Posted by: stokiecat | March 23, 2014

Sunshine and Splatter – Getting ready to race or why my training is rubbish

Next week the “proper” road races start in earnest with two a month between now and October. I’m not a person who trains very well. One of my reasons for joining a league was an attempt to take training more serious in an attempt to improve. I can categorically say that it has not worked.

Although I was happy with my result at Alsager I think I’ve gone backwards. To say my training for the Stafford Half has been patchy is a massive understatement. I really wanted to aim for a 2 hour finish for this half so my training plan included some tempo runs and some longer long runs (14 – 16 miles) in February/March. In the end neither of these things happened. In February I got a cold, something that I had previously considered a minor inconvenience actually makes running really quite difficult, especially essential things like breathing. When the worst had dissipated I joined back in with the club Sunday run, which turned into an embarrassment with me chasing the men like some sort of reverse Benny Hill. It was so bad I took a short cut back to the car park, leaving them to a proper long run. I recovered from the cold and managed two 13+ milers only after the second one to experience some pain in my shins, uh-oh. I tried a 5k run the next day and ending up walking, my shins became swollen and ended up looking like Eden Hazard after 90 minutes versus Galatasary. I’ve had shin splints before but nothing like this, I was seriously worried that I had stress-fractures, a trip to the clinic led to a diagnosis of just shin splints (phew) with total rest, ice and anti-inflammatories for two days but, absolute horrors, no running for two weeks. This was three week before the race. I could still cycle but no running was killer. I also decided to ditch my really awful old trainers and get a proper gait analysis, which meant new shoes, so every cloud and all that.

Onto the week before, I had surprisingly managed to follow the medical advice to the letter and my legs were feeling OK so I did a steady 5k. Legs were fine, I was more worried that I struggled with the fitness, it was a real slog and I’d only been out for two weeks! My next “fitness test” was 7 miles with the club on Tuesday. I managed it at a 9:15 average pace and although my fitness was again below par my legs held out and I didn’t feel anything the next day so the decision to run was made. The intention was now only to finish, I didn’t need to aim for a time and as it wasn’t a league race I didn’t feel any pressure. I gave strict instructions to my running mates not to let me fall into my usual error of running off too quickly at the start and instead help me aim for a 10 minute mile average page, so a 2 hour 11 minute finish.

So to the Stafford Half, and what a great race it was. I arrived with Emily and Kerry who were under strict instructions not to run at race pace and aim for a “personal worst” due to their training for the Manchester Marathon. The pre-race atmosphere was really happy and friendly and it helped knowing loads of other people running, including quite a few from Trentham Running Club. We headed to the 2:10 finish time point to start (which included a telling off by our club group leader Walter for not lining up closer to the start!) and at 10am we were off, sort of, it was about 5 minutes before we actually started to run.

I managed to stay with the ladies for the first mile but in the end I just couldn’t manage running at a slow pace psychologically. I really need to work on mentally controlling myself to keep a slower pace. However it was such a sunny day, with loads of people supporting on route and a fairly easy route to run I knew I had to move and I’m glad I did. I passed some friends along the way but as I wasn’t racing I could slow my pace and chat. It helped massively and stopped me from going too fast to early and looking back I know now that it meant the last four miles weren’t the hell I have experienced on my previous half marathons. I was breezing along and managed to get over the Tixall hilly bit without a stop. I had a gel at 8 miles but in all honesty I don’t think I needed it. I had lost a bit of speed over the hills but managed to pick up again along Beaconside particularly when I saw my friend Anna and her family cheering us along (in fairness her super fit husband Steve had gone past about 20 minutes before me).

beaconside Happy me at 10 miles (ish) along Beaconside. Thanks Anna!

However I then hit the Isabel trail, a disused railway line which seemed to go forever. By then I was sweating and hot so I slowed at the water station to get a bottle to throw over my head and hands and the change of pace gave me jelly legs. I was determined not to walk so I picked the pace back up and changed my race mantra with about a mile and a half to “the quicker you run the sooner you finish”. I got to Victoria Park and didn’t think I was too bad until I saw my race photo, I look awful and my posture is appalling! Definitely something I need to work on.

12 miles Unhappy me running like an old lady at 12 miles. (c) Bryan Dale

However the crowds, the music and the fact that I knew I was nearly there spurred me on. I didn’t have the legs for a sprint finish but I made it over the line with a time of 2:07 gun, 2:05 chip which is 5 minutes quicker than my previous pb. There were so many happy and positive people after, the “race village” was packed. As we wandered back to the car we stopped to have a chat with other runners we knew and cheered on those still out and running the course. Our warm down stretching even included lying in the middle of the car park at which point I realised I hadn’t put sun cream on my shoulders and I was now sunburnt.

The good news was my shins held out, a trip to the physio on Monday help my thigh soreness, so on Tuesday I decided I would attempt the last “7 hills” club run of the winter. It was a mixed run, my thighs did not thank me and quite early on in the run I fell over. This is the first time I have ever fallen during a run and I think it was because my legs were overwhelmingly tired. Being at the back only two people noticed, Ken’s helpful advice was learn to roll with it, thanks Ken. I was more annoyed that I had ruined a pair of leggings to notice that I had actually messed my knees up quite badly. The main problem (other than them being a weeping, scabby mess) was during my yoga class kneeling mat work was almost impossible. I also have a bad habit of kicking the inside of my left ankle due to my pronation – get me with the posh words since my gait analysis. At the end of 7 hills my hands, knees and ankle were all bleeding so I made a quick exit. I spent the rest of the week covered in bandages, I even had a bandage on my left hand middle finger due to the world’s most middle class injury ever; I cut it peeling an avocado. Any more bandages and I would look like the invisible man.

However I would not be deterred because today I took part in the Katherine House Hospice Splatter Dash, a 3k mud and obstacle course with paint, made up of a team of work mates and children. You can sponsor us if you would like I taped up all my various cuts and grazes to ensure they were waterproof and decided that I would go with my white shorts and t-shirt combo, regardless of the hail and freezing weather. It was a bit chaotic but we managed to start together as a team. My friend’s son decided he was going to TAKE this run (it wasn’t a race) and shot off like a little rocket. After the first colour station I thought it would be a good idea to catch him up so this is probably the first and only organised run where I ran significantly faster in places than nearly everyone else! In the end we had fun as our routine was I helped him over the obstacles and then he ran off and I struggled to catch him until the next obstacle. Still we managed to finish pretty much at the same time and then stopped to cheer his on his mum and the other brilliant members of our team over the rest of the course. It was a fun, if filthy, way to spend a Sunday morning.

IMG_20140323_113825951_HDR (2) Me with my junior running partner, heading to the cleaning station at the end of the race.

This week whilst still on a bit of a rest I’ve spent some serious time planning my training programme for the next three months (bring on the Potters ‘Arf) and maybe I can do a bit better when the league recommences with the Newcastle 10K next week regardless of sunburn, cut, grazes, bruises and any other assorted excuses ;D


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