I am a great fan of warming up. One of my great frustrations is watching runners who do Parkrun stand around with hands in pockets before setting off for a 5K run and then wonder why it feels hard and why they never quite perform as well as they would like.
Same applies to new runners. They really struggle to get through the first 10-15 minutes and think they can’t run. Too often they give up before they have even warmed up.
The answer is of course quite simple. It takes a while for your body to warm up and function efficiently and of course on a 5K run, by the time you are warmed up, not only are you are carrying a massive oxygen debt, with stiff screaming muscles and lungs, you are also at least halfway finished so don’t have much time to get the benefit of your now efficient body.
A wee run on the treadmill tonight with the HR monitor on illustrates this perfectly. I set off jogging really easily, yet my heart rate was more than 80% of maximum. It took 10 minutes before my HR dropped like a stone and I instantly felt much more comfortable. I then increased my speed and did so every 5 minutes. Each time I increased speed my HR went up a little, but even though I was working quite hard by the end of the run, my heart rate was still 20 beats per minute than it had been while jogging easily at the start.
The plan had been to run the Boston marathon, do well, come home energised and then straight back into training for the West Highland Way race by doing the 53 mile Highland Fling race. Things didnt quite work out like that. My race didnt go to plan, the bombs went off, and I picked up a nasty cough which has kept me from running for two weeks.
Boston, as the whole world knows, was overshadowed by the bombings, I have written about it on here already, and have been quite overwhelmed by the response I have had to my account of events. I even had the excitement of the legend that is Hal Higdon, sharing my blog on his Facebook site. Helen also gives a good account of things here.
The investigation will go on, but it seems that it is now old news. Outside of Boston, the media hs packed up, gone home and moved on to the next story. My own unwanted five minutes of fame arising from the newspapers picking up on something I had written on Facebook is thankfully over. Runners are running. The city is healing. President Obama visited Boston and found the words to lead and console. As he said so movingly “The crowds will gather and watch a parade go down Boylston Street. And this time next year on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever and to cheer even louder for the 118th Boston Marathon.
Bet on it.”
For me, I still have a few loose ends to tie up. Despite all of the bad things which happened, a race was still run.
I didn’t manage to run the race I felt I was trained for. We went for a short run the day after we arrived and I was flying. Yet, I missed my goal by around 15 minutes and I really struggled through the second half with cramps and vomitting.
So what went wrong? First my energy levels were just a bit off at the start. Something wasnt quite right. On a couple of occasions before the race started I tensed my legs and my quads went into cramp. My heart rate was high. I wore my HR strap precisely because I wanted to curtail my excitement and force myself to run a conservative effort for the first half.
It took me many days before I even uploaded the data from my Garmin. It confirmed what I had already guessed, my Heart Rate shot up after 1K to about 5K effort zone and crept higher until by mile 18 it was hitting Max HR and was spiking to levels I didnt know was possible. On average in the first half of the race, my heart rate was 15-20 beats per minute higher than it would normally be for the pace I was running.
There are maybe three different reasons I can think of and it is quite possible that it was a combination of all three which floored me:
1. Boston. The whole thing of flying, visting expos, sleeping in a different bed, getting up early for buses, waiting around at the start. All of those things take a little out of you. My legs were a little crampy even pre race and I wonder if it was related to flying or eating different food.
2. The Heat. The sun came out, and by halfway I certainly felt I was overheating. While the temperature wasn’t desperately high, it was much hotter than the 6-10C which had been forecast, and having trained in cold, miserable grey weather all winter, the bright red sunburn I had when I finished the race was testament to the effect it had on my body.
3. The Bug. It is entirely possible I was incubating a virus. The day after the race I started coughing and by the time we made it home to Scotland I was feeling awful. I was feeling so bad that not only did I have to withdraw from the Fling race, I didn’t even run at all for two weeks.
The Boston course is one of those courses which you need to run more than once. It is very different from any other marathon I have raced. I underestimated just how much Downhill there was and more importantly how steep and prolonged those downhills were. I climbed the Newton hills pretty well, but for the next trip I will definitely include much more down hill running in my training.
My first source of panic has been in trying to find a race at which to try to qualify for next year’s Boston. Under normal circumstances I would have found something in May and just used my current fiitness to run. Unfortunately my current fitness involves coughing and spluttering so that is a non-starter. I have settled on the Moray marathon on 1st September. This is cutting it fine as Boston is likely to open for registration in early September, but it is the first one I can find that works. It just means that I will need to get back into training two weeks after the WHW.
Second source of panic is of course the fact that I havent been able to train because of this bug which has laid me low and it is only 8 weeks until the West Highland Way race.. Did I mention that since Boston I have put on 10 pounds in weight! I have had to miss out on the Fling which was hard. It was fun watching everyone race and it did help me find my mojo again, but the overwhelming feeling while watching everyone run through the finish line was one of being inadequate. I am scheduled to run the 67 mile Kintyre Way Ultra in 10 days time so I will need to make a decision about that soon.
Deep down I know that it is too early to start panicking. I have heaps of miles in my legs and all I need to do is be patient, come back slowly so that I don’t end up with any post-viral issues and get a couple of good back to back weekends done. That is what my sensible head knows. Unfortunately patience is not my strong suit. Bull in a China Shop is my strong suit. As Corporal Jones has been known to say Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!