Saturday, 6 April 2013

Marathon Training Week 7

I've covered 45 miles of Stockholm's pavements this week, trying each day to become a little more familiar with my new surroundings without daring too much of the unknown in one go. I'm getting there, only slower than I'd like.

On Easter Monday, after seeing Daniel off to the airport, I took off from T-Centralen for my first 20-miler of my Windermere 2013 schedule. It was freezing, possibly the coldest weather I'd ever run in, and I was grateful for my jacket and scarf which I kept on for the first 2 miles before stuffing them into my backpack. I've run with a backpack on a couple of occasions in the past but never more than a few miles, so I was nervous about having it with me even though it was necessary. It was fine, though, and I ceased to notice it after a while, even though it was packed full with my warm layers from our early start!

My plan was to run around two islands - Södermalm and Djurgården - before getting back onto the main island and running home via the University. I immediately went wrong and found myself on the beautiful island of Kungsholmen, which I had never visited before, so I ran around the edge of this island instead, sticking to the gorgeous waterside paths as much as I could, with wonderful views out towards the Swedish mainland. I ran through the beautiful Stadshus (City Hall), too, which was a treat! I must go back when I'm not on a run to explore it further.

Stockholm's Stadshus
After encircling Kungsholmen I returned to my original plan and headed along the long quayside towards Djurgården. There was so much to see here and such lovely views across the waters that I didn't need to worry about mileage - the distance was a sideline to a great morning exploring Stockholm. I was looking forward to running around Djurgården, too, which I'd wanted to do since I visited back in November and saw so many runners there taking in the scenery. It proved to be much harder than I'd liked, though, as all of the footpaths were drowned in an inch of thick, uncomfortable pebbled grit. It got in my shoes, provided an uncomfortable landing with each step, and took double the energy that running on solid footpaths usually takes. I started to get tired really quickly, and there was still another 9 miles to go. The island is also much bigger than I'd realised, and every corner I turned presented more of the same footpaths, going on for miles ahead! I was starting to feel really fed up and uncomfortable, with sore knees from all the grit - I haven't had knee pain in years, and I started to get incredibly anxious about getting an injury. Rather than enjoying the run I decided to stay focused on the miles, working towards the distance one mile at a time and not thinking about the 6, 5, 4 miles that I still had to go. I arrived at the University at mile 18, and I knew that there was no way I'd be home by mile 20, as it's 3 miles away even without getting lost (which was inevitable given the state of my mind by that point). Instead I finished the run with a loop around the gorgeous campus, which was comparatively grit-free, and I even found some energy from somewhere to get my speed up a bit. My Garmin finally beeped that 20th mile and I could have cried with relief - I was cold and so so tired, desperate to get home and shower the horrid dust away. It had taken me 45 minutes longer to run 20 miles than it had to run 18 miles in high winds the previous week, which is a reflection of how agonising the whole ordeal was. I warmed down outside the underground entrance, my legs shaking like mad now I'd finally stopped. I got on the train and got myself a flapjack from my bag, and two minutes later realised I was going in the wrong direction! I got off, got on another train, and proceeded to enjoy my flapjack and the sense of elation from the huge achievement I'd just endured, all the while cursing myself for prolonging the journey so stupidly!

The regal grandeur of Djurgården - lovely except for the grit!

Over the next couple of days I really felt the after-effects of those miles, and struggled along on a 4-mile recovery run on Tuesday, and then an interval session which was almost pointless on Wednesday. The grit where I live is even worse than in the city, and my feet were so sore and swollen from the terrain, as well as my knees still giving me angst. After two whole days' rest I was feeling much more optimistic for my longer run on Friday, and had a quick half-banana before I set off into the early morning sunshine with directions in my back pocket. I was enjoying the run, and enjoying having some energy at last, but as I got to 5 miles I suddenly doubted my directions completely - I was running somewhere completely new, and turning right instead of left could be a big mistake when I didn't know where I was going. Rather than follow my directions (which said to go right) or my instinct (which said left) I turned back and went back the way I came - 10.5 miles on half a banana was not good, but it was probably better than ending up in Norway thanks to an early-morning cartography error. I got to the end with some discomfort, but my spirits remained high, especially since I found out that the council have started to remove the grit now that winter is over.

Thankfully I ended the week on a high, with a gorgeous waterside run this morning - wearing shorts and no extra top layer, to boot - which included 12 hill sprints, taken on a nice gentle, grit-free hill near the waterfront. I enjoyed every step in the morning sunshine, until I got lost again and panicked that I might never get back. Luckily I was right to trust my nose in this case, which took me back home for a gorgeous Saturday lunch of poached eggs, malt bread and a big bowl of cous cous (I am carbo loading, after all!), enjoyed while catching up with Any Questions on Radio 4.

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