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…

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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

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.

image

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:

image

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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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