Walking With Confidence, Carbs and Cows

There’s less than five weeks to go until the London to Brighton Challenge and, I have to admit, the nerves are starting to kick in. This isn’t helped by the fact that some of the facebook groups that I follow can, at times, turn into a bit of a pissing contest about how many miles everyone has done each week.

Fortunately, when this happens, there are plenty of other group members who offer reassurance to those of us who are doing this for the first time and haven’t covered quite so many miles! And, to be fair, it does encourage me to get out and tackle those long walks at the weekend.

With this weekend extending into a Bank Holiday Monday, I took full advantage of the extra day off and headed out for my longest walk so far. A 43 kilometre walk from Hove to Shoreham then along the River Adur and back again.

43K April 2014

All in all, it took me between nine and a half to ten hours including rest breaks. I’m not sure of the exact time though as my Garmin battery only lasts for eight hours. But Monday’s walk wasn’t about time or pace. It was about testing things out and seeing how long I could go for.

One of my main concerns about taking on this challenge is making sure that I take in enough calories to keep me going. I heard somewhere that having a fatty breakfast before an endurance event like this can help as your body will use the fat in your bloodstream for energy, rather than relying on your carb stores. Of course, you are still going to be using up carbs and need to make sure you keep re-fuelling as you go, but a bit of fat will help you on your way too.

This doesn’t mean having a massive fried breakfast and there are plenty of healthy fatty foods that you can have, such as nuts, eggs and yoghurt. I opted for a bacon sandwich – not the healthiest option, I know, but I also know that my stomach can handle bacon sandwiches at 6:00 am so that was what I went for.

On the walk itself, I snacked on packets of crisps, some mini pork pies, a banana, a small packet of fruit and nuts and even packed some vegetarian sushi and a bottle of chocolate milk for lunch time. Basically, I had a mini banquet of carbs, fat and protein while walking along the river, but it really made a difference to my energy levels. And it may also be the reason that I made a few four legged friends along the way!

One of the best things about walking on this particular route was that everyone said hello as we passed each other, which was really nice. It’s funny how when we pass people in the street, even when we pass the same people every day in the town or city, we barely even make eye contact, yet out on a country walk  we smile and greet complete strangers as if they were our next door neighbours.

The other interesting thing about this walk was the wildlife and farm animals. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many different varieties of butterfly in one day and was surprised at how low to the ground they seem to fly. This concerned me a little bit as I was worried that I might step on one, but they soon flew up and off into the longer grass as I approached them.

The same, however, cannot be said for the cows. As I approached one particular stile that I needed to cross, I found myself face to face with a group of six very large cows hanging out right next to it. So, rather than running the risk of being eaten  by a cow, I decided to go round them by climbing over the fence instead.

I kind of liked the fact that the cows weren’t fenced in from the path, but up close they did look quite intimidating with their six sets of eyes following me the whole way as I climbed the fence and made my way back onto the path further along the field.

All in all though, it was a great way to spend the Bank Holiday and, by the end of the walk, I felt like I could have gone on for longer if it hadn’t been for the fact that my feet were throbbing like crazy. My shoes had served me well and I didn’t have any blisters, but my feet were starting to pay the price of nine hours or so of constant pressure.

Apparently the way to deal with this is to elevate them to stimulate the blood flow back into the legs so I went to bed that night with a couple of pillows under my feet and by the morning they felt fine – a little tired perhaps, but still pretty good all things considered.

So, with 43K done, I am feeling a bit more confident about the challenge. The next thing is to get some hill training in, but that will have to wait until next weekend.

Making Plans

It has been a very relaxing weekend so far. Apart from yesterday’s parkrun, I haven’t really done anything in the way of exercise, but now that I am upping my mileage for the London to Brighton Challenge, rest days are becoming increasingly important, especially if I want to avoid injury as the training itself becomes more and more challenging.

My main goal for the challenge has changed since I first signed up for it a few weeks ago. Having done a couple of long(-ish) walks, I realise that simply completing the course is going to be tough, never mind running it, or jogging it, or even finishing within a particular time frame. This year, I just want to be able to do it. Get from the start line to the finish in the best shape possible. And that means I need to start looking after my body during and between training sessions.

With only five weeks to go and having only walked about a third of the distance in one session, I’m starting to get a little bit nervous. So, today I planned a route which, although a lot flatter than the course itself, will take my distance up to between 45 and 50 kilometres.

I plan to start out by walking pretty much the same route as I walked on Friday, from Hove to Shoreham, and then take the path from Shoreham along the River Adur. The idea is to basically follow the path northwards until I get to about 15 miles and then turn around and head for home.

45K Plan

Although the route is far from hilly, the distance will be a challenge in itself. Unlike the actual event where we will be provided with meals or snacks every 12 kilometres or so, when it comes to training, I need to take enough food and drink in my backpack to keep myself fuelled and hydrated along the way. This does make the whole thing a little bit cumbersome, but I guess carrying a bit of extra weight in training won’t do any harm.

At the moment, I am still using my old back pack which tends to jiggle around a bit, especially if I attempt to jog, but hopefully that will be replaced next week when I get paid. There’s a lot of kit that I still need to get and try out before the big day, but I guess I’ll deal with that next week.

For now, I’m having an early night to get myself ready for tomorrow’s long walk. Here’s hoping for some fair weather and a fine day!

A Walk To The Beach

I had hoped to have a nice long run this morning, what with it being a Bank Holiday and all, but as often happens with this running lark, things didn’t quite go to plan!

After my mid-week run, I had been feeling pretty good, but on Wednesday when I was walking to work, I noticed a bit of a niggle in my left calf. It doesn’t feel like anything too serious, but I decided not to run for a few days, just to be on the safe side. I mean, the last thing I need with just over a month to go before the London to Brighton 100K Challenge is to get myself injured.

However, time is running out as far as my training is going, so instead of running this morning, I decided to go for a nice long walk to Shoreham. Ideally, my walking should involve hills, but with a niggly calf, the flat road seemed like a safer option.

It was a lovely morning for walking and, despite the fact that most of the route was along an industrial estate and the side of a main road, I really enjoyed it as I was still close to the sea.

Shoreham Power Station
Shoreham Power Station

I found the walk itself pretty easy, even with my cumbersome backpack (I really must get a new one soon), and it took me just under two hours to get to Shoreham. When I got there, I took a walk along the board walk and then ventured down onto the stones to give my legs a bit more of a workout.

Shoreham Beach
Shoreham Beach

In the end, I covered just over 20K and, while I felt I could have done a bit more, I didn’t want to aggravate whatever it is that’s going on with my calf. Besides, I need to be on good form for the start of my World Tour of Parkrun tomorrow!

What do you do when you feel a niggle coming on? Do you run through it, take some time off or find another way to train? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

New Shoes and A very Long Walk

With only six weeks to go until the London to Brighton 100K Challenge, I figured it was time to get some more Ks under my belt and trail test my new running shoes!

Brooks Cascadia
Brooks Cascadia Trail Shoes

Now, to be fair, pink would not normally be my colour of choice but as these were the only trail shoes that Sweatshop had available in my size (and the fact that I had a £15 Sweatshop voucher from Parkrun to use), I decided to get them anyway.

I had tried going cross country in my regular trainers a few weeks ago and, while they are great for running on the roads and evenly laid paths, they weren’t so good for walking over bumpy trails and left me with a few hot spots and small blisters. So, I didn’t really mind too much about what my new shoes looked like, as long as they did the job.

I set out just after 8:00 am for what was to be my longest walk so far. I’d decided to go East along the seafront, taking the trail along the top of the cliffs towards Newhaven instead of the Under Cliff Walk that I had taken for my half-marathon earlier in the week.

Down to Under Cliff
Path Leading Down To The Under Cliff Walk

The new shoes felt a bit strange to begin with. For the first few kilometres, I was walking on the promenade (apart from a small stretch of grass on Hove Lawns) so I was concerned about how the trail shoes would feel on the hard surface. But they felt ok.

By the time I reached Brighton Marina and headed up towards the path along the top of the cliffs, I had pretty much stopped thinking about my shoes. I had been worried about blisters before heading out so had put a compeed plaster over the most vulnerable part of my foot but it seemed to be ok. No rubbing at all, which was reassuring.

My plan was to walk for 15K and then turn around and jog/walk back. Despite the hills along the route, I was feeling pretty good. I had packed plenty of water and a couple of bananas to keep me going and took some money with me to get a snack if I needed something more.

Over The Cliffs
A Long Way To Go

However, once I reached 15K, I decided that I might as well keep going a bit further and see if I could do 20K before turning back. Most of the trail runs along the coast road and there were plenty of buses that would take me back to Brighton if I decided that I’d gone too far and didn’t feel like walking back home.

As it turned out though, the path came to an end at around 18K when I reached Newhaven. It was around 12:00 pm by this point, so I decided to head off the trail and down into the town itself to see if I could find a public toilet and somewhere to get some lunch.

There was a small cafe by the harbour, so I stopped to buy a couple of bacon rolls and a coke. The woman in the cafe wrapped the rolls in foil for me, so I put one in my backpack and munched on the other one as I headed back up to the trail.

I was a bit worried about how my stomach would cope with the food, but it was fine, so on the way back I decided that I would try jogging some of the downhill sections. This wasn’t easy with my backpack as it bounced around a lot, but I was enjoying being able to run on roots and rocks and stones without feeling any discomfort in my feet.

To be honest though, I didn’t do as much running as I would have liked on the way back as my legs were starting to ache and I could feel the beginnings of cramps in my calves. I did, however, find that if I drank water as soon as the cramps started, they would go away for a while.

In the end, I managed to make it all the way back to Hove without stopping (apart from a toilet stop) or using public transport and clocked up a very satisfying 37K in 7:05. I was very happy with this and, even though the uphill parts of the route slowed me down a fair bit, I was happy with the pace.

2014-12-04-Summary

When I got home, I was pretty exhausted and my feet ached like crazy, but no more than they did when I used to spend all day on my feet at work. And, when I finally took the shoes off, I was happy to discover that I hadn’t picked up any blisters either.

The biggest lesson that I learned today though, is that at this stage I’m not even close to being able to walk 100K from London to Brighton. However, I feel confident that, as long as I keep up the training for the next six weeks, I should be able to just about cope with it. It won’t be easy, but it is doable.

The Impromptu Half Marathon

With less than seven weeks to go until the London to Brighton 100K Challenge, I figured it was about time I started to get some decent miles on my legs. So, last night after work I decided to run an impromptu half-marathon.

2014-09-04-SummaryIt was still light when I headed out, so I thought I would take a slow jog from Hove, along the seafront and along the undercliff path to Saltdean and then back again. I knew that it would be dark by the time I finished and, as the route is pretty much unlit beyond Madeira Drive, I decided to limit my walk breaks to one every 5K for the first three quarters of the run to ensure that I wouldn’t be running in the dark for too long.

It was fairly quiet along the seafront, with just a few of the usual joggers, dog walkers and after work drinkers having a well earned beer on the beach after a hard day at the office, but once I reached the undercliff path, the place was pretty much deserted.

While it was nice to have the path to myself, I did find it a little bit unnerving as I approached my turning point. My legs were feeling pretty tired and sore and my pace had dropped considerably by this point, but I decided to keep jogging for as long as possible so that I could get back to the better lit part of the route a bit sooner.

Apart from a couple of boy racers speeding along the otherwise deserted Madeira Drive in the distance, however, the darker part of the run was fairly uneventful and I emerged unscathed, other than the aching limbs that is.

In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best idea to go out for an evening run on that particular route, but it was good to finally get a half marathon under my belt.

The pace itself was very slow for me, averaging out at 7:16 mins per kilometre, but if I’m going to complete the London to Brighton Challenge, I’m going to have to learn to go even slower than that. So, with less than two months to go, my goal is now to run as slowly as possible so that I can keep going for longer and, hopefully, build up my endurance levels for the challenge by the end of May.

What’s the furthest distance you have ever run? What precautions do you take when going for a run in the dark? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Walking The Walk

Now that I’ve taken my first tentative steps into training for the London to Brighton Challenge, I realise that from here on my training is going to have to involve a fair bit of walking as well as running. Not just walk/run intervals to help improve stamina, but actual non-stop walking so that I can learn to get used to moving on my feet for hours at a time.

I’m generally pretty motivated when it comes to walking and prefer it to using public transport when it comes to getting around the city. So much so, that over the last couple of years, my daily commute to work has become a 25-30 minute, 1.6 mile walk each way. That being said though, I’m going to have to start walking a lot more than 5K a day if I’m going to cope with getting myself from London to Brighton in one piece.

My first training walk should have been yesterday. I’d planned to take a 2 hour walk after dinner, but unfortunately I managed to pick up a head cold and was feeling fairly rubbish by the end of the day, so I decided to have an early night and go for a good long walk today.

I still wasn’t feeling great this morning, but decided that I was going to go out anyway. I had scheduled a 4 hour walk with the aim of exploring some off road running routes. I wasn’t really sure about where would be the best place to go, but I mapped myself out a route of sorts and headed out with my backpack.

The weather was warm and sunny, and by the first few kilometres I was down to short sleeves as I made my way along a small woodland path that I’d found. I tried to stay in the shade as much as possible, although the ground was muddier there, and I soon realised that I was going to have to get myself some trail shoes before attempting to do any running on it.

On the whole, the walk was pretty good. I enjoyed the changes of scenery from wide open fields to narrow wooded trails with steep drops, but navigation wasn’t easy.

I got lost a number of times and even found myself in the middle of a golf course trying to find my way back to the path, but I didn’t mind too much. I had four hours of walking to do and it didn’t really matter where I did it.

Walk 2014-03-29

The only downside was that, when I eventually did find my way to a road that would lead somewhere, I realised that it was impossible to walk on – the verges were just too steep and overgrown and the traffic was far too fast and frequent. At that point I ended up walking in a field with some sheep, who I’m pleased to say were too busy grazing on brambles to be bothered by me.

In the end, my search for some off road running routes wasn’t very successful, but it did get the legs working and, with all the hills and the mud and the uneven ground, it has opened my eyes to just how different it’s going to be running cross country compared with the nice flat even paths along the seafront.

Walk Elevation 2014-03-29

Where is your favourite place to run? Do you have good running routes on your doorstep or do you have to travel further afield before you can really get going? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Speedy or Slow?

I usually like to blog about my run soon after I get in. But as last night’s run was a bit longer than usual, I decided to leave it until today to write about it.

According to my training program for the BM10K, I’m supposed to do speed work on Tuesdays, but after Sunday’s long run my legs were still a bit tired so I decided that I would take it easy and see how it felt once I got going.

It was dark by the time I got down to the seafront but there were still plenty of runners around as I followed my usual 10K route down towards the Peace Statue and up towards the Lagoon and then back again. Surprisingly, my legs felt pretty good once they got moving and by the 8th kilometre I I knew that I didn’t want to stop at 10K. So, instead of doing my usual shorter loop that takes me to 10K, I decided to head back up to the Lagoon a second time and just keep going until I felt that I’d had enough.

By the time I got to the Lagoon again, the place was pretty much deserted, other than a few dog walkers, but I was enjoying the peace and quiet of the dimly lit promenade. Even though I wasn’t paying much attention to my Garmin, my pace felt pretty consistent and I began to wonder if I could get to 15K without stopping for a walk break.

When I returned to my starting point for the second time, I had pretty much covered 12K and my legs were starting to feel tired. I knew that this would be an obvious place to finish the run, but something inside me just wasn’t ready to stop, so I kept going and going until I completed 15K, my longest non-stop run to date.

15K 2013-03-25

I was surprised that I had managed to go that far, but when I checked my Garmin later I discovered that my average pace was just under 7 minutes per kilometre, which is quite a bit slower than I usually run but more in the region of what I am aiming for when I do the London 2 Brighton Challenge at the end of May.

I guess it’s ironic that what should have been a speed session turned into a slow session, but being able to keep going for 15K gave me a real boost in confidence as far as my ultra marathon training is concerned.

It was good to get a longer run under my belt, but for the rest of this week and next I need to focus making sure I’m ready for the BM10K.

How’s your training going? Do you prefer speed sessions or slow runs? Please share your thoughts in the comments.