Training like a proper runner! February – Watford HM & Sandstorms

February has been an odd month. Starting with a muddy half marathon and cross country, then sweating in the Canary Isles, disruption due to sand storms and closed airports, finally back to freezing UK and snow storms. The theme of the month has been poor weather, race cancellations (luckily not for me but many others) and general disruption.


1st – Steady 5 miler pre-half marathon. Came back to new shoes in the post. Loved my Hoka Rincon so much when I realised I had birthday vouchers for Wiggle that were due to run out I made an easy choice.

2nd – Watford Half Marathon – A new event for me, and a traditional closed road race. A great event but very hilly if you’re next expecting it, with one hill that reduced a large number of people to a power hike to ascend. Early in the training programme and still on comeback from ultras I wasn’t expecting anything close to a PB but pleased to get a 1h38 minute for a challenging course and managing a decent effort level throughout even if the mile splits look very erratic. Wore my new Hoka and got them muddy….. 😦

Week 5 done, 45.6 miles with one race. 

3rd – Steady 4 mile recovery with doggie. It was cold and dark. The dog rolled in fox poo. It was everything you expect from a Monday.

4th – 5 mile tempo, combined it with run leading for Lakeside. They were doing 12x2min intervals so made for an odd overlap. Including the cool down with the clubmates managed 6.7 miles at 7:51 average – slightly over the mileage.  Tsk tsk.

5th – Back to Bow Brickhills. Not sure what happened but fastest of the year at 8:10 average and only 136 heart rate against 145 the previous 4 weeks. Made it to core class for the evening where I amazed everyone with my inability to sit up straight.

6th – 3×1 mile and 4×400 metre. Also combined with Lakeside club so flitted backwards and forwards like an idiot. The important bit here is I SET UP THE INTERVALS PROPERLY! Overall 7:52 pace for 8.2 miles with some decent pace on the intervals, and some periods on the recovery where I wanted to puke. Which I think is good.

7th – Rest day. Also my mum’s birthday so had a massive dinner. I like rest days so much now I might try and engineer one more?  Hmm….

8th – Schedule was easy 5 on Saturday, and 16 mile on Sunday. Sunday was due to be smashed by Storm Ciara. So I made a last minute decision to do the long run Saturday morning. 13 miles with Jen and then straight into parkrun. Unfortunately I was down to run the Cross Country Saturday afternoon so neatly compressed both runs into one day and got Sunday as a rest day! My devilish plan was soon noted by coach Katie as she was at both events. Oops.

The evening was spent at a comedy night with Milton Jones at Warwick Uni as a surprise organised by the wife. Nearly 20 years since I studied there so we popped back into the Students Union. It was dead. It appears students don’t drink anymore. Cloe and I made a good stab at raising the average alcohol consumption and surfaced mid-morning feeling a little jaded ready to fight the storm home so 9th was another (hungover) rest day.

Week 6 done, 50 miles with one Cross Country race. 

10th – Standard recovery 5 miles. It was cold so all the fox poo was too frozen for the dog to roll in. Saw the sunrise. A good start to day.

11th – Hill repeats. Still windy but had my trusty dog to keep me company. I figured she might sit them out at the end or wander off for squirrels but instead she ran up and down each rep with me, barking encouragement and splashing in puddles.

12th – Bow Brickhills. Plan to stick to usual 145HR was foxed by a dodgy HR reading on watch. No matter how slow I went it kept climbing and peaked at 192 when I was basically walking and not even breathing heavily. Eventually ignored it and ran on feel, noting it was recording a steady 140HR when finishing with a sub 7 minute section so obviously a little screwy. Upshot is 7:59min average for the loop.  Finished the day with a core class.

13th – Did my session with the Lakeside Runners again. 1 mile warmup then 7 at marathon pace. All went well!

14th – Valentines and rest day. Ate way too much chocolate and felt ill. Had the worlds slowest pizza service from the local place. 1h10 from ordering and that was for collection. Pah!

15th – Longest run of the plan, 18 miles. Did the same approach as previously, ran majority prior to parkrun and then finish with that. Legs felt dead from the start, think the marathon pace efforts on Thursday were still in my legs. Definitely finding recovery is slower with age and veggie diet. Average pace was 8:26 which was a way off where I’d been for 16 so far.

16th – Half Term so disappeared to Gran Canaria. Last year this coincided with the amazing Transgrancaria race and I ran 85 miles up and down from coast to coast. This year they’ve moved the event to March. It was odd coming back to the scene of the race and I couldn’t help feel nostalgic for the dried up canal that marks the final few miles of the event. Feeling a little jittery and unable to sleep I went for a short 4 miler before bed. Even that late in evening it was hot and shock to system. Part of me was glad I wouldn’t be running for 24 hours in that heat.

Week 7 done, 51 miles. 

17th – First full day of the holiday. Didn’t manage to get a run in but did the morning stretch class at the hotel. I became a regular over the week and was variously laughed at by instructors in Spanish, Greek and Estonian. So that made a nice change. Most days I ran early, ate breakfast, then a stretch class and felt like a proper athlete.

18th – Having missed the previous days run I did what they always tell you not to and combined both runs into one for a steady 10 miles at 8:20 pace. Even starting at 7am was hot and sweaty. Followed it off with a core class of some sort (they all seemed pretty similar at this hotel).

19th – Another 10 miles taking in the Stairs of Death, The Real Stairs of Death and Stairs of Death 2. My sentiment is echoed by the graffiti. Followed with stretch and aqua aerobics. Get me!

20th – Relocated my Bow Brickhills 9 mile 5am run from MK to a 7am run along the beach. Then stretch again and a new one on me, pool bikes. Like an underwater spin class. For dinner we stumbled on a Tapas tour of the local town. 3 Euro for beer and tapas in each restaurant. No choice. Most were meat. I fell off the veggie wagon for the night and got relaxed.

21st – Rest day from running so just stretch and aqua aerobics.

22nd – Another 9 mile along beach and the various steps. Yoga to follow and then to the local market to look at the tat for sale. Cloe decided to walk back to enjoy the view which caused the wind to pick up and sand to be blown in, with an odd yellow tinge to the sky. Walking into town for dinner was akin to Wizard of Oz opening scenes.

23rd – Should have been my final run of the holiday. Glad it was only 4 miles on plan as wind had picked up again. More steps.

Stretch class is normally outside so wasn’t on. It wasn’t the first disappointment of the day as we arrived at the airport to find chaos and all flights cancelled. A sand storm had blown in from Sahara grounding all flights in Gran Canaria, Tenerife and other local islands. Maspalomas where we were staying has beautiful sandy beaches. The locals tell you it’s all blown in from the Sahara. You presume it’s a fairy tale for the tourists. It’s not.

Eventually the airline stuck us all on a coach to another hotel and we got 2 extra days of holiday. Coincidentally we were put in the Maspalomas Princess where we’d stayed the year before as it was walking distance from the race finish line.

Week 8 done, 43 miles of sweating. 

24th – Should have been waking up in Milton Keynes ready for a week of work. Instead out in Gran Canaria wondering if the sand in the air made it unsafe to do my 10 mile run. Instead I stuck to aqua aerobics and rolled the run to next day. Spent the day balancing work conference calls, helping kids with school work and a short radio interview on the sandstorm that oddly a lot of people heard.

I manged to fit in a spin class. Not done for a year or so and forgot how hard it is. The instructor ramped things up with small 1kg hand weights. Doubtful these would do much but everyone in the class limped out with trashed arms at the end. 472 calories gone in 36 minutes. Ouch!

25th – A final final run of the holiday. 2 hours. The sandstorm had gone so sky was beautiful but temp was 20deg even at 6am. Took it steady for a relaxed 13 miles. Then finally caught a flight home, landing at 1am. Have to say, we’re very impressed with the airline Jet2 over the handling of Gran Canaria sandstorm delays. Not easy to deal with a natural phenomenon like that but they put us up in a hotel for 2 nights, coach back to airport and eventually home, all with efficiency & smiles.

26th – A 1am bedtime meant no usual 5am Wednesday run so just core class with Katie.

27th – Gentle 5 miles with dog face.

28th – Rest day.

29th – An extra day of Feb. 6 miles with a leap year MK parkrun thrown in. They ran it in reverse which seemed quicker but found the zig zags hard to make any pace on. Happy with a 21 something and then a couple of miles later with dog to loosen legs.

February finished with 191 miles, and for 1st March ran a solo 20 mile to bring the week to Week 9 to 46 miles. Started in a sandstorm, ended with wet feet.



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