In Mid-November, the calendar of running days was added to the wall, the countdown to lift off is slowly ticking by, and every day sees extra mileage added to the muscle bank.
I am twitching my fingers, fiddling my thumbs, feeling not quite anxious but more fidgety and slightly irritable about what to do next, not dissimilar to a fiancée waiting for her wedding day.
It’s getting to the stage where I am telling people about the run in person rather than behind my safety screen. It’s less comfortable. How I say it comes out differently each time, and I tend to hold my breath whilst waiting for the “Are you crazy?” response. That’s debatable, but is in fact just my own expectation. No one has actually said that (to my face), but I am consistent in my self-beration.
Whilst the reasons for running are becoming ever clearer, the photography more important, and the weather gradually more wintry, the past couple of weeks have been increasingly tough to handle emotionally. Recently I saw “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” again. The cinematography, the colours, the characters, the story, the music, all resonate so deeply within me that I feel that this story was created for me, to keep me going. Calmly taking my hand down the path of adventure and trust. The showreels in my mind that occur whilst out running aren’t always the magical wanderlust that Walter Mitty has, though, so when they are energy-sapping I have to use all my willpower to bring myself back to mind, and focus on my breathing or the colours around me. It’s a daily activity in itself! I’ll write more on this, and Ruby Wax in a later blog post…
The end of an early November training week highlighted running injuries and recovery nutrition. I’d been cruising along gradually building the miles when the day after my 16-mile jaunt I was suddenly shortening a ten-mile run to just four miles. My achilles appeared to be complaining quite angrily and both calves were throwing up spikes from somewhere deep within too. I felt engaged in a battle against my lower legs. This is a first for me, normally I am griping about glutes, hamstrings and quads, all of which have been suspiciously quiet recently, leading me into a false sense of security over how well I have been recovering from runs.
My first port of call was to google. Did I have an injury? Was I going to have to take a day off? Will this cripple me for months? Surely one of the first major obstacles on this challenge so far; helping my mind to stay focused when faced with a setback. I also took to twitter to reach out to Physio @KineticRev, whose twitter feed is filled with wonderful recovery and training methods for all sorts of running issues that I can download and ‘run’ with.
I set to work on absorbing both the Achilles and the How to Foam Roll Calves, and started to give my legs some ouch TLC. I carried on running, but dramatically reduced the mileage for three more days. By the start of the next week I’d managed an eight-mile run with very little tweakiness, and decided that the foam roller was a necessity to keep the legs healthy and happy for running.
Another angle that I had to grapple with, which was entirely my own fault because I know my tummy and I know how food affects me, was my nutrition and recovery.
Four weeks ago I did my first long run over a half marathon, in over a year. Fifteen point seven miles, in wind and rain, and I hadn’t brought enough water with me. Schoolgirl error! I manage my supplies by gauging what I’d need after a ten-mile run, as up to ten miles I won’t bring hydration with me. I was also running slower so had calculated that I wouldn’t need to hydrate so frequently. Whatever, maths has never been my strong point, and my sums failed me miserably. This left me blackberry picking in the rain whilst my legs screamed, and even thanking the universe for the discarded but entirely perfect satsuma on a road-side hedge, waiting to be devoured by someone who needed it. I certainly did. For four days after I had not been quick enough to re-order my stock of Arbonne Essentials Protein Shake (pea and cranberry protein), Greens Balance (36 fruit & veg), PhytoSport Recovery Fuel and Hydration (Electrolytes). These four elements have been assisting me on my nutrition journey to help keep me topped up and replenished with the right nutrients for my muscle recovery and immune system. I’m one of those people who simply cannot eat after a run, especially not an arduous one, so trying to gulp down anything solid is likely to result in a splash back. Having found not had any of these whilst continuing to run day after day, mostly 10kms, I felt heavy in the legs and in the head by the time the 16-miler day came along.
Lessons well and truly learnt, this is how we grow after all, I not only have my nutrition stocked up, but I have gained an addition to my training routine in the form of coffee! Yes, my secret love has materialised as TrueStart Coffee, a performance-based measure of caffeine that is Gluten Free and Vegan. Perfect for my sensitive tummy! I have learnt that a cup of coffee one hour prior to endurance training enhances the session, and a post-caffeine hit is also supposed to improve recovery prospects. I take mine with Hemp Milk or Coconut Milk, keeping dairy out of my diet as much as possible (more on all of this in an upcoming blog). My roller is my daily best friend, with a tennis ball following suit for added ouch, I’m still running every day, with strength and conditioning a few days too. Not one to be complacent, I’m continually increasing my understanding of nutrition for the event, as it will be a whole different ball game for the six-week challenge. More on nutrition in an upcoming post!
Fast-forward to December 1st and the past two weeks have been mostly pain free, the long run being a double eight-mile with a fifteen minute wait between repeats for stretching. Something I’ll likely be doing on my challenge – four x ten-mile runs as opposed to one forty-mile run! Psychologically, this I can handle. It will also give supporters the opportunity to run or cycle with me in sections. Building on a network of supporters will not only boost my morale but also give me an added incentive to finish strong and on target. This Saturday I went with my daughter Syd to a networking event at the Women’s Adventure Expo (next post on this!) in Bristol and came away emotionally and mentally inspired! There is so much to be done and so much that is possible to do within women in sports and mental health awareness and equality for all ages. I am keen for schools to get involved with this challenge too, so I will be in contact with nearby schools which fall along the route in the coming few weeks! In terms of maintenance, I saw Gerwyn from Denbigh Muscle Therapy Clinic for some calf and achilles work which has boosted my leg happiness, and have now returned to Colwyn Bay Athletics Club to help improve my speed, as plateauing will undoubtedly happen unless I vary the tempo.
The outlook is very bright for December, I ran 207 miles in November, and this month I am aiming for over 300. It is doable. I do get to do a short run on Christmas Day – of course, I will need to build an appetite for the festive feast! I’m actually considering doing a family run on Christmas Day with my girls and Tom, with Ben cycling. They don’t know that yet but that would be a treat! I’ve also got my old school’s Cross-Country race to look forward to on 14th December, where I’ll be pitting myself against my twelve year old daughter, who I must not underestimate! It will be a chance to break out my Saucony Xodus into race mode.