I’m Pregnant! Now What?

Firstly, I just want to make it clear I am by no means an expert when it comes to anything to do with pregnancy. At the time of writing this I am 27 weeks pregnant and this is my first pregnancy, so I think the term closest to what I am doing would be ‘winging it’ – but over the last 6 months I have learnt a lot of things, and if I was ever to do this again I would definitely cut myself a lot more slack in a lot areas, especially in the early days.

So with that in mind, I just wanted to share some of my own bits of advice – purely anecdotal, and hopefully if you are going through this journey too, it might help you, or make you feel less silly if you feel (or felt) the same way!

**Trigger Warning – I do briefly mention about baby loss in the post** 

Do as many bloody pregnancy tests as you like! 

When I did my first test and saw the ‘Positive’ result come up on the screen, I honestly couldn’t believe it, was there a mistake?! Within about 30 seconds I had messaged Danny to get him to call me (he was at work) and told him the news. He couldn’t believe it either and we both agreed I would do another test ‘just incase’ – and this too came up Positive! But it still didn’t feel real.

In those first two weeks I did a total of about 14 tests – and every time was just as nerve-racking! Sometimes the line wasn’t as strong, which freaked us out, then other times it took a little bit longer for the result to show. But as the days went on, and the lines got stronger it filled us with more confidence and eventually I got to the point where I felt like I didn’t need to do anymore.

At the time, the only person I had told about the pregnancy was my Mum, and when I told her how many tests we did she laughed and said we were being silly, as back when she was pregnant with me (almost 30 years ago, gulp!) that just wasn’t the norm, you did one test and that was that! But for us, in those first couple of weeks it really helped with my anxious feelings when we saw the positive result on each test.

I then did a post on Instagram a few months later with the story of how we found out, and asked other mums & mums to be to share theirs and SO many others did multiple tests like we did, and I realised how normal it was, and I didn’t need to feel silly at all!

So my advice would be to just do whatever makes you feel happiest & at ease! You might be happy to just do one test, but if you want to do 20, thats also fine. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Stay away from pregnancy forums! 

One of the hardest parts of when you just find out you are pregnant is that you will have a million and one questions, but probably not have many people to talk to about it (well unless you choose to tell people very early on).

When we first found out, my brain went into overdrive and I just wanted to know everything! I was downloading apps left, right and centre, including one that had a forum with various groups, including ones set up specifically for the month you are due. So of course, I joined straight away in the hopes that I would get all my questions answered and learn lots of other stuff too – but in fact the only real thing I got from joining a forum was stress & anxiety.

Unfortunately, miscarriage is very common (1 in 4 women will experience baby loss in the first trimester – for more information around this please click here) and when you are in a forum with hundreds of other women who are also in the early stages of pregnancy, unfortunately there were women who experience this and post about it in the group. Now I am not saying that women should not share their experience, or talk about their baby loss, but during this time I personally was so worried & anxious about miscarrying, that every time I saw a post about it, it made me think it was going to happen to me too and I would start to convince myself I had stomach cramps, or that something wasn’t right. This actually resulted in us attending the early pregnancy unit at the hospital when I was approx 10 weeks pregnant as I had got myself so worked up that something was wrong after reading some heartbreaking posts, and it was after that I deleted the app and haven’t looked on a forum since and it made such a difference overall my mental health surrounding the pregnancy.

So avoid the mum forums, especially during your first trimester and definitely if you are feeling anxious or nervous around your pregnancy.

It’s okay to have sh*tty days.

Being pregnant is wonderful, and for some people it can take a really long time to fall pregnant so it feels like even more of a blessing. But does that mean you need to feel happy every single day? Absolutely not.

Some days it’s just really bloody hard, and it can just make you feel a bit sh*it – it doesn’t mean you aren’t grateful or already have a lot of love for the little bean growing in your tummy, but it can be tough to feel over -the-moon when you are feeling constantly nauseas for the 50th day in row, or can’t sleep or just feel like you are going to burst into tears constantly.

I certainly had days early-on where I felt utterly crap & just felt sorry for myself, and part of that was missing things that I used to do – and in my case a lot of that linked back to running & training, something that has been a massive part of my life for the last few years.  I just didn’t have the energy to do a lot in those first 12 weeks, so it felt like that had been taken away from me, and I felt like I was already losing a bit of myself & my identity… and it’s okay to feel that way! But I get it, you can feel really selfish & guilty for feeling like that (I certainly did!)  but pregnancy & becoming a mum is a massive deal, and it will mean some big life changes that can take some time to adjust to.

So give yourself permission to have those down days, let yourself have a cry and don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad for not being happy 24/7!

Give yourself a break!

This is sort of linked to the point above – but just a reminder to make sure you go easy on yourself, and not just during the first trimester, but through your whole pregnancy.

In this day and age, it’s hard to not think you need to do everything, and social media has a big part to play in this!

You will always be following or know of someone who is doing more than you, or at least making it look easier.

You will probably know someone who didn’t gain much weight when they were pregnant and just had the perfect bump.

You will probably know someone who ran a marathon when they were expecting and made it look easy.

So I get it, it’s hard not to compare. And again this is something I have been (and still can be) guilty of. I personally put weight on quite easily, and I did put on weight really early in my pregnancy, in fact I stopped being able to fit into my jeans from about 8 weeks! And it was something I felt really conscious about, and I found myself looking at other women on Instagram and feeling ashamed I hadn’t stayed as slim for as long as they did! I also gave myself a hard time about running, I was getting slower as the weeks went on, but rather than being proud of myself that I was still able to run, I kept comparing myself to other pregnant runners, and then being annoyed I was slower, or not running as far as them.

It took a while to get out of the habit of putting myself down, but I really think it started to change once I had a couple of scans and saw my little baby growing away nicely inside my tummy. It felt like it was only then I realised that this was my pregnancy, and nobody else’s so I can’t compare myself to anyone else! Just like every baby is different, so is every pregnancy!

So as much as social media can be good for meeting people & getting nursery inspiration, please don’t compare yourself to other pregnant women & what they may or may not be doing!

There is no such thing as a stupid question.

Seriously, there isn’t! You don’t get taught how to grow a baby, you don’t automatically know all the things you should or shouldn’t be doing, and you don’t always know what is normal.

I have googled lots of things over this last 6 months – from whether I am allowed to eat a certain type of cheese, trying to find at least one study that shows a glass of wine a day is actually good for you (chill, that was a joke!) or even just what fruit or vegetable my baby is shaped like that week.  But honestly, if you don’t know something – just ask! You wouldn’t go into a brand new job and just be expected to not know everything or just crack-on without asking a few things first.

Your midwives also will not mind if you ask them questions, so if something is playing on your mind, or you aren’t sure about something, it’s always best to ask! Either at one of your appointments, or if its a bit more urgent you can always call your midwives for advice.

This is where it can also be really handy to have pregnant friends, especially those that are a little bit ahead of you! I have been very lucky that I have had two friends that have pretty much been my go to source of information since I was about 8 weeks pregnant (yep, I caved early and told them as I wanted to join in their pregnancy gang!) and honestly it has been so invaluable just having them their to talk to, and also reassuring to know that they had the same questions & worries too!

Get yourself a support network.

This continues nicely from my last point, and that is having a group of pregnant friends! I feel very lucky that I have a small group of women that I speak to on a pretty much daily basis – and none of whom I was particularly close to before we were pregnant, and one I didn’t even know at all but just met through Instagram after I announced I was expecting!

But it really has been a blessing, and especially with lockdown/COVID it has been great to be able to talk to people going through the same thing as me. I totally get that pregnancy can feel like an isolating time, especially now more than ever but I have honestly never felt like that even though I haven’t been able to meet up with many people, so if you are expecting, I really would try and make those connections if you can.

I also wanted to share some advice I was given following a post on Instagram the other day.  I asked all the mums out there what advice they would give to first time mums and I was completely overwhelmed with the responses! The advice is more for once you are nearing the end of your pregnancy or have had your baby, but it might be worth keeping these in mind for when you need them!

‘Always go with your gut. You might have to make decisions with regards to your birth and feeding you never thought you’d have to make, but you know your body and baby better than anyone else’Leah 

‘Batch cook loads of healthy meals for the freezer. The last thing either of you will want to do when exhausted is stand and cook homemade meals’Kelly 

‘Don’t wish the time away, the baby will arrive when it’s ready, enjoy your last true weeks of freedom as your life will never be the same again! (In a good way obviously) – Kathryn 

‘Rest, rest, rest! Don’t ever feel guilty for that lazy afternoon on the sofa or for that lay in, it’s SO precious!’Tanya 

I hope you found this useful, and if you are pregnant I wish you all the best for the rest of your pregnancy!

Jordan xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Pregnancy Running Journey So Far…

*Disclaimer – please note that all the information in this blog post is my personal experience of running & exercise during pregnancy. If you have any concerns or experience pain or discomfort at any time please consult your midwife or GP before continuing to exercise* 

So if you are reading this, I am assuming that you are either currently pregnant too, so if so – CONGRATULATIONS! Or perhaps you are planning on getting pregnant in the future and are thinking about how you are going to still exercise & do the things you enjoy (in this case I am going to be talking about running) 

I am going to share my thoughts & experiences of how exercising has been for me so far and hopefully it will help to reassure any of you that are maybe struggling or putting pressure on yourself when it comes to keeping fit.

1st Trimester 

When I first found out I was pregnant, suddenly a lot of things clicked into place and made me think ‘ohhhhh that’s why I felt so rubbish on that run’ or ‘thats why I had to stop after a few miles and jump on the tube’ – because my body had just started the magical process of growing another human being, and although at this stage my baby was approximately the size of a poppy seed, it was everything else going on that was making me feel like one big, tired, hormonal mess!

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I will be completely honest, that first week after we found out I was very over cautious, in fact I didn’t run for a few days after our first positive test in case I hurt the baby’ and I also just think my brain had gone into overdrive and running suddenly fell to the bottom of the priority list.

We worked out that I was approx 4 weeks pregnant when we found out, which is still very early on and really before you get any obvious pregnancy symptoms. The only thing I really found for those first couple of weeks was that I just felt tired, and pretty much found any excuse to have a nap!

After a few days I decided to put my trainers back on and head out for some runs. I consciously made the decision that I was really going to step back on the intensity of my workouts and just take it really easy;

  1. Because I didn’t really have the energy to train hard
  2. Because I didn’t want to raise my HR too high
  3. Because I didn’t have any reason to! I wasn’t going to be racing for PBs any time soon so thought I would finally just take all the pressure off with training.

The first couple of weeks carried on like this, just lots of short, easy paced runs – I will admit I was missing pushing myself, but I knew I would rather finish a run feeling good, then feeling absolutely exhausted. But I do remember thinking to myself that running still felt enjoyable, and I was feeling pretty positive that I would be able to keep this up! Then…. the dreaded morning sickness started.

Now, compared to most I do feel quite fortunate. I was never actually sick, but don’t be fooled, it doesn’t mean I had it easy (and if anyone ever tells you that, feel free to give them a slap) From around Week 7 I felt constantly nauseas, from the moment I woke up pretty much to when I went to bed. It was draining, and some days the last thing I wanted to do was get out and go for a run or do a workout – so I didn’t! And instead just took to going for a short walk each day so I at least got some fresh air.

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This lasted for pretty much the whole of March – some weeks I ran once or twice, others I didn’t at all. And yeah, at the time I will be honest, it felt completely crap! Those were probably the most miserable weeks of pregnancy so far, as not only was I feeling full of anxiety as we were waiting for our 12 week scan, I wasn’t even able to go out for an enjoyable run to clear my head.

I started to really worry that perhaps my pregnancy running journey was over before it even began. If I couldn’t run when I was 2-3 months pregnant how on earth was I going to run when I was further along?! Surely I would just feel worse? I felt pretty fed up and I found it really hard to not compare myself to other pregnant women who appeared to be ‘smashing it’ and wondering why I wasn’t able to!

But ladies, I promise you… this feeling does not last forever! I have had countless messages on Instagram from women in their first trimester who went through the same thing that I did, worrying that it will last forever and they won’t be able to run again, and I tell everyone the same thing… for most of us, once we hit that 12/13 week mark, we start to feel remarkably better! Our energy levels pick back up, the constant nausea/sickness disappears, and hopefully some of that anxiety has been lifted after your first scan. When this happened to me, I honestly felt like a new woman, and it started to show in all areas of my life, including running and exercise.

2nd Trimester 

Whilst writing this I am currently 23 weeks pregnant, which means I have finally reached over half way and I am coming up to the 6 month mark (which just feels mad when I think about it!) and I am still managing to exercise regularly, and actually enjoy it, well most of the time at least! IMG_2455

I have been managing to run 4-5 times a week, but I am still taking it pretty easy. I choose to run between 3-5 miles, and this will purely just depend on how I feel on the day.  My average pace is the slowest it has ever been, and my current 5k time is approximately 13 minutes slower than my PB! I normally run between 17-19 miles a week, and right now that feels good for me, but as soon as it stops feeling good, I will cut back on this too.

I understand for some people, this may sound like a lot, but it is always important to remember that everyone is different, and how much you exercised before pregnancy will make a difference too. So in my case, to put it into context if I was training for an event I would on average be running 50-60 miles a week, run 7-8 times a week (double days), doing a mix of track, hills, park runs, long runs etc and do two intense S&C sessions in the gym per week. So when people tell me to take it easy… trust me, I am!

IMG_2501But I get it, it is tough not to get caught up in the comparison game, especially on Social Media,  but just remember that for a lot of people their account is their highlight reel, and although they might post about the amazing run they had that day, they may not mention that they day before they spent the day with their head down the toilet or unable to get out of bed because they felt so exhausted!

Overall though, the thing that I say to the women that message me over and over again is that now is really not the time to be pushing yourself or feeling guilt about not going for a run. A lot of the time, if you lose motivation it is your bodies way of telling you to take a step back and have a rest, and now more than ever it’s important that you listen to those signs.

Also, I do understand that for some people running just stops being enjoyable, and again, if that is the case, why force it?! We are obviously in a really tough time at the moment and with gyms being closed it does limit what else we can do – for example I would have loved to have been able to swim during my pregnancy, but that just hasn’t happened! But if running isn’t working for you, there are still other things you can do. And even if you are still running, these will still be great to add alongside it.

  • Walking – no need for any equipment, or any experience. Just aim to go for a 30 minute walk every day if nothing else!
  • Strength & Conditioning – there are some great Pre & Post Natal personal trainers out there at the moment providing lots of great content online, so you can follow along without even needing to leave your house. I would recommend checking out the following accounts
  • Yoga
  • Pelvic Floor Exercises – now I thought I would just slip this one in, regardless of whatever level of exercise you are doing, ladies – don’t neglect your pelvic floor! if you are not sure where to start, make sure you follow these accounts.

Finally, and this may sound trivial, but being comfortable has made a big difference to me when I have been running & working out. I know that some people feel that splashing out on maternity wear is a waste of time, but once I got clothes that fitted properly and felt supportive it made such a difference, and actually made me feel more motivated too.  Here are a few items that I would recommend adding to your maternity wardrobe;

Sports Bra – Latched UK

Leggings  – ASOS

Running Vests – ASOS

Shorts  – Latched UK

I hope that for those of you that need it, you found this blog useful, and if you are currently pregnant I wish you all the best for the rest of your pregnancy!

….and for anyone that is really nosy, you can follow all of my pregnancy running on my Strava account by clicking here!

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Lots of Love

Jordan xxx

(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) 

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Hypoxia Test (Altitude)

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

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

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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.