Post #6

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I must begin with an apology. Sorry for neglecting my blog and not updating you with a post Longhorn Marathon report. There have been many contributing factors to my absence – work, other hobbies, holidays etc. But I’m back and I will try to keep you guys up to date over the next few weeks as things are really moving fast (unlike me).

So…The Longhorn Marathon on the 23rd April 2017 – Heading into this race I felt composed both physically and mentally. My preparation was complete, I was now in my usual tapering so to feel fresh and eager come race day. Soon my alarm was sounding and race day had arrived. The usual routine of shower and fuel ensued and at 6:45am we loaded up the camper ( I will fill you in about this later) and on our way.

Arriving an hour and a half before my start, I wandered the ¼ of a mile to the registration to relax after the drive, readied my hydration vest, had another bowl of porridge, (note to self: This was the best porridge I’d ever had) hydrated, then took a brisk walk down to the starting area.

The weather was shaping up nicely, bright and with a light breeze. I was my usual relaxed self and felt no apprehension of the task ahead – what probably described my inner thoughts were that of a Labrador…I was just pleased to be out. Soon after, my fellow marathoners and I gathered on the start line eager to begin.

After a few miles I settled into a happy pace along side a bloke called Jon from the North West. We exchanged running tales which made the first lap fly by. My body felt great and I was loving the undulating train amongst the trees. On the exposed parts of the course the sun was starting to warm up and I just remember thinking how much I love running in the sun. A winters worth of cold wet runs all seemed worth it now to be here. On lap two we caught up with two other lads Jon knew who had already completed a 100 marathons each! I though to myself “I feel comfortable here so lets just go with it” and the chatter continued up until a mile from the half way point.

I suddenly felt a little tightening of my quads just above my right knee, I didn’t panic, I just gave my knee an extra bend on my next few strides. Further down the trail it happened again then on my left quad too. Fuck! I thought, this is cramp – I started to question what had gone wrong and why of all bloody days, it chose now to rear its ugly head? I have never once suffered from cramp on any of my runs. It wasn’t like I was overly fast or at a distance that was new territory for me. As I approach the aid station I was glad to see my crew and immediately requested for my diluted salts and gulped them down. I was pretty certain that my body was suffering from salt depletion and I knew that it was a battle I couldn’t win for the remaining half marathon.

Jon and I left together and covered the next mile side by side. Jon looked good but commented on how hot it was. I was suffering, and now cramping on every stride. On an exposed section of the trail I gave in and slowed to a power walk. Acknowledging the loss of his buddy, Jon turned and called out “Everything OK mate?” “Yeah, all good mate – you carry on and I’ll catch you back up”

This was the last I saw of Jon.

It soon became apparent that I was physically unable to run up hill. Power walking was my only option when I came up against an incline. I could run/shuffle my way down the declines but this opportunity was few and far between. I managed to make it back to my crew but by this point I was seriously pissed off at my lack of ability to run. My crew rallied round stuffing handfuls of salted peanuts in to every available pocked on my vest – judging by the state on my top and hydration vest you could have stuck unsalted ones in as I had more than enough salt stuck on my person from sweat. There is no way you are retiring. This message repeated over and over in my head.

With my supplies replenished and a wave of encouragement I set off on my final lap. I made a simple rule to focus on. “You run every decline and you power walk the inclines. You do not stop moving unless you have to piss” This got me through the next six and a half miles. Before long I began catching and passing other runners in a similar or worse state than myself. This didn’t make me feel any better, just more of the same frustration that I had made a mistake in my preparation and was now suffering for it. I followed my rule to the exact word and ticked off the miles. I crossed the finish line happy it was over and proud I had dug in when everything physically and mentally was screaming at me to stop.

On reflection, I’m happy with my achievement that day. I could not have done it with out the support and encouragement of my crew, you guys were incredible and I will happily return the favour for you. I finally got to experience my version of the “questions” other runners had spoke about before. Yes I did have to ask myself what I really wanted and how much I was willing to go through in order to succeed. No it wasn’t pretty but I kind of liked it because I had to push more. The salt depletion is a lesson learnt, I now know this will become a show stopper for me if not controlled properly and I will for future races. But the biggest lesson of all… I can reach what I thought was my limit and then push beyond – This is the satisfaction I wanted.

I’m a running junkie and I got the fix I crave the most.

AR

Post #5

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As you all know from my previous post, I am running The Longhorn trail marathon on the 23rd of this month. I knew my body wouldn’t take many miles to settle back into the pace of longer distances. I planned to get a steady twelve miler one evening after work on a local trail, then for the weekend, head over to Clumber Park for a good couple of hours out there.

There it was again, that hit only a junkie can relate too – to be out on a long run again is my fix. One thought my mind always drifts to when out on a long run is “the questions” others refer to when they talk about the distances of marathons and beyond. I suppose the nature of these questions are as unique as the individuals possessing these inner thoughts. Some talk of how they ask themselves, can they go back to work? or post on Facebook? that they failed to complete the task they set. Others have shared that they question what they have to give from deep within in order for them to finish or succeed in a certain time. I have still up until now wondered what my questions will be. This topic occupied my mind for most of my twelve miles.

Come Saturday morning I loaded the car ready for a ride over to Clumber Park to run for what was going to be my first twenty mile plus run in a while. I hadn’t given a fixed distance to run….I just knew I wanted to go out there for at least three hours so I could test how my stomach accepted different types of food whilst on the move. I had my usual energy gel’s, Harribo’s and cereal bars with me. (I also purchased a ploughman’s sandwich and some salty crisp’s to eat at an “aid station” stop at the back of my car).

I set off not feeling all that great – maybe I was starting to think of all this running as “training”? Now, I know from my previous hobbies, as soon as I start to think this way, I start to think about the results. And so, I did what I do in most situations of worry or concern, I ate something to cheery myself up. Thankfully it turns out I was just a little hungry since it was an hour and a half since my porridge back home.

Having established I was a complete pillock and admitting that to my pacer on her mountain bike beside me I settled in as usual. I was increasingly happy to know that I had no set route planned,  I just took a turn that looked the most remote and what seemed to be leading me farther from my starting point. After stopping every few hundred yards to allow people of horseback, plodding along, taking part it what seemed to be a “Sky Ride” but for horse owners, I stumbled across the Robin Hood Way and consequently a sign for Thoresby Hall. I decided it would seem only fitting to run out that way. I felt a great sense of occasion knowing I would be out in this area in only a matter of weeks to run my first official marathon.

Having reached the aid station (back of my car) I took on some salts, devoured my ploughman’s and a vast amount of salty crisp’s. I replenished my hydration bladder with water and soon after recharging with a coffee I was back on my way. This time heading out the opposite side of Clumber Lake to explore what trails lay ahead.

My Garmin bleeped signalling my first mile complete. This confirmed what I already knew and feared – Ploughman sandwiches are appropriately named! They are perfect if after your lunch you are going to sit back in your tractor and continue ploughing. The schoolboy error I had made was that I forgot when at the chiller choosing my said lunch, that I am not a ploughman, nor am I attempting to be! My body struggled to propel itself forward under the weight of my less than ideal choice of food. I made a mental note – “You want to be an ultra-runner, not a ploughman you fuckwitt!” 

A few slow miles passed and I suppose, on reflection, those grim feeling miles worked as a good resource to draw upon for when I’m feeling shitty and have to dig in to get my self beyond that point on race day. The latter miles all felt great, mentally I was positive and excited at the prospect of my up and coming events. I again confirmed I love to run long, and, more so in this environment, where speed simply does not matter.

With prior engagement’s for that evening planned I had to turn back towards my car. On the last mile or so back I felt sad my run could not go on into what was set to be a beautiful evening, but also overjoyed to have felt so good after what turned out to be twenty four miles. I packed up my car, slipped on my Birkenstocks and headed home and reflected on the day. I could only smile at the achievements and laugh at my fuelling faux pa. This was my sweetest fix yet and with all good hits – I only craved more!

AR

Post #4

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I just wanted to give you guys a quick update of what lies ahead in the next few weeks. If you have followed the link from my Instagram account to here, you will have seen my post from Monday 27th March. Here I announced that I was twenty eight days from my first marathon and first real step on my ultra-running journey.

Up until now the furthest I have run is twenty three miles. On the day in question I had set out to run for two and a half hours minimum, but with my usual caution to the wind attitude, this plan was promptly scrapped at the hour and a quarter point. I said to my self “Well, nothing hurts and to be honest you’ve taken it steady, so lets carry on”  Long story short – apart from feeling famished at the end (Note to anyone using this as a potential training method; three energy gels, a handful of Haribo and 500ml water is not enough fuel!) my body felt better than after a hard 10K.

So on the 23rd of April I will be lining up at The Longhorn Marathon at Thoresby Hall. I did worry if this might give my identity away but I understand there will be some thousand odd other runners all doing different distances that day, so the chances of you guessing that I am actually who I am, is pretty slim. I suppose I should outline why I chose this event. Firstly it fitted into the schedule I had planned at the start of the year around my ultra, secondly and probably most importantly, is the terrain and setting of this event looked perfect. For those of you that are unfamiliar with this race, it takes place in the Nottinghamshire countryside around the historic Sherwood Forest. Knowing that everyone wants their “first time” to be special and memorable, to me it sounded like the an idyllic location for a marathon virgin such as myself, to pop my marathon cherry.

With less than four weeks to go my body and mind feel ready for the challenge ahead. A large part of me is approaching this as just a “test run” to see how my kit performs for a longer period of time, the other part realises that this milestone is a big deal for me and a lot of other runners all over the world, so I will embrace it as an achievement to be proud of. Although my ideas and challenges can be sometimes likened to the wet dreams of a sectioned lunatic, my preparations are never short of meticulous and methodical. I have come to the conclusion, from the experiences of others and my own, that its the small details that will get me through this first step and beyond. Something as simple as knowing that carrying my gels in a certain pocket of my hydration vest causes rubbing after two hours, but in another pocket all is well… are the kind of niggles I want to minimise on the day. Now a little bit of chafing I’m sure is to be expected but I know from lessons learnt, its the shitty little nondescript annoyance at mile five that really pisses you off and plays on your mind at mile twenty two, coincidentally right when you have just entered a world of misery and doom! It is this world I am trying to avoid at all costs, and so my preparation will be thorough.

Over the coming weeks I will keep you up to date with my preparation for this first race, from the miles on the trail, to the kit I will be using. If you guys have any questions or feedback then please leave them in the comments below and I will try answer them in my blogs.

AR