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Running a "Sub 3" - The Minimalist Route

The only sporting goal I set myself this year.

Go under 3 hours in the London Marathon.

I have only run one marathon before and that was as part of Ironman UK - a day so full of emotion and joy that the pain of those last miles has been mooted. 

For those of you who just want to skip to the โ€˜how i did it partโ€™ take a peak at my Strava profile - although this allows no reading between the lines.

Just over one year since giving birth; my priorities, my perspectives and my expectations have gone through a progressive shift as described in my previous blog. 

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I knew when I fell pregnant that I would never return to racing as a professional athlete. I knew the toll it takes on the body and mind and increasingly i was yearning to return to medical practice and learn more about a functional medicine approach to health and healing. 

In pregnancy - not โ€˜trainingโ€™ felt natural for me. Replete with pregnancy hormones designed to relax and nourish the body, I exercised daily but didnโ€™t push myself and rested as much as I could. I had another soul to think about. 

Often training becomes an aim within itself - and we do not feel โ€˜normalโ€™ without our daily fix. 

Some go even further and exercise/training becomes a form of self-harm - of distraction - of cross-addiction - preventing us dealing with whatever we would have to deal with if constrained in four white walls with no way out. 

Post partum - its just your head and your body again.. and hormones levels drop off precipitously and that desire to move, to run, to get a glimpse of your previous fitness, comes rushing back. Despite facing chronic sleep deprivation, warped food cravings, emotional shifts and the fact you now have a whole small human to love and care for. 

To start with i did as much as i could within the confines of the above. Think about how you feel after acing a race - matching or exceeding your expectations - you are already entering your next race the same night - and eager to get going with training again - often foregoing the fact you need to reflect and absorb the race you just aced. 

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But then real life kicks in. I went through a round of career interviews just 2 weeks after Sophia was born whilst she was still in the ITU - as I was due to return to the NHS to finish my training to consultancy. I started working as a locum when she was 8 weeks old (2-3 days a week) and all the time working on my business baby www.curoseven.com in the background. I will forever be grateful to my mum who travelled from Devon to London most weeks and stayed overnight so i could rest. Sophia woke every few hours in the night until she was 10months old.  I feel like i aged alot in this time!

Running is simple. Put appropriate - or sometimes not so appropriate - clothing on and get out the door. One foot in front of the other. 

I entered a half marathon 5 months post partum and used it as a goal to get myself running regularly. I ignored advice to wait for the 6 week checkup from your doctor. Pelvic floor exercises and core stability were essential but I started running easy at 2 weeks post partum. My legs felt like they do in the last 10k of a marathon from the outset. But slowly it improves. And the power of running to change your mood, emotional energy and clarity of thought is immense. Studies now show that it triggers neurogenesis - the growth of new brain cells (through BDNF production)- some stick around (esp. if you nourish them with healthy fats and anti-oxidant rich foods - some don't - esp. if you donโ€™t sleep and drink wine like its 1999)

I had no training plan.

I just ran and listened to my body - sometimes a plod. Sometimes i hit a 6 min/mile.

I averaged around 40k a week over a 6 month period.

First 1/2 mara in Richmond I ran 1.23 which is pretty much the same time as I had ran a half marathon prior to pregnancy when I was training a huge amount more - but in three disciplines.

2 months later I ran Bournemouth 1/2 marathon in 1.22 and somehow managed to win the race. 

tamsin lewis run bournemouth

The next small challenge was the Endurance Life Coastal run - 16 miles of crazy terrain along the Dorset coast line. Anyone who has completed these races will know just how brutal they can be - not just in their geometry/elevation but how commonly one faces strong opposition from howling winds and rain. It took around 2hr 20 to cover that distance but I managed to win by a fair margin - although at the time - it felt more about survival in the face of gail force windsโ€ฆ which i often feel are a metaphor for life. You just keep on pushing and eventually you get there.

I finished strong on this day and it gave me hope that my years of endurance training were still buried in my physiology - despite not actually doing much in the way of long sessions at all at the current time.

After this Dorset trial race there was a bit of a hiatus until next towed the line approximately 4 months later at The Bath Half Marathon. I caught yet another nursery bug in the lead into this race and was without voice and snuffly on the start line.. but it was a chance to catch up with two of my favourite people and athletes Claire and Dunc Shea Simmonds - a good incentive. 

tamsin lewis pitchatpalace

Stunning race - wonderful support and even Chrissie Wellington showed up in her first 1/2 mara post baby (3 months?). I felt pretty blah throughout the whole thing.. it just passed in a blur and i just let my legs do the running, not actually breaking 155 heart rate. I managed a couple of near 6 min miles coming to the end, so clearly I hadnโ€™t pushed as hard as i could, so it was reassuring to see the clock at 1.21 when i crossed the line, ahead of some super speedy girls - Vicky Gill being one. Chrissie ran a 1.25 smiling as she does most the way round. I was most impressed that she prioritised breast feeding her little one just minutes before the start. 

In the early months of 2016 I had been focusing on some career networking/business development for Curoseven and studying a mix of functional medicine, endocrinology and bio-identical hormones in my evenings when Sophia had gone to sleep

I was running 3-4 times a week with 1 or two strength sessions thrown in - of which i would count climbing stairs and superman flies with Sophia as part :)

My previous coach Tom Bennett of T2 coaching always said i could run a sub 3 so that rang in my mind when out running, as did the words of my other former, and perhaps more infamous coach Brett Sutton that women didnโ€™t need to run long regularly in order to run long well as we were naturally better at endurance. Funny how selectively biased the brain can be - esp. as 1 i didn't have the time or 2. the inclination to run high mileage.

I periodically googled โ€œhow to run a sub 3โ€, I even downloaded the ASICS run sub 3 plan and would give it cursory glances now and then choosing a couple of the sessions, but ignoring the fact it told you to run every day pretty much and the 15mile plus runs every Sunday. I did 3 runs over 22km in the entire 8 month lead in.

As most of you children know - the first few years after they start nursery - they pick up every bug going and largely smear it all over you when home. I use one of those nasal suction devices to remove the snot from Sophiaโ€™s nose so she can breathe better. They work but its a messy process. She only attends nursery twice a week, my long suffering mum looking after her on the other days I work.. a choice made easier by the fact that almost every week she would bring home some foul virus of sorts (i watched a program where they looked at the bugs grow from hands of children in nursery - millions of virulent organisms) .. and almost every week my immune system was being challenged again. I do as much as I can from a nutrition/supplements stance to give my immune system a chance. I follow a high healthy fat diet, with periodic carbs (predominant pm as it helps bring down night cortisol and enhance tryptophan production and hence sleep) and lots of veggies. I largely avoid gluten, but do have a small amount of full fat dairy as tolerate it well and good source of calcium. When asked why i avoid gluten - i do not have coeliac disease, although have tested positive for blood antibodies to Gluten in 2010 - I only found out about this retrospectively when requesting my historical blood tests from my NHS GP - it was not mentioned to me. They reverted to normal when i worked on my stress and gut function/diet as my knowledge working through curoseven evolved. Who knew Sultana Bran with skimmed milk wasn't a healthy breakfast ;)

Go to supps when affected by a bug are :

but stress is a potent immune-suppressant and if youโ€™re not sleeping well - working or multi-tasking like a mo-fo it will take its toll. HRV Monitoring through an app like HRV4TRaining can help manage this and if you heed its warnings - adapt your exercise accordingly. 

I often question now when athletes comment on their 'fitness' being lacking. Often this is based on perceived effort for a given pace/wattage. However if you are deficient in X nutrient or running too high or too low on cortisol or testosterone or other hormones are out of whack then perceived will feel infintely higher. Additional if life stress is high and then you stress yourself further by a high intensity session - reprimanding yourself when you dont hit your numbers - it becomes a recipe for poor health long term. A bit more on this here.

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In the month leading into London did two of my biggest ever running weeks 70/80km. I know for runners out there this does not sound like much - but it was all quality and a lot of race pace and above race pace work. Race pace started to feel super comfortable. But the only long run i did of 30k 3 weeks out - reminded me of what happened at Ironman UK in 2014. Around the 15mile mark something starts to ache - whether the hip, the toe or just generally legs slow down - despite CV system feeling ok and not feeling low on fuel. This I have come to realise is just what happens when you are not used to running big miles. I have the endurance from years of triathlon, but not the mileage in the legs. I have however, remained injury free for the first time in years despite running consistently for a year. I put this down to the addition of some strength work - adding a heel wedge to my left shoe which has helped a chronic RIGHT high hamstring tendinopathy - and eating a higher fat, more nutrient dense diet.. and generally training less!

tamsin marathon training

London Marathon - The Race will be published as next blog shortly!

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FURTHER RESOURCES

2014 Sportiedoc Race Updates

We are a little way into 2014 and with a few races under my belt to blow off the winter rust, here is  a update on my 'progress'.

In October 2013 we set up CuroSeven.Ltd. a company which offers proactive health consultations and performance optimisation through physiological analysis. (Blood/Saliva testing).

It has been an exciting time with much interest in the service but also a busy time. 

Training to race the best pro athletes in the world cannot be undertaken half heartedly and this is something that most age-group and some pro athletes will understand.

I average around 16 hours a week training - many pro's train for double this time. 
Ensuring there is quality in every session is key (easier said than done ;)

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If you have to work between training sessions, your recovery both mental and physical can be compromised. Have a read here if you are interested in more about this. The crux is don't do your quality - hard sessions when you have had a mentally challenging/stressful day.

Caffeine seems to prevent the decline in performance seen with mental fatigue, but then recovery and adaptation may be affected if the workout is in the evening. 
Interestingly caffeine tends to be performance 'enhancing' in the morning but not pm.

See : Improvements on neuromuscular performance with caffeine ingestion depend on the time-of-day

Race 1 - Challenge Fuerteventura.

If this race has been 2 weeks earlier I would have been confident about my ability to fight for the top spots. I had my best ever training camp with coach Tom Bennett at Ferrer Hotels in Mallorca.

But as is often the case when things are going well, i noticed a niggle towards the end of the camp in my peroneals which was revealed by a timely ultra-sound scan (thanks @ParysEdwardsTri) to be a peroneal and calf tear.

Lesson - Don't change cleats (from SpeedPlay back to Shimano and fiddle incessantly with the position..) Constant microtearing of the muscle has resulted in a significant tear all the way along the peroneal border and part of the soleus muscle. 

Result - 8 days no running pre race.

This race is held out of Playitas Resort which many Pro Athletes use as a winter base - hence a stacked start list with multiple IM and 70.3 winners.

Performance on the day was decidedly average. I missed the pack in the swim and swam alone - need to work on the first 400m acceleration - as being a one-paced wonder - does not cut it.  Goggles got kicked off - so Sighting was interesting. 

Bike was ok, but perceived effort was higher for the power that i was hoping to push and my calf injury niggled with each pedal stroke, mentally undermining my race head. 

I made up some of the lost time on the swim but had hoped for more and came into the T2 in 4th. I went out tentatively as I didn't know how the leg would feel. Any sharp pain and instructions were to stop - no sharp pain and I jogged on. And this is how the run went - no digging deep, no fighting for the podium - just a run which didn't tax my injury and which may have had been sidelined from upcoming races. Eimear Mullan whom I have battled with in races before - came through with a storming run to run through from 6th to 2nd, with only Camilla Pedersen remaining ahead.  Read more about Camilla's incredible return from coma to racing here. To put it in perspective I ran a 1.30 half marathon which is often what my long sunday runs end up being.  (Coach says I am over-striding in this photo btw.

tamsin lewis triathlon

First race done, dusted and onwards.

Race 2 - Ironman 70.3 Mallorca 

This was one of my A races - I have trained in Mallorca numerous times and know the roads and the one big climb in the race (up to Lluc) well. (Still holding the Strava QOM last time i checked) I felt fit, ready and strong. I had my Dad, Coach and boyfriend all there supporting me and making sure my bike went into the race mechanical free (for those that know me - know that mechanics ain't my strong point - but i have learnt the hard way from my laissez faire attitude to the allen key.)

Race Day. 
Smooth right up until the start. I had decided to race with my one armed wetstuit - a modified BlueSeventy Helix

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I know it looks odd, but it has worked for me in the past. 

Reason - 2 x collar-bone breaks means that I have restricted range on that side - even the most flexible wetsuit affects my ability to get into a high elbow catch - this helps, but downside is water gets into the suit - meaning more drag. I have tried to get hold of the sleveless wetsuit, but availability is low.

Swim - Beach Start. Sophie Goos, Liz Blatchford and Last Years' (and this years') winner - Lisa Hutthaler - (who's reputation and ban for EPO use - amongst other things - precedes her)...
all went out hard from the gun. 

Liz Blatchford as a former ITU athlete and super swimmer immediately got ahead with a few perfectlly executed dolphin dives. I swam with Lisa and Sophie alternating position for most of the way until we caught some of the slower male pros who then tried rather viciously to usurp my position and i lost feet, got dunked and had to swim wide to get clear. I exited T1 around 20secs behind this group and a few minutes behind Liz. Game on. 

On to the Bike, legs felt good from the start which is rare for me and I pushed ahead on the road through Pollenca - catching Sophie,  Astrid Ganzow (Also a Doctor who won her AG in Kona last year.. ) and Natasha Schmitt. Then in the lead into the climb I started to get a cramp in my calf ( the healing injury_) and my watts dropped as I tried to stretch and offload it. Not too bad and back on it quickly. 

The girls came past me once more at this point and we went onto the climb together. 
I had instructions to cap watts on this climb (sub threshold) and I did... but suprisingly the others were pushing hard all to'ing and fro'ing. I kept them in my sights but didn't attack, biding my time. 

Over the climb and onto the descent which I have done countless times. I am descending well this year, thanks to some practice and learning how to place weight appropriately on the pedals when cornering. 

 Thank you to http://ulrichscherbaum.wordpress.com/ for the photo.

Thank you to http://ulrichscherbaum.wordpress.com/ for the photo.

I do, however, have the tiniest tri bars which can make handling somewhat interesting. 

Through one of the last corners on the descent and a Goat came out of the blue - trotted onto the road - i could see it perhaps 20m away. It stopped - seemingly assessing my intentions - and then aborted its crossing the road mission - and ran back the way it came. I had gambled on it continuing to cross so swerved that way to avoid and then narrowly missed hitting it as I came off the side of the road. 
This was all a blur which I did not remember until hours after the incident when I slowly started to replay the event in my mind. I had hit my head hard, as my helmet showed, but aside from feeling dizzy and nauseas (it will pass - I told myself as I got back on the bike... - i was roadrash free (body landed on the verge - head on the concrete)..

 Not the actual goat - he was caught and curried ;0

Not the actual goat - he was caught and curried ;0


ARE YOU STILL WITH ME??

Back on the bike - steady - steady - as I was turning onto the road to Campanet some time later my vision started to blur and i kept nodding my head to bring it back... then more dizziness.. then I vomited. A race motorcycle who had seen the fall, kept me in its sights and as I was they pulled up to me and told me to stop. Seeing sense - I did, got off the bike, sat down, still shaking and vomited again. An ambulance was called - which arrived in what seemed seconds, and soon I was in Inca Hospital.

Tides of emotion came as I lay in a cubicle in the hospital with a drip and heart monitor attached. I am not one to cry normally, but I couldn't stop the tears.

Frustration, disappointment, self-blame/pity you name it.

All augmented by the wails of clearly unwell patients nearby. Its a powerless feeling being the other side of the fence in a hospital, waiting for the medics to pass by, make decisions and the very atmosphere of a hospital makes one feel infinitely more sick than one may actually be.

I was kept on a heart monitor as my initial ECG showed Large T Waves - common in some athletes - but not common in the general population and also a few ectopic beats. A look of concern on a doctors' face is always invokes apprehension, but i assured her that I was feeling ok, just a slight headache and persistent nausea. I was advised to stay and I did as I was told for 4 hours (no mean feat ;) . Blood tests and a skull xray ruled out rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown which can cause kidney failure) and a fracture.
I was diagnosed with concussion and told to take it easy. 


Back to the hotel and I slept for some hours before waking hungry (always a good sign)... 

The days post crash were similar - I felt a bit battered, heavy and with a lingering headache. My hip was bruised and a little swollen, but otherwise not too bad.

By Wednesday, I started to consider the possibility of putting my goat demons to rest and approached Ironman to ask if I could race Ironman 70.3 Barcelona. 

I was told it was too late to arrange entry, so tried a second option of Ironman 70.3 France, where I have raced twice before and know the organisers. Thursday they agreed to arrange entry, and I booked flights to arrive Friday.

Friday morning arrives - I wait at the airport for my 'Meet N'Greet' to pick up my car. 20minutes later than scheduled he arrives and I race to the checkin desk only to be informed that they could not accept my bike 45mins pre flight. No other option - Can't board - must reschedule. 
Told reschedule would be the same time Saturday..  and a million thoughts go through my mind - I have never arrived to a foreign race the afternoon before - and the logistics of the race in France with a T1 30k away from T2 means it would not be an easy pre-race day. 

I agree and I fly out on Saturday.
At least I know the course. 

Hastily build bike - no mechanics on site to check it over and I could feel my rear derailleur was out after a quick spin - tried a Di2 reset - it did something but didn't quite fix it.
Have to make do. (No boyfriend or coach for mechanical check :)

Race 3 - Ironman 70.3 PAYS D'AIX 

A Few hours of sleep stolen. Does anyone ever sleep well before a race?

I can guarantee I will look at my phone clock every hour from midnight until the 5am alarm.

Swim.

Struggled to get my breath... panicked (its been years since this has happened).
Stopped pulled at wetsuit around my neck..

a few diaphragmatic breaths and self reassurance.. heart pounding (your heart is fine Tam...) onwards. 
Tried to follow feet but they kept moving. (or was that my sighting ?)
Got into a rhythm and swam alone.
I'm in a funk with my swim at the moment as have changed from a six beat kicker to a 2 beater. it helps with my rhythm/balance - but in a wetsuit - I'm so buoyant I don't seem to get much out of the kick at all - hence accelerating/changing speed is difficult.

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Couldnt wait to get out - and onto the bike - even though the swim course is in a beautiful calm lake. (Turn Volume down!)

Ironman France 70.3 Swim

Onto the bike ... Game on..  Head down and Aero. 
Damn forgot to look at the road and a newly built speed bump. Bang - am on the ground again. 

Chain lodged against frame -- pulled it out - sliced hand (a g a i n ) picked up bike .. jumped back on. 

Gears slipping noisily from the outset must have hit derailleur and back wheel as brake now rubbing. Got off - rectified wheel position - but another Di2 reset did nothing for my gears. 
Make Do - Just Make Do. 

I caught a few girls and a cursory look from Jeanne Collonge at my bleeding hand and she asked if I was ok. Sweet.  We would ride together legally for a while... Jeanne pulling ahead slightly on some of the climbs (usually my strength but Jeanne is one of the best climbers in the sport - having won Embrunman - an Ironman with over 5000m of climbing).. and me catching and passing on the descents and flats. 

My gears continued to slip throughout the ride - you could hear me coming! But I felt relatively strong.

My Tri Bars and Saddle had slipped as I went over the speed bump, meaning my position was less than ideal - it was all less than ideal - but thats racing - you roll with the punches. 

Tamsin Lewis Aix en provence 70.3 Ironman

Into T2 with Jeanne in 3rd behind Tine Deckers (who had swam well).. and the incredible (how many Ironmans?) Gina Crawford. 

Onto the run course and within 5 minutes I get a stop and go penalty for not having my number belt round the wrong way - this has never happened before - perhaps a warning - but no messing - yellow card.. I used the opportunity to go for a much need pee. It is 'illegal' to pee in public on the course, but many can and do pee whilst you are running. But there were a lot of marshalls and regular Vitamin B consumption means bright yellow conspicuous pee. 

Some days you get on the run and know its going to be a good 'un. Other days legs won't do what the body wants them to.

NUTRITION
This is where fuelling on the bike comes in. Because I avoid refined carbohydrates as much as possible my gut really doesn't take kindly to an attempt to take 5 gels on the bike.
They say train your gut to be able to tolerate and absorb carbohydrates but I'm just so put off by all the negative sugar press... that the thought of taking on 2-4 gels an hour on a training ride doesn't happen. I do 'drip feed' carbs on training rides.. but nothing like the 60+g an hour which evidence suggests improves performance on race day. (if tolerated, i.e no GI effects).

I ALWAYS take Buscopan on the bike as well as Omeprazole 20mg pre race to limit GI side effects. They are tried and tested and work, as do Charcoal tabs (reduce bloating and nausea) - but race nutrition needs to be trialled (more than once) in training - esp. if you are an age-grouper who doesn't race frequently. 
GI issues are amongst the most common complaints post race.

I would say I am sugar phobic, but I will happily munch on chocolate (and wine) so its not quite true.

Need to work on this as I may experiment more with a little MCT oil, BCAA's (may prolong exercise tolerance) as well as the carbs - but again at the intensity of an 70.3 absorption of MCT's (fats) is going to be limited.

Like many Pros I empty the gels into a large 750ml water bottle and fill up with water. 
Vanilla Powerbar is my current gel of choice, with 10g of BCAA's. I managed 3 gels on the bike and 1/2 gel and a few sips of coke on the run. The rest was fuelled on fat stores and glycogen.

My hamstring and hip were sore and i felt like I was having to lift the leg through rather than pushing off.. I see Jeanne run away into the distance  (She would run a sub 1.19 run and win the race)... but had no idea where Gina, Tine or Susie (last years winner) were.  I just kept truckin, feeling very blah.
Then on the last lap I saw Susie (superb runner)..
 
closing and I thought if I could run and increase my turnover a bit I might just be able to hold her off.. She caught me on the run to win the race last year with me finishing 2nd. (Sept.).. If I could salvage something and finish ahead that would be something. 

Here is My Race Report from The Race Last Year.


I managed it and crossed the line in a respectable 4th. 
Not outstanding and many obstacles en route. But testing times, often make us stronger in the long run.

I am determined not to give up racing until i at least get a glimpse of a near perfectly executed race!

Pipe Dream or Not. 

Build a dream and the dream will build you

I am still deciding on upcoming races.

Ironman Nice is still on the Agenda.. but time to put the nose to the grindstone again and re-balance my training/work schedule. 

Exciting news that my new bike - Felt IA has arrived at Pearson Cycles! 

Thanks for Listening! 

(DO as I say - not as I do ;)

Special Thanks to all my Sponsors for their support and to my Coach Tom Bennett for his endless patience/exasperation... 

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