Muddy Brilliant

13 Oct

This week started with a day in Plymouth and then a day in Exeter, so I was away from home on Monday night.  Having travelled back up to Exeter after my hearing finished in Plymouth I ran that evening and then again on Tuesday morning.  Nothing much: 5 miles Monday evening as I was tired, and then 7 miles on Tuesday morning.  My legs were still feeling all the running I’d done over the weekend, so I kept the paces very steady (think not much better than 9m/m on Monday).

On Wednesday morning I ran 8 miles, still very steady, before 10 miles on Thursday followed by a sports massage.  I’d been getting some tightness in my left ankle and foot which was worrying me a bit, but my masseur confirmed it was just from the muscles having to ‘step in’ where the sprain had left other muscles weak.  Nothing to worry about, but a sign I shouldn’t look to increase the distance or intensity of my running just now.  Friday was a welcome rest day.

On Saturday it was the start of the cross-country season, which meant a trip to Cardiff (where I did my final race of last year before being knocked off my bike brought my racing plans to a halt).  I was a bit anxious about the ankle and weak muscles, so ran pretty conservatively for the first of the 2 laps, and only began to really push the pace a bit in the second lap.  I definitely had another gear as I was able to push on throughout the second lap, but I’m glad I took the cautious approach to protect the ankle.  Plus my finishing time was actually faster than last year, even though this year we had a mud bath in places which justified long spikes rather than last year’s dry course which only needed short spikes.  The only downside was that my spikes no longer seem to fit very well and I ended up with a nasty blister on my right heel, which I could feel when I was running.

I had to run on Sunday morning rather than having the luxury of 24 hours to recover because I had a lunchtime rehearsal for an afternoon concert, so I was out once the daylight had arrived (there was no sun: it was teeming it down with rain!) to run 15 miles.  Unfortunately I had to come back home part way through for a blister repair (I’ll spare you the details…) but that 15 miles brought up 55 miles for the week.  My legs felt fairly ok, too, but a bit tired on the uphills, so I’d obviously done some work during the cross-country race!  For what it’s worth I finished 30th, and hopefully I can improve on that finishing position as the season progresses.

Edit: thanks to Rob Gale @ Parc Bryn Bach Runners, there are some photos of all the runners from Sunday. My aim was never to photograph well, clearly!

48887662658_7b23d3d49e_o48889542341_cc7204e7e7_o

Advertisements

Got A Good Reason For Taking The Easy Way Out

6 Oct

This week I took the easier option, at least from a travelling perspective: rather than do 3 round trips to Exeter and then a round trip to Plymouth, I stayed over, so that I got back the travel time and could fit in strength and conditioning and running more easily.  I don’t really like being away from home, as I miss T and the cats, but I think I would have been extremely tired by the weekend had I tried to get back every evening.  I was able to do 6 miles Monday evening and then 7 miles on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings.  Monday evening was a bit plodtastic and very splash-tastic, but the morning runs were in fairly nice conditions, albeit at this time of year you tend to start running in the dark, which is always a shock to the system.

Thursday was a longish day in court, so I came straight home (I had my bundle for Friday electronically, which was a real help).  I beat T back, but the cats were there, and Z in particular was very determined to have some time on my lap!

Friday was a rest day, which was lucky, because once I was finished in court my brain seemed to give up, and I’m glad I didn’t have to try and run.  The orchestra rehearsal I had in the evening was more than I was really capable of!

On Saturday I had a lovely lie-in (well, I went back to bed after I’d fed the cats) and eventually headed off for my quality session of the week: 12.5 miles including 3 x 4km.  I wanted to push the pace a little more than I had last week to see what my legs could manage, and decided to try at about half marathon pace effort.  I was really pleased these came out at 16.36, 16.31 and 16.35: nicely consistent and, if I gauged my effort right, showing I’m about 2.5 minutes faster over a half marathon than I was at Bristol.  Excellent!  (As a matter of fact I did have a place at the Burnham on Sea Half this weekend, but I decided I didn’t want to risk pushing the ankle, which does still feel a little weak.)

That just left 15.5 miles to do this morning.  My legs were pretty tired, but I opted for an undulating route, as there’s only so many times I can do my local flat routes without needing a change.  It was a beautiful autumn morning, and so even if my legs did grizzle on the ascents (of which there were a few, as you can see from the elevation profile), it was great to be outside and running a decent distance.  55 miles for the week.  Almost marathon training mileage!

Running On Empty

29 Sep

This was my second week in a lengthy hearing in Exeter.  We had Wednesday off, but otherwise I was spending about 3 hours a day commuting, which (from a purely running point of view) is not ideal.  On Monday I got home after 7pm, quickly fed the cats and then went out for my recovery run.  It was a damp night and I was pretty tired, which may explain why, when I ran under a horse chestnut tree, I turned my ankle on a conker.  And of course it was my left ankle, the one I’ve sprained more times than I can remember off the top of my head in the last 21 months.  I was pretty close to home and could just about jog back, then get some ice on it.  It was a bit painful in the night so I didn’t sleep brilliantly.  I’d already decided Tuesday was a rest day, which was exactly what the ankle needed.

On Wednesday I did some more case preparation and had a sports massage.  I’d managed a cautious 8 mile run beforehand, which had felt fairly ok, although left the ankle a little tired.  The verdict was that there was a bit of inflammation but nothing too bad.  Phew!  I ran another 8 miles on Thursday, after a late finish.  I was pretty knackered by the time I got home, well after 8pm, and Friday (5 miles) was little better.

I was up and out of the door pretty early on Saturday morning, battling fairly heavy rain and some gusty winds, to run 11.5 miles including 2 x 4km (there’s a marked 4km trail on the Portway which is great for split tempo runs!).  I decided to settle for marathon pace, as my legs had felt pretty tired this week, and I didn’t want to do anything to over-stress the ankle.  I did both sections in 17.20, which equates to 3h03m marathon pace.  I’d be very surprised if I was in that shape at the moment, but it felt pretty ok, so I’ll take it!  After a quick dose of chores, it was back in front of the laptop for some more work-related reading.

I was up and out of the door even earlier today: it was still dark!  But I had a rehearsal at 10.30 and needed to get work done after that, so 15.5 miles needed to be done.  It was not the nicest run, as the weather was not great (more rain, and more wind: anyone would think it’s nearly October…), but another 53 mile week when I’ve been feeling pretty drained and have had a lot of work to squeeze in was pleasing.  I’m not planning any huge increases in mileage for October: my body is coping with 50-55 miles per week but I’d rather consolidate that and then increase the miles in November than risk things now, especially as the ankle is now a little weaker yet again.

On The Road Again

22 Sep

On Monday I could definitely feel that I’d raced a half-marathon the day before: my left ankle (the weak one) was a bit sore, and so with an eye on not aggravating things, I took Monday as my rest day.

I didn’t feel great on Tuesday, but did a slow 5 miles that evening.  Again, I could really feel the race in my legs.

On Wednesday I ran home from work: a not very impressive pace for my 8 miles, but I guess there was a reasonable amount of ascent involved, and I was still feeling quite tired.

On Thursday we had the luxury of a ‘rest’ day in the 11 day trial I’m currently doing.  It’s pretty rare to get this chance to catch up on work/life and it was very welcome.  On a personal note it meant I could have lunch with a friend from university who happened to be in Bristol for a few days, and it was great to catch up!  However, it was back to work in the afternoon and a steady 10 miles (or so) in the evening.  I can’t be very precise, because my Garmin went a bit bonkers, decided I’d covered a whole mile in under 2 minutes, and that I’d crossed the Avon Gorge 6 times during a run where I only crossed it twice, so I’m definitely taking Garmin’s 11.1 miles with an enormous pinch of salt.

I ran home again on Friday: just a very steady 5 miles.  I was really dehydrated and lucky that I was running home and so had my wallet in my rucksack, as I had to stop to buy a drink after 2 miles.  That’ll teach me to try and save time by setting off from chambers when I know I’m dehydrated rather than waiting to have a drink and let it settle…

On Saturday I was racing again (I think I’ve now raced more in the last 2 months than I had in the rest of the last 2 years!).  It was the Midland Road Relays.  I knew I was likely to be on the C-team and so it proved.  I was lucky enough to have leg 1, which was probably best for my current fitness, and I managed 17.07, which is almost exactly the same as I ran in 2017 and faster than I managed last year (17.28). You’ve got to take the positives where you can find them!  We all had a bit of a scare when the first version of the results had times which were over 8.5 minutes too slow for everyone on the first leg, and even the second version still had us all slower than we’d timed ourselves, but by the third version certainly my time was correct.  In fairness to all the time-keepers it’s an incredibly hectic day at the relays with several races going on at once all day, so the main surprise is not that the errors happened, but that they don’t happen more often.

This morning my legs were pretty tired, but I managed 15 fairly steady miles in some pretty steady rain.  The Indian summer we’d had the day before had gone!  53 miles for the week.

Achievable Goals

15 Sep

I’ll be honest, I was actually a bit worried last week from a running perspective: the tough session (5 x 1 km) had left my legs wrecked, and my right hamstring was pretty grizzly.  I was annoyed with myself for pushing too hard and hoped I could manage it.  I did 5 miles very steady on Monday morning (partly being cautious and partly because the hamstring was giving me gyp).  I did 5 miles at a slightly more normal pace on Tuesday, having done some careful stretching on Monday.  I then had a sports massage, which helped identify quite what was causing the problems, and which stretches to really target.  My 5 miles on Wednesday (bit of a theme here) was relatively comfortable.

On Thursday I had a hearing in Plymouth in the morning and then a meeting in Exeter.  I was dashing around a bit too much and ended up rather dehydrated, so rested.  In a mad break from tradition I did 7 miles on Friday with 12 sets of strides in it.  My legs were finally feeling a bit more normal and the hamstring, although very slightly tight, wasn’t impeding my running action like it had been.  By the time I did 5 miles easy on Saturday, my legs actually felt pretty fresh, and I tried to keep the run controlled.

T and I had been feasting on beetroot for most of the week, with one eye on Sunday’s half marathon (there is some research which suggests beetroot is helpful for endurance athletes, and as I quite like beetroot, I don’t particularly mind eating quite a lot of it!), and Saturday night’s dinner was a pink spectacular: roasted beetroot soup, beetroot pasta and chocolate and beetroot pudding.

And so to today.  I’ll be honest, I was pretty nervous: I hadn’t raced a half marathon since Cardiff in October 2017, had only raced longer than 5k twice since then (4 weeks ago and 2 weeks ago), and had only done 2 runs over 13 miles in preparation for this race.  Not ideal, and very far from my normal training.  Generally my endurance is my strong point, and I was very conscious I didn’t even have that to rely on right now!

So, I had a simple race plan: run a London Marathon Championships entry qualifying time (sub 90 minutes).  Anything faster would be risky.  Sub 90 is 6m 52s per mile, so I was going to try and hold 6m 50s to give myself a tiny cushion of safety.  I felt pretty ok in the early miles, and it was only around 10/11 miles that the heat and my lack of fitness began to show: I knew from how I was feeling (verging on cool rather than hot) that I could not risk pushing any harder or I’d start to get heat exhaustion or worse.  I simply had to try and stay strong but controlled, and not panic.  When it got to about 800m to go and there were no ‘countdown’ signs (often placed there to help you time your finishing kick, if you have one), I panicked a little, but thankfully a 400m to go sign appeared, and I knew I had about 2 minutes to cover the last 400m, which was fine: that’s my usual 8m/m steady training pace.  I tried to push a little, because I could see 1h30 fast approaching on the finishing clock, and psychologically wanted my gun time to be sub 90 minutes, not just my chip time (most road races issue you with a timing chip which will tell you when you crossed the start line and when you finished, so you get two times: your gun time, which includes the time you spent crossing the start line, and your chip time, which doesn’t).  I just did it on gun time. My chip time was 1.29.42, so I’m not going to claim there was loads to spare, but I didn’t care.  After 23 months in the running wilderness, I was back home.  For what it’s worth, 27th female and 2nd in my age category.

Thanks to my clubmate Hayley for this photo of me grimacing up one of the inclines in the last few miles:

Thanks to clubmate Clare for my finishing straight shot!

70359324_2369667019958983_2641617444971479040_o

And Then A Zero Comes Along…

8 Sep

I started the week with a 5 mile recovery run. My legs were pretty tight from the 10k race the day before, but symmetrically tight, which is sort of okay. I had a sports massage on Tuesday morning and there were small tight spots to be eased out.

I went and did my hearing in Exeter and then came straight home: firstly, because with no judge to hear the 3 day trial I was supposed to start on Wednesday I suddenly had some spare time so didn’t need to go into chambers and secondly because Z, our boy-cat, hadn’t come in for breakfast so I figured he’d be desperate for an early dinner. I was a bit perplexed and concerned that only J, our girl-cat, was there. I fed her and called Z, but he didn’t come in. When he hadn’t arrived by nightfall I made some posters and put them through neighbours’ doors.

My 7 mile run the next morning, when Z had missed breakfast again, was a rather teary plod of the local area, looking for any sign Z had been injured. Nothing. I made more posters and had them put up in local shops and pubs. I was back out looking again that evening (J came along for the walk!) but no joy. Z had now missed 4 meals. More soberingly, information on the Internet suggested cats can only survive 72 hours without water. Z had last been seen 48 hours before.

When the alarm went off on Thursday morning and only J wandered into our bedroom to demand food, there was a horrible sense of deja vu. I popped onto the landing and heard a meow from downstairs: it was Z! Cool as a cucumber and very hungry. We’ll never know where he was, but are so relieved he is back with us:
20190905_073508.jpg

That evening, with a smile on my face and a spring in my step, I went to a club session for the first time since … Well, I’m honestly not sure, but a long time ago! It’s fair to say that drills and 5 X 1km flat out left my legs sore (I probably pushed a bit too much to hang on to the group I was with) but the times were very encouraging (with the caveat the 1km loop is actually more like a 950m loop): 3.46, 3.40, 3.38, 3.38, 3.40.

Friday was a 7 mile recovery plod. Saturday was 12 miles steady (still feeling a bit creaky!). In the evening we headed up to London for dinner with some of T’s cousins who were over from Malaysia, which was lovely. We weren’t back until late, so I didn’t head off for my long run until 10am today. 16 miles to bring up 57 for the week! I’ve got the Bristol half marathon next week and so it’ll just be easy running and some strides between now and then to let the legs freshen up. This has been a big mileage, stressful* week and so I need to recover a bit.

* I know Z is just a cat, and I’m not saying there aren’t far worse things to cope with, but T and I do love him and were desperately worried.

What A Difference A Fortnight Makes!

1 Sep

I started the week with a 5 mile recovery run.  The joys of the late summer bank holiday meant I was able to do that in the morning but without stressing for time.  On Tuesday I was in court, and so had to run in the evening: and what a humid evening it was!  My legs felt pretty sluggish and it took a while to get going, but eventually 10 miles was covered @ 8.17m/m.  I’m not sure I rehydrated very well after that effort (and then cycling home afterwards), or whether something else was amiss, but my tummy was not very happy during the night and on Wednesday I felt awful, with absolutely no energy.  I had all sorts of good intentions to run after work, but ended up falling asleep on the sofa instead…

I felt quite a bit better on Thursday morning and was just able to squeeze 10 miles in early doors ahead of my hearing.  The rain the previous evening (which hadn’t helped my enthusiasm levels, it has to be said) had cleared the humidity, and it was a beautiful, fresh late summer/early autumn morning.  Probably my favourite type of running conditions.  I covered another 10  miles, at a slightly better 8.13m/m.

On Friday morning I did my long run, as I was racing at the weekend, and with the need to bank a sub-90 half marathon in order to qualify for the London Marathon next year, endurance work had to be prioritised over niceties such as tapering (the tentative London plan is always assuming I dodge the injury bullets successfully over the next 8 months, of course).  I was surprised to feel really great, and tootled round 14 miles at 8.01m/m.

I was rather conscious that although I wasn’t targeting this week’s race, I did want to get something out of it, and so Saturday’s recovery run was very gentle.  There’s nothing wrong with a recovery run in the region of 9m/m, and I find they really help the legs freshen up.

And so to today: the Cardiff Met 10k.  Had I had a better summer I was hoping to have a mini-taper and try and get back under 39 minutes, but the June/July illness and injury blight put paid to that.  All I was now really hoping for was a better run than at the Two Tunnels 2 weeks ago, and to feel a bit stronger than I did last week.  In my mind, anything under my most recent 10k time of 40.40 would do.  In an ideal world, sub-40, but I was aware that may be a stretch and that 14 mile training run (my first since March, I think) was rather weighing on my mind.  I set off fairly cautiously, and was pleased that although 4 mins/km felt a bit tough, especially in the sun and with a headwind for some fairly lengthy stretches, I was feeling in control.  I went through halfway just over 20 minutes and then did my best to hang on, focussing on trying to catch people rather than be caught.  I couldn’t quite manage the sub-4 minute kms I needed to break 40 minutes, although that was more tired legs than tired lungs (a positive sign for what might have been possible with a mini-taper), and overall I was pleased with 40.13 (35th lady and 3rd FV40).

54 miles this week: again, my biggest since March, and my August total (just under 220 miles) is my biggest since October 2018.  1 more big week, and then a taper of some sort for Bristol.