Posts Tagged ‘long run’

I’m never usually at all nervous before any races but I have to admit I was heading into London to Brighton with a small amount of trepidation. My training had been going reasonably well, right up to the point where I started my three week taper period. Instead of doing the traditional taper I just stopped dead in my tracks, and aside from a 10k race in Portarlington I only went running one other time in the entire three weeks. On top of that was the fact that my peak week of training only saw me doing about 100km, and the longest run in that 33.5km. That should have been a regular week and my longest run should have been closer to 30 miles than 30km, but there’s nothing that could be done about it at this point.

It wasn’t the lack of consistent training that worried me really though, or even the lack of really long runs logged. No, what had me worried was the navigation aspect of the race, which I’d chosen to address by just sticking my head in the sand and ignoring completely. In place of any sort of navigational skills I had chosen to go with a far more cunning plan – run with people who know where they’re going. Naturally this meant that I was then obligated to stay with people who knew where they were going and run at their pace, but that was a risk I was willing (and had no choice but) to take.

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If yesterday was a nice change from the norm today was a definite return to type – a long, long slow run. Quite incredibly the weather had held up for more than a few hours and I was up nice and early to make the most of it. Some coffee, a big bowl of porridge, some new podcasts on my Clip and then out the door and heading for bandit country. The loop I had planned for today was Bracknagh, Portarlington and back home, each leg of which was about 7km, all on nice, quiet, pan flat roads. A couple of times before on my really long runs I got very tired/thirsty/hungry so even though this wasn’t going to be that long a run I still brought €2 with me so I could stop in Port and grab a drink, which also meant I didn’t have to bother with the inconvenience of carrying a drink with me.

I headed for Bracknagh first, keeping a nice, steady pace of about 6mins/km. The running was really easy and I was just enjoying being out on my own in the countryside, on a glorious morning, with the dulcet tones of Joey Diaz tickling my eardrums. Even the swarm of bogflies that decided to accompany me for a couple of kilometres couldn’t dampen my mood, though they did make me glad I’d worn a hat which stopped them getting overly easy access to my lovely dome.

While running through Bracknagh I did think it was a little odd that I’d now clocked up 9km rather than 7, and then seeing a sign saying “Portarlington 9km” did make me think I’d slightly miscalculated when plotting my route. Still, not much that could be done about it now apart from carry on putting one foot in front of the other, which for the last few kilometres had been coming much easier and I was now ticking along quite nicely. At about the 14km mark I began to get the first rumblings of hunger from my stomach, which usually causes quite a downturn in my mood. Now though, with the coin I had safely stashed away and shops only a few kilometres further up ahead I knew that there was absolutely nothing to worry about. For the remainder of the distance into Port I seemed to get into a semi-trance state, where I was vaguely focused on the yellow line in front of me, plodding along, not thinking about anything or even really feeling much. It was great to be able to do this because I know when I’m running London to Brighton I’m going to be out there for up to twelve hours and I’ll need to be able to zone out like this for long stretches at a time.

Running up through Port I snapped back to attention and began thinking about what I could get for my €2. When I thought I was just going to be running 21km all I wanted was a bottle of Powerade, but with the extra distance I knew I needed something solid in my stomach. I popped into a garage just about on the way back out of town and spent a few minutes pondering different combinations before going for a slightly left field choice of chocolate milk and a banana. I’m not the biggest fan of chocolate in the world but I’d heard lots of people recommending chocolate milk as a good post workout drink due to the combination of carbs and protein. I had some misgivings about how it was going to sit in my stomach but I soon forgot about that and necked almost the whole bottle in one go. I hadn’t realised quite how thirsty I was but I was parched. I sat outside the garage in the sun for a minute, finishing my drink and banana, happy as a pig in shit and thoroughly looking forward to the last leg of my run.

I’d gone through two Beauty and da Beast podcasts at this stage, and much as I love Joey Diaz my ears deserved a bit of a break. Just in case my legs started to tire a bit I decided to stick on some music for a change, and with the day that was in it I though some reggae might do the trick. Well, a little bit of reggae anyway, followed by some dub, some beats, some some breaks, some metal, i.e. some Major Lazer (the Diplo and Switch back to back Essential Mix to be precise). On my way out of Port then I noticed to my complete lack of surprise a sign saying “Monasterevin 9km”, so each of the legs were in fact 9km. God only knows where I got the 7km from.

Anyway, though my legs were starting to hurt a little bit at this stage the kilometres were ticking away and I was enjoying the run as much as I did at the start. Soon enough I’d crossed the bridge which marked the point where you enter proper bog territory and from there it’s only about 4km home. Not long afterwards I was surprised to see my wife drive past me, until I remembered that I’d arranged to pop into the house on my way past at about the two hour mark and pick her up to do a few km’s together. I’d obviously been out for a bit longer than that with the extra, previously unaccounted for, distance and bearing in mind my problems on very long runs before she’d popped out to see if I wanted collecting. Feeling fantastic I instead sent her on her way, and having dispensed of her services also discarded my t-shirt (which in my defence was starting to chafe), and then ran the home stretch in rare, glorious sunshine in as little clothing as decency would allow.

27.5km in 2:48:55

Due to my various leg ailments running’s been so sporadic since the Kildare Half Marathon that I think today will actually be my first ‘long run’ since then. With the London to Brighton ultra only a few months away though it’s time to get my arse in gear and start clocking up some miles. I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon drawing up a schedule for the remainder of the year, or from now until London to Brighton (30th September) anyway. It was a little tricky trying to combine a training plan for an ultra with training for a couple of adventure races, as well as a sprint distance triathlon, but I think I came up with a serviceable plan of action anyway (with many references to The Triathletes Training Bible and Relentless Forward Progress)

One thing I was careful to do was not just jump right back into where I previously was on my training plan. I did Belfast Marathon right around the point on the ultra training plan I’m using where there was a marathon scheduled, so ideally I should have been just carrying on from there. As it is I’m considerably behind that particular plan but I’m still going to just increase my mileage gradually so as to (hopefully) avoid any further injuries. I will be increasing it slightly less gradually than indicated in the plan though as I do need to catch up eventually. Between running and cycling I hope to be able to manage mileage, fatigue, rest, recovery etc. Lucho (the “Ultrarunner” on Endurance Planet’s Ask the Ultrarunner) is a big advocate of biking on days before or after long runs so as to get your long runs in on tired legs but without the impact and wear you’d experience if you were doubling up on your long runs, so this forms a large part of my plans.

This morning’s scheduled run was a very easy 16km, and so as to ensure a steady, easy pace throughout I stuck to the road rather than doing laps of the woods. It was a really bright and sunny morning, unexpectedly so considering how miserable the weather yesterday was, so it was an ideal opportunity to try my new scalp saver. I’ve never been a big hat wearer during the summer but considering the paucity of cover on my pate I thought it might be sensible to get something to go over it, particularly with the amount of hours I’m going to be spending running in the glorious Irish sunshine. With my run scheduled to take me just over an hour and a half I picked a podcast to suit (Urijah Faber on the Joe Rogan Experience), grabbed my Clip, Garmin, hat and water bottle and headed out the door.

I was barely half a kilometre out the road before I had a big smile on my face. I’d really, really missed running over the last while, and the long run particularly so. Throw in the great weather and a really interesting and funny podcast and I was happy as Larry. My left leg was still a bit stiff but not sufficiently so to ruin my enjoyment of the run. As usual it was only at about the 5km mark that I properly loosened up, my stride relaxed, everything felt much easier and it just reminded me how much I like and prefer running longer distances, which is a good thing considering some of the training runs I had to pencil into my schedule yesterday. At the 11km mark I was back in town and just trying to decide how best to tack on the extra 5km I had to do. As I was feeling so good I was contemplating heading out on a different loop out of town which would have brought me over the 20km mark, or heading up to the woods to do a lap and then home, which would have been bang on 20km. Sensibly though I decided to stick to the schedule and decided on a route which brought me up and over a hill alongside the woods, then cut back up a path through the woods that makes about one quarter of the 4km lap, and then home.

It turned out to be a good call on my part not to go with the longer routes, as by the time I’d reached the top of the hill my calves, which had endured very little hardship over the last month, woke from their slumber and asked me why I was deciding to make them suffer all of a sudden. They only had a couple of kilometres to put up with though and soon enough I was coming back out of the woods and heading for home. It’s exactly two kilometres from the entrance to the woods to my door and for the entire distance my pace steadily crept up until I turned the corner on to my street and sprinted for home. First long run in ages, 17km* in 1:50

 

 

*I checked my schedule afterwards and it turned out I was only supposed to do 12km. Still, it was a bloody great run.

This is very much like my various attempts at education. Start off really well, full of vim and vigour and enthusiasm and then slowly fall behind, leaving myself lots to catch up on, but not yet quite enough to catch up on that I start panicking and cram like crazy at the last minute. I’m talking about the blog mostly but also my swimming, or lack thereof.

Anyway, to summarise, training for the Belfast marathon had taken over and dominated to the extent that I was running five days a week, cycling one and swimming one. The six weeks of my training that I had missed with my calf injury had me worried about Belfast so I tried to compensate, and in general I was doing fine. Right up until my last long run. I had a 32 kilometre route to run that was also my last long run before Amsterdam last October. That run had turned into a bit of a nightmare with fading light, failing batteries on Garmin, mp3 player and light, all topped off with a very dodgy stomach which had me jumping over a ditch and becoming one with nature in a way I hadn’t done since a cider fuelled camping incident in my mid-teens.

This time round though things were going to be different. And you know what, they were. Different in so far as my stomach issues happened much earlier in the run, and instead of it getting dark I just had heavy rain to contend with. Still, at least I had plenty of battery in my Garmin and my Clip. So once again I was heading into a marathon with my last long run being a bit of a disaster. This time though I had the added bonus of a bout of gastroentiritis, which seemed to follow on from my stomach issues on the run, which had me missing two days of work, enduring stomach pain the likes of which I’ve honestly never encountered before, and caused me to miss a full weeks training.

Yep. I fell off the wagon. I’m not going to say I failed, because I didn’t fail. I tried my bloody hardest. Even when I came home from work on the monday, when I was shivering and cramping up I got on my bike and tried to train but any time I turned the pedal at anything more than glacial speed I had to slow right down again so I didn’t turn into Linda Blair in The Exorcist. I managed twenty minutes before almost falling off the bike and then stumbling upstairs into bed. It was a couple of days later before I got out of bed for anything other than (frequent) trips to the toilet but for another few days after that if I as much as attempted anything other than just walking my stomach tied itself in a knot and tried to force itself out through my duodenum.

Eventually after a week I could manage a swim, then a gentle jog, then a cycle but I still headed to Belfast last Sunday really unsure as to how I was going to be able to run at any sort of decent pace, never mind for 42.2 kilometres.

 

The club session scheduled for today was a 5km (bike) time trial and seeing as I’d had no negative reaction from my calf all week I decided yesterday that I was going to give it a shot. When I got up this morning and saw what a perfect morning it was I started to get a little excited, and was really looking forward to getting out on my bike for the first time with other people from the club. The more I thought about it really was a perfect morning. In fact almost too perfect….

Too perfect to waste on a 5km cycle when I could go out for a run instead. Nice and crisp and clear, sun shining but nipple bristlingly cold and early enough that there’d be hardly anyone out on the roads. I was going out for a run Godammit. I got my gear on, grabbed my little Sansa Clip, stuck on some Mondo Movie and headed out the door. Because I was being really smart and sensible I decided not to head off on a twenty or thirty kilometre loop, instead I thought I’d just do my four kilometre loop around the town a few times, that way if something did go awry then I wouldn’t be stuck miles from anywhere and hobbling home like a refugee from Dawson’s House of Shame.

Four or so kilometres in and thoughts of hobbling were far from my mind. I was two films into the Mondo Movie Cheapo Italian Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy Retrospective and I was feeling good, running further, better and stronger than I had in some time, so I kept going. I started to think then about ten, twelve, fifteen kilometres, maybe taking a turn off the main road and heading towards bandit country. Nothing too hectic mind, nothing off road or at any pace but just keeping run….

Ah shit. It’s alright. It’s alright. It’s just a little tight. It’s still good. Just stretch and slow down, stretch and slow down. But carry on obviously. It was just because we were going up a bit of a slope, that’s all. See now I’ve stretched and slowed down it’s fine again.

So after what was definitely just a minor tightening episode, I carried on. I should probably forget about doing any big distance this morning. I’ll finish off my run, call it a day around the ten kilometre, put my feet up, ice, relax, stretch and ….

Ow, ow, ow, fuck. That’s really tight now. Really, really quiet tight. Thankfully I know exactly what I’m doing so there’s nothing to worry about. Just stretch it out. That’s it, just streeeeeeetch it out. Hmmm. That’s not really working this time. Maybe a little more stretching? Yes, that’s feeling much better now. If by much I mean marginally. And maybe just in my imagination. Actually, that’s what gnarly ultra runner types do isn’t it? Imagine it better. Ignore the pain. No, not ignore the pain, embrace the pain. That’s what I’ll do, embrace the pain and carry on. And so I carry on, arms full of lovely, cuddly pain, visualising myself in a similar scenario in late September with twenty miles still to go to Brighton, stubbornly refusing to give up, steadfastly  carrying on right to the bitter end when my delusions of grandeur, my dreams of embattled glory are rudely interrupted by something in my left calf snapping like a guitar string.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before but I really am an almighty moron.