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).

The beginning of the end

It’s tempting fate, but this might just be the most miles I’ve posted yet, and will likely be the most until M-day itself.

That'll be me, then!

Talking of which, I have a race number – that put the collywobbles about, I can tell you! Gulp. It’s getting awfully real now. And this week marks the last high mileage week, they start to decrease gently now such that I’m fit and raring to go on the day. I might well believe that when I see it!

Anyway, two running days, three runs and 25 miles logged since I wrote last. Thursday I set out to do 11 miles. After Wednesday’s run got cut a bit short, I went out just to run the miles. Not sure if the training is beginning to take it’s toll, but the first few were just grim. Achy and difficult and for no good reason at all. Nearly called it a day and came back after 2, but gave myself a stern talking to. “If it starts getting hard at 18 miles, are you just going to stop? NO! So HTFU and keep running! Pretend it’s the last 10 miles of the marathon and grind it out.” And so I kept going. Concentrated on the basic things like counting the footfalls to each in (one, two, three) and out (one, two) breath and trying to keep the shoulders relaxed. I can’t say it was a brilliant run, but it did improve. Should have been 11, but I allowed myself to stop after 10, figured that was close enough to mission accomplished. Certainly better than stopping after 2!

Then the weekend long run. The way the plan is structured, each 20 mile run has a shorter, 15 mile run either side of it. With Silverstone and Ashby being on the “wrong” weeks for the plan, I had this one down as 22, but was advised to cut that down to something 15 to 17 or so. This weekend happened to be one of the club’s ladies coffee & cake runs. We meet up, run a 5 mile loop and then have coffee & cake. It’s a chance to run with ladies in the other groups and generally have a chat about life, the universe and maybe a bit of running. I wanted to go, but 5 didn’t really fit with 15+, so a cunning plan was hatched.

I’d get up early, run 10, then get in the car & drive to the run, run the 5 mile loop, have my cake and drive home again. I did think about running there, doing the loop and running home, but didn’t fancy the running back after stopping, and that would put the scuppers on cake! The only slight fly in the ointment being we meet for the run at 9:30, meaning I’d need to get out the house for run 1 shortly after 7 am. The husband was staying away friday night (something to do with a 12 bell eliminator – Ok Darling, what ever you say), so I was on my own. Not sure if it was that, but I was wide awake at 5:30 and showed no signs of dropping back off to sleep, and I figured I may as well get up & have breakfast ahead of my runs.

It was foggy this morning and that made for a really strange experience. I kept collecting dew drops on my eyelashes, that had to be wiped off periodically, and it muffled sounds, but wasn’t quiet. People sort of appeared out of nowhere and everyone seemed a little bit in their own cocoon. It was quite isolating, but not unpleasantly so. I did the usual 10 mile loops round the lake and then up onto the ridge before heading back. Scared a number of geese who were grazing on the field surrounding the nature reserve lake. They sort of waddled away from me at increasing speed before taking flight and making a honking noise about it. Don’t ask me what geese, I’m no twitcher (but there were two colour ways) just be impressed I knew they were geese! The sailing lake overflow was running for the first time in a very long time, suggesting that the rain we’ve had recently has started to make its way into the water courses. Ground was still firm underfoot though, certainly none of the slushy mud I have had to contend with. Made it back in good time and nipped in to use the loo and collect clothes, money and car keys.

Found a text from the husband, asking if I was awake, so replied and he called back. Asked what I was doing and when I said going for the ladies run he asked how far. 5 miles. Which provoked the “that’s not far, hardly worth it” tease. hmm. I didn’t need to see the face to see the shock when I said I’d already done 10, and this was just a little extra! He thinks I’m off my trolley, and I think I can see why…

Anyway, met the ladies in good time. I’d cooled off after the first run and was cold and stiffening up by the time we set off. The first mile was a bit of a struggle, as everything started to get moving again. But it did loosen up again and remember what it had been doing for the last few hours. Nice company and lots of people doubling back to collect the back markers. We also had a gentleman with us, but he was only little, being in a buggy and had a whole host of people taking turns to push him. He was very sweet and smiley, and wrapped up warm in an all in one suit. The sun was finally beginning to make its way through the fog, such that by half way round I’d shed one layer and was wearing it tied round the middle. Rounded that off with a hazelnut latte and a slice of carrot cake. I don’t usually partake of cake, but felt this was deserved – and it had been an awfully long time since my bowl of porridge.

Facts & Figures: (Thurs/Sat1/Sat2)
Distance – 10.2/10.25/4.9 miles
Time – 1:59:48/1:58:05/58:23
Average pace – 11:45/ 11:31/11:55

Making a grand total of 25.35 miles – that’s almost as far as I’ll be running on M-day, and that’s in one go! Mind you, I get a bit of a rest between now and then. I can see why runners refer to this month as Mad March, I seem to have been tired all month. Next week the miles start to drop, with the long run being “only” 14 miles. It’s a startling change of perspective, 4 months ago I’d run 14 miles once and thought it was about the limits of endurance, now I’m thinking of that as a relatively short run. Part of me would just like to fast forward through the next 22 days, and for this all to be over and done with. I’d quite like my life back – weekends have become dominated by what miles I have to run and when I’m going to be able to fit them in. And I’d like to sleep for a week, if no-one minds. Having said all that, I am (sort of) looking forward to it and am not worried about running it, I have no doubts on that score at all. I will finish, even if I cross the line on hands and knees. I’ve done the miles, this is now the beginning of the end…

The weather outside is frightful

and the duvet was so delightful that I nearly didn’t get up and go for a run this morning. Actually, once outside, it was gorgeous – blue skies, crisp frosty morning – simply lovely to look at. It was the temperature that was less than pleasant at minus 6 as I set off.

So what to wear? Well I opted for my long running tights, but put on a pair of thick winter tights underneath and wore 2 long-sleeved tops sandwiching a short-sleeved one. Plus hat & gloves. Lots of layers being the order of the day – thin layers trap air making them warmer than one thick layer. And, once I’d got going, that was about right.

What with the cold I’ve had, this was my first run in a week. I’ve had one of those colds where I’ve not had any symptoms below the nose, but from there up it has been stuffed solid with treacle – offer me a drill and I think I’d have done the deed myself. But it started to shift on Thursday and might not be pretty, but clearing it has felt loads better. There’s also nothing quite like a run to clear gunge from your head – as evidenced by the tissues I set off with not having the consistency of paper tissue by the time I returned.

Not a tough run, but I didn’t want to overdo it first run out. Just one of the occasional ladies runs with the club, which finish with coffee & cake – all very sociable.

Distance – 4.75 miles
Time – 55:05
Average pace – 11:40

Then we plonked ourselves on the squishy sofas and my hazelnut latte arrived with no difficulty. The trick for making sure you get your drink when in a group is to order something unique, then there’s only one of them and yours always arrives – try it, guarantee it works! Oh, and I quite like the combination of coffee & nut, even if it does sound like a bit of a fussy thing to order. After a good chat, we headed off and I returned to a bath and a nice soak to warm up the cold bits. A good outing for the first run in a week.

I can run for miles and miles

I know that’s not how the song goes, but it was how I felt yesterday. First 20 mile run completed. (Please imagine a little happy dance here – not sure I can do a happy dance, but I feel like it merits one!)

Had that breakfast of champions – porridge & coffee, then went into town for the weekly shop to give that all time to settle before changing and heading out. By default (ie they were the only ones clean) I ended up wearing my full length tights. I have begun to wonder if these were designed for someone with legs a good 6 inches longer than mine, as I rapidly develop some Nora Batty-esque wrinkles at the lower leg regions when running in these. But they’re by Ronhill and so have a wonderfully capacious rear pocket – perfect for stashing gel sachets. After ~ 3 miles the zips at the back of the calves were digging & rubbing, so I paused to turn them up. How very fetching!

Set out with waist belt packed with water bottles, phone, cash card, £10, £1 coin, front door key and 4 gels in my shorts. Hopefully all eventualities covered. Decided that the best bet would simply be to run down the railway path for 10 miles, then turn round & come home again.  Set off at a reasonable pace, just to get warmed up. Slowed up a bit thereafter, into a comfortable run pace, not worrying too much about time – this is all about getting the distance covered. At a smidge before 5 miles I had a gel, thinking that one an hour ought to be at about 5 mile intervals. At 7  miles I nipped into the nature reserve visitor centre for a loo stop. At 8 miles I was on virgin territory. I’d decided to follow the river path, rather than the railway track, as beyond this point the railways starts the peter out, whereas navigation alongside a river is always easy – don’t fall in! I’d heard from runners at the club that the river path from the end of the nature reserve was a bit muddy, but nothing quite prepared me for the reality. Literally ankle deep in places, this was alternately squishy and slippy and I think I did really well to maintain pace to no more than 2 minutes a mile slower. Found a junction on some raised ground just after 10 miles, but wasn’t sure that this was the railway, so decided it was better to simply retrace my footsteps rather than risk getting lost.

And so I turned & headed back again. The return leg was less tidy (now being plastered in mud to the knee and splattered thereafter) but comfortable. As runs go, this one was pretty uneventful. Had one dog try and eat my shoelaces, while another pair were playing doggy tag and zipped across about 6 inches in front of my feet. Having been frightened out of my skin, I leapt to a stop and let loose an expletive – which frightened the pair of ladies walking said dogs – who hadn’t heard my approach! A few fluttered heart rates later and we all carried on.

I took a bit of a detour round the nature reserve on the return leg, thinking that some extra miles on the flat would mean I could take a circuit round the base of of one of the two hills on my usual route home. Just making life a little easier. I did climb the last hill towards home at a reasonable pace – in fact the last mile was the fastest in the entire run. 

Facts & Figures:
Distance – 20.03 miles
Time – 4:10:27
Average pace – 12:30 

Very pleased with that. At the bottom end of my ideal pace for a long run, but the terrain over the new part of the route would easily account for that average.

I got home and downed a whole pint of fudge brownie milkshake – a well deserved reward for some serious exercise. Stretched a bit (blimy – that hurt!) then hopped in the bath (ahhhh). After some food, yet more stretches and some warm clothes, we headed of for a bellringing (my other hobby) society AGM. This had a traditional ringer’s tea (sandwiches, sausage rolls etc and lots of lovely cake) at which I did my best to demolish the cake mountain. Didn’t quite eat my body weight, but not far short. Mind yo, as my Garmin data tells me I used 2169 calories, I think a bit of cake wouldn’t go amiss. However, it did all catch up with me during the AGM. The under pew heating was warm, the pews had cushion pads so rested my head on a hassock, reclined under my coat & dozed. Didn’t actually fall asleep, but it was a close run thing.

Managed 39 miles this week, just shy of the 40 mark (for which I blame Tuesday’s lacklustre effort). I did consider heading out to run 1 solitary mile, just to make that 40, but I’ve decided I’m not that bothered! I’ll no doubt break that barrier in a few weeks time – so no hurry there.

Be careful what you wish for

At the end of my last post I said that I’d really like a few weeks of uninterrupted running. Well it hasn’t happened.

Monday morning I woke up with a stiff neck. Just like I’d slept a bit funny. I thought it would wear off, the way a cricked neck usually does. No. This has steadily got worse over the last few days such that Tuesday I drove home being unable to turn my head far enough to look in my mirrors – especially the near side wing mirror. Stayed at home Wednesday, and went to the GP. I’ve got torticollis – twisted neck. Thanks. I could have worked that out. It should ease, but if it doesn’t I could be prescribed muscle relaxants.

One thing has become rather apparent – it’s amazing how much work your neck does without you ever noticing. It’s only when it goes wrong that you realise quite how much movement relies on this. It hurts to move, it hurts to stay still, it hurts to lie down. I don’t deal well with pain.

However, late on Wednesday it did start to loosen. Thursday I could move about 45 degrees in each direction and it’s got steadily better since then.

So today I did run. Hurrah! In another pair of new shoes. Double hurrah!! These will be fed into training such that, come marathon day, they’re nicely worked in, but still fresh and bouncy. Same model, but a different colourway – white & flourescent yellow – you’re not going to miss me in them!

Anyway, back to the running. It was the club ladies run, followed by coffee & cake. I forgot to take the Garmin, but it’s a bit over 5 miles (depending on how much doubling back you do) and took us under an hour, which is a reasonable rate of knots. I did have cake, as it was Sarah’s birthday earlier in the week, and she bought carrot cake in to share. It was very nice and not at all too sweet.

Long run tomorrow, so see you then.

Good Morning!

Wow, what a good morning that was! Not the weather – that’s as grey and miserable as you’d expect a work-free saturday to be. Why is it the sunny days are always while you’re at work?!

First things first, I was up at sparrow’s fart to watch the England rugby match. And boy! was that worth getting up for.  A number of tries (not giving away the score) made it productive as well as eventful viewing.  If we’re honest, Romania weren’t playing their strongest side and England were expected to run up a 50+ score, but it was worth watching, nonetheless. Good game, easy on the eye and breakfast went down nicely.

So it was with happy heart that I headed out for a ladies’ club run. We meet up locally, do a nice 5 mile loop and then finish with coffee and cake (although some of us were moderately good and passed on the cake). My aim was to start getting used to running on consecutive days, as I’m going to have to up the running to 4 times a week for the marathon training plan. So not planning on a particularly fast run. But I seem to find there’s something about running with people better than me that makes me go faster. It didn’t feel massively speedy, but we were motoring along, looping back regularly to pick up the slower ones. All very friendly, chatting to people in other groups who I don’t usually run with. OK, I admit, they chat; I sort of gasp agreement occasionally!

It’s interesting seeing the way that the faster runners actually run. Not something I get the chance to do very often – at the club we’re in different groups and don’t cross too often, at a race they’re up the front and I’m, well, not. They’re possibly taking it a bit easy, due to the company, but they look just so relaxed! There’s hardly any extraneous movement, minimal arm action, hardly any head bobbing and the upper body doesn’t shift about – no rocking and rolling here. And you just don’t hear them coming up behind you! No earthquakes as each foot hits the floor and no huffypuffy noises. It’s really very lovely to watch – and puts my style (best described as something crossed between an elephant, the twist and a steam train) to shame. There’s a knack to it, I’m sure – just need to unlock that secret…

Distance – 5.12 miles
Time – 53:30
Average pace – 10:26

That’s pretty impressive! It didn’t feel that fast. That’s on track to easily crack my 10k PB pace, and I wasn’t desperately exhausted at the end either. Then there’s an interesting view of us all stood by some railings stretching out, which must look rather odd to any passers by, before heading into the coffee shop and a sit down & chat. I do tend to have sufficient breath to contribute at this stage! Gingerbread latte for me, which was yum, but no cake. Partly as I’m still trying to shift some of that excess weight, and partly due to a slight lack of cash – the funds would stretch to coffee OR cake – so coffee it was.  

Excellent morning all round.