rebuilding to 50k

I’ve been encouraged by my running the past couple weeks.  Though my legs felt leaden and my lung capacity well short of 100%, I still got out for a couple social runs with the Carron Valley Trail Runners and (just about) kept up.  Each run felt better than the previous one.  It was a satisfyingly progressive recovery arc and I feel pretty lucky that this all coincided with these rare and amazing long spring days with bluebird skies.

At parkrun last Saturday, the weather resumed its normal service and the familiar puddles were returning to the Springburn course (though it wasn’t at full steeplechase level yet).  That said, I don’t mind a run in the rain.  And if you have to run in the rain, it’s more fun if there’s loads of people sharing in the almost perverse joy of it.

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As per usual, I forgot to turn off my watch when I crossed the finish line, so I didn’t know what my time was. After I got the text from parkrun, I was pleased to learn I ran the 5k route in 22:46.  Considering that I spend most of 2016 just trying to break 23:00, I’m happy that I’m getting back to my normal speed (or lack thereof, ‘speed’ is a purely personal thing, right?).  That 5k felt tougher than it usually does, but… feel like I’m getting there.

I’m off to run the ATRX tonight — that is, the Antonine Trail 10k Race.  I’ll put up a race report once that’s done and dusted.  Then it’s off to Inversnaid to run the 50k Great Tartan Skidaddle route as a solo effort this coming Saturday.  I trained for that thing for so long, I feel like it’s something I need to do.  Maybe I’m just stubborn?

It’s great to have my health back, even if I feel a bit more sluggish than usual, but I don’t want to complain.  Having been in hospital and then being sedentary for weeks really makes one appreciate how brilliant it is to be, literally, up and running.

PJ.

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back at it

It has been a couple weeks since my pneumonia / blood infection fiasco that – annoyingly – kept me from running my first ultra.  I’ve spent that time doing very little, trying to allow my body time to rest and properly recover.  I gradually introduced some breathing exercises, some walking, a short hike, and finally a bit of easy cycling.

Then I went for my first run.

I went for an easy 6.4k.  My legs felt like dead weights, but I suppose that’s to be expected after sitting on my arse for so long?  I was pleased that my breathing and heart felt normal, so I took some confidence from it.  Rather than the physical, the mental side of things is more of a challenge.

Since leaving hospital, I’ve been hyper-aware of my throat, lungs, and personal health stuff generally.  It all started with this innocuous scratchy throat which felt like any other mild cold-like symptom before it all went quickly downhill.  So before my run, all these irrational “what ifs” started ping-ponging around my mind… like, what if my last run was what triggered everything? and so on.  The running, of course, was not the cause of the infection.  The doctor said so.  The doctor also credited my quick recovery to the fact that I had been doing so much running in the first place.

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Though once I started running, the irrational negativity quickly dissipated.  Running has a way of doing that.  I loved the feeling of the fresh air on my face.  The birdsong.  How my normal route was comfortably familiar yet all different with the fresh riotous greens of spring. All the friendly dog walkers and cyclists along the John Muir Way.

So back at it!  I only stopped running for two weeks, but it’s become such a part of my routine that running again made me realise how much I missed it.  On the other hand, not running for a couple weeks has helped me remember that running is undeniably brilliant, but it’s not the only thing I enjoy.  Slowing down was good.  I did a lot of reading.  Walked.  Took photographs.  All good stuff.  Ultramarathon training gave me  tunnel vision at times, running and the upcoming race was everything.

I set a date for running an ultramarathon.  20 May will be my ‘Great Solo Skidaddle’ because I missed the Great Tartan Skidaddle.  Felt like I had to do it, one way or another!

PJ.

 

 

“an infinite storm of beauty”

Happy (belated) John Muir Day.  Having grown up in California and spending every childhood summer in the high Sierra, I always had an appreciation for Muir and his writing continues to find resonance.  Maybe it’s because I’ve found myself in Muir’s footsteps, though my journey has taken me the opposite direction: from California to Scotland.

I’ve posted a brilliant video below that puts Muir’s timeless words to spectacular images of Yosemite.  I’ve always loved this passage from Muir’s writing, quoted in the wee film:

..when we contemplate the  whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with contents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.

Travels in Alaska, 1915

Though the video sets these words to images of Yosemite, this was actually Muir’s reflection as he set sail from away California toward Puget Sound and British Colombia, part of his longer journey to Alaska.  There’s a great sense of perspective that is obviously captured in the beauty of Yosemite, but transcends that.  We could easily hear these same words echoing during a run through the Campsie Fells, or even just there in my garden to refill the bird feeder, seeing the bumble bees and colourful shoots of spring.

Anyway, take five minutes to enjoy some of Muir’s mental balm:

PJ.

podcast nerd

Terry Freedman, “podcast listen” @Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In the past year, I’ve started listening to podcasts as a regular thing.  I know, a decade late to the party right?  They’ve revolutionised my commute and are often a welcome change to music when I’m on my longrun.

So with that in mind, I’ve updated my “Links” page up on the menu with all the things I enjoy listening to as well as the sites I read — both running specific and things more generally about the outdoors.  Or you can search above just click here for my ‘links’ page.

Anything I’m missing out on?

PJ.

stupid pneumonia

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As it turned out, I never managed to run the Great Tartan Skidaddle.  So as of yet, I still haven’t jumped over that “ultra” hurdle.  Which is really frustrating. So my goal of finishing all the races that I enter….?  Will need to rethink that one.

The last week of my taper started so well, aside from waking with a slightly scratchy throat the day it all went pear shaped.

I took an easy run around Colzium Estate and I really enjoyed myself.  My legs felt fresh and I enjoyed exploring the place, which I usually just ignore and head further up the hills or to the top of Tomtian.

But when I got home, I got this raging fever that came out of nowhere, accompanied by the worst headache that I’ve ever experienced, hallucinations in the mix as well.  To make a long story short, I was eventually taken by ambulance to the Royal Infirmary and underwent a series of tests to find out what was wrong.  The doctors were initially concerned that I had meningitis due to the level of infection showing in my blood tests.  Turns out it was (thankfully) “just” pneumonia, but the infection hit me really hard for some reason.

So I spent race day in the hospital on a drip.

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I’m thankful for the great care I received from the NHS and that they got to the bottom of what was wrong.  Still, the whole thing was frustrating.  A weekend in the hospital was the last thing I wanted.  Seeing photos of the event online only increased that sense of missing out on something I had been looking forward to for months.

12 weeks of injury-free training. All good.  And this infection seems to have come out of nowhere.  This is the first time anything like this has happened, but it has knocked my confidence a bit.  I suppose it’s one of those freak things that just happen, but now I’ll probably have more “what if” doubts when I embark on another long training plan.  That’s always there when you commit to something like a longer race, but now I know the feeling of disappointment when I can’t even make it to the starting line.

Still, I’m determined to do the race in one way or another.  Once I’m back to full strength (and that could be a while — still on my medication and the doctor ordered at least two weeks of complete rest and then need to ease my way back slowly), I’m going to run the whole Great Tartan Skidaddle course solo, or with some friends.  It won’t be the same, sure, but it’s something that I still really want to do.

I’ve been stuck inside for a week.  Honestly, I’m a bit fed up and can’t wait to get out running again.  But I need to take my recovery seriously so I can get back to what I love.  This in mind, I might also miss out on the ATRX in a month’s time, I just may not be ready.  In that case, I’ll see if I’m well enough to volunteer to take photos or something.  In the meantime, time to enjoy other good things in life.  Resting and listen to lots of good music and reading good books.

Once I’m well though — can’t wait to do the route that I didn’t get to do.  Also thinking that I might be able to put some proper effort toward getting a good time at the Strathearn Marathon…

PJ.

I’ve attached a few photos from Colzium Estate below.  It’s lovely and seems a bit underused. Worth exploring and a good park if you’ve got little people:

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In praise of monotony / Monday music

I love trails and I’m lucky enough to have a couple on my doorstep (not literally, about half a kilometer of tarmac first).  That said, when I look back at my running diary, I see that only about half of my running takes place on trials.  As a father of two small kids, it’s often just easier to throw on my shoes and dash out the door for a quick 30 minute speed session.  Or if the weather is awful, I know that the relief of a warm shower awaits me as soon as I return.

There is nothing like running through wild landscapes and nothing really tops it.  But I’m not one to for getting all snooty about road running.  I’ve stated to enjoy the monotony, or less negatively, predictability of it. It means I can run and allow my mind to check out.  It’s like the negative to the developed photo of the focused mindfulness I need on the trails.

I’ve recently been losing myself in podcasts.  The brilliant and unclassifiable S.Town made me want to do back-to-back longruns just to get to the next chapter.

I also feel as if running has expanded my musical tastes.  Or maybe it’s just allowed me to shamelessly enjoy more bad pop.  Sufjan Steven’s Carrie and Lowell  might be a work of genius, but it doesn’t really inspire pacey running.

Here’s a short jam that I’m currently enjoying, which heard when I was catching up on BBC Radio Scotland’s ridiculously late but fantastic Roddy Hart Show.  Leeroy Stagger’s “I Want It All” is two minutes of joy:

Enjoy,

PJ.

Taper Mode

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I finished my ‘peak’ longrun a couple weeks ago and I’m now enjoying(ish) my taper.  That longest longrun was a full marathon.  I’ve never run so far in my life, but I felt remarkably okay afterwards.  It was a good confidence booster before the Great Tartan Skidaddle – in that I did it and survived.  Earlier that same week I had done speed work and hill sessions, so I wasn’t going into the 26.2 fully rested.  All in all, it made 31 miles feel slightly less daunting.

Tapering is a strange thing.  I’ve been running so much that easing off the training load feels strange.  I thought that I would feel full of energy.  Instead, I feel a bit lethargic and a bit stressed.  The longer runs are great for headspace and the speedwork gets the adrenaline going.  I’m actually missing it a bit.

But it’s just part of training for an ultra and doing the right thing.

Here are some things I’ve read recently that I’ll keep in mind as I go into the last week and a half of tapering before race day:

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While many runners dread tapering and the associated slothful feeling that comes with reduced activity, try to see past that and reminder yourself that it is a key element of your training, just as important as the speed sessions and long rungs you logged to get to this point…  The taper is also a valuable time for replenishing your emotional energy reserves by enjoying family and friends.

Hal Koerner with Adam Chase, Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning (Velo Press, 2014), p.37

…avoid thoroughly trashing yourself in the two weeks before race day.  In general, err on the side of too much rather than not enough.  Believe in your training!

Bryon Powell, Relentless Forward Progress (Breakaway Books, 2011), p.51

Tapering is about allowing all this hard work to come to fruition, allowing your body to recover fully from the residual training fatigue, but at the same time not losing the fitness benefits it has gained.

Sarah Rowell and Wendy Dodds, Trail and Mountain Running (The Crowood Press, 2013), p.111

 

PJ.