The Final Long Run

Ooops!  This post has been just sitting here, forgotten about.  Bit late, I did this run last weekend of August and little did I know that the next day I would start coming down with the flu – might explain how rotten I felt.

Saturday saw the longest long run in the build up to the Blackmores Half Marathon in three weeks time. I’m following the Nike beginner half marathon training plan (same as I did for my 16km trail event) and the longest run is 17.5km. I decided to aim for 18km but would be happy as long as I reached at least the 17.5km mark.

Keep in mind that I’ve done very little training the last few months. In fact, I’ve done a total of 8 “training” runs, with 5 of those in the last two weeks and the others were in June. I’ve had 3 orienteering events in between, but they are all much slower paced so while they help out with giving me time on my feet (2hrs, 1hr and 6hrs), it hasn’t done anything for my pace. My goal was to hit about 8min/km pace and get it done in 2hr 30min. My other aim was to keep it slow and not speed up in the final few kilometres as i tend to usually do. I knew I could do the distance, but I also knew it would hurt having missed pretty much all my other long training runs.

Saturday morning didn’t start out well. I was tired and my headspace wasn’t really good. But I knew I had to do this if I had any hope of doing the half marathon and not ending up walking it in. First I had trouble sorting out my hydration – I was planning to test Tailwind in my hydration pack and managed to drop the packet in twice, causing it to glug up and not pour out. Finally started and my water was sloshing around like crazy, I’d forgotten to squeeze out the air… Finally got going just before 8am.

The route I’d planned was roughly based on a 10km road loop with several big hills in it. I added a 3km out and back on right at the start, another 3km loop around 5km in and tacked another approx. 2km loop on straight after that, leaving the last 7km or so as straight run home and the final 5km on very familiar territory to help me get there.

That first 3km out and back was so damn hard. My head was fuzzy, it was cold and I was out of sorts. The running was comfortable though and I had picked the hills I was giving myself permission to walk up in advance – one at only the 2km mark! I bumped into a man walking two little sausage dogs at this point, and he urged their little legs into a run to race me up the hill, then urged me on when I started walking. Then I had 2km of easy flat/downhill effort. A steep hill at 5km and straight into the next 3km “extra” loop. This was quite hilly, but took me through some pretty suburban streets. Spring is hitting with full force and the air was thick with the scent of jasmine and freesias and even a hedge of lillies in full bloom.

I barely paused at street crossings, even the ones I had to wait for lights to change, which was a big difference to my usual runs. OVerall I only had 1 minute of “non-moving” time according to Garmin and Strave, where it would usually hit 5 minutes plus for this route. It was around here I hit the half way mark – yes! I was already slogging it out though and my pace was over the 8min/km pace I had hoped to stay under. Nothing to be done about it though, so I just kept on plodding and envied the light-footed and faster runners that crossed my path.

Each of my “big” hills I aimed for a street sign or road crossing about half way up and made a deal with myself to run to it before I started walking. 14km in and I was on the home stretch. Still one more decent hill to go. My legs were approaching jelly-like status, my knees were complaining but my ankle was strong and my cardio fitness was up tot eh challenge. On I plodded. One final hill and then 2.5km of flat and very gentle downhill to get home. It was so tempting to pick up my pace a little, but my legs didn’t really want to and it wasn’t part of the plan – save that for race day!

1km left and unless I picked it up I Wasn’t going to make it under 2:30, but my aim today was to NOT go faster at the end, so I stayed at my plodding pace, desperate to just finish by now. The final 200m was uphill (I really hate my street sometimes!) and I did it! My 18km long run was done in a couple of seconds over 2:31 total time. My average pace was damn slow, but I don’t care, I did it and I know now that I will make the half marathon.

The numbers:

  • Distance: 18km
  • Time: 2:31:04
  • Elevation: 279m

The test run of the Tailwind for hydration/nutrition worked brilliantly with no tummy upsets and just feeling a little need for something non-salty to drink. This will be easily solved on the day of the event by having Tailwind in my hydration pack and just drinking the water at a couple of the water stands around the course. My ankle strapping worked perfectly and a little tape on the other foot prevented any blisters. My knee still needs some strengthening, but that’s a work in progress.

Two days later, my quads still ache, but everything else has settled down. Now just to keep working on my pace and make sure I do all the training sessions scheduled over the next few weeks. Do I dare utter my goals? They’ve changed a little from the start of the training period when I had hoped to get through all 16 weeks of it! Now, my overall goal is to finish, still running, within the cutoff time of 2:45. My “can I do it?” goal, which I will be amazed if I manage, is to finish in 2:30. Let’s see what happens in three weeks time.

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Training?

There’s now less than four weeks to go until my first half marathon. Crazy stuff given my complete lack of training, or really any running, to date. Last week though, it was time to kick things back into gear, strap up the ankle and see if I could run.

My first two attempts were shorter interval style sessions I did on the treadmill, so that I could stop if my ankle or knee were giving me too much pain. I taped up the ankle both times and each session was around the 4km mark. My knee ached badly by the end of each session, although my ankle held up well. My fitness was surprisingly good and while the intervals were relatively tough, I managed them pretty comfortably. I was also really happy my cadence in each run was mostly in “green” zone for each.

This week

A couple of weeks ago

I didn’t do the planned long run on the weekend – many reasons, but mostly just too tired. So Monday was my next session and I pushed straight into the next weeks program with a “faster” 10km run. This was going to be a real challenge as I had no idea if I could do the distance and how my body would hold up. It had been close to two months since I had last “run” this distance rather than completing it as an orienteering shuffle. I stuck to the treadmill option for this run as well, taped up the ankle a little more securely and started up.

After a little over 1km, I had to stop and adjust the taping on my ankle as it was uncomfortably digging in on the side of my foot. Surprisingly this was easily done and didn’t bother me again. I took a 10 second or so break every couple of kilometres to have some water, but otherwise was going along pretty comfortably. I had some music going and covered up the distance tracker on the treadmill so that I wouldn’t watch it constantly, and just ran. As the pace increased, my stomach started giving me issues – this wasn’t good. Kilometre seven was very uncomfortable and I was incredibly glad to be running at home and as I finished the kilometre made the dash for the toilet.

Stomach issues resolved, I picked up the pace again for the final three kilometres and finished with tired legs but feeling great. Amazingly, my knee had given me no issues at all for the entire run.

Splits – happy with my last few kms!

The next day I had booked in to see the physio to make sure everything was ok with me ankle and knee – just to be sure. It was all healing ok, but with the half marathon coming up I couldn’t really give it the rest that it probably needed. Happily he gave me the all clear – ligaments on the ankle are still a bit stretched but should be ok with taping properly. The knee is running a bit off due to strain caused by the ankle, but there’s no ligament or other damage directly to it. I need to do some single leg squats to strengthen up the right muscles and that should help it out too.

There’s hope yet that I can make this half marathon. It’s less than ideal preparation for it, but pending how I go on my long run this weekend it’s looking ok. Since it’s the only road half marathon I plan on ever doing (pretty sure I Will stick to trails after this!), I wouldn’t mind giving it a decent shot.

Mid Week Runs

I think I’m starting to like the idea of getting a run in while working from home.  This time I braved the cold and headed out after the kids left for daycare and before settling in for the days work.  It was still damn cold, so I trialed a long sleeve top I had bought during the recent 2XU flash sale.  Bargain – $100 top for $40!  The fabric felt quite heavy, so I wasn’t sure what it would be like for running in but figured it was a good time to try it as I wouldn’t be too far from home.  Plus, if it worked, it would come in handy for the weekend run up in the Blue Mountains.

The top was magic!  Even before I started running I didn’t feel cold.  The long sleeves with thumb holes, I could pull right down over my hands and kept them toasty warm too.  I kept it on for the first 4km before heating up too much, then a double knot around my waist and I barely even noticed it for the rest of the run.

A 10km run was on the schedule, easy pace but I didn’t feel like doing the flattish runs from last time around, so I plotted out a hilly route to see how much more elevation I could add after my last hilly run.  It started out easy – 2kms of flat and downhill.  Third kilometre kicked things up a notch being pretty continuously uphill, starting with 300m at average 9% grade.  After that there was a bit of up and down and it took me through some pretty suburban streets in perfect weather.  People nodded hello, there were autumn leaves still in the gutters to crunch through, a garden of beautiful smelling lavender and minimal traffic.

A wrong turn had me facing a very steep hill I wasn’t’ prepared for which had me walking once I hit the top (I was determined to run up the damn thing, but my heart rate was telling me to slow down by the end of it).  Then, a slight reprieve before the final long, steep hill and then two blissful, easy, flat kilometres home.

It felt like a much hillier run than the previous week, so I was pretty disappointed to see that it was only about 15m more of elevation in it than the 6.5km run the previous week.  I probably pushed too hard again based on heart rate, and my pace was slower than my goal, but it was a good run.  I felt strong, the daily calf raises are definitely helping and my fitness hasn’t dropped off too much with the reduction in weekly runs.  The time was pretty good too – only a couple of months ago this would have been my time for 10km with barely half the elevation.

Numbers

  • Distance: 10km
  • Elevation: 152m
  • Time: 1:16:11

Now we’re half way through the year, I’ll have to do a post soon to see how I’m going on my goals for the year.  But first – the annual Turkey Trot.  Approximately 12km up in the Blue Mountains waiting for us.

Finding the Hills

The first couple of weeks of the training plan have me back at shorter distances for a little while.  Which is a good thing, since it feels like I’ve barely run at all for a month or so.  I’m still struggling with the colder weather and fitting in my runs.  My plan on how to manage it was good, but the reality of living in a cold house is making it a bit harder.  It’s tough to talk myself out into the cold for a run when I’m inside and cold to the bone already and know that after the run there’s no nice, warm house to return to.

Last week I managed a couple of runs – one on the treadmill, a quick intense interval session.  Mid-week I worked from home and headed out for a local 45 min run.  I’m lucky to have this option and with the commute time removed I can fit in a run in my lunch break and still get my hours in.

The lunch time run was my first outdoor run since the NOSH and my first steady run in ages.  The plan was for 6.5km at “recovery” pace which has sped up to 7:10/km.  I plotted a route on google maps around my suburb taking in as many hills as I could without doubling up anywhere.  Perfect planning had me finishing at the local shops (to pick up lunch) on target for distance and with close to 140m elevation squeezed in.  Some of those hills were hard, but my goal was to keep moving, don’t stop, don’t walk and don’t push harder on the flats and downhills to “make up” time.  I ended up averaging a 7:30/km pace, but with that much elevation in it I’m not going to lose any sleep over it!

Unfortunately, since then I haven’t run.  The weekend was perfect weather, but Saturday morning was freezing cold (for me!) and then the day got away from us.  Sunday was spent in recovery mode after a big night out – first hangover in absolutely years – ouch!  I “should” have been back on the treadmill last night, but home life with kids got in the way.  I’ll probably head out for a run again tomorrow when I work from home – a full week since my last run and with an event this weekend that we’re completely under prepared for.

Back on the Treadmill Again

Well, I didn’t get going on the day I wanted to, but I got there.  Treadmill run at lunch time today while working from home so that I could squeeze it all in.  Started the program with a bang – I’ve increased my paces for intervals by two levels in the Nike training plan which made for a pretty full on session today.

Tempo pace, which was my “easy” today has increased from 7:10 to 6:30min/km.  Fastest intervals were kilometre pace, which has increased from 6:15 to 5:35min/km.  I didn’t do this exact session last time around on this plan, so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but intervals last time were always relatively easy.  I don’t think that’s going to be the case this time!

I have a couple of sessions to catch up on, but if I can squeeze one in every other day for the next week I will be all caught up.  Good things about my run today were my heart rate recovery between intervals was great dropping back under 120bpm every time and usually a lot less.  My cadence was also looking good with my fastest intervals jumping to about 170spm on average – so much better and I wasn’t even focussing on it.  I’m also looking forward to seeing the impact the faster interval sessions will have on my pace overall!

What’s Coming Up?

Confession time – I haven’t been for a run since the NOSH event.  We even just had a long weekend, which usually means a great opportunity to fit in two longer outdoor runs – this time, nothing.  I’m not injured, the kids aren’t sick, we didn’t have plans that stopped it from happening, I just didn’t want to.  So I didn’t.

But, that has to change.  It’s 14 weeks away from my first official half marathon event.  I’m going to give the same training plan another go and this time I’m going to stick to it and try not to make the same mistakes again.  I need to actually DO the simple strength training, stretching and foam rolling my body needs to keep running.

So other than a half marathon at the end of September, what else is lined up?  (Because with orienteering going on, there’s never just one event within a three month period!)  In three weeks is the annual Sydney Turkey Trot – a line course orienteering event usually taking in urban bushland, but this time up in the Blue Mountains.  Assuming we can get baby sitting lined up, we’ll be up for the medium course (approx 12km) again.  There’s a 6 hour rogaine in Canberra in mid-August that I’m trying to sort out too.  The in-laws are lined up to come down with us and look after the girls while we do the event and we can all hang out together the rest of the time and get to check out some of the fun things Canberra has to offer.

Hopefully we can get along to a few other smaller orienteering events in between these and, despite the half marathon being a road race, I’ve eyed off some local trails I haven’t been on yet to check out for some of my longer runs.  I need to get back on trails again – my mind doesn’t get the same refresh from the road runs that it does from an hour or two on the trails.

Now I just have to make sure I get back on the treadmill, starting tonight!

Lessons Learnt

Some big lessons, some reminders and some things I really should know better after last weekends trail race.

  • Don’t ignore your asthma, just because it’s seasonal, mild, whatever. You have it.  Carry a puffer. Don’t be slack with taking the preventer.
  • In preparing for a hilly trail race, run hills and trails in training. To be fair, I knew this  and had planned more hills and trails. Calf issues early in the year and achilles pain more recently had me pulling back on this and running mostly flat road runs. Which would have been great for a flat road half marathon. Not so much a lesson as a reminder that the way my training went meant that while I am fitter this year, I’m still not trained for the terrain. It did at least have me fit and able to run, rather than injured and having to sit it out completely, but I was never going to get my time goals training this way.
  • Strength training will help! Yes, of course I know this. But I’ve never had it thrown in my face quite so effectively 🙂 Those calf raises, squats and bridges my physio keeps telling me to do? I need to start doing them. I worked out a bit too late the perfect time to do my calf raises – while I wait for the train in the morning on my way to work. Every day from now on! Now to find the perfect time for the others.
  • Sort out fueling. My husband told me after the race that I need to start fueling earlier as I was getting snappy. I think my first thing was less than 40mins in though.  Personally I think I just don’t like people talking to me when I’m not in the mood for it as I often do runs over an hour without anything. But I do need to sort it out, I just didn’t prioritise it. Work out if trailwind, nuun, whatever, work for me and test them – preferably before I hit a trail with no nearby toilet stops!
  • Make sure I get out on the course a couple of times in training where possible. I had been on the first part several times in the past six months which made it a comfortable, known section. While this is our third year running the event, having a couple more outings on the latter parts would definitely help.

Plenty to work on for next year and I’m sure it will help with everything in between as well.  There were some things I did right as well though, so maybe they will make it for another post.  Next up, Sydney Turkey Trot on 2nd July!

April-May Stats

Well, it’s been a while since I looked at my stats for a month.  The last two months have been my biggest ones so far – even with a few skipped runs this month due to the wrong shoes.  So, with no further delay, here it is!

April

  • Distance: 85.6km
  • Elevation: 873m
  • Number of runs: 10

May

  • Distance: 75km
  • Elevation: 559m
  • Number of runs: 8

That’s 160km in two months!!!  That’s huge for me.  Two years ago I was lucky to hit 30km in a month.  I’m now kicking close to 600km in the last year.  Even better, my new shoes arrived yesterday so here’s hoping for more pain free running in June.  But first, on Sunday, there’s the NOSH 16km trail race!

Shoes, shoes, shoes…

About a month ago I had to admit that my trusty Brooks road shoes were on the last legs.  It was time for some new shoes.  While the Adrenalines were generally comfy and didn’t give me any issues, they did give me a few hot spots and the last rogaine gave me a couple of blisters.  So I thought I’d check out some other shoes and see if I could find something that fitted a little more like the comfy slippers that were my trail shoes.

Tried on a few different ones and it came down to the Brooks Ravenna and Asics GT-2000.  In the end, I decided to go with the Ravennas.  My first run in them was amazing, it was fast, comfortable and I felt like I was floating.  Next run, not so good.  After only 4km my knees started aching, by the end of the run my knees hurt, my shins ached and my hamstrings were tight.  I put it down to doing my longest run to date.  The last two weeks the only runs I’ve done are my long runs on the weekend as my legs have been so sore.

Finally clicked that it’s probably the shoes – they’re great shoes, just not right for me.  So, a new pair of Adrenalines is on the way (I considered the Asics, but maybe next time) and I ran todays long run in my old pair.  Soooo much more comfortable, fast and no pain.  Just happy, tired legs.  Can’t wait for the new pair to get here!

Still Running…

It’s been a busy couple of months with starting a new job and still trying to find time to get in 2-3 runs a week. The training is going well and while most weeks I’ve managed 3 runs, some it has only been one or two while I gave my body a rest due to a niggle in my calves or pushed my way through the usual autumn colds.

My longest run was 17.5km two weekends ago and boy was that one tough! Getting the trots around kilometre 15 sure didn’t help, especially when I was still 1km from the nearest toilet. That was a pretty desperate time and I was lucky to make it… I’ve stuck mainly to road runs with only one or two longer runs on trails as they seemed to stir up my achilles and I didn’t want to risk being out of action for the final run. My physio helped to sort things out and reckons I’m good to go, so I’m glad I got on to it before it all went bad for once.

There have been good runs – the effortless 8km one Friday morning with brand new shoes – and bad runs – the slow, painful first time I ran 13km – there have been boring runs – treadmill intervals anyone? – and fun runs – 16km from Balmoral around to Sirius Cove and back with my husband on a sunny Saturday morning. My most recent 13km felt great and was 30 seconds per kilometre faster than the first time I did it four weeks earlier, so obviously something is working!  I was supposed to run today, but my legs are a bit achy after the physio dug into my calves yesterday, so another rest day might be in order instead.

I have a draft of my rogaine report from April that I wrote shortly after the event which I’ll get posted soon too and hopefully I can keep on top of posting here again.  It’s been a bit quiet on the orienteering side of things since Summer Series finished at the end of March and I’m guessing it will continue to be a bit quieter over the winter months, although we hope to get along to a few events we’ve made it to the last two years as well.  There’s also another asthma update to be written and the Great Nosh Footrace is less than two weeks off – then we’ll see if the training has paid off!