Playing away

A bit like a team might have matches at home, and then play matches away from home, so I like taking advantage of visiting different places to have a run – a change of scenery can be interesting. There are some limitations, though, I don’t like getting lost and thigh-high nettles are not pleasant to run through! I like to try to work out a route before I go that I can follow easily, and things like rivers, canals, coast paths or railway trails are excellent.

This weekend we were in Norwich, staying with Mike & Barbara. The beloved & Mike go out ringing, I get to slope around and do stuff with Barbara, although this time I did pack the running kit & took the opportunity Saturday morning to get out & run. They live near Marriot’s Way, a disused railway that ran from Norwich to Reepham and beyond, but is now a cycle path. Navigationally easy, usually fairly level (or at least not hilly) and firm underfoot, this sounded great. So, after getting up to see the boys off, I had some breakfast & sat down to watch the Rugby semi final before planning on heading out to run 6-8 miles.

How things can change in the presentation of a red card. Call me less than dedicated, but I didn’t want to watch the Welsh playing out of their socks for 60 minutes, only to lose to the French – a team who barely deserve to have made it out of the group stages. At half time I changed plans and made tracks for the door.

It was lovely out, with clear blue skies and loads of lovely sunshine, but there was a distinct nip in the air. This was especially noticeable on the trail where it was under an arch of trees, once out of the sun it was somewhat cool. But, short sleeves were the order of the day, it would warm up later.

I’ve been reading and now posting on a marathon thread on the Runners’ World forum (here), where it has been suggested that I ought to try a run at ~ 11 min/miles for ~ 10 miles, to get me to push myself a bit, and see if my recent half performance is just race day speed, or if I’m actually faster than I think I am. I’m not fast, I know that! But after glancing at the Garmin and seeing that I’d set of at something under 11 min/miles, and knowing that the trail extends for way beyond 5 miles, I thought I’d see how it went. It was a lovely run out, passing through different woodland, narrowly avoiding being hit on the head by falling acorns, views across fields and the river. Also loads of runners, cyclists and walkers out and about as well. I managed a cheery, two-tone, “mor-ning” to them; it got less cheery later on!

After 5 miles, I hit the lap button on the watch and turned for home. At this point I realised that I’d been heading almost entirely in the same direction as the wind – and now had a headwind to contend with. Not horribly strong, but enough to notice. It was also uphill, and I hadn’t noticed that I’d been running gently downhill for 2-3 miles; both factors might well have contributed to the unusual turn of speed displayed on the outward leg.

At ~ 7.5 miles I decided to stop pushing the pace. OK, I wasn’t going to manage the 10 miles at HMP, but better to manage 10 miles with some of them at reduced speed than run myself into a heap. So the last 2.5 miles were at a more comfortable “get me home” ploddy pace.

Facts & Figures:
Out – 5.0 miles in 52:58 minutes
Average pace – 10:34 min/mile
Back – 5.0 miles in 58:40 minutes
Average pace – 11:45 min/mile (under 11:00 for the first 2.5)
Overall – 10.0 miles in 1:51:39
Average Pace – 11:10 min/miles

So, all in all, not exactly what it said on the tin, but a good run nonetheless. 7.5 miles at 11:00 minute miles shows that the pace in last week’s half marathon should be just about what I’m aiming to run the next one at. It also shows that my 10 k PB should be due for a serious battering when I next find a race. hmmm – where’s there a nice 10 k to fit into the schedule?

One year and six months

Thursday’s club run marked a significant milestone in my running career – it’s a year since I joined the club. In that year I’ve run over the winter for the first time and have decreased my 5 and 10k PB, as well as run a half for the first time. All worthy of mention.

It’s not so much a calendar year, as Thursday’s session was the 3k challenge, which the club do annually, just to check group allocations and so on. It was the first session I ran when I came to the club for the first time last year, and I felt like I was going to die! I seriously considered never going again afterwards. I’m glad I did give them another chance, as it’s been the best thing for my running. The challenge is administered by Alan, one of the elder statesmen of the club, a gentleman who disguises his wish to kill us all annually beneath his mild-mannered exterior. It involves a series of shuttle runs, 100, 200, 300 and 400 m, without break, pushing hard the entire way. The return of each leg is uphill – just to make it that bit more difficult. The you get a break, then one last run to 500 m and back. It hurts. Quite a lot. The first block is 2k, the second block 1k, making 3 in total. The cumulative time for the 3k is used to divide group, move people up and generally even things up a bit.

I saw this was scheduled on the training calendar, and nearly didn’t go along. I ran a half on Sunday, you can’t expect me to push that hard on Thursday, can you? I knew full well what the answer would be.

Facts & Figures:
Total run, inc warm up & cool down – 5:40 in 1:12:49
2k in 10:53, average pace of 8:55 min/miles
1k in 5:37, average pace of 8:58.
3k cumulative time of 16:30 or thereabouts.

Which I’m impressed with. Although I’ve not long moved up a group, I was nowhere near last. I also seem to remember last year’s time was at or over 20 minutes, so that’s definitely some improvement!

As I sit and type this, it’s a beautifully sunny morning, with friends in Norfolk. I’m about to watch Wales beat France in the rugby world cup (fingers crossed) before heading out for a run. But one thing does sneak into my consciousness – today’s date. It’s the 15th October. In exactly 6 months time, I’ll be on my way to a start line for a marathon. That does attract the attention – seems so close!

D-Day minus 1

All the books & advice on running suggest that the day before a race should be a relaxing experience. You need to sort out the things you need for the race, but generally just chill a bit and not over stress either mind or body. Be sensible about what you eat and have an early night, so that you’re raring to go tomorrow.

So far today I have:

  • got up stupidly early to watch an excellent rugby match between Wales & Ireland. And while my soft spot is for Ireland, Wales did play out of their very attractive tight tops and were clearly the better side.
  • got rather stressed watching England loose at rugby to France. Expletives were shouted, it was that bad. The French obviously had their one exceptional game and will now slump back into the completely dismal form they’ve displayed so far this tournament. (Yes, I’ll be supporting the Welsh in a week’s time)
  • got a little hot under the collar watching the F1 qualifying from Suzuka, which got a little eventful at one or two moments
  • dug out my winter coat & been shopping
  • managed to find my race number, which was more complicated than it sounds, seeing it arrived über efficiently 8 weeks ago and I had carefully put it “in a safe place”… 
  • not yet sorted what I’m going to wear, as the forecast seems to change each time I look at it. See here, that looks cold, wet & windy. Although it’s looking up, with now only 1 raindrop for 10 am, not two.

So, thus far, the day before a race has not been that restful experience it should be. Will it improve? Later today, I have a quiz night with fish & chip supper to look forward to, with indeterminate finishing time. Not only do I get overly competitive at quizzes; this one has been known to go on a bit late, depending on the tendency of the quizmaster to waffle (not a tendency that lowers my blood pressure any). That doesn’t promise to be a restful experience either. 

And tomorrow morning might not be much better, with dilemmas about watching the Grand Prix before I leave for the race, or having to wait until I get home to watch the recording, by which time I’ll probably know the result. Conversely, I hate being late and will only get even more nervous about rushing and finding a place to park the car if I do watch the race to the end. Oh decisions, decisions. Someone remind me, why do I do this?

I’ve got it bad!

The running bug, that is.

Talking to the husband today and he’s off for a weekend’s fun and jollity (and a sunday morning headache, if the evening goes true to form) next month. So what do I start doing? Plot a nice girly weekend in? No. I start looking for a race. Oh dear, that’s serious. Sits 3 weeks before a half, so I’m thinking 10 k…

This weekend’s running can be described with a big, fat 0. None, not a footstep. But, given the unseasonably HOT weather, I don’t feel too bad for that. The calendar says it’s October and should be autumn – looks more like August out there. I did a reasonable amount of walking on Saturday, on a day out in Bath – which has hills, in case you han’t noticed (I won’t be putting the Bath half on the “to-do” list!). I had thought about heading out this morning, but got distracted by the Ireland v Italy rugby match, and the first of 6 loads of laundry I’ve got dried on the line today. And then it was Touring cars, then lunch and now it’s nearly time to do the roast potatoes, and I’ve still not run. There’s always tomorrow.

And I’d like to formally welcome my family to reading my blog. The fact that some people might read this was one of the things that had exercised my mind before I started writing this. I am writing this as a means to vent my running enthusiasm without boring all my non-running friends. I also want to be able to look back on this as my voyage to my marathon. You, dear reader, have stumbled in (possibly by mistake) and want to be diverted or entertained; or to find someone suffering the same trials as yourself, or to laugh at my novice mistakes. Whoever you are, I cannot know you. Obviously some of my readers will be people I know; those I’ve directed to the site might be kind enough to read a page or two. But it can seriously cramp your style, knowing that your aged rellies are reading in on your exploits. >;-) Where’s that edit pen?

Not a lazy Sunday

Well that worked out better than it might have done. Sunday is long slow run day. But, having run twice in two days, I wasn’t going to stick to that rigidly if the legs weren’t feeling up to it. A plan’s all very good, but there’s no point running myself into the ground if it just isn’t working.

Up early again, breakfast with the first half of the Scotland/Argentina match – tight and horribly nervy – not at all easy viewing. I gave up watching  the Berlin marathon, as the pixellated image was truly annoying, as was the lack of coverage of the women’s race in the early stages. The men ran through 5 k in less than half the time it takes me to cover the same distance – only they’ve got 35 k to go, whereas I collapse in a heap! 2:03 for a marathon is unbelievably fast to me.

I was still in two minds about running, as I could feel both calves felt a bit tight. Not painful, but just letting me know they were there. But I decided that if I went out aiming for a slow long run, I could always cut it short if it started to hurt too much. That settled the route, down to the lake and loops of that area. It means that I can build up the distance without ever being more than ~ 3 miles from home. Certainly a better option than the out & back I had planned – at 7 miles out you’ve got 7 miles to get home again…And no chance of calling for a lift, as the taxi driver’s not in.

So off I plodded. It was intentionally slow, aiming at high 12:xx to low 13:xx minute miles. As ever, I completely failed to stick to that for the first section. I took my drinks belt with me, and some jelly beans for energy. I’m going to need to take on energy for the marathon, and it’s obviously best to know which type you can tolerate best ahead of the day. I don’t bother taking liquid for less than 10 miles/2 hours (unless it’s awfully hot) but over that and it does make a difference.

Sunday morning must be dog walking time, as they were everywhere! All sorts of shapes & sizes. No expert in dogs, but there appeared to be a fair number of exuberant young dogs out. As usual, they were mostly under control or not at all interested in me! Only Tango made an effort to chase, and all I got was a wet nose on the back of one leg. That led to a small burst of speed, I can tell you!

Distance – 11.0 miles
Time – 2:28:37
Average Pace – 13:02 min/miles
Pace varied from 12:40 to 13:20, which is nicely consistent and shows no real tailing off towards the end.

If that looks like a suspiciously round number, yes, I did run past the end of the road just to round that up. 11.00 miles looks so much better than 10.89! I will admit to having taken out the minute or so I spent at mile 7 having a drink & jelly bean, but that strikes me as reasonable.

The jelly beans didn’t go brilliantly. I decided on one per mile, but after mile 7 I was feeling very heavy in the stomach, and had a fair attack of the burps thereafter. Suspect I’ll try these again, as it’s a nice neat option, but maybe at a slightly lower frequency of consumption. I’ll no doubt come back to this as the subject of a separate blog entry, as there’s all sorts of options and variations available.

I’m happy with the way that felt, the legs were fine and it’s good to have done a run of over 10 miles in the lead in to my half marathon in a fortnight. I won’t go over 8 miles next week, so that I’ll be fresh and rested for the 13 the following week.

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.

A win’s a win

Possibly a bit optimistic today, having run 3+ and nearly 6 miles this week, I headed out the door intending to do 10. But it didn’t quite happen.

Weather was a funny mix, looked really miserable with a distinct possibility of rain, but there was a reasonable breeze and it was really warm and muggy. Several times I thought it was about to bucket down, but it never quite happened. Had teasing drops in the wind and, at one point, a patch of drizzle, but never a really good rain shower to clear the air. Although the drizzle did result in me running towards the centre of a really bright, crisp rainbow – there were even hints of a second arc, which looked really good against the puffy grey clouds. Did make me smile to see all the walkers out in their raincoats, hoods up, while I’m trotting around in short sleeves & baseball cap.

The running was going OK, set off too fast, as usual, but settled into a reasonable pace after the first mile or so. Got into that almost trance like zone when all there seems to be in the world is the next breath and the next footstep. But then the feeling passed, and I had to stop and tie my shoelace and get past a girl in a flowery rain coat and dog – inconveniently I caught her on the narrow bit of path, but she was very nice about it.  By about 6 miles I was feeling my left ankle/calf. And now I can’t decide if it’s playing up, or I’m just worried about it, hence thinking about it and so it is playing up in my head rather than on my leg. It never hurt, but wasn’t comfortable, if that makes sense. But I spotted that they were ploughing top field. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried running over recently ploughed fields? Don’t – trust me, it’s not a pleasurable experience. The ground seems to give way under each step and you feel like you’re going nowhere very quickly, and all the while risk a comedy “splat” moment. Discretion seemed the better part of valour, so I took the shorter route home.

Distance – 7.40 miles
Time – 1:32:34
Average pace – 12:30 min/mile

Then I stretched, showered and watched the England vs Argentina match I’d recorded. I’d also very carefully avoided seeing the result. Oh dear. That really wasn’t worth waiting for, was it? So not the most successful day, but I survived and England squeaked though their probably most difficult match – it could have been worse.