Not wanting to tempt fate by mentioning this, but the weather systems conspired to bring another fine day for a long run. Sue was playing netball in Stanborough, which gave a perfect excuse for a more interesting linear run. I checked on-line maps to see if I could cunningly tack on a couple of miles to my previous excursion to Welwyn. Armed with these mental routes I set off down the Alban Way and ran its length to Hatfield, where I branched off around the Galleria and down towards the Tescos. At this point I hangered off to the right along the A414 towards the A1000 that would take me back into Welwyn with the required mileage added.
It was shortly after I made this turn, that my attention to on-line map reading came into question. I had checked that there was a path along the A1000, but neglected to do the same for the A414. Needless to say, it didn’t. And it didn’t for about a 1/4 of a mile of busy dual carriageway. There were brief areas of runnable grass, rudely interrupted by hawthorn hedges forcing me to skip on and off this potentially lethal length of road. I guess the speed work involved was an added bonus.
With that little drama over, I turned left at the first roundabout where I could see the top of a very familiar Gosling Stadium. As my new running shoes slurped and slopped in metres of mud it was becoming clear that there was a railway in between us with no obvious way of getting across. I returned to the main road and resumed up to the roundabout I should have taken with a note to self to look for an orienteering course when I get home. I reached Stanborough School just after noon completing 11.8 miles in the process.
There have been some new additions to my kit locker this week. I exchanged a Christmas Ronhill running top for a bigger and better version and a more pocket rich pair of shorts that were so nice to wear, that I may get a pair for work. In addition there was a mat for my stretching exercises and a textured foam roller for knocking out all those knotted body parts after a long run.
I thought it was about time to try some other fuelling options as all but one of the SIS gels were pretty disgusting. So I bought a selection of High5 gels and Clif’s Shot Bloks, which just sounded intriguing.
I attended a second week of track interval training as a Strider on Tuesday. Eight 400m runs in alternating directions at threshold speed with 60 second recovery times, followed by one mile at threshold, 60 seconds and finishing off with another eight 400m reps. GREAT! It is so much easier to do this in a group and every recovery session offered an opportunity to chat, albeit in a laboured way, to fellow sufferers. I did manage to discuss first marathons with a guy called Peter, who has completed a few more since. I soon learnt that it was best to time my questions to be in the 60 second recoveries, so that his answers were during the 400m thresholds. Smart! Eh?
There are a few more seasoned marathon runners at Striders who I hope to talk to over the coming weeks so that I can feel more comfortable with my training hydration, nutrition and resting schedules.
I received a gym schedule from Louis on the Monday and four days later it was time to try out some of this self-conducted discomfort. The whole session took about an hour and in the most part I found it less torturous than with Louis pushing me along. In reality it may have been me not trying as hard or choosing lighter weights in the machines. But I left there feeling good, so good in fact that a rare pub lunch with my Mum and all my siblings allowed me to see off some fish, chips and peas and an apple crumble and custard.
It was a challenging couple of days as far as calorie intake was concerned due to series of family and friends related scoff-fests, but thoroughly worth it. Despite the dry January I have been observing, I have been upping my food intake to balance the training and the weight is starting to stack up. It is probably my inability to distinguish the difference between chicken and chocolate as a suitable energy source.
Part of my gym membership comes with access to a vast online library of classes to pump those guns and tighten those buns. I had a go at a 10 minute abdominal crunching session and 20 minutes of Pilates to fill in an otherwise sedentary Saturday. I added 10 minutes of my own stretches and various excruciating maneuvers using the newly purchased foam roller.
This was going to be quite a landmark day in my running life as I was hoping to complete my longest continuous run ever, the previous being the St Albans half marathon 10 years ago. I had my support team with me today as Sue took to her bike and dished out water and encouragement along the route. It was another beautiful Sunday morning, only six or seven degrees, but the sun was out and the wind was causing mischief elsewhere.
We did an elongated version of a previous run, that takes in the Alban Way, bear off through Camp and Tyttenhanger down to the A414, but this time take it all the way to Hatfield before heading back down the Alban Way. We got off at Ashley Road and ran back around the ring road taking in a fly pass of the Jenkinson/Smiles residence, only to be chased down by Claire for a quick chat as she spotted us from her kitchen.
It was at this point (11 miles) that my hips were feeling a bit heavy and my feet were beginning to scuff the ground with more regularity. This continued until I hit the 13.1 mile mark near Batchwood roundabout and into unknown running territory for me. We continued into a busy Verulamium Park and at 14 miles I stopped my GPS and used the walk home as a cool down. Fortunately this was right at the bottom of the steep hill back up to King Harry Lane, so didn’t come a minute too soon.