Archive | January, 2017

A Little Extra of What You Like…

29 Jan

So, this was a much needed recovery week.  That means fewer miles, and less intensity (faster running).  Hurrah!

On Monday, I did 5 very steady miles.  The legs felt slightly tight from the race, but not awful, which is reassuring.  If 13.1 miles at slower than planned marathon pace had left them wrecked, I’d be in trouble, even this far out!

On Tuesday, 8 miles, with 12 sets of strides (about 80 faster paces per set of strides).  These are useful to get you running faster and focusing on your form without doing so much fast running that you leave your legs sore.  I like strides 🙂

On Wednesday I felt a bit below par, so did my second 5 mile run a day earlier than planned, swapping it for the 12 miles I ended up doing on Thursday instead.  On Thursday there was a really icy wind, and my hands were absolutely frozen by the end.  It took 15 painful minutes for the blood to return to them, and I was pretty close to screaming for most of that 15 minutes.  I didn’t help myself by having brought the wrong gloves with me (I should have brought thicker, more windproof gloves).

On Friday I took a rest day ahead of the Midlands Cross Country Championships on Saturday.  This meant a day out in Loughborough (the glamour destination fairy strikes again!).  I jest: the location is actually quite a nice course to run on, although some last minute changes to the course meant that we ran almost a kilometre further than last year, and did almost 9km instead of the advertised 8km.  For a distance specialist that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for the 1,500m specialists (who were already dreading 8km!) it was a bit of a shock.  I was 23rd, which is 2 places lower than last year, but still pretty solid, and I felt much stronger and more in control than last week, so the race did my confidence some good.  There aren’t any big hills, but any sort of descent is enough to give me a fit of the heebie jeebies, as demonstrated by this photo (in my defence, it was a short, sharp downhill followed by a 90 degree right hand turn, and that is too much like multi-tasking for my tastes):

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I was delighted to have a Chinese New Year meal ready and waiting for me on my return.  Here’s to the Year of the Rooster: may it bring success, happiness and PBs!

Today I had a ‘long’ run of 15 miles, which got done after some violin practice, so I now have sore arms from racing, practising and then training.  My legs felt slightly sore but not too bad, and the pace was respectable, even if the weather was dreich.  55 miles for the week.  Next week: 68.  Gulp.

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The Coldest Race!

22 Jan

So, this was to be my biggest mileage week of the build-up so far (a total of 63 miles).  It was also set to contain two quality sessions: 9 miles with 5 miles at half marathon pace and 18 miles with 10 miles at marathon pace.  Ideally, I was supposed to do the first quality session on Tuesday and the second on Sunday, but in order to take advantage of races (which is an easier way to do ‘tempo’ work, as you have people to run with), I did the first on Thursday (as part of a 12 mile run) and the second today (but a half marathon, not 10 miles).

Around that I did 5 miles on Monday (very plodtastic!), 9 miles on Tuesday, 14 miles on Wednesday and 5 miles on Saturday.  Wednesday’s run was particularly grim, as my legs were absolutely knackered.  During my race on Thursday I let myself become a little distracted and added up my mileage over the preceding 9 days.  It came to 97 miles.  That would have explained the tired legs, then!

I just about managed half-marathon pace on Thursday (6.13m/m, when half marathon pb pace is 6.15s).  I had a sports massage on Friday, and because I’d not had a massage for a month the masseuse had to do some pretty deep tissue work, which left me a bit sore on Saturday (and also ridiculously sleepy: I’ve never understood why sports massage should make me tired – after all, I just lie there and occasionally squeak when the pain gets too much – but it does, and I slept for about 9.5 hours on Friday night).

And so to today’s race/tempo run, the inaugural Farnborough Winter Half Marathon.  It was slightly odd being back in Farnborough, as my grandparents lived there, but as they both died before I went to university it had been the best part of twenty years since I’d been back (I suppose the last time I was in Farnborough was for my granny’s funeral).  It had changed a bit, but not in any remarkable ways, and I was surprised at how well I remembered the route from the station into town, given my poor sense of direction: it’s obviously hard-wired in there from childhood, like poems learnt at primary school!

Last night, the coldest place in the country was South Farnborough.  It got down to -8.  It was scheduled to be a milder -3 on the start line, possibly peaking at zero as we finished.  It was certainly pretty cold as I left the hotel and I ended up keeping one of my long sleeved tops on as I warmed up, even though that meant I had to ditch it at the start line (and not get it back), because I was so cold.  I opted for mid-length tights and a vest to race in, and was still pretty cold for the first few miles.  I guess I can sum up the race by saying I just felt a bit flat, a bit achy and a bit lethargic throughout.  The course wasn’t lightening quick, as there were a few u-turns and a few twisty bits through some woods, but definitely no big climbs, and so although those things and the temperature might account for 30 seconds, they don’t explain being significantly slower than I wanted.  I’ve never done a half-marathon this early in a marathon build-up before, so I’ve no real markers to compare it against, but 1.26.45 is my slowest half marathon time (even as a marathon pace effort) in a fair few years, and a couple of minutes down on where I wanted to be.  I’ve got the Wokingham Half in 3 weeks’ time, which is usually my first marathon pace session, and so (provided conditions are reasonable) that will be a much better indication of where my fitness is.  It’s not time to panic yet.  Just time to defrost!  I should add that this was definitely the coldest race I have ever done: the locks on the portaloos were frozen, we couldn’t always flush the portaloos because they were frozen, one of the bottles of water I had on course contained ice, and actually seemed to be frozen to the marshall’s glove, which came away attached to it as I grabbed the bottle: I had to detach it and chuck it back behind me!

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This is the aircraft hangar we started/finished under.  Aviation is Farnborough’s ‘thing’, after all (if there’s one thing I do remember very clearly as a child, it was the roar of planes flying over my grandparents’ house in the build up to and during the Airshow), and we ran around the airfield perimeter today.

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Running through the frosty woods!

A Sad Postscript

15 Jan

In my post earlier today I commented on the Towpath being closed by the police.  From local media reports it appears this was because a man’s body was seen in the River Avon about half an hour after I had run through.  It is thought the body had been there since before today and circumstances are described as not suspicious, so it sounds like a suicide.  Several friends have been affected by suicide of someone close to them, whether a friend or family member, and so I have some (small) idea of what is now being experienced by the friends and family members of this person, who have now presumably heard the news they dreaded.  On a personal note, it feels odd and sad to think that possibly on Friday (when I ran over the Suspension Bridge), yesterday (when I ran along the Portway) and today, I was so close to this tragic situation.  And yes, it does make a small enforced change to my planned running route seem beyond trivial.  It didn’t seem right to post some small note at the end of the previous post, nor is this a blogpost which will be posted to social media.  It’s a record for me, albeit on a blog which is in the public domain, to remind me to count my blessings every step of the way, and to reach out to those who I think may need help and support.

A Chicagoan Postscript

15 Jan

So, marathon training begins in earnest, as this week I’ve covered 62 miles. For me this always feels like the sort of mileage that helps me improve my fitness.  It’s almost like the first few weeks of P&D are the overture, and now the main work has begun.  Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats…

Monday was a steady 5 miles.  I could definitely feel the race I’d done the previous afternoon in my legs, especially my calves, but a gentle recovery run seems to help with that sort of thing.  I’d hoped to go to my club session on Tuesday, but was still in work at the time it was supposed to start, so opted to make Tuesday my rest day.  Wednesday saw 9 miles with a little bit of light quality in there (4 x (4 mins hard, 2 mins jog)), just to turn the legs over, and make up for the fact I’d missed the club session the night before.  Thursday I was quite pressed for time, and so my 11 mile steady run ended up being slightly less steady than would really equate to steady for my current level of fitness, but there was a vegetable thali with my name on it to eat ahead of going to the theatre (Cinderella at the Tobacco Factory, for any Bristolians reading: it’s great, and playing for another week if you have the chance), and sometimes you have to prioritise what really matters (curry).  I was quite relieved that on Friday I just needed to do a steady 5 miles.  I went out early evening and the moon was absolutely fantastic: low, full and yellow.  It was a bit nippy, though, so I spent most of the rest of the evening defrosting…

However, I had a pleasant surprise when I did get home on Friday: avid readers of this blog may or may not recall that I thought I’d finished in the top 3 in my age group at Chicago.  It turns out I was right, as this was on the postmat:

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On Saturday I had my ‘killer’ session.  It’s something I’ve added on to P&D over the last few years, and for whatever reason it seems to help me get fit.  It’s pretty simple, but (for me, at least), hard: total run of c. 13-15 miles (on Saturday it was 14 miles); the middle section of the run should be 6 x (1 mile at about 10k-half marathon pace effort + 3 minutes jog).  I was doing an out and back for the mile reps, which was probably lucky, because the Portway was being its usual wind tunnel self, and had I had to do 3 consecutive repetitions into the wind I think I probably would have sat down and cried for 3 minutes in between each one instead of jogging.  As it was, I simply noted that the difference between the reps was about 10-15s.  I hadn’t done the session for about 4 or 5 months, I reckon, and my times (even averaged) were still pretty slow (more like marathon pace than half marathon pace), but that’s not unusual at this stage in a training cycle.  I’ll reap the benefits later on!

That simply left today’s 18 mile run to round the week off and bring up a well-earned total of 62.  I ultimately opted to run out and back along the towpath, which runs along the Avon between Bristol and Pill (FAO Wurzels fans: yes, that Pill).  It was, as I might have predicted, a bit muddy (although not too slippy).  The great thing about this route is that it is pretty flat (bar a hill to get back up the Gorge afterwards and Watchtower Hill as you leave Pill on the return).  It was a bit of a shock to be diverted off the Towpath on the way back by a policewoman because they had closed the Towpath.  I hope it’s nothing too serious: firstly, because if I didn’t notice someone in trouble on the way out, I feel awful; secondly because the Towpath is always somewhere that (in daylight) I would say is safe to run.  Local media doesn’t show anything at the moment.  We shall see.  On a dull note, it meant a much tougher climb up the Gorge than I had planned (off road and steep), but I’ll view that as a training bonus, and count my blessings that my greatest worry today was a tough run and not something which required the police.

A Blingtastic Start to 2017!

8 Jan

So, P&D week 3.  It started with 5 miles easy on Monday.  On Tuesday I made it to my club’s session, which was a combination of strength (a 5km tempo run) and speed (10 hill sprints: 30s of sprinting up the hill, 30s of jogging x 10).  With a slightly extended warm up and cool down I clocked 11 miles.  On Wednesday I ran 9 miles.  I was pretty tired, having slept poorly on Tuesday: probably a combination of too much caffeine (my first day back at work was desk based and I probably drank more tea than was sensible, but tea is (a) very nice and (b) going to make a cup of tea breaks up the day!) and the evening training session then getting me pumped full of adrenaline.  I could definitely feel the hill efforts lingering in my calves, and so Wednesday’s wasn’t the most enjoyable of runs.  Thursday ended up being a rest day because I finished work too late, and although I had good intentions to get my 15 mile ‘long’ run done on Friday, time was again against me, and so I ended up with my second 5 mile recovery run of the week being on Friday afternoon.  I had wanted to get my long run done early in the week, because I was racing on Sunday, and thought it would be nice if my legs at least had a chance to freshen up, but it was not to be.  (The ‘long’ is in quotes because although it was my longest run of the week, in marathon training terms 15 isn’t really long.  18+ is when the long runs which help on race day really kick in.)  So, Saturday morning was 15 very steady miles around the Downs (about as flat as is possible for me), followed by some careful strength work and stretching in front of the Edinburgh International Cross Country on TV.

And so to today: it was the South West Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships.  It’s a bit of an anomaly in the racing calendar, because although later in the month there are the regional championships (Southerns, Northerns and Midlands), I don’t think many other areas have this Inter-Counties race.  Still, it’s a nice fixture to have early January and it bridges the gap between the slightly sparse fields you get at the County Championships and the far stronger field that you get at the Midlands.  The ladies’ race was just under 6km, so a bit too short for my tastes, and as the run left on my training schedule this week was 13 miles, I duly did a 5 mile warm up.  Helpfully, Exeter Racecourse (where we were racing), has a 2 mile road loop (I’m guessing it’s for TV cameras or something), which I used.  The race itself was good fun.  I knew there was no point trying to go with the mad early pace, and so set off fairly steadily and then gradually worked my way through the field.  I’m not sure of my final finishing position, but I’d hazard a guess it was around 15th.  For my efforts, I got an individual vet 35 medal, a club team silver medal and a county team silver medal (representing Avon).  A very blingtastic start to the year, and hopefully a sign of more to come:

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Edited to add a couple of great photos my club mate, Maciej, took.

Must have been running fast to have my hair streaming out behind me like that ... honest!

Must have been running fast to have my hair streaming out behind me like that … honest!

A marathoner's attempt at a sprint finish: caught one, but got caught by the other...

A marathoner’s attempt at a sprint finish: caught one, but got caught by the other…

2016: That Was The Year That Was

1 Jan

Happy New Year!  Somehow the last few months have flown by, and suddenly it is 2017.  It is fair to say that, from a running perspective, 2016 was not a huge success: although my mileage was pretty solid (2775 miles for the year, according to Garmin Connect, which collects all my training data), I didn’t hit any of the targets I had set myself (sub 18 for 5k, sub 37 for 10k, sub 82 for half marathon and at least sub 2.50, if not quite a bit below that, for the marathon), and in some cases was pretty wide of the mark.  There were usually reasons why races didn’t go to plan, and so I know it’s not that I suddenly became a bad runner (by my standards) on 01.01.2016.  By the same token, I’ve not suddenly become a better (or worse) runner just because it’s now 2017.  Those goals are still there and I still believe they are achievable.  They will need the usual combination of hard work and a little luck (good weather, limited stress at work, etc.).

I finished my running calendar year as follows: 5 miles easy on Monday, 8 miles with some strides on Tuesday (and then a jog to the station near my parents’ house so I didn’t miss the train…), my club session on Wednesday (10 miles including 4.5 miles of faster sections), 5 miles on Thursday and 12 miles on Friday.  Saturday was a rest day as part of a short visit to my family to catch up with my sister, brother-in-law and nephew and niece, who weren’t with us for Christmas.

Today was 16 steady miles as my long run. The pace wasn’t great (8.08s) but it was nice to blow away the cobwebs after celebrating the New Year the night before.

Here’s hoping that 2017 fulfils the promise it currently holds.

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