Onward! Includes the longest run that I’ve ever run. Ever.

After some more careful rolling and a liberal amount of flailing my legs around in an uncoordinated fashion, I’ve felt brave enough to up my long run mileage and remind myself what it’s like to go a bit faster.

Thursday morning was supposed to see me bound out of bed and do a set of intervals. In fact, Thursday morning saw me peeling open one eye, peering at my alarm, pulling the duvet back over my head and swearing blind that I would go out on Friday. Not wanting to run on a Friday evening was incentive enough to haul me out of bed  for a quick set of Audiofuel Intervals. It’s been weeks since I’ve felt confident enough to do intervals and if nothing else, I was reassured to find that I haven’t lost my knack of timing my sprints to coincide with any available inclines on the route. I have lost a bit of speed, but it was nice to remind my legs that they can go faster (despite what my head keeps telling them) and just enjoy belting along the road.

The rest of the day was spent sulking that Ginge and I weren’t doing our annual pilgrimage to Wembley for the rugby league Challenge Cup Final. Never mind running, the usual agenda on an August bank holiday Friday involves opening the first beer as we get on the M6 (about 15 minutes after setting off. Just after breakfast). Be reassured to know that neither of us are driving at the time. This time last year I was half-heartedly increasing my mileage so that I could attempt a half marathon (can you spot a recurring theme here?). I had reached an extremely effortful ten miles before the wheels fell off my training (coincidentally this occurred at the same time as Wembley weekend. I can’t imagine why) and the volume of my half marathon talk fell to a whisper. Clearly I need peer pressure to keep me going.

Instead of cracking open a beer and being generally Northern and uncouth on the streets of London, Saturday saw me I rise bright and early, have my muesli, pull on my running kit and procrastinate. It was the Met Office’s fault. I checked their app at 7am and it showed rain throughout the day, but a fluffy white cloud over my running time. I checked their app again an hour later and it showed rain before my run, rain after my run and an orange cloud with a fork of lightning (and rain) during my run. So I rolled my leg, debated jacket or no jacket, shared my jacket or no jacket conundrum with twitter, filled my water bottle, put Miles out to get a signal, found my shuffle, found the right playlist, fettled about with my earphones, tied my jacket around my waist, moved things around the kitchen, left the house, returned to the house to get my water bottle and eventually put one foot in front of the other and set off with the plan of doing 11 miles. Gulp.

The first couple of miles were uneventful, then it rained a bit so the jacket went on, then it brightened up a bit so the jacket came off and I tried not to focus on the black clouds looming above the direction that I was running in. Or the fact that I was trying to run 11 miles. I distracted myself by trying to break down the mileage into fractions, realised that I have lost a lot of maths skills since my grade B GCSE and then distracted myself further by trying not being too distressed by the fact that I did my GCSEs 16 years ago. Then I reached mile four. (By now you should realise why I should run with either tunes or company). I hate mile four. I can run more than four miles and yet it brings a feeling of weariness and I start doubting myself. Luckily, I was able to distract myself with the fact that it started belting down with rain. The clouds were not orange and there was no lightning, but the heavens truly opened. By this point, the jacket was having little effect at waterproofing, but did make me look less of an arse (as if I had intended to be out in the deluge, rather than simply being caught out in it).

I adopted my policy of grinning like a loon and soldiered on. The rain continued and by mile eight I had to abandon my tunes because my ears were too wet for my earphones to stay in. Mile ten must have been where the delirium set in, because I found myself thinking “Well my legs don’t feel too bad, I’m soaked anyway, it’s not too far past home if I tacked another mile on…”. I reached mile eleven…and ran past my house. And kept running. And then turned round and ran home with a huge smile on my chops. Twelve miles. Twelve bloody miles.

September is proving a little on the busy side, so it’s nice to know that even if I don’t do another long long run, I’m fairly confident that I can do thirteen miles. The remaining 25 days before Folkestone will be spent alternately trying to figure out how fast I can go. And rolling my leg (because I’ve slacked off a bit this weekend, I’m getting cocky).

Back on track?

Four weeks ago I did a ten mile run. It was hideous. I stopped. I started. I stopped. I stretched. I started. I stopped. I readjusted clothing. I started. I stopped. I whinged. I started. I stopped. I moaned about hills. I started. I stopped. I started. I ran the final three miles home with no problems. Except for the fact that my hip hurt, my ankles hurt and my knees hurt. In fact, I struggled to settle into the run because I wasn’t managing to weight bear properly on my right knee. I was plodding on like a limping cart horse. This was the run that made me seek out a physio, become well acquainted with my foam roller and take a week off running.

Today I ran the same route. It was ace.

In the intervening 4 weeks, I have been foam rolling at least once a day and have been back to the physio, who has deemed me to be rolled enought to be given corrective exercises to help adjust my wonky pelvis. He was going to show me four of them, but after demonstrating three, he judged (correctly) that three were enough for my little brain. I’ll be waving my legs around in front of the telly for another three undignified weeks and then back to physio.

Today’s run was hard in parts. I felt weary after four miles and I had to focus to get myself up all of the hills (but I have never managed all of the hills without walking before today). My face was so red that it was less of a complexion and more of a cry for help. I don’t really care. Knowing that I can do 10 miles has put me in a much better frame of mind for the Folkestone Half in (gulp) five weeks.

Undulating, but good preparation for the Folkestone hill.

A rainy run for Paula

Like many people, I spent last Monday staring at the rolling news coverage of the rioting last week. On Tuesday, I was dazed to read an email from Adele sharing the sad news that one of our committed Athoners, Paula Butler, had died suddenly while out running. It seems so very wrong.

Old Bag Running, abradypus, Fortnight Flo, Cake of Good Hope, Insert Clever Running Pun Here and Shazruns have already taken up Adele’s suggestion that we each dedicate a run to Paula, so here is mine.

Tonight was three miles down the canal, in the rain, with the excellent company of my very good mate. The run itself was nothing spectacular, but one of the best.

A goal post

After England had beaten India on Saturday, I found myself listening in awe to the post-match interviews on TMS. The gist of the a lot of what the players talked about was yes it’s nice we’re number one in the world, but come Monday we’ll be setting our next goal. I think it was Swanny who described how they’d sat down and plotted their way up to that position, identifying goals that would take them one step nearer to the desired outcome. I’m rubbish at setting goals and can’t imagine the mindset and confidence that goes into plotting world domination.

In the spirit of trying, I set a goal for today’s run – Run 8 miles without crying or either leg dropping off.

I even did good goal setting by ensuring that this was a SMART goal – was it…
SPECIFIC? Yes, definitely.
MEASURABLE? Miles confirmed the 8 miles, crying was a simple yes/no and basic counting skills covered the leg goal.
ACHIEVABLE? I thought so, I’d done 6.5 with Ginge last week, even with some dented confidence it was doable.
RELEVANT? Well Folkestone is in 6 weeks, so yes, running further is slightly relevant at this point.
TIME-BOUND? Yes, if I didn’t do it today, I suspect I never would. In the event, I was home in tome to listen to The Archers.

Hurrah! I achieved a goal! I feel ever so proud.

Canal Adventure #13 – Haigh Hall to Wigan

Where to begin? Since my last post, I have consulted a physio who diagnosed me with both top-down (lopsided pelvis) and bottom-up (over pronating feet) wonkiness resulting in an over-tight iliotibial band on my left side, which causes pain in my right knee. There was a far more technical explanation to all this, which I nodded and mmmmmmed through as if I understood every word (a bit like when a mechanic explains why you’re going to have to pay them a vast amount of money because of what’s wrong with your car). The explanation was technical, the solution was simple – a foam roller. I have been instructed to roll daily, more if I can do, in fact “if you can take three weeks leave and use that to roll, that would be perfect…”.

At the end of three weeks of rolling (next Thursday) I will return to Andy and, if I have better movement, I will be taught some exercises to correct things. The first time I used the roller there was an awful lot of yelping and swearing, my god it hurt. I spent two days looking for bruises (there were none), couldn’t carry my work bag on the left because it hurt too much when it touched and felt like someone had been clubbing my leg with a blunt instrument. However, the pain has now subsided and I can roll with minimal yelping and falling off.

My most important question during the consultation was “when can I run again?”. The best part of the consultation was the look on Andy’s face when I followed this up with the announcement that I was asking because I’m supposed to be doing a half marathon in September. He then asked me a question, which I replied with the answer, “no, September 2011….”. To be fair, he kept a straight face and then told me I’d be alright running as pain allows.

Luckily we’ve had a lot going on, so it was fairly easy to take a whole week off before returning with a three miler on Saturday (alright, set off a bit fast, uphill was uncomfortable but not painful), four miles on Tuesday (brilliant, felt wonderful) and two on Thursday (rubbish, couldn’t get into the swing of it).  The knee has been fine, the hip ok, but the head is annoying me. I’ve lost a bit of confidence in myself and have convinced myself that I can’t run any kind of distance, let alone 13 miles. In an attempt to resolve this, Ginge and I planned to do a stretch of canal running that we’ve been saving.We planned it for Sunday, but then postponed it (twice) and decided to celebrate my birthday with it (I was also taken out for tea, it wasn’t the only thing that we did. I’m not that sad).

We started at Haigh Hall, where the miniature train was running and lots of people seemed to be enjoying the summer holidays, and off we went to tackle the Wigan Flight.

The start and finish - Bridge 60

The Wigan Flight is a series of 21 locks that takes the canal a height of 214ft in less than 2 miles. If nothing else, it dispels the myth that canals are flat. We chose to run down the flight  (we’re not daft) and have a few breathers photo opportunities on the way back up.

Bridge 52 - the turn around

The route takes you past the end of the Leigh Branch canal (linking the Leeds-Liverpool to the Bridgewater canal).

Leigh Branch Canal

Gateway to the Cheshire Ring

The Leigh Branch is 14 miles long and takes you through Leigh town centre and Pennington Flash, annual home of the swimming part of Ironman UK and weekly home to the Pennington Park Run what I did a few weeks ago.

According to my fabulous new Pearson’s canal books (Ginge knows how to pick my birthday pressies well), the Flight takes around six hours to navigate in a boat. Each lock is fantastically complicated, has vandal-deterring locks and British Waterways encourage boats to pass through in pairs in order to save precious water. When we ran through, two BW staff were hard at work coordinating the ascent and descent of several beautiful boats, which we gawped at enviously.

Room for two

As we continued our own ascent, several people helpfully pointed out that it was easier going the other way, which was very kind of them. Reaching Top Lock did require quite a bit of determination (and a little bit of walking. For my knee…) and it was something of a relief to reach Lock 65 (or Lock I in old money), not least because we were both proper hungry by this time and I had presents to open.

Top of the Locks!

Miles run = 6.5
Canal miles completed = 3.25
Total canal miles = 75.35/127*
Bridges = 60-52