Posts Tagged ‘Heavy Legs


random distances, diminishing returns

Fourteen Kilometres. Eight miles, one thousand two hundred and thirty yards in old money: Six months ago when training for the Berlin Marathon, this would have been considered a “short run”. I would have cheerfully kissed Mrs Eatingtrees goodbye and, with a spring in my stride, bounded off. On a grey and cold February morning with limited running in the previous four weeks due to illness, it feels like a massive effort. Almost from the off, my legs are heavy. My breathing doesn’t ease up until about 5km in by which time my legs are so leaden that it feels like I am wearing sandbags on my feet rather than my trusty Vibrams. I cunningly avoid hills but even short inclines feel like hard work. I grit my teeth and get on with – using the time to daydream and try to distract myself from the effort and discomfort.

Once the end was in sight, I realised I was going to come up about 200m short of 14km so continued on past my turn just to round it up. Like 13.8km really wouldn’t do but 14km would. And 14km was just an arbitrary minimum distance that I decided that I wanted to run that morning. Us runners really are an odd bunch when you think about it – we set ourselves goals and then when we beat them, set ourselves tougher goals (gotta beat that personal best) and then feel devastated when we don’t pb every time. Or we decide on a distance that we want to run and coming up 200m short is not good enough. My own personal peccadillo is that if I have to stand and wait at the side of the road for traffic to pass, I feel like I have stopped for a rest and therefore not run the full distance. Which is why you’ll often see me running on the spot whilst waiting to cross. Or running along the kerbside, up and down the traffic looking for an opening that I can nip through. This sort of compulsive behaviour in any other pastime would be seen as odd or possibly borderline compulsive. But not us runners. We positively revel in it.

Soundtrack to this post: Atoms For Peace – Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses


share and share alike

3 weeks ago, Son Number 2 – my youngest – was off school – high temperature, lethargic, gallons of snot. By the following evening, Mrs Eatingtrees, myself and Son Number 1 all had the same symptoms. Ironically, Son Number 2 seemed to be recovering. A few days later, we were all feeling better until the tail-end of my illness seemed to mutate into an ear-infection culminating in a perforated ear-drum. Brilliant!

So the last few weeks have meant that I have been moping about, weary and coughing and a little off balance and asking people to repeat themselves so that I can try and make out what they have just said through the muffled and tinnitus filled right ear. I don’t often get ill, but when I do it is always in style and I get really frustrated if I cannot recover quickly.

Yesterday morning, the sun was out and I was confident enough that I could retain my balance with one still-dodgy ear that I set off for my first run in about 4 weeks. 11km which easily felt twice that distance – legs were heavy from inactivity and lungs laboured to get rid of the last traces of whatever had been settled in them for the past couple of weeks. Once back home and showered, I felt great though. Cleansed. And alive again.

Then this morning, another crisp and bright morning, I got out of bed determined to get out on the singlespeed. Once again, partly because I now can and partly because, earlier in the week, I received my confirmation for my entry into the Maas Half Marathon complete with instructions in, helpfully, French and Dutch. It dawned on me that I will be required to run a Half Marathon and also to do it after Hauling My Carcass and I have cycled to Belgium from the UK via Holland. I absolutely cannot wait to do this although the fear of being unprepared and getting there under our own steam – only having our bikes and running gear – lends this particular race a sense of urgency. We have accomodation booked on specific nights in specific towns so there is no margin for error -we must cover the full distance each day or we have nowhere to sleep that night. It will be awesome but, right now, with little running training and less cycling under my belt, it still feels a little scarey. 37km cycled today then before many had crawled from their beds. That has eased some of the pre-trip jitters but I know that I have 11 weeks to get myself to a place where I can comfortably cycle 100km a day over multiple consecutive days.

Soundtrack to this post: Ben Harper – Steal My Kisses


marathon training – week 13 – dunstable 20 mile challenge

I’d had a good week. I’d trained well and ran a fast 8k training run, knocking 4 minutes off the time I had set at the beginning of my marathon training 13 weeks ago. I was set for the Dunstable 20 Mile Challenge that I had entered, along with a friend of mine, in the hope that it would be something a bit different for our final long run before our respective Marathons in 3 weeks time.
There were 2 small flies in the ointment – The first was that we were both out the previous night at the magnificent Africa Express gig in Kings Cross and much of the energy in our legs had been used up by a solid 5 hours of dancing. The second was that temperatures were forecast to be between 25 and 27 degrees on race day. Gulp.
So, with 6 hours sleep in the bank, I arrived in Dunstable and collected my race number and stored my bag at the start. The facilities were exceptional, clean, bright, lovely toilets, helpful organisers. I had printed out the directions that would guide us round the course and the talk on the start line was of getting lost and perhaps accidentally ending up on the Marathon route. There are 3 concurrent races all starting out on the same route – a Half Marathon, the 20 mile Challenge and a Marathon. Competitors quickly chatted and made friends with anyone who was running the same race as them – the thinking being that they could either help each other round or at least recognise someone running the same route to know they were going in the right direction.
So for the first 6-7 miles, everyone runs the same route – out of the park and straight up the downs, the steep, chalky inclines giving way to fantastic views across the countryside as gliders swoop overhead. The 3 routes then split and the fun begins. Instructions are as good as can be expected but much of the time you are following a bridlepath and looking for just a gap in the hedge which signals the next turning. I took the executive decision that it was better to stop and check the instructions frequently and sacrifice some time rather than bowling on and risk going the wrong way, potentially adding miles to the route. There were check in points along the route and also water stops. Every one of the helpers was lovely, asking how we were doing and plying us with water and jelly babies. Parts of the route are really tough – either because of the inclines or because of the ground underfoot – a recently harvested wheatfield on an incline is difficult to traverse in the midday sun, especially if you’re not sure that your are heading in the right direction. From about 7 miles in, we hooked up with a few other runners and decided to work out the route democratically, stopping and deciphering the instructions at each potential intersection. This also helped us grab a moments rest and some respite from the blazing sun.
At about 17 miles, things started to look familiar again and we split off from the others to complete the run. People out for a day on the Downs shouted encouragement and we arrived back at the race HQ after a punishing downhill and a bit of last mile confusion as we headed to the finish.
All the organisers cheered us over the line, we got a celebratory “Buff” emblazoned with the race name and people couldn’t do enough for us. Free tea, coffee, sandwiches and cake had all been laid on for all the participants and there were showers too if we wanted. This has to be one of THE friendliest races: organisers seemed genuinely interested in our thoughts and it was more akin to getting back to a friends house to find that they had made lunch for you rather than arriving at a Race HQ.
It is a tough course (I was more than an hour and 20 mins slower than my previous 32km) and is, at 33.9km / 21 miles, slightly longer than anticipated. From the general air of camaraderie amongst the runners and the attitude of the organisers, it is clear that this is a race for runners organised by runners. Tough… But I wish every race were as well planned and enjoyable – I cannot recommend it highly enough.
So, 21 miles in the blazing heat, across tough terrain is possibly the best bit of last ditch training I could do. If I can do that, another 5 miles with reasonable temperatures in Berlin and a flat course should be do-able.

Soundtrack to this post: Suffer – M.anifest


marathon training – weeks 8 to 11

And here is where the training schedule goes a little “off-piste”. The final weeks of my job passed without incident, despite veering wildly between feelings of relief and resentment, and my Summer Holiday loomed large on the horizon. With that in mind, I had to juggle around my schedule to fit around my holiday as, however romantic and idealistic a 32km run through the desert sounds, I am sure that if it didn’t actually kill me, it would destroy me enough to make the Berlin Marathon impossible to attempt.
So, by shifting a few runs, foregoing a few and cramming a couple of long runs closer together, I could, as near as dammit, stick to the schedule and still have a relaxing holiday.
Fuertaventura is lovely but can be troublesome for the “travelling runner”. The resorts are just that – resorts – and outside of those, there are just long sections of black tarmac snaking off into the desert or slicing through barren volcanic landscapes populated solely by scrubby patches of bush and the odd lizard. Added to that, the temperature is in the mid 20’s by 7am and touching 30 degrees by 9am. So if you want to run, you best be up early. I ended up knocking out runs of between 6 and 10km at around 7.30am. And I stuck to the roads around the resort, looping out towards the desert before turning back, running down the main street, along the coastal path to the harbour and then back to the apartment.
Back in the UK, some of the longer runs have been tough – the shorter ones were fine and I was coming in at least a few minutes under my goal times. However, 25km seems to be the point at which I begin to struggle as my 29k run and my 32k runs have both been a couple of minutes over. Not a big worry but I can literally feel myself slowing… at one point in the closing kms, I was a full minute slower than my average pace and yet I still felt like I was putting in as much effort as I could.
The closing kms in today’s 32k were agonising as I had to break it down into smaller chunks to mentally get through. “Just another 500m and then we’re 2k from the end…”. My longest training run is 32km and I have another one planned for 2 weeks time. My only concern is that, with 10k still to tackle on race day, I run out of strength between 30 and 40km. Still, if others have followed this regime and completed the Marathon, there is no reason why I shouldn’t do exactly the same. I’m hoping the sense of occasion on the day will pull me through the last 10. I guess I’ll find out for myself in 5 weeks time…

Soundtrack to this post: Joss Stone – Fell In Love With A Boy


bricked up

The last week or so has seen me nip out for a crafty 10-11k on a few occasions, squeezing my runs in around other commitments. I’ve tried to up the frequency a little as I have been feeling fairly sluggish and uninspired and this in turn has meant I run less which means I feel sluggish and unispired…
So, the weather getting milder and the impending Marlow Duathlon in a few weeks time have both given me a well needed kick up the behind.
Another thing that got me moving again was a response to one of my posts about my forthcoming Duathlon attempt. I got a good tip from the 5k runner who suggested I try “bricks”.
Bricks, for the uninitiated (such as I). is concentrating on 2 disciplines in the same workout in quick successiion. As I am training for a run/bike/run Duathlon, I decided to attempt a training session of run/bike/run/bike/run covering the same overall distance as my intended Duathlon (39kms) but in smaller chunks giving my body a chance to practice changing from one discipline to the other.
So, in my customary “Bull In A China Shop” style, I formulated a loose plan in my head on Saturday evening and then set off on Sunday morning to attempt my Brick Session.
First leg was a run of 5kms, a pleasant little run that felt easy. A quick change of footwear and onto the bike for 13.5kms. I’d drunk some water at the transition and during the ride guzzled some Lucozade sweets donated to me by the lovely Fit Artist. They seemed to do the trick as I felt rejuvenated for the bike ride with only the hill back home really making me work. Off the bike and back into the Vibrams for a 6k run. And this where I really started feeling it. The transition to the run after a cycle is a tough one – thighs that have been moving up and down for 13kms now have to learn to move back and forth again and this takes a little while for the body to understand. The first kilometre felt odd and then for a brief period everything was ok before a sudden onset of weariness. With a bike ride and another run to go, I was beginning to wonder why I had attempted this. Still, onwards and upwards we go so I returned home, jumped back on the bike, wolfed down some more energy sweets and I felt ok again. The bike ride was again quite enjoyable as I find it relatively easy but at the back of my mind, I began to dread the last run.
I arrived back, dropped the bike, swapped shoes and set off for my last 2k run. It was really hard. The transition was tough and I didn’t shake off the feeling of weariness. It was only a relatively short leg but I felt disorientated as I ran it, unsure of how long I’d been running and a bit detached from my self. I have had this feeling before towards the end of some of my more challenging runs… it’s not fun and is physicaly and mentally uncomfortable.
I was so relieved when I got back home. Glad that it was over but also glad that I had done what I intended. My time (2h 32mins) was about what I expected to complete the race in but this training session had 2 additional transitions and they involved unlocking the front door, carefully manouvering my bike through the hallway etc. which I obviously won’t have to concern myself with during the actual race.
As a footnote, I retrospectively researched “Bricks” and found that I’d gone about it completely the wrong way – advice on Beginner says “If you have never done a brick before, you should get used to them before attempting these kind of workouts”. And also that the individual legs should be over shorter distances, ideally “5-6 miles bike + 1mile run”. I really need to learn that instructions and advice are what you seek before attempting something and not afterwards to check if you’ve done it right.

Soundtrack to this post:
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – Starfighter

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