Into the Swing of Things

I finally made double digits last Sunday – I ran 10.10 miles, and only needed one gel. Progress! I’ve been trying really hard to move away from using gels and drinks etc. too much, as last year I became quite dependent on them and hit the wall much earlier on. This time round, I can go for an hour and a half before I need anything more than water, which makes things much simpler! For my long runs I’ve been opening a High5 gel at 10k, and taking it bit by bit over the second half, along with some High5 Zero electrolyte drink (I find the usual sports drinks to be too sugary, so this is a nice alternative – and the flavours are SO GOOD!) and it’s worked really well. The only issue I’ve really been having is a niggle in my ankle and hip, and tired legs. I had happily blocked out all memory of forgotten all of those little complaints that appear the further you run ..

On Friday I had a little adventure with a couple of my colleagues. Lots of the route didn’t even show on Google Maps, and as I forgot my Garmin, I had to try and figure out where we’d gone using the River Wey Navigation map and the two or three road names I remembered seeing, as well as judging roughly how far we ran based on the time we were out.

I think I found vaguely the right route in the end, and it turns out that our scheduled 2.5-3 miles ended up as 4.1. We were supposed to head back along the opposite river path as a sort of out-and-back thing, but missed a turning and ended up taking a bit (!) of a detour through Westfield. Whoops! I had a great time, but I don’t think the others appreciated having to run an extra mile – especially as one of them had never run more than 30 minutes in his life. (I don’t see our lunchtime run club lasting much longer ..) I felt kind of bad, but I also felt pretty hyper, so I found it hard to be sympathetic – though I did offer lots of praise and encouragement, and they seemed quite pleased to have run so far! And for the record, I didn’t choose the route. Yknow, just sayin’ ..

The pretty river, wide open countryside and deserted lanes, along with the perfectly cold, dry weather and light breeze were wonderful, and for the first time in a long time I felt like I could run forever. My breathing settled really early on, my cadence was nice and fast, and I felt relaxed. Brilliant!

But it has to be said, the long runs are really starting to feel long. I know that sounds like a really obvious and redundant statement, but up until now I’ve not really had to worry about the distance – I’ve only begun to feel uncomfortable towards the end. But today I felt quite uncomfy for a good couple of miles, and I know it’s only going to get further and further from here on in. I’m very steadily creeping towards my longest ever run – less than 10k away now, and then it’s all out of my comfort zone. Gulp.

Today the plan said 2hrs (I love that it measures sessions by time, rather than putting pressure on to reach a certain distance) and without measuring or timing my route I hit exactly 1:59:59 as I stopped my Garmin. Win! My splits looked really good, too. (For me, anyway!) This time last year I was averaging 11:00/mile, with my longest run at an 11:13 pace. Today I managed 3 of my 11 miles at under a 10:00 pace, which was awesome:

I may not be the speediest runner in the world, but I’m flipping pleased with my pace today, given the weather (which was MUCH LESS AWESOME). Today was torrential rain and 17mph winds, and with my out-and-back route (seemed like such a good plan at the time, and actually worked really well – I knew I’d feel fresh for the first half, and by the time I got to the turn-around point, I had no choice but to run home. Cruel, but effective!) I ended up running back into the wind for the last 6 miles, at what felt like a 45 degree angle! Boo.


I had quite a boost (and a giggle) at around mile 4 – I was heading through a little residential area, and a couple of guys were working on a car on their drive. As I passed them I heard them wolf whistle behind me! Definitely unexpected – and being such a wet and bedraggled mess, the only explanation I can come up with was that they reeeally liked my jacket. (Can’t blame them for that, it’s a pretty awesome jacket). Either way, it cheered me up – and check out the 9:50 mile 5! Result!

Hope everyone’s training is going well – here’s to some better weather next week! I think I’m going to need to bribe myself with chocolate to get through the foam rolling. My calves have been niggling all afternoon, and I know they’re not going to cooperate. I guess I just have to focus on how good they’ll feel afterwards!

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The long runs get longer

I’m notoriously bad at making time for the stretching and strengthening sessions in my plan. Then again, I’m bad enough with just getting each run in! Who has time for a warmup and warmdown stretch session, and a dozen different strengthening exercises each time they run?

Thing is, I really can’t afford to slack here. According to the physios and running coaches I’ve spoken to, I have all sorts of things wrong with me. I’ve worked on a few of them; I don’t rotate my upper body any more, for one. I’ve also shortened my stride, and tend to land more on my midfoot than I did before (though I find it hard to keep this up, especially when I get tired). Whilst this has helped quite a bit, there are still SO many areas to work on.

Firstly, I have really tight hip flexors and quads, which has gotten worse since I started cycling every day. I also have next to no strength whatsoever in my glutes and core, which means that my calves are still overcompensating (and then making my shins niggle. Fun times). But it’s silly – I know what the problems are, and yet I still don’t get round to the core conditioning I should be doing? I’ve been told which exercises I should be adding to my routine, and the areas I should be working on – but I don’t!? It seems so simple, but it’s difficult enough to motivate myself to run 3-4 times a week. But I’ve really started to realise recently just how important all of that extra conditioning is.

My long runs are starting to get longer, and the weekly mileage is creeping up. I’ve always found that past the 1.5 hour mark, things will start to play up if I’m not training properly. Last weekend, I ran 9 miles, and it was great. I ran it with a friend, which meant 1.5 hours of chatting and giggling (and being cheered on by an old man at the top of one of the longer hills – brilliant!) in the lovely crisp cold sunshine. We didn’t even need to take water or gels with us (which I usually rely on after about 10k). We just had some toast and peanut butter before we headed out, and we were absolutely fine. Then again, she’s already run 2 marathons, and can knock out a 10k at something ridiculous like 7:30/mile – but for me it was a pretty big achievement. My legs didn’t even start to ache until well over 7 miles, despite the hills!

Then I cross trained through the week (cycling to work and back) until Thursday, when I had a 5-miler on the plan. After the weekend long run went so well, I was pretty confident for this one. But barely 2 miles in, my shin and calves started to play up, and I felt some twinges along the outside of my right hip and thigh. Bugger. I pushed through it, but felt SO frustrated – I was struggling. I thought back, and realised that I had completely forgotten to stretch and foam roll after the long run. Rookie mistake, right? My legs (especially my right quad) had been a bit tight all week, but I’d ignored it.

I had a proper stretch that evening, and rested up until today, when I had a 10 miler scheduled. My legs were feeling pretty good, and the sun was shining, so I did some dynamic stretches to warm up, and headed out. Again, barely 2 miles in, and I began to have problems. There were the familiar twinges – hip, calves, shins – but also a really weird sensation in my feet and lower legs. It’s as if they suddenly became really weak – kind of like the sensation you get after pins and needles. I don’t know whether this was a circulation thing, linked to inflammation around the shin(s), or whether I just needed to work on my calves a bit more, but it really wasn’t something I could push through. Even the downhills didn’t help. I ended up having to run/walk home, ending with a measly 4.6 miles.

My left foot/shin still feels a bit tender. I know it’s a result of┬ámy weak core and tight hip flexors – as I run, my hip drops, left knee rolls inwards, rotating my foot and causing problems in the tendons at the bottom of my shin. I also know that there are a list of exercises that I should have been working through regularly, to strengthen the relevant areas and fix the weaknesses before the niggles even started. It’s just silly that it takes something like this for me to actually get round to them!

I’ve decided to bite the bullet and book myself into some classes at the gym – weights, core and lower body conditioning – and I’m going to try out some yoga, too. Hopefully I’ll be able to get myself into a routine – not just running regularly, but cross training. I’m going to work on it this week, and give my 10 miler another go next weekend – fingers are SO crossed!