit that I have spoken to my GP as I was really starting to feel concerned about the state of my mental health & how it was affecting my day to day life (and just a side note –  I am so grateful for our amazing NHS that we are able to do this!) and after I explained everything that has happened over the last 18 months and how I was feeling, they were confident that what I am experiencing is a Burn Out.

It made complete sense, and something I had realised almost a year ago, but instead of doing anything about it, I just brushed it under the carpet and thought that because I wasn’t training for a fast marathon anymore all my problems would go away, but it was so much more than that. It was pretty much everything – work & being self employed, training hard, racing hard, trying to keep up with social media, events, big life changes, always feeling like I had to be ON – it’s been physically, emotionally and mentally draining, and it is having an effect on all aspects of my life – sleep, diet, motivation & more recently my general day to day mood.

So the question is, where do I go from here?! Because I have learnt the hard way that this isn’t just something you can just pretend isn’t happening and hope it goes away, I will need to actively work on different areas of my life to get me back to feeling my best.

Last week I shared my goals for 2020, and these alongside some others are what I am going to focus on to help me feel better. It may mean that I need to make some sacrifices along the way, it may mean that I miss some big events, but I have finally accepted that this is okay if it means my mental health improves and that I will still be running in 20 years time, rather than breaking myself now and packing it all in for good.

  • SLEEP SLEEP SLEEP
  • Say NO to things
  • Make daily to do lists with achievable tasks and tick it off throughout the day
  • Drink less coffee & more water
  • Run & go to the gym when I want to, not because I feel I have to
  • See my friends more
  • Read More/Listen to Audiobooks/Podcasts
  • Spend less time on my phone/social media
  • Set myself stricter working hours
  • Get back to cooking more in the evenings
  • Open up more to those people that are close to me
  • Remember that is okay to have an off day and be a bit grumpy from time to time!
  • And also remember that it is okay to mess up now and then and I am not a failure for doing so!

So there we have it, not quite the start to 2020 I wanted, but in a way I am pleased that I have realised this now and can hopefully still do something about it. I haven’t made a final decision about whether I am still going to run the London Marathon, but I have decided that I am only going to do it if I really want to, not because I feel like I have to.

Finally, you never really know what someone is going through unless they chose to open up, so always just be kind. Poor mental health can affect anyone. And it isn’t just crying yourself to sleep and staying in bed all day.  So please just remember;

Someone can be happy, and struggle with poor mental health 

Someone can have a good job, and struggle with poor mental health.

Someone can be in a happy relationship, and struggle with poor mental health.

Someone could have everything you ever wanted, and struggle with poor mental health.

If you made it this far, thank you for reading my rambles! And as always, although I may not have all the answers, my inbox is always open is anyone needs a chat.

Lots of love

Jordan xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Altitude Centre

So it is safe to say I have been pretty busy recently! Rewind to a year ago, I was a slave to the road, chasing faster marathon times and not really making much time for anything else. I have spoken quite a lot now about how I have lost the love for chasing times and I have now fallen into the world of trail, ultras & mountain running! Back in June I took on perhaps my biggest challenge to date, a 60km mountain run as part of the Adidas Infinite Trails Race.

As much as I love living in London, unfortunately it can make training for a mountain race quite difficult, yes we have some pretty tasty hills but it isn’t quite the same and there are so many other factors to think about, including altitude. Races that are altitude are a completely different ball game, once you reach a certain level of altitude (approx 2700m) the percentage of oxygen in the air drops significantly (from around 21% at sea level, to 15%) which will have a big affect on how your body uses oxygen when you run and means that you will feel like you have to work harder than usual, but not necessarily seeing this reflected in your pace/times.

On the short notice I had for Infinite Trials, I wanted to make sure I was doing everything I could to get ready, and after reaching out, I was very fortunate that The Altitude Centre invited me along to their clinic in Bank, London to use their facilities and help me to prepare. I have no doubt that the sessions I did made a difference and not only helped me to adapt to altitude better, but also helped to improve my aerobic endurance in general. I was in there 5/6 days a week, taking part in classes, recovery cycles and using the POD to expose my body to different altitudes. I will be honest, it wasn’t the most structured plan, but I was just doing what I could in a short space of time, however.. we have partnered up again, and this time we have more time to prepare and have put a proper plan in place!

If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen that recently I announced my next challenge for 2019, and that is that in October I will be heading to Jordan (#JordanInJordan) to take on my first multistage, 250km ultramarathon with Ultra X. Now, although I will not be climbing mountains or running at altitude, there have been a number of studies done now about how training at altitude can have a significant improvement on your overall aerobic fitness. This is why Olympic athletes spend months of their training blocks at altitude camps, so they can reap the benefits when they are back at sea level.. but unfortunately for most of us we don’t have the time or money to disappear off for weeks at a time, which is where The Altitude Centre comes in!

So, this week after a well deserved break post Infinite Trails & Race to the Stones, I headed back to the centre to get a plan put in place, which hopefully alongside all my other training will get me in the best shape possible ahead of my next challenge. Unfortunately as with all good plans, you need to know where your starting point is, which meant for my first session back I had to do a fitness test, GREAT!

 

To begin with, we ran through a series of health tests (you know, to make sure I wasn’t going to keel over on the treadmill) 

**Full Disclosure – I am still in recovery from my last two ultra marathons, I know that my body is tired, my HR is higher than usual on runs and my fitness levels have dropped. So perhaps if I had done the test when I was fully fit, the results would have been slightly different, however this is where I am at currently so its still a good base to work from**

Health Test Results

Blood Pressure 

Systolic blood pressure: 132 mmHG – Pre-Hypertensive 

Diastolic blood pressure: 79 mmHG –  Optimal 

Systollic – Pre-Hypertensive: Systolic blood pressure represents the highest blood pressure your system is exposed to. As such, NHS guidelines recommend systolic blood pressure should be under 120 mmHg. Your blood pressure, as measured today was higher than optimal, known as pre-hypertensive. Whilst this could be transiently caused by stress or caffeine** , you may wish to have this checked by a medical professional. Remember that at altitude, it is likely your blood pressure will rise further due to the low availability of oxygen. 

Diastollic – Optimal: Diastolic blood pressure represents the blood pressure when your heart rests between beats. As such, it is the lowest blood pressure your body is exposed to, and NHS guidelines recommend diastolic blood pressure should be under 80 mmHg. Your blood pressure, as measured today, falls within the optimal category. Continue to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Remember that at altitude, it is likely your blood pressure will rise due to the low availability of oxygen.

**definitely blaming the caffeine, whoops!

Resting Heart Rate During your blood pressure test, we also measured your resting heart rate. Today, your resting heart rate was: 

78 bpm Normal 

Normal: Generally a low resting heart rate is a good sign of high fitness. Following a block of altitude training your resting heart rate will fall as your fitness increases. A heart rate under 60 bpm is called Bradycardia, or “Athlete’s Heart” and is a sign of good fitness. Your resting heart rate measurement today was in a normal range.

Breath Hold Response

You were able to hold your breath for:  51s

Very good: the breath hold test is used to assess your tolerance to carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. A very good result indicates that you are very tolerant. Those who can hold their breath for over 45 s following an exhalation are said to be in very good health, and this indicates you breath well. Continue to breath from the diaphragm.

Fitness Test

Then it was on the the fun (I use this word loosely) part, the fitness test! There were two parts to this, and involved two identical tests on a treadmill, with the only difference being one was at sea level, the other at altitude.

As my goal for Ultra X Jordan is not speed, the aim of this test (and my future training) will be to see if we can make any improvements to my aerobic endurance, so thankfully I didn’t have to run at a max speed, instead a comfortably hard speed.. with some inclines thrown in too. The test was a basic ramp test, the aim was to be able to keep the treadmill at the same speed, and then every two minutes increase the incline by 1% for 12 minutes. During this time my Heart Rate & sp02 (Blood Oxygen Saturation) were both monitored and recorded throughout.

Normoxic Test (Sea Level) 

Screenshot 2019-08-07 15.45.42

Hypoxia Test (Altitude)

Screenshot 2019-08-07 15.45.57

Screenshot 2019-08-07 15.46.37

Average difference in heart rate between sea level & altitude (bpm): 6

Maximum difference in heart rate between sea level & altitude (bpm): 9

Screenshot 2019-08-07 15.51.01

Average difference in spO2% between sea level & altitude: -11

Maximum difference in spO2%  between sea level & altitude: -13

During the test, altitude had a modest effect on your spO2. This indicates that you have good oxygen efficiency, and that even where is little oxygen available to you, you are able to extract it from the air and get it into the blood to your working muscles. You will still benefit from training at high altitude and from intermitted hypoxic exposure to further improve your efficiency with oxygen, and in turn your performance. 

Strength Tests 

After the treadmill run, I then did two basic Strength Tests – Glute/Hamstring Bridge & Wall Sit – in my opinion I think this was a little mean to make me do after the treadmill runs, or that is the excuse I am using anyway that my results weren’t great!

Undertaking strength training at altitude has been show to result in greater increases in strength than the same training at sea level. This will be reassessed during my retest in 6 weeks time and hopefully we will see that my strength has improved alongside my endurance, and therefore making me a stronger, more resilient runner.

Glute/Ham Bridge

Weight: 10kg

Time Held: 75s

Wall Sit

Weight: 10kg

Time Held: 57s

I now have 8 full weeks until I fly out to Jordan (minus 1 week where I will actually be in the mountains when I head to Chamonix for UTMB week!)  To maximise my results, I am planning on training at the centre 3 times a week, with a combination of classes, POD sessions and doing recovery runs/cycles in the chamber.

I will be posting regular updates on my Instagram page, and once I have had my retest at the beginning of October I will share my results in another blog post, and fingers crossed… it will show some improvement!

If you are currently training for an event at altitude, or perhaps just want to explore how it can help your training in general, then head to the website by clicking here and booking either a consultation with the team, or straight onto a class!

And if you use my code PMG15 you will receive 15% of any of the products & services they offer.

Jordan xx

**Sessions have been gifted as part of ongoing partnership with The Altitude Centre.

 

 

 

Ultramarathon Tips & Tricks

Let’s rewind quickly back to March/April time this year. I was in the final weeks of marathon training ahead of the London Marathon, and I was just not enjoying it at all. I was really honest on the lead up that I was struggling with the training block, a combination of burning out earlier in the year and putting a lot of pressure on myself to get a PB meant that running just wasn’t giving me the same joy any more. I knew that I needed to give myself a break from the mental strain of marathon training after London, I didn’t want a break from running as such, but a break from constantly worrying about times & pace… so clearly signing up for two ultra marathons in two weeks was the logical thing to do! First up was the epic Adidas Infinite Trails, and then just this last weekend I completed my first non-stop 100k Ultra marathon at Race to The Stones (race review coming soon!)

When I announced my plans on Instagram, I got asked a lot of questions and it was mainly how I was going to train for the events and how it would differ from marathon training. So I thought would put together a post with the most popular questions, what I have learnt over the past 8 weeks, and everything in between!

The Boring Part

Now, I hate to be that boring person but as a running coach, I have to give the sensible advice first. If you are considering running an ultra marathon, please please please understand the challenge you are taking on. Whether its a 50k, 100k or a 100 miler – it will be a HUGE effort on your body, and going into it under prepared will not only mean you probably won’t enjoy it as much as it will be even harder than usual, but you are also risking potentially seriously injuring yourself and putting yourself out of the running game for a long time.

Ultra marathons are not for everyone. Not everyone will enjoy them, or have the desire to do one, and that’s absolutely fine (and that’s the same with marathons, half marathons, 5ks etc) We all have different things we want to achieve with our running and just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you have to as well!

You don’t have to have run a marathon to do an ultra, but in my opinion it certainly helps! Marathon training is hard work, and if you have already followed a marathon training plan you will have a better understanding of how training for longer distances work, and it will also give you a great base to build upon.

If for some reason you want to skip the marathon and head straight to the world of ultras, thats fine but just make sure you give yourself long enough to prepare and can sensibly increase your mileage week on week. The length of the training plan will obviously be determined by what distance and your experience, so I cannot give a ‘one size fits all’ answer, but if you would put yourself as a beginner, I would give yourself at least 6 months to prepare for the event.

All The Gear, And Some Idea! 

I get it, it is really hard to know where to start with kit, there are SO many options out there! From trainers, to hydration vests, to watches.. it can all get a bit overwhelming! Also, it is really important to remember that what works for one person, may not work for you, so always take recommendations with a pinch of salt.

Here is what I used during my training, and on race day.

*and just to be completely clear & transparent, these products were gifted to me by the companies linked below, but the opinions are completely my own and I have not been asked or paid to review them.

Shoes – Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2  

I started using these shoes back in June, in fact I got them just before I went to the South of France for a trail running holiday so it was the perfect chance to try them out over different terrains and getting used to spending lots of time on my feet.

On first impressions, I really liked the shoe and was surprised at how light they were, and comfortable. Trail shoes I have used in the past tend to be a lot more bulky and feel very hard underfoot but these were not like that at all. They have also been designed so they are suitable for all terrains, which can be really useful in any ultra distance race as it can sometimes be a combination of road, trail, gravel etc.

If you, like me are a neutral runner that doesn’t need a lot of support & cushioning I would recommend trying out this shoe, or similar from Salomon.

Hydration Pack – Salomon ADV SKIN 5 SET 

For the majority of ultra marathon or trail races, it it quite common that you are required to carry your own fuel, hydration, kit etc whilst out on the course. So finding the right bag is crucial. Being comfortable during an ultra marathon can be the difference between a great race, and a terrible one so its really important you find a pack that fits you properly and works for you. As a petite woman, finding a bag that fits me has always been a struggle. I have a small frame and narrow shoulders, so when bags are just a standard fit (and by standard fit I mean designed for men, obvs) even the smallest sizes are too large and can cause some pretty interesting chafing!

I would highly recommend this pack (or another from the Salomon range) as they really are one of the best in the market. Although it looks small, you can fit a lot in there. For Infinite Trails there was a pretty hefty mandatory kit list and I managed to get all of the following in the pack, and it didn’t feel uncomfortable or budge at all.

  • 2 x 500ml Soft Flasks
  • 8 Gels/4 x Energy Bars
  • Mobile Phone
  • Wateproof Jacket
  • Leggings
  • Spare Socks
  • First Aid Kit

GPS Watch – Garmin Forerunner 945 

For the last 4 years I have worn a Garmin GPS watch, for me there is no other option really when it comes to GPS watches. I recently upgraded to the new 945 as for my latest challenges I needed to make sure I had a watch that was going to last the distance! The 945 battery life is insane and can last up to 60 hours in UltraTrac mode.

The watch has so many great features, and if I am being completely honest I probably haven’t even made the most of half of them yet! But some of my favourite features that I use regularly are;

  • You can download your Spotify playlists straight to your watch (you do need a premium account for this feature to work & bluetooth headphones)
  • Performance monitoring features include VO2 max and training status with adjustments for heat, altitude acclimation status, training load focus, recovery time, and aerobic and anaerobic training effects
  • Loads of different activity settings including; trail running, hiking & climbing! Which is perfect for what I have been up to lately.

Of course I am not saying you need to invest in this watch specifically, this is just what I have been using. There are lots of great models out there, but my best advice is if you want to use it for ultras, make sure you check it has a decent battery life!

Headphones – Jaybird Sport Tarah Pro 

I have been working with Jaybird for just over a year now and I am proud to be part of the Jaybird Runners team! This does mean that I have been lucky enough to try a selection of their products and for the last few months I have been solely using the Tarah Pros.

The unique thing about the Tarah Pros is their battery life, once fully charged they last 14 hours, which is perfect if you are looking to take on longer distance races! I don’t always listen to music when I race, but I knew for Race to the Stones I was going to be out on the course for a long time, potentially on my own and there were going to be points where it got super tough, and for me personally, listening to music really helps me to just get my head down and dig deep! It was great to not have to worry about my headphones dying mid race or having to take a spare pair out with me – you have enough to worry about when running 100k so anything that makes it slightly easier is a bonus!

Fuelling – Training.

CARBS – this food group will really become your best friend during your training, race and recovery. Carbohydrates are what gives us the energy to be able to push harder, run further and last longer, and they also play an important part in recovery too.

I am sure you have all heard of ‘carb loading’ too, but unfortunately a lot of people seem to get this wrong. Carb loading does not just mean eating twice as much as you usually do the day before the race, or eating an entire family size lasagne. It simply just means on the days leading up to your event you increase the amount of carbohydrates in your diet, whilst lowering the other macronutrients (fats & protein and limiting fibre intake) It may be that your calories do increase slightly too, but there is no need to go over the top, as this is what causes the uncomfortable bloated, heavy feeling that people tend to experience and blame on the carbohydrates. Choosing carbohydrates with a higher glycemic index during your carb load can also aid in loading the muscle with glycogen, while minimising these feelings of fullness or bloating.

Here are some of my favourite carb heavy foods & snacks that are a staple in my diet.

  • Wholewheat Pasta
  • Rice/Lentils/Quinoa 
  • Bagels 
  • Porridge
  • Wraps
  • Bananas 

I then make sure I always add a protein source & fats to the majority of my meals too.

  • Chicken Breast
  • Tuna 
  • Fish – Salmon, Cod etc 
  • Cheese
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Peanut Butter 
  • Olives
  • Pesto 

And then finally I will add a good amount of fruits & vegetables (also carbs FYI) to my food.

  • Spinach 
  • Blueberries 
  • Strawberries 
  • Red Peppers 
  • Cucumber 
  • Salad Leaves 

For me personally, on the day before a race I like to keep my food quite plain so I avoid anything that is too creamy, cheesy, spicy etc. My go to pre-race meal is Pesto Pasta with chicken breast, olives, peppers & spinach.

Fuelling – Race Day 

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This is perhaps one of the most popular questions I got asked when it came to ultra marathon training, and rightly so! Nailing your fuelling strategy (before, during & after) can be the difference between a great race, and a terrible one. But with so much information out there it can be hard to know where to start. The one thing I will say is that this will be different for everyone. Like most things with running, there is a rarely a ‘one size fits all’ plan, so its super important you find out what works for you. For some people during a race that’s gels, whereas others will swear by cold pizza. But the most important thing is that you are getting calories and carbohydrates (energy) back into your body frequently, keeping your glycogen stores topped up.

On the lead up to Infinite Trails & Race to the Stones I worked closely with Ben (lead Nutritionist for Science in Sport) and together we came up with a fuelling strategy to prepare me for the races.

Ever since I started running longer distances, I have used Science in Sport gels during my training & races. For me it is the easiest way to get calories and carbohydrates back into my body on the move, and I suppose I am fortunate I have never had an issue with them! During a marathon I will solely just use gels, but I knew for the ultra marathons I was going to need to include other fuel sources too.  And together we came up with the plan that I was going to try and use a combination of gels, energy bars, Beta Fuel and then also take on real food at the aid stations during the race. The overall goal was upwards of 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour, planning this out in a by-hour strategy so to ensure that energy intake started early enough into the race.

Here is what I ended up using during both Infinite Trails & Race to the Stones. I personally felt that I got my nutrition & hydration spot on. In neither race there was no point I felt really low on energy and I seemed to avoid that ‘hitting the wall’ feeling despite the fact that for both races I was out for 10 hours in total.

Infinite Trails 

8 x SIS Gels

1 x SIS Beta Fuel Sachet 

3 1/2 x SIS Energy Bars

Aid Stations – I didn’t eat a huge amount at the aid stations as I didn’t feel like I needed it. I mainly just took watermelon (as it was refreshing) and on a couple of occasions a handful salty peanuts or pretzels and made sure I refilled my water bottles.

Race To The Stones 

9 x SIS Gels

1 x SIS Beta Fuel Sachet

3 x SIS Energy Bars

Aid Stations – Again, I didn’t take a huge amount as I felt I really didn’t need it (which was a shame as the aid stations were AMAZING) I mainly just use the aid stations to refill my water bottles, obviously I had watermelon (just the best!) but apart from that I just stuck to what I had in my pack. At one of the last aid stations I did have a mini malt loaf though which felt like a great little pick me up!

So from this, my best advice would be to make sure you take everything you think you will need for the race, and do not rely on the aid stations. I knew that the gels, bars and beta fuel worked for me, and I felt confident that I had enough to see me through and keep me going between the aid stations.

Training

This was probably the most popular question I got asked – how my ultra training differed from my marathon training. Anyone that has trained successfully for a marathon knows that it’s hard work. It’s early mornings, its long runs, speed sessions, easy runs, strength training – and for me, my ultra training was NO different! The only difference was that it was so much more enjoyable as on 90% of my runs I put no pressure on myself in terms of pace! I ran lots with friends and just chatted the miles away, or sometimes I just stuck my headphones in and tried new routes, but it was so nice to not have to worry about hitting ‘marathon pace’ or beasting myself on multiple runs a week.

When training for an ultra (especially if its you’re first one) the most important thing is getting your body used to spending a long time on you feet. But I get it, not everyone has 5+ hours on a Sunday afternoon to dedicate to a run, and to be honest not many of us would probably want to do that!

Everyones training will be different, and if you are looking to seriously train for an ultra marathon I would suggest investing in a coach to devise a training plan, but here are some hints & tips to help get you started

  • Hills – chances are, if you are doing an ultra marathon and it is on the trails, there will be hills! Include hills wherever possible in your training – in your long runs, easy runs, hill sprints etc. They are a great way to help strength train during your runs, and it just means on race day you will feel a little more prepared!
  • Back to Back Long Runs – most of us don’t have the time (or the desire!) to head out for multiple 6+ hour runs, and that is absolutely fine and in my opinion not essential for ultra marathon training. Instead, break these runs down into shorter, manageable sessions and just do them on back to back days. So for example, on a Saturday head out for a 2 hour run, and then followed by a 3 hour run on Sunday. Not only will this help to make the runs seem more manageable, but it will also get your body used to running on tired legs.
  • Cross Training – Strength & Conditioning should always play a part in training, and training for an ultra is no different! I included two S&C sessions a week and focused on the whole body and included lots of big compound movements such as; deadlifts, weighted squats and lots of core too. One big difference I made is that I invested in my own S&C coach who created workouts specific for me and my goals.
  • Get a buddy – as I mentioned earlier, I did a lot of my long runs with friends, which really helps just to make it so much more enjoyable! It can also be great motivation too for those days where you really can’t be bothered to get out and run. And plus you can always plan to go for a coffee/brunch/drink after which is a great incentive!
  • Get Exploring – if like me you live in a big city, it might not always seem easy to get out into the trails, BUT there are ways around it! Check out your local parks, follow a river/canal path or sometimes you may need to just jump on a train for an hour to get out of the city and into the countryside!

Final Points

Whilst writing this, I have realised there is SO much more I could say, and over the next few weeks/months I will 100% share more tips and tricks about how to train for an ultra marathon.

But one of the most important things to remember is… ONLY DO IT IF YOU REALLY WANT TO, NOT BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE ON INSTAGRAM IS DOING IT! Training and running an ultra marathons is hard and isn’t something that should be taken lightly. If you want to run well and ultimately have a positive race day experience than you need to put in the work leading up to it.

So give yourself time to train, time to adapt and time to fully learn to respect the beauty of long distance endurance running!

Jordan xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adidas Infinite Trails – Part 2

 

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Photographer – Jon Roberts http://www.jonroberts.co.uk/

So this was it, all that stood in the way of me and the finish line was 60km & 12,000ft of elevation… easy right?! I won’t lie, the whole race felt pretty daunting so I tried to follow the advice I have been given from Timothy the day before and just not think about what was coming up and just try to enjoy it and take it all in!

I knew that one of the most important things I had to do for the first part of the race was pace myself, I had a long bloody way to go and I couldn’t go tearing off like a mad woman over the first few miles, which would have been really easy to do! The first 7 miles of my race were pretty flat, which was a good way to get some steady miles in and get my legs warmed up ready for the climbs.

Almost as soon as I set off, it was like someone literally flicked a switch and turned the sun on. It was ROASTING, and it was only 9 in the morning! Again though, there was nothing I could do about it so I just kept telling myself I was going to get a cracking tan, and made sure I kept taking on water & fuel regularly.

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Photographer – Jon Roberts http://www.jonroberts.co.uk/

Soon enough though, it was time to leave the road as I started the loooooooong climb up the first mountain of the day! I knew that Lewis & Jon were going to be at the first aid station on the way up, so that really helped to keep me going. I will be completely honest, on the uphill climbs there was pretty much ZERO running. I had got advice from lots of people who were a lot more experienced than me who all advised the same thing, to hike the hills.. so that is exactly what I did! I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and slowly made my way up the first big climb of the day. I also really regretted not having poles, watching people glide up the hills with them made more really envious so it’s something I’ll definitely invest in for the future!

I finally reached the first aid station and it was so good to see the guys there and have a chat (it was pretty lonely out on the course!) I refilled my water bottles, covered myself in water and grabbed a handful of salty pretzels and then carried on my way up the mountain.  The views were absolutely incredible, and there were many points throughout the race I actually made sure that every now and then I just stopped to look around and make sure I was taking it all in!

 

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Photographer – Jon Roberts http://www.jonroberts.co.uk/

 

It was at this point that I realised how hard this race was actually going to be – I had gone from running, to hiking to now actually mountain climbing and scrambling along a ridge! I will admit I am not the biggest fan of heights, so I did take it pretty slow and steady and really concentrated on where I was putting my hands and feet – I definitely didn’t want to slip and fall at this point! It was a bittersweet moment when I finally got to the summit, I was relieved that the climbing was over for a while, but all I kept thinking was that  had to do this ALL over again once I got back down – mentally this was pretty tough to get my head round!

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Photographer – Jon Roberts http://www.jonroberts.co.uk/

I didn’t hang about at the top, I still had a LONG way to go and I wanted to just chip away at the miles and get to the next aid station, mainly because I knew I was going to see some friendly faces. Running downhill is definitely a lot more fun than climbing, this is definitely where my strength is, and I really enjoyed getting some speed back into my legs as I made my way down. I stopped briefly at the aid station again, refilled & refuelled and carried on (you might be noticing a pattern here!) 

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Photographer – Jon Roberts http://www.jonroberts.co.uk/

The next few miles were a dreaaaaaaam, it felt so good to actually get some decent running in on the road, and the miles went by so quickly before I knew it I was almost coming up to the half way point of the race! By this point I had been out on the course for about 5 hours and I was starting to just feel really hot, and tired! The sun was relentless. There was literally no cloud cover or shade out on the course, so the whole time it was just beating down on me! I wouldn’t usually run in a cap, but I have to say I was so pleased it was part of the mandatory kit list, it may sound dramatic but I think I would have really struggled at points if I didn’t have cover on my head (so if any of you have a race coming up and its going to be hot – get a hat!!)

I made it, I was over the half way point! Which was a great feeling, but also a little daunting as I knew I still had another mountain to climb and a lot of miles left to do.

As I started the next climb of the race, unfortunately this is where it started to go a little downhill for me (pun absolutely intended).  I was struggling. It was now early afternoon and after being out in the sun for over 5 hours already with barely any shade, I was starting to feel the effects of the heat. Between miles 21-27 there was hardly ANY running, the first few miles were a gradual climb – which normally I would run but I was finding it really hard. It was also pretty lonely out there, due to the format of the race everyone set off at different times, so sometimes I wouldn’t see another runner for what felt like miles, and I definitely think that made it that little bit tougher too. By now, all I was focussing on was getting to the next aid station. I kept checking the route (we were all given transfer tattoos of our loop) and thinking about getting a cold drink, some shade and salty food.

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Photographer – Jon Roberts http://www.jonroberts.co.uk/

After what felt like FOREVER, I finally reached the aid station! I grabbed myself a drink and then asked the volunteers if they minded if I sat down for 5 minutes in the shade – it felt SO good to be out of the sun!! To be honest at that moment I could have quite happily stayed sitting in the tent, but luckily another runner (and yes I feel terrible I have forgotten her name!) asked if I was okay and if I wanted to run with her for a bit, which was enough to make me get out of my chair and back on the trails! It was so nice to have some company for a couple of miles, both of us were finding it really tough but she was definitely a lot stronger than me on the climbs. We agreed that we wouldn’t hold each other up, so once the climb started getting really tough again I let her go on as I was a lot slower. For me, this was possibly the hardest part of the race. I was back on the mountain, back to scrambling across rocks and my legs felt like they were made out of lead.

Like in any race, no matter if its a 5k or an ultra, once you lose it mentally it can be really hard to pull yourself back together. I messaged the boys and said I was struggling and finding it really tough, and honestly if it wasn’t for them telling me that they were waiting at the summit for me I probably would have come close to giving up. It was slow, it was painful, I had a little cry on my Instagram stories, but slowly and surely I made my way up through the snow (which was so bizarre when it was so hot!) and across the final ridge to the peak. It was so good to see the boys up there – and I couldn’t quite believe they had made it all the way to the top (they were the real heroes of the day – they were out on the course from 4am until midnight, god knows how many miles they clocked up!) 

Now that I had reached the second summit, I finally felt like I could get excited about finishing the race! All that was left to do was get down to the bottom, easy right?! I made my way to the next aid station where the boys were and also got to see Rich who came out to meet me on the course, it was great to see him. .. although admittedly the first thing I did when I saw him was shout ‘I HATE YOU’ (he was the brains behind the whole trip and the reason I was running the 60k) but luckily since then I have forgiven him!

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Photographer – Jon Roberts http://www.jonroberts.co.uk/

I spent a bit of time at the aid station this time, I refilled all my bottles, got water poured over me, and ate perhaps the best, saltiest chips I have ever had in my LIFE! I hadn’t taken on any ‘real’ food in a while so they honestly tasted like the best thing in the world! We were all buzzing that I was almost at the finish, but the race definitely wasn’t over yet, I still had about 10 miles to go until I was done… so once again it was time to get my head down and crack on.

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Photographer – Jon Roberts http://www.jonroberts.co.uk/

Actually being able to run and go downhill again felt amazing after a pretty miserable few hours of climbing, it was nice to get some speed back in my legs, and to my surprise once I started running again and got back on the road, my legs actually felt pretty good!

The miles started ticking by nicely, then all of a sudden I was going back uphill?! Ummmmm, this wasn’t what I wanted 55km into the race! It turns out that just because I was coming down from the mountain, they still threw in a few cheeky ‘undulating’ sections. And trust me, my legs felt every single one of those inclines!

But finally, as I made my way off the mountain for good I knew I was close! I could hear the music from the event village in the distance and that was literally what kept me going as I made my way back into the town. This race wasn’t about time, but I had set myself a goal (of course I did!) of wanting to finish in under 10 hours, and although it was going to be a close one, I realised I was going to do it. I text the boys to tell them I was on my way in so that Sum could get ready for his loop and just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

The music was getting louder and louder, there were people out cheering on the course and I was actually starting to feel pretty emotional, I was just so pleased it was nearly over! As with any long distance event, the last mile is always one of the hardest and the final loop of the park seemed to last forever, but I eventually turned the corner and the finish line was in sight! Crowd support & adrenaline can do amazing things, and with everyone cheering and clapping, even though I was exhausted I somehow managed to pull a sprint finish out of the bag! I could see Sum waiting and raring to go… I crossed the line, pretty much ran into him, wished him luck and then collapsed into a heap on the floor!

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Photographer – Jon Roberts http://www.jonroberts.co.uk/

The next few minutes were a bit of a blur, one of the volunteers placed a wet towel over my shoulders which honestly felt like the best thing in the world. And then all of a sudden I became very aware about how much my feet were burning – I needed to get my shoes and socks off, pronto! They weren’t battered, blistered or bruised – but I think they were just suffering after being stuffed in a pair of trainers for the best part of 12 hours!

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Photographer – Jon Roberts http://www.jonroberts.co.uk/

We then made our way out to the main finish area, and straight to the paddling pools filled with ice cold water. It may as well have been a luxury spa! It felt so good to finally be able to sit down, knowing that I didn’t have to get back up and climb a mountain! But our race wasn’t quite done there – the rules of the race stated that to officially finish as a team, once your 3rd loop runner was back in, as a team you then had to complete a 0.5km victory lap and all cross the line together. Luckily, we knew we had a few hours before Sum would be back in – so we went back to the hotel, got cleaned up, FINALLY HAD A BEER and grabbed some food!

We headed back down to the finish area just before Midnight and were constantly checking out phone for updates on how Sum was getting on – he was running strong but it was a tough out there and the Loop 3 runners also had the extra challenge of it being pitch black! Jon & Lewis finally joined us again after being out on the course themselves for 18 hours, and its safe to say we were all feeling pretty exhausted!

Soon enough though, Sum gave us the nod he was heading back into the centre, so once again Rich & I got ourselves ready in the start zone and as soon as Sum got to the line, we grabbed his hand and set off on our victory lap!

We crossed the line with a total time of  20:50:55 and made it back before 1am and were just so pleased to have completed it within the tough cut offs (which saw nearly half of the other teams get disqualified) And although we all raced separately, it was great to be able to all cross the line and finish together!

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Photographer – Jon Roberts http://www.jonroberts.co.uk/

The race, and the whole trip to Austria is something I will never forget. I had the most amazing time, met some incredible people and I proved to myself that I am a lot stronger than I think! It has also opened my eyes to what else is out there, and made me realise there is a lot more to running then getting a faster marathon time! I have already started to line up my next challenges… one of which I will hopefully share with you VERY soon!

The best advice I can give to anyone who is reading this and thinking ‘I would love to do something like this’ is… JUST BLOODY DO IT! (Okay, well maybe don’t jump straight into a 60k ultra mountain race… but there is no reason why you couldn’t one day!) I honestly do believe that we never truly know what we are capable of until we try.  So here is to saying YES and all the amazing adventures along the way!

Jordan xx

Race Stats

**I was invited to be a part of Team Pro:Direct Running and to go on the trip by Prodirect. Race entry, travel, accommodation & kit were also provided**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adidas Infinite Trails – Part 1

 

I guess the best place to start is right back at the beginning… So let me take you back to about 6 weeks ago, when I randomly got a message from Rich (boss man!) on Instagram asking if I would consider being a part of Team Prodirect Running for the upcoming Adidas Infinite Trails weekend. I had never heard of the event before, but after a quick look on the website I just had to say yes! I am ALWAYS up for a challenge & looking for ways to push myself out of my comfort zone, and this looked like the perfect event to do this!

img_6180I was really excited, but as the event drew closer I also started to feel incredibly nervous, especially as I had been given the task of taking on the biggie.. Loop 2! 60km with 3800m of elevation! Craaaaaap, those hills at Richmond Park seemed pretty insignificant now! Luckily, completely by coincidence I also had a trail running/mountain holiday booked for the beginning of June in the South of France which ended up being the perfect training week (I still need to blog about this too!)

Soon enough, race week was upon us and we were all getting really excited about what we were taking on! As with any race, I spent most of the week leading up to it frantically checking the weather, and it was looking like along with the rest of Europe, Austria was also having a heatwave (30+ degrees forecast everyday!) BUT unfortunately, the weather is something we cannot control, you just need to make the best of the situation and I’m extreme conditions just be sensible (note: I do not class running a 60km mountain race during the middle of the day as sensible!)

Day 1

Our journey started on Tuesday evening where we met at the airport hotel for dinner and to plan the week ahead. This was actually the first time I met the team so it was nice to spend some time with them all before we embarked on our crazy adventure! The following day it was up early doors for our flight to Austria where we already had an action packed day ahead of us!

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Photographer – Jon Roberts http://www.jonroberts.co.uk/

Our first task was to get some content for Social Media which meant our first trip up the mountain (We did the sensible thing though and saved our legs by getting a cable car up & down) The views from the top were truly something else, we managed to get some pretty amazing photos but as always I don’t think a photo can ever really do something like this justice! There is also something incredible humbling about being on a mountain, and it makes you realise just how small we actually are!

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Photographer – Jon Roberts http://www.jonroberts.co.uk/

The main realisation we all had from this was how bloody hot it was, even late in the afternoon and at the summit! There was no cloud, and even the wind was blowing hot air. Normally I am not one to complain about the hot weather, but all I kept thinking is that it was going to make an already tough race, that little bit tougher!

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Photographer – Jon Roberts http://www.jonroberts.co.uk/

Day 2

This is where the real fun started! The small town we were staying in started to really come alive as athletes from all over the world arrived ready for the events.

Adidas Terrex had well and truly taken over! In the centre of the town was the ‘House Of Terrex’ which was their version of the event expo – there was food & drinks, massage, exhibitors, panel talks, massage, registration etc. It was great to be able to wander around and soak up all the atmosphere. This is when it all started to feel more real and reminded me I wasn’t just there for a holiday!

Thursday was also the first race of the weekend with the 15km Prologue event taking place that evening. This was essentially a warm up for the main event and your teams average finish time determined your start time on Saturday. We decided to use the race as a way to get some experience with trails and not completely trash our legs before our main race.

We set off as a team, alongside another 600+ runners and soon found ourselves in a single file queue making our way up the first climb. There wasn’t really any option apart from to walk, but to be honest we didn’t really mind (and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to run 99% of it anyway!) and we still managed to keep a solid walking pace to the top! Once we started the descent though, I will admit that Rich and I maaaaaaaay have got a little carried away with the downhill! It was super steep and it just felt so good to get some speed back into my legs! I wouldn’t say it was running… it was more just falling with style, and trying to keep my legs from going underneath me!

As a team we finished in just under the 2.00 hour mark, which we were super happy with! Out of about 180ish teams that put us in 139th position for the race on Saturday, which we were quite surprised at! But I think that just goes to show the level of athletes that had turned up to event, I mean.. it was the world championships after all!

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Photographer – Jon Roberts http://www.jonroberts.co.uk/

Day 3

Today was all about relaxing, eating and trying to prepare ourselves for race day! My day started with another quick trip up the mountain (via cable car! and I had my first experience of being a footwear model) before I headed back down to chill – well, as best I could in 33 degree heat!

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Photographer – Jon Roberts http://www.jonroberts.co.uk/

I headed back to the House of Terrex which was now absolutely buzzing with athletes and people getting ready and excited for the event! This was also where I casually bumped into legendary Adidas Athlete Timothy Olson! What he doesn’t know about mountain running, isn’t worth knowing! So I obviously had to ask if he had any advice for the race, and then get a photo of course!

1️⃣ Start SLOW (obviously all relative to the individual as his ‘slow’ pace would probably be my max effort 🤣)

2️⃣ Hike the hills! Don’t try and run it all, and use this time to take on lots of calories and water.

3️⃣ Think less! Don’t be constantly thinking about what’s coming up or what you have to do. Enjoy it, take in the views and just run!

The afternoon was pretty busy – we had to attend the mandatory Athlete Briefing where the RDs went through all of the loops and health & safety, then it was final kit checks before we headed to a local restaurant and stuffed ourselves with pizza before getting an early night! Oh, and of course I had to do a flat lay! I don’t think I’ve ever had so much stuff for a race before!

It was then straight to bed as we had a looooong day ahead of us on Saturday!

Day 4 – RACE DAY!

I actually got a really good night sleep and woke up feeling raring to go at 4am! Now all I had to do was fuel myself and wait for Rich to finish his lap.

I headed down to the event village at around 7am with some of the other guys to wait for Rich and cheer on the other runners. The atmosphere was incredible, it felt more like a festival than a race! I was feeling SO nervous and I probably went to the toilet about 8 times in the space of an hour. At around 8.30 we got the update from Lewis and Jon that Rich was heading to the finish! I got myself into the handover zone and tried to get my head in the game. Minutes later Rich came storming down the finish straight to hand over to me. This was it! Now the real fun was about to begin…

I have so much to say about this race. I think it deserves its own blog post… COMING SOON!

Lactate Threshold Testing

A couple of weeks back I was invited along by Pure Sports Medicine to take part in a Lactate Threshold test at their Bank Clinic.

I will be honest, I had heard about the test before, but I wasn’t 100% sure what I was going to have to do, or what it was going to tell me. But what I did know, is that it’s hard bloody work! And how did I know this? Because when I mentioned it to people I was getting it done the general response was to laugh, and then say Good Luck! Greaaaaaat, I was starting to wonder what I had let myself in for!

I received an email from Graham the morning of my test making sure that I wasn’t planning on running before or even running to the clinic (I’ll be honest, the thought had crossed my mind!) as the test works best when you are rested, and apparently us endurance runners have a habit of trying to fit runs in whenever we can (whoops!) but by doing so it can skew the results of the test. In an ideal world, I should have had a rest day the day before too, but luckily all I had done was a nice easy paced run so it didn’t have too much of an effect on the results.

I arrived at the clinic and met with Graham who talked me through what we were going to do, and then I had to sign my life away (no, literally!) The test was simple, I was going to be running on a treadmill for between 40-60 minutes, for blocks of time at various speeds, with the aim to increase the speed throughout until we found where my maximum pace was.

During the test both your heart rate (you are required to wear a heart rate monitor, but the clinic can provide one if you don’t have one) and bloods are monitored.

NB – your bloods are monitored by a small finger prick needle and then a sample is taken. This happens quite frequently throughout the test so if you have a real fear/issue with needles and/or blood then this test would not be a good choice for you!

So remember I said it was best to make sure you were completely rested? The reason for this is that lactate can stay in your blood for between 24-48 hours, so when my bloods were taken right at the start of the test, the count was a little higher than expected, but even after just doing a fast walk on the treadmill for a few minutes it returned back down to the ‘normal level’ as my body was able to process it back into fuel pretty quickly.

The test was broken up into approx 4 minute intervals. We started with just a fast walk for the first block and then gradually increased to a slow, comfortable jog. Also throughout the test, as well as monitoring my HR and bloods I also had to say how I felt on a scale of 6-20 in terms of effort (Rate of Perceived Exertion, with 6 being complete rest and 20 being maximum effort)

Graham then popped all of my results into a table which shows the speed of the treadmill (KM), my blood result, heart rate and finally my RPE score.

As you can see from my results, from around 30 minutes was where it was starting to get tough! And not only does my HR rise quite quickly, but so does the levels of lactate in my blood. Graham then made the call to stop the test during the last block as I had pretty much reached my maximum level, and I certainly don’t think I would have been able to run much faster for another 4 minute block!

I have to say, I was pretty relieved when it was finished! I had basically just done a pretty tough 40 minute progression run.. so much for it being my rest day!

Graham then briefly went over my results and assured me they were pretty good but that my full report would follow the following week, along with my prescribed heart rate training zones (the super duper important bit!). Here are my results.

So why is this important? Because quite simply, if you are working to heart rate it gives you the best idea of how hard your body is working, and how hard it should be working depending on the session you are doing and what you are looking to get out of it.

For example – the classic ‘Easy Run’ (which could be classed as Active Recovery or Endurance) Although technically it’s the simplest form of running, it can sometimes be the one that most people get wrong (and I have definitely been guilty of this in the past)

An easy run should be exactly what it says on the tin, easy! So although technically it might ‘feel easy’ for you to head out at your 5k pace every time you go for a run, if your HR is hitting that Zone 3-4 training zone during these runs, that my friend is not classed as easy! Using HR is a great way for you to know what level you should be working to on these runs so that you are not pushing your body too much when it’s simply not needed.

So what is Lactate Threshold and why is it good to know what yours is?

Have you ever had that feeling during a race or a really hard training session where all of a sudden it’s like someone has flicked a switch and your legs go from feeling pretty good to really heavy and that burning sensation? Yes? Well, that’s all down to Lactic acid!

Your body is constantly producing lactic acid whilst exercising, but when it gets to that point it’s where your body is unable to keep up with how much is being processed, and basically can’t get rid of it! Your body/brain/everything will be trying to do what it can to get you to slow down, and this can also be described as ‘hitting the wall’ – an experience unfortunately most of us will encounter during a race.

Knowing what your ‘Lactate Threshold’ pace is has many benefits. It means that during your training, you can push your body to that limit, and like with anything, if you keep working at it, you can improve it! And then hopefully you will be able to replicate it on race day and be able to push that little bit harder, or hold on for longer.

Here is my personalised report based on my test results.

“Aerobic Threshold was achieved at 14 kph and 168 bpm. This is the threshold of “mouth-closed” training. Anything above that and you are accumulating substantial lactate but are able to re-process it back into fuel. You can maintain this speed for 3+ hours and gives you a good marathon pace to be focussing on if one completes a marathon at this sort of time.

For yourself, it should be somewhat faster to achieve marathon pace. Lactate Threshold was achieved at 16.5kph (3:38min/km) and 181 bpm. This is the threshold by which you are accumulating considerable lactate and your body cannot keep up with how much is being processed. This pace can be kept for approx. 1 hour if conditions were perfect.

My recommendation for YOUR improved lactate – prescribe some of your tempo runs at 3:55min/km pace and kick to 3:30min/km for a time of 10% of total duration (e.g 60min run = sets of 6 mins). Work at a EASY:HARD ratio of 1:1.”

Since the test, I have been paying a lot more attention to my HR during training. At the moment I have been focusing a lot more on working in my ‘Aerobic Zone’ due to my upcoming ultra marathons, and it has honestly made such a difference. Although I have been running more miles than ever before, the majority of my runs have been at ‘easy pace’ – meaning that I haven’t felt burnt out and I also seem to be recovering well in between sessions.

Soon enough though, my training for New York marathon will be officially kicking off, and I am really looking forward to using this information to make sure this is my best training block yet. I won’t be second guessing what paces I need to run at, and I will know exactly how hard I need to work in certain sessions to see results. I’m actually pretty excited!!

Whether you are looking for that marathon PB, or perhaps you are newer to running, I believe there are benefits to having the test done. For beginners, one of the most common mistakes they make is pushing themselves too hard, too quickly. And it’s easily done! You feel great when you first start running regularly and it’s all to easy to head out on every single training run and try to run quicker than before, or race parkrun every single week.. but unfortunately, this will catch up with you! So if you know how hard you should be working from the start, over time you will have a much more productive (and probably enjoyable!) running journey.

I hope you found this useful, and if you do decide to get yourself booked in for a test…. GOOD LUCK!

Jordan xx

Pure Sports Medicine are offering 20% off your Lactate Threshold Test (usually £146) if you quote ‘projectmarathongirl’ when booking until 26th July 2019. To book directly please email media@puresportsmed.com

Or to find out more information you can click here to head straight to the website.

Session was gifted as part of ongoing partnership with Pure Sports Medicine.

Red Bull Quicksand 2019

‘How hard can 1 mile be?’

The answer…. VERY BLOODY HARD!

As you all know, road marathons are my thing. So a 1 mile race (on sand!) is approximately 25.2 miles outside of my comfort zone. But, I love a challenge and after the London Marathon my main priority was to just have some fun with running and events, so when Red Bull UK kindly invited me to the event, I had to say yes! (it also helped that my number 1 @whatcharlierannext lives about 1 mile so it was the perfect chance for a catch up & a sleep over!) 

Race weekend rolled around, and I travelled down to Margate on the Friday night to stay with Charlie. We decided to go for a little shake out run and used it as the perfect excuse to go and check out the course which was being set up on the beach. As we approached the site I think we both had the same thing going through our brain… ‘OH SH*T!’

The man-made sand dunes were absolutely massive, and there was a lot of them! We had a quick chat with the event team that were there setting up the event and they too confirmed that they stepped it up from the previous year and the obstacles were bigger and steeper. Faaaaaaaabulous!

quicksand-course-2019.jpg

The race format was simple. There were a number of different heats (both for men & women) during which you were required to complete 2 x laps of the course, and the Top 50% of finishers then progressed to the semi final, and then again to the final.

Soon enough it was the morning of the race, and fuelled by pasta, prosecco & doughnuts, Charlie and I made our way to the event village to get registered and ready for our heats. Once we arrived we found Helen (@framefitnesssouthhampton) & Helena (@marathon_runner92) and we all felt pretty similar… excited, but nervous for what was coming up!

 

 

It is safe to say, Red bull really know how to put on an event. It was really well organised & registration was a quick and seamless process. The atmosphere on the beach was great too, and I think this was definitely helped by having Run Dem Crew there leading the warm ups, MC’ing and generally just helping to create an epic atmosphere!

After watching the last of the mens heat, it was finally our time to go! Charlie & Helen were in the first women’s heat (to which Charlie managed to finish in the Top 50% and progress to the Semi Final, as much as she didn’t want to! hahaaaaaaaa) and then finally it was my turn!

I can honestly say, that first lap was the hardest mile I have ever ran. I *maaaaay* have got slightly over excited at the start and went out far too quickly for the first lap, but I was feeling good! And then it happened, it was almost as if someone flicked a switch in my legs and they went from feeling strong, to feeling like two blocks of wood! That final lap was a slog, and after taking the lead for the first lap, I slipped back into second place, and I just had nothing left in me to push on.

I was interviewed pretty much the second I crossed the line, I am surprised I even managed to talk as I honestly felt like I was going to throw up.

‘Speaking after the first heat, she said: “Right now, my legs are like jelly, I feel sick and my lungs are burning – and I just don’t feel like that at the end of a marathon. Because you’re working so hard for a short amount of time, it completely kills your body.”

It was a bittersweet moment, I was pleased I finished 2nd and progressed to the semi final, but now I knew what I had let myself in for, at that moment I wasn’t really sure I wanted to run it again!

Luckily, there was about a 2 hour break before the next stage, so I got myself something to eat and started to prepare myself to run it again. Now I knew what to expect I knew that I couldn’t race off like a mad woman on that first lap, I needed to run smart! I also decided to run the next lap barefoot, I had seen others do it throughout the day and as the sand was soft and loose I thought it would be worth a shot, plus anyone that has run on sand before will know how annoying it is when your shoes and socks are full of sand!

It was time for the semi-final, and this time it was different, as we all knew what to expect from the brutal course. I attempted to hold myself back for the first part of the course, and hung back in around 4th position, but my plan worked! I felt stronger as the lap went on and managed to push on for that second lap and once again finished in 2nd position! And I even managed to run it around 40 seconds quicker than the first heat.

So that was it, I was in the final! And this time, we didn’t get much of a chance to recover as the Final was only 30 minutes later. I grabbed a can of Red Bull as I needed that quick energy fix (and all the help I could get!) and got myself ready to go.

Although it was the final, I knew I still needed to be clever. My legs were cooked by this point and I knew if I went out too quickly I would suffer towards the end of the lap. Once we set off I purposely held myself back again, and although I was in the front pack, I hung back in around 4th for the first few climbs. Everyone was suffering by this point but my competitiveness was greater than the pain in my legs! I managed to get myself comfortably in 2nd position by the time we were on the final lap, and at one point I even caught up with the Andrea but she wasn’t giving up that easily and managed to push on once again.

By the time we reached the final climb, my legs were completely done. The final ‘sprint’ to the finish wasn’t pretty, I can’t really explain how tough it is to try and run quickly on ground that moves beneath you, but just believe me when I say.. it hurts! But I did it.. I grabbed my flag and crossed the line in 2nd place, and only 8 seconds away from 1st! Everything went a bit wobbly, from my legs to my head and I felt a bit out of it for a few seconds, but I was just so happy it was done… and that I didn’t have to do it again!!

To my surprise, my final lap was quicker yet again! I don’t really understand how my legs still worked, but it just showed how poorly I paced myself for that first lap!

Heat 1 – 10.34

Semi Final – 09.54

Final – 09.16

Shortly after we finished, there was the winning presentations for both the Men & Women. The trophy was absolutely epic (and weighed a tonne!) and then we also got given a bottle of champagne… which we had to open and spray all over each other (don’t worry, I made sure I saved some to drink after!) 

I mentioned it earlier, but Red Bull really do know how to put on an event! I will 100% be returning to the beaches of Margate next year, and its made me want to sign up to more of their events just because I know it will be an incredible experience (Redbull 400 anyone?!)

If you are looking for a new, fun, tough challenge for next year, I highly recommend this event! The 2020 event hasn’t been announced yet, but keep your eyes peeled on the website. You won’t regret it!

Jordan xxx

 

 

London Marathon 2019

Now that the dust has settled on the 2019 London Marathon, I thought I would finally get round to writing a blog post all about it. I will be honest, at first I just wanted to forget about it, I have made no secret that I was disappointed with how the race went, but I know that it is important to not only share the highs & the wins, but also the lows and those races that don’t always go to plan. So here we go…

The days leading up to the race were pretty fully on (perhaps one of my many mistakes?) I had committed to lots of events, which at the time I thought would just help to distract and relax me, but looking back now, perhaps being so busy on the days leading up to the marathon wasn’t such a good idea….

But, I can’t change that now, and I did have fun! The events included visiting the London Marathon Expo with the New Balance Team, a special Secret London Runs with Team Runderwear and attending the 2019 Running Awards! The best bit was getting to see & catch up with lots of friends, and meeting lots of great new people too.

Anyway, I digress! Saturday finally rolled around and it was time to relax. I was feeling oddly calm, and it honestly didn’t feel like the marathon was only one sleep away, it was definitely a world away from how I felt the year before! This actually made me feel quietly confident, I felt this was before Berlin & Switzerland marathon and they turned out pretty bloody well, so who knows… maybe London was going to go better than I thought?! I got an early night, and actually slept really well, and before I knew it I was up, stuffing myself with porridge & black coffee and making my way to the start line.

I met some friends at the tube station, and we travelled down together – and I don’t know if anyone else thought this but everywhere just seemed so much busier compared to previous years?! We arrived at Blackheath and started to make our way to the start zones, as standard I was suddenly absolutely desperate for the toilet so finding a portaloo was my number one priority! Luckily this year I was in the Championship Start, which thankfully meant shorter toilet queues! And I just want to say thank you to the two girls who let me cut in front of them as they could clearly see I was desperate – the heroes of the day! Another stark difference to last year was also how bloody cold it was!! Again, due to being in the Championship Start I was very grateful that I had a tent to hide in and get changed in.

A few days prior to the race, I received a message from Paul (who I knew from back home) offering to run with me for the first 20 miles of the race and to help pace me. I have never been paced during a marathon before, but due to how the last couple of months had felt, I jumped at the chance. It was one less thing to worry about, and I thought the distraction of running with someone might give me that slight edge.

I managed to find Paul in the start zone, and then it was time to go!We started the short walk to the start line, and rather than doing a warm up I decided to try and just hide in the middle of the crowds and steal everyone else’s body heat. Paul and I discussed our strategy and it was then I decided I was still going to try and attempt my 2.55 goal. I suddenly started to get very nervous, I honestly had no idea if I was going to be able to run that pace, it had felt like a lifetime since I had run that fast and I was feeling the pressure that if I couldn’t do it, I would be holding Paul back too.

We crossed the line after approx 20 seconds, and it was a lot busier than I expected! The problem with being a female in the Championship Start is that the mens qualifying standard is a lot quicker, as is Good For Age which started directly behind us, so for the first 1km or so of the race I had a lot of fast men flying past me wanting to get nearer the front, but I put my blinkers on and just concentrated on running next to Paul.

I actually couldn’t believe how good I felt running at 2.55 pace, the first 5km flew past and we were bang on target, I was trying not to get too carried away as I knew we still had a loooooong way to go, but it certainly gave me a boost! I took my gel on as planned at 5.5 miles and was still feeling strong as we were approaching the 10km mark. And once again, as we reached the timing mat, not only were we on target, we even had a few seconds in the bank (mainly thanks to the slightly downhill start)  I also saw my coach at this point who shouted out that I was ‘bang on’ which was a really good boost!

As we approached Cutty Sark, this is where the crowds really came into their own. It was SO busy and loud, it can almost be a little overwhelming. When I am running marathons I like to break the race down, and once we passed Cutty Sark I just focused on getting to the next big landmark, Tower Bridge, which is also the half way point and where I knew I would be seeing friends & familiar faces! This is my 4th London Marathon, and turning that corner onto the bridge still gives me goosebumps, it’s so hard not to get carried away when you have thousands of people cheering and shouting, but I tried to keep reminding myself that I still had a long way to go!

I was still feeling strong, I had taken another gel on at 11.5 miles and was taking small sips of water as and when I felt I needed it (although looking back now, I think maybe I could have taken on more) We crossed the bridge and reached the half way point, and again we were pretty much on target with a half marathon time of 1.27.37, which meant as long as we kept the same pace for the second half (with a cheeky sprint finish) I could still be in with a chance of getting my sub 2.55, or at least a PB!

The next couple of miles ticked by nicely, I took on another gel at around 15 miles, and then unfortunately everything started to go a bit Pete Tong. I all of a sudden got this shooting pain in the side of my stomach, it honestly felt like someone had stabbed me just underneath my ribs. My pace naturally slowed down, and I tried to control my breathing but nothing was working. Every time I tried to speed up, the pain got worse and I was struggling to catch my breath. Paul was checking in and asking if I was okay, but I think my face said it all. I had slowed right down, I was clutching my stomach and just trying to breathe normally.

I was hoping it would pass, but unfortunately the stitch lasted for around 3 miles. I desperately just wanted to stop and walk, but I knew that once I did that I would lose it mentally so I kept plodding on and trying to ignore everything else around me. I was heartbroken, and feeling pretty miserable. I even turned the pace off my watch as I couldn’t bare to see the miles getting slower, and my goals slipping away.

Friends started to pass me on the course, friends that technically I should have been ahead of, and then the 3 hour pacer glided past, which felt like another stab in the stomach. I will admit, for those few miles not only did I lose it physically, I also gave up mentally too. And when that happens in a marathon, its game over.

Thankfully as we passed the 20 mile mark, the stitch had disappeared, but now it was my legs that were giving up. Due to slowing down and changing my running style due to ‘stitch gate’ I lost all of the drive and power in my legs, and in fact – I slowed down even more! I am extremely grateful that Paul decided to stay with me until the end (think he must have felt sorry for me!) and helped to push me through the final few miles.

All time goals were gone. I was no longer chasing a PB, the only thing I wanted to do now was get to the finish line. I took on another gel at around the 21 mile mark, along with a Caffeine Bullet and just started focusing on getting to Mile 24 – where I knew Becca and her legendary cheer squad would be. Somehow, I actually managed to get a little bit of speed back for those final couple of miles, I mean it was still WAY off pace, but I felt a lot more comfortable and like I was actually running again!

Seeing the guys at Mile 24 gave me a massive boost and really gave me the motivation to dig in and get to the finish. The crowds in general down the Embankment were just incredible, so if you are reading this and you were there that day – THANK YOU!

Paul was trying his best to push me, we tried to target runners that were in front of us with the aim to catch them, but my little legs could only do so much! But finally, we turned the corner and were approaching Birdcage Walk. I knew that James was going to be there, and as soon as I saw his little face I was gone, I was trying not to cry but I was absolutely done! Although original time goals were now out of the window, our new aim was to push for the final KM and cross the line under 3.10. I knew I didn’t really have anything in the tank, so I waited until we got to the final corner before really giving it my all and attempting a sprint finish.

We crossed the line, and as standard I had my finish line wobble – in fact I think this was my best one yet (luckily Paul was there to catch me!) I stopped my watch and then burst into tears. I just felt empty & disappointed, I wasn’t even that bothered about getting my medal. I cried some more, I then looked up and saw a crew member filming me (and they then ended up using the clip in 3 different videos later that day, greaaaaaaaat!)

Luckily I then spotted Chris & Matt, who had finished a few minutes before me, they came and gave me a big cuddle, which resulted in more tears! I couldn’t even pretend I was happy, or proud of myself that I had just ran a marathon. All I wanted to do at that moment was get my bag, and go home.

I met up with some friends and my Dad at the finish – and although they all tried to say how well I did, I wasn’t having it. I was being a complete misery guts. I had been looking forward to this day for so long, and I was just so gutted it didn’t go to plan. I tried to pull myself together and made my way back to Birdcage Walk as I wanted to cheer – but with a combination of being emotional, the crowds, being cold and my legs hurting I decided to just get away from the madness and made my way home.

Once I got home, I just couldn’t believe it was all over – the day I had been counting down to for a whole year, working towards for months was done. And it went so so wrong. It was tough to process. But luckily – a long hot shower, a massage, pizza & lots of gin helped to ease the pain slightly!

It’s been 9 days since the marathon, and if I am honest I am not in the best place right now. A combination of disappointment, post marathon blues, lack of training & weight gain has left me feeling low. But I know that feeling sorry for myself isn’t going to make me feel any better! So instead I am now focusing on my next goal – the 2019 New York Marathon! I am going to be a lot more selective about what I share during this block, and I will be keeping goals close to my chest, but I look forward to sharing the journey with you all.

Jordan xxx