With a Week to Go, I’m crossing my Toes

It’s odd. I have spent my summer oddly ricocheting between disasters, punctuated by some moments of running clarity. So far I’ve gone to every race seemingly well prepared only for disaster to strike at the last moment. I am so hoping that pattern doesn’t repeat itself this week!

I missed a short run last week because of too many things going on and was a bit worried that I just wasn’t maintaining mileage. I worry too much! On Monday I set off in cloudy and cool conditions with the dog to do a steady 5 mile run looping north of the village. It’s that route I know well, the route that’s quiet and a good mixture of hills and flat running.

After the first quarter of a mile (which is always tough, full of asthmatic wheezing until my breathing has settled) the running came easy. I was bang on pace despite running the first mile uphill. The dog was less happy. In the time we’d taken to warm up and cover then first mile (maybe 15 minutes) the sun had broken through and the temperature had started to soar. Couple that with a loose chipping road and he was struggling to keep up, spending a lot of the time running at my heel where I couldn’t see him. Now and again he would run in the middle of the road, thankfully when there was nothing on the road! Considering the heat, he ran well. I just wish that he would drink water more often!

I’d decided to run 4:1 ratios, the run:walk ratio I used to run, the one I did my best half marathon time in. It felt good, was easy going and that’s lifted my spirits. Running 4:1 makes achieving under 11 min/mile pace within my reach again. I feel pretty strong just now.

I finished my 5 miles in just over 55 minutes. Perfect long easy run time.

Yesterday I treated myself to a full body massage. Well actually my brother-and-sister-in-law did, thanks to a voucher they sent me for my 50th. It was a really good idea and I think I’m going to book a massage before every race!

I’ve got two short runs left and then some relaxation time. Carb-loading isn’t something I do well, although I had pasta today! I will make an effort to eat carb-high foods and I’ll buy the gels I know work well. And then it’s the moment of truth – Sunday’s Great Cumbrian Run starting from Carlisle Castle. I feel I should wrap myself in cotton wool, just in case!

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Here it is, my last taper.

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That’s it. I’ve just run my last long training run of the year. After today I’m tapering down (ooooooo, listen to the sound of that!) until my final half marathon in two weeks. I can’t say I’m upset about it – I’m getting tired of trying to fit my life around my running and that is exactly how it’s been this year. It’s self-induced running nonsense, I know.

I decided around mid summer that I was doing too much training and vowed that, after I finish what I’d promised, I’d rein myself back in and content myself with 5k and 10k runs and maybe one half next year. I will stick to that. I probably need to improve my speed a bit anyway and working on shorter distances with the occasional 8 miler thrown in is the way to go.

Today I ran 14 miles.

I ran just shy of 7 of them in a loop around our village encompassing the next village and several hamlets. However, sensibly for me, I realised that another 7 of road running was going to cause further injury to the ankle I turned on a wobbly stone whilst running through the woods the other day. I had it strapped up and was wearing compression socks, but I could feel shin pain developing and knew when to throw the towel in. I was running strongly, far stronger than I have all season! I was maintaining just over 11 min/mile pace on a training run in which I was meant to be running 12-13 min/miles. And I was achieving 11 min/mile pace with relative ease, running 4 minutes/1 minute walk break.

My Garmin data is here > http://connect.garmin.com/activity/596467332

I had some tech issues; I keep catching the part of the screen which lengthens or shortens the run on my Jeff Galloway app. It’s easily done and I wish it was hidden. Today I caught it as I went for my first gel and all of a sudden it thought I’d run 10 miles. It’s then impossible to reset and you end up with an approximation. I just hate that. I managed to do the same thing later on as I reached for a tissue! I think a message to LoLo, the app developer, is required. I’ve sent them before and they are either really nice (my chosen interpretation) or just patronising this little lady.

Tech issues really mess with my mojo. What with that and the knowledge that my ankle was slowly swelling up I think heading home and to the treadmill was a good call.

A quick calculation told me that I needed to run a further 12.41 km (I have a head with miles in it, but a Euro-treadmill) at 10 km/h to be on pace. It actually put me ahead of pace and I finished the second half faster than the first (still running 4min/1min walk).

Garmin data for the second half comes courtesy of MyFitnessPal, which automatically uploads any exercise as I input it. How cool! http://connect.garmin.com/activity/596483397

A quick calculation told me that I completed my 14 miles faster than I’ve run 13.1 all season. I hope that bodes well; I could do with some well boded things happening.

As it is I’m now relaxing having had a quickly cooked lunch of scrambled eggs, not really wanting to go and take my ankle support off and see what’s underneath. I can feel what’s underneath. Hopefully some ice and elevation and an old film will help reduce what I’m feeling. And then I’ve got a couple of weeks to rest it, with just gentle runs planned. My fingers are crossed!

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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.”

 

My 3 Rs: Recovery, Reassessment and Reinvigoration.

After almost two weeks of enduring a cold and struggling to do much more than get through a day’s work, I’m ready to start running again.

At least I think I am!

I’m actually sitting here changed and ready to run, waiting on my iPhone charging before I head off…to the bottom of the garden and my treadmill. My cold is still firmly lodged on my chest and it’s causing me to cough, which of course affects my breathing. I frightened myself a week past Sunday when I ran the Fleetwood Half – I really shouldn’t have run feeling the way I did. But I did.

I’m heading out to the treadmill so that I am in control of the distance, the speed and the location. I’m trying to be sensible!

I’ve looked at my running programme and I’ve decided to follow the finisher’s plan again. I’m not in the right place (yet) to look at improving. So far every half I’ve done since doing the Great North Run in 2012 has been worse. I just want to finish one around the 2:20-2:24 mark. I’ve not been far away, but far enough to make me feel as if I’ve been running backwards for a while. And I realise that there are valid excuses for this; valid excuses don’t make me feel any better.

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The cunning plan.

So my plan looks a bit like this! Long runs of 4, 12.5, 4, 14 and 5 miles before my race, all at 2:30/1 ratios and 11 min/mile pace hopefully giving me a 2:24 race time.

I’m trying to lose a bit of weight so I’m watching my calorie intake and portion size and plotting these on the My Fitness Pal app. If I lost a stone I think I’d be happier as well as lighter. I don’t look in the mirror wishing I was a stone lighter, I look OK, but I feel as if I’m ‘hauling ass’ at the moment. I’m naturally heavy. I don’t look my weight, I don’t think. People are generally surprised to hear how heavy I am and I realise that I am probably more muscly than a lot of the people who are surprised.

I know I need to tone my core; I do keep going on about that! I will try. No promises on that!

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Lastly I am going to restart the Kinetic Revolution 30 Day Challenge in an effort to loosen myself up. It was working, but I had to stop. I will try and fit in the 15 – 20 minutes a day!

See you later!

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Heading down to the gym, on a perfect running day – sacrilegious!

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, in the meantime I must…

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Running Home and Away

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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