Archive | September, 2016

Autumn Days When The Grass Is Jewelled… Chicago Build Up Week 10 (Two Weeks to Go!)

25 Sep

Monday was day 1 of the taper, which meant absolutely nothing to my legs, which had just completed a 70 mile week.  My 5 mile recovery run was very steady indeed.  On Tuesday I ran to work, but still did the strides which the schedule prescribed.  My legs still weren’t feeling great, but that was no huge surprise.  Wednesday was a steady 8 miles, squeezed into a rather busy week.

On Thursday I headed over to Weston-Super-Mare for the first of this year’s Prom Runs.  They’re a series of 5 mile races along the promenade (hence the name) and are extremely flat.  The only two downsides are first of all 4 u-turns, which are a little hair-raising, and the risk that there is a fairly stiff breeze.  Given the conditions I’ve sometimes run in at Weston, Thursday was fairly mild, although I lost a bit of time into mile 4, which was all into a headwind and a little dispiriting.  I was in a pack of 5 and none of us could quite muster a faster pace!  Still, I finished in a fairly respectable 30.29, or 6.06m/m, which is my fastest for a race this build-up, and shows that things are hopefully coming together just in time.  After the healthy papaya and the less healthy share of a hamper (I got honey and cider last week), the alcoholic theme continued, and as first lady I got a bottle of white wine for my efforts.

On Friday I had a massage and the verdict was I’m still slightly wonky (<sigh>) but not nearly as wonky as I was the last time I had a massage. Phew!

Saturday I did a 12 mile run and attempted to do some 600m efforts, which were on this week’s schedule as the 3rd bit of faster running.  I think I still had a bit of soreness from Thursday’s race and the usual heaviness which follows a massage, because I could barely muster half-marathon pace for most of them, but at least it got the legs turning over.  I then headed off to Reading with my string sextet to do a concert, which was great fun, and quite a workout for the arms!  It’s as close as I ever get to upper body work…  We were given a bottle of wine each for our efforts, so it’s been a good week for restocking, just at the point I really cut back on booze ahead of the race!

And today was my last ‘long’ run, although 17 miles only just creeps into that category.  After yesterday’s heavy-legged plods, I was pleasantly surprised that 7.49m/m felt extremely comfortable.  The weather was a bit variable: the first two miles were in slight drizzle, which I never mind too much because it cools you down a bit; the next 4 miles were in really quite heavy rain, which I did mind, because I hadn’t worn a cap, so couldn’t see a thing through my glasses; the next 10.5 miles were in rather lovely conditions: slightly breezy but sunny – a gorgeous early autumn day, occasionally picking my way through the first conkers scattered on the ground; it was all quite bucolic until the final 0.5M when the heavens opened and I got utterly drenched.  It stopped pretty much the minute I closed the door…


So, 59 miles done for the week, and next week the real cut back in mileage starts.

Race instructions arrived this week, which always helps the excitement levels start to climb, as did the fact that the marathon season started, too, with Berlin being this weekend’s big race.  It was also the Bristol Half Marathon, but racing a half this close to a marathon risks leaving your legs a bit tired for the marathon itself, so I gave it a miss for the first time in years.  I hope my clubmates enjoyed the showers!



Cometh Week 9, Cometh the Taper (aka Chicago Build Up: 3 weeks to go)

18 Sep

Monday was a rare ‘double’, i.e. I did 5 miles to work in the morning and 5 miles home in the evening.  There have actually been a couple of other doubles in the schedule, but I sometimes find it easier just to do one longer run, especially if I’ve got to travel quite far to get to court in the morning so that doing a run before work would mean getting up at Extremely Stupid O’clock rather than simply Stupid O’clock.  Anyway, 10 miles for the day, at fairly unimpressive speeds due to tired legs and the fact I had a rucksack of food and clothes to carry (well, food in the morning: funnily enough I ate my breakfast and lunch as the day went on!).

Tuesday I did 15 miles, with the legs feeling a lot better, and then had a sports massage.  Verdict was that I had got a bit wonky again, as the tight patches weren’t as symmetrical as they had been.  I suspect this is because I’ve been doing more violin playing, and that isn’t the most symmetrical process, particularly when sat down.  It probably wasn’t the worst timing that Wednesday ended up being a rest day to let the body settle down after the massage, although ultimately there wasn’t really much choice in the matter: I had to be in Gloucester for 9am and then didn’t get to leave until 6.50pm.  That wouldn’t have been so bad but I then had to dash straight to a music rehearsal at 8pm, so there was barely a minute in the day for anything bar work and music.

Thursday I made it down to my club session, which was obligingly exactly what my own schedule required: 6 x 1km.  The general consensus was that the pavement loop we were using was probably 20 or 30m short, but even so 3.30/km is a pretty swift pace for me, and shows that the speed is starting to return.  Hurrah!

Friday showed that speed still hurts the muscles, because my 6 mile recovery run that evening was extremely steady.

That was probably no bad thing, as it helped the legs recover a bit for Saturday, when I was doing a leg of the Uphill to Wells Relay with some of my clubmates.  It’s an unmarshalled course and is a genuine relay in that you have to wait for your incoming runner to arrive and pass the baton to you (I was stupidly excited about the fact we actually had a baton: most distance races do not use a baton and sometimes there isn’t even a ‘touch hands’ handover).  The downside of this is that it reduced the chance there would be another runner to follow if you weren’t that sure of the route, and so, as I didn’t have the time to do a recce, I was given the leg where the chances of getting lost were low.  I was also given written instructions to go with my map and, on the basis the first mile or so was the possibly confusing bit, dropped to the start of my leg early so that I could at least jog that bit and then come back to the start and race.  It was a cunning plan, only slightly upset by the fact that I although I was fine following the route out as I warmed up, I was less fine following the route back and arrived at a junction of 3 paths with very little idea which one I was meant to follow.  Needless to say I went down the 2 wrong paths before eventually settling on the 3rd correct path.  Everyone was starting to get a little anxious by the time I arrived back at the start, but I didn’t actually miss my clubmate’s arrival, so all was well that ended well…   Leg 2 is only 3 miles long, but packs almost 600ft of climbing in.  I don’t actually mind uphills that much, even quite technical uphills, but sadly what goes up almost always goes down afterwards, and I hate technical downhills.  I pretty much walked the worst of the descent (rocky and under trees with tree roots as added trip/ankle sprain hazards) because 3 weeks out from my target race, I wasn’t taking any risks!  Thankfully we still won, and won a very nice hamper for our efforts:



All that dashing around 1km loops and up steep hills left my legs pretty tired, and so my final long slow run was definitely fairly long (20 miles) and very slow (8.10m/m), but it is done, and I can bid 70 mile weeks farewell until 2017.  The next time I run over 17 miles will be race day itself.  Time to become a chrysalis:




Am I Nearly There Yet? (Chicago Build Up: Week 8 aka 4 Weeks To Go)

11 Sep

So, with last week having been particularly tough on the legs, it certainly felt it wasn’t a bad thing that work stopped play on Monday: I left for Exeter at 7am and got back at 7pm, absolutely knackered (around my training last weekend I had also done about 15 hours of work, so it had all been rather full-on).  However, I wasn’t in court on Tuesday and Wednesday so that let me plod 9 miles on Tuesday morning and then run 15 miles on Wednesday morning.  Tuesday’s run wasn’t great (a heavy-legged 8.20m/m), but the rest day on Monday probably had a lot to answer for there.  Although it may sound counter-intuitive, if your legs are used to running then a short, gentle run often seems to help them recover better from a hard training session or race than inactivity.  However, Wednesday’s run was at a more reasonable pace (8m/m), although I struggled a bit with the very humid conditions we had: I finished very thirsty and with sopping wet running kit!  I had a massage on Wednesday after my run and the legs were pronounced in pretty good shape.  Again, the aches are pretty symmetrical, which is reassuring, although there are still some slight imbalances there, so no getting complacent: that core and glute work still has to be done! <sigh>

Thursday and Friday were shorter, easier runs: 6 miles on Thursday and 7 miles on Friday (with a few strides, or short, fast sections, thrown in just to remind the legs there are paces other than steady running).  This worked out fairly well because I had a fairly big weekend of running planned:

Saturday saw me back in Battersea Park, 6 weeks on from my last trip there, for another crack at their 10k race.  The field was quite small (only just over 100 runners, I think), which is a pity, because although the start time is  a bit of a shock to the system (8am), they are fast, flat races, with a lovely welcoming atmosphere, and deserve a good turn out.  Although my legs weren’t feeling amazing I knew I was much fitter than I had been 6 weeks ago, and was pleased to set off a reasonable pace.  I gradually worked my way through the field, and passed the only two ladies who had set off in front of me at around the 4km point.  I did then seem to switch off a bit, and probably made the mistake of assuming that the one guy who had overtaken me, apparently moving at a fairly swift pace, had maintained that pace, but I think the faster pace had been simply to overtake, as the next few kms where I didn’t close the gap on him were a bit slower than I’d aimed for (3.54/3.55 rather than 3.50).  I gave myself a bit of a lecture around the 7km point and picked the pace back up t0 3.50/km.  I finished 1st lady (30th overall), improving my time by exactly a minute from the last race (38.29 v 39.29).  Although it’s a bit annoying that I would have finished a bit faster had I maintained my focus and effort in the middle section, I have to focus on the positives from that race, in particular that I’ve finally managed a tempo run (which should be at about half marathon pace) at just faster than half marathon pace (6.12s v 6.15s).  I’m doing a 5 mile race in just under 2 weeks and hopefully I can run a little faster still per mile there to consolidate the fitness gains I’m making at the moment, and give myself the best chance of a (probably modest) PB in Chicago.  Oh, and I got an unusual (but tasty) prize of a papaya:


Today was 21 miles: my penultimate long run 🙂  I picked a flattish route, but that is relative in Bristolian terms, so I still had nearly 1,400ft of climbing to do. 8m/m exactly, so the same pace as my 21M run in Cambridge 2 weeks ago, but allowing for about 1,399ft of extra climbing, a much better run!  That made 73M for the week.

Next week will be the last week before the taper (reducing my training ahead of the race to let my legs freshen up), and so I guess that – in terms of thinking caterpillar – this is my last week as a caterpillar, because I figure that the taper must be equivalent to the chrysalis stage of the butterfly life-cycle. My club colours are red and white, so I think the closest butterfly is a red admiral (especially if I race in black shorts), and in case you’re wondering, a red admiral caterpillar looks like this:


I’ve Looked At Running From Both Sides Now / From Up and Down: Chicago Build Up Week 7 (aka 5 weeks to go)

4 Sep

Last week saw me hit 73 miles, which is a personal best.  On Monday, my legs were pretty tired, because I’d done 57 of those miles Thursday-Sunday, so it made perfect sense to take advantage of it being a Bank Holiday to drop in and see my parents, and take part in the Reading AC’s Festival of Miles.  I was, after all, guaranteed a pb, because although I have raced 3000m on the track and taken part in 1500m races (I hesitate to say I’ve really raced a 1500m: marathon runners can’t really race effectively at that distance!), I’ve never done a standalone mile.  Now, according to race predictors, I should be able to run something around 5m15s for the mile.  The thing about race predictors is that they assume you have trained properly for that specific distance, and not done anything totally stupid such as a 21M run the day before your target race.  Still, 5m41s was a reasonable result, and faster than 3000 pace.  There was a photographer on hand to record the fact I stood next to the tall people on the start line…:

Mile race start

… and that I just out-sprinted someone to not finish last in my race:

Mile finish

In a fit of enthusiasm mixed in equal parts with stupidity, I then went to my club session on Tuesday evening and did 4 x 6 minutes (with 2 minutes of standing around between each 6 minute effort) and managed 0.99M per 6 minutes, so about 10K pb pace, which I was both pleased and surprised by, because my legs felt pretty tired during the warm up.

On Wednesday I did 15 miles on the Bike Path because I knew my legs would struggle with anything demanding.  I was surprised to come away with a pace under 8m/m, and that my legs did eventually loosen up.  It left me feeling pretty positive.

On Thursday, I did 12 miles.  This was the point at which my legs gently suggested that they’d done quite a lot of miles recently (to be precise, 100 miles since – and including – the previous Thursday, which is a heck of a lot for me), and I had a proper attack of “the plods”, only being able to bimble along at 8.20m/m.  I did, however, sleep extremely well on Thursday evening, and it’s rare for me to drop to sleep pretty much immediately!

Friday, thank goodness, was a rest day.  I also had a sports massage, which reassured me that although my legs were a bit sore, it was just general tired-muscle soreness, and there weren’t any underlying issues.  The tightness was also pretty symmetrical, which is also good, because it means I’m not favouring one side over the other, and that my left glute is finally agreeing to do its fair share of the work.  Hurrah!

Saturday was the other side of running: completely for fun.  A club mate is getting married soon, and had a hen-do with a difference where we all ran at parkrun, whilst dressed as chickens.  I’d like to thank my talented fellow club-mates for their handiwork in making the accessories I’m sporting in the photo.  Without them, I would just have looked like a confused lifeguard who’d got roped into a run:

Chicken run

And finally, to today.  It was the Chippenham Half Marathon, which I hadn’t done before, but I needed to do a half this weekend because any later could be too close to Chicago to allow my legs to recover from the effort of racing.  I knew it wasn’t ideal that I’d done so much mileage in the last 11 days, but hoped I might just about get away with it.  It’s fair to say that there isn’t much depth to the field, i.e. although I only ran a fairly modest 1.24.40, I was 31st overall and 2nd lady, whereas in one of the bigger half marathons you’d be well down the field with those times (I ran a similar time at Bath this spring and was only just inside the top 250, for instance), so I was running alone or with only one or two people for company for most of the race.  It was also a bit windy: not awful, but apparently 13mph at Lyneham nearby, and that’s enough to make you either have to work harder than you want to (or can!) or accept a slower time.  The final grizzle is that the undulations in the last few miles come just as your legs are at their most tired…  Still, my breathing was pretty ok, it was just the legs which were tired, so I’m hoping that means that today was around marathon pace effort, and allowing the wind and the tiredness I could see a modest pb in Chicago (always assuming the Windy City isn’t too windy on the big day!).

Phew: epic blog post – that’s enough!