Race report: Lichfield 10k

On the morning of Sunday September 11th I found myself obsessively checking National Rail Enquiries. Was the 09:35 train to Lichfield running and was it on time? The 09:35 represented my only chance of making it to the start of the Lichfield 10k. Fortunately, the train was more or less on time for once and I made it to Lichfield with plenty of time to spare.lichfield-collage

When I arrived at the HQ of the race – King Edward VI leisure centre – I took a couple of rubbish selfies and left my bag with some of the friendliest race volunteers ever. I then did what all sensible runners do and joined the queue for the portaloos. Although I didn’t really need to go to the toilet at that stage, the queue was short and I didn’t want to risk a repeat of what happened during the Great Midlands Fun Run. I then bumped into Matt who I hadn’t spoken to since the 7 Pools Run, and we spent several minutes discussing our goals for the race.

As we were both aiming for a similar time – anything under 60 minutes would do – we decided to position ourselves half way between the 55 minute and the 60 minute pacers.sub-55-pacerPhotograph: Lichfield Running Club

If you squint really hard you can just about see me. I’m the plonker in the purple top and black cap standing behind the 55 minute pacer. I’d clearly started slightly too far forward.

The gun went off and we headed out of the school grounds onto the A51. The road had been temporarily closed for the race, nothing beats running past dozens of seriously grumpy looking motorists. Although the first few kilometres felt relatively easy, I was aware that I was running at a slightly ambitious pace. Once we escaped the A51 and reached the more scenic section of the course, I finally started to enjoy myself.

Rather unusually for me, I even managed to grimace smile for the official race photographer who was positioned next to the 4km marker.

I’m pretty sure I’d be a better runner if I actually opened my eyes…

lf-4506Photograph: Mick Hall Photos

This is my pretending it’s easy race face. Less than five minutes later I was walking.

lf-4513Photograph: Mick Hall Photos

Although the next section of the course contained the first of several sneaky hills, I managed to complete the first 5 kilometres in a speedy (for me) time of 27:51. I ran through the water station and then spent the next couple of minutes worrying because it had suddenly started to feel quite warm. I started to struggle mentally, slowed to a walk up the most challenging hill on the course, and hit a low point when I found myself looking down at the A38. My race had suddenly fallen apart.

The A38 near Lichfield – not the most scenic part of the course and the location of my mid-race meltdown.

a38-bridgePhotograph: Google Maps

The final four kilometres were not very enjoyable and I paid the price for setting out at a ridiculous pace. I walked a couple of times and distracted myself by trying to work out if I could still finish in under an hour. I made the most of the downhill sections – sorry knee – and told myself that if I didn’t finish in under an hour I would have to throw away my trainers.

Although I reached the start of the final kilometre in approximately 53 minutes and theoretically had plenty of time to reach the finish, I encountered a problem. Pavement congestion and a lack of overtaking opportunities. The main road had been reopened and as a result we were banished to the (very narrow) pavement. Running in the main road wasn’t an option and I found myself caught up in a couple of bottlenecks. After what felt like hours we turned towards the finish line which had rather unkindly been positioned at the top of a slightly muddy incline.

It’s always good to end a race with an enjoyable hill!

lichfield-elevation

The official clock read 0:59:5x when I ‘sprinted’ across the finish line. I’d just about finished in under an hour.lichfield-10k

I was handed a bottle of water and a medal and spent a couple minutes chilling out and analysing my disastrous attempt at pacing a 10k. I rescued my bag from the friendly volunteers and collected my race t-shirt. When I entered the race I’d selected ‘large’ was I wasn’t sure if there would be male/female sized t-shirts. The t-shirts were unisex and I was the proud owner of a fluorescent yellow running tent. Incidentally, I’ve already worn the t-shirt on a couple of early morning runs. I do love useful race souvenirs.

I’m not sure why the t-shirt looks green in this photo, it’s definitely yellow!

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Once I collected my t-shirt I decided it was time to escape the rather airless leisure centre and headed back out into the sunshine. I bumped into Craig and asked him to take a photo of me posing with the latest addition to my medal collection. Thanks Craig!

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I then thanked the race director and headed across to the Brooks Run Signature Tour trailer. Unfortunately, even though I had an appointment, this was as close as I got! brooks-collage

It looked pretty cool from the distance and I loved the red sports bra I was standing next to when I took my grumpy selfie.

The official race photos were published online two days after the race, and thanks to the event organiser, digital downloads were free. More races definitely could and should do the same!

I’m always happy to support really well organised events and injury permitting I’ll be looking to add to my collection of Lichfield 10k t-shirts in 2017.

Race Ratings:

  • Cost: 8/10 (£17 as an affiliated runner)
  • Course: 6/10
  • Medal: 9/10
  • Goody Bag: n/a (9/10 for the technical race t-shirt)

Great Birmingham Run training week 13

Although the twelfth week of my Great Birmingham Run training was really successful, rather irrationally I was concerned that I would be unable to complete week 13. Sometimes I hate being such a negative Nora.collage-31Week 13 of my Great Birmingham Run training plan consisted of another short 20 minute recovery jog on Monday, a 60 minute brisk paced run on Wednesday, a 45 minute easy paced run on Friday and finally, a slightly scary looking easy 100 minute jog on Sunday. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday were rest days. Although Sunday’s long run looked really, really challenging, I was determined to run for 100 minutes.

Monday – 20 mins very easy

When I quite literally fell out of bed on Monday morning, my legs were barely functioning. An awesome start to the week! Unlike last week when I had the option of delaying my 20 minute run until the afternoon, it was a case of either run in the morning or miss my recovery run. After spending what felt like forever stretching I decided to run. The entire run was challenging and I got soaked. Week 13 of my Great Birmingham Run training hadn’t got off to a very good start, things could only get better [Strava].

After a slightly rushed couple of hours trying to pack everything I needed for my meeting in London, I found myself sitting rather uncomfortably on the 10:50 train to Euston. Stupid tight calf muscles. Fortunately, the train journey was incident free and not delayed, and after a quick journey across to Westminster, I found myself fighting my way past hordes of tourists. I successfully navigated my way to the location of my meeting – Smith Square – and then spent the afternoon reliving the EU referendum debate.  I can confirm I was the only person wearing trainers, an epic fail!

The meeting finished and I swapped the tourists at Westminster for the crowds of shoppers at Oxford Circus underground station. I then met up with my friend and rather predictably we headed straight to the pub. After a couple of pints we both realised that we hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast, so we headed to my favourite Italian restaurant – Casa Becci. Predictably I had Calamari Fritti to start followed by Penne Amatriciana pasta. Next time I’ll be slightly more adventurous, perhaps.

Tuesday – Rest

I spent Tuesday in London and managed to avoid too much exercise. I headed across to Clapham in the morning as I wanted to have a nose at where I used to live next to Clapham Common. After discovering that not that much had changed in five years, I decided to walk down the high street to Sweatshop to treat myself to another pair of custom inserts. My current inserts are almost two years old so I felt that it was probably time for an upgrade. Thirty minutes later I escaped Clapham and headed back to my flat for some lunch. I then spent the afternoon trying to decipher my notes from Monday’s meeting.collage-32In the evening I met up with a friend and after a quick pint in the Kings Head pub we walked across to Pizza Express. I managed to convince my slightly reluctant friend to share a portion of dough balls between us to start with, luckily the dough balls were a huge success! As I’m not a fan of pizza, I opted for an unhealthy grand chicken Caesar salad followed by profiteroles. We then headed across the road to Regent Street Cinema where we bought tickets for ‘Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ and took advantage of the cocktail offer. The documentary was ‘interesting’ and the cocktails deceptively strong.

Wednesday – Rest

After spending most of the morning feeling hung-over and guilty for not running, I eventually left London just before lunch. I arrived back in Four Oaks a couple of hours later, and spent the rest of the afternoon writing up my meeting report. As the weather was dire and I still felt slightly peaky I decided to delay my 60 minute run until the following morning.

Thursday – 60 mins brisk

Although it was dark, wet and windy when my alarm woke me up at 05:30, I forced myself to get out of bed and into some running gear. I went to the loo, had a drink and then headed out the door into the wind and rain. I completed a five minute warm-up and then set out on what should have been a 60 minute run at a ‘brisk’ pace. It took less than five minutes of slightly speedier than normal running for me to realise that maintaining a faster pace wasn’t sensible. It was dark and the rain had made the pavements even more hazardous than normal. To add to my running woes, my legs felt like lumps of lead and calf muscles felt really tight. I slowed down, relaxed and started to enjoy my run [Strava].

After spending the rest of the morning and the afternoon pretending to be an academic, I got changed into some gym gear, rolled out my yoga mat and worked my way through James from Kinetic Revolutions ‘How to Foam Roll Your Calf Muscles’ video. Thanks for the recommendation Anna and Maria! Once I’d finished inflicting pain on my calf muscles I treated my feet to an ice bath and my right knee to a slightly overdue session with my icepack. I went to bed feeling confident I’d be able to complete a 45 minute run the following morning.

Friday – 45 mins easy pace

Although it was pitch black when I looked outside at 05:30 it had stopped raining and the wind had died down. I went to the loo, got changed into some running gear, drank a glass of water and headed out the door. It was so cold I immediately headed back into the house to grab one of my bright yellow, luminous long-sleeved running tops. It felt as if autumn had finally made an appearance. After a very quick attempt at a warm-up I felt ready to run. Once I’d both woken and warmed up after ten minutes or so I decided to increase my pace. Inevitably, I ended up completing my ‘easy’ 45 minute run at a faster pace than my so-called ’brisk’ run the previous day [Strava]. collage-33I walked back home, drank a couple of glasses of a product I’m reviewing at the moment and then spent what felt like ages icing my right knee. After a post-run foam rolling session and hot shower I felt refreshed and ready to tackle Friday. I spent the morning sourcing references for the ‘Brexit and environmental legislation’ report I’d been asked to write, and the afternoon updating my CV and catching up on some admin. Yes my life is dull at the moment.

Saturday – Rest

Once again I found myself spending my Saturday rest day catching up on some long overdue housework. Although I felt quite guilty for making several dozen spiders homeless, I’d love to know why they seem to prefer my study to the rest of the house. Saturday evening was a bit of a disaster and I didn’t get to bed until 12:30, not ideal when I had my alarm set for 05:30 the following morning.

Sunday – Easy 100 min jog

Rather predictably I felt shattered when my alarm woke me at 05:30. Luckily I had planned out a ten mile route so I knew I would be able to run on autopilot. I also felt hungry and really dehydrated, clearly not the best preparation for a long run. I went to the loo, got dressed into my lucky Sunday run outfit, drank a couple of glasses of water, went to the loo again, readjusted my trainers for the third time and headed out the door. After a quick warm-up I felt physically if not mentally ready to attempt to run for 100 minutes.

I set out at a steady pace and once I’d got into my stride I started to enjoy my run. Although it was quite cold and wet, I quickly discovered that it was the wind that would represent the main challenge. At one stage the wind was so strong I felt like I was barely moving forwards. Once I escaped from the wind, running felt a lot easier and I managed to speed up slightly. When I’d been running for what felt like forever but was actually only for 40 minutes, I reached a road I’d never run down before. I discovered that I’d managed to add two miles of relentless undulations to my route from last week. I almost walked when I realised that the second half of my run would be more challenging than the first half, but I gave myself a talking to and carried on plodding.

Thanks to Birmingham City Council I was plunged into darkness at 07:00 when the streetlights were turned off. Although I struggled to run up my nemesis hill on Belwell Lane, for once I didn’t resort to walking. When I reached the top of the hill I realised that I’d been running for well over an hour and, therefore, only had to run for another 30 minutes or so. My confidence grew and I made an attempt to increase my pace. Less than half an hour later I’d reached the end of my 100 minute run [Strava].

As soon as I got home I made myself drink a couple of glasses of orange nuun. I didn’t want to spend the rest of Sunday struggling with a post-run headache. I spent twenty minutes sitting watching rubbish on the TV while I tried to ice my feet and my right knee. After a quick session with the foam roller and a hot shower, I went back to bed for a couple of hours.

So that’s the thirteenth week of my half marathon training more or less successfully completed. A two day trip to London and my inability to drink in moderation meant that I had to swap a couple of my midweek training sessions around. I made a couple of my training sessions slightly more challenging than they should have been, and once again failed to get my pacing right. Although a couple of poor runs at the beginning of the week were slightly disappointing, my long run on Sunday helped to restore my confidence.

Next week’s training schedule contains four runs and is described as a ‘peak week’. The schedule contains the most challenging training run in the training plan I’ve been following since the end of June. I’ve got to complete ‘steady’ paced 50 minute runs on Tuesday and Thursday, a 10 minute ‘easy jog’ on Saturday and then a long run lasting between 100 and 120 minutes on Sunday. Although I’ve got no idea if I can run for two hours, I’m going trust the training plan and will aim to for run for the full 120 minutes. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are my rest, recovery and rebuilding days when my foam roller will be used on a regular basis.

Training totals

  • Runs: 44
  • Time: 22 hours 0 mins
  • Distance: 215.59 kms

Races/time trials

  • 5 km: 28:15
  • 10 km: 59:27

Niggleometer

  • Left foot: 6/10
  • Right knee: 6/10
  • Calf muscles: 8/10
  • Shins: 1/10

Do you have a favourite or a lucky running outfit? I hope that I’m not the only runner who has a pair of lucky shorts and capri tights.

Has running turned you into a lightweight? Although I only drank a couple of glasses of red wine and a small cocktail on Tuesday evening, Wednesday was a write-off. I’m blaming my inability to drink on running.

Great Birmingham Run training week 12

I ended the eleventh week of my Great Birmingham Run training with a slightly disastrous run at the Lichfield 10k. My confidence was low and I seriously considered quitting running.collage-29Week 12 of my Great Birmingham Run training plan consisted of a short 20 minute recovery jog on Monday, a 55 minute steady paced run on Wednesday, another 20 minute jog on Saturday and finally, an 85 minute long run on Sunday. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday were rest days. Although the long run on Sunday looked challenging, I was determined to run continuously for 85 minutes.

Monday – 20 mins recovery jog

When I got out of bed first thing on Monday morning I could hardly walk. The 10m walk to the bathroom was a challenge. The Lichfield 10k had destroyed my legs more than I’d realised. I decided to postpone my 20 minute recovery jog until later in the day. After spending the morning packaging up my latest eBay sales and then causing an impressive queue in the local Post Office, I walked the couple of miles to the local shops to get some lunch. As the walking seemed to help to ease the stiffness in my legs, I decided to head out for my run later in the afternoon.

Once again I failed to run at a sensible pace. What should have been a ‘recovery jog’ turned into a speedy (for me) run. In my defence, by the time I headed out on my run it was so humid I felt better when I ran faster and generated some breeze. I also speeded up to get away from a lady walking a slightly scary dog. The humid conditions were energy sapping – as soon as I got home I made myself drink a couple of large glasses of water. I then spent 30 minutes icing my right knee and left foot. Week 12 of my half marathon training was off to a positive start [Strava].

Tuesday – Rest

The highlight of my rest day on Tuesday was getting caught outside in a thunderstorm in the afternoon. It suddenly went dark and then the rain made an unwelcome appearance. I got soaked to the skin because I was a muppet and was too scared to use my umbrella. Once I’d recovered from my traumatic experience, I spent an hour working through several of the slightly less challenging Jasyoga reset videos.

Wednesday – Rest

I should have completed a 55 minute steady paced run on Wednesday morning. Unfortunately, when my alarm woke me at 05:30, I discovered that I’d got a migraine. Not being able to see properly was not ideal, and I accepted that running would be out of the question. Luckily I felt a lot better by the evening, and was confident I’d be able to at least attempt a 55 minute run on Thursday.

Thursday – 55 mins steady

After spending the majority of Wednesday trying to sleep through my migraine, I was dressed and ready to run before my alarm went off at 05:30. Unfortunately, when I looked out the window I discovered that it was dark and very, very foggy. Not an ideal combination. As I didn’t want to run later on in the day when it was forecast to get very warm, I decided to risk heading out for a run. Running in dense fog and not being able to see more than 10 metres in front of me was an interesting experience. I decided to be careful and ran at a slow but sensible pace. Although I found running up the same stretch of road several times slightly tedious, the run was incident free. At the end of the 55 minutes I felt as if I could have carried on running [Strava].

After lunch I spent a couple of hours listing more of my unwanted running related paraphernalia on eBay. Hopefully some of it will sell. I then spent the rest of the afternoon preparing for a meeting I’ve been asked to attend on Monday. Reading about the potential implications of Brexit on the water sector was pretty disheartening.

Friday – Rest

I was really relieved that Friday was a rest day. Once again my right knee was quite painful and had clearly not reacted well to running for 55 minutes. In addition, the location of the previous stress fracture in my left foot was also quite tender. As a result I spent most of the morning sitting at my computer with icepacks balanced on my right knee and left foot. In the afternoon I dug out my foam roller and spent 30 minutes or so trying to massage out some of the knots in my calf muscles. Although, by the evening both my dodgy knee and calf muscles felt a million times better, my left foot still felt sore. I didn’t think what I was experiencing were just ‘phantom pains’ and for the first time I wondered if I’d make it to the start line in October.

Saturday – 20 mins very easy jog

As I decided to give myself a bit of a lie in, I didn’t head out on my 20 minute run until it was almost 08:00. What should have been a ‘very easy jog’ turned into quite a fast run when I noticed that there was a group of people running behind me. For some reason my competitive instinct kicked in and I was determined not to be overtaken. I wasn’t overtaken and I made it home without inuring myself [Strava].

Sunday – 85 mins easy pace

When I mapped out the route for my final training session of week 12, I made sure that I gave myself the best chance of running continuously for 85 minutes. At 05:30 on Sunday morning it was dark outside and so quiet it was quite creepy. Every footstep I made seemed to echo around the neighbourhood, I was concerned that my plodding would wake up half of Four Oaks. Although it was cold enough for me to regret opting to wear a short sleeved running top, I found running in the cooler conditions really enjoyable. I set off at a sensible pace and made sure that I didn’t inadvertently start to speed up, I told myself that I could increase my pace when I’d been running for an hour. This new and more sensible approach undoubtedly worked as the 85 minute run felt easy [Strava].collage-30I got home, drank two pints of strawberry milkshake and then sat in the garden analysing what I’d just achieved. Although I had wanted to run for 85 minutes, I had questioned whether I was capable of running for over an hour without stopping. The Lichfield 10k had dented my confidence quite a lot and had made me question myself as a runner. After chilling out – literally as it was still cold – outside for a few minutes I spent 30 minutes icing my right knee and left foot. I then had a shower and headed back to bed in an attempt to get some more sleep.

So that’s the twelfth week of my half marathon training successfully completed. I’m thrilled that I’ve managed to nurse my fragile body through 75 per cent of my training plan. There are only four weeks of training to go, two of those weeks are cutback weeks.

Next week’s training schedule contains another four runs and looks pretty challenging. Once again I’ve got to drag myself around a 20 minute run on Monday morning. I’ve then got to complete a 60 minute ‘brisk’ run on Wednesday, a 45 minute ‘easy’ run on Friday and then a longer 100 minute jog on Sunday. After this morning’s successful run I’m feeling quite confident I can run for 100 minutes. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are what I like to think of as rest, recovery and rebuilding days.

Training totals

  • Runs: 40
  • Time: 18 hours 15 mins
  • Distance: 180.78 kms

 Races/time trials

  • 5k: 28:05
  • 10k: 59:27

Niggleometer

  • Left foot: 6/10
  • Right knee: 4/10
  • Calf muscles: 4/10
  • Shins: 1/10

Do you find yourself speeding up when you see other runners? With my injury-prone body and lack of fitness I need to learn how to let other runners overtake me!

Do you have any links to foam rolling exercises you are willing to share? My calf muscles are really, really tight at the moment, so I know that I need to make more effort to torture myself.

Great Birmingham Run training week 11

Thanks once again for all of the lovely comments and feedback on my last training update blog. I know that I’ve said it before, but my family really don’t understand my obsession with running. I’ve now given up trying to explain why running is awesome!collage-26Week 11 of my Great Birmingham Run training plan consisted of a 20 minute run on Monday, a 40 minute run on Wednesday, another 20 minute run on Saturday and a 10k race or time trial on Sunday. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday were rest days. I was determined to complete the Lichfield 10k on Sunday in under an hour. Anything over an hour would be classed as a failure. You can’t beat a bit of self-induced pressure.

Monday – 20 mins easy jog

When my alarm woke me at 05:30, the last thing I felt like doing was going for a run. I could tell that getting out of bed and walking was going to be ‘interesting’. I gave myself a stern talking to and eventually got out of bed. Although my legs felt really stiff they weren’t actually painful. I hobbled to the loo, got changed into some running gear, successfully navigated the stairs, drank a couple of glasses of water and headed out the door. After an extended 10 minute warm-up in the rain I felt ready to run. The first ten minutes of the run were challenging. My tired legs meant that for once I ran at a sensible pace. Although the second ten minutes felt slightly easier, my legs still felt really tired. Week 11 was off to a steady if not very enjoyable start [Strava].

In the afternoon I decided to be brave and caught the train into Birmingham. Less than an hour after leaving home, I found myself in Up & Running for the launch party of their new weekly social running group. For the millionth time I was reminded of the awesomeness of the running community. After spending an hour chatting about running, we were ushered outside for a group photo. Although the 5 k run was optional I decided that my foot and knee could cope with a second run. We ended up running at quite a fast pace alongside the Worcester and Birmingham Canal towards Birmingham University. Have I mentioned that I have a slight phobia of canals…? [Strava]. collage-27After a quick sit down and drink, we headed over the road to The Botanist for a free non-alcoholic cocktail and some healthy nibbles chips. The running related chat continued for another hour, and I eventually left the pub with an invitation to join another running club, tips on how beat the infamous “hill of doom” that is located towards the end of the Great Birmingham Run and very stiff legs. I can’t wait for the next social run.

Tuesday – Rest

My legs and calf muscles clearly hadn’t appreciated my additional evening run, walking was challenging when I first got out of bed. I spent the morning and early afternoon working on my Rivers of the Anthropocene paper – hopefully it’s nearly finished – and the late afternoon sorting through some paperwork. In the evening I worked my way through my physio exercises and resisted the temptation to injure myself attempting level one of the ’30 Day Shred’. As my calf muscles still felt really, really tight I braved my foam roller for the first time in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten how hard using the foam roller correctly can be, my weedy arms struggled to support my weight.

Wednesday – 40 mins fast with warm-up and cool-down

After managing to complete a super speedy transition from my bed to my front door, I once again found myself outside completing my warm-up in the dark. The training schedule wanted me to run ’40 minutes fast’ with a warm-up and cool-down. I completed a five minute warm-up and then headed out on what felt like quite a fast (for me!) paced run. Although it was still relatively early the pavements were quite popular. For the first time in weeks I actually saw someone else running in the distance. I felt quite jealous of the female runner who had a male accompanying her on his bike. It would be pretty amazing to have such a supportive partner.

Anyway, back to the 40 minute run. Although I really did try to run at a slightly faster pace, my legs felt like lead and my calf muscles felt quite tight. As I didn’t want to risk injuring myself, after 15 minutes of struggling I decided to run at a more sensible and sustainable pace. Once I relaxed and started to enjoy my run, my pace actually increased. I was reminded that running is meant to be a stress reliever, not a cause of additional stress and anxiety. I finished my 40 minute run and spent ten minutes trying to cool-down – although it was still only 06:30 it was very humid. I think I eventually stopped sweating about an hour later [Strava].

Thursday – Rest

I was relieved that Thursday was a rest day. My right knee was feeling niggly and my calf muscles were tight. I spent most of the morning making the five mile return trip to check on mum’s house. I miss my car! Once I’d made sure that the Aga hadn’t spontaneously combusted and that the plants had all been sufficiently watered, I decided to mow the lawns. It took me well over an hour to mow the lawns, when I’d finished I felt shattered. The remainder of Thursday was a lot more restful.

Friday – Rest

Another rest day and more time for my knee, foot and calf muscles to recover. As my right knee was sore after my session with the lawnmower, I spent an hour watching the Paralympics with an icepack balanced on my knee. Not quite the productive start to the day I had planned. After spending far too many hours sitting working on my computer, I realised that I was getting yet another headache. I got changed into some gym gear, rolled out my yoga mat and worked my way through several of Jasyoga’s five minute reset videos. Unfortunately, my headache was quite persistent so I abandoned my yoga mat and went for a short walk in Sutton Park. In the evening I treated my right knee to a second session with my icepack and then worked my way through a selection of my knee strengthening exercises.

Saturday – 20 mins jog

As it was raining heavily when my alarm initially woke me at 05:30, I decided to give myself a Saturday morning lie in. I knew that the rain would keep the majority of the dog walking brigade inside. I eventually got out of bed at 07:00 and was starting my warm-up in the rain ten minutes later. It was cold! My run was very similar to Monday’s 20 minute slow run. The first ten minutes were challenging, I found myself questioning my decision to run my slightly more challenging 2 mile route. Although the second half of the run was easier, I was aware that my right knee wasn’t enjoying the downhill finish so I slowed down [Strava].

Sunday – 10k race or time-trial

I should have been completing an 85 minute run at an ‘easy pace’ but decided to run in the Lichfield 10k instead. I’ll be writing a review of the Lichfield 10k in a separate post so I won’t waffle on here, but in summary. It was warm, I set out at a ridiculous pace, struggled from the halfway point, walked a few times and staggered across the finish line in just under an hour [Strava]. collage-28So that’s the eleventh week of my half marathon training successfully completed. Fortunately, there are only another five weeks to go. I made the mistake of running twice in one day, I won’t be doubling up again in the near future. If I ignore what happened during the Lichfield 10k, I think that I got slightly better at maintaining a sensible pace. At least I finally managed to achieve one of my 2016 running goals – a sub 60-minute 10k.

Next week’s training schedule contains four runs and looks quite scary. I’ve got to somehow drag my very tired legs around a 20 minute recovery jog tomorrow morning. I’ll have to assess how I feel in the morning. I’ve then got to aim to complete a 55 minute ‘steady run’ on Wednesday, another 20 minute jog on Saturday and then an 85 minute run on Sunday. Looking at the training schedule I suspect that the rest days on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday will be the highlight of the week.

Training totals

  • Runs: 36
  • Time: 15 hours 15 mins
  • Distance: 152.43 kms

Races/time trials

  • 5 km: 28:05
  • 10 km: 59:27

Niggleometer

  • Left foot: 5/10
  • Right knee: 4/10
  • Calf muscles: 4/10
  • Shins: 1/10

Would you ever attempt a running streak? My legs felt really tired after my runs on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I’ve got no idea how (or why) people start and then maintain running streaks.

Are your family supportive of your running? I guess I notice the complete lack of support more because I’m single and don’t have a supportive partner.

Great Birmingham Run training week 10

After successfully completing week nine of my half marathon training plan, I looked forward to tackling a series of four slightly more challenging training runs during week 10.Collage 25Week 10 of my training plan consisted of of a 35 minute run on Tuesday, a 45 minute run on Thursday, a 20 minute ‘recovery jog’ on Friday, and then a slightly scary looking 75 minute jog/walk on Sunday. Monday, Wednesday and Saturday were rest and recovery days. Although the training plan gave me the slightly confusing option of jogging or walking, I was determined to run continuously for 75 minutes on Sunday. I’ve entered the Great Birmingham Run not the Great Birmingham Walk!

Monday – Rest

My left foot and right knee were virtually pain free when I dragged myself out of bed on Monday morning. My longer run hadn’t turned my niggles into more serious injuries. What a relief! I then remembered that it was a Bank Holiday and realised that the sun was shining. Great news, I would be able to meet up with some friends for a drink later on. Unfortunately, although my foot and knee felt great, as lunchtime approached my stomach started to feel decidedly dodgy. I had to cancel my early afternoon drinking session.

By the late afternoon I felt a lot better so decided to head out for a walk. This turned out to be a bad decision. Have you ever tried walking when you really, really need to go to the toilet? It wasn’t easy. One minute I felt fine, the next minute I urgently needed to go to the toilet. I was about two miles from home so I ended up waddling to the pub. Fortunately I didn’t have an accident and made it to the pub. After using the facilities, I somehow found myself sitting outside drinking a pint of beer. Rather predictably the beer didn’t help to settle my stomach. At least I made it home without needing to make a second emergency toilet dash.

Tuesday – 35 mins easy

When my alarm woke me at 05:30, although I was groggy and slightly dehydrated, I felt well enough to attempt a 35 minute run at an easy pace. I went to the loo, got changed into some of my brighter running gear, knocked back a large glass of water and headed out the door. It was so dark. After a five minute warm-up I felt ready to run. Predictably the first ten minutes or so of the run felt terrible and I felt like walking back home. I’ve realised that the majority of the first mile of my favourite early morning route is uphill. At least it stops me running too fast to start with. Although the first ten minutes of the run were far from enjoyable, once I’d got into my stride I found the rest of the run really enjoyable [Strava].

I got home, drank a pint of strawberry milkshake and then spent 30 minutes icing my right knee and left foot. My week 10 training had got off to a positive start. I then had a shower and headed back to bed for a 30 minute power nap. When I woke up a second time I felt mentally refreshed and ready to spend the rest of the day working on the discussion section of my Rivers of the Anthropocene paper. It took me over seven hours to write 2000 words. And I thought my blog writing was slow.

Wednesday – Rest

Another rest day, have I mentioned just how much I love rest days… I spent the morning and early afternoon reviewing a couple of unpublished academic manuscripts. Nothing is more demoralising than reading through other people’s manuscripts when you are still waiting for your own paper to make its way through the academic review system. Comparison really is the thief of joy. In the evening I worked my way through the knee and bum strengthening exercises I’d neglected. My troublesome right knee seemed to cope with some of the more challenging exercises. I then spent an enjoyable thirty minutes playing ‘dodge the wasp’ while I searched for my lightweight running jacket in the attic. Although my running jacket was nowhere to be seen, I found my old heart rate monitor and subsequently managed to pair it to my current Garmin. A runner can never have too many geeky statistics…

Thursday – 45 mins brisk pace

My alarm woke me at 05:30, less then ten minutes later I was dressed and ready to run. After a very quick warm-up I felt mentally if not physically ready to attempt a 45 minute run. Although the training run for Thursday was described as a 45 minute run at a ‘brisk pace’ I decided to start off at a sensible pace. Once I’d completed the first ten minutes or so and had both warmed and woken up, I decided to make an attempt to speed up. Well I thought that I’d increased my pace. The Strava statistics and heart rate monitor readings for the run suggest otherwise [Strava].

In the afternoon I spent what felt like hours listing more of my unwanted junk on eBay. It took me over three hours to photograph and list ten items. Not the most productive use of my time. I had originally planned to sort through some of the clothes I’ve got stashed away in the loft. Unfortunately, I was greeted by dozens of wasps when I switched the loft light on. I’d already been stung by a wasp once this summer, and didn’t to be stung again so I decided to postpone my loft sorting.

Friday – 20 mins recovery jog

I decided to give myself a bit of a lie in so turned off my alarm clock. I must have needed the extra sleep as I didn’t wake up until 08:00. Not ideal when I had loads to get done before I could nip out for a lunchtime run. In addition, I’d already arranged for my friend to give me a lift to Sutton Park at 12:00. My friend would ride his bike in Sutton Park while I was running. I spent the morning trying to complete a million and one tasks I should have completed before the start of the new month, got changed into some running gear and then waited for my friend to arrive. I’m not saying that my friend is unreliable, but I didn’t start my run until 13:30. By this stage I was feeling grumpy and hungry, not a winning combination.

What should have been a ‘recovery jog’ turned into Emma trying to complete a couple of Strava segments in the fastest time possible. Not very sensible. By the time I’d been running for 15 minutes I was really, really struggling and virtually slowed to a walk. I was wearing a lightweight jacket and felt like I was about to overheat. I’ve never felt so relieved to finish a run. What a contrast to the day before [Strava].

I walked back to the Tennis Club and then spent 30 minutes waiting for my friend to return from his bike ride. Although I’d got far too warm while I was running, as soon as I stopped I started to feel quite cold and slightly dizzy. Next time my friend offers to give me a lift to Sutton Park I think I’ll say no. I clearly can’t run on an empty stomach.

Saturday – Rest

If I ignore the couple of hours I spent trying to make my house look respectable in the morning, and the six mile ‘route planning’ stroll around Four Oaks I completed in the afternoon, then Saturday was a successful rest day.  The stroll turned out to be useful, as I discovered that the 7.5 mile route I’d mapped out was no longer an option due to the seemingly never ending pavement works.

Sunday – 75 mins jog/walk

Once again the prospect of having to run for over an hour resulted in me not sleeping very well, at least I knew that I could have a long post-run nap. Not surprisingly I felt really tired when my alarm woke me at 05:30, getting out of bed was a monumental struggle. I went to the loo, got dressed into one of my more garish running outfits, knocked back a couple of glasses of water and headed out the door. After a quick warm-up I felt more or less ready to attempt to ‘jog’ for 75 minutes. I think it took me two minutes to realise that it was actually really windy – I’m not a huge fan of running in the wind. It took me slightly longer to realise that I’d left my handheld water bottle at home. Not the most positive start!

I followed the same route I’d completed the previous week, and allowed myself a short walking/recovery break when I’d been running for 30 and 60 minutes. The run wasn’t very enjoyable as it felt like I was constantly running into the wind. I also felt slightly nauseous, probably the result of eating a load of garlic bread the night before. In addition, the sausage and pasta bake I’d eaten had clearly contained a lot of salt as I felt really thirsty for the majority of the run. I’ll stop focusing on the negatives now. On a more positive note my knee and foot were virtually pain free and allowed me to run for 75 minutes [Strava].

As soon as I got home I made myself drink a couple of large glasses of water. I don’t think that South Staffs tap water ever tasted so good. I then spent 30 minutes watching the highlights (?) of Andy Murray’s match while I iced my right knee. Once again I was very lazy and went back to bed for a couple of hours.

So that’s the tenth week of my half marathon train more or less successfully completed. I made some of the sessions more challenging than they should have been, and I still need to learn how to maintain a sensible pace during longer training runs. My far from enjoyable 20 minute run on Friday confirmed to me that I’m an early morning runner. Unfortunately, the Great Birmingham Run doesn’t start at 05:30, so I’m going to have to complete a few more mid morning runs before the big day.

Next week’s training schedule contains four runs and looks quite challenging. I’ve got to somehow drag my tired legs around a 20 minute easy jog tomorrow morning. I’ll treat it as a recovery run. Wednesday’s run looks slightly confusing and is described as ’40 mins fast with warm-up and cool-down’ – I think I’ll simply aim to run at a slightly faster pace for 40 minutes. On Saturday I’ve got to complete a 20 minute jog, and on Sunday I’ve decided to swap my 85 minute easy paced run for the 10k time trial I should have completed the following Sunday during week 12. I entered the Lichfield 10k months ago so it makes sense to swap the training sessions around. I’m confident I’ll finally be able to achieve one of my 2016 running goals – a sub 60-minute 10k.

Training totals

  • Runs: 33
  • Time: 13 hours 55 mins
  • Distance: 139.44 kms

 Races/time trials

  • 5 km: 28:05
  • 10 km: TBC during week 11 or 12

Niggleometer

  • Left foot: 4/10
  • Right knee: 4/10
  • Calf muscles: 2/10
  • Shins: 1/10

Have you ever been stung by a wasp or bee while out running? Although my hand was really painful and went numb I managed to complete my run.

Do you ever swap training sessions around or do you stick to a specific training plan? I’m hoping that running a 10 k time trial during week 11 rather than week 12 doesn’t have a negative effect on the rest of my training.

August review

I can’t believe that it’s September already! For some reason I always associate September with new beginnings and the end of summer. I guess it’s because the school and academic year started in September. Anyway, I’m waffling. As you know since the beginning of the year I’ve been producing monthly summaries of my training. I’ve also shared some of my experiences as a not very influential Birmingham-based running blogger.

What worked well? What – if there were any – were my running related achievements? What would I do differently given the opportunity? I then like to look ahead to the new month.

Increasing my mileage

When I started my half marathon training I was determined to leave my run-walk-run addiction behind me. On Sunday I ran continuously for over an hour. The only time I stopped running was to have a drink. By not overestimating my fitness levels and by selecting a 16-week beginner’s half marathon training plan, I’ve finally rediscovered my love of running.

Although I didn’t complete any races in August, I finally made it back to my local parkrun at Walsall Arboretum. Although I really enjoyed running with others, I realised that I’m equally happy running on my own at my own pace.AugustAccording to my Strava statistics I completed 16 training runs during August covering a distance of approximately 76 kilometres, quite an increase from July. I successfully completed weeks 6 to 10 of my half marathon training plan and discovered that I’m definitely an early morning runner.

Running costs

Although I managed to spend £70.99 on running related purchases during August, for the first time in 2016 I avoided buying running gear I don’t need. Progress!

I spent £64.00 on a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 16 trainers, £2.50 on a second-hand running injuries book and £4.49 on a tube of ibuprofen gel. I think that most runners will agree that these were all essential purchases.

I also finally found the time and the motivation to list some of my unwanted running gear on eBay. Everything sold and I made enough money to cover the cost of my new trainers.

Blogging experiences

My blogging mojo returned during August and I enjoyed writing my series of weekly half marathon training review posts. I just need to improve my selfie taking skills or even better, find a friend willing to take the occasional photo of me pretending to run. I also need to work out why WordPress suddenly won’t let me respond to comments on my blog.

I was offered payment in return for a sponsored post for the first time. I turned down the opportunity as I don’t want my blog to become a series of sponsored posts. I also have no idea what a blog post is worth.

I was sent a couple of slightly unusual products to review – I’ve clearly got a reputation as an injury-prone runner. I wonder why!

Looking forward to September

Although my half marathon training has been going really, really well *touches wood* – I’m slightly nervous about the prospect of running for almost two hours in three weeks’ time. Hopefully my right knee and left foot will cope with the increased mileage and longer Sunday runs…Weeks 13 and 14I’m also looking forward to volunteering at the 5 mile run my running club organises on Sunday. Hopefully I won’t be put on car parking duty again… I’m also looking forward to the Lichfield 10 km on September 11th. After studying the course I’m quietly confident I’ll complete the distance in under an hour.

Finally, I’m determined to make some money by selling my unwanted running gear on eBay. I’m only going to allow myself to spend money on race entries. On Monday evening I’m attending a social event at Up and Running in Birmingham. I’m definitely going to have to leave my purse at home.

I know that I’m going to find running for two hours mentally challenging. Does anyone have any longer run survival tips?

Great Birmingham Run training week 9

Although I found week eight of my Great Birmingham Run training relatively easy, week nine of the training plan looked far more challenging. Whenever I studied the training plan, I found myself seriously doubting my ability to complete the longer Sunday run.Collage 23Week nine of my half marathon training plan – described as the second “building phase” – consisted of three rest days, a 10 minute run on Monday, 35 minute runs on Wednesday and Friday, and the slightly scary looking 65 minute run on Sunday. Although I had no idea if my knee would allow me to complete all of the training runs, I was determined to give it my best shot.

Monday – 10 mins easy jog

After running on both Saturday and Sunday, I was a little surprised that Monday wasn’t a rest day. I hadn’t attempted to run on three consecutive days for ages – my 37 year old joints definitely need rest days. On the plus side, only having to complete a ten minute run meant that I could turnoff my 05:30 alarm, bliss.

I must have been feeling particularly lazy, as it took me until 08:30 to actually head out for my run. Once again I found running for ‘only’ ten minutes both physically and mentally challenging. It took a couple of minutes for my right knee to stop twinging and for my breathing to settle down. When I got home and studied my run on Strava – I’m aware this is slightly obsessive behaviour – I realised that I had been running far too fast. Not the best start to the week! [Strava].

Tuesday – Rest

I was really relieved that Tuesday was a rest day. My right knee was feeling quite painful and had clearly not appreciated the three day running streak. I spent most of the morning sitting at my computer with an icepack balanced on my dodgy knee. In the afternoon I worked through some of the knee and bum strengthening exercises I’d neglected recently, and by the evening my right knee felt 99 per cent better. Although I felt quite confident that I’d be able to at least start my next training run, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to run for 35 minutes. I reminded myself that not completing a run due to my right knee would be perfectly acceptable.

Wednesday – 35 mins steady

When my alarm woke me at 05:30 I noticed that it was very dark outside. I debated delaying my run until it got lighter. In the end I decided to run. As I didn’t want to frighten any of the early morning dog walking crew, I decided to wear my hideous, bright orange Nike ‘We Own the Night’ t-shirt. Seriously Nike, what were you thinking when you designed that t-shirt? I got dressed, I went to the loo, had a drink and headed out the door. Although it was quite chilly – evidently the early morning heat wave hadn’t reached Four Oaks – it felt really humid.

Predictably the first ten minutes or so of the run felt terrible. My breathing was erratic and I sounded like I was about to have an asthma attack. Although my right knee wasn’t painful I was aware that it felt quite numb – never a positive sign. Unfortunately the run didn’t improve after the ‘Toxic 10’ and I ended up having to stop and give myself a stern talking to after I’d been running for 20 minutes. My 35 minute ‘run’ became even more farcical when I had to slow to a walk to navigate my way past a section of pavement works. I’d clearly missed the ‘Footway Ahead Closed’ sign. [Strava].

Thursday – Rest

Unfortunately, my right knee was quite painful first thing in the morning, so I spent an hour watching the TV with an icepack balanced on my knee. Not a very productive start to the day. After spending far too long sitting working at my computer, I realised that I was getting a headache, always a sign that I need to take a break. I got changed into some gym gear and worked my way through several of Jasyoga’s brilliant 5-minute reset videos. In the evening I worked through my knee and bum strengthening exercises, and spent an enjoyable hour studying the sports injuries book I’d bought from the charity bookshop.

Friday – 35 mins steady

After my failed attempt at running for 35 minutes on Wednesday, I was determined to successfully complete my training run on Friday morning. My alarm woke me at 05:30, five minutes later I was dressed and more or less ready to run. After a very quick warm-up I felt mentally if not physically ready to attempt a 35 minute run. Although the first ten minutes or so were a struggle, once I’d warmed and woken up I enjoyed the rest of the run. What a contrast to Wednesday [Strava].

I walked home, knocked back a glass of strawberry milkshake and then spent ten minutes sitting outside surrounded by snails and slugs, icing my right knee. After a quick post-run snooze I felt refreshed and ready for Friday. I spent the rest of the day writing an academic paper, reviewing an unpublished manuscript, sorting through some books to sell online, writing a Rants and raves blog post, getting the washing mountain under control and planning a route for my 65 minute run on Sunday. My life is pretty dull at the moment.

Saturday – Rest

The excitement of Friday must have worn me out, as I didn’t wake up until 08:30. I spent the day reading through a pile of academic papers. Not very exciting but I wanted to avoid using my right knee as much as possible. In the evening I gave the pub a miss and spent a stressful hour or so watching Casualty. Hopefully my normal Saturday evening drinking session will resume after the Bank Holiday weekend.     Collage 24

Sunday – 65 mins steady

The prospect of having to run for over an hour was clearly playing on my mind as I only managed to sleep for a couple of hours. Not ideal! When my alarm woke me at 05:30 I felt really tired and had to fight the temptation to hit the snooze button. I went to the loo – twice, got dressed into one of my brightest running outfits, had a couple of glasses of water, filled up my handheld water bottle and headed out the door. After a quick warm-up I felt ready to attempt my longest run since the London Marathon back in April.

Once I’d got the ‘Toxic 10’ out of the way I started to really enjoy my run. I’d mapped out my route the day before using Mapometer – knowing exactly where I had to run made me feel more confident I could complete the run. When I’d been running for approximately 30 minutes I paused my Garmin and walked for a couple of seconds. I felt thirsty and needed a drink, for some reason I can’t drink and run. I really need to master the art of drinking and running. I felt better after my quick water stop and the rest of the run was incident free [Strava].

As soon as I got some I made myself drink a couple of glasses of orange nuun, I was determined to avoid a post run headache. I then sat down and watched some Sunday morning rubbish on the TV while I iced my right knee and left foot. Once I’d finished making myself feel cold I was lazy and had a quick shower and then went back to bed for a couple of hours.

So that’s the ninth week and the second building phase of my half marathon training successfully completed. Once again I was reminded that I need to slow down and maintain a sensible pace during my longer training runs. I was also reminded that I need to drink during longer training runs. I might christen the Ultimate Direction hydration pack I won in a competition earlier this year, at the moment it’s sitting in my wardrobe gathering dust.

Next week’s training schedule contains four runs and looks quite scary. I’ve got to complete a 35 minute run on Tuesday, a slightly speedier 45 minute run on Thursday, a 20 minute recovery run on Friday and then a 75 minute jog/walk on Sunday. I’m confident that I can run for 75 minutes if I start off at a sensible pace. I’ve already planned out a seven mile route.

Training totals

  • Runs: 29
  • Time: 11 hours 0 mins
  • Distance: 110.91 kms

Races/time trials

  • 5 km: 28:15
  • 10 km: TBC during week 12

Niggleometer

  • Left foot: 5/10
  • Right knee: 4/10
  • Calf muscles: 1/10
  • Shins: 1/10

Do you carry water with you on training runs? I don’t usually bother, but on longer training runs I’ve noticed how rubbish I start to feel when I’m thirsty. Fantasising about water can’t be a positive sign!

Do you plan out your route before you run? I personally find it a lot easier when I know exactly where I’m going to be running.