Hello Dave, you are my wife now…

I have been too busy getting on with (and enjoying) a week’s worth of exercise to actually write about it, so here goes with a quick recap. After a splendid weekend in London (where our food diary went something like; Mr Tickle jelly sweets, beer, piggy barmcake, beer, kangaroo burger, beer, beer, noodles, beer, noodles, beer, falafel, beer, pizza, beer, jaffa cakes) both Ginge and I felt that it was time for a week of temple food and committed exercise. I have been forced back into the gym to rediscover the fact that I quite like doing weights and I have discovered that necessity can be the mother of chilled out running…

I had planned to do a longish interval session, but couldn’t decide on what intervals to run. Because of my indecision, I ended up extending each running session by a minute and it turned into a longish pyramid interval session instead. Well it did for the first half… After a couple of miles or so I started to feel some lower abdominal pains, which never bodes well. Without going into too much detail, if this starts after a mile or so it’s usually a sign that I need to stop running away from home, turn round and make sure that I’m within dashing distance of a familiar loo. However, while I’ve been doing intervals and trying to pick up my speed, I’ve noticed that I get very similar pain when I start to run faster (I’m convinced it’s a combination of how I breathe and tense my upper body). The fun part is trying to tell which sort of pain it is.

I weighed up the fact that I was doing intervals against the fact that the weekend’s excesses had left my insides a bit confused and decided not to risk it. I turned round, abandoned the intervals and gently headed back. The pains didn’t stop. In fact they got worse. I walked for a bit. They got even worse. I had a growing sense of dread that I wasn’t going to make it home. I pulled up outside the slightly dodgy looking motel that I’ve gone past hundreds of times but never been in – they might have toilets near reception, I could just nip in couldn’t I? Deep breath, in I went – no loos. No signs of life. I followed the instructions for locating staff until I reached a door marked ‘Private’. Another deep breath. I tapped tentatively… Sounding like Hugh Grant* (“Um, excuse me, this is um very embarrassing, but I’m out running and ah, could I um, use your loo…?”) but feeling like Papa Lazarou (“Hello Dave, can I use your toilet Dave? Dave, there is a blockage in your toilet…” **). Luckily the lady was very nice, directed me to where I needed to be, I did what I needed to do and yelping “thank you very much” as I scuttled past the door marked ‘Private’.

The rest of the run was uneventful.

I went to the gym. I like the gym. They have proper facilities there.

I fell asleep and declared it a rest day.

I took advantage of a late start at work to do an early but not too early 6 miles. The run itself was uneventful apart from the fact that it felt good, I enjoyed it and I managed to ignore the nagging voice of doubt that crept in after a couple of miles. Oh, and I ran without tunes. Normally I would have my shuffle on for anything more than three miles, but I couldn’t find my earphones and I was feeling reckless so off I went with only my thoughts for company. It turns out my thoughts are mostly weird and a large chunk of the run was taken up with thinking about advanced directives and what decisions I would want making if anything happened to me and I lost capacity. Cheerful. It did occur to me that it would be ironic if this was the run, without tunes and whilst thinking about such things, that I would get run over by a bus. Thankfully I wasn’t. I did see some swans though.

Another self-declared rest day. I knitted.

Long run day. I wasn’t sure if I was looking forward to this. On the one hand, I’d had some good runs during the week and was enjoying myself; on the other hand, what if I couldn’t do it? For once I’d put some thought into making sure that I was well prepared – a good carb-loaded tea the night before, only a small glass of wine, water before bed and when I got up, oats eaten an hour before setting off, water bottle filled. I had no route planned, other than turning right at the front door, left at the end of the road and then running 10 miles. After about half a mile, I realised that I had left my carefully filled water bottle on the kitchen table. Arse. I tried not to panic or give up and plodded on. This decided my route for me – rather than go a way that I find difficult at the best of times and has no escape routes, I went for a loop that could be 6.5 miles or it could be extended as much as I want. I plodded on, ignoring the dark grey clouds gathering to my left and listening to clever Radio 4 people talking amusingly about intellectually challenging things. Just over halfway, the heavens opened – I plodded on, actually quite grateful to be hydrating one way or another. At 6.5 miles, I plodded on with my extension loop, pausing at 8 miles to consider my route, before turning round and heading home, cold, wet and very pleased with myself.

The lesson of this story is that I seem to have an awful lot of comfort blankets in the form of routines when I run, some of them might be useful, but as long as I have me and my trainers I’m mostly ok.

And I hesitate to say this, but I think that I might have got my running mojo back!

*But not looking like him, unless he’s become a sweaty, red-raced blonde

**I hope that all of you familiar with the League of Gentleman are doing the voice. If you didn’t, go back and do the voice. Go on. You know you should.

Nagging voices (real and imagined)

The battle between head and legs has started. I have developed another mental block on long runs and the really annoying thing is that it’s kicking in after, ooooh, a couple of miles. A couple of miles! Ridiculous. To try to get past this (and because he’s managed to nearly lop off the top of one of his fingers and can’t do his normal gym/training stuff) Ginge joined me on an after work long run of 10ish miles.

The negative nagging head kicked in after an unbearably short while at which point Ginge looked disappointed and nagged encouraged me to stop being a slacker. This lasted until I next ground to a halt when he decided to introduce a penalty system where I would have to do an extra 0.1 mile for every time I stopped. Apparently this was a carrot and stick system where the stick was having to do the extra distance if I stopped running and the carrot was not having to do the extra distance if I didn’t stop running; I still feel that I’ve been duped on this one.  To be honest, I carried on being a bit rubbish and there were little walking breaks throughout the whole thing.

On the one hand I know that this is a perfectly acceptable way to approach longer distances and I know that they weren’t the best conditions for me. I had underfed myself (salad is not pre-run food) (although Ginge had eaten the same as me and he was fine) (but I’m soft), it was a lot warmer than I expected and I was somewhat distracted by an impending stressful work thing the next day. On the other hand, I know that these are just excuses and I can do this if I put my mind to it and start to ignore the negative little voice that lurks in the back.

By the end of the run (which ended up as 10.5 miles because of route mismanagement rather than punishment) I felt as if my knees had been put on backwards and my aching ankles (caused by traipsing around Manchester over the weekend) were grumbling even more. All of this makes me suspect that a new pair of trainers might be in order. I was hoping that my faithful New Balances and the cheeky new upstart Asics Kayanos (that have tried to replace the NBs in my affections) might survive until October and then I could treat myself to a shiny new pair post-Royal Parks. Now I’m not so sure. I think that there’s certainly enough time to break in a new pair before the start line and the idea of running on bouncy new soles is rather appealing, but this wasn’t part of the plan. I think I’ll give my Asics a run out and see how they go over a distance. Or maybe think of a new post-race treat…

Feeling sluggish

After declaring Sunday’s effort to be a bit of a disaster, I decided that I would learn from the mistakes that I made and this week make sure that I:

  1. Run more than four miles in total
  2. Don’t get led astray with lovely ale
  3. Eat properly before I go out
  4. Save my weights sessions for the days after long/fast/hilly runs

With the amount of walking that had crept into the last 3 miles of Sunday, I took up Ginge’s suggestion of considering that to be my 5 miler and do 8 miles tonight. Clean, sober and well snacked on half a bagel and a yoghurt, I’d done nothing more taxing than a big shop at Tesco yesterday and I set off with a spring in my step and Radio 4 in my ears*.

The spring  in my step lasted a couple of miles and then I felt hot, knackered and quite frankly disturbed at the sheer number of slugs that I was running around/across/next to. It was hideous. The warm and wet have made it a slug’s paradise out there (we came home from our holidays to find that the garden was mainly stalks and have had to raid the nursery for bargain end of season bedding plants to make it feel jolly again). Tonight it appeared that SlugFest 2012 (are we allowed to say 2012 or does it contravene some kind of LOCOG bylaw?) was being held in the surrounding fields and they were all en route to party – big, small, fat, thin, black, brown, orange, frilly, smooth – all oozing their slimy way across the pavement, only stopping off to gorge on organic matter of dubious matter as if they were calling into the motorway services on their way. Bleurgh.

I carried on (pondering on a good collective noun for slugs and settling on “a devastation”), debated turning back at 3 miles before carrying on and taking a couple of water/walk breaks every couple of miles. Annoyingly I know that a lot of this ‘need’ to keep stop-starting is in my head, so much so that there’s this little insistent part of my brain nagging me, going “you can do this, bloody try again on Thursday you slacker”. This part of my brain is clearly an idiot and so I am ignoring it. I have since taken some comfort in the fact that Ginge (who, professionally, is more inclined to know what is going on outdoors with weather and stuff) has informed me that (despite the rain that poured down before and since) the evening had been the warmest part of the day.

I am assuming that this would explain why I felt so hot, rather than it simply being a question of me being mardy. We shall see.

*Today’s Desert Islander of choice was Tim Minchin followed by a Play of the Week about a dying man who wants to be buried in his ex-wife’s garden, which wasn’t quite the laugh a minute that you might expect

Biscuits, Black Sheep and bicyclists

My most recent Royal Parks Half newsletter was all about fuelling my training with good nutrition and hydration. The main point of this was to encourage us to buy lots of get used to drinking Lucozade Sport before the big day and I preferred today’s experiential learning entitled “what not to do”.

I warmed up by preparing to bake a batch of not-quite-ANZAC biscuits, which I suspect don’t have quite the nutritional value that I should be aiming for. It was probably a good thing that I couldn’t finish making these before I went out (a lack of dessiciated coconut in the baking cupboard) otherwise I might have replaced ‘running’ with ‘scoffing’ as my morning’s activity.

To clarify, occasionally I do bake something that isn’t make of butter, oats and syrup. Occasionally.

What today taught me is that a pre-hydration session on the Black Sheep whilst watching the rugby is ill-thought out preparation for a long run. To force myself out of the door today, I’d left my car at mum’s and planned an indirect route that I could round up to make 8 miles (rather than the 5.5 miles it usually measures). With hindsight, I should have stuck to the shorter version because I was flagging by mile 5 and run-walking half a mile later. With hindsight I probably shouldn’t have chosen the day before a long run to do my first weights session back at the gym and with hindsight my mileage this weekend has been pathetic so this was never going to be a roaring success.

Ah well, despite all this I quite enjoyed myself. Since the end of June, I’ve been running without music on my short runs, but can’t even contemplate a long run without something to distract me a little. Rather than tunes, I like using the longer runs to listen to the spoken word and am indulging in the wonderful Desert Island Discs archive (today was David Tennant and John Bishop) as well as trying to boost my IQ with the Infinite Monkey Cage and More or Less podcasts. As well as the pleasure of basking in the dulcet tones of Mr Tennant (no offence to John Bishop), I spied quite a lot of cyclists (including a team taking a break on their way from John O’Groats to Lands End) which put a smile on my face because next week the same route will be taken up by the awesome athleticism of Ironman UK competitors completing their 113 mile bike course. I must make it out to peer at them this year.