Sunday, April 26, 2020

Tortoise and the Hare...a modern version

Over the past few weeks, I have been pretty much focussing on reducing my times and increasing my speed. Today’s run was different and was thanks to a chance conversation with a friend. This would be a medium length run (clocked in at 12.65km, around 8 miles), and for once I didn’t set myself a target time. I had a rough idea of how long this would take, but no target. Simple reason being that I was heading uphill onto the edge of Pendle Hill, and although I knew the first 6k would be uphill, had no idea how steep it would be. Short answer to that now is ‘very steep’. SO the run itself...from Billington, into Whalley, then UP...past Oakhill, UP into Wiswell, UP into Pendleton with a climb of around 160 metres. Tough going. 

Anyway, onto the detail. A couple of small slices of flapjack and the strong coffee for sustenance.a good stretch then off I go. I have been having some soreness in my Achilles over the past few weeks and was unsure how this would be, so I set off in a strange mindset and after a km, glanced down to see a decent start by my standards (5.35) but I wasn’t quite in the mood. When I’m in that place, how easy is it to turn round, come home and blame a slight soreness in my heel? Too easy, so at this point, gel number 1 came on board and carry on. As suspected, the hills were steep and the going tough. After about 4km, a young couple flew past me...being overtaken is always deflating, but I consoled myself with the following... 1. They are less than half my age 2. They’re obviously doing a  short run... and off they disappeared into the distance and left an old man in their wake. 

As I reached Pendleton, I knew that a left turn would result in a nice steady downhill, which was a great relief. Back onto the bypass towards Clitheroe and I’m feeling ok now, done the hard bit, and although there are still inclines, nothing like what I’ve done and the average time is around 5:30 per km. the route back takes me past Clitheroe Golf Club and into Barrow. The weather was sunny, so I was running on the side of the road that was in shade. As I headed into Barrow, I noticed on the other side of the road a young couple, pretty much walking...yes, the same ones that had flown past me about 4 miles back... enjoyed passing them.  Anyway, that gave me a boost and the rest of the run passed without any alarm or incident. Only thing worthy of comment is the Salted Caramel SIS gel is delicious.

Back home in 1:08:29 with an average pace of 5:24 per km. Felt good, plenty left in the tank at the end and, most pleasingly, the pace was consistent, which was the aim of the run today. Now time for feet up, loads of rest and hopefully not too much soreness tomorrow. 

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Pain free running...

A cold morning today meant the tights were out, the base layer was on...definitely not a morning for shorts and a t shirt. Now I have my go faster special socks, something else struck me today. Are the gloves that runners wear special running gloves or are you ok with a pair of Damart specials? Who knows...anyone?

Today for me was about taking a step back. I had overdone things last week with two long runs in 4 days and now know that the bread and butter is to do 5k and 10k runs as the basis of the training. I have no need at this point in time to prove to myself that I can go long with regularity, and my body gave me a firm reminder last week that I am no longer in my early 20s...or in fact in my early 30s (or 40s to be fair).

Anyway...back to the morning. A cold and blustery morning, and the desire to go back to the 10k Run I have done a couple of times before. When I say 10k, this isn’t an exact science as my Fitbit works on biometrics, and the faster I run, the longer the strides...and it appears I have run less far. First time I did this run, it measured as 10.25k and took me an hour. 2nd time, 57:20 so today my target was to push towards 55 minutes if possible. My preparation as always was top class, an Indian feast last night and a few glasses of wine (note to self, this might not be ideal preparation) but following a tip from a friend, I made a 500ml mix of SIS Go hydration drink prior to bed, so when I woke up, was already hydrated well.

Breakfast was a banana, not sure this is working as for the first 2/3k, my mouth was dry and claggy. So much so, that I was already composing the headline for the blog...Don’t blame it on the curry. Don’t blame it on the vino, don’t blame it on the strong wind, blame it on banana. I sang that for a few minutes and realised that, despite this, my times were looking good. Village store 5:10, Cenotaph 7:30, St Leonard’s school 12:20 and the big roundabout in bang on 15 minutes. Anyone who has ever run along a road like the A59 will know that boredom is your biggest barrier, and today was especially the case. Counting cars? Hardly any....this is also a very exposed, and quite high, stretch of road and the wind was strong and in my face. Despite all this, I felt good. I’d had a gel before setting off and had saved a Fruit Salad one for a treat at the half way point. The landmark that tells me I’m half way there is a bin. Classy. Anyway, I hit the bin (no, not physically) at around 27:30 so I am on track to go sub 55 minutes, but from there, the next 2k is tough, uphill and into the wind.

Eventually I got to the roundabout and turned right, about 3k to go...and as I turned right onto Wiswell Lane. About 2k to go...just over 42 minutes gone. This next 400m is steep downhill, so I put my foot down and got into a really good rhythm, turned left to head back into Whalley, through the village, over the bridge (another uphill struggle) and then finally down to home. Quick hit pause and I’m home... 51:32 and I am knackered. Sprinted the last 200m pretty much full tilt, and am exhausted, but a marked improvement on last time. Nearly 6 minutes faster than 3 weeks ago. What now? A good rest and feet up for a few days...I’m learning!

Today’s learning for me...

1) Gloves. I need some, fingers were freezing (and no, I don’t even own a pair of gloves. I bought some last year, but lost one At Deepdale)
2) Energy drink before bed seemed to help with hydration.
3) Getting faster is a good sign, but I know my foot/ankle needs to rest more between runs
4) A slow start is ok, my splits today show clearly that each km was faster than the last one. The last 2k was done in just over 9 minutes.
5) Running into a strong wind and uphill is hard, but quite enjoyable

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

‘I know my own body’...dealing with minor injuries!

One of the advantages of being, how can I put this, more ‘mature’ is that we wheel out the phrase in the title. ‘I know my body’ is the kind of rubbish we all come out with from time to time. An excuse to exercise when we know in reality we should be resting. The truth is, our age is irrelevant in many ways as in my heart, I am in my early 20s and invincible. Knowing our body is one thing, but acting upon what it tells you to do is another matter entirely. As someone born in the early 1970s, I still haven’t mastered this yet.

Last week, I did get a little giddy and, having enjoyed a 16k run, decided to repeat the run four days later. Lesson learnt...I won’t be doing that again. Training for the Great North Run will take time, and patience. What I should have done following a very long run is a few days recovery then maybe a quick 5k or a 10k to keep my speed up. As it stands, I found the temptation too much and over the weekend, had a real soreness in my Achilles, tender to touch and it extended up into my calf. Frustratingly enough, this meant each morning I have been waiting to see how it feels before deciding whether to run or rest. Today (Tuesday) was the first day I felt that maybe I could get back out since Thursday of last week, so 5 days between runs. What’s that saying again? I know my own body...except the truth is, I don’t really as this soreness is new to me. What if it gets worse? What if I rupture my Achilles? Should I leave it another day? I’ve had hundreds of injuries over the years...but never an issue with my Achilles.

All these questions and doubts floating around my mind and took me back to when I was advised to stop playing football a few years ago. I’d been having problems with my knee for ages and decided to go to the GP. Somewhat annoyingly, it appeared to be work experience week and I was seen by a 12 year old, who told me it was typical wear and tear and active men of my age should expect this! Physio followed but this served to make things I stopped. Something wasn’t right, this wasn’t wear and tear, this was a genuine problem, so I contacted someone who I knew would work it out, someone whose knowledge of football injuries would help me. When I got the diagnosis, initially I was thrilled... ‘If you were a professional footballer, 23, 24 and I was your physio, working with you every day, you’d be back on the pitch in 9-12 weeks.’ Excellent. I’ll take that...then the hammer blow... ‘but you’re not’ and in one phrase, my football days were over. Point here is really listening to myself hasn’t served me well in the past. What I was told was rest...give it 6 months, then another 6 months, see how it is. He was right and my knee is stronger than ever (cheers Baz). Perhaps I can get back in the veterans league one day!

So...injuries...part and parcel of this and I know I have to work out which discomfort is manageable and when risks should not be taken. The new, sensible version of me decided that I would just do 5k this morning. It’s a cracking little run uphill for 2.5k and downhill for the return. This was the baseline run from 5 weeks ago, where I scraped home in what I now know is a pretty poor time of 30:38. I decided to set off more quickly and hopefully the past five weeks of training would see me down to 27/28 minutes, Achilles permitting. I also decided that any pain at all and I would stop. Yeah right...of course I would. Anyway, I set off and felt pretty good. Pace felt good and I hit the landmarks in what felt decent times. Billington Village Shop in 5 minutes, Elker Lane in 7:15... and as I got to the half way point, my watch was saying 13:30 roughly. On track for 27 minutes which would be good. What I was hoping was to have the energy to accelerate through some nice downhill sections and each time I glanced at the clock, I felt like the time was going to be better. As I turned the last corner, and hit the last 200m (a great, steep downhill) I was hoping that my predictions would be right and as I stopped and clicked ‘pause’ then ‘finish workout’ the time flashed up...25:48. I think it was that, it could have been 25:45, but it’s disappeared and I have not found a way of recovering the exact information! Under 26 with that in mind, could I do 10k in 52/53 minutes now?   Doubt it...time will tell. As long as I remember to listen to what my body is telling me...

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Thursday, April 9, 2020

Repeated runs and learning from this

On Sunday, I took on my first ever ten mile run, and overall felt quite happy with how things went, but fatigue really got to me over the last 3/4K. I had put this down to nutrition, or lack of. I have subsequently been told that having a few drinks the night before could also have contributed... other insightful comments have suggested that my age is a factor,  my inexperience as a runner, lack of fitness, wrong size running shoes be fair, most of these, if not all, are perfectly valid. After a few days resting, the time came for me to go for another run. I do like repeating a run, as I can try to learn from last time. Today’s challenge was simple, do the same run as Sunday, more quickly and with less fatigue.

I am trying to find out what nutrition I need to be at my peak, and this was where I felt I went wrong on Sunday. For breakfast today, the trusty strong coffee and a banana. Two gels would accompany me on the run, both with 25g of carbohydrate and 75g of caffeine. This was a change as the addition of the banana should give me a decent start meaning I cam time the two gels to make sure energy stores don’t get depleted (in theory).

As I said, same run as Sunday, but it was slightly warmer at the start, and there was no wind to speak of. I felt like I’d set off ok and hit 5k in around 29 minutes, which is ok...this is all uphill. Had the first gel after 15 minutes and felt this kick in about 20 minutes later, so after 35 minutes, I am 6k in, have energy and am at the peak of the climbs. The splits suggest that this is the case...and I started running each km about 15 or  20 seconds faster from here. Of course...I stopped going up! ( see my Insta.) 

Anyway, things started to go in my favour, the sun went in, energy is rising and I am running downhill for a while. Happy when to have the second gel? I guessed about the 50 minute mark, as I didn’t want a dip...went for that just as I hit 50 minutes and am back on the A59 near Copster Green. This seemed to work and energy stayed good. All felt good and again at 12k, I hit a mental block. Not quite a wall, but the troublesome hip (which I am having Physio for) started to play up. It’s only occasional and seems to hurt with a lengthening stride. Anyway, I got through this and as I hit the roundabout near Northcote, I glanced at my watch and saw 1:15...meaning 20 minutes left to beat the previous time. Got a good pace going here and the last 4K went as follows:


The 16th kilometre was the fastest. 27 seconds faster than the first (I did say it was hilly round here!) and I made it home in 1:32:35, which is just over 3 minutes faster than Saturday. As I type a few hours later, I’m aching, sore ankles mainly but feet are ok thanks to my new go faster socks! I definitely feel that two runs of this length so close together is something I’ll probably avoid from now on, but worth doing. Who knows, by the next time I do this, I may even get down close to the 1:30 mark!

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Thanks, a few days rest now...

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Ten miles...Pleasure and pain...

As most of you will know by now, I am a complete novice to the world of running, and it is just less than a month since I tentatively went out for a baseline 5k...that day, I was disappointed that I couldn’t manage that in half an hour, and since then have used every run as a learning opportunity. This is all as I am going to take part in The Great North Run. I am trying  to raise money for Shelter, so if you feel you can help, please visit the link below:

The runs I have done so far have varied, a few 5k, a couple of 8k, couple of 10k, and each repeated run gives me chance to do better than the previous attempt. Things have been going pretty well in truth and today felt like the right time to push myself. I mapped out a route that looked about 15.3km from roads, so in reality would be a touch longer. Social distancing is important so there would be quite a few extra road crossings and swerving to give walkers their 2 metre space.

What I wanted to find out today was about two things...nutrition and resilience. Could I really run without a break for my targeted time (for this run) of between 90 and 100 minutes? What would I do if I found it too hard? Would I stop and walk for a bit or just dig in? Also, with a eye on the Great North Run in September, I am trying to work out the best way of fuelling my body. Bear in mind, this was Sunday morning and a few drinks on Saturday night had not been sacrificed. In the past few weeks, when I have struggled on runs, it is generally an evening run, as I have eaten too much throughout the day (no surprise there) so what kind of nutrition would see me through this? I settled for cup of coffee, then about 15 minutes prior to setting off, I had an energy gel with electrolytes. This should kick in after about 3 or 4km and prevent fatigue setting in. I also took out a gel with caffeine, which I had about 5km in. I am still finding my way round with these, but I think the caffeine ones have the biggest impact. They really do boost me during a run and aren’t too inconvenient to carry in pockets. What about water? I can’t get along with carrying a bottle and at the moment am simply taking about 750ml of water on board before setting off. It seems ok to date, but what if it is hot? What then?

Anyway, onto the run itself. A new route, from Whalley, up to Langho, through Wilpshire, down through Salesbury, back onto the A59 at Copster Green, continue as far as the roundabout just beyond Northcote and then back down through Billington. I know the first part up to Langho is uphill, so was fully prepared for the usual slow start. As always, the first km clocked in at just over 6 minutes and by the time I hit 2.5, 15 minutes had gone. Standard. What I didn’t know was that when I turned into Langho, I was facing about another 5k that was pretty much exclusively uphill... and in honesty, I struggled, couldn’t get a decent stride pattern and lacked energy. I took the decision to have the gel earlier than planned, which meant that with 10k left, I had no more fuel. I was on my own... fortunately the right turn down into Salesbury gave some downhill relief and my energy built up again. It’s the caffeine I think. Need to remember that for next time. From there, a few ups, a few downs, and at around 12k, I hit the wall, I can see Northcote, but am still having to go up a long steady upward incline. Also,by this point my energy levels plummeted rapidly. To answer the question from earlier, I looked at my watch...I had been running for about an hour and a quarter, so all I needed to do was take shorter strides for a while, dig in and carry on. My hour and a half was not going to happen, but I was further from home than I had thought and was looking at probably doing 16k. This is the point at which I needed to think about nutrition. Each gel contains about 25g of Carb, so all I had at that to keep me going  at that point  was two of those plus a strong coffee and just short of a litre of water. That’s something I need to think about next time. Maybe something to eat, a few calories inside me would have helped. Nonetheless, I cracked on, and by the time I had got past Mitton Fold golf club, began to feel good as mostly now I was pretty much freewheeling downhill. The run ended with me pretty much spent. 16.27 km according to GPS, so just over 10 miles, in a time of 1 hour 35 minutes and 45 seconds. The splits showed my slowest km (1st one as always) was 6.06 and mostly were around 5.50. The fastest ones were 5.47, of which there were 3, including the 15th km - even though that was largely downhill, it still pleases me to see that there was no major drop off in times.

So what did I learn? On a longer run, I need to try having some food prior to going, then take 2 caffeine gels with me. What else? Mental toughness is crucial. To think that after only four weeks running, I can run at a consistent pace for over an hour and a half with no stops, walking, and overcoming some discomfort comes as a massive shock. Knowing so many people have donated to the cause so far gives me the determination I need. Last piece of learning? Socks...can’t wait to get some proper running ones.