Lucozade Sport Super Six: Christina (sub-3:00)

Goal: sub-3:00
Mentor: Paul Evans
Sport Scientist: Gareth Turner
Forum nickname: just back from a run

Age: 30
Running for: 22 years
No. of marathons: 2

1
PB for 10K: 37:00 Half-Marathon: 1:26 Marathon 3:13
Strengths: I'm a hard worker and a keen learner.
Weaknesses: I hardly ever look at my watch, and I don't pay much attention to the scientific side of running.
Did you know? I hold the Guinness World Record for Fastest Marathon Dressed as a Super Heroine (3:13, London Marathon 2008).
Christina's Schedule | Christina's Training Thread | Christina's profile

Race day


Christina says: The marathon is such a tough event, and I was reminded of that on Sunday - I had a terrible day. I felt fine in the first half, did 1:30 for halfway then everything went wrong. My quads started cramping up, and I’ve never had that sort of pain in my quads before so it was strange. From that point onward it was a real struggle to keep going. At Mile 17 I started getting stitches and at that point I decided to drop back to a pace in which I could complete the marathon without medical help! Everyone was passing me and I just felt rubbish. To top it off, my world record was beaten.

I probably could have finished quicker if I’d started slower, but I wanted sub-3:00. That was my goal and the whole point for me, so I am glad I went at that pace – otherwise, I’d never have known if I could do it. Being part of the Super Six has been great. Now I need some reflection time, and I can't even think about doing the whole thing again… But if I did I’m already thinking about the tweaks I’d make in training…

Paul says: From day one Christina has been a model pupil. She embraced the training and quietly got on with things. She did suffer a damaged calf which unfortunately kept her out of action for about two weeks, so we had to change her race programme somewhat to try and make up for the training she had missed. Christina handled the situation very well, cross-training so when the calf recovered Christina had not lost too much fitness. Her morale was boosted by a great run in the Maidenhead Easter 10, and we decided not to race after that but to carry on with the training to ensure a really good taper.

On race day Christina went through halfway bang on target. Unfortunately she then started to suffer from tight quads - something she has never suffered with before - and was forced to stop a couple of times. This was when the gremlins (negative thoughts) started to set in. Unfortunately sometimes the mind is willing but the body is not, but Christina showed the same courage and determination that she has shown over the last four months and kept going to post a time most athletes would be very proud of. Unfortunately this time sub-3:00 was not to be.

I have no doubt that Christina will run a sub-3:00 marathon. She certainly has the ability, and she has enjoyed being one of the Super Six - hopefully just as much as I have enjoyed mentoring her.

Gareth says: Christina had a great deal of running experience, having competed in an Ironman just last year. Christina had to work on changing her nutritional strategies from previous races and eventually got used to the products and the benefits of staying hydrated during her run.


Weeks 14 - 15

Christina says: I ran the Maidenhead Easter 10 in 64.15, and came sixth lady. The start caught me out a bit – I was having a natter then heard the blower go off and had to weave through a few people before I could get going… I suppose as I haven’t really done many 10 milers I didn't have any expectations but it seems like a good time. I’m very pleased that race time predictors calculate it as a marathon time of 2:59.57! Getting that on the day would make me very happy.

I’ve had a leg massage – ouch! There were some really painful areas on my calf and on my hips but it’s good to get that done. Now I’ve got my physio lined up for two sessions before the marathon for a final tweak! The question now is… is tapering the toughest bit of marathon training?! I’m still not feeling 'fresh', but there’s a few days left yet!

Paul says: Christina goes into London brimming with confidence. In her last race she ran a very credible time in tough conditions, and since then she has trained well. Now it’s a case of easing off the miles but adding a few short sharp sessions. In the run-up to London the physical work is all but done and it’s now about the mental aspect. It’s what I call ‘wrap yourself up in cotton wool’ time!

Christina has had a few hiccups on the way but has always stayed positive and managed to overcome every obstacle. Dare I say it with ten days to go… she will stand on that start line fit, healthy and in good shape.

Gareth says: Tapering has been the hot topic on Christina’s thread. As always with the marathon gels seem to be the hot topic. All the runners seem to have different strategies. I am pleased that Christina has settled on her strategy and can go into the race confident that she has covered all the bases from a fuelling point of view. Hydration for a lot of the runners will depend on the weather on the day. Fingers crossed for a nice cool day!


Weeks 12 - 13

Christina says: Last weekend was the Lucozade Race Your Pace Half-Marathon. Rather than simply aiming for 1:30 (ie half of the marathon target), I wanted to hit my ideal time for the first half of the marathon – 1:28.30. I wasn’t that impressed with my race in the end – although I came fifth lady and did 1:28.28, I paced it wrong and went off too quickly. I also came down with mystery stomach cramps and grew some major blisters along the way… It made me think about how I'll manage to pace myself on race day. I don’t like to rely on anything or anyone – so I’ll take all my fuel with me and will have my garmin for pacing.

I’m planning to race hard in my ten mile race this weekend, and then get ready to taper…

Paul says: I am pleased to report that (touch wood!) Christina has had no recurrence of her calf problem. Since those dark days Christina's training has gone from strength to strength, getting good mileage in and completing quality sessions. Christina ran at the Race Your Pace Half-Marathon, and put in a comfortable run under 90 minutes and finishing fifth lady into the bargain. This is impressive considering the difficult conditions - Christina did not taper down for this event, and we still have three weeks left until the marathon.

Christina will race this Friday at the Maidenhead 10. It will be Christina's last race before the marathon, so her training will focus on reducing the mileage, but increasing the quality, shorter sharper runs. We are both happy with her progress.

Gareth says: Christina has also had a solid couple of weeks of running. The Race Your Pace Half-Marathon highlighted some lessons learnt, as Christina confessed to going off a little too quickly. This weekend is the final big weekend before the taper begins, and Christina will be running the Maidenhead Easter 10 on Friday and a 20 miler on Sunday.

Christina has also been worrying about needing the toilet during the marathon. This weekend is the final opportunity to try out new strategies and put to bed any hydration and nutrition worries.


Weeks 10 - 11

Christina says: My physio has worked some magic and sorted out the tension I had in a couple of joints in my neck. It feels much less tense now, which is great - it was definitely affecting my running, and I wonder if I was tensing it to compensate for my calf injury. My calves are all good now too, and I’m confident I'm on top of my injury (touch wood!).

This weekend I ran the Mad March 20, which I finished in 2.19.47. It was a great confidence-boosting run – just what I needed! I came third lady – thanks to the strong finish I managed to summon up – I sprinted past the fourth lady just before the end.

Paul says: Christina is really running well at the moment. She’s got over her calf injury – she is really disciplined, put in lots of time cross-training and as a result she hasn’t lost any fitness at all and bounced back from the injury really well. Christina’s had a couple of good weeks of training since the injury now, and got some good long runs in. After performing well at the track session in Twickenham, Christina ran a 20 mile race and did really well. The important thing to take away from that experience is confidence – I felt she lost a lot of confidence as a result of her injury layoff.

Christina is now going from strength to strength. She was going to race this week, but we’ve decided that because she’s lost a couple of weeks we’re going to ditch the race in favour of a long run. We’ll replace that half-marathon with something shorter nearer the end of the schedule. This will sharpen things up – the focus up until now has been time on feet but it’ll be good for Christina to do something shorter like a 5 mile or 10K race a couple of weeks before the big day. That’ll be Christina’s only race now before London.

Gareth says: Christina has had a successful couple of weeks since her time out with an injury. She is back on track with her training and very focused on achieving her sub-3 goal.Christina posted about fluid intake and the worries she has about needing the toilet whilst she is running. She is very happy with the Lucozade Sport gels and takes these regularly during long runs, but struggles to consume large amounts of fluid, which we will continue to discuss.

Questions on her thread focused on fluid and fuel intake during long runs. Most runners on this thread seem to have good strategies for fuelling runs but are not as aware of how much fluid they need. Breakfast was also discussed and the importance of adequate pre-race fuelling.


Weeks 8 - 9

Christina says: I've taken a turn for the better: my first 10-mile run back was very slow but it felt great - no hobbling this time! According to my physio, my calf has healed up nicely which is such a relief. I am a bit worried about it happening again though so I'm just going to steadily get back into my programme and if I feel any discomfort again I'll stop immediately until it's sorted.

Now, the plan is to regain the fitness I’ve lost and put in plenty of consistent runs from now until the marathon. I’m going to see how I get on with training and racing in March – hopefully sub-3:00 is still on the cards.

Paul says: Christina ran a great session with the rest of the team at the Training Day. Her calf held up and she should now have gained confidence that she hadn't lost much fitness thanks to all the cross-training she did while injured. Her pace judgement was spot-on too. She then went on to run a good 20 miles on Sunday, and has had a good week of training since. Dare I say we are back on track?! Christina's speed sessions are all done within a fartlek session, which helps make sure her the calf is nicely warmed up before speed is introduced. She won't race now until the Reading Half-Marathon, and then (depending how she fares) we might look for a little sharpener (a five-miler or 10K) before London.

Gareth says: Christina's injury has affected the amount of miles she has covered recently but there is plenty of encouragement on the forum and she is determined to work hard to achieve her goal. She has been using Body Fuel in the lead up to her runs, carbo gels during her sessions and recovery powder immediately after. For her most recent LSR she took two gels and felt really good. Other forumites have also been discussing the use of gels, with mixed responses.


Weeks 6 - 7

Christina says: This fortnight I've been on the bench thanks to a strained calf muscle. It was a frustrating diet of massage, ultrasound, exercises and cross-training for a while, but I've tentatively returned to running in the last few days. I'm keeping it slow and steady, and it feels a bit odd running again - I do think I may have lost some fitness. I had taken a step up in terms of mileage recently, so it could be a case of too much, too quickly, too soon.

My main objective now is to get back running naturally again as soon as possible and to get to the start line injury-free. I'm not going to throw away my sub-3:00 target - I will still be giving it a good shot! I'm planning to incorporate more cross training to complement my running - I didn't get injured training for Ironman so perhaps doing some other sports will help strengthen me up.

Paul says: Christina has been going great guns in her training so far, but she's picked up a sore calf recently which seems to be hanging around. At the moment Christina is cross training until she's able to see her physio again.

Gareth says: Christina's training has been affected by an injury to her calf. This has stopped her from running for the last week or so, however she has been making use of turbo, cross-training and swimming pool sessions. Unfortunately, this setback has prevented us developing her nutritional strategies further as she has been running less. Hydration has still been key though, as has recovery from the other training sessions.


Weeks 4 - 5

Christina says: I'm feeling quite tired at the moment, but I guess that's just how marathon training feels! My legs are achey, and I think that's because of the step up in mileage. This is my third marathon, and I was ready to do something dramatically different in training – I've never set myself such a tough marathon target and I want big improvements. If it gets too much then I'll take more rest, but right now I'm keen to build the miles.

In the meantime, I'm going to make regular massage a priority – it seems to really sort out the knots in my legs. I'm still feeling my way with how different paces feel too – I need to make sure I run the right pace at the right time so I can nail the speedier sessions.

Paul says: When I first met Christina, she was averaging less than 50 miles a week. One of my challenges has been to increase her mileage but not at the expense of two quality sessions a week. It has been quite a balancing act, but four weeks into the programme, Christina is now up to 70 miles a week.

Her speed sessions are of real quality and I have to say, Christina has really warmed to the task in hand. She is one tough young lady!

Christina now plans to run the Bramley 20 next week, followed by an easy week before the Wokingham Half-Marathon. I'm really pleased with Christina's progress so far!

Gareth says: With hydration always at the front of Christina's mind, she has now started to focus on her pre-race nutrition and some possible fuel options when running early. Our Chocolate Pro-Muscle powder mix has proved a hit and there have been plenty of questions about the best product for recovery and whether you should take on additional carbs. For most runners, it seems to come down to taste and what their stomach can handle.

Christina is preparing for two races in February so she's also turned her attention to carbohydrate gels. There was some fierce debate on the forum - it was very interesting to hear everyone's opinions and past experiences.


Weeks 2 - 3

Christina says: I've made it home! It was touch and go coming back from holiday, but after days of travelling I'm back in snowy Winchester. That'll be the only holiday I'll have between now and the marathon so it should go more smoothly from here. Training is picking up pace now, and there's so much to think about – the merits of different sessions, pacing, nutrition and kit. I will build up the miles gradually, the worse thing would be if I got injured due to increasing too soon and couldn't train consistently. Every day of the 16 weeks counts!

I'm really noticing how much easier tough sessions are with a club – both of my club nights are quality sessions, and I even joined a group for my long run this week. There's a great coach at my club who knows a lot about marathon running and there are a lot of other people training for the marathon.

Things seem to be going according to plan – I'm ticking off the sessions and finally seeing a little bit of pace.

Paul says: Before becoming one of the Lucozade Sport Super Six, Christina's average mileage was 30 to 40 miles per week (mpw) so our main challenge has been to gradually increase her mileage. With only 16 weeks to do this, we did have to throw caution to the wind slightly. That said, she is now running 50 miles a week and seems to have had no problems coping with the extra training. She's even commented on how strong she is feeling at the end of her runs.

Christina's mileage will continue to slowly increase over the weeks ahead - as always, we need to be ever mindful that she does not break down so communication between Christina and myself is crucial in avoiding this. All we mentors can ask for from our athletes is 100% commitment - I've certainly have got that !

Gareth says: Christina has a good knowledge of general nutrition and what she should be eating in preparation for a run. She recently posted her nutritional strategy which included porridge and toast for breakfast, a gel during her 40-minute run and a protein shake after her run. Overall she is definitely on the right track.

However, she did mention that despite taking a drink out on her run she didn't drink very much of it. She has been using Lucozade Sport Hydro Active before her runs though (to ensure she is properly hydrated) and was impressed with our post-run recovery powder. Over the weeks ahead, we'll be looking at how best to fuel her long runs.


Week 1

Christina says: As the schedule begins, the challenge ahead is slowly sinking in. I have to knock 35 seconds off every mile of my PB which is quite a task. I'm hoping that the extra mileage I'll be doing along with the extra support means I'll achieve my goal. I want to stand on the start line in April knowing that I've done all the preparation I possibly could to achieve 2:59.59 - I've even been reading up on sports science theory!

This week, I've been away on holiday, and confined to the treadmill. Hopefully I won't have lost any miles in my legs as I need them and more. Although I've mostly concentrated on shorter running events, I'm confident that I have the endurance capacity to do the increased mileage - it's going to be an interesting journey, that's for sure!

Paul says: Christina is an experienced runner who attends club training evenings every Tuesday (track) and Thursday (tempo). Together with her long runs on Sundays - which will increase week after week - these will be her key sessions over the weeks ahead.

Christina comes into the New Year with a good training base and her starting mileage will be around 50mpw. We will then review this after a month with the view that she may well do double sessions on certain days. Christina works from home so can be flexible in her training which is music to my ears, especially with the demanding racing programme she has set herself. She even raced 10K on Boxing Day! She has since been away on holiday and due to a delayed flight back, will be starting the programme later this week.

Gareth says: Christina is very determined to achieve her goal of sub-3:00. She recently purchased the book Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas in order to fully understand the science behind marathon running, and is willing to try out some different nutritional strategies during her training.

She is currently a firm believer in consuming gels and water while on a long run so we will looking at whether that is enough fuel as her training increases. Various strategies have also been discussed on her training thread - in particular, the "Aussie" carb-loading method.


About Christina

Christina says: I've always been sporty - when I was younger, I was a club swimmer, and took up running so I could enter an aquathlon. I then started running cross-country at school, and realised I had potential when I won some of the races. In 2006 I decided to do some distance running for a new challenge and did the Rome Marathon that year. I really loved it and went on to do my second marathon in London last year.

This year, I want to reach my potential and learn exactly what it takes to achieve sub-3:00. I want to approach my preparations more scientifically – up until now I've been running on how I feel, without a watch. I'm looking forward to making the most of the resources available – learning about proper nutrition and of course, Paul's mentoring. Paul's already helped me highlight key sessions in my schedule, and we'll work together to fit my running and racing around my lifestyle.

I'm looking forward to getting stuck into the forums to share Paul's training tips and enjoy the community input and support too. I promise I'll share both the highs and lows with everyone - whatever they may be!

Paul says: Christina has been running for the past 22 years so is no stranger to the rigours of training on a regular basis. She ran 3:13 in fancy dress in 2008 - this proves she has the capacity to run a sub-3:00 marathon. From meeting and exchanging emails with Christina, it is very apparent she is very organised and will start her 16-week build-up on January 4 from a good base.

However, it's important that we don't get too carried away: the key is to try and get Christina training consistently for the whole 16 weeks. She has formulated a very good but demanding race programme so making sure she gets enough recovery between races - while keeping to her schedule and avoiding injury or illness - will be one of our main challenges.

Gareth says: Having been a runner for a number of years and completed an Ironman, Christina knows the importance of fuelling her body correctly. She does admit she has limited knowledge though so my challenge will be recommending a diet that compliments her running schedule - currently four sessions a week.

Christina also would like to learn more about recovery. This will be essential with the volume of training ahead - she will need to recharge her body as soon as she completes every run so she feels fully re-energised every time she heads out of the door.