How things are going

I’ve sat down here, not really knowing what I want to write! I’m part way through my 10k training plan, enjoying running under the shelter of the trees in the early morning (although not as early as one of my friends, who has been getting up around dawn to get her long runs in before the heat of the sun breaks through!) Murphy, my canine running partner has been coming too although, at almost 12 years old, I have warned him that there may soon come a day when he just can’t come with me. That’s incredibly sad. He’s been my running partner for a long time and has even run a 6 miler with me in his youth!

However that day will come in a few weeks as I start to increase my distances beyond what I can eek out of the woods. In there, amongst the trails, I can get 3 miles. Not all under the shade of the trees, but still. Tomorrow’s run is 3 miles. It’s my Long Run Day and so will be a slow run, so I’m hoping that Murphy and I can get that one done in the cooler weather that is predicted for tomorrow. After than I think I’ll be able to do a couple of shorter runs and then I’ll have to move onto the road.

Road running here is a bit precarious as there are very few paths. I’ve been running for a few years now though and have built up a reserve of quiet routes which test me, but not the drivers trying to get round me! On most runs I hardly see a vehicle. Plenty of cows and sheep, but very little of anything else.

I’ve missed these well-kenned routes and it’ll be nice to get to see them again. Leaving Murphy behind won’t be as nice, but I’m sure he’ll be happy with a post-run walk. And perhaps a squeaky toy and a bone…

I’ve got it in my head that if I am race ready by September I will enter the Jedburgh 10k in October. I haven’t worked out how far through the programme I will be by then as I’m really not wanting to jinx things! At the moment I’m playing with run/walk ratios and seeing what I can do. On my last trail run I went out with 2 min/30 sec, which I adjusted mid run to 45 sec/20 sec and then finished with 3 min/30 sec. It’s reassuring to know that I can adjust these intervals as I feel I am running, without also feeling that I am not performing as I should. The trails are a different thing to road running though and I’m expecting to increase my running ratios to several minutes running to each short walk break. I am not expecting, post surgery and with significant physio issues, to be able to just run. I am enjoying covering the distance in a fairly respectable time.

My pace off road is currently around a 12 min/mile. Previously I could take a minute off that on the road; it’ll be interesting to see if that’s still true. If, however, I am now a 12 minute miler over distance then that’s what I’ll be. At some point or another I’ll run just a mile and see how fast I can do that. I think my fastest mile was just under 9 minutes. I’m not expecting to get anywhere near that.

My physio is happy with me. I am doing my exercises pretty much every day. My Plantar Fascitis has almost disappeared, thanks to those exercises but also to the orthotics I am now prescribed via the hospital. I have now worked up to wearing them all day and am allowed to run in them now too. These help to support my arches and stop my foot from rolling in, as it did. I’ve also started doing what is called Daily Yoga, but not daily. Usually it’s When I Remeber Yoga, but that’s good enough for me! I have problems getting from the floor to standing, so I have a stool on hand to help me. I’m hoping that increasing flexibility and strength will eventually mean that I use this prop less and less.

So, that’s where I am! Things are generally going ‘fine’.

One Step Forward

I’ve never felt more strongly that the old saying ‘one step forward, two steps back’ could apply more adeptly to my situation. From a post of near elation the other day, where I’d finally made tentative running steps on my trusty old treadmill after six weeks of inactivity, I struggled to walk any real distance the following day without that familiar searing pain in my left hip. It stops me dead, that’s how sore it is. I’ve been caught within sight of the car and unable to move any further towards it without several rests and tears streaming down my face. It’s no joke.

But today, after a few days of rest and recuperation, I feel well enough to give another short run a try. I’m nothing if not determined; I will get back on track. I’m actually thinking of a two mile trail run with my faithful running partner, Murphy Dog, and, if I can persuade him, my hubbie. Having hubbie there will restrict my speed and stop me from doing anything silly.

Last year I ran 473 miles. I had wanted to round that up to 500 by Hogmanay, but it wasn’t to be. 473 was my total and I’m proud of that. I’ve run further in a year and trained for less races, but it’s not the quantity that’s important anymore, it’s the quality.

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2014 was a strange running year for me. I started the year with Plantar Fasciitis, which took an age to heal, and then picked up various injuries as I trained for three half marathons. I’d planned on a few more shorter races, but injuries and illnesses got in the way and I managed only a 5k and a 10k at either end of the season. I learned to listen to my body and opt out of races, missing two 10ks in mid-season. It took me a couple of frightening asthma attacks to start listening, but I got there. I finished the year with Bursitis on the hip, taking me into 2015 with a wince and a limp.

I’ve no idea what 2015 has in store for me, it’s probably better that I don’t know. I have decided to scale things down a bit though and just aim for one half marathon in October and concentrate more on improving my speed over shorter distances. I’ll be looking at more 5k and 10k races and I’m looking at some trail races too. Maybe I just overdid things last year and I’m paying the price now. I do vow to enjoy running in 2015, it’s the only resolution I’m making. Running with a smile has to be better than running with a grimace!

Jedburgh Festival of Running 10k

imageI’m sitting writing this sitting in the cosy comfort of our new old caravan, perched on a hillside in Jedburgh. Outside it’s howling a gale, as it has all day, but inside it’s just lovely. Jedburgh has lived up to its reputation of being a hilly, blowy place. We’re currently experiencing wind speeds of over 60mph. Today’s race was no exception; hills and wind, that’s the Jedburgh we all know and love!

We decided to make a weekend of it, primarily to test out our eBay bargain caravan, but also to make things more relaxed for me, as I’ve been suffering from a bit of anxiety lately. I worked yesterday and we drove up after I’d finished, arriving at the farm where our Certified Location site is after dark. However, we got settled quickly and made good use of the extra hour daylight saving gave us as we put the clocks back last night.

Being within a few miles of the town, this morning was a relaxed affair – in total contrast to our normal race morning experience. We rose naturally, reasonably early, had breakfast and headed into town at 9, knowing that the car parks soon filled up. Instead of having to hunt for a space, we drove straight into an almost empty car park, collected my race pack, went for a walk and had a coffee. The race wasn’t due to start until 11 and at ten to I wandered up to the start. I felt more relaxed for a race start than I ever have. There weren’t even any queues for the toilets. Total bliss.

The only fly in the ointment was the weather. I checked it last night on my phone and could only describe the symbol I saw as “squally”. It was just a few squiggly lines. I know now what it stood for…windy as ****.

Fortunately, as we started off the wind was mostly on our backs, but we all know what that means on a thee and back run! We ran up through the town centre to the sound of bagpipes and off through the town to greet the first hill, the first of many.

I had my walk:run ratio set to 4:1 which was fine to begin with. Once I’d got to the top of the first few hills I decided to up the ratio to 4:30s. I felt strong and I was running really well. I ignored people around me and ran my own race. Imagine my delight to see 5k appear in a personal best time on road of 29:10! I’ve struggled to get under 30 minutes for ages and here I was subbing that elusive time on the hilly start of a 10k race. The game was afoot!

Up until this point the wind hadn’t really played a part in the run, although I rarely notice it blowing me along! However, as we turned onto the Kelso road you could feel it hitting you sideways on, pushing against you. I knew that I needed to get some benefit of this because within a mile I would be turning straight into the wind. Sure enough, at the 10k turnaround, and in the words of ancient mariners, “Tha’ she blows!” The wind, gusting at around 60 mph, would just about stop us in our tracks. I tried tucking in behind someone, hoping to benefit from some shelter and save my legs a bit. I’m not sure if they enjoyed hearing asthmatic wheezing for half a mile, but I wasn’t overtaking!

I’d reduced my walk run ratio again at the turn, knowing that I would need that extra 30 second recovery and this tactic worked well. I must admit that having my phone on my arm helped me to easily adjust my ratios. I stuck to the ratios reasonably well, although as gusts hit me it was hard to keep going, especially uphill. Once I reached the last long hill, I knew I’d conquered the hills of Jedburgh.

I’d thought that I could use the subsequent downhills to gain back some time, but that wind was still there, blowing on me and holding me back. Usually I would hurtle down that hill, instead all I could do was run my fastest through jelly! I did make some time back and looked like being close to my course record and knocking 4 minutes off last year’s time.

Once I reached the flat I was tiring, but ran through walk breaks in an effort to get close to that elusive sub 60 minute time! I could have done with hubbie by my side at that point, saying little, but spurring me on with his presence. I’ll maybe suggest him brining his bike next year and meeting me on the flat. It’s at that point that I start to lose confidence and I know that he would help me keep it.

As it was I ran past him at the finish, shouted him twice as I passed by, only to see him gazing into the distance and completely miss me! Doh! Then came a dilemma; in front of me, at the finish area, were two mats, separated by about 10m. One of them was the finish, but which one? I ran over the first one and stopped my Garmin and slowed down for the next one. Like many others I had no idea which was the actual finish – a big mistake by the organisers, especially as my hubbie explained that the reason he hadn’t seen me was because he was watching a guy on the other side of the finishing straight shouting to runners that the first mat was the finish, when in actual fact it was the second. I’m sure I will not have been the only person caught out by that!

Having collected my medal, what a medal too, a banana, Lidl Mars Bar and water, I called my hubbie to ask if he was at all interested in seeing his wife finish! He couldn’t believe that I’d run past him.

My Garmin time was 64:49 and I’m taking that as my time. My chip time was 65:14, caused no doubt by the difference between the two mats. I ran my hardest between the start and mat number one and ran 6.17 miles. 64:49 will do nicely, thanks.

Of course, having run a good race, my thoughts immediately turned to ‘what next?’ Rather than having to think about bettering a poor performance, I was thinking that if I could run a sub 30 minute 5k, largely uphill on a windy day – what can I do on a calmer day over a flatter course; what am I capable of exactly? I feel as if I’m in better shape now than I have been for a couple of years. I’m still overweight and, if I lost a stone (which I could easily afford), I’d be a faster runner altogether, but I’m a UK size 12, happy to be so, and I don’t have the desire to lose more weight. I’ll do what I can with what I’ve got and continue to enjoy my wine, Guinness and curry, thank you very much!

I sent off my entry to the Great Winter Run 5k in January and booked the caravan into the local campsite. Last year I managed 31 minutes, so close! This year, who knows. Between then and now maybe I’ll see a 5k or 10k I fancy, although with the season of goodwill fast approaching getting time off to do one will be difficult.

We’ll see!

Picking up the 10k baton

My feet have barely touched the ground and I’m already running headlong towards my next race, the 10k at Jedburgh Running Festival. The running festival takes place over the last weekend in October and now boasts a 10k,  half-marathon, an ultra-marathon and a canicross event! I’ve done the 10k for the last few years, amassing a colourful collection of t-shirts as a result!

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After my GCR half the other week I was feeling elated, but tired. It’s been a training-heavy summer. Last Monday I was meant to do an 8 mile run, but I was past caring and managed a reluctant three and a half miles on the treadmill. In fact, since the GCR I’ve only run nine miles and most of those indoors. So this week, with just a few days to go, I thought I should shake the dust off my trainers and do something purposeful!

If I’m totally honest, I’m not worried about my lack of miles at this point. I’ve trained and trained and trained all summer, with no let up. If I’m not able to run a mere six miles at the drop of a hat there must be something wrong! I’ve reinstalled LoLo’s iPhone app ‘Easy 10k with Jeff Galloway’ and set it for the ‘improve 10k’ training, for what that’s worth in the week before the event! I was set for a 5k race rehearsal today and, having wasted most of my day updating other blogs and watching junk TV, I decided to do it on the treadmill – surprise, surprise. I promise that I will do some trail running this week to make up for my slovenly treadmillness of late!

I ran a five minute warm up, followed by the 5k at race speed. I was really looking forward to seeing how fast my 5k was, not having bothered to clock it as I ran, but I was really disappointed to see that the app didn’t log it. It logs Magic Miles, storing them in the ‘History’ tab, but seemingly not anything else. I’ve been trying to work it; the run was 40:04 mins long, subtract 6 minutes for walking at the start and the end leaves 34 minutes, subtract a further 5 minutes for the warm up run and my 5k should be 29:04 minutes (approximately). That’ll have to do, I suppose. As a treadmill 5k that’s fine. I’m a bit peeved that the app didn’t do this though and, if I’d known, I’d have timed it myself.

I have two runs left before the race on Sunday, a 6.1km run made up of 1 mile easy, 2 miles at 10k pace and a 5 minutes warm down run and a 3.4km run made up of a 5 minute warm up and 4 x 400m intervals. My app is predicting a 63 minute 10k. I have managed this hilly course in 64 minutes, so with a bit of determination I’d like to be able to say this is perfectly possible. Last year I struggled with a foot injury to do it in 68 minutes and was just glad to get round, so this year, feeling fairly strong, I’d like to do it far faster.

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Ode to the Hills of Jedburgh. And there are many.

Those of you who often read my reports will know how much I adore running uphill. How that when I am racing and I see a hill I shout for joy and put my little head down and run my ass off enjoying every footfall.

You will also have gleaned that my humour is both sarcastic and dry.

Having run this course twice already I knew what to expect. If I’m honest my knowledge meant that I was wary this time. I knew that my calves were going to be under tremendous strain and that was the worst possible thing for my plantar fasciitis. If my calves tightened, my Achilles would soon follow and then my plantar fascia would too – it was a line of dominoes waiting to fall. I had no idea how to run this race so that I could finish it in the least amount of pain.

Even on the way I was playing with different scenarios. Should I run:walk the distance or just run it and walk when I had to? Should I run really slowly and just try to run without any walk breaks? It was a dilemma and one which wasn’t being helped by the weather – it was wild; wet and windy. I knew that once I’d turned at 4 miles I was going to be running uphill and into the wind. It’s always very windy on the A68 road and it’s a long steady climb into the wind.

In the end I decided to play it by ear. I would set my Jeff Galloway app to “just run” at a 10 min/mile pace, with the GPS switched on and walk as and when I wanted. No one would be telling when to walk and I could assess my fitness/pain and run accordingly.

We arrived slightly later than usual, not helped by following a string of traffic seemingly unable to overtake a cyclist on the way into town. The usual car parks were packed solid so we had no choice but to find a road side gap. This took some doing and we eventually parked on the hill going up to the gaol. I hoped that my handbrake was good. We walked down to the town hall and I collected my number, chip and T-shirt. Unfortunately the number didn’t have holes in it, so I couldn’t use my Event Clips – they just wouldn’t break the paper to form a good hold. I resorted to using the safety pins that the organisers always so thoughtfully provide.

Next stop was the loo.

We met friends, George and Linda, as I left the toilets (great municipal loos, by the way – warm, plenty of toilets and hot water!) George was running the 10k too, faster than me though. George is extremely encouraging and after one holiday George and Linda bought me back a headband to match the one he always wears in races. Together we are now ‘Team Headband’, although my text to Linda last night said that going by the weather we should rename the team “Team Wet and Wild’!

With ten minutes to go I wandered down to line up near to the back. I hadn’t had chance to warm up properly so I did some dynamic stretches and decided to start off slowly. When the gun went off we had a walk up to the line before we could start running. We ran up past supporters and the abbey, round into the town square where the pipers were playing something suitably Scottish and stirring, whatever that might have been. It was nice, whatever it was.

Running on cobbles isn’t ideal, but it sounds great when hundreds of others are also running on them!

The first surprise was that they had added an extra hill. Obviously 5 miles of going mainly up hill wasn’t enough. No. The organisers decided that we should have an extra one at the start. Excellent! My strategy of walking up the steepest parts of each hill was immediately put to the test! The rest of the hills came thick and fast. I was maintaining a great pace, despite walking the hills in an effort to spare my calf muscles.

Mile 1 came in at 10:23.

I was running as much as I could, trying to bring my overall pace down. When I walked up the hills I was usually overtaken by the same people I passed on the flat or the way downhill.

Mile 2 came in at 20:27.

I was slightly envious of the folk who were trudging up the hills, not stopping to walk, but running a slower pace than me on the way down. I was having to work hard on the flat to make up the ground that I was walking up. However, I was delighted to see my third mile pass by in a very respectable time.

Mile 3 came in at 30:41.

At the turn for 10k runners (the half marathoners carried on at this point) I caught sight of number 1003, my Daily Mile friend Helen, who I’ve never met before. I shouted a greeting across and was relieved to see that she wasn’t far ahead of me. I like to gauge my progress against folk who are my contemporaries and Helen runs at a similar pace to me. Despite everything I was running quite well.

This is when my race became a race of two halves and it was nothing to do with my PF, which was actually pretty good thanks to the ibuprofen, the bandaging and the insoles! The wind became my enemy which when coupled with a long slow hill pretty much zapped my strength. My fourth and fifth miles were very slow in comparison to the first three, both being 11:44. This slowed my pace right down and I knew that I would struggle to recoup the loss.

Having battled up a mile long hill against the wind when I reached the top I was expecting to simply hurtle down. What greeted me was a blast of air that took my breath away, literally. I started to gasp and realised that I was about to have another asthma attack! Hubbie had suggested that I took my inhaler with me after my last race and I was grateful for his insight as I stopped to take a few puffs. These enabled me to pick up my pace a little and use the downhill how downhills should be used!

The last mile is pretty much on the flat. It’s a lovely run back into the town, through the autumn leaves. I was tired by then though and running much slower that I can run. I was walking far more often than I wanted. I needed someone, at that point, to run with. Just someone to spur me on.

I crossed the line (I think, because there were two mats) at 67:59* (Garmin time) which is my slowest 10k time in a long, long time. I’m OK with my time though because at the finish I was not limping. My calf went into a spasm once I’d stopped walking, but I wasn’t in pain like I was after my last race. I was given my medal Olympic style, which was lovely!

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My bling!

Helen found me at the finish and we hugged a hello and exchanged race stories. She had done well to finish a couple of minutes ahead of me – it’s not an easy race.

My white trainers are no longer 'white'!
My white trainers are no longer ‘white’!

After collecting my banana, Lidl Mars Bar, a bottle of water and Caribbean Lucozade hubbie and I walked up to the leisure centre where I got a well deserved shower before we walked to meet George and Linda for lunch in one of the local cafés. After lunch I was limping quite a bit, but a couple of ibuprofens later I was fine(ish). I’m now happily relaxing at home with a cuppa, a cosy fire and the thought of cheese on toast on the horizon.

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A lovely new T-shirt to wear when I’m not running just to prove that I do!

Next year? Yes, I’ll be there. I like this race. It’s tough and testing, but it’s good to pit yourself against Mother Nature’s hills and weather now and again.

My foot is OK. I have been sitting with it up for a while now and I’m about use the Shiatsu foot massager to loosen things off and release some toxins before icing it. Fingers crossed that this together with my nightly dorsal splint will mean that tomorrow morning is fairly pain-free!

My next planned race isn’t until January now. Maybe that’s a good thing. Some treadmill and trail running will help to build up speed and strength before then without causing further damage to my foot (now that British Summer Time has ended and the clocks have gone back outdoor evening running here is a no-no on the roads, unless I want to die an early and painful death under the wheels of a car/truck/tractor).

 

Back to the Start

Having not run since my half marathon over a week and a half ago I last night decided to test out my increasingly less injured foot.

My “good idea” was to run through the woods with the dog, just a couple of miles on the fairly soft ground to get my foot working again, but the weather decided to mess that “good idea” up by raining heavily all afternoon.

So, much to my wee hound’s disappointment, I opted for a cushy treadmill run instead.

I ran 5k using 4 minute run intervals alternated with 1 minute recovery walks in 33:50; a nice easy paced run, with me determined not to push any harder than steady.

After running I got my shower and sat wearing my dorsal splint with an icepack wedged between my foot and the splint “shoe” until my foot started to go numb. I’ve been wearing the splint each night since Friday last and it is helping, despite being the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever had to wear in bed! I can’t get the straps quite right; either they’re too tight or too loose. However, even on the loosest setting the splint is still keeping my foot upright and slightly pulled forward, stretching the plantar fascia.

And today? Well I feel fine. No aches, pains or anything untoward. I’m not counting any chickens and will continue to tread on egg shells (OK, I’ve finished with the hen analogies) but I think it’s maybe time to crack on (oops) with my training.

One thing I haven’t made much use of and should have done, is my foam roller. My massage on Monday highlighted the tightness of my calves, which is probably the main reason why I’ve had plantar fasciitis, and use of the roller should help with this. I’ll start tonight. Promise!

So what of Jedburgh 10k at the end of the month? Well, I’m still undecided about that. It’s a great event for camaraderie, but it’s not an easy route consisting of most of Scotland’s hills. I’m not sure if my foot will be healed enough by then so I think it’s going to be a Saturday night decision.

If you find me in the pub with a pint of Guinness you’ll know what my decision was!

9 miles, in the bag!

Yesterday was a bit of disaster, planning wise. Today was the day to run, that was plain to see. And when I got up this morning and saw the sunshine, I knew I’d made the right decision in delaying my long run. The weather was so much cooler today, so much more settled – ideal for a run.

Of course I was well organized because I’d already organised everything yesterday! The Camelbak was juiced up, my Garmin was charged up and my kit was laid out (well, to be fair, it was lying in a heap next to my bed, but at least it was there!) I only had to throw everything on and head out. And that was what I did.

As I stepped out the back door it started to rain, but it was just big spots that weren’t going to come to much, and I was determined come hell or high water to run today. By the time I’d reached the main road it was dry again. The extra half a mile, it turned out, was just my warm up/cool down walks, so I had exactly 9 miles to do. My pace was being prescribed at 11 minute miles making it a steady run for endurance rather than speed. It was breezy so I decided on the shore road. It’s fairly level, but running against the wind can be a really good workout. I decided to leave my hills for a shorter run day.

The going was quite easy, even in the first mile. I was running 4 minutes at 10 minute mile pace and walking for a minute. It felt comfortable. My feet were also feeling the comfort of my Skecher Go Runs and this was going to be my longest run ever in minimal trainers. Do or die.

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My fan club!

Every now and again I ran through a pleasant shower, nature’s sprinkler system, so when I started to feel drips on my calves I didn’t really take any notice until, that is, the drips turned into pouring liquid.

Now I have to stop and assure you that, even at the grand old age of 48 (yes alright – almost 49) I have yet to make use of Tena Lady and have excellent bladder control. This was not “lady leakage” but something far more serious.

I stopped and took my backpack off only to find that the drink tube had become detached from bladder and I was losing valuable isotonic juice all over my back, leggings, legs, road. I hastily took the whole thing apart, trying to preserve as much liquid as possible, I was already 3 miles from home, and also rescue my phone that I was carrying in my backpack! Once I’d gathered everything together I’d managed to hang on to less than half my juice. It would just have to do.

Whilst I was rescuing my phone and as I was running so well I decided to tweek my settings on the Jeff Galloway Half Marathon training app so that I was running more and walking less. I set it so that I was running for four and a half minutes and walking for thirty seconds. In reality it felt like I was hardly walking which was actually quite reassuring. I’ve never run over six miles without using walk breaks of a minute, so reducing them by half was quite a step and I believe that I could, if I wanted, complete a half marathon without walking at all. If I wanted.

The benefit of talking regular walk breaks shows itself in my lack of injury as I have increased my mileage. I might ache a bit, but I don’t suffer from the same sort of injuries that I read other runners suffer from.

I completed my nine miles as the sun started to get hotter in 1:39 with fairly consistent 11 minute miles throughout. Next up is a cadence, interval and acceleration work out. I’ll give it a day and do this on Thursday, giving me Friday to recover, Saturday to run again before another long run on Monday.