That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.

I happen to be a big fan of ‘The Sheep Pig’ by Dick King-Smith. I expect some people have never read the book, relying entirely on the film for entertainment, which is their loss. It’s a children’s book, but often some of the best books are. Their messages are simple. Good is good and bad is bad, that sort of thing. The film adaptation ‘Babe’ was excellent; often the sense of the story is lost in translation, but not in this case. Apparently James Cromwell, who played Farmer Hoggett in the film, became an ethical vegan (having been a vegetarian for many years previous) after playing the role and becoming so attached to the star. However, I digress. 

I had 12.5 miles to run today. It was my first long run since the Fleetwood Half and I’d been mithering all weekend about how I’d do. After experiencing problems with my breathing in my last race I didn’t want a repeat of that today. I chose a route which I’ve only ever run once, back in 2011, despite it being a nice route to run. It’s a good mixture of ups and downs and flats mostly off the beaten track. I thought it might help distract me if I was running somewhere different.

In the week my ifitness running belt arrived, so I had today to test it out. It came with two small bottles, which I felt might not be big enough, room for two gels and an elasticated pocket big enough for my phone and other bits and pieces. I can even clip my race number to the bottom it – no more pins, no more paper cuts! This also meant no Camelbak and no armband – everything could be carried around my waist! No more sweaty back (well relatively speaking), friction burns from straps and the ability to see how much liquid I’m taking on. It just had to not-bounce and the job was ‘agoodun’.

I waited until the rush hour had passed (an issue with running on roads, even here!) and set off in the cool of the morning. I wore my arm sleeves today for the first time all summer. It was nippy this morning, following a cloudless night, and arm sleeves seemed most sensible. Boy, I’m doing well on the thinking thing lately!

The route took me from the castle road (a short warm up walk from my house), through the village, looped around past the church and off along a rarely used single track road which  runs parallel to the shore up to Cummertrees village and then up away past several large farms before looping back along the shore road. 

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I ran at a pace set by my Jeff Galloway Half Marathon app, which automatically calculates a long run pace slightly slower than race pace. I was looking at running between 12 and 13 minute miles, but in actuality I was a bit faster than that. Which is fine. I must be doing okay.

I had forgotten to buy gels and so all I had in the house were some left over out of date 33 Shake chia gels. What choice did I have? I took a couple knowing that I’d only need one and a half if I split each one (taking at 4,8 and 12 miles). They were fine, too big for my fancy new belt though – so I had to wedge them in behind my water bottles. My water bottles were plenty big enough, each carrying 180ml, and I’d popped half a High 5 tablet into each for electrolyte and sodium replacement. I was taking a chance on the gels, but the juice would get me home if nothing else!

I have to say, my waistband was awesome! No bounce, no movement, it stayed on my hips (not an easy task), everything was accessible and safe and it was comfortable to wear. Totally recommended. I did notice a tiny bit of leakage from the bottles, but I think that may have just been residual juice in the lid after I’d taken a swig. 

Mine cost £25 from Start Fitness.

It was a steady run, but as the sun climbed so did the humidity. I was quite surprised to see that my Garmin data is saying 93% humidity today – which maybe explains why I had to stop at mile 11, just to catch my breath. I’d been doing okay up until then, with regular, planned walk breaks every 2.5 minutes, but once I’d run through Ruthwell village for the last time I started to cough and wheeze. I stopped and took some time to breathe deeply, filling my lower lungs as well as the upper, walked for a short time and then finished the run. I hadn’t taken my inhaler with me, so I was just taking sensible precautions. I made it home, but running that extra bit seemed unnecessary in the circumstances.

I finished my 12.5 miles in 2:26 – giving me an average pace of 11:46 min/mile. For a training run I’m happy at that. As I said at the start “That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.”

 

It’s OK, I’ve found the ‘CTRL’ button!

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I don’t often feel quite as in control of my running as I did yesterday. Don’t ask me why yesterday was any different from any other day. Maybe it was the weather? Maybe it was what I was wearing? Maybe it was what I’d chosen to carry? Maybe it was the route? I don’t know, but I felt ‘at ease’.

I had my last long run before my next race to complete, 14 miles. I’ve run further, so 14 miles was just 14 miles – I wasn’t perturbed by the distance. I decided to run an easy route  (it was a breezy day, I didn’t need to push myself over hills as well) and, after some experimentation, I had settled on a run/walk ratio of 2.5 minutes to 1. It was going to be a steady run building up endurance, not a race to the finish. That can wait for a couple of weeks!

The weather was perfect for a long run. It was, as I’ve said, a bit breezy, but as the wind was blowing on my face for the first seven miles I had the reassurance of knowing that on the way back it would be pushing me home. The temperature was also cooler than of late with the sun was just occasionally peeking through heavy clouds. Spot on long run weather. This would be the first long run I’ve managed to do in a oner for ages.

I had decided to ditch the chia gels I still have in the cupboard and look for something else. I left it late and ended up at Holland and Barrett just before they closed on Sunday afternoon. I chose citrus High 5 Energy Gels which I carried in the big side pockets of my new Ron Hill trail vest.  I also tool my Camelbak with 750ml of water and two High 5 Zero tablets. I had my Garmin…oh, and I wore my iPhone on my arm. I’m starting to feel a bit weighed down, I must admit! I bet if I ditched the lot I could run faster!

I tried not to pay too much attention to my pace, but instead just focus on the beat of my music and try and settle into a good rhythm. I didn’t want to try and run at my race pace and if I look too closely at my Garmin I start to speed up and this affects how I finish. I needed to start steady and finish strong. I looked only at the distance I’d run, just so that I knew when to turn home. I was, however, bang on pace and when Jeff Galloway said “You’re half way” I really was.

I took my gels (perfectly placed in my side pockets – easy to grab, no zips getting stuck!) at 4, 8 and 12 miles. They were more liquid than others I’ve tried, which made them easy to take. I just used them instead of water and ended up with 500ml left in my Camelbak when I finished. I’ll put less in next time. They were also very easy to open.

Until now I hadn’t looked at my Garmin data. My pace was fairly consistent throughout, although my first mile was predictably faster! I just can’t help myself! I find this all very reassuring; I felt good as I ran. I wasn’t slowing up and I wasn’t speeding up – not too much anyway. My running pace was 10 min/mile pace which, of course, was brought down by the walking intervals. It was an easy pace and I can see myself either being able to up that slightly in a race or lengthen the run. Running for an extra 30 seconds at that pace should be achievable.

I just beat the torrential rain we endured yesterday afternoon, it hit as I put the key in the door. I have a feeling I was being looked after.

After running I stretched out, made myself a lovely plate of scrambled (free range) duck eggs and toast and ran a very hot bath. I spent the rest of the afternoon chilling out with the dog, who appreciated the fact that I was stationary for longer than a few minutes, and icing my Achilles which had been a bit sore when I was running. Today I don’t feel as if I ran 14 miles yesterday, so something is definitely right!

What I’ve learned from this run is that I need to worry less about my pace and just keep it consistent. I can speed up from the half way point if I feel like it. I now have clothes and equipment which I feel comfortable in and which I’ll set aside for Fleetwood in two weeks. My only issue (and it’s a small one) is that my armband is rubbing, causing a burn mark. I was looking yesterday at something I can wear underneath it as a barrier, rather than spend more money on another armband. Maybe just some BodyGlide would do the trick.

So, in the meantime I must…

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Running Home and Away

Last week hubbie and I went away to Oban, on the west coast of Scotland, for a few days R&R. We had decided, at the start of the summer, that taking a few short breaks would be less disruptive to our businesses and lives than taking one long holiday. We had already visited Coniston in the English Lake District for a few days at the start of the school holidays and Oban was our next destination. Mindful of how I worried about running in Coniston I contacted the Oban Runners via their Facebook page prior to leaving, just to check out some routes. They recommended a 6 mile loop around a loch about a mile away from where we were camped which sounded perfect.

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With views like this I might forget to breathe! ©Julie Hollis, 2014
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Gorgeous weather has followed us around the north of Britain!
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The only piece of road I ran on!

I was, however, meant to do a 4 mile run on the Monday we were away, with one of the miles timed. After a reccy walk on the day before we discovered that the route between the campsite and the loch ran mostly along a disused railway track and was almost completely off road. It was ideal. Instead of running around the loch (and believe me I was sorely tempted) I decided to run out for two miles and then run back. It meant that 3 miles were largely in the shade of trees and, with the weather so warm even first thing in the morning, this was important. It also meant that I could do my warm up mile to the loch and then do my timed mile along the loch shore (which was pretty flat). For once I had it planned to perfection! The only possible fly in the ointment was that the shower block closed at 10.30 for cleaning, so I needed to be back before then in order to get cleaned up!

 

My warm up mile was a nice easy one at 10:40. I’ve been running 2:30/1 ratios because these seem to suit me at the moment so imagine my surprise at seeing my fastest mile of the year at 9:22 pop up! I was gobsmacked. This must go to prove that there is truth to what Jeff Galloway says – walk breaks can help to make you faster. I ran an easy two miles home at 11:32 and 11:08, making it home before the showers closed!

The view after my Magic Mile! Loch Creran is a beautiful and tranquil place.
The view after my Magic Mile! Loch Creran is a beautiful and tranquil place.

I know that run walking isn’t for everyone and my efforts are often met with a mixture of confusion and disapproval in races, but using these methods I’m getting faster and recovering from injuries quicker. I can easily sustain 9 minute mile running in the two and half minutes when I have to and walking for a minute adds surprisingly little to the overall pace. Basically it works for me.

Yesterday was my long run day again and I was down for 12 ½ miles. The weather seemed to have cooled down a tad from the furnace we’ve been living in for the past month or so (I’m not complaining, but it has made training difficult for this pale skinned Celt!) and I was looking forward to some cool running. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be and despite setting off early I was thwarted by the heat yet again. At 3 ½ miles I decided to turn back, making 7 miles and then run the 5 ½ later when it would have hopefully cooled down again. Despite the weather the 7 miles were bang on long run pace, one minute slower per mile than race pace. When it became clear that I would be running in the dark before the temperature and humidity reduced I opted to complete the run on the treadmill. Fanned and entertained by Star Trek Voyager, I ran the rest of the 12 miles at a slightly faster pace.

This morning I knew I’d almost run a half marathon! My quads, hip flexors and abductors were all complaining when I moved, but a long walk with the dog solved most of that. Whilst walking I was able to stop and take some photographs of the trail where I tend to do my short runs. The trail has changed such a lot over the last few months, with entire sections of the forest removed by the timber workers, it’s really quite odd to see.

On a nutrition note I’ve decided to ditch the chia seed gels I’d been trying. This is for a few reasons; they are expensive, have a short shelf life (great for long distance runners, but out of date by the time I need them) and they are bit too gooey for me. I’m still looking for something, but in the meantime I’m using a combination of Dextro energy tablets and jelly beans. Any ideas on this would be appreciated.

 

 

Can I have a quick word?

I’ll be brief. This is my day off and I really should be enjoying the weather, sitting on my patio with a mocktail. I have a pile of ironing threatening to take over my spare room (so big that I am actually considering charging it rent) and a list of jobs as long as my arm. As I said, it’s my day off.

Today I was down for a 9 mile run. As it’s been so warm and so humid I decided to get up early and run before it got too hot. At least that was the plan. I got up early and was ready to leave at 7, but then got distracted by emails and left just before 8. It was already warm, with not a cloud in the sky, and I knew that my route along the shore left me with little shade. Being a fair-skinned lassie I’m just not built for sunshine.

As ever I was using my Jeff Galloway/LoLo Half Marathon app for iPhones. I’d set it for 4:1 run:walk intervals and 11 min/mile pace. This would translate to just over 11 min/mile pace as it was a long run (short runs adjust the other way – it’s all very clever!) What I wasn’t expecting was for Jeff to announce that today it was a 9 ½ mile run. Half a mile extra – really? That’s just too much to ask. My short circuit route had proved too long for two laps, so I’d chosen to run along the Bankend Road – a there and back route – so adding on that extra wee bit wouldn’t matter.

I managed to maintain a fairly even pace, although it did get quite warm and I must admit to stopping to shelter now and again in the shade of the few trees along the roadside. I also have to admit to stopping to fill up my FitSip which I’d managed to empty on the run out. Luckily a local smallholder was just at his van when I passed and agreed to let me fill up the now empty bladder. On hot and humid runs longer than 6 miles I need my Camelbak. No question. By the time I was within a mile of home I’d emptied the FitSip again. I don’t tend to drink a lot on runs, but it was very warm.

The last mile and half were tough as I was constantly climbing away from the shore; not by much, but by then I was tired and hot and I’d had enough for today, thank you! That extra half a mile was the killer, of course! I clicked stop at 1:47:40 giving me 11:21 pace. I was about two minutes slower than my app expected which, given the heat, is fine.

Post-run I feel good, although hay fever has my eyes itching like mad. I would rather not have a massive pile of ironing to do as well as the weekly shop, but I’m a wife and mother and them’s the breaks!

Running doesn’t define me; it simply refines me.

 

 

Running Long and Tapering Down

Today saw my last long run of this training programme. After today I’m on the taper.  And, to my relief, I’m feeling…

G-R-R-R-E-A-T!

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The weather forecast for today was dismal, so imagine my surprise to see sunshine and blue skies this morning. The weather gods were obviously smiling, so, after a breakfast of porridge, bananas and honey and having done my email duties for the morning, I set off. I had decided to run a tougher route than just along the fairly flat shore road. It’s my 4 mile loop which, if run again, becomes a 5 mile loop. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but if you take into consideration that if I’m doing a 4 mile run I walk to warm up and cool down adding the extra distance. If I run right round it’s 5 miles. Honest it is.

The run starts with a first mile which is mainly uphill. I always find that tough when I start off; my legs aren’t properly warmed up and my calf muscles are still too tight. However, I soldier on. After that the route undulates with some good hills to climb and descend. It’s a good route and I prefer to run a loop than go there and back. The only issue with this route though is that it tends to flood and yesterday we had some pretty nasty rain. I was expecting the worse.

The worst bit wasn’t as bad as I had expected, although as this road is being used as a diversion route for a farm which is cut off at present thanks to roadworks, it has suffered a bit. The road was pretty broken up in parts, with massive holes on either side; I feel sorry for the folk who live round there. The holes, predictably, had filled up with mud and rainwater and with the increased farm traffic the sloppy mud was being distributed all over the road. It was unavoidable and my lovely Brooks trainers are no longer quite as lovely; they are drying as I type, in the hope that the dirt might brush off. We’ll see.

I had taken with me my 33 Shake chia seed gels and my Camelbak with ¾ of a litre of water with a High 5 Zero tablet in it. I had been just using water, but I felt that I needed an extra boost. The High 5 Zero tablets had been sent out by the Edinburgh Marathon Festival organizers with my number, so I felt duty bound to try them out and I liked them; not too juicy tasting, salty if anything, and gentle on my stomach. I was a bit concerned when I got home though to discover that I had almost all of my ¾ litre left – I’m not drinking enough. I need to watch this, especially if I’m racing in warmer weather.

I planned to take my gels at miles 4, 8 and 12 but after mile 8 I forgot and ended up taking it at mile 9 instead. In the end I just didn’t bother taking the third one – I was managing fine with what I’d taken. Maybe the drink was helping there. I like the chia seed gels, but they are a bugger to swallow in a hurry when you’re a bit out of breath. I always take them on my walk breaks, but I inevitably run out of time. If I’m honest this is putting me off them and I’m wondering if I can do anything about it. I might contact the makers and see what they suggest.

By mile 8 the forecast weather had arrived and it was throwing it down. I stopped to call my son at home as I’d left two machine loads of washing on the line and knew that it would be soaked again by the time I’d run the last of that loop home. I decided at that point to head home and complete the run on the treadmill. The wind had picked up and the rain was extremely heavy – it wasn’t worth slogging out another loop. I may be mad, but I’m not crazy!

Having set up Star Trek on the DVD player I set off to boldly go (again) and boldly went with the Voyager crew. I felt surprisingly good and even ended up increasing the pace in the last couple of kilometres.

With my 14 miles complete in about 2:39 I had a rushed lunch of scrambled eggs, toast and humous and a strawberry soya milkshake and a quicker shower before heading into town to do the weekly shop! As a result, I haven’t sat down much, which might explain why I’m feeling so good! I honestly don’t feel pained enough to have run 14 miles – maybe that will come tomorrow!

But I hope not!

So now the taper begins. I’m pleased to have run my last long run before the race – I’m looking forward to saving my legs a bit. I’ve got two 30 minute runs to do this week, then a 5 mile run next Monday and two final 30 minute runs and then it’s race day!

After last week’s podiatrist downer I have some good news. I went to see my chiropractor (he of the Vulcan death grip) and told him what the podiatrist had said. When I got to the part when I relayed that I’d been told basically to give up running he stopped me. “Don’t give up running,” he said “Running has given you so much. Strength, confidence, achievement – don’t give up!” It was what I needed to hear. All athletes get injured. I don’t have the financial backing that elites have, but I do have a very good chiropractor who listens to how I’m feeling and helps me. Sometimes I need to work through injuries and having his support, as well as Jeff Galloway’s running plans, help me do that.

After all, if a 14 mile run leaves me feeling like Tony the Tiger, I’d be daft to let that go!

 

 

Running into the Unknown – A Yorkshire Adventure

We’re having a few days away, camping not far from Ripon in North Yorkshire. It’s rather beautiful and we are being blessed with some glorious weather. We’re testing out our newly acquired trailer tent, having sold our caravan in search for something lighter and so more usable with the older cars we use during the classic car season. This little unit will be home to us on several weekends throughout the year, starting now and ending in October, so we needed to make sure it had what we needed.

So far we are very pleased with our comfortable and cosy trailer tent, which probably somewhat annoyingly I have named Trixie. Until it has a name, it’s not part of the family. Trixie was towed here by Etta, driven by Grant.

Yesterday I had a long run to complete, 11 miles into territory I wasn’t really familiar with despite having holidayed here a few times now. I bought an OS walking map of the area and downloaded a mapping app using the site wifi (all mod cons!) and planned a circular route from the campsite through several villages and ending up just outside the next village – the plan being that Grant would then come and collect me.

I set off quite late, after 5, once the heat had gone out of a surprisingly warm sun. My 11 miles were paced to take about 2 hours 15 minutes and the sun was due to go down at 8ish. It was tight, but I was sure I’d make it back before I needed a torch!

The route was gorgeous, taking me through some very pretty villages and past some very expensive looking houses. My first 3 miles were ok. My half pace is set for 10 minute miles, so my long run pace should be about 12-13 minute miles. I did the first three in 10:51, 11:26 and 11:25. At mile four I arrived at the first village, Bishop Monkton. From there I messaged hubbie that I’d arrived safely and that I had just 7 miles to go. I took my first chia 33Shake gel and headed off, following the ducks down the brook which runs through the village. I spotted my first and, as it had it, only fellow runner on the route – a rather athletic looking chap running the other way. I said hello, but got the chilly impression that had I not smiled and said anything my presence would have been ignored.

From Bishop Monkton I headed for Burton Leonard. The route was at this point quite undulating, no huge rises or falls, just nice quiet roads. However the hill up to Burton Leonard was a bit more of a challenge, but I put my head down, shortened my stride and just got on with it. My body felt good, quite strong and with no real aches or pains. I could feel my Achilles stretching, but it wasn’t painful.

From Burton Leonard I headed for Copgrove and on to Staveley, constantly checking the little scrap of paper onto which I had scribbled the place names and a rough map. I had also photographed the OS map with my phone as an emergency back up – I wasn’t going to get lost!

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Miles 4 to 8 came in as follows: 11:35, 11:58, 12:22, 10:55 and 12:20. From that you can see which were the hillier miles! At mile 7 I was flying. I felt great and the ground just seemed to melt away under my feet. My runner’s high!

When I reached the outskirts of Copgrove I stopped to take another gel. I’d managed to find a rubbish bin in Bishop Monkton to dispose of the last gel packet, but I had to hang onto this one until I was in the village centre. I see far too much litter around when I’m running; I hate it. If I can’t dispose of it properly I take it home, no matter how inconvenient that is.

Copgrove to Minskip was a slog, a real slog. It seemed to be a never ending climb, one hill after another – all good practice, I’m sure! but not really what I needed at the end of a long run! Miles 9 and 10 were 12:08 and 11:58. The last mile was torturous and, to make it worse, I’d hit the stop button on the Garmin by mistake and lost some time. However as I’d planned out the route before hand I knew exactly where to stop. When I reached the road end Jeff Galloway announced I’d “done a good job!” I wasn’t that far out. My pace on my last mile was 12:30.

Overall I did the 11 miles at 11:44 pace, with which I am very happy. It was lovely running through places I didn’t know, seeing sights I hadn’t seen before and going slow enough to have a good look. The weather had been perfect and I had plenty of light left to complete the run safely.

I walked/jogged to the end of Minskip and rang hubbie to come for me. It was another couple of miles or so to the campsite at Roecliffe and it would have been quite dark by the time I got back if I had walked. Not only that our last meal was lunch at about 2pm. It was now well after 7pm and I still had dinner to cook!

Today I’m a little bit stiff. My heel is a bit achy and without a freezer compartment of a fridge I have no ice packs. Instead I settled for a walk into Boroughbridge to work out any lactic acid and a limp back when I’d obviously done far too much! I do have some lovely photos though!

Tomorrow I’m due for a 30 minute run which I might do into town and back. We walked along the canal today which would be lovely for a run with the dog. We’ll see!

The Silent Runner

I may have been quiet over the last few weeks, but I’ve still been running. My Achilles heel problem quietly subsided leaving me with a tight calf, but that’s all. My lovely chiropractor has identified two trigger points on my calf and worked on those last week whilst I bit down on the treatment bed, but ultimately relieved the tightness.
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I’m back up to 9 miles and with six weeks to go to my first half marathon I’m feeling pretty strong. My speed is slowly coming back and my endurance is good. I’m running 2:1 ratios on trails and 2.30:1 on the road. This might sound odd but I’m happier running faster for short periods than slower for longer. I’m permanently running fartlek! I’m planning to increase the running intervals on longer runs. My shorter runs are either off road or on the treadmill, depending on what I can manage to do.

I’ve been testing out my chia seed gels and apart from them being a bit chewy, they are great! I’m getting into the habit of taking them regularly on long runs, taking only water with me rather than taking sports drinks. They are quite big, that’s the only drawback. I can fit two into my armband, I might manage three, but then I’ll be stuck. However three might be enough if I follow advice and take one on the start line.

Tonight I did a 30 minute trail run, about 2 1/2 miles, accompanied by my little dog and my mountain biking hubbie. I went out quite quickly, but backed off a bit coming home mainly because it’s mostly uphill and that places extra stress on my heel. I’m being sensible, looking at the big picture and listening to my body. It was a good run, a stronger run again. In fact each time I go out I feel stronger, faster, better. It’s a relief after months of injury.

Next Saturday, quite unbelievably perhaps, I have an appointment with a podiatrist. I walked past his door this morning and doubled back thinking it was about time I saw him. I explained that I was a runner coming back after injury and he asked me to come back, bringing my running shoes, orthoptic inserts and anything else I’ve used to help me. I’ll get the tow bar on the car then…

This week we’ll be testing our trailer tent in Yorkshire. I’ve got an 11 mile run on Monday, so I’ll be looking at the quiet roads and planning a route (and taking a map!) I’ve treated myself to some nice new Karrimore running vests, so I’m hoping the weather will be warm enough to wear them!

On the fundraising front I’ve managed to alter my page so that it doesn’t just follow the EMF Half. Instead I have a challenge page and I’ve raised £65 so far. If I raise £100 per race I’ll be happy, so I’m not far off the first target of £100 for this one. A bit of promotion wouldn’t go amiss, I suppose!

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www.justgiving.com/julie-hollis3