My legs ache. However, it's nice that for the first time in a while, they ache in the right way. Yesterday involved a ten-mile 'undulating' race around the countryside that was the culmination of a January where I've been paying a lot of attention to my running (cf: 'I'm not a real runner', circa July 2012) and I think it's paying off.
The first couple of weeks of the new year involved me being very careful with my running anyway, after a nagging sort of injury to the side of my left leg just below the knee - I was starting to get frustrated with having to rein in my distance/time, which was hard, but I stuck to it and could eventually start pushing up the miles a bit more.
This frustration was kind of compounded by the fact that now I've started talking to people locally about my running to Bristol in August, they all expect me to be out doing a lot of running and are always asking me 'how's it going?'... It becomes a little bit soul detroying when the honest answer is 'very slowly and steadily'.
I also picked up the B2R level 1 strength training package, which was a lot easier to get to the UK than I'd anticipated (I hope Loretta enjoyed me throwing in a few British idioms and a 'cheers' for good measure). I feel weird harping on too much about it here because of the potential for it to either look like ass-kissing or over-promotion, but the system works really well and I would recommend it. My legs (and especially my lower legs) feel a lot stronger and more 'balanced' since I've started doing the exercises.
Which brings me back to the race yesterday. The Braunton 10 is a road race around the hills of North Devon, including two real steep, relentless climbs, one roughly between miles 3 and 4; the other a shorter, steeper climb up to mile 6. I think the only thing holding me back was a kind of paranoia about revisiting the injury to my left leg and I'd resolved that I was just going to finish, let alone get a good time. In the end, I finished in about 1hr19, placing around the top 40% mark. I felt good and strong on the uphills, I controlled my descents decently and managed to hold a fairly constant pace for the bits in between. One thing that I did notice was that a lot of the other racers afterwards were complaining of sore abs, backs and cores because of having to maintain posture in a wind that became punishing around mile 8-9. I'm a tall boy, so should have theoretically suffered more with this, but I felt fine - I'd like to think that this and my overall comfortable performance came about because of the extra time I've been taking to work on my muscle activation and strength, but I suppose time will tell there. The only parts that're aching today are my central calves - and as I mentioned at the start, it's nice to have a normal, 'worn-out' feeling, rather than a potential injury.
I've signed up for a few more mid-length races coming up, including the Nice Half Marathon, so that should give me chance to assess how I'm getting on a bit more; I guess I'll let you know!