Week 8, run 2: February is the cruellest month

Yesterday, after the longest day ever, I went back out into the dark and cold to run. I wore too many layers and got too hot (I seem to have trouble wearing the right amount of clothes for my winter runs – I either end up boiling hot or numb with cold).

I didn’t really know what type of run I was going to do, as I feel like I am still gradually getting back into training after taking almost a week off. I ran a mile easy, and felt okay, so sped up a little to do two miles at a steady pace (which is around my ideal marathon pace, or maybe a bit quicker). I then cooled down for another mile or so.

My ankle/calf was okay until 3.5 miles in, when it started playing up again. I stopped to stretch a few times, and, just like on Tuesday’s run, the pain would ease off and then return.

I’m glad that this time I was able to run for longer before the pain started; but I really need to step up my stretching and strength exercises if I want to have a chance of getting through the rest of this training without hobbling all the way.

On another note, I have always found that February is one of the worst months of the year for me (and probably many people) mood-wise. Some days, or most days, can be a real struggle. When I reduced the amount I exercised last week, I noticed a huge drop in my mood. Yesterday, after several days of only clocking up around 7,000 steps, I managed to do 18,000 (including my run and a long walk at lunchtime), and I noticed a phenomenal improvement in my mood last night and today. I also slept like a baby for the first time in a while.

I know exercise is not a magic pill and to say it cures everything is naive and oversimplifying, but sometimes I forget how much difference it can make, even if it’s just making myself go for a quick walk.

Miles run yesterday: 4.4 / Type of run: Steady / Average pace: 9:30 minute-miles, with steady section at 8:56-9:08 / Miles run this week: 7.7

Week 8, run 1: One day at a time

I had an unexpected day at home yesterday. I used the opportunity to go for a run at lunchtime. The skies were grey and there was a chilly wind blowing. My mood wasn’t great, either, but I thought a run might help.

The first mile or so was fine, but I seemed to be riddled with indecision about what route to take. On the Strava GPS record of my run, there are a few comical squiggly lines where I started running one way, then turned back.

I ended up doing a tried-and-tested 5 km loop into Bushy Park and back. When I got into the park, my ankle/calf/soleus pain returned. This was confusing and disheartening, as over the weekend I’d run more than 17 miles with no issues at all. I stopped a few times to stretch my calf and make circles with my ankle. The pain then eased off; but returned again after running for a few minutes. Rinse, repeat.

As the pain eased off with stretching, I’m inclined to think it was caused by not stretching enough pre-run. I’m going to go with that, rather than risk sinking back into despair and taking several days off running again. Today, rather than running, I’ll stick to walking and stretching; and then tomorrow, I’ll try another run and see how that goes. One day at a time.

Miles run yesterday: 3.3 / Type of run: Easy / Average pace: 9:47 / Miles run this week: 3.3

Week 7: Regaining momentum

After I had to cut short my long run at the end of Week 6, I took five days off running. What I had thought was ankle or Achilles pain actually seemed to be in my lower calf (possibly the soleus muscle). I spent a couple of days limping around and feeling sorry for myself. I also carried out the RICE method: in the evenings I lay on the sofa with my leg elevated and ice on it (or rather, an old bag of frozen peas that we keep for such occasions), and ordered some fancy compression socks.

By Wednesday, the pain was less severe. I walked home from work (which takes about an hour), hoping it would help my mood, but mostly I was annoyed by the freezing cold weather and the fact that my calf still hurt a bit. I started putting heat on it (aka a hot water bottle with a lovely fluffy cover), and also stretched and did some strength exercises.

I was feeling spectacularly cranky by Friday. I wondered if I would ever run again. I was poring over my training plan, trying to analyse what went wrong, and if I should adjust the plan for the weeks ahead. I wondered if I should run at all at the weekend.

On Saturday, I decided at the last minute that I would try and do parkrun. The temperature was below zero. I almost slipped over when I got out of the car, because the car park had become a sheet of ice. After a perilous walk over to the starting area, and joining in some celebrations for a friend’s 500th parkrun(!), I ran 5 km with 1200 or so others. There were some icy parts on the course, but marshals were around to ensure no one slipped over. I kept my pace easy. Finishing that run, and with no calf pain, boosted my mood.

I had the rest of Saturday to feel a growing apprehension about Sunday’s long run. Eventually I told myself: if you can get this done, it’ll have the effect of a much-needed mental boost.

2019-02-03 08.15.23I set out to do around 14 miles. I stayed in Bushy Park, so that I wouldn’t have the added stress of thinking about a route. It was a beautiful morning: frosty and sunny. I ran alone, with an audiobook on earphones (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, in case you’re interested). The distance felt daunting to me, so I decided to split it into two sections: eight miles, then six.

This seemed to work well. Once I’d got to eight miles, I felt as if I could go on for six more, and that I even felt good enough to speed up. Although my legs were feeling tired for the last few miles, I finished strongly. I met friends for a cup of tea, feeling pleased with myself for getting that run done.

So, Week 7 involved a steep climb from the doldrums back into the heady realms of positive thinking. Today I have a sore hip, but I’m feeling more confident about going ahead with the (slightly revised) training plan, and glad that I have regained some momentum.

Miles run last week: 17.6 (3.1 on Saturday + 14.5 on Sunday)