Now back home after the warm weather training it was time to get focussed on running again.
The last month had been all about parkrun but running 5k isn’t going to get me too far in my pursuit of this year’s Oakley 20 hoodie. Time to start increasing the distance, I am still bugged by the lack of pace but that will hopefully return eventually.
First run back at the club on a Thursday evening and I achieved 6.6 miles at an average pace of 8:58 so happy enough with that. Next run was a somewhat muddy one, mostly off road but got to 8 miles at a more leisurely 10:37 pace. A return to two wheels the next day and I was leading the runners in the Fred Hughes 10 around the lanes to the west of St Albans. I find it fascinating to be at the front with the really good runners and watch how the competition unfolds, there are always races within the race developing as some try and break from a pack while others are caught as they fade towards the end.
It started to snow but the mountain bike with it’s fat tyres was not troubled. The uphill sections were hard work though. The fast runners don’t slow up, in fact they seem to run even quicker and I had to pedal furiously to maintain a distance at times.
Back to running on Tuesday evening and I felt very confident as I completed 7 miles at 8:44 pace. The next day however I had a very sore achilles tendon. I wore compression calf guards for the next couple of days and gave it a rest by not running again on Thursday as I had originally intended.
I had my first proper long run planned for Sunday and that needed me to be in as good shape as possible.
Before that though was an off road mountain bike ride with the cycling club on Saturday morning. A somewhat muddy 25 miles completed overall, despite getting a puncture about halfway in. That came after a particularly wet and muddy section and my hands were absolutely filthy by the time I had changed the inner tube.
A long hot soak in the bath afterwards, with a mug of tea and I felt a lot better!
So onto Sunday and what would be the longest run I had attempted since October 2016, the famous Gade Valley training runs kicked off with the 12 mile version.
Three muddy miles along the Grand Union Canal towpath and then that infamous long climb up Bullbeggars Lane. There were plenty of runners from the club out and I had company to talk to during this part. After the tough uphill as we ran towards Berkhamsted Golf club I uttered the words that are the title of this latest post. “I had forgotten how hard running is” and I meant it!
I hadn’t run up a proper hill since the Great Birmingham Run in 2016, and now although I was back on the flat it didn’t feel that much easier to run either.
I knew that I was now approaching the halfway point and I went ahead of the others by about 30 metres or so, I took my first gel in a long time to keep my energy level up. I was now settling into a rhythm, I would like to say a comfortable rhythm but it wasn’t.
Along Frithsden Valley it was busy as there was also a duathlon at Ashridge in full swing and the route was shared with the cycle leg, add to that some horse riders, dog walkers and a few cars and it was time to be aware of what was going on. I had been joined by a fellow Strider Paul, we used to run together a few years back and had plenty to catch up on. Then the next long uphill drag took it’s toll on him and he dropped back. Once up this bit there’s a water stop so I stopped and waited for him and took a second gel too. The others also arrived and after a drink we all set off again. Paul and I were ahead quite quickly though and as we got to Potten End I quickened my pace slightly and dropped him, this wasn’t intentional honest! I overcooked it though and had to walk for a minute so he caught up again. The next point just after 9 miles is the ‘Jelly Baby point’, the most famous part of the GVH training runs. Almost 3 miles to go but either flat or downhill and the sugary goodness boost of jelly babies to carry you home!
I was feeling pretty good and had run ahead on my own now, back to the canal for the final few metres and I realised that my legs had had enough. I felt fine in my head, my lungs weren’t screaming but my legs were not happy. They were not used to that sort of distance and they were aching like mad. I got to the 12 mile marker and ran just a little bit further, stopping the watch at 12.1 miles in 1hour 50 mins, an average pace 9:08.
So, my feeling is that I can still run distances, my legs need to get stronger however. The only one way to do that I guess is to use them some more!
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