10k!

The 10k went much better than the half marathon two weeks ago. The weather was similar, with bright sunshine and about 18 degrees C. According to Garmin the course had about 60m of elevation. This raised my eyebrow because 60m over 10k is about the same as 30m over my local 5k Parkrun, which I regard as not flat but certainly not very hilly either, whereas the 10k felt pretty hilly. This led me down a rabbit hole of reading about how elevation data is calculated. The simple answer is that it’s calculated according to elevation mapping datasets, but these are noisy and imperfect. Then, small differences are smoothed out by a curve smoothing algorithm to try to account for the noise. If you change the smoothing parameters, my run gives a total elevation climb of anywhere between 32m and 180m. So in summary: garbage in, garbage out. Let’s just say that it was a two lap course with two climbs on each lap.

My time was 43:05 which got me 26th place out of just over 300. It’s towards the slower end of a 10k for me but it was hilly and hot. Two people passed me around the 7th-8th km and that was entirely on me for going out too fast and not being able to hold the pace (I only held as well as I did because I was trying to keep up with one of them). This is frustrating because my pacing over about 5k is usually either perfectly even or slightly negative (faster on the second half) but apparently pacing longer distances is still a mystery to me. Though the heat doesn’t help.

And as for the heat…. well, I didn’t die or feel unwell, but I definitely felt the sun. I think the forecast temperature is largely irrelevant compared to whether or not it’s clear sun, which is really what cooks both you and the road. I prepared better this time by wearing a very light running vest and drinking half a bottle of water 15-20 minutes before. But I think I actually got more dehydrated on this 10k than I did on the half marathon two weeks before. My ears blocked up right after I finished, which is something I’ve only experienced one other time from running, but it was also during a hot race and I think it’s a dehydration thing. There was water on the course but it was in little paper cups rather than bottles, so you couldn’t take it with you while running. I grabbed one cup, managed to get about half a mouthful into my mouth and then poured the rest over my head. I’d have fared a lot better with bottles because I’d have got more water into me and I could have kept pouring it over me for longer. Today I feel a bit headachy and probably worse than I did after the half.

My achilles tendon was fine until about 7km (on a hill) then gave me a 1/10 ache for the rest of the run. I’m trying to remember how this has developed. It’s a small ache in the mid-portion (i.e. slightly above the heel), which is supposedly easier to rehab than the insertional variant (i.e. right down at the bottom of the heel). I’ve been having tightness in my calves on and off for a few weeks so it all blurs together, but I think I didn’t feel anything in the actual tendon until last Monday. And I think that I’ve probably overstretched it in trying to sort out my calves. At the moment I can’t really stretch them at all without it starting to ache. So I think with a few easy days and no stretching (and definitely no hills this week), it should start recovering. I don’t feel like running today anyway…

Next on the calendar is another 10k in three weeks. But in two weeks there is a 3 mile/8 mile race very locally which I did last year. If it wasn’t for the achilles tendon I’d be signed up to the 8. I’ll see how it is by the end of the week, the 3 miles should be OK…

Birmingham

Or, did I finally lift the half marathon curse? Spoiler alert: no I didn’t.

In the end, what actually got me was the weather. Again. The forecast was about 12 degrees, cloudy and maybe a bit of drizzle. Most of my training this year has been done in cold, wet and windy weather, so, apart from being a few degrees warmer, these conditions would have been fine. Unfortunately, though, the cloud had to meet other engagements so we actually had pure sunshine at the time of the year when the sun is is starting to project some real power. Apparently it was the warmest day of the year so far, and I got sunburnt. (And less than a week later, I was walking up to Parkrun thinking “hmm, I wish I’d put my gloves on”)

I ran pretty well for about 10km then started to feel a bit dubious. By about 12km I started feeling very nauseous and thought I was going to throw up (I didn’t), and had to stop and walk a couple of times. The 25m climb over the 12th kilometre possibly didn’t help. As of the 16km water station I kept hold of the bottle and kept pouring it over my head to cool me down. It helped a lot and towards the end I was keeping a steady pace again, but my heart rate was very high.

The course was very up and down for the first half, then, after a real climb up to about 12km, settled into a steady downhill. So in theory the second half and especially the last third should have been much faster, but everyone I follow on Strava (with one exception) had splits similar to mine, with a total drop off from around 12km that never recovered. I’m not sure if that was the fatigue from the hills in the first half or the the cumulative effects of the heat (I suspect the latter). The one exception ran fairly even splits, and then collapsed at the end and ended up in the medical tent afterwards (he’s fine now).

I had underestimated the hills. In previous years the course was much flatter, but they changed it this year and hadn’t published a profile. The first 7km went in circles up and down some fairly steep hills in the city centre. Runalyze has the total elevation gain at 211m, which makes it the hilliest half I’ve done. It has almost the same amount of total elevation gain as the Boston marathon (over half the distance), which is considered a difficult marathon because of the hills. I’m not really a big fan of hills.

Anyway, the summary is that I wasn’t pleased with the result at the time (1:47), but it was a tough course on a hot day and I still managed to hold a decent pace over the last few kilometres, so that’s a win. Usually when I struggle, I look at the race photos afterwards and my posture has collapsed, but this time I still look pretty strong by the end, so that’s a positive too.

I have to mention the goody bag. Post run goody bags are usually underwhelming, but Great Run outdid themselves here. It included some hummus “crisps”, a the token unappetising protein bar and… a bottle of vitamin C tablets. Not a multivitamin, but vitamin C specifically. Because… runners are prone to scurvy? 🤷‍♂️ I do like the Great Run t-shirts though. They always seem very high quality. This year’s is quite thin, so I now have a wide selection of light summer and thicker winter running t-shirts from Great Run.

Recovery was fine and I was running again a couple of days later. I actually did too much in the week afterwards and this week I’ve been quite achy and have had to tone it back a bit. My right hip and left achilles are a little bit grumpy. I’ll probably skip Parkrun tomorrow and save my legs for a 10k I’m doing on Sunday, which hopefully will go better than the half. The forecast is sunny and hot, but I’m prepared with a new very light summer running top. I’d like to say the course will be easier, but it’s two laps with a 600m long 2.8% gradient hill on each lap… hmm. At least it’s only 10k.

Tapering

Half Marathon on Sunday.

I’m pleased with my training. I had COVID in January and it took me until mid March to feel like it wasn’t affecting my running anymore, but since then I’ve kept the mileage and intensity up and felt pretty strong. I held it around 70km per week for six weeks, with two long runs per week between 16km and 23km, one tempo (30-60mins) and one 5k threshold (Parkrun) which has been steadily increasing in pace. I started tapering a bit early because my calves felt too tight for the one last short tempo last Wednesday, but I’ve done a couple of 5km progression runs since then. I bought some calf compression sleeves and have been wearing them for the last few runs, though I don’t know if they make a difference. All that remains now is a shakeout Parkrun tomorrow and then I’m done.

That’s the good side. The bad side is that my calves still ache a bit, I woke up last night because my knee was aching (seriously? I do all that training and then when I knock my mileage way down, that’s when you decide to ache?) and I had to get up and stretch my hamstrings out to get it to stop, I feel a bit rough possibly because my hayfever is starting, and the weather is becoming muggy which I will definitely feel on Sunday. Oh, and all my easy runs feel hard and suddenly I have no confidence in my training.

I hate tapering. You get into a rhythm with training and then suddenly it’s all gone. You have much more free time and you don’t know what to do with it and I start waking up really early because it turns out I don’t need 10 hours of sleep a night when I’m not running much.

I’ve decided that I’m going to take it a little bit conservatively. I’ll be looking for sub 1:40 and then to build on that for the next one. I feel like I need the experience and confidence boost of a half marathon going to plan for a change. Something we need to bear in mind is that the half marathons involving me are cursed. I haven’t run a good half marathon since before COVID. I counted them all up and there are 7 of them; some of them were cancelled, some of them I just did terribly. Most other people would have taken the hint, but not me. So here we are. 8th time lucky?

Also, I’m toying with the idea of a full marathon early next year. So I need this to go well, or at least, better than the last 7.

Stress

I think we got the jury service sorted out. My employer asked me to defer it until December, which is a lull in their need of me, according to their scheduling (note: you can’t schedule software development a week in advance, let alone 8 months, but whatever). This still needs to be approved by the courts, but I think it’s likely they will.

In other stressful news… About 3 and a half years ago I left my previous job because it was a toxic workplace. I should have left at least a year earlier and being there every day did a lot of damage to both my mental and physical well-being. I think it caused something like complex PTSD but that’s another blog post I don’t really intend to write…

The problem was really just one particular woman. But that’s ancient history now… Or is it?

I was on a run today and guess who I saw. She didn’t see me, or possibly she saw me first and pretended to be fascinated by her phone.

Here’s my heart rate graph, see if you can guess where I saw her.

It’s the big spike just before 35 minutes.

I actually felt pretty alarmed just to see her. All the feelings of anxiety came back in an instant and I felt the rest of the run feeling sick. I guess I’m a bit surprised. Before lockdown when I used to get the train to my new job I always used to feel the stress when we passed my old job’s building, but I really thought that I wouldn’t be so easily triggered now.

Anyway, the good news is that it’ll probably never happen again. This was along the high street in the town centre and she lives in a different town, so it was probably an unusual visit for her.

Judgement

The first piece of exciting news is that I have been selected for Jury Service! Ahhhh. I told my manager and he was like “yeah, fine”, but then he told the company owner, who is now having a bit of a tantrum about it. I don’t think he’s come across the situation before as he doesn’t seem to understand the options and currently thinks I don’t need to do it if it inconveniences him (nope).

I can ask to defer it until another time in the next 12 months if my employer won’t give me the time off, which is probably what he’ll want me to do. I don’t really see why my employer gets a say at all, to be honest, and I would prefer to just get it out of the way. I need to respond to the summons within the next few days (or potentially be in contempt of court!) with either an “ok” or “I can’t do it on this date because [reasons], but I can do it on these dates instead” and at the moment I’m twiddling my thumbs waiting for my employer.

There was a post on Reddit earlier that said something like “in relationships, look for people who make your life easier, not harder”. Very apt.

Anyway…

It’s three and a bit weeks to go until my next half marathon. My last few weeks of running looks like this:

I’m mostly focusing on durations rather than distances. I haven’t really decided on a target time or pace, but it should be between 1:30 and 1:40, hence why you see a lot of 16km runs (which take me about 1:30 at an easy pace).

My body is hungry, tired and achy, and I am so fed up of the weather! The 18km on Wednesday included a 60 minute tempo, which included long stretches of running into strong wind gusts. Try holding a tempo pace in a 30mph headwind, it’s not easy!

Updates

One of my mum’s friends has just lost her job because the company has ceased to exist, because the owner is in hospital and unlikely to recover. It’s a risk of small companies with an aging owner. I work for a small company with an owner in his mid 70s. Hmm. I’m also bored with work and I don’t feel I’m growing, but on the other hand… I can’t really be bothered? I keep thinking about it, though. I keep getting recruitment messages. I’ve been here for coming up to three and a half years now. I am getting frustrated by the work though. Everything is always urgent, more urgent than the thing I’m currently working on, which was urgent yesterday but now is not. And it’s the classic software problem of trying to convert what could generously be described as a half baked idea into something subjected to logical consistency. The compiler doesn’t stand for nonsense!

Running updates: A few weeks ago I was aiming for a 22:30 Parkrun and ended up with 23:15 or something. The following week I had the same aim and ran 22:15 – yep, a whole minute faster, and it felt like only a moderate effort. I was super pleased with that. I was planning to just do a full effort run this last week and see where I am, but that was scuppered by the snow and ice. Parkrun went ahead but on a very revised course, which was about 50% grass. Or, more accurately, mud. In road shoes. In theory you could use the lack of friction to your advantage, but I haven’t quite mastered that. So we’ll see next week. I’m not too optimistic though – I did some hill repeats yesterday and felt like I was going to die.

I’m now approximately two months post-virus and this last week my resting heart rate finally came back down to pre-virus levels, but it’s still often elevated when running.

With Stratford cancelled, my next race is Birmingham half marathon in just under 8 weeks. Birmingham is usually a fairly flat course outside of maybe two or three nasty hills. I’ve been doing 75 minute runs for the last few weeks and this week bumped one up to 90 minutes. Ideally I want to be doing one 75 minute run and one 90-120 minute run per week (at tortoise pace). In theory I’ll be fully virus recovered by then, but as I still have lingering effects now I’m not sure how effective the training has been and will be… I have modest expectations.

Monty in the snow:

Setbacks

The Stratford half marathon has been cancelled due to low entry numbers. I’m a little bit irritated by this because I think it’s the organisers’ own fault. I hadn’t signed up yet, because I was signed up in 2020 when they cancelled it and didn’t offer refunds. Entry was instead deferred to 2021… which was also cancelled with no refunds. So I was waiting until nearer the date to sign up this time. Entry numbers are low with 8 weeks to go… Hmm well there’s a mystery 🙄

If things were different I’d be very disappointed, but I’m not really sure I’d have been up to it anyway. My post COVID or whatever fitness is nowhere near being able to run a half in a decent time and I think if I tried I’d have a very bad time. I’m quite glad I was injured for Warwick because I think I would have blown up very quickly if I’d tried to race it.

I aimed for a 22:30 Parkrun this week. It’s a nice round number of 4:30 per km. Pre-virus, I was regularly doing 10k tempo runs at that pace which felt like moderate effort, so it seemed very achievable to keep that pace over 5k running with other people. 23:11 is what I actually ran. Not even close! I tried to really push on the last km but my legs weren’t interested.

It’s weird. I can still do very short intervals at reasonably fast paces and I can still do 60 minute slow runs, but the middle ground of trying to maintain a moderate speed for any length of time just isn’t happening.

I’ve been reading articles on running after COVID and a few other people have made similar points. I think it’ll just take more time. In the meantime, the fact I can still do the long slow runs is encouraging. Hopefully that will actually translate to aerobic fitness at some point…

Physio

The physio news is that I have tight calves and I’m overpronating, probably because my calves aren’t allowing enough mobility so my ankles collapse inwards at push off to compensate. Same as last time, really. I’m trying supportive insoles and lots of stretching for the next few weeks and then see how it goes. I think the stretching will be enough though.

I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’ve missed three of the last four weeks, or whether it’s still the flu lingering, but my fitness has dropped off a cliff. I treated Parkrun this week as a progression run and did the last and fastest km in 4:16, which felt like pretty much max effort. Normally on a Parkrun I would do all my splits comfortably faster than that…

Yesterday I did intervals. It’s been weeks since I did any tempo speed work, and even longer since I did short intervals. I went with: 3x1min, 2×2, 1×3, 2×2, 3×1. I averaged 3:57/km which wasn’t too bad considering that it’s a loop with a significant elevation change, but I had to ease off after the third 1min rep because I was feeling nauseous and lightheaded.

My ankle feels a little worse for wear after the intervals but it’s not too bad. Overall I feel pretty tired today though.

Bonus Monty pics.

He looks so intelligent sometimes, you wouldn’t believe that a few hours later he was running around a field with a poo bag in his mouth (unused, thankfully), and then a few minutes later found ANOTHER one. Yes, he ate them both. They came through him on Sunday morning.

Eccentric

I tried a 10 minute/2k test run on Sunday and it didn’t really seem to affect my ankle at all, so I then did 5k on Monday, which I also seemed get away with. Tuesday I did a 5k progression (i.e. gradually speeding up, every KM faster than the previous), and it was fine until I came home and did 20 calf raises. It started to hurt after about 15 and then seemed quite achy for a while, but it was fine on the dog walk two hours later. Wednesday was an easy 30 minutes, which was also fine. Thursday I took a rest day just due to scheduling, so of course on Friday morning it was hurting more than it has done recently. Doing a quick calf stretch took away 90% of the pain but it’s still worse than it has been.

So anyway I’ve got a physio appointment for Tuesday.

I have been focusing on eccentric exerises for it, which per my non medical understanding means loading the tendon while it’s being stretched. Usually to load a tendon you contract the muscle, but apparently going the other way encourages ‘remodelling’. I think really it means you’re damaging the tendon in such a way that the body wants to heal it, (hopefully) without the problems it had built up before. Eccentric exercises seem to be the most effective for tendonitis from what I can tell. But we’ll see what Mr Physio says. He’s the same one I saw a few years ago and seemed to know what he was talking about.

Unrelated to the above, here is Monty in a cafe at the weekend. I know, he’s really cute. Let me know if you want to send him a Valentine’s day card.

Still injured 😕

I’m still injured, which is a bit rubbish. I haven’t run for over a week now. My ankle feels a lot better in general but it’s still achy. I thought it would have been back to normal by now and I’d be tempted to try a test run, but nope. I think I made it worse a few days ago by trying some resistance band exercises. The pain is down the inside and I think it’s the posterior tibial tendon, so I tried doing some inversion and eversion exercises with the bands. The inversion works the muscle, the eversion stretches it. I think it’s the eversion (stretch) that set it off again.

The mechanism of injury seems to be that you overpronate i.e. the ankle collapses inwards too much, leading to the tendon getting repeatedly stretched just a little bit too much. So probably I should be avoiding exercises that stretch it. Maybe I should just focus on inversion exercises to work the muscle and hopefully trigger some healing. Overpronation is always a strange one with me because I have visibly high/strong arches and I tend to put the weight more towards the outside of my foot when I stand, which would make you think more of underpronation. But I really do overpronate when I run (sometimes), which I can see on the wear of my shoes’ insoles and the calluses I get down the inside of my big toes. The physio I saw a couple of years ago thought it was a bit odd but said it was probably my tight calves. So I stretched them a lot and the old wear patterns never formed on new shoes. I wouldn’t say they’re too bad at the moment but my achilles tendon on that leg does feel noticably tighter than the other, so that could be it.

In TV news:

I finished Star Wars Rebels. The first season is a bit rough but by the end I think I was enjoying it more than Clone Wars overall. It really makes me want to see an Ahsoka series (which I think they are making?) to see how it plays out between her and Thrawn. I’m now two episodes into Kenobi and it’s… alright. I mean, a lot of things don’t really make sense, but you don’t watch Star Wars for brilliant writing. I don’t know, ask me again when I finish it. Next up will be Bad Batch and Andor.

I’ve almost finished Orville and Lower Decks. I have to say that neither Orville or Lower Decks, both essentially being parodies, have any business being as good as they are. I’ve enjoyed them far more than serious Discovery (which I gave up on) or Picard (which I didn’t give up on, but wasn’t that great). People say that Strange New Worlds is better but I haven’t seen it yet.

I also watched the last Expanse season a little while ago. If that’s the last one they ever make, then it’s very underwhelming. It peaked around S2-S3, though S4 was still pretty good. S5 started off OK but became a chore and S6 was forgettable. It’s a shame because S2-S3 was very good.