I’m Going Up A Yonder

27 Jun

I started the week with 5 miles easy on Monday morning and then 9 miles with 10 sets of strides on Tuesday. With my earliest start scheduled for Wednesday morning I took that as my rest day, and also managed to squeeze in a massage in the afternoon. I’ve now reached the stage of marathon training where it’s not always possible to fit my midweek training runs in before work, and Thursday was one of those days. It was actually quite nice to have to run in the afternoon/early evening, as my choir master’s funeral was Thursday lunchtime. I know that far too many people are now aware of what a funeral by Zoom feels like, and I’d expected to feel quite distant, but in fact felt quite emotionally involved. Perhaps it’s because music always has quite a strong memory/emotional pull, especially as they played what I’m pretty sure was a recording of my old girls’ choir singing, and a recording of one of the male voice choirs singing, too. Suddenly, I felt like a teenager sitting on benches at the side of a church, listening to the rich harmonies of a male voice choir before it was our turn to sing again. There were smiles at quirky memories, and tears at the thought there would be no more new memories. It was then back into work mode until I was able to lace up my trainers and head out for a fairly humid 11 miles, mostly off road.

On Friday morning I did 5 miles, and then on Saturday it was time for a belated Cotswold Way Relay recce. I have run leg 8 a couple of times, but a long while ago (I think 2013 and 2014), so a reminder of the route was definitely needed. I’d hoped to recce it a couple of times because I know I lack ‘hill’ fitness right now, but the ankle sprain put paid to that. I met up with my two team mates, and we set off. We took it fairly steadily, but even so with my hayfever still really bad and humidity none too great it felt like hard work, even if my legs weren’t too trashed as a result. That just left my long run today, and I tacked on an extra mile as the CWR recce wasn’t quite the 14 miles my schedule had required. I could feel that I’d done some decent climbs and descents yesterday, and that I was a bit tired (somehow I lost track of time and ended up staying up late last night), but with a faster clubmate to tag along with my 19 miles on the relatively flat Bristol/Bath path ticked along nicely, averaging 7.45m/m (even with the climb back home). 62 miles for the week.

Half Remembered Names And Faces / But To Whom Do They Belong?

20 Jun

This week started with a gentle 5 mile recovery run. The ankle finally felt recovered enough from the sprain that I could run off-road in my new trail racing shoes and they are super light and super speedy, so it didn’t end up being at recovery pace. But I love those shoes! (Adidas Terrex something or others. But not the carbon ones, obviously.)

On Tuesday I thought I was going to have to run home from work to get the first of my medium long runs in, as I was supposed to start a 4 day trial that day, but – as is sometimes the way – it rather fizzled out, and so I walked home instead, safe in the knowledge I would at least be able to run Wednesday morning rather than having to battle with late afternoon/early evening heat and humidity (bearing in mind the heatwave didn’t really break until Thursday). Annoyingly, as I dawdled my way home on Tuesday evening I somehow tweaked the ankle a little, but by Wednesday morning, with a bit of placebo tape in place, it felt ok, and I did 11 miles including 3 hill loops.

On Thursday I did 13 miles, with another decent climb in it, and then on Friday I did my ‘long’ run for the week with 4 decent climbs in it. (The Cotswold Way Relay is in a fortnight’s time, and I’m a bit conscious that I need to squeeze in a bit more hill running to activate the muscles I’ll need to use on the day!)

This left 2 runs for the weekend: a 5 mile recovery run on Saturday (although wearing the super lovely trail shoes again – more Cotswold Way prep – was a mistake, as yet again it was not at recovery run pace!) and then on Sunday 9 miles. My schedule said the 15 miles was supposed to be on Sunday, and the 9 miles earlier in the week (and to include 4 miles at half marathon pace) but I’d swapped things around because I’d been told that – somewhat to my surprise – I was needed for the 3,000m race in the Midland League. I figured that 3,000m as fast as I could manage was probably something like 4 miles at half marathon pace for overall effort, or certainly close enough for jazz.

When I arrived I discovered that a much faster clubmate now wanted to run as a guest, but that the team managers had decided it wasn’t fair to deselect anyone who had already been selected. I very much disagreed: although Midland League isn’t as competitive as the national league is, it is proper racing, and supposed to be about winning, so I very happily suggested I ran as a guest, and popped off to do 5 miles to warm up. Although my legs felt pretty ok warming up, it became clear during the race that the cumulative effect of 11 miles followed by 13 miles followed by 15 miles was definitely still there, and that I can’t casually knock out 90s/lap pace any more without some specific training, especially when my hayfever symptoms are at their worst. And that when I’m not running for points, I really can’t force myself to hurt too much! I plodded round in something like 11.54, hanging off the back of the race. I’m pretty disappointed, bearing in mind I did 8 x 1km averaging faster than that quite recently, but I guess that was in better conditions, and I was probably more emotionally invested in something that felt more marathon specific. Still, even if the race was terrible, it was very nice to see some clubmates I hadn’t seen for the best part of 18 months (some of them maybe even longer than that). I can’t say I feel I have missed track racing, but I do miss road racing.

So Let Me Fly / Let Me Fly / Won’t You Lead / And You Know / That I’ll Follow You

13 Jun

Another 2 weeks has flown by, and despite my best intentions to blog last weekend, work rather got in the way of most aspects of life.

Two weeks ago I did an easy run on Bank Holiday Monday (5 miles), and then 9 miles steady on the Tuesday as part of week 1 of my London/Dorney build-up. I rested on Wednesday, partly because of work, but also because having run 6 days in a row on the still weak ankle it felt sensible to do so. On Thursday I did 6 miles with 10 sets of strides: my first faster running since the ankle sprain, and it felt pretty ok. I followed this up on Friday with 9 miles (well, 9 or thereabouts: having looked at my GPS trace I can see that my Garmin had a bad signal patch, and seems to have made my run about 25 metres away from where I was actually running!). On Saturday, it was time for some gentle speedwork: although the schedule said to do 4 miles at half-marathon pace, I figured it was probably sensible to err on the side of caution and aim for a fraction faster than marathon pace, but not all out. It came out at 6.46m/m, when half-marathon pace is probably more like 6.35-6.40s at the moment. And then T and I were off to London to spend the day with his family. Apparently the weather had been awful the day before, and wasn’t great the day after, but we were blessed with gorgeous weather and could spend the whole day in the garden. It was lovely to have a break from work and see the whole family again: we hadn’t seen some since Christmas 2019, if not before! I rounded the week off with a steady 15 miles, although I risked a route which had a hill at the end of it (even if most of it was flat). 55 miles for the week.

This week started with a steady 5 mile recovery run, and then the sad news that the fabulous Gwyn Arch, who conducted choirs I sang in as a child and teenager for 6 wonderful years, had passed away. When I was younger I took for granted quite how great some of the musicians were who taught me and ran the groups I played and sang in. Gwyn was not just a fantastic conductor and arranger (he used to ‘trial’ some of his choral arrangements on us). He was also someone whose love of and enthusiasm for music shone through. In my teens I suffered from pretty crippling stage fright, certainly in relation to any solo violin playing (including chamber music and solos in orchestral concerts), and at times it meant that concerts were miserable: I felt nauseous beforehand, and unless everything about the concert was perfect, devastated afterwards. Choir was a respite from that: Gwyn cared passionately about us performing to a high standard, but somehow I didn’t allow that to create the same internal pressure on me, and choral singing instead was about having fun and sharing music with the audience. Gwyn’s silly mimes to help us remember the lyrics probably also helped relax us!

On Tuesday I was starting a 4 day trial, and because the travel for my last multi-day trial away from Bristol had left me really tired (probably because I’m just not used to it any more!), I’d opted to stay away rather than do a 2.5-3 hour round trip each day. With T also away, my mum kindly stepped in to cat sit. Lucky, spoilt kitties! I took it as my rest day. On Wednesday I ran 8 miles with some strides, 9 miles on Thursday and then 5 miles on Friday.

Each morning seemed hotter than the rest, and I was pretty apprehensive about the longish marathon paced tempo run Pfitzinger & Douglas prescribed for this weekend. A quick squint at the weather forecast showed Saturday was going to be marginally cooler than Sunday, and so I decided to do the 8 miles at marathon pace as part of my 12 mile run on Saturday (a mere 14 degrees Celsius), rather than my 16 miles on Sunday (16 degrees Celsius). The 8 miles came out bang on sub-3 hour pace (6.52m/m) which surprised me a bit, because I generally struggle to hold tempo efforts for very long when I’m running by myself (it’s why I often choose to do a split tempo, breaking it into smaller chunks with jog recoveries, if I’m setting the session). Perhaps the last 15 months of solitary running has made me a little tougher! Today was a bit tougher: it certainly felt more than 2 degrees warmer than yesterday, and my hayfever had really kicked in. The route was pretty busy and I had to run to the far left of the path, which meant I kept on brushing against grass, and I ended up with blotches all over my left leg and arm to show for it. It was actually really itchy by the end, so I had to jump straight in the shower to wash any pollen off in an effort to try and ease the urge to scratch it. I’d been thinking my hayfever was really mild compared to normal this year, but I suspect the cool spring we had (with all those beautiful frosty mornings) simply meant plants were a few weeks later flowering and producing pollen. Heigh-ho. Anyway, tough or not, it brought up 55 miles for the week, and the pleasing knowledge of target times successfully achieved. 2 weeks down, 16 to go.

[That Was] The Month Of Maying…

31 May

Just over two weeks since I last blogged: how time flies! And I’ll be honest, I have needed my Garmin data to help me remember that far back…

So, a fortnight ago my week off work started. It was a staycation, and more of a life admin with actually a bit of work reading chucked in week, but still better than being out of the door at 6.45am for my running and ending each day knackered. From a running point of view, it started with 5 gentle recovery miles (although I can see from my data it was actually surprisingly spritely), and then on the Tuesday I did 7 miles with 12 sets of strides. On Wednesday I did 13 miles, and then 9 on Thursday ahead of a sports massage and a much needed rest day on Friday. Knowing I had a rest day planned, the massage was quite a lot more intensive than usual, and it left my legs incredibly heavy. They still felt a bit rubbish on the Saturday, and so I decided to do a shorter session focussing on leg speed rather than something tougher and longer: a good old pyramid session of efforts off 1 minute recovery jogs, starting at 1 minute, building through, 2, 3 and 4 to 5 minutes, and then back down the ladder. The paces weren’t great, but it’s still a fun workout. Saturday evening was lovely, as I met up with some of the B&W ladies’ squad for a barbeque. We also planned to meet for a long run on Sunday, and I had arranged to meet one of the other marathon runners earlier than the rest so that we could do an extra 10-11 miles beforehand. I’m not quite sure what went wrong, but I was running a little bit late, and so perhaps wasn’t paying attention to my feet, but somehow I went over on my left ankle (of course that is the bad ankle. Did you even need to ask?!). Because I was meeting my friend in a matter of minutes and knew that it would be almost impossible to get a message to her (most of us don’t bother running with phones), I decided to see if I could jog through it, and it was just about ok, although a bit sore. Turning corners on the left ankle was a no-no unless I took the shortest of strides and placed my foot very carefully. Being honest, I probably should have bailed on the run once I’d met said friend, but I think I was in the pig-headed denial stage at this point in time. So naturally I ran another 10 miles on it. We stood around for a short while meeting the others, and during those few minutes it started to stiffen up and probably swell up nicely. When the larger group of us started running again I was limping, and another very sensible person in the group told me, in the nicest sense, not to be a prat, and to consider going home. I did. I had to walk part of it. It just goes to show what those runner’s high endorphins do to your pain threshold at first, that I was able to run 12 miles on the thing.

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t run last Monday. I managed to find a free slot at my local pool, and did 30 minutes of what passes for swimming so far as I am concerned. I can’t remember when I last swam, but it was definitely when Covid was not a thing, so my best guess is some point in 2019. That might explain why I was particularly slow and awful! On Tuesday I went for a gentle cycle ride in the morning (sticking to the flat) in the hope that would enable me to go back to cycling to/from chambers from Wednesday (now that I’m a pupil supervisor I’m tending to be in chambers most days). It was fairly encouraging.

But there was another twist in this tale (of course there was!). After dinner on Tuesday I felt really queasy, and pretty quickly went from feeling queasy to being sick. Thankfully I wasn’t in court until Wednesday lunchtime, and my goodness remote hearings really come into their own when all you are really good for is lying on the sofa sipping ginger tea with a bit of sugar in it! By Thursday morning both the ankle and the tummy felt that I could risk a gentle run, and with a double-layer of pseudoscience on my ankle (kinesio tape and vetrap), I headed off for 5 miles easy. (The vetrap was a tip from a fellow runner who does a lot of fell running: it’s cohesive tape and so needs at least a double layer, but certainly feels like it is supporting the joint and muscles/tendons/ligaments. I neither know nor care if that was entirely a placebo effect!) The 5 miles was fine.

On Friday, I was a bit braver, and did 8 miles. Also fine. I’d had to work quite late on Thursday night (as in 11pm late, due to a load of papers arriving last minute for my Friday conference: for me anything past 10pm is a very late night) and Covid lockdowns have definitely made me even worse at coping with disruption to my sleep routine, so I allowed myself a bit of a lie-in on Saturday ahead of a steady 11 miles. By Saturday the promised heatwave had finally arrived, and by the end of the 11 miles I was really hot, and pretty thirsty. Thinking I had learned my lesson, on Sunday I left much earlier, and wore as little as you can to run in without being arrested (crop top and shorts), but was still really struggling for the last 3 or 4 miles of my 16 mile run. 40 miles for the week.

As a sneak preview, I finished May (and started week 1 of Pfitzinger and Douglas’s 18 week 55-70 miles per week marathon training plan) with 5 miles this morning. 230 miles for May, so that counts as Not Bad or Fair Effort, especially given two very light weeks (and one where the long run was cut back from 20 miles to 14 miles due to the sprained ankle), but it’s a bit of a pity to lose that sense of being on a roll. Still, hopefully a few weeks of being careful, and reacquainting myself with my Bosu ball to activate all the stabilising muscles and tendons in the rubbish ankle, will keep me upright and injury free as I start my build up to London (or Dorney, depending on whether mass-participation races really do get the go ahead. Maybe in a few months’ time the current concerns about the Indian variant and rising case numbers will seem like a distant bad dream, or maybe I’ll be coming to terms with the fact that my best hope of racing at all is running 8 and a bit laps of a rowing lake, if at all. Having been distinctly unenthusiastic about such things for the last year, it’s now reached the stage where even I would settle for 8 and a bit laps of a rowing lake).

And Through It All / [It] Offers Me Protection

16 May

A busy couple of weeks means a 2 for the price of 1 double. It also means last week feels like a long time ago!

I started with a steady 6 miles on the Monday (bank holiday) and then 5 miles on the Tuesday, ahead of a sports massage. On Wednesday, I was in court, but actually in court: in person hearing, in Gloucester. As a result of that early start and the need to let my legs settle from the massage, I took Wednesday as my rest day. I was back in Gloucester on Thursday, so didn’t get to run until the evening. I felt rubbish (probably a bit dehydrated) and my legs felt even worse. It was also (by comparison with the cold, frosty mornings I’d become used to) very warm and humid, and my breathing felt hard relative to effort. Although I’d planned to do a session (i.e. some longer, faster efforts) I binned that idea fairly swiftly, and settled for 10 sets of 1 minute hard (well, 10k pace…) and 1 minute easy. A total of 8 miles. I had the final day of my 3 hearing on Friday, but we were remote, so I was able to squeeze 8 miles in that morning.

On Saturday morning I had considered doing a long run, but just wasn’t feeling it. I ended up with a steady 9 miles, and than killed a bit of time ahead of … my Covid vaccine! As an over-40 I was given Astra Zeneca. I had the jab around lunchtime, and at first thought I’d escaped the worst of any side-effects, still feeling pretty fine right up until after T and I had met his parents for dinner (they were in Bristol for the weekend). On the way home, I realised I was starting to feel a bit cold and achy, and at first I thought it was just sitting outside on a cold, drizzly night, but once I was back indoors, T commented I was actually hot, and I started to shiver pretty uncontrollably. Even with pyjamas (which I don’t usually bother with except on the coldest winter night) and a hot water bottle (ditto), I still felt freezing cold and shivery: I can remember when T came to bed there was a rush of cold air which I could barely tolerate. Eventually I gave in and had some Lemsip as the paracetamol was nowhere to be seen. That seemed to stop the aches, fever and shivers, and I was able to sleep. I still didn’t feel great on Sunday, although I’d always known I might not be able to run post-vaccine, so settled for a gentle walk with T’s parents and then a pub lunch, followed by some more quality time on the sofa with the cat. The mother of all cutback weeks was 36 miles! But so worth it to have had my jab, and to know that I should be a bit safer now, Covid-wise.

I erred on the side of caution at the start of this week with very easy 5 mile runs on Monday and Tuesday, given I’d had a fever on Saturday (T assures me that having a reaction to the jab is a good thing, and shows that the body is learning how to do battle with Covid). For various reasons it made sense to rest on Wednesday. On Thursday I planned to do 12 miles, but ended up with 13 after a cow-related detour (I appreciate country dwellers will find my fear of cows a bit funny, but I wasn’t going to risk sharing a fairly narrow lane with a whole herd of cows being moved – or should I say moooved?! – from one field to another). On Friday I did 7 miles steady.

I started the weekend feeling a bit flat and tired, but conscious I needed to do some decent efforts after my extremely light session the previous week. Needless to say, when I got down to the Portway I discovered it was a bit breezier than I would have liked (or perhaps I was just more tired than I realised!). Anyway, that was my justification for switching my session from 3 x 4km at marathon pace to 5 x 2km, with the first, third and fifth efforts (into the wind) at marathon pace (should have been 8.30s, so 8.33, 8.28 and 8.25 was a fair return) and the second and fourth efforts (with the wind, but slight uphill) at half marathon pace (should have been around 8.08s, so 8.08 and 8.10 was about right). 11 miles in total. (By the by, on Saturday evening I finally rectified having never seen Chariots of Fire: I know it’s about sprinters, but it’s such a famous film, and about running, that I felt a bit daft with all the 40th anniversary stuff being trumpeted, when I realised I’d never seen it.)

Today I felt like I had quite a lot more energy, and was pleased that my 20 mile run came out at a fairly decent pace (7.47s), or the same as I’d surprised myself with 4 weeks ago, the main difference being that 4 weeks ago I had only done a short run with some strides the day before, whereas this time I was running on tired legs. 61 miles for the week. I’m not working next week, and so unless something unexpected crops up, I’m looking forward to getting some decent miles in, ahead of starting my marathon schedule in 2 weeks’ time: now that I’m used to doing close to 60 miles per week, the first few weeks (in the 55 miles per week range) will feel like a nice cutback!

(Not) Quite Like Old Times (But Nearly)

2 May

I started the week with a rest day to let my ankle settle, as it had been a bit sore on the Sunday. I’d also somehow jarred my neck/upper back, and it made sense to let that relax a bit, too. I settled for my bog-standard core/glute/calf routine and some stretching on Monday, and felt much the better for it. I got back to running on Tuesday morning with a steady 6 miles. The ankle felt fine, and the back/neck a fair bit better. I was supposed to be doing a 5 day trial, but it finished very early (by lunchtime on Tuesday). At first I thought this might give me a chance to get some longer runs in during the week, and started that plan with 9 miles on Wednesday, but my hard-working clerks (the people who allocate work for barristers) found me hearings to do on Thursday and Friday mornings, so instead I spent Wednesday afternoon reading for those, then did 7 miles with strides on Thursday, and 6 miles steady with a clubmate on Friday. I didn’t really have time for 7 miles on Thursday, as I faffed around way too much and was a bit late leaving the house, so my cycle into work was way faster than I would normally dare (I’m a bit of a wuss with downhills). Still, I was ‘in’ my virtual pre-hearing discussions at 9am on the nose, dressed for court and looking reasonably respectable.

On Saturday morning I tackled some shorter intervals: 8 x 1 km with 2 minutes of jogging between each one. I was probably a bit over-ambitious/got carried away in the first one where I had someone to chase down, and clocked 3.54. That surprised me: I wouldn’t have thought I was in 39 minute dead 10km shape at the moment! I continued to surprise myself in reps 2 & 3 (also both 3.54), and even in 4 & 5 (3.56 and 3.55), before my over-ambitious start slowly caught up with me: 4.00, 4.01 and 4.03. Still, I averaged 3.57/km over the session, which is 39.30 shape. (That’s 6.21m/m, so for the first time in a while I’m apparently within ~20s/mile of PB shape. That’s really encouraging this far out from target races in the autumn, as I don’t think I’ve been that close to PB shape since … ooh, probably 2017!)

However, the main event of Saturday was going to see my parents for lunch (al fresco, naturally, but their garden is thankfully fairly well-sheltered and they have 2 large picnic umbrellas). It was all going fairly well until we discovered, on the M4, that the windscreen wipers on T’s car no longer worked. We spent a bit of time on the hard-shoulder waiting for the heavy rain showers to clear, and then some time in the nearest services trying (and failing) to fix the problem, before there was another break in the rain and we made a dash on to my parents’ house, where we could at least eat and drink with good company whilst we waited for the RAC! It was very lovely to see my parents again (the first time since September), even if the no-hugging still feels downright weird. I will never take hugging my friends and family for granted again – and I’m not a particularly tactile person! We were later leaving to go home than planned, and then hit traffic on the way back into Bristol due to Kill the Bill protests, so we were met by two very hungry cats. They don’t seem to approve of us trying to get back to our normal lives, and much prefer their carers being at home 24/7.

Today I finished my week with 19 miles. I could definitely feel yesterday’s session in my legs, and it took a while for them to loosen up. I don’t think being sat in the car for 5 hours helped either, but it was definitely worth each of those 300 minutes to have a lovely afternoon chatting and catching up. Anyway, the long and the short of it is that 19 miles at 8.06m/m felt much harder work than 20 miles at 7.47m/m two weeks ago, but it was still a solid week’s training: 58 miles. I finished April on 242 miles, and I’m well above my target of 230 miles per month for 2021 at the moment.

The Ups And Downs of Running

25 Apr

Two weeks for the price of one blogpost, today!

Last week I started with a very gentle 5 miles on Monday, and then 7 miles with some strides on the Tuesday. Most of the week I wasn’t in court, and I took advantage of this, with 12 miles on Wednesday morning and then a sports massage: my first in 4 months! I had Thursday designated as a rest day to let my body adjust, and then on Friday I did a steady 7 with a clubmate. I slept appallingly badly on Friday night, and so my plans to be out of the door super early to get some mile reps done ahead of second round pupillage interviews had to be aborted, and I settled for 7 miles with some strides again. That meant my legs were nice and fresh on Sunday, and my 20 mile run was at a very spritely 7.47m/m (bearing in mind I’m rarely any faster than 8m/m, and often quite a lot slower!). 58 miles for the week.

This week I had meetings or hearings every morning, and so there was no luxury of being able to do medium long runs. T was also away, and so I didn’t really want to run in the evenings, as I was having to dash home to feed the cats as it was, and I don’t particularly like running soon after I’ve cycled home: I have a new found respect for triathletes every time I try to run when I’ve still got cycled-up-a-big-hill jelly legs! That meant 6 miles steady on Monday, 7 miles with strides on Tuesday, rest on Wednesday (when I had an 8.30am meeting), 6 miles steady on Thursday and 6 miles with a clubmate on Friday. By Saturday I was well overdue some speedwork, and opted for the mile reps I’d skipped the week before (hey, I’ve got 5 more weeks of freestyling things before a proper marathon schedule kicks in, so I’m making the most of it!). I did 4 again, and the first 3 were surprisingly nippy (although, thinking about it, although my runs had been slightly faster this week, I’d not done a huge amount, so my legs should have been nice and fresh): 6.23, 6.26, 6.23 and then 6.30 to finish. Even with the slightly slower last rep that’s an average of 6:23.5 per mile. It’s been a long old while since I was running a solo mile rep session at that kind of pace, fresh legs or not!

Today I felt surprisingly flat and slightly regretted my decision to do a route which was predominantly off-road and hilly (by way of comparison – and with the caveat that GPS elevation data is not super accurate – last week’s route had 235 metres of elevation, and this week had 670). I really regretted it when I doubled back on myself too quickly after I missed a turning and slightly tweaked my left ankle. I was able to finish the run, but it’s definitely a bit sore, and I’m a bit annoyed with myself for being dozy. Anyway, the combination of feeling flat, 20mph winds instead of 2mph winds, and lots of hills to climb meant I was brought back down to earth by a long run which averaged 8.30m/m. I’m thinking of it as a time on the feet run! 55 miles for week. I’m looking after the ankle with some strapping and intermittent icing, and hoping I get away with it.

Pausing For Breath

11 Apr

The week started with a Bank Holiday, and, having re-scheduled the tail end of the previous week, I was able to start my week with my medium long run (12 miles). Annoyingly, I had a bit of a sore spot on the top of my right foot. I’d felt it a bit during my run on the Saturday before, but had assumed it was because I’d slightly tightened the lacing on my trainer. It had felt fine on Sunday, but seemed to be back. Still, the run was a fairly ok pace, albeit the conditions were pretty cool and grey.

Tuesday was my rest day, as I was starting a 3 day trial (although it ended up getting adjourned, after all my work on Easter Monday!). It was probably quite a good time to let the foot rest, too. I did 6 miles easy on Wednesday, 6 miles with 10 sets of strides on Thursday and 6 miles steady on Friday. The foot felt fine on Wednesday and Thursday, but a bit sore on Friday, although I did note that because I was rushing to get out of the door (meeting a clubmate at 6.45am: ouch!), I probably did overtighten the shoe again. On top of that, I was back to cycling to and from chambers. It was always takes a few weeks to get back into the groove of that, and my quads are definitely still adjusting!

Saturday saw a return to a split marathon pace tempo, aka 3 x 4km. Once again I was a little overenthusiastic in the first effort (16.47) but the next two were bang on 2.59 pace (16.59 and 16.58). I think that’s the first time all 3 efforts have been under 17 minutes: hurrah! And best of all the shin/foot felt fine.

Today, after not the best night’s sleep, I surprised myself with 18 miles at exactly 8m/m. I’d expected to be a bit slower after the efforts yesterday and having taken ages to get to sleep, then woken by T’s on-call phone, and then woken, bleary-eyed, to feed the cats (who have no concept of a lie-in when food is at stake). Still, you should never look a running pace gift-horse in the mouth, and it was a lovely day to be out running: cool air temperature, but nice and sunny. 60 miles for the week. The next few weeks are a bit busy from a work point of view, and although I’ve built some reading days into next week to try and prepare for that, let’s just say I’m feeling apprehensive. I was in two minds as to whether I should try and work a lot this weekend to get ahead, but on balance decided it was better to rest my brain, and then really blitz things next week. Here’s hoping my strategy pays off!

It Was An April Morning

4 Apr

I had a reading day on Monday, to ease myself back into working again, so started with a final set of running chores: dropping off cat food sachets for recycling and buying bread and croissants at the bakery. A pleasant 7 miles, albeit I felt fairly groggy (going back to getting up in the dark is the worst thing about the clocks going back). On Tuesday I did 7 miles with 12 sets of strides and then a strength session, all squeezed in ahead of the court day. I slept quite badly on Tuesday night: it started very nicely, with the boy-cat deciding he wanted a really long snuggle on my chest, but for someone who sleeps on their side rather than their back, that makes sleeping very difficult, plus he was so happy he was purring extremely loudly for ages – nearly as bad as snoring! By the time I eventually turfed him off I was past sleepiness, out the other side, and unable to sleep. I took Wednesday as a rest day. I ran 252 miles in March, which is pretty good going.

On Thursday I was out at 7am with a clubmate, although both of us felt a bit sluggish. And then I was off into chambers. I’ve finally done the decent thing and become a pupil supervisor, which means I am responsible for training new barristers during their pupillage, or final part of their training, and although remote working is pretty effective for many parts of my job, and I’m likely to work from home much more than I used to even when life returns to ‘normal’, it’s really hard to support someone finding their feet properly over the phone or through Teams check-ins, so at least initially it’s back to cycle commuting. It looks like being a pupil supervisor might make me fitter, as well as challenge to think about why I do things in certain ways when I’m dealing with a case. It’s not just the pupil who benefits from a pupillage! My pupil started on Thursday (yes, April Fool’s Day. Maybe not the best decision we took as a chambers to pick that day…).

Friday was, of course, Good Friday, and as I’d had quite a light week I decided to do my faster run/quality session that day. After last week’s longer marathon paced efforts it was time for some medium length half marathon pace efforts, and I was pleasantly surprised that they came out at 6.34, 6.31, 6.29 and 6.32. It was a fairly still morning by recent standards, and cool without being cold, so pretty good running conditions. Maybe I was just having a good day! I do need to build that up to 6 repetitions again, so that it’s a bit more endurance focused, but 4 felt about right on Friday. It’s often better to finish a quality session feeling like you could have done a little bit more, rather than completely knackered with wrecked legs (although there is a sneaky satisfaction to having wrecked legs every once in a while). With the warm up, cool down and jogging in between efforts I covered 9 miles in total.

Being a day ahead of my usual schedule meant I could do my long run on Saturday, and it was a very pleasant 18 miles, just under 8m/m pace. I did the same route as last week, and it just goes to show how so many small things affect your pace each day, because this week I was 18s/mile faster. There’s no way I’ve suddenly gained that much fitness, it was just another good day.

I rounded off my recovery week with 7 steady miles in beautiful sunshine, followed by a tasty Easter breakfast with T. I do need to do a teensy bit of work first rather than risk leaving all of it until tomorrow, but the sun is shining so gloriously that we will head off for a walk together this afternoon.

So Don’t Give Up / Don’t Look Down / ‘Cause Your Time Is Gonna Come Around

28 Mar

T and I both had this week off, which meant that the 7am runs could take a rest this week. Obviously we couldn’t go away, and still followed the ‘stay local’ guidance, but it was lovely to have some time off together and be able to potter around taking it easy, even if the things we did do (cleaning the kitchen cupboards? Going through the filing cabinet?) weren’t always exciting (but the cooking was better: all the slightly faffy things I never have time to do during the week, and am generally too knackered to do by the weekend :)) We also foraged for wild garlic, and have plenty of tasty wild garlic pesto in the freezer for quick midweek meals once we’re back at work, and had some lovely walks. I’m not sure the cats approved of being taken to the vets for their booster vaccinations, but they definitely approved of the treats they got afterwards.

On Monday I did a steady 6 miles, and on Tuesday I did 8 miles with some strides. I did 12 on Wednesday (plus some strength and conditioning) and 7 on Thursday. Nothing very exciting, but good, steady base-building for the autumn continues.

As an athletics fan, I can’t let this week pass without writing about the British Olympic Team Marathon Trials, which took place on Friday. Although it was unclear for a while if the race would be televised at all, ultimately both British Athletics and the BBC streamed it, which was great. I scheduled Friday as my running rest day, and by 8am (race start time), was sat on the sofa with a pint of tea, good to go. The men and women started together, although obviously the men were quickly ahead. There are 3 spots on the team for men and 3 for women, but one spot had been ‘pre-selected’ on the men’s team. British Athletics had announced a selection policy that the first 2 men and women in the race would be selected, provided they had the Olympic Games Qualifying Time (OGQT: 2.11.30 for the men, and 2.29.30 for the women). In the women’s race there was a brilliant display of controlled, high-quality running from Steph Davis, who ran 2.27 and bits to knock a little off her PB and win, booking her seat on the plane to Tokyo, but heartbreak for second-placed Natasha Cockram, who was just outside 2.30, and so missed the OGQT. But it was the men’s race which had us on the edge of our seats, struggling to believe our eyes, but beaming from ear to ear.

Fairly early on a small group of men settled in behind the two pacemakers: Ben Conner, Dewi Griffiths, Mo Aadan and Chris Thompson. By 15km in, Chris Thompson had dropped off the pack. As the commentators kept on reminding us, Thompson is only a few weeks away from his 40th birthday, and as Jason Henderson wrote for Athletics Weekly “Everyone, including myself, simply thought he was dropped. This was Thommo‚Äôs last dance and he seemed to be going out the back door and en route to a probable DNF [did not finish]”. I thought that, too. The coverage cut away to the women’s race for a bit, and by the time they cut back to the men, everything had changed: in those few minutes, Dewi Griffiths had dropped back, and Thompson was back in the lead group, looking strong, and about to flow past. It turned out he had taken the decision that the pace from 10-15km was a little too fast for comfort (something like 2.09/2.10 pace, if I recall correctly), and that if the pace he could hold (2.11 pace) wasn’t going to get him a place in the top 2, so be it, but it was what felt right, and he was going to gamble that the other guys weren’t actually in 2.09 shape. He’d gambled smartly. The final 2 laps (just under 7km of running), saw Thompson pull away to win comfortably, dipping under 2.11, running a qualifying time and booking his place to Tokyo. But what made it special, for anyone who has had their own battles to win and setbacks to overcome, was the display of raw emotion in the finishing straight, and as Thompson breasted the tape. After all those years, a runner euphemistically described as ‘fragile’ by many a commentator (= gets injured a lot), had had one of those races where everything clicks, where you feel strong, where you feel in control, and where your race strategy plays out to perfection. As he said in an emotional post-race interview, given his age he probably should have retired 5 years ago. But thank goodness he didn’t. For runners of a certain age, it reminded us – as Jo Pavey did so magnificently in 2014 – that although life may not begin at 40, running success doesn’t have to stop there!

Suitably inspired, I did a marathon pace session on Saturday (3 x 4km): I slightly over-cooked the first one (16.48), undercooked the second (17.04) and nailed the third (16.54). I finished the week with 18 miles on tired legs, on a breezy day, to make 63 miles for the week.