Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud!

Mud, mud, glorious mud
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood

(The Hippotamus Song – Flanders and Swann)

It was recovery run day today and it had to be a trail run. It just had to be. So, in between heavy rain showers, I headed down to the local woods with my trusty hound. It was destined to be a muddy affair as it has rained on and off for a few days, so I wasn’t entirely surprised by the big muddy puddles covering the path!

map1I’d decided to run with just my Garmin and set that to bleep 30 second intervals; I figured that 30 seconds on and off task would tease out any lactic acid whilst not putting my hip under any extra strain. It was very windy and I was pleased to be just running for 30 seconds at a time!

I didn’t run far; a friend had contacted me at the last minute offering an appointment at the local college for a facial and, bugger it, I deserved a treat! What I did do was run happy and within my current capabilities.

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On the way back something odd happened with my Garmin. It just went haywire, quickly flicking between intervals for about 30 seconds and recording nothing. I just had to stand still and wait for it to stop! I’ve had issues with my 405 in the past, related to GPS and battery, but these had been solved. I’ll be interested to see if that happens again!

My hip is actually feeling better. Massage has helped free off my other muscles and they must be putting less strain on my hip. I’m drinking ginger tea regularly and using Deep Freeze gel to help with the inflammation. I’m not a great pill-popper and so I’m happy not to be taking ibuprofen twice a day. I did struggle after the weekend’s race; walking especially was very painful.

I will continue to take it easy, but I hope that by continuing this regime of massage, ice and gentle running I’ll make a faster recovery.

When you’re injured, what works best for you? Do you take a complete break or just do less?

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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.”

 

Fast Forward to Week 3!

All the best laid plans…I’m shaking my head here. Last time I wrote I said that my half training was starting with a 3 mile run last week. Well I need to learn to read a calendar better because it was meant to start the week before and last week was meant to be a 4 mile run.

Which made today’s 5 mile run all the harder.

There is no doubt that my fitness has suffered through lack of long distance or interval training lately. I’m sluggish and heavy and it doesn’t feel good. I managed my Winter 5k because it was just a 5k, but I’m now having to increase my mileage again and I haven’t really run far since October last year.

It’s like starting again.

Today was a perfect running day though. It’s cool and a bit drizzly at times, but the light is good. I had no qualms about running on the road, although I decided against running on my shorter loop as I’m fairly sure that it will be both flooded and very muddy. Instead I chose to run along the shore road. If I’m honest I’ve avoided even driving along that road since my friend was fatally injured on it in an accident last month. It wasn’t going to be easy running past the incident site. But I also knew that I had to do it. You can’t avoid all the things you find difficult.

Armpocket armband suitable for a large touch screen phone/ipod as well as a myriad of other useful things.
Armpocket armband suitable for a large touch screen phone/ipod as well as a myriad of other useful things.

I felt well equipped. I have removed all the things I dislike, such as waistbands and rucksacks and replaced them with armbands. It is quite liberating to know that I have enough water on my wrist in my FitSip for a decent run and enough room in my Armpocket for my phone, my keys, my gels (on longer runs) etc. I’ve nothing annoyingly working up towards my boobage or down past my hips!

FitSip armbands hold a small bladder which is ideal for middle distance running.
FitSip armbands hold a small bladder which is ideal for middle distance running.

My Garmin struggled a bit to find a satellite through the dense cloud cover so I started with more of a warm up walk than I wanted, but hey. I had set my app for 3:1 run:walk intervals, which was fine to begin with and I had a good first mile of 10:20, but my lack of fitness started to show after that and so I adjusted the app to 2.30:1 intervals. That’s the first time I’ve done that on the hoof and I guess it’s the equivalent of listening to your body and easing up a bit. 

I stopped at the accident site. It wasn’t out of morbid fascination; I stopped to show my respect. I talked to Tina for a while and then tried, in vain, to find her daughter’s phone memory card. All I saw, even after asking for help, was a small mouse which scurried from the undergrowth to the safety of the dyke as I approached. He didn’t help so I ran on. I stopped again on my way back and had another look, but I’m sad to say that I found nothing. I told whoever might be listening that I would come back. And I will.

My pace shifted about a bit and I didn’t really feel comfortable until I had done 3 miles and was on my way home. The wind was on my face on the way back which I hadn’t really noticed on my back on the way out.

I was really starting to slow up at the end. I know that this was a long, slow run but it was slower than it maybe should have been. However I know from experience that my fitness will soon return so I’m happy to have finished my 5 miles in 56 minutes. I ran 5 miles and that is the most important thing.

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!

On the starting line we have a short woman in a pink top…

This last weekend was New York marathon weekend and I must admit to having missed it all. In fact I seem to be missing all sorts of news lately, catching up on relationship break ups, illnesses and even deaths long after the fact. I don’t know why I seem to be so out of tune with the world at the moment. Perhaps, as I read in my stars, it’s the astrological effect of some planet or other? I will make an effort to catch up with people and the marathon!

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Perhaps my own woes have pushed everything out of my mind, insignificant as they are in comparison to other people’s problems. I’ve been focusing so hard on curing, or at least dealing with, injuries that I appear to be stuck in JulieLand. I’m glad then that, fingers crossed, touch wood, etc etc, things seem to be really and truly on the mend. I know that I’ve said this before and then sunk deeper into the hole that is Plantar Fasciitis, but honestly I think they are.

I’ve been very good. I’ve been run walking every run since I said I would. I’ve decreased the mileage and slowed things down. Last week I only did a 3 mile trail run and a 20 minute treadmill run with a day in between them. I’m massaging, icing and splinting daily. If things get sore I take an anti-inflammatory ibuprofen and ice some more. I’ve been very, very good.

Today I decided that with my next race in January being a 5k I’d try and knock a few seconds (and only a few seconds) off my 5k time the best of which is 30:32 on the road and 28:30 on the treadmill. By starting now and not pushing too hard, it should be achievable to maybe knock 15-30 seconds off each time, which would be amazing. In order to safely achieve this I have returned to my old pal, Jeff Galloway, and his Easy 5k iPhone app by LoLo.

Today I set the app to do Day 3, a long, slow run of 3 miles. Makes me smile that. I’m following the Improve your 5k programme which will entail some drills – I’ll see how I feel about those when the time comes. Anyway, today I set the app for 10 min/mile pace and 3:1 intervals. Nice and easy does it. I also turned the GPS on, but wore my Garmin for additional support (I have had more tech issues with running equipment than Mo Farah).

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It’s a perfect running day. Bright sunshine, clear blue skies and just a hint of a breeze. It is cold though and whilst I was waiting for my breakfast of boiled egg (fresh from my lovely wee hens) and (gluten free) soldiers to digest I took the opportunity to sort out my running apparel, putting all the short legged and short sleeved things in the “summer running” box.  Out came the full length running tights, the long sleeved tops, gloves, hats and long compression socks! When I set off it was 0ᴼC and there was still ice on the ground.

I had no actual route in mind, although I had said at the weekend that I would avoid using the coast road for long runs from now on because I don’t think it’s helping to improve my running – it’s too flat, too easy. As I ran out of the village I decided to run up towards Ruthwell and down the hill towards Ruthwell Cross. The 3:1 intervals were spot on. I was running quicker than I have done in a while, making my legs rotate a little bit faster than they’ve been used to, but I didn’t run out of puff as I have been doing lately. All was good.

I ran up Tattie Hill, at the top of which is Sam and Kate’s farm (Tattie Towers as Kate calls it as hubbie Sam grows potatoes and often her view is of nothing but potato crates stacked in the yard!), and down the other side back towards the main road, crossing it and heading down the Bankend Road. The views from the top of Tattie Hill were gorgeous, right across the Solway Firth to Cumbria. No wonder Kate moans when she can no longer see it for crates! Beautiful.

It's a long way up Tattie Hill!
It’s a long way up Tattie Hill!

By then I’d covered 2 miles and so only had a mile to do. By running into Ruthwell village and straight out again up the hill I would be able to finish the run by coming back into our village.

But the music kept playing and there was no sign of Jeff calling it quits as I ran into Clarencefield, where I live. I must have read the distance wrong, I thought, and kept on running.

By the time I reached Comlongon drive, the road down to the castle, I knew something was up. I’d covered over 3 and a half miles. I ran down the drive, through a lovely avenue of autumn leaved trees and eventually stopped to check the app.

The GPS hadn’t hooked up and my app said I’d done NO miles, not the 3.82 that my Garmin was saying! No wonder it was keeping on going – it thought I hadn’t started!! I stopped it there and walked the short distance home, happy enough to have been out on such a lovely day.

Having had a cup of tea and cooled down a bit I’m now ready for an early lunch and a shower before I sort out the rest of my day off. The dogs need a walk and the cupboards need restocking and I might just take a drive to the Nike Store…

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).

 

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.