Here it goes again - I got a bit fed up of running at the end of last week (again), just before the Cardiff Half. After a bit of a patchy record of running at Cardiff over previous years (2011 - duff knee (left), 2012 - duff knee (right), 2013 - heat exhaustion and over-gelled), I was serious about running it properly this year.
September was going well. My running (and feelings about running) had improved since we last spoke. I discovered the secret of planning my week around two quality sessions, one tempo and a long run. Okay, that's no secret - everyone suggests that this is the right thing to do, it's just that I finally got around to doing it. Late August / September, I managed to stick with the plan for a few weeks, and was subsequently rewarded at parkrun
I knew that I had one last chance for a PB this year, and I mentally scheduled it in. A case of timing - weather, training load and knowing that I would step things back a bit shortly. When the week came, my Thursday session put me in a dilemma - I wanted to get another quality run, but I also wanted to do the gym classes too. So I did what anyone would do in that situation - done them both. Cut back my run session to a swift one on the treadmill - 6 mins easy, 4 minutes marathon pace, 2 minutes eyeballs out. OK, so probably not the best thing to do just before the Abs class, and yes I was almost sick at one point in class, but I survived. Rested Friday, ready for the big day.
Training is one thing, but then you still have to deal with life. I was overjoyed that my "twin" brother Andrew decided to get married in Prague during the key run-up to the Cardiff Half. This set me a few potential "challenges" to a proper training plan - being overseas for one of the crucial long-run weekends, travel exhaustion and (worst of all) the stag doo. The stag doo was organised by my other twin Brother, Chris (keep up!), who travelled back from Australia for the event. I set up the day nicely by getting my long-awaited PB at parkrun (thanks to previously discussed planning, and the pacing help of Andy Yu). We were due to play "Bubble Football" in the afternoon, then out to Cardiff for the night. Bubble Football was new to me. Essentially you wear a large inflatable ball on the top half of your body and play five a side. I quickly learned that it's nothing about football, more about smashing into people as soon as the ball arrives at their feet, bouncing them off the walls and (if you're short enough) rolling 360 degrees in the Bubble - i.e. potential for serious injury. Brutal is how I would describe it. One of the opposing team seemed to have it in for me - smashing into me at every opportunity - had flashbacks to Rugby at school where I got scared and ran every time the ball came within 10 feet of me. At first, I thought it was Andrew, but no - it was Matthew, one of my sons. Nothing like getting back at your dad for “encouraging” you to do parkrun. Anyway, I dropped on my knees once or twice (not recommended) and fell on both hips (not simultaneously), creating enormous horseshoe shaped bruises that meant I couldn't sleep on my side for two nights. The bit that scared me was when I spotted Andrew looking vulnerable and I ran at him, jumping in the air before bouncing off his back - he went down like a sack of spuds, but my body just appeared to bend - I felt like I'd almost broken my back. That bit was scary, made me think about risks - some are inevitable, others avoidable - this one was avoidable. The evening was good fun though - spent most of it dancing with a friend (she’d never been to a Stag doo either), while the rest of the chaps stood around little tables nursing a drink.
So, what exactly was the point of the last paragraph? I wanted to show that it's not just about the running - life can get in the way. I was four weeks out from my A race, but I had injured myself, got over-tired, missed a few long runs and the plan looked like it was going out of the window.
When in Prague, I booked me and Boy on a running Tour. These are proving quite popular these days. Our guide arrived at the apartment at 08:00 with two water bottles in his hands (which he dutifully carried for us the whole way around, and took photos for us too - think "running slave"). He took us around the City, stopping at various points of interest to tell us his view of the landmarks. I asked for something challenging, so we went all the way up to the Castle, which was a bit Murder Mile-ish, but I was keen not to stop (even though there were no video cameras!) This gave me a perspective on where and when to run in our holiday location - generally early in the morning to avoid traffic. Notice how I said "me" just then - Boy didn't get up until after I returned each day. Long runs are meant for Sunday mornings, and I can proudly say that I ran from old town up to the observation tower on Petrin Hill the morning after the wedding and collected breakfast coffee and croissants from the deli over the road before he saw the light of day.
The week after was almost written off training-wise. A late flight put a serious amount of sleep deprivation my way. I was due to run the Swansea 10K the following Sunday, but my mate pulled out so I dropped it in place of a long run (which I really needed).
I was lucky enough to get a physio appointment on the Thursday before the Half, and experienced that almost magical experience of a sports massage with no pain. No, I'm not joking, my pain threshold is pretty low and I've spent many an hour lying on the couch crying (just as the physio's voice goes that little bit softer and quieter, you know those thumbs are going in!). This time, a tiny bit of tightness in one hamstring, but everything else just spot on, a testament to my warm-up and stretching routine (or not running hard enough). My feet hurt a bit, but the report was "no inflammation", just advised to pop them in a bowl of cold water and all will be OK. "So, what are your plans for the rest of the week?" I was asked. I had run my last long run on the Monday, done Gym Tuesday, so planned to rest Thursday and Friday, with a parkrun on Saturday morning, pacing at Half Marathon speed to set it in my head.
No. "Ideally, you should be doing a speed session tonight". As I'd just had my legs done, I questioned this - "well, that wasn't best planned then" was the answer. Run fifteen minutes tonight, five slow, five with strides and five slow. Do the same on Friday evening, and only run fifteen minutes on Saturday morning. I tried negotiation to see if I could still do parkrun, but that was only at a push - 1 mile slow, 1 mile with strides and 1 mile slow again. I figured that the people that I would be pacing wouldn't appreciate that, so I ducked out and Nick took my place driving the pace bus. (I was well impressed to have been congratulated later for getting someone a PB that day).
The crunch question came next though - what about my errr... "extra curricular activities" on Saturday. No, that was out too - unnecessary fatigue on the legs. I think my abstinence shows just how serious I was about my "A Race".
By the time that Friday night came, and I laced up my running shoes, I was fed up of running. To be precise, fed up of running for just fifteen minutes (seems hardly worth it - must be a real pain for those people who can knock out a parkrun in that time). I have a handy little loop that I do, closeby to my home. It takes me five minutes to get there slowly, then I belt it around a couple of quiet side-streets a few times, then five minutes back home. Off I went, like a constipated dog being taken out for a walk in heavy rain during January.
Saturday's run was a drudge too - I probably left it a bit late, but there was just no enthusiasm to get out for such a short run. Physio said I needed to do it, so I did. I discussed this with a colleague who has also had the pleasure of being helped by the same person. He followed the instructions to the letter and everything came true like a prophecy. We couldn't decide if it was just superb advice from years of experience and knowledge, or mind tricks - something driving us internally based on what was said.
... it worked... Race report to follow.
As for feeling a bit fed up of running every day, well my Recovery Run of 12 minutes super slow on Monday wasn't too onerous. I'm going to try a few different things for the next month, I enjoy a bit of variety.
Proper running is scheduled to start back in November - going to need to - my papers came last week and I'm off to London in 2015.