It's time for a catch up

My blogging has been somewhat lacking over the last couple of weeks and the main reason is I've been so busy running that I've not had time. A nice problem to have I guess.

I've still two race reports to type up from Peebles and Stirling cross country races, I've a review to post about my new ashmei softshell running jacket and by the time this hits the press, so to speak, I'll probably have another race report about Cumbernauld cross country to post, which takes place this weekend*.

So where do I start?
Lets chat about my running a bit since that is probably why you are reading this in the first place.
Since Glasgow half marathon something has changed. Something in my mind has engaged. Tuesday training with the squad has been more focussed. I've always worked hard at the Tuesday sessions, it's the way we all train in that squad, give it your all and work together but I've found another level of hard that I seem to have tapped in to.
We haven't been on the track for 4 weeks now, we are in cross country training sessions so we've been running around the nearby golf course and up some steep hills!

Golf course training

Running around a golf course? Are you all crazy?
Its a really good session, we get to lace up our xc shoes and get used to them before we start the season.
How it works is, we go to the first tee and run to the edge of that holes green but, if its a par 3, its at full tilt, par 4 at 10km pace and par 5 at half marathon pace. Recovery is the walk from the green to the next tee. 18 reps over the rough of the course, a total of 3.5 miles. It's doesn't sound far but I've had a couple of times I thought I might be sick before I even get to the ninth hole.

I've been dead by the end and its a really good feeling. Good mental training for when things get tough during a race.

So how did Peebles and Stirling go?

Well, since you asked.... Peebles was a 4km relay race. 4 legs in each team. I was second runner. It's the first time I've ran this course and it's not one I will forget anytime soon. The first half mile is straight up a hill. A good warm up is essential.

I passed a number of runners on the first climb and I was feeling strong. On the downhill I kept any position I gained.
It's what I always imagine a cross country race should be. Jumping off natural ledges into adjoining fields, up and over small obstacles - in this case small horse jumps which required a bit of thought when approaching and finally a water section on the final corner which you couldn't avoid. It was a very challenging 4km but I really enjoyed it, not sure I would have said the same if the uphill sections had been muddy though. The muddy climbs would have made for a completely different race. Ever runner in the team made up positions on each leg and we finished 18th which we were happy with.

Stirling was another gorgeous day and again, not much in the way of mud to be seen. I've ran this course a number of times and it can be unrelenting. 3 laps to make it a 5.5 mile course. Usually by the 3rd lap the hills are now feeling like you are running up an escalator which is going down!
Not this time, I was feeling strong and still making up positions. At the start of the 3rd lap our coach, Garry, shouted something along the lines of "looking good, you can make up a couple more positions" and that's all I needed, I refocused and went chasing and I did make up positions and more importantly, kept them!

Between racing I've been getting out for my usual runs, a run in to work in the morning and then a run home from the office. I was working from home last week though so was out pounding the streets around the flat and it made a nice change.
It also gave me a chance to get some longer runs in without my rucksack. The other week I weighed my bag because it felt especially heavy and I was shocked to find it was 12lbs (5.4kg)! No wonder the run felt hard work, the scary thing was, even with the rucksack on, I was no where near the overall weight I used to be before I took up running! How I managed to carry that weight around all day for so long I have no idea.

During my runs I've had a real mix of weather conditions. None of them have required running tights, yet, but my top half has gone from, vest, vest and gilet, jersey, back to vest, vest and jacket, back to jersey. One day there is a warmth in the air, the next its baltic!

Last week I went for an evening ten mile run in some of the fresher conditions for two reasons, one to get some more testing time with my new jacket but also just to get out for a nice, relaxing run. The training course I was on was pretty heavy going so it was good to clear my head each evening.
When I first received the jacket I wasn't sure about the colour - white, but it really makes me visible when out running in the darker evenings. It's very similar to the gilet I live in. The main difference is it has sleeves.

 

Running in ashmei jacket


I did have concerns though. You will all know me by now, I love my ashmei kit. I'm not paid to love this kit, I get sent stuff to test, if I don't like it or I have an issue with it, I let them know and if I don't want to wear it, I'm not forced to. Not that this has ever happened.

My concern was with the sleeves. Were they going to make me feel like a boil in the bag ready meal?
I don't want to be sweaty or uncomfortable while running. I wear a jacket because I need to, not because I want to. If I could get away with running in shorts and vest all year I would, but realistically, I would probably spend more time ill from colds, flu or hypothermia.

I've ran a number of early morning 4 milers in the jacket due to the cooler mornings but they are usually recovery runs so not enough to get a real sweat on. The 10 miler was  going to be the first real test for it.
I headed out and up the cycle path and I could really feel the cold, probably for the first time in the past couple of months. I should have worn some gloves, that's how cold I was. I could see my breath for most of the run.

It wasn't until about 1/2 a mile in to the run I remembered that the jacket has thumb holes in the sleeves so I can pull the sleeves over the tops of my hands, that was a bit better but then I remembered it also had built in mitts. Problem solved. Nice warm hands again! The softshell front panels were keeping any cold air out so my core was kept comfortable.

I nipped round the 10 mile route in 1:12 and felt good. I'm not saying I was sweat free but I wouldn't expect that when pushing the pace but I wasn't cold because of the sweat and I wasn't overheating because of the other layer.
It was a really enjoyable run. Mandy has recently treated herself to a new jacket as well, she has almost more ashmei kit than I do! Her nightrunner jacket is very smart in red with a number of high viz strips on the jacket, I'm considering buying one myself for that extra bit of visibility on my runs in to and from work. I'm sure she will blog about it some time soon.

Looking out towards the Pentlands

* Since starting to write this post I have indeed now ran my 3rd cross country in the last 3 weeks, yesterday was the Nationals 4km relays at Cumbernauld. I had a pretty good run considering the weather conditions. I was the last runner for the team and during my race the heavens opened and the wind blew. I just concentrated on chasing the next runner in front of me and the tactic seemed to work. I made up 9 places in total. I made up a number on the down hill sections and similar to Peebles, I also caught a couple of people on the hills. Each week I'm feeling stronger in the mud. Our team finish 47th / 83, we could have finished a bit further up the field if we hadn't had a missed handover and lost 30 or so seconds but these things happen.

Next week is Lasswade cross country, a smaller race as it's not an East District counter, it's just an open race. It's just over 6 miles of mud, hills and trail and I really enjoy the course.

I've now finished this weeks running and clocked up 75.2 miles, the highest for some time and feel pretty good. Looking forward at trying to do the same this week. I've already planned a parkrun on Saturday, I think I might even be running it in fancy dress since it's Halloween! Look out for the photos on instagram! (https://instagram.com/scottishrunner/)

Owain Williams

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