In Ever Decreasing Circles

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It’s Easter Sunday. I’m sitting with my feet up, belly not as full as I would like of Easter egg, relaxing after my longest run ever. I may not be able to get up again, but I thought sitting was the right thing to do at the time.

My training schedule asked for a monster 17 miles today and I’ve been psyching myself up for it all week. (I know 17 miles might seem a long distance to some of you, but for me it is. 17 miles represents the longest distance I’ve ever attempted.) Last night I sorted a route, charged my iPhone and Garmin and ate a very large spinach and potato curry. After last week’s tech disaster, I wasn’t planning on any mistakes today.

Hmmm.

My route was my favourite loop north of the village, following quiet single track roads for 5 miles. By adding in two extra bits on two laps of this route I got my 17 miles without too much trouble. At least today I knew where I was going.

Despite the cold (about 3ºC when I set off) I decided to wear three quarter leggings and a vest top. My secret weapons were the arm warmers I had bought at enormous cost (about £4) from Lidl a couple of weeks ago. They fitted fine, were very comfortable and certainly did the job of keeping my arms warm.

The route isn’t easy; the first mile is a continuous climb from 100m above sea level to nearly 200m. Once that’s by with the route becomes easier, with a few short climbs followed by sharp descents. There is some flattish running too, but the best thing is the view. I run through farmland, three small villages and overlooking the Solway Coast. The snow which fell heavily last weekend hasn’t quite melted away and the Cumbrian hills, together with our local Criffel, are still snow covered. As I ran along the lanes snow was still piled up along the sides, showing signs of being pushed there by tractors.

Criffel, with a dusting of snow.
Criffel, with a dusting of snow.

 

The Cumbrian Hills in the distance.
The Cumbrian Hills in the distance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I started off steadily, helped by the pace of the music I was listening to. I wasn’t looking to match the 11 minute/mile pace my Jeff Galloway Half Marathon app was predicting. All, really, I wanted to achieve was a reasonably paced 17 miles. Finishing in under 3:30 hours would be fine. My first lap was the longest at just over 6 miles and I was chuffed to finish the 6 in 65 minutes. I knew that I was running well when 3 miles came in at 36 minutes.

As I set off on the second lap I felt that the air was cooling down. The wind was picking up and recently all of our weather has been coming from the north, making the air even colder. At one point I had to lift my neck tube over my mouth because the cold air was starting burn my throat.

At mile 10 came the first disaster. After pacing me wonderfully, all of a sudden the music stopped. My iPhone was totally flat. I think it’s time for a nice, new battery for my beloved phone! The present one is 4 years old, so I suppose a new one is due. However, that left me pacing myself after 10 miles – not an ideal situation. It also meant that I’d lost Jeff Galloway and his coaching. I was left trying to time the 4 minute runs myself, which wasn’t easy. Looking at my Garmin every few minutes was distracting.

When I got to mile 12 I decided to try and use the intervals on my Garmin. Unfortunately, in trying to get this option working, I managed to reset the timer. I knew, from previous experience, that my 12 miles were safely stored in the watch’s memory so I didn’t worry too much and, of course, I knew exactly where to stop my running having preplanned the route.

At least on the third shortest lap I now had 4 and 1 intervals beeping at me, leaving me to just focus on running, hard as that was becoming! At times I felt as if I was barely doing more than a very fast walk, but I kept plodding along.

I finally finished the 17 miles in 3:27, 3 minutes within the self imposed limit I’d set. I’m happy with that.

That’s my final long run before the Rock and Roll Half Marathon on the 14th. I won’t say I’m unhappy about that – I think I’ve had enough just now! A couple of recovery runs before the race sounds wonderful! As I ran along on the final lap I wondered what it would be like to be 16 miles into a marathon, with 10 miles left to go. Suffice it to say I’m not really looking at entering a marathon any time soon!

In a meantime, look at the cool medal I’ll be adding to my bling collection!! I can’t wait!!!

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Getting towards the End of the Road

This time last week I was writing about upping my distance, running into unknown territory and the feelings that running without the security of the technology that I rely so heavily upon stirred up. This week almost ended the same way. Having spent yesterday at my gallery, I discovered this morning that I’d left my treasured iPhone there, sitting on the window sill, still trying to get a signal.

Once the feeling of mini-panic had passed I realised that as I was planning to run intervals on the treadmill (the local track is still snowbound) I could download the app again only this time onto my iPad and use that instead. Ain’t technology great?

As it happens the iPad worked as well, if not better, than the iPhone. As it is bigger I could sit it up further from the treadmill and still see and hear the speed changes. After a warm up, I started with a 10 minute slow run at 9.7 kph. Then came four acceleration gliders (working between 9.7 and 10.3 kph) and then 12 x 800m intervals at 11.3 kph with 3 minute walk breaks separating them.

That was the plan.

I did 4 x 800m at 11.3 kph and started to feel tired. Bearing in mind that on Thursday I had to abandon my run because of dizziness (more than usual), I decided to temporarily lower the pace to 10.3 kph. I ran 3 intervals at this lower pace before increasing it again, completing the rest of the intervals with more ease, justifying my decision to back off a bit. I’m starting to get used to reading my body and working with it, rather than pushing it and paying the price.

The run finished with another 10 minute slow run, before cooling down with a walk. In all I covered 10 miles, bringing my weekly total to a lowly 17 miles, thanks to the early finish of Thursday’s run.

An added element to today’s run was that after the first run I stopped and did some dynamic stretches and rotations to loosen off my joints and muscles. I definitely felt better afterwards, so I’ll try and remember to do this every time. Honest.

Next weekend I venture into even more virgin territory. On Easter Sunday I hope to complete 17 miles. I may be some time, but I will get the job done. And then I will eat a very large Easter Egg in celebration!

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Yes, that’ll do!

Reaching Unknown Territory

When I started my training programme for the Rock and Roll Half Marathon I opted to go along the improver route, looking to better the time I managed at the Great North Run. It’s not been an easy route and there have been times that I’ve struggled with my fitness and my reasoning. This weekend I ran into unknown territory; I ran 15 miles.

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Previously my longest distance had been 14 miles, which is longer than most half marathon programmes takes you. The plans devised by Jeff Galloway makes sense to me because they ask you to run further than you will have to in a race. That gives you additional endurance and the security of knowing that, yes, I can easily run 13.1 miles because I have run further. I like that.

With the threat of unsettled weather hanging over me I wasn’t sure if to run on Sunday or Monday or even which route to choose. My local loop floods with just a small amount of rain and that we’d had slightly more than a small amount, this being Scotland. I’m not keen on running half way and turning back but 15 miles would put me in the centre of Dumfries and possibly running through traffic. I decided to run on Sunday (unless I got up on Sunday to torrential rain) and run along the coast road.

I woke on Sunday to snow.

Luckily it was short lived and by the time I headed out we were being treated to light rain. My main problem though wasn’t the weather; it was technology. I had charged my Garmin Forerunner 405 in the morning to 100%, but when I disconnected it from its charger it went flat immediately. It’s done this before, about a year ago, and I almost returned it to Garmin. By a combination of research, friend’s advice and fiddling with buttons I managed to fix the issue, one that had apparently been caused by the compass services being switched on by accident. It’s possible that I had left the GPS switched on and this had caused the present issue, I don’t know for sure. When I checked nothing appeared to be on that shouldn’t have been. Reluctantly I left the watch recharging and took just my iPhone.

Usually I only rely on my phone for the Jeff Galloway app (including the beat synced music) and I have always had enough battery to complete a long run. Yesterday I had to also rely on the app’s GPS signal. I wasn’t sure whether I would have enough battery to last the entire run. It was unsettling. Without my phone I had no structure and I need that. Sad as that may sound. I’m happy to run without technology when it doesn’t matter, but it did matter. I had no idea how far 7.5 miles was away from my home. I didn’t know where along the road I needed to turn back.

I set off running in a vest, gloves and long tights. I could see the incredulous looks of passing motorists, but I was comfortable. I heat up quickly, possibly because of the amount of body fat I still carry, but my hands and thighs stay colder than the rest of me.

I was fueling on my homemade isotonic juice (I made a mental note to include less salt next time – my pinches are massive!) and dextrose tablets every mile or so. Nothing else. I’d breakfasted on porridge with millet and linseed, banana and honey. I didn’t pay much attention, though, to carb-loading before hand, although I did have polenta the night before. I need to think more carefully about what I’m eating leading up to a long run.

By mile 4 I was running comfortably. Before that I felt every muscle as it stretched and creaked! By mile 4, however, my iPhone battery was down to less than 50%. Running the app, my music and the GPS was just too much for it. I carried on in the vain hope that my battery would last until I got to 7.5 miles so at least I’d know when to turn back. At mile 6 I rang my husband. My Garmin had charged to just under 40% so I asked him to zero his mileometre and bring the watch out to me.

By the time he reached me I’d run 7.8 miles according to my phone GPS. Armed with a dying iPhone and a reluctant Garmin, I set off towards home. In order to save battery on my phone I turned off the app; I wanted some battery life in case of emergency. Not long after setting off I heard my watch beeping – it wasn’t happy and managed 2.1 miles before dying. To be fair it spent a mile or two dying and resurrecting until it finally kicked the bucket.

I’d made it to mile 10, but without my app or my phone telling me when to walk and run I was probably running less and walking more than I should have. It probably sounds silly, but without the music spurring me on and regulating my pace I was probably running too fast and wearing myself out too quickly. I was a bit of a mess.

I started to do something that Jeff Galloway suggested in his in app tips. I chose a tree or a fence or a building in the distance, ran to that and then walked for a count of 60 before choosing a new focus. It helped a little.

I finished my 15 miles in around 2 hours 50 minutes. Without my Garmin or my iPhone and having not noted a start or a finish time I can’t be exactly sure.

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After getting home I ate everything in the fridge! I started with a ready mixed soya milkshake, then I demolished some crackers and humous and finished with some Quorn chicken strips – basically what was close to hand. I had a very hot bath followed by several cups of hot tea. I was cold.

After several pints of restorative Guinness, I retired to bed, but not before covering my legs with BioFreeze Gel. It smells very strong, but it is a wonder gel. I used it after the Great North Run and it really helped to reduce any inflammation and aches. I’m still using free sachets from goodie bags, but I think that I need to buy some. Today I have no real pain, just a slight ache in my thighs.

I think I’ve fixed my Garmin. After resetting it and recharging it, I’m not letting the battery drain by running the stopwatch. So far it’s been going for 12 hours. Once it’s drained I’ll recharge it and hopefully that’ll be that.

Onwards and upwards!

 

Without killing myself…

After last week’s post you may be pleased to hear that I’ve backed off a bit and that I’m not being quite so hard on myself, for a change. Doing that 13 miles last Sunday in a half decent time, without hurting myself, has made me sit up and listen to my body. I am making progress. I don’t need to make myself ill. Even if I knock a few seconds off my last half time, that’s a PB. And I think I can manage that.

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So instead of half killing myself in training, I’ve turned it down a notch or two and I feel as if a massive weight has been lifted! All of a sudden I’m enjoying running again. I might feel as if I’m going a bit slowly, but I do have the option to speed up if I’m feeling good.

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Today was an interval day, with 14km of speed work to look forward to. Yay! (Don’t worry, I am joking!)

As I’m not near a track and the roads aren’t suited to intervals, I opted to run for almost two hours on the treadmill. That, people, is dedication. Or madness, you choose!

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In order to survive two hours on the treadmill I have my TV and a box set of DVDs set up in the cabin. I am happy to run with no music at all outside, happy to run with music for short treadmill runs, but for two hours of drudgery only TV will stave off the monotony I’m afraid! At the moment I’m half way through the Teachers (series 2) box set. I find that if I turn on the subtitles I can watch it without having to worry about ear phones or having the sound blasting out. I do have headphones on, but that’s so that I can listen to my coach Jeff Galloway’s dulcet tones.

Nice one, Jeff!
Nice one, Jeff!

And talking of the good man himself, Coach Jeff informed me that this morning I had not just intervals, but a mixture of running. I started off with a slow 10 minute run, followed this with four acceleration gliders (building up to race pace, holding for a few seconds and then reducing the pace whilst using the built up momentum to carry the speed) and then into ten lots of 800m intervals. As I had knocked the pace back a bit I wasn’t sure what speed the intervals were going to come in at and I was pleased to see them still at 11.3 kph. That’s a kilometre less per hour than I was doing, but looking at my overall training (i.e. THE BIG PICTURE) it’s not making that much difference. The difference it did make, however, was that I felt more comfortable. Yes, I was pushing myself, but not over the edge.

I finished with a 10 minute slow run and felt as if I’d done a good training session.

My nutrition was a bit lacking though; because  in my head I wasn’t running “a long run”, I only took an isotonic drink. I neglected to consider that I was still running 10 miles and that I should have been supplementing that with something else. At times I felt light headed and there were a couple of stumbles on the treadmill when I just forgot where I was. Next time I will have to remember to give myself plenty of fuel.

Next weekend I had planned to run the Kilomathon in Edinburgh, 13.1 km, but I’ve decided not to. The start is at 8:30 am and unless I stay over it would be too early a start for me to drive up. I can’t afford the time or the cost of a hotel to stay overnight, so it’s going to be scratched off the list. I have to be practical in terms of money, time and how races fit into my training and the Kilomathon doesn’t really rate highly in any of those terms. On Sunday I have 15 miles to run so after running a fast 13.1 km (because it’s a race and I couldn’t help myself!) I would then need to do an extra 11 km. It’s a shame, but maybe next year I can do this instead of other races.

Next year, maybe!
Next year, maybe!

So, here I am heading into week 11 of training! Wish me luck!!

The Wrong Trousers

Arrrgh! I’ve been doing it again! After saying last time that I was finding the training hard, I finally reached crisis point on Saturday. When I get to that point things have a habit of going one way or another; it’s pretty black and white with me. All I can say is, thank goodness for friends and social networking!

After a grim training week I felt that my half marathon time goal was completely out of my grasp. I came home in the light (for a change) and decided on Wednesday to take my faithful hound into the woods for a half an hour 3 miles or so. I came back disheartened with my rubbish pace, even though I was wearing, as Wallace and Gromit would say, ‘The Wrong Trousers’ (tights that just have no give in them at all) and the trail was so muddy in places I was walking for a good few minutes. I ached, really ached from the effort and wondered if my treadmill workouts had left me “softened”.

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On Friday I had no choice but to hit the treadmill. I was meant to do a straightforward run at above race pace, but after Wednesday’s run I knew that I wasn’t up to it and ran at my normal pace with the idea that if I found it too easy I’d crank up the speed. Needless to say the speed remained constant throughout.

By Saturday I was starting to panic.

I had 13 miles to accomplish on Sunday and whilst I didn’t doubt my ability to complete the 13 miles, I was worried that all my weeks of training had been for nothing. I said as much on Facebook and asked for my running friends to give me some advice. As it happened I had friends who run and friends who don’t all offering encouragement. It was lovely to read.

On Sunday I woke early and determined to run exactly 13 miles at my 11 min/mile pace. I knew that I could achieve that normally and, feeling like I did, I needed to see that I could achieve that on that day. Without boring you with the detail, I ran easily and thoroughly enjoyed every step (except for maybe mile 12, by which time I was really tired) and even managed to race to the end! I did the 13.04 miles in 2:26 giving me an average of 11:14 min/miles. I chose a particularly hilly 5 mile route, ran that twice and then added an extra circuit on the end. It was a hard 13 miles.

In short what I’ve done is prove that my training is working. I could easily have run my 13 miles faster, maybe not much, but fast enough. What I think is difficult in my training is doing the 800m intervals on the treadmill. It would be difficult to maintain a constant pace on the track and you would naturally slow down (or start off slow and speed up) but I’m expecting to be able to maintain a fast pace for the entire 800m and it’s no big deal that I can’t!

I need to…

keep_it_real_-_sky_kids_cu_1 (Thanks Banksy)

I’m on course to improve on my half marathon best and if I don’t then at least I know I’ve tried my best.

Garmin Connect – 13 miles around Ruthwell (2 loops and a bit).

Nutrition

Pre-run: Instant Oats, soya milk, banana and honey

During run: OJ/water isotonic juice (200ml OJ/400 ml water with 1/4 teaspoon salt); Dextro dextrose tablets as necessary (approximately once every third walk break)

Kit

Nike vest; Karrimor long tights; Karrimor gloves; Nike peaked cap; Brooks Ghost 5 trainers; Asics waistbelt