Improve with Stryd

I've had my Stryd for nearly 2 months now. I can't yet say that I understand it all but I really want to know if I can improve with Stryd. Can I get faster and can I get more efficient and reach my goal (under 4 hour marathon)?

When I first started running seriously about 6 years ago, I just donned my trainers and off I went. Understanding the philosophy of running then was simple. Just put one foot in front of the other and hey ho, you are a runner.

However being a nut case for numbers and research on 'stuff', I have found that there is a whole new world of terminology that some runners use and talk about. I have now become one of them!

Contrary to my initial beliefs, Stryd is not just about telling you at what power to run but on the Stryd Connect interface, there is also a very neat section called "IMPROVE".

After you have logged a certain number of runs, Stryd makes suggestions about where you can improve depending on the race distance that you are targeting. Obviously the more runs you do, the more that Stryd can suggest.

How to Improve with Stryd 

Here is a screen shot of my current Improve section. I am currently targeting a 10K race.

Improve with Stryd - Strenghen your skills
The triangle on the left compares me to all the other "similar" runners who are using Stryd and who are preparing for a 10K.  I am not sure what it means by "similar" runners. Age, sex or just runners doing a 10K? Also, I would have thought that the less "similar" runners that there are, the less the actual score number is meaningful.

What is more meaningful though, is that it tells me that my metabolic fitness and muscle power are better than my muscle endurance (compared to other runners). I get that as I haven't been able to do much in the way of long runs recently. I tend to max out at 16km as I have been doing some shortish races over the past few weekends.

To improve my muscle endurance, if I look at the training optimizer on the right, it gives me some suggestions. The orange bar shows the areas where I'll get the most improvement, so my aim is to work on those first.

I know that I could really do with focusing on more long runs especially since my marathon training starts at the end of this month. As a side note, there is not that much choice for power based training plans as running with power is pretty new, so I'll have to tell you next time what I have chosen.

Another cool section in the Improve with Stryd section is "Identify Your Trends". I am a sucker for graphs so this really appeals to me.

Improve with Stryd - Identify your Trends
There is no hiding when you see these graphs and I am a bit shocked at how my training has been pretty erratic over the past couple of months. I have done a few races and fund raiser runs and I have had a lower back problem which is getting sorted, so those are my excuses.

Anyway I am getting back on track and I'm going to cut back on some of the short races as my A race for this year is going to be the Amsterdam Marathon mid-October and I am going to break 4 hours - positivity Nicole!

Improve with Stryd - Training Strategy
This third graph in the Improve section has taken me a while to understand and I'm still not sure that I am getting the most out of it.

For now, what I do understand is that the red areas are where I do most of my running and the dark blue areas are where I do the least. I know that I tend to run mostly in my aerobic zone so this is very true.

My critical power is currently 165W so it seems that I do most of my running under that number and very little in the high anaerobic. Coming from MAF heart rate training, I am not surprised. I am wary about pushing myself too much in terms of intensity as for me that has lead to injuries in the past, so that is going to be something to consider when choosing a marathon training program.

Finally there is the Manage Training Load graph.

Improve with Stryd - Manage Training Load
This graph is useful so that you can plot your stress (ie are you overdoing it), distance and time in the different zones. I try and do 3 weeks of progression followed by 1 week of lower training, not that you'd guess that from this graph. Hahaha!.

If you want a more detailed explanation about all of the above, this video is great. Strydcast 4: The PowerCenter

So for now, I am still educating myself and I have a sort of idea of how I can improve with Stryd. I'm off now to check out possible power training plans and to see what my options are for the marathon.  See you next time :).

Stryd Critical Power Test

After my first race with Stryd 10 days ago, I decided that I really needed to do a Stryd Critical Power Test.

The Stryd guide gives you three main ways to do the Stryd critical power test:
  1. Current 5k or 10k time
  2. 3 mins/9 mins field test
  3. 3 lap/6 lap field test
Well I had already put in a recent 5k time from a Parkrun and my critical power number came up as 158w so I was interested to see if one of the other methods provided a different result.

I am lucky in that there is a stadium 10 mins walk down the road so I decided to do the lap field test. I normally run in the morning but if I want to use the stadium (not often as I hate it), I have to go at lunchtime so as to avoid the school kids. In France, "EVERYONE" goes to lunch at 12h00 so this was my opportunity.

Performing the Stryd Critical Power Test

D-day and the weather was on my side. No rain, no wind and slightly cool. Parfait.

I took the long route down to the stadium, gently jogging and wondering nervously how the test was going to go. Before I left the house I had created an activity on my Garmin (Fenix 5S) using the test steps below. 

Stryd Critical Power Test: 3 laps/9 laps

Arriving at the stadium I was alone. That was such a relief, as in the past it has often been me and some lightning fast athlete who double laps me continuously. Yes, a bit humiliating.

After my usual "stress pee", I then started the critical power test.

Step 1. Warm up and strides. Check.
Step 2. Run 800 meters, easy pace. Check. (Note to myself to run step 1 slower next time as step 1 and 2 seemed to be the same).
Step 3. Warm up. Check.
Step 4. 2400 meters . Now the fun begins. I am notorious for going too fast at the outset of a race or when doing intervals so I tried my damned hardest to get it right today. My trick was to smile as that relaxed my body and it made me run faster but at the same effort level. Check.
Step 5. Recovery 30 mins. This was the worst part. I alternated between walking and jogging but it was pretty boring. I used the time to envisage myself running the Amsterdam marathon in October. Anyway, check.
Step 6. 1200 meters max effort with a consistent pace from start to finish. I was a bit tired at the start and longing for a cup of coffee but I managed to run my 3 laps and found that I even had a wee kick at the end. Check.
Step 7. Walk home cool down. Total time = 1h36.

Analyzing my Stryd Critical Power Test

Below you can see what my Stryd Critical Power test looked like. I was pretty pleased I must say and my power throughout the fast segments was pretty steady. I think the only part where I could have done better was steps 1 and 2 where maybe I was running a bit too fast.

The orange line is my power and the purple is my heart rate.

Stryd Critical Power Test
A nice feature that I discovered in Stryd Power Center is that you can zoom in to segments on the graph using the slider underneath. The slider is quite sensitive so it takes a bit of getting used to.

Using the slider, I zoomed in to my Step 4. 2400 meters segment. It shows various metrics for that segment such as, that my average pace was 5:14/km with a max pace of 4:47/km, average heart rate was 163, plus a variety of other metrics like leg spring stiffness, vertical oscillation and form power.

Stryd Power Center - Zoomed in Section
The exciting news was to find out what my Stryd Critical Power number was and was it going to be the same as when I did the 5k Parkrun a couple of weeks earlier?

5km Parkrun (24.03.19)
Critical Power = 158w
Critical Pace = 5:11/km

3 lap / 9 lap Test (05.04.19)
Critical Power = 165w
Critical Pace = 5:16/km

So the Stryd Critical Power test numbers were pretty similar between the 2 different tests although I wonder if  the difference of 7w is noticeably harder when running. Anyway I am quite excited to have a critical power number as now I have something to work with.

Now I've done my first  Stryd critical power test, my next mission on my Stryd journey is to work out how to improve my running using the information from Stryd. I am going to spend the next few weeks in the "Improve" section to see what insights it might have. My school reports always used to say, "Could try harder"!!

STRYD Website

Speak soon

First Race with Stryd

Trail de Quillan
So as promised, here's how I got on doing my first race with STRYD.

I've only had the Stryd for a month so I am still learning a lot and although I am beginning to undestand each metric, I am still not sure how to put them all together.

Anyway as I mentioned in my previous post Me and My Stryd!, from a recent 5k Parkrun, I was able to generate a Critical Power number (CP). Using this number I was then able to generate a race power number to run at on race day.

First Race with Stryd

My first race with Stryd was the Trail de Quillan 11km 380+ elevation. I have done this race before and ALWAYS found it hard. The uphills are super steep and the downhills are rocky single file paths with a cliff edge on one side and brambles on the other. Just the sort of race I am not very confident in.

Why am I doing it again? Not sure really!! Maybe to prove to myself that I should not be such a wimp.

So race day came and I was quietly calm but also quietly wondering whether this was a good idea. I had only been using my Stryd for under a month and I only had a rough race power number as I hadn't done the proper test to work out what it should really be. Normally I run by a mixture of heart rate, pace and feel. Not today. Today I was going to stick to my critical power.

And we were off......

For the first 2 km it was quite flat so sticking to my critical power number was ok. Normally at the start of a race, my heart rate is all over the place with stress and excitement, so it was nice not to be monitoring it today. "Stick to the Race Power number Nicole".

But then things started to get tricky. The first hill arrived and I found I was looking at my watch every 5 seconds to make sure that I didn't go too hard. I started walking some of the steeper bits, but then my power number went too low so I tried trotting them but then my number went too high. And so it went on. Added to that, I really shouldn't take my eyes off the ground if I don't want to smash my face.

The race didn't get easier. The hills got harder, the downhills got trickier and I was starting to fall behind. A few familiar faces, who I know are slower runners than me, started to overtake me. I knew too that my power was all over the place. For the last 2km, I just thought what the heck and just ran.

I finished, I didn't fall (can happent to me), I didn't get lost (can happent to me) but I wasn't broken at the end (can also happen to me). However I still kind of felt disappointed as it didn't go as I had imagined it would. At the same time I was feeling quite glad not to feel exhausted like I normally do.

Getting home, first things first.......check my stats.

It was worse than I thought. I had set a race power of 158w and I was way below that most of the time and in fact averaged 132w over the whole race. I could see that as the race went on, my power got worse and worse but surprisingly my leg spring stiffness improved as did my stress score. Maybe I wasn't trying hard enough.

As you can see from the picture below, my first race with Stryd was a bit of a mess.

First race with Stryd - Trail Quillan 11km

However you know what, I am not despondent and I am not defeated. In fact my this taught me quite a lot.

What I learned from my first race with Stryd

  • Firstly, I think I jumped the gun with racing at power and doing my first race based on Stryd power. I wasn't ready. I should have spent more time just doing my 'normal' running and just getting used to the Stryd metrics and what Stryd can do.
  • Secondly, running by power takes a bit of getting used especially on hilly trails. It is however, much easier than running by pace or heart rate and that is a habit that I need to break.
  • I felt pretty good at the end of the race. Running by power certainly was kinder to my body.
  • Not looking at my heart rate was great. It is usually high in a race because of the stress and so that often throws me.
Since my first race with Stryd was a bit of an eye opener, my plan now is to spend more time learning  about all the data that Stryd collects and learning about how all the data will fit into teaching me to a better and stronger runner.  There is lots to learn!

I'm going to do a Critical Power Test next week so will report back on how that goes. After that I might even start one of their 10k training plans as race season is not far away.

STRYD website

Happy running :)

Stryd Review - First Impressions


A personal  Stryd review.....

I've been ogling the STRYD power pod for weeks now. It came up on my facebook news feed and it instantly caught my attention. So I signed up to all their emails and was getting more and more intrigued about how it worked and what it could do for me - a middle aged, average, female runner.

My goal this year is to break the 4 hour marathon and I want it so bad. Time is marching on in years and being 58, I kind of feel it is now or never. I've done a 4:12 and a 4:13 and really feel that the magical 4 hours is within my grasp. And hey, anything that will help me achieve this is got to be worth a try.

So 3 weeks ago, my Stryd arrived in the post. Excited - YES!!

For those of us who are not elite athletes with a personal coach, I thought I'd do a Stryd review in stages as I went along. This will help me as much as I hope it helps you.

So read on for my Stryd review...

I kind of naively thought that someone/something would give me a power number and that I run to that number and bingo, with the right training, I might achieve my goal. Well it is not quite like that and there is a bit more of a learning curve. Luckily I am very methodical and I love data so I was ready for the challenge.

Stryd review: Small and simple
Out of the box, I couldn't believe how unassuming the Stryd pod is. Just a small, black, tear drop shaped, hard bit of plastic that clips onto your shoelaces. It doesn't come with an instruction manual but the email told me how to get started.

I use a Garmin Fenix 5S running watch so the first step was pairing it to my watch and Garmin Connect (online Garmin data). I was surprised that you first had to download an app on your phone and plug in your personal info such as height and weight and then that info links up with Stryd Power Connect on your computer. What happens if you don't have a phone?

So I got it all set up and then kind of wondered "What next"? Do I just go for a run? The Stryd pod  doesn't have an on/off button or any flashing light to tell me that it is working. It does blink when you charge it but that is the only time that I see any life. Better head off to properly read the online manual.....

Charging STRYD

 Stryd review: Charging STRYD light

The 20 page manual is pretty easy to read but there were a lot of technical terms that I knew that I was going to have to learn about such as 'Run Stress Score' or 'Critical Power' and 'Vertical Oscillation'.

Stryd Review - Going for my first run

After reading the manual, I was still unsure of what to do next so I decided to just do one of my usual slow, trail runs and then see what happens. I was paranoid that the Stryd pod would fall off or get caught in a tree root but it didn't. Believe me it does stay put really well. In fact getting it on and off if you want to change shoes takes a bit of getting used to.

Getting home, I was chomping at the bit to see what data it had produced. The data shows up in 2 places. Firstly in my Garmin Connect and secondly in the Stryd Power Center. It shows all sorts of goodies such as Vertical Oscillation, Form Power, Leg Spring Stiffness, all of which was new to me.

You can overlap data in the Garmin Connect graph and also in Power Connect. The graph in Power Connect is pretty small, although you can crop and view segments. Each metric is color coded but  some of the colors were quite similar so I had to keep referring back to the pull down chart to work out what line was what. For now I am just "window shopping" as I don't really understand the metrics. I'l get there eventually I hope.

Since my first foray into the world of Stryd power, I have been on a few more runs. I even did a 5k Parkrun and used the result of that to give me a Critical Power Score or CP score to those that know!

I kind of got excited when I got a CP score, as from what I understand, the CP seems to me to be the most important metric. It is what guides your training and racing and where you can see improvement. The manual does in fact say though, that the best way to get an accurate CP score is to do a CP test. I have a stadium near me so will do that soon. It looks quite hard so I need to find a day when I feel super duper ready to give it my all. Not after a night out then....

So for now, I am data collecting or should I say that Stryd is. Apparently when I have done a month or 2 of running, the Power Center will be able to more accurately tell me where I can improve and how far I can push myself. For now the data kind of looks a wee bit overwhelming but I am getting there bit by bit.

Stryd Review - Initial thoughts:

  • It's fairly easy to set up but do follow the instructions.
  • It won't fall off your shoe!
  • There is a lot of data and terminology to get your head round so I am feeling a little bit lost. I am a stickler for detail so not understanding everything is a wee bit frustrating.
  • You need to spend time, clicking on all the links in the app and just getting familiar with what there is and what Stryd records. It's amazing how such a small thing can produce so much detail.
  • I would have liked there to have been a kind of manual for beginners that said exactly how to start running and using Stryd in a step by step fashion and what I needed to focus on first.
  • There are so many metrics to focus on, that I would like to know as a beginner, which is the most important when starting out. I guess that they all intertwine but it is a lot to understand. There is a Q&A page on the Stryd website which I guess will get more filled out as time goes on.

Bit by bit I have been reading up about the different metrics. For some, if the number goes up, that is better and for others it is the opposite. I have started taking notes too - lots. The information is out there but not all in one place. So I am scribbling this and that down in order to make sense of it all.

The other thing is, I don't know what are "normal" numbers. I gather we are all different but I kind of like to compare myself to others of the same level/training just to se where I am at.

Having said all that, there is a fantastic Facebook support page and the Stryd team are great at answering question without making you feel stupid.

This Stryd review is just a peek into what it has to offer for a kind of recreational runner like me who wants to improve. I am still very excited about the prospect of running with power as it just seems to make sense.

I have a hilly, trail race this weekend and now that I have a CP score, I might use that to guide me during the race. It might be a terrible decision if my score is not accurate. I'll post a race report!

STRYD website

Peanut Butter & Coconut Fudge

As some of you know, I am trying to follow a Low Carbohydrate High Fat diet (LCHF). I've cut out most of my sugar and refined carbs and feel pretty good for it.

However, sometimes a girls just gotta have something sweet to take away that sweet itch. Fudge is one of my favorite naughty treats and I could eat a bucket load of it. My parents in law live in Devon so you can imagine my eyes (and stomach) when I see the clotted cream fudge.

Anyways I am trying to be a healthy eater so let's stop thinking about clotted cream fudge and get back to business.

 I have got the most delicious recipe which I am going to share with you now: PEANUT BUTTER & COCONUT FUDGE.

Peanut Butter & Coconut Fudge
I warn you though, that as this is a recipe for those on a LCHF diet, it contains lots of fat. However, the sugar content is zero but I have managed to make it taste sweet and creamy and it certainly hits the spot.

So let's get started. Actually I did make this yesterday so all these photos are from that batch of yummy peanut butter & coconut fudge.


  • 200g unsweetened Peanut Butter
  • 160g Coconut Oil
  • Stevia: 10 tabs mixed with 1x tbspn of hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Essence or flavoring
  • Big pinch Rock Salt
  • (Optional) 1x tbspn Dried unsweetened Desiccated Coconut

Microwave proof bowl
Mixing spoon or whisk
20x20cm tin or something a similar size
Grease proof paper or clingfilm.

Making your Peanut Butter & Coconut Fudge

Place the peanut butter and coconut oil in a microwave proof bowl and heat in the microwave on a low power until the mixture is warm and the coconut oil has melted.

Give the mixture a good stir (I use a mini hand whisk).

Then add the remaining ingredients ( Stevia to taste, rock salt and vanilla essence plus optional desicated coconut). I personally like to find a pop of salt when I am eating the Peanut butter  & coconut fudge, so I add the salt after warming the mixture as that way it doesn't dissolve so much into the mixture.

Mix again so that everything is well blended. 

Line a tin with grease proof paper or clingfilm. This makes it easier to remove the fudge once it has solidified. Then pour in the mixture and pop in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Now be patient, if you can.

Once the peanut butter and coconut fudge has set, tip it on a chopping board and with a long knife, cut it into small squares. From a 20x20cm tin, I can get about 36 pieces of delicious, melt in the mouth fudge.

Peanut Butter & Coconut Fudge - Ready to Eat

Storing your peanut butter & coconut fudge

Definitely store it in the fridge or a very cool place. If you don't, the coconut oil will soften too much and you will have a messy time eating it. Mind you it is finger lickin' good.

It should keep for a couple of weeks or longer.

Marathon Nice Cannes 2018 - We did it!

I’ve finally found time to sit down and write my race report and to let you know how the Marathon des Alpes Maritime went. Bill left today so I’ve been to and fro from the airport and then been getting laundry sorted, lots of smelly running clothes etc.

So….it sort of didn’t quite go to plan, but we still had a great weekend. 

Breakfast on the Terrace
Collecting our Bib Numbers
We rented an Air BnB apartment in Nice and it was perfect as it had a little terrace and was in a quiet area near the old town but only a 20-minute walk from the start of the race. We collected our bibs the day before and then spent the afternoon slouching in front of the TV so as not to tire ourselves out.   We drank loads of water as we had been doing all week and then made ourselves a steak and veg dinner and had typical pre-race nerves but all in all felt ready.

Early Morning Start
The morning of the marathon we were up at 5:30am and down by the sea front by 7am. Everything was really well organized. There were lots of toilets (clean too), orderly queues and they even had enough toilet paper to go around. I had put myself down for the 3:45 pen (wishful thinking but hoped to get in close to 4 hours) and Bill for the 3:30 but at the last minute he decided to join me. I sort of felt quite calm but then about 5 minutes before the start, the nerves started and I also started to feel hot. I thought it was because we were rather squashed in. I had decided to carry 2x300ml water bottles, with the plan that I would skip the first couple of water stations and just sip from my bottles.

All of a sudden we were off and within 10 secs Bill had disappeared. 

I had planned to split the marathon into 3 chunks of 14km with the idea of getting faster with each one (hahaha). The first half we knew was pretty flat but the second half supposedly had continual ups and downs and then 2 big hills, with the last one at about 35km. I felt fine for the first km but then I began to feel hotter and hotter and not nearly as relaxed as I had hoped. By 5km I was tired!!! Worse though was that I suddenly heard a crashing of feet and the 4-hour pacer was running next to me with his band of warriors. I was really surprised as they were charging along and were going way faster than I thought they would need to for even splits. I reckoned that the pacer knew that everyone would slow down a lot in the second half, so he was banking time. However, I decided to stick to my plan and so let them go ahead, hard as that was! 

I got to 10km at my planned time and by then we were running along the sea front and I could feel the breeze getting up. I was also getting thirsty again which was bizarre considering how hydrated I was. I found myself stopping at the water stops every 2.5km which were bedlam, with people tramping all over each other and of course the palaver of trying to get a cup. That was a big mistake as in fact I then went on to stop at every single water stop so lost an enormous amount of time. I think I was just panicking that I might keel over as I didn’t feel as spritelv as I had hoped. It was ridiculous really as I was also still carrying my full bottles!!!

Just before half way point at Cap d’Antibes, I realized that I was off target. Plus, a girl crashed into me with her elbow and knocked the lap button on my watch. Panic all round as then I wasn’t sure what lap distance I had run etc. The wind had picked up by now and there were these gusts that came and went. Being quite light there were moments when I was being buffeted from one side of the road to the other. Then came the hills. However, they weren’t nearly as bad as I had thought so I kept back some reserves of energy thinking that the “big” hill was around the corner but that never quite came. It was Strava that made us think there was going to be 400m of elevation but in the end it was only half that so I shouldn’t have held back.

The second half of the marathon was very erratic. Lots of slowdowns, water stops and just mentally I began to doubt myself. My hips had started to ache but thankfully the cramps never came. I did see lots of runners suffering cramps though and also saw one poor guy lying on the pavement and being tended to by medics. Another hard thing to see was the relay teams. As each runner was doing a short segment, they had lots of energy and would go flying past. 

When I had a couple of kilometers to go, I knew I could finish but wasn’t sure of my time. Then suddenly in front of me appeared a flag, the 4:15 pacer!!!! That kind of spurred me on as I certainly didn’t want to finish behind him, so I picked up the pace and realized that I still had energy left. My times for the last couple of km's were like I still had fresh legs. I crossed the finish line with a thong of other runners and then we were ushered along this assembly line of medals, t-shirts and food goody bags. It was good to get to the finish line and surprisingly I didn't feel too trashed although a couple of toes felt pretty tender. Then began the hard task of finding Bill.

Initially we were both disappointed with our times as we knew we could have done better. Mine was 4:15 and Bill 3:51. In the end though we realized that we had finished and it was a beautiful course (not that I took much in) and very well organized. We spent the next 24 hours analyzing what, why etc. and eating lots of food and drinking beer! For me, I definitely need to work on my confidence as I think a lot of it was a mental struggle. It’s funny as I actually found the Paris 80km easier but then maybe I was more focused and determined. Or maybe I blanked out the pain! Bill also feels that he needs to be more competitive and I do think that is partly true. Anyway, it was a fun weekend and we both haven’t suffered too much with sore muscles. I think though I’ll still take a couple of weeks off. 
I really do love Nice!

Now we are just waiting to see if we have got into the Berlin Marathon for next year…..
Bye for now

Marathon des Alpes Maritimes here we come

I've almost made it through training and I'm finally feeling that I may be able to run this thing. I've had so many doubts along the way but then I always have doubts no matter what race I am doing.

Just under 3 weeks to go...

My training has been 18 weeks and I'v been doing the 80/20 level 2 marathon plan (Mat Fitzgerald). I was nervous at the beginning as I started with a dodgy hip which developed after the 80km Eco Trail in Paris. That race was a killer because of the weather ( mud, mud and more mud). All that pulling my legs out of the gooey bog was really hard on my body. Lots of people told me that at 57, I shouldn't be so ambitious but I did it and survived and am even thinking of doing another one, in better weather I hope.

I am happy to say that my hip is kind of feeling better and I thank my osteopath for that. I had a session yesterday with her, which involved an hour of massage, pulling, twisting and pressing here,  there and everywhere. I am hoping that in a day or two I'll feel like a new woman.

My main dilemma at the moment is how am I going to keep hydrated. The marathon apparently will only be giving out cups of water so PANIC. I can never drink from a cup whilst running. I could stop but then I know that I will it find it hard to get going again. I don't sweat much so I overheat quite quickly. Lots of people say that carrying fluids is for beginners, but to be honest my main aim is to finish. So if that means carrying a water belt, then that is what I'll do.

Last Sunday I had to do a 26km marathon simulation which meant running the whole way at my planned marathon pace. Trouble was, I am very undecided at what pace to run. My heart wants to beat my previous marathon time of 4:12 but then the Marathon des Alpes Maritimes has a lot more hills so my head and legs are telling me that I am 4 years older. I ended up running at around 5:40/km and I was pooped at the end and many times I wanted to sit on the side of the road and have a wee lie down. I actually only managed 24km. I had a water belt with 2x300ml bottles of Tailwind and I drank it all and yet still felt thirsty. That is something that I really need to work on. I'm going to hydrate, hydrate and hydrate over the next couple of weeks.

We had masses of rain and flooding yesterday so no running today and plus my osteopath said to take 48hours off. When I have a day off, I almost get withdrawal symptoms. Talk about being obsessive.

4 more runs and then it is taper week. I'll report back then and let you know if I feel like a new woman :).

It's getting hot out here so take off all your clothes.....or Run Naked!

Me in my #RUN NAKED #UGLOW attire.
I'm ashamed to say that I don't seem to have written a post in a few weeks. No excuses really except that it has been so hot here in Limoux (hence my post title and my Uglow t-shirt) and I've just not had the energy or the enthusiasm.

However, I now have an objective or new goal I should say and so all of a sudden, I am back up and running :).

My objective is the Marathon des Alpes-Maritime in November 2018 and my goal is to beat my best marathon time. I've only done one marathon!! and the time to beat is 4:12. I think though I may have to overcome 2 issues:

Issue number 1 is the elevation. I had wanted to do a flat marathon but this was the flattest that we (Bill is doing it too) could find at that time of year so I am a wee bit worried about how it will go. Then there is the problem of finding out exactly how un-flat it is. The website is not clear and people's strava runs seem to show anything from  250m to 450m. Quite a difference.

Issue number 2 is the weather. It could be hot or rainy and mostly likely windy. I don't run well in the heat or the wind, so let's just hope it is raining.

As many of you know, I have been doing low heart rate MAF training but I've decided for this marathon that I really do need some speed work to propel myself along, or at least to give me the confidence that I can actually run at a decent pace if I want to. So I've launched myself into 80/20 training and am doing the level 2 marathon plan.

80/20 Running

The marathon plan is 18 weeks long and basically 80% of the training is done in your aerobic zone and the other 20% in your anaerobic zone. So far I am really enjoying it. There are only 2 days a week when I get a bit panicky as there are intervals or hill repeats but in general I am feeling strong. Thankfully there is a facebook support page so in moments of doubt or anxiety, there is someone to encourage me along.

Till next time :)

Recovery time from an Ultra Marathon

Recovery time from an ultra marathon was not what I expected.

I am now 4 weeks post Ultra Marathon so I have had time to let the elation (and pain) die down and to think about what I learned and would I do it again....... :-)

For those who haven't read my previous posts, I recently did my first ultra - the 80km Eco Trail à Paris. My race report is here.

So how has it been the past 4 weeks?

Recovery Time

I must say it has been frustrating. I had thought that a couple of weeks off would do and then I'd be back feeling ultra fit and ready to smash all my training runs and any races. Not so.

I read up beforehand that rest between 5 days - 2 weeks would suffice and then to gradually increase your runs and pace until you were back to normal. In my case I took 2 full weeks off and then tried to resume running. Ouch! The backs of my knees, were very sore as though I had tears in the muscles and ligaments. I couldn't quite work out if it was the calves or the hamstrings. Plus my outer right thigh was sore, IT band pain perhaps. This was an odd pain as it moved around and up and down my thigh and sometimes went behind the knee. I also noticed that my piriformus butt muscle which had been bugging me before the race, was still sore in spite of all the stretching and acupuncture sessions.

I knew then that I need to take another 2 weeks off and all in all I was feeling very sorry for myself.

Keeping busy in my recovery time

My Elliptical trainer saved the day
Thankfully, I have an elliptical bike at home and as that didn't seem to hurt anything, I pedalled on that an hour a day, in front of the TV to make it less boring. I was frustrated and worried a lot about how my fitness gains from all that training were being wooshed away. Thank goodness for the elliptical trainer as I felt that it was at least keeping my cardio system topped up.

I also did lots of piriformus and hamstring stretches and strengthening. This made me realise how weak my hamstrings really are. Shockingly weak actually. I did wonder if stretching an injured muscle was a bad idea so I was careful about keeping the discomfort level very low.

After 4 weeks of Recovery

After my initial false start back running, I tried again after 4 weeks. By this stage, my back and hips felt fine and there was just a slight lingering discomfort in my thigh. I took my son with me as I knew then that I'd keep it slow and not too long.

We did about 45 minutes which was probably longer than I should have but we did a run/walk and at a very slow pace. However my legs felt really clunky and stiff and my heart rate was all over the place. After about 15 minutes, that familiar buttock pain also started to come back and my thigh started to become sensitive. Frustrated.

The next day, I didn't feel worse, although I didn't feel better either so I have decided to keep on running but very gently. A bit of movement to keep the circulation going is not a bad thing. I have done 3 runs now and each one slightly longer than the last, with the longest around 60 minutes. I don't at all feel like a spring chicken, more like a stiff old bird and I wonder how on earth I was able to run for 12 hours only a month ago.

I am also wondering whether my buttock pain is linked to my thigh pain and that it is sciatica. I had thought it was IT band pain but because it is moving about I am guessing it is a trapped nerve. I really don't want to got to the doctor and spend weeks waiting for assessments etc so I might get an appointement with an osteopath to see if s/he could do some work on my hips.

Lessons learned

The recovery time from an ultra marathon is not set in stone and there are lots of variables to take into account. You will read on the internet and people will tell you, "rest for 2 weeks and then gradually start training again" or  "a week off is plenty. When is your next race? and even "you are going to be a racing demon when you restart running".

Well none of that has applied to me.

What I have learned is that:
  1. If it is your first ultra marathon, then recovery time can be double to what you might expect. Your body has been given quite a shock.
  2. The older that you are, the longer that your body might need to recover. I am 57.
  3. If you have any weakness or the slightest injury going into the ultra, then that weakness or injury is going to be exacerbated during the race, meaning your recovery time is going to be prolonged.
  4. You can still keep fit whilst recovering. Do other activities that don't aggravate any sore areas and do strength training.
  5. Don't over stretch an injured muscle or ligament. Forget the "no pain no gain". Be very gentle on yourself.
  6. When you start running again, you might feel clunky and stiff. This will get better the more that you run.
  7. Eat, sleep and enjoy it :-)

Ecotrail Paris 80km Race Report - 17th March 2018

ecotrail Paris 80km finisher medal

Since I have more time on my hands (no training for now hahah!) I thought I’d let you know the gory details of the Ecotrail Paris 80km - my first ultramarathon and at the age of 57.

The Ecotrail Paris 80km was in fact 9 days ago and it is still fresh in my mind. Plus me legs are still feeling it too.

So how did it go..............

We arrived in Paris on the Thursday and I had done very little running for the past 10 days as my sciatica was still bothering me. I developed sciatica 2 weeks before the race (really bad timing). I was quite stressed about it and wondering if I’d even make it to the first ravito (water stop). 

Race kit ecotrail Paris 80km
Her Kit
Anyway for our first night in Paris, we went out for a nice meal and even had a glass of red wine, after having been teetotal for the last couple of weeks. Gotta relax a bit. On Friday we went to collect our dossards at the Paris expo, Porte de Versailles, which is an exhibition centre in Paris. We tried not to overdo the walking about but it is a huge place and there was a Salon de Tourisme going on at the same time, so lots to see. Then it was back to our studio to put our feet up and to get all our gear together. We had rented a really cute Air BnB studio and it was so much more practical than a hotel. We could cook what we wanted, had a decent size fridge and even had a washing machine.

Race kit ecotrail Paris 80km
His Kit

Suddenly it was Saturday morning and it was race day! 

Surprisingly we both managed to sleep but we were up early (far too excited) and I stretched and rolled my legs. I was a bit nervous about overdoing it, so did a sort of half hearted attempt. Breakfast was a cold boiled egg, yogurt and coffee (plus obligatory mint green tea for me as well) and then we packed up our backpacks and off we set to get the train from Gare Montparnasse. 

It was funny trying to spot other runners on the metro and trying not to let our backpacks get in the way of other travellers. Our backpacks weighed around 3kg as we had to carry a minimum of 1.5 liters of water plus various supplies. Finding the right train was a bit of a nightmare as there were works on the lines so lots of trains had been cancelled or rescheduled. Luckily, we weren’t the only ones bumbling about. We eventually found our train and had about 5 minutes to get on it. We had been given a free train ticket which was great…not! Bill went through the barrier first with his ticket but when I tried mine, it refused it. Oh the panic!!!! There were no guards about at all and we just didn’t know what to do. I bent down and got under the first bit of the barrier and pushed my backpack through to Bill but then I was stuck. Bill kept telling me to climb over the second barrier but it was about 8 feet up in the air so that wasn’t going to work. I was peeing myself! Thankfully another runner came to the rescue and using his ticket we went through together as one person. My hero!

The train to St Quention en Yvelines took about 40 minutes and then we had a 10-minute bus ride to Trappes. Once at the start, it all became real. Poor Bill was freezing and trembling as it was so cold and it had started to rain. Everyone was trying to shelter in 2 small tents. Thankfully there was coffee and cake to eat. I seemed to spend most of my time in the toilet queue and I went about 3 times. I think it was nerves.

It was interesting looking at what people were wearing and I began to worry a bit that I had chosen not to wear trail shoes. I went for comfort and was wearing my 'lots of toe room, walking on air', Brooks Glycerin 14 shoes. One guy was wearing leather thongs and an another was barefoot - brave people. Some people had huge backpacks and others seemed to have practically nothing. Then there were people in poncho capes (they ran in them too) and some so wrapped up you could only see their eyes whilst others were wearing only shorts and t-shirts. On the whole I think we blended in.....

We had brought some ready made up UCAN with us, so drank that down about 30 minutes before the start. This was hopefully going to give us enough energy to get us to the first food station.

Start line ecotrail Paris 80km
Ready to go

Then at 12:15 we were off.

I had taken some ibuprofen just before the start to help with the sciatica. I don’t normally like taking medicines but my goodness, it was a godsend. We decided to go slowly and go by our MAF heart rate for the first 20km or so. That meant running with a HR of around 125 – 130. I looked at my watch and my HR was immediately 162! Must be a mistake I thought but then it never seemed to come down. I then decided to not look at my watch and to run by feel as otherwise we would be walking the whole way. 

The first part of the race (until the first food station) is pretty flat and took us round the étang de St Quentin before heading to the forest. The first few km's went by in a blur of excitement and chit chat. Everyone was smiling and happy and although it was drizzling and there were muddy puddles, we all took our time to gently tiptoe through them, trying to keep our feet clean and dry. 

The first ravito was at 22km so we filled up our water packs, added some Tailwind, dilly-dallied around the food tables filling up a plastic bag with chocolate, nuts and dried banana. I had also brought marmite and peanut butter sandwiches (not mixed together) but Bill was relying more on the food supplied and some gel bars. By this stage we realized that we were 10 minutes behind our planned schedule. We weren’t too worried as I thought we could easily make it up later (I was in charge of the time plan 😊). Our plan was to do the race in 10.5 - 11 hours and the official time allowed was 12:45 so we had made ourselves a time cushion of just under 2 hours.

However we were going to need that time cushion as after the first ravito, the mud horror began.

Mud - ecotrail Paris 80km
Let the mud begin...
This was also the toughest part of the course in terms of elevation. The mud was incessant. There were people falling over the place, slip sliding along and it became impossible to run, even on the flat. By now our shoes had filled with water and mud and the mud inside started to solidify into clumps so it was not very comfortable.

What surprised me a lot was that the hills which I had worried about, didn’t seem at all bad on my legs (says me who used to whinge at all the hills) and we didn’t feel exhausted. It was more just a challenge of staying upright and being frustrated at not being able to run. I think our training must have been spot on. Many people were surprised that we did all our training at MAF hear rate. This meant no intervals or fast running and walking most of the hills. The emphasis was on, time on our feet and the longest training run/walk that we did was around 7 hours.

We got to the second ravito (45km) just as it was getting dark. It was drizzling and speckles of snow were starting to settle and the air just felt damp and cold. There was only water (no food) and it was a grim place with runners starting to look forlorn. On a good day you should be able to see the Eiffel Tower in the distance, but not today. I took off one shoe to try and get out some of the grit and mud but then getting it back on again was horrible. My hands were cold and I seemed to be putting back in more mud than I had taken out. We also realized that we were nearly an hour behind schedule. 

Headlamps on and more ibuprofen and we set off again. The next ravito was in about 12km and we could get hot soup there apparently so that was something to really look forward to.

It was now snowing properly and it was dark. The forest just seemed almost like a dream. There were reflective strips on the trees every 50m or so but it was a challenge to spot them when you are looking down at the ground all the time. It was impossible to know where the tree roots were as everything was mud and puddles. The runners were getting more sparse and the chit chat had died down as everyone was really concentrating. All you could hear was the slip slop of feet being sucked through the mud.

I fell over several times but thankfully Bill was there to pick me up. Each time I fell, he said I got heavier and heavier to heave up! I had bought a new headlamp for the race and tested it several times during training and it had worked brilliantly. However because it was so cold, the batteries were not working properly and the light was much dimmer than usual. Bill also had problems with his phone which packed up because of the cold. We learnt afterwards that we should have used Lithium batteries as opposed toe Alkaline ones which don't do well in the cold.

Finally, we got to the 57km ravito. Hot soup. Yeah! Although it was luke warm by the time we got there. The volunteers were absolute champions at remaining cheery as they had been stuck in the woods for as long as us. At least we were moving about whereas they were stuck in one spot for hours on end. There were theoretically meant to be first aid tents here too but everything just seemed a blur of brown mud so it was difficult to work out what was going on. All we knew was that we were getting further and further behind our time schedule. At this point it became a matter of just keep on running and do your best.

Normally, what color are my shoes?
 On we went, the field of runners getting more and more sparse. Although we were all silent, we felt that we were all supporting each other. Every hill meant one step forward, half a step slipping back. The flat was even worse in a way, as you wanted to run but couldn’t. I tried a few times but my body would go forward whilst my foot would just be sucked into the mud and stay put.

Ravito -  ecotrail Paris 80km
Last ravitaillament - Keeeping postive. Only 13km to go...
Eventually we got to the last ravito, 67km. They had hot soup which was actually hot 😊. However, we had seconds to drink it as we were told that the cut off time was looming and we had 11km to go and one and half hours to get to the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. It turned out to be 13 km…..

We were really close to Paris now and when we got out of the woods and onto the streets of Paris, it felt almost surreal. It was certainly a shock to the feet, hitting hard pavement, some of it cobbles too. We decided to run and not stop. I did a quick calculation in my head (don’t ask me how!) and realized we could do it if we ran at a pace of 8min/km or under (not realizing at that point that in fact we had to run  13km). All the zigzagging had made the course longer.

ecotrail Paris 80km
Why am I running away from the Eiffel Tower?!
We started overtaking other runners who were walking or limping or doing a run/walk. I was desperate to walk at some points too and began to feel weak as we had not eaten anything at the last ravito. Head down and concentrating hard we just kept moving forward. Thank goodness I was with Bill as the marker tape was actually quite hard to spot. At last we saw the Eiffel Tower but it still seemed too far away for my liking. And then we seemed to run in the opposite direction! As a final taunt, we were directed onto a small island on the River Seine and guess what, it was muddy. And so of course I immediately fell over!

Finally, we were there, Paris traffic zooming around us and we were being directed towards the steps of the Eiffel Tower. In previous years they would security scan your bag but this year, only an entrance ticket was shoved in your hand and then we were off up the 330 stairs to the first floor. Funnily enough I had energy to run up but you couldn’t as we were in a pack, all trying to get up the stairs together and so it had become a slow crawl up. There was a red carpet at the top leading you to the final timing mat. It was just before 1am and we had been going for 12:42:10. We arrived just under 3 minutes before the official cut off time and when they turn the lights off in the Eiffel Tower.

Crossing the finish line was sort of an anti-climax. A wooden medal was put round our necks and then we were directed to a table to get a t-shirt. Then we headed over to get a beer and I was able to use my non-disposable cup (part of the obligatory equipment) for the first time. The first floor of the Eiffel Tower was cold, wet and windy with runners wandering around in a kind of daze.

Arrivée, ecotrail Paris 80km

We later heard that just over 500 people abandoned the course (2200 started) and people who had done it before said that their times were slower by 2 hours. So I think our original estimate of 10.5 - 11 hours could have been correct. Maybe we should do it again next year... 

Tour Eiffel - Ecotrail Paris 80km
1st Floor of the Eiffel Tower
After we got back down to the Paris streets we had to walk about 10 minutes to collect our bags. That was hard as we had begun to get really cold. We then went to a huge sports hall where there were showers. Bill didn’t bring any clean shoes so I went off to just wash my feet and put on some compression socks and clean shoes. Trouble was that the showers by that stage were filthy so I basically stayed dirty. One thing I did notice when I took my gloves off were that my hands were huge. They had swollen like a Michelin man. Thinking back, although I had drunk at least 2 liters of fluid, I had not peed for the whole race plus my feet also swelled the next day. I did look up why my hands had swollen and one suggestion was that the swinging of my arms (to keep balanced) caused fluid to collect. Another suggestion was electrolyte imbalance although I was taking in electrolytes with my water. I’ll investigate more.

We then went off to this big marquee (still freezing) to have some food. By now it was about 2am. We had bought a bottle of bubbly to share with other runners but somehow it seemed that no one was in the mood. We did talk to a few runners who had done the race before. Basically everyone said the same thing, in that their times were 2 hours slower than usual and that the conditions were the worst that they had seen.

After taking a while to find a taxi, we got back to our air bnb around 3.30am and crashed into bed at 4am.  Then can you believe it, we woke at 8am. What?!!!!! I think we were just too excited at having finished and wanted to see all the photos and the results on the Internet.

Funnily enough we both did quite enjoy the whole thing. Easy to say now but I don’t remember ever feeling like I wanted to give up. I think we felt strong generally, because we had done the right training. Even the hills didn’t seem too bad. Having done a couple of training runs of  6 - 8 hours meant that the time on our feet didn’t seem too much of a shock. Towards the end when the mud never seemed to stop, it got frustrating and it was really frustrating not being able to run on the flat sometimes. Next time (hahaha but yes we have thought about it!), I would just run through the mud from the start. Weaving in and out of puddles, certainly added on a couple of km.

People say it is wise to take a couple of weeks off running after and ultra marathon as your muscles have suffered a lot of micro tears. I can certainly believe it. My legs feel a bit more fragile than Bills although he has 4 black toenails. What I thought was sciatica, I am now wondering if it is actually IT band inflammation.

Today it is day 9 post race and I have just started some gentle stretching and some strength exercises. I am walking our dog Lily twice a day too to get the blood flowing. All in all, I am feeling chuffed but also really looking forward to getting my trainers back on and getting back out there. Patience Nicole!!!

In a couple of days I'm going to write about my ultra marathon kit and nutrition and basically see what worked and what I could have done better. See you then.

Ultra Nutrition - What to eat and drink?

D-Day is getting closer and I am now in the tapering phase with 17 days to go. I've still got a 26Km and 16Km to do this weekend but that is the last biggish weekend. Funny how 26Km seems not much these days!

During my weekend runs I have been practising what I am going to eat and drink. Ultra nutrition has been one of the hardest things for me to work out as there are no set guidelines as everyone is different. 

Being on the smaller side, I need less calories than others but then how many calories? How much should I drink too and what should I drink? Then there is the fear of sugar overload, nausea and vomiting (apparently one of the main causes for not finishing an ultra marathon), bonking and so on. 

Believe me it has been stressful trying to work it all out. However I finally feel that I now have a sensible and doable nutrition plan

I have based my ultra nutrition on the following:

  1. Drink about 250ml fluid per hour and being careful not to over drink. Here's why. I am not a great sweater and I'll be running slowly.
  2. Eat around 200 kcal per hour. Although I will be burning more calories than that, our body can only cope with absorbing around 200-300 kcal per hour during the race. Eating more than that and you risk vomiting.
  3. Take in around 10gm protein per hour (for muscle repair).
  4. Eat as much natural food as possible.
  5. Go easy on the sugar. That is a great cause of nausea.
  6. Take in electrolytes to replace what is lost through sweat.
  7. Have a bag of treats for when I am having a meltdown.

What I am going to eat and drink during the Ultra Marathon

During each of my weekend long runs, I have been practising and seeing what works and doesn't work. To be honest I have liked all of  my "picnic" food tests and nothing has caused an upset stomach. The biggest issue I have had is how to carry it all and where to store it in my back pack for easy access.

Before the race start:
We start at 12h00 so I plan to have a breakfast of eggs and bacon with a piece of toast. Then 30 minutes before the start I am going to have UCAN.

I discovered this fantastic energy fuel a year ago and have been trying it out in longish races and now for the ultra. It is pretty globby and thick but the taste is OK.

The main selling point for me is the energy it provides. It just seems to leak this constant energy into your body without any feeling of nausea or overload. UCAN say you can take it during the race too but I think I'd get into a right mess making it up so I am just going to have 2 scoops beforehand mixed with water. This will provide me with enough energy for the first 2 hours.

During the race:
There will be aid stations so there will be snacks and fluids but I don't want to rely on them but use them as back up if necessary. In fact during the first 55km there is only one aid station with food so I need to bring my own calories. Below is my planned picnic (UCAN is for before the start):

I know it doesn't look much but that was just for training. I'll adjust quantities on the day.

So what am I eating?
  • Peanut butter sandwich with brown bread
  • Marmite sandwich with butter and brown bread
  • Dried apricots
  • Slices of Serrano ham
  • Homemade energy date balls (made with dates, oats, almonds, cocoa, peanut butter.....)
  • Salty crackers - for when I am bored
  • Haribo dragibus sweets - for when I need some TLC
And as for drinking:
My go-to drink is going to be TAILWIND. I can't say enough good things about Tailwind. It is easy to mix, easy to drink and provides electrolytes and calories. Plus it has solved my cramp issues. 

Initially I was worried that it would be sickly to drink for hours on end but it really is surprisingly easy to sip down. There are lots of flavors but for me the Naked flavor is my favourite. It has a slight taste but nothing overpowering.

So I hope that I have got my nutrition correct. Being my first ultra this has been a huge learning experience. I will be reporting back afterwards so watch this space.