Tuesday 22 November 2011

Back-to-back runs

Another week down, another week closer to D-day. I have 20 weeks to go.

Because I have my first ultra race next week I decided not to increase the mileage further last weekend, but to do shorter back-to-back runs instead so I'm not too exhausted.

So my routine last week was:-
Mon Rest day
Tues Supposed to run but didn't - oops
Wed Short run into work 4.5 miles, fast (ish)
Thurs Rest
Fri Hill reps
Sat 15 miles, slow
Sun 10 miles, fast (ish) with intervals

With a splash of the gym and yoga in between. Surprisingly I actually find yoga much harder than running. But I'm happy to report that I'm only 10cm away from being able to touch my toes rather than 20cm. The yoga teacher at my gym is a little scary too. Last week she shouted at me "Why can't you STRAIGHTEN YOUR KNEES?? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??"

Not me. Impressive shoes though.

The route I took for the 15 miles was the Dollis Valley Greenwalk. I'm beginning to struggle to find decent routes in London that avoids the crowds now the mileage is getting longer, but this is a good one. It randomly starts on the A1, which is a very pleasant way to begin a run.

But after that delight it ventures off into the rural fields of High Barnet, over to Totteridge and Whetstone, and then follows what must be the Dollis river through woodland down to Hampstead Garden Suburb where you can pick up the Capital Ring all the way back through East Finchley, Highgate to home.

Kind of like the northern Northern line, but nicer.

Higher power

Not quite TFL, but nice try.

Though this route was really pleasant to run I wasn't in the right frame of mind. I think the main reason for this was I had drunk 2 pints and 2 glasses of wine the night before. Not sure that part was ever in the training plan. Though perhaps this will be good to include as presumably there will be beer on tap at each checkpoint in the desert.

The 10 miler on Sunday was miles better (and miles shorter, which is probably why it was miles better). My legs felt great so I decided to run it fast, with intervals. I mainly did this as I had lots of other stuff I wanted to do on Sunday, but I also realised I actually do miss shorter faster runs.

Running many miles sloowwlllly is very very different to running shorter miles faster. I may be stating the obvs here, but it takes it out of you in a different way.

For example, running 30 miles super slow is pretty tiring after about 10 miles when you are running it, with the wierd stabby, joint pains. Afterwards your muscles are generally fine, but you just feel very tired and could eat and sleep for a year.

Running a shorter distance, like a half marathon, fast is exhausting the whole way through, like you want to vomit, and it's 90% certain you'll have some muscle damage the next day and you'll feel stiff, but there is less of the tiredness or joint pain.

Now although I realise neither of those descriptions sound particularly enticing, they both actually are! On Sunday I was thinking "oh fast runs how I have missed you!" I just love that feeling of speeding along at threshold pace and feeling so awake, followed by the lovely endorphin high.

But the longer slower runs give you that "full and sleepy after Sunday roast" kind of feeling.

This is the first time I've put long (ish) runs together like this, and it's something I'll have to start increasing as the weeks go on, but I have been pleasantly reassured that's it's not too bad, if you pace it right and can still function at the end of a run.

I'm still counting on MDS having spa facilities and sofas though each night. Right?

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Official ultrarunner!!

Whoop whoop. I ran my first ultra training run at the weekend. 30 miles. I woke up the next day feeling like something exciting had happened and remembered that it had! 30 miles.

For anyone running their first whatever distance - you will get this feeling. It's brilliant. It's like you've gone out there and achieved something all by yourself, for yourself, and no one can take that away from you. This is partly why I run. So I can feel proud of myself.

Whenever you're having a bad day, the inner you can go "yeh but you smashed that run the other day!", and that will sit with you forever.

Anyway, my point is any milestone run should be celebrated, whatever level you are at. You'll never run your first again so make the most of it when you do.

Pam Reed, ultrarunner extraordinaire said a similar thing in her book "The Extra Mile" when she said she got a little jealous of her friends when they ran their first marathon. I feel the same. I remember thinking during the last few miles of Edinburgh marathon (my first marathon) that I had to remember this bit. And I did, and I still can picture the pain! But also that feeling of absolute elation when I'd crossed the finish and could stop and seize up in agony (joking, kind of).

So, yes, I'm fairly chuffed about reaching past the mara post, though also painfully aware I'm at the start of training still. Got a 45 miler race looming on the horizon in January and still not quite sure how I'll manage all these back to back long runs in the desert.

The route I took for 30 miles (just to remind you I ran 30 miles! 30!!) was from Embankment along the Thames Path to Richmond Bridge and back again.

I started off pretty slow. This was helped by listening to audio books rather than heavy trance and house music. Little bit of running, little bit of walking. No stopping. Lots of eating. Probably too much eating.

The first half felt fairly easy, though it seems that this sort of training is a whole different ballgame to marathon training as it's all about endurance, not speed. So a 12 minute miler pace rather than 8 for long runs.

Started to feel a little tired towards Richmond, though I am sure this is a mental thing, as I knew I could stop and have a drink/sort my trainers out/sit for a minute.

On the way back, I ramped it up with some music to stave off the boredom. Again felt okay till I had about 6 miles to go. Then felt really tired. Though strangely it was easier to jog than walk. Walking gave me wierd stabbing pains in my legs. Really I should have stopped and stretched. The worst pain was in my hip and knee joints rather than my muscles. Though even that disappeared the next day. Result!

It's a lovely route once you get past the tourists around Embankment and Westminster. First there is the glorious Battersea Park to run through. Then sporty "Jack Wills" Putney, with all the rowers out on the Thames. Always love to watch them. Then you hit the offroad part of the path. Just lovely all through the year, but particularly at the moment with all the trees still in their autumnal colours.

For anyone who doesn't get why people run, being outside is one of the reasons, especially in such a busy city as London. Being able to enjoy places like the more rural parts of the Thames Path takes some beating. I don't know if I would have liked to be anywhere else at that point than jogging along between trees and river, saying hello to dog walkers, and seeing the sun through the trees. Happy days.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Full steam ahead

I've been neglecting the blog of late. I would love to say it's because I've been too busy running but alas! it's more too do with the fact I've been on my holidays.

Fortunately I HAVE been doing some running and feel a little more confident in what lies ahead. First run of note to mention is one early morning 11 miler through a stunning Hampstead Heath. Not sure who else ventures onto HH at 7:30am (well I do have some ideas but that's another blog entry) but in reality it isn't many. Which means hogging the whole loveliness of the Heath all to yourself.

Wot! No one about Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath and Pete, early morning

Hampstead Heath, early morning

Running up Parliament Hill I reflected on an article I read in the evening papers about things that made people feel good – the top ones being “climbing into bed made up with freshly washed sheets” or “sitting by an open fire when there’s a blizzard outside”. Another one should be “stopping at the top of Parliament Hill to admire the view after sprinting up there”. Add to that a sublime sunny autumn morning, a cheery hello from a dog walker and I'm happier than the Greek Parliament who have just been told someone fucked up the maths and in truth they are cruising with £100 billion credit not debit.

Further ramping up the miles was a 21 miler along the sleepy Suffolk coastline. I've finally managed to get the MDS shuffle under control so am at a 12 minute miler pace for long runs now. Doing this has really increased my confidence that I will be able to run a marathon, then another one, and another one, and another one, the do 50 miles then finish with a half marathon in 50 degrees, with a bag, in sand, and up hills.....er yeh.... Anyway running along the coast was a "pleasant" wake up call to how tiring running in sand is going to be. But again - pretty fun day (if you can call it that). A day out on one of England's most picturesque coastlines, having a chat with the other half, stopping for lunch along the way, enjoying the sppppaaaacccceeee that Suffolk is pretty good at - can't be bad. And sunday roast never tasted so good!

Suffolk coastal - Dunwich

Dunwich Heath

Last run of note to date was last weekend's 25 miler along the Lea Valley Way. Urgh! Has anyone else been here? It's depressing. Oh maybe that was just how I was feeling? I started at Tottenham Hale and ran up to Broxbourne in Essex. The first few miles are pretty grim - industrial estates, electric pylons, shady "fishermen" fishing under flyovers in polluted water. Bleurgh.

Gratuitous picture of Robson Green

It does get better once this bit is passed. People say hello, and there was definitely less paranoid thoughts of murderers in the bushes on my part.

Lea Valley canal - the nice bit

Another negative was I had a fish finger sandwich half way and then had bad fish thoughts for about an hour afterwards. Need to learn the art of running on the move (though perhaps fish finger burgers not the cuisine of choice...)

So I'm now preparing for my first ultra - gah. 38 miles at the end of November. Little bit scared but bring.it.on.
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