Saturday, 17 February 2018

Week 5 is almost done

The last couple of weeks have been something akin to mogul skiing- certainly it's been as bumpy and stressful. Sometimes I've been so tired and stressed that doing anything has been a huge challenge, but other days training has felt great- I've been able to increase the weight and reps and get some quality miles run. Even though it has been hard going, I can now see and feel improvements in my strength and general fitness. I've even gained some weight!

Tomorrow is all about just getting round the Marriotts Way trail marathon. I've spent the week doing battle with a sore throat lurgy thinking I could push through it, but spent yesterday in bed, and actually sleeping. That's a rare occurrence so I guess it's what was really needed. Today I'm much better but not 100% so I've ditched the plan to run the marathon as part of a back to back weekend. It's so frustrating that for the first few days of spring-like weather I've not been out making the most of it, but it's important to think of the long-term goal. The revised plan is to run as much as I feel I want to and walk the rest accumulating time on feet rather than fretting about running to a set pace. It's also a good chance to practice nutrition- I still struggle to get enough calories in on long runs.  It should be a lovely race and hopefully I can catch up with a few friends I've made at other Positive Steps events.

Looking ahead, my first ultra of the year is in a couple of weeks. It wasn't in the plan to run one this early but thanks to UTMB changing the rules (as I just knew they would), I now need extra points if I'm to keep my increased co-efficient for next year's ballot. I don't want to rely on the points from A100 in October as I don't know what to expect from my first 100 miler- obviously my intention is to finish within the cutoff but anything could happen and I don't want the additional pressure of absolutely having to get the points. Right now I'm not sure how comfortable I'll find 39 miles across Yorkshire moors, but it's a small event and judging by the contact I've had with the RD it seems very friendly and low key. It'll be fun running somewhere new and having fun is just as important as anything else!

Friday, 2 February 2018

Friday night thoughts

It's not been the best of weeks so far. I took the hip niggle to my masseur who did some very unpleasant things to it and told me to ease off the mileage/ time on feet to a point where I can complete a run with neither pain nor discomfort. I've known Gareth for a good few years now and trust his judgement on such matters, so advice duly heeded resulting in 3 runs of about 5 miles each since my treatment on Monday. That makes just 20 miles for the week so far and rather less than 4 hours on my feet which is a lot less than I'd like, but for the long-term success of this year's training it's crucial to allow enough adaptation time. Running quicker is already feeling easier but it's still a shock to a body that's only plodded for the last couple of years!

Strength work isn't happening as often as I'd like either, but at least it is happening and I'm getting through all the exercises. The biggest enemy isn't time but sleep, or rather the lack of it. I'm just not sleeping well and so may days I simply can't get up and function at 5am or summon the effort needed to do anything constructive. I don't have a bedroom or a bed so all the stuff about creating a peaceful sleeping environment isn't helpful- I do the best I can with what I have.

And that's the thing when you have big goals. I'm not a pro, I'm not charged with getting good results, no one cares whether I stick to a training plan or not. I have a stressful job, stressful enough that I went part-time (and am now broke) because it was making me ill with unhappiness; and I have two children who need me very much at the moment. This stuff about being 'the best that you can be' is all very well but it can be at the risk of losing balance in life.

I love running. It has brought me much joy and it keeps me on a relatively even keel. But it also makes me exhausted and ache all over, and sometimes it has made me very unhappy. There are other things that I love doing and I think it's important to give them time too.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Two weeks in

Fourteen days into this training cycle and already it's been a mixed bag. Yesterday was my first DNS of the year. Not an easy decision to make but I've had a hip niggle and by Thursday I felt the likelihood of finishing Peddars Way was at best 50-50. Rather than take a chance, start the race and then have to bail out in the middle of nowhere, I decided it was best to not start at all. It did feel like I was letting the RD down, but on the other hand how much of a nuisance would I be taking up a volunteer's time having to be fetched from the depths of a Norfolk field.

To manage the niggle I've reduced the length of my runs a bit as well as reducing the pace, and I've been foam rolling and doing some yoga. Massage is booked for tomorrow as I think my legs could do with a bit of tough love anyway.

Despite the niggle I still had a lovely run this weekend. 15 miles along the North Norfolk coast path in rapidly deteriorating conditions. I love being out by the sea in a storm although I was glad I wasn't on my own as there were times I struggled to stay on my feet! We saw a field filled with hundreds and hundreds of geese, and there was the glowing white of an egret amongst the grey storm clouds.

About 11 miles in, the wind howling and horizontal freezing rain lashing the side of my face, I stopped and smiled. It was exhilarating being out in the bleak, storm-swept landscape and it was the first time that week I'd felt truly myself and alive.

Running teaches you many things. I think Saturday's lesson is one I will do well to heed.

Pictures from a visit to the Norfolk Coastal Path last year.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Hypothermia and Hormones

Day 6.

Training hasn't really gone to plan since Monday's run but I've done my best to stick to the general aims of the next few months training which to is to run a bit faster and do plenty of strength work. Hormones have made sleeping very difficult and I've been having shocking night sweats so my energy levels have been pretty low. Oh, and I was kicked in the ribs at work yesterday and extremely fortunate not to sustain broken bones.

However, I did make it out for a run today despite the incessant sleet and feeling crappy with hormones. About 3 miles in I had to stop at a level crossing for 3 or 4 minutes as the barriers were down. I'd dressed sensibly for a run in near freezing rain: thermal tights + skirt, a long-sleeve Craft top for colder weather activities, and a Ron Hill waterproof over that. There was a buff for my head and double layered glove-mitten things from Decathlon. But by the time I could continue my run I was really, really cold and that got me remembering.

I've had one DNF. That was Lakes in a Day 2016. My back became uncooperative (yes, maybe a mountainous race with a broken back is a bit stupid but I believed I had it in me to complete the 50 miles) then my left knee gave up forcing me to move at a snail's pace, stumbling painfully down the descents. I got cold, then numb, then my brain started to go weird. Everyone seemed far away, getting a snack from a pocket became an impossible task; I wanted to lie down on the fell and go to sleep amongst thousands of tiny blue sea dragons. When I finally made it down into Ambleside I couldn't speak, couldn't run, couldn't eat or even respond to anyone. My core temperature had dropped to around 35.5C I think so not 'proper' hypothermia, but I was a mess. The medic pulled me from the race.

I had decent kit on for that race and of course was carrying the mandatory stuff too. But due to problems I hadn't anticipated it wasn't enough. And then today on a 2 hour run in a city, I got really cold really quickly. Running in the winter is a risky thing, even in familiar places, and even the most sure-footed of runners can take a fall, get knocked over by an enthusiastic dog or have a muscle suddenly cramp or pull. Hypothermia is surreptitious- you don't necessarily notice it coming- and it seriously impairs your ability to keep yourself safe. It is so important to carry an extra layer with you. You can get space blankets for next to nothing and they will fit in a pocket; an extra base layer probably weighs less than the phone you're carrying. If you turn an ankle or worse you can still be a few miles or 20-30 minutes from help and you WILL get cold.

So be safe whilst the weather is still wintry. 

By the way, before disaster struck that day I was fortunate to have been photographed on Halls Fell Ridge by Ian Corless. So even though I felt a failure and totally useless for many months after that race, there is a photo to remind me that I AM a runner.

Many thanks to Ian Corless.

And this was the morning after. As you can probably tell, there was nothing left of me. But more of that another time perhaps.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Day 3- Train or not?

Day 3.

No training. Not even 10,000 steps.

So tired from not sleeping properly the last couple of nights and from two days training at a higher intensity than usual. Not to mention that as well as yesterday's strength work and run I also went to karate. It was hard going and I trashed my quads and left ankle. These days my legs recover pretty quickly but having had a niggly ankle treated on Monday and it getting unhappy again during karate (all that work in kiba dachi) it's probably best to take a complete day off and get an early night.

How do you judge when to have a proper rest day? I know it's probably the bit of training I'm worst at!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Day 2

Two days into the training plan.

It feels good to be turning the legs over at a reasonable speed. Yesterday I managed a 2 hour run at around my ideal marathon speed. Ideal because having minimal experience at 26.2 I don't really know what my pace is! Today I chickened out of the cold and wind and did an hour on the treadmill. It's not something I enjoy but if nothing else it's good mental discipline. Not sure I quite got the pace right- I averaged quicker than yesterday but think I should have pushed it a bit more since it was just 60 minutes.

The actual plan suggests 3 runs of 3 hours each at an honest pace. That kind of volume is more than I would normally do so I'll see if it's something I can build up to. For now I think something like one run of  2 hours, a couple of 1 hour and then a weekend run of 3 hours. Or perhaps making some weekends back to backs.

The strength work is a mix of stuff I do already and new things so again I'm easing myself into it this week, working with little or weight so I learn the movements. For now it's just a matter of getting through it all each week but I'd like to have a more systematic approach to it once I've worked out the effect the leg work will have on running- I don't want permanently trashed legs!

The only other thing I need to do is get the diary and work in easier weeks every 4th week or so. It won't be exact as I have some races booked the first part of this year which likely will get in the way a bit, but perhaps I can use them as indicators of how things are going and as opportunities to practise carrying kit and trying out different race foods.

It's only two days in but it feels so good to have begun on a positive note!

Monday, 15 January 2018

It's been a long time

Hello, good evening and welcome.

It's been a very long time since I last wrote. I'm sorry. In my defence there's been a fair amount of crappy stuff going on both in running and personal life and that's always boring for people to read about. To summarise a few key events of the last while:
  • I've more or less retired from running then unretired myself; 
  • done a couple 100km races; 
  • had my first DNF (due to hypothermia and being shit at running mountains)
  • been crew at UTMB
  • paced in a 100 miler
  • put on weight
The personal stuff you don't need to know about. Except I think you didn't know that I was eventually diagnosed with a fracture to L4 or L5 which is why all the pain and not running and not being able to move much happened. It has never been treated because the diagnosis came too late, but I have regained some spinal mobility and the pain is now generally significantly less than it has been over the last couple years.

I also gave up kniting and gave away almost all my yarn stash and needles, but now I can sit for more than 10 minutes at a time without pain I'm starting up again. Here are a couple of recent knits:

Tiny Kitty brooch

Anyway, this year I actually have a 'proper' running challenge. It's quite ambitious but it wouldn't be a challenge if there wasn't a real chance of failure. And I want to use this blog to chart the journey over the next 9 months. The challenge? To complete a 100 miler, specifically the Centurion Running Autumn 100. I even have a proper training plan, put together by a friend who happens to be a former PT, but is also one of my senseis and a power lifter. It's far tougher than anything I've attempted before and I'm going to have to ease myself into it as even this base period is way more training than I'm used to, but it's exciting and I'm looking forward to the journey.