Tuesday, 30 March 2010

I've Broken It

So, I rested my right hamstring for a couple of days hoping that I could resume my running on the Wednesday. I kind of knew that it wasn’t better but went out for a three mile run anyway. This was not a good idea but I kept on thinking that I could somehow run it off. Unfortunately, I ended up hobbling through the last two miles and could hardly walk for the rest of the evening.

I am now officially injured. For the first time in my life I want to run but can’t. There’s a sick sort of pride in my first injury. Firstly, it proves I am “A Runner” and secondly, it shows that I am pushing my body to and beyond its physical limit. This is stupid, of course. I don’t want to be pushing my body to breaking point but it is quite nice to find that limit. Now I know it’s a proper hamstring strain I can come up with a proper recovery plan.

First off, I joined a gym on Thursday. Bodyz in Prestatyn is a strange gym and the only one I have joined with a hot dog and chips stand right outside the door. There is also a McCain chips vending machine!? I have never seen one of those before. So, not good places if you like chips and want to lose weight. Anyway, it should suffice for my needs. In the long run I want to use the gym for proper cross training and to strengthen my core muscles and legs. This should prevent future injuries, speed up fitness gain and weight loss and keep things varied.

My recovery plan is as follows. I did some light cross training on Thursday and Saturday and completely rested my legs on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. I will try a one mile easy run on Wednesday. If that goes well I will run two miles on Thursday then rest on Friday. If all is well I will then run three miles on Saturday and four miles on Sunday. If the injury surfaces again I will have to go to a sports physiotherapist.

So for now it’s just a matter of fingers crossed and hope for the best. I do miss running though.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Nothing To See Here

Righto. There’s a lot to get through in this post. On Friday my cross training for the day consisted of moving sacks of manure for the garden. This was heavy and equally smelly work, not to be repeated. I went for a nice one mile run with my dad. It was a very relaxed pace and nice to have some company.

I did a very stupid thing on the Friday night. I sunk six bottles of beer and consequently had a bad head on the Saturday morning. Moreover, I was quite tired and did not eat enough before my long run of nine miles. Not the best preparation by any means. Just to confound the issue, it was a foggy day with a cold, dampness that clung to everything.

The first three miles felt fine although a bit slow. Then everything started to go wrong. The fog closed in and visibility decreased to about 40 feet. In the maze of small roads and with no points of reference on the horizon the inevitable happened: I got lost. It took me about 20 minutes of stopping and starting to regain my bearings. I lost all my rhythm and became very cold and wet. I struggled getting up hills and was very slow on the flat. The last three miles were fine although I felt disappointed with my performance. I also felt completely worn out all day and found myself struggling to do anything.

So, there are things to learn from this.

1. No drinking the night before a long run. Before last Friday I had not drunk in quite a while with a view to abstaining from booze altogether. I think it might be better to allow two or three drinks every so often. There are rules to this. Only drink before a low intensity day and allow at least three days between drinking. This should allow me to socialise over a few drinks without feeling the need to drink too much.

2. Get at least eight hours sleep the night before. This just requires a bit of organisation and self discipline. I might try meditation to lower my heart rate before going to bed.

3. Make every preparation to know the route before embarking. For the longer runs I will try and drive the route beforehand. Also, I should always take a proper map rather than a shitty GoogleMaps printout.

4. Get the nutrition and hydration right before running. I will double my efforts to eat 400–500 calories and 500ml of water three hours before my long runs (8 miles plus).

5. Respect the distance.

In the previous post I noted some discomfort in my right hamstring. This resurfaced in my Sunday five mile run and became really painful. I could barely walk by the end of it. Not good. After a bit of Internet diagnosis I have come to the conclusion that it is a mild hamstring strain (don’t think it’s Sciatica). I’m going to rest it for a couple of days and then do a three miler on Wednesday. Also, I’m going to join a gym to start doing some strength work. This should stop these little injuries from cropping up as I increase the mileage.

In conclusion, this has not been a good week for my running. I under prepared and paid the price with an injury and bad long run. Need to get better.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Happy Misery of Rain

Having had a lovely and quite lazy day it was time to get my game face on for a five mile run. I decided to run as the sun set to darkness and as the clouds started to darken with an intent of oncoming rain. Head torch and raincoat packed in my waist pack, I headed out.

The first couple of miles were pretty straightforward. Then the rain started. You know where you are with some sorts of weather. This was comfortably in the category of a light storm. The wind made going fast a virtual impossibility. However, I always like running when the conditions are bad. It makes me feel tough. I like to imagine what the drivers of the passing cars are thinking of this crazy bedraggled figure stumbling up the road in the pitch black.

A note on new gear: my inov8 waist pack seems to do the job although it could be a little small for fell running when I might need to pack water proof trousers as well as a jacket. I am a little disappointed with that because it looked bigger on the interweb. It goes to show that it is still much better to go to a real shop to get your hands on the actual product before parting with cash. Still, it should be adequate for shorter runs up to about 6 miles. It was also the first time using my new Peter Storm Jacket in a Bag. I bought this with some trepidation as I knew it wasn’t very breathable but it was cheap at £20. It was a choice of this or a Berghaus Paclite which, at about £150, seemed a stupid amount of money to spend. As predicted, the jacket didn’t breathe well at all but it did keep off the cold rain so, for now, it’s a thumbs up from me.

My cold seems to have disappeared as I felt much better today despite the adverse weather. The only slight niggle was a pain in the back of my thigh from doing squats and lunges earlier in the day. I’m sure it will be fine tomorrow. It was a pretty comfortable run today and I was only slightly off my race pace. It seems I’m getting better at this running lark. That’s good.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Fast & Slow

It was the first morning in a while where I could rise from bed with a good eight hours sleep under my belt. It was slightly unfair, I thought, that I had the beginnings of a sore throat. Never mind, I still had to do my five mile race pace jaunt today.

A mile in I realised that race pace might be pushing it today. I felt awful. I can always tell when things are going wrong. My face feels like it’s unusually hot and there’s this uneasy feeling in my stomach that hovers just underneath the tiredness. At that point in my run I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to complete it let alone go at race pace. However, a certain feeling of stubbornness reared its magnificent head and I persevered.

I have been reading a book about fell running called Feet in the Clouds by a chap called Richard Askwith. What becomes evident from his history of the sport is the hardiness of the people who train on the fells each day. These athletes push themselves up and down mountains through the pain of serious injuries that would cause most road runners to take a couple of weeks off. So, I wasn’t going to let the small matter of an oncoming cold ruin my race pace. Who knows, I might have to run through illness when racing so I need to get used to it.

With my resolve steadied I pushed on and with a mile to go I was surprised to see that my pace exceeded even my race pace. I finished with a big sprint and averaged a 9.42mile/min pace over 5.2 miles. This is my fastest run of any distance so I was very pleased especially considering how bad I felt for most of it. However, I paid for it in the hours after. I had felt dehydrated all day so was gasping for a drink when I got back even though I had a sports drink before. Felt a great urge for food and thought that a bowl of Shreddies would do the trick. However, my temperature kept on jumping around making me feel awkward and awful. Even after a big plate of pasta, cheese and tuna I now feel shattered and feel like I’ve done much more than a 50 minute run. I think it’s a combination of being tired after work, hunger, dehydration and feeling a bit ill. The dehydration is a symptom of my illness so the main points are as follows. Firstly, I need to have a think about whether it’s a good idea to have my race pace run directly after my work shift. I’m often very tired on Wednesday evenings so it might be an idea to have an easier run on these days. The other point is to watch the nutrition on the Wednesdays. I need to have a banana or something before leaving work.

A note about the lack of photos. I have inextricably lost my waist pack so I cannot carry the various accoutrements that I usually have with me. This usually includes my house key, my phone, a five pound note, a coat if it’s likely to rain and, of course, my trusty camera. I have ordered a fancy new waist pack but am waiting for the cogs and gears of the UK postal system to get it to me. I like having a camera with me as it relieves the occasional boredom or pain of certain runs. A friendly reminder that I am primarily doing these runs to have fun and to see the countryside that I would otherwise miss or ignore.

I must not get ill. I must not get ill...

Monday, 15 March 2010

Tea, Biscuits & Darkness

I dislike Sundays. Sundays are the days before Mondays and Mondays mean work until Wednesday evenings. A period throughout which I cannot run. Also, Sundays are days on which I have to catch up on all the things that I haven’t done. Therefore, I usually crash through Sundays in a rage cursing the fact that I can’t spend much more of the day in bed with tea and biscuits. With all these bad vibes that I create for my Sundays I find it difficult to motivate myself to run. I am getting better. Since quitting the booze my head feels a lot clearer on the weekends and I always make sure I have an easy run on the Sunday.

Easy runs always make me feel uneasy. Why can’t I run at my normal pace? Why should I have to make myself run slower when most of the time I try desperately to run faster? Of course, the benefits of giving the legs a bit of a break whilst still getting the blood flowing are very important. Even though I know this I always find the easy runs quite hard. Quite by accident I came upon a solution to this problem on my easy four mile run yesterday night. I had not charged my Garmin watch for some time so, predictably after the first quarter of a mile, all the important information disappeared. Initially I was annoyed but then I realised that it didn’t matter. Even better, I relaxed into the run, listening to my body and ran very comfortably. I wasn’t constantly cross checking how my body felt with the stats from the Garmin. I enjoy having the data and find it invaluable to measure my progress from day to day. However, I think I shall leave all the numbers and statistics at home on my future easy runs. Seems nicer, more relaxed.

Other than my new found enjoyment with night running there is nothing more to report. There is a certain privacy and seclusion to being shrouded in a cloud of dark. Just breath in the headlight, a quiet mist and a brooding sky. Typical that it’s getting lighter in the evenings. Bring back the darkness.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Swearing at Hills

I had a dilemma when planning my eight mile run for today. The question was whether I would get my running done before the Formula One Grand Prix Qualifying and all the Six Nations Rugby or after. After would mean an enjoyable night run but before would mean getting it done and out of the way. This quandary was still in full swing as I lay in bed at 0600. Eating enough food before a long morning run is always a bit of a bugger but I managed a bowl of cereal and a cup of tea an hour before setting off. I was worrying that this would give me stomach cramps but my fears were unfounded.

Initially, my heart rate was going a bit nuts. It kept on spiking whenever there was a whiff of uphill but after a mile or so it settled down. This was only the second time I have run over seven miles so it’s interesting to see how my body deals with the new distances.

Three weeks ago I ran round Llyn Brenig in Denbighshire to the tune of 10 miles. This was done in a beautifully quiet snow storm. I loved how the crunch of snow underfoot was the only thing that broke the silence. In that barren landscape I found a peace of mind that I hadn’t felt in years and years. It has made me more determined to push myself beyond what I think I can do. However, increasing the mileage so soon and abruptly put a dent in my training schedule that took five days or so to recover. So, for now it’s a matter of sticking to the plan and holding off on any overly ambitious adventures. For posterity, here’s my training plan so far.

The races I have entered are the Leeds Half Marathon in May and The Snowdonia Marathon in October. There are a few others that I haven’t yet booked but are maybes. These are The Cader Idris Fell Run at the end of May and The Newark Half Marathon in August. The fell run is one that I’m quite excited about but equally nervous as I haven’t done any fell running before. That doesn’t mean I can’t train for it but it is a little too close for comfort. I’ll uhmm and ahhh about it a bit more me thinks. Oh, and I want to do a 10k in April as a bit of a warm up for Leeds. Got to make some decisions soonish.

Back to my run. I finished it in an hour and a half averaging a 10.36min/mile. Considering there were some big lazy hills I think this was an acceptable pace and the fastest of my long runs. Felt a great hunger when I finished and proceeded to eat a large plate of pasta, cheese and tuna. This dish, known in some circles as a “Hasselhoff Special”, was an odd thing to eat at 10 in the morning but was refreshing and did not even dent my lunch appetite. My knee is hurting slightly, a pain dulled at the moment by some ibuprofen, but I don’t think it’s a problem. I felt like the run went well although there was a big nasty hill at five miles that reduced me to walking for a couple of minutes. Damn you hill!

The run itself was grey. The sky was grey, the roads were grey, the sea was grey and the fields were sort of greenish-grey. There were a couple of agreeable highlights. The first of which was this old fire engine.

I was also joined for about half a mile by an enthusiastic dog that seemed much, much fitter than me. Luckily, for my pride, it got bored and started weeing against a fence.

All in all a good mornings running and I am getting much more confident of my physical ability at slightly longer distances. Today was also the first time I’ve passed any other runners on my travels. A quick nod at each other through the pain gave me a nice feeling that at least someone else was suffering on these bloody hills.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

New Shoes Smell Nice

I seem to get carried away in sports shops. I only meant to buy normal running shoes and accidentally bought some trail shoes as well. I went to a little shop in Chester called Tri Active which was hidden away down an alley and only about the size of a shoe box itself. However, they were very helpful and analysed my running with the aid of a treadmill and a video camera. It's surprising to see how your ankles deal with all the force put through them. My inner ankles collapse quite badly throughout each stride which in turn is putting extra pressure on the balls of my feet. Hence, the dreaded blisters. What I needed was a shoe that would deal with this overpronation by adding extra support to my inner heel. I finally decided on a couple of pairs of Brooks shoes and got home quickly to try them out.

The weather today was perfect for running. With all the snow and woe of the last few months it feels like years since I have been able to enjoy a clear blue sky and a sun that sticks round long enough to warm everything up a bit. Felt a shame only to run three miles but I know from experience that it’s best to stick to the training plan. I recently changed this running schedule to include some different aspects so today was my first ever interval run. I had planned for 4x400m sprints with 400m jogging in between each. With a warm up and cool down period this would be about three miles.

My first issue was working out how to get my Garmin to set out an interval session. With a bit of confused fiddling I got there. The session seemed to go very quickly. I think this was because short targets kept my mind away from the slightly larger target of actually just finishing the workout. I thought my average speed would drop over the entire workout but it was pretty descent at 10 min/mile. Now I have found my feet in the interval world I feel I could have gone a little faster in some of the sections. Just something to think about for next time.

My new shoes were very comfortable on the feet. However, my legs ache quite a bit. I’m guessing they’re just adapting to the new shoes. No blister pain though. Woohoo.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Don't Cancel the Sky

When I feel tired these days I have to remind myself that it is my mind that’s tired not my body. I had to do that today. The minute I started to run my mind fatigue faded and I felt really great. Today is a Wednesday and Wednesdays are my race pace running days. I have no idea what my race pace is supposed to be because I have never run a race but for now I am saying that it is around the 10 minute per mile mark.

The first two of my four miles today were sluggish. My resting heart rate seemed a bit higher than usual (usually 46bpm) so I thought I might run into problems. However, after a couple of tough hills I managed to get into my stride and run an average of 10.06min/mile.

When I’m struggling on a run I always have to remind myself to look at the view. Like today, at mile three I was going up the kind of steep hill that small cars struggle to get up and my legs hurt and my lungs felt small and weak. Then I looked around and saw the sun had descended to a small gap between the clouds and the sea. Everything in between looked like it was on fire, bathed in orange and red. Whilst I admired the sky and its colour my body seemed to have got the top of the hill without too much more complaining. Just goes to show that the limitations and boundaries my body has set for itself can be overcome with some simple thoughts and a beautiful view.

Unfortunately, the running shoes that I started this year with have started to become a problem. In the last few weeks I have been going on longer runs and have been plagued by blisters on both feet by any run over five miles. To stop this from getting any worse I need to get some new shoes. I have a kind of sentimental attachment to the shoes in which I started to run so it will be sad to see them sent to the shoe graveyard. However, it does mean spending more money on running equipment which is something I enjoy far too much. Whoever thought I would need so much stuff to run so few miles.