Monday, 31 December 2012

Ending on a positive note

Today was my last run of 2012.  This was the eight miles that I should have done yesterday, and I'm pleased that I waited.  Although there still was a bit of a brisk wind, it was manageable.  The temperature was on the mild side, the rain stopped, and the sun even made a bit of an appearance.  Aside from the steady stream of traffic that kept me hopping from the road onto the verges to avoid the stream of 4x4s bearing down on me, it was a good day.

I had a bit of an Achilles tendon niggle for the first mile or so, which only seems to occur now when I wear the Saucony Guide 4 shoes, but my legs felt fine after this.  So fine, in fact, that running at my previous long slow run pace just felt...wrong.  It was harder to keep my form and my legs felt more tired at the old pace.  So, I ignored the Garmin and ran what felt comfortable.  I finished the 8.15 miles in 1:34 which, considering that I had to stop a lot to let cars pass, isn't too bad (for me) at all.

I'm getting a little bit faster but, more importantly, the running is feeling easier.  There are several factors that I think are contributing to that - changing my form, lower heel drop shoes, stretching, weights, cross-training, and regular visits to Adam - and I'll keep my fingers crossed that I can keep building on my progress to date in a sustainable way.  As opposed to getting all excited about how good I'm feeling and flinging myself into doing intervals & hill & tempo runs which, I must confess, have somehow snuck into my marathon training programme.  Yeah yeah, I'll be sensible with it...but it's nice to be able to dream.

And now, a box of chocolates and a bottle of prosecco are calling my name.  The last binge of'll be a fresh & healthy start tomorrow.  Really.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Better luck tomorrow

A day to stay inside
I didn't run 8 miles this morning.  Nor did I run in the afternoon, and I'm not about to venture out this evening either.  I spent much of the day sighing in front of the window as I watched the rain lash down and the tree branches bend to breaking point in the 30mph winds.  There were brief glimpses of blue sky during which I thought, 'If I get dressed now, I can be out before the next downpour,' but by the time I reached the end of that thought, it had started to rain again.

If it had just been raining, I might have gone out.  If it had just been windy, I still might have given it a go.  If I had only been going to do 3 or 4 miles, I might have braved it.  But rain and high winds together are a misery, especially on long runs.  So I stayed inside where it was warm(ish), read my book, watched the Christmas episode of Miranda that we had recorded, and did a bit of tidying of my running gear drawers.  (I now have two very full bags of outdated and unwanted running clothes to take to the charity shop, and I was pleased to have found my compression tights in amongst the dross.  I wondered where they had disappeared to.)

My plan is to do the 8 miles tomorrow when the winds are supposed to be much less.  That'll only put me one day out of synch with my training programme, which is meant to start tomorrow with a rest day.  I figure a long run on Monday, shorter distances on Wednesday and Friday, and another long run on Sunday, and it'll be like I was on track the entire time.

Flexible and laid back, that's me!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Time flies when you're faffing around

I've been having a lovely, relaxed time since the Aviemore Half Marathon. The marathon in April has been in the back of my mind, but I haven't felt in any rush to decide on what training programme to follow, including when to start training.  'After all,' I thought, 'I have plenty of time.'  So, I've been running for fun, with no real goal in mind except paying attention to my form.  I've even been leaving the Garmin at home for a lot of runs, running according to how my body and breathing feel rather than obsessing about beating my previous times or distances. 

I've started back at the gym with a basic programme designed by Adam and have learned that I really like the rowing machine as well as remembering how much I also like doing weights.  I didn't do any cross-training or weights during my last marathon attempt and thought that these would be useful things to add in now, so that they can benefit my future training.  'But,' I thought, 'there's tons of time for this to happen.'

I didn't even panic when I missed out on my long run last week after a fright when my knee seized up during the long run the week before (by the time I got home, I couldn't bend it).  A reassuring Adam speculated that the knee pain was due to 1) some non-running related minor low back pain that was making me run a bit differently to protect my back and 2) carrying water on a waist belt instead of on my back, which we think made me lean from my waist and not from my ankles, thus putting even more stress on my lower back and all points south.  It wasn't an issue to take a few days out and to miss a long run because 'Hey,' I thought, 'I have plenty of time.'

Or rather, I did.  I realised a few days ago that there are now only 17 weeks left and training should have started...last week.  I thought that I would feel worried about this but, actually, now that I think about it, I'm not.  I'm not worried at all.  I feel a lot more relaxed going into this bout of training than I have for any of my previous marathon attempts.  I think I've accepted that running a marathon may not be for me, just like learning to ride a motorcycle and to scuba dive were not for me either.  My life hasn't been ruined by realising that I wasn't cut out for them and it won't be ruined by never running a marathon either.

So, yes, I'll still train and will still be a bit obsessive about it and will still really really want to be at the start line in April, but it feels like I have a lighter heart about the whole thing.  I've remembered that I enjoy running and that's enough.  If I get a marathon out of it, that's just a bonus.

Christmas update:   Bassman has written about our Christmas here, so have a look for updates on our holiday activities and cute pictures of cats.  We've had a low key time, filled with good food, good drink, and lots of yummy treats but no Christmas chocolates.  Imagine, then, my joy when Bassman finally 'fessed up that he had hidden the Christmas chocolates because I couldn't be trusted not to eat them all in one sitting before Christmas had even started.  I'm not sure what I'm more annoyed about - that he hid the chocolates, or that he knows me so well.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Starry starry night

Because I set my own work schedule, I generally choose to start working around mid-morning.  This fits in well with my need for a slow and gradual waking up process; running only happens after I've had a bit of breakfast, a cup of tea, and a perusal of The Mail Online.  There's nothing like a bit of caffeine and outrage to set me up for the day.

When I'm working in Shetland, though, I'm stuck with traditional 9 to 5 hours and - the horror! - actually have to stay at work the entire time.  Sheesh.  In the summer, going for a run either before or after work isn't a problem (weather permitting, of course) because it's light all the time.  Around the time of the Summer Solstice, it's light until almost midnight.  However, it is now winter.  There's daylight of sorts between 9am and 4pm but the rest of the time, it's very very dark.  And, frequently, very very cold, windy, and rainy as well.  Not exactly conducive to going for a run with a spring in my step and a song in my heart but tonight, I didn't even give myself a chance to waver.

I got back to the flat after work, changed immediately into my running clothes (all four layers of them, and a hat and gloves and a buff to keep my neck warm), and headed back out into the freezing night.  Except, once I got moving, it wasn't freezing at all.  The wind from earlier today had died down and the air was cold and crisp.  Once I got away from the main road to my usual route around Clickimin Loch, where there are only intermittent and quite dim lights on the path, I realised that I was enjoying myself.  A lot.

I wasn't going very fast but I was running so lightly that I couldn't hear my footsteps.  My breathing was slow and relaxed, and my legs were happier than they've been in a while.  I felt connected to the night.  I wasn't fighting the terrain or the wind or even myself.  Everything flowed and everywhere I looked, there were stars stars and more stars.  And some horses.  It made me smile to see the horses standing in their field, watching the stars too.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Where's Waldo?

There are a lot of advantages to working for myself - no meetings to attend, minimal paperwork, and only taking on the work that interests me, to name a few - but one of the things that I do miss is having colleagues easily accessible for coffee and a gossip.  When it's just me in the office, I either spend my time between appointments doing admin (yawn), catching up with the Daily Mail on-line (only for the celebrity scandals and the cute animal stories, of course), or playing Spider Solitaire and Angry Birds.

Even though it's only three days a month, working for The Department in Shetland gives me that 'friends at work' vibe that I miss.  And, this time of year, being part of an actual department means the Christmas Night Out!  So, with my suitcase stuffed to the brim with running gear, party clothes, and work clothes as well as the multiple pairs of shoes required for a multi-purpose trip, I flew north on Friday.

When I went to bed on Friday night, it was a calm and clear night.  By the time I woke up at 10am the next morning (amazing what the absence of a snoring husband and rampaging cats has on my ability to sleep through the night), the wind was howling and the rain was torrential.  I had planned to do my long run on Saturday but there was no point in venturing out for exercise.  There was, however, a point in venturing out to shop; I braved the tempest and returned home with a sparkly pair of silver flats, a pair of skinny jeans with a bit of a flower motif (more tasteful than they sound, and they go well with the purple Laura Ashley tunic that I was planning to wear to the night out), and a Death By Chocolate cupcake from the scrumptious Peerie Cake Shop.

Two friends came to collect me at 6.30pm and we headed off to Hay's Dock for the Christmas meal.  This is one of the best restaurants in Lerwick and the food was as yummy as expected:  I had a cheese scone stuffed with field mushrooms to start, a seafood tagine for my main course, and a chocolate and almond tart for dessert.  And a glass of wine.  Or two.  During the course of the meal, our secretary informed The Empress, C, and me that a photo of us having a girly lunch was on the Hay's Dock website.  Yikes!  I do my best to maintain a non-photographic presence in the world, and then I end up featured (okay, slight exaggeration) on a popular local website.  Good thing that my back is to the camera.  Can you spot us?

Anyway, that shock aside, it was a very fun night which I reluctantly cut short as I really did want to do a long run on Sunday.  The sacrifices that I make for running...

Goose of Death (posed by model)
It was worth it, too.  I ran 7 miles this morning and it felt great.  Aside, that is, from getting caught at the top of a hill in a passing wind and sleet shower that utterly froze my head and face because I had forgotten to wear my hat.  I had to try to protect my skin by taking off my gloves and sticking them to my face.  The wind was so strong that it held them in place as I ran back down the hill; I'm sure that it looked as ridiculous as it sounds.  Even the Geese of Death by the lochan at the bottom of hill looked askance at me.  But at least they didn't rush me like they usually do.  Perhaps they couldn't move for laughing.

Yep, the sacrifices that I make for running.

Monday, 3 December 2012

The Triumphs are a triumph!

You may recall that I  bought a pair of Saucony Triumph 9s a while ago. The Triumphs have an 8mm heel drop as opposed to the 12mm drop in my Saucony Guide 4s and I thought, after a bit of obsessive research, that this might help with the transition to becoming a mid-foot striker.   

But, during my training for the Aviemore Half Marathon, I was fearful of doing anything to upset my temperamental calves and worried that even a slightly flatter foot would put so much stress on already-stressed muscles and tendons that I'd do myself a serious injury and NEVER get to run a marathon.  Ever.  So the Triumphs have sat on the bedroom floor for months, looking all lovely and blue but not really going anywhere near my feet. Until last week.

I think that, since the AHM, my running form has taken a turn (or a lean) for the better.  I'm finding it easier to feel the lean through my ankles and my feet are landing more softly and less markedly on the heels (and sometimes there is indeed mid-foot striking), and I'm starting to understand how to keep my core strong and my arms and legs relaxed.  But, no matter how Chi my running feels, my heels still drag and my ankles and Achilles tendons still hurt.  Rather than assuming that this was somehow injury related, though, I started to wonder if maybe my evolving running form meant that the Guide 4s weren't so suitable anymore.

So, with the encouragement of Adam (who said, 'No, I can't guarantee that you won't tear something but stop being a baby and just give it a go!'), last week I took the Triumphs for a 2 mile run and then for a 3 mile run.  And I was AMAZED at how much better I felt.  No scuffly heels.  Landing softly.  And no pain during the runs or after.  My 6 mile run yesterday was back in the Guide 4s, as I don't want to push things too quickly.  Although my Achilles tendons hurt for the first half-mile (until I relaxed my ankles), it was easier to maintain good form for the rest of the run and I was able to stop the scuffling each time it started by leaning a bit and upping my cadence.  Again, there was no pain afterwards.

I ran a fast(ish) 10 minutes on the treadmill at the gym today in the Triumphs and, still, no pain as long as I kept my ankles relaxed.  Even more impressive, I can't remember the last time that I was able to run any distance AT ALL the day after a long run.  I'm usually too sore and too tired, but not today.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  New shoes make everything better.