Injury free at last

Posted on by kjhughes Posted in Training, Ultra | Leave a comment

Well it’s been a long time coming, but I am eventually at a stage where I think I’m injury free again.

running_injuryMy last post was in April, just as I was getting into the final two weeks of taper for the 2014 Thames Path 100. Exactly two weeks before the race I headed out for my last long effort(15 miles). A pain in the outside of my knee came on at around five miles in but (stupidly) I continued to run through it, with it getting worse and worse over the next ten miles !

My thought process was ‘gotta get this last long effort done’ – eventually stopping and hobbling the last half mile home I was pleased to have finished it – what I didn’t realise was that it would also cause me to miss (DNS) the Thames Path and put me out of action for the whole summer.

Lots of pain and hobbling ensued, and my 1 mile tester effort the night before the Thames Path was bloody farcical. Doctors visits, then Physio referrals and diagnosis of an acute muscle tear at the head of my calf and loads of soft tissue damage.

Slowly, slowly catchy monkey – so after a *very* slow summer, lots of shorter efforts and around ten lbs of weight gained, I finally hit a 40 mile week and a longer than ten mile run.

I’m desperately trying not to do too much too soon, and keep reminding myself of the enforced summer rest.

Anyway, it’s been tough, but I’m feeling positive about the coming months. Another week of decent mileage and then into a 5 month training block for the 2015 Thames Path – this race is my labour of love – 76 miles DNF in 2013, a DNS in 2014, hopefully 2015 will be third time lucky.

More caution this time around.

Thames Path 100 Prep

Posted on by kjhughes Posted in Featured, Planning, Training, Ultra | Leave a comment

I’ve had my head down, getting on with training for what seems like forever now. All through the winter months, the cold dark nights, long runs in the pelting rain, but I really feel as though it has been worth it.

taperAfter last years DNF at the Thames Path 100 I wanted to make sure I was better prepared this year.

I feel as though last year I just hadn’t done the quantity of longer runs I should have. I’d done a 40 miler and a good bunch of longer runs up to Christmas but the three months before the race didn’t go as well.

This year I’ve tried to do a better job in the block between Christmas and now. Been trying to make sure I was running longer (12, 14, 18 ish miles) twice a week and especially trying to make them tougher mentally (in the rain, in the dark, along boring/testing routes)

I did a nice 40 miler a couple of weeks back as my last long / tester run. This went really well. The plan was to take it easy and have a consistent effort, and it seemed to work. I spent some time comparing it to last years final long run / tester run and this year I was 45 mins faster over the distance and much more consistent in terms of pace.

Overall, pretty happy – but still wish I had done more (that’s normal right ?). The only minor blip (and I’m not sandbagging here… Smile) is that I tweaked my left knee on last weekends long run – feels like one of the support muscles and I was limping around the day after but seems to be getting better – hopefully all will be well for an easy 12-16 miler at the weekend leading into the final taper week and a great Thames Path 100.

Canal West

Posted on by kjhughes Posted in Canal, Planning, Training | Leave a comment

Bedwyn Wharf Bridge, Kennet  and Avon CanalI’ve spent a lot of time running on the Reading to Newbury stretch of the Kennet and Avon Canal, but only been further west once or twice.

So, during the Christmas break I took the opportunity to do a little exploring. I got the train from Thatcham to Bedwyn, crossed the brick bridge and headed to the Wharf car park to get my stuff sorted out.

A couple of gels, rucksack with waterproof etc. All sorted – except the shoes, I had my road shoes on… not ideal after a good few days of typical British weather. Anyway, no turning back – I set off at a leisurely pace, enjoying the views.

It is actually pretty scenic along there. Not too bad underfoot, so an easy 5 or so miles brought me to Hungerford. It seemed shorter than I had expected, and although I had expected to stop to buy some water / food I decided to just crack right on.

The next section, Hungerford to Kintbury, seemed to take a bit longer than the 4 miles I expected. I’d run from this point before, so it was familiar territory and I kept recognising landmarks. A fair bit of mud here and slippery underfoot with my damn road shoes on.

The Kintbury to Newbury section is a bit longer, something like 6 or 7 miles and although mostly nice, does go through some bland areas, under the A34 etc.

By the time I got to Newbury I had run out of water, so I stopped at the Cornish Pastie shop and bought some (water) then cracked on again towards Thatcham. I know this bit of the canal really well so it was just a case of ticking off the landmarks.

Finally got to Thatcham station after about 3 hours 10 and a easy paced 18 ish miles.


First long run in a few months, and pretty pleased with it. Thinking that next time I’ll head to Pewsey, which is more like 25 or 26 miles. Need to get a few more of these in, unfortunately has to be the dark mornings or nights…

Newbury Parkrun 99

Posted on by kjhughes Posted in Planning, Runs, Training | Leave a comment

This weekend saw me with a rare break in my Under 7s football attendance duties, so I took the opportunity to run Newbury Parkrun.

I know I need a longer warm-up these days, so I left from home and jogged the 2.5 miles to Greenham Common, getting there just before 9am. I thought I’d be around 22 minutes or 22:30, and I kicked off at a pace that didn’t feel too bad. After 5 minutes Mrs Runkeeper announced that I was running at 6:28 pace.

“No way I can keep this up”

I thought I’d blow up after a short while, but I managed to keep it up for another 10 minutes, then powered up the little incline on the back straight. When I got to the top of this I thought to myself that I could take down the guy I’d been to’ing and fro’ing with all the way, so I kicked and started to get a lead on him.
I quickly realised that the 200m I thought there was to go was more like 600m- 800m and I knew I’d no chance of keeping it up for the duration.So a 100m or so later he sailed past me with a smug grin (as I would have…). Still, a 20:43 finish for 17th was way above my expectations given my current shape.
I knew I’d pushed myself as the jog home was very slow…

Sunday started as an easy day after the race pace effort, but come 7pm I was feeling good and itching to head out, so I had a steady 6 mile effort around the Thatcham loop  bringing me to a tad over 35 miles for the week.

Now I just need to calm myself down a bit and work on longer, slower runs.

December 5th 2013 – A Double Run Day

Posted on by kjhughes Posted in Planning, Runs, Training | Leave a comment

Double run today.
Had hoped to get a long run in during my commute but couldn’t drag my lazy arse out of bed.

Ran a fast 5.7m at lunchtime, including a hard effort up Norcot Hill (only 2 seconds off my PB for that section) in strong blustery winds, so quite pleased with that!
I really needed 8-12 miles for the day though, so I headed out again at 9.30pm and cranked out an easy 3 and a bit miles, giving me almost 9 for the day.

Also got a text today telling me there’s no footy training for Alastair on Saturday, so I’m now planned to have a rest day tomorrow and a hard effort at Newbury Parkrun on Saturday. Don’t think I’m in sub 20 shape but maybe around 21.30.

Overall, happy with my training at the moment :-)

December 4th 2013

Posted on by kjhughes Posted in Planning, Training | Leave a comment

Easy 3 miler at lunchtime with Anna and Anthea so should be feeling good, but I’ve been suffering most of the day (Piriformis).
Strangely seems worse on easy days.

Anyway need to push through it – longer day planned for tomorrow, somewhere around 8 to 12 miles.

New song for the running playlist – Dig in (Lenny Kravits).

Also starting to plan races and full day runs for next year. More on that when I’m closer to finalising it.

That’s all today…

December 3rd 2013

Posted on by kjhughes Posted in Planning, Training | Leave a comment

Really getting back into it! Got up this morning feeling strong and that gliding sensation as you walk around feeling 20 feet tall.

Yesterday was a rest day after a late 11.4 miler (9min pace) on Sunday, but I did do a few sets of press ups – trying to get some core work done on easy and rest days. So no surprise I felt strong this morning.

Today I doubled up on runs. And easy 5k at lunchtime with Anthea and then a hard 6 miler late evening (7.50 pace).
Looking at going easy tomorrow and then longish (8 – 12m) on Thursday

Running Reboot

Posted on by kjhughes Posted in Planning, Training | Leave a comment

Well I finally feel as though I’m getting back to it…

I’m running for 5 or 6 days per week, covering around 30 miles with individual run being 3 – 12 miles. I also seem to be finding a bit of speed which is giving me the feeling of progress.

Still tough knowing that I have run X minutes per mile faster, or a particular route faster by X minutes – it’ll get there though.

Recovery seems to be taking longer also – maybe that is just a factor of trying to build distance/endurance again (or a factor of being old…)

I’m starting to realise that Runkeeper is causing me to push myself a bit harder than I should be. The problem is, with the Runkeeper Lady announcing my distance, time and average pace every half mile, that no matter what my average pace is, I try to get it down to the next 15 second block – so if it’s 8:12 I’ll speed up to try and get it under 8:00, if it’s 7:55 I’ll try and get it under 7:45 etc. This is good for days when I am doing harder runs, but not great on days when I’m just out for a recovery run. I’m a *little* too competitive I guess.

Now I just need to get the weekly distance back to the 50 mile mark for a few weeks before starting to push on with long, long runs…

Ultrarunning Annus Horribilis

Posted on by kjhughes Posted in Mental, Planning, Training | 2 Comments

Nope, that’s not my latest running injury. It’s an assessment of the miserable year I’ve had in terms of ultrarunning training, racing and running ‘mojo’. It’s no surprise I’ve not blogged since May…

Not to dwell upon it, but I had a DNF at the Thames Path 100, a DNF at the Highland Fling and then lost interest through most of the summer. I had hoped to get back to it for the Kennet and Avon Canal Race and got a few 17/18 milers in beforehand, but in the end I had a DNS.
I think the two DNF’s, early on in the season pulled me into a slump and caused me to lose the mojo. I spent the summer doing a few runs per week, but not really on any training or distance – just lost interest really…
This was coupled with pain in my glutes on every run, which the osteopath think is Piriformis Syndrome – so that didn’t help with the motivation. The thought of running for hours with pain on every step didn’t really appeal for some reason…

On the positive side, (not really ultrarunning, but…) I did smash my half marathon PB a couple of weeks after the Thames Path 100 – I think this was me cleansing the DNF from my system.

Moving on, I seem to have strung a few weeks of reasonable running together now and am starting to get back into ultrarunning. I’ve found that if I can suffer the glute pain for 10 minutes at the start of a run it eases a bit for the rest of it.
I feel a new resolve to get out running again and it feels good !! I’ve been taking it easy for a bit and trying to build things up. A 12 miler a few days ago tells me I still a bit of endurance and some sub 7 minute miles recently make me think things are going to be okay.

Planning another couple of weeks of steady running before starting to up the mileage, with a view to getting a good block of training in before the 2014 Thames Path 100.

Here’s hoping for a good end to the year…

Highland Fling Race 2013 – Race Report

Posted on by kjhughes Posted in Challenges, Featured, Mental, Race Reports, Ultra | 1 Comment

highland-flingThis year was the first time I had run the Hoka Highland Fling race and it’s fair to say it was a unmitigated disaster.

Now don’t get me wrong the race itself is amazing – the organization, the volunteers, the scenery, the views all the way up Loch Lomond, even the weather was wonderful. I would definitely recommend it to any and every trail runner.

No, the disaster was me, all me. My preparation, my approach/attitude and ultimately my mental strength on the day all went wrong and I bailed at the 42 mile point leaving the final 11 miles, from just after BeinGlas Farm to Tyndrum, unfinished and notching up another DNF on my race results list…

The race starts in Milngavie, just outside Glasgow. I had registered the night before so turned up to a busy Tesco car park at 5:40am handed in my drop bags/packets (there’s no food supplied so you bring a support crew or make up your own packages and they transport them to the right checkpoint for you) and wandered around looking for a few other people I knew were also running.

At 6am, around 600 of us started off – very busy for a UK ultra. The route goes through a tunnel and into a small wooded area, then after a mile or two you are in the countryside – amazing transformation from city to country, very quickly.

Anyway the weather was fine and sunny, and I bimbled along at a slowish pace hoping to see some familiar faces. I spotted @mikew30 and @houndkirk and the 3 of us jogged along together for a few miles, then we got separated for a bit until they appeared again just before Drymen and again just as we were starting Conic Hill at around 17 miles.

From the top of Conic hill and amazing panorama opens out in front of you – you can see the southern half of Loch Lomond, Ben Lomond and all the way through the Trossachs to Ben More at Crianlarich. Then it was round a corner at the top and it immediately dropped 1000 feet taking us to the Balmaha checkpoint on the side of Loch Lomond. I picked up my first drop bag, scoffed some peaches and a ham and cheese wrap, refilled my water bottle and headed off again, having spent only around 2 minutes at the checkpoint.

The route then runs along the edge of the Loch for another 7 miles or so – this was an amazing section, the scenery was breath-taking. I’ve driving up the A82 on the other side of the Loch probably 100 times, but the views from this side, at a steady jog were something else entirely. We ran along beaches with the Loch lapping at our feet, and through lightly wooded areas with steep drops to the Loch below. The next checkpoint was at Rowardennan at 27 miles. Mike and Trevor passed me again a couple of miles before the checkpoint and were just leaving as I arrived. Whilst the scenery was great and I was enjoying this section by the time I got to the checkpoint I knew I wasn’t running well. I took a few minutes at the checkpoint to get myself sorted, had some more peaches and solid food and then headed out again.

I was having a bad patch mentally at this point, just after leaving the checkpoint I had a bit of a wobble and started thinking and packing it in there and then (his was the last bit of road access for the next 14 miles or so. I called Sarah, to hear a friendly voice, and she offered to come and pick me up if I needed it. To be honest it might have been better if she’d told me to man up and get on with it… Anyway, tempting as it was to get picked up, I decided to persevere. Five minutes later I was in a much better mood, pleased that I had continued and wondering why I’d had that wobble.

My phone (Runkeeper tracking) was starting to die by this stage, so the I only have a partial route recorded for it.

This middle section of Loch Lomond started with land-rover track, that was easy going but undulated a good bit more than I expected. I got some reasonable running in here. The terrain changed a bit and became a bit more tree rooty and bouldery, but with nice single track stretches in-between. This was good, a little break as you navigated the boulders and then a run section to the next boulder…
Energy levels were falling a bit as we got to the next checkpoint at Inversnaid. There wasn’t much to do but carry on from here though. I hoped that a bit of food from my drop bag and cracking on would lift me a bit, but it wasn’t to be – the terrain started getting a bit tougher – roots, trees, boulders, up and down, little climbs over rocks etc all slowed me even further and took it’s toll on me. I had heard this was the hardest section and it wasn’t wrong. Everyone that passed me (or the few I passed) muttered “brutal”, “murder” or something similar.

The last couple of miles to the BienGlas Farm checkpoint was mostly walking with the occasional short jog/shuffle. By the time I got there I had made my mind up to bail. I knew the terrain got easier for the last section and thought I could probably finish but it would have been a 12 mile, 3 hour walk in. It was already 4 pm and I had people waiting for me – so, mentally I had already given up.
When I got to the checkpoint the crew there were great, I got my drop bag, had more food and water, heard all the ‘doing great’, ‘looking good’ comments and changed my mind, I was going to crack on. I jogged out of the checkpoint with new resolve

Unfortunately that renewed resolve did not last long – just over a mile later I threw the towel in. I headed over to the road (where it crosses the river), called Sarah and waited a few minutes for them to come and pick me up. 42 miles done in about 10.5 hours.

I was whisked away by car up to the finish, handed in my ID tag, picked up my drop bag and headed off. It looked like everyone was having a good time at the finish, beers in hand, lots of noise and chatter, but I couldn’t face hanging around – head down, got in, did my bits and got out.
Although the route was great and I would recommend this race to everyone, I just wasn’t in the right mind-set for this race and it beat me. Not a great day for me, but some valuable lesson learnt I think. I’m keeping those for a more ‘reflective’ post on the subject…

Anyway, to summarise : Great race, well organized, beautiful countryside – Unfinished business – I’ll be back next year.

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