There has been a lot of learning since the last blog entry, and a lot of running! The runs have been mixed: Littleport Parkrun, various club runs, some long runs, The Ely Runners New Year’s Eve 10K, Bury St Edmunds Parkrun, King Lynn Parkrun. I am only going to focus on errors, what went well and discoveries.
Run Every Day January (RED). I really enjoyed this last year, but it was an error to embark on it in 2019 given I am training for the Peddars Way ultra. As a Coach, and as someone surrounded by runners who know their stuff, I know I should have left it this year: but I didn’t, and once I start something I can’t really leave it. So, on rest days, I go for the briefest of gentle cycles: it counts!
Parkruns. I know that some speed work can be a legitimate and important part of training for un ultra marathon, but I have made the same mistake TWICE in recent weeks. Before Christmas, I gave Littleport Parkrun enough stick (in muddy conditions) to knacker my left foot. I tend not to slow down much on muddy parts, and I am sure this is how I did the damage. This led to me taking a break in the lead up to Christmas. I rested enough, and the foot problem seems to have gone away. More recently, I tried King Lynn Parkrun, which is a course known for fast times. To cut a long story short, I tried to hammer it; I couldn’t run it as fast as I wanted to, and I felt some very scary twinges in my left hamstring, which I know slowed me down. Luckily I don’t think I have done much harm. But the hamstring and foot issue forced to me to take breaks and even abandon a long run. Hitting Parkruns hard, for me at least, is not wise in the lead up to an ultra event.
I was really pleased with my performance at The Ely Runners New Years Eve 10K. I did not get a PB, and my time was a tad slower than it was for the same race in 2018. But, I had two personal goals for this race (which I will keep to myself): I achieved them both. I put this down to the training I have been doing, but also, due to thinking about the race, attacking the hill and applying a bit of strategy for a change. In short, I felt strong.
I have been plagued with a problem where I get pins and needles in both feet during the early stages of runs. In the past, I have been advised to look at how I lace my running shoes: apparently, it can make a difference. I did nothing about it, until the morning of Sunday 5th January 2019 (my longest run yet). I re-laced the running shoes I will be using for Peddars way, loosening the laces all the way across the top of each foot. During my long run, although I still experienced some pins and needles, it was nowhere near as acute, and it didn’t last as long. I am loosening the laces on all of my trainers!
The long run! I have got to the stage in my training where I can run the marathon distance (not at race pace) any time. I felt the need to extend the distance, even if only to boost my confidence. I had a plan, and this involved two big loops, and a shorter ‘out and back’, resulting in a 30 mile run. This went well. Now for the detail.
I have discovered three foods that really work for me: fish paste sandwiches (white bread); dates; cashew nuts; Love Hearts (the sweets). My plan for this run was to run two 11 mile loops and then an 8 mile out and back run. I treated my house as an aid/ food station, thus trying to replicate the Peddars Way experience in some way. The plan was to eat and drink something after mile 11, something more substantial (soup) at mile 22 (there is soup at mile 26 at Peddars), and then go and finish the 30 miler. I took with me two collapsible bottles of water with tailwind in them, along with some nuts, two sandwiches, and some Love Hearts. This worked well, as did the aid station approach. I spent as little time as possible at home: the first stop was about 5 minutes and the second (at mile 22 was around 7 to 9 minutes). I did not get hungry at all on this run and I felt well-hydrated. The tailwind and the food has got me where I want to be!
The run itself was tough in that it was dull but I did not want to stray too far from home. I listened to some more of an Audible book : ‘A History of Western Philosophy – Bertrand Russell’, which is pretty heavy going, but it did help with blocking the negative thoughts I often experience on longer runs.
I also tried out my power pack set up, which involves charging my Garmin watch from a lead threaded through my running jacket sleeve to a power pack in my running belt. This worked perfectly.
I was heading out of Ely and along a river bank when I hit 26.2 miles. I was hit by a wave of emotion at this stage. 1. It dawned on me that technically, I was now an ultra runner. 2. I knew I was able to run the 30 miles, and this was going to be the furthest I had ever ran. 3. My confidence had been boosted no end. I have to confess, I blubbed for a few minutes.
The final four miles was tough but enjoyable, purely because I knew I was about to hit the 30 mile mark. I arrived home, to my sons and wife, none of whom looked away from the TV when I walked through the door, elated!
Today, the wonderful Becky worked her magic with a sports massage to my legs: they feel great now.
What has really surprised me about the 30 miler is how little I have suffered in the few days after it: I am hoping this is a sign of increased fitness and conditioning for distance running. That being said, I have replaced runs with short cycles for a few days in order to satisfy my RED commitments. Now I can take it easy in the lead up to Peddars (and just keep the legs turning over). This whole experience has been a big deal to me.