Monthly Archives: August 2011


Attempting to try several options for long run energy saw me vary things with one of Cathy’s Voltz energy shots this morning.

I went to bed wondering if, having been soaked to the skin twice in the week (the latest being yesterday when I was caught at the far end of the site doing something I couldn’t leave in just a hi-viz vest and a shirt, which resulted in the shirt being ditched to dry back in the office while I wore a nasty sweater), I was developing a cold, such were my sore nose symptoms. I arose this morning with the same sore nose but with an added slightly runny nose and a lack of enthusiasm.

But with a determination that I’d neither skip my long run nor put it off until later in the weekend. I’d rather have a bad run at this stage than no run at all.

Which is what brought me to the drink. I didn’t want to waste an Orbana if I was to have a bad run, neither did I want to go out under-energised, especially if I was under the weather. The shots seemed ok for a shorter spell – how would they last on a decent run?

I set off steadily on the same run as last week but in the other direction to allow a small addition to the distance without going mad, but also with the option of a 5 mile bail- out to make an 8 miler if things were too rough.

The first bit of a mile was ok, the uphill from home being paced very steadily, before a gradual increase in pace until I settled on something I was happy with. Which must be a comfortable pace since the first 4 miles were all exactly equal – to the second!

The energy drink seems to be a success, too. My nose was emptying throughout the run, so something’s developing within (hopefully being burned out with the exercise), but I felt ok enough to (subconsciously, honest – no extra effort was intended) increase the speed throughout the run, all the mile splits getting a bit quicker as distance increased (except one aberration where a super quick (relative to average) mile was followed by a return to gradual improvement).

The oddest thing about the run (and the only odd thing I can pin on the drink) is that I felt to have been out for flippin’ ages when I clicked from my virtual partner to the distance screen, only to find I’d only covered 4.2 miles.

The thought passed, though, once I knew how far I had to go (it’s not as if I don’t know the route even!) and I just ploughed on at a happy pace with light breathing and spinning legs.

The only other fly in the ointment came at around 8 miles when I realised my underwear/shorts combination wasn’t compatible for a long run and, with 3 miles to go, a touch more than minor concern engulfed me as my balls let it be known that they wanted to stop being rubbed raw as I progressed. Over the next 3 miles, blisters on my toes became a worry of the past!

So I got to the stretch for home and decided I was fresh and feeling good for a loop away, so half a mile was added to last week’s run. I’m happy with my overall fitness now and hope I haven’t peaked too soon for Folkestone. The ease of this 11.25 miles makes me feel better than ever. Time will tell, I suppose. I’m still a way off dream speed, so hopefully there’s more improvement to come, but overall I’m feeling good.

As long as the foot stays trouble free (it was ok today – not perfect, but fine. Turning the ankle on a rough bit of road just under a mile from home wasn’t ideal, but I got away with it) and this “cold” doesn’t develop into anything severe, I should have some fun runs over the next few weeks as I continue training. The bonus is that even if the race goes badly, at least the training and how I feel is well worth carrying on pursuing.

240.12 miles to go now.

Hills again

After the intervals on Tuesday, I considered doing a normal run this evening, but I’ve grown quite fond of Dumb Woman Lane and since today included one of those work situations which isn’t good for the career (liars lying and mis-quoting conversations to create trouble and grief to promote their own pathetic situation) and I will now, for several months, be wondering if I have a long-term job/career to engage me and thus if I’ll be near the hill to run up it, I decided I must run it no matter what.

So off I set with my trusty colleague (until I get sacked) in tow, very slowly (he had shin splints from runs on Saturday and Tuesday) towards the hill before I left him at the top to pursue my two repeats while he intended ambling down and back up just the once (also, he was off to football training again afterwards and wanted something left for that).

I stopped my laps timer very accurately this time to allow checks on performance and the distances weren’t exact to last week but since the hill is steady each time, the comparison this week is on pace. And the first repeat was fractionally quicker (2 seconds a mile), the downhill jog was slightly quicker but the second uphill (despite feeling much slower than either the first repeat or last week) was only 6 seconds slower than the first repeat (identical distance between laps) and a whopping 1 minute 15 faster (pace comparison, not actually 75 seconds. That would mean crawling last week!) than last week’s second attempt.

Cor blimey guv’nor. Or something. Either I’m improving, one of the weeks was an error of Garmin proportions or I really don’t know what’s going on. Maybe two sets of repeats isn’t enough (I may well try 3 next week) or maybe I respond well to two sets of intervals a week.

One other oddity is my foot.

Yesterday had me in so much pain I was wondering what to do. After work, I was uncomfortable to say the least in my gardening trainers. Later in the evening, sock off, I detected a little swelling at the bottom of the shin area/top of the foot arch bit if that makes any sense (which, with an ankle in the way, probably doesn’t). I massaged all the surrounding soft tissue as hard as I could without letting out little sounds of distress in the hopes I’d actually tweak a bit that made so much pain I could identify it for a professional to tell me what an idiot I am. And that must mean it had been bad, knowing my reluctance to see people who know what they’re  on about for such things. Instead, I’ve been completely pain free all day. And I mean genuinely pain free. I awoke and put it gently on the floor, such was my immediate anxiety about it. And there was nothing there.

It’s a miracle. The run today was perfectly wince free and as I sit here with the foot on my chair edge, curling toes and making the big toe joint crack with flexing, no pain is emanating from anywhere.

Apart from the little bit of my soul that wants to pay the mortgage which I wont be able to do if I get sacked, of course.

But that goes without saying.

251.97 miles to go.


Having failed to get home early/do enough in the garden promptly/organise my life efficiently enough (delete as applicable…unfortunately all apply) last night, it was raining and dark by the time I got around to going out on the bike for another Monday interval session so instead I did a bit on the rowing machine. And hated every second of it. How one arse can hurt so much after such a short period of time, I’ll never work out. Ah, well. It got my heart pumping.

Today was a different kettle of hot fatty potatoes, though. The drowning I got this morning (site jacket so badly leaking, boots so full of water, everything wet through by 8.15 and drying out all day) meant gardening wasn’t really on the cards, so the big decision was whether to run immediately I got in or go after dinner.

Cathy likes to eat early-ish, which suits me perfectly. Unless the evenings are drawing in and I fancy a run on the unlit country lanes. Cathy also seems to know that I will attempt an outing on the lanes even when visibility should dictate otherwise. A winter full of housing estate runs fills me with dread; lanes are what I love whenever I am able. So an outing before eating was agreed upon.

And for a twist, Audiofuel‘s Martin Yelling intervals were decided upon to assist me in my 5 mile endeavour.

As has become customary, I’m always about 25 years out of date with running music and this was the first time I’d used this session. 3 minute intervals leading up to 180bpm don’t seem good with a few slopes on the route I’d chosen (just under 5 miles…I hoped to come in just short of the final 180 repeat!) but I fancied a change/challenge/laugh, so off I set.

The talking bit of the intro was ignored while I got a Garmin signal; frustratingly I didn’t think to use the intervals as laps to allow a reference for progress. Next time, I will. The 150bpm warm up took me up my first hill away from home and got the heel/foot working properly.

Oddly for an early evening run, I saw three other groups of runners while out. Frustratingly for me, all of them appeared while I was well stuck into the intervals so looking a right knackered mess, but also they coincided with the 150bpm recoveries. So all they saw was a short bloke with long hair making hard work of an easy pace, sweating like a fool, slowly plodding along with nothing to show for the effort. Sadly they missed the half mile at as close to 6 minute miles as I care for while doing the 180bpm interval up a slope as well as the 6.40 pace half miles I did through each of the 170bpm bits. The consistency of the bits is pretty good, I reckon…all I am annoyed about is the seeming impossibility of the pace I want for my half.

I know tonight was a run after work with no dinner, no taper and at interval pace. But…I also know I need to do something like 165bpm for 13 miles with long strides to achieve my goal and that doesn’t factor in the pesky hill near the finish.

I’m going to stop worrying about my hoped for time now. What I run will be what I run. I’ll do my best. To hell with targets.

The nicest result of the intervals, also coincided with the frustration of the slopes, though. For while I seemed to hit every fast bit with an uphill, I also managed to coincide the last floaty 150bpm recovery finish with the arrival on my drive, thus alleviating the pain of the final 180bpm push. I know in true training style I should have stayed out for 5 minutes longer but I am slack…5 miles was my target, 4.76 was achieved and some fun was had.

I’ll leave the final 180 for next week. Because yes, I will repeat the performance. On the same route. With laps added to the intervals on the Garmin to allow assessment. Not of progress, for I’ll run out of evening light to continue to do so. But for deterioration measure when my training drops off over the winter and I get to see how much work I have to do to get back to where I am now.

I think it’s all good. I’ll see how heavy my legs feel tomorrow.

255.11 miles to go.

Blog lag

Just of late, I seem to have become a slave to the minutes of the day I can’t recover. This has been leading to me running one day and blogging about it a bit later. Which is how it has gone for this post, too.

A booked day of events saw an early-ish rise on Saturday to allow breakfast to be eaten, have it go down properly, run, return, recover, shower, shop and then clamber onto a train to London for alcohol and dough based, cheese topped discs of flavour-some goodness in JB‘s favourite restaurant.

It was all a success but the run requires detail.

I got stuck into a little painting after breakfast (just a little – cupboard doors don’t prime themselves) which made me a little late out of the door (JB set out for her 9 miles half an hour before me when I wanted her leaving time). The extra time gave me a chance to become less full, however, so I used the opportunity to reacquaint myself with Orbana. I’ve tried it before in my marathon endeavours but, as with many things, lack of use has lead me into slack-ness and my fuelling (fuelling…such a poor turn of phrase. It’s eating. Fuel is so mechanical in my mind; being a living organism with a set of taste buds, I feel my desire for pleasant sensations in ingestion goes a little beyond merely consuming calories, vitamins and minerals. But hey…) for the longer runs has been non-existent. I reckon around an hour of exercise requires merely fluid but now the runs have extended a bit, a change of strategy has become required.

The orbana run I remember best was a 13 mile outing last year, my mind becoming obsessed with how full of beans I felt after 8 miles. Yesterday had little of the excitement, but was far more successful with the drink than otherwise, I feel.

I set out on the large loop down Long Length and along Tally-Ho Road. I kid you not…these road names exist! The route through the forest is usually a bit of an ordeal. It’s lovely, don’t get me wrong – a flowing succession of curves and rolling lumps so distance doesn’t become a visual concern but something always lets me know it’s a long way from my front door if anything goes wrong. With a belly full of energy, though, I had a superbly consistent 3 miles, each exactly matched at 7.45/mile pace despite the undulations.

The whole run was pretty consistent. I paced myself loosely on the Garmin but kept it free enough that I was looking down about twice a mile, not obsessively staring at my virtual partner. The miles eased by and I was surprised when I realised that I’d be finishing closer to 11 miles than the planned 10. That should read pleasantly surprised. The whole run was easy, really. I finished faster than I started for the first time in flipping ages, felt eager for another outing, and even felt that my foot repair has got on well.

The whole pace of the run was throttled back to protect my foot (It’s an early long run instead of a race pace test session in case I pound myself into not getting to the start line) and it felt good at the finish, to be fair. I’ve had a bit of pain today, mainly while stretching it to try and ease things out, but it’s certainly better than it was three weeks ago.

That or I’ve got used to the pain.

Or the Orbana helps more than just energy levels!

So 5 weeks to go for the race, little hope of reaching my target speed, but a good feeling about being happy over both the distance and in improving my pb for the half if not achieving one of my year goals.

Hope nothing goes wrong in the meantime.

259.87 miles to go.


One hill. Twice.

Yesterday was Thursday which meant running up and down the hill near site as a summer alternative to the site hill which means intimidating repeats of a pyramid fashion and isn’t to be looked forward to.

My able bodied assistant accompanied me to the hill this week but, mumbling some toss about having football training an hour afterwards, he simply ambled to the bottom of the slope and strolled up while I sprinted up, waddled down and crawled up again to meet him at the top and jog back to site.

I think my cycle and the extra bit I did on Tuesday must have hurt more than I thought. The first ascent of the slope even made my forearms feel heavy, such was the impact on my rapidly ageing cardio-vascular system. The second was met not only by a radically slow pace but also a massive wheeze from a pair of rotten lungs.

But once at the top, as usual, I felt much better for having done it. Odd how something that is so dreaded makes us feel good after. Even if half the benefit is, surely, in smug points that allow extra chocolate after dinner.

214.22 miles to go. And if my foot hurts like it is, they may take some hours to click off. Odd thing is, it’ll go for hours with barely a twinge. Bloody thing.


As the date for the Folkestone half approaches, preparations have got to the worrying stage. Am I doing enough? Is my foot hurting too much and should I be resting more? Why isn’t my pace any good at the moment? Why am I struggling with the short runs?

Many of these queries are worthless but all play on the mind. My foot is the biggest worry. Saturday saw me run out of time to blog; I had a hectic day and got out of the door for 9.5 miles at just after 5pm whereupon a table was rushed for after beer was drunk. The temptation to rush the run was tempered by the desire to maintain niggles as they are, not make them worse. A 7.45 average pace was flattered by the final 2 miles where I fancied upping the pace to something reasonable, having warmed up sufficiently to think I’d get away with it. I did. The run was workmanlike, a bit of a bodged route with many silly loops but fun enough and undulating enough to be a challenge (despite the Garmin recording it as flatter than a witches tit). The foot had little more pain after the outing than before it. Result.

The curry, however, was great.

Sunday was a rush of motorcycling, gardening and taking Cathy to Folkestone to spend her money on artwork; Monday is the only excuse I have for tonight’s outing being such a slog. I popped out on the push bike to attempt my own version of a time trial. The two nearest roundabouts are seperated by a link of dual carriageway; I elected to cycle around it as a loop for half an hour and attempt to maintain as close to 20mph as I could for the duration. Each loop was 1.44 miles (I recorded laps for future reference as I crossed the pelican crossing line. Sad, eh?!) and 10 miles clicked over in 30.01. Considering the wind was squarely either behind or in my face and the roundabouts were busy each time (I only got two clean circuits), I’m pleased with this. If I do it again, I’ll up the distance by a lap ot two and try to maintain the pace. It’s a measureable and fair cardio workout and way less boring than the rowing machine.

Today, I felt fine but had little spring in my step. The pedalling seems to be very good for my achilles/ankle/foot (the pain is all around the aforementioned areas depending what I do with it) in that after a good ride, there is no pain at all. Today’s run had periods of reasonable soreness interspersed with a few hundred yards of pain free fun. Very curious. I’m going to put my winter boots back on at work and see if they help.

I set out on a slightly extended loop of my usual Tuesday 4 miler (which might change soon – if I’m as late as today, the darkness on the lanes is becoming dangerous with traffic), got diverted by daft decisions twice (and the still being built housing estate moved one of the paths again. Bah. Bloody builders…) and bought some bananas and milk on the way home. None of it was really enjoyable in a “I’m having a hoot” way – I wore a cotton shirt to see how much sweat I produced (lots) as a diversion but even this didn’t lighten the mood much.

Maybe it was too late; maybe the cycle wore me out a bit; maybe I’m a bit tired. Whatever it is, I’m worried things aren’t in place for a race which will do much for my personal best table at all. It’ll be good to get there and enjoy things but to have the icing on the cake of a good time would crown the year nicely. Maybe better eating will help (I’m going to try Orbana on my next long outing to assess the benefit again); maybe more rest will find a few seconds. Who knows. At least there’s a few weeks to get things together. Plenty of time to stop worrying and start enjoying.

277.25 miles to go.

A different hill

Having missed two weeks of hill repeats (a late late finish pre-handover of some plots folowed by a week of holiday), today was a Thursday and as such I had little excuse not to do some sprinting up a steep slope.

Only problem was lack of motivational idiot – I didn’t fancy it after all and everyone else at work had an excuse not to. But I like the result of the effort, so hatched an alternative plan which seemed a touch less daunting but promised a lung bursting hilly sprint somewhere I’ve promised I’ll visit since finding it about a year ago.

The road from Rye to Cock Marling (through the parish of Udimore. Superb names; well done East Sussex!) has a short-cut to Winchelsea via a torturously tight, steep, narrow road which has the best name ever…Dumb Womans Lane. This was last year’s diversion/shortcut/only reasonable way to get to site without a 16 mile diversion. In a car it’s a horrible prospect – one of those blind lanes that has no passing places on any of the steep bit (it’s so cut into the hill, there is at one point a 3 metre high retaining wall at the road edge holding the bank up), meaning up to quarter of a mile of reversing if a complete numpty is encountered around 3 blind, steep corners.

On legs, the pleasantness doesn’t improve much, to be fair!

The jog towards the hill was three quarters of a mile of in to wind slog. I’d refer to it as a warm up, but it was an ordeal in itself, such was the breeze on the top of the escarpment that, despite providing great views of the levels around Winchelsea, also allows winds t be fully experienced. The jog down the hill was lovely. Out of the wind, easy, very attractive. Then it all went blurry.

I chose a spot 0.4 miles from the top, turned around and ran. Hard as I dare, to be fair, rather than outright sprint. I hate not giving my all, but first outings always intimidate me a touch. The pitch is very hard – much steeper than the site road which is 1:11 at its steepest. And, instead of building up to a 250m sprint via 50m increments, the full 0.4 miles was to be tackled in one go and just over halfway up the steepest bit is encountered. Just about here, my lungs were burning harder than any 250m hill repeat, so something was going well.

The last part had a longer than anticipated slope to my turnaround and, as I reached it, I even allowed myself 5 seconds of hands on knees gasping to allow a little air back in. Then I kept my promise and returned to the bottom, recovering well as I did so, before launching back up.

Just after the steepest bit this time I even had stars in my eyes. Lungs bursting for 0.8 miles total seems a nice way to run on a Thursday and as I finished the hill, I felt happier than on an equivalent set of pyramid repeats, as I had hoped. The hiccup with not being sure whether I’d repeat the set was not having a pair of laps to compare times and thus effort; next time I will. The odd thing with having a hell of a hill followed by a jog to site with a following wind and a slight down-slope is that, despite being in full recovery jog style, my pace was well under the 7.30 per mile that needed mental effort on Tuesday. Odd how runs work out. On return to site, clearly a good workout had been done – I was pouring with perspiration, despite a relatively low temperature and good breeze.

So the result is that I like the longer distance hill but wonder if it is in fact better or worse for me. Not having a laboratory to test the relative merits, all I can use to decide is my reckoning. And I reckon that since I promised to enjoy my runs, if there a people to run with and we fancy the pyramid hill I’ll do that. Any other time I fancy bursting my lungs through my chest, Dumb Womans Lane is the place for me.

Just so long as I don’t meet a van at the tightest, steepest corner. I don’t know who’ll be more shocked!

310.07 miles to go.

A different challenge

Having decided that my foot just hurts now, I have also decided that my training can continue much as it did.

Pain has neither intensified nor eased, it’s just there. I decided at one point today that it wasn’t hurting too badly. I then scrunched my toes up mid pace during a stroll from the site back towards the site office and had such a wince of pain that I missed the next step altogether, nearly falling over in the process.

The answer? Don’t scrunch toes mid step. Simple. It shouldn’t hurt, I grant you, but if it does then ignore it and don’t look down. What you can’t see can’t hurt you, I believe was the very accurate and good mantra a couple of hundred years ago. I’ll stick with that.

So just as I was leaving work, my assistant who’s doing the hill repeats with me and is football training like fury announced that tonight was his monthly speed trial. He was so annoyed at his last run with the club (they do a 1.5 mile race to see how quick they’ve got) it started him off with the hills. My promise to him, having heard he was nervous about the challenge ahead, was that whatever pace he set for his 1.5 miles I would match for my planned 4 miles. I was going to go for a sensible recovery after Sunday’s late 8.5 miles but to hell with it. Ilikeachallenge.

So at 6.45 he dutifully texted me that he’d managed 7 minute 30 seconds average pace. At well under 12 minutes (my statement that he’d easily beat 12 minutes based on his 1.76 mile speed on the hill pyramid I set out proved good. Another month and I reckon another minute will come off. Then he’ll slow in improvement but he’s young, so soon he’ll be beating me just like all of them.), I hope he’s delighted with his improvement.

At 7.30 target average, my 4 miler wasn’t exactly going to be an easy recovery jog.

But the Garmin virtual partner was set, my route included a visit to That Evil Supermarket Creates Offal to buy some lemon juice for jam making (plums in full effect…can’t eat as many as the tree drops so jam it is. JB isn’t patient enough to wait for wine to ferment for a year, I don’t think. Might try it soon, though) and off I trotted.

The mental effort of the first half mile to actually run at a pace was harder than the effort required but after the stop, everything sorted itself out and an easy plod was settled into. As many sections of grass verge as possible were used to allow stride lengthening and footfall easement in deference to the painful foot/ankle combination but generally a fun time was had.

The loop heading onto the lanes after 8.30 in rapidly failing light was a touch frustrating and worrying but little traffic saw me safely home with 16 seconds to spare on target. Plenty more in the tank, looser calves than when I set out and no more pain in the foot than as I left, so hopefully all’s heading for improvement.

So long as the aching doesn’t increase after a night in bed, I’ll be a happy man. Hills on Thursday might make me less so, but hey. The route to a half marathon isn’t always easy.

313.18 miles to go.

A while

Yep, that’s what it’s been since my last update. I blame a week off and lots to do rather than laziness or not actually running, so a quick catch-up is in order.

A week ago Saturday was the start of my week off and commenced with an 8 mile outing which, with hindsight, may have been a bit ambitious. I set off an hour and a half before I was expecting my brother to arrive so we could leave to go to my other brother’s stag-do. Nothing like a deadline to get the legs working and keep the motivation up. Also, nothing like a pushed pace as a longest run since breaking my leg to see if anything is playing up.

And ever since getting back, shooting at some clays (note the word “at” there? There is a reason and that reason is 12 of the buggers getting past me. Bah), sitting in a pub and anything else that the week has brought, my left foot has been stiff. Not badly painful but oddly awkward – curl my toes and the achilles hurts; rotate it about and the ankle smarts; stretch it forwards and the whole thing is sore.

Monday saw a 15 mile cycle outing which was fun, quick and pleasant.

Tuesday had a jog out for 3 miles to see if the foot could take it and the simple answer was yes. The more complicated reply stated that it hurt a bit all the way around and all the soreness remained through the rest of the week. Neither better nor worse, it just nagged on all the time.

Friday was a 30 mile cycle to my parents to deliver mum’s birthday present which loosened my legs a treat before the wedding on Saturday almost made me miss Sunday’s run altogether, such was my lack of enthusiasm for all things athletic (excluding a bit of joinery for the lounge cupboard and a lawn mowing session) but the threat of lard got the better of me and I capitulated with a 5 o’clock outing to pop in 8.6 miles of extended loop to see how the foot was.

A much slower pace was forced (mildly cocked up by a sprint to avoid a pikey dog on my favourite road – but since this dog was the opposite end to the normal pikey dog end, maybe favourite roads are over-rated! The mile was kept steady on my virtual partner, but 12 seconds quicker owing to the sprint. Bloody dogs with open gates and owners who can’t control them. Rant over.) and things seemed reasonable but this morning saw a return to stiffness all around my left foot, ankle and achilles. Something is playing up and stretching it in all directions, rotating it to extremes and all sorts of anything seems to find a pain point and not increase things beyond mildly uncomfortable, but I wonder what I can do to relieve it and bring normality back.

Time will tell. Use at work today has brought no increase in discomfort, so hopefully a continued slowing of pace for a couple of outings will bring good things. If not, another podiatry outing may be in order.

All have been good outings, though, so I’ll not grumble too much. Another 4 mile short trot is planned for tomorrow. Will see how things feel after that and before intervals on Thursday ruin me completely.

317.38 miles to go.