Base Building

Despite a less than stellar month (and a bit) after Loch Ness, I finally feel that I’m close to being back on track with training in general, and I now only have 2-3 long runs left before Texas.  I had signed up to Texas for two reasons:

  1. It meant that I could enjoy a relatively relaxed Christmas with my family during my taper (I usually maintain a pretty aggressive gym routine).
  2. I wanted to PR.

Having signed up for the Highland Fling, however, I have been treating my marathon training as a way of maintaining a base before my ultra training starts in January.  I have put together a workable training schedule from now until the end of April, and the marathon fits in perfectly with a 25 mile training run.  I would still like to run faster than 4:18:xx, but I mostly want to make sure I complete the run without putting my legs out for too long.

I kind of thought that having a practically empty race calender in November and December would translate into long lies and more free time during the weekend.  I guess I was wrong.  Mostly, because I signed up to the Texas marathon on New Year’s Day, and I was a little too blasé about what the training for that would entail.  It turns out I can’t churn out a 21 mile run in a couple of hours after having run a grand total of 3 marathons, so I’ve been spending my Saturdays waking up at a time when most Friday-night party-goers were still stumbling home, and running until most sensible people were having a leisurely flick through the morning paper over coffee.

Thankfully, I haven’t had to do all my dark and early long runs solo, as for the majority of them, I have had the pleasure of Ishbel’s company to help pass the time.  There’s something about agreeing to meet someone at 6:00am on a Saturday that makes it impossible to throw in the towel.  It’s also hard to justify not getting long runs in when we’ve been getting such a lucky streak with the weather!  I mean, relatively.  It is still freezing (which I obviously hate), but so far we haven’t had to face snow, sleet, rain, or even, remarkably, wind that could rip the skin off your face.  Plus, nothing beats getting out there and getting some exercise done as the sun comes up.  Sunrise is after 8:00 and sunset is before 16:00, so I want to enjoy as much daylight as possible, thank you very much.

Disgusting.

Disgusting.

It would seem I had underestimated the amount of miles I have been putting in as well.  Last year I hit 1,000 miles on November 18th, and though I had hoped to beat that this year, having to take several weeks off due to illness/minor injuries had deflated my hopes.  I thought I would check my log and see where I was a few days ago only to realize I had already hit my goal a whopping TWO DAYS earlier than last year.  This was a bit of an anti-climax, because I really enjoyed snapping pictures on my milestone run last year, but thankfully I had stopped to take a single photo on the run that would have included my 1,000th mile this year:

1,000 miles

1,000 miles

Ha.  I can’t believe in two years I have gone from freaking out about running 26.2 miles to treating it as a ‘training run’.

Glen Clova 1/2 marathon 2013

Time: 2:09:52 [Results here]

Medal: No, but ‘back by popular demand’ was the Glen Clova 1/2 mug!

IMG_20131109_162400 Ronnie, Susan, and I were the only ones we knew who had managed to secure a place for this race.  Entries opened, and all 350 spaces were snapped up before the end of the day (Susan managing to bag space 349!).  Although all three of us had had a less than stellar week (Susan: exhausted, Ronnie: swollen leg, me: limping on sore foot), the forecast of clear skies and no wind, coupled with the fact that we missed out on this race last year, meant that we were committed to finishing, even if it meant walking over the line.

Susan and I were picked up outside my flat at 9:30, and we began the scenic drive towards the Glen Clova hotel and community hall, where registration, the start, and the finish were.  Although mildly alarmed by the temperature reading from Ronnie’s car (-1) and clear evidence of frozen things outside, we were hopeful that the sun would melt anything too treacherous/heat the place up a bit before the race start at 12.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by an array of club vests (translation: fast people), and felt a bit out of our depth when during registration as we listened to people telling their friends they would “take it easy today with a 7 minute mile pace.”  Susan and I agreed on a more modest 10 minute mile pace to jog along to, and left our music in Ronnie’s car.

Ronnie fervently checking out his race goodies outside the hall.

Ronnie fervently checking out his race goodies outside the hall.

About 10 minutes before the start, we emerged from the warm comforts of Ronnie’s car and made our way to the start, making ourselves comfortable near the back.  It’s not a chip-timed race, but quite frankly we were all just keen to get around in one piece.  The views in the valley were stunning, but I couldn’t help noticing a rectangular patch of trees which I referred to as the ‘Hollywood strip’, for reasons I doubt I have to explain.  I forgot to take a photo, but got one at a crappier angle as we drove home:

Hollywood Strip

Hollywood Strip

The starting horn went, and there was a mad rush of vested runners eager to get on their way.  It was kind of a relief that the three of us had decided to stick together, but as usual, Ronnie was picking up the pace (my Garmin was saying 8:xx minute miles at the beginning there), so Susan and I let him drift ahead, while I stopped at the top of a hill to readjust my sock, which was uncomfortably bunched up under the sole of my right foot.

Don’t let the sunshine in the pictures fool you; it was cold.  After having such a freakishly nice summer, it was a bit of a shock to the system breathing in icy gulps of air and running on stiff, unresponsive feet.  Frost does make things very pretty, however, so we opted to stop again (yes, I stopped twice in 2 miles, I was taking the ‘easy’ bit very seriously) to photograph some nature and stuff: IMG_20131109_152440The first 6 miles seemed to take forever, despite quality company in the form of Susan, and it was full of undulations; no major hills that made you swear under your breath, but enough to be a bit of a struggle.  A woman who had run the course before assured us that the way back was much nicer.  She did not lie.

At about mile 7, Susan and I were both feeling tired, but enjoying the race.  The miles started ticking by more quickly, and in my opinion, the views are nicer on the way back (bigger hills in the distance).  We even managed to spot some para-gliders coming off the hills ahead of us!

Taken from Ronnie's car on the drive home.  Tiny dots = para-gliders

Taken from Ronnie’s car on the drive home. Tiny dots = para-gliders

The course on the way back

The course on the way back

Around mile 8, out of some shrubbery to our right, popped Ronnie, who had been relieving himself (or burrowing a hole for warmth, who knows, it was freezing).  He said he was enjoying the race, and that he felt good, but he was starting to tire.  We slowly pulled away, but he managed to stay about 30 seconds behind us for the remainder of the race.

From about 10 miles, Susan and I were both pretty fatigued.  The course became a bit more undulating here, and we felt no shame in walking the inclines to save enough energy to look as though we were comfortable in front of the spectators at the end.  I mean, that’s important stuff there.  We crossed the line together in just under 2:10, and we were pleased enough with that.  Ronnie came in shortly afterwards, and we headed into the Glen Clova Hotel for some warmth, and to my delight, hot lentil soup and bread rolls!

Keen to get home before sunset (about 4:15 in Scotland this time of year – I know, it’s gross), we bundled into the car to finish our soup:

I don't know what I liked more: the flavour or the warmth!

I don’t know what I liked more: the flavour or the warmth!

IMG_20131109_152254

The keen-eyed people might notice the temperature is now a SCORCHING 2.5 degrees….

We only slowed at one point, so that I could snap a photo for two reasons:

1. mildy amusing place-name
2. atmosphere

IMG_20131109_231025

Today (Sunday), my foot is feeling a little tender, but I’m not limping like I have been for most of the past week, which annoyingly has meant a slight setback for my “get back into better shape” plan.  Hopefully, though, I’m back on track from this weekend after a half marathon, and an 8 mile recovery run on the trails today.

Templeton 10 Mile Road Race 2013

Time: 1:36:42 [RESULTS HERE]

Medal: No, but I was pleasantly surprised when we got a technical shirt at the finish.

IMG_20131103_213401

After my DNS last weekend, I was determined to get back on track, especially since I have really struggled since Loch Ness with being sick, and being under strict instruction from my physio to do no exercise for over a week to let my swollen, angry hip calm down.

To put things into perspective, I usually work out 6 days a week, with a total time between 8-12 hours.  This is a mix of running, cycling, weights, cross trainer, etc.  The week after Loch Ness I managed a single 4 mile jog.  The following week I managed a couple of spin classes, a weights class, and a painful half marathon.  The week after that? Two spin classes and a weights class.  And after that? A 6 mile run, a weights class, a spin class, and a DNS.  Not great.

So Monday, all guns blazing, I began my comeback week.  It looked a little something like this, and it probably isn’t a smart way to gently dip back into work outs:

Monday: 45 minute spin class, 30 minute HIIT class, 1 hour pilates class.
Tuesday: 3 mile run, 30 minute HIIT class, 1 hour weights class
Wednesday: Rest day (parents’ evening at school and sports massage)
Thursday: 45 minute weights class
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 15 mile trail run
Sunday: Templeton 10 mile road race

Why yes, I did decide to try out a back-to-back long run weekend with a ten mile race as my recovery run.  I may not have been so cocky about my planning skills if I had actually taken 30 seconds to look up the elevation profile for this race.  Behold, pain:

Yes.  It did feel as bad as it looks.

Yes. It did feel as bad as it looks.

With storm level winds forecast, and with rain hammering against my bedroom window, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself when my alarm went off at 6 am on Sunday morning.  On stiff legs, I went about gathering everything I would need (but forgetting half of it in a morning fug), and before I knew it, Ronnie was outside, raring to go (this could be a slight exaggeration – he seemed less than enthusiastic).

Ronnie doesn’t have a small car by UK standards, but even I was aware of it’s bulk being pushed around on the dual carriageway as we headed towards Dundee.  Upon our approach, we drove under a “WARNING!  STRONG WINDS” sign, and chuckled.  We.  Were.  Pumped.

We arrived at the start after the main (and overflow) parking had been filled, so had to park up on the sidewalk with other late(ish)comers.  Then we left the comfort and warmth of the car to head towards registration, which was quick and painless.  We had about 50 minutes until the 10:30 start, so decided to take shelter back in the car, like everyone else was doing, before heading down to registration at about 10:05.

A quick pit-stop in the toilets, and we began the roughly 1 mile trek to the start line, half jogging, half walking.  We had been told that the hill we ran down at the start would be the hill we would be running up at the end.  Dick move, race organizers.

I ran into Danielle and Sally, who I had met during the Dundee 1/2 last year, and we also found Claudia at the start.  Before we knew it, we were off, Claudia surging ahead and out of sight, and after a couple of minutes, during which I felt like I had been hit by a bus, we were horrified that we were pretty much bringing up the rear.  There were a lot of club vests on show, so I knew there would be a lot of fast runners, but I guess I was expecting (hoping) to see a few more people behind me.

The hill we were enjoying for the first half mile or so was the hill we would be running up to get back to the finish area, or so we had been told.  Considering I was panting doing a 9:30 minute/mile pace, I did not have high hopes for my time, but kept reminding myself that this was a recovery run, and that I had run 15 miles the day before after a prolonged hiatus.  I was also paying very close to my ankle (which I had rolled 4 times the day before and felt a little shonky), and my hip (that had forced me to rest due to inflammation, and that had been playing up after about 9 miles of the trails).  Thankfully, there were no noticeable protests from them.  Just my burning lungs, and the skin on my face being completely violated by the icy wind.

We hit some pretty serious incline quite early on, and through gritted teeth, powered our way up the first one.  A few undulations later and a rather uninviting hill loomed on the horizon.  Around this point, Ronnie seemed to be struggling, and slowed to a walk.  I called back and asked if he wanted me to wait for him, and I honestly can’t decide if I was happy that he said, “No, go on.”  I was hurting, and would have welcomed the break, but at the same time, it was freezing, and I quite fancied not having to amputate frostbitten limbs at the finish.

Sally and I grunted up the second long incline together, and although my heart felt like it would vault out of my chest, I was pretty impressed with myself for not giving up.  We were rewarded with a bit of a flat section, but this was to be short-lived.  After a couple of twists and turns around farm land, we saw the third ‘step’ on the course profile.

This particular hill turned left and right, so we couldn’t see what was coming next.  I tried my best to stick with Sally, and when we hit what I thought was the top (it had started flattening out a bit), we turned a corner to face another steep stretch.  Sally still felt strong, so she went ahead while I opted to power walk uphill.  As she left, she told me she’d probably see me soon, but I wasn’t so sure!

Annoyingly, the short, sharp part of this hill didn’t go on for too long, and at the top a seasoned Templeton runner assured my that, apart from the end, this was the worst of the hills done with, and we were about to be treated to a nice stretch of downhill.  Angels sang, I kid you not.

Shortly after the downhill began was the course’s only water stop, and despite seeing Sally’s bright pink shirt up ahead, I walked through it to drink and catch my breath.  After another couple of miles I caught up to her and another woman chatting, and stuck with them until we turned into a vicious headwind and started our final few uphill miles.  Here, Sally and I pulled away as we made our way through a more residential part of the course.

Look how much we are enjoying ourselves!

Look how much we are enjoying ourselves!

At about 8 miles, I could see Claudia up ahead, and while Sally was happy to chug on, I was wrecked, so told her I’d be slowing down a bit.  I was in that desperate place where you count down every .05 mile you have left, and when I saw the 9 mile marker (in the middle of the hill we were climbing) I kept telling myself to just not stop, because it would be over in ten minutes.

The final section took us through a section of the forest on trails (uphill, because that seems to be the theme here), until we burst out onto the road with a steep downhill on the grass to the finishing chute, a few places behind Sally.  I grabbed some of the water on offer, watched Claudia come in, and then saw Danielle coming down the hill in luminescent orange.  With no sign of Ronnie just yet, I knew his calf must still be giving him hassle, so I raided the home baking in the tent on his behalf and took a (highly unflattering) photo with Sally.

Me and my quarterback neck - so alluring.

Me and my quarterback neck – so alluring.

Ronnie did come in after another 5 minutes or so, and looked in pain.  His calf was swollen and obviously sore, so he stretched and gave himself a once over before we all decided that despite the sunshine, it was way too cold to be standing around, and we should probably all go home.

After the race and in the car, I was feeling smug that my ankle and hip had behaved, and that I seemed to be suffering no ill effects from such a heavy training week.  Unfortunately, after a shower at home, Ian and I went for a walk, only for it to end with me limping home.

Although there’s no obvious swelling or bruising, it hurts to walk on my right foot, and there is clearly something wrong with it, but I’m hoping that it’s just inflammation that will go down after a couple of days.  Nevertheless, this means I’m not doing spin or the HIIT class tonight, opting instead to just do my hour of pilates, and hope there’s an improvement tomorrow.