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.”

 

New Kicks for a New Day

My last post was a bit down. I don’t apologise for that; it’s a reality that life dishes out downers and we need to deal with these and carry on. So I’m carrying on.

Yesterday I crossed the border, left Scotland and went to Carlisle in England’s county of Cumbria. Carlisle is just under 30 miles away, quite close by our standards, and a much larger place than our local town of Dumfries. I hadn’t intended to go to a running shop, but my chores led me in that direction. Honest they did!

I ended up gazing longingly at nice new trainers in Chivers Sports. I tried on about half a dozen different pairs, mostly Asics and Brooks – the two trainers I’ve bought in the past, and ran up and down the shop under the watchful eye of one of the salesman. He knew his stuff! I explained that I had been told that I was a neutral runner, but that I’d had Plantar Fasciitis and had the start of bunions on each big toe (requiring a wider fit). He wasn’t put off by my peculiar running style (flicking my twisted right leg so that I landed well) but noticed that my left foot rolled in slightly. I needed some support, but not the excessive support of the Asics I’d worn previous to owning my Brooks Ghost 5s.

Choices, choices.
Choices, choices.

In the end we were choosing between the Ghost 6 and the Defyance 7. I noticed that the Ghost  dipped away at the left big toe, making me want to roll more in that direction, but the Defyance had me landing square. It was a no-brainer: I choose the Defyance.

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Brooks state that the Defyance has…

..that same amazing balance of the GTS…smoothly infused in the Neutral construction of this hybrid ride. From the reliable transition of the segmented crash pad to the adaptability of anatomical Brooks DNA and the adjustable eye row, this versatile shoe wins the all-around award every run.

After choosing, my salesman disappeared with my kicks for quite some time. It transpired that they keep records of every shoe sale to every customer and note down any issues that the customer has. My poor salesman had an essay to write! I eventually left with new shoes, at a discounted price and a discount card for future purchases.

So far as my running is concerned, well I’m almost ready to restart my half marathon training. I’ve been treading water a bit since Christmas, not wanting to put any undue strain on my left foot and re-spark my PF. I’ve done mostly short trail runs (up to 3 miles) and treadmill running. I’m enjoying trail running again, as is my dog!

Murphy in sniff-mode.
Murphy in sniff-mode.
The trail is great at this end! Wish it was all like this!!
The trail is great at this end! Wish it was all like this!!

The excessive rain we’ve been ‘enjoying’ has made parts of this route very, very muddy, but it doesn’t bother me other than obviously slowing me down! My old Nike Alvords are looking really manky these days, but they dust off when the mud dries and they are still  comfortable. I’ve even started leaving my Garmin at home and not timing my running. It’s quite liberating really!

My half training starts next week, so I’ll have to dust off my Jeff Galloway training app. I’ve set it for 11 minute mile pace, which I know I can more than handle, and will adjust the walk:run intervals as I feel fit. I’m feeling really positive about things just now so let’s just hope that I can stay injury free!

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).

 

The Other Half

That’s it – 13 miles done. Well actually that’s 22.69 km done, which is, according to my conversion app, 14.1 miles. Yaay, go me. That’ll be why it seemed to take so long!

My foot is officially killing me. I really struggled through that last session, still running for 7 minutes and taking 40 second walk breaks. It meant that although I was running for longer I could run a little slower. I still maintained 10:36 pace, which is faster than my best half marathon pace by far.

I will now rest up. I’ve stretched, dinner is cooking and I hear a bath calling my name. A wine bottle also seems to be trying to attract my attention, so I must see what it wants!

Slow Running

I would have liked for this post to have had a different title. Maybe ‘Faster Running’ would have been good or ‘Really Fast Running’ might have been nice or I would have settled for ‘Better Than Last Week’. However none of these are true. I seem to be getting slower rather than faster. My little legs (and they do seem to be getting smaller, soon I’ll be running on my backside) are feeling very heavy and every step I take is laboured. I do wish I could get out of these physical doldrums.

I’m still following the 10k training programme in an effort to reduce my 10k race time, but I think I’m wasting my time. The last couple of weeks have seen me struggle to fit in both short runs, leaving me relying on improving my pace based on one long run and one short one. It ain’t happening folks! The long runs at the moment consist of a 10 minute warm up run, followed by between 40 and 60 minutes faster run and finishing with a 10 minute cool down run. Today I did 45 minutes for my long run which, with my 20 minutes of slow running, was meant to allow me to cover 6.75 miles. I didn’t even cover 6. On all of my training plans prior to this I’ve been bang on or ahead of time on the app, this time I’m struggling to keep pace and if I can’t do that I will be struggling to hit pace on my next race.

I could just say that this isn’t important, that I did 6 miles today and that’s 6 mile banked. I know that is exactly what I would say to a friend in my position. I know it because I say it all the time. Words come easy. I wish that running came as easy, but it doesn’t and I have to work bloody hard to achieve what I do. I just don’t feel like I’m working hard enough at the moment and I’m disappointed with myself for setting a target and falling short of it because of the easy excuses I’m making. I need to shape up and get this under control.

Firstly I need to be honest with myself. In my head I’m a sub 10 minute miler over 10k, but my legs and lungs are saying otherwise. On a good day I can do 10k in 62 minutes. That makes me a just over 10:00 minute miler. I think I need to change the settings on my app and start enjoying some success, instead of constantly beating myself up when I don’t finish as fast as I would like!

Success concept.

Tomorrow is the last day of school and after that my semi silent coach is whisking me away to northern climes for some R&R, which in my case will hopefully stand for Running & Relaxation. With the prospect of a nearby harbour for hubbie to stare at to keep him occupied, gazing longingly at boats he hasn’t a hope in hell of ever owning, I will be free to get my running back on track. That’s the plan.

On another note I’ve been looking longingly at charity places for the Great North Run and have to keep reminding myself that I’m not running for charity this year. It’s not fair on my lovely friends, asking them to keep digging deep just to satisfy my urge to run 13.1 miles between Newcastle and the coast. I am backing away from the magazines and websites…

I’m hoping that next time I write, which will be whilst I’m on holiday, I will be writing in a more positive frame of mind, extolling the virtues of running either a) whilst on holiday b) on the beach c) with more realistic aims in mind or d) naked (apparently there is a nearby nudist colony, so who knows!)

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Hot and Sticky

A few years back an acquaintance, who plays in a popular local band, gave us a CD of their latest album. One of the songs, entitled ‘Sticky Vicky’, was about a stripper who owns a nightclub in Benidorm, Spain which they used to play at during the summer season. After having just finished a 6 miler in 19ºC heat and 80% humidity, I know exactly how she felt. Ewwww.

I Googled 'hot stripper' and this what I got!
I Googled ‘hot stripper’ and this what I got!

I’m following my pal Jeff Galloway’s 10k app again. Not the improver plan, just the get it finished plan – well he calls it something else, but that’s basically what it is. Get it done. I’ve got it set to 10 min/mile pace (ha ha) and 4:1 run:walk ratios. Today was a 10 minute “jog” or warm up run, followed by 20 minutes of race pace running and a 10 minute “jog” or warm down run, or thereabouts. The route was going to be about 6 miles so I chose my favourite loop that takes me up away from the village, climbing steadily for a mile and a half before working up and down a series of small hills and then steady running pretty much to home, although there are a few gentle hills to test tired legs towards the end.

The hills weren’t really so much of an issue as the heat and humidity. It’s a lovely day for a walk, but a bit too muggy for running and I always find getting my breathing sorted out difficult on a muggy day. I took a couple of puffs on my inhaler before heading out, but it took a couple of miles not to still be fighting with it.

In fact that thought popped into my head as I headed out. I always find the start of any run a bit of a battle, as if my body is resisting it in every way and I have to rise above the battle in order to finish. As an asthmatic, the initial half a mile is scary. Within a few minutes you feel your chest tighten and you start to pant rather than breathe. It’s painful and your instinct is to stop and take a few minutes, but in reality you are better to slow your pace and concentrate on running. Eventually your breathing regulates and you’ve come through it. I often find trail running more intensely scary in this respect; it’s perhaps because my trail runs tend to be shorter and faster. I have to believe that I am not about to die.

Anyway, back to today’s run. I ran the first 10 minutes steadily, hitting the walk breaks on time and wasn’t tempted to stop any sooner, despite my initial breathing difficulties. The faster section came in as I rounded the first hill, which was great – the terrain is better for faster running with a combination of flats, uphills and downhills. It’s not fast, but it is testing and I think that’s a better indicator of how well I’m running than maybe heading down a flat road. I would rather put the work in on the training and hopefully reap the benefits in races. That’s the theory anyway!

The fatigue didn’t really set in until between miles 3 and 4 when the sun came out. Until then the sky had been cloudy and I’d taken my hat off to get a bit of wind in my hair and cool me down. When the sun appeared I had to replace my hat and get a bit of shelter, especially as my forehead caught the sun yesterday. I was drinking water from my Camelbak and hadn’t taken anything else. I figured that a good breakfast on top of all the carbs I had yesterday were fuel enough and water would do. The Camelbak allows me to sip small amounts, which is probably for the best. I’m sitting here now drinking pints of water and I’ll soon be as big as a barage balloon; I couldn’t do that on a run!

I ran on, not even looking at my watch – I had no idea what pace I was running. I just decided that I was running 6 miles and if I did that in an hour and a half I couldn’t care less! It was hot and sticky and I was trying to run 4 miles at 10 minute mile pace. At one point I thought it was raining, but in truth the sweat from my pony tail was getting flicked about and was landing on my hands, feeling like rain.

I was overpace by a long way. I realised this when Jeff started to do a count down when I still had a mile to do. It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve been behind pace, usually I’m ahead of it. This is the difference between me running at 10k pace and running at 13.1 mile pace! I am not a fast runner!

Mile 1 was completed in 10:55 – that’s my warm up pace supposedly.

Mile 2 was the start of race pace and was finished in 10:25.

Mile 3 : 10:38

Mile 4: I was starting to suffer – 11:08, it shows!

Mile 5: 11:36 I was, by now, on the slow down run.

I ran out of Jeffness by this point and was just running on my own at a slow pace just to clock up the miles.

Mile 5:93 : 11:26 Just glad to finish and walk home!

Overall I did 5:93 miles in a respectable 67 minutes. I’m OK with that because it was warm and it’s actually taken me until now to stop perspiring! Writing my blog before my shower means that I’ve cooled down enough to take it when I’m done!

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On another note, I started core exercises again, but I’m having to stop them. Within a couple of days my neck has started to show signs of strain and I think there is more to it than just bad posture. This last time I was very aware of my posture, but the pain this weekend has been quite bad. I even ended up at the Chinese health shop for a quick 10 minute neck and shoulder loosen massage on Saturday morning and spent Saturday night lying on a massage cushion. One of my vertebrae is so sore now I can hardly touch it! I’m putting ibuprofen gel on that and I’m researching core exercises for people with neck injuries as a way round the problem. I won’t let this stop me, so I need an alternative path. Googling core exercise for neck injury spouts up many links – I just need to work my round through them.

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Starting Again!

Last post I was talking almost enthusiastically about Garmin’s training plans. However, on a closer look the plans just ain’t gonna do. This is mostly because the plans are time, rather than mileage, based. Round here you can’t just nip up the next avenue to add a bit of time on because there aren’t any avenues. You need to plan a route according to the mileage you want to cover. There aren’t any cut through roads. The only other alternative is to run out, get so far and turn round half way, which I don’t like doing. So I’m sticking to Jeff Galloway and his plans for 5k, 10k and half marathon.

I also wondered about knocking my walk breaks out (which Jeff’s plans also cater for) and just running, but after re-reading a few of my early blog posts I’ve realised that there was a reason why I started running with regular breaks and also that with them I’ve achieved so much, without any real injury. So I’m sticking with Jeff Galloway lock, stock and barrel.

I spent Sunday planning out runs, noting the long run lengths in my diary so I knew what to expect. I set out this evening to do 7 miles. It had been cooler and cloudier today, so I was looking forward to a nice, pleasant run. I had even remembered to put Vaseline on my bra-line – how good is that?

Needless to say the sun burnt through the clouds at 0.5 miles and raised the temperatures as I ran from 63ºF up to nearer 70ºF. The sweat, as we say round here, was pishing off me! I ran a steady mile as a warm up and then 5 at race pace, before finishing with another steady mile. Had the weather been a little kinder I might have been looking at an easier 5 miles, but, in the circumstances, what I did was fine. My 10k came in just over my usual pace and that was taking the steady mile into account. I can’t complain at that.

My IPhone died at mile 6, but I wasn’t all that worried and just cruised the last mile home running at any pace I liked, which involved sprinting back into the finish. One day I’ll see the village sign and NOT think that it’s the finish line for the Olympic final of the 10,000m. Until then I will sprint.

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I’m not due to run until Wednesday now, but I am determined to make use of the rest days by doing some gym work. I know that I should do this, but I’m useless at getting motivated and maintaining the motivation. It might sound silly, but I’m thinking of putting tasks in my diary to prompt me to get my backside off the coach on my in-between days. I’ve lots of excuses why this hasn’t happened, which I won’t bore you with, but I’ve no excuse now.

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