Dragon In Training

Time to get going with the Dragon’s Back training for the big one in May.

January got off to a good start with 14.3 miles in the bag for new year’s day. I had thought about running from home to Tring, doing Tring parkrun, trotting over to Wendover for Wendover parkrun, and then running home. I estimated this would be about 23-24 miles so planned to add on to round it up to a New Year marathon. But having just got back on my feet from a bad chest and being pretty much bedridden over Christmas, I reined myself in and drove to and from Tring, just doing the double parkrun and the run from one to the other and back again. Easy! Ahem. I really enjoyed Tring parkrun. They’ve changed the course so it’s an out and back, still equally hilly but probably less muddy, and you get to see people as the speedsters storm back down the hill when you’re still on your way up, and who is behind you when you turn around, gauging where you are in the field. I felt damn good but didn’t push it too hard. The run over to Wendover had me suffering. It’s a mostly uphill, muddy cross country 5-6km slog and I fell off the pace and had to do some walking. Getting to Wendover, I was dying of thirst and treated myself to a fanta lemon after much deliberation over the fridge. On finding out there was to be a delay to the start to allow all the hordes to get in through the car park barrier, I had a brownie too. Can highly recommend the cafe at this parkrun – delicious! A delayed start meant I started shivering and was rather chomping at the bit to get going again. I absolutely loved the first half of the parkrun (the downhill bit), then suffered badly on the second half (the uphill trudge). Then I trotted back to Tring which I enjoyed far more than the run in the other direction except for the slight pressure of worrying about the car parking time running out. I was chuffed to have a high mileage start to the year and 22.3 miles for the week by Tuesday. But what I really loved was the parkrun love. 344 ran at Tring, 460 ran at Wendover, 199 did both and a fair few ran between the two. We set off with a little gang, and one point I was alarmed to have a fair few people seemingly think I knew where I was going!

I followed up with a club off road run Wednesday, a Pilates class Thursday, rest day Friday, Bucks & Beds county cross country championships Saturday, and a club off road run Sunday for 43.7 miles in total for the week.

County Champs at Hughenden Park in High Wycome was fun, with the slightly longer distance of 8km compared to our usual 5km league races suiting me well. It was a much smaller field than Chiltern league, with Oxfordshire and Hertfordshire holding separate county championships elsewhere on the Sunday, so faces you’d normally see not about, and some people perhaps put off by the idea of it being a championship. This meant that I felt quite exposed for much of the race, though there was some to-ing and fro-ing between myself and 3 other ladies where each hill they went past me, and each flat/descent I went back past them. One of them got too much of a lead on the last hill and I couldn’t pull it back, but the other two I pipped to the line. Though it’s not all reflected in the results because the ‘race’ was even smaller than it felt with half the runners belonging to Bedforshire and being on a separate results sheet, and some of the girls being under 20 and stopping after 2 laps, while the seniors and vets completed a 3rd. I ended up 17th out of 33 Buckinghamshire senior ladies.

Our club run on Sunday was lovely, with a good turn out for a jaunt around Ashridge Estate, followed by Christmas cake, mince pies, and sweet tea.

I was looking at a big mileage week next, but illness struck me again! I started off ok, leading a group for our club loop run on Monday night for the first time. I didn’t even get us lost! But that evening I got an earache and severe headache, with rigors and drenching sweats in the night. The next morning, my right eardrum burst and I started leaking blood and pus out of it. That evening the left ear hurt, and the next morning, that one burst too. I went to work Wednesday morning as it was my appraisal day and that meant three of us were blocked off from seeing patients in the morning to get it done, which would be a huge waste if I didn’t go. But I was deaf as a post, so after getting through that, I was sent home. Thursday things were no better so I saw my GP, had a swab sent and got started on antibiotics, cancelled my out of hours shift for the evening, and spent another day in bed. I offered to go to work Friday and just do everyone else’s admin for them since I wouldn’t be able to hear my patients, but was told to just concentrate on getting better. Good job really, as after offering to go in, the excruciating headache returned and I was rendered useless. Alan came over that night to stay before Country to Capitol race next day. Conversation was impossible so we watched TV with subtitles. I dropped Alan off at the race next day, and said hi to a fair few running buddies I knew running too. I was gutted not to be racing. It would have been mine and Alan’s 4 year runniversary, having done the same race in 2015 when we were training for the Marathon Des Sables. And now living where I live, and working where I work, it’s incredibly convenient for me, starting in Wendover and finishing in London, especially when I had dinner plans in London that night. Anyway, it wasn’t to be, and I cancelled the dinner plans too as I wouldn’t be able to hear anyone. I saw the racers off, and then took it steady around Wendover parkrun since I was there anyway, before popping into work for a bit to catch up on admin and send out my parkrun email to follow up from my Monday parkrun practice talk to all the clinical staff.

A planned 66 mile week had become just 10. With the failed day 5 Dragon’s Back recce last month, and now a DNS for the only proper long run I was signed up for in the lead up to May, I’m feeling even more worried, and seeing any chance of a fast marathon in the lead up slipping away from me. I added a strength/mobility session on Sunday to play with my newly delivered Bosu ball and handweights, plus fairly new wobble board and good old kettlebell.

Back to work Monday but just on admin because I was still profoundly deaf. Turned into an 11 hour day and I missed running club, going home to bed exhausted. Running club Tuesday was another fail. I got there, did the warm up and chatted (so excited to have my hearing back in the left ear!), then just as we were being told the session my chest tightened. I sneezed my way through a few hill reps, being overtaken by people I’d ordinarily be faster than, and felt my breathing getting more and more difficult so quit and went home, taking an extra rest day on Wednesday as I was worried about the same thing happening but being too far away in the woods and unable to find my own way back. Thursday I went to Pilates and managed to get in a medium-long run by splitting it half in the morning and half in the evening, and not getting too far from home. Rest day again Friday (the 1 out of the 3 this week I’d actually scheduled!), then down to Porthcawl for the weekend. My parents and I went to Llyn Llech Owain parkrun, the one we were supposed to do Christmas day. At the first time briefing, in contrast to Porthcawl where they say it’s always sunny for parkrun here, she said “I’m not guna lie, it’s always like this up here, we have our own microclimate”. It was wet and foggy. Two laps around the lake with some big muddy puddles and some undulations. Not what I’d expected but good fun and I’d love to go back when the weather is brighter because I think it would be a totally different experience with nice views over the lake. Sunday I put off my run until I didn’t have much time and squeezed in a soggy 7 mile hill session via flooded country lanes – sloshing through manure and I still had fun! 24 miles for the week (but should have been more like 44 – oh well).

I managed to get to the club the next Monday for a 6.5 mile loop run. Tuesday, I realised how much I was struggling with the cold affecting my motivation so went to get myself a new warm long sleeved top and some new trail shoes. That and a couple of other errands took all morning so I just did a little 2km on the treadmill before pilates and planned to go again later, but then it started snowing and I got stuck dealing with some more South African crap, so an other long run plan hit the dust. Wednesday was great. I actually had time for a lunch time run in the snow up to Coombe Hill and back, then a club offroad run in the evening.

Thursday my parents joined me and we went for a hill session, but it was too icy so we just did a gentle undulating jog at Eythrope manor. Friday rest day as planned.

Saturday I did Aylesbury parkrun and it was our parkrun practice day (paired our GP surgery with parkrun as part of the initiative from the Royal College of General Practitioners). There were over 30 members of staff, patients, friends and family in attendance and we pushed Aylesbury to a new attendance record! Most people seemed to enjoy themselves, and hopefully the experience will help people feel able to signpost patients there too for all the benefits of physical activity and the brilliant community of parkrun.

Sunday I went to another initiative I’ve found recently. Trust 10 is a series of monthly free 10km runs at National Trust properties. I took my parents along to the one at Dunstable Downs & Whipsnade Estate – SO windy I thought my contact lenses were going to fall out as my eyes streamed at the start. But great – another nice cross country run of two undulating laps. In the evening I got in another 2.5 miles of easy rolling hills before the bliss of a hot yoga session, rounding off another slightly under target 33 mile week.

The next week things started well with a club efforts session Monday, including an extended run to and from the club and 6x500m flat efforts for 10 miles total. Wednesday I had time for a lunchtime run again and managed a slightly longer 4.5 miles, as well as the club offroader in the evening.

Then Thursday after pilates, I took myself to Wendover Woods for a 10 mile run in the hills. Got slightly lost and couldn’t find my car at the end, taking it to 12 miles(!), and 136.5 miles total for January. It really should have been more like 200 with the goals I have, but life and illness got in the way. Time to up my game.

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