Running

That was the week that was

When so much writing material happens in the course of a week, a consolidation is required.

A corner of the beach with river Mersey behind and Liverpool skyline in the distance
A trip to the seaside on Tuesday.

Tuesday

It’s great to have a mate to go cycling with. Especially when you yourself are not so au fait with bicycle mechanics (I can ‘theoretically’ fix a puncture but I haven’t had to do it in yonks!) or, in fact, decent bicycle routes on the Wirral.

And on top of all that, two is sooo much better than one when you’re contending with some of those who sit behind the wheel of a car. And it’s not always Audi drivers either (not even a joke in my experience sadly). Today a bloke in a Beemer stuck his two fingers up at Gary for cycling in the designated cycle path. The path was fairly new but well-marked and made the road the width of a single car each way as opposed to a wide load. So room for all of us and no requirement to reduce the car speed lower than the official 30mph limit. But I guess there is no pleasing some folk!

However, that small incident aside, we had a great ride to New Brighton and back. A comfortable 20 miles with a coffee break in the middle. Now that the lockdown restrictions have eased somewhat, people can sit outside to drink their drinks in more sociable environs. And the weather was rather glorious for it. The sun was out and it wasn’t quite scorchio, but when you’d worked up a sweat, it was good enough to take a layer off. We happened to spot some other cyclist friends to have the break with, one of whom was 89 and still easily able to knock out a casual 30+ miles on his bike that day! If I can get half of that energy when I’m 89 then I’ll be dancing, hopefully literally!

Wednesday

Good times back at the River Park.

Thursday

Talking of energy, I was getting a little worried about my running mileage. Although the cycling had felt fine at the time, my legs were now feeling tired, even when sitting down and I’d only managed 4 miles running so far since Monday. I realised that I hadn’t been putting some of those Chi Running precepts into practice. Mainly that I needed to slow it down.

I’m not fast by other people’s standards, but an 11.30 minute mile is getting to be a comfortable pace for me. At the beginning of the year it was between 12/13 mins so I am getting a bit faster. But in order to include my cycling and keep my long runs long, I decided to try going slower again and add around a minute to each mile.

It is actually really hard to drop down from your normal rhythm, and you feel like you’re virtually walking. That feeling, ironically, made me smile – this pace was definitely harder at the beginning of the year. I was progressing then! I managed just over 6 miles in an average 12.34 minute miles, and it all felt good. The real test would be to see if I had enough in the tank for tomorrow’s long run.

Friday

Bev wanted to join me today so I thought we’d maybe get about 9 miles in, as she’d not done a long one in ages, which was okay with me. I would just do a bit more at the weekend.

She hadn’t slept properly the night before, having felt something akin to pre-race nerves. But she’d had her muesli that morning and found some coconut oil as her substitute for Vaseline and I’d dug out some Dextrose sugar tabs for her so she was ready.

The pleasant sunny days seemed to be continuing all week and we both had our shades on (although mine sat on top of my hat forgotten, for the most of the run!). We kept it as slow as I’d done yesterday and found some new paths that we’d not ventured down before.

The wonderful thing about long runs is that a little diverging and exploring is quite possible because you’ve got loads of miles to cover and so you’re less restricted. And it keeps it interesting, especially when you’re clumsily trying to climb over a gate and wondering if you’re trespassing!

We didn’t get too lost though and eventually found our way back to our normal stomping grounds without being chased by guard dogs (that has happened to me before!) but it was fun and made the miles go with ease.

I was feeling it by the end to be sure, but when I pulled my phone out and saw we’d passed the 11 mile mark I was ecstatic! And ever so slightly jealous of Bev that she could knock out such a great run with zero build up!

But, honestly, we were both completely buzzing from the enjoyment of it and the result. And my biggest win was the fact that my legs felt fairly fresh again after a few hours and I could go again for another small one the next day.

Saturday

After a sneaky 4 miler to test the legs with Bev in the morning, Anne and I set about organising the garden for our first (in a long Covid while) hosting event, and I would also get to christen the BBQ that I’d bought last year! Gary, my cycling buddy and his wife, Wendy were already coming over. Then my brother was at a loose end that day so he, his wife and my gorgeous tiny niece came later too. The Barbie worked a treat, apart from a small accidental fire at the beginning that was put out without any trips to A&E.

Oh it was a beautiful day. The wine and beer were flowing, the food went down a treat, and Anne had surpassed herself with an amazing lemon curd pavlova to finish things off. Sometimes you just don’t realise how much you’ve craved good company until it actually happens again.

A lemon curd pavlova with pistachios
Anne’s Scrummy Pavlova

Sunday

Watched the ultimate marathon GOAT (Greatest Of All Time in case you’re not sure) effortlessly wipe the floor with the competition in the NN Mission Marathon this morning. The commentators noted how Eliud Kipchoge looked as fresh in the 26th mile as he did in the first. And then acknowledged how much incredible work went into that appearance.

I was tempted by the man to go out for another myself but held back. I’d managed just under 26 miles plus my cycling this week. Which will do nicely.

Running

Vaseline

I was going to create this post a couple of days ago, but then Prince Philip suddenly shuffled off this mortal coil and that news seemed to wade into my writing unbidden but overriding.

Prior to my knowledge of the Royal demise, on Friday morning, I was steeling myself for the prospect of reaching double figures. I’d got quite close a few times but this was going to be the day when that little barrier would break.

the number 10
(Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com)

The process for me began with the porridge about two hours before. Then, while getting changed, I pulled out my trusty tub of Vaseline.

Now before you jump to any salacious speculation, I mainly use it on my feet before the start of a big run or walk. ‘Big’, for me, constitutes any mileage getting into double digits and so slathering on that Vaseline (other brands of petroleum jelly are available) was my way of saying to myself that today I’d reach my ten miles.

I can’t actually remember when or where I was given this tip but it has served me very well. I’ve done two marathons, loads of half marathons, and the Coast to Coast walk, all without getting a single blister. So a Gold Star tip if ever there was one.

It has obviously been quite a while (probably around a year and half now) since I was last running these kinds of lengths, as I had forgotten that my tub was nearly empty. Just enough to cake it on this time, and perhaps the next, but I definitely need to buy another one soon. However, I had enough for this run so there were no excuses.

Whether you’re a super pro-athlete or doing the Couch to 5K, you will always have psychological hurdles. These are specific to you and how your mind works. And the methods to overcoming those hurdles are also specific to you.

What works for me (sometimes) is a bit of a talking to. Mainly in my head but occasionally it slips out into audible speech. It can be a little embarrassing sometimes but keeps people away, so it’s swings and roundabouts.

I told myself that I was ready. That the time it took was of no concern and if I walked a bit on any uphills, that was okay too. But I would keep going until I reached my ten.

And I did!

A map and statistics of my 10 mile run
A 10 mile canter around the neighbourhood

And I actually had a bit more in the tank to take the final mile or so at a gallop, which bodes well for the next level up. Plus my feet ended up feeling very moisturised.

Running

There’s a Stone in my Trainer Dear Reader

I seem to have settled on Fridays as my long run day. It used to be Sundays, then Saturdays. It’s a psychological game I play: if I don’t do it today, I have 2 more days to get it done. If I do do it today, I can have wine. More often than not, that’s a winning argument.

A country road
The road less quite often travelled

The rain was a pattering on the windows while I ate my oats, and it didn’t look terribly appealing. But when I finally laced up just under two hours later, the clouds had parted somewhat.

Now that my long runs are, well, getting longer, I am back to hearing that voice in my head telling me I won’t last the distance or I’ll be too exhausted. It doesn’t help when the first mile or three always feels so laborious. After five minutes of panting, I think: nearly two hours of this is an impossible task!

Then the little miracle happens. I can never put my finger on when, but suddenly, my Runkeeper lady tells me I’ve done 30 minutes and I realise I’m sailing! And I know it will (nearly) always happen but I can’t quite believe it will, and afterwards I have to smile at my lack of faith.

This time around the 30 minute mark I also found that a tiny little stone had jumped into the back of my left trainer. It was wriggling around my heel and lower ankle and I contemplated stopping. But I was in such a nice rhythm that I was loathe to. I figured as it only hurt occasionally I’d use it as an excuse to stop when I was more tired.

It was more annoying than painful really as it slid around my foot, and several times I lost concentration on my podcast (BBC: In Our Time – The Cultural Revolution) as I contemplated its movement  (How many ‘Olds’ did the Red Guard need to get rid of?) but I didn’t stop then, and I didn’t stop later when I was getting tired and losing that rhythm, because by then I felt that I wouldn’t actually get started again.

Plus, I was feeling so tired that I wasn’t sure I could actually bend down to take my shoe off. My total today was 9.25 miles, which although, technically my longest, was not much longer than my recent ones. Then I remembered that I’d done a 20 mile bike ride yesterday and that made me feel loads better.

I have put a nice Pouilly Fume in the fridge to chill as it’s Friday and my work is done!

Running

Technical Notes #2 – The Long Run

Silhouette of a woman running - either dawn or dusk.
Not me but someone cooler via a more ace camera
Photo by Cameron Venti on Unsplash

If you have ever followed a training plan for a race, then it will always have the long run in it. This will be at least one time in the week where essentially you aim to go out slower but farther than the rest of your weekly runs. Apparently, they’re very good for you. I have found out this science bit:

These runs produce more mitochondria and capillaries in your muscle cells, increase your aerobic capacity, improve your cardiovascular system’s efficiency, increase your muscles’ and liver’s ability to store glycogen, strengthen your musculoskeletal system, give you a greater ability to work through muscular fatigue and increase your body’s ability to use fat as fuel.

https://www.runnersworld.com/uk/training/a774616/essential-guide-to-long-runs/

Well that’s absolutely marvellous and I wish I had read this when I’d been training for all those half marathons (and the two marathons) I’ve done in the past, because it sounds to me that if I’d committed to them properly I could have turned into Wonder Woman!

However:

I used to do training plans the way many people do diets, like a yo-yo. I would get a week or two of sticking to it and then miss a crucial couple of days and then it would be binned, before I started another, and another, until I was down to the final ‘Complete the Half Marathon without dying’ training plan, about two weeks before the day. The Long Run was nearly always the spanner in the works.

It has always previously filled me with a bit of a dread, especially when the miles got into the late teens. Wondering whether I had enough gels (slightly sickly carbohydrate gloop in sachets), or water; whether I’d need the loo on the way; whether I would get too tired to finish it. All of the above have floored me at least once (it’s traumatic trying to find a bush sometimes) and that’s when they get into the mind and start whispering to you before you even get out the door.

That sounds slightly dramatic I know, but running is as much a psychological game as well as a physical one. Research has shown that your body can go way further than your mind thinks it can. Your angels and your demons have more space to tussle when you’re monotonously slogging away and it can get schizophrenic.

Monotony is a big problem but there are ways to challenge that. You can run with someone, or if you’re on your own, listen to a podcast or audio book. I find that better than music because you have to concentrate on it more which means you’re thinking less about your legs.  I’ve also been known to map out the super long runs to make sure I include cafes/petrol stations etc. en route for a quick wee. And don’t think you can keep this need at bay by not drinking liquids. As I found out during the London Marathon, that way leg cramps lie.

The absence of races in this last year and a bit has meant my running has been sporadic. But the January kick start has given me a nice foundation to get going again. My long run now is up to 7.5 miles and although that takes me as long as it used to take me to run 10 miles (which I try NOT to dwell on), it’s okay. It’s the furthest I’ve run in one run since the middle of last year.

The plan is (loosely, kind of, in a non-committal manner) to get to about 12 miles or so, and try and maintain that stamina until the races start again. It would be nice to get to a fitness level again where I could rock up to a Half and know I can finish it without too much pain but in the meantime I will just keep repeating the mantra ‘more mitochondria’ and visualise that gold tiara on my head.

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman
The original Wonder Woman and the best
Warner Bros. Television