Saturday, 27 April 2019

A Catch Up

Tortoise Beetle

So, three weeks of news to catch up on. The Easter break was lovely, warm in places so gardening happened (although we have a mouse in the greenhouse who's been busy excavating the newly planted seeds and eating any seedlings- I recorded him last night on the wildlife camera having a high old time scampering about over the pots looking naughty). We also did a couple of visits to interesting places. Wells Cathedral for one, having been reminded of it by CJ's lovely photos a few weeks ago, and Avalon marshes where I saw a great crested grebe and two great white egrets but sadly no bitterns or bearded tits. We also went to Hinton Ampner, a NT property not far from here that we've long been meaning to see. The views from the house are spectacular.

Race-wise, I got another PB at the Salisbury 10 a few weeks ago, and M came within 25 seconds of getting a sub 1 hour time, so that is back on the cards as a goal for him. He has decided that I'm going to be his coach from now on so my job is to work out a training schedule to deliver the following times: a sub 18 minute parkrun (current PB 18:04), a sub 1 hour ten mile (current PB 1:00:25) and a 2:53 marathon. I think he can do it.

Two of the Hares also ran the Salisbury 10. It was Rob Hares first ever ten mile run- given that he started running exactly a year ago he has done brilliantly and I am super proud of him. Ten miles is a long old way and he even had enough energy at the end for a sprint finish and was smiling when he crossed the line. Next stop for most of the Hares is the Southampton marathon weekend. Two are doing their first half marathons and the rest are entered into the 10k. Keep your fingers crossed for them.

On Monday M and I went over to the Island and ran the Three Hills Challenge with friend John. It was hot. It was hilly. I walked bits :o). The course goes through some wonderful countryside looking out to sea, across to the Needles and back towards the mainland. We drove to the ferry at Lymington, had a very smooth crossing sitting out on the deck in the sun, then cycled the three miles to the race start along the old railway, ran eight miles over the hills and cycled the three miles back to the ferry. It was a good morning out.

Pop and I are back marathon training. I have one booked for the start of June which we are in full prep mode for. I did an 18 mile training run a fortnight ago that went so well I could have gone on and run the full marathon distance that day and been fine. A week later we did a 20 mile run and it was hard work all the way. It was a hot day and a hilly route, but even so it was much tougher than it should have been and I could still feel it in my system a week later. 

I've been reading about optimal training plans for marathons and there is an increasing body of evidence to suggest that the physiological damage sustained during any run over 2.5-3 hours (16 miles +) is not worth the recovery time. I had been sceptical about this but I'm starting to think there may well be something in it. If you've never run a marathon before there is definitely a benefit in doing a 20-22 mile run ahead of the race- you learn a lot about your endurance capacity on these long runs, how to overcome the physical as well as mental tiredness, and how to fuel, hydrate and recover afterwards, and you also prove to yourself you can do it which helps massively psychologically, but once you've done a marathon and know you can do the distance, the value in the long run is reduced. Instead of further 20 mile training runs in this cycle I'm increasing my cumulative weekly mileage and running some of my training runs at a tempo pace- this increases endurance and speed capacity. So my training this time round is a bit different and I'm interested to see what, if any, effect it has.

Yesterday, Teddy came with Pop and I on a lovely 8 mile off road run through woods thick with bluebells. We saw a hare and a yellowhammer, heard skylarks and whitethroats. He is amazing I think- he'll be ten in June and he still very happily runs 8 miles over the Chalk. The V.E.T who told us it was bad for him to run a couple of years ago clearly didn't know what she was talking about. He's as fit as a flea and very happy and content. Pop, of course, finds a hilly, off road 8 miles easy peasy and is leaping about like a frog still when she gets home :o)

Hope all are well. It's blowing an absolute hoolie here and two panes of glass have just blown out of the greenhouse and smashed on the patio.


Monday, 8 April 2019

Devizes Half Marathon- New PB!

Not liking the thought of stripping down to race kit in the cold weather

Doing warm-up drills in Morrisons car park- a new one on me!

Feeding the chickens...

Sprint finish!

We had a full day of races on Sunday. In the morning, I was doing the Devizes half marathon, and in the afternoon, M was running the Combe Gibbet, a 16 mile cross country helter-skelter over the chalk from Inkpen Beacon (near enough) down to Overton.

When we arrived in Devizes first thing and found race HQ on the green by the duck pond (a lovely setting) it was rather chilly and I wasn't looking forward to peeling off the layers. Luckily, M was my pack horse so I kept my coat on till the last possible minute before handing it to him at the start. 

I'd decided to run this one as a steady training run, having done a few fast races in recent weeks, so I set off quite happy about the number of people who zoomed past me. A few miles in and I'd warmed up and settled in to the race. I had a chat with a couple of my fellow runners whom I ran a few miles with, then decided I was feeling good so picked up my pace a bit and left them behind.

By mile ten I was more or less on my own, loving running through the beautiful Chalk countryside, appreciating the friendly and supportive marshals and calling out encouragement to the runners I passed, some of whom were in varying stages of decline by that point. I was enjoying myself but not, at that point, thinking much about my pace or time. 

Half a mile to the finish I caught up with the 1:55 pacers. I glanced at my watch and saw they were ahead of time, which they confirmed as I drew up with them. We had a brief chat then I ran on, with them shouting: go for it! you'll be there well under 1:55! I was quite happy with running a sub 2-hour half but felt good so decided to edge my pace up a little bit more.

You do a lap of the green before you cross the finish line, and as I came running down to it I realised if I sprinted I would improve on my time at the Bath Half three weeks ago, so I sprinted, hearing but not seeing M yelling me on. I crossed the line in 1:52 and couldn't quite believe I'd knocked over 30 seconds off my PB. Devizes has some hills and inclines on it, and I hadn't really been trying all that hard, but here was another PB. I'm not complaining!

I drank my protein recovery shake (chocolate- yum) and got in the car so we could whizz over to Inkpen for M's race. It took an hour to get there, then we had an hour to wait before the coaches arrived with all the runners, then it was another hour between me seeing them all off and driving to Overton where they would finish. By the time I got to Overton I wasn't feeling very well. I was beyond hungry and had gone into that shaky low blood pressure phase where you really, really need to eat something before you fall over.

Luckily, there was a co-op in town, so I bought a ham salad sandwich, salt and vinegar crisps and some chocolate and wolfed the lot down. I stopped shaking but I was feeling really tired. I parked the car and decided a walk was in order, to stretch my legs and get some fresh air. I felt a lot better for it.

Forty minutes later the runners began to arrive. M came flying down the hill, beating my 1:52 time of the morning and adding another three miles into the distance. 

We got home by five, tired but happy and full of our relative achievements. My take home lesson from the morning was- always have more food than you think you'll need after a race, and don't leave it three hours before you eat!

All good. How are you all?

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Poppy's near miss & a parkrun PB.

The dogs (whom you may notice have been to see Mrs D and come back with smart new hair dos) and I have been busy checking out new routes for the Hares summer session runs which start this week. Now that the clocks have changed we are getting back out into the countryside for our training, which means fields and trails rather than towns and roads. 
Working out the routes has been a perfect excuse to explore footpaths, rivers and woods. It's been lovely, despite Poppy disgracing herself by jumping in the Test on one run and heading off after a pair of swans who were sailing regally by in the main channel. As she swam out into the river proper, the current caught her and tried to sweep her under the bridge and away downstream. I had visions of her bobbing all the way to the sea at Southampton. I was yelling frantically at her to "swim like mad, Poppy!" while Teddy jumped from paw to paw in that worried way of his on the bank, letting out yips as she twirled around. To make matters worse, the swans, who were hissing by then, turned and headed straight for her. My heart was in my mouth. She made it back to the bank of course, scrabbled out, grinned, shook herself vigorously and scampered off onto the bridge where she watched the swans go by as if nothing had happened. Honestly. If we all channeled Poppy's outlook on life, none of us would ever worry about anything ever again. There is perhaps something in that.

Saturday we managed to get to a parkrun for a run ourselves, after weeks of hosting them for other people. Earlier in the year I'd got the Hares to write no more than three running goals each for the year, and while they were doing that I thought about my own. I came up with: Sub 50 10k (tick), run a marathon again, and sub 23 parkrun time. My previous PB over the parkrun 5k distance was 23:09 which I set two years ago, then injury niggles intervened and the closest I've been to it since is 23:45. Anyway, I decided I'd give it a go on Saturday when the 23 minute pacer ran past me. I accelerated and followed him, dodging past people and eventually catching him up about half way round. We had a chat before the hill bit and I slowed down and off he went. I'd upped my miles last week to do a total of 37, so wasn't really expecting to have much left in my legs to run fast with, but I was surprised at how good I felt. Anyway, I went with it, picked up the pace at the top of the hill and was astonished to cross the line a km or two later in 22:36. Months ago I'd asked M what he thought constituted a decent 5k time and he'd said anything that started with a 22 was pretty respectable. He doesn't remember saying this now but it obviously stuck in my head! I was even more pleased later when the results came through and I realised I was 8th lady and had achieved an age-graded score of over 70%. 

The following day we did a low-key, hilly road race through beautiful countryside. After two weekends of urban races with large numbers of competitors, I was looking forward to the smaller event. As everyone set off I wasn't really thinking about having a fast race, but I guess my fitness has gone up a gear because as the race went on I found I was running at a good pace and not finding it hard to keep it up. Rather unbelievably, I improved on last week's 10k time by 20 seconds, which, given the hills was completely unexpected. I was 2nd lady and finished 6th overall, while M won the whole thing outright, so it was a good outing for #teamCT. 

The Hares (the running group I set up last year) have been doing really well too- three of them have now run ten miles in training, two have their first ten mile race in April and another has hers in October; two more have their first half marathons in May and another has booked her first half marathon for November. Two have shaved minutes off their parkrun PBs (both now under 30 minutes) and one has got her 10k time down to just under the hour. Given that this time last year they weren't runners I think these are fabulous achievements. I suspect that next year we may be looking at some of them doing marathons, which would make me the proudest coach. I keep dropping hints :o).

I'm also about to start working with a lady who has her first 10k race booked for May and needs some help with the last few weeks of training. I am excited about this because she doesn't find running easy, so she's a great example of what you can achieve if you are determined enough. I have huge respect for grass roots runners- normal everyday people who want to get fit and healthy - and it's really nice to be able to help them achieve those goals. I'll let you know how she gets on.

Hope all is well with all of you?

CT :o).