Monday 4 November to Sunday 10 November
Total kilometres ran in 2019 before the start of the week: 1268.4 kilometres
Distance recorded in my little tracking spreadsheet.
Feel free to follow me on Strava, where all my activities are shared.
A day resting from running. Spend most of the day stood at my desk and manage to nip in 15 minutes on the rower at the end of the working day, on medium-high resistance. I can feel my right leg tight after the previous day’s run.
Early start for a few days in Newcastle, my first since the clocks went back. I leave work later than planned and it’s dark by the time I check in to the hotel. I unpack and close off the working day before heading down to the gym. I nip on the treadmill. I don’t feel down or elated, don’t feel like I need motivating to go either. I take the headphones and use them for a change. 30 minutes on the treadmill at a steady pace, nothing too strenuous, half an hour staring at my reflection in the window in front of the treadmill which is quite tedious. I feel through my right leg as I run, checking it it hurts, is it stiff? It feels alright-ish, but I keep the pace steady and don’t push it. It’s nice to get some movement in after a day of sitting in the car travelling and too many static position meetings (stop in one place, sat in one place).
Over dinner I managed to watch Chelsea v Ajax and read through Runners World. Learnt about people using bullet journals for running. If you are curious there is a post over on the Runners World website.
I have a think about how I can stretch myself over the coming days and weeks, but without breaking myself. I’ve got another 10km race lined up for Saturday, a third consecutive weekend. That feels like stretching myself. Hopefully the race won’t break me.
Long day at work, with no fresh air from 8am until 6pm. Dull head at the end of that, not helped by walking out of work into darkness. A plodding 2.6km on the treadmill at the hotel and 15 minutes on the rowing machine. Just not feeling it.
Plan: Get to bed earlyish and get up earlyish to go for a street run.
Planned to get to bed earlyish and get up earlyish to go for a street run. The plan worked out: Up at just before 6am, kit on, and out of the hotel for a bob down the Great North Road for a bit of get-so-far-and-then-turn-back. I gave my New Balance 880s a go. I had to cut it short because I had to pack and get to work (getting in early means I get a car park space and I needed to leave work early for the 2.5 hour drive back to Idle to take the lad climbing). But 4.3 kilometres was alright — and fun! And surprisingly swifter than I expected.
Nothing. I had thought about something at lunchtime, but my leg was aching a little, and I have a race tomorrow. I don’t want to use anything I did today as an excuse for tomorrow. Work was a bit hectic as well, so maybe an unplanned day of total rest wasn’t the worst idea. (But a run is a good had clearer after a day of lots of context switching but ho hum.)
I’ve not done a trail race yet, even though most of my running this year has had a stronger trail vibe than a road vibe. After road races the last couple of weekends a trail race felt a nice change for my third race in consecutive weekends. See how something less “pounding the streets” feels in comparison and see how my leisurely trail running shapes up on a course I’ve not decided and against the clock.
I left the house as late as possible, so I’d get to the race half an hour before start. I don’t like the waiting around before a race. It’s just me stretching and killing time and stretching and killing time before the race starts. Pulling into a pub car park, changing shoes and putting on a couple of bits of kit from the car felt a bit more down to earth than the more “organised” approaches of the past two weekends. If I felt I had bags of time I had the Kindle and could sit in the car. I didn’t need to though. I registered in the back of another pub a short walk down the road. Number pinned on I headed back to the first pub for the race start.
As a trail race with smaller numbers it was hard to gauge while waiting if the runners were more serious than usual, less serious, or the same as other races I’d done. Were these all hardcore runners and I’d be left way behind? Did I care? I saw one person with flat soles on their running shoes and wondered if a) if that person knew something I didn’t about running in mud with those soles, or b) if that person didn’t know something I knew about running mud with those soles.
Waiting in the huddle to set off I reminded myself that a time of 1 hour and 10 minutes would be alright. This was my first trail race. Very wet conditions. And I’d be nursing that tight back of my right leg all week. As we set off I took it easy. I was bunched in a little and waited for the pack to open out a little. And when it did I moved up past other runners. We hit the first mud bath, but it wasn’t too bad. I’d got into the habit of looking a bit further ahead than I might do if I was walking so I was working out my approach. It was going alright.
One kilometre in and I felt the back of my right leg pang. This was when being an 11 kilometre race hit me. I had to try and get through another 10 kilometres. If it was a 10km race I’d be counting down in single figures already. Would I even make it through the race now? I tried to block out the pain and concentrate on the course. Sloppy, slippy mud trails for the first couple of kilometres. The course wasn’t closed using public paths and trails. This meant encounters with The Public. Early on there was an agitated dad on a bike because a mass of runners stood between him and his kids. Further along I met a couple of dogs who were across the course. I slowed to skritch one between the ears for a couple of seconds.
After about three kilometres I needed to pee. I’ve had to break off during my leisurely runs for a quick toilet break but never a race. I tried to hold it in. Holding it in distracted me from the pain in my leg. But concentrating on not weeing was also numbing the nimbleness of my running. When the course wasn’t a mud bath it was rocky. Both of these were fun but both needed me to be alert. That looking just a bit more ahead I had from the start felt dulled. In the sixth kilometre I started to scan for places I could dive off into off the course — and also if there was a suitable break amongst the runners behind me to be discrete. When the chance came I dived off the course. About 15 seconds of relief. Oh boy such relief! When I got back onto the course I felt lighter on my feet. The leg still hurt but there seemed to be more freer movement than I noticed a couple of kilometres before.
Ahead of me for most of the second half of the race was someone from Roundhay Runners, her plaits bobbing almost calmly as she ran. Ahead again was someone in a Sheffield United top. With just my leg to worry about I planned to keep tracking these two ahead. They were keeping a decent pace, and if the course opened up a little and became steadier with no slidey mud and no rocks I’d see if I could speed up a bit. If I could.
I got the chance with a couple of kilometres to go, picking up the pace, moving past. I felt alright. I looked at my watch, surprised I could finish below 1 hour and 10 minutes if I kept this up. We broke back onto the roads for the final stretch. And then I rounded a corner, with just less than a kilometre to go, and saw the hill we had to climb. I’d done running up roads on hills in up state New York in the summer. But that was at the start of the day. This was towards the end of a race. I gritted in and pushed in. But I couldn’t. The strain on the back of my leg made running unbearable. I had to walk most of the hill. As the slope eased off I tried to pick up my pace again.
A glance at my watch and it told me the end was near. This was the final straight. I could see the starting point about 200 metres along. I knew the finish was just beyond that. I sucked in the air and just went at it. It hurt. It was going to hurt however I did this. The sooner I get to the finish the sooner the pain can start to subside. I ran as fast as I could. I ran past another runner. I ran past the start point. I ran along the street. A car was coming towards me. I ducked onto the pavement. I kept running. I went past someone else. I kept running as fast as I could. The pub came into sight. I saw other runners outside. I knew I just had to veer left, not slip down the path, and I was over the finish line. That was easier than I thought.
I stopped at the table so my race number could be taken. Something was written onto the sheets on the table. I didn’t ask what my time was or my position. I had no idea how I had done compared to everyone else. I just wanted to get out of the way and endure the pain in my leg I could feel rising sharper than it had already. I tried a range of stretches, forced myself to do a range of stretches. It seemed to help. After ten minutes I walked back to the car and rubbed some pain relief into my leg.
Driving was my transport home. As my foot pushed down the accelerator on the car I could feel my leg tweak. I had to break off and get some supplies on the way home. Shorts, mud caked legs in Sainsbury’s. “I was just trying to work out the tattoos on your legs,” I was told as I stood at some shelves, “and then I realised it’s mud!”
Seventh day of the week and a day of rest.
Booked myself onto the Elsecar 6.7 miles race on Sunday 15 December.
Bought a box for the boot of the car, just big enough to fit some mucky running shoes in. This feels a) practical, b) a step towards running being more of a fixture in my life.
Had a little think about the week ahead. I have 10 kilometres left to do and I’ve reached my running stretch goal for the year. That will be 1302 kilometres. At the start of the year I’d have been happy if I’d done 300 kilometres by the end of 2019.
I wondered if I should do the Litton Birks Loop Fell Race next weekend. Six quid including a chip butty! Amazing! Let’s just get through the next few days first, eh. And I have House Chores I could do with doing.
The week in summary
Number of runs: 4 (in 7 days)
Kilometres run in the week: 23.5 kilometres
Total kilometres ran in November by the end of the week: 41.27 kilometres
Total kilometres ran in 2019 by the end of the week: 1292 kilometres
1302 kilometres for the year is going to be passed this coming week. It is going to happen. Oh yes.
My hit list of runs to do has started to grow. Keep the suggestions coming!