A two fold absence

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I haven’t really written much this month. I sometimes wonder to myself “who actually reads this anyway?”. This is often quickly followed by “Does that matter?” and then “You enjoy writing it. So just bloody get on with it then!!”

I also haven’t ran much since Target run #2 either so here is a quick summary to bring me and my legion of adoring readers up to date:

17 Aug – a short sharp 39 min Fartlek session

22 Aug -Target run #3, which was supposed to be a 10 hour run, didn’t happen.  Life stepped in (yet again) to foil my plans and I never even got my trainers out of the cupboard!!!!!

23 Aug – a 31 min Tempo run (doesn’t even come close to making amends for side stepping Target run #3 in it’s entirety)

27 Aug – A 2hr 5 min Hill session at my favourite hill. 6 reps and 3,708 ft of elevation. I enjoyed this one 🙂

Today is the last day of Aug and there is no plan to stick my running clobber on and go for a run of any description, be that short or long, fast or slow. So that is that for the not so sunny month of August.

My next and final long run is due on Sat 5 Sept. This is Target run #4 – 12 hours at Long Run in The Meadow. Another event organised by Dave Urwin from Albion Running so is bound be original, perhaps a tad eccentric, and lots of fun 🙂

After that, and with only 2 weeks at that point until Chapter 2, it will be time to taper. TAPER!! That is pretty much what the month of August has already been.

C’est la vie 

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Target run #2 – still learning

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I began Target Run #2 at just before 7.25 am. Shear Water was pretty quiet and subdued to begin with, the only other people present being the rows of fisherman sat along the embankment of the lake. It was early on Sunday morning, and only those of us that were dedicated ( mad enough) to our respective sports felt the need to be out of our cozy beds at that time.

The target for the day was to run for 8 hours. My aim of the day was to continue in my quest for a sustainable pace. I set off at a nice leisurely pace as I made my way past the bemused looks from a selection of the fisherman, and around the by now very very familiar route. In fact, as much as I love to run at Shear Water, I was not particularly looking forward to 8 hours of solo laps. Visually speaking there is nothing new for me on “The” route and the thought of 8 hours by myself did not excite me.  However, as an exercise in finding the best pacing strategy, I felt that it was  necessary for this run to be on the same route as the actual event. That coupled with the fact that most of my running buddies were already doing other runs that day  (Salisbury 54321 being one of them – a fantastic event – not jealous!)  – I found myself plodding along on my lonesome. Taking the point one fraction further now – come the day of Chapter 2 then running for 24 hours on the same, already highly familiar route, somehow adds to the challenge for me too.

Anyhow, whilst making my way around the maiden lap of the day, I formulated a plan for the days efforts. I decided that I would only stop at my car every second lap. I had enough food and water on me that meant I wouldn’t really require any pit-stops outside of that time frame. So after the first lap I immediately commenced on to the second.

The sun materialised on the second lap and became a permanent fixture for the rest of the day. It wasn’t very hot at this point……… but that was to change as the day marched on though! I finished the second lap after 2 and a half hours and stopped at my car. Water bottles refilled, a few mouthful’s of spaghetti with chicken & cheese, and I was on my way again after 5 mins.

Lap 3 went well and I was still feeling good as I yet again made my way through the copious amount of jaggy nettles that adorned the trail . It was hot, but I wasn’t feeling depleted by it in any way. I had soaked my buff with water when I stopped and this was helping to keep the back of my neck cool. In fact I was still feeling full of energy and capable of taking the whole world on as I bounded along this lap.

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Lap 4  had the temperature turned up by Him and within several minutes of starting I found myself emptying one of my water bottles over my head and neck as well as pouring some in to my cap. It didn’t really work in my cap though. It’s a moisture wicking cap so it just allowed all the water to pass straight through leaving the inside bone dry. Doh!!! I felt it on this lap…. whatever it is. It started to bite a little bit – I wasn’t struggling by any stretch of the imagination, but I did have to work a bit now.

I finished lap 4 and got back to my car after a total time of about 5 hours and 30 mins. I took 10 mins to fill my water bottles again, soak my buff again, scoff some sandwiches, and sit in the shade offered from the open boot door of my car.

Lap 5 was a bummer. It was really hot now and the sun was relentless in it’s pursuit of attempting to fry me. I developed a slight pain on the inside of my left knee. I took the decision not to take any pain killers based on the principle that I wanted to know if this was just a minor niggle or something more sinister that I should be concerned about. Pain killers would have only masked the pain leaving me none the wiser so I bumbled on regardless. Macho eh (my knee feels fine right now as I sit in the comfort of my front room typing this). I was working a lot harder now just to maintain a comfy pace, the up hill sections took me longer to negotiate, I tripped a couple of times, and I banged the toes on both feet a couple of times too (it annoyed me when I banged my big left toe. My big right toe has an ingrown toe nail. It annoyed and  really hurt when I banged this one). I was also starting to feel a bit nauseous too

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Lap 6 was no better. Surprisingly (not) it was still very hot, I was still working hard for a relatively mediocre pace, my left knee still hurt – especially on the up hills, my quads were also feeling the effort on the up hills too, I was still feeling nauseous, and I took my first and only salt bomb of the day after feeling my calve muscles beginning to cramp up. The salt bomb done the trick though and the cramp disappeared very quickly never to be seen again (that is not until my next long run I’m sure). But I felt good. I was safe in the knowledge that this would be my last lap of the day and that made the lap all the more manageable.

So I made it back to my car after a total of 8 hrs 4 mins, 6 laps, and an elevation gain of 2,898 ft.

I think that had I more laps to do then I may be better served if I take slightly longer pit stops. Nothing astronomical – just perhaps an extra 5 mins or so each stop. 🙂

Like a line from The A Team

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Anyone who has only even loosely been following my training will know that the consistency/frequency of my running could only be described as sporadic at best. There are many legitimate reasons for this, but rather roll out a long list of my personal mishaps and commitments, it is suffice to say I will wrap them all up under the one heading of Life. And Life does have the nastiest habit of jumping out in front of us and scuppering the best laid plans of any of us.

This penchant for Life to get in the way has left me feeling that my long runs are nowhere near where I believe they should be at this point. When I think of how long my long runs should be – then my  “time on feet” is lacking somewhat I feel. To date this year my longest run in mileage was 50k and the longest time  I have spent on a single run is 6 hrs 40 mins. And they were both  way back in early March on the Imber Ultra. Since then I have managed a few runs of between 3 and 4 hours, but when I consider that Chapter 2 is now only a matter of 2 months away, then 3-4 hours now, this close to the event, just doesn’t cut the mustard I’m afraid!

So rather than go daft and attempt to build up my long runs by hugely increasing the hours of them (that won’t work – overtraining and injury can be the only result in that situation) – I have set myself “target” runs. I have calendered 4  specific runs over the next 7 weeks, each with an increase in hours than it’s predecessor. This will allow me to build my “time on feet” up to 12 hours, and affording a 2 week taper period prior to Chapter 2 commencing.

As Col John “Hannibal” Smith would say – “I love it when a plan comes together” 🙂

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Shorter than expected

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Today’s run was a bit like when you meet Tom Cruise in the flesh –  a bit shorter than expected.

My aim for today was to have “time on my feet” with a bit of elevation for good measure. So I had planned to do nothing more than a long slow hill session up and down my favourite hill for between 4 and 5 hours.That didn’t happen though. From the moment I set off I felt lethargic and sluggish. Now, any of us who run know that we can, more often or not, push past this point and start to feel good again. So I kept on going.

After an hour I still had no sign that a purple patch was awaiting me any time soon and I continued to struggle somewhat. The walking up hill bits, whilst still being methodical were also very laboured as well. The running downhill bits offered no respite as I never quite gained any comfortable momentum.

After 2 hours nothing had improved. The entire session to this point had just felt awkward and uncomfortable with each and every step. I took stock and made the decision that as this was only a training run that I would call it a day there. I was not willing to push myself and risk jeopardising the training runs that I have planned for around the corner. So after only at least half of my original intended “time on my feet”  I had completed 5 reps which equals an overall total climb of 3,090 feet.

So I came home, drank coffee, and blogged instead 🙂

Thunder, rain, lightning, and planting seeds

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Friday 03 July.

The storm was predicted. It did not come out of nowhere, unannounced, to take all of us weather obsessed Brits by surprise. It was expected. Neither should the ferocity of it have taken me by surprise either. However I was not safely tucked up bed, listening to the rain lash against the window and the loud claps of thunder interspersed with bright flashes of lightening. I was outside in it (now that’s an oxymoron)-  but it did!

I had a relatively busy day on Fri, which was no bigee or precursor to not running that night. In fact when considering that my intention and aim is to run for 24 hrs, then running at the end of the day, and into the night when I am already tired is a bit of a must do really. So I set my stall out early in the day with the plan of runnning that night. I paid a visit to the hospital to see my new born second grandson in the afternoon, and then almost immediately upon returning home, I set off again to watch my stepson play in a football tournament. By the time I eventually made it home again it was close to 9pm.

I began my run from home just shy of 9.25pm underneath a dull but not yet angry sky. I made my way along the country lane through Dunge and on into Bratton, before following the Lower Westbury Rd (this is actually a bridleway) into Westbury. Once in the town I began my first climb of the night up Newtown and towards The Whitehorse. I turned off at the equestrian centre and made my way down Bridleway 35, through Wellhead Woods, and along Wellhead Drove. It was as at this point that I saw the first illuminations in the sky of lightning in the not too far away distance – in the same direction that I was heading towards.

My second ascend of the night began on the bridleway (my favourite hill) leading up to the Ridgeway/Imber Trail. The wind, which was actually still quite a warm breeze,  had picked up considerately by now.  As I reached the hard track of the Ridgeway at the top,  I was met with a strong wind and the very impressive sight of electric bolts racing earthwards over Salisbury Plain. I also heard the deep belly grumbles of a far off Giant. Well……….it was either that or some early indications of the thunder to come. Now I think I am correct in thinking that lightning always takes the shortest route to ground, but as  it was still somewhat in the distance, I wasn’t overly concerned at this point. Whether my thinking is actually true or not  – that seed was planted in my brain and grew into a real belief as I continued along the Ridgeway.

As I headed in the direction of the Whitehorse, making a steady but none the less consistant climb, The Giant must have had something to eat because his belly was no longer grumbling and he appeared to be occassionaly clapping his hands with glee now………………… And the lighting was getting closer…………………… And the seed in my head continued to grow.

I made way around the back of the Whitehorse as the rain arrived. It didn’t so much arrive and  more accurate description would be unleashed. There was no pre warning of  a few gentle splatterings. It was just dumped out the sky with the velocity of a rocket and the copiusness of an ocean. I startled a lone motorist taking shelter in his car,  who must have been highly confused and amused in equal measures at this fool, running at this time, in this weather, up here…………… And the lighting was close now………………..Really close………………..And the seed was sprouting big massive strong branches of “F***k” in my head.

I continued on my wet way, stumbling along the Ridgeway as I attempted to put my earphones in and listen to a bit of music to distract me. Sadly one earphone was completely water logged and had stopped working. I can’t for the life of me fathom out how that could of happened. The Atlantic Ocean continued in it’s attempt to drown me. The Giant must of been exceptionally happy with his dinner cos he continued to clap……………..And the lightening was directly above me now. On at least 4 occassions I found myself suddenly completely blinded by white light for a split second at a time. Afterwards I was left with diminished vision in the same way a high powered torch will rob you of any night vision if flashed in your face……………………….And now the seed had become an entire plantation. My thought process was something along the lines of ” I’m on the edge of Salisbury Plain. There is no one or nothing else around. I am HIGH up. Lighting always takes the shortes route to earth. It is right above me, right now. It’s ok I have rubber soles. Yeah but I am HIGH up and lighting always takes the shortest route to ground. Always Neil. Always.” I didn’t know it at the time but I actually was at my highest point at that time – 748 feet. I had originally intended to make my way along the Ridgeway until I reached Tinhead Barn and then drop down into Eddington. However as I reached Vedette Post 6, another blinding burst of white light in my face convinced me that discretion really is the better part of valour, and I turned down The Imber Road towards Stradbrook/Bratton. I will of course deny this at any later point and profess that amid the wind, and the rain, and the thunder, and the lightening (did I mention the lightning ?), that I merely became disorientated and simply took a wrong turn.

I reached the relative safety amongst the much lower level of Bratton, not unresembling the proverbial drowned rat. I continued through the centre of the village before turning and retracing my steps back out to Dunge and reaching home just after 0130 am – 4 hrs and 7 mins after starting. About 2 miles from home the rain stopped (you gotta be kidding me!!!!) and  I was struck by an alternative light from the sky. It was the moon shining through a break in the clouds – mocking me because the storm had moved on further afield but I had turned tail and headed home before that.

Does lightning always take the shortest route to earth? I don’t know and I haven’t Googled it yet. But up there it felt like I was the highest living creature in the entire United Kingdom……. and  I believed it to be true 🙂

Not like putting a man on the moon……………..

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I have never run for 24 hours before and the thought of doing so excites me. It also means that I will be journeying into the unknown. Not in the same way that Neil Armstrong did when he travelled to the moon and went for a lil wander. That had never been done by anyone before. I will not get drawn into all the ins and outs of whether the whole thing was a conspiracy or not – that is a debate for an entirely different kind of blog all together. However, taking it all at face value – then it’s an incredible step into the unknownNor will my journey be on the scale of Columbus’ sail across the Atlantic Ocean and the  discovery of America (or was it actually a Norse called Leif Ericson – another argument for another entirely alternative blog). No, my venture into the unknown has in fact been achieved by many many people before. But not by me…………..not yet at least. Running for 24 hours could well be considered as being beyond the norms of conventional running. That fact makes me curios to see how I fare.

I have lost vital training time due to my recent but much overdue surgery. Now I am  not complaining about that. I needed to have the op, and now that I am fully recovered I am glad that I had it. But it did rob me of a few crucial months of training. I can’t make up for those lost sessions now and it would be fool hardy of me to attempt to do so. If I tried to leap frog and “catch up” with where I would of been –  then I would only end up over training and suffering with the associated overuse injuries, niggles, and ultimately……………… burning out. The only end result in that equation is one where I don’t even make it to the start line.

But there is an inner conflict that ensues. One between my internal push the panic button self and my more mature rational it will all work out in the end – somehow, someway – just be sensible self. Panic Button says “Ooh that’s a nice 100k that you can do. It’s a week after that 100 miler that you fancy. Do both. Do both. Do both. Hold up, I found this too – a 12 hour event on the same week. Do em all. Do em all. Do em all. You have some catching up to do if ya wanna get this done and not fall flat on ya face Neil”. Sensible then chips in with “No. Don’t be so bloody daft. You know better than that Neil. You have a plan – of sorts – stick to it.”……………….. Sensible is right of course.

My plan (of sorts) then. What does that entail. Well first and foremost it accepts that I have lost miles and there is absolutely nothing I can do about that. Nothing. I will still get “miles in my legs”. I have time. It won’t be as much as if I hadn’t had the op – but it will be what it will be.

Next is a bit of mental training.  This element has two parts to it which is underpinned by the fact, that in my event at least,  “miles” mean nothing. Most events are measured in distance, be that 5k, a half marathon, 50k, 100 miles,etc, etc. They all have a very specific distance orientated finish line. And most runners will at least have a rough idea of how long it will take them to complete that distance. Thus most  training plans use mileage as the primary measurement as well as a tool for preparing with.  I am preparing myself for 24 hours of sustained effort – not any pre set mileage that determines where the finish line is. So in order to train my head to think “time” not “miles” I am not recording how many miles I have ran. I am not even using my Garmin. The temptation to have a sneaky peek at how far I have done would invariably win – and I would look. No, I am leaving the Garmin at home and just running with a normal stopwatch. This has allowed me to change my thought process from “miles in legs” to “time on feet”.

The second part of my mental training is tied up with the first part. The Holy Grail in terms of 24 hour events is to achieve 100 miles and many ultra runners set this as their goal.  I thought long and hard before I even wrote that last sentence because the other half of my mental training is “Miles don’t matter”.  I am not setting myself a mileage to aim for which, should I not achieve, will leave me feeling like I failed. And even more importantly I also don’t want to give myself an early opt out option. I know when running an ultra that it can hurt, can be horrendous, painful, and tiring. Odd that. I also know that the pain and discomfort passes and is replaced with feeling good again. It is very much like a roller coaster – with highs of purple patch running and lows of “I can’t go on”. Now should I set myself a mileage that I would be happy to achieve then I could find myself at Silly O Clock in the morning, after 18 (or whatever) hours of running, feeling low, tired, sore, grumpy, sorry for myself, and in a slump of “I can’t go on”, when I hear myself saying in a narky, whinny, nasal voice ” I said before I started that I wanted to run at least XX miles. I’ve done that now. I can’t go on. I’m stopping. It’s over “.  So I have only 1 objective, there is only 1 target…………24 hours.

Finally (sighs of relief from those that have read this far) I am attempting to compensate for some of my lost miles (time on feet) by incorporating hills in as many training runs as possible. Each individual lap of Chapter 2 has a climb. The entire route is undulating but there are 2 particularly more predominant hills, one is a steady long climb, and the other is a short, very sharp incline. Over the course of 24 hours the cumulative effect of the elevation of each lap  will add up – in both the tiring effect it has on me and in the total overall ascend. Hills have therefore now become my friend.

So I am not going to the moon. I am stepping into my own unknown. And that is how I plan to get there. 🙂