My running volume and intensity has been increasing bit by bit over the last few months. I ended December with 180km in the bag and several quality elements included per the guidance from my coach. I even had a race that actually happened in real life. It was excellent to be (safely) with other folks and for the most part felt pretty normal. You can read more in the race report here.

As I mused last month, I mainly don’t see the point of virtual races, but that didn’t stop me taking part in another two of them during December. I think I am a tart for the bling and other swag that comes from paying up and taking part in these things. One was run by the Fylde Coast Running Club up in the north west. I was amused by the medal which told 2020 where to go. I just needed to run a 10k to qualify, easy peasy. The other was organised by Ultra Challenges and involved running to the North Pole. Kinda not really. Four distance options were given (notionally from four different starting points). I opted for the 100k option which ‘started’ from the arctic north of Norway. I might have stretched to the 200k option but decided to play it safe. Run cumulatively over the month it was pretty comfortable. I’m expecting the bling for both any day now.

I have been enjoying the strength work, making good use of my shed gym arrangement. A relic of the first lockdown, I have a barbell, a bunch of weights and a bench and squat rack set up in the chilly shed. I’m lucky to have it and pleased to be able to hit the shed gym when the actual gym is shut. So far my coach has me focused on leg and core strength. I’ve been busy with deadlifts of various kinds, goblet squats, calf work, glute bridges and so on, the usual suspects. I bought a couple of extra 10 kilo plates on ebay so I have a bit of headroom in the weight department. I’ve been focusing mainly on good form but am beginning to ramp up the weights a little now. My legs are seeing the benefits of this work already and that is translating into stronger running.

Injury wise, the high hamstring issue has faded into the background, I have been doing plenty of additional rehab work on that using resistance bands in lieu of the leg curl machine. The more annoying tendon injury in the right ankle area, tibialis posterior, is still with us. I have none of the sharp pain I had at the start of the summer last year but I do still have some stiffness and ache to the left of my right calf after a long run. I think this is where the offending tendon attaches to the muscle. I suppose in theory I should stop running entirely and focus 100% on the rehab, but in practice it feels manageable. In the meantime I continue with the prescribed rehab work to put some extra strength into that area. Time will tell if I’m being a muppet here…

So, back to the running. I’ve put a decent shift in during December, hitting all my planned runs and distances. I’ve been enjoying the Wednesday long-ish runs, creeping up to around 15k by the end of the month. They’ll get to 20k by the end of this block. I’ve done the last few on local trails which has meant some lovely winter sunrises. I’ve been experimenting with running those fasted, ie no breakfast or fuel beforehand. In theory that should help train my body to burn fat. I thought that would be tough but actually I have not experienced any hunger or other ill effects on those runs. I am very ready for breakfast when I get in, mind.

The long runs on a Sunday remain the highlight of the week for me, getting up to half marathon distance by the closing LSR of the month. My oldest son (21) joined me for that one, the longest run of his short life so far. I’m making good use of the OS Maps app to plot new routes, both trail and roads. This is great, I was getting bored with running essentially the same loop with extra bit tagged on to suit the distance.

In other news, I have treated myself to a new running watch. I’ve had a Garmin Forerunner 230 for a few years now and it has served me well, doing everything I needed it to do (or so I thought…). I managed to crack the face of it 3 or 4 months back and while it is still working, as moisture is creeping in it is screwing up the display. This is a slow process so it is probably useable for many months yet but I had begun to look at potential replacements for when it eventually packs in. Coincidentally I got a very welcome refund from HMRC which almost exactly covered the cost of a Fenix 6 Pro. It seemed rude not to so I quickly ordered it before alternative domestic uses could be found for that little windfall! I am still figuring how best to use it but two features are already winners for me. On-watch navigation is awesome! I can upload gpx files to the watch and it will show a map with the route on it, telling me when to turn and so on. This is genius and saves a lot of faffing about with maps on my phone when in unfamiliar territory. The Fenix 6 comes with an optical heart rate monitor, the latest Garmin has to offer. I’ve been using this to check my easy pace is really easy. I’ve heard it said that on-watch HRMs are not as accurate as chest strap HRMs but having watched a couple of comparisons on YouTube, I’m satisfied that this new tech is very nearly a match for a chest strap. Certainly good enough for the likes of me. So far, I’m very happy with it.

Looking ahead, with increasingly stringent lockdowns and the amped up version of Covid, I fear for the races I have planned for the first few months of 2021. The Woodcote 10k has already been cancelled, that was due to happen this Sunday. The LDWA 40 mile event I was planning to run in early May has been changed to a virtual event that I may not bother with. In light of all this I am beginning to doubt that the Green Man Ultra will go ahead on 6th March. I really hope it does, but in the meantime I shall keep on keeping on.

I’m off for a run. I’ll be back in a month with another running update.