Hot, Hilly and Slightly Horrible

I haven’t been blogging much recently because I haven’t had much to say for myself. I know that I’m a loud, sweary, sweaty man but sometimes it’s good to stay still, sit down and shut up when you have nothing much to say. The product of swearing and sweating is seldom worth reading on their own.

I had to write off Manchester Marathon in early April because I was really poorly the week before. I passed out on the sofa at home. That was a novel experience. Normally when I collapse it’s done with some spectacle, most notably on the altar at Mass one Sunday morning when I conked out just after the consecration of the host and sent the altar bell skittering and ringing across the floor. More recently, I managed to lock myself in the loo, throw up, pass out and cack myself all in the space of about thirty seconds. On neither occasion had drink been taken.

I’ve had a really enjoyable weekend of racing this weekend though. It’s made me think about fun: what it is, where it comes from and why running around like lunatics on a hot day can be considered a fun thing to do. The first round of Hot, Hilly and Horrible was the BMAF Road Relays in Sutton Park yesterday. I had an early start made tolerable by the company of a carload of attractive women. There’s nothing quite like the prospect of pulchritude to get one out of the door before seven o’clock on a Saturday morning. I picked up a coffee first because I’m an idiot and I ran out of coffee on Friday, then Maria, Nicky and Lynn before heading off along the A14 listening to the ladies make connections. It’s fascinating. They talked about children and work and each of them had different people in common. They wove a web of acquaintance in a way that men just don’t do.

The ladies’ race was at 11:00am and we arrived at 9:30am. Bitter experience has left me as mistrustful of the A14 as I am of an unfamiliar dog. You never really know whether you’re going to run past it unscathed or not. Yesterday was fine. We had plenty of time to settle in, have more of a chat, a bite to eat and something to drink before they set off on their warm up. It wasn’t a long one because the day was already heating up. Nicky took the first leg and stormed round the 3 mile course. I sorted myself out while she was running, getting changed into my race kit and shoes, taping up my sore Achilles tendons and all that palaver.

The rest of the men’s team arrived just as Maria set off on the second leg. She ran strongly too and Lynn was gone before I really had time to think about things. Each leg has an uphill finish and I waited towards the bottom of the hill to see Maria and Lynn in. They both flew up that hill looking strong and fresh. In the end, they had a great race finishing 9th out of 23 teams.

The boys didn’t quite fare so well. We set off at 1:00pm and Simon ran his leg much more quickly than I thought he would. I was next to go and wasn’t quite ready for him. A bit like the handover from Christof in the Round Norfolk Relay last year, I looked up and there was Simon powering over the line. I had to barge my way out of the holding pen and set off. My deep apologies to anyone I stood on or elbowed getting away. There is a brief, blissful downslope to begin the lap, just enough to get your legs turning over, before the major climb on the course. I was being overtaken by younger men which was fair enough, men in my own age category which hurt a bit because I was really trying and finally by much older men and that was painful.

The standard in this race was much higher than in any of the local races I’ve done recently. I must be getting complacent. I’ve become used to running hard and finishing in the top third or even the top quarter of the field. I ran my heart, lungs and legs to overheated, bloody pulp yesterday only to serve as the next target for some speeding, strong, freak of nature behind me to come screaming past. If I hadn’t been suffering so much I would have found it very impressive. I lost sixteen places in my own race, and countless others to the other categories. I didn’t overtake a soul. At one point, a runner from Trentham came past on a downhill stretch and I tried to stay with him. I managed for about 100 yards. It felt like a 100 years.

The weather was hot, the course was hillier than we usually get round the Fens and I’m a wimp so it was never going to end well. Had I been racing for myself, there were times I would have walked. Knowing that Ian was waiting to set off kept me running even as the next bloke blew my doors off. That last climb couldn’t come soon enough, it really couldn’t. I bustled over the line in 21:26 feeling very ill indeed. I couldn’t breathe, could barely walk, the sun was relentless and a big Brummie was trying to keep me moving through the funnel. I really hope I didn’t swear at him. The marshals and other volunteers were brilliant if a little thin on the ground.

Ian was back before I had finished stretching and Andrew smashed the course and himself. We finished in 1:20:00 after Ian had made up four places and Andrew a simply magnificent 23 places. Andrew was running on a dodgy ankle too so his truly was the Glory Leg. So, the course was horrible, the weather was disgusting, I was humiliated by some sprightly but elderly men and yet I had fun. I had lots and lots of fun. I was out running with and for my mates and when I got back and had stopped wanting to throw up, I had sausage rolls and very nice cake and the company of some remarkably generous and supportive friends and I loved the entire experience.

Today’s Wimpole 10k Hoohaah was even harder than yesterday’s race and I wasn’t even racing it. It became Hot, Hilly and Horrible Part 2, The Wrath of Cramp. I love the Wimpole Estate, love it to bits. I spend a big chunk of most Saturdays there for parkrun and sometimes I go back on Sundays for a long run. It’s hilly for Cambridgeshire and the trails can be ankle-deep in mud during the winter. The 10k course starts on the flat and then you’re climbing from about 1.5k to about 4k on narrow, rutted farm tracks and field margins. It’s not easy underfoot but the views when you look up from the ground six feet in front of you are lovely. The rest of the course undulates through woodland where the tracks are wider and drier. There is a final climb from 6 to 6.5k when you just want to find a kindly forester to take his axe to the back of your neck and put you out of your, his and everyone else’s misery in a 20 mile radius. I stopped at the water station to get a drink inside me and again at the Top of the Hill at 7k to help a BRJ clubmate who was having hamstring problems. Richard and I jogged in once he’d stretched out his hammie. I crossed the line high-fiving Alison from Hoohah in a near PW of 51:56. There is something about racing at Wimpole and about the Hoohaah atmosphere, I just feel at home there. I suppose it is my second home.

This was still fun. The run was hard work over challenging terrain on another hot day. The course rose and fell like a soap star’s reputation and the weather was more suitable for a garden party than a race but I had an absolute ball. This race was similar to last autumn’s Half Marathon Hoohaah there. I had a shocker there because of an injury but the race was still one of my favourites of the year because I saw so many mates running around. Friends make for fun times and that’s what I had this weekend.

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To Sleep, Fat Chance of Dreams

Can you sleep after a big race or a hard session? It ought to be easy, shouldn’t it? I mean, you’re completely wiped, nothing left in the tank at all. You’ve given it everything so staying awake should be more of a problem than not getting enough sleep.

So, why are Sunday nights and the small, pointless hours of Monday morning so much sodding trouble? I call them the pointless hours because they should pass with you being completely unaware of them. The only people who should be awake at 2:30am on a Monday are criminals and therefore police officers out catching them. At a pinch, I’ll allow new lovers to gaze longingly at one another’s unfamiliar nakedness by candlelight at that time of night too. Possibly,  truckers out making a living by getting my new running shoes to me might also be out through the night.

I bloody shouldn’t!

I fall asleep eventually but then I wake up and feel rotten and lie there wondering why I can’t sleep when I’m so tired and why do my legs hurt and what is the cat doing to my feet now and I hope I don’t wake Anne and I could do with a sip of water and the loo! Oh fuck, I need to go to the loo and it’s so far away and my feet hurt and… Where’s the lampswitch? Never mind. Don’t need a light on now.

Right. Loo. Where’s the loo again? Now, ow! Sore feet, sore feet, sore feet. Ow, ow, ow, fucking, fucking ow! Lightswitch, lightswitch. Where’s that bit of string gone? It’s on a bit of string, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Can’t remember. Got it. BRIGHT LIGHT! Shit. Dazzled. Don’t look in the mirror. You won’t like what you see. Lid. Ooof. Shouldn’t bend over so much or so quickly. Don’t look in the mir… Who the fuck is that grumpy old man?

Can’t go now. Arse. All that for nothing. Literally. Need to turn the light out now. IT’S SO DARK! Don’t let me stand on the cat. I don’t want to stand on the cat. That was the cat. Sorry, Maddie!

Bed. Pillow. Legs. What do I do with my legs again? Need to sleep. Sleep. Legs. Cat. Coming in? No? No. Legs. Pillow. Arms. Duvet. Cat. Make your mind up. Don’t want to wake up Anne. Sleep. Sleep. Ahhh…

And then it all starts again an hour later. Is anyone else too tired to sleep?

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Cholmondeley-Featherstoneshaw

My race day didn’t start particularly well and I didn’t even notice. It wasn’t until I got to the race HQ for the Wymondonham 20 and tried to load up my gels into my pocket that I found out I’d put my short on back to front. And inside out. Go me. Idiocy is at its very finest when the idiot in question doesn’t even know he’s been an idiot.

The race itself went quite well for the most part. There were a couple of horrible drags up insidious slopes into a headwind and gutting those out were hard work. There were lots of supportive marshals and water stops every three miles or so.

This is where there is there is some of the lesser part again. I had a bit of a moment after the second water station. Now, you need to know that I don’t usually bother with water stations mostly because I can’t drink and run. It’s messy. Water in cups goes everywhere. Water in bottles goes everywhere. I haven’t tried water in little water bags, but it probably would go everywhere. I have a Camelbak for taking out on long runs and bike rides which is like an enormous bladder and a big, bendy straw. Water doesn’t go everywhere but I can’t really wear it for a race. I’d look like a plank.

So, I can’t get water down me during my race because I’m afraid I won’t look good. What I do instead is gulp down huge quantities of air along with tiny amounts of water and end up having to have a tactical chunder to clear out the air in my gullet. That looks great, doesn’t it? I managed to hurl this morning after the second water stop, quite a long way after the second water stop in fact, having had to slow down because I felt so uncomfortable. My puke skills are now so advanced I can run along and avoid all the emesis while reverse peristalsis is doing its thing.

I felt much better after that just in time to suffer the first of the uphill, into the wind, drags. The rest of the race was an exercise in trying to keep the pace up in the face of tiring legs. I missed my 2:40 target by just under three minutes clocking up 2:42:55 in 115th overall and 16th in the MV45 category.

I haven’t the least idea how I’m going to keep up that pace for another 10k and 50 minutes in Manchester but it’s got to be worth a go. If the weather is calm then it ought to be on. The Manchester course is flatter and there will be pacers available to help us achieve our targets. Go hard, or go home. If it works for Mo…

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Week Whatever

I’m definitely losing track of time. My training diary is counting down. I only know how to count up. Subtraction isn’t my thing, man and I’m completely lost. So, it’s eight weeks to go to the race in Manchester and I’m not sure whether I’m in my ninth, tenth or possibly eleventh week of training. Things are becoming slightly weird.

In space, no-one can hear you scream. I’ve seen it on a film poster so it must be true. Hollywood wouldn’t lie to me. When you’re on the Roman Road, everyone in earshot can hear you swear when you almost lose a shoe in ankle-deep mud. I’m afraid I had a sense of humour failure towards the end of my run this afternoon. I had what some would call “a complete paddy” in what might pass for a paddy field. I’m not sure anyone would want to eat the rice grown at the top of Babraham Road but I think you could actually get a crop there right now.

In the gym, quite a lot of people can hear you whimper. I wore new running tights this morning. They had unexpected seams. There is nothing worse than a seam where you least expect it. Where I least expected it this morning was rubbing my right testicle. The Laws of Comedy dictate that the left bollock is always funnier than the right bollock. If my left bollock had been so exquisitely chafed that I didn’t actually notice any pain until hot water ran onto it in the shower, I would have been been standing in that cubicle bent over with laughter. I wasn’t. I was sucking in a breath and trying to avoid the eye of the nice lady standing next to me. I mean, what would I say to her? That wouldn’t get me slapped or thrown out of the gym, I mean.

Chafing issues are something people warn you about but you always forget about them when they haven’t happened for a while. You can avoid them with Vaseline or BodyGlide. I would probably have been able to avoid it if I’d slathered it on down there. The trouble is that I would have needed enough of it to leave a highly suspicious stain on my new breeks. I’d have ended up with one of my mates asking me if I’d a little accident. “Well, you can claim it’s just Vaseline but it certainly looks like you’ve shat yourself.”

I also have the Garmin Scar. The chest strap for my heart rate monitor has left a particularly impressive welt across my breast bone area. You don’t see that in the brochures. No, you see attractive men and women running around, getting a nice glow on (not a euphemism, possibly a special effect) and you don’t see the after effects of a three hour run without first having slapped on the BodyGlide. It’d be enough to put your off your dinner, as if the sight of me topless isn’t bad enough. David Beckham, I am not. Nor am I David Tennant whom I have seen photographed almost wearing his kilt this week. I’m not even Vladimir Putin who would stand more chance of being a gay icon if he didn’t keep saying stupid things about homosexuality and stopped being a complete pillock. I’ve forgotten the Russian for pillock. I hope someone will remind me.

Next week, Week Whatever 2, I’ll do some more running around and I’ll certainly remember to slap on enough Vaseline to excite the Village People and give Vladimir some cause for concern. No more whimpering in the showers for this old man. Nossir.

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Up and down like the Assyrian empire…

I think we’re at the end of week seven. It’s hard to tell. I’ve lost count already. I certainly can’t count to six. I have committed to six runs a week for Jantastic and I’ve only made it on one of the three weeks of January. I was injured a couple of weeks ago and I just haven’t been arsed this week.

I did have a good run at the Folksworth 15 last Sunday. I ran the first 13 miles nice and steadily, digging in a little when I had to and ticking off eight-minute miles. I ran the last two miles at a quicker pace and finished in 1:58:48. Those last two miles really fucked my legs. They had that horrible jiggly feeling all night which kept me awake. The bloody things were still running.

The positives to come from the race were all about just how easy it felt until I got carried away with myself. I picked off some runners in those last two miles who had overtaken me early in the race and were fading. Mile 14 starts at the bottom of the last climb on the course. I ran past one man who was walking, slapped his arm saying “Come on, you can walk at the end.” He said that he would catch me up. He never did.

I know that if some bugger had done that to me, trying to get me to run when I was completely spent, I would be hugely pissed off. So, if that was you, I’m sorry. I’ll probably do it again but I’m sorry anyway.

Lack of sleep has been a feature of the week. It was jiggly legs on Sunday night but just stupidity the rest of the week which meant I didn’t get to bed terribly early on two or three occasions and my itinerary which had me swearing at the alarm most mornings. I need a lot of sleep and it’s something I always forget when there’s an old NCIS or Castle on the telly late at night.

I was out at a Burns’ Night ceilidh last night with Anne. We didn’t get back until gone one. I’d been running round the Ashridge Estate, out along the Ridgeway and up onto Ivinghoe Beacon in the afternoon. 10 hilly and claggy miles. I would probably much rather have gone to bed. We seldom have a night out and this one had been planned for a few weeks.

My tiredness has meant that my mood is all over the place. I was completely trashed this morning and couldn’t face going out with the others for a run after breakfast. I haven’t been able to summon up the energy all day so I’ve canned the run. I’ll be one run short again on Jantastic but I want to start next week properly.

Next week is a new week. Let’s view that as a positive. I can acknowledge the negatives of not hitting targets over the last few weeks and work on those too. That’s a positive too. In the meantime, I’ll have a reasonable dinner and an early night.

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The Sixth Week Biteback

I don’t have a left calf muscle any more. I have a tight wee ball of pain and spite. I’ve given it love and care. Well, I’ve thrashed it to bits running a hundred miles so far this year and then tried to make amends by rolling it and stretching it. My calf and I are in a mutually abusive relationship. I took it out for a few miles on a cold night at the beginning of the week without socks or calf guards and it’s been moaning and sniping at me ever since.

My Monday night group started again this week so I ran into town for some extra miles. Coach B and I split coaching the session between us and I ended up running 1k reps far more quickly than I’d intended then ran home afterwards.

Tuesday’s session turned into a bit of an ordeal. I ran to the track just in time to take the session. That was a bit of an effort, leaving home just a few minutes too late for an easy run. The session was long hills on Storey’s Way. I did the first rep up the hill, 600m of lung-racking, heart-tormenting, snot-churning nonsense. It was stupid. It was also good fun. I was coaching with Neil who started the athletes off in groups of four or five at the bottom of the hill. I was waiting at halfway to offer words of advice and encouragement. I ran in with the last group and while the very quickest of them scorched past before I could get going, I was able to chase in the last two or three in the group. I was pleased to be able to do it but more pleased that the athletes responded when I asked them to kick on. They just dug in, found a bit more and caned that bloody hill.

I got cocky. I did another rep towards the end and went off with the second quickest group and ended up getting spat out the back quite quickly. They opened a gap of about 15m but I held it at that and then began to close it down over the second half. I hadn’t done all the hill reps but I had done quite a long run on the way to the track. I still had tired legs and sore lungs but I wasn’t completely destroyed by the group. I paid for it on the way home.

I still had to run home and I had no gels or water. I did 14 miles in total on Tuesday night without a safety net and it really, really hurt. Runner’s pride got me through the worst of it and I found some more pace over the last couple of miles.

Wednesday was my first rest day for ages, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t go to the gym. I didn’t run. I didn’t swim or cycle. I sat on my arse and vegetated. I massaged my calf and tried to pretend it wasn’t that sore, really. I did five easy miles on Thursday night and the calf was fine when I was moving quickly. I had to move a lot more quickly towards the end of the run when my need for a serious loo visit became quite urgent. I did more stretching and rolling when I got home and then again in the steam room at the gym.

I went out again with Julia on Friday for my long run. I’d intended to do 21 miles but I had to stop at 17. The calf had cramped completely. The run was bitty. Mostly, it was lovely but I had to stop for a loo break and to take on gels and water in places. The pain in my calf was there all the time because I never really got going quickly enough to move easily. Maybe I never really moved easily enough to go quickly. Once I’d decided to stop at Julia’s I found enough energy to have a bit of a sprint finish. When I was pushing on, the pain in my lungs overcame the pain in my legs.

I did 4k yesterday and 4k again today. Today’s run was truly horrible. I was too late getting to March to run in the Frostbite round there this morning but I was wearing my C&C vest, a pair of arm warmers and my new ashmei gloves, racing shorts and compression socks. I went for a run round Milton Country Park, using the long loop from the parkrun course. I wanted to do about 5 miles at marathon pace and managed less than two and a half before my calves, hips and determination gave out. I thought I felt some stabby groin pains as well but that might well have been my imagination.

So, I’m not completely happy at the end of Week 6. I’m going to take it easier this week. I need to give my calf a rest and I’m due to race in the Folksworth 15 next Sunday. I enjoyed this race last year but it was just a jog round. I want to give it a good, solid go this time. i ought to be able to break two hours. It’s slightly quicker than my proposed marathon pace and slower than my half marathon PB pace. I’m in decent nick so it’s eminently doable as long as I’m in one piece.

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Week 5 Already

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Photo credit,  Metropolitan Museum of Art

I was in the steam room at the gym this afternoon. I like stretching in there. The warmth helps relax tight muscles and I feel a lot better for a bit of an extra stretch before I leave the facilities. The steam room and sauna are both newly installed. I really like the sauna; it still smells more like a Norwegian timber yard than a Turkish wrestler’s jockstrap. The wooden benches and wall panels are pale birch or beech and have not yet absorbed the sweat of a hundred thousand hairy arses. It’s all very lovely in there.

The new steam room has little twinkly lights in the ceiling, two prodigiously powerful kettles producing steam enough to fill the long, narrow room and flood lights at ankle-level beneath the tiled seating. The shadows my feet and legs cast against the walls reminded me of images like the one above. I seem to have teeny-tiny feet and ankles below the calves and thighs of a Greek god.

Running form must have changed in the 2,500 years since the unknown artist painted the athletes on the vase in this picture. I don’t think I’d like to see any of my athletes allow their shoulders to counter-rotate quite as much as that and while I like to do a few barefoot drills on a kind surface on a summer’s evening, bare-arse drills would get me arrested.

Week five of marathon training has gone well. Shocker, I know. I had a rest day on Monday then raced on Tuesday in the Ely New Year’s Eve 10k, battling nasty winds to log 46:10 which is a minute and three quarters outside my PB and slightly slower than last year. I had a gentle 14 miles on New Year’s Day, 5 miles of recovery run on Thursday, a very tiring 18 miles on Friday after work and a blessedly regenerative 5 miles yesterday evening. The last few miles on Friday evening were hard but I couldn’t slow down to the comfortable shuffle I wanted because I was running through the city. Suppose someone I know had seen me? I wasn’t going to let that happen so I kept running at a nice even pace and tried to look good even if I wasn’t going very quickly. Runner’s pride is a terrible thing. I did nine of the eighteen miles in Julia DeCesare’s very welcome company. She kept me at a nice, even pace and helped me keep my head straight. I couldn’t quite bring myself to do the extra 6 miles on the plan for today after racing hard this morning but that’s still my biggest ever week of training.

I never enjoy racing in the County Cross-Country Champs. It always comes too soon. I haven’t done any really hard, fast running in what feels like weeks. Tuesday’s race was just a slog in the wind and couldn’t really be counted as a proper session. It was just survival. Christmas gets in the way and obsessing with logging marathon miles gets in the way and what should be an A race turns into an OMG, Already? race. It’s supposed to be 10k but I logged it at 10.7k this afternoon and while that last half mile or so is all downhill, it’s downhill when you’re dying on your arse because your fitness isn’t what it should be and the guys behind are getting closer and the only thing getting further away from you than the guys in front is the fucking finishing line. It just never seems to come until you need another 50m to take another place in which case it’s right there and you cross it in a confusion of relief and despair. Funny thing, racing.

I had someone called Paul from – I think – Riverside Runners up my chuff for the best part of half the race. We each had support on different parts of the course. The race is held in Priory Park in St Neots so it was home turf for Paul and a lot of the marshals come from his club. It’s a good, supportive club because he got a lot of “Go on, Paul, get after him!” or “You’ll catch him, Paul. Keep it going!” I yelled “No, he won’t!” at that one. I’m a lucky man. Because of parkrun, lots of people from different clubs know me so I had lots of support round the course too. It makes such a huge difference. I have friends in clubs and towns all over the county now and just like on Friday night, my runner’s pride wasn’t going to let me look bad.

I finally got away from Paul with about 600m to go. I kicked really hard down the final hill and gradually the sound of his footsteps faded behind me. There were two runners ahead and I was blowing bubbles in a last desperate attempt to close them down. Maybe if I’d pushed harder on the final climb and closed the gap more then, I would have stood a better chance. Whatever, they held me off finishing about five or six yards ahead. It’s hard to tell because I was having blurry vision at the end. There may have only been one runner ahead but I think there were two different colours of vest. The only other time I’ve had blurred vision at the end of a race was the 400m in the Fetch Summer Mile Meeting in Southend when I was chasing Chris Hurcomb down. It’s a bit scary but sometimes you just have to run and trust you won’t actually black out until you cross the line. Besides, the first aiders are at the finishing line, not 200m out so that’s where you have to collapse for the most urgent attention.

I didn’t collapse. I didn’t feel dizzy. I did very badly want to puke and had to find a quiet corner away from everyone until I felt better. That’s how I finish nearly every race. If I haven’t run so hard I want to vom, I haven’t given it everything. When I felt better, I was talking to Christof Schwiening and his daughter, George. He was very generous in his praise. I was grateful to him for his kind words because I look up to him as a runner. George was second overall in her race and won the U20 Girls’ category. I was 95th. I’m happy with that.

Back to work and a normal routine next week. I need to move sessions around on the plan so tomorrow’s rest day becomes a session day, I’ll be coaching on Tuesday and Wednesday becomes a rest day, Thursday get a recovery run and I’ll do my long run on Friday again. I have another race on Sunday, you see. I feel much better today than I did last Sunday. I think I have 13 weeks to go. Bring it on. Bring. It. On.

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Marathon Training, Week 4

The miles are piling up, but slowly, too slowly. I canned Tuesday’s run because I couldn’t fit it in during the day. That was 11 miles gone from the plan. I had a very lovely 14 miles on Christmas day, out to Coton Country Park via Grantchester and Barton and then home through the city centre. It was calm and peaceful. People were emerging from the churches in Trumpington and Grantchester and milling around Great St Mary’s in the city. Mass on Christmas Day was always one of my favourite occasions. Even if I’d been to Midnight Mass, I would get up and head out to church again in the morning. Sometimes, I’d have to because I was serving on the altar but there were times I didn’t have to be there and went anyway.

I pegged a quickish 4 miles in the C&C Boxing Day fun run. My 28:18 was just under a minute quicker than my time in the same run last year. I didn’t go off too quickly for once. In fact, my legs were heavy and I didn’t really get going until the halfway mark. I pulled in a man pushing a buggy in the first 800m back from Trumpington. I saw Margaret Phillips and Chris Hurcomb ahead and thought they would be too far ahead. I pushed a bit harder on the gentle downslope and reeled them both in. I caught Mags with a mile to go and Chris a bit after that. I pushed on again after that because Kris Semple was another few metres ahead and passed him just before we crossed the narrow bridge over the stream on Lammas Land. There was a man pushing a bike onto the bridge just as we passed. I think he held Kris up. I didn’t look back. If you look back you slow down and it gives then man behind hope. I had about 400m to go at that point. Julian Hardyman was ahead and I set off after him but couldn’t close the gap. Each time I kicked, he kicked harder and he beat me home by 4 seconds in the end, accelerating away from me all the while. It took a good 10 minutes to stop feeling ill so I must have given it some in the second half of the race.

I had 9 miles on the plan for Friday. I thought I’d do 5 instead. What with one thing and another, I didn’t really eat all day. Breakfast was late and fried and then I got distracted writing a couple of blog posts and then it was dark and I was grumpy and my blood sugar was through the floor so I didn’t run. Again.

I did my 5 mile recovery run on Saturday in spite of not really having anything from which I badly needed to recover. I had just enough in the tank to take a Strava segment in slippery conditions. I find pushing hard on my own quite difficult and I didn’t want to check my watch while I was running because it might slow me down too much. I just hit a pace which felt quick but sustainable in the conditions and kept going from one end of the segment to the other. There is more to come along there because I wasn’t running anywhere close to flat out and it was very slippery. I think on a spring evening I could take another 20 or 30 seconds off my time along there, especially if I have someone to chase. I could get some clubmates out on a Thursday night and have a good, square go at it.

Today’s run was lovely. The conditions were perfect for a nice, long, steady run. I had 18 on the plan and very good intentions. I ran 13 in the end and it was a real struggle towards the end. The climb up the hill out of Stapleford towards Gog Magog Downs was horrible. I’d wanted to run to the Gogs to meet the others, run a loop with them then run home. Snuggling up next to Anne and the cat seemed like a better thing to do than getting up in time to have breakfast and then heading out the door when it was only just light. Had I done that, I would have done the 18 miles easily because basically I was being a wuss.

I also think that I run better on my own sometimes. I finished my solo Christmas Day run on a high and today’s run in a funk. I don’t always go out unless I have company but then I don’t complete my session if nobody else is doing the same sort of distance. It’s a bit of a sod. I’m sure I’ll be able to come to some sort of compromise where I meet people to start the run but do more of it on my own. I don’t want to sound graceless because I did enjoy everyone’s company today. I need to fix my motivation to the sticking place and complete the sessions the way I need to. It was just too easy to stop when everybody else did today.

Week 5 starts tomorrow with a rest day. The weather is supposed to be foul anyway. It’s nice to have a proper excuse for once.

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Marathon Training, Weeks Two and Three

Oh God. Man was born to suffer. It’s true. I’ve been in hiding in my Happy Place, a rictus grin fixed on my face in an attempt to fool my brain into thinking it’s all fine. It so very, very isn’t. I’m logging miles like a Morris Minor driven by a woman with hairy ears and a floral hat. S-l-o-w-l-y.

My long runs have been a little short but nothing too dreadful. I raced 5 miles and went out later to do another 10 later in the day one week and then did 25km the following Sunday. Both distances are a little less than were on the plan but I felt okay running them. I bonked* last week after 23k and ran out of gels so I stopped when I got back to the car instead of going past it for another mile and then running back which had been my plan.

(*Note for non-runners, bonking is a lot less fun than you’d think.)

Weekdays have been stressful and horrible and filled with what can only really be described as My Job. My Job has dragged me round the country quite a lot or had me damaging my fertility under a hot laptop or sitting in a meeting room in a hotel for so long my legs were like jelly. That’s a funny expression, isn’t it? I used to really love jelly. Jelly came in colours but not in flavours. Red jelly was always my favourite and green jelly would always be left until there was no alternative. Anyway, as much as I love jelly, I don’t really like the feeling of wibbly-wobbliness my legs have after an entire day spent in a meeting room.

Nothing quite saps motivation quite like long, long drives. In the past couple of weeks I’ve been to Manchester and Newcastle and back on consecutive days because I needed to get back to Cambridge to coach at the club. It’s not the same as other ways of draining energy. You need to stay alert to all the other bastards out there intent on killing you on the road. That’s a special form of anxiety and it really nibbles at your ability to function as an athlete or a coach at the end of the trip.

I wanted to run early in the mornings for an hour or so but I didn’t have the energy for that. I ran on Tuesday evening for five and a half miles and Wednesday for about eleven and a bit. Wednesday’s run was the first one that felt good: Ealing to Kew then up the river to Richmond Lock and back to Ealing via Brentford. I was bumping along, ticking off each kilometer in five and a half minutes whenever I didn’t have to cross a road. It felt easy mostly because it was. I’m definitely an evening runner though. You morning people are all weird.

I’m parkrunning tomorrow then maybe doing a few more miles on my own. My long run on Sunday is only 15 miles but I might do more depending on how I feel. Plans are like drunken promises, after all – made only to be broken.

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Marathon Training, Weak One

Did you see what I did there? Did you? Did you? It was quite rubbish, wasn’t it? Oh well, the only way is up. The first week of my marathon training has not gone well. I’ve been doing a good impression of the bastard offspring of Coffin Henry and Bob Fleming. My cough has developed a personality of its own. It’s a solid, traditional character; John Bullshit, maybe. It has however given me an excellent excuse to eat Pantagruellian quantities of ice cream in an effort to stave off the sore throat. Given the choice between a couple sad, wee, wee-flavoured Strepsils (other wee-flavoured lozenges are available) and a biiiiiiiiiiiiiiiig bowl of Green & Black’s vanilla or chocolate, what would you do?

The cough has kept me awake at night all week. Bastard thing. I’ve had about four hours of sleep each night. I’ve also made return day trips to Manchester and Newcastle on consecutive days. I’d be knackered in the normal course of events this week with my normal training load and even though I haven’t kicked up to 55 miles immediately, I have done three hard sessions, a race and a long run in the past seven days and my legs are mashed as a result.

I’m following the P&D 55-70 miles plan. The plan says 50 miles next week but that would not be sensible at this stage for me. I need to add miles again next week so I am closer to 40 miles than the nadge over 30 I did this week. I also need a rest day or two. I’ll drop a couple of miles off each session next week and swap things around so I can train with Alan tomorrow.

Anyway, let’s hope for a better Week Two because Weak One was horrible.

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