Sunday, July 22, 2007

Slow start, fast finish

On Tuesday I normally go to the gym, but since the weekend I had some pain in my left hamstring. It was nothing serious, I hoped. I guess all the leaping and leaning when hill climbing had strained it. I decided it would be wise to give it a miss.

On Wednesday I decided to try and do my hill rep session, acutely aware that this was probably the last kind of session I should try. I got down there OK, but my hamstring was sore pretty quickly after just a few reps. What made it worse was all the rain had made the ascent slippy. It wasn't possible to run up on my toes because there was not enough grip. I was forced to run up flat footed, which only stretched my hamstring more. I decided to call it a day after 10 reps. The run home was difficult and my hamstring really sore. I even slowed to a walk for a while being overprotective.

I did my Friday gym session on Thursday instead, but stayed off all of the exercises that may cause problems. I intended to do my Thursday run on the Friday, but my leg just didn't feel right, so I didn't risk it.

It felt much better on Saturday so I decided to do a trail run without my pack. Anyone who has been running in England this week knows that they would have been better off taking a canoe. There is flooding everywhere. The ground was soaking and very soft. I went over 2 or 3 stiles and then came to the next one. I was running about 7mph and really slowed down in the last couple of steps. The stile looked ok, but when I put my foot on it slid forward and smashed just above my ankle into the stile's wooden crossbar. It was one of those moment where it takes a few seconds before the pain signal reached your brain, but you know when it comes it was going to hurt. It did hurt too. I spent a few minutes writhing around on my back, clutching my leg surrounded my bemused looking cows. I got up and took a few tentative steps. At first I thought I would have to stop and go back. I was only 1.7 miles into the route. I sat down for a couple more minutes, rubbing it like you do, as though it was going to magically fix it. Oddly enough, it felt a little better, so I carried on, albeit at a slightly reduced speed and altered gait.

The pain anesthetised itself after a couple of miles, so I'd got away with it. I ran the route at a negative split; running the second half faster than the first. This is useful because it gets you really worn out late in the run. However, I surprised myself by feeling really strong throughout, and despite the terrain I finished well. I wasn't at all tired after the 9.5 mile course with 250M of ascent. I finished in an average of 6.7mph, which is not a bad effort for a trail route I can tell you. I'm sporting what looks like an egg on my ankle now, but I'm keeping the bruising at bay with some Arnica. The hamstring hadn't bothered me on the run.

On Sunday I decided I would be ok to use my pack, so I weighed it to 6.5kg and planned a slightly short route. I decided on a 14 mile route with 440m of relief.

I set off in the sunshine, even applying some sunscreen, and 20 minutes in was drenched. I had wisely put on my running tights, knowing that I would be running through some unpleasant undergrowth in Swynnerton Old Forest. There were nettles and brambles aplenty. The path is at times narrow and now in summer (yeah right!) the ferns are shoulder high and overgrown onto the path. There was a lot of mud and puddles about and my feet were soon waterlogged. I actually like running through a forest in the rain. You get sheltered from the main downpour but still get pretty soaked from the big drips of water from the water-laden leaves. It's quite refreshing. I only packed 800ml of water and a few snacks (M&Ms and cashew nuts). I ran quite well, it certainly felt a little quicker than my usual pace with a pack. However, at 9mile I felt my hamstring start to tighten up, no doubt aggravated by the extra climbing in the route. I stopped and stretched it out for a few seconds but this only provided relief for a few hundred yards.

It would ease off when the ground was more level, but never go away. The last couple of miles were a little uncomfortable, but I still managed to keep a reasonable pace. I finished and surprised myself because my average time for the route was 5.6mph. This is definitely the fastest average pace I have done with my pack on, over any reasonable distance, let alone 14 miles with quite a bit of climbing in poor conditions. I remember only a few months ago saying that I found 5.5mph too fast to maintain for long, and was happy at an average of 5.1 or 5.2mph. Well, I seem to have got over that and even improved. This route was nothing like the climbing in the LDWA events, and is of course 10 miles shorter. So, I still expect to have an average of about 4mph on the next LDWA event, but if I can improve it even by a couple of points of a mile an hour, that will be something.

Luckily this week is the fourth week in my training cycle, which means recovery week. All my training times are reduced. I'm thankful for this and it has come at just the right time. I will probably train even more lightly than planned, and really cut down on distances next weekend. This should hopefully put me in a good position to feel strong and complete the LDWA Dovedale Dipper 2 weeks today.

So, a more restful week for me, hope you have one too.

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