75 Days to VLM – Week 4 Training Summary

After the most pleasing run on Sunday evening there was a bump down to earth come Monday night. After I finished work and helped get the kids to bed, I changed into my running clothes and opened the front door, only to see that it was snowing heavily! I’d not looked out of any window for an hour or two and how the weather had changed.

It may have been a snow shower that only lasted an hour or so, but it wreaked a little havoc with my run. I had on my well worn pair of Nike Lunarglides, which have never had the grippiest of soles and are now almost entirely slick. As the wet snow began to settle, traction became tough at times and I was unsure of my footing. Moreover the inside of my left shin, which had nagged occasionally on the previous couple of runs, now hurt a little more persistently. There was also the right glute/piraformis which wasn’t feeling great and nagged in a manner that wasn’t dissimilar to how it felt a week or so before the sacrum fracture of last year. I hadn’t planned on running far, 4.8 miles was all I managed before calling it a night.

Tuesday evening was scheduled to be nine miles at marathon pace (HR). The left shin had continued to ache sporadically through the day and I wasn’t going into the run with the greatest of confidence – especially as the right glute still didn’t feel great. I was scheduled to meet up with Janis again; I just finished work in time to join him as planned. The first few miles didn’t feel too bad, but it was noticeable I was triggering my marathon HR max alarm rather more frequently than the previous week. After a 7:00 opening mile, we ran 6:18; 6:18; 6:14 and 6:11. Although the pace was quickening I was becoming more and more anxious about the run. The left shin was aching more than it had done at any other point, and, as the temperature plummeted, the accumulation of ice was significant to the point where it was dangerous in places.

The pace slowed to 6:32, then a 6:46 seventh mile, my struggles not helped by a somewhat dodgy stomach. As I continued to feel like I was treading water and as we were running past my house, I made the decision to call it a day at just shy of seven and a half miles. Janis, who was a natural on the icy roads and paths, continued on his way. I disappeared into my house dejected.

Tuesday night and Wednesday morning I made a bid to halt the seemingly relentless onset of serious shin pain. I massaged the pained area and the calves. More importantly I ran through a number of exercises – walking on my heels, writing the alphabet, balancing on one leg with my eyes closed (Much harder than it sounds). Early in the evening I went on a short run – just two and a half miles, to assess the state of the shin. The conclusion was, that with a slight nagging pain for around half of the run, it wasn’t prudent to attempt running any more that evening, and so I put in a steady hour on the elliptical trainer.

Later that evening my training partner Janis messaged me to let me know he was heading off to Norway on Saturday for a couple of months! I think we were both disappointed we weren’t going to train together for a while, but the opportunity for him to earn more money in a beautiful country with more favourable working conditions was a no-brainer. So, after a couple of weeks enjoying the company of a talented runner, I was back to where I had been for much of the past eighteen months or so.

Thursday had been planned as a three strong intervals session with myself, Janis, and 2:32 marathon runner Alastair Pickburn. Janis had pulled out as he had been scheduled to work a night shift (although ultimately he could have run in the evening after all). Alastair and I had pinged back and forth numerous messages on Strava, worked out a session and a place to run it, only for Alastair to cancel on the Tuesday because his scheduled work trip had been cancelled.

With the weather still cold and icy, especially in the evening, I opted, now I was running alone, to do the session mid-morning. Running with the dodgy shin was a calculated risk, I opted to wear a shin compression sleeve I’d bought many years ago and worn occasionally, and with the seldom worn Nike Lunarknit trainers (they seem to promote Achilles discomfort). Which one did the trick I’m not sure – maybe it was the stretches and massage – but the shin barely grumbled over the session which came in at half a mile shy of ten miles.

The reps, now known as the Pickburn Session, were held in conditions hovering around freezing point and in sleety, icy cold rain. The reps were 1 mile, 2 miles, 2 miles and 1 mile, with two minutes recovery between each rep. The first mile was covered in 5:37 and felt pretty comfortable considering it was in the slightly uphill direction of the A52. The first two mile rep was also fairly comfortable, completing it slightly faster at 5:36 pace. The second two mile rep was more challenging, running on lactate filled legs for the closing mile. It was therefore pleasing that it was covered in 5:38 pace. Struggling to recover, the final mile was a battle to the finish, it felt horrible and slow, but was happy to see it took just 5:31. The session over, the run home felt easy in comparison. I was encouraged to see that with minimal effort, I ran a 6:08 mile and a 6:20 paced final half mile. The first interval session of the year was a success.

Friday was scheduled to be a rest day, but I felt that, because of a lack of mileage, I should try and do some exercise. As the shin felt still a touch sore, I opted for another hour on the elliptical trainer, which seemed a good compromise. A double school run and an impromptu trip to the bike shop (To collect the wheel I couldn’t get the tyre on last week), meant around nine miles of walking too, so not that much of a day off.

The long run for the week was again on the Saturday, and, with Janis now departed, it was a run alone. The plan was 18 miles and to hopefully run at below seven minute mile average. I opted to run in the Nike Frees and again wore the compression strap as it had appeared to work well on Thursday’s session. There was thankfully no snow, conditions were fairly benign, although with temperatures only just above freezing, there were small patches of ice here and there.

I knew from the second mile that I was on for a good strong run, the legs feeling like they had plenty of power. The first mile (7:26) and the second mile (7:00) turned out to be the only miles that weren’t sub-7 minute miles. This included the third and fourth miles which included the long climb out of town, I knew that once this was tackled the rest of the run would feel easy in comparison. The miles seem to tick by with little in the way of effort. The only drama came in some unexpected shin pain. The inside of the shin was absolutely fine, the lower front part of the shin though began to ache at around nine miles and gradually grew in intensity. This was probably caused by the strap being a little too tight and compressing the shin a little too much. Thankfully, despite the discomfort, it wasn’t slowing my pace – the fifteenth mile being the quickest of the run at 6:24, and each of the miles from 13 to the end covered in less than six minutes forty seconds.

The eighteen and a quarter miles were covered in an average of 6:44. I was very happy, although the shin was very painful to the touch. The fact that I was able to walk quite normally meant I wasn’t overly concerned – I was happy that the inside of the shin was pain free and moreover the right glute/piraformis was also pain free, thanks, I think, to the Piraformis stretch which has you lying on your back doing the trick.

Sunday was a return to the Witham Wheelers reliability rides, a 46 mile hilly route was the order of the day. The rear tyre, now fully inflated and brand new, pumped up without issue just before I left. The front tyre though had it’s pin snap in the pump as I attempted to put a little extra air into the tyre. With no time (Or desire) to change the inner tube I made a quick decision that no air was leaving the valve and the tyre was pretty well inflated. I decided to risk the ride.

It was cold for the first hour or so of riding, but I knew that with sun due to make a welcome appearance it would warm a touch. I went out in the quick group, which were scheduled to ride between 18-19mph, but were touching 20 mph at the 20 mile point. I spent most of the ride sitting somewhere near the back, feeling a bit the efforts of the Saturday run, which I had expected.

At 20 miles we caught the slower group and there was a brief merging when horses caused a rapid slowdown. I took the opportunity to try and open the packet of jelly beans in my jersey pocket. As I struggled with this simple task, I lost the back wheel of the group, and with their pace increasing again as we hit a slight headwind I soon realised I had no chance of catching them. I thought there were several riders from the slower group ahead and expected them to drop back. As it happened there were just two and only one opted to join me in keeping up the pace as best as possible. I wasn’t riding particularly well and struggled at times even to sit in the wheel of the other rider, but i didn’t give up and was happy to come home in an average of 18.4 mph.

After a brief stop for tea and coffee cake, I rode home and donned the trainers for the now familiar post ride 5k brick run. Oh boy, did the legs feel like jelly! This was going to be a tough few miles. Pleasingly, despite feeling terrible and nowhere near as quick as two weeks ago, I was still knocking out sub 6:40 miles after the initial 6:51 mile. Even the rubbish miles were still relatively swift – and there was no shin pain at all.

With the ups and downs of the week, just 45 miles were covered. They were though covered at an average pace of 6:40 per mile, which I believe is the quickest weekly average I’ve ever had. The intervals on Thursday and especially the long run on Saturday indicate that if I can control the injury niggles, things are definitely heading in the right direction and anything could happen in a couple of months time. For the meantime it’s hopefully more of the same – running, elliptical trainer, strength and conditioning, and a little cycling. It seems to be working well at the moment, so why change?

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