Some Steps In The Right Direction

8 Dec

I started the week with a 6 mile plod.  My legs felt a bit tired and the foot was ok, but not great.  I had an early start on Tuesday, so took that as my rest day, and squeezed 5 miles in on Wednesday morning.  My cunning plan to run each morning was then disrupted by an urgent hearing to cover on Thursday in Newport, so I ran that evening instead.  I’d been feeling a bit tired and flat for most of the week and it wasn’t the best run, but hey, it was 7 miles on a week day for the first time since my foot went ping, so I tried to take the positives.  On Friday I wasn’t in court and so ran 7 miles at lunchtime to try and give the foot a slightly longer recovery, but not run in the evening as had our work Christmas party then.  (I know, the 6th of December feels a bit early, but there it is.)

I felt a tad delicate on Saturday, but did 8 miles at a surprisingly ok pace.  Otherwise, bar a bit of food shopping, I didn’t achieve a huge amount (other than completing my London marathon entry):

This morning I felt rather more sprightly, and so did 12 miles.  It was pretty windy out there, so doing loops was probably the best option there was, but it did mean that I started to dread the windiest parts of the loop as they approached!

45 miles for the week.  Getting there.

In terms of London marathon training, I’ve decided it’s more realistic to do a 12 week build up, which means starting ‘real’ marathon training well into January, so that I can spend the next month and a bit focusing on re-building my aerobic base as best I can (this means plenty of steady miles and then adding some strides 2 or 3 times a week) and doing plenty of strength and conditioning so that my body is as strong as possible before I start the more intensive training.  Although in some ways I’d rather do a longer build-up for London, I’ve got to be realistic that I’m not in a position to start doing 55-70 miles a week including speedwork in 2 weeks’ time, which is what my more typical 18 week build-up would require.

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life?

1 Dec

A fortnight has flown by.  Last week was pretty busy.  From a running point of view it started well enough, with a gentle 5 miles on Monday morning, but then things seemed to go a bit downhill.  The foot was pretty sore, so I rested it on Tuesday and then tried a gentle run on Wednesday, but that was little better, so I bailed at 3.5 miles and came home.  I rested it again on Thursday, and finally felt able to run (carefully!) on Friday.  6 miles was ok.  I ran another 6 miles on Saturday and then 10 on Sunday.  I identified that I think the issue was that I’d done quite a lot of walking to and from orchestra rehearsals in trainers, but without bothering to put my orthotics in (orthotics are inserts which help support your feet: mine were suggested after a run of injuries in 2004, and I’ve done most of my running using them since then.  I’ve had flat feet my whole life, much to the despair of my ballet teacher when I was little.  I was constantly told “don’t roll”, as my barely noticeable arches touched the floor!).  It turns out that whatever part of my foot is sore and feeling overworked at the moment works harder if I don’t wear my orthotics.  In happier news, it was worth walking to and from all those rehearsals, because the concert (Mahler 7) was amazing.  Everything clicked.  I was in the zone, immersed in the music, playing without fear.  Dare I say it, a brilliant concert is (at least for me) even better than a brilliant race.

This week has been a bit better (partly helped by orthotics, partly helped by frozen peas).  I rested on Monday and then ran 6 miles on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings (I was in Bristol Monday-Wednesday, which always helps, and then had an afternoon hearing on Thursday).  I couldn’t run Friday morning as I had to be in Taunton by 9am, and there are limits to quite how early I can get up.  Plus at the moment the other thing which seems to help the foot is some very careful stretching and strengthening, plus a full round of glute activation work, all done just before the run, which means I need at least 30 minutes to cover all of that before I can run.  Skip it and I know it!  I therefore had to run in the evening, and that meant clipping on the head torch.  I don’t enjoy running with a head torch, and I spent most of the run fretting about uneven pavements and shortening my stride cautiously as a result.  A slow 6 miles plodded.  Saturday morning I went out for another 6 miles in clear daylight and a bracing wind.  The foot was just about ok off a short recovery (overnight), but it’s clear that ideally it has the best part of 24 hours between runs at the moment.  It had that ahead of today’s 11 miles, and felt all the better for it.  That brought up 41 miles for the week (and yesterday’s run brought up 147 miles for November).  Compared to the 3 months which preceded it, that’s low (I’d had the rarity of 3 consecutive months where I’d run over 200 miles per month), but it’s still better than March, June and July this year, and I’m still on course to run my highest yearly total since 2017, so I’m going to look at the bigger picture.  And think of the bigger picture in terms of where my focus lies.  Which reminds me, I must get that London Marathon Championships Entry sorted.

Something Is Better Than Nothing

17 Nov

Last week ended on a sore note: I had a sharp pain in my foot which didn’t go away when I stopped running.

The pain was still there on Monday, but easing a bit on Tuesday, so by Wednesday I felt able to try a gentle run.  I was particularly apprehensive because I was away from home with work, so had no access to my Injury Peas if things weren’t great afterwards (on a lighter note, never, ever mistake your Injury Peas for your cooking peas.  My idiot proof system sees them stored in different parts of the freezer in different packaging).  Thankfully things were ok, although there was still clearly a little inflammation because some soreness remained, albeit not acute and sharp like it had been.  Having survived 5 miles easy on Wednesday, I did 6 miles on Thursday.  It was more of the same: nothing acute and sharp, but not quite right.  Having returned home on Thursday evening, I ran on Friday morning, but kept it to 5 miles.  The case I’d been doing was pretty emotionally draining, and I felt exhausted.

On Saturday, I threw caution to the wind and did 6 miles with some strides.  Really curiously, that seemed to help the foot (no, I don’t understand that either: running faster is usually more intensive, and likely to aggravate weaknesses.  I have no idea why that didn’t happen on Saturday).  On a non-running note, I then went for an amazing lunch with my parents at Casamia.  I do love a really fancy lunch as a (very) occasional treat, and this was sublime.  The wine flight was also sublime, but a bit more booze than I’d normally drink, so I came home rather merry.

This morning I ran 9 miles, still on the flat (it’s been a week of running on the flat to keep things as stable for the foot as I can).  The foot still isn’t niggle free, and I’ve returned to icing it as a precaution, which does seem to help (and supports my theory that whatever happened a week ago was some sort of very minor tear or strain which is slowly healing).  30 miles for the week, almost all steady.  But something is better than nothing, and too much would be worse than something, and ultimately lead to nothing!  Here’s hoping the gradual improvement continues next week.  I am at least mostly Bristol based so will have access to frozen peas in the mornings and evenings to look after it better.

Signs Of The Times aka When Your Sanity Hangs By A Thread

10 Nov

A fortnight has passed since my last blog.

Two weeks ago I was feeling TATT: Tired All The Time.  I dragged myself around a recovery run on the Monday and then – perhaps foolishly – to my club’s 5km race on the Tuesday.  I finished just outside 20 minutes, which was a bit disappointing, as I figured I was in at least 19.45 shape.  Heigh ho.  And then slept like a log that night.  I ran a steady 10 miles the next day after work and had a sports massage.  Then, after a rehearsal, slept like a log again.  I took Thursday as my rest day.  Slept like a log (there’s a theme here) and did a recovery run on Friday.  I was still absolutely exhausted on Saturday, and so took an extra rest day.  The fact the weather was absolutely disgusting helped seal the deal there!  On the Sunday I had a long rehearsal (10-5) and was exhausted afterwards, so took a third rest day.  A grand total of 27 miles for the week, and about 6 hours’ extra sleep!  I can only assume that my body was battling and just about holding off a virus of some sort, hence my legs feeling rubbish and my times being slow.

On Monday this week I still felt pretty tired, but managed a steady hour (7.5 miles), and the same on Tuesday.   It wasn’t until Wednesday that my energy levels finally felt a bit more normal, and my 7.5 miles was slightly more spritely.  I took Thursday as a rest day and then ran another 7.5 miles on Friday.  By Saturday, even if the weather wasn’t great, I was feeling brave enough for my first attempt at faster running in a week and a half: 4 x 1 miles, the same as the workout I’d done a few weeks before.  It was a bit cold and windy, so I persuaded myself that explained times which were about 5-10 seconds down on the last attempt at the session.  And then as I cooled down I was very, very cold: I finished with pain in my hands and arms as the wind chill really took effect once my pace slowed.  It took a hot bath and a cooked brunch to help me defrost!  I had a concert on Saturday evening and was feeling a bit groggy after the post-concert beers as I headed off for my run.  It never quite lifted, so I opted to cut the run short at about 10 miles, to bring up 50 miles for the week rather than 55.  I bumped into a club mate who joined me for the last half mile, and just after he peeled off to finish his run, I felt a sharp pain on the top of my left foot (that’s the weak side).  It hasn’t really gone all day, despite some icing and strapping, although it has eased a bit.  I’m hoping that it will feel better tomorrow and it was just a tired muscle going into a spasm.  I’ll keep you posted, but safe to say I’m not going to risk racing next weekend.  Even if I do ‘get away’ with whatever this is, I’m not prepared to risk aggravating yet another injury.

We Are The Champions (reprise) aka Muddy Brilliant (reprise)

27 Oct

On Monday I took a rest day, as I didn’t want to run in the morning, less than 24 hours after I’d finished my long run and I was pretty knackered in the evening.  On Tuesday I ran a steady 6 miles.  My legs didn’t feel amazing, but they didn’t feel awful.  On Wednesday I ran a steady 10 miles.  My legs still didn’t feel amazing, but they felt better than they had on Tuesday.  At the moment I’m trying to do my steady runs on undulating routes to help with leg strength.  On Thursday I ran 10 miles again, on a different, tougher route, and was a bit faster than Wednesday, which is always nice.  I then had a pretty intensive massage to sort out some tight spots in my legs and back.

As a result of the massage my legs felt pretty heavy on Friday, and I did a steady 6 mile plod on the flattest route available.

On Saturday, it was back on the road, to Long Eaton for the British Masters Athletics Federation Cross Country Relay Championships.  It was a long way to go to run 3km, which definitely isn’t my kind of distance (all the more so at the moment when I have lost whatever top end speed I ever had due to two years of very little speed work) but we were thin on the ground for team members, and so it was me or they didn’t have a team.  It was raining heavily the whole way there, and raining a bit on our arrival.  We were warned that the course was pretty water-logged, and in places the water was mid-calf depth.  Great!

We did our best to warm up on the pavements, getting pretty soggy, and then it was time for the race.  We were going in descending age order (cute!) with FV50 Clare running leg 1.  She handed over to me in 5th place overall, 4th in our age category (there was a superb FV45 team there).  I probably started a bit cautiously, but after about 1km began to push on a bit and overtook a FV45 runner who had started around the same time as me but gone off a bit harder than I had, and a FV35 runner.  I was pretty sure we were now in bronze medal position.  About halfway round was the worst of the water: we had to navigate about 10 metres of fairly shallow water and then there was the really deep bit (about 20cm deep) which slowed me to a walk.  But I could see a FV35 ahead and, once I was out of the twisty part of the course which followed, where I was more focused on staying upright on the slippery mud than my pace, I pushed on, and caught her.  I was now well into the final kilometre, but tried to keep raising my pace, as my breathing was far too comfortable for a 3km race, which should hurt the whole way.  I handed over to FV35 Lucy, knowing we were 3rd overall (damn those nippy FV45s!) and 2nd FV35 team.  I grabbed a top and then Clare and I went back onto the course to support Lucy, who ran superbly, pulling us up another place, and earning us FV35 Gold Medals:

After T and I had a celebratory meal out in our local, Z (boy cat) brought me his idea of a great prize: a nice, big rat.  It’s the thought that counts, I guess.

This morning my legs were a bit tired, but I ground our my 15 mile run to bring up 56 miles for the week, having made the most of the extra hour from the clocks going back by getting some extra sleep!  I’ve decided to do another half marathon in mid-November, so two more biggish weeks and then it’s time to ease back and see what improvements I can make on my Bristol time.

Edit: here is a photo of some cold, soggy national champions!

It’s Not About The Shoes (OK, It Is About The Shoes)

22 Oct

Unless you’ve been really, really distracted by Brexit and/or really, really have no interest in running (which begs the question of why you are reading this blog), you cannot have failed to notice the hype about Nike’s latest running shoes, worn by one Eliud Kipchoge when he covered the marathon distance in under 2 hours.  A lesser model is available to amateur runners, yours for a mere £240 (or £210 if you want the model one notch below).  And the word on the streets is that they work, in the sense that you run considerably faster for the same effort.  (The improvements in times are in the region of 3-3.5%, so a 90 minute half marathon becomes something between 86m51s and 87m18s simply because of the shoes.  Gulp.)

I’m genuinely torn.  On the one hand, I’m not anti-progress and tech in running: I will happily wear a GPS watch so that I know my approximate pace, although I will tend to wear a simple stop watch for big city marathons so that I run to effort rather than pace and so that I don’t get led astray by dodgy GPS readings when surrounded by tall buildings.  Pre-GPS watches (when I started out) we all just had to learn what 6m/m or 7m/m felt like, and trust our judgement on the day.  On the other hand, I’m very anti-doping, and it seems, to my non-scientific brain, that these shoes are so different to ‘normal’ shoes that they are perilously close to giving a doping-like advantage to those who wear them.  At present the IAAF/UKA (the international and national governing bodies for athletics) have not banned them, or even indicated that the possibility of doing so, so it’s not like anyone is breaking the rules by buying a pair and then bagging themselves a raft of PBs in the process (although I seem to remember it took FINA – swimming’s international governing body – a while to ban the swimsuits which made everyone swim much faster, so it can’t be ruled out).  But…

I’ve been through a really torrid patch of illness and injury over these past 2 years (it was about 2 years ago the horrible cycle of injury began with a simple slip on the mud in training pulling at my hamstring/glute insertion point).  I want to get back to a decent level again.  I want to see the improvements happen, and know that the improvements are because I am getting closer to the person I used to be, who used to run sub 85 minute half marathons with ease.  I’m realistic that getting back below 2.50 for the marathon (so two of those sub 85 minute halfs back to back) is going to take time and probably some luck, but I know that getting back under 85 minutes for the half is realistic, certainly next year.  And I don’t want to run sub-85 because of shoes which give me an advantage, so that I’ve ‘really’ only run 87 minutes, I want to run it in the same type of shoes I’ve raced in for years, so that when I cross the finish line, that time is truly mine, and that bit of me that used to be able to run that fast is back.  In the words of John Lennon, you can say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

You’re Still The One I Run To…

20 Oct

I started the week with a very long day in the Torquay and Newton Abbot County Court (not as picturesque as it sounds: it’s on an out of town shopping/office site, so the sights of the Devon Riveria do not feature in this week’s blog), and after getting home at 7pm after a 7am start I opted for dinner and lounging on the sofa rather than training.

Running resumed on Tuesday with a steady 6 mile recovery run.  By Wednesday both I and more specifically my legs were feeling a lot more spritely and my 8 mile run was at a relatively nippy 8m/m.  That’s rare on a weekday morning!  On Thursday I did 10 miles as I wasn’t in court until the afternoon so had a bit more time in the morning than usual.  The pace wasn’t as fast as Wednesday but still respectable.  On Thursday evening T and I went out for dinner to the restaurant where we had gone on our first date 3 years previously.  And a very happy 3 years they have been!

On Friday I was in Plymouth again (I have spent a lot of the last 5 weeks in the South West) although returned home at the slightly more respectable time of 5pm, a mere 11 hours after I had left.  Let’s just say the 6 mile recovery run I did after that was plodtastic.  I was knackered!

I still felt a bit tired on Saturday morning but knew I needed to get some quality work done.  There’s a 1.25 mile loop we sometimes use for club training where you can do about 1,450m on the pavement and then jog back to the start on grass, and so I did 4 repeats around there: 5.58 (6.35m/m: a bit sluggish at first!); 5.50 (6.25m/m); 5.50 (ditto) and 5.45 (6.19m/m).  I was pleased that a teeny, tiny bit of the old speed is coming back.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that but progress is still progress!

This morning started bright and early with an orchestra rehearsal.  The tricky bits of Mahler 7 make a bracing wake up call at 9am.  The upside of the early start was that I was home for lunch and then able to head out for my final run of the week this afternoon: 15 miles at 8.04m/m.  Another 55 mile week.  But Thursday was the really important milestone.