The Scribbler

27 March 2014

Losing the gremlins in the woods

Filed under: run — The Scribbler @ 21:07
Tags: , , ,

I’m focusing on running at the moment, trying to make the most of four run sessions a week – usually a couple of 10ks, a 30 min interval set and a long, slow run. It’s hard. It’s been a long time since I’ve focused on just running, but in a way, it’s good to go back to where it all started. I’d just forgotten how much it takes to get out and do it, to tackle to tough sessions and push myself further and faster.

The plan was to run 10k , so I set out under grey skies and light drizzle with around an hour’s running in mind. It being a longer run, I was kind to my feet and chose my old trainers, ones I knew would get me through the distance without my toes feeling like they were being blitzed by fire and ice.

There’s a 5k route that I use quite often, away from traffic but over decent paths and light trails. I set along it feeling heavy legged and bodied. No bounce, more a shuffle. I made a conscious effort to think about my form, land light, pick up my feet, ease into the run, relax.

I grumbled round the loop, negative thoughts floating through my synapses. ‘Why am I doing this? It’s meant to be fun? This doesn’t feel like fun. I’m so much slower than I was. I expect too much. I’m not getting any younger. This will keep on getting harder.’

Sometimes they threatened to stick and form goals ‘I could just go and run my home race for fun… I should drop Alnwick tri… I should pull out of that standard tri, just do the sprint’. Of course, I could do all of those things, I just need a better reason than mental gremlins made me do it.

Rather than completing my usual 5k loop and running it twice, I extended it on through to a nature reserve.  The trees alongside the narrow path are woody and spindly, not showing their spring greens yet. But the shade and the renewed focus on finding my feet along the trail seemed to lift my thoughts and before I knew it, I’d outpaced the gremlins and left them stumbling through the woods, unable to follow me.

I started to breathe a little easier, feel the flow of movement a little more naturally. The path continued and I was enjoying myself, so I followed it, hoping that I’d remember a route from years ago as I came across the landmarks.

I didn’t. I thought there was a style. There was a gate and a main road. I thought I could run alongside on the verge for a little way and then turn in by a big tree. I didn’t find the tree, but I did find a sort of path at the edge of a field, heading in the right sort of direction, so I followed it.

I wasn’t lost. Just exploring. At any point I could have retraced my steps and found a familiar path. But I didn’t want to go back. I wanted to go forward. My route took me over some rather rough ground, and eventually back onto a tarmaced footpath pretty close to where I first entered the nature reserve.

Earlier thoughts of cutting the run short had been banished. I’d come so far and enjoyed my little off road adventure, I would see out at least an hour’s running or more. I found something like pace. Legs which had grumbled and begged me to slow down at the start seemed willing to push on after an 8k warm up and I completed my distance target.

As always, I felt so much better for doing it. And reflecting on my run, there were far more positives than the gremlins could throw negatives at me.

My first race of the season is a 10k road race. I can run the distance. I’ve done it a few times recently and will do a few more before race day. I can do it after a heavy week’s training on legs tired from weight training. And I can lose the gremlins along the way, and actually enjoy a run that didn’t start out that way.

Now to find a bit more pace and my racing head…

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19 August 2012

Long run Sunday

There are plenty of us at it at the moment. Working out the when, the how, the where. Where’s a good place to meet? How long will it take? Of course, there are those who will do it on a weekday, but for most of us, it’s the weekend or bust.

The long run is the feature of many a runner’s weekend. A chance to test the legs over an increasing distance; to make sure your trainers are well worn in;  to try out strategies for eating and drinking on the run; or just to get the miles in.

There are always runners a-plenty at the North East coast where I run. But at this time of year, they seem to increase in number. Like migrating birds, they are drawn to feats of endurance, travelling further and further towards their summer breeding ground of the Great North Run, their plumage a rainbow of charity T-shirts.

Last weekend, I ran on legs already wearied from a day enjoying the sights and sounds of the Edinburgh festival. I set out later than usual and paid the price in heat and sweat and hard work. It was not one of my most enjoyable runs and it did make me question why I want to do this half marathon.

This weekend was better planned. With the weather threatening to be hot again, I was up and out to make the most of a cooler morning. I’d changed my mind about driving to run a different route and stuck to the coast, where I knew the air was likely to be cooler.

I took my iPod, but for most of the first part of the run, I was just happy to be out with my own thoughts and enjoy the relative quiet of the morning. I started by heading out towards North Shields Fish Quay and ran along by the mouth of the river. It’s a route with a steep down hill and then a little sequence of uphill stretches before you hit the flat at the coast again.  But I figured I’d get the hills out of the way early.

As I passed by, a couple were looking out over the rocky foreshore with binoculars. The lady called out for me to see something wonderful and I stopped to see a curlew, wading in between the rocks with its long curved beak. I often see oyster catchers and gulls, and this year has been rich with swifts and swallows, but I don’t think I’ve seen a curlew here before.

So, onto the run and a slow climb up by Tynemouth Priory and then out along the coastal path in the sunshine, under blue skies. I began to pass more runners and see more cyclists here, most with a wave or a smile.

I plugged in my headphones for a bit of a musical boost, trying to increase the turnover of my legs and pick up the pace a little. It worked quite well, and there are a couple of faster miles that I attribute to listening to Eminem, Lose Yourself, which always makes me pick my feet up to the driving bass beat.

Mindful of the temperature, I had a couple of brief stops to slurp a few drops and splash my face with water, but I never felt particularly thirsty. And I actually felt like I eased into the run as I got a few more miles in. By the time I turned at the lighthouse, I was feeling relaxed, running easy and in control.

A couple of times on the way back I picked up the pace, but really I wasn’t paying any attention to my watch or how fast I was going. I was just running to feel and listening to the bleeps that told me I’d clocked up another kilometre.

A couple of girls passed me as I stopped for another splash of water and later I used them as a target to chase down, keeping my pace up as I approached the end of my run. I had planned to run 20k, and was a bit short of that target as I reached the turn off for home, so I backtracked for about a kilometre or so and we passed each other again with a smile of recognition.

Last week I was grinding out the distance, willing the watch to countdown to the end. This week I felt strong and in control on rested legs, so I pushed just a little further, allowing myself a last kilometre at warm down speed before stopping and stretching.

For all the running and training I enjoy, a half marathon is still quite a challenge for me. And even though I’ve run the distance before, I still take a deep breath before taking it on. Now I know I have the endurance, both physically and mentally to cover the distance this year, I’ll be looking to see if I can pick up something approaching last year’s pace in the next four weeks before race day on 16 September.

So, why do I do it? Well partly because it’s the world’s biggest half marathon and it has an enormous atmosphere that’s unlike almost any other race I’ve ever done. I do it because I like a challenge, a purpose for my training and because it isn’t easy. And in 2012 I’ll be doing it in Olympic year in the company of two athletic legends, Mo Farah and Haile Gebrselassie.

And I do it, like so many of those other runners I saw out today, putting the miles in, getting hot, sweaty and uncomfortable, for charity. To give something back, to raise money for a good cause, and to remember someone who meant something in our lives.

In my case, it’s for Ava, the baby sister we never got to know, much anticipated and loved before she got here. There’s been a bit of discussion and awareness of stillbirth in the news just recently, with the sad news that Gary Barlow and his family lost their little girl Poppy. It’s horribly sad news for them and I do wish them happier times in future. But I welcome the awareness that this happens, and happens all too often in the UK.

Every day in the UK 17 families go through the grief of losing a baby at birth or soon after. Through my own experience, I’ve had the privilege of meeting or hearing about some of their experiences. And that just makes me more determined to do what I can, however small, to support Sands who not only support families through these sad times, but also fund research and make recommendations about healthcare practices to help reduce the number of deaths. So, here’s a link to my fundraising page. I’ll not go on about it, but if you can support me, I really do appreciate it. And if you can’t make a donation, leave me a message, because that will spur me on too.

11 July 2012

Bridges of the Tyne 5 mile road race

It’s always fun to try out a new race, and this was a brand new addition to the North East’s racing calendar. New and fast growing club Tyne Bridge Harriers did a fantastic job of their inaugural race, getting all the ingredients right for an event that I hope will become a regular on the calendar.

I made my way down to Newcastle’s quayside straight after work, under grey skies and a persistent drizzle. Meeting up at the race HQ at the Tyne pub, I saw lots of familiar faces from parkrun and local running clubs, and it looked like it was set to be a very speedy crowd.

Runners hanging around before the start of the race

Catching up on running gossip ahead for the race (Photo: Mick Durnion)

I caught up with some friends and was able to wish good luck to Karen and her mum Isobel, running her first race in preparation for the Great North Run in September. And I caught up with a couple of girls I’d met at the start of the Blaydon Race. Running really is a very friendly sport.

I picked up my race pack, complete with number, and a very nice technical T-shirt and took advantage of the plentiful safety pins to get myself ready for a quick warm up, before a good walk back down to the Quayside to find the start line.

I hadn’t actually worked out where the start would be, and it was a good bit further along than I thought, but the walk, even in the drizzle was a nice warm up and the rain sodden skies weren’t dampening anyone’s spirits. Goodness knows what those drinking in the Pitcher and Piano thought of a stream of lycra clad runners passing by though.

No sooner were we all together than we were off and racing along the flat pavements of the quayside towards the Tyne Bridge, complete with Olympic rings.

With potential hazards of street furniture taped up or protected by marshals, I wasn’t aware of anyone having trouble negotiating the course, which is a fast out and back along beside the river. A few cheery spectators gave us a shout or a wave as we passed and the fishermen further up river looked on with amusement.

The route basically follows the smooth riverside paths, with runners passing beneath the Tyne’s bridges up towards the business park. Here there is a small incline to round the waymarker for the sea to sea cycle route and then it’s back along the same paths, giving slower runners like me a good chance to cheer on speedier pals.

Tyne Bridge with the Olympic rings

Costa del Quayside (Photo: Mick Durnion)

After my injury in the first part of the year, and my recent tri focus, I don’t feel like I’ve raced properly on a run other than at Blaydon this year. My thinking going into it, was just to give it a blast and see how my pace is coming along. So I went out fast, with a tactic of go hard and see how long I could keep going.

After talking to Ian on Monday night at our kettlebell session, I also tried to focus on shortening my stride and turning my legs over quickly, trying to run more on the mid/forefoot, rather than stretching my legs out and braking with a heel strike.

It felt good to be running quickly and just pushing it at the edge of where my breathing felt comfortable and where it began to get a bit too stressed out. I’ve been doing a lot of ‘running easy’ as I recovered and I still enjoy just easing into a longer run, but I need to remind myself of how it feels to run when it hurts a bit. My PBs didn’t come running easy.

With the wide pavements and space on the Quayside, I found I had plenty of space to run and very much ran my own race. I deliberately kept clear of the Garmin, just giving it the odd glance, but really running to feel and trying to keep pushing at the edge of what was comfortable

I’m sure I went through patches where I eased off to catch my breathing and I know I started to drift off my fast starting pace after two miles. But I was pleased I still had the mental race focus to keep pushing, find a rhythm and stay in the race.

I was chasing a group of three Tyne Bridge Harriers girls at the turn. They came past me on the grass, then I caught them, before one put on a spurt of speed and broke away. I ran alongside one of them for a while until she too dropped back.

But I can’t remember many passing me in the last two miles and as I started to really feel the strain, particularly with just over a mile to go, I kept trying to focus just ahead and inch in the distance to the next runner.

Me and a couple of all4Ali runners

Cathcing up with the All4Ali runners post race (Photo: Mick Durnion)

The next runner in this case was a girl in a blue t-shirt with a justgiving link written across the back of it. She had a few walking breaks and each time I tried to reel her in. But she must have been a tasty runner as, no sooner had I eaten away at the gap between us, than she lengthened it out again as soon as she started running. So I never did get close enough to read the whole of the link.

With the finish approaching and a few shouts of encouragement, I kicked it up a notch for a sprint over the line and was pleased to stop my watch with 44:xx on the clock. That’s an average of 9 min miles, and considering I’ve been running at more like 10 min miles recently, I’m very happy with that.

As I cheered in some of the remaining runners, I also caught up with the team in the blue fundraising T-shirts and was delighted to find they were from a group of local running and triathlon clubs All4Ali raising money for North of England Children’s Cancer research. I knew of their fundraising efforts from my Twitter pal Adi, who I ‘met’ at the Northumberland triathlon, so it was nice to hear how they were getting on and say hello. The north east running and triathlon world is a very friendly and supportive one.

Stats and stuff:

5 miles 44:27
1)  – 1m – 8:29(8:29/m) – 103cal
2)  – 1m – 8:48(8:48/m) – 104cal
3)  – 1m – 9:00(9:00/m) – 104cal
4)  – 1m – 9:07(9:07/m) – 105cal
5)  – 1m – 9:03(9:03/m) – 104cal

Race results

Photos

9 July 2012

Race calendar

Filed under: Parkrun,run — The Scribbler @ 18:23
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’ve added a race calendar to my blog, so you can see what races I have coming up and also find links to some of my old race reports.

I mainly race in the North East of England where there are plenty of great events to enjoy, including a good number of triathlons.

I find out about local races from the excellent northeastraces.com, fetcheveryone.com and through word of mouth.

Triathlons and other multisport events are covered by VO2MaxRacing events and Tri Hard

I’ve not included every parkrun I’ve done, as it would be a very long list. But I have linked to the odd one or two, particularly when I’ve run in a different location. Parkrun is a free weekly, timed 5k run and they take place all over the UK and now all over the world too.  My home parkrun is Newcastle on the Town Moor.

24 March 2012

Pacing my recovery

Filed under: bike,Parkrun,run,swim,training,triathlon — The Scribbler @ 18:33
Tags: , , , ,

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!

9 March 2012

What I’ve learned about plantar fasciitis

What is plantar fasciitis?

The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue (like a ligament) that stretches from your heel to your toes. It supports the arch of your foot and acts as a shock-absorber when you walk or run. Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of this band of tissue.

It’s most likely caused by repeated small injuries over time, so if you do a lot of walking, running or spending time on your feet. It’s sometimes called ‘policeman’s heel’ as officers walking the beat were said to be commonly affected and the pain is usually felt on the underside of the foot near the heel.

Typical symptoms include pain which is worse first thing in the morning or after a period of rest. It often eases off as you move around, but can be triggered again by a long walk, run or just being on your feet.

My experience
I first felt a bruised sensation in the heel of one foot after training and running which didn’t go away after a couple of days. It was more noticeable first thing in a morning.

I hadn’t been pounding out lots of miles or running much more than I usually did. But I had been running with a club and doing hill sprints and short sprints – both of which would naturally force me more onto my toes. I am a bit of a speed demon and enjoyed the sensation of the sprint sessions, but they may well have contributed to my injury. Or it may just have gradually built up over time.

It’s a pretty common and frustrating injury among runners, so I quickly found plenty of sympathetic and useful advice.

Advice:

  • Don’t keep running on it
    Pretty obvious really. An injury caused by impact is unlikely to improve if you keep pounding the pavements or trails. The problem is that it can seem to come and go.In my case, it never hurt enough to really make me wince. And it very rarely hurt when I was running. So I would rest for a few days and try a run again, find that it hurt afterwards, rest again and repeat.
  • Rest it
    The words runners hate to hear. Resting is what you do after a long run, ahead of your next run. Resting feels like wasting time when you could be training.The problem with the plantar fascia is that it’s slow healing and because of where it is, you’re unlikely to be able to fully rest it. It took me a long time to realise that even a short lunchtime walk could upset it.Some gentle movement, exercise and stretching can help loosen up the plantar fascia and encourage it to heal.
  • Get some advice and treatment
    There are simple things you can do to help treat plantar fasciitis at home. Icing the area intensely can help reduce the inflammation and ease the pain. But it’s a case of getting an ice pack on for 20 minutes at a time 3 or 4 times a day, not just 5 minutes with a pack of frozen peas.Other home-made treatments include rolling your foot over a bottle of iced water, or giving yourself a foot massage with a golf ball to really get into the sore spots and break down any patches of stiffness.One useful exercise for stretching the plantar fascia was to put a towel on the floor and try and pick it up with my toes. I’d often do this one standing at the sink brushing my teeth in a morning. 
  • Cross train
    You can keep your fitness up with non-impact exercise like cycling and swimming. I learned to enjoy the cardio effect of an indoor row bike row session instead of a run. Just watch out for those exercise classes where you might be jumping or hopping and putting impact on that foot.

What I learned:
I did all of the above, but also made the mistake of trying to keep running at the kind of pace and intensity I had been used to after a few days’ rest.

But I realised that a cycle of run, hurt, rest… run, hurt, rest was ultimately fruitless and eventually I went to seek advice from a sports physio. That really marked the start of me better understanding and beginning to treat it. He looked at the way I stood and walked, did some manipulation on my foot and generally prodded around until it really hurt.

In my case, it’s linked into the fact that I pronate (in simple terms, my knees pull inwards a little). I already wear orthotics, special insoles that help position my feet to correct this. But that same instability meant that I was putting added pressure on my plantar fascia.

I’ve had several weeks of treatment and been given lots of exercises to do to either loosen up the plantar fascia or strengthen the muscles in my calves and foot to try and get them pulling in the right direction. Because of the tightness in my plantar, my calf muscles also became very stiff and tight and I had to have some deep sports massage to loosen them up too.

The key for me has been to persist and to be patient. So I keep doing the exercises and stretches, even when there’s no pain. I keep a golf ball in my desk drawer and try to roll my foot over it once a day at least.

Losing the simple freedom and adrenaline buzz of even a short run, did affect my mood and made me more likely to reach for the comfort food. And self massaging your foot or calves with a foam roller, golf ball or iced bottle hurts. Sometimes you really don’t want to do it. But afterwards it does feel better.

I’ve also had to ease back into running again. My physio wrote out a plan to help me return to running and it was just like starting over with a 5 minute walk and a 1 minute run. Unfortunately, my speed demon tendencies had me trying to run that minute at my fastest pace and by the end of the session, I’d really aggravated my plantar again.

So I learned to slow down, run easy. And to take note of the drills I’d do in the running breaks, knee lifts and heel kicks, fast feet and lateral shuffles – designed to switch on the running muscles, especially the glutes and to encourage me to pick up my feet quickly.

I’m not sure if I’ve managed to change the way I run in only a few weeks. But I’m more conscious of trying to land lightly and pick up my feet, but avoid pushing off my toes.

It is getting better. But it is a frustrating injury that can seem fine one minute day and then be back again the next. I’m very much hoping that I’ll be back to running regularly and building up time on my feet again soon.

Sources of information:

http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Plantar-Fasciitis.htm
http://www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/sport-injuries/foot-heel-pain/plantar-fasciitis
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plantar_fasciitis

23 December 2010

Running by numbers 2010

Filed under: run — The Scribbler @ 19:00
Tags: , , ,

I’ve promised myself a nice long blog over the Christmas break to reflect on my amazing running year, but in the meantime, here are some interesting numbers:

18 races completed (including 6 parkruns)
2 cancelled/postponed
1 dual event
1 run outside the UK
7 PBs
5 PBs at distances/races I’ve run more than once (1 mile, 5k, Blaydon Race, Pier to Pier, Great North Run)
3 radio interviews
1 picture in Running Free magazine
£1,433.60 raised for Sands in memory of baby Ava

and
4 races entered in 2011 already (and lots more planned)

But the most important is the number of friends I have made through running and Fetch Everyone this year. And that’s more than I care to count.

Thank you and Merry Christmas one and all.

8 September 2010

Wind assisted and resisted

Filed under: Great North Run,run,training — The Scribbler @ 17:42
Tags: ,

One of the advantages of dropping my cross training in the last couple of weeks leading up to the Great North Run is that I now have more options for when I can fit a run in.

Squally, wintry weather this morning with horizontal rain and howling gales meant I scrapped the idea of an early wake up call and settled for an extra snooze. Well, rest is very important too.

But that still meant there was a run to do. And with the sun making an appearance at lunchtime and the wind dropping, an early evening jaunt along the coast was just the thing.

Three runners passed my way as I was stretching and as I set off I fought the urge to catch them. Just steady, steady – a nice, relaxed evening run. A recovery run if you like from Sunday’s 12 miler.

My strides felt bouncy. It was good to be out, fresh and clean in the storm tossed air. The grey waves lashed up a fine mist into the chill, coating my glasses with a smear of salty soft-focus.

Easy breathing, easy pacing, but don’t kid yourself that’s a cross wind. It’s behind you.

A sub 9 minute first mile. It’s going to hurt on the way back. Another race pace mile and another, and it’s feeling free, easy and relaxed. The trick now is to maintain this effort and this pace. Not to go faster, even though my legs say they have it in them.

And then at the lighthouse comes the turn. Into the wind. It will slow me, but I stay calm against its buffeting, stay relaxed and focus on maintain the same level of effort as those easy first miles, resisting the temptation to take on the battle.

Runners, runners everywhere tonight. Free and easy, working hard, working fast. I catch one on the return leg and pass her. But she’s not having it and overtakes me again within a few hundred metres. I tell myself to stick with my run. She might be doing intervals.

My aim is to keep the same effort even though the wind is whittling away my pace. But I’m close to home now, just over a mile to go and my racing blood is up. I’ve kept this steady and easy so far. Can I turn it on into this force of resistance?

Stretch out the stride and make every inch of those legs count. I catch her again with around half a mile to go and turn up the gear a notch. Another gear, and another and I’m flying into the wind, smiling into the sea-spray.

Running with the wind in my hair and feeling faster than ever, right up to the finish line. 7.5 miles done and feeling good. You know the training’s paying off when you can run that distance on a week night and it feels relatively easy. It wasn’t always that way, and I’m sure that after the Great North Run there will come a time when I’ll wonder how I did it.

Stats and stuff:
7.5 miles/ 12.07km 1hr 09.42
mile splits:
1. 08.52
2. 09.06
3. 08.56
4. 09.05
5. 09.57
6. 10.01
7. 09.11
8. 04.31 (0.5 miles)

24 July 2010

Great North Run training – 8 weeks to go

Filed under: run,training — The Scribbler @ 17:22
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I could hardly believe I’d run my longest distance of the year to date last Sunday as there were no signs of aches (even the good ones) on Monday morning. My legs felt fresh and I began to congratulate myself on how strong and fit my running had become and remind myself that the slower pace and a day’s rest beforehand may have played a part in that. I’m sure the company and post race fuelling helped too.

I’d already decided to mix up my training days this week, and was half-minded to throw in a run on Monday evening, to test my ‘legs feel fresh’ theory, but I remembered the benefit of that reluctant day’s rest before my long weekend run. And when it came to it, by the end of a busy day at work, the effects of a later than usual bedtime caught up with me, and although my body felt fine, I was tired. With the rain pouring down, and a muzzy head, I opted out of my planned kettlebell session and settled for an early night.

Tuesday morning, I’d dithered over the options. Wake up and run 10k before work, or drop my car off at the garage and run a similar distance into work. I woke before the alarm and peered out to see grey, overcast skies and light drizzle – good running weather. So up, kit on, ready to go.

As I opened the door the rain was bouncing off the pavement. But I’d dithered enough. A quick dash back upstairs for a light jacket and a cap and out, before I could change my mind again.

I actually like running in the rain, provided it’s not too cold. I’ve gone out in the drizzle before and been caught in a downpour, but I’ve never deliberately headed out when it’s been pouring. The cap did the trick of keeping the raindrops off my glasses and I enjoyed the slightly crazy solitude of a run, splashing through puddles, surrounded by the soft grey damp of the coast.

One solitary fellow runner smiled and shouted “It’s a lovely day for it,” as we passed in opposite directions.

By my half way point, the rain had eased and the sun was braving the grey clouds. I paused at a bus stop to de-steam my glasses and decided to take off my jacket as the sleeves were clammy, wet and sticking to my arms.

I was happy to see my fellow runner on the way back, enjoying the improving weather as we waved and said hello again, both satisfied that we knew what we’d been through to get there.

That run gave me energy. Energy enough to plough on through a good chunk of work, and energy enough to tackle that kettlebell workout in the evening – even if the rain did chase me indoors for the final set.

And so to Wednesday and the session that I know I can drop if I need to, and probably will over the next few weeks. But I do enjoy my boxercise class. It’s always a whole body workout and it’s a good way to get rid of any frustrations and untapped aggression. This week we did a circuit style class and kept changing partners, so at one point I was with a big guy who punches hard. So I was really chuffed when we got to the push-up station and I managed to keep going, while he had a little rest.

My training normally builds towards Thursday morning and the best session of the week with my PT down the beach. This week I had to remember that I still had a run to do on Friday morning, so I asked Ian to leave me with something in my legs.

I love training with the kettlebells. They really do offer a full body work out. They’re relatively simple to use and I like the fact that you’re not isolating muscles, like you do using weights machines in the gym, but using your body more dynamically, like you would do naturally.

We had a really good session, with a lot of combinations of exercises that kept me moving, and tested my brain and co-ordination. I switched to a lighter weight for some of the exercises and it was amazing how easy it was to move it around after being so used to my 12kg.

I also got absolutely covered in sand as it was as blustery and chilly as a November day down on the beach. I poured piles of it from my shoes before I headed home, but still managed to create a mini seafront in my bathroom as it escaped from my top, my socks, my hair… it was even in my ears (don’t ask).

Friday morning was the first time I’d attempted a run the day after a PT session. A nice cool morning and good conditions for a 10k. My glutes and hips were a bit niggly to start and I had that ‘oh so tedious’ conversation in my head about whether or not I would make it within the first mile or so.

I’m always in danger of overanalysing, of trying to work out all the what-ifs and in my mind I was running through all my training permutations, trying to find the perfect solution. What if I ran Monday, Wednesday and Saturday? Should I drop boxercise? Sure I can cope with doing it, but it all adds to the cumulative effect. I’m normally better when I allow myself more rest and my focus now is on running. Or should I run Tuesday, Friday, Sunday?

That kind of stuff doesn’t really help, so I had to consciously remind myself to relax, not fret so much, keep it steady, roll out the feet, stretch out the legs. By the time I got to the turning point I was in a more relaxed and positive frame of mind, so I picked up the pace a little. Having done that, the challenge was to keep it going and run the return leg faster than the out leg. There may have been a little wind assistance, nothing particularly noticeable, but I did. So that bodes well for pacing longer runs and the big race.

And so today, finally I am actually pleased it’s a rest day. That does have something to do with me dancing around like a lunatic at the Newcastle Arena last night. My legs were definitely saying ‘Are you mad woman? We did six miles this morning. When will you give us a break?’ Can I log major bouncing up and down for a good couple of hours as cross training?

Still, looking forward to a long run tomorrow.

19 October 2009

Catching up

Filed under: run — The Scribbler @ 22:06
Tags: , ,

So my early morning fretfulness disappeared after a good sleep and deciding not to put so much pressure on myself. And I return to my routine of running and training and enjoying the adrenaline buzz. It’s definitely a sanity saviour as well as a physical boost.

Wednesday boxercise is always a good marker. Half way through the week and a time to sweat it out, punch it out. I always come out smiling.

Thursday training
Thursday morning is damp and grey. A fine wet early morning mizzle delays the daylight as the sea retreats far from the shore.

Ian puts me through my paces. Double kettle bells, deadlifts, swings and clean to press. Then the long walk with them lifted high. Soon I can’t tell whether I’m just wet or sweaty. My glasses join the discarded hoodie on the sand.

It’s tough and challenging. There’s one point where I stop then try again. Push ups, burpees and the plank. But I’m in more control this week. Core braced tight and feeling strong.

It’s a race to get back in time for work. My hair stays slicked back and damp for the rest of the day.

The intervals I would like to fit in on Thursday or Friday have to wait. I have a friend to wish goodbye to and want everything to be right for this parting.

Saturday intervals
By Saturday I’m itching to run – even though it’s intervals and I haven’t chosen the best Friday night supper. You can just hear the excuses already, can’t you?

It’s chilly as I venture out. I wonder how many more days I can manage short sleeves and capri tights. But after a quick stretch I’m on the move. Struggle to settle on the warm up. Realise I’ve forgotten my heart rate monitor, but get going anyway.

The plan is several sets of 1 min run, 30 secs recovery with a warm up and cool down to take me to 30 mins. On the second sprint I come to an awful choking stop. Scratchy panicked panting for air, tears in my eyes and all hope abandoned.

I jog through the next interval set as my Garmin beeps like an excited puppy. I pick up the ball and try again. Better this time as I find my rhythm. But it’s still hard.

I let myself off another sprint around half way through, trying to control my breathing, then push on for another few sets before the relief of a cool down run.

Patchy and not glorious. But I’m pleased I didn’t let that first panic stall me. I stretch and head home for a shower.

Sunday run
Sunday is a glorious day for a run. Well rested and well fed I’m eager to be out again. This time it’s a 10k target and how much closer can I get to that magic 50 mins?

I’m off and the pace is good, smiling at the runners who are out in force today. Running my old familiar route, not shirking the inclines.

I’m a bit flat footed. I keep trying to roll my feet and stretch out the pace, rather than faster, shorter strides, but again it’s a bit patchy.

I run along the nice flat promenade on the way back and have to do some serious talking to myself not to stop. It’s all in my head. Nothing hurts, I can breathe. Just that evil little voice has filled my head with black doubts. I push on, knowing I’ve beaten this before.

Somewhere later it starts to feel good again. Not brilliant. Not quite that wonderful euphoric sense of everything working perfectly in time. But better, more positive. The evil little voice defeated once more.

I know I’ve slowed, but still feel like I’m putting the effort in. My Nike+ counts down the metres to go and I try to ignore it, clinging on until the Garmin lets me know I’ve really finished with a welcome beedily boop. 10k in 54.41 – faster than last week, but still quite a way short of where I want to be. Putting the miles in is the only way I’ll get there.

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