Archive | October, 2019

We Are The Champions (reprise) aka Muddy Brilliant (reprise)

27 Oct

On Monday I took a rest day, as I didn’t want to run in the morning, less than 24 hours after I’d finished my long run and I was pretty knackered in the evening.  On Tuesday I ran a steady 6 miles.  My legs didn’t feel amazing, but they didn’t feel awful.  On Wednesday I ran a steady 10 miles.  My legs still didn’t feel amazing, but they felt better than they had on Tuesday.  At the moment I’m trying to do my steady runs on undulating routes to help with leg strength.  On Thursday I ran 10 miles again, on a different, tougher route, and was a bit faster than Wednesday, which is always nice.  I then had a pretty intensive massage to sort out some tight spots in my legs and back.

As a result of the massage my legs felt pretty heavy on Friday, and I did a steady 6 mile plod on the flattest route available.

On Saturday, it was back on the road, to Long Eaton for the British Masters Athletics Federation Cross Country Relay Championships.  It was a long way to go to run 3km, which definitely isn’t my kind of distance (all the more so at the moment when I have lost whatever top end speed I ever had due to two years of very little speed work) but we were thin on the ground for team members, and so it was me or they didn’t have a team.  It was raining heavily the whole way there, and raining a bit on our arrival.  We were warned that the course was pretty water-logged, and in places the water was mid-calf depth.  Great!

We did our best to warm up on the pavements, getting pretty soggy, and then it was time for the race.  We were going in descending age order (cute!) with FV50 Clare running leg 1.  She handed over to me in 5th place overall, 4th in our age category (there was a superb FV45 team there).  I probably started a bit cautiously, but after about 1km began to push on a bit and overtook a FV45 runner who had started around the same time as me but gone off a bit harder than I had, and a FV35 runner.  I was pretty sure we were now in bronze medal position.  About halfway round was the worst of the water: we had to navigate about 10 metres of fairly shallow water and then there was the really deep bit (about 20cm deep) which slowed me to a walk.  But I could see a FV35 ahead and, once I was out of the twisty part of the course which followed, where I was more focused on staying upright on the slippery mud than my pace, I pushed on, and caught her.  I was now well into the final kilometre, but tried to keep raising my pace, as my breathing was far too comfortable for a 3km race, which should hurt the whole way.  I handed over to FV35 Lucy, knowing we were 3rd overall (damn those nippy FV45s!) and 2nd FV35 team.  I grabbed a top and then Clare and I went back onto the course to support Lucy, who ran superbly, pulling us up another place, and earning us FV35 Gold Medals:

After T and I had a celebratory meal out in our local, Z (boy cat) brought me his idea of a great prize: a nice, big rat.  It’s the thought that counts, I guess.

This morning my legs were a bit tired, but I ground our my 15 mile run to bring up 56 miles for the week, having made the most of the extra hour from the clocks going back by getting some extra sleep!  I’ve decided to do another half marathon in mid-November, so two more biggish weeks and then it’s time to ease back and see what improvements I can make on my Bristol time.

Edit: here is a photo of some cold, soggy national champions!


It’s Not About The Shoes (OK, It Is About The Shoes)

22 Oct

Unless you’ve been really, really distracted by Brexit and/or really, really have no interest in running (which begs the question of why you are reading this blog), you cannot have failed to notice the hype about Nike’s latest running shoes, worn by one Eliud Kipchoge when he covered the marathon distance in under 2 hours.  A lesser model is available to amateur runners, yours for a mere £240 (or £210 if you want the model one notch below).  And the word on the streets is that they work, in the sense that you run considerably faster for the same effort.  (The improvements in times are in the region of 3-3.5%, so a 90 minute half marathon becomes something between 86m51s and 87m18s simply because of the shoes.  Gulp.)

I’m genuinely torn.  On the one hand, I’m not anti-progress and tech in running: I will happily wear a GPS watch so that I know my approximate pace, although I will tend to wear a simple stop watch for big city marathons so that I run to effort rather than pace and so that I don’t get led astray by dodgy GPS readings when surrounded by tall buildings.  Pre-GPS watches (when I started out) we all just had to learn what 6m/m or 7m/m felt like, and trust our judgement on the day.  On the other hand, I’m very anti-doping, and it seems, to my non-scientific brain, that these shoes are so different to ‘normal’ shoes that they are perilously close to giving a doping-like advantage to those who wear them.  At present the IAAF/UKA (the international and national governing bodies for athletics) have not banned them, or even indicated that the possibility of doing so, so it’s not like anyone is breaking the rules by buying a pair and then bagging themselves a raft of PBs in the process (although I seem to remember it took FINA – swimming’s international governing body – a while to ban the swimsuits which made everyone swim much faster, so it can’t be ruled out).  But…

I’ve been through a really torrid patch of illness and injury over these past 2 years (it was about 2 years ago the horrible cycle of injury began with a simple slip on the mud in training pulling at my hamstring/glute insertion point).  I want to get back to a decent level again.  I want to see the improvements happen, and know that the improvements are because I am getting closer to the person I used to be, who used to run sub 85 minute half marathons with ease.  I’m realistic that getting back below 2.50 for the marathon (so two of those sub 85 minute halfs back to back) is going to take time and probably some luck, but I know that getting back under 85 minutes for the half is realistic, certainly next year.  And I don’t want to run sub-85 because of shoes which give me an advantage, so that I’ve ‘really’ only run 87 minutes, I want to run it in the same type of shoes I’ve raced in for years, so that when I cross the finish line, that time is truly mine, and that bit of me that used to be able to run that fast is back.  In the words of John Lennon, you can say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

You’re Still The One I Run To…

20 Oct

I started the week with a very long day in the Torquay and Newton Abbot County Court (not as picturesque as it sounds: it’s on an out of town shopping/office site, so the sights of the Devon Riveria do not feature in this week’s blog), and after getting home at 7pm after a 7am start I opted for dinner and lounging on the sofa rather than training.

Running resumed on Tuesday with a steady 6 mile recovery run.  By Wednesday both I and more specifically my legs were feeling a lot more spritely and my 8 mile run was at a relatively nippy 8m/m.  That’s rare on a weekday morning!  On Thursday I did 10 miles as I wasn’t in court until the afternoon so had a bit more time in the morning than usual.  The pace wasn’t as fast as Wednesday but still respectable.  On Thursday evening T and I went out for dinner to the restaurant where we had gone on our first date 3 years previously.  And a very happy 3 years they have been!

On Friday I was in Plymouth again (I have spent a lot of the last 5 weeks in the South West) although returned home at the slightly more respectable time of 5pm, a mere 11 hours after I had left.  Let’s just say the 6 mile recovery run I did after that was plodtastic.  I was knackered!

I still felt a bit tired on Saturday morning but knew I needed to get some quality work done.  There’s a 1.25 mile loop we sometimes use for club training where you can do about 1,450m on the pavement and then jog back to the start on grass, and so I did 4 repeats around there: 5.58 (6.35m/m: a bit sluggish at first!); 5.50 (6.25m/m); 5.50 (ditto) and 5.45 (6.19m/m).  I was pleased that a teeny, tiny bit of the old speed is coming back.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that but progress is still progress!

This morning started bright and early with an orchestra rehearsal.  The tricky bits of Mahler 7 make a bracing wake up call at 9am.  The upside of the early start was that I was home for lunch and then able to head out for my final run of the week this afternoon: 15 miles at 8.04m/m.  Another 55 mile week.  But Thursday was the really important milestone.

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!


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!