Friday, 5 June 2009

Day 40 - double digits

Type - steady run

Distance - 10.25 miles

Time - 1 hour 22 minutes 43 seconds

There is a special kind of run that comes just when you are feeling listless, down and defeated and, from somewhere, you manage to pull an exceptional performance out of the zip-up sweatband. In the six weeks of uninterrupted training today's run has been the most satisfying. Not only did I manage a step change in distance whilst maintaining a decent pace, but it came after a week of feeling pretty depressed and has managed to put a zing in my step again.

Tuesday's tempo run was difficult and frustrating. I did manage a decent time, but the heat, traffic and delays made it annoying and my constrained chest made it unpleasant. The blister on my right foot had healed to a point, but was still pink and tender. And ominously in the run up to today's run I have felt stiff and sore in my calves and hamstrings. I was supposed to do the long run yesterday, but decided that I would benefit from the additional recovery time. I stretched twice a day in the meantime, and hoped I would be able to loosen the muscles enough to run on Friday.

Another source of apprehension was the faith I was putting in an invisible stick of anti-chafing foot lubricant called Compeed. I had gone to the pharmacist at lunch and asked about a variety of remedies, from zinc-lined tape to blister plasters and the strong recommendation was for the anti-blister stick. It seemed a bit too good to be true - looking like a miniature roll on deodorant and applied to the affected area. It came with positive online reviews, so I slapped some on and put on my Hilly socks and hoped that this combination would ward off any friction and blisters.

Despite these worries I did think that a nine-mile run was possible. I must have been confident enough of my abilities to plan for a mile long extension at the end of the nine miles to take me to ten miles in case I felt up to it at the end. But mentally and physically I was not in the most positive place. I went down to get changed, and headed for the Embankment. My plan was to run 8.5 - 9 minute miles at a steady and, as far as possible, relaxed pace. My route would be similar to the long runs I have taken with Jarlath - down Embankment, veering off through Horse Guards Parade and along St. James's Park to Horseferry Road to avoid Parliament, and then back on the Embankment all the way to Lots Road (map). This would be 4.5 miles, and thus make 9 miles on the return leg. The additional mile would come from a half mile and back further along Embankment past Temple.

I was careful to start off with a decent, slow warm up and the stiffness and aches in my legs soon faded away. Miles 1 and 2 passed in no time, averaging 8.5 minutes for them both and then I was on the long road running by the side of the river. It is a great place to run, with little interruption for traffic (except at the bridges) and wide pavements with few other users. The slowly flowing Thames and some stunning riverside views make it a fantastic route. The mile markers of this run were near bridges - 2 and 7 miles at Vauxhall Bridge, 3 and 6 miles at Chelsea Bridge and 4 and 5 miles at Battersea Bridge. They were easy to remember, and so I could really work on pacing and timing. The pacing was remarkably steady, at 8.5 minute miles for the first half (just under 43 minutes) and then switching with a moderate negative split to do 8 minute miles for the rest (just under 40 minutes).

I felt strong for the whole 9 miles, without any niggles in my muscles, any issues with breathing or being out of breath, no build up of lactic acid or stitches. There was no question that I would not add on the extra mile that I had plotted to make this a rather special 10 miles. So passed the entrance to the gardens off Savoy Place, and on along the Embankment to Temple Avenue, and then back to the Embankment Gardens to finish with some stretching off and a much needed shower.

I finished strong - tired in my legs, and could probably have dragged out another couple of miles at a 9 minute mile pace or so. But no issues with breathing or stitches, and, miracle of miracles, not even the hint of a blister. All that tender, fresh skin and not even the faintest suggestion of friction or rubbing. Wonderful Compeed, marvellous Compeed - how could I have doubted your sleek, invisible sheen? And, of course, delicious, wicking wonder socks, woven by gently, benevolent faeries. Possibly.

The half-marathon is now within my grasp, and a sub-two hour time should be entirely doable. Just need to carry on and keep improving!

p.s. it turns when plotting the route at home I actually did 10.25 miles, which gives me 8 minute miles overall. Nice!

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