On The Road Again!

17 Sep

On Monday I squeezed 5 miles in between a meeting and dinner. My legs felt ok after my long run, but still a little tight. On Tuesday I went to my club session. It was short stuff: 8 × (500m + 60 seconds + 300m + 90 seconds). At my fittest I’d be well below 5.45m/m for that. 6.10s was my average this week! It’s fair to say the weather wasn’t great: rainy and windy, and getting worse through the session. Running home was hard work! Apparently Avonmouth, just along the river, had gusts of 70 mph that night. I can well believe it!

Wednesday was as good a day as any to take my rest day, as I had a full day in court, reading to do for Thursday and then an orchestra meeting to squeeze in. I managed 8 miles on Thursday evening and 7 on Friday morning before heading off to the airport to go to Scotland and see my sister. T had been at a conference and so for him it was a good way to kill two birds with one stone. For me, not so much! After a lovely 24 hours it was time to head back south. Unfortunately all of the afternoon and evening flights were full, so we were on the train. Even more unfortunately there were severe delays due to a fatality, so after 8 hours we arrived back at 9pm. Just time for a soothing cup of tea before bed.

I was up at 6.30 for breakfast ahead of  the Bristol Half. Race predictors suggested something between 1.27.45 and 1.29.30 based on my Cardiff 10km time, so 1.27.55 was the good side of that bracket. It’s still only this spring’s marathon pace, and 27s/mile slower than half marathon pb pace, but I’m still in the phase of having to accept that my race times are going to sound slow relative to my best years. Fitness is hard won and easily lost, but each week sees a bit more fitness regained. I’ll take the next 5 days steadily ahead of the Midlands Road Relays next weekend. Let’s see if I can edge a few seconds per mile closer to best pace again!

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Patience Must Be The Charm / To Heal Me Of My Woe

10 Sep

I guess the headline this week is consolidation, rather than a gigantic leap forward in fitness.

On Monday I ran 5 miles home from work.  It’s net uphill, although I did chuckle to myself running up the steepest hill, as I could tell someone was trying to keep up with me, and ultimately failed.  It’s on uphills that my power to weight ratio comes into its own.  Perhaps I should race on the continent: they have uphill only mountain races!  I ran back into work on Tuesday, just squeezing my 5 miles in between 2 rather heavy periods of rain.  I was in Yeovil on Wednesday, which took up pretty much all of the day once travel was factored in, plus I had to do some urgent work arising from the hearing, so that was my rest day.  Plus by Wednesday I’d run 8 days in a row, which was enough.

On Thursday I went to my club session.  We were doing long loops on the road (just over 2km, 3 times), and although they were undulating I had hoped to be slightly better than I managed: I ran the same pace as I’d managed in the race on Sunday, when I thought that my legs had recovered ok and I should be able to at least squeeze back under 6.30m/m.  But I guess fitness takes time to come back.  Softly, softly, catchee monkey and all that.  I suppose I was also just a bit tired, and so I hoped to sleep like a log. However, it took me ages to drop off and then someone’s sodding car alarm was going off.  Again, and again, and again.  At some point I did manage to ignore it and get to sleep, but it was still going the next morning when my alarm clock woke me!  Thankfully I wasn’t in court on Friday, but I felt pretty sluggish, and so just did an easy 6 miles that evening before going out with T for dinner and comedy.

On Saturday I did a steady 9 miles (actually slower than the 6 miles the previous day: go figure!) and then today it was 16 miles again.  I was a tiny bit faster than last week, and managed a total of 50 miles for the week again.  At the risk of tempting fate/jinxing everything/whatever other ominous phrase you wish to pick, I’ve managed 3 consecutive weeks of 50 miles a few times this summer, and then something has gone wrong the following week.  But do you know what: I’m pretty sure that won’t happen this time.  I’m trying really hard to be sensible, and to push without exceeding the limits.  Fingers crossed, this time next week it’ll be another cautiously optimistic blogpost.

What A Difference A Week Makes!

3 Sep

Monday was a rest day, so T and I took advantage of a beautiful sunny August Bank Holiday to pop over to Chepstow and walk out to Tintern and back. It was about 13 miles in total and surprisingly quiet on the Wye Valley Way. Perhaps the hills put people off!

On Tuesday I did 6 miles steady. I could still feel my legs were a bit stiff from the race and walk. Wednesday was 8 miles on a fairly tough route: up one side of the Avon Gorge and back down the other! But it was a beautiful day and the views were stunning. Thursday was an easy 5 miles. I had hoped to do my long run as I was racing on Sunday but there wasn’t time, so I did my long run on Friday afternoon instead. 16 miles at a reasonable pace (8.10s). I then did a very slow 5 miles on Saturday to loosen my tired legs a little.

Today was the Cardiff 10k. My reset targets, taking account of my inconsistent training, were for sub 41 come hell or high water and ideally sub 40. Conditions weren’t too bad: a light breeze and some drizzle, but with heavy rain and 14mph winds predicted, they were much better than I feared. I’d stayed with a clubmate who’s now living in Cardiff and although she wasn’t racing, her husband was, and Helen was our super-supporter. The short version was that my chip time was 40.25 and I ran an even race. So, still slower than marathon pb pace, but 7s/mile faster than last week’s 5km (although much cooler, and with people to chase, which definitely helped!), so all going in the right direction. I don’t think I’ll keep improving that much, but perhaps my half marathons won’t be quite as slow as I feared!

It’s Been A Long Time, Baby

27 Aug

Last week can fairly be described as a write off.  The after-effect of the cold was complete and utter exhaustion: by the time I’d travelled home on Monday and then done food shopping and what passes for housework in my eyes, I was knackered.  On Tuesday I was back in chambers, and that combined with a steady a 5 mile run wiped me out.  On Wednesday I had a late finish in court, and wasn’t back in Bristol until 7pm, so did the bare minimum of admin then went to T’s.  It turned out Wednesday was a relatively early finish: I was working until 9pm on Thursday and 7.30pm on Friday, so didn’t run either of those days, either, and Saturday saw me spend almost all day in work yet again.  I did manage an easy 5 miles on Sunday ahead of another long stint at my desk, and so ended up with 10 miles for the week.

By Monday of this week I was starting to feel a little more myself in terms of health, and so on Tuesday I managed a steady 7 miles, followed by 5 miles on Wednesday.  This gave me the confidence to tackle a club session on Thursday.  The pace was only half-marathon pb pace (6.15s), when really it should have been 10k pace or better (6m/m), but after almost 3 weeks with no faster running it was a start, and my times for all 4 efforts were within a few seconds of each other.  As always, it was also nice just to see my clubmates again, especially as we went out for curry afterwards for a birthday celebration! I did a steady 7 miles on Friday after work and although my legs took about 4 miles to loosen up, they felt reasonably ok by the end.  On Saturday it was back into chambers again, which was a pity given the glorious weather.  I didn’t take much persuasion to head off for a long run with a clubmate late afternoon, and I covered 14 miles, most of it with company, taking in some of the beautiful trails that we are lucky enough to have almost on our doorstep here in Bristol. (And yes, trails = hills!)

And as for the blog title, that refers to today: the Avon Road Relays, my first race since the DNF at Aztec.  My legs felt pretty creaky, which wasn’t surprising given the hard session on Thursday and long run on Saturday, but after a steady warm up (5k jogged at about 9m/m) I could just about muster something approaching faster running.  As I was on leg 2, once I’d reeled in a couple of slower runners ahead of me I didn’t really have anyone to work off and so my pace drifted in the second half, but I did help the club defend the Avon title it’s now held for a few years, and it was good to be racing again, and to feel fairly in control.  At some point I had to bite the bullet!  The time was slow (not much under 20.45, or slower than marathon pb pace, let alone half-marathon pace or 10k pace), but that was to be expected with the missed training and tired legs.  My next few races are going to have to be untapered tempo runs as I race myself back to fitness, and so slow times will happen.  But they will gradually improve, and in a month or two it will all have been worth it.  There’s time to salvage something from 2017, I’m sure!

A Fortnight Of Two Halves

15 Aug

A delay in getting the last two weeks written up, but I’ve been busy!

The first week went pretty well from a mileage perspective: on Tuesday I went to my club session and ran some pretty solid efforts. I wasn’t quite as fast as the previous week, but I was still pleased.  On Wednesday I’d arranged to meet some clubmates for a run in the Mendips (a change is as good as a rest, after all).  It was a route suggested by another clubmate who couldn’t join us, but we had a map with it marked out, and it looked fairly straightforward: run in a fairly straight line, then a sort of square, then back the way you came.  A kind of square lollipop.  It started pretty well, although conditions weren’t great: rather grey, a bit drizzly, a stiff breeze and (once near the summits) very low cloud cover so that visibility was poor.  After about 4 or 5 miles we realised we’d gone slightly wrong and had ended up on a road we’d not intended to reach.  But we figured out a way to get back on track.  Then we spotted a path which didn’t seem to be marked on the map but was going in the right direction and would save us having to do a few miles on the road (where there was no pavement, so we didn’t feel particularly safe).  Excellent!  It was all going fairly well until we hit the bracken.  Bracken, bracken, bracken as far as the eyes could see, with no clear path through it, finishing about head height (certainly for me).  We kept on stopping to try and find some landmarks, but that low cloud cover made that difficult.  Eventually we found a stream and were able to plot a rough course off that, although there still weren’t many clearly defined paths around.  Finally, something helpful came into view: two mountain bikers who we flagged down.  They were able to give us directions which more or less worked (although the path we had to follow was effectively a fairly fast flowing shallow stream) and we made our way back to the car, cold, wet and hungry, having been out for about an hour longer than anticipated with all the breaks to peer at our (fast disintegrating) map and having to wade through bracken.  It was character building stuff!  I took Thursday as a rest day to recover from it all, then ran on Friday before heading off to stay at my parents for the next week as I had tickets to the World Athletics Championships in London.  This lead to some pretty late finishes, so I ran around lunchtime on Saturday and Sunday, putting some 900m efforts into Saturday’s run, and ended up with 50 miles for the week, and a sore throat from screaming with excitement during the men’s 10,000m as Mo Farah took gold!

Monday was a rest day and on Tuesday I ran 8 miles steady.  On Wednesday I felt ridiculously tired and the weather was pretty grim, so I took my second rest day.  By the end of the day I was feeling quite a lot worse, with a horribly sore throat and a ticklish sensation in my nose.  I hoped very much this was not man flu, and tried to sleep as much as possible.  Sadly, as Thursday dawned it became clear I did have man flu.  Although steady running was just about possible, anything faster was clearly off the cards.  I plodded around another 8 miles, having spent the earlier part of the day feeling sorry for myself.  Friday was pretty similar.  On Saturday I restricted myself to 5 miles, and finished the week with 10 miles to bring up 39 miles as a cut-back week.  Although I’d planned to do 11 miles so that I ran 40 miles, my breathing was getting pretty laboured and so there was little point.  I was particularly gutted to fall ill this week as I’d planned to return to racing on the Saturday, but I was in no fit state to contemplate toeing the start line, so that will have to wait.

As for the World Championships, I loved going to watch.  I know that elite athletics has got its problems at the moment (as evidenced all too clearly by the “Authorised Neutral Athletes” competing, aka Russians who the IAAF are satisfied were not doping).  There was something truly bittersweet about watching medal reallocation ceremonies, where athletes were given medals which had been won at past World Championships by athletes whose samples had been re-tested to take advantage of improvements in testing, only to discover they had been doping in the past.  Whether we have really reached rock-bottom in terms of doping is hard to know, and I freely admit to a degree of scepticism about the likelihood that the medals I saw won will remain with all of the people who won them.  I hope I’m wrong, because at its best, athletics is an exhilarating and wonderful sport.  The roar of a crowd urging competitors on, travelling round the stadium as the athletes pass like a Mexican soundwave, is a spine-tingling thing.  And it’s not just the delight of watching your own nation succeed: seeing athletes such as Sally Pearson from Australia win gold after coming back from a career-threatening injury, or Ghazal, a Syrian athlete, win bronze in the high jump, were also wonderful moments.  Fingers crossed, once this cold is behind me I can get back to proper training again, inspired by what I’ve seen!

Peaks Without Troughs

2 Aug

A few days late with the blog, but last week was another good week:

On Monday I was in Barnstaple for a hearing, and had travelled down the night before.  This allowed me to a steady 6 mile run along the Taw estuary first thing in glorious sunshine.  A lovely start to the week!  On Tuesday evening I ran a very steady 8 miles over quite a tough route back in Bristol.  My legs didn’t feel great, but it was still nice to be out.  I took Wednesday as a rest day as I was in court in Plymouth.  I saw quite a lot of the South West last week…

On Thursday I went to my club session, and was pleased to have another consistent run.  The 2 minute efforts were just over 6m/m, and although that shows I’m still at least 15s/mile off full fitness, it’s a lot better than I’d expected.  I was able to maintain my pace well, so the endurance is there and the speed will come.  On Friday I ran a steady 10 miles at lunchtime.  The session had left my legs a bit tight, so the first 5 miles were a bit creaky, but then my legs loosened up and the pace began to flow a bit more!

I’d run at lunchtime because we were having a weekend away as a family in the Peak District.  The journey up was a bit slow, as might be expected on a Friday in the holidays, but once we arrived it was worth it.  The bonus of having run on Friday was that Saturday could be a rest day and I could catch up with my sister and her family, who I hadn’t seen since Christmas.  The weather was fairly kind to us and so we were able to go for a walk in Dovedale (along with what felt like hundreds of other people!) and even a bit of a scramble up to some caves.  On Sunday morning I did a 16 mile run along an old railway line (The Manifold Trail).  Although I was conscious of there being a bit of a steady climb, I didn’t realise there was over 200m of climbing until I downloaded my GPS data (although I take that data with a bit of a pinch of salt).  The ascent was fairly similar to last week’s run, so the similar pace (8.11m/m) was a good sign.  T & I both had work on Monday, so headed home on Sunday afternoon, but it had been a lovely 48 hours.

And in running terms, 50 miles, including a faster run.  A good week all round.

Rain In My Heart And Let The Love I Knew Start To Grow

23 Jul

The headline for this post is that this has been a Good Week.

I took Monday as a rest day and then went to my club session on Tuesday.  It was the first time I’d done a really tough run since the DNF 3 weeks before, and it is fair to say I was a bit apprehensive beforehand, but I also knew that at some point I had to bite the bullet and try to push myself a bit to see how things are really doing.  And they’re doing ok.  It was a straightforward session and – after a steady first effort – I was able to push the pace a bit more and actually surprised myself by the extent to which I hadn’t lost fitness (I think that just about makes sense!).  On Wednesday I ran a steady 7 miles and Thursday a steady 8 miles.  My legs were a bit sore from the session, which is to be expected, but they were sore in a good way, not the awful pain I was experiencing a few weeks ago.  All that tedious stretching and strength work is paying dividends!  Friday was my second rest day, as I’m still only running 5 days a week at the moment.  I’m finding that really helps psychologically, because it makes my working week less stressful when I don’t have to fret about squeezing a run in almost every day.

And so to the weekend.  On Saturday morning I did a session by myself, using a 1.25 mile loop: I ran just under 1 mile hard, then jogged the rest of the loop, and repeated this 3 more times.  My times for each loop were nice and consistent, and just a bit faster each time, which shows there is more to come.  With the warm up and cool down I’d run a total of 10 miles.

This morning my legs felt a bit tired, but less so than earlier in the week (although the pace yesterday was slower than on Tuesday, so that’s not surprising; and the slower pace isn’t concerning, as the efforts were longer, which would mean running more slowly, plus it’s much harder to push yourself to the limit without some other people to work off!).  I set off for my long run in the rain.  And finally, I had a long run where I felt like a little bit of the old me was back: the pace was ok (an average of 8.12m/m on an undulating route), with no fade (i.e. slowing towards the end), and, most importantly, I enjoyed it.  It didn’t feel like a chore, but like something I wanted to do.  For something like the last 6 weeks it has all too often felt that I’m running out of habit more than anything else, but today I began to remember how fun running can be.  That 16 miles brought up 50 miles for the week, which is where I’ll keep things for the next few weeks.  Enough to keep me in good shape, but not the extra 10-20 miles on top which could risk running becoming a chore again.