Friday, 22 July 2011

Snowdonia Marathon Training Week 1

To say that my first week of training for the Snowdonia Marathon was a complete disaster would be slightly over dramatic. However, it was certainly not encouraging. My week began as normal with me trying to fit short runs in around my lengthy work shifts. I did four miles on the Tuesday which was tough after my week of not running because of a holiday. My legs felt fresh throughout but my lungs rebelled a bit and I was left puffing after even the smallest of ascents. The two three milers I did in my lunch breaks at work went without a hitch and by Friday I was confident that my body had gotten over my week off. I was certainly not at the fitness level that I had a month ago but my legs and lungs were getting used to running again. Then it all went a bit tits up.

On Saturday I was feeling a bit tired so it wasn't until the evening when I got out the door for some hilly ten miles. I prefer running in the evening when it's summer. It is cooler and the roads are less busy. I packed my head torch and headed of into the sunset. I felt really unfit over the first few miles but soon settled into a sedate pace and started to enjoy the lovely, still views over the Conwy valley. My route took me to the village of Rowen along darkening country roads. Even when I am just running along the roads around here I am constantly amazed at how beautiful it is and how I didn't really notice before I started to run.

I ran at a very slow pace and even walked some of the steeper ascents. I was having too much fun for this to become hard work. At about the halfway point I started to notice some pain in my left knee. Nothing too serious but it was particularly uncomfortable on the uphills. It wasn't too painful and I finished the run without giving it too much more thought. Now, my knee problems have been well documented and moaned about but I am pretty used to dealing with. When the "runner's knee" problem occasionally pops up I make sure it gets iced and then rest it for the remainder of the day. Usually, by the next morning it is fine and I carry on as normal. On a few occasions I have to wait until the day after before doing any running. I don't particularly mind this problem. It is my body's way of telling me that I am doing a bit too much and should probably lie down on the couch for a bit, preferably with an iced bun or four. I am fine with this. I have always been very good at lying down and eating.

This time was different though. By the next morning I could hardly walk. Visually there seemed nothing wrong with the knee. There had been no sudden worsening of the problem during the run. I was a bit confused as to why it was so painful. Anyway, I contented myself with a day of rest which was only interrupted by a painful excursion to the supermarket. I used to think that hobbling around civilians with a bandaged running injury made you look tough and weathered. Now I think it just makes you look like a crazy person. Like the tramps who visit supermarkets just to shout at the home baking section.

Unfortunately, the next morning arrived and I was still in a considerable amount of pain. This was the point where I got all miserable. I was in my first week of marathon training and had been beaten by a 10 mile jog. If this continues I'll be lucky if I... moan moan moan moan moan. I then remembered that this is "the new me". I'll run when I can, both physically and mentally. There is always a sensible reason for these things. 10 miles was obviously too much so next week my long run will be eight miles and I shall build from there. There is no shame in this. It is better that I get injured now rather than a week before the marathon as happened last year. I just have to be patient and build up the mileage a little more slowly.

To other matters. I have retrieved my bike from the family home with an eye to doing some mountain biking. I am hoping that this will strengthen my quads and knees and help prevent any further injuries in that area. It currently has a flat tyre and I am a little unsure of what to do about this. I haven't changed a bike tyre since I was a wee lad. I think I need to change my inner tube or something. And I need to buy a pump. And a tyre repair kit. And a helmet. I am starting to remember why I enjoy the simplicity of running. Still, a replacement knee or a knee repair kit would be pretty handy right now.

On equipment, I bought a small Camelbak backpack thingy. I have a similar Raidlight pack which is great for long mountain runs but is a bit over the top for road running. On the flip side, my water bottle doesn't have the capacity for runs over about 10 miles. The Camelbak holds the middle ground perfectly. It is great for those longish runs and holds all the bits and bobs I need. I'm rather pleased with this purchase especially as it was cheap, like the budgie.

On nutrition, my gall bladder and I have realised that Quavers do not cause the excruciating pain that other crisps seem to. I very much like crisps and haven't eaten any in months. As a result, I have bought 28 packets from the shop and intend to eat a packet with every meal, including breakfast. I am still being a (sort of) vegetarian which is helping with my stomach woes. This is good because meat suddenly seems to cost far too much. Rather save my money for beer. I wonder if I could put beer in the Camelbak bag, then as my knee pain increased I could count on the pain relieving qualities of some ale. Probably wouldn't work. Too fizzy.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Getting Back At It

This week is officially the first week of my marathon training for Snowdonia at the end of October. The last few weeks have been pretty quiet. After the short but sprinty races of June and July I decided to go easy on the training for a bit. I took some time to go on holiday and to get ill. I am refreshed but feel like I lost a bit more fitness than I bargained for. Still, there's nowt I can do about that and it's just a matter of slowly rebuilding.

That's not to say that I stopped running completely. How could I ever do that? A notable highlight was going up Foel Grach. This nine mile, mountainous loop took me the best part of two hours and was actually one of the more challenging runs I have done. The run started along a wide valley over the village of Dolgarrog. This flat expanse was interrupted by the broken ruins of a dam and its grey walls loomed above me as I passed. It seemed to me like I was running through an ancient battlefield where giants once hurled bits of mountain at each other. It was an awesome and peculiarly haunting place.

I soon started to ascend the boggy ground up to the top. I knew this would take me a while as the gradient was far too steep to even contemplate running. Hands pushing on my knees I slowly made my way up and up. This three mile slog was only interrupted by meeting a group of hikers who were on their way down and looking quite smug for it. We exchanged pleasantries and they unwittingly informed me that the top was still much further away than I had hoped. I can't really complain though as the views were stunning and just got better and better the higher I got.

I finally reached the top and sheltered behind some shards of rock. The wind was blowing hard and I knew that I wouldn't be able to stop for long before I would start to chill. I ate some sweets and prepared myself for what I thought was going to be the easy descent back to the car. Unfortunately, the path which I had eyed up on the map didn't materialise. Which was very annoying. Now, I enjoy a good, technical descent. I love bombing it down mountains at a breakneck speed with little regard for the serious injury that almost certainly would occur if I put a foot wrong. I even take a little pride in being good at it. It is certainly the only time when I can reach a good clip without wheezing along like the fat asthmatic that I am. However, running on this descent was not an option. The knee high heather and boggy ground made it like moving through porridge. I was sure I was on the path. I even got out the trusty GPS thingy just to make sure. I then decided to ignore the none existent path and make my own way which didn't work as I then got lost. Well, not so much lost as pointing in the wrong direction. It took me a while to get my bearings back and I soon found a real, tangible path that would lead me back to the car. I was a bit cross by this point and took out my anger by walking lots. I soon got back to the car park and bumped into the walkers I had met earlier. I think they were a bit confused as to how they had got down first. But, as I clambered into the car and shut the door I was filled with the familiar glow of satisfaction, a feeling that whilst I hadn't achieved anything spectacular, I had persevered. And that is enough.

Now, in the present, I am ready to start working towards the Snowdonia Marathon. And I am going to do it differently. When I trained for the same marathon last year I wanted to organise and plan everything down to the tiniest detail. I think this got in the way. I put too much emphasis on planning my training and then get annoyed when it doesn't go exactly right. This has been the way I have done things since I started running. I make an in detail training plan, something goes wrong a few weeks down the line then I make a new one. Repeat. Boring. From now on, the emphasis is going to be on enjoying running. The Garmin is going in the draw and I'm going to bin the boring spreadsheet training plan. I will now run for the pleasure of running rather than to fill my quota of miles for the week. I will run by feel and not worry about my average pace or mile splits. There is only one training requirement and that is that I get out there and enjoy. I have no idea whether this approach will work but that's rather the point. I'm already quite looking forward to it.