20-Miler Dutifully Notched Up

I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’d promised to get a decent long run in this weekend. With everything that can derail such plans, I could only plan for it and hope time and logistics allowed. In spite of a 3am disturbance from the boy and thanks to my heroic other half taking him into the spare bed, the 6am alarm rolled round and the house was quiet.

I swear I could be a damn good burglar with so much practice at creeping out of the house without any sound. At first glance I look ridiculously meticulous in my laying out every bit of my kit by the bed, even filling my bottles and running vest before I go to bed. In fact, it’s to give me no excuse whatsoever to roll over and sleep for another hour or so.

Kit on, I left into the dark. You can tell winter is slowly being ousted since there was already a light in the sky at 6:15. This meant I didn’t really need my head torch to see but I still had it for visibility. Not that many people are weird enough to be up and out on a Sunday morning at that time.

I wanted to keep it really relaxed and consistent as I’d not done 20 miles for a long time. Given I need to up the mileage more over the next few weeks I wasn’t in the mood to finish off my legs. I took it nice and steady to my turn around point at Brackley lake, a very tidy 10miles away on the nose. The benefit of an early start (and it’s hard to think of any in the first 5 minutes after you get up) is that you can sit and have a drink and banana with views like this:

Brackley lake sunrise, 10-mile point

Having seen nobody for the first 10 miles, I was put out to share the lake with what seemed like the entire angling force of Northamptonshire. They looked at me like I was odd too.

The run back was a bit tougher as it was generally more uphill. Partly because I’m a wimp, I’d genuinely have thought twice about this route had I known this was the elevation profile beforehand:

All the same, the sun was out, I had snacks and I carried on taking it nice and easily. Now the sun was up, the countryside was all the more satisfying to run through. I love an early sun through trees and there was a lot of this on my route back:

After about 28 or 29k, my legs started to feel pretty punished. They’ve not had to work for this long for a while and they were well ready for breakfast. I always think it’s cruel to have to run back into our village at the end of such a long run when you just want to get home and recover. Why’s that? By this time, the village is full of dog walkers keen to say hi with their fresh faces and breakfasted, cheerful demeanours. The willpower to complete a 20-miler is closely matched by the willpower needed to stay composed and give the dog walkers as cheerful a hello as they give you when your legs are ready to drop.

Anyway, spritely greetings dished out, I finished the run and was really chuffed. 32k in all and 70k for the week. We’ve got a bit of momentum going now. The legs were fine after a nice hot shower. Whether they’ll be just as fine after 26 miles in 2 weeks’ time, time will tell!

Have a great running week all πŸƒβ€β™‚οΈπŸ’¨


100k here we come…

Perhaps the sunshine made me giddy this week, after a winter of grey runs angled slightly into the drizzle and wind. Perhaps stringing together a good streak of runs this week gave me ideas above my station. Either way, on September 7th I’ll be running my first 100k ultra.

This is the perfect time to talk about it now – far enough away that I can still have grand plans without the fear and logistics requirements of any approaching event. It also helps to make sure I get my 54-miler done in April as a bit of a sighter, or rather to make it abundantly clear how much work I need to put in before September.

It is the Thames Path 100k Challenge from London to Henley. No doubt I will talk about this 2 million more times before I do it so that’s all for now. Today’s focus should be all about the sunshine this week.

Look at this, it’s February after all:

I love weeks like this. One of the first weeks of the year when you remember what it felt like back in October time when it wasn’t just dark and cold.

You can run looking forwards and feel the sun on your face. I did get carried away, however, when the sunshine tempted me to run a lunchtime route on trails that are normally strictly May to October trails.

“It’ll be fine,” said my inner voice. “The sun’s been out for 4 hours, it’s bound to have dried up 3 months’ worth of rain”.

Oh sure it will:

Very much summer trails around Hinton airfield 13/2

Once I’d kicked off the 50kgs of mud from each foot, it was fine. In fact, I genuinely didn’t mind at all. On such a lovely day, I merrily ploughed through the bog up to my ankles. Convincing enough? Nearly everything’s better in the sunshine and running is absolutely one of those things.

I even got a tempo run in this week.

Mon: 7k easy

Wed: 11.5k easy

Thurs: 8k, 6k @4:15/k

Fri: 9.6k easy

I’d planned just an easy week with a long run this weekend but Thursday was such a nice day, I Just felt like going a bit quicker.

Told you the sunshine sends me giddy. Not so much that I’d be hasty and enter a 100k race though. Oh, wait…

Something is always better than nothing…

Unless we’re talking about goat’s cheese on a pizza. Fortunately we’re not so I’ll stand down. No, we’re talking about running of course.

Let me start this one by giving you a glimpse of the kind of small victories that I now celebrate. Some people wake up one morning and, that day, they break a world record. Some people build up such a skill level that they become one of the all time great wartime codebreakers. GOAT, if you will (I only add that, since I’m the last person on the planet to learn what that means!).

Some people have a full day out on a Sunday, have a great time with family and then, along with an equally focussed other half, display quite spectacular ninja skills to get the kids in bed a full twenty minutes early. Step aside Kofi Annan* This is the kind of stuff that makes me proud.

Why was I so buoyed by such daring efficiency? Well, my runplan had an 18-mile long run down to fit in. As I’ve alluded to before, I do really need to start ramping up the miles to be in any kind of state for the 54 miles in April.

For various reasons, this weekend became rather busy. Only good reasons, I must say, primarily spending lots of time with the family. My usual Sunday run slot is early on, as discussed in previous posts. That wasn’t an option this Sunday though thanks to the boy being a little toe-rag during Saturday evening. The upshot meant that we all needed a good sleep and there was to be no risk of any small people being woken.

There was a time when missing a long weekend run would have stressed me right out and I would assume my planned target race was entirely doomed. However I’ve come to realise, as a famous dignatory once said “A single run doth not a runplan make”. Or something like that.

Obviously I can’t fall back on that one every weekend or I’d actually do no proper training. Much digressing today. Anyway, thanks to our parental heroics, I got a short one in during the evening. And do you know, when it looked like I wouldn’t manage any, getting those 8km in, was a really pleasant surprise. Granted it was dark; I mean really dark. I had so little to work with in fact, this was all I could muster as a pic from the run:

I can tell you’re blown away by the imaginative arty-ness.

The point is that it was still 8k, making 37k for the week. On top of bossing bedtime, I’ve got to be happy with that.

Having finally shovelled enough food into me to get back on track (see previous post), I had a couple of great runs last week. All the rain seemed to come overnight leaving soggy but sunny days, like this from Thursday’s 10k:

I’ve learned that it’s fine to miss a long run sometimes, even a little bonus one helps if that’s all you’ve got time for; it’s impossible to take a decent photo in the pitch black without a head torch and, of course, don’t fall back on this advice every week. Oh, and I still don’t like goat’s cheese. Bring on this weekend’s 20-miler.

Have a good week all.

*I appreciate he has literally stepped aside now, RIP, but you get the gist

I think I’ve forgotten how to eat…I mean properly eat

I’m starting to wonder whether I have actually got someone else’s legs this week so far. They work ok, as in the bones are holding me up, it’s just the muscles have been replaced with mashed potato, or wood. Hang on,why would anyone else’s legs be filled with mashed potato? I’m rapidly losing the thread already here.

You still with me? Good, you get the idea, my legs have been really heavy this week even though I’ve been really taking it easy after the first long run in a while last Sunday. Not just that, from the moment I step out on the run, my mind is elsewhere. Often this is what I love about running, my mind drifting off, but this week it hasn’t been drifting off. No, it’s had only one thread of internal conversation. Within the first 200m, it’s starts:

“Hmm, Tom, so…what’s for lunch?”

I try to distract myself with the often beautiful countryside that I get to run in during my lunchtime. Here’s Monday’s run, just after a band of heavy rain cleared the snow away:

However, it’s relentless:

“I could eat lunch now…like right now…ok, I really want something to eat…NOW”

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have voices in my head telling me this but this has been a constant inner tirade this week.

“Errr, Tom you’ve not forgotten, you’re STILL hungry”

It doesn’t stop for the entire run.

And I know why.

As my family will attest, I’m a good eater. Similarly to my running, I may not be that fast at it but do I have stamina at the dinner table. I mentioned that Sunday’s run was the longest I’d done in a long while. We had quite a busy day in the end once I’d got back from the run and I had all three meals and a smattering of grazing throughout the day.

This was only the usual amount of food for a Sunday, not to mention having a totally standard Monday of food. Schoolboy error.

For me, just as important as the mileage training is the post-run dinner training or I’ll just flake out during any recovery runs. Am I the only one who doesn’t get this quite right? So there we go, after the next long run, I’ll put in more commitment to refuelling too, after all that is one of the major benefits of running, in my opinion!

In spite of mashed potato legs (still not a thing), I’ve got almost 20k of recovery runs under my belt so it’s been a good start to the week from a running perspective. I’ve not even been rained on so far either:

When roads are as muddy as trails, Wed lunch run

Right, I’m off to eat another pork pie. Hope you’ve all had a good start to your running weeks.

Today’s (Wednesday’s) run

And there are miles on the board

For the first time in 2019 I’ve managed to get a decent long run in. Both due to circumstance and, if I’m strictly honest, willpower, I’ve not put together more than a 40k week this year. That ended today. Nature made it more of a challenge and gave my motivation a big test but we end the week with 50k on the board, having notched up a 23k ‘long’ run this morning. It’s not huge and it needs to get longer but it’s a start. And it was cold so I think that counts for more.

I try to get the long runs in early before everyone surfaces then it doesn’t impact the day too much but, man, that bed is so much more comfy when the running alarm goes off. When it’s -5C outside it’s even more tempting to stay inside. I get everything ready the night before, to the point of laying my kit out on the floor next to me. This makes it easy getting up in the dark but mainly it reduces any potential excuses to not go.

Usually within about a minute of leaving the house, I’m glad I went out. True that first minute this morning was a shocker. I can’t actually remember a run in colder conditions. I was well layered up so off we went. The sun started coming up after about 25 minutes and it was worth it all of a sudden.

I wasn’t going for pace today just comfort and trying to be consistent. My success with the latter is debatable but I certainly kept it comfortable. A combination of this, a chocolatey Tesco Munch bar and these views made it a cracker of a run:

It was about half and half trail and road and most of the trail was crunchy snow.

What’s particularly interesting about today’s run is that I did almost exactly the same run during a hot July Sunday last year. Back then, I got through about 1.5l of water and a thousand snacks. It was massive struggle and a bit of a shock. Today I struggled to get through 0.5l water (as it kept freezing in the straw) and was absolutely fine, give or take a runny nose and sore fingers by the end. Shows how much of a drain running in the heat can be. That, and I’m a bit of a wuss running in the heat.

Anyway, at the end of the day, I got a good run in this morning, reminded myself that having the smug self-satisfaction of an early Sunday run is a wonderful thing and clocked up 50k for the week. As a bonus, 8 hours later, my nether regions have settled back to normal now too.

Onwards and upwards now, another good mileage week this week and that April 50-miler is well within my sights.

Today’s 14 miles

Kit Today

  • T-shirt
  • Shorts
  • Waterproof long sleeved jacket with hood
  • Beanie hat
  • Thinsulate gloves
  • Saucony Ride road shoes
  • Head torch
  • Salomon ADV Skin 5l running vest

You don’t think you’re cold until you try and say something

It’s interesting that the last time I posted I was talking about how churlish I was complaining that it was ‘only’ 21deg C and how the Winter version of myself would be totally unimpressed. Well funnily enough, here I am, my then future self now having to run in the Winter. What is also interesting is that I was right. I do think the Summer version of myself was a bit of a numpty for thinking that!

Having said that, I had a great run today albeit in 1deg C weather with a couple of centimetres of snow on the ground. It was fresh, well, cold, and I got a good 11k in up to the airfield near work. It may be cold but I love a snowy run. The cold, crunchy snowy runs rather than the brown, gritty, slushy runs. Today was the former fortunately. Here I told you so:

My current target is a local 54mile race on road and trail, starting and finishing at Pitsford Water in Northamptonshire, if anyone has heard of it. I’m painfully aware that I’ve only got 2 months to train for this and I’m yet to run a 20k long run in 2019.

I’m not at panic stations yet as hopefully that will change this weekend and I’ve built up the mileage sensibly in this timeframe before. I’m sure that’s do-able, right? Plus if I get more runs like today’s then I’ve got plenty of running to look forward to.

Anyway I digress, back to today and what’s the post title all about. I’d be keen to know if I’m alone with this. I tend to get quite cosy on cold runs, bobble hat on, warm gloves on and sometimes get quite the sweat on. Everything’s warm. Except my face. My face keeps this a secret though until I’ve finished the run.

There I am quietly impressed at my ability to appropriately layer up and fend off the cold. Somewhat of an Edmund Hillary if you will. Then I’ll get back to the changing room, still very proud of my (ok, modest) achievement. A colleague will then make a comment saying how it ‘must have been a chilly one’ with a knowing chuckle. Just when I’m ready to show how tough and prepared for such Arctic conditions I am, my face steps up and puts me in my place. Unbeknownst to me, of course, my face has decided to go numb in the cold and will now refuse to let me articulate any words. Oh it will make a sound, don’t worry. It’ll make the sound of a person trying to talk with cotton wool stuffed in their mouth. Yep, smooth, Tom, real smooth. Said colleague will sure enough smile awkwardly, shuffle away and make certain they don’t see me again for the rest of the day.

Perhaps I’m not the hardy, winter explorer I thought I was. As nice as it looked everywhere today though, I’d give anything for a 21deg C run right now.

<*shakes head disapprovingly again at the summer version of himself*>

Today’s Run

Beware the winter version of myself

When I run, I do like running alone. I can listen to whatever music I like and I dictate the pace I’m running at. That said, I also enjoy coming across other runners. I’ll wave or awkwardly try a weird salute gesture that looks so much cooler when other people do it. All in all I love the running community and the friendly sense of camaradery that we’re all out doing something we enjoy.

Today I was, however, on the lookout for someone I would not have wanted to meet. I’ll give you some context. For many weeks now Great Britain has been transformed into an unrecognisable country which experiences a proper summer. The sun had shone and shone and, if you’re anything like me, you’d love it. I mean look at it:

This is just the kind of running scene we’re not used to over here! That’s not a one off either, this one’s from 3 weeks ago:

Ok you get the picture. So…getting back to the point…who would I not have been so pleased to see today?

More to the point, what was so special about today? My legs were feeling good, the country is in good spirits about the football and the sun was shining, altogether meaning I had an enjoyable run. In fact, here is today, looking pleasant enough:

And here’s the thing. Having been 28C or higher for the past week, it was about 21C as I headed out today. I had the audacity, just for a split second, to think “gosh, it feels a bit chilly today” (‘gosh’ being something I think far more than I say, before you judge me). And there you have it. The person I would not have wanted to bump into today would be the Winter version of myself who, I hate to say, would have given me a right good smack in the face for thinking that.

He’d be right to have done that too, for I’d give anything for these running conditions when I’m trudging through the rain in the dark in January. If my motivation even drops slightly over the summer, I’m going to remember quite how awesome summer running is, get my shoes on and get out there, albeit occasionally looking over my shoulder for my Winter self who’s got a point to prove 🌞