My focus recently has been on steadily increasing my mileage, while adding in some speed work and a progressively longer long-run each week. I’ve been sticking to the 10% rule but also easing off whenever I feel too fatigued and taking miles off if need be. The signs of fatigue for me (beyond just feeling knackered) start with being hot all the time, then it’s disturbed sleep and bad skin and (if I don’t act) ends with painful mouth ulcers – lovely! So if I feel a state and then start to look it I know I need to have a rest, either ditching a run altogether or shortening or decreasing the intensity of training.
For the most part it never gets to plague like symptoms, but sometimes life can add in lovely extra stresses. I remember I fell apart slightly after we moved house and I tried to keep running the same mileage despite also being a human pack-mule for a week. Or you just do something stupid like trying to run through being ill; that just makes the illness last longer and the running you do crappier. Fun times.
Putting my sensible pants on has helped me avoid this recently for the most part (I did get a bit run down a few weeks ago and had to ease off; but that was still better than my normal routine of not adjusting and making things worse). My more measured approach has meant my mileage has increased to over 30 miles the last two weeks and closer to the levels I did week in, week out at the end of last year.
As I’ve mentioned I also been adding in some speed work as well as more miles; more specifically some fast 400m intervals, with lots of recovery in between. It’s a slight tweak on workouts I used to do, in that I’m running them faster but giving myself longer to recover. I’ve settled on 8 intervals at faster than mile pace, with 90 seconds worth of jog/walk/crawl to recover. Previously I was running at a slower pace but with a shorter recovery, which was more taxing on my cardiovascular system. With this however 90 seconds is just about enough time to get my breathe back, but my legs are still tired from the previous effort. It was strange at first; I was used to being out of puff and in a whirl of lactic pain, but now I could breathe ok but my legs wouldn’t do what I wanted! I think it’s having some effect however and it’s definitely helping my speed endurance and probably helped get my shiny new Mile PB at the Medway Mile recently. I just can’t do it every week at the moment as it takes a lot out of me.
I’ve also been increasing the length of my weekly long run over the last month or so. I’ve done a few 10 milers or more, and then the weekend before last I ran 14 miles without much complaint from my knee. Then inspired by all the awesome Team GB performances at the Olympics, not least Mo completing a glorious Double-Double, I decided to go for it last weekend and do a long run of between 16 to 18 miles. I packed my train pass and mobile phone in case things went pear shaped and decided to run out to Borstal to the south of Rochester and see if I could find my way on to the North Downs Way.
I’ve tried to find it before but never found a way on to the route. After scaling the hills into Borstal and then back down again, and not far after passing under the M2 bridge, I saw a magical NDW sign. I’d found it! I jogged down a country lane, past a car park filling up of what looked like ramblers and dog walkers and through a little village. That led on to a railway bridge and finally on to the trail proper, which was on the side of a field and up a very steep hill. I immediately opened an energy bar and got stuck in – to some sugar and the trail that loomed up in front of me.
The trail snaked up the side of the field and just kept heading up. I was rewarded though, as across the field to the west was an amazing view of the river Medway and the countryside in Halling and Meopham and beyond. I kept plugging away and kept going up and up, and then entered into a wooded section of the trail that after about 10 minutes finally levelled out a bit. It was great to run somewhere new and I enjoyed having a nose about, saying hello to the occasional ramblers or cyclists and making sure I kept an eye out for NDW signs.
The route passed by fields and woods, with the occasional look-out, and alongside farms and the odd house strewn about. After about 8 miles out I came back onto tarmac and the village of Bluebell Hill and started to think about turning back. I left the village and found myself running alongside the busy A229 which headed quite steeply downhill. I decided to head back then, to get away from the noise and avoid having to do too much more uphill! I passed back through the village and headed over to a look-out/picnic spot to take the pictures of the rolling countryside below (and have a breather);
Then it was time to retrace my steps. I didn’t do a great job though and halfway through the woods I took a wrong turn (it looked different coming back) and went down a very steep section of washed out trail, covered in stones. It zoomed down about 330 feet (see mile 12 of my run) in just over a mile and the loose stones underneath didn’t help matters; my knee, and my feet, were beginning to feel sore. It also took me onto a country road flanked by hedges, rather than the quite lane I had followed to get to the trail. Thankfully the traffic was kind to me, but it was a bit hairy waiting for cars to loom out at me from the blind corners from in front and behind.
Still I survived and after heading back to the M2 bridge, which was a handy landmark, I picked up my outbound route. I took a slightly more direct route then to Rochester and headed onwards to Chatham. I was already up to 16 miles as I came to Chatham, which was my primary goal for the run, and I was running low on fluid and food but I was feeling good and my knee was feeling strong again. I decided to tack on a few more miles and keep on enjoying myself. I got to 18 miles as I got to Gillingham and not far from home, and then thought ’20 is a nice number’ and decided to go on. I had it in the back of my mind anyway, as I had run 20 miles in preparation for all my marathons and have another one next month, so carried on. By then I had run a mile or so past our house, so I tacked on another faster mile to get to 21 and get over the 3 hour mark. All I know is, it made sense at the time…
I was a sweaty, dehydrated mess when I had finished and my legs were pretty sore, but more from the up and down than from the actual distance I’d covered. Even with all the elevation gain which I’m not used to (most of my running is on pavement on the nice flat trails of the Saxon Shore Way) I had kept up a good overall pace with the flat sections at the beginning and end of the run. I’m definitely going to head back out up on the NDW, but next time might get the train to Rochester (and on the way back) so I can have more miles out on the trail. I really enjoyed being out in the countryside and exploring new bits of Medway and Kent.
That might have to wait for a while though as we have a busy weekend coming up, including the Oliver Fisher 10k on Sunday at Capstone Farm Country Park – so at least it’s more trail! Claire and I are also doing the Roald Dahl Challenge in mid-September, which is what the long run was training for, so probably need to taper a bit before hand for that… I’d like to get another marathon under my belt (it’s a 6 hour challenge, of as many 3.8 mile loops as you want/can manage) so need to be rested for it. Then I think I will unleash myself on more trails and adventures!
Right, I’ve babbled on for long enough – thanks for reading, good running all. Adam
PS. Sorry dog fans, I haven’t included any pics of the new friends we have made recently. Please find that rectified below… 🙂