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 ūüĆě

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Long runs and the Ability to Eat All the Food

What’s so curious is that this doesn’t happen as soon as you finish the run. That would be too easy to manage. In fact, it’s even more curious than my waterproof’s ability to suddenly lose its waterproofing claims but we’ll get on to that later. No, this normally happens a good few hours after a long run.

What am I talking about? You may be familiar. A good two or three hours after a long run, I can walk into the kitchen and comfortably be able to eat all the food in all the cupboards. Don’t get me wrong, when I finish the run I’m ready for a ńŹrink and a small snack. Later on though, that’s when I’m talking eating of mammoth proportions.

This is manageable in our own house. It’s all our food and my long suffering family is aware of my propensity for sizeable snackage. Should I be at a friend’s house though, then it gets awkward. Small plate of biscuits comes out…gone, in seconds. Bowl of nibbles while we’re chatting…nom nom nom, gone. I don’t have many friends at the best of times and this doesn’t help at all!

Anyway, I don’t want this post to be dominated by eating, as my Sundays can be, since I had a particularly excitingly, weather related long run this week. 20k on the legs and this little gem was a real highlight:

It was an entertaining run. Starting off, it was a bit rainy and windy but fairly bright so it wasn’t going to dampen my spirits. Look at my happy little face:

And look at how bright my waterproof is! As I alluded to earlier, I use the term waterproof loosely. Note how well it’s holding up in that pic – reasonably well. Fast forward 10k and continually ramp up the rain as the run goes on and you get to this:

Look at that smile now. Much less convincing, combined with mild despair in the eyes. And the waterproof now? I suspect a tea towel would have done a similar job keeping the rain off. (Lack of) waterproof aside, it then stopped raining and I got my glimpse of the rainbow. After about 30 seconds it vanished again but that really brightened up the run and it’s those moments that really stick in my mind on long runs. It was almost as if the rainbow appeared just for me. I loved it.

Plus, I knew we had chilli for tea. Mountains of it ūüėČ

My Strava Activities

It’s Easy to Sign Up for the Thames Trot 50 Miler When It’s 5 Months Away

If you start Googling ultra running, it won’t take you long to come across some of America’s more famous 50 or 100 mile races. It won’t escape your notice that these are all done by guys called Cody or Chad or Sage. They have beards and live in the mountains.

Fortunately these aren’t pre-requisites for these races or ultras in general, a particular relief for me which you’ll understand if you’ve ever seen me try and grow a beard. No, I’m just called Tom and live in Northamptonshire and, right now, a 50 mile race seems well out of my league.

So I signed up.

It’s the Thames Trot 50 miler in Feb 3rd 2018. It sounds really rather pleasant doesn’t it? Very benign. Almost pleasant. I suspect on Feb 4th 2018 I’ll have a different view.

I’ve only just begun my training for it, there is a lot to learn but it’s five months away yet so I’m feeling positive. I’m certain the realisation will sink in at some point over the next few months. The truth is, from a training perspective, it’s not a huge step from marathon training. The long runs are a bit longer and a bit more frequent but hopefully manageable.

For those of you who love this kind of thing, like science geek yours truly here, this is it in its 26 week glory:

Pretty straightforward? We’ll see. I’m now just starting week 3 and, I must admit, the runs in week 1 and 2 were a pleasure. A nice change from the more technical plans of marathons, just keep it slow and get through the miles.

The weather’s been great, there’s been no wind and I even came across a 20p on my long run at the weekend. Win.

It’s been a while since I got up and out on a Sunday morning for a long run so this weekend was a shock to the system. It was worth it to run with this backdrop though

I’m not too great at mornings. I just can’t imagine ever being. I’ve come to terms with this though and learnt to lay all my clothes out on the floor in the order I need them. That way, zero thought is needed and I overcome every urge in my body to stay in bed. I must be quite a sight leaving the house. Picture a mole staggering from his hole into bright daylight and you’d be close. It doesn’t matter though, I’m up and I’m out and, after a couple of minutes, feel like a true smugpants.

Plus I usually then get to spend the rest of the day eating my body weight in snacks.

My Strava Activities

Week 5 and how fartleks are like the last day of term

I remember when I first did a fartlek run. It made me feel like a proper runner, using terms like fartlek. I must know what I’m doing now.

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Fartlek is another word borrowed from the Scandinavians. This seems to happen a fair bit in running. ‘Strava’ too comes from Swedish (meaning ‘strive’ for the knowledge thirsty of you). Why not use their words, this is a collection of nations who invented Ikea and the Northern Lights so they obviously know what they are doing. Now you get the random picture above.

Thats all very well but why are fartleks like the last day of term? This is, after all, how I’ve got your attention in the first place. Let me start with why I love run schedules. This all comes back (yet again) to the fact I’m a bit of a nerd. I like to be told what to run, when to do it, how far to go and how fast to do it in. Then I know I’ve ticked all the boxes so come race day I know that I at least have done my bit!

Imagine my horror when I came across such a run as a fartlek run. These are fairly standard in running and you’re unlikely to encounter a training plan without one. This doesn’t mean they can’t unnerve me. During a fartlek run, there is usually a mile or two warm up followed by an alloted time or distance where you have spells of running as fast as you like for as long as you like. I’m sorry, what? Run for as long as I want? As fast as I want? This is not good for my teacher’s pet approach to running of always do what the schedule wants! Next you’ll be telling me to go on a guided city break and when I get there to just ‘have a wander’.

OK would you just tell us about the last day of term. I know that’s what you’re thinking. I can’t believe I’ve gone on about fartleks for this long either. It’s the same really, just when you’re used to going to school and having the same old lessons, the last day of term comes along and it goes crazy. Bringing in board games, sitting on tables, drawing on shirts. At least that’s what it was like back in the day.

But…in the same way as it was back then, just as fartleks are now, it’s a nice change!

Right, back to running, this is how week 5 eventually panned out:

Mon: 5 miles easy
Tue: 5 miles fartleks (what, fartleks??)
Wed: 5 miles + 6 miles easy
Thu: 8 miles, inc 10k negative split (first 5k 23mins, second 5k 20mins)
Fri: 8 miles easy
Sun: 17 miles easy (2hr 15)

It was actually a monumental week as it’s the longest running week I’ve ever had. Popping in a 17 mile long run on Sunday always helped my cause there but I’m chuffed with 88km altogether.

Another highlight was my negative split run on Thursday. ¬†These can generally be pretty horrific if you’re not in the right frame of mind. ¬†Running the first half of the run at a reasonably fast pace, knowing you have to run the second half of the run even quicker. ¬†Inevitably, during the first half you start to feel more and more broken. ¬†The prospect of upping the pace at halfway just makes you wish your ham sandwich back at the office had worked harder to entice you back into your chair when you got up to go running. Somehow though when I did turn to up the pace at halfway, I settled into it in the end. Granted at first my legs had serious questions of exactly what I was playing at but they’ve become accustomed to such torment now and just sucked it up. I know you’re all on tenterhooks wanting to know what the pace trace looked like, aren’t you? No? Well just in case here it is:

Overly Scientific Negative Split Pace Chartweek5-neg-split

 

As I’ve already alluded to, the week concluded with my 17 mile long run. This was for the most without incident until the last km when I got an absolute soaking. Add to that the fact I’d already got 26km on my legs, I looked a fairly horrific example of humankind.

It is always at this time when you meet hundreds of people out walking their dogs or having a pleasant Sunday pootle around the village with the family. Then I lumber round the corner. I’m sure I can hear the stunned gasps; many shield their children’s eyes or make a grab for their dogs who have switched to family protection mode. Every part of me wants to explain that I usually look just like one of them, but I’ve just been running for 2 hours. I never do as I’m not convinced this will help my cause. So I just stagger on past sometimes uttering a hello but, having not spoken at all during my run, this is a huge gamble as to how that will come out. Again, quitting while I’m behind is usually the best way. Besides I’m normally buzzing inside because I’ve just been out enjoying myself and seeing scenes like this:

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My tardiness in my update means I’ve already got my teeth into week 6 which is planned out like this:

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I haven’t done it for a couple of weeks but wanted to thank everyone who’s contributed to the cause so far. I really appreciate how generous people have been and it genuinely helps the willpower levels when they are needed most. Usually when there’s a massive ham sandwich on my desk and it’s negative split day

Tom’s Just Giving

Week 4 and the Elusive Runner’s Tailwind

Week 4 has altogether been windy. This will come as no surprise to many of you as you’ll have been outside. Wind is a real pain for us runners though (snigger – you know I don’t mean that kind of wind).

There are certain aspects of a windy day that you usually take for granted, which suddenly don’t appear to apply when you’re out running. The main one of these is this simple belief:

If you have a strong headwind and turn round to run the other way, you will now have a tailwind.

Sounds fairly straightforward doesn’t it? That’s what I thought. Until last Monday. I set off on my Monday recovery run and it was pretty blowy to say the least. You can see from the clouds it wasn’t that pleasant to be out:

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Hinton airfield 25/01/15

You’d be right to think this looks like an airfield. It is. I work within running range of two local airfields which are both littered with public footpaths. This helps to mix up the runs and seems quite high as far as airfield density is concerned. Anyway, you didn’t want to read about airfields, we were talking about wind.

I set out and the wind was really tough and right in the face. It’s hard to explain how strong the wind is in writing but it was strong enough to blow me into the verge a couple of times. This inevitably always happened when there was some oncoming traffic. To them, it’s not clear quite how windy it is so I imagine they think they’re approaching a seriously drunk guy staggering around with oddly reflective gloves on.

It’s ok though, this was a ‘there and back’ run so I’ll be flying when I turn round at the airfield to run home. You know where this is going don’t you? Of course you do, you’ve read the title. How is it then that when I turned round, lo and behold, there was no tailwind. It was still blowing in my face? This seems to happen again and again,surely it’s not just me?! Believe me, this is absolutely not because I’m running so fast I’m generating my own headwind.

The same goes for hills. I often do a circular route which is apparently uphill the entire time! Throw in a constant headwind on that circular route and you have the ultimate runner’s run!

Not that you’d guess from this opening tirade but it’s been a good running week and I completed my January running with a total of 263km for the month. This is certainly the best start I’ve had for any year.

It may have been a windy week but by Thursday it was at least sunny for interval day:

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After a weekend away, it was late on Sunday when we got back. The plan required me to run a sub-40 10k or sub-32 8k but at 9pm in the dark and drizzle I just couldn’t find enough willpower. I managed 10k in total but only a quick 5k in the middle. I made sure it was the same pace as intended though, even if it wasn’t as long. Something is better than nothing and life is going to get in the way of running again before the marathon I’m sure. Sometimes family and fun comes first.

In short this has been my week:

Mon: 4 miles easy
Tues: 6 miles half marathon pace
Wed: 8 miles easy
Thu: 8 miles intervals – 7x800m (3min 800m)
Fri: 5 miles easy
Sun: 6 miles, middle 3 at 10k pace

This week is really ramping up the miles now and in a weird way I’m kind of looking forward to it. Here’s the plan and I’ll let you know how I get on. You let me know if you ever encounter a downhill tailwind run too:

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What They Didn’t Tell Me About Foam Rollers

Seriously, just look at her:

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Doesn’t she look like she’s enjoying it? It almost looks like a fun game. Now my mileage is on the up, i thought it prudent to try some rolling; also to use words like prudent to sound more authoritative about such things. A couple of years back I had two or three months with a recurring calf strain and I’m determined that it’s not going to return to spoil my marathon party.

On Googling ‘foam rolling of calf muscles’ I was confronted with images similar to that above which only implied that the whole experience would be a pleasure. I couldn’t wait to get started.

This is it:

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It looks fairly inoffensive doesn’t it? I don’t think I’ve felt so misled since I found out Lassie wasn’t real. Granted, it works as a perfect ‘donker’ on an unsuspecting wife’s head but then you have to actually use it to help your muscles recover!

You’ve seen the picture at the top; Miss Smugface. I set myself up, lay back and propped myself up with my arms, as demonstrated by our guide above, then lifted my calf on to the foam roller. It even sounds playful: foam roller! All that remained was to lower myself to allow my calf to slide along the roller.

Imagine, if you will, what it would look like if you saw someone lowering themselves into a bath of hot oil. Or if that same person stepped out of the bath, barefoot, straight on to a plug. A ‘prongs up’ plug too. Now imagine they have my face. That is what I tend to look like. ¬†That is not what she looks like.

I only roll my calf along the roller 6 or 7 times for each leg, then the same on the side of my thigh to help the IT band* but that is enough.  The premise is that rolling realigns the muscle fibres, allowing them to rebuild and recover more quickly.  I honestly think I felt every individual fibre being aligned.

Do you know, I may not look particularly aesthetically pleasing, fairly monstrous in fact, but it bloomin’ works. The next morning I genuinely feel like I’ve got new legs. Better legs too, stolen from someone who didn’t punish theirs the previous day with unforgiving runs.

There are hundreds of youtube videos to plough through with tried and tested techniques so I’m not going to try and talk you through any. However, I can’t recommend them enough. Just don’t try it first in public.

*dangerously technical territory now as I teeter on the edge of my knowledge limits

Week 3 – Love/Hate Relationship with Intervals

For much of this week, this just about sums up how I was treated during my runs:

week3-ice-running

Everything was going nicely to plan.  It was absolute bliss.  OK, I needed gloves but when the sun is out who cares?  There are often doubts that the sun even exists in England in January so when you get weather like this, all runs seem a little bit easier.  I was beginning to think that even my interval run might not be the usual willpower-draining hell session.  Obviously, I should have known better.  This is what my week 3 looked like:

Strava account for week 3 – in case you think I’m making it up

Week3-plan2

For those of you not familiar with intervals, they are the running session that I dread beforehand but feel like an absolute superstar afterwards. ¬†This week involved a warm up jog (4k) with 4 lots of 1 mile sprints, with 2 minutes of slow jogging in between. ¬†And I mean slow. ¬†Sometimes you can barely call it jogging as it’s amazing how quickly those 2 minutes can go. ¬†I’ve said before that I’m a numbers geek so looking at the pace traces after each run is right up my street. ¬†To help explain how an intervals run works, looking at the pace trace helps:

Intervals run – 21/1/16

Week3-intervals-trace-annot

You can pick out the 4 stints of fast pace I did. ¬†What I find more amusing is how much slower the recovery gets between them as my soul slowly dies (scientifically pointed out with my handy red circles –¬†I promise that is as near to a science lecture as this gets.) ¬†What is more, a busy morning beforehand meant I’d adhered to the highly-recommended hydration routine of one coffee. ¬†Anyway, back to the weather. ¬†It goes without saying that it was intervals day where the sunshine vanished and the drizzle returned. ¬†Still the draw of intervals is that, once you get through it all, it is one of the single most satisfying feelings that you can do. ¬†That feeling carried me through to the weekend long run which would be one of the longest runs I’ve done for quite some time.

 

A combination of an early Sunday morning start, inherent thickheadedness and an inability to convert miles to km meant my long run of an intended 15 miles actually became 16.4. ¬†Since Silverstone is pretty rural, there are so many different single track roads to choose from when I’m out and about on a long run. ¬†The trouble is, when it’s dark, it really is dark – can’t see your hand in front of your face dark. ¬†I know what you’re thinking, these are the perfect conditions to choose a route that you’ve never been on, about which¬†you’ve not studied Google maps for long enough and one that you’ll do the first time in the pitch black dark. ¬†So a couple of wrong turns here and there meant I extended my long run a little more. ¬†Finally after about 19k, it got light enough to see where I was (and how much further than planned I was going to have to run!):

Long run 16m – 24/1/16

week3-long-run

All in all, this week hasn’t gone badly at all and I’ve not done an 80k week for months and months. ¬†I even got to wear my camelbak on my long run this morning which at least makes me feel the part. ¬†Even if my face gives a quite different¬†impression. ¬†Anyway, bring on week 4:

Week4-plan

Thanks for the support again this week. The charity pot is slowly filling and I’m massively appreciative of the donations I’ve had so far. ¬†It certainly made it feel worth it at 5:45 this morning

Tom’s Justgiving Page