Jantastic Made Me Do It!

The weather is unsurprisingly crappy here on the South coast of the UK. Today we had heavy rain,  hailstones and sleet, accompanied by ice cold winds that make it feel like your face is going to fall off. Not a great day for running, that’s for sure.

Unless, that is, you happen to have signed up for some neo fascist fitness regime while under the influence of Christmas pudding last month. In which case, if you’re anything like me, you probably went out for a run to save your on-line face from the embarrassment of letting your Jantastic team down and repel the ridicule that your fun loving rivals would be sure to bestow upon you.

So, to cut a long story short, I went for a run. The plan was to run the usual 5K route along the seafront. However, after a more noticeable than usual helping hand from the wind for the first kilometre, I realised than turning round and heading West along the promenade was going to be much tougher than I wanted. So, after about 100 metres of face freezing winds, I decided to re-route to the more sheltered streets of central Hove.

This was definitely a good move as the wind didn’t cause me any problems once I was further inland. However, it also reminded me why it is that I like to run on the seafront. It’s not just the fact that there’s no traffic to stop for, or that there’s plenty of space to run on the promenade – in fact, the streets weren’t that busy at all.

No, the reason I like to run on the seafront is that, even though some sections aren’t particularly well lit at night, you don’t have to worry too much about where you land your feet because the surface is nice and even. The streets, on the other hand, are not only poorly lit, but the pavements are so uneven in places that it’s almost like running on a trail made of concrete and tarmac.

Needless to say, I ended up running pretty slowly to avoid the dips, trips and tree roots, and even had to walk at some points because it was just too dark to see the ground in front of me. Not ideal really, but still, I was happy to get my run in as, rumour has it, the weather is only going to get worse as the week goes on.

How’s your training going this week? Has the winter weather put you off your stride? Have you got someone or something encouraging you to get the job done? Or are you just one of those crazy people who loves to run against the elements? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Step Back Week

2015-01-11_SummaryYesterday was supposed to be another long slow run, upping the distance to 27K  as part of the marathon training plan.

Unfortunately, as I had a few extra things that had  to be done on Saturday morning, I didn’t have enough time left for three and a half hours of running; and, as my recovery for these longer runs tends to be a fairly grim affair involving at least twenty four hours to stretch, rest and recharge, there was no way I could do it today – not with a full day of work tomorrow. So I decided to review the old training plan.

Ideally, I’d like to run the full 42.2K (26.2 miles) before the Brighton Marathon, so I was a bit concerned that this was going to put a spanner in the works. However, after moving things around a little bit, I realised that I could probably still do it by increasing the distance of my long runs slightly and making sure that I had at least two weeks between each one. The gaps between these long runs will be a bit longer during my taper and recovery for the Half Marathon, but I reckon it’s still doable.

So, today, instead of running the 27K that I had originally planned, I decided to take a step-back week with a shorter long run of 15K – still a decent enough distance for me!

Before heading out, I had my usual two cups of coffee and a banana for breakfast and took a bottle of water with half a Zero tablet for hydration; and I figured I would try to keep my splits nice and slow, aiming for around 7:10 to 7:20 minutes per kilometre on average so that I wouldn’t feel overly tired afterwards.

Pretty much as soon as I started running, however, I could feel my stomach complaining. It wasn’t too bad at first, but after about twenty minutes I realised that I needed to get to a toilet. Luckily, there are a few public toilets along the seafront, so I looped back, found one and then headed back out again towards the Marina.

Again though, as soon as I started running, I knew something wasn’t right. But I decided to keep going and see how it went. After another fifteen minutes or so, I realised that the discomfort wasn’t going to go away, so I stopped again for a second toilet break.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I had planned to run 15K but had barely covered 5K, and I knew that once I got up above the cliffs there wouldn’t be anywhere to stop if I needed to. So, I decided to run as far as the Marina and see how I felt. If it still wasn’t right, I could use their facilities and then turn around and head for home.

Fortunately, the second stop seemed to do the trick and I felt much better as I headed up onto Madeira Drive. This is part of the route for the Brighton Marathon and Half Marathon and, as the only hilly section of the course, I really wanted to start using it on my training runs.

The hill itself wasn’t too bad, but when I turned around at the 8K mark (a bit longer than half-way after running back and forward looking for a toilet) I was confronted by a pretty strong headwind. However, the fact that I was running downhill for some of the return journey probably helped a bit, and I managed to complete the distance in 1:47:30 with an average pace of 7:10 minutes per kilometre as planned.

All in all, a pretty good morning’s work in spite of the early setbacks. And as for the stomach, that seems to have sorted itself out too.

How’s your training going? Have you encountered stomach grumblings on your morning training runs? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

This post is part of the Virtual Running UK Blog Hop. Click here to sign up, join the fun and visit more running bloggers.

Circle Hop 

Focus On Form: Foot Strike

200x200_Jantastic 2015I had planned to do my second Jantastic run yesterday but, as often happens, life got in the way and I had to postpone it until this evening.

The plan was to do my usual 5K route along Hove promenade, taking things nice and slowly once again to make sure that I didn’t over do it before Saturday’s long run. I set off at a deliberately slow pace and decided to focus on my form to avoid the temptation of pushing too hard.

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed that my left calf usually feels pretty tight and needs a lot more stretching that the right one after even a short run. I assumed that this was just due to the weakness in my ankle and achilles, but I read an article this week (can’t remember where though, sorry!) about how runners who have a fore foot strike often suffer from calf pain.

Basically, what it said was that while heel striking puts a lot of added pressure on the bones, fore foot striking puts more pressure on the muscles, which can lead to calf strains – which is me down to a tee!

So, I decided to take the advice offered in the article and use this evening’s run to focus on landing mid-foot. The idea is to try to land to the rear of the ball of your foot, with your foot beneath your knee and your toes pointing forward rather than downwards. Sounds complicated, I know! But I gave it a go anyway.

Because I was running so slowly and, determined to master the mid-foot strike, I decided at about 3 kilometres in that I would run a bit further than the planned distance. So, instead of turning around at the usual spot that would bring me back to the start at an even 5K, I decided to run to the Lagoon and turn back at the end of the path to bring me back home at a very uneven 6.26 kilometres.

In the end, I didn’t quite master the mid-foot strike and my left calf was still pretty tight, but I did run the whole way without a walk break and logged another nice little run for Jantastic!

Do you think much about your running form? Do you tend to strike the ground with your heel, fore foot or mid foot? Have you found that changing the way your foot lands on the ground has improved your running or helped with preventing injuries? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Jantastic!

200x200_Jantastic 2015Today is the first day of Jantastic, a three month fitness challenge designed to keep you motivated to achieve your goals through winter and spring. I decided to join up because, although I have been working to improve my fitness over the last few months in preparation for this year’s races, I’m still only running about twice a week on average. So, this month I have set my Jantatsic target to run three times a week – a challenging but achievable step up!

As today was Day 1 of the challenge, I wanted to get my first run logged. My aim was to run an easy 5K on my usual seafront route on Hove promenade. After last Sunday’s run, I felt confident that I could cover the distance without taking any walk breaks. However, I also wanted to make sure that I didn’t over-do things in terms of pace, as I would have two more runs to complete later in the week.

I headed to the seafront just after 7:00 pm. It was predictably cold and windy, but I was layered up enough for it not to matter. As it was dark, I decided not to worry about checking my pace on the Garmin (I’d have to wait until I passed under a lamp post or keep pressing the light button, which I really couldn’t be bothered with) and resigned myself to simply running along at what felt like a comfortably slow pace.

As I was taking things nice and easy, I decided to use the opportunity to think about my form. It’s not something that I have bothered with much, except maybe in the beginning when I was heel striking too much, or when I first started running up and down hills, but on the whole I don’t really give it much thought.

I know that I generally land front to mid foot and that I have a very short stride so, as I was going fairly slowly, I started to try to lengthen my stride a little bit to see how it felt. At first, it felt kind of weird and almost exaggerated, so I was glad it was dark and there weren’t too many people around to see what I was doing, but I soon started to get the hang of it and it felt ok – like I was running more than jogging, even if I was going more slowly than usual.

In the end, I finished the 5K in a time of 33:47, giving me an average pace of 6:45 per kilometre, which is fine for an easy run; but more importantly, I didn’t overdo things the way I usually do. The next four weeks are all about building a routine, and if that means taking it easier on the mid-week runs then so be it.

Besides, training isn’t just about improving pace or building distance, there’s consistency, form and a whole load of other things to learn about. And I have a feeling that this month is going to be a bit of an eye opener for me in that respect!

Have you joined Jantastic? Do you think about your running form? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Rest and Stretch

Circle HopAfter my long run on New Year’s Day, I decided to take the whole weekend off from running to get some rest and stretch out the old muscles. To be honest though, I didn’t feel as wiped out as I usually do the day after a long run, but my muscles were aching a bit more than usual. The main problem was my IT band. I’ve felt it go a couple of times over the last few weeks.

The first time was when I did the Virtual Jeff Galloway 13.1. The run was ok, but once I stopped running and slowed to a normal walking pace, I felt a sharp pain in my left knee. A similar thing happened on Thursday, except that it happened when I was about two thirds of the way into a 24K run. Luckily the knee pain eased off and felt fine after a bit of post run stretching, but I could still feel a tightness in the upper leg on Friday.

So, today I’ve been taking it easy and trying out different stretches. I found this video from YouTube quite useful, particularly the first couple of stretches. Definitely worth a go if you’re having similar issues – that and the old faithful foam roller, that is.

It feels strange not running at the weekend, but I know I need to sort this out before next weekend’s 27K run if I don’t want the same thing to keep happening.

Still, I plan to get a couple of runs in mid-week as I’ve signed up for this year’s Jantastic, which starts on Monday, and I don’t want to let the team down in the first week. Fingers crossed – and legs too for good measure! 😉

This post is part of the Virtual Running UK Blog Hop. To join the fun our visit the other participants, click here.

Hitting The Year Running

2015-01-01_SummaryHappy New Year! I’m going to skip the New Year’s Day formalities of reflection and goal setting, except to say that it has been a great year and I reckon 2015 will be even better. Starting with today.

I had planned a nice long slow run for this morning. I mean, what else am I going to do with a day off? It would be a shame to waste the whole day lounging around, watching TV and stuffing my face.

So, I headed out at about 9:30 am, a bit later than planned, but still early enough for a slow 24K. The plan was to use the usual 3:1 run/walk ratio but to try to keep the pace nice and slow – around 7:30 minutes per kilometre would bring me home at around the 3 hour mark. Just in time for lunch!

The original plan was to run along the seafront and take the coast road out beyond Saltdean and then back again. However, as I got closer to the seafront, I realised that the wind was pretty strong and that it might be better to stay a but further back from the sea itself.

So, I changed my plan and ran in the other direction, taking the road towards Shoreham instead. I was running against the wind, but it wasn’t too bad as there was a bit of shelter from some buildings along the route.

I reached Shoreham round about the one hour mark and decided to take a Power Gel. I’ve never used gels when running, but as this was going to be my longest run so far as part of my marathon training, I figured it would be a good idea to try them out – one at the one hour mark, and another at two hours.

I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but it didn’t taste as bad as I’d thought it would – nothing like real bananas and strawberries but not as synthetic tasting as some of the Power Bars I’ve used before. It actually tasted quite good and the consistency was fine too, so no problems there.

As I hadn’t really planned a route, I wasn’t sure which way to go once I reached Shoreham. I was only at around 8K, which was far too early to turn around and head back to Hove, so I decided to just follow my nose and then turn around again at 12K.

This made the run a lot more enjoyable as, apart from the fact that I was no longer running into the wind, I was running through streets I’d never seen before. But it didn’t take too long before I found myself on Old Shoreham Road, heading for Brighton and Hove. I really liked this stretch of the route as, despite having to stop for traffic occasionally, it has a few inclines to keep things interesting and challenging – even at my very slow pace. So I decided to keep going and complete a loop (of sorts) rather than my usual out-and-back approach.

Things were going well until around the 2 hour mark. I had just had my second gel and was jogging along nicely when I felt the twinge in my upper thigh get a bit tighter, followed by a sharp pain in my knee. I knew right away what it was. I’d had the same thing after my last long run.

I knew that stopping would make it seize up, so I slowed down, took lighter steps, and sure enough the pain eased off. The outside of my thigh was still tight, but I kept going, taking it easy and stretching it out when I had to stop for traffic. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to complete the 24K, so I decided to turn off the main road and back towards Hove, just in case it got any worse.

I don’t really like running around the streets because there is usually too much stopping and starting for traffic, but today it wasn’t too bad. I guess everyone was still recovering from last night’s festivities!

So, I kept going, stopping and starting at the traffic lights and then took in a lap of Hove Park and a turn around Hove Rec for good measure before completing the 24K in just over 3 hours. Not bad for a morning’s work.

When I got home, I stretched out my IT band right away and that seems to have done the trick. No real pain, just a few aches, but that’s not a problem as I intend to spend the rest of the day with my feet up, eating the entire contents of the fridge.

How was your New Year’s Day? Did you get a run in? Please share your thoughts and adventures in the comments.