Not so cold

After more than a week in which I complained about the cold and wimped out on several opportunities to run, I can at last report I ran today. Not only did I run, but I ran quite a bit further than I had intended!

We live on the top of a hill, at the bottom of which is a river and what used to be gravel pits, but is now a series of lakes. Some are used for fishing, others by the sailing club. And round the lakes there are a variety of footpaths, such that I can run in loops to vary the distance but without running miles from home. When I was in training, I used to be able to get to over 10 miles without running the same path twice and without being more than 3 miles from home. I also used to know the distances of each of the various loops and segments, such that I could piece together a run of the required distance. That information has clearly leaked from the brain, as I miscalculated the route by over 20%!

It was still showing frosty in shady spots when we got home from ringing this morning, but I was determined not to have another weekend playing at being a sofa bear. I’d already spent Saturday on the sofa, in front of 2 rugby matches. Which meant I made progress on a baby blanket I’ve been supposed to have been embroidering for over a year now, but it didn’t involve any exercise more taxing that shouting at the TV occasionally and fetching another cup of coffee. So, in changed and out the door before the sofa could exert its gravitational influence and suck me in…

It was fresh out, and the hands certainly took time warming up, but it was quite warm in the sun and not too windy out. Lovely blue skies, and the river and lakes were showing very blue in the sun. Except where they were showing frozen, leaving the seagulls looking most bemused and standing on the ice. The ground was a similar mixture. In some places it was still crispy underfoot with the frost, in others is was just very very wet and squelchy. Being on clay,a lot of the paths just tun to a fine sludge when they are wet and it retains the water so you have puddles on top of a layer of mud. I remember why I don’t own any running socks that stay very white…

Plan was to run down the hill, round past the sailing club, then cross the river and take the far side of the nature reserve, before crossing back over the river and coming back down the railway path before heading back up the hill home. About 5 miles, said my mental arithmetic. That would be over 6, in fact. oops. The idea was to run 10 minute periods, which I mostly maintained. The walk intervals were augmented by walking to get over stiles, through kissing gates and crossing bridges. The muddy conditions meant that all the bridges were very slick, as were the steps up and off them. There’s no point going base over apex by trying to run on a poor footing – that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. What with the effort of running through a significant amount of mud, the run sections may have been kept to about 10 minutes, but the walks did tend to increase over the 1 minute. But as a first run of this duration or distance, I think 6.07 (at least half off road) miles taking less than 90 minutes is reasonable. It was lovely out once I’d got myself out there and warmed up. Must plug in some more willpower and go for a run more often…

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.

And the bells were ringing out for Christmas day

Allow me a little poetic licence – I know it’s only Christmas Eve, but there were bells ringing. And I suspect that the family would be considerably less understanding of me setting out for a long run tomorrow…

The husband was ringing at the next village, so when he set off there, I dressed and set out to run. Adjusted the usual route a bit, so that I’d run past the church while they were ringing. The tower is just over the ridge from most of the run, and the wind was in the wrong direction to carry the sound towards me, but they were going along nicely for the 30 minutes or so that I was within earshot. Nothing nicer than hearing the sound of bells drifting across the countryside.

I’ve had a cold this week, which has receded as the week’s progressed, but I’m still clearing the tail of it at the moment. And I must have cleared half a hundredweight of snot and gunge from the nose & throat on today’s run. Yes, I know it’s not at all ladylike, but better out and in the verge than siting in my throat. I don’t half feel better for having cleared it!

It was obvious from the paths that it’s rained a fair bit recently. The local clay has turned into a lovely sticky, slippy mud that’s trying to grab your shoes off you one minute and remove your legs from under you the next. Makes for a great core workout, just trying to stay vaguely upright. Then, having got wet, muddy shoes from near the lake, I headed up the ridge onto the finer soil – which decided to stick to the shes further. You know how those keen on aerobics sometimes progress to wearing ankle weights in a class? I have an alternative – try running  across a field. Achieves the same effect, but it’s the shoes increasing in size and weight with added mud!

I encountered a few people while out today, including a lady who asked me the strangest question I think I’ve had so far. “Help, where is my car?” hmm. She was obviously not local – I’m thinking southern European, and she was with a small boy, about 5, that I’m assuming was the grandson. I asked a few questions, and the little lad remembered they’d parked near a bridge with ducks. I decided that they’d probably parked by the sailing club – it is the obvious place to park to walk round the lakes, and sent them back in that direction. I have no idea if they got there, but I do hope so.

Finished the run by heading into the Co-op for a Telegraph. I love the big general knowledge crossword they have in the last Saturday edition before Christmas, so treated myself. I’d come prepared, had my bank card in my pocket, so nipped to the cash machine then into the shop. I did get a few odd looks… Me, wearing a short sleeved shirt, mud splattered to the thigh, and half a field on my shoes maybe wasn’t dressed like your usual Christmas eve shopper, I admit. Last half mile home with the paper in a bag was really very strange, completely knocked my rhythm!

Facts & Figures:
Distance – 12.0 (excluding walking round the co-op!)
Time – 2:34:24
Pace – 12:51

That’s about 5 seconds a mile slower than the bottom end of Long run pace, but I’ll take it for today. I did stop a few times and I’m clearly not 100% over the cold. But it’s done and dusted and next week will be better.

Nothing left now but to wish you and your families a Merry Christmas.

Sunday, Sunday

A bit of a disjointed day. Had to collect the husband from the station this morning , meaning I didn’t head out the door until midday. Fueled by toast for breakfast and a post gardening smackerel of Millionaire’s Shortbread. Utterly yummy, but possibly not the best pre-run fuel I’ve ever seen!

Was on a bit of a tight schedule, as I’d put a casserole in the oven before I set out,  meaning I had to run 10 miles, stretch, shower, dress and be ready to eat in 3 hours. Possibly because I was aware of the schedule, I was just pushing on a little. Not trying to break any records, but keeping the pace going nicely.

Facts & Figures:
Distance – 10.0 miles
Time – 1:55:27
Average pace – 11:33 min/miles.

It was quite nice out, sunny in spells and not too breezy. Short sleeves were certainly the way to go. The walkers were out in force, all tucked up in their coats, hats, gloves and boots. I love the slightly strange looks I get as I pass by – I suspect they think I should be sectioned.

I managed to run up my nightmare hill again. Again, not fast, but it was at a run. I was slowed a fraction by the state of the next two fields. The recent rain made the soil adhere to my shoes – those nice cut-outs that are supposed to improve rebound from the road also act as really good mud attractors! Got to the end of the second field and had to stop to shake most of the county from my feet.

I got home to be greeted by the smell of a casserole cooking, which was lovely and welcoming. I’m now happily fed and would be set for a snooze – only  I’ve got to go to a Fireworks party. Well I suppose the bangs will wake me up!

Running up that hill

After a monster headache that started Thursday afternoon and only subsided Saturday, I’ve not been out since Tuesday. But the weekend means it’s Long Slow Run (LSR) time. If I had been organised, I’d have made the most of the extra hour to run before the Indian GP started at 9:30 (GMT). But it didn’t quite work out like that and we stayed in bed dozing until too late for that to be an option. So I popped a load of washing on the line, had breakfast, watched the GP and cleared the ironing pile – how’s that for productive!

After the GP, I changed and headed out for a run. After last week’s 14 mile, this week was a more sensible 10 miles. Beanie hat and long sleeves, as it was quite breezy. Overcast the entire time, with that humid, rain threatening sensation in the air. It almost rained in the last few miles – not real rain, more water in the wind, but enough that I was very pleased I’d got the washing in before I left!

Headed out at a fairly steady pace, settling into something a bit slower than 12:00 min/miles. Stayed between 12 and 12:30 for the entire run, with the exception of my monster hill. It was a bit slippy underfoot in places, with the clay soil that comprises most of the locality starting to get into that slick, sticky mud state that is such fun to try and run through (NOT!) My nice pink and white trainers are certainly no longer a bright white.

At one point I run from the edge of the sailing club lake, across a field and a road, then up a monster hill, before heading across yet another field. That section is 0.75 miles, but goes up almost 40 meters, most of which is in that one hill section. Killer hill. Today I actually ran up it for the first time. I’ve always resorted to walking between telegraph poles 2 and 3, which is the steepest bit. OK, so the pace over that section dropped to 13 min/miles, but I didn’t actually walk. Nearly did me in, but that’s a different story!

From there it’s mostly road and fairly level. I had an eye on the watch and worked out that if I picked the pace up I could do the 10 miles in 2 hours. So I made a concerted effort to pick up the pace. Last 2.8 miles were under 11: min/miles, with the last half mile seeing the pace in the 9:s. I ran towards the roundabout praying that traffic would be clear, as standing waiting for a space to cross would ruin any chance. Fortunately, one lane was clear, and there was a convenient gap at the second; so no need to stop, nor any risk of being squashed.

Facts & Figures:
Distance – 10.0 miles
Time – 1:59:14
Average Pace – 11:55 min/miles

Which is pleasing. I think that’s the first time I’ve run 10 miles in under 2 hours (except in a race scenario) And it felt good to find that pace at the end. I could just do with a week that actually has some training in it now, after a few disjointed weeks. Fingers crossed.