November. Dark evenings and gloomy afternoons. For the past couple of years this season has seen me preparing for the Rotherham Round in early December, 50 miles of mud, fallen leaves, rain, fast approaching darkness and the wonderful people of South Yorkshire who make it such a great event. This year it's been and gone though, held in October, and left a bit of a hole where it used to be. No events planned for me until next spring, just done my two thousand miles for the year, seven weeks earlier than last year so I must have been diligent at some time, but it's been getting difficult to raise the enthusiasm to get out and work at it. Tempo runs, recovery runs, just-doing-some-miles runs, I can't really be bothered. I'm not doing what our family calls the Lance Armstrong days (read his book). The feeling first hit me about three weeks ago; perhaps I just needed a break.
But one of the advantages of being past your period of gainful employment is that there is always the time to mould things to your mood. I decided that anything that I wasn't enjoying I wouldn't do, and that anything I was enjoying, I might as well do a little bit more.
Ever since early March I have had one day a week out in the hills to get used to ascents; I don't go fast, I mostly walk the ups and jog the downs and the flats. To start with it was pure training; the Clwyds, my local hills, have an accessible thousand foot vertical at best, some days I went up and down four or five times; Llanberis is just under an hour's drive, I think I went up Snowdon a dozen times this year. But then I started to venture further afield, and took the time to navigate around places I'd never been before, both in Wales and now more often the Lakes, a bit further to drive but with such a wealth of stunning countryside. I was going to give up for the winter but recently decided to carry on; I bought myself a GPS and decided that wild weather was to be enjoyed not avoided. I'm "learning" the routes of the Bob Graham Round and the Lakeland 100 and now eagerly anticipating and planning each week with the next bit of new ground to cover.
Closer to home I have some beautiful runnable trails through forest, farmland, and over the low sandstone hills of Cheshire. It's hard work if you go fast, but if I take myself out for two or three hours at 10-11 minute mile pace once a week I enjoy every minute. The changing seasons and conditions make trips like this different every time, no matter how often you go.
In between these two outings I'll maybe do a gentle five miles to keep the limbs flexible, but if I don't feel like it I don't go. So that's it; "training" twice or at most three days a week at present. I'm sure the experts would shake their heads but it feels like fun again and at least it ticks the "time on your feet" box. Rather surprisingly it still clocks up 35 to 40 rather slow miles a week, so I'll assume that it's doing me at least some good and I won't start thinking about working harder again until the New Year.