Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Running 15 Miles With Poppy


The weather was a bit grotty here yesterday: dingy, misty, damp. It didn't awaken feelings of enthusiasm for the 15 mile run I had scheduled. I am disciplined about marathon training so, after dropping L off at the bus first thing and spending half an hour doing my strengthening and stretching routine which I try to do every morning (and sometimes fail to), Pop and I set off.

The furthest I've run before is 14 miles, and that was over a year ago when I'd only been running regularly for a few months. It was far too soon to jump up to that distance and it fundamentally exhausted me for quite a while after. I clocked up a good collection of quite gnarly hilly half marathons last year which have stood me in good stead and as a result I ended the year comfortable with the distance, but 15 still felt like a significant move up.

Fuelling becomes an issue for any run over about 13 miles. This is because your body can only store enough glycogen (a type of sugar (glucose) which is converted from carbohydrates and stored in the liver until it's needed) for 90 minutes of exercise. 
Running out of fuel is what runners call 'hitting the wall' or 'bonking.' I've heard about it lots of times, but only seen it once, when M forgot he'd changed the gels he was using on a marathon, thought they were his old ones that contained carbs but in fact had only salts. It wasn't nice to witness, he basically got slower and slower and collapsed at the end of the marathon dazed, unable to speak and not really aware of who I was. Shoving a banana down his throat worked wonders and within minutes he was properly conscious, but it took a while for his body to reset itself. It was scary and taught me a big lesson: take your fuelling seriously and always double check you've got what you think you've got.

Most marathon runners use gels, sachets of specially formulated carbs and electrolytes that replace glucose and salts. You gulp them down in one swallow without breaking your stride. This is great if speed is important, but I'm not keen on them for various reasons: they aren't always easy to digest and you don't want an upset stomach on a run, they're often made with synthetic flavours and sweeteners and I try to stay away from those kinds of products, and they just seem unnatural to me. M uses them to great effect, but I decided a while ago I would feel happier using real food as my long run fuel.

My ultra buddies who run over marathon distance fuel on real food. Anything that's a good source of readily available carbs and easy to digest, so we're talking pizza, white bread sandwiches, sausage rolls, that kind of thing.

On half marathons I take a back pack with a water bladder and a handful of jelly babies which I scoff around mile 10, depending on the weather. M had told me leaving refuelling that late on a longer run wouldn't work, because you've already depleted the stores too far. His advice for the marathon was to try having a small bite of a sandwich or similar at miles 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21 and possibly 24. So more or less every half an hour.

Yesterday, I set off with my racing water pack on my back with half a ham sandwich, three mini sausage rolls and a handful of jelly babies stuffed into the various pockets. I also had my mobile and a 'run angel'- a personal safety device worn on the wrist which lets out a piercing alarm and sends your map co-ordinates  to 'guardians' (people listed on the app) as a message when you press the alarm. This is less from a fear of other people, and more because if I trip and fall in the middle of no-where and am unable to walk to get help, or worse semi-conscious, the run angel alerts my friends where I am with one simple push of a button. Maybe I should train Poppy to be able to press it too? :o)

It was always going to be trial and error using real food instead of gels, which have clear Instructions for consumption on the packets. We tucked 6 miles under our belts relatively easily and then stopped to share a ham sandwich. I chewed mine- Poppy gulped hers down in one go. It's not for nothing she's affectionately nicknamed Gannet at home. On we went, a small amount of indigestion in the form of a mild stitch appearing because I'm not used to eating and running, but it went quickly. 
I have trained myself to be able to run thirty minutes after eating a bowl of porridge, but running and eating at the same time is something else my body has got to get used to. Which is why you do all this in training. Even clothing you have to trial. I'd set off in compression capris which were so uncomfortable in every way after 5 minutes I looped back to the house and put shorts on instead. They were new, but they worked well, so I'll go for those on marathon day.

Seven miles in and it was still drizzling but the run was going well. We'd run out of the village, crossed the main road, gone over the cattle grid and into the New Forest. Forest ponies, cattle and donkeys all roam free through the forest and we ran past a donkey who was busily demolishing the cardboard boxes the householders had put out for recycling. I knew donks ate thistles, no idea they liked cardboard! 

We ran on along the road then tracked right over open forest past one of the area's famously dangerous but deceptively mild-looking lowland bogs (the unwary have been caught out there on more than one occasion), eventually finding our way along a muddy and puddle-decked gravel track beside one of the commons. Eventually, after getting caked in mud and then navigating a ford in full flood, we came out on a country lane which led to a cattle grid and a main road. Here we were at about ten miles, so we stopped for a couple of jelly babies before going on again. 

At 13 miles we were almost home. We shared the other ham sandwich and, with plenty of energy left, picked up the pace for the final two miles, arriving home in under 2.5 hours, which was a deal faster than I'd expected, but our route was far less hilly than my normal one.

I enjoyed it; my knee was fine, I wasn't especially tired and I felt I could have done another couple of miles quite happily, so that was all good. The fuelling was also great (I ate the sausage rolls for lunch), so ham sandwiches and jelly babies it is on race day, with some sausage rolls as back-up :o). Poppy was fine, although she was a little stiff when she woke up after her sleep in the afternoon, so I'm not sure she'll be doing the full marathon with me in May. She's fine today though, so we'll see.

I deliberately didn't stop when I got back from the run, apart from a long soak in a hot bath and a pause for lunch: I knew I would seize up and/ or fall asleep if I did, so I did loads of household chores, took Ted for a walk and then did the food shop in town. At the ham counter I asked whether I could buy one slice of ham on its own and, in response to the puzzled looks, explained why. The lass on the counter then told me all about her sister running last year's Southampton marathon with a stress fracture in her ankle! We ended the conversation with her thinking about coming along to the C25K course we're running in April. I love those kinds of conversations, the ones that feel like they start out randomly but end up making unexpected connections. What were the chances I'd end up talking to someone who wants to start running?

M had run 9 miles to work and 9 miles back yesterday, having done well over 100k last week, so by evening we were both ravenous. We stuffed ourselves with an enormous bowl of spaghetti and the leftover ham from the packet, with asparagus and courgettes in a cream and black pepper sauce, then had a salted caramel donut each and a starbar with a mug of hot tea while we watched the final episode of Shetland :o) After that we agreed we were finally full. I fell asleep just after ten and slept through till 8.30 this morning! Unheard of. I'm only slightly stiff today and although I feel a bit tired I'm better than I thought I would be.

Poppy crashed out on her bed by the fire last night as soon as I lit it and didn't move till bed time proper. She often sleeps with her head thrown back like that. I think it looks most uncomfortable, but then, I'm not a dog, so what do I know? Ted obviously felt the need to sleep close by and keep watch over her.

Next up, a quarter marathon this weekend before my next big run of 17 miles in two week's time. 26.2 is getting close....

Hope all are well?

CT :o)

28 comments:

  1. Ooh, I hope you've got yourself a new running recruit.
    It sounds like you've got all bases covered with regards to your marathon training. I would never have guessed you would need to refuel with sandwiches. Poppy must have been a bit thrilled by this prospect.
    For now I will have to just read your wonderful descriptions of your running as I am, yet again, laid up with a virus. My immune system must be at an all time low.
    Enjoy this weekend's run. X

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    1. White bread sandwiches- nutritionists would have a fit :o) But they're easy-access carbs which is what fuels endurance. Cheap as chips too and no fuss :o) Poppy is very pleased and has asked for chicken to be included next time ;o)

      I'm so sorry you're poorly again. If it's any consolation, when L was Lily's age I got sick all the time, then it suddenly stopped as we both built up immunity to all the germs! You'll get to the other side and then there'll be no stopping you, running-wise x

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    2. It's very beneficial that Poppy is able to express her wishes like that. 😉
      I quickly popped back to reread my earlier comment. I'm aware I am feeling very sorry for myself at the moment and didn't want to sound all doom and gloom. That immunity had better build up, and soon. X

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    3. She’s a smart girl 😬🐶. You’re not being doom and gloom, I understand the frustration completely and it’s good to let off steam with friends x

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  2. I think Poppy is keeping her airways fully open, a bit like babies sleeping on their backs with their arms in the surrender position. Goodness me CT your running is going from strength to strength. I’ve been dabbling recently and have been alternating running 2 miles in 20 minutes with 3 miles in 35 minutes - these are hilly miles and although I walk and cycle and swim I haven’t run for a long long time. (In my triathlon days I used to run 10km in just under 40 minutes, and only once while pace-making my younger brother in a race I ran 10 miles in under an hour and was sick on the finish line - very embarrassing.) Denbies vineyard just down the road now has a Parkrun but 9am on a Saturday morning is a bit early for us - I would love it do it once though before we move. Our new village has a running club and they go on some good runs up in the Downs so I may think about joining as a way of meeting new people. Good luck with all the training. It is a big time commitment but it’s clearly working very well for you. And Poppy and Ted, what superstars they are. Sarah x

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    1. I'd never thought about the airways thing. Great to hear you're running again. I know you are a fit lady already but as you know, running uses different muscles so it's bound to take a while to build up running fitness. Those are good times for hilly miles. At under 40 mins for a 10k you are way ahead of me, my best last year was 51 but I didn't really enjoy it at that pace, much happier running long distances at a slower pace. You would LOVE parkrun, they're great events. Super news about the running club in the new village, let me know how you get on xx

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  3. oh my goodness.
    That was fascinating. So technically challenging, as well as physical.
    I truly hadn't realised just how much was involved.
    Thank you for such a detailed post.

    Nella sleeps in the same position as Ted. Is it a terrier thing :))

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    1. There's quite a lot to think about, especially when it's your first one and you have no previous experience to guide you. The actual running is the easiest bit, in many ways! I remember feeling the same way about half marathons last year :o) Interesting to hear about Nella, must be comfortable for them! I'd get a sore neck.

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  4. Reading your posts at the beginning of this year I had no thought that you would be running 15 miles by now. I’m super impressed with you and Poppy of course. Definitely your guardian angel . Glad you have sorted your refuelling needs and I’m not surprised you ate plenty last night. I’m hoping to do an 8k tomorrow, hopefully without to much wind against me :(. We seem to be back to gales at the moment. Not good for running. I’m looking forward to hearing how your training goes in April. Bet it will be popular. B x

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    1. I know, it's funny how it's working out. In many ways, my knee has improved since I stopped listening to experts and starting listening to my instincts. Taking it slowly, doing strengthening exercises and stretching out have all made a massive difference.
      Huge good luck with the 8k tomorrow. Is that new ground? I think you'll do it with no problems, windy or not. CT x

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    2. Did 8 last year but not for a while. It’s time I think :)

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  5. Little cherubs when they're asleep like that. Sounds like you did yourself proud! x

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    1. I’m not sure I could have done it without Poppy's company. She keeps me going with her enthusiasm and positivity. Finishing the marathon will be in no small amount down to her x

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  6. This was a fascinating read. Good to know that you're working out all the right strategies for marathon day. Well done to your little running angel and her guardian buddy too! xx

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  7. Interesting that you don't like or be able to digest the running gels. I am the same way with artificial flavors. They turn my stomach and make me ill. Nice to see that your trying other foods. Will you be eating and running at the same time ?
    How old is your sweet running partner ? Poppy is a star. I love seeing Ted and Poppy together. Winston could never nap or sleep without thehamish snuggling in. They were a pair.
    So enjoy your "Tales of Running". You must live in the most beautiful area.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. I may pause for a few seconds to ear but basically yes, eating on the hoof. Pops is three and a half. X

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  8. Momento para relaxar. Feliz Páscoa.

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  9. Wow, really impressive stuff, glad it's going so well, and what an amazing place to run. I do like the sound of all the eating, I could definitely do that bit. And it would be good to sleep better. I am in a walking phase at the moment though. Walking here there and everywhere with the pup. Maybe one day we'll break into a run. Keep it up my friend, you're doing brilliantly. CJ xx

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    1. I’ve been starving all day today. Walking is great exercise and a fab platform to run from. I walk most days too, even if I’ve been running. Bert would be beside himself if you took him running I’m sure 🐶🏃‍♀️ . Thank you for the words of encouragement xx

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  10. You're doing brilliantly and so is Poppy! Those dogs... They are adorable. Hats off to you my friend. S x

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    1. Thank you, lovely Sam. I’m hoping I can keep going till the end of May! Xx

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  11. Oh my goodness I am exhausted reading your post. I am in awe of those who have the ability to run and not just for a bus. I always tell people if you see me running you need to start running too as it means there is something horrible behind me. Keep up your excellent work.

    Mitzi

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  12. Real food always seems so much more sensible. I could never get on with gels, and so tried to do long runs before eating as much as possible.
    Well done- a good solid run under your belt is always good for the confidence.

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  13. Gosh, I hadn't even thought about trying real food but I love that idea. I am a bit anti putting rubbish in my body (well apart from red wine but I kid myself that as it comes from fruit it is one of my five a day, lol) so I don't why I hadn't thought of eating proper food. There are always a load of hills I have to walk up! So pleased it is all going well for you and Pops xx

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x