Sunday, 23 January 2011

Today's run

Before I start on today's update, I mentioned using a metronome to maintain running cadence and that prompted a couple of questions so here's a quick resumé of what I do.

I use a hand held metronome of the type that is designed to clip to a music stand. I set it to 90 BPM and to bleep twice per beat (so it bleeps 180 times a minute). 180 is said to be the most efficient leg turnover rate (or cadence) so I then run with the aim of a footstrike with each bleep.

If you've never measured it before it can be interesting to measure your cadence. Just set a timer for a minute and count your steps. Most people have a slower cadence. If you then want to improve your cadence (and speed) just aim to increase by 5bpm per week from where you are now up to 180, changing the settings on the metronome each week.

Back to today's post now...the subject of which is this morning's run.

Location; Along the Grand Union Canal from Foxton Locks, Leicestershire
Temperature: 4c
Weather: Grey, dry, generally still but with a blustery wind later on
Surface: Muddy, slippy, sloping path with a couple of climbs
Distance: 15.01 miles
Number of falls: 3

The Run
This is a route I've run once before, around 18 months ago, a run which proved difficult and underlined the extent of a groin injury I was suffering at the time. Not happy memories.

The plan for this run is to cover 15 miles with the first 8 miles at 8:50/8:55 pace and then the last 7 miles each speeding up by 10 seconds a mile so that the last mile is at about 7:35 pace i.e. half marathon pace. Its what the training programme refers to as a progression run.

I set off from the car park to head straight up the hill alongside Foxton's famous locks, a 5 rise staircase locks, but in the process take a couple of wrong turns. After 0.25 miles a glance at the Garmin tells me 9:38 pace which is a little faster than I'd have expected, with the hill and the about turns. After crossing a humpback bridge to pick up the towpath at the other side I glance again, and see the pace bizarrely having fallen to 10:00 mile pace. I can't help but speed up and the first mile completes in 9:12.

The first mile has been on a decent path: at first wide tarmac and then a ribbon of tarmac along the grassy bank. This changes almost immediately as I enter mile 2 with the tarmac petering out to be replaced by a narrow muddy trail along a quite steeply sloping and often narrow band between hedge and canal. Its not easy and for the next 13 miles my feet are frequently slipping and sliding.

Mile 2 also brings about further obstacle in the form of 20 or so match fishermen. None seem to use conventional fishing rods, instead favouring long carbon fibre fishing poles which they place on stands across the towpath. Half the fishermen are friendly and helpful in moving them out the way, the others are surly and ignore my presence. I hurdle 3 poles and limbo under another 2 but can't help but keep up a quicker pace and the Garmin bleeps to tell me mile 2 has taken 8:17. Too fast.

Mile 3 features another half dozen match fishermen to pass as well as further deterioration to the bank and towpath. Now there's constant mud, a treacherous slope, tree roots, and occasional patches where the towpath has begun to collapse into the canal. I try to gradually slow the pace and complete the mile in 8:36.

Mile 4 is more of the same and includes my first fall. The slope goes from left to right and my feet frequently slip to the right after impact, but on one occasion the slip is further than expected and before I know it I'm landing on outstretched hands. 8:42 for the mile.

Similar story for mile 5 and by this time I can feel lumps of mud coming flying off my shoes with each stride as well as the occasional twig that gets stuck across the base. 8:51 this mile, the first one that's close to 'target'.

Mile 6 and I get lost. Ahead of me I can see a forbidding looking tunnel and the path heads up a hill away from the canal and onto a bridge. I can remember struggling here before and when I reach the bridge I can only see one footpath,between some stables and up a grassy but waterlogged hill side. As I near a village at the top of the hill the path becomes fenced in and completely mud filled. So far the mud has been slippy but thick whereas here its brown water that reaches ankle height.

At the end of the path I stop and scrape my shoes clean of as much thick mud as possible on a fence. The lugs are completely filled with mud and a layer of leaves has stuck to the bottom of the soles. Through the village I realise I'm a little way off track but spot a well to do looking old lady and ask directions. She seems initially perturbed by my calling her 'love' (scary northern oaf) but gives pretty decent instructions and a quarter of a mile down a hill I find the correct path. 8:46 for the mile.

I head up a long, steady rise up a hillside along a tree lined muddy footpath and then head down the other side. At first I fight gravity worrying that I'll fall in the mud but give in and go down the steepest section fell runner style. Before I know it the canal appears in front of me and I'm on the towpath. I stop for a couple of seconds as the slope to the towpath and flight of steps to the left look very familiar and I worry that the lady has sent me back the way I'd come. I realise though that on rejoining the canal the towpath has switched sides disorientating me. Thanks to the steep descent its 8:21 for mile 7.

This section of the towpath has no slope so the mud is far less hazardous, which is good as my shoes are already clogged again with thick mud and leaves. On my left a relatively wide grassy section is taped off between the muddy trail I'm running on and the water. I wonder why. On the way back I spot a sign warning 'Danger Deep Mud'.

Mile 8 includes a brief stop at the halfway point off excess fluids and try scraping the soles of the shoes again and I decide to amend my plans slightly on account of the hills early on the return leg. I won't try to speed up until I rejoin the canal. Mile 8 completed in 8:38.

I find the steep climb in mile 9 quite draining but the downhill that follows it certainly helps with recovery, and I follow the correct route over a disused railway line and back onto the canal again. Once again I stop briefly in confusion. There it is again, the slope down to the towpath and the steps to the left but shouldn't I have just crossed a track? I spot the mouth of the tunnel and realise I've rejoined the towpath about 150m beyond the point I'd left it earlier. I'm not going mad. I am slowing though: 8:51 for that miles, chiefly because of the climb.

My feet also ache though. I can feel a big blister on the side of the right ball joint beneath my big toe and my ankles and arch ache from running along the camber of the footpath and the slipping with almost every stride. For a similar reason my adductors also feel tired and I redouble my efforts to keep the core muscles working to help out.

Its not far into mile 10 and I start to speed up a fraction as per the revised plan. Almost immediately I fall. I'd started to run on the grassy slope a few inches above the muddy ribbon of path thinking I would get better traction but my right foot hits the ground and rips a divot of turf straight off from the muddy soil beneath it and I'm over on my side. Body and pride intact I carry on and complete the mile in 8:30.

I step it up again for mile 11, maybe a little more than I planned as it comes in at 8:12, but this evens out in mile 12 which is only a second quicker at 8.11. I'm starting to feel fatigued now. I must be working harder relative to the pace due to the mud and the wind has started to get up, not overly strong but noticeable and straight at me.

Mile 13 and I nearly end up in the canal twice. First when the canal bends to go under a bridge but in the mud I struggle to get enough purchase to turn with it and for a moment seem to be heading into the wet. Second when I slip in the mud but somehow manage to keep just about upright, though I'm sure I ran with my nose inches above the ground for a few paces! Its also a return to the fishermen and I have to slow a couple of times while they move their rods out of the way. I feel too tired to attempt hurdling any now, but I have successfully upped the pace to 7:58, marathon pace.

Only two miles to go now, but plenty more fishermen to navigate. 7:51 for the penultimate mile and the worst of the towpath is now behind me, plus I know that the last mile will include 150m of downhill path.

Back to Foxton in the last mile and suddenly there's lots of people. Along the canal, if I don't count fishermen, I've seen no runners, no mountain bikers and only 2 dog walkers but here with the locks, car park, pub, two tea rooms and museum things are busy. No drama and a last mile cock on target at 7:34.

I'd made a point of running with high cadence and for the last 3-4 miles thought of little else beyond core and cadence being maintained. Calves feel pretty good and my legs feel relatively sprightly. There are blisters on both feet, the one on the right an ugly blood filled one, and my left ankle feels a bit stiff from the camber but overall I'm very happy with the recovery so far.

Rest day tomorrow then I should be good to go for Tuesday's 8 miles.


Alison said...

Whew, that was a helluva run, and a helluva recap! I'm not surprised your feet and ankles were tired. Do you wear trail shoes? Or even fell running shoes?? I'm reading Feet in the Clouds at the moment, about British Fell Running, and it sounds like a crazy sport! Not entirely out of place with this run..

Sure you'll be very sore in places today, but that's to be expected. Maybe give yourself an easier ride next week eh ;)

BabyWilt said...

metronome .... I'd trip over my own legs, you know forgetting which is my left and right leg and which one goes first :-)

Running Rob said...

I've got fell shoes but only wore trail shoes as I'd assumed it would be ok down there. The trail shoes are ok but the lugs aren't as wide as the fell shoes.

Feet in the clouds is a good read and far more extreme than a canal side jaunt.

Maria said...

Does the beeping get annoying? After you said that, I had a go at counting my footsteps over a minute, but my mind wandered! I do more than one step [er second so I think I am close!
Nice work on the run :)

Running Rob said...

180 is the ideal Maria so 3 steps per second.

The beeping is ok. Once you've got used to it you can 'play' it in your head as a 1-2-1-2-1-2-1-2...

~Jessica~ said...

That's a truly brilliant performance and a stellar run.

Thanks so much for your thoughts on fitness classes and fads: you're clearly a guy who knows his stuff and I really enjoyed reading this post too. You're so technically minded where as I just lace up a pair of shoes and put one foot in front of the other. It's amazing to read about your approach and it's obviously working really well. Makes me think I should put a lot more thought into what I do.