Thursday, June 4, 2020

Back to it!

After last week's exertions, with two very long runs (well, long for me) in a four day period, I decided to build in a decent recovery period, so had a full week off running, which of course leads to the old self-doubt and inner critic kicking in...Will I still be able to run? Why is my heel still sore? How long will I need to stretch for? Has my fitness gone already? You get the picture.

For the first run back, I needed familiarity. A run that I enjoy - not too long, but still with some challenge built in. In the end the decision was an easy one - The Wiswell loop! 7km - nice distance, some decent uphill running to begin with a nice long downhill between 3 and 4 km and then reasonably flat  from there (see the below picture) It's a great little run and a reminder that from home I can be in the middle of nowhere within 10 minutes. Learning to run round here is perfect as there is absolutely no need to take a car, drive somewhere, run then climb into a car exhausted and sweaty to drive home. Early morning is my preferred time for many reasons and as I am working from home this works well. Get up early, fire up the laptop, check e-mails, get set for the day, eat flapjack (banana today), drink SIS Go Energy drink (500ml), stick a single gel in the pocket (lemon and lime/electrolyte) do a few stretches, then hit the road.

Today's aim was simple really - set off at a decent pace and keep moving as quickly as I can up the hills and see how it goes. Of course, beating my PB is always on the agenda - 35:56 to beat (although last time I did 36:35, so not the easiest of targets). One thing to note - if you know the geography of where I live, you will know that the first 300/350m of my run have been my nemesis. When I started out on this in March, I took the option of jogging gently up the hill (around 9% average) and reading back through the blog entries, my first 1 km often took in excess of 6 minutes. I reached a point where I realised that jogging up the first section was a massive error. Splits were telling me my final km was usually the fastest and the first was ALWAYS the slowest, so now I adopt a different approach and try to get to the top of the road in around a minute. I haven't broken that barrier yet, but am down to about 1:04 on average now. From there, I have set a decent pace, am breathing hard and feeling it - point is, I was doing this when going slowly, so I have decided to go as fast as my little legs will carry me!

Today this felt weird - as I set off, the excuses were forming in my head immediately. The foot didn't feel right...I seem to be afflicted with Plantar Fasciitis (Self diagnosed via Google!) ever so slightly and the first few steps I take each day are uncomfortable - the rest had not cured this. It's nothing really, but it is there niggling away in my brain. we go, normally I do a mental checklist over the first section...which is basically running through all the ailments I have and ticking them off as 'feels ok'. Without covering old ground, I start at the floor and work up... Right ankle, left foot, left calf, left knee, right groin, right hip/glute. I know...that's a lot of injured parts - I'm old and have always played sport, it's to be expected 'at your age' (quote from an anonymous doctor 8 years ago). I didn't go back to him. By the top of the hill, I've normally ticked all these off as 'ok' but today I didn't. It just didn't feel right, I got as far as 'left foot'...which was followed by 'hmm...not quite right'. Another reason I run early morning is that I do actually have these conversations with myself out loud - anyone within hearing distance would be disturbed at some of the stuff I talk about. Watch check at the top... 1:04 - decent time, but it was uncomfortable, turn left, down into Whalley there's a really good downhill stretch of about 250 m so it's foot down time, ignore the pain and crack on. The first 'checkpoint' is the Post Office - my watch vibrates around there and this represents the 1 km mark. I feel like I have run quickly through the village and now, looking at the splits, I know that the first km had taken 4:37, which is a really quick start (for me...) From here, the challenge begins and all sorts of dialogue is going on, internally and out loud. Problem is, my foot isn't feeling quite right, there's still a slight pain every stride and part of me wants to stop and go home. It's not hurting as such, more just stiff and taking a while to loosen up. As I reach the right turn up Wiswell Lane, I give myself an option. Keep going, if it's still not right, turn right at the top, along the main road (always sensible...) right down Accrington Road and just do a 5k. The weird thing is, I was actually running pretty well and as I got the the top of Wiswell Lane, I am just over 2k, having gone uphill for the past three minutes and the time looks like the best I have done. Suddenly, for some reason, the foot feels fine, so the next barrier to a good time is crossing the main road and I get lucky - NO TRAFFIC...RUN!!!

Across the road I go and have about another 1 km of uphill running left. This is where I have to push myself, last time out the second two kilometres took nearly 12 minutes and the third one alone was over 6. I have a habit of plodding and really slowing the cadence when it gets difficult - need to sort that out. On this occasion,  I push, focussing on maintaining a decent rhythm as I approach Wiswell. Looking back at the splits, km2 took 5:24 (Post Office to top of Wiswell Road) and km 3 took 5:38 so definitely an improvement for me. The danger is that the next km or so, which is down Whiteacre Lane into Barrow. This is a long downhill and it is easy to get over-excited and push too hard. From the bottom of there, there is still 3km to go - it is mainly flat but with undulations and a steep climb towards the end. I cannot push too hard, steady acceleration, lengthened strides and as I reach the bottom and go back onto Whalley Road, I am on approximately 20 minutes. Feeling good now, I push through the last 3km quite well and with a sprint finish (well...when I say sprint, I get up to about 17km/hr for the last 200m!) I get home feeling that I have had a decent run.

I really enjoyed the last 5 k today...once I got over the initial anxiety. It was a strange run in many ways and again illustrates completely the impact of state of mind. Had my time been poor at the 2 km point, would the foot still have been causing discomfort? Probably... I have to make sure that I stay positive and focussed throughout and to switch off the voice in my head who is making all sorts of excuses for why I may not do as well as I had hoped. Anyway...the target time was to beat my previous PB (35:56) and the good news is that I beat this, with a time of...

Obviously, I am really pleased with this and really delighted that, with the exception of kms 2 and 3, each km was below 5:00 - the final 2 at 4:46 and 4:49 is the pace that I hope to run consistently at over this distance. If I could just go slightly faster uphill...and maybe push harder on the lovely downhill stretches, maybe there's another few seconds that I can shave off this. I love this run and for anyone who lives round here it's recommended. 

So what is next for me? I am thinking that at weekend I should take on a longer run, not a new one, but one I have not done for a while. I am thinking about a 16k (10 mile) run through Langho, Wilpshire and Salesbury. Last time out I did this in 1:32, but on my  (even!) longer runs recently, have hit the 16k mark at around 1:28, so hopefully I can do this in around this time. Probably be Saturday, but we'll see - today is Thursday and I may need an extra day's recovery before doing that one.

Thanks for reading to the very end - massive appreciation for your patience and perseverance! :-) Take care and stay safe.

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