Friday niceness

Friday morning isn’t usually a run time for me, but we’ve got today off. Yippee! So the alarm clocks were all turned off and we slept in. Bliss. About 8 am I surfaced and collected all the necessary gubbins to head out for a run. I’d not run during the week as Tuesday we had the tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo (or what ever his name was) blowing about and I really didn’t fancy that. Wednesday turned into a longer than anticipated day at work, and by the time I’d got home it was cold and dark and miserable and I didn’t fancy that much either. I looked out of the window on Friday and saw that it was not looking too bad for late October (I mean it hardly looked like June out there, but at least it wasn’t raining or blowing the tree horizontal – just looked sort of autumnal) and that made up my mind – run time. I may have been mildly deceived about the temperature, the breeze was a bit cool, but actually it wasn’t as cold as it looked. I went out in a long sleeved shirt and did wonder if I could have coped with short sleeves, as I felt a bit too warm for part of the outward leg. For someone who is always wearing at least one jumper more than the rest of the world, I don’t half overheat quickly while out running. When I made the turn and started running back into the wind, I was more comfortable about the long sleeves – that was the right decision.

I went out to the turn beyond the pylon again, but taking longer run intervals of 7 minutes, interspersed with 1 minute of walking. That meant that I only walked for 4 minutes out of the 45  or so I was out. That’s just a smidge below 9% walking. When I consider I started at 60% walking, that shows how far I’ve come. Just need to keep chipping away at the walking and extending the running – then hope some speed will come back. There’s certainly room to improve on the speed front – today I was overtaken by a pair of lady runners. They caught me just after I’d started, before the roundabout. I caught them again, while waiting for the traffic to clear and we crossed when a nice lorry driver let us across in front of him. I know drivers in general and lorry drivers in particular get a lot of stick for being aggressive and inconsiderate, but I have to say that’s not usually my experience. Where I run on a road that’s not really wide enough for two cars, the vehicles almost always pull over to the other side of the road when passing, to give me room. I respond with a wave of the hand, to acknowledge their consideration. And I’d estimate that a majority then wave smile or nod back. I will admit that the cheeriness of the wave is highly dependent on how I’m feeling at the time! While trying to cross the roundabout, if a vehicle pauses to let me across, it is often a lorry. So let’s hear it for the considerate driver and not let the miserable minority besmirch the reputation of the majority.

The other niceness noted today was on the way back. There’s a drainage channel by the industrial estate that has got very overgrown and there were some workmen cutting that back when I was on the return leg. They’d not been there when I went out, so had clearly arrived in the meantime. They were cutting the trees and putting them in a chipper. Trying to keep out of the way,they were half on the pavement, but I decided trying to get between them and the hedge was probably not the best idea, so I skirted round them on the road. As I passed, they paused the chipper,which was polite of them – it was rather noisy and I suppose the possibility of being hit by flying chips did exist.

I’m not quite sure the run lived up to the niceness that I observed during it. Out was OK and I made the turning circle by the manor in good spirits. I’d not been checking the watch too frequently, instead trying to work out where I thought 7 minutes would be and not looking until then. For the first run section, I’d actually overestimated (only by 10 seconds, but it’s enough!) The return leg was into a headwind, and that seemed to make it all much harder. I was checking the watch far more often and well before I was even half way through the run section. Overall it was pretty good though. I certainly felt at times that I could run for longer, but each minute walk was not quite enough to fully recover. A couple more outings at this pattern before the next step up.

Where’s my lie in?

Saturday morning and it’s decision time. Do you 1) have a lie in or 2) get horribly disturbed by the husband getting up such that you’re too wide awake to go back to sleep? I had intended to regress to my teenage years and try option one until about 10 am, but instead option 2 occurred at 8am. Which I suppose you could argue is a lie-in, seeing the alarm usually beeps to life at just before 6 am. But I think I could have managed to laze around in my stinking pit for a few hours more. Seeing I was awake, it was on with the togs and out for yet another attempt at this exercising lark.

In contrast to the run earlier in the week, this morning it was easier to view September as early autumn, rather than late summer. There was a misty haze, a nip in the air and a heavy dew had fallen. I can hardly claim it was cold, but I was a bit cool in a short-sleeved short for the first couple of minutes. The dew showed up the myriad of spider’s webs that draped the hedgerow in glistening art works. The most impressive were those in the cow parsley. This has long since finished flowering and set seed, so that the stalks are now dry and bare, so the sparkly webs showed up in contrast to them. There were obviously a number of spider schools of though as to how best to place the web. In some cases, the webs were free-form structures, filling in the spaces in the flower heads; in others they were bold classical web designs between the different stalks. Either way, they were all showing up boldly in the misty morning light. If I had any eye for artistic detail there were a load of really striking images that could be captured.

Other things our and about this morning included other people, which wasn’t an observation made last week, when I left the house at about 7 on a Saturday morning! Several cyclists, all of them in pairs (is that rule? I’m not familiar enough with the rules of the bicycling fraternity to know) and 2 other runners. One of whom was running on the wrong side of the road, but that was approaching the end of my outing and I really didn’t have the energy to spare to explain to her that on a road with no footpath she should be facing oncoming traffic.

And so the run itself, well that went OK. As I set off I couldn’t remember what timings I was supposed to be doing, so did 2 minutes for the first run section; then I worked out I should be on 1 minute run, 1 minute walk, so reverted to that. 2.7 miles in a smidgeon over 37 minutes is yet another improvement on previous sessions. I know there will come a time when I won’t improve on consecutive runs, but for now I’ll take that. Average pace dropped below 14 minutes for the first time, as well. The thing I have to stop thinking about when I’m out there is how much further and faster I used to be able to run. I know I used to cover the distance from the pylon home in ~ 15 minutes, not the 18 or so it’s currently taking – and that used to be with 10 mile already in the legs. The thing I have to try and concentrate on is that it will come back and I will get better – again. It will take a bit of time to get the fitness back, but I’m determined it will come back, and I will loose the excess flab that currently hangs about, and the spare bust I seem to have developed. Not sure how a cup of coffee and piece of flapjack I had for breakfast while shopping in town is supposed to help that aim, but it was a very good piece of flapjack and I can’t be good all the time (my excuse & I’m sticking to it).

This is getting to be a habit

Today was one of those days that make you think September is late summer, rather than the beginning of autumn. Lovely blue skies with some white, fluffy clouds for added contrast, it was lovely to be out. Home from work (via the library to return this month’s book club book and an audio book – all before their return date) then in, change and out again in fairly short order. Certainly no sitting down – that’s my downfall; once I sit down I seem welded to the sofa for the evening.

Having done 2 outings last week using the run/walk pattern of 1 minute run to 1.5 minutes walking, I wanted to move the ratio towards running and set out intending to run for 1 minute again, but to reduce the walk breaks to 1 minute as well. And so it proved. Same route as before, so ~ 2.7 miles and this time that came up in under 38 minutes. Making today’s outing a whole minute faster than last week. I’m sure that’s not because the run sections are faster, I think that improvement is solely down to the reduction in the amount of walking. All of which makes a positive difference.

Having reduced my time, what else has changed? Not necessarily since last week, but since I was last actively out and about as a runner. Well I notice that I’m still as easily distracted by what’s going on around me as ever. Today’s excitement was the rather long queue of lorries trying to get into one of the warehouses I run past. Looked like one couldn’t get out, so none of the others could move and the ones arriving were queueing out onto the road. Much hooting and tooting – which I happily trotted past on the other side of the road. I also note that the paddock that occasionally held Llamas today had chickens in it. I realise that a Llama isn’t something you expect to see in the heart of the shire, but I promise they were not the product of an overheated brain. And I’m fairly sure even I couldn’t mistake a chicken for a Llama, so chickens they most certainly were. The fields have been cut and the farmers were clearly making the most of the relatively dry spell we’ve been having, as there were a number of tractors running around the fields. One was ploughing. I’m no country girl, but even I can recognise ploughing when I see it – if only because they’re followed by a flock of whirling birds. The other was doing something that clearly comes after ploughing, breaking up the coarsely turned earth, and leaving a great cloud of dust behind him. I suspect the second part of that was unintentional, but running through a dust cloud was an interesting experience! That’s one of the things I did enjoy about running in all seasons and weathers is that the view is never quite the same. You can go up and down the same path and it will look a little bit different each time. The more I go out, the more I remember why I used to enjoy it. And I’ll enjoy it again. Keep on running.

The long and winding road

Yesterday’s run was the furthest I’ve run to date. Woohoo! I’m going to have to ramp up the miles once I start training for the marathon, and I wanted to try just going that bit further. Also I need to work on a fueling strategy; breakfast, taking on energy and liquid, all of which need a long run to find out if they work effectively. Maybe not ideal in terms of training for the next half marathon, but certainly beneficial in the longer term.

Started the day with coffee and porridge, a nice slow release energy source. Went shopping in town and returned my library books, all of which took me until about 10 am. After the half, I discussed the running out of steam effect at the club, and one suggestion there was to add a banana to the pre run ritual, about 30 minutes before heading out. So I ate my (slightly over ripe) nana and then changed. Into long sleeves and the beanie hat, rather than short sleeves and baseball cap. It’s not yet proper winter, but it’s certainly cold enough for the winter kit to start making an appearance. Found my water belt, 3 gels (High Five Citrus Burst) and headed out the door.

It was certainly cooler out than it has been, but a beautiful crisp autumn morning. Lovely to look at and quite pleasant in the sun, but with a sharp wind that made me very pleased I’d opted for long sleeves. Into the wind for the outward leg. Once I had the wind at my back, I pushed them up to the elbows, but it wasn’t short sleeves weather!

Headed out down the hill towards the sailing club, then across the river and through the next village to the top of the railway path. This then heads down the river valley to another old gravel pits that is now a nature reserve and visitor centre. The advantage of running past here being that there’s a loo for that scheduled pitstop! No bushes for me!!

It was lovely out and lots of people were taking advantage of the weather. There were also birds flitting about and a pair of Red Kites circling overhead at one point. I know they feast on carrion, but they’re enormous and I always put on a turn of speed; just to prove I’m not suitable for lunch!

Made the decision to try taking the energy gels at 4, 7 and 10 miles, with 7 miles being half way. Took on water regularly as well. The bottle belt holds about 600 mL in two bottles, so I tried to spread this out and finished the last water at about 13 miles. The gels weren’t the nicest tasting things I’ve ever eaten in my life, they have a thick texture and were a bit sweet, but not as sickly as some. There were also no unpleasant side effects either from the banana or gels during or after the run, which I imagine could be most off putting.

Facts & Figures
Distance – 14.16 miles
Time – 2:57:53
Average Pace – 12:34 min/mile
Nice and even too. Half way in under 1:30 and 10 miles in 2:05, exactly 12:30 pace. The first mile was a bit swift but not bad (for me) while the last 2 miles were slower, but that’s as they contain all the uphill in the entire run – there are major disadvantages to living at the top of a hill.

So, all in all, a very good run. Pleased with the distance and the even pace. Pleased that the pre-run banana sat comfortably and the gels were stomached OK. I can feel it today, it all aches just a bit, but in a good way.

PGER race report

9th October 2011, Perkins Great Eastern Run.

After my fretting about the weather, the forecast on Sunday morning was overcast, not too hot (16 degrees) a bit breezy (11 mph) and dry. Well it managed to be not far from the mark, with cloud cover all the way and no rain. It was a bit muggy initially, but not dreadfully hot. The wind caught a few times, especially a head wind on one or two of the return stretches, but it was better than the midweek forecast had looked!

Laid everything out Saturday evening, clothes to run in, club vest, extra layers to keep warm initially and put back on afterwards and my race bag; complete with number, chip, towel, water, map, car park permit, some money and cereal bars to refuel afterwards.

Number pinned on vest.

Race day dawned and we’d decided not to watch either the rugby or the Grand prix live, it would all be a bit too tight for time, so a lie in until gone 7 am. Porridge & coffee for breakfast, with a pint of squash to hydrate properly. They say don’t do anything new on race day, but I’m certainly not dressed and ready to leave 2 hours ahead of a training run! Left home just before 9 am, to make sure I got there in plenty of time – hate being late, even a bit. Parked in my usual Peterborough carpark, not nearest to either start or finish, but knowing where you’re going is worth the extra few minutes walk. Plenty of parking spaces, so was fretting for nothing – as usual.

Walked into the Cathedral square and managed to locate a bunch of people from the club, all loitering with intent near the loos! Jigged about nervously, with the best part of an hour to kill until the start. After pinning my number to shirt, and sorting out chip, garmin etc and what I was going to wear, (pink T-shirt with green club vest – maybe not the most stylish combination ever) it was time to strip down to the running gear, stash the spare clothes in the bag & hand in to the baggage truck. Then the ritual queue for the loo and a last-minute pee. Avoided the mass warmup, they strike me as a waste of time and energy! I’m about to run 13 miles, I’ll be quite warmed up enough after jogging the first half mile, thank you very much.

Called to the start line and we headed down the road en masse. I stopped first, having an estimated race time of 2 hours 30. Various other people had a fair old walk towards the front of the start funnel. And then it started. Towards the back this never happens in the sudden way it does at the front; it’s more a walk forward, then a shuffle before breaking into a slow jog, hopefully before the start line! Started the Garmin at the start line, and set off.

I’d like to think I’m an intelligent person, who can learn from mistakes, so why is it I can’t seem to start a run at a sensible pace? I mean, I was planning for 11:30 minutes per mile, so what on earth made me set off at 10:45 for the first mile? I tried to slow, but the next mile wasn’t much better, at 11 minutes. And that’s about the pace I stayed at for the first half. It was feeling OK, and there comes a point where trying to run slower just starts feeling unnatural; so I went with it, knowing the wheels were going to fall off sometime, it was just a matter of when. Went through 6 miles (just under 10k) in under 65 minutes. That’s barely outside my 10k PB pace! That is seriously insane!!

From somewhere in the first mile, I’d been running near another lady running on her own, wearing a Run London (North) shirt. Not necessarily with each other, just alongside. It was quite companionable, exchanging the odd word – most noticeably when one of the Macmillan fundraisers in green net tutu and bright green thong ran past – hairy male bum isn’t what you expect to see in a race! I made half way in 1:11, a good 4 minutes ahead of target schedule. At this point I saw Karen. She runs at the club in a much faster group, but I’ve met her at the ladies’ runs & know her by name and hobby – baking cakes. She said she’d recently had a cold, and was feeling ropey, so rather than plough round for a poor (by her standards) time, she waited for me, to run me in. Awww, how completely sweet was that!

So then there were 3, me, unknown lady & Karen, all going along at about 11 minutes per mile. Somewhere about mile 8 we had a faster mile, and it just about did for me. From there on it all started to hurt quite a lot. The lady I’d been running with went on at her own pace, and very good she was looking too when I last saw her. Not long after mile 9 I stopped and walked just after an underpass. grrr. Not impressed with myself, but I was feeling hot, faint, dizzy and slightly sick – almost certainly with hunger, as I could feel my stomach clapping together. With Karen cajoling, encouraging and doing a very good sergeant major impression, I kept going at a much reduced pace. Having gone to half way ahead of target, I knew I could afford to slow, but not by too much. Walking too far will quickly add many minutes to a race time.

So, keeping half an eye on the Garmin, I tried to keep it all going. The clock tells the tale, mile 8 – 10:46, mile 9 – 11:31, mile 10 – 11:52, mile 11 – 12:52.

 The Garmin's verdict

Just before the 11 mile marker was the last water station. At the other stations I’d been mainly throwing water at my face and neck/chest to cool down, just swigging a bit to wet my mouth, but here I slowed to a walk and drank the entire bottle. Don’t know if this made a difference physically or just psychologically, but I did start feeling better from here. Not to say it was easy, but the last 2 miles were certainly better, and speeding up, 11:59 and 11:04 respectively. With Karen doing a spectacular job of chivvying me along, I didn’t stop again. In fact she even encouraged something I might actually describe as a sprint finish out of me! Last 0.1 mile was at 8:33 pace! The finish comes through an avenue of trees, then a slight bend and the finish chute opens up down a field. I’d started speeding up before the avenue, so that it was full steam train mode down the finish chute and about half way along I could hear those of the club that had already finished shouting and cheering me on. At that point I was very pleased to have conjured the finish out of myself, as to have been walking in the face of that support would have been dreadfully embarrassing.

Crossed the line with a gun time of 2:30, and a chip time of 2:27:28. Personal best by almost 10 minutes, which was astounding! I certainly wouldn’t have knocked that chunk off without Karen’s help in the second half. Second half was 3 minutes longer than the first. Some brilliant data available on the RunPix website. In case that doesn’t work, I’m number 341 and it’s the Great Eastern Run 2011. Despite how poorly I thought the second half went, I overtook more people than overtook me between half way and the end. Find that surprising, as it didn’t feel that way!

T shirt & nice shiny medal for the collection

Had my chip removed, as there was no way I was going to be able to reach my ankles, by a lovely volunteer who let me lean on her for a minute or two. Then collected a lovely cotton goody bag, water, bottle, T-shirt, medal (I do love a good medal), more water and a banana! The water and banana didn’t last 5 minutes, and certainly went someway to making me feel better. Collected my bag and we wandered down to where the club had gathered. At this point the legs cried “enough” and I just had to sit down. Took my time having a stretch, then a slow hobble back to the car, another stretch and then drove home. Once home we watched the Grand prix (which was really good), while I had yet another stretch on the carpet in front of the TV – inviting several strange comments from the beloved!

Today I’ve been feeling dreadfully stiff in the hip, and my left ankle was hurting badly this morning. I may have left for work in shoes, but I soon resorted to a pair of comfy trainers, which looked really stylish when worn with a skirt & tights! But I’ve kept moving all day and it’s all beginning to feel a bit less of a struggle – although stairs are still not my friends.

And I get to do it all again in 6 weeks time at St Neots. hmm, what pace would I have to get sub 2:25…

That’s summer gone then

Another run completed successfully (touches wood, just to be sure)

What with book club last night and a trip to the dentist tomorrow (filling – eek), it seemed that Wednesday would have to be run day this week. So, taking advantage of working from home, I snuck out for a lunch time run. Not too far, down the hill and the middle loop round the lake before heading back up the hill seemed enough for today.

Distance – 5.75 miles
Time – 1:11:39
Average pace – 12:28 min/mile

It certainly wasn’t summer out there today! Grey and blowy, but actually not all that cold once I’d got going and warmed up – although it was a bit cold standing around in short sleeves waiting for the Garmin to find itself! And it stayed dry for the majority of the time, which is a bit of a bonus. Rained once I was on my way back up the hill, but by that time the humidity had started to rise, so that it was actually quite welcome. Considering the rain we’ve had the past few days, it was surprisingly solid underfoot, although I did find a few splashy, muddy puddles, just for kicks.

Finished up with a stretch, shower & lunch, so now I’d better get on and actually do some work from home.