Amsterdam Marathon Race Report using Stryd

It's been 12 days since I did the Amsterdam marathon and I've been mulling my result over and over in my mind. It certainly didn't go to plan!

As a recap, I bought a Stryd power meter earlier in the year in order to help me try and get under 4 hours in the marathon. Previous attempts using pace and heart rate gave me results of 4:12 and 4:13. Styrd uses power as the main metric, so at Amsterdam my plan was to run by power and to ignore pace and heart rate.

The start of the marathon weekend

We flew from Toulouse to Amsterdam on the Friday (my 59th birthday :))and arrived to pouring rain. Not an encouraging start. Thankfully after 2 hours of downpour it stopped.

Welcome to Amsterdm!
We had booked to stay in the Conscious Tire Station hotel and we were really happy with our choice. Cool, chic hotel, comfy and clean, restaurant on site and only a 20 minute walk to the race start. Perfect.

Tire Station Hotel
Bathroom sign...ooh err!
Such a comfy bed, except for the thin pillows
The only negative was that Bill had got a gastro a couple of days earlier. He felt he could run but it was an anxious time. Marathons and toilets always cause anxiety even at the best of times.

After settling into the hotel, we went out for a quick leg stretch, a 30 minuter jog around Vondelpark. It felt good and the weather was perfect. Cool and fresh.  Then it was back to the hotel to check for the umpteenth time, the marathon route and to plan our race strategies.

Vondelpark
In the evening we made use of the hotel happy hour telling ourselves that one glass of wine wouldn't hurt and after all it was my birthday. Then we headed to a pasta restaurant "Pastai", for a romantic birthday meal for 2. To my surprise, Bill had turned it into a party for 16! I'm not usually one for surprises but this was a lovely one and helped me to relax. Our party were all family - siblings plus their kids and partners and it was a really great, evening. Well done hubby :).

Expo here we come

Saturday we all met up at the expo to collect our bib numbers and I also planned to visit the Stryd stand. Exciting!
The expo was heaving but it was well organised with lots of stalls to tempt you. I fell in love with a heated massage cushion but Bill  thankfully put a stop to my possible impulse buy which was just as well since we only had hand luggage. I got a free calf and back massage though (it felt SO good), so it kind of compensated.



I know the Dutch are tall but .....



















We then headed over to the Stryd stand I was so excited to meet other Stryders. Being a fairly new product, there are not many about. As a side note, during training, I had worked out that my marathon power was 148 watts but I had been advised to do the first 30 km at around 146-147 watts and then to increase to 148-149 watts if I felt good. I was aware though that at that power, I could probably only manage 4:05 - 4:08 in the marathon. It was kind of disappointing to think that I might not make it under 4:00 but then in reality, that was what I was capable of. I was told that the Stryd rep could advise me on a power to race at although I had already planned my race power so I was just wanting him to reaffirm.

BUT.....

The Stryd rep who was very nice and enthusiastic got out his calculator and said that I could in fact run at 151-158 watts. That came as a shock to me. It was kind of exciting knowing that he thought that I could run a bit faster but then I had not done my marathon runs at that power so a big question mark came into my head. The Stryd guy didn't know me personally or how my training had gone, plus he didn't know my other training metrics like my fatigue factor and running economy, so he was basing this number purely on a percentage of my critical power. (Sorry this might not mean much to you if you've never used a running power meter).

I went away with lots to think about. Running at a higher power could well give me the chance to get in under 4 hours but I hadn't done my marathon paced runs at that power so...........hmmm.

The evening we spent in the hotel restaurant (just the two of us) and had a superb meal of fish and pasta and then we were tucked up in bed by 9.30pm after having checked our race kit a hundred times over. I planned to run in my Uglow clothes which are the lightest and most comfy clothes I have ever worn, Brooks Ghost 11 trainers, Garmin Fenix 5S watch, Stryd power meter and my nutrition was going to be Tailwind, gel bars and caffeine bullets.

Race outfit - Uglow, Stryd, Garmin Fenix 5S, Tailwind, Caffein Bullets
Race Ready

Race Morning

We both slept surprising well and we were up at 6:30am. A quick shower and a fill up of our hydration bladders (one less thing to do later) with Tailwind, we then headed to breakfast. It was easy to spot other runners who were all looking a little bit anxious and fuelling their bodies with mountains of food. I only managed yogurt with muesli and a banana but that was my normal breakfast anyway. Bill manged to eat something in spite of his stomach anxieties and we had bought Imodium just in case. Back up in the room, panic as his hydration bladder had sprung a leak. Thankfully I am a bit anal about having spares of things, so we did have a spare bladder. Phew.

Pre Race Jitters

I felt surprisingly calm on our 20 minute walk to the stadium. In fact I felt kind of excited that today was perhaps going to be MY day. Training had gone well. I didn't have any injuries apart from a niggling lower back and I had put in over 100 km more training than in my preparation for the Nice marathon a year ago.

My main anxiety at the start was toilets. I always need at least 2 stress pees but the queues were quite long so I knew that only one was going to be possible. Bill too was anxious but he was feeling better than the day before so he was a bit relieved.  I must say though that were more toilets than I had thought there would be and they were clean and with paper. Sorry about all the toilet talk!

Then we headed into the stadium with the 1600 other runners and set off to find our pen. We had both put ourselves down for the 3:30-4:00 pen. Bill had previously done a 3:47 but because of his gastric situation he was hoping just to finish.
Ready to Run

And we were off

It took about 7 minutes for our pen to cross the timing mat and then we were off. I am always stressed a few minutes before the start but the moment I cross the start mat, then I am fine. I had my Garmin Fenix 5S and had the screen set to just show power. This was so I wouldn't get distracted by pace or heart rate. 

The first km was a crush. Everyone trying to get through the narrow street and in fact at one point we all came to a standstill!! It took about 2 km before it became less crowded and I could settle in. At this point I checked in on my power. I was doing 151 watts. Now what did I say I had planned to do? 146-147 watts. I was feeling strong and my legs were light so I reasoned to myself (in a split second), that the Stryd rep had said I could do 151-158 watts, so surely I was fine. 

The marathon route took us round a few streets and then into Vondelpark. We then went along a long stretch of road where we could see the faster runners coming back down the other side. That was a bit demoralising but I was feeling strong so I put my head down and chugged along. 151 watts creeping up to 152 watts.....

10 km in 56:43.

Then we headed along the Amstel River. Many runners apparently don't like this part as there are less spectators but I loved it. There were boats on the river and someone doing acrobatics on some kind of  air jet ski. Then there were the huge houses and apparently windmills, which somehow I missed. It was a long stretch though and suddenly I came across Bill. That was a surprise as I thought he would be way ahead of me. I worried that he was struggling since we had only done about 16 km but he said that he felt fine and was just being cautions. We ran together for a couple of km's and then I left him and ran on. 

I was now doing about 152-154 watts but bit by bit I realised that I was starting to feel a little tired. I wasn't even half way so there was a bit of anxiety. I decided to slow down a bit but by the time I got to half way, I found I had no choice. Suddenly I was forced to do 148 watts and as each km went on, my power got lower and lower. And then the toe cramps came. I've never had toe cramps whilst running so this was a first.

21.1 km in 1:58:40

After the toe cramps, came the calf cramps. I slowed down even more to stop them and every time I tried to speed up, the cramps reappeared. I realised by 25 km that I had made a stupid rookie error. I had started too fast.... AGAIN!! I was gutted. I had let my heart rule my head and changed my marathon strategy to suit what I wanted rather than what I was capable of.

30 km in 2:53:39

By 30 km I was running at around 135 watts and the calf cramps would not let me go any faster. At around 32 km, there was a loud clattering behind me and the 4 hour pacer with his merry band of followers passed me. Feeling motivated, I tried to keep up with him but it was just too uncomfortable, so I let him fade into the distance as my power started declining even more. The frustrating thing was that I felt my nutrition and hydration strategy was perfect, mentally I felt strong and motivated (unlike the Nice-Cannes marathon) but my calf cramps were just not going to let me run faster. 

Gradually my power became 125-128 watts which is my slow easy run power and I was doing what I could to keep moving forward. My dream of passing other runners in the final few km's was the opposite. I was being passed by what seemed like everybody. I didn't stop though and I never walked except when I couldn't get my gel bar out of my pocket.

40 km in 3:59:12

With a final push in the last couple of km's I entered the Olympic stadium. What a wonderful sight and the support was enormous. I crossed the line and immediately was congratulated by a marshal who took me by the shoulders and told me to take some nice deep breaths. Did I look that bad?! Then he wished me a nice stay in Amsterdam which I found touching.

42.2 km in 4:13:23 (yes, another 4:13 to add to my list)

You can see in the graph where my power started to dip. Power is yellow and blue is pace.

Stryd power graph
Stryd power graph

I found Bill waiting for me and he had done brilliantly considering it being touch and go, finishing in 4:01. After collecting our plastic cape and banana, we headed back to the hotel, or tried to at least. The roads were all blocked as the half marathon was in full swing so we had to take all sorts of detours, limping along and shuffling at the speed of nothing.
Thankful to have finished
Between limping and wincing our way up and down pavements, we analysed every part of our marathon and could talk of nothing else. All our group had finished their respective races but we hadn't been able to catch up with them because of the crowds. I wanted to be happy for finishing but I was also so disappointed with myself. 4 months of training to be spoilt in a split second decision.

Post Race Analysis

First off I didn't achieve my objective and secondly I didn't stick to my race plan. But I did finish and I was 20 seconds faster than my marathon last year so there are some positives.

Main errors:
  • Not sticking to my race plan and getting persuaded that I could run at a faster power. I hadn't trained for that power and consequently my muscles were not used to it, hence the cramps.
  • Letting my heart rule my head.
  • Going too fast in the first half. The real race starts at 30 km.

Staying Positive

I have zero regrets training and racing by using the Stryd power meter. Training went so well and  running by power made sure that I didn't over do it but at the same time allowed me to run more miles. With previous marathon training plans, I often had injuries or niggles. I do still keep an eye on my heart rate, as in the past MAF training has helped me enormously.

I am already planning another marathon for next year in order to redeem myself :). My running club are planning to do the Marathon de Royan, Charente Maritime at the end of May next year. Up until marathon training begins, I'll do some months of base training i.e. slow, steady miles at a low heart rate and work on strengthening my calves to help minimise those horrible cramps and then it will be back to another marathon power training plan.



Amsterdam Marathon Taper Tantrums

Aagh only 13 days to go before the Amsterdam marathon 😨🎽🏃 and it's taper time.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I was feeling stressed. I had followed the Stryd training plan but somehow I didn't feel ready to run this beast. Long runs were very tiring, speed work exhausting and marathon pace felt more like my 10km pace. I had doubts all the time and that usual question of "how can I run THAT fast for THAT long"?

Then bingo, I decided to do a club run just to be sociable. I had avoided them the last month or so as it kind of just didn't fit in with my training. Plus they were always faster than I wanted them to be. This particular run was still fast, in fact even faster than usual, but somehow I felt good. In fact I felt like I was flying. Yes I was tired at the end of the hour but it was such a mental boost to hear people say that I had run really well and that I had improved a lot.

So the last couple of weeks, I have felt great and I was hitting the targets in training. Whether that was from the mental boost or whether I was running well, who knows.

That was until a couple of days ago when things went downhill again. 😔

My heart rate has been higher than usual when I wake up and somehow I just feel tired and sluggish. Mental doubts have started creeping in again. "Have I overdone the training?", "Is that calf pain an injury?", "I just can't hold this pace for more than an hour"

I'm not sure why I am back down to lack of confidence and I am frustrated as self doubt is always my downfall in a race.

Yesterday was my last long run. Total of 26km with 13km at marathon pace. I ended up doing 27km (running and maths don't go well together) but only did 11km at marathon pace as my calves started to cramp and I started getting dizzy. For hecks sake, I haven't got my nutrition sorted well enough and it's nearly D-Day! Mind you I did only eat a banana before heading out but I did have Tailwind in my hydration pack and I munched through 2 energy bars and a caffeine sweet in the second half of the run so theoretically I should have been OK.

Today, one of my calves still feels tender but thankfully it is a rest day so I'm cleaning the house , hahaha.

One of my biggest stresses at the moment is what pace to run the marathon at. Actually in my case, it is what POWER to run the marathon at. I will be running with a Stryd footpod (review from my website), so power will be the main factor. Using all the calculator tools and seeking advice from the gurus on their Facebook page, I have been told to run at a power of 147watts ( that might not mean anything to you!). If I ran that power throughout the marathon, it would bring me in at a time of 4:05 - 4:08. DISAPPOINTMENT! I want to break 4 hours!!

Now I am struggling to decided whether I should sneak in a few extra watts, but then my head is telling me that could well be a disaster. Apparently for every minute you go too fast in the first half, you loose 2 minutes in the second half.

If I put my rational hat on, I guess at the end of the day I just want to get to the starting line and to finish the marathon without any disasters. I've just written down and changed (for the umpteenth time) my plan/objectives. So here goes and in order of preference:

  1. Get to the starting line uninjured and not sick.
  2. Cross the finish line (preferably uninjured).
  3. Stick to my Stryd Power plan.
  4. Beat my disastrous marathon time in Nice 2018. My second marathon. 4:13:40
  5. Beat my PB in the Empuries marathon in 2015. It was my fist marathon :). 4:12
  6. Break 4 hours.

So I'm now going back to finish cleaning the house and I'm going to give myself a good talking to.

Speak again soon.


PS Someone please remind me to stick to my plan.

Amsterdam Marathon in 7 weeks

I'm half way through marathon training for Amsterdam and so far it is going ok (fingres crossed). I do have stressful days when I whinge to myself that I am not getting faster or that the speed workouts are too hard and the usual, "I'll never be able to run that fast for that long" but all in all I'm surviving it.

I'm using a Stryd power plan and I was definitely unsure at first since power training is pretty new to me and the rest of the running world. Surprisingly though, I feel that the runs are not that different to what I would have done if I was training by pace or heart rate. The main difference is, that if it is windy or hilly, I panic less as I just keep on running at the same power. Wind and hills would normally make my heart rate shoot up and so I would be forced to slow right down.

On marathon day I will be running by power and not by pace which I am still trying to get my head round. This is going to be very alien to me as I normally I like to go through the 10km or half marathon point at a set time/pace (makes me sound like a pro when in fact I've only done 2 ;))With power I still don't really know what pace I will be doing, apart from making a rough guess of what paces I have achieved through training. It is going to be interesting and maybe a wee bit stressful.

Apart from training, I feel good. I am trying to cut out alcohol but there are just too many events when it is tempting to have a glass of wine. That's the price for living in France. Alcohol certainly makes me less productive the next day and it certainly gives me a few extra rolls around the middle.

The summer has been great with the kids home for part of it plus family, so lots of occasions for a nice glass of wine. We also went to Bagnols sur Forêt and Aix en Provence on the bike. The timing wasn't perfect as we were returning on the weekend when the rest of France are also heading home. Thank goodness for the bike and Bill's skills at weaving through the traffic. Thank goodness too that I can't ride a bike as that would be a recipe for disaster with my sense of direction.

Aix en Provence

Aix en Provence is very pretty but don't go in July or August if you want a nice romantic stroll round the town. It was heaving with tourists when we were there. There are hundreds of restaurants with pretty outside terraces but by 8pm, they were ALL full. Having been living in France for 11 years now, it was kind of funny as I didn't consider us as tourists, yet we were!

We loved ambling through the many little streets and finding hidden cafes for a coffee or beer (it was VERY hot). We even managed an early morning run - marathon training dedication for you.

Sweetie shop :)

One of the many Place in Aix en Provence

Lebanese Metz - Deeeeelicious

The holidays are now over and it's back to reality. Today was "La Rentrée" for all the school kids in France. Bill and I felt quite relieved that we don't have to go through all that any more. He is back to Africa at the weekend so I'll be holding the fort for a few weeks. Roll on early retirement....

A bientôt

Running Power vs Heart Rate vs Pace

If you're wondering about Running Power vs Heart Rate vs Pace, then let me tell you my experience.

When I first took up running 5 years ago, I ran by pace. Pace was the golden number which showed me if I had run hard enough or fast enough. Everyone compared paces, me included.

Roll on a couple of years and that pace number became my nemesis. I was always chasing a faster pace and the more I chased the more I got weary and the more I got injured. It took 3 injuries before I finally decided that something had to change.

That's when I found heart rate training. Forget your pace and train by your heart rate I was told. With this method you will be running at a defined heart rate. If you are feeling run down, lacking sleep, sick etc, your heart rate will tell you and so will force you to run slower. Your heart rate will dictate your speed and not the other way round.

I love this method of training, it has kept me injury free, made my runs more enjoyable and yet I am still able to run fast if I needed to.

However I recently came across another metric: RUNNING POWER.

If you are a cyclist (not me), you may have already cycled by power, but for runners it is a very new metric. The more I read about it, the more it made sense for runners and the more I wanted to try it out.

How does running power work:

A power meter measures the work that you are doing in watts. Using  accelerometers, it monitors your body movement (forwards, sideways and upwards) to calculate a power output in watts. The higher the watts, the harder that you are working.

It also takes into account your weight so that a lighter person will need to produce less watts than a heavier person in order to produce the same speed.

  1. You need to wear a power meter. I use the Styrd Power meter which attaches to my shoe.
  2. You establish a baseline by doing a race or power test. 
  3. This baseline will allow you to set up power zones just as you might do with heart rate zones or pace zones. If you are using a Stryd, it will predict training power zones and your capable race power for a target distance.
  4. You link your power meter to your running watch and then you run following the power zones or the predicted power number.
  5. After each run or race, you can analyse your run to see how much power you used on each segment, hill climb, race etc Here's how Stryd measures power.

It all sounds pretty straightforward except you are probably wondering why not just stick with heart rate and not bother to buy yet another piece of running kit.

For me, the biggest advantage is that power is instant. As I run, my watch shows the exact power/work that I am doing at that exact moment in time. This makes sure that I am running at the correct power in order to achieve my planned training run or race.

Heart rate, great as it is, tends to lag and takes a while to catch up with your effort. At the same time it can jump all over the place if you are excited, stressed, tired or have had that extra cup of coffee.

As for pace, is not reliable as you could well be over or under exerting yourself. Most people tend to run way too fast in training and way under estimate what is an easy effort pace.

Running Power vs Heart Rate vs Pace


As a couple of examples, I recently did some intervals during training. As you can see from the graph below, when I was running hard, my heart rate took some time to follow. If I had been going purely by HR, I would have kept on pushing until I got into the prescribed HR zone. That would have been a mistake and I would probably haver over done it.

Intervals - Running Power vs Heart Rate vs Pace
I also did a half marathon race last weekend. Actually it ended up being 24km as I got lost. No surprises there!. It was hilly and mostly on track, very muddy with rain and wind.

If I had raced by HR, I would have probably had to walk round as my HR was high due to the excitement, stress and the conditions. If I had run by pace, I think I would have blown up, as the hills were pretty hard work.

Instead I ran by power (well I tried to, as I am still quite new at using Stryd), which meant that I exerted the same power/effort whether it was a flat, downhill or uphill. This meant I ran the whole race at the same exertion so I wasn't wasting energy climbing or descending the hills too hard.
Race - Running Power vs Heart Rate vs Pace
What I was really happy about was that I felt pretty good throughout the race as I was running what I was capable of doing and keeping an even power. Normally I set myself a pace based on what time I "think" that I can finish it in. I then start to too fast despite telling myself not to and struggle and hate the rest of the race.

So much as I love HR training, I am going to keep going using my Stryd power meter for now. In fact my power zones are not that much different from my HR zones in terms of the pace that I end up doing, just maybe a wee bit faster.

I think that there is always going to be a battle between Running Power vs Heart Rate vs Pace but I am becoming more and more convinced that power is going to be the one that helps you train and race smarter and which will get you to the finish line feeling that you've done your best.


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 website


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


STRYD

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.

Ingredients:

  • 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. 

Marathoniers!
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