Monday, 17 December 2012

The long and winding road


Arrrrh! That’s better…. (more about that later)

All week I’d been torn mentally between “minimal is best” and “more support the better” camps. In my last entry I’d said that I did my last run in normal shoes as I was still sore and wanted the perceived protection or increased support and cushioning.

I finished that run though with a slight flair up of Planter Fasciitis on my “bad foot” and a painful big toe. To be honest, I couldn’t say 100% that it was the work of the “devil shoes” but the pain was there so I’d see where I was at next time?

I’d done a couple of short runs in the week at work and started getting ready for the  longest run yet. I’d had a route marked out for a while and planned to run 15 miles along a canal then turn around and run back. Well the recent frost, thaw then rain meant that the tow path would be slow going. I didn’t want to waste the entire day so changed the route last minute to a 30 miler on road as I’d be quicker.

I switched footwear back to the Merrell’s as I knew they would suit the back lanes I’d be using and set off. All my pre-run planning seemed to go well. I’d carb-loaded Friday and eaten and hydrated during breakfast. I’d seen this run as the perfect practice for the actual race and a chance to try out some tactics in advance!

I find it easier to break a long run into 5 mile “chunks” and the first 2 chunks went really well. It was mostly all uphill from Chelmsford to Maldon via Danbury and I felt strong as if I was eating up the miles with a smile on my face. Even the next chunk felt ok as I consumed my 3rd carb gel at 15 miles on a little bridge over the canal in Ulting.

This is where the fun really started. Ulting to Little Baddow started to feel harder. The course started to climb Tour De France style with a series of slight hills getting slowly higher and higher. OK this is Essex and we’re not talking King of the Mountains but it was starting to feel like it as I noticed my pace getting slower on the watch.

As I begin to clock watch I was running so slow now that I could even notice the extra amount of time to get to the next 5 mile point. When I did eventually get to the 20 mile point I celebrated this fact by having an impromptu “picnic”, yes you guessed it, another gel but this time followed up by a banana on a road over the A12…. Unforgettable!

By now I’d dropped about a minute every mile in pace as the legs started to feel heavier but in hindsight I think my mind was starting to have a major influence on me. All I could think about now was how slow I was and how it would take to finish.

I couldn’t see how I was going to do another 10 miles even though I knew I could do it physically. What didn’t help either was a decision taken some 4 hours ago in the warmth of my home (which felt a very long way away now) and that was the route selection. I’d taken the decision to combine a couple of long road routes forgetting the very reason I’d got into ultra’s this year, which was to say goodbye to the boring tarmac!

I eventually got to the next milestone of 25 miles and was at a real low point. The weather had started to turn and the warm sunny morning was now dark, windy and cold. I’d hydrated well to this point but in my opinion “man cannot run on carb gels alone” and the addition of a single banana with a couple of sweets wasn’t cutting it.

It was at that point I then realised that my last run was only 18 miles and I shouldn’t push the distance up too much too soon so I took the decision to cut the run short and make the “call of shame” to my wife to pick me up.

We arranged a point on the route where she could meet me and I ran a couple more miles before she rescued me at the 27 miles point. Looking back I’m actually happy with the distance as it was nearly 10 miles longer than last time out and yes 45 miles is much longer but I’ve got to look at the big picture.

I’d hit the marathon point in this run in nearly the same time as my last road marathon race in April and this was a training run. Also whatever the distance, it was time on feet that counted so this was money in the bank! Finally, come race day as an off-road trail type run, I’d be running at a slower pace when navigation and terrain is taken into consideration.

What I did learn on this run was the importance of recognising where my mental low points were and having a plan to manage these next time. I also still think I haven’t found a solution to fuelling on these runs. In a road race you can bang gels only but this format you need to think of the long term and adding some fruit for me doesn’t work. I decided to try and combine the 2 issues into a single solution next time by planning a series of food treats at these low points.

The other massive plus to come out of the run was the footwear choice. This was the longest distance I’d run in the Merrell’s and on a hard surface. Yes the feet were sore and I could really feel it when running but everything felt ok post event.

The road might have been long and winding but from what I learnt, it was well worth it.

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