A long run in the snow

My campaign to get fit enough to race a half marathon by mid-December starting from a fragile base at the end of October, is lurching unsteadily forwards.  After the various misadventures in the early weeks, the problem more recently has simply been too little time to train as a consequence of getting home from work late each evening.  This week, from Monday to Friday, I had not managed a single training run.  When I arrived home last night (Friday), the moon was rising and the stars glittered in a clear cold sky.  I was tempted to go for a run but I felt tired and hungry.  The recording of heart rate variability in the morning had shown that I was quite stressed, so I decided the it would be wiser to eat, relax and then do an easy elliptical session.  The elliptical session confirmed that my decision to defer the run was wise as I struggled even to maintain an adequate cadence for 30 minutes in the low aerobic zone.

This morning the measurement of HRV indicated slight reduction in my level of stress, so I decided that I would do the same HR v power test on the elliptical as I had done last Saturday, to provide a clearer picture of my fitness.  Today my performance was even worse.  Whereas I would normally hope to achieve a power output of 230 watts at a HR of 140, last week my HR at this power output had been 150.  Today it was 152.  That is my worst performance since the period immediately after my recovery from a serious episode of illness in June 2009 when I stopped the test at a power output of 200 watts and a HR of 145.     However last Saturday I had managed a successful progressive longish run despite HRV evidence of moderate stress and poor performance in the elliptical HR v power test.  Therefore I decided once again to do a longish run, my final scheduled longish run before the race in two weeks time.  I had planned to cover a distance of 23-24 Km, including warm-up, a relaxed half marathon in around 2 hours, and cool-down.

Last night’s crisp clear air had disappeared behind a bank of cloud accompanying an almost stationary frontal system that had meandered slowly across Nottinghamshire in the middle of the night  and given us out first snowfall of the winter. The sun rose into a sky that was almost clear again, apart from a some strands of nimbostratus and a few puffy clumps of cumulonimbus.  The ground was covered in a lovely sparkling blanket of snow.  In places where the snow had become compacted the ground was treacherous under-foot, but mostly it was a lovely soft surface, though not a fast surface.

After I had warmed-up and acclimatised to the surface, I settled into a comfortable pace around 5:45 /Km except where it was necessary to slow down for safety’s sake.  A northerly breeze ruffled the surface of the river.  The low-angled sunlight danced off the ruffled water and sparkled from the snow crystals at my feet.  It felt wonderful to be out running.  By 15 Km, I was aware that my legs were becoming a little tired but I found it quite easy to maintain the pace.  Then, in the final 3 Km I increased pace to around 5:10/km and finally to 4:55 for the final Km.  My time for the 21.1 Km HM distance was 121 minutes which was pleasingly near my target.  My pace over the final few Km was a little slower than during last week’s progressive run, but the snowy surface probably accounted for that.  So once again, I was quite pleased with my longish run.

That was the final longish run of my brief campaign.  I have done all six of the intended longish runs and all have gone fairly well.  However, the other parts of my planned program have been rather disastrous.  So far I have done only three of the planned interval sessions and in these sessions I have struggled to maintain a pace much faster that the pace I have achieved at the end of several of my longish runs.  It is clear that attempting interval sessions in the dark when I arrive home tired after a long day at work is simply impractical.  I had planned these sessions, together with some hill repeats, to develop some strength in my type 2A aerobic fast twitch fibres, which have atrophied during my year of disrupted training.  However, in retrospect, this belated effort to develop fast twitch fibres was probably ill-conceived.  At this stage, my greatest needs are to increase by aerobic capacity and speed-endurance.  It would have probably have been more sensible to have included some 6-10 Km tempo runs in the program.  I will do one of two such runs in the next week, but it is now too late to achieve any substantial increase in speed-endurance.

The good news is that the knee that has troubled me since the episode of acute arthritis in February is coping well.  There have been some minor hiccoughs, including the tearing of a few of the fibres that attach my patellar tendon to the tibia, in a spectacular tumble from my bicycle a few weeks ago.   Today my knee was completely trouble-free apart from a very mild ache at the site of attachment of the patellar tendon when I increased pace in the final few Km.    It is also good that I am coping with the HM distance without trouble.  However, I am not yet fit enough to maintain a sustained effort for the entire duration of a half-marathon.  I hope that the tempo runs in the next week will add a little bit more information to help me gauge what might be a realistic target time for the Turkey Trot in mid-December.

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5 Responses to “A long run in the snow”

  1. Ewen Says:

    Canute, I enjoyed that description of your long run. You make running in the snow sound delightful. We’re making do with running in steady rain (today) or calm evening warmth.

    To me it looks like you’ve coped with the preparation fairly well (in spite of the missed interval sessions). The tempo runs should give you a good idea of a possible goal time. I still think something close to 1:40 looks possible… you long runs have been very good.

    • canute1 Says:

      Ewen, Thanks. I think your estimate of ‘close to 1:40’ is probably too optimistic. A few weeks ago I considered 1:50 was quite feasible, but that I would provisionally aim for 1:45. At this stage I think 1:45 remains a demanding target, but I will defer setting my final target until after I have attempted a couple of tempo runs.

  2. Rick Says:

    Canute,
    Dare I say it!
    Ok I will, I think you need to get a bit of balance back in your life.
    your always talking about stress,feeling tired and getting sick!
    To much Stress can kill!
    Is it really worth working those long hours?

    • canute1 Says:

      Rick,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes my work is now too stressful. I have been very fortunate to have a job that has given me a great deal of satisfaction and pleasure over the years, but I am afraid that not only has it now more of a challenge to work long hours as I have grown older, but the work environment has become much more demanding. Therefore despite having greatly enjoyed my job I am in fact really looking forward to retirement from the most demanding parts of my job.

      • Ewen Says:

        I can sympathise Canute. I just hope my work hours come back down to something reasonable before I retire! I definitely notice increased stress (and tiredness) when daily hours go beyond 9. The last two days have been 12, which, while a run can be squeezed in, doesn’t leave enough time for relaxation and recovery between training sessions.

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