And so to the long run

It was nice to have a lie in this morning after feasting well at the monthly evening meal at the coffee house in Longframlington. Mackerel and beetroot salad with horseradish cream, fish pie and summer pudding – delicious!

I’ve been trying to push these runs a bit later in the morning to get as close as I can to race day conditions, but normally I’m chomping at the bit to be up and out. I could hear the wind had picked up and it looked a little grey out, so I opted for a T-shirt and soon found myself wishing I’d picked a vest instead as it was so warm, but breezy.

Looking for a longer route and determined to stick a hill or two in there, I set off on a short loop around North Shields and down a steep bank to the fish quay, following the path of the first part of the North Tyneside 10k.

My first mile was fast, under 9 mins. But I told myself that was because of the downhill and to take it easy, that the hill ahead would slow me down. And so I powered up Priory hill, a deceptive steep little stretch that goes up and then bends round and goes up further, then flattens out for a few paces, before a nice steep climb up to the coastal paths along the beach. It’s steeper than anything I’ll tackle on the Great North Run route, so it was a good little mental boost to crack that and keep going. And I was still a little speedy.

I stuck mainly to the tarmac today, trying as far as I could to replicate race conditions. I was glad it was hot. Race day is likely to be warm and I need to know I can cope with that, even though I always have the advantage of a bit of a breeze at the coast.

For once I was nice and relaxed, just running, trying to pace myself, not particularly thinking about anything. There were lots of runners out today and everyone smiled or nodded or acknowledged my good morning. We’re all in this together.

I felt good, running quite smoothly. I had a clear thought that I was going to run 12 miles today and it would be easy. But I checked my thoughts and said to myself that i would run 12 miles, but that it may not be that easy.

I’ve been struggling a bit with hydration on my longer runs. I really don’t like carrying a water bottle in my hand and when I tried a bottle belt it bounced around so much that I ran back home after 5 mins and ditched it.

Last year I managed to do all my runs without water, just relying on the fact that I’m generally pretty good about drinking it. But I’ve had a couple of headaches and the threat of cramp on longer runs recently, so I’m trying to make life easier for myself.

So today I tried a Swiggie – a small water bottle that sits on your wrist. It doesn’t hold much – only 100ml, but they come in pairs. With my Garmin, I only felt comfortable wearing one, but I was able to fill it up on my return leg. I think it helped, even if it was just psychological. When I felt I was starting to sag, I took a sip and after an hour, I took a good glug to help me wipe the stickiness of a gel from my mouth.

By about 6.5 miles I was off tarmac and onto some nice wide trails. Not a lot of shade or shelter here, but nice to be away from the road. I had been trying to work out where best to turn round, as I didn’t really want to repeat the loop at the start of my run and I think I made a mistake thinking about too early. I settled in my head for around 7.5 miles and as I came across a gate just before that it seemed a good point to turn back.

Now the narrower paths seemed more uneven, and the surface was pulling at my legs. The wind was in my face. I welcomed its coolness, but resented the way it made every step so much harder.

I wanted to stretch out and be away, to fight the weariness and threat of tightness in my calves and that tiny niggle at the top of my right leg that I always fear will be an ITB flare up. I thought I’d learned just to take it steady on trails, to allow the surface to slow me down. But today I fought it and tried to chase them down, desperate to return to familiar tarmac and mile 8-9 was a toughie.

I was starting to plod, heavy footed, so had a quick dried mango boost. Then I made a conscious effort to pick up the pace and stretch out the stride, by singing to mysef in my head. The chorus of All these Things that I’ve Done by The Killers has a great beat for driving you forward.

Just running home now, just churning out the miles to the end. Come on girl, you can run 4 miles. I stopped briefly near the Rendezvous cafe to fill up on water. Barely seconds, but having my comfort blanket of water when I wanted it meant that I knew I’d finish without losing the plot.

I passed a workmate running in the opposite direction at about 10 miles and was pleased that I’d got back into my stride and was running more easily and calmly again. Having noticed a couple of close to 10 minute miles on the trails, I tried to pick up the pace little for the last couple of miles, but really I’d gone off too quickly and there was too much of a headwind for a negative split.

I toyed briefly with the idea of carrying on, pushing to a confidence boosting 13 miles or even race distance. But instead I went for the adrenaline rush of picking up the pace for a faster finish. My breathing had been beautiful and untroublesome throughout the run, so it was good to give a rush to my heart rate and push for a landmark, imagining it to be the finishing line.

Stats and stuff:
12 miles 1hr 53.57
mile splits:
1. 08.51
2. 09.14
3. 08.54
4. 09.31
5. 09.10
6. 09.14
7. 09.41
8. 09.52
9. 09.48
10. 10.02
11. 09.59
12. 09.13