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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Late Night Updates

This may not end well. It’s half 9 now and I woke at 5 when my son and husband left for the train station and again at 6 when my husband returned. It’s been a long day!

The plan was to run early. Instead I pluttered about and didn’t get started until 11. I chose to run my four miles on the treadmill, not because it was bad weather or anything, but because I was literally running late. An outdoor run would have been better, but what can I say? Clothes washing, answering emails and house tidying just got in the way…again.

My easy first mile was run at 10.3 kph at 4:1 run:walk intervals. When it came to my timed mile Jeff Galloway told me to crank it up to 11.3 and, as I was feeling good, I turned it up again to 12.2. I was watching a particularly good episode of Star Trek Voyager which made running easy.

My Magic Mile came in at 9:27.

The rest of the run, another two miles I ran at between 10.3 and 11.3 just to get it finished because I had an appointment to get to!

I’m feeling pretty good at the moment. My cold has completely gone. I’m rebuilding my strength and I will finish my next half feeling better than the last one! Next week I have a 14 mile long run to do and it should be fine – at least I hope it’s fine!

It’s been a long day, but I’m feeling good.

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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!

Race Report: Fleetwood Half Marathon

I’m sitting here in our luxury accommodation listening to an adverse weather report on The Bay local radio station. What a difference from yesterday.

We’d been promised dull and cloudy weather and low temperatures, but that wasn’t to be. It was, in truth, a perfect Bank Holiday Sunday, warm and sunny and still – perfect for strolling with an ice cream along the promenade, not necessarily for running a half marathon.

We’d arrived at Knott End, just across the estuary from Fleetwood, on Saturday lunch time. The camp site was small and perfectly formed, with more than adequate showers, clean toilets and within walking distance of the shops. Now a well-oiled machine, we erected the trailer tent and awning within an hour.

I’d found, through the internet, some gluten and nut free ready meals by a company called Ilumi and had chosen enough for two meals. This saved my usual panicked race around a supermarket I didn’t know searching for something I could eat! The local ASDA provided us with some ‘meat’ for sandwiches (Quorn Roast Chicken style in my case, not so Quorn in hubbie’s) and some bread rolls and we enjoyed a late take away chip shop lunch as we headed home. It’s all carbs. I was bulking up, literally.

Truth be known I was struggling to eat anything. I’d acquired a cold in the week and by Friday I was feeling quite bad. As an asthmatic I have to very careful when I get a cold because the symptoms are exacerbated. I’ve ended up with severe chest pains before, with which I probably should have gone to hospital, but I’m the type to battle through illnesses rather than ask for help or get medicines. This information will come in handy later. Read on.

When we settled down in the evening to have our first Ilumi meal (Moroccan Tagine for me and Zatar Chicken for hubbie) I felt as if I could be sick. The only thing that kept me eating was the fact that these meals weren’t cheap! I couldn’t waste them! However as I ate I did start to feel better and by the end of the meal I was feeling okay. My stomach hurt and I wasn’t comfortable, but my cold felt better. Maybe it would be alright after all.

I decided that a walk with the dog might help, so I harnessed him up and we left, joined by hubbie. I’d said at the start that I didn’t feel up to a long walk and was trying to conserve energy for the race. We ended up walking about three – four miles and I was totally exhausted! My legs ached, my head hurt and I was tired. One strange film later we hit the hay.

Full of enthusiasm for another race (it’s like childbirth, you forget how awful the previous one was) I was dressed and breakfasted and ready at just after 8. We had a thirty minute drive round to Fleetwood itself, but we’d checked out the venue and knew that we had plenty of parking. There was no panic. And, right enough, we were able to drive straight to the start and park in a semi-empty car park. This was so different from the debacle of larger events. No getting up at silly o’clock, no trying to negotiate unfamiliar public transport, no worrying about where to leave bags or where to meet up with loved ones. I collected my number (no chip) and joined the toilet queue.

The race started at 10 with a crack of a gun firing.

The Race

The course consisted of ever increasing loops of the same roads. Mostly we ran along the pedestrianised promenade, with gorgeous views of the sea. This, combined with joining the parallel public road, gave us the first 6 miles of the run. People sitting at the start got to see us run past three times in all. On the third loop we were taken right along the promenade towards Cleveley. By then the temperatures had started to climb and I’d taken to wetting my headband at water stops in an effort to stay cool.

I’d started off well: mile 1 – 10.05, mile 2 – 10.34, mile 3 – 10.40. I was running 3/1 run/walk ratios and trying to keep as close to 10 minute miles as I could. When the temperature started to climb I started to struggle to breathe a bit, so I reduced the ratios to 2:30/1. Obviously this affected my times, but at mile 6 I still had a reasonable 10k time.

This is where it started to go pear-shaped.

I was running as close to the promenade wall as I could so that I could benefit from the shade. By the time I got to the mile 8 marker I was starting to gasp at the end of run intervals and the walk intervals just weren’t long enough for me to recover my breath. Suddenly things started to go dark and I was seeing stars – I knew that if I didn’t sit down and get my inhaler I was going to pass out.

Having an asthma attack is difficult to explain, unless you’ve had one, because it all happens so fast. All I can say is that I managed to get my inhaler out as I sat down, had a couple of puffs which I didn’t think would do anything because I didn’t feel as if I’d actually taken a proper lungful. Several runners slowed down to ask if I was okay and offered to get a steward. I thanked them, reassuring them that I’d be okay once my inhaler kicked in, although I had no idea if I would be!

After a minute or so I was able to get up and walk and I continued running a little bit after that. I was well behind pace, but, by this point, I’d put aside any thoughts of running a PB! I just focused on finishing.

The course took us away from the shade of the prom wall and into the full glare of the sun. Runners around me were struggling. I was now running with the limpers and those walking more than they were running. I did make up a lot of places in that time, but again I’d had to reduce my run/walk ratio to 2/1. I was struggling too.

At mile 10 I hit the road, literally. Hyperventilation caused another attack and I had to sit on the kerb for a few minutes whilst my inhaler did its job. I’m not the most patient of people and a couple of minutes felt like an eternity.

I decided to just get back. Forget the time. I decided to run/walk 1/1. I could manage a reasonable one minute run without gasping. It was my new plan.

I caught up with a woman in obvious discomfort. We chatted as we ran and she said that her foot and hips were hurting. She explained that she had a little boy and with no one to look after him had had to do all her training on a treadmill. She wasn’t road-ready. I sympathised. Some runners can be so dismissive of barriers to running. Instead I said that I was run walking, if she wanted to run with me. We ran the last two miles together, using my Gymboss timer to beep runs and walks.

We were within a mile of the finish when some smart Alec ran alongside us asking “Have you two been disqualified for running too slow?” Considering that we were far from last and well within the course cut off I was annoyed by his glib attempts at mockery. “Get stuffed!” I shouted back. “Go and annoy someone else!” I couldn’t believe that anyone would be so unfeeling. It was obvious, from the way she was running, that my companion was really hurting and was incapable of running faster. I daren’t run any faster! This idiot didn’t spur us on, he just appalled us. Coupled then at half a mile to go with the bloke who shouted “I’m 75 and I finished ages ago!” you can imagine how rubbish we felt. I think I swore at him.

I must admit that I could have run the last two miles faster. The ratio was fine and I was easily running my minute, but my companion simply couldn’t run any faster. I tried increasing the pace, but I kept losing her and at that point I felt that she might not finish. I could have run on and made up some time, but my heart told me to stay and help. What would you have done?

We crossed the line together, hands held aloft. We weren’t last by a long chalk and we had finished. My Garmin says 2:41, but I’m guessing when I collapsed it went into auto-pause. I don’t really care.

I collected my medal, met up with my hubbie and we trundled back to the campsite. I felt awful. The trip back was uncomfortable and even though I’d eaten a banana after finishing I knew that wasn’t enough. By the time I’d shakily managed to make a sandwich I was well past it. I was struggling to eat the roll and ended up just eating the Quorn chicken! After that, a hot cup of tea and a shower I felt fine and we walked to the local pub for a pint or two.

Today my cold has landed firmly on my chest and has turned into an infection (I won’t share how I know that, it’s not very pleasant!) I’ll now have to watch that this doesn’t get worse.

Lessons Learned

Lessons learned? Well for one, despite everything, this was a good race to do. It was friendly (mostly), easy to get to and from and cheap to do (£17). I didn’t get a goodie bag, but along with your medal there was ample bananas, cheese crisps, wagon wheels and water to collect. I didn’t get a T-shirt, but I usually pay extra for those anyway.

On a negative I was daft to run with a cold. I realise that now. I realised it at mile 8 and mile 10 when I was lying at the side of the road. I’m asthmatic and I shouldn’t ignore that. I also need to have a post run meal ready so that I can just eat. I usually have a soya milkshake and an oat bar, but remembered neither. I was a wreck by the time we got back to the campsite and my hubbie was too Inexperienced to realise it. He thought because I’d eaten a banana I was fine.

I’m annoyed by the comments passed by others as we ran. My hubbie witnessed another incident where a steward shouted at a woman to “RUN!”, going on to tell her that it was a running race and if she couldn’t run she shouldn’t be competing. The steward was worried about how long she’d have to stay if people had resorted to walking. Unsurprisingly the runner turned on the steward; my husband thought she was going to hit her! Do slower runners need that kind of abuse? It does make you wonder about entering smaller races where you might be at the back. It also makes me worry as a Run:Walk:Runner – am I opening myself to abuse if I’m seen to be taking walk breaks?

We’re just home and until now I hadn’t emptied my Camelbak of its remaining contents. To my horror out of the 0.5l I took more than half was still there. In my attempts not to drink too much I may have drunk too little. This is the drawback of the Camelbak; hidden on your back there’s no way to see how much you’ve drunk. All the way round I was trying to make sure I had enough water by limiting my intake. In reality I had plenty and should have had more. This too may have contributed to my unwellness. I think I may have to go back to wearing a waistband with bottles I can see through!

I think, if I’m well enough (!) I’ll do this event or another organised by the Fylde Coast Runners next year. I’d hate to judge an event by one bad experience mostly caused by my own lack of wellness.

The Bling

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Aftermath

I contacted the event organisers via Facebook, explaining what had happened and immediately received a phone call. They were concerned, apologetic and assured me that they would do what they could do to prevent the things that happened to me from happening again. It’s a new and encouraging club and I would hate for other runners to be put off by the behaviour of three people (all probably nothing to do with the club!) out of a cast of hundreds.

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.

 

 

Can I have a quick word?

I’ll be brief. This is my day off and I really should be enjoying the weather, sitting on my patio with a mocktail. I have a pile of ironing threatening to take over my spare room (so big that I am actually considering charging it rent) and a list of jobs as long as my arm. As I said, it’s my day off.

Today I was down for a 9 mile run. As it’s been so warm and so humid I decided to get up early and run before it got too hot. At least that was the plan. I got up early and was ready to leave at 7, but then got distracted by emails and left just before 8. It was already warm, with not a cloud in the sky, and I knew that my route along the shore left me with little shade. Being a fair-skinned lassie I’m just not built for sunshine.

As ever I was using my Jeff Galloway/LoLo Half Marathon app for iPhones. I’d set it for 4:1 run:walk intervals and 11 min/mile pace. This would translate to just over 11 min/mile pace as it was a long run (short runs adjust the other way – it’s all very clever!) What I wasn’t expecting was for Jeff to announce that today it was a 9 ½ mile run. Half a mile extra – really? That’s just too much to ask. My short circuit route had proved too long for two laps, so I’d chosen to run along the Bankend Road – a there and back route – so adding on that extra wee bit wouldn’t matter.

I managed to maintain a fairly even pace, although it did get quite warm and I must admit to stopping to shelter now and again in the shade of the few trees along the roadside. I also have to admit to stopping to fill up my FitSip which I’d managed to empty on the run out. Luckily a local smallholder was just at his van when I passed and agreed to let me fill up the now empty bladder. On hot and humid runs longer than 6 miles I need my Camelbak. No question. By the time I was within a mile of home I’d emptied the FitSip again. I don’t tend to drink a lot on runs, but it was very warm.

The last mile and half were tough as I was constantly climbing away from the shore; not by much, but by then I was tired and hot and I’d had enough for today, thank you! That extra half a mile was the killer, of course! I clicked stop at 1:47:40 giving me 11:21 pace. I was about two minutes slower than my app expected which, given the heat, is fine.

Post-run I feel good, although hay fever has my eyes itching like mad. I would rather not have a massive pile of ironing to do as well as the weekly shop, but I’m a wife and mother and them’s the breaks!

Running doesn’t define me; it simply refines me.

 

 

New Challenges

30 Day Challenges

I’m on a mission to make myself a better runner, both physically and mentally. My mission has meant that I’ve  taken up James Dunne, performance coach, on his 30 Day Challenge. James follows me on Twitter and when I saw the link to this free resource on Twitter, I had to go and see what it was all about.

James’ website summed up why I need to try this, and probably you do to:

If many years of coaching experience has taught us one important fact, it’s that there are a number of key exercises and drills that 99.9% of runners and triathletes will benefit HUGELY from, if performed on a regular basis.

The irony is that most runners simply don’t do this type of training. Without it, they’re left more susceptible to injury and constantly fall short of their true potential come race day!

This is exactly why we’ve created this 30 Day Challenge…

Each day we’ll provide you with a specific 10-15min set of targeted techniques, drills and exercises, chosen to Transform Your Running over the coming month!

(taken from http://www.kinetic-revolution.com/30daychallenge/)

Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? I started yesterday with day one, exercises aimed at my hamstrings, adductors and hip flexors. They aren’t easy, which probably proves that I’m doing them right, with 3 lots of 20 reps of each exercise. On top of this James also has some fab proprioception exercises for people, like me, who have poor co-ordination skills but also aimed at everyone who needs to improve balance and motility and I guess that’s most of us!

Today I did day 2 which was all of these exercises again plus an additional flex which I found disturbingly difficult! I used to go to regular yoga classes and this particular pose was a nice finishing off pose. Today it near finished me off! I’m not sure why – maybe I’m just older and stiffer, but the low back mobility cross stretch was hard going. I’m hoping that this will improve as my flexibility does.

I’m also following the Plank Challenge from Tribesports, doing an increasingly long plank hold for just about every day for a month. It looks like this:

30-Day-Plank-Challenge

 

I might struggle to get past a couple of minutes, but my abs deserve some attention!

Training Again

I’m back on course for the next half marathon on my list, the Fleetwood Half. I’ve booked a campsite nearby and adjusted my diary so that race day is actually race day. This means that I’ve come in at Week 5 with a 6 ½ mile run and yesterday was Week 6 Day 4 – Magic Mile day! I left running until later in the day so that I could honour a chiropractor appointment in the morning and then spend some quality time with my hubbie. My quality time also involved visiting my favourite running shop and buying a couple of new running tops. As my husband had just bought a recovery truck, my £26 worth of bargains went uncommented upon. I know how to bide my time!

It was 6pm before I headed out to run. The weather had by then improved and it was a lovely calm evening. A perfect running time. I chose a fairly flat route and my cycling hubbie decided to come with me, after a little persuasion. My warm up mile felt incredibly slow, but as I’ve readjusted my app and am now back doing 4:1 run:walk intervals I let it ride and slowed my pace. The timed Magic Mile started just as we reached the flattest part of the route, which was ideal. I ran the first half a mile well paced at about 6 – 6 ½ mph according to hubbie’s bike computer. On second half I tried to lift my pace a bit and was encouraged by hearing that I was running faster. I was between 6 ½ and 7 mph, not much faster, but still an all important negative split! I completed the mile in my fastest time of this year of 9:58. It’s not startlingly fast, I realise this, but it’s the fastest I’ve done since returning from injury and it’s under a 10 minute mile. It’s progress. And progress is good.

The run back was a slow affair, with my pace dictated by the app. I was happy to just jog back – I’d done my hard work for the day!

Ode to the Chiropractor

Simon, a follower of this blog, my running and my art, has rekindled an interest in haiku – the Japanese poetry form. I used to write a lot of haiku and have taught countless children how the syllable patterns worked, but lost the time to write them. I use the traditional teikei 5-7-5 pattern, although I know that this is a bit outdated for modern haiku writers. It suits me.

Last night, on the jog home, I paced out this poem – an ode to my chiropractor.

My chiropractor

Whose instruments of torture

Ensure pain means gain.

I’m sure my chiropractor will love it – I’ll make him a calligraphed copy!

As it happens my visit this month was fairly low-key. My calf muscles are behaving and aren’t too tight. My neck and shoulders were, as ever, stiff, but his new machine (looking and sounding much like a nail gun) pummeled them into submission. The only new twinges are coming from my left knee which is starting to sound as if I am receiving regular injections of Rice Krispies. Some pain across the front of the knee when I’m relaxed caused some chiropractic concern and I’m icing it following some cross-friction treatment. It doesn’t bother me when I’m running, just at rest, so I’m not worrying too much.

Other than that I got a clean bill of health – I am a picture of running fitness, so long as your picture looks like this!

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