Improving and feeling strong

My ankle continues to improve. Last week I managed another run walk session and then, I admit, I cheated on my plan and just ran on it the next day. I went out from work with a newish runner who was just looking for some company and we ran at talking pace for about 35 mins or 3 miles.

I used it as an exercise in midfoot running and managed to keep my new technique all the way round. My calves were a bit stiff in the evening, but not unpleasantly so.

Runner wearing Newcastle United shirt
Jeff at 2k into his 100th Newcastle parkrun

I did my first boxercise session in a few weeks on Wednesday evening and got a great work out, though I was nervous of some of the jumping exercises.

And then on Thursday morning I was back down the beach first thing for a tough PT session. We started with running drills, then worked our way up to a couple of exercises with 2 x12k kettlebells, using them as static weights and concentrating on my legs. I still wobbled a bit on some of the 1 legged exercises, so I still need to build up my balance and confidence in my left leg. But it was good to take things up a notch and challenge myself.

By Friday, my ankle was a little stiff and achey, so I treated myself to a swim after work. I have been working on pull buoy drills and really feel they are making a difference, particularly in getting my elbows high and my hand into the water sooner. But for this session I just got in and swam, enjoying the feel of the water and it did the trick of easing the range of movement again.

Saturday I layered up for a morning on the Town Moor, volunteering at Newcastle parkrun. I was dispatched to Gate 2, just after the 2k marker, so got a good walk there and back and a chance to see just how muddy and plodgy the paths are now. I managed to snap some pictures as well as directing runners through the gap. It was great to see Lesley Anne back running and smiling as she bounded along the tree lined road and to cheer Jeff on for his 100th Newcastle parkrun.

Halloween lanterns
Halloween lanterns – picture courtesy of Katherine Wildman

Then it was a quick turn around to get home and out again for G and S Organics Bonfire night on the farm. We arrived early to lend a hand chopping and peeling vegetables for the soup, fetching and carrying things over to the outdoor events area and stringing up fairy lights.

There was a great display of carved pumpkins, turnips and little squashes and by the time the other guests arrived it was growing nicely dark, so we were glad of the heat of the bonfire and a few sparklers. No fireworks because of the animals, but that suits me just fine.

The food was, as always, delicious. Soup and burgers when everyone arrived, then after a bit of bonfire chat, a plate full of pheasant au vin and leeky mash with three different types of cake for pudding.

As the evening drew on we looked up at the clear skies to see millions of stars. No sign of the Northern lights, but you could see the Milky Way. Steeped in woodsmoke, we drank cocoa as we cleared up and made our way home. It was a splendid way to spend the day.

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Welcoming the aches

My forearms beg me not to turn the corner too sharply as I drive home and chide me for no longer driving a car with power steering. They are pumped as though I’d spent the day dangling from a rope on a tricky overhang. My shoulders creak as I change out of my work shirt, protesting at the tricky manoeuvre of raising my arms above my head.

My legs? Well they’re used to this kind of treatment, so they’re staying quiet at the moment. They’ve learned that nothing they say will make much of a difference anyway and they may as well just get on with it. But they remind me that they’ve not been idle today as I climb the stairs.

Most weekdays I get up around 6am. Today I have to make it a little earlier. The fine early morning mizzle turns to showers, plastering my hair to my head with a nice mixture of sand and water on the beach.

The shore is deserted, quiet. A lone seabird bobbing on the waves as the tide retreats from our marker on the sand. A series of simple motions, stretching, pushing, bending, jumping. Patterns and repeats then a rest and a chance to grab a gulp of water.

I lift nothing heavier than a ball. Move nothing more than my own body weight. But I’m glad of the rain keeping me cool. In that precious rest time, we compare notes, strategies, what’s working and why. Set our eyes on the goals.

Workout over and a return to reality. Up the slope to tackle the rest of a day whose patterns and rhythms are not always of my making. The physical efforts are at the other end of the scale. But sitting static and confined is far more wearing than the freedom of my morning’s exercise.

Tasks of the day done and my thoughts return to that early rising. To the rain and the effort. To the waves and the quiet reassurance of something well done. I’d do it all over again tomorrow if I could.

A fresh starched linen kind of day

A good hard frost and the world sparkles like fresh starched linen. White fingers retreat from the coastal fringes. The moon fat and full casts drift light over sand and water smooth as glass.

I run over the sands, barely picking out puddly patches in the half-light. So still. So quiet. Just me and my trusty guide breathing step by step. We haven’t done this for the longest time.

Back to the start and a short burst of speed. Arms and legs pumping, heart beating faster. Then drop to recover at a plod. And again, sprint to the line, then slow. Gulping down breath in great bites before firing up the knees again and again.

A sharp snap and a microsecond stumble. An unconsious cry of shock at the tension wire twitch. A temporary blackout of signals and synapses, soon forgotten in the riot of another surge.

Adrenaline fired warmth surges through my circuits, nerve endings tingling like a million neon lights. I only notice the cold when I’m finished and my fingers prickle with icy fire.

I’ve forgotten about the back pack weighing me down. Before I remove it, I’m already released. Even the return to the humdrum cannot diminish my energy crackle.

Is there a better start to the day?

It's good to be back

I’d always intended to take a bit of a break after the Great North Run and shake my training up a bit. In the last few weeks before the race I dropped a lot of cross training in favour of fitting quality miles and recovery into my week.

I haven’t felt the urge to go for a long run, which has formed the pattern of my weekends since the end of June, but I wanted to see how I felt over 10k. In my Great North Run training I’ve run over and above this distance time and time again, trying to aim for 9:30 min miles, with the aim of running 9 min miles throughout the race.

On a cool Monday morning, with no pressure on to get to work, I headed out on my familiar coastal route, enjoying the damp drizzle. The chill air reminds me of winter runs, just wanting to get moving to keep warm, wondering when I’ll be forced into long sleeves and extra layers. I’ll hold off as long as I can. For someone who normally feels the cold, I seem to be quite hardy when I run.

Even with a Sunday spinning class in my legs and cold air in my lungs, it feels good to be stretching out and running again. Not a fast blast, but not feeling like I have to hold back either. I take my time to settle and warm my legs through on the first mile. Always the mile of doubt. How’s it going to feel today, how far will I go?

The familiar landmarks pass and I’m keeping to my half marathon race pace. Strange how 9 min miles feels relatively easy now. The pressure’s off, I’m just running for me. No crowds, just my inner thoughts keeping me going.

There are moments when it feels hard and I puzzle through it, knowing I can go much further or faster than this. At the half way point I allow myself to slow to a jog, while I pull out my headphones and grab a mouthful of dried mango. The tunes kick in with a welcome boost on the way back and I almost overblow it to an Eminem track.

But that’s the joy of running, pushing faster and further, the surge of adrenaline making you feel like you’re invincible. I have to reign it back a little to finish the distance and the backs of my legs tell me they’ve worked hard as I finish and stretch. No goals for time today, but I’ve been working out what would be good. 56 minutes I tell myself, secretly hoping for 55. I stop the watch at 53:30 :-).

A couple of days away in Scotland and no chance for training, just plenty of good home-made food and sleep. Lots of sleep. It leaves me feeling indolent and lazy, eager to burst out of this resting bubble.

And so Friday morning sees the return of my much-loved PT session on the beach. It’s been five weeks since I tackled anything that Ian had to throw at me and I’m ready to test myself. A good catch up and warm up with the med ball and it’s like we’ve never been away. Burpees, pushups, squat jumps, lunges, bear crawls. Short bursts of activity and shorter rests make up some tough interval style workouts.

A couple of times we get to rep 3, and I think, I’ll never make 8. But something in me won’t let me be beaten, even when I’m finding it hard to catch my breath and my ears are popping (signs I still haven’t completely shifted my cold). I make it to the end, feeling muscles I haven’t used for a while, jog up the steps and stretch while planning the next challenge. I have lots to look forward to.