How easy it is to lapse

This week has demonstrated to me exactly how easy it would be for me to lapse as a runner again. All the while I wasn’t actively running, I still thought of myself as a runner, albeit an inactive one. Having dragged my lardy arse out and rediscovered the pleasure of running, I hit my first hurdle. This was a dual pronged approach by the gods of mischief; part one comprised a sore calf, as incurred in a run last week. Part 2 was the weather and my wimpiness in the face of inclement weather. My last run was Wednesday, when the sore ankle/calf developed. It had stiffened up into a general aching calf by the end of the day and so I decided to rest it a week, before running again.

Wednesday came and went without venturing out. I have little willpower in the face of strong wind and rain, add that to the fact it was pretty much dark when I got home and the comfort of my sofa won hands down. Thursday I was just too late from work to even consider a run. Friday I was working from home, so could have gone out for a plod at any point really, but it was windy again and I was feeling cold and headachy, so stayed in the study with my radiator. On neither day was it that bad – I’ve certainly run in worse weather than that. There was no excuse for the failure to get out the door, it was simply a lack of willpower.

Saturday I finally ran out of excuses, it had been raining and while it was overcast, it wasn’t actually raining. It was breezy, but it wasn’t blowing anything as hard as it was earlier in the week. It was chilly, but it wasn’t frosty, as it had been earlier in the week. After a trip into town to do the shopping and head to the library to swop some books I finally found out the running kit and headed out the door. Couldn’t find my beany hat – it’s probably mixed up with the undies in the laundry basket – so it was baseball cap and long sleeved shirt and out the door.

And it was going pretty well for a time. Was debating whether to try the 10 minute run intervals that I’d started last time out, or dip back to 7 minute intervals. As it felt pretty good at 7 minutes, I went out for the 10 minutes. After 16 minutes, I got to the pylon. Not wanting to make this too long or over stress anything, I turned there, rather than heading to the next turning location. I started thinking about how to arrange at least one running session during the week, going for a run at lunchtime (either at work, or when working from home are both options) and I started toying with the idea of joining a club again- although I’d like to be running a bit further before i go along to a club – I’d hate to think I’m slowing them up.

And then the gods of mischief decided to throw the dice again. I was on my way back, having just started the third run interval, when I got that same stabbing pain in my right calf. Same place, same presentation – couldn’t find a stretch, hurt when weight was transferring to the toes. Buggeration. It wasn’t quite as stabby as the previous experience, such that I was able to run back, although I did add a few walk breaks into what should have been the last 10 minute run section. Even with that delay, the run turned out to have a pretty good average pace, being under 13 minutes for a mile. I’ve only beaten than 3 or 4 times since I started back again, so I’m clearly making progress – if I can just hold together for the entirety of a run.

So another run that was much like a curate’s egg. I spent the afternoon looking a physio websites, and may well be making a call on Monday morning to see if I can’t get this sorted out. Thanks to the gods of mischief for another hurdle in the path to being a runner again. ūüė¶

Not the best day

Some days are destined to not be the best days in your life. It seems yesterday was once such. One one level it wasn’t going to be a high point, as it was father-in-law’s funeral. Hardly the happiest of days. His coffin was received into church on the Tuesday evening, after which hubby and his sister and some local band members rang a quarter peal. I’d said that I would ring if needed, but I struggle to ring for that long – my hands hurt for several days afterwards. Fortunately, sufficient locals were available that I was not required. Not that being surplus to requirements stopped me heading down the pub with them afterwards – as is traditional in ringing circles.

So Wednesday morning finds us at his parents house, and all the family had congregated. I have to admit to being a little bit of a solitary soul, in that I can be sociable for a certain length of time, but after that I need my own space to retreat to. And when emotions are running higher than usual, that space on my own becomes more important. So after a few days with the family, I was getting a bit desperate for some time on my own. Plan hatched – I reviewed the map and plotted a route for a run. I used to live here, during my PhD, and all I can say is it doesn’t look very much like that any more! I’d hardly recognise parts of town and the new tram works mean that some roads and routes no longer exist, or are closed. Add that to my lack of navigational ability and you have a bit of a recipe for disaster. A simple route was planned, down past the station to the canal and back. Not the most scenic of routes, but not hilly or risky either.

And it was all going so well. I took it quite easy, intending to extend the run intervals to 10 minutes. In fact, by extending the first interval to the traffic lights (not being sure how long it would take me to cross) I actually ran for 11 minutes in one go. And then it all went a bit Pete Tong. Running down the railway bridge, I had this stabbing pain in my right ankle. On the back inside left of the right leg, just above the sock. ouch ouch ouch. Sort of came to a halt quite quickly and tried to work out what it was. I couldn’t stretch it and feel any pain, the only time it seemed to complain (which it did loudly) was after the weight had been transferred from the heel to the toes. I could point and flex the foot with no issues when no bearing weight, but put weight on it and lifting the heel was really sore. I tried a few steps onwards, but soon decided that was really not a good idea and headed back home. This was achieved at a sort of slow limping jog interspersed with lots of short walks. The 10 minutes run intervals were no more. I will not bother reporting time or distance, it’s simply not worth the effort. It might have been good while it lasted, but that was not a good run.

Having got home, my next concern was what on earth was I going to do about shoes for the funeral! I’ve got smart black heels with me to go with the black suit. And hobbling up the aisle after the coffin might not have been the calmness one had been hoping to achieve. Fortunately (and for reasons I fail to understand) wearing sizable heels was actually far easier then trying to walk in trainers was. I assume that the gait is quite different and the weight transfer and push off the toes doesn’t happen in heels in the same way as in flat shoes or when running. I will admit that the bottom of the calf did stiffen up during the day, and by the time we went out for a family meal in the evening (when I was in the third set of foot wear of the day – a pair of ankle boots with a small heel) the ankle was stiff and complaining in a more general aching manner. I could also feel a dull pain when trying to flex the foot or stretch the calf, so I know that it is something not right down in that area.

All of which leaves me in a quandary of when to try to run again. Leave it too long and I’ll have got out of the running habit, go out to soon and I risk making it worse. It’s sometimes easy to get caught up in your own problems, but I should remember that at least I’m alive and in sufficient health to be moaning about a sore ankle. Yesterday was possibly not the best day, but at least I have tomorrows to worry about and to enjoy.

The best laid plans of mice and men…

… are subject to the whims of the weather, to paraphrase Rabbie Burns. And so it was proven this weekend. I was supposed¬†to be¬†racing at the Stamford 30k on Sunday. Unfortunately, on Saturday night they made the difficult decision to cancel. Despite being out trying to shift compacted snow and ice by hand, there were some patches that were just to dangerous to try and race on.

Which left quite¬†a lot of people at a bit of a loss as to¬†what to do. Well an inspired person at the club came up with a plan to run to and around Pitsford¬†Reservoir. It’s about 6&2/3 miles round. Seeing that the plan for this week said 20 miles, 3 laps would appear¬†to do the trick for me. I’d arranged to go to Stamford with Kerry, so we changed direction and headed to Brixworth Country Park instead.

Somehow we arrived a good 30 minutes earlier than planned, so decided to head off anyway, rather than¬†wait. So lap one, clockwise. I had been a little concerned at how running with Kerry might go, as she’s in a faster group than me, and the first 3 miles were really rather too quick for my ploddy¬†pace, under 11 min/miles was simply not sustainable. the differential between us was a bit to high to find a happy medium – she’d be running too slow to be comfortable, I’d not make 20 miles at that pace. After 3 we hit on a compromise – she’d run at her pace and periodically loop back to me. That way we were both running at a comfortable pace, while not ending up miles apart.

Towards the end of lap 1 we saw the group of ladies¬†heading out on their lap, they were motoring along faster than us, but (as I later discovered) were only doing one lap, so you’d go faster for 1 than 3! Got back to the start and took a quick break to head to the car and drop off Kerry’s jacket. It looked cold out, but wasn’t really. I’d gone with 2 long sleeved¬†layers, but had already rolled the sleeves of the second layer up. I did consider taking it off, but decided that would be far too daring – it wasn’t that warm. Underfoot¬†it had been OK too. It’s a popular place with walkers, so for the most part the paths were compacted¬†snow. There were some icy patches and some where the snow had gone completely, but it was mostly compacted snow. Not too bad to run on, a little uneven in places, and you did need to watch your step, but not ankle twistingly bad.

Lap 2 we headed in the opposite direction, then it wouldn’t feel quite¬†so much like repeated laps of the same route. Not long after we started, we crossed paths with the faster group heading in having run 12 miles from Wellingborough, they were clearly going in the wrong direction! Lap 2 was not too bad, although Kerry’s pace had dropped from it’s initial¬†high, from about half way we were keeping fairly level. She’d got a blister and was having some issues with her back. By the time we finished the second lap, she was in some discomfort. It’s a tough call to make, to stop. There is a fine line between pushing on and continuing when it hurts, because it is going to hurt, and pushing on when it hurts and doing some damage to yourself. I’m no expert in this running lark, but¬†I think that it is supposed¬†to ache; it is not supposed to be¬†painful – there’s a difference. As we finished lap 2, Kerry’s phone started up and we discovered that her husband had arrived, with the boys, and were in the playground. We took a break and headed up to the car, to put Kerry’s stuff in their car. Then we planned to head around the reservoir one more time, with Kerry’s husband meeting us at the causeway. That would get us to over 17 miles – a not inconsiderable distance.

And we set off. Kerry was clearly struggling here, but we got to 15 miles with her taking occasional walk breaks. Here the lap one plan was reversed, I went ahead at my pace and periodically came back to her. it’s difficult to know what to say to someone who is clearly in pain, do you try and¬†chivvy¬†them along, boss them about, be tender and caring? I’m never sure what’s best and am wary of getting¬†it¬†awfully wrong. From 15 to 17 it was getting worse, and the walk had become a pronounced limp. I ran on, met Simon at the causeway and he parked up, and walked back to get Kerry. We popped her in the car and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a vision of misery. But he seemed a sensible chap and after a brief conversation he whisked her off home to a bath and a stretch out.

I was offered a lift back to my car, but was feeling pretty good still. OK, I ached, but it’s supposed to ache. And so I finished the lap. 20 miles came up in a minute under 4 hours, and the rest of the path back to the car added on another 1/3 of a mile – making this my longest run EVER.

Facts & Figures:
Distance – 20.35 miles
Time – 4:03:44
Average Pace – 11:58 minutes miles.

Wow! I’m mighty pleased with that! Not too bad on the pace front either. The splits for each 5 miles were 56:14, 59:14, 61:45 and 61:29. Which just shows what I knew – the first 3 miles (all sub 11) were far too fast. But I’m pleased the way that the rest of the run was at a fairly even pace.

Back at the car, and the chocolate milkshake I bought for after the race was, I felt, well deserved. The banana also vanished quite quickly. It was cold once I’d stopped moving so I stretched briefly before heading off home, where a longer stretch, a bath and a casserole awaited me.

¬†It was interesting seeing how many people we passed multiple times – some of them I’m sure we saw 5 or 6 times. There was certainly another couple running¬†multiple laps, and I can see why. It was very pretty, all snowy fields and icy lake, and it is fairly flat. Not billiard smooth, but certainly not hilly. There are some inclines¬†and some of them were a bit hairy on the way down. It’s also quite varied, not just around the lake, there are some patches through trees and running across the dam is really very cool! Underfoot it was noticeably¬†worse on the last lap. I suspect that the warm – OK above zero temperatures had started to soften the compacted snow, such that it shifted underfoot and was turning slushy by dint of the traffic over it. The icy patches also had a watery layer on them, making them more slippery than was the case. So it was a case of watch your step, but could easily have been very much worse. I may well come here for a change of scenery again.