Could It Be Pace Lift…?

14 Oct

So, I’m behind with blogging after a busy fortnight!

Last week started with a rest day, and I actually didn’t get to run until Tuesday evening as I was in Plymouth, which meant an early enough start as it was (the 6.34am train to Bristol, as it happens).  I did 9 miles that evening and then 6 miles in the morning on Wednesday ahead of the second day of my trial.  It was lucky I did run that morning, because we finished rather late, and the 6.25 train home from Bristol meant I wasn’t home until pretty close to 9pm.  It was another 9 miles on Thursday ahead of a sports massage and then 8 miles on Friday at a fairly steady pace.  This was all part of a cut-back week, fairly well-timed because of the National Road Relays on the Saturday.  I was a reserve for the B-team, as befits my not-particularly-fit state at present, and was called up to race.  After a bit of confusion in the handover zone (I was on leg 2 and although I spotted my incoming runner, for some reason this year the marshalls didn’t tap us to tell us to run, so I wasted 5 seconds on the start line!), I was off, and ran a fairly similar time to last year.  It was about 20s/mile faster than the Prom Run, which tells you quite a lot about the weather in Weston, as Sutton Park is pretty undulating and there was a reasonable breeze to contend with.  Here I am, looking a bit pensive at the bottom of the short hill which finishes the loop:

Rather conveniently, seeing as I had a concert on Sunday evening, I only had to do 15 miles on Sunday morning.  It came out at a fairly good pace (8.12s) which is a marked improvement on long runs of late.  But I told myself not to get too excited, because it had been an easier week.

This week also started with a rest day.  I slept really badly on Monday night for some reason, and felt pretty rough on Tuesday, so I postponed my run until the evening just to check I didn’t start feeling even worse.  However, once I got running I actually felt fairly ok, and my 12 miles came out at 8.09s, which is getting towards ‘fairly fit’ pace for a medium long run (albeit my legs should have been fresh: they’d had over 48 hours to recover from the 15 I’d done on Sunday morning!).  I did 5 very steady miles on Wednesday (8.36s) and then 15 miles on Thursday, which came out at 8.03s.  This is when I started to wonder about pace-lift: the phenomenon when your fitness improves and you find that most of your key training sessions are a good chunk faster than they were 4 weeks previously.  It’s a nice, and reassuring feeling.

Just to bring me back down to earth (almost literally), Storm Callum arrived on Friday, and so my greatest achievement during that evening’s recovery run was always moving forwards, albeit at times incredibly slowly!

On Saturday it was a case of another weekend, another race: the first race in this season’s Gwent League cross-country (runners have a generally poor sense of geography: Bristol is simultaneously located in the Midlands and Gwent).  I headed over to Cardiff with some team-mates, revisiting where I’d done my last race of last year before various muscles started going ping.  I started fairly conservatively, but spent the second half of the first lap and first half of the second half overtaking people, which is always fun.  I then pretty much held my own apart from getting caught by someone with a finishing kick in the home straight.  The only annoyance about this race was that – in contrast to last year – we had a fallen tree to negotiate.  I don’t hurdle, and so I was very much in the one foot on, jump down camp, and consequently lost a few metres to people who could hurdle on both laps.  When I first compared my time this year with last year’s time I was pretty gutted, as I seemed to have run well over 2 minutes slower.  But then I discovered that in fact last year we only ran 3.5 miles, whereas this year we must have done a slightly different course, and did 3.9 miles.  My pace was almost identical, despite a stronger wind this year (Callum again…).

After an orchestra rehearsal this morning, that just left today’s long run.  It was my longest of the build up (22 miles) and my fastest (8.11m/m), which is a pretty good combo.  Were it not for the fact I live on top of one of Bristol’s many steep hills it would have been even faster: I’d got into a nice 8.05m/m rhythm on the flat after a steady few miles to warm up, and then the final climb home completely zapped my legs.  I guess yesterday’s race was in there somewhere!

But it’s been a good week’s running: 70 miles, which I think I last managed in the early part of last year, and a bit of pace lift.  I’m still not going to name a target, because I want to see how a few key sessions go over the next few weeks ahead of the taper, but with 7 weeks to go it feels like I’m in a better place than I expected.  Here’s hoping!

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A Tale Of Two Race Entry Fees

30 Sep

Picking up where I left off, I did last week’s long run of 20 miles on Monday. It was slow (8.25s) and I never felt great, but it was done. I guess I’d done 78 miles in 8 days and spent 13 hours in the car that weekend. Plus cycling with a rucksack on has been giving me a tight neck and shoulders. Thankfully I’ve now had a pannier rack fitted, so can now cycle rucksack free!

I took my rest day on Tuesday as my legs felt rubbish and I was knackered. Plus it meant I could cook our evening meal for the first time in ages! I was out early on Wednesday to do 10 miles steady as I had afternoon hearings from Wednesday onwards, with rehearsals that night and Friday, so evening training was unlikely to be possible. And morning runs at this time of year can be a delight: you get the daylight and it’s cool without being cold. On Thursday I did 15 miles steady: the longest midweek run my schedule prescribes. On Friday, with half a mind on racing on Sunday I did 6 very gentle miles. However, it became clear that the volume of reading I had to do over the weekend meant neither of the half marathons I had pencilled in was feasible: Folkestone had always required a free weekend and the Forest of Dean still needed more free time than I ended up with once you factor in travel, number collection and general faffing.

Still, it was a nice weekend: 7 miles with some strides on Saturday, an afternoon in chambers and then an evening with some of T’s music friends. This morning, 16 miles with some marathon pace chunks using the measured 4km section on the Portway.  And the paces were better than I feared: 17.38, 17.13, 17.08 & 17.15. 17 flat would be sub 3. Food for thought, but also encouraging. On the third rep I was joined by every female runner’s favourite training companion: The Man Who Doesn’t Like Being Chicked. I reeled in and then overtook this man pretty quickly within the first kilometre, at which point he suddenly decided he would up his pace. Never enough to share the work into the wind, but just enough to sit a few metres out for the next 3km. I guess it’s a compliment of sorts. Possibly…

Anyhow: 74 miles for the week and my biggest month’s training in over a year. And that’s the best thing of all about this week, running wise. Although the post run brunch T cooked was pretty awesome and will fuel my afternoon in chambers nicely.

Juggling

24 Sep

Back to blogging on a Monday!

Last Monday I started the week with 5 miles easy on tired legs. Tuesday was a double day: 6 miles into chambers in the morning, and 4 miles home in the evening. I was home just in time to inhale dinner and then go to see Crazy Rich Asians with T. It was a fun film, but I was very relieved that my own introduction to an Asian family had been less dramatic and stressful!

Wednesday was my rest day as I was in court in Oxford and then had a rehearsal that evening.

Thursday saw me toe a race start line for only the 3rd time this year, I think. It was the first Weston Prom 5 miler of the season. In my head, based on just about managing 4 mins/km, or 6m26s/mile, for 1200m reps, I wasn’t expecting much better than 6.40/mile. And then the weather intervened: it was really windy (think up to 40mph, according to the forecast!) and a bit rainy, too. I was late arriving so had to cut my warm up short, but things still went ok for the first 2 miles, when I was in a group and had some shelter.  When I turned into the wind I wanted to push on and try to bridge the gap to the next group. No one else wanted to try, and for the next 3 miles it was a solo effort. 2 of those miles were mostly into the wind and crept up to 7m/m. Now, I should be devastated to only just slip under 34 mins, as at my fittest I was on the cusp of breaking 30. But I know I’m far from fully fit, and that I never cope well with strong winds. The next race is in the series is in 5 weeks, and how I run then, after 5 more big, fitness-boosting weeks, will be more important!

I had high hopes of getting my long run done on Friday as we had a family weekend away, but my legs were a bit tired, the strong winds had not abated and then it started chucking it down so that I was freezing cold. I bailed after 13 miles to avoid hypothermia.

On Saturday I summoned my inner Joss Naylor and tried 6 miles off road in the Lake District. It was slow. I am no Joss Naylor.

On Sunday I stopped pretending I’m anything close to a fell runner and ran into Keswick them did out and backs on a fairly flat bike path. The only sting in the tail was the run back up the hill as I left Keswick! The 13 miles I did was ‘borrowed’ from the next week’s training, in the hope I could do the long run at the start of the week.

So, 58 miles is light compared to the schedule, but the combined total of the two weeks will be the important thing. Sneak preview: I did that 20 miler today. Fingers crossed for a good rest of the week!

If You Want To Be A Record Breaker…

16 Sep

This week has gone pretty well.  Not as well as Eliud Kipchoge’s, who set a stunning world record in Berlin for the men’s marathon, but compared to the last 18 months this week has been pretty awesome.

It started with a rest day.  On Tuesday I was working at home because we were having a cat flap fitted (I am beyond excited about the fact T has agreed to get cats :)), and so – with no travel time to lose – was able to run at a fairly sensible time after I’d finished working, and did my 14 mile run.  I suppose Wednesday was less than optimal: I’d hoped to do a 10 mile run in between work and my orchestra rehearsal, because my hearing was at 12 noon.  Unfortunately, the God of Court Timings had it in for me and my training plans, so my 1 hour hearing finished after 5pm.  By the time I’d dashed back to chambers and done the bare minimum of admin, there was just enough time to run 5 miles home, then inhale some pasta before heading off to my rehearsal.  Just to round the day off nicely, I worked until about 11.30 when I got back from the rehearsal. Maybe not all of this week was awesome!

On Thursday I knew I had a lot of work to get done, so I was up at sparrowfart to run 6 miles into chambers, had breakfast al desko and made use of the shower, then did my court hearing, worked, ran 4 miles home, ate, worked, slept.  OK, maybe Thursday was a little sub-optimal, too, certainly in terms of spending any quality time with T.  We did at least get dinner together on Thursday, which beat Wednesday!

On Friday – once my hearing was over – I could finally relax a little in terms of urgent deadlines, and did 7 miles with some strides, as I was planning to race the next day.  We were due to take part in the West Mendip Way Relay, but really sadly a team mate had to pull out with an injury on Friday evening.  Having spent so much of the last 18 months managing injuries and niggles myself, I have a fair sense of quite how she must be feeling.

On Saturday, with no race, I was at least able to spend a bit more time with T, even if it was unexciting time doing food shopping.  I did have to do a few hours’ work in chambers, but nothing too awful, and then I did 11 miles with 4 x 1,200m.  I was pleased that my times for the 1,200m reps were faster than last week, and that I can finally cover a kilometre in under 4 minutes again.  It’s been a while!  I had planned to do 5 or 6, but could feel that my calves were a bit tight, and so erred on the side of caution.

Today I had an orchestra rehearsal in the morning and a committee meeting straight after that, and so after my lunch had settled (and my legs had recovered from cycling back from the rehearsal: I still have not found my cycling legs yet, but I guess it’s only been a month, and I was away for a week of that!), I set off for my long run.  The schedule said 21 miles, but I was very aware I’d only done one 18 mile run this year, and so in my mind it was going to be something between 18 and 21 miles, depending on how my legs felt.  To be fair to my legs, it wasn’t the flattest route (375m of climbing, if Garmin stats are to be believed), and they did fairly well until the 18 mile point, at which they started to grizzle.  I was at least 1 mile from home at that point, so I ground out another 2 rather slow runs, and called it a day at 20 miles.

But do you know what?  I have managed 67 miles in a week for the first time in I really don’t know how long: I suspect not since March 2017.  I don’t think I’ve run 20 miles since the London Marathon 2017.  And although my legs are tired, they are just tired in a normal, trained-hard way.  My paces aren’t amazing, but they’re not so far off what I’d normally manage to grind out when I’m tired and training hard.  And that, my friends, is why this week was awesome.  I’ve 12 weeks to go until my A race for the year, and although it’s hard to know quite what shape I’ll be in by the time I’m on the start line (although – despite the heading of this blogpost – I am sure it will not be a personal best!), I am starting to believe my body might let me train for this A race, and give me a decent chance of running a reasonable time.

Triptych

9 Sep

Wow: 3 weeks have flown by without a blog post in sight!

3 weeks ago began with tired legs after a tough Friday to Sunday running block at the end of the week before. My 5 mile recovery run was plodtastic in the extreme! I did run 14 miles on the Tuesday and then had a much needed sports massage … which left my legs sore and capable of only plodding 5 miles on Wednesday. By Thursday my legs were crying out for a rest day, and they still felt pretty awful on Friday. Maybe running 9 days in a row for the first time in over a year wasn’t the smartest plan! I managed another 5 mile plod ahead of dinner out with T: eating out because we had no food left ahead of our trip to Malaysia.

We were off at sparrowfart on Saturday  (5am) and the entire journey from Bristol to Ipoh (where we were visiting some of T’s family) is the best part of 24 hours door to door. Malaysia is beautiful, but hot, humid and not pedestrian friendly, so no running got done. I did go swimming a reasonable amount, and when the pool is large, outdoor, warm and surprisingly quiet, even I love swimming:

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After a couple of days in Ipoh we were off to Pangkor Island, which was probably my favourite location: the local school holidays were over and so the beaches were quiet, the sea was warm, and we could spend a few days relaxing and swimming. And taking in stunning views:

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We were then off to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands. Now rather developed, it was still possible to find peace and quiet trekking in the jungle:

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We were then back to Ipoh for a last few days before another epic journey home. 10 days had passed in the blink of an eye!

I was pretty whacked by jet lag, but have managed to train fairly well this week: 5 steady on Tuesday, 10 easy on Wednesday, 8 with some strides on Thursday, 5 on Friday, 10 with some light speedwork on Saturday  (4 × 1200m: current speedwork pace is marathon pb pace!) and 18 today, making 56 for the week.

12 weeks until Valencia. Time to knuckle down!

95%

20 Aug

Last week started with me doing a fairly long day at work on Monday, in the hope that would free up some time later in the week.  Optimistic and perhaps foolish, going by past experience!

On Tuesday I still didn’t manage to leave particularly early, but at least was able to go for a 5 mile run that evening.  Wednesday (bit of a theme) I didn’t leave super early but was able to do a 9 mile run with some strides.  I still harboured hopes of leaving a bit earlier on Thursday, but it was not to be, and it was another 5 mile run.

It’s never ideal doing your 3 shortest runs on 3 consecutive days, leaving your 3 longest runs to be done on consecutive days, even if that does include the weekend.  This is how the next 3 days panned out:

Friday: 14 miles steady.  My legs felt pretty ok and the pace was good (around 8m/m).

Saturday: 11 miles steady.  My legs felt alright, and the pace was ok (around 8.20m/m).

Sunday: supposed to be 18 miles.  Ended up being 15 miles.  My legs felt tired from the start, although I was just about moving reasonably comfortably for 9 or 10 miles, and then my legs felt tighter, and tighter, and tighter.  I gradually got more and more slow, and ultimately at 15 miles, with the option of one more 3 mile loop or just bailing, I bailed.  Frankly, 15 miles on super tired legs is about the same as 18 miles on fairly fresh legs, as far as I’m concerned!

I’m going to look on the positives in terms of that training block: yes, ideally I would have done the 18 mile run and logged the full 62 miles I had planned.  But I still ran 6 times last week (which beats the 3 previous weeks hands-down!) and I ran 95% of the miles I intended to.  I’ll probably try and do the 18 mile run in 2 weeks’ time, when my schedule otherwise says to do only 15 miles.  But if I don’t, I reckon I still got a big training benefit from that tough 3 day block (and I’m quite glad I got away with it and didn’t end up with a sore Achilles tendon or worse!).

Here’s hoping this week is a bit better structured, although I had planned to front-load a bit, because the weekend is busy.  Fingers crossed!

Half Way There…

13 Aug

On Monday last week I worked late (as in not home until gone 9.30pm late). No cross training was done as a result! On Tuesday I fared better: a 45 minute swim after my sports massage.

On Wednesday I plucked up the courage to cycle to and from chambers. After something like 10 years of no cycling it was a bit nerve wracking – and my quads grizzled on the hills on the way home – but it is quicker than walking or the bus. I did anot her swim, too, just to ensure achy arms and quads!

On Thursday my new trainers arrived, and I couldn’t resist taking them for a spin. 5 miles easy done. The ankle is still clearly a bit weak, but not anywhere near as bad as January. And hopefully the better grip in the newer shoes means I’m less likely to lose my footing again and the better cushioning will look after my muscles. I repeated the cycling, too.

On Friday it was just cycling. I had a long day in court and was pretty knackered.

I felt a bit more refreshed on Saturday morning and tackled 9 miles. I erred on the side of caution and did flat loops so it was easy to bale out if needs be. With limited running this week my legs were fresh and bouncy: sub 8m/m felt easy peasy!

That just left Sunday: another morning of flat loops close to home, but 15 miles was done. An afternoon in chambers meant more cycling, too.

This means a total of 29 miles v a plan of 58, but with the cycling, swimming and daily strength and conditioning that’s good enough. Hopefully this coming week I can finally accomplish 6 training sessions as planned. And continue to improve my uphill cycling skills!