Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Tal-y-Fan Summit

Lovely view from the top of Tal-y-Fan. Wind near took my face off though!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Rescued by a Small Mountain

It is in moments of weakness that I learn how to be strong.

Off the back of an all round dreadful week I achieved my longest fell run, a nine and a half mile route up and around Tal y Fan. The day started after 5 hours sleep and continued with a gloomy sense of tiredness. I eventually managed to switch my brain off to the tiredness and drove to the base of the looming "smallest mountain" in Snowdonia. It's actually not too far from my house to the parking spot but running that extra distance would be a little too much for me.

After a while I managed to get into some sort of rhythm on the upward slog. I know that the ascents are my achilles heel at the moment and the lack of proficiency in this area has prevented me from signing up for an actual race. My problem is a combination of too little fitness and too much weight. I need to lose another stone (well, two if you count my gall stone) to reach a more efficient weight on the hills. I have too bigger build to get down to the sort of super skinny elite runner type but I would like to get below 11 stone. In combination with an increase in fitness the hills should get easier.

In the meantime I decided to experiment with my uphill technique. Varying stride length, cadence and lean angle on the different gradients was almost fun. Everything I've read on the subject says that leaning forward with a shorter stride length whilst maintaining stride cadence is the correct technique. Whilst I was aware of this, I wasn't aware of how pronounced these three variables needed to be. My level of fitness requires a very short stride length and my cadence needs to drop a little but working on the technique has helped.

In spite of these musings, I was reduced to walking on most of the more violent climbs. At the top I was surprised at the weather. The weather had been mild on lower ground but at the summit the wind whipped around the rocks and sucked the warmth from my muscles. I was extremely glad of the second top and gloves I had brought with me. This emphasises the need for caution regarding the weather on these longer mountain runs.

I struggled on the initial descent. I took a bad route through bogs and thigh deep heather. For about a quarter of a mile I was reduced to a walk in order to avoid breaking a leg on unseen rocks. Once I found the path again it was all plain sailing back down to the car.

This run has certainly taken a lot out of me. My legs feel like I've raced a half marathon. I might try a few shorter fell runs before trying this distance again. I'll try decreasing the mileage and increasing the ascents. That should take the sting out of my legs. However hard, this was a very enjoyable run and a highlight of my training so far this year.

Next Sunday is the Llandudno 10 mile race. This is my first race in a while and should be fun. The race is close to home and is a flat, fast course. It will be a good chance to see where my fitness is in terms of absolute pace. I am going to taper a bit this week but nothing too serious. I'll just take everyday as it comes; run how I feel.

Friday, 13 May 2011

A Difficult Week

It has not been a good week. It has been a struggle to get out of bed in the morning. It has been a struggle not to walk out of work, never to return. It has been even more of a struggle not to just sit down, crumpled to the floor, letting the world pass by behind closed eyes. The temptation of total resignation has been hard to ignore.

I say this only to emphasise the amount of emotional brute force required to cajole me into doing any running. The workouts that I managed were painful and unpleasant. It's weeks like this where I feel as unfit and unhealthy as when I first started running. The morale is at a particularly low point.

These are the conspiring factors in this bugger of a week. My gall stone ridden stomach is number one on the list. Most of the time it's like having an annoying stitch ALL THE TIME. The only change to this are the periods of intense pain triggered by the wrong sort of food or too much of it. This means that mealtimes are a sort of Russian Roulette where the loser gets an excruciatingly sore tum. Most of the time I manage it pretty well but sometimes, tasty snacks get the better of me and I suffer the consequences.

The other buggery things are my insomnia and the ever present summer killer: hayfever. Usually, these things rear their ugly heads separately but as fate would have it, they have ganged up on me this last week.

To conclude: it's been a bad week of running and general health. The bad guys have definitely won this round. But, if I can drag myself out of this quagmire of tiredness I'll be right as rain soon enough.

P.S. Sorry about the moan but it's important to capture the bad times. It'll make the good times seem much more... gooder.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Dark & Hills

Sometimes it's just difficult to get out the door.

Yesterday, I woke up tired and by lunch time had decided that I wasn't going to go running. Content with my decision, I settled down for an afternoon of relaxation. After dinner, the guilt started to set in but I was held up by the fact that I had just eaten a big dinner. So, it was dark by the time I got out the door, 14 hours after I thought I was too tired. I need to start ignoring how I feel. All tiredness is relative.

Anyway, this was my first night run in a while and it was hauntingly beautiful. There was something hypnotic about following the circle of light made by my headlamp. I was soon in deep thought with a calm clarity which so often evades me from day to day.

My legs felt great and it was one of those rare occasions where I could have run and run all night. As I moved further away from home, the lights from all the villages down the valley looked small and lonely. I kept on imagining monsters in the dark but it was just sheep and cats on the end of shining eyes. At least I think it was. The only sign of human life was a man carrying a cat down the road in the dark. Seemed oddly suspicious. Cat burglar, maybe.

Today was going to be a tougher sort of run. I realised this as I stepped outside and a wave of heat knocked me for six. This was my first fell run in a while and the initial climb up Conwy Mountain was hard. As always, the view from the top was amazing and I had a great time on the descent. I love blasting down past the walkers at speeds I would never be able to sustain on the flat. My legs were feeling good and strong but I was suffering in the heat. Luckily, I had plenty of water with me.

I am still struggling with fitness on the ascents. Only one way to get better: keep running/walking/crawling uphill. I'll get to the top in the end. From the tiredness and lethargy of yesterday morning, this has been a wonderful weekend of running.