We had been planning this weekend for some time, and it was going to be special, not because ‘I’ was running, but because the rest of the family were running – in fact this was to be the first ever time that we had all run together at an event, so really a bit of a family milestone.
Edinburgh has for a number of years held a ‘festival of running’ on the weekend when the marathon has taken place, and it is advertised as a family friendly event, so ideal, we thought, to motivate the children with a tee-shirt and a medal as they arrange races at all possible distances from junior races of 1.5km and 3km, and then 5km and 10km races on the Saturday and half and full marathon races on the Sunday.
My year to date has been fairly consistent, despite the UK weather, I have managed to get out 4-5 times a week, including a nice gentle long run on a Sunday.
However, up until a few weeks back, I did not really have any races booked in for 2014. Those of you that know me will realise this is quite an unusual situation for me, and was starting to become the source of heightened internal anxiety, due to the associated lack of focus and meandering training which it engenders.
Still, nothing is certain in life except change (and death and taxes, of course), so it was only a matter of time before I made some arrangements. The speed with which everything happened surprised even me though.
One of the best things about distance running is the joy and elation you can get from the first sip of juice when you are finished. Indeed, on a day like today, the anticipation while you are running is almost unbearable, but equally a strong motivational factor to get to the finish as fast as possible!
In the past I’ve occasionally been prepared enough to get in some ‘For Goodness Shakes’ for after a run. It is absolutely the perfect recovery drink (IMHO) as when cold, it will cool you down, quench your thirst and also has the right balance of carb / protein and a number of other essential vitamins and minerals which a body needs after running for 4 hours 🙂
I had purchased a couple of these yesterday, and although I started out early (6:45) for a Sunday, the heat was building for the last part of my run so I was thankful of my prize in store.
I took the same route as the previous couple of weeks, through the small villages of the Surrey Hills, again playing with the cyclists round the back roads, seemingly another organised event with drink stops and photographers this time, before descending into West Clandon and West Horsley and looping back up through the ex-farm estates, now big-money mansions towards the top of the Downs. The normal finish, through Newlands, where there was the usual Sunday bikers meeting, with shiney chromed Harleys, Ducatis, Moto Guzzis and big engined Japanese bikes, as well as a smattering of Triumphs, old and new all proudly on display.
I was glad to be home, having completed another Marathon distance run and although disappointed in the speed, given the heat, and the fact i was wearing a backpack, I was not surprised.
The family were still at church when I got back, so I sat outside and downed my superberry shake 🙂 nectar!
When the family returned a few minutes later, I had not progressed much further than a cup of sweet tea and a bowl of corn flakes (with ice cold milk!) but another cup of tea, when offered, was most welcome.
It was then that the children decided, again, that they wanted to take advantage of the heat and sample some of our less than plentiful supply of local aqua with a water fight. As luck would have it, anticipating such a situation yesterday, I had purchased another couple of pressure water pistols for them, which they were delighted with.
Water fights have come a long way since my day (here it comes… Children today, don’t know they’re born!), from the little hard plastic guns you’d be lucky if you got a couple of shots from, with massively inadequate range and even worse targeting capabilities, to today’s electrical and pressurised behemoths some with backpacks, all with a much greater capacity and ranges that Olympic javelin throwers would be happy with, all of which significantly enhances the soaking experience with the children; yes, I did join in 🙂 purely for medical reasons, of course as I wanted to keep my legs moving and mobile, so what better way than to chase the children round the garden having a water fight 😉
Savannah had a party in the afternoon to which she needed dropping off and picking up, but other than that the afternoon was really spent lazing about. Even the kittens spent most of the day on the window sill, immobile in the heat.
We finished the day off with a rather ill-timed (late, but promised) game of Cluedo, which took a touch longer as there was first-time rule explaining to go through with the children’s, and anyway having not played for upwards of twenty years, Liz, Colleen and myself all had to remember the gameplay as well! Savannah did not really catch on to the game, but the boys were very excited to think they might have murdered someone under their parents noses, with a variety of gruesome implements, and actually be able to get away with it 😯
In the end Colleen ‘won’ but Luke was the most excited as it was his character who turned out to have committed the crime.
I’d run nearly the distance a couple of weeks ago, but it doesn’t count if you don’t do the whole thing!
So I was ready about 7:00am after the normal faffing around with backpacks, juice and gels. Then I was out the door with my iPhone plugged in and my GPS and HRM strap tightened. On the last couple of my runs the HRM strap has been falling down around my waist all the time; not particularly comfortable, or helpful, as far as recording my heart rate is concerned, so I made sure it was extra tight today!
The weather has been better, by which I mean drier, over the last few days, so I anticipated that the trails would certainly be less muddy that they were a couple of weeks back. So although I wore a couple of tops because of the distance and the fact the sun was unlikely to show it’s face, I still wore shorts.
The run took me first along the familiar Bramley railway line before I peeled off to Shamley Green, after another couple of km extending the run, as I was trying to get an extra bit in hear and there. The hills started at this point, first a gradual climb from Shamley Green to Farley green, then some undulations before the first big downhill to the outskirts of Albury. I normally join the A25 after this, but tried a different route today, across a trail to the edge of Shere, which was much more pleasant, and I found myself at the bottom of the turning up to Coombe lane in no time.
My legs had been managing ok up to this point, but I’d been taking it very slowly and my left ankle was still feeling ‘not quite right’ – I’ll have to talk to the physio about it. I was glad of a 20 second enforced stop at a level crossing (probably for the one train in 2 hours along that branch line) which allowed me a brief respite up the hill.
I wound my way down towards West Clandon, which was about 3km downhill and then across to West Horsley before the final uphill stint towards the top of Coombe Lane again, before joining the North Downs trail all the way home. I added another slight detour to get the extra miles in, out and back along the posh ‘White Lane’ with it’s multi-million pound houses, with their unobstructed views across the rolling countryside, before getting back to Pewley Hill.
It was a great run to have done, and even though it was grey and misty all the way, it was dry and a serious milestone in my training. I was happy to have not walked at all during the run as well.
I have had quite a few pairs of Inov-8 shoes before as they seem to be perfect for my shape and size of feet. They are also one of the original shoe manufacturers to consider more natural running several years ago, and although some of their trail and hiking shoes have a significant amount of protection and cushioning, they also have other shoes which are very minimalist.
They also have a number of feature which they incorporate in varying degrees which help the transition to more natural and barefoot running.
Over the last few months I have been wearing a combination of vibrams, vivo barefoot evos, both of which are as minimalist as you can get, and the pair of Inov-8 Talon 212, which are not really designed for road running but are minimally cushioned performance trail shoes (which I wore at Leadville incidentally). So, of course these new shoes have more cushioning than anything I have worn for nearly the last two years and consequently they feel like slippers! 🙂
The beauty of these shoes is that they are designed as a cross between road and trail shoes, so they’ll be perfect for the majority of my runs around Guildford and the surrounding countryside. It may be a bit different on soft sand or looser surfaces such as scree, and gravel, but it remains to be seen if they will be suitable for the MdS next year – after all, you can’t really tell if a pair of shoes fit until you’ve run 75 miles in them.
Talking of which, the competitors at the Marathon des Sables are having a well earned rest day today, although the last few arrived at the bivouac just after 4:00pm this afternoon. Half of the field were in before 1:30am this morning, having been out in the desert for over 16 hours traversing the 82km presented to them.
Tomorrow they have the ‘Marathon’ day, but they will all, no doubt, be thankful of the rest they will be getting tonight.
Liz is pretty much fully recovered from her ordeal now, in that her body has all but recovered from the symptoms, but she still gets tired a lot, which is presumably an indication that her body is actually still recovering. We still do not have a definitive date for the operation, and so at this stage we are expecting it to be in May. The children will be back to school next week, so that will give her a chance to rest properly, which is just as well as I have to go away with work to Washington DC for a conference.
We’ll still have many people helping out though, for which I am very grateful.
At least this time the trains were running on time.
After six years, I had finally got a place in the London Marathon AND managed not to have to defer or cancel through illness or injury. Just.
I am convinced 90% of the battle with racing is actually getting to the start line, and this I achieved, albeit with a reduced level of confidence in my ability due to a foot problem I had picked up 3 weeks previously (see ‘The final days’). So although not in perfect form and having had three weeks without any form of training to speak of, I was at least on my way to line up at the start.
I met up with John at Guildford station and we had little trouble with the trains, unlike Reading, and after a rather cramped journey from Waterloo East to Blackheath, we walked up to the top of the hill and were presented with the Virgin marketing machine – chalk one up for Richard Branson (who was running on the day) from the array of tethered balloons to the largest banner I’ve ever seen being towed behind, or rather dangled beneath, a helicopter, roaming sedately amongst the many airborne television crews over Blackheath. ATC nightmare, I thought.
John was to start at the ‘Red’ start and I at the ‘Blue’ start so we parted with wishes of good luck and went our separate ways. It was about this point, at about 9:00am just after the women’s race had started and with the men’s and mass race due to commence at 9:45am, that it began to rain. Genuinely, I considered that this would be useful to stifle the predicted heat although later in the race would be better, but as the downpour got harder as I made my way through to the competitor start area, I began to regret not bringing a waterproof, or even a bin liner. Make a mental note for next time….
I have, if you had not guessed, been experiencing a slight hiccup in my training recently.
Almost a year to the day since I had had a problem with the ligaments in my left foot, my right foot apparently decided that it wanted to grab a bit more limelight and prove that it too had the power to affect my schedule, just as easily as a tornado might deny a butterfly from landing on a petal.
Two weeks ago, on Sunday April 4th – Easter Day, I had completed 23 miles through one of my normal routes around Guildford, but as it had been raining for some time during the previous week the trails were wet and slippery, and going down a sandy gully between Loseley House and Compton I had to jump from side to side, and specifically remember (with hindsight) feeling a slight twinge as in performed my acrobatics.
The next day, I had to abandon a 13 mile run as my foot although perfect at the start, was causing me agony after about 10km.
For the last fortnight, my tapering training programme up to the London Marathon has consisted of only a ¾ mile swim. Probably not a bad thing, you might argue – as Runner’s World said recently, “there is nothing you can do in the three weeks leading up to a marathon which will improve your performance.”
Nevertheless, registration is looming for the Marathon, so yesterday I did a ‘test’ run of 5 miles mainly because I simply had to know whether my foot was going to stand up to the 26 miles distance in 6 days time.
All seemed fine and although I woke this morning with a very stiff foot, it has subsequently settled down and I am now confident that after the final days rest all will be fine.
As to the reason why this keeps happening on my marathon training schedules? Maybe I am just not built for speed. Maybe it is psychosomatic and my fear of failure at the marathon distance is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe I just try too hard and don’t listen to my body enough, trying to do too much, too soon, etc. Maybe it is a combination of all of these.
Although frustrating, I refuse to be beaten by this and at each attempt I get closer to my goal.
I only hope I can eventually reach the start line of a marathon in perfect condition before I start to claim my pension 😉
John always goes to walk the 3 peaks in Yorkshire on the last weekend in February with friends. A long standing tradition of his and this year I joined him on his tour of Whernside, Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough. No running involved at this stage, but a good practice out in the elements, 24 miles with a good 2000m ascent on the circuit.
As part of my training for London, I normally add a half marathon or two to test myself, but it had been some years since I had done Reading. John a I were optimistic after a good few long but fast training sessions and eventually we both ended up with personal best times
After the exuberance of my half marathon PB I was struck again by a mystery injury to my foot which took a period of settling down and rest to recover from. My disappointment at missing yet another Marathon through injury, especially after my training had seemed to be going so well was hard to bear, with 5 weeks where I had to limit my mileage to less than 15 miles.
On the longest day of the year Greg, John, Tim and myself made our way across to Snowdon for a little ‘hill training’ – unfortunately the beautiful evening journey turned into a shocking morning, demonstrating vividly how mountainous regions can have their own micro-climate which bears no resemblance to surrounding lowlands. We traversed only 3-4 of the 14 hills of the Welsh 3000 but were all circumspect about the experience prior to Mont Blanc.
Things started to get serious in July after another solo attempt on the Welsh 3000s where I scaled Crib Goch in the fog and then the midnight start at the end of July of the 57 mile Classic Cliffs – a trail race along the south-west coast path from Port Isaac in Cornwall to Clovelly in North Devon. The race was fantastic practice for the UTMB with the nighttime start and ascents and descents along exposed coastal trails.
Finally, the crowning glory of my running year, completion of the Mont Blanc. The race was an incredible experience, my first at that distance and although I swore never to do it again at the time, it seems a bit like a hangover where oncethe physical effects have worn off, the addiction and desire to experience the event again is just too great an opportunity to miss out on…. while there is still breath left in my body, etc, etc 🙂
Ever since then, albeit only 4 months ago (it seems like a lifetime) I have been in a strange holding pattern with my training, regularly completing 40 mile weeks, I am now looking at 5 events from February to August, including a (fingers crossed) third London Marathon and a hopeful PB.
2010 is shaping up to be quite exciting as well but with the Marathon des Sable in April 2011 to prepare for remaining injury free is becoming as priority as I test out all manner of methods of blister prevention.
When you look at it like this (as in the mileage chart on the right) it really does not do it justice. With hindsight, I only had 5 weeks where my mileage was minimal, i.e. less than 15 miles (as shown by the yellow bars on the chart – the red line indicates scheduled mileage, which decreased merely because after the FLM I had not worked out my training schedule).
However, in the context of the fact that this was the month which included my planned London Marathon, and it is only now 3 months to Mont Blanc, so a month on the bench is 25% of my valuable training time, I could have done without this. Eaxch day without a run has been torture; merely driving round Guildford has ignited memories of each run I have carried out along the roads of Surrey. Time, it seems, has a habit of reminding you of what you once had – take that as a lesson for the future!
Nevertheless, it appears I am now emerging from the other side of the curve and getting back to the stage where I can progress with my real training. I am doing more and more continuous running, although still doing a run / walk on the long weekend runs so as not to precipitate any further occurence of the problem.
The next step, after a ‘rest’ week where I’ll step back to probably 25 miles, is to attempt some hills and this is being planned in the form of Welsh 3000’s with John, Tim and Greg. Note quite fell running but to do this twice in 24 hourse should be great training for Mont Blanc.