The curse of the midday sun

fullsizerender-38I haven’t had a run I’ve not been pleased with for quite some time now. In fact, looking at my log, it seems the last one was 25 runs ago back at the start of October.

So here we are at the end of November and I’ve had another one. Surely that’s not a bad ‘hit’ rate, is it?

And my run today wasn’t anywhere near as awful as that aforementioned one at the beginning of last month, I’m just not happy with it in comparison to what I’ve been doing lately.

But that happens, and when it does I tend to find that it heralds better things to come.

All the signs were there. It was cold and frosty but walking to my normal starting point I could barely see where I was going because the bright sun was so very low in the sky, right in my line of vision.

I turned to run with the sun at my back and it suddenly felt lovely and warm ….. until I went around a corner and the blasted thing might as well have blinded me in one eye! I was running on a very frosty uneven footpath and having limited vision meant my gaze kept switching between looking where I was going and glancing down at my footing.

This, as a result, broke my concentration and it meant I lost the battle between my brain and my legs. My ankles hurt, my legs hurt. They always do at the start but I usually have the mental strength to ignore it, just not today. I kept going, however, without stopping and tried to make up a route on the hoof that kept the sun out of my way as much as possible.

Then I had to stop for traffic. One car was ok ….. but two, three, four, five in a row? In a quiet residential estate? Give me a break!

That was it. I was gone. It really is easier to keep going but once you give in it’s very difficult to pick up the momentum again, especially when you’ve already been irritated.

I pushed on to do a couple of miles to make it at least worthwhile. Pace wise it wasn’t great but it wasn’t terrible either, just not as good as I’ve been managing recently.

However, as I said, when this happens it usually means better things to come and, being philosophical about it, I reckon I need this every so often to reset my determination and focus.

I’ll go again.

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Breaking my stride?

fullsizerender-37Tonight was my second run as an official, fully paid up member of Ballymena Runners.

After collecting my membership card and making arrangements to get myself a club running shirt I set off, as per last week, in the 30 minute group.

I was briefly tempted to try the 45 minute group but seeing as the step up week is on December 5th I decided to stay where I was for another wee while yet and then give it a go.

Given the freezing temperatures, it was a very enjoyable, relaxed run and even though we had to be mindful of the conditions underfoot – which necessitated tiptoeing around some ice patches – we covered the route at quite a reasonable pace.

I was amused that, after walking 20-minutes or so to the Leisure Centre to meet up with everyone, we started running straight back the same way and came within 50 yards of my front door! At least I was running on familiar footpaths so was able to concentrate more on my performance rather than keeping on eye on what I was running on.

And it was during this section around my house that I suddenly found myself changing my stride, completely by accident. Usually I take short steps but, for some reason, I started extending my legs, albeit without stretching them as far as to cause injury.

It instantly felt easier and more relaxed, any pain or tiredness in my legs lifted straightaway and whilst I felt I was going slower I actually started to close in on the people in front of me.

It was quite a revelation, to be honest, and although I kept slipping back into my normal stride everytime I made the effort to return to this new one I could detect a marked difference to my energy levels and performance.

It’s something I’ll have to try hard to develop because, if I can, it could prove to be a significant breakthrough. Watch this space!

A bit cold out

fullsizerender-36As I’m sure they say in downtown Tallinn, that was baltic! True hat and gloves weather.

The temperature on the BBC Weather app stated -2°C, and although my Garmin app said it was a positively balmy 1°C it was pretty safe to say it was pretty chilly.

In fact, I’m sure I spotted through the fog in the distance a Brass Monkey and some of his mates huddled together looking pretty sorry for themselves whilst doing a quick stock check of their nether regions. It was that sort of day.

I usually like to do my Sunday runs in the morning. There’s something peaceful and tranquil about that but because everywhere was shrouded in white when I woke I decided to leave it until the optimum time according the weather, and that time was after lunch.

So, after a quick walk over to the shop to just to check conditions underfoot and interestingly passing two large frozen puddles, I got changed ready to go. Hat on, gloves on, t-shirt tucked inside my boxers to eliminate any possibility of the piercing, icy air creeping in (although everything that could retreat already had!), jacket on ….. in fact, apart from my eyes, nose and gob there was no skin showing.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t want to go out. Not that I was worried about it or anything like that – as per normal – but just because it was so bloody cold!

I try not to leave it any longer than three days between runs. My last run was on Thursday and with parkrun being cancelled yesterday because of the wintery conditions today was therefore day three – so I simply had to do it.

Pre-run I’d decided just to do three miles (ok, 3.1 – no point stopping short of 5k). I felt that was quite enough in the conditions – did I mention there was a slight chill in the air? – but also because I wanted to follow the same plan as I did before the Great South Run and that was increase my Sunday run by a mile week on week, so starting with three today would mean I’d reach ten by the first week in January and the start of the 17-week marathon training programme, by which time I’ll evaluate my progress and decide upon a definitive schedule.

Anyway, how did the run go? Timewise it wasn’t my quickest but was faster than I’d done on Thursday, so I suppose that’s something and it still fell comfortably within my target pace at present.

Looking at my splits, I set off like a hare with a rocket up his arse but I paid for this by the fourth kilometre so, disappointingly, took a few walking breaks much to my annoyance but, suitably refreshed, I increased my speed significantly in the final km.

Sometimes there’s no point being a martyr and punishing yourself, I was pleased that I didn’t beat myself up over it and it’s not as if those breaks were for any significant period of time, 30 seconds at most.

I ended the run soaking wet from the waist down. Not because it was raining or because I had a toilet malfunction(!), but because I misjudged the depth of a puddle!

I thought I could nimbly skip through it ballerina-like but, in true Vicar of Dibley fashion, I rather ungracefully plonked myself slap bang in the middle of it. Water and mud everywhere and a squelch, squelch, squelch soundtrack accompanying me to the finish.