Sopranos and parkuns

I finished The Sopranos. For a program I’m not even sure I enjoyed watching, I certainly watched a lot of episodes in a short space of time. I thought the ending was very creative. It’s unexpected and confusing and definitely a bit frustrating when first experienced, but the more I think about it, the more I think it’s the best possible way it could have ended. All the other options would have been anticlimactic, which is probably why they did what they did.

I have to say I didn’t feel impressed by it to start with because the characters were quite dislikeable, but as you go on you realise it doesn’t matter. The characters are presented as being believable members of the mafia, largely without judgement. It’s just who they are and what they do, and the program doesn’t seek to moralise the viewer about it because the viewer is perfectly capable of forming their own opinions.

In other news, I was pleased to get my fastest Parkrun time for a while this weekend. I started off a bit (too) conservatively so I could probably have knocked a few seconds off quite easily, but I didn’t. My splits looked like this:

The third kilometre is always a struggle because the initial freshness has worn off and it’s mostly uphill. The 10m climb isn’t massive but it’s not insignificant either. The last km is the same but by that point you aren’t trying to conserve energy. I was very pleased with doing the last km in sub 4 minutes. Apparently, I increased my cadence from 181 to 185 steps per minute in the last kilometre while also keeping my stride length the same at 1.35m. Pretty good! Now if I could just do that for the first four kilometres too.

I think the speed workouts are finally paying off.

Running

I tried a change of tactic with my running, which was to really slow down the easy runs and try to push more on the hard runs. Or in other words, do the easy runs easier and the hard runs harder. The idea of easy runs is to train your body to better use the oxygen you breathe and not dig into your body’s fuel reserves (glycogen), which in theory means you will be able run at a faster pace on just oxygen alone before you start using glycogen. But it’s a bit of a mind game because if you do say an 8k run at a very easy pace, you don’t really feel like you’ve had much of a workout.

It seems to be working in a sense, because my heart rate has really come down. The other day I ran 10km in about 54 minutes with an average heart rate of 135 bpm, or about 72% of maximum, which I was very pleased with. That’s a very easy effort run and the pace is still respectable.

For the hard runs I’ve been doing intervals and threshold runs. Intervals range from about 1600m down to 200m, usually descending distances in the same session, or straightforward repeats of 800m or 1000m, with long standing recoveries, covering about 6km in total in the session. Threshold runs are for example 3×10 minutes at threshold pace with two minutes of easy running in between. Threshold pace is supposed to be a pace you could keep up for up to an hour (your anaerobic threshold, i.e. not quite anaerobic but depleting your glycogen), but it’d be a serious, hard effort.

I’d like to say it’s improving my Parkrun times but actually they’ve been terrible lately. The last three weeks have not been strong performances for various reasons. Maybe this week…

Excitement!

I’m very excited because my Steam Deck has shipped. I got the email to say it was ready on Thursday evening, paid a few hours later and then Monday got the email with a tracking code. At the moment it is still in the Netherlands, or at least that’s what the tracking says. It probably isn’t really. I probably won’t get another update until it’s through customs. Hopefully it will come by the weekend.

I don’t know what I’ll play on it though. 🤔

Dream from last night: I was at Parkrun having a terrible run because there was a very congested start and I got stuck to another runner. Literally stuck, like with glue. It took us a few minutes to peel ourselves off each other. Later on (still during Parkrun), the car I was in (????) got turned upside down so I had to get out of it. Then there was a queue going into the finish funnel so I was waiting a few minute before I officially finished. My finish time was around 25 minutes, which sounds pretty good considering everything that had happened, but I was so annoyed I squirted the marshal responsible for the queue in the face with a bottle of ketchup that I must have been carrying with me, which I regretted immediately (even though he deserved it). I woke up stressed that I was going to get banned from Parkrun.

100!

I did my 100th Parkrun this last weekend. I ran another post lockdown PB, beating my time two weeks ago by one second!

My knee is kind of ehh. It was fine after parkrun, but I also ran today and it wasn’t great. The problem now is that I have been stretching a lot, because my quads were very tight, and I’m not really sure exactly what I’m feeling. Like I’m pretty sure that a lot of the discomfort now is actually just above my knee in the quads, maybe the tendon, and that’s ok because it’s probably just the effects of stretching. Some of it seems to be down the side, probably the IT band, which isn’t really ideal, but is better than the kneecap.

I have a half marathon in four weeks and I’ve missed one long run now so I’m feeling a bit antsy about that. I’m aiming to do the next one on Wednesday, so I’ve got a couple of days to get it recovered and feeling stronger. But these muscle imbalance injuries can drag on at a low level for a long time. I might try ordering a knee brace…

The weather is supposed to be pretty ridiculous for the next two days. I’ve never known it go past maybe 33 degrees here, and yet we’re forecasting two days of 38. So I have no urge whatsoever to run in that heat.

Monty is going to hate the heat, but at least he’s been to the groomers recently. We took him out this morning for what will probably be his last long walk until Wednesday and met a slightly odd man who became very disapproving when he learnt that Monty is a cockapoo, not a poodle, and wanted us to justify our decision to get a cockapoo instead of a poodle and started on a diatribe about purebred dogs going extinct because of ‘fashion’.

Hmm, well, though it pains me to agree with him, poodles are amazing and maybe one day in the future…. But wait a minute here, purebreeding has its own set of ethical issues and I’m not sure you can really claim a moral high ground over supporting a eugenics program. And anyway, I’m just here to walk my little guy, not to be told his existence is an affront to nature. I will definitely be avoiding him in future.

Energy

I started running after work this week and it actually does feel a lot better! I’m running faster and further with what feels like the same effort. And I don’t know if it’s because of not running in the morning or because I’ve been taking iron for about 3 weeks now, but I’ve been feeling a lot less tired this week, particularly in the afternoons. I’m pretty sure that if it wasn’t for work then I’d have been having frequent post lunch naps for a few months now.

So I’m pleased about this and I’m hoping that my Parkrun times start moving in the right direction… It was a bit underwhelming today, but it was quite hot this morning and I really, really wasn’t feeling it when I started my warm up before hand.

I’ve also been reading up more on iron. The problem with iron isn’t eating it, it’s absorbing it. I already knew that things like tea, coffee, dairy, etc lower absorption. I was also vaguely aware that running is bad for iron levels because the physical impact destroys red blood cells. But what I didn’t know was that workouts cause the release of something called hepcidin, which lowers iron absorption. The hepcidin levels are highest around 3-6 hours after a workout. So on top of dietary iron blockers, you also have to time iron intake around this.

Anyway I have my doctor’s appointment on Tuesday so hopefully I’ll get a blood test to see exactly what my iron levels are.

Parkies 🌳

I have a half marathon in three weeks and I’m feeling…. quietly confident? Training seems to have come together as well as it could have. The last one I did was in August and it was a bit of a disaster, but this time I’ve been running 16-18ks on Sundays for the past few months, intervals or hills once a week and parkrun tempo runs on Saturdays, so I’m probably in pretty good shape. Not as good as a few years ago, but maybe 1:40? 1:35 would be amazing but probably not. 1:40 is a 4:45 per km pace which is about 45s faster than I’m doing my long (comfortably) slow runs so it sounds achievable. I can feel my left calf is a bit tight but not worryingly so and my right hip has been tight too but I think the foam roller will sort that out.

Sundays are long run day and I usually manage to time it so I’m getting through the park just before they’re starting Junior Parkrun, but today my timing was not so good and I got accosted by one of the marshals… “Hey, I saw you yesterday? You looked like you were doing well? what was your time?”, so I stopped to speak to him and he proceeded to spend the next 10 minutes telling me his entire life history, including but not limited to: he used to run 21 minute 5ks but then he gained two stone and now he does 28 minutes, when he was younger he used to be really lazy but he’d always run up stairs “it must be something autistic in me that makes me want to run up stairs” (umm, ok 🤔). His daughter used to be the fastest runner of her age in the county but then she put on weight and now she runs 30 minute 5ks (hmmm), he runs as fast as elite runners up hills because hills just don’t bother him (hmmm), he doesn’t use a watch for running but he always know exactly how fast he’s running down to within a few seconds of his mile pace (hmmm), he decided to start doing triathlons a few years ago and the swimming turned out OK because he had strong shoulders from playing rugby and was coached by the former head coach of the British Commonwealth Swimming Team something or other (hmmm)…. and so it went on. Anyway after about 10 minutes of this I was starting to feel really cold so I made my excuses and left, but I’ll probably see him again at Parkrun next week 😕

These hips don’t lie

I had to miss Parkrun last weekend because I strained something in my hip, again. I did it this weekend but I took it a bit slower than usual, and it was still quite uncomfortable Saturday afternoon. I kept waking up during the night and my lower back felt really tight as well.

My hips are soooo tight. I stretch and foam roll but it seems like a losing battle as I sit down all day.

So I took the radical step of investing in a standing desk converter, which is basically a platform that sits on your regular desk that can be raised or lowered back down to desk level.

(Please don’t judge the dust on the right monitor’s base.)

I’m quite impressed with it so far, but I don’t tend to use my PC over the weekends so I haven’t actually tested it in actual use yet. Hopefully it will help!

Life!

We’ve had the puppy for almost three weeks now. I never expected owning a puppy to be so stressful! I’m not getting nearly as much sleep as I used to. I keep napping in the evenings after work now.

He is generally doing a lot better now. He has his vaccination booked for next Friday, so a couple of weeks after then we’ll be able to start taking him out for walks. How this is going to work… I have no idea. It’s a struggle to get him to walk from one end of the garden to the other without him trying to eat my shoelaces or chewing on the lead. The lead tends to excite him and he likes to jump up and grab it. I’m a bit concerned about having him walk around much outside because I think he’ll probably try to eat everything he finds, and I’ve noticed the pavements tend to be littered with tiny pebbles and such… so that’ll be fun.

I’d like to get him down to Parkrun at some point so he can see a big crowd of people running but it’s too far for him to walk and with the fuel shortage it’s hard to justify taking him in the car. Maybe in a few weeks.

On the subject of Parkrun… since starting going again, progress has been slower than I thought. I did the first week at about 22:20 and was really pleased with that for a first effort, thinking I’d knock quite a bit of time off it the following week. But I actually got stuck around that time, for a few weeks, before suddenly jumping down to 21:30, where I’m stuck again. Last week was a bit of a struggle, but it was very humid and I’d done two sets of speedwork during the week before. This week I did some 1KM repeats on Wednesday, so hopefully I’ll be well enough rested to see the rewards tomorrow?

The problem is always pacing. It’s a course with an incline at the start, in the middle and at the end, so generally the pace tends to dip in the middle, but I think it’s also the psychological battle of the initial excitement wearing off, fatigue setting in and feeling like a long way from the end. This is the last two weeks:

I obviously still have enough left in me because the last kilometre is always the fastest. But it’s a fine line between taking it a bit too easy in the middle and imploding on the fourth kilometre. I’m still aiming to get it back to about 20 minutes. That feels like a long way away at the moment, though.

Excitement

The first big thing is that my sister and I are going to see a lady about a puppy tomorrow. We have been thinking about getting one for a while. This lady (or, more accurately, her dog) has had a litter and there are two still available. They are cockapoos – the little teddy bear like dogs that you see a lot. They’ll be available to leave in about two weeks, which would be perfect because I’m off work that week, but also not perfect because ohmygodthat’ssosoon.

In other news, I did parkrun today, for the first time since March 2020. I ran it in 22:12. With my foot injury I haven’t done many long runs recently, so the half marathon I did a few weeks ago was a bit of a disaster (1:53 – some people would be ecstatic with that, but for me it felt slow and it was a real slog), and I had a weird turn a few hours afterwards where I suddenly felt sick and hot and felt like I was going to faint.

That knocked my confidence a lot for doing anything intense, so I paced it cautiously to begin with and then sped up on the second lap (it’s a two lap course). I haven’t really done any speed workouts for a long time, so overall I was very pleased. When I used to do parkrun regularly before lockdown, I got a lot faster just from treating it as a speed workout every week. It’s a lot easier both psychologically and physiologically to keep a strong tempo going when you’re in a pack of faster runners than it is on your own during the week when you feel like you should still be in bed.

I’m looking forward to next week’s now.

Happenings

I’m not at all happy with the weather the past few days. I tried running this morning and it was absolutely horrible.

Parkrun is back at the weekend but I don’t think I’ll be doing it. The COVID case numbers are shooting up very quickly, which puts me off. It seems like Parkrun has promised to return a number of times and then didn’t, but ironically now it looks like they’re actually going to do it, it’s happening at a time when there’s a higher chance of contracting COVID than any time previously.

I phoned the recruiter and said I was happy to progress. The next stage is to wait for the employer to send everything through. I’m not used to such a slow process! And it’s playing on my anxiety. Apparently they do some kind of background checking. The recruiter told me there would be a credit check (why?!) and a criminal record check. I’ve never had to deal with this for a job before so I don’t know what to expect. From my research it appears it will be the basic DBS check, because my role is not eligible for the standard or enhanced checks.

But since I’ve never done this and don’t know what to expect then I guess I should wait until this clears before actually handing in my notice? Obviously, I’m worrying I’ll fail the background check despite there being no reason I should. I’m worrying about references too. I’m sure my current employer will be fine, but the previous one… I have low expectations of them. I keep telling myself that they would gain nothing by starting a fight with me and potentially exposing themselves to a hefty lost earnings lawsuit, but eh. What if they just refused to give a reference? Thanks, anxiety.