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!

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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.

Uncomfortably Numb

fullsizerender-35I suppose a run that I’m disappointed with but which still came within my target mph pace is a good sign, right?

After a couple of days off I decided to go out this afternoon for three miles. It was a cold day but, in my infinite wisdom, I made the choice to go out without wearing my jacket.

My skewed logic went thus: it wasn’t raining so I reckoned I’d soon warm up, the jacket also makes me sweat a lot and messes with the display on my watch, often resetting the lap times and flicking to the next screen when I wear it below sleeve as it rubs against the material – so no jacket today.

No jacket also meant no phone, and no phone meant no music or audiobook. Apart from watch I was running as nature intended (well, apart from my clothes!).

And because it was so cold I started at the bottom of the Antrim Road and ran up it, instead of walking to the top and running back down, just to get warmed up as soon as possible.

I started off ok, albeit the first kilometre was a wee bit slower than I’d done recently but it was uphill – and when the second kilometre (along a flat section) almost matched it for time then I thought I was doing reasonably well. And I was, to be honest.

The third kilometre came and went with the pace still maintained. In fact each split throughout the entire run was at a speed I’d have been delighted with a while back, plus I was – overall – 29 seconds per mile quicker than I was during the club run on Monday.

Reflecting on it, today’s was a consolidation run. It underlined the progress I’d made recently and whilst slower than I’d have liked it was, as I said, within my current preferred range. I can’t keep setting new records with each run anyway.

But there’s still a little pang of disappointment. Maybe it was the uphill start, maybe it was no music or book, maybe it was no jacket, maybe it was just the cold.

I think it might also have been the toes on my right foot. I have arthritis in them, especially the big one, yet they very rarely trouble me when I’m running – but today they did. With roughly a mile to go the toes started to display a mixture of numb and pains and needles, if that’s possible.

It’s hard to describe. They felt heavy but not painful. Tingly but, at the same time, numb. It didn’t stop me running and the discomfort ceased immediately I stopped but it was a concern and, perhaps, made me subconsciously ease off somewhat.

I was wearing my new trainers, my longest run in them, so they could well have been caused and could well disappear through time as I get used to them. Or it could simply have been the cold.

I also ran non-stop – more or less, if you discount waiting for a bus to pass – so that could have been a reason too. I suppose I’ll only know through time, but it’s something I’ll be more aware of ….. not that it’ll stop me, mind.