Running through the Snow

We didn’t get as much snow up North as the weather warnings initially suggested at the weekend. However living out on the northern edge of the Peak District we did get a light covering of snow which made for the perfect weekend for Christmas tree decorating and mine pie baking. It was also great for running.

I hate ice but snow is a completely different beast. As long as you have the correct footwear!  My shoe of choice this weekend was the Salomon Speedtrak (used to be called the Fellraiser). For me these are perfect snow running shoe.  Great in proper snow but also grippy on that rubbish light snow you get on pavements and also horrible slushy ice.

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Speedtraks enjoying the snow

Friday was cold and icy. Saturday brought light snow during the day, with a lovely dusting on the pavements with the snow showers easing off in the evening. We were all set for great snow disappointment however it snowed lightly all day Sunday as well.  Saturday I decided not to run as I wasn’t feeling 100% and was worried about falling on ice and doing myself an injury. But Sunday I couldn’t resist the temptation of the snow covered hills.

I did a solo run up Pule Hill in Marsden. You can read more about a walking route (or running route!) around Pule Hill on the National Trust website. This route doesn’t go up Pule Hill but I’d definitely recommend exploring some of the higher level paths on the hill too. I feel incredibly lucky to have all of this beautiful countryside only a mile from my front door.

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I’ve not enjoyed running much recently for various reasons so a little solo snow adventure was exactly what I needed to find some love for running again. Stunning views, apart from at the top of Pule Hill, which was shrouded in clouds.  The climb up was tough and I got a little lost in the old quarries but once up on the top I had lots of fun running along in the snow.

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Some people might have used the snow as an excuse to stay indoors at the weekend but for me it was the perfect opportunity to get back to enjoying running.

Running after dark: the rural edition

I have never been that put off by the dark winter nights when it comes to running. I’ve generally lived in very urban areas where street lights are in abundance and pavements are wide so safe routes are easy to come by. I used to think that head torches were a bit over the top unless trail running and all you really needed for night-time running was some high vis clothing so cars and pedestrians can see you coming.

Then I moved to a village and got a taste of what the dark winter nights mean for runners living out in the sticks.  The arrival of dark evenings means altering your route choices because those favourite winding country lanes become a lot more dangerous in the dark.

Even though dark evenings are only just arriving, my new running group doesn’t meet until 7.30 so I have already experienced after dark running in my new village.  Night running in a rural setting has so far proved to be lot of fun, at times exhilarating and other times a little bit scary. We’ve done running up on the edge of the moors, busy unlit main roads with no pavements, wonderful undulating dark lanes, and some rather terrifying muddy trails.  There is something quite exciting about running in total darkness with looming Pennine moorland all around, although the other week I was a little freaked out shapes ahead that appeared in the road until I realised it was just some sheep.

As this photo illustrates, there aren’t many lights down there in the village where I live!

I wouldn’t ever go out to run some of the routes we have done on my own. It would feel too mad and dangerous. This isn’t about being afraid of people lurking round dark corners like I used to sometimes get with urban night running but fear of speeding motorists on country roads. Running with a group provides extra visibility and gives me the extra freedom to run routes that would otherwise feel impossible in the dark.

Living in a village with one main road in and out, the dark nights definitely limit route options. Tonight I went out for a short couple of miles to stretch my legs out but forgot my head torch and wore the wrong top which wasn’t bright and reflective enough. Even though I stuck to the village residential streets and main centre I felt anxious at times.  Pavements kept ending, road junctions involved sharp corners with poor visibility and there were cars everywhere with it being early evening. It wasn’t an enjoyable run.

Note to self. Always remember to be prepared!

A head torch is a must, quite literally to be able to see where you are going. Reflective clothing is also essential. I have a running tights with reflective patches down the legs, a reflective running bag and usually a reflective jacket. I need to remember to get a light for the back of my running jacket too so cars can see me up ahead.

Marathon training is back ON!

I didn’t want to speak too soon but I’m finally starting to feel confident about marathon training again.  Especially after a wonderful long hilly run in the rain this weekend. If I can do 2300ft of hills over 17 miles then perhaps Snowdonia will be achievable after all. This weekends hills have given me much needed confidence.

It’s been a month since my doom and gloom post about sprained ankles and low iron levels getting in the way of training. But my ankle made a good recovery and I’ve managed to fit in a couple of long runs, regular week night runs and even some trail running.

Since the ankle disaster caused the training schedule to be thrown out of the window I have done a 16 mile run and a 17 mile. I didn’t even need to resort to a run/walk plan for either. Hurrah. Definitely did not expect to get through those unscathed.

The 16 mile run which I did 3 weekends ago was hellish. I don’t recommend stepping up from running an average of 10 miles for a long run to 16 miles in one go, especially off the back of an injury, but I needed to do it. I was hurting by the end.  It was mentally tough as well as physically tough.  Running an unfamiliar route along roads and ugly industrial canal paths did not help matters. But I did it.

This weekend I ran 17 miles and it took 3hr 13mins with a lot of hills. Snowdonia has a cut off of 4hrs at 18 miles. My goal in training was to feel comfortable with that time limit so I am ready.

Bring on the hills and the Welsh rain.

When marathon training goes from bad to worse

Clumsy runner plus broken stile equals busted ankle.

I’m having the most disastrous lead up to running a marathon ever. I thought last year was bad but this is getting ridiculous. Marathon at the end of October and my training has so far been quite pathetic.

I signed up for Snowdonia at about 10 minutes past midnight on New Years Eve. Normally I’d be up the hill watching fireworks but this year I was glued to my laptop, eagerly trying to secure two places at the Snowdonia Marathon. I was full of good intentions about running my best year yet and I feel like the whole year has been one long battle against various problems.

The latest saga is this. We were out for a long off road run over the August bank holiday weekend.  Along the Kirklees Way between Marsden and Holmfirth there is a stile in a bad way. The side we were on way falling apart and very wobbly. The other side had no ladder left at all. I’m rubbish at climbing over things so this was never going to go well. I landed badly on the other side and twisted my foot.

The pain was terrible but I got myself up, tested it and thought I’d be ok to carry on. Well I was going to have to carry on being a few miles from home and a few miles from the destination.  Somehow I managed to hobble 4 more miles to Holmbridge where I was able to inspect the damage and put a support bandage on (what good luck to have one of these on us!). Then get a bus onwards instead of running any further. The rest of the weekend was spent with ice on a swollen foot. I did go to A&E after the bank holiday weekend however they took an extremely brief look at it and sent me away again.  I think I set a record for being in and out of A&E within 5 minutes.

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I wish we had gone to find an alternative way round but these things happen. I feel like an idiot for messing up marathon training over something so silly. Two weeks on and I’ve not really run since. I’ve been walking and swimming and yesterday I took on the role of tail walker at parkrun. However I really don’t think my ankle is ready for running yet which is worrying with a marathon fast approaching.

The ankle is just one in a serious of misfortunes this year. First my stupid foot pain. Then the anemia which still isn’t fully resolved and I still don’t know what is causing it. Over the summer I’ve not done as much running as hoped due to getting ill a couple of times and the stress of moving house definitely hasn’t helped.

I’ve been obsessively reading race reports about running Snowdonia with an injury and running in general after this kind of injury.  Trying to reassure myself that I can do it because I’ve got nearly 500 miles of training in my legs already this year. Going to need to decide very soon if I should be offering our places to other people. It’s a tough one as Snowdonia has been a big goal this year and I don’t want to give it up if there is a chance I can do it.

At the moment I feel like saying roll on 2018…

Did Not Start

Tonight I did not make it over the start line of a race.  I’m not injured. I’m not broken. But I didn’t feel I had enough in me to race and feel pleased with the result. So I didn’t run.

Was that a weak and lazy option to take?

Probably.  But I’ve run a lot of races recently and pushed myself hard. Tour of Tameside, Round Sheffield, that trip to the Lakes, King of the Hill. Lots of big runs. Work is proving busy and stressful at the moment plus we are dealing with never-ending house buying anxiety.  I’m tired and run down. Everything is a bit of a mess.

I was contemplating running up until yesterday. Although I knew I probably wouldn’t after feeling exhausted and achy all day at work.  By last night I could barely move thanks to a headache that was on the verge of straying into full-blown migraine territory.  My neck and shoulders were seized up and painful. I spent the evening lying down on a hot water bottle, rubbing my head with a menthol stick. I’m completely worn out.

Choosing to look after yourself instead of doing a race isn’t always the weak option. It is the sensible option.  Rest is what I need.

Of course I felt guilty for not running. So I went for a little 3 mile plod down the road and back. Nothing exciting. Nothing groundbreaking but it was enough.  Maybe I’ll go out tomorrow and go a little bit further. Not far but far enough.

Time to put my feet up, drink a beer and try to not to beat myself up over that did not start.

Hills, Hills and More Hills.

As I’m running Snowdonia for my marathon race this year I’ve started to step up the hill training. A lovely email popped up in my inbox…

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24 weeks until the Snowdonia Marathon. I guess that is now 23 weeks so I should probably start to get my mind focused on marathon training.  Right now though I’m not in the mood for training plans or hitting targets or any of that. I just want running to be fun and to do whatever I feel like doing, whether that be trails or fells or even a bit of road.

So for the moment I’m just going to focus on running hills. Lots of hills.

Hills are tough. Running up hills results in legs of jelly and lungs at bursting point. However the feeling once you reach the top is awesome.  Going up hill is a tough mental and physical battle, but for me cresting over that hill feels fantastic.  Especially if there is a good view. Everyone should enjoy a good view.

My most recent runs are below. All quite hilly, as evidenced by the hill profiles.

We did a bank holiday run up Shuttlingsloe near Maccessfield which was a killer but worth it for the views. I finally ran up the big hill I can see from my office window everyday at work and I had a wonderful Sunday plod up and down the hilly moorland paths above Marsden.

I’m aware that my approach to hill training is currently a bit one-dimensional and so next time someone suggests hill reps or a hill pyramid session for my running group, I will actually turn up.  Finding interesting looking hills and then running up them seems to be doing me some good and improving my running.

Bring on the views from the top of the hills!

What a difference a month makes

Last month I wrote about my very low iron levels. I’ve been taking iron tablets twice a day for a month now and I am certainly noticing a difference. My mileage is up, and my pace is slowly increasing. Most importantly I have managed to start enjoying running again. A month ago I was not in a good place with running. It was frustrating. I felt completely rubbish physically and mentally.  I’m very glad I didn’t have a race packed spring season lined up for once.

Progress has been gradual and I think I have some way to go before I’m back to full fitness. However I finally managed to beat my Birkenhead parkrun PB that I set last July! I’ve also been running hills much more easily in terms of my breathing.  Before starting on the iron, I was increasingly getting out of breath, and have noticed a difference there already.

I am booked in for a repeat blood test this week to check if the iron tablets are helping. They most definitely are but will be interesting to find out how much my ferritin levels have gone up.  Fingers crossed for good results!

In need of some iron

I’m officially suffering from anemia and it is rubbish.

Running has not been going well recently. I’ve felt slow and tired ever since my half marathon in January, at first I put it down to winter and running a hard race, then I put it down to losing fitness due to injury. However after feeling out of breath the whole way round parkrun last month, I started to think that perhaps I needed to get checked out.

A blood test later and the results are in. Low iron stores. So now I’ve started taking iron tablets and the doctor has ordered me to rest (just don’t tell him I went up a big Scottish mountain last week). Not that I feel like running anyway. Being anemic is one thing and the side effects of the tablets is another. Hello nausea. It’s lazy evenings watching tv for me this week.

Hopefully the iron tablets will take effect soon and I’ll be gaining PBs all over the place.  Fingers crossed.

Running Adventures in the Yorkshire Dale

This weekend was a long weekend in the Yorkshire Dales, a part of the country I have never visited before. It was a wonderful weekend of running on fells and trails and relaxing by a log fire, in the Yorkshire Dales. I can’t remember what I used to do on holiday before running dominated all holiday plans.

Public transport is very limited in this part of the world, much more so than Snowdonia or the Lake District. I can’t drive and we don’t have a car so running was the perfect way to go further than if we were walking.  We stayed in Settle which is accessible by train, on the famous Settle-Carlisle railway, and it proved to be the perfect base for challenging runs.

Malham Cove and Goredale Scar are fairly close to Settle but not easily accessible by public transport (although there is a bus from Skipton which we used to get back to the railway and on to our base).  Following the Settle Loop route which is part of the Pennine Bridleway, the run involved rough tracks and lots and lots of mud. We ran over the Bridleway, then dropped down to the top of Malham Cove, ran across to Goredale, then back along the river into Malham finishing with a view of Malham Cove from below.

My navigation skills were a bit off at the start, so we ended up doing a couple of miles of proper fell running to get to the lanes and bridle path. Definitely more fun than starting with a couple of miles of lanes though. Starting at around 500ft and climbing to 1200ft within the first mile was tough. Especially as the steepest part of that was up a muddy grassy hill slope (what did I say about fells being more fun than lanes?!). My lungs and legs felt ready to explode.

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Struggling up the very long hill…

There was snow on the tops between Settle and Malham too. Bitterly cold so very glad for all my warm layers. Despite having a rucksack full of warm layers to put on at the pub for the journey back, I realised I’d forgotten clean dry socks. Must always remember fresh socks.

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Still going up!

Navigational errors also resulted in a pointless run up a hill with a 14% gradient warning sign. Malham Cove was stunning, although the limestone rocks were horrible to walk on in my Saucony Peregrine trail shoes. Goredale Scar was beautiful too.

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Goredale Scar. Still a couple more miles to run.

I attempted to record the run on my Garmin but there was so much stopping and starting, for map reading, rests, and to take photos of the amazing scenery, that it kept going into power save mode. So I’ve plotted the route very roughly. It works out somewhere around 12 miles with 2240ft of hills. I am trying not to care about time or pace and just enjoy it. After all it was a run about challenging myself to different terrain and taking in the fantastic scenery. Walking to Malham and Goredale Scar would have been a very long day, whereas we fitted in all the sights and a pub trip within the space of 4 hours!

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View the route on Plotaroute.com

Winter Running

I’m back to blogging. The last couple of months have been very quiet on the writing front, but thankfully not on the running front. I’ve been suffering from an almost non-existent internet connection for the last two months, but fingers crossed all is finally fixed.

Winter running season is here and I must admit I haven’t been the most enthusiastic about getting out in the dark or the cold miserable weather. I struggle with winter. It’s the darkness. Waking up in the morning is a struggle and leaving work when it is dark is rubbish.  Energy levels drop and the winter illnesses go round and round the office.  It isn’t all bad though. I love a crisp winter’s day, a morning frost, snow on the hilltops. Even being awake to see a sunrise is nice if it is a pretty one.

Last year I barely ran over the winter, especially in the run up to Christmas. Strava has 2 hours logged for November 2015 and 4 logged for December 2015. This year I’m doing a lot better for 15 hours for November and 7 so far for December. Partly because I’ve upped the mileage anyway this year but mainly because I’ve got a better winter months system in place.

Mix it up

I’ve been trying to mix up my training more over winter. Going out for a mid-week run in the dark after work never appeals at this time of year.  My favourite routes become unsuitable. I dislike road running in the dark. I generally dislike road running but not going off road on my own in the dark. Pavements around here aren’t the best and tend to disappear or have cars parked on them meaning straying into the road on occasions. Plus crossing roads in the dark makes runs stressful. So I have mixed up my training with sessions, staying closer to home and doing more hill sprint sessions and interval runs.

Winter kit

Reflective running kit is our winter friend. My go to running tights have reflective dots down the sides and round the waist, and I tend to always run with my reflective waist bag. I could do better with the top half though and need to invest in more reflective long sleeve tops. Thankfully the cold doesn’t bother me as much.  I rarely run with a hat or gloves but always have my packable running jacket in my bag.

Light Up

Light up reflective arm bands are probably the best thing a friend has ever given me. I keep them in my running waist bag so I can be reflective and lit up at anytime. Useful if I haven’t worn my hi-vis I find myself running for longer than expected, and ending up in darkness (or even dusk).  Head torches are useful to have in the bag too, although I’m not a fan of excessive head torch usage. I’ll get have it ready for an unlit or poorly lit road but generally won’t use it if there are streetlights.

Festive spirit

Christmas lights have proved to be dark night motivator for December. My spirits were lifted whilst pounding the pavements on a very wet, dark evening, by the sight of twinkling Christmas lights on decorating houses. We took the festive spirit one step further this week at running club with a Christmas lights run. Our route took us round local villages to see the fantastic Christmas lights. Everyone wore a santa hat too.

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Christmas lights run