Sunday, 1 August 2010

Thank you Mr Map – not!

I was itching to get out for my run this morning – I had the route running through my head all of yesterday and was looking forward to the challenge. Back on Monday I reconnoitred a route that would involve even more monstrous hills than the ones I ran last Sunday, which now appear positively Lilliputian by comparison!

It’s still fairly early on in my efforts to get back to running decent distances, so I was a little apprehensive about how things might go. The start of the run took me up the same road as last week, but this time instead of turning off I kept running upwards. I had a quick glance at my Garmin as I reached the crest of the hill and saw that it was exactly half a mile. Gradient on this section was 14%, which may not sound much, but go out and find such a hill and you’ll understand that such a hill would not be found in Holland! More was to come. I was happy that my breathing was good - I have a good sense of how to pace my efforts, whatever the terrain, after 30 years of running experience.

The hill was followed by an even steeper descent. Many people might imagine that, slow as the climb might be expected to be, surely you would make up time on the descent, but that’s not quite true. Going up stresses the muscles of course, but the main limiting factor is the heart and lungs – you have to be able to take in enough oxygen to feed those muscles. Going downhill, however, brings a different set of problems. You can recover your oxygen debt as gravity assists your downward trajectory, but the impact stresses on muscles and joints is far more extreme. Over three times your body weight will be the impact force with each footfall, and given that I am currently heavier than I have ever been, this is considerable for me at the moment. I also bear in mind that my leg once snapped due to such stresses and that tends to temper my pace!

I then had a flattish stretch, just a slight incline before coming to what I expected to be my biggest challenge – a huge uphill section that was at an incline of 28%! I was struggling towards the top, I will admit, and thankful for the subsequent flat section before running steeply down again. I had expected that that would be the end of my need to run skywards, but not to be! I had taken a quick glance at a map beforehand, and estimated that I could escape the traffic of the main road over the last section by running down a side road, connecting to another road at the bottom and then having a flat remaining run home. Stupid map! Significant detail had been omitted (as I discovered later when looking online), meaning that I now had little choice but to run back up to the summit of the original hill that I had started from, this time from the opposite side. On this side of the hill the incline was 22%, so a real lung-burster at this stage! A final long descent then brought me home.

I was very pleased with my achievement. Although it again appears slow, the hills involved were huge and yet I still managed to keep going all the way. I’m sure that, as my fitness improves, I will be moving much faster up them so my overall pace will improve considerably. The run has given me great confidence to start extending future runs – just hope I can stay injury free for the duration! Love those endorphins! Hoping my legs won’t suffer quite so much as they did last week! Blood sugar levels weren’t bad – 8.1 mmol/l before (146 mg/dl) and 9.4 mmol/l after (169 mg/dl).

Apologies for no poetry lately – the Muse has deserted me for the time being! I have one or two ideas though, so hope to include a few over the coming week. Please look back through the archives!

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