Archive | December, 2020

A Year To Remember…

31 Dec

Well, I think I can safely say everyone will remember 2020. And I suspect we would all settle for a return to normality as quickly as possible. A year without tens of thousands of excess deaths and life as we know it brought to a standstill would be great, although it’s unfortunately pretty clear that the start of 2021 will certainly see widespread restrictions remaining in place (and rightly so: the number of infections at the moment is pretty scary, even in a tier 3 area).

From a running point of view, those restrictions were probably a blessing in disguise. With no races to aim for, I could focus on rebuilding my fitness and strength gradually rather than rushing to try and get race ready as soon as possible. My mileage (2,624) is my highest since 2016. At the moment, I lack speed, but hopefully I’m now strong enough that running faster won’t cause me to break down yet again.

And in terms of life, on a personal note I will always have one of my best memories from this year: getting civilly partnered. We may have been wearing (stylish silk satin) masks, as were our (4) guests, but we did it.

I stopped to photograph the final sunset of the year on my way back from club training today. It was a beauty. Let’s hope it is an omen of better things to come.


And So That Was Christmas…

28 Dec

As I’m blogging a day late, I’m writing about last week. It started with a rest day, as racing on the track seemed to have left my ankles sore (! – no, I have idea either. Track has never left my ankles sore before). I did some strength work in the evening. On Tuesday I ran a steady 10 miles, then on Wednesday a steady 6 miles. On Thursday (Christmas Eve) my club had put on a training session nearby, so I jogged the long way there (2.5 miles), did the session (4 x ~1 mile through the mud!), then jogged the long way back to cover another 9 miles. I managed something around current marathon pace for the muddy efforts, which felt controlled, at least from a cardio-vascular point of view. You are never in control on slippy mud!

Christmas Day was a beautiful one for running: just below freezing, bright blue skies and a glorious sunrise. 6 miles trotted nice and steadily ahead of a tasty breakfast, some Zooming and Skypeing, and then a tasty dinner (nut roast for me and, much to the cats’ delight, guinea fowl for T). A final Zoom after dinner rounded off a pleasant day.

Boxing Day saw a steady 12 miles, with a steady 17 being done on Sunday to make 60 for the week. I am finally starting to feel a bit stronger and fitter (apart from the weird sore ankles thing), so fingers crossed I can continue to build on this. Just over 10 months until the super-delayed London marathon. If I can keep my body together for that 10 months, I would have had something approaching 18 months of consistent training behind me for the first time since probably 2016. I don’t think it would get me into PB shape, but would hopefully give me a good chance of a respectable age-grading (age-grading is a way of helping older runners understand how the time they have run compares to the times run by younger runs, unimpeded by age. It helps us cope with the fact our best running years are almost certainly behind us now we are veterans).

Back On The Track

20 Dec

Just finishing off on last week’s post, the poem I half-remembered was The Late Express by Barbara Giles. Thanks to my mum for finding it in the poetry anthology I was pretty sure it was in!

Anyway, this week went as follows: Monday morning, 6 miles steady (in the dark, as still working in chambers); Tuesday morning, 6 miles steady (in the dark, ditto reason); Wednesday morning, rest, as teeming it down with rain and just could not face it; Thursday morning, 7 miles with some strides in the dark; Friday morning, 6 miles steady in the dark and with a bothersome headwind for rather a lot of the time. Thoroughly uneventful! I did have a sports massage on Monday afternoon, which was so needed: although sports massage leaves me a bit sleepy, it is so nice to feel that everything has been loosened up and evened out.

Friday was my last day in court (virtual court, such as passes for normal these days), and frankly I was knackered by the end of the day. A glass of wine and a shot (dram?) of Icelandic blueberry schnapps, unearthed when sorting stuff out to empty shelves to allow for redecoration of the lounge, probably wasn’t the best Friday night prep for Saturday morning, because I was doing a 5,000m time-trial on the track. We were in small groups, and set off at 5 second intervals to avoid any bunching at the start. I’d hoped I was in about 20-dead shape, but couldn’t quite manage the 96s/lap that required. Annoyingly, my legs’ preferred rhythm was 97s-98s/lap. Still, 20.20 had a pleasing ring about it, although I’d quite like something from the previous century next year, please. One of my lovely teammates took some photos of us running:

It took me quite a while afterwards to work out why my left forearm is rotated, so that my hand is generally palm-up to the sky rather than palm-in. And then I realised that I rotate my left forearm like that to play the violin, and I’ve been much better about practising of late, so it’s obviously become a habit!

Somehow, doing a time-trial at 10.50 in the morning and then various chores left me a bit under-hydrated, and that, coupled with a rather fatty meal, didn’t sit very well in my stomach (I cooked it, so it was completely my own fault! But it was also rather tasty: pan-fried lion’s mane mushrooms and chips with a cream sauce, and some steamed vegetables). I felt pretty rough late at night and this morning, but eventually dragged myself out for a very steady 17 miles, having turfed a rather indignant small cat off my lap first. I incorporated some laps around the Downs into my route to cheer on the runners in my running club’s other time-trial this weekend, and then peeled off for a bit of variety. 4 laps of the Downs – lovely as they are – is about 2 more than I can usually tolerate without feeling the need for change, especially after I’d spent the previous morning running laps! That run brought up 55 miles for this week, and so I’m already on 170 for the month. Some good news, amongst all the gloom of a last minute u-turn on Christmas plans, tier 4 being created, and the realisation that if this new strain of Covid is as infectious as they say, things are going to be very far from normal for a very long time to come.

There’s A Train That Runs Through Mangotsfield, 3am Or Thereabouts…

13 Dec

This week we had a decorator in, and so – to preserve client confidentiality – I was working in chambers, for the first full week since March! This meant two things: firstly, I now had to be ‘ready’ before 8.30 each day, so that I could leave then, and secondly I was back doing my old cycle commute. Actually it meant 3 things: thirdly, running in the dark to achieve the first thing!

On Monday I ran 6 miles, on Tuesday it was 7 miles with 12 sets of strides, and on Wednesday and Thursday it was 6 apiece. All unspectacular.

I’ll tell you what, though, the cycling seemed to leave me tired! It’s not much: 3 miles each way, but the return leg has a decent amount of climbing in it, and I guess it’s different muscles to running. Anyway, for whatever reason I was definitely ready for my rest day on Friday.

On Saturday it was time for something a bit faster: my current go-to base building session of 3 X 4km at marathon pace. 3 hour pace would come out at 17 minutes per block, and there were some encouraging signs, as this time out the blocks were 17.13, 17.19 and … 16.53 😀. Now, I did consciously push on a bit during the last one, but it was definitely more marathon pace effort than anything faster.

That left my long run for today. 18 steady miles on the old railway path. I don’t know if it was the miserable weather, my slightly earlier than usual start or the recent spate of attacks (mostly early evening) putting people off using the path, but it was a lot quieter than usual. The beautiful old station at Mangotsfield, which can look glorious on a sunny day, with cyclists and walkers stopped for a snack and a natter, was deserted, and I had a half remembered poem from childhood running through my head for the rest of the run. The internet has let me down and I can’t find the poem, but I guess it may be more quarter remembered than half…

Here is a photo of the old Mangotsfield station on one of those sunny days, available under creative commons licence, with thanks to Matt Buck who took it:

The Miles Are High / But I’m Holding On

6 Dec

I started the week with strength and conditioning with my clubmates and (after a bit of work) a proprioception and stretching session with the masseur, both over Zoom. Otherwise, I rested!

On Tuesday, I had a new toy to play with whilst running: a replacement for my trusty old Garmin 220 (GPS running watch), which had finally had to be retired after over 6 years’ service. Hello new Garmin 45. It was a steady and unexciting start: 6 miles easy.

On Wednesday morning I ran 10 rather slow and ploddy miles, as my legs just weren’t feeling it, and then made myself do a strength session in the evening. My motivation for the strength session was low, but I reminded myself that this is all part of the plan to be a stronger runner, with a view to breaking down less often.

On Thursday I planned to go to my club’s training session: there are some changes between lockdown and being in Tier 3, and being allowed to go to coached sessions again is one of them! I was fairly confident my 4.45pm meeting wouldn’t go beyond 5.45pm, so I’d have time for a quick change and then a jog over to warm up ahead of the session at 6.15pm. The 4.45pm got put back to 5.30pm, and then didn’t really happen, as some people were still held up elsewhere (virtually, naturally: at least the sitting and waiting was from the comfort of my home office, aka living room). At 6pm we abandoned hope of the meeting being productive, which gave me just enough time to change and dash out of the door. I don’t recommend warming up at the pace I ran to get there, and I was certainly lucky the session was close to home! We were doing 1km reps, but with a nice big climb about halfway round, and the downhill as a jog recovery, so I was quite pleased to manage 4.15, 4.10, 4.08, 4.07, 4.07. I reckon that translates to close to 4 minutes on the flat.

On Friday morning I squeezed in 6.5 miles and was delighted that my legs didn’t actually feel too bad. Maybe I could or should have pushed a little harder the night before!

I ran 12 miles steady on Saturday (admittedly further than I had planned, but it turned out the route I’d thought would be about 11 miles was more like 11.5, and so it seemed rude not to round it up a little further). This left me on 43 miles, which meant that today I couldn’t resist ’rounding up’ my long run from the planned 16 miles to 17, because a 60 mile week was a goal for this month, and 59 would have been so near and yet so far (I appreciate the counter argument is that really there’s no appreciable difference in 59 v 60, and you have to be careful not to get drawn into ’rounding up’ too often, or you will end up over-trained and/or injured. Believe me, I know this, and I’m keeping a carefully eye on how my body is doing!). Anyway, December has started with a (positive) bang.