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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Pacing my recovery

Pulling together my last swimming blog means I didn’t mention a pretty good weekend of training, including my return to running at Newcastle parkrun. And now I find myself a week on and catching up.

Last Saturday was as perfect as you’re likely to get on the Town Moor, a spot of spring sunshine and practically no breeze. There were certainly plenty of runners out. My plan was for a steady run. My back to run programme had a 30 minute run on it, so I figured that would be okay to get me round the course. Keeping my pace steady seems to be the key to preventing pain in my heel and plantar. So this was definitely one to treat as a training run.

I did a good 5 minute warm up with walking, knee lifts and heel kicks, just like I’ve been doing before every run. Then I got a bonus warm up as a couple of Northumbria Uni students took us through some jogging and stretches before the start.

I shuffled back through the crowds and stood with Penny, but I knew she would be off and away from the start. It felt good to be running on the moor again, among the happy crowd of parkrunners. I resisted the urge to surge off fast, and just kept telling myself easy, easy, easy as I approached the first km marker.

In two weeks’ time I’m going to be running 5 miles around the Olympic park, so I wanted to build up time on my feet and get a feel for what would be a sensible pace. It’s been tough to just run and not worry about pace too much as I recover from this plantar fasciitis. What I thought of as slow, easy pace, wasn’t really on the first couple of test runs and it made the recovery afterwards painful.

So the plan for parkrun was 9 min miles and at the first kilometre I was slightly ahead. A cheery thank you to Malcolm on the gate and off down the tree-lined path along Grandstand Road.

As I turned back onto the moor and along the rougher path, I caught up with Penny. After checking she was okay, we fell into step together. That really helped keep me going at the same pace through kms 3-4 as by now, that easy pace was starting to feel about as much as I wanted to do.

For once, the slight headwind into the last kilometre provided a bit of welcome coolness and running together, I could tell we were trying hard as the conversation dropped to a minimum. I was just happy to be out and running, not feeling any issues or problems and I think we picked up the pace a little as we approached the last turn.

I couldn’t resist giving my legs a quick turnover and putting on the power down the final straight. Not full pelt, top speed by any means, but I felt confident enough to give a quick finish a try.

A warm down and catch up over coffee rounded off a lovely morning. And it was great to get my parkrun text result. I enjoy volunteering, but it is nice to run too.

I pottered around the rest of the day, doing chores and made my first ever batch of lemon curd after getting some lovely unwaxed lemons in our veg box this week. I was a bit disappointed to feel a small tight spot in my heel by late afternoon. I rolled and stretched it, but it was still there and remained there even after my swim with the tri club, which often shakes these things out.

On the positive side, this plantar fasciitis is diminishing, but it’s a good reminder that I need to continue being cautious. Maybe 9 min miling around a 5k was a bit too much and I should have slowed down even more, but until I try it, I don’t know. And during a run, I generally feel okay.

I think that’s been the hardest part about dealing with this injury. I have never really had the kind of running fitness that would allow me to rock up and run a half marathon any weekend, but I have had enough to do a decent 10k on a regular basis for a couple of years. And now those 6 plus miles look as far away as they did the first time I ever set myself that goal.

I have the North Tyneside 10k rapidly approaching. It’s my home race. It goes past the bottom of my street and I run much of the route as part of my training. If things had been different this year, I’d have been building towards it, running fast intervals and working on my speed, pushing for a PB.

I know that’s not the case this year, and barring any drastic setbacks, I am happy just to run it for fun and the goody bag. But in my mind, running it fairly easily was still translating at around 9 min miles, which was my half marathon pace last year. Now I think that’s probably still a bit ambitious as I continue to recover.

I can’t unlearn what I know about pacing. Even if I don’t wear my watch I have a good idea about how fast I’m going and I’m quite good at finding a pace and sticking to it. So, no pressure, no unreasonable expectations, just a comeback run, but I do need a target pace to set myself off, or else I risk getting carried away and hitting it too hard.

I also managed a lovely ride out on my road bike on Sunday. I’ve been a bit nervous about getting the roadie out again, but within minutes I was enjoying the sensation of speed and the smooth transitions through the gears. such a difference from my trusty old mountain bike.

We raced together up the coast, enjoying the sunshine, into the wind. On the way back, on a downhill, with the wind behind me, I dropped and tucked and carried much of that rush all the way home again. And I knew, I’d fallen in love with Alice, my road bike again.

I’d been riding with flat pedals after losing my confidence with clipped in last year, but after such a brilliant ride, I took her to the bike shop and got her fitted out with some new ones. I’ve gone for mountain bike style clip ins this time and a dual option pedal which will allow me to ride with or without bike shoes. They may not be the sleekest or lightest pedals, but they should allow me to build up my confidence again and get used to clipped in riding before my first tri of the year in May.

So a weekend of running, swimming and cycling. Can’t wait for tri season!