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’.

5 Miles of Dragging the Dog (this is not a euphemism)

It was meant to be a blissfully easy five miler, the last long run before next Sunday’s Fleetwood Half Marathon.

I decided to try Murphy, my seven year old Jack Russell Terrier, out on a longer run and on the road. The route I’d chosen was my favourite four and a bit mile loop, mostly on quite single track roads infrequently used by farm traffic and I was preparing to add a little bit on by heading down the track to the castle which is tarmaced. Murphy is used to runs of around three to four miles, but mostly off road and off the lead. Today I’d fashioned a makeshift waist harness so that I didn’t need to hold the lead. I must admit that bit worked incredibly well.

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Murphy is a ‘bit of a dog’, by which I mean he likes to stop frequently and squirt on things, if you get my drift. This isn’t behaviour I attach to bitches, mainly just dogs; an incessant need to mark a route or a boundary or a territory, just in case we get lost between here and there, no matter how far apart ‘Here’ and ‘There’ actually are! This causes all sorts of issues when I run with him on a lead, so I was prepared for frequent full astern stops.

In actuality he did very well and I only felt as if I was dragging him away from places he simply HAD to squirt a few times. The looks I got were incredulous! I tried to use the language I’d heard on the Canicross videos (events where runners run with their dogs) I’d seen: “GO” “LEFT” “RIGHT” “HUP” and the generally encouraging “GOOD BOY”. I realised that this is exactly what I need at times. He was starting to listen but once he tucked in behind me there seemed little point in saying anything other than “good boy”. He was just following me at that point.

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We ran two minutes to one minute walk – something nice and easy on a reasonably warm and humid morning. I wasn’t sure how well Murphy would cope with anything else. However we ran these at a faster pace than I have been running longer runs. I was surprised when I heard Jeff Galloway announce the remaining miles and each time we were well ahead of suggested pace. It felt good and I wasn’t going to purposefully slow down just to suit the app.

At first Murphy ran in front, stretching the lead to its full extent, but after a mile he was heading into unknown territory and started to hang back a bit. The other concern was that between miles one and two the local council have put a temporary road surface on which consists of a wet layer of tar and then loose chippings thrown on the top. The theory is that passing vehicles will bed the loose chippings down and, after a few weeks, they return to sweep up the remaining loose bits. It’s a cheap fix to local road problems. I don’t mind running on this surface, but I could see that it could cause problems for Murphy’s little paws. This is when he started to hang back and by the end of mile two he was running at my heels. I stopped and checked his paws and they were fine. It might have been a coincidence, but I could feel him slowing down when we hit the change in road surface.

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However when we got on to mile 3 and a proper tarmac surface he was still running behind me. Maybe he was tiring or maybe he just wasn’t sure where we were. He’s not the most confident of dogs in unknown circumstances. He’s what’s known around here as a “fearty” i.e. someone who is afraid of everything. He balks at road signs, animals in fields, traffic, the big stones people round here use to demarcate their farmyard entrances – pretty much anything that doesn’t look like grass.

I was worried that he was tiring and I was prepared to stop and carry him, if I had to! He’s good company and I’d love to do more road work with him. At the moment we’re pretty much confined to doing off road running and locally that is restricted to a three mile maximum unless I get inventive with loops.

We ran well. I didn’t mind Murphy running on my heel. He does that a lot when we’re off road. I’m not sure how acceptable that would be in official Canicross events. I would imagine that the dog should be in front so that you can see them. The only problem came as we ran along the castle road and a Collie, notorious for barking at passers-by, started barking at Murphy. He reacted by shooting off, pulling the lead taut and then circling me at speed! I felt as if I was being orbited! That aside Murphy did incredibly well.

One tired pooch!
One tired pooch!
Rewards!
Rewards!

He’s totally exhausted now and has found a quiet space in the spare room to recover. He is, however, also lying in wait for the postman who is due anytime. On hearing the letters through the door Murphy will spring into life again, of that I have no doubt!

We ran 5 miles in 58:49. I’m really chuffed with that. It was meant to be a 13 min/mile paced run but I ran it as I felt happy and actually ended up with an easy feeling sub 12 min/mile pace. I’m hoping that this means I have plenty of endurance in reserve for Sunday coming!

Muted Celebrations
On Saturday gone we celebrated my 50th birthday, along with my Dad’s 75th, my Mom’s 70th and my husband’s 50th from last September! My birthday isn’t until Thursday, but this was a chance to get family and friends together before the school term started. I was actually a bit disappointed. People keep asking me how it went and in truth I felt let down by people I considered friends. I will continue to be polite and say “fine” when asked how it went, but here I’m having some internet therapy, safe in the knowledge that very few of my friends actually read my blog!

Don’t people RSVP any more? We were left wondering right up to the last minute in some cases how many of the 100+ people we’d invited were coming. More than half didn’t bother to even get in touch one way or another and very few got in touch beyond a week before the event. And then we had so many last minute cancellations it made me wonder if it was worth going ahead! We had estimated (for the caterers) that around sixty would turn up. In the end we had about forty odd turn up, trying to fill a room designed for over a hundred. At least those who did come had plenty of food and the dance floor had plenty of room on it. All I can say, without swearing, is never again! And thank you to the friends who did come, some from a long way away. It meant a lot to us all.

So on Thursday I’m planning a nice romantic meal in a lovely restaurant with the man I love. After that it will be ‘Welcome to running in your 50’s’! I’m looking forward to doing exactly that!

Week 1: It all starts here

Here I am, fresh after my first long run of my training for the Edinburgh EMF Half. Fresh indeed – I think I need that shower now!

Who would hate running here?
Who would hate running here?

I couldn’t believe my luck this morning, after what seems like weeks of rain, flooding, locusts and boils (OK, so I lied about the locusts) today dawned frosty, clear, calm and bright. Perfect running weather. I was down for just 3 miles, hardly a long run, but embraced the fact that 3 miles is exactly what I can get out of the paths through the local woods and my dog, Murphy, would love that! Once I’d managed to harness his excitedness we set off for an easy run.

My Garmin was a bit low on battery, but I had remembered to put my heart rate monitor on (wonders will never cease!) I turned on the GPS on my phone and set Jeff Galloway/LoLo’s Half Marathon training app to run (it’s really worth the £10 odd, honestly). I’d had issues with hooking up to GPS on these apps before, maybe because of the thickness of the case I use to carry the phone, so wearing my Garmin was a back up plan. What I didn’t realise was that as this was a new phone I hadn’t actually turned Location Services on for this app and so it was never going to hook up to a satellite. Technology is useless in the hands of fools.

I had downloaded some new music, having worn out the last lot I bought during last year’s training. I needed something new. My husband might not agree; apparently I am “always” downloading something off iTunes; magazines, music – you name it. I allegedly spend a “fortune” because “all these little bits add up”. Yes dear. Tell me again how much the Jaguar was…

Anyway, I had purchased The Running Bug’s Ministry of Sound album. It’s a year old, but it had really good reviews from runners, whereas a lot of the albums were not rating well. Comments such as “you can’t run to that” and “waste of money” really put me off buying quite a lot of so called running music. I don’t mind putting a playlist of my own together, but sometimes I need fresh music in there to keep me interested. What I did listen to today was well paced and I enjoyed it. I didn’t know any of it, but then I’m getting on a bit. It certainly wasn’t Status Quo.

Panoramic view of the trail
Panoramic view of the trail

I was surprised at the slowness of the pace that the app dictated. It was comfortable and made me realise that, yet again, I’d been starting off runs far too fast over the last few weeks. I relaxed into a sensible pace

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based on achieving around an 11 minute mile. Obviously as we’re including walk breaks I was having to run faster than that, but it was a nice, easy pace. And I enjoyed it. I managed to maintain a just-over-11 min mile pace which, off road, is fine. To be honest I couldn’t care less what my pace was. It was a lovely relaxing run with my little dog in a place I love. What could be better than that?

I get a rest tomorrow from running, but I want to get those core activations up and running instead. I have my book stickied with small bits of paper and I’m off to empty the cabin of some junk so as to make a bit more space, or at least reorganise what junk there is. Wish me luck on that one; we store a hell of a lot of rubbish!

Firsts, Lasts and A Loose Goose

That’s it! I’m done.

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Sunday saw me finishing my half marathon training programme with a nice, short 7 mile run. It was meant to be 8 miles, but I had a hissy fit a few nights before when checking my Jeff Galloway app.

I downloaded the app last year and followed the finisher’s plan. It worked really well and, without killing myself, I managed a 2:22 Great North Run. This year I opted to follow the improver’s plan. This meant doing lots of interval running, which near finished me off – especially the 12x800m ones! On the original plan my longest run was 14 miles; on the new plan it was 17 miles. I did all this and, at the end of the day, made no improvement at all. So last week I looked again at the finisher’s plan and discovered that when I input my pace (11 min/miles) the predicted result was exactly the same. I was killing myself for nothing.

I’ve decided that I’m happy being a finisher for the time being. I would rather enjoy my running than feel that it is a task. So instead of finishing on 8 miles I ran a paced 7 miles. I took my Camelbak and, once I’d worked out how it all fitted together, it was great. Nothing jiggling about my waist, nothing in my hand, just a back pack holding a small bottle of juice and my gloves (when the sun came out!)

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The following day I went for a sports massage. My first ever sports massage. Those of you who have experienced a sports massage will understand when I say that it was a mixture of pain, more pain and pleasure; the pleasure comes when the pain stops. It’s a necessity though. Over the last few weeks I’ve felt that my legs have become heavier and stiffer and no amount of stretching would alleviate that. I talked to my beauty therapist who told me that she was also trained in the heavier techniques, over and above a Swedish massage.

We concentrated on my gluteus, IT band and calves. I was prepared for pain because my chiropractor has offered it as part of my therapy with him; I knew what to expect! I won’t go into gruesome detail; I survived, albeit feeling a tad bruised two days later! I definitely feel looser. My calves and Achilles especially feel less tight. Had I not had a meeting tonight I would have tested those loosey, goosey legs on the trails! Tomorrow will have to do!

So, what now? I’m looking for another half marathon for sure. I have the bug. There are two on the horizon, one local, one in The Borders. I’m wondering about another in between then and now. 5ks and 10ks on Sundays or evenings are few and far between, but I’ll find something! What I would like to do, though, is make greater use of my GoRun minimal trainers. I want to see if running more naturally will help improve my running style and pace.

Recovery Miles

Sometimes after a grueling race the best thing you can do is the worse thing you feel like doing! Recovery miles are a downright slog, there is no other word for them! I don’t think I’ve ever come back after a long or hard run and done the next run with wings on my heels.

Last week I did one measly trail run with the dog clipping my heels. I enjoyed being out in the sunshine (rather than the rain), with a gentle breeze accompanying me (rather than a hurricane) and did a gentle 2 miles, there and back. I wasn’t bothered about my time, although I am hardly ever Garmin-less, and I’m even less bothered about sharing it now! It was 2 gentle miles.

And that was it for last week. It was my first week back at school and it was busy with after school meetings. Something had to give.

I was busy on Sunday organising a historic vehicle run for National Drive It Day. It rained all day anyway, so I wasn’t missing much and rather enjoyed tootling about the countryside in my convertible…with the roof up.

On Monday I had a lot to do, but I got all my chores done by 3pm and set off for a just over 4 mile run. It was meant to be 4 miles, but my route is just over and, well, I’ve been running 13, 15 and 17 miles so point something of a mile was neither here nor there!

In a moment of clarity I decided to run my usual route in reverse. It was quite windy and my choice actually meant that for once I was running mostly out of the wind! My only face on stretch was going to be downhill! Total result for the home team!

I didn’t struggle, although some of the uphills were a bit soul destroying; I remembered why I run this the other way after hill three, which came hot on the heels of hill two. I just ran as far up as I felt happy doing and walked up the rest. I honestly didn’t realise just how tired my legs were until I hit the hills. However, I wasn’t looking to do “a time”, just do a run.

I wasn’t happy carrying my water bottle. The juice was splashing about, my hands were sticky and I just don’t like carrying a bottle. Mind you, I had bought some cherry isotonic drink from Morrisons (because it was cheap) and it was a bit strong. Really water would have done. I don’t think my autopilot is used to me doing these short distances!!

I did 4.39 miles in 48:05, giving me 10:57 pace, which was fine. Funnily enough my “jog” back down to the village was at 10 min/mile pace – I must be doing something right. The only really slow bit was the uphill section at mile 3, so I’m happy with that.

On Sunday coming I have 8 miles to do and then that’s me done with my half training, for a while at least. I don’t think I’ll put myself through the training regime like I have done. I’ll still do the Jeff Galloway plan, but just the straightforward one. I honestly think that a couple of good trail runs and a long run a week more than set me up for any race, maybe even better than what I have put myself through this time.

On the treat front, look what I’ve replaced my water bottle with!

One hump, or two? My new Camelbak hydration pack!
One hump, or two?
My new Camelbak hydration pack!

I found this on ebay last week with a £15 starting price. Brand new, still with covers, I got it for £21 including delivery, which I think is a bargain! It has the 1.5 litre bladder, has room besides for my other stuff (inhaler, plasters and phone) and saves me carrying anything or having anything uncomfortably clipped around my waist. I realise that some people might think it’s OTT for a relatively short distance runner, but if it keeps my hands free and is comfortable enough I couldn’t care less!

I’m now off to UnderArmour to see about some nice loose fitting and flattering running tops. I’m sick of seeing a podgy runner staring back at me!

Streaks and Crunches – that’s the life!

I’m sure that you are all desperate to know how the run streak is going! Well, it’s going well as it happens and no one is more surprised than me!

When I started, just over a week ago, it was purely a means to an end. My running was suffering because I was so busy and I didn’t know what else to do. Running for just 15 minutes a day sounds ludicrous, but I’ve been managing 2.5 – 3km a day in that time and yesterday I did my fastest ever treadmill 5k with ease. There must be something in it.

I promised myself that I’d streak to tonight and then that was it. If I can fit in a run on Christmas Day I’d really like to do it, especially if I can take Murphy down onto the trails for half an hour or so. After that, who knows? I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing for me to be tied to running on a daily basis. Im afraid that as someone with OCD that might become a burden and running should never be that to me. It must always be fun. Something I do because I want to and not because I’m making myself do it.

That said, running for 15 minutes a night hasn’t been much of a hassle, although my poor old washing machine is struggling with all the extra gear I’m throwing into it! Run streaks are heavy on the laundry pile!!

I’ve also been dutifully doing my ab crunches and I’m delighted to see a 2-pack appearing already! I haven’t seenmy ab muscles since 1991, the year before my son was born! It’s hard work, but seeing results already is spurring me on!

This will probably be the last post I make until after Christmas so I’d like to say thank you all for your supportive comments over the last year – they are always appreciated (at least I know that someone reads my blog!)

I hope that you all have a very…

See you on the other side!

Autumn Trails

There really isn’t anything better than off road running on a sunny Autumn day. Really, there isn’t. The sun is low and spills through the ever-increasing gaps in the tree tops, sparkling with a leaf induced orange glow. I really don’t care how long I take on such days. My Garmin is simply a piece of jewellery, logging my distance.

After completing our Sunday tasks, my semi silent coach and I reversed roles and I took over the training again. I am not, however, semi silent. Did I hear him mutter “More’s the pity?” I hope not! As I mentioned earlier, my hubbie is not a fan of trail running. It’s hard work and demands much more of your lower legs and core. He much prefers a nice easy run on a path. Oh well. We don’t always get what we want.

We took Murphy dog, who has been accompanying us on all of our recent runs. He has had to get used to running on the lead through the parks, which is great practice for both of us as I’ve been planning starting racing with Murphy at Canix events. Usually Murphy runs free so I have been surprised by how well he is running at the end of a lead, save for one disaster on our last run when he decided it was time for a ‘bear stop’ in the middle of a run interval and was left being dragged along at the end of his lead before I noticed! He looked like one of those toy dogs on wheels!

Get the picture?

Once we’d warmed up we set off at a steady pace (11 min/mile) for our first run interval. I have to say 11 min/mile pace on the trails we run on is respectable. The trail consists mostly of either rocks or mud, take your pick. It’s not a nice easy surface.  You respect the trail because if you don’t it will literally trip you up, or worse!

At times the trail slowed us to a walk as we tried to get through slippery and deep mud, but generally speaking we managed to maintain 11 min/mile pace when running and, at times, even faster finishing with a last lap at 9:46! Admittedly this was on the tarmac as we headed away from the castle.

All in all we did 2.28 miles in 28.01, averaging 12:17 pace and at the end I looked like this:

 

And Murphy looked like this:

 

Poor Murphy.