I really didn’t want to go for that run

I really, really didn’t feel like going for a long run yesterday.

After a weeks holiday with my kids I was well relaxed and really only wanted to spend a final day with them before going back to work.  I’d done a tough 65km bike ride on Saturday followed by dinner at Frankie & Benny’s where I stuffed myself on a double cheeseburger.  So whilst my muscles ached, I knew I’d not fuelled myself properly and my brain was still on holiday – and I definitely didn’t want to go for a run.

The trees in my garden showed the tell tale signs of another strong wind and the grey clouds on the horizon suggested another damp run.  When the kids got up they both sat with me and we started watching Mr Stink on TV – an adaptation of the David Walliams book.  We only got half way through before I had to get ready to go for the run (that I definitely didn’t want to do) and I promised we’d watch the rest when I got home.

Thankfully, my friend Leanne was running the first 12 miles with me and because we’d arranged an 8.30 start I got myself in to gear and we headed off out in to the wind.  With the breeze behind us we headed through the village, dropping off my spare drink bottle on a wall outside our friend Emma’s house.  After a few hundred yards the sharp pain in my right calf/shin had subsided to a dull throb and ,even though my legs continued to feel heavy, we settled in to a good pace.

The first 12 miles passed at about my target pace of 8 min/miles.  I said goodbye to Leanne and grabbed my second drink off Emma’s wall and set of for loop number 2 daydreaming about what I’d be eating when I arrived home.  The fantasy was a sausage sandwich on thick fresh bread, but eventually reality turned out to be beans on toast. Deliberating which way to avoid the worst exposure to the wind (and getting it wrong) I took the steady drag out of the village, looped back across a small country lane and got back in to the boundaries of Stoney Stanton with about 18.6 miles under my belt.

If I’d have headed straight home I’d have covered just over 19 miles.  But from somewhere I found some motivation to tip it over 20 miles.  I figured that 20 is a great milestone to have under my belt and that it would be a fantastic confidence booster to do “over 20” rather than “over 19”.

Training-wise it probably makes little difference and my average pace was a little slower than I’d want, but hey – I’ve now done over 20 miles (20.01 miles to be exact).  That only leaves 6 more to do on the day (6.19 to be exact).  And with another couple of runs at around the same distance, but hopefully in better conditions, I should be well on target for a good run in 6 April.

Not bad considering I really didn’t want to go for a run.

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A fast short long one …

It was a welcome respite from those long, long Sunday runs this week as my training plan suggested a fast 10k run (or race) was the best way to spend Sunday morning.  Coincidentally, it was the same weekend that we’d booked to go away to a cottage in the Cotswolds so it all fell together quite nicely.

One of many flooded fields in Oxfordshire

One of many flooded fields in Oxfordshire

I love running somewhere new and this weekend was no exception.  We were staying just outside of the small village of Kingham which was far enough north to have escaped the worst of the flooding, but still wet enough to change the landscape for a few days.

My route around Kingham, Churchill and back looked straightforward when I planned it and the first two kilometres were great.  The sun was shining for the first time in weeks and, whilst it was cool and crisp, the calmness of the air made it the most enjoyable running conditions so for this year!

I intentionally set out at a fast tempo avoiding any frosty patches that the sun hadn’t yet warmed and covered the first few kilometres through the village in good time.  The road kicked up a couple of times so inevitably my pace slowed a little but things got even more troublesome in the final kilometre or so when I realised I must have taken a wrong turn and began running on an unfamiliar road clearly in the wrong direction!

I should have paid more attention to this

I should have paid more attention to this

Being dedicated to running as fast a 10k as possible I just ignored the fact that I was lost and kept going until Runkeeper announced I’d done the distance I set out to do (albeit finishing a couple of miles south of where I’d intended!!!).  Taking stock of where I’d ended up, I made the embarrassing S.O.S. call to Mrs G and heard my eldest daughter in the background saying “Is Daddy lost again!!”

When my wife arrived to my rescue I tried to deflect from the daftness of getting lost by gloating that I’d averaged under 7 minute miles for the 10k but it was to no avail.  So when I was taking a post-run hot-tub back at the cottage I just had to soak up the stick I was taking from them all.  Like I said – I love running in new places but really should pay a bit of attention to where I’m going!

But I still averaged 6.59 minute miles and that’ll keep me buzzing until next weekends 19 miler!

The Run of a Drowned Rat

The two pieces of information didn’t sit well with me.  Looking at the 14 mile run scheduled on my training plan and then looking up at the weather forecast had my mind racing.

What excuses could the devil on my shoulder give me that would make it OK to stay in bed rather than setting a 7am alarm for my long Sunday run?  My normal running parters, Jim and Leanne, had already given me a warning that they’d not be training if the weather was bad.  I’d already cycled 40 miles on Saturday morning…. surely it was enough?

But another look at my training plan showed that it was 15 miles next week and 16 the week after.  I couldn’t find a hiding place.  No excuse was good enough, so I set the alarm and got up in the dark to go out for the run I knew I had to do.

And I’m chuffed that I did!

It’s the fourth “long” run this year and I’m getting more and more confident each week.  Last weeks run was a bit of an epiphany for me.  I actually did what I’d say to everyone else: set off at a steady pace and kept it steady throughout – finishing with a better average over 13 than I had done over 12 the week before.

This week I satisfied my need for speed with a high tempo 6.5 miles on Friday so, once again, steady was the name of the game.  And it’s just as well.

As soon as I left the village I was running (largely up hill) in to the wind for 5 miles.  The wind. The icy wind.  The very strong, icy wind. The very strong, icy wind carrying very heavy, very wet rain.

I was delighted to turn out of the wind with an average pace of just under 8 min/m but I was completely saturated.  You know when you’re so wet that your feet squelch in your trainers? Yeah, just like that.  But I felt great.

Steadily bouncing along another 4 miles or so I reached the bottom of a steep climb (coming out of Croft towards Huncote in case you know it) but still kept a fantastic rhythm going.  I slowed a little after that though.  I lost concentration and started fantasising about what I was going to eat when I got home!  The prospect of scrambled eggs and baked beans cost me about 20 seconds on that mile!!  But as I turned a corner, my daydreaming stopped.

The sight of an overflowing ford known as Watery Gates reminded me that I’d had an easy ride in the elements for the last few miles.  The following wind had tricked me in to thinking that the rain had stopped.  So, it was with an impending sense of doom that I tackled the last three miles.

One more right-hander and I was head-on in to the elements again.  The steady, mile long rise combined with the stinging rain and battering wind made it the hardest mile of my training so far.  There was an upside to the conditions though: my legs were so cold that they didn’t ache, so I was able to push as hard as possible to keep the pace up.

After a brief respite, another battle in to the wind got me home with 14 miles on the clock and an 8.02 min/m average pace.  Spot on!  If I can turn out that sort of pace in those sort of conditions I think I’m in good shape to look towards sustaining that pace come April.

So if there are any fellow drowned rats reading this, give yourself a big pat on the back and recognise that it’s runs like the ones we did today that will make the difference when the weather turns.

(The eggs and beans were delicious too)

Progress Already!!

Just a short update on how the New Year has faired so far.

Each week I’ll be (trying) to do a weigh in to gauge my progress to running the Brighton Marathon a good few pounds lighter than at the turn of the year.

I know that these things seem easier when you’re just in “in the zone” so I’m hopping that blogging about it will keep me in that zone for as long as possible.

Anyway, we’re one week in to the New Year – how is everyone getting along with their plan and resolutions?  From my perspective it was about getting back to fitness, more clean living and dropping a few pounds.  Here’s what I have changed:

  • Back on the training plan and I have run 4 times/27 miles
  • Completely cut out some “bad” stuff:
    • The B’s = bread, biscuits, booze
    • The C’s = crisps, chocolate, cheese
  • Used My Net App to stay on top of what’s going in and what’s being burned
  • Started back on skimmed milk and cereal for breakfast
  • Fast food now means soup
  • Drinking herbal teas as a direct substitute to wine!
My little helpers!

My little helpers!

I’m pleased with progress on everything other than fitness – but that’ll come back with time.  I’ve already lost 5lb’s in weight and that is just the motivation I need to get out for a run later!  I hope it’s going well for you too?

A Little Wet One

The logic is this:  Run in the winter because cycling when the weather is bad can be rubbish.

Now that marathon training us well underway I am running twice each weekend (unless Saturday is good in which case I’ll take the chance for a ride).  So I’ve applied new logic too: If it looks like bad weather on both Saturday and Sunday, embrace it and go trail running on the Saturday.

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Sounds good in theory, but lessons I learned this week include:

  • Running across fields and slipping all over the place doesn’t really replicate a road run
  • Slipping can be dangerous
  • Pay attention to the telly when it says there is flooding everywhere
  • Wading through 15 inches of flood water is not great training
  • Have the kettle ready to go … it’s pretty grim out there!

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It was a character building run on Saturday but I twisted my knee a little while running through a swamp!  Subsequently, Sundays 10 mile run was a little disappointing.  I suppose there’ll be plenty of good and bad training runs before April. Let’s hope this running lark gets a bit more fruitful in the next few weeks!

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Trail Running Adventure

When the weather closes in this winter, a wet Saturday will mean only one thing for me …. trail time.

Slipping on my new trail running trainers I headed out across the local footpaths to get muddied up and enjoy all the lumps BYnXNwaIIAAKl1I.jpg-largeand bumps this part of Leicestershire has to offer.  Skirting around Stanton Lakes I soon found the first land mark of my run as I crossed a lovely little bridge that we know as Sophies Bridge.  Nestled half a mile or so in from the main road in the land covered by Sopers Farm is a little steel and concrete bridge over the Soar.

Don’t get carried away, the river is less than 5 meters wide at this point and generally shallow enough for kids to paddle in so it’s no raging torrent like previous adventures in the Peak District.  But it is a lovely, peaceful and lush spot to run through.  In summer months it’s worth heading down with a picnic and bottle of fizz that you can keep cool in the river.  We did that a couple of years ago with the kids for our wedding anniversary and it was a day that we’ll always remember.

But it’s slightly less serene when being run through in November.  So following the footpath I emerged to the village of Croft and headed off towards landmark number 2: Croft Hill.

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There is a sheltered woodland path along the bottom of the approach to this man made hill so keeping an eye for protruding roots I paced myself up to a style to start the climb.  The hill is the result of years of quarrying in Croft and the steep climb is now covered in 734428_10151694221007056_811947761_ngrass and rabbit droppings!  Having walked up the hill pulling a sledge and a child earlier in the year, I knew how hard the gradient could be to scale.  But running up was a different experience and by the time I was half-way up my lungs and legs were burning.

Reaching the top was a relief and provided a welcome rest as well as stunning views.  The contrast in scenery between the dramatic drop in to the working quarry and the expansive Leicestershire countryside was breathtaking but I couldn’t afford to be distracted when I started my descent.  The winding path was slippery underfoot so required more mental strength than physical exertion until passing through the final gate and heading off to some flatter ground.

The unfamiliar paths were sodden after days of rain and pretty quickly my feet were saturated picking my way through the footpaths.  That was until the footpath seemingly disappeared and the terrain changed from grass to ploughed field.  It gets to be hard work when each foot is carrying a couple of pounds of mud, so the bright yellow sign pointing to another footpath was more than welcome.

Without stopping to think, I headed down the next footpath, following the trails until I emerged out of the farmland and on to a country lane.  The road looked familiar, but worryingly I was a long way from where I had planned to be!  Jogging down the road I kept looking out for another footpath or bridleway on which to make a shortcut home, yet it wasn’t long before I realised that an hour in to my run I still had 3 or 4 miles to go.1468574_10151694220787056_790507799_n

Just as I began considering calling Mrs G to come and collect me I rounded a corner to see a car stranded in a ford we know as Watery Gates.  Not being one to miss an opportunity to snap such a scene I whipped out my phone and took a couple of pictures before noticing a family looking at me.  It turns out that the daughter drove in to the ford last night while the water was running at 1.5 meters deep!

Checking my Strava feed I saw that I’d covered over 7 miles. So I called in some support before running another mile and being ushered on to an already muddy blanket for the couple of miles of my lift home!