Tired legs and marathon slogs



Cross counry legs are not fresh long run legs. Poor legs.

Does anyone else ever feel like long runs are a continuous con trick you play against yourself?Yesterday I set off to do something around 17/18 miles. After about 800m I though, "God my legs do not want to do this" After three miles I was mentally trying to calculate if I could sack it off, go and rest and fit in a long run today, and what repercussions that would have for the rest of the week, timing-wise. The rest was just a constant mental dialogue of "Ok, well, get to 9, that's halfway. Well, ok, 10, that's over halfway and a decent run in itself. Well, ok, half marathon distance. Ok, so just get back to Putney Bridge then you can get the tube home.. Oh well but then you might as well jog as it's about the same time as waiting for the District line...." And so on, seemingly ad infinitum. Or to just over 19 miles, anyway. I've definitely run marathons that went passed a lot quicker than that trudge.

But then that's part of the point of marathon training, isn't it? Runs that seem entirely fuelled by willpower - your legs and your lungs dragged along, begrudgingly, for the ride. My watch occasionally buzzing to let me know another mile has passed, but never looked at because the pace today is just what it is. Couldn't run faster if you paid me, not sure I could go any slower either because it doesn't feel any better and just means it'll take longer to get home.

There are runs you do in marathon training where everything clicks and you suddenly realise the fitness gains are there after all. Then there's ones like yesterday, where you are training as much for the mental battle of 26.2 as the physical one. Because if, on legs heavy from cross country, you can slog around 19 miles, then come race day - on fresh legs, and well-fuelled, and with adrenaline to burn - everything seems so much easier.

So, over to you. Who is also in the murky depths of marathon training, and who is surfing the somewhat sunnier (from my perspective) climes of more sensible distance training? And finally, how did I suddenly become someone who voluntarily (ie not because the roads are covered in ice/snow/howling gales) goes for a treadmill run? Asta, is there some virus you've infected me with??



Comments

  1. On the sofa under a blanket full of either a really horrible cold or the flu. No running last week because I was away skiing (was lovely), suspect there won’t be much running happening this week. Bit of a dent in consistency in the marathon training.
    :(

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  2. I was out yesterday on what constitutes a long slow run for me. Recently I've settled into a routine of Parkruns and Club sessions without wracking up those long 'yeah this hurts/bores now but is worth it' type of runs. Saturday had been a crap run at Parkrun and it had annoyed me so Sunday was a chance to shake that feeling. The stormy weather had gone so I set off in bright dry conditions and had a route sort of planned that would get me to 8 or 9 miles. Headphones in and Mastodon blasting my ears I ignored the thought that shorts and a t-shirt were possibly ill-advised as everyone else I encountered resembled a mountaineer and got into a manageable plodding rhythm. I'll spare you a more detailed account but after a while (and the odd shower or two) I had done enough (8+ miles at a consistent pace) to erase the Parkrun and fill me with confidence for next weekends Devilla Forest 15k run.

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  3. Half marathon training for me, and my ten miles on Sunday felt pretty good in comparison to Kate's description of her 19. It was a beautiful day and I was motivated by the end point being a coffee and scone date with my husband at our local top-scone venue. I also enjoyed the peace and quiet of the run, having had a very traumatic Friday, when I had to have my oldest horse put to sleep. He was nearly 31 years old - over 100 in human years - and I'd owned him for nearly 28 of these. It was all very sudden and horrible, so I was glad of some peace and not having to think about much more than just putting one foot in front of the other.

    But back to running, and Kate's blog has helped prepare me for the mental as well as physical slog of marathon training that lies ahead - my first! Scheduled, all being well, for early November. Advice welcome on when I should start stepping up distances beyond the training needed for a couple of HMs lined up over the next few months?

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. That's sad about your horse, but at 31, he probably had a great life. I'm sure took have very fond memories of him for the rest of your life. That said, running is great for when you just don't want to think about upsetting things.

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    3. Sorry to hear about your senior horse. My current oldest is 30; my 34 year-old died last year. It's never easy to lose one.

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    4. So sorry to hear about your horse, I second what Pete said, he'll be with you forever.

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    5. It's like losing part of the family! That's because they are family. Thanks all for your kind wishes,
      And thanks too BvP - I'm probably thinking along the same lines re stepping up to the marathon.

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  4. Not marathon training, but set out to do eight miles just as Storm Erick came into Belfast.

    Windiest run of the winter so far. At one point, on the second mile, it was so windy that for a minute it felt like I was taking one step forward and being blown back. That counts as resistance training, right?

    In the end, just had to put it down as character building...

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  5. 7.7k with drills; 6.6k in howling gale which meant that I was blown backwards. Fun though.....

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  6. I had something of a cutdown week, so the long run yesterday covered a relatively light 14 miles, but with the particularly hilly route I chose it didn't feel like much of a respite. I'll definitely be finding somewhere flatter for the 22-miler coming this weekend. I've had couple of recent runs go exactly as Kate described - on one I did bail (deeply thankful for the invention of Apple Pay so I could use the tube), the other I stuck out and think both decisions were right given how I was feeling and subsequently recovered.

    As for the treadmill virus, Kate, I've been a latent carrier for some times - it generally only rears its head when I have a midweek tempo / speed session in the winter as the alternatives are worse. Don't tell anyone, but I kinda look forward to them now....

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    1. I may (just may) be more inclined to use them in foul weather if I knew how to program them.

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    2. My only success using the treadmill for interval training was when I had a long, standing recovery between reps (3:22!). I still don't understand how people do it logistically when they have shorter reps and shorter recoveries.

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  7. Such a good description Kate, I'm yet to have one of those hellish 'forever plods' as part of this year's marathon training but I'm expecting one soon!

    So last week was week 5 of marathon training and a bit of a cut back/easier week shading just north of 40 miles. It culminated in the ridiculously hilly Deal (nr Dover) Half Marathon. Easily the toughest course I've run over that distance, the hills just keep coming in the first 8 miles and the wind kept changing direction so we were perpetually running into it! I think you can add several minutes to your time based on a flat course, I was over 9 minutes slower than my HM PB last year so it turned out to be a decent MP session. Despite my moaning I actually quite enjoyed it!

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  8. You almost perfectly described my run during VLM last year, just add cramp for the last two thirds and you're there!

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    1. whoops, didn't meant to sign off there ..... I remember saying to people at work the following day that the last 21 miles were the hardest. It wasn't meant to raise a laugh, it was the truth!

      I thought I'd do a loop of the Thames on Saturday from Tower Bridge to Vauxhall and got blown up, down and around. With the wind in coming from a WSW direction and the meandering of the Thames, I'm not quite sure how it worked but I had 75% wind walls to 25% wind chutes! I felt a bit sick that afternoon tbh, from all the effort. Blah. Conformation I think, that wind is the runners worst enemy. Apart from ice maybe.

      I'm not 'training' as such but I'm aware I have the Big Half in 4 weeks so it would be nice to run it at a fair clip but without chasing a time. For that reason I'm leaning towards running with my watch in my pocket. I'd like some nice fresh legs for that please as I hope to enjoy it seeing as I don't need to get worked up about it!

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  9. A fairly unimpressive parkrun at the weekend that was possibly down to over-sleeping and dashing out to get to the start in time.

    Midweek was better with 30s knocked off my 10K PB. I have a couple of loops that are 10.5K to allow gentle cool down after the Garmin beeps the last split. One trail loop for dry days and a road loops for when the trail is too muddy. Both have a bit too much ascent to be good PB material. Last Wednesday was the road loop with 125m ascent.

    I ran it again this lunchtime at a much more leisurely pace in the sunshine...20s per km slower makes for blissful running.

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    1. Ooops. Forgot the klaxon......48:03 in case anyone is interested.

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  10. I know how that run feels Kate, though mine was on my bike yesterday. It had been a very busy week with me being down in Colchester but still having to knock out my tri training as well. I came back home on Thursday and treated it as my day of rest, even though I had 5 hour drive. That meant I had a 2.6k swim on Friday, a 90 minute run on Saturday and then a 3 hour 40 minutes ride to do yesterday. It hadn't helped that I wanted a bit of variety so had been dropped off at my brother-in-law's house on Saturday for me to run back home. I hadn't factored in the 40+mph headwind, and as a result it felt like a much longer run. So on Sunday, with my legs already feeling tired I headed out expecting to cover 60 miles in the time I had to cycle. It helped that I'd arranged to be picked up an hours drive away from home, which made me concentrate on what I was doing. That said, the clock ticked slowly. I broke the time into 20 minute intervals. One down, ten to go. Two down, nine to go...... Once I got to half way it became easier and when it was nine down, two to go it was heavenly, even though my legs were constantly moaning. The weather forecast had been for sunny intervals and showers but I'd managed to have the sunny intervals until 25 minutes from the end when I got battered by a violent hail storm for about 10 minutes which then turned to rain. By then I didn't care if I was cold and wet, I was near the finish! At the car, I dismantled the bike, put it in the boot then got changed into dry clothes in the middle of a car park with dog walkers staring at me. Butties, cake and drink consumed, I was happy. I have a wonderful supporter!

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    1. That sounds exhausting, well done for persevering and big up to Mrs. BHP!

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    2. If Mrs BHP didn't already think you're mad, does she now Pete? ;)

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    3. Mrs B thinks that many of the things I do are a bit mad, but hopefully not me personally!

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    4. That is an epic adventure BHP and an epic week! I can almost feel the relief of changing into dry clothes and holding a warm cup of tea myself. Well deserved!

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  11. Can I dig out the PB klaxon?

    Olympic park HM for me yesterday. I didn’t have high hopes for the race given the maze like course, rubbish weather forecast and going into it in marathon training and unrested. My PB was 1:43 so thought I’d be happy with a similar time. The finish was a bit chaotic and I was in the first wave of sub 1:45 runners (which ranged from 1:11 to 1:45 as it turned out). My plan was to run on feel and see how things went. So I did. Any things went well. Felt fairly strong throughout despite the weird winds and twists and turns. Finished in 1:39:50. Really chuffed, and great medal and T-shirt too. I will state my PB in minutes only now (rather than hours and minutes). Roll on Manchester....

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    1. That's fantastic, I like hearing about running on feel going in your favour! Congratulations!

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    2. Excellent running r&b! It did look like a chaotic course, and having run there myself I could imagine all the changes of direction. But you didn't state your time in minutes! You have it in the old vernacular. You should be shouting it from the rooftops!

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    3. Very well done! 1:11-1:45 is a comical pen.

      Pete - interesting on when you get to give your HM time in minutes - I'd say sub-70 but happy to be convinced otherwise.

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    4. Brilliant time R&B - huge well done.

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    5. Mr handsome - you’re upsetting me, I thought it was sub 100???

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    6. You tell him r&b!!!
      Personally, I'd be happy to declare my pb as 108 minutes 34 seconds!

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    7. I've dropped the hour once I'm talking about sub-80. [I was very pleased for the winner of this HM, he is one of the founder members of the local 6am club.]

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    8. Heh heh...each to their own but I'd never say my PB was 99 mins. I can understand 63 mins, 68 etc in terms of performance but if I hear 75, 85, 95 I'd always mentally calculate it as oh that's 1 hr 15 etc.

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    9. It makes more sense to me in minutes since I think in mile or km pace, and it's just easier to add up the numbers that way!

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    10. I think I got into the habit of thinking in minutes when I started running with people whose target times were around 75 and lower. FWIW I think Run Britain or Power of 10 crosses over at 100 minutes.

      1.11 - 1.45 is a comical and possibly difficult pen. I made the mistake of setting off at the back of a sub-1.30 pen once, when I was aiming for 1.25, it took a couple of miles to get past people running slower than 1.30 pace. Though, depending on the entry list, having a sub-1.20 pen can be a lonely place :-)

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    11. Now there's a question... would you ever, ever, say to someone "are you sure you are in the right pen?". I wouldn't, but on the other hand I've thought it plenty of times. At the Winter Run the other week I ran in Wave 1, which was supposedly the "fastest" wave, and right at the front - literally almost on the line - were a couple of women who quite obviously were going to be stampeded. They were talking about aiming for just under an hour, both had huge headphones on. Nearly tripped over one of them trying to get past after 10m. Why would you do that to yourself??

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    12. I wouldn't tell anyone that, partly because I don't want to look like a dick, partly because you might be challenging a latent speed merchant.

      I think some people confuse the fact they can do things with whether or not they should.

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  12. For me, a few days off from running to watch others run. And swim. And fence. And shoot. And ride. This was the scene at Pentathlon Canada's Western Winter Nationals. All indoors, of course, because outside air temps varied between -22C and -28C. Cold even for Calgary.

    The weekend went well for many of our athletes but there were some tears amid the happy faces. Missed goals and other disappointments will do that to you at any age.

    We (my and my co-national team coach) convened a meeting with our senior athletes about our upcoming competition season - specifically, selection for our Olympic qualifier in July and a briefing on our upcoming European competition tour. Everyone seems motivated and is training hard but there's also the stress of competing against your own teammates to gain selection. We want it to go well for everyone, even knowing that all can't achieve the final goal.

    (If anyone wants to see what our fun modern pentathlon comps look like, you can see photos on my Instagram - my name there is jersporthorse.)

    Today it's back to the mostly-treadmill life south of the border. Last week I managed 8-10 miles/day, sometimes split into two sessions, with an increase in overall aerobic pace and a mini-workout of mile repeats. After 12 weeks of aerobic work, I'm easing into faster stuff. We'll see how that goes.

    Also, I have the final race of the local winter trail series. The weather has been horrible for all of them so far; we''ll see if Saturday turns out to actually have runnable trails. But we've had so much rain the flooding and mud make that seem unlikely.

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    1. Fascinating pics and videos, thanks for sharing!

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    2. Fingers crossed for Saturday! And, what Brussels says ^^^ .

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  13. I find it hardest when I'm about to go out, the thought of more than 2 and a half hours of running when I haven't started just seems horrendous. Once I'm out, I actually don't mind it so much as I can tick things off like you mentioned.
    12K is over with quick enough,-Then on the hour mark: 1st gel-Keep heading on 16K is half way-5K later it's half marathon distance-Just after that; 1:45, second gel and about 9K to go-Once I get to 5K left it's just counting them off.
    I do need to re-jug my route though, my current one has over 200m of elevation in the final 10K, and it's rough. Hoping to get out with some guys from the running club from now on though, so hopefully that will be flatter and push me on a bit.

    I still have no idea if my target time for the marathon is right, like last week, the idea of doing another 10K at the end of Sunday's run quite a bit faster is daunting as hell, but I've always been surprised at what a good taper and on the day adrenaline can do.

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    1. Run your current route backwards, then you get 200m elevation in the first 10km 👍

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  14. Good run Kate, reminds me why my second marathon will be several years after my first.

    Barca HM on Sunday for me - a mass time trial so no real drama in the report beyond the training on the treadmill turned out fine, should anyone else be anxious at being forced inside occasionally. The first three 5k splits were all under the 23:40 target, the last 5 seconds over but by then a good PB was in the bag. Finished relatively strongly for 1:39.05 and a nice confidence booster for the Big25 in May.

    I'd thoroughly recommend it for anyone looking for a fast race/winter break - Spain (and the Czech Republic in my experience) have really embraced the running tourism bug and churn out excellent events in top venues.

    Anyway, bigger issue to follow on from previous talk of watches and shoes - shorts. I've improved virtually every PB since ditching my baggy training shorts for a pair of moderately short racing shorts. Is there another second per kilometer to be gained from full blown short shorts? My thighs already look magnificent - despite the naysaying of Mrs Handsome - but how much is too much? A difficult conundrum.

    Well done to all those getting out, I will toast your efforts in the cold with my next cerveza in the sun!

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    1. Excellent running HD! A lovely city to get a pb of 99.05!

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    2. Well done. Welcome to the minutes only pb group!

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    3. Bahaha go the full speedos-style like the women often wear and see what happens, I say! #science

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    4. Lol, I think Mrs Handsome would be digging out the divorce papers.

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  15. I did a 20 miler yesterday, and to my slight surprise it was one of the more enjoyable runs of the last couple of months! The speed work has been going well but the longer runs not so, so I have been worried that the marathon endurance is not there.

    However, despite a short night’s sleep I headed out with a spring in my step and easily managed the 4:45/km pace I was aiming for. Unfortunately skiing is getting in the way of the next couple of weeks’ training - I have a progressive 20 miler scheduled for next Friday which is much faster, then a 23 miler the following Sunday the day after the long road trip back from skiing.

    However feeling (cautiously) pretty good about the Big Half in a few weeks. Can we get a blog meet-up going there?

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  16. I finished my first week of specific marathon training, the mind games were out in force this weekend.

    After Saturday's loosener - 5 miles around Lloyd Park - the final instalment of the Surrey XC League I had 17 miles with 8@MP on my schedule for Sunday.

    Usually this run is an absolute suffer-fest this early in the schedule - where I die miserably (fall off the pace) around four or five miles from home. As I wasn't sure what my legs would be like I decided to stay fairly near to home, starting easy, then dropping onto an 800m loop where I would try to run MP. The warm-up part of the run included a fairly big climb in miles 5 and 6, which got my HR up, then I had a downhill mile which encouraged quicker leg turnover, then one more slightly downhill mile to get into the right effort, before I started on the 800m loop. With the two downhill miles I figured I could just run 12 laps and then jog home. I found running loops was tedious, with 2/300m into the wind and some unpleasant cold rain. From loop 7 onwards I was all for quitting after 8 loops, but just turned the corner and started loop 9 when the time came, then just kept going. In part it was because I'd overcooked one mile and was a little upset that I was above 6m/m. Once I had got into loop 9 I figured I should just run it and the splits would be what they would be. That helped me get through 10 to 12, even trying to speed up a little at the end. When I finally spun off the loop and let go, the next mile at 20s slower felt so easy. I was happy with the way the run turned out. Hopefully a good marker for mental as well as physical preparation.

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  17. Kate's continuous conning of herself is a form of distraction from bodily demands to slow down or stop. In a race, I try to distract myself with a variety of observations of other runners, the scenery and supporters and estimating how many more minutes before the end.

    Making good use of a pacer is also a form of distraction, and a good one. On Sunday I ran again in a local athletics club's monthly 10 km race on Wellington's waterfront. The races I enter often don't have pacers slow enough for me, but this time there was one for 60 minutes. I concentrated on following a few metres behind him for about 7 km, then got ahead to finish in 59:31 - not a personal best, but good for me. Next Sunday I have Wellington's Round The Bays half marathon. The slowest pacer is for 2:10 - a bit too fast for me. I hope to use a pace band instead, but this, of course, relies on kilometres being marked. It doesn't always happen. In a Taupo HM last year, oddly, only the half way and 16 km points had markers. Fortunately Round the Bays is likely to have more markers than that.

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    1. Great result for the 10km! Pacers can be great, but it is disappointing when they don't have any for your target time.

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    2. Pacers can be great but I've found its harder than it seems to follow the official ones. I stress/waste energy trying to follow them through the crowds and much prefer banking a little compared to bang on even pace.

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  18. No long runs anywhere near my radar at the moment unfortunately. Just trying to get one or two 5-6k runs done a week, just to keep the legs used to it. I seem to be setting out without much of a plan pace-wise (other than speed work is not a good idea at the moment), and they're all ending up at a tempo pace. Not sure if that's a good thing, but I guess it doesn't matter too much with such short distances.

    One achievement today was I managed to get average cadence up to 181, from the 160s to low 170s that has been more usual. This seemed quite efficient, though I did feel my quads burning a bit more - not sure if that's related.

    Talking of quads, I was interested to see on Aly Dixon's twitter that she is doing strength training (deadlifting) and also downhill tempos to strengthen quads to cope with eccentric contractions of all the downhill running along the Boston course. Is this something you're looking at Kate?

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    1. Just a 'sample of 1', but I have noticed an improvement after strength training. In preparation for a week of Scottish winter mountaineering, I have been training twice a week round a 12.5km / 250m ascent loop with a 20Kg pack and heavy 4 season mountain boots. The theory being with the pack that I will be carrying 10kg most days, so after training with 20, that should feel light and also the greater weight will make up for the reduced ascent when training in the south east vs real mountains in Scotland. The result being that running the uphill sections seems easier recently.

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    2. @Paul yes absolutely. I do an hour of PT at the gym every week and focus is entirely on quads/glutes (ouch) plus another couple of smaller S&C sessions during the week (20 minutes or something).

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    3. I should point out that I was not running with that load......3 hours in the dark and mud to complete the circuit.

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    4. The thing that was new and interesting to me was it's the miles of downhill that hammer the quads, so they're saying.

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    5. Yes it absolutely is. Uphills hurt the lungs but downhills hurt the legs! Ever finished a long run on a downhill? It's torture!!

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    6. ha, yes, your mind says "it's downhill, free speed - legs get going," then your legs say "no."

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    7. That was me at the Loch Ness mara, wasn't able to capitalise on the downhill of a 2km hill at mile 19. I was banking on it but I just couldn't go any faster and was fighting gravity with the pain!

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    8. Agreed. Yorkshire 3 Peaks as a run. First two peaks OK, but the anticipated downhill run from the third was a painful hobble. The flat finish didn't look too pretty either as once those muscles are shot, there is no 'in race' recovery. Must do better this year!

      I rarely get DOMS, but after that run.....Worst ever. To be honest, I don't think collapsing in a pathetic heap for an hour counts as stretching and the 6 hour drive home after did not help much either. Boy did I love cruise control and an auto box that day.

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  19. My first ever 20-miler on Sunday was tough on the legs but better than I expected mentally. I was lucky to have a club member or two with me almost the whole way, and fascinating ice formations on the banks of the river to distract me. The weather was also on my side. Yes, it was -10 C, but it wasn't raining, or windy, and miraculously the footpaths almost entirely clear of slush/snow/etc.

    What I didn't factor in was that my water bottle pop up lid would freeze over. I had an electrolyte mix in there, which perhaps could have been less diluted, but it never occurred to me that water would freeze so quickly (after only half an hour!) and while being sloshed around. I stopped and took the lid off to have some electrolyte slushie then ditched it at my car after the first 7 miles.

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  20. Training for my first HM this year in mid-March had been progressing nicely, until a horrible virus struck me down. No running for over a week. I managed parkrun on Saturday and posted one of worst times in ages, just getting around was a huge effort. 10km on Sunday was better, if slow with a tight chest. Life huh? As John Lennon once said, life is what happens when you're busy making plans!

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  21. Saturday morning found me taking a slight hangover for a 13k cross country run that was always into the wind. How does that happen? Anyway, it was lovely with a run by the River Dane, lots of mud and some slight hills. Not much to report really.

    Nothing to do with running but the highlight of the weekend was stopping the car on the way home on Sunday night alongside a barn owl sitting on a fence post before it ghostily flew off. Which was nice.

    Happy running, everyone.

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    1. "... always into the wind". I've noticed the same thing when I run on a local 1 km loop track. Head winds are more common than the opposite. And if I reversed the direction, I think this would still be true.

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