The cold continued to take me down with it…
My cold from the previous weekend was worse than ever and left me struggling. My nose was constantly blocked, my head fuzzy and I was frustrated. The last time I suffered from a cold this badly was several years ago when I was (over) training for an autumn half marathon. I don’t think I’m overtraining as part of the marathon schedule I have designed for myself, rather it’s my immune system deciding to flee rather than fight as a response to a particularly busy Christmas and New Year, not helped by throwing myself right back into training immediately after.
The second week of Jantastic was almost a complete write-off; not a great start to a running initiative all about consistency!
All said and done, this week of recovery and down time has had some positive impact where the pressure of getting out to run was completely absent. I decided not to take another step until I was at least feeling recovered so there were no thoughts of guilt passing through my mind. I’ve not had a complete week off from running in years; not whilst I’ve been on holiday or even after last year’s London Marathon where I was back on my feet after only three days. This impromptu week off from running has been most refreshing and has renewed my vigour to continue with my marathon schedule.
Volunteering at Parkrun
As part of my week of no running, I volunteered as a marshal at Cannon Hill Parkrun. I’ve always said if I was ever unable to run then I would volunteer at Parkrun, for example last year when I sustained some weird foot injury in February. I can’t sleep-in much anymore these days anyway, so what else am I going to do with myself on a Saturday morning?
If you’ve never volunteered at your local Parkrun event before, then I highly recommend you take the opportunity to do so. Viewing the event from the eyes of somebody not participating can really be an eye-opener, especially if you’re a mid-pack runner or beyond. There is some real running talent to be seen at every Parkrun and to be able to witness these speedy guys and gals in action is something to be marvelled at. If you care about the annual points table, volunteering also allows you to achieve 100 points for that particular week which has now helped me to get into the top 10 at Cannon Hill (maintaining this will be much harder).
Sadly, volunteering does come with its own downfalls as well. On Saturday, I had my ear chewed off by some disgruntled dog walker out on a mission to have a moan. I love dogs and I fully believe that the park is there for everybody to use. She was having none of this, though, citing that she had been pushed (bumped, more like) before and her dog had also been kicked (unintentionally, I’m sure). I’m sorry but if you choose to go against a gauntlet of several hundred runners then what do you expect to happen? We as Parkrunners use the park for no more than an hour one day of the week; she was probably retired and could walk her dog at any time each and every day, but purposely chooses to do so each Saturday when Parkrun is on. It’s like intentionally driving during rush-hour traffic and then getting upset at all the congestion. When she asked who she could complain to, I told her the run directors could be found at the bandstand; her reply was “I’m not walking all the way there!” and stormed off in a huff. She can’t have been that annoyed and I guess she was just looking to antagonise somebody that morning.
Make that 10 miles, no, 14 miles, no 18 miles!
Sunday was the first time that week where I felt at least close to my normal self. My sinuses were in much better shape and my legs felt positively fresh and ready to go.
The initial plan was to head out and back via the southern canals towards Bournville station, which is just over 10 miles in total. I would then play it by ear as to how I was feeling, having the option to continue down the canal towards Redditch and then turnaround and head home for over 14 miles. The third option was to tack on a visit to Edgbaston Reservoir for two laps, bringing the total to the schedule prescribed 18 miles.
Nutrition-wise, I decided to load up with 750ml of Nectar Fuel and an energy gel; better to have it if I decided to literally go the distance.
I laced up my Nike Kiger trail shoes and took those first few steps, which were a rather odd sensation after not having run for a week. But I felt great; I was out doing what I enjoy and there was no pressure to perform on said run. My Garmin had been set to 8:55 minutes per mile, which I knew was easily achievable whatever the distance would end up being.
There were plenty of fellow runners out and about, taking advantage of the pleasant weather and no doubt fulfilling their New Year’s resolution campaigns. I was trailing behind two other runners for maybe 10 minutes or so before I decided to over-take; one of them jokingly said he wasn’t intending to keep up with me and would let me go.
The condition of the canal towpath varied from decent to outright poor. Mud was thick at its worst but the bigger issue for me were the puddles to contend with. Some were almost as wide as the path, requiring nimble feet to navigate around or longer jumps to avoid entirely. Sadly, my feet did get quite wet and there are few things that can sour a long run more than wet feet.
I reached Bournville station and still felt great, so I ploughed on with my aim to complete 14 miles. The stretch of canal from Cotteridge onwards was a complete mud bath, with a family foolishly trying to take their kid’s pushchair on the less than stable surface.
The return leg of the journey was less pleasant. Mile 8 felt incredibly tough from my recollection where my right knee began to ache; this was most likely an IT band issue where I’ve been neglecting use of my foam roller for several weeks, on top of a week’s worth of sedentary. The exaggerated motion of puddle dodging was also likely taking its toll.
But just like in any long distance race, this bad patch disappeared entirely several miles later. By the time I returned to Brindley Place with 14 miles under my feet, I opted to really sink my teeth in and went ahead with the full 18 miles scheduled for that day.
Venturing out towards the Soho Loop, I exited the canal via a route that Dave had once taken me. Back on street level, I couldn’t actually remember how to get back to Edgbaston Reservoir! I ended up running back towards Spring Hill and taking the long but familiar route to Edgbaston Reservoir, which had the unplanned benefit of bulking up the total distance to only require one lap around the water.
Like with the canal, there were plenty of fellow runners at the reservoir. I started to reach my limit with each step requiring immensely more effort than before. My Nectar Fuel had now run empty and my breathing was becoming laboured. Couple this together with an attempt to run a sub-8 minute mile, making for not a whole lot of fun. Hearing my Garmin beep once I’d reached 18 miles was absolute bliss and I felt like I had really achieved something that day. Only problem now was I did not want to run back home, so I ended up calling Lis to pick me up in the car…
Returning to the flat, I wasn’t as ravenous as I usually am after a long run where in the past, I’ve disgustingly started gorging myself due to hunger. My week’s abstinence from running probably doubled up as a carbo loading session, ensuring I was fully energised to go long. My legs did tighten up later in the day for a funny walk of sorts, though this should remedy itself with some rest and hopefully won’t turn into the dreaded Tuesday legs…
Pacing wise, I’m incredibly pleased with the run where I felt I got it just right. There were a few small blips in the form of miles slower than 9 minutes and miles faster than 8:30, but these can be forgiven in the grand scheme of things. Like my most recent 17 mile long run, this 18 miler is over a minute faster per mile than this time last year so I’m in the right place, training-wise. The upcoming Bramley 20 will really help me to hone race pace and should act as a big confidence booster, or as a whack from the reality hammer that my time target of 3:25 to 3:30 is a fool’s errand.
Here’s the Garmin data for the run.
As ever, here is this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:
Learn to use the farmer’s blow
A process by which one clears a nostril of mucus by pinching shut the opposing nostril and exhaling forcefully .
Mastering the farmer’s blow is a must for any runner. A good farmer’s blow is a wonder to behold, satisfying, efficient, and brilliant in its simplicity. A bad farmer’s blow will leave you with a real mess on your hands. Literally.
Here’s how to do it right.
- Breathe in through your mouth, like you’re gasping.
- Lay a forefinger against one nostril and compress firmly.
- Purse your lips.
- Cock your hand slightly in the direction of the open nostril and exhale forcefully through your nose.
- Repeat with opposite nostril, if needed.