I cast my mind back to the days following the St Albans Half Marathon 10 years ago where I recall that stairs were particularly difficult to negotiate. So I am pleased that the days following a 14 mile run were pretty much ache free. I’m sure this is partly down to a better level of fitness and preparation, but also more regular and thorough post-run stretching.
After Tuesdays eight 800m intervals down at the track with Striders, I had a chat with one of their more experienced marathon runners and this reassured me that I am following a sensible program. However, I should focus on some of the longer threshold runs and sprinkle some of their hill sessions in there too.
I thought I would take advantage of the Striders Thursday sessions this week to increase the distance on midweek runs. Huddled from the cold in the track clubhouse, the various run leaders announced their intentions for the evening and waited for everyone to make their choice. “Six 9½ minute miles”, “Seven 8½ minute miles” “Six 11 minute miles” and even a less popular “Eight 6½ minute miles” were put forward.
I joined Jack and his 9½ minuters for a spiraling trip around Cottonmill, then a skirting run around St Stephens, down to Batchwood, into town and then back down Holywell Hill for what turned out to be a slightly faster 9¼ minute miles. It was interesting running with a group, especially the random shouting from the front of the pack warning the rest of us of upcoming obstacles ranging from posts, fallen road signs, branches and even the odd pensioner waving a stick. It was a bit like being in a Mario Brothers game except without the satisfying noises from gold coins being found.
On Wednesday and Friday this week I spent some more time cross training and conditioning at the gym. By the end of Friday I had completed four continuous days with, at times, some quick intense workouts. This does beg the question to whether this is too much or too little. I would go with baby bear on this one and say it was just about right to carry on with four to five sessions a week.
It was tempted fate last week to gloat on about the good weather that had graced my long runs so far. There were few positives to be taken from the weather forecasts leading up to the 12 mile pre-marathon training run organised by the Gade Valley Harriers. The predominately blue area on the weather maps of the UK were complemented with tightly packed isobars across the South East. In fact all that was missing was a meteor shower and a thunderous tsunami approaching Hemel Hempstead up the Grand Union Canal.
I knew I couldn’t bottle out of this run at the first sign of inclement weather, neither could I fake a sore throat or even claim I don’t have the right equipment now after my generous selection of Christmas presents.
There were probably 300-400 eager, or insane, people turn up to greet the incoming weather system and the 12 miles separating them from a cup of coffee and slice of cake. I bumped into a friend, Neil, at the warm up and we discussed the alternate things we could be doing on this fine morning, the list was quite extensive.
On the dot of 9:30am the run began and so did the scheduled rain. A staggered start to the run allowed everyone to funnel down the stairs across the bridge down to the Grand Union Canal. Three miles of muddy puddle-strune towpath lay ahead of us, where the peace that the fisherman sought on Sunday mornings was broken by the swearing of runners miscalculating large bodies of water on route. The joy of leaving the tricky towpath was short-lived as a large hill presented itself between us and Potten End, which sits high above the town of Berkhamsted. It was quite a slog and it even had steeper incline for the last 200 yards that we managed to wheeze our way through.
The standing water on the roads around Berkhamsted golf course and towards Ashridge and back to Potten End were adding to the concentration needed to negotiate the route and avoid other road users. The marshals were doing a fine job in what were miserable conditions as the wind picked up and the rain intensified. None were more popular than the jelly baby distributors at the nine mile marker.
From here on the route was more down hill (not necessarily better) until we rejoined the Grand Union for the last mile. Interestingly, no one seemed to either care or be physically able to dodge the puddles this time and most just ploughed through them with gay abandon. The end of the run was where the canal met the Boxmoor Road. All that was left was to scale the steps, stretch out and head to the clubhouse for their famed hot drink and slice of cake. There was what only can be described as a think fug as we entered the clubhouse, it was a mixture of warmth from the hot drinks & radiators and the post-run steam venting from a few hundred sweaty runners. Nice!
After this welcome recovery re-fueling I bid farewell to Neil and walked, uncomfortably, back to the car. I was still soaking, so I decided to get changed in the car before heading home. It was as I awkwardly tried to remove my top that the discomfort I had felt for the last couple of miles of the run could be checked out. The joggers nipple I suffered a month ago had gone a stage further and they were both bleeding this time. All I could think about was how painful it was going to be when I get home and climb into the shower, this was a justified concern!
I can only imaging I was not applying enough BodyGlide to the necessary areas and I would need to look into other preventative measures for future rain running.