Week Four = a quarter of the way through my sixteen week marathon training programme - time is absolutely flying! This week has certainly started to feel like marathon training though...
MONDAY: following Sunday's Round Sheffield Run event my legs were sore today and I generally felt physically tired. I went to Body Pump but could feel it was more effort than normal.
TUESDAY: interval day, and despite my Garmin seeming unable to register a correct pace (I was definitely not running 4 min/mile pace and hopefully not running 11 min/mile pace!) I enjoyed the workout. 6 miles of 5 x 1000m with 200m recoveries was on the plan and I managed to keep all reps between 6.57 and 7.11 min/mile pace. Abs class after.
WEDNESDAY: after a physically demanding day at work I was not very inspired to get home and lace up my trainers for 7 miles in the persistent heavy rain. I did though; and after a bit of a mental battle during mile one in which my head was trying to convince myself this was pointless, I slotted into a really nice rhythm. I was supposed to run an easy 9 min/mile pace, but finished with an average of 8.21 min/mile. Perhaps I was not as knackered as I felt after all!? Body Pump class straight after soon dispelled that thought though - that was a struggle!
THURSDAY: one of those runs which was just really horrible. I was working late so had the morning to get my run in. I set an early alarm and drew back the curtains with great intention. It was still pouring with rain. I could not face getting soaked to the skin again, so decided to give it an hour to clear and also try bank a bit longer recovery from my evening workout yesterday. Of course it did not stop raining, which did not put me in a great mood to begin with. As I started running I instantly felt like I had no energy, each step seemed an extra effort - not a great feeling with 7 miles ahead!
The plan was for alternating miles, an easy mile (approx 9 min/mile) followed by a hard mile (sub 8 min/mile pace). My resulting splits look alright on paper - 9.01, 7.36, 8.40, 7.43, 8.47, 7.51, 8.51 - but in practice it was such a struggle. I even stopped a couple of times, sheltering from the rain and wind driving into my face and gave myself a mental pep talk. A run completed - but not one I particularly enjoyed!
FRIDAY: Rest Day
SATURDAY: Lincoln parkrun, minus cake this week, but this time with my sister! The first time my sister ever completed a parkrun was in Lincoln when she was last visiting me, so it was always on the agenda to take her back to Boultham Park on her next visit. I had a real struggle of a middle lap today, but I rescued a good time thanks to a quick first lap, and finding some energy from somewhere for the final loop. I finished as 3rd female in 21:35, my friend was 4th female in a new PB, and my sister 5th female also in a massive new PB (see image). A good morning.
SUNDAY: with my sister over for the weekend and a long run on my training plan I decided a good option was to find a local race for us to do together rather than asking her to run round streets with me. We opted for the Race For Life Half Marathon at Clumber Park. Full blog to follow - but we managed a 5th and 6th female placing, finishing in identical times (quite apt for identical twins!) but only after mastering a whole load of hills in the process!
The sight of hundreds of lyrcra clad runners clustered around a single point at a park on a Saturday morning is now not so strange thanks to the phenomenon that is parkrun. However this Saturday morning, Tring saw a rather disproportionate number of runners descend on their local parkrun event, nearly all dressed in apricot coloured running gear. The parkrun Annual Conference was being held in nearby Berkhamsted and what parkrun conference would be complete without a parkrun visit on the agenda? I had been fortunate to be invited to the conference after recently taking on some volunteer work associated to a new project parkrun are delivering. So I too donned my apricot pakrun running vest, proudly bearing the name of my home ‘Lincoln’ event, and joined the 150 plus conference delegates to experience Tring, boosting their usual Saturday morning attendance by around 150 in the process!
Saturday morning was absolutely beautiful; the air had an early warmth about it which did not take an expert to forecast a hot day ahead. After a few glasses of wine Friday night I had been convinced by fellow delegates that running down to Tring from Berkhamsted before parkrun was a good idea - to be honest they did not have to try that hard to convince me. No one knew the route exactly, but there was a lot of enthusiasm. It was in fact a great idea, and as the sun was slowly rising into the clear blue sky I joined a number of runners to complete the 6.2 miles down to Tring, weaving our way through beautiful countryside, and probably surprising a few early morning drivers who were most likely not used to seeing a mass of runners out so early!
As we arrived at Tring park we joined the other delegates to create a sea of apricot. The park looked amazing, a green rolling landscape with the quirky addition of cows dotted around – Tring even have a 'cow marshal' volunteer role and a cow bell to ring if you set a PB! There had been much talk about the Tring course. Some had ran it before and knew what to expect, but the majority of us were Tring parkrun tourists for the first time. I knew there were hills, and the first kilometre was said to be a particularly ‘character building’ hill. The new runners briefing was possibly the largest I have ever seen, and the volunteers joyfully explained to us what to expect from the course – no shock, hills.
Taking my place in the starting huddle I knew this was not going to be anything like a PB run – my home Lincoln parkrun is fast and flat! – but I aimed to simply enjoy the route and push as hard as possible. The first kilometre was certainly character building. From the start we began a climb up a long grassy hill, definitely not the sprint start I am used to at Lincoln! As I reached the summit of this lengthy mound the course turned and continued to climb further, this section was even sharper now and wound through welcomed woodland shade. At this point Chrissie Wellington, British triathlete and four time Ironman Champion who now works for parkrun, overtook me – at least I was briefly in front of her for a kilometre! Finally the route stopped climbing and it soon became apparent the hills were worth the burning quads. A brief spell of flat along the top of the ridge let us experience the views below which were quite simply stunning.
Much to my quads delight the course then treated us to a section of downhill; freewheeling on dirt track, I felt amazing. This sensation was short-lived though as the route turned back onto grassland and I was met with a visibly undulating route ahead, some mounds were steeper than others and my quads began to whimper again. I then came to what the volunteer at the run briefing had called something like ‘false hope corner’ (I cannot remember the exact wording now!), it seemed as though you were at the finish and the funnel was in sight, however a sharp left turn in the other direction told you otherwise. The heat was apparent now and my legs were getting heavy beneath me, I hadn’t been paying attention to my pace at all, but I glanced at my watch to see how far left I had to go. Less than half a mile; I could do this. But wait, there was another hill. Jokingly known as Heartbreak Hill, the hill falls just when you thought you had made it. A steep slope presented in front of me; I smiled and laughed with the marshal stood at the foot about this being some kind of torture, but I was determined to make my way to the top, and even mustered something from my weary legs for a sprint into the finish funnel. Finally, no more hills!
My time was 26:08, virtually five minutes slower than my usual Lincoln parkrun times, which indicates the sheer difference in terrains. Tring parkrun was challenging in a new way though, and despite the demanding course, I absolutely loved it. The volunteers at Tring were amazing too, and I took great pleasure from looking at the photos taken afterwards, which shows so many runners winding through the gorgeous landscape. I would love to run Tring parkrun again in the future and would recommend it to anyone; it is tough but as with all parkrun events, everyone is welcome and I was seriously impressed by some of the younger children, buggy pushers and more senior adults tackling the climbs. Moreover, who could resist the chance to get to ring the famous PB cow bell!
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...