Monday, 26 September 2011

Rough and the Smooth

Distance: 6.66mi
Time: 01:14:25
Surface: Trail
Conditions: Cloudy and humid

Distance: 3.0mi
Time: 00:31:31
Surface: Road
Conditions: Sunny, cool

I've experienced two contrasting runs in as many days. Yesterday I repeated my 10k trail route (proving Monday wasn't a fluke) and today, my usual 3 mile road route home from work. Yesterday was hard, really hard. I was on the clock as my husband plays golf on a Sunday morning with his dad so I have until 10.30am to complete whatever length run I've planned before I need to be back to take on the the childcare relay.

Within minutes I was aching all over and my lungs were fit to burst. I donned my arm warmers and had them off within minutes as I was so hot. The weather was glum but very humid, nasty weather to run in aside blistering sunshine. However all being said I ran the distance - including the evil steep uphill at the end of the trail that takes me across a main road. I'd anticipated a better time as I felt faster in my final mile but was gutted to find I'd come in longer than Monday's run. We're talking a minute and a half, but really, every second counts.

Defining features about yesterday's run?

1. Starvation run, I think it's called. Basically where you run on an empty stomach. I don't like to do this often but with a small window of running opportunity on a Sunday I rarely have time to eat, let my breakfast go down then do a I recent length run.
2. I was tired & achy. I'd been indoor bouldering with my family on Saturday afternoon. OK, it was only an hour and I'd spent most of that time spotting (catching) my little boy but it was the first time I'd been for a while and I tackled a few climbs that perhaps I shouldn't have done for someone who's put on a few pounds and is suffering from muscle atrophy. Anyway, I was suffering for it on Sunday.
3. I was too hot. After celebrating my Nike pro performance running tights in my first post, and despite having stripped off my top layer, I was still too hot. Seriously considering some pro performance capris now. I'm sure Sweatshop has a summer sale due...

And so to today's run. After a day at work, and without a lunch break I considered today's run as a means to an end - the end being getting to my car in less time than it would take to walk, however much shorter, by a tiny margin, that might be. I never considered I could actually do it in a reasonable time. I ate light today, favouring a half bowl of Rice Krispies for breakfast and an inhaled glass of orange juice on my way out of the door whilst arguing with my son about why taking a plastic Playdoh knife to nursery might be misconstrued as threatening behaviour to the other 3 year olds. For lunch, I enjoyed my homemade Peanut Butter & Butternut Squash soup (amazing Hugh F-W recipe from River Cottage Everyday - try it, it's a great winter warmer), a banana and a packet of crisps. There may have been a small baked goods incident around 4pm... but really, nothing to be concerned about. So anyway, I was travelling light by the time I left work at 5.30pm and had kept well hydrated through the day, which makes a positive change. The going was good from work; I have to cross 3 major roads before I get onto a reasonable straight so invariably it's a stop more than it is a start for the first 10 minutes, however today I was lucky with 3 green men in a row. I felt pretty good, thinking I was making good time, and so was very disappointed to have it reported by Runkeeper's dulcet tones, that my average pace would make dead tortoises look fast. So I had a word with myself. No really, I did, and it worked. My legs weren't feeling too bad and my breathing was fine so I took on some of the advice from an exercise professional friend - head up, shoulders back, and focus on maintaining core strength. I've read it's not a great idea to look at the floor whilst running, but on the trail I find that virtually impossible for fear of turning my ankle over on twigs and leaf mulch, however it's pretty easy to do whilst road running. I kept my field of vision slightly higher than my direct eye line (say, just below looking at the light on a street lamp) which had the net effect of straightening my posture and actually increasing my pace very slightly as I took bigger strides. Some more amateur theory - raising your hands higher than your heart when you run increases your heart rate and also assists with propulsion. It works you know, especially good uphill and combined with raising your field of vision a few degrees really helped improve my pace. Finally, as I sped up, I found myself employing the same breathing rhythm as I naturally fell into during the Half Marathon, breathing in through the mouth and nose, and puffing out through the mouth (all hail the ante natal class and the 5 candles technique - bloody useless during labour but marvellous for running!). All in, I managed a good 5 minutes off my recent total running time and actually ran my 4th best time ever on that route, who knew!

Defining features of today's run in contrast?

1. I ate light (excepting the 4pm scone)
2. Kept well hydrated, about 1.75l during the day (for me this is good, though well under the daily recommended amount I know)
3. Employed proper breathing technique
4. Kept my eye line and arms high to improve stride and propulsion

Instead of doing this for the final mile, next time I'll attempt this approach for the whole 3 miles. I reckon I could spank the ass off my best time of 29:51!

Next time is, by the way, tomorrow...


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