There’s No Business Like Snow Business!

24 Jan

I started the week with circuits at 7am and then a 5 mile recovery run ahead of a day at my desk. On Tuesday I took advantage of not being in court to do 11 miles, although it was pretty slow: the 5 days’ cycling plus a big weekend’s running had clearly taken a lot out of my legs!

The weather forecast for Wednesday was vile (heavy rain and strong winds) so, bar walking to and from chambers, and circuits in the evening, it was my rest day.

Thursday I was out early for a steady 6 miles with some strides and then on Friday I met up with a clubmate for an easy 6. It was a glorious cold morning, and we were treated to a beautiful sunrise and thick frost, with only a few bits of ice to avoid!

On Saturday it was time for marathon pace efforts again, back to my 17 minute target for each 4km block. I was close: 17.11, 17.02 and 17.04. I did have to do some icy puddle weaving but I think the main headline the is that sub 3 pace is now within reach, and soon I’ll be able to think about adding another 4km block to that session (on the basis just under 7.5 miles of marathon pace work is a fairly gentle workout).

This morning Bristol woke to a light covering of snow!

It wasn’t enough to merit yaktrax, but it was enough to leave pavements pretty slushy and slippery, even at 8 when I headed out, so I stuck to flat loops close to home, partly on grass/snow and partly on the road. I also called it a day at 15 miles: partly for my sanity, because repetitive loops aren’t really my thing, but also because snow is hard work to run in (especially because I’m currently without trail shoes, so didn’t have the best grip!). 55 for the week, so still solid mileage.

Back In The Saddle Again

17 Jan

This week, for various dull reasons, I needed to do my 5 day hearing from chambers rather than home. This meant 5 days straight of freewheeling to work, and then hauling myself back up the hill to get home. I think it does actually help my fitness, though: it’s a sort of very short tempo run in terms of heart rate, I’d guess, given what a slog the return journey is, but without the impact of pounding the pavements.

Anyway, I needed to be in chambers for 8.30 on Monday, so that was as good a day as any to take my rest day. On Tuesday and Wednesday I did 6 miles (with 8 sets of strides on Wednesday). I had hoped to be home in time to make an online strength and conditioning session on Wednesday, but ended up having to work fairly late, and I find it easier to finish my work in chambers rather than pack up halfway through, come home, and then try and get my focus back again. As this was a pretty full-on week from a work point of view, something had to give, and that something was additional strength and conditioning on top of the 15-20 minute routine I do most mornings, which is some very gentle core, glute, hip and calf work, partly to strengthen but also to activate my muscles before I start my run.

On Thursday morning and Friday morning it was just a case of steady 6.5 mile runs, plus headtorch.

That meant I was being a “weekend warrior” again, doing my two toughest sessions back-to-back. I find that’s ok, as long as the rest of the week is deliberately taken easy to let the legs recover. On Saturday I did 11 miles with 6 x 1,600m (or just under 1 mile, at about half marathon pace effort), jogging for 3 minutes between each faster mile. The times for the miles can fairly be described as a bit erratic: 6.49; 6.45 (possibly: I realised I’d gone past the 1,600m point on the Portway so I’m guessing what I should subtract from the 6.51 I’d run by the time I hit ‘lap’); 6.41; 6.31 (probably pushed a bit hard on that one, but I had some people to chase down, which made it easier and fun!); 6.41; 6.41. A spread of 17s from best to worst is a bit wide, but at least I know that next time I should probably aim for around 6.40s, and see if there is anything in the tank for the last few.

Today I did 18 miles on an undulating route (and that’s genuinely undulating, not race organiser trying to hide the fact a course is hilly undulating). My legs felt a bit tired, but the pace was surprisingly ok. That made 54 miles for the week, which in simple terms means my mileage is about where I’d planned it to be (I’m hoping for something around the 2,750 mark this year, which means just under 230 miles per month on average, although at some point I’ll need something approximating to an ‘end of season’ break, I guess, even if there is no clearly defined season (i.e. main race/races), let alone an end to it. Damn you, Covid!).

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

10 Jan

It was back to work this week, and for the first three days I was in chambers, which meant it was time to charge up the headtorch and get out in the dark most mornings: the extra half hour I have become used to getting back in the morning had gone!

6 miles steady on Monday, 6 miles with 8 sets of strides on Tuesday, 6 miles steady on Wednesday and 6 miles steady on Friday. Plus 3 cycling round trips, the last one home a grim slog uphill on a flat tyre. Although I was doing my general core/glute routine in the mornings, I was too knackered to do any proper strength work.

On Saturday I did my go-to base building session of 12 miles with 3 chunks of 4km (just shy of 2.5 miles in old money) at marathon pace effort. This week I felt a little sluggish, so was just outside 3 hour pace with 17.20, 17.09 and 17.13. But getting to within a few seconds per kilometre of sub 3 pace with 9 months to go is encouraging!

I rounded my cutback week off with a steady 15 miles, although with a bit of trails and hills thrown in. Annoyingly I gave the weaker ankle a bit of a roll as I turned a corner in the woods, but it feels pretty ok. A nice reminder, however, that I have neglected the ankle stability work and need to get back on the Bosu ball!

51 miles for the week. A decent first full week of 2021.

Plus Ça Change…

3 Jan

In terms of running, the tail end of 2020 and the very beginning of 2021 went as follows:

On Monday, a steady 6 miles plodded. I then did some strength and conditioning work in the evening, conscious I’d not managed to fit 2 sessions in the week before (my dedication draws the line at doing a run and strength and conditioning on Christmas Day. I’m not Daley Thompson!). On Tuesday I did 8 miles, with 8 sets of strides and 6 sets of hill sprints. Well, I say sprints, sprinters would probably say jogs. I was trying to focus on fast turnover, decent knee lift, and driving upwards and forwards. On Wednesday I met up with some clubmates for a medium long run. It was pretty icy out and about, even with our late-ish start (9.30am), and we all had to keep our wits about us to stay upright at times. There was also a distinct advantage to loitering at the back of the group to let others explore the terrain first!

On Thursday (New Year’s Eve) it was the final club session of the year: 4 fast laps of our summer training field (we can’t generally use it in the winter because it’s not floodlit, but that is not a problem at 3pm, even at the tail end of December!). I was the slowest person there, and so didn’t actually do full laps (because we stopped on a whistle when the fastest person finished their full lap). I’ll be honest, my legs felt a bit tight and rubbish, probably because I’d done some sort of effort the last 4 days (long run on Sunday, some jumping in the s&c session on Monday, hill sprints on Tuesday and a longer than usual medium long run on Wednesday). I also realised I was also overdue a rest day, having run for 10 days in a row (and covered 96 miles in those 10 days!).

If there’s any day which is made for resting, it’s New Year’s Day. I’m not great at drinking booze in any sort of quantity, and definitely not good if I’ve stayed up past midnight, and so NYD was a rest day, bar doing housework (and that elusive second strength and conditioning session of the week). I appreciate that tradition says to do the housework by the end of New Year’s Eve, but better late than never!

On Saturday, my first run of the year was a very steady 6 mile plod over icy pavements to run some errands: dropping empty cat food sachets to our nearest Terracycle point, posting something through a friend’s door and buying bread (and, since they were freshly baked and smelling rather lovely, croissants. I cut the run slightly short to ensure they were still warm for breakfast!).

That left 18 miles to cover today. I was feeling a bit tired and flat, so it was one of those long runs that feels ground out, and the satisfaction comes from having done it, rather than having run well, but 60 miles for the week done and dusted. With a return to work tomorrow, and having done two consecutive 60 mile weeks, I’ll cut back a little next week (plus I’ve got to go into chambers each day so I’ll be cycling again: always a shock to the system!).

A Year To Remember…

31 Dec

Well, I think I can safely say everyone will remember 2020. And I suspect we would all settle for a return to normality as quickly as possible. A year without tens of thousands of excess deaths and life as we know it brought to a standstill would be great, although it’s unfortunately pretty clear that the start of 2021 will certainly see widespread restrictions remaining in place (and rightly so: the number of infections at the moment is pretty scary, even in a tier 3 area).

From a running point of view, those restrictions were probably a blessing in disguise. With no races to aim for, I could focus on rebuilding my fitness and strength gradually rather than rushing to try and get race ready as soon as possible. My mileage (2,624) is my highest since 2016. At the moment, I lack speed, but hopefully I’m now strong enough that running faster won’t cause me to break down yet again.

And in terms of life, on a personal note I will always have one of my best memories from this year: getting civilly partnered. We may have been wearing (stylish silk satin) masks, as were our (4) guests, but we did it.

I stopped to photograph the final sunset of the year on my way back from club training today. It was a beauty. Let’s hope it is an omen of better things to come.

And So That Was Christmas…

28 Dec

As I’m blogging a day late, I’m writing about last week. It started with a rest day, as racing on the track seemed to have left my ankles sore (! – no, I have idea either. Track has never left my ankles sore before). I did some strength work in the evening. On Tuesday I ran a steady 10 miles, then on Wednesday a steady 6 miles. On Thursday (Christmas Eve) my club had put on a training session nearby, so I jogged the long way there (2.5 miles), did the session (4 x ~1 mile through the mud!), then jogged the long way back to cover another 9 miles. I managed something around current marathon pace for the muddy efforts, which felt controlled, at least from a cardio-vascular point of view. You are never in control on slippy mud!

Christmas Day was a beautiful one for running: just below freezing, bright blue skies and a glorious sunrise. 6 miles trotted nice and steadily ahead of a tasty breakfast, some Zooming and Skypeing, and then a tasty dinner (nut roast for me and, much to the cats’ delight, guinea fowl for T). A final Zoom after dinner rounded off a pleasant day.

Boxing Day saw a steady 12 miles, with a steady 17 being done on Sunday to make 60 for the week. I am finally starting to feel a bit stronger and fitter (apart from the weird sore ankles thing), so fingers crossed I can continue to build on this. Just over 10 months until the super-delayed London marathon. If I can keep my body together for that 10 months, I would have had something approaching 18 months of consistent training behind me for the first time since probably 2016. I don’t think it would get me into PB shape, but would hopefully give me a good chance of a respectable age-grading (age-grading is a way of helping older runners understand how the time they have run compares to the times run by younger runs, unimpeded by age. It helps us cope with the fact our best running years are almost certainly behind us now we are veterans).

Back On The Track

20 Dec

Just finishing off on last week’s post, the poem I half-remembered was The Late Express by Barbara Giles. Thanks to my mum for finding it in the poetry anthology I was pretty sure it was in!

Anyway, this week went as follows: Monday morning, 6 miles steady (in the dark, as still working in chambers); Tuesday morning, 6 miles steady (in the dark, ditto reason); Wednesday morning, rest, as teeming it down with rain and just could not face it; Thursday morning, 7 miles with some strides in the dark; Friday morning, 6 miles steady in the dark and with a bothersome headwind for rather a lot of the time. Thoroughly uneventful! I did have a sports massage on Monday afternoon, which was so needed: although sports massage leaves me a bit sleepy, it is so nice to feel that everything has been loosened up and evened out.

Friday was my last day in court (virtual court, such as passes for normal these days), and frankly I was knackered by the end of the day. A glass of wine and a shot (dram?) of Icelandic blueberry schnapps, unearthed when sorting stuff out to empty shelves to allow for redecoration of the lounge, probably wasn’t the best Friday night prep for Saturday morning, because I was doing a 5,000m time-trial on the track. We were in small groups, and set off at 5 second intervals to avoid any bunching at the start. I’d hoped I was in about 20-dead shape, but couldn’t quite manage the 96s/lap that required. Annoyingly, my legs’ preferred rhythm was 97s-98s/lap. Still, 20.20 had a pleasing ring about it, although I’d quite like something from the previous century next year, please. One of my lovely teammates took some photos of us running:

It took me quite a while afterwards to work out why my left forearm is rotated, so that my hand is generally palm-up to the sky rather than palm-in. And then I realised that I rotate my left forearm like that to play the violin, and I’ve been much better about practising of late, so it’s obviously become a habit!

Somehow, doing a time-trial at 10.50 in the morning and then various chores left me a bit under-hydrated, and that, coupled with a rather fatty meal, didn’t sit very well in my stomach (I cooked it, so it was completely my own fault! But it was also rather tasty: pan-fried lion’s mane mushrooms and chips with a cream sauce, and some steamed vegetables). I felt pretty rough late at night and this morning, but eventually dragged myself out for a very steady 17 miles, having turfed a rather indignant small cat off my lap first. I incorporated some laps around the Downs into my route to cheer on the runners in my running club’s other time-trial this weekend, and then peeled off for a bit of variety. 4 laps of the Downs – lovely as they are – is about 2 more than I can usually tolerate without feeling the need for change, especially after I’d spent the previous morning running laps! That run brought up 55 miles for this week, and so I’m already on 170 for the month. Some good news, amongst all the gloom of a last minute u-turn on Christmas plans, tier 4 being created, and the realisation that if this new strain of Covid is as infectious as they say, things are going to be very far from normal for a very long time to come.

There’s A Train That Runs Through Mangotsfield, 3am Or Thereabouts…

13 Dec

This week we had a decorator in, and so – to preserve client confidentiality – I was working in chambers, for the first full week since March! This meant two things: firstly, I now had to be ‘ready’ before 8.30 each day, so that I could leave then, and secondly I was back doing my old cycle commute. Actually it meant 3 things: thirdly, running in the dark to achieve the first thing!

On Monday I ran 6 miles, on Tuesday it was 7 miles with 12 sets of strides, and on Wednesday and Thursday it was 6 apiece. All unspectacular.

I’ll tell you what, though, the cycling seemed to leave me tired! It’s not much: 3 miles each way, but the return leg has a decent amount of climbing in it, and I guess it’s different muscles to running. Anyway, for whatever reason I was definitely ready for my rest day on Friday.

On Saturday it was time for something a bit faster: my current go-to base building session of 3 X 4km at marathon pace. 3 hour pace would come out at 17 minutes per block, and there were some encouraging signs, as this time out the blocks were 17.13, 17.19 and … 16.53 😀. Now, I did consciously push on a bit during the last one, but it was definitely more marathon pace effort than anything faster.

That left my long run for today. 18 steady miles on the old railway path. I don’t know if it was the miserable weather, my slightly earlier than usual start or the recent spate of attacks (mostly early evening) putting people off using the path, but it was a lot quieter than usual. The beautiful old station at Mangotsfield, which can look glorious on a sunny day, with cyclists and walkers stopped for a snack and a natter, was deserted, and I had a half remembered poem from childhood running through my head for the rest of the run. The internet has let me down and I can’t find the poem, but I guess it may be more quarter remembered than half…

Here is a photo of the old Mangotsfield station on one of those sunny days, available under creative commons licence, with thanks to Matt Buck who took it:

The Miles Are High / But I’m Holding On

6 Dec

I started the week with strength and conditioning with my clubmates and (after a bit of work) a proprioception and stretching session with the masseur, both over Zoom. Otherwise, I rested!

On Tuesday, I had a new toy to play with whilst running: a replacement for my trusty old Garmin 220 (GPS running watch), which had finally had to be retired after over 6 years’ service. Hello new Garmin 45. It was a steady and unexciting start: 6 miles easy.

On Wednesday morning I ran 10 rather slow and ploddy miles, as my legs just weren’t feeling it, and then made myself do a strength session in the evening. My motivation for the strength session was low, but I reminded myself that this is all part of the plan to be a stronger runner, with a view to breaking down less often.

On Thursday I planned to go to my club’s training session: there are some changes between lockdown and being in Tier 3, and being allowed to go to coached sessions again is one of them! I was fairly confident my 4.45pm meeting wouldn’t go beyond 5.45pm, so I’d have time for a quick change and then a jog over to warm up ahead of the session at 6.15pm. The 4.45pm got put back to 5.30pm, and then didn’t really happen, as some people were still held up elsewhere (virtually, naturally: at least the sitting and waiting was from the comfort of my home office, aka living room). At 6pm we abandoned hope of the meeting being productive, which gave me just enough time to change and dash out of the door. I don’t recommend warming up at the pace I ran to get there, and I was certainly lucky the session was close to home! We were doing 1km reps, but with a nice big climb about halfway round, and the downhill as a jog recovery, so I was quite pleased to manage 4.15, 4.10, 4.08, 4.07, 4.07. I reckon that translates to close to 4 minutes on the flat.

On Friday morning I squeezed in 6.5 miles and was delighted that my legs didn’t actually feel too bad. Maybe I could or should have pushed a little harder the night before!

I ran 12 miles steady on Saturday (admittedly further than I had planned, but it turned out the route I’d thought would be about 11 miles was more like 11.5, and so it seemed rude not to round it up a little further). This left me on 43 miles, which meant that today I couldn’t resist ’rounding up’ my long run from the planned 16 miles to 17, because a 60 mile week was a goal for this month, and 59 would have been so near and yet so far (I appreciate the counter argument is that really there’s no appreciable difference in 59 v 60, and you have to be careful not to get drawn into ’rounding up’ too often, or you will end up over-trained and/or injured. Believe me, I know this, and I’m keeping a carefully eye on how my body is doing!). Anyway, December has started with a (positive) bang.

So Many Times It Happens Too Fast / You Trade Your Passion For Glory

29 Nov

Well, ok, maybe the blogpost title isn’t quite spot on this week, because if anything my complaint is that things haven’t been happening fast, and it doesn’t look like they will, but it was close enough for jazz! Moving on…

Monday was a very short, ploddy recovery run: 4 miles, with a running rucksack full of empty cat food sachets. It turns out that a local cat rehoming charity, The Moggery, has a Terracycle point which takes the sachets for recycling, and so in an effort to improve the carbon footprint of our lovely two moggies, I did an eco-friendly round trip to drop the empties off. That evening, keen to keep up my good work on strength and conditioning, I did a session at home.

Tuesday was a rest day, as I had a bit of work I hadn’t finished off on Monday to sort out ahead of my hearing that day.

On Wednesday I had time for a steady 7 miles in the morning, and another strength and conditioning session in the evening.

By Thursday morning the weather had turned a bit, and it was only just above freezing, with a pretty decent covering of frost on the ground. It made running downhill a bit exciting, as it was hard to judge whether the pavements were icy (I don’t think they were, as I stayed upright!) and my hands were very cold as I ran into a headwind for a few miles, but it was a crisp, clear day, and lovely to be out for a steady 10 miles.

Friday morning was both frosty and foggy, which meant slippery pavements (no doubt about it this time). I planned to do 7 miles, and did, but had a bit of a wibble (literally – damn those trees having roots which aren’t totally flat when your foot lands on them!) and then jarred my right leg quite badly as I overbalanced, which lead to my right hamstring, hip and glute tightening up nicely. Once I was home I spent quite a lot of time using my massage ball on the glute and hamstring around my hearing, but late afternoon discovered that what really needed a gentle release was the ITB (iliotibial band: it kind of goes from your hip to your knee).

By Saturday morning the hamstring was feeling fairly ok, but slightly tight, so I abandoned my plan to do some shorter, faster efforts, and repeated the marathon pace split tempo from the previous week. I could definitely feel the hamstring pulling ever so slightly when I upped the pace, and so although I felt aerobically strong, I couldn’t quite get into my stride, and so the times were a few seconds per kilometre slower than last week. Nothing awful, but mildly frustrating.

Today I ran a steady 18 miles out-and-back on the Bristol-Bath bike path. It’s been pointed out by others that after Tuesday we’ll all need to be careful to turn around at an appropriate point, as Bristol will move into Tier 3, whereas Bath and North East Somerset is in Tier 2. Funny times we live in. On a personal note, funny but ever so slightly higher mileage times. 58 for the week and – as things stand, and assuming I stick to my plan to rest tomorrow – 233 for the month, my third highest of the year. Partly helped by having 5 Sundays, and so 5 long runs, rather than 4, but also helped by running over 50 miles each week.