Monday, 23 June 2014

Creative Nature Bars

My mixed box

Everybody who knows me seems to comment on my (rather large) appetite, and my sweet tooth. In the past, some people have said that they "won't offer me a biscuit as I'm training for a marathon".....nooooooo.......when I'm training I just get hungrier. I'm also fairly lazy at preparing healthy snacks in advance and often grab whatever I can to tide me over, so I know that healthy nutrition is something I could do better.
My box at work was depleted
 when I was away
I was introduced to creative nature bars by another marathon-running friend, but I have to say I was slightly dubious about them. I wasn't sure that anything low in fat with no added sugar could taste nice, especially when I saw the additional dairy-free and gluten-free comments. Never have I been happier to be proven wrong, as I've now found a much more healthy treat to have post-run (the seed bars are high in protein and so aid recovery post-workout) and as a boost pre-run (I hate running when feeling hungry, and the berry bars give you a more natural sugar rush than my previous snacks). I've made a promise to myself to try to improve my nutrition, so here's to a good start......and judging by how a box I kept in my room at work was depleted when I was away......non-runners like them too!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

NDURE Flasks

A late call-up to run the marathon for Team Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow meant that I suddenly had to kickstart my running. The call coincided with a run of rather hot, sunny weather, so it was perfect timing that I had just received some NDURE hydraflasks to try out.
I have had some foot problems in the past and so eased my way back into some mileage on the trails in the local forests. There is nothing worse than seeing litter along these beautiful trails, so the NDURE flasks were ideal for me. I could drink to maintain hydration in the hot weather, but as they compress as you drink, it meant I didn't have to carry sloshing waterbottles as they emptied, and when completely empty,they were small enough to fit into my shorts pockets. I also did some faster efforts on road, and the shape/material of the flasks made them easy to grab from a friend at the side of the road. The compressibility pairs with the bite valve meant that it is easy to get the liquid out with the minimum of effort, yet they are also easy to I'll definitely be using them again, on both on- and off- road runs.

Monday, 16 June 2014

A Whole New World....

I was flattered to be invited to join two Elite English marathoners (Aly Dixon and Amy Whitehead) on a course recce in Glasgow at the weekend, as although I was sure that I'd covered some of the route in either the Women's 10k or the Glasgow Half marathon, I wasn't quite sure of the exact laps set for July.

I confess to a very poor night's sleep beforehand, partly due to an early start to make it up to meet them soon after 7am (in order to avoid traffic, pedestrians, shoppers etc on the route) and partly due to my worry that I wouldn't be able to keep up with the pace!

The route we should have run!
Luckily, the run was at a relaxed pace, and it wasn't too hard to get the others to use their breath for conversation. As I listened to them chat about the merits of running on the tartan track or the dirt track in Iten, and single vs double runs on other trips to altitude, I felt like I was entering a whole new world!

In actual fact, both ladies were lovely running companions, and spent time putting me at my ease and talking through previous events and competitions - both preparation for, the run up to, and the actual event itself, to try to allay my fears and answer some of my questions (without even commenting on whether I was asking ridiculous things or not!). I came away from the trip tired, but having really enjoyed the run, seen the route (with some slight extra detours), and soaked up (hopefully) lots of their tips, knowledge and experiences!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Time to Rediscover the Roads

Playing on the hills

I was delighted to break the magic 2:40 barrier in Frankfurt last year - but unfortunately my mishap at Seville this year meant that I could not improve on that time. After Seville, I learnt that the rules of the Commonwealth Games meant that no reserves were allowed. This was rather disappointing as I had the slowest time of the 4 of us that had run under the qualifying time. Whilst I would never wish an injury on anyone, and have complete respect for the talent of the three faster ladies, a nice story, such as a pregnancy announcement, could have meant that a reserve was called up.
Still, when I saw the marathon team announcement in April (after the London marathon), I knew it was not going to be. Without a target race, I had the luxury of drifting a bit. I could enjoy playing on the hills and trails, running for fun rather than focussing on road training, and managed to run in some events (old and new) that intrigued me.
The marathon route
It was therefore rather a shock to come back from holiday and receive a phone call from Scottish Athletics, telling me that I had been substituted in at the final track and field selection meeting. The call came late in the evening and so, although I didn't sleep well overnight (unsurprisingly), I did wonder if I'd dreamt it on the following morning. Several thoughts were whirling round in my mind - I was obviously devastated for Freya, having to pull out with an injury at such a late date, but I was delighted to have the chance to run on the roads for Scotland in Scotland. Equally, I was petrified at the thought of the event, with all of its ensuing publicity, and how I might embarrass myself, my family, and my friends. I only have a few weeks to prepare, but I want to get my body and mind into the best form I can, enjoy the run on the day, and indeed the whole experience, as that is all anyone can ask of themselves. I think the next few weeks will be a combination/permutation of eating, sleeping, working, running, stressing and so on - but with a bit of excitement added in! I'm sure everyone will understand if I appear to withdraw and become less sociable than usual, but it'll be worth it when I see you on the streets of Glasgow on July 27!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

NOT running Comrades

In order to perform to the best of your abilities, you need to be on top of your game. Most people know that if you want to run a good race, you need to be physically prepared - ie properly trained, tapered and injury-free. What a lot of people forget is the mental preparation - the focus, the commitment, the desire, and the quiet self-belief that comes from a good build-up.

This is true for any event, but I think that mental strength is especially important for an event such as Comrades. The events in Seville earlier in the year rather knocked me for six when it came to busy race starts, and the Comrades start had many similarities with Seville. The elite men and women start at the very front, with the "fast men" right behind. The fact that Comrades also has "hotspots" (cash prizes for the first man and woman to reach certain distances on the course) means that more people go off really hard, despite the length of the race. From memory (I ran the "down" race 2 years ago), there are also many catseyes in the roads leading out of Pietermaritzburg, and the fact that it is still dark when the race commences (5:30am) meant that I was even more petrified of being tripped/knocked down again than usual.

Chilling at Ephesus
Finishing 4th in a previous Comrades
Having finished in 4th place in both 2012 and 2013, I know how hard the race can be, and so for the reasons mentioned above, I decided to withdraw from the 2014 event rather than run an unsatisfactory race that I wasn't satisfied with, which I would see as letting both myself and Nedbank down. As race day approached, I wasn't sure if I'd made the right decision, but I did have other things to look forward to - ie a holiday with my Aussie relatives, whom I love dearly and don't see often enough.
Ephesus with my Rellies

In the Grand Bazaar

I firmly believe in living my life by the motto that you only regret the things that you don't do, not those that you do - and while I did have some regrets over NOT running Comrades (especially when I saw the results - as I'd have love to have been there to help celebrate my friend Ellie's awesome victory - breaking the 11 year winning streak of the Russian twins), I had a great holiday seeing a new place with some amazing people, and know that I can come back to Comrades in the future with more of a hunger and desire to run it well!!