Monday, 3 February 2014

The Running Gods, Endure24 and an Ultra Virgin!

I was hoping after last weeks' frustrations that this week I could fall back into my training plan and hit all my specified targets for each run. Not to be: Day 1 / Run 1 - failed to get out of bed due to an injury!!!

I swear the Running Gods are against me this month!!

No sooner do I recover from my multiple illnesses and trainer blisters than those Running Gods laugh at me and reward my hard work with yet more pain. This time the pain was  on the top/side of my right foot. I had this pain before when I first ran in my trail shoes and it went after a while. I suspect the problem was either Extensor Tenonities (i.e., pressure on the tendons as a result of the laces being too tight), or the support in the new shows positioning my foot in a position it's not used to running in (hence the pain of the tendons having to adjust). It was probably both! Either way it was painful to walk on, let along run. The good news is that as the days passed, the pain got less. This was hugely frustrating - I just wanted to get out and run. I'd worked so hard the previous two weeks (through some difficult times), but this had stopped me in my tracks (literally).

New Hydration Pack
To cheer myself up I invested in a new hydration vest. I currently own a Camelbak Classic
My new "life jacket" - Camelbak Ultra LR

2ltr. I love that pack. Holds all the water I need and fits snugly on my back. I've never had any issues with it moving about and I never really feel the weight (even with 2 litres of water). However storage is limited -  very limited! At best I can pack my phone and keys into the pocket, attach my folded windproof jacket (which folds up tightly into its own case) to the mesh on the back, and if I am lucky I can stuff a gel into the main body (next to the bladder). If I want to carry anything else then I need to use my shorts' pockets or the SiS Gel Belt I have (another new purchase this week!). The pack is fine for medium length runs or runs that are supported, but for longer unsupported runs (e.g., in training), it's no good. I need to carry more junk.

After much deliberation, discussion with Stouty, and search through the forums and product reviews, I chose the Camelbak Ultra LR vest. It comes with a 2 ltr bladder which hangs on the waist, and the option to add 2 water bottles in the chest pockets. There is also plenty of storage. I know some people hate running with bladders because they cannot see how much water is left. I don't mind and prefer the weight on my back or around the waist as opposed to on my chest. Everyone is different - it's very much a personal choice. To top things off, I also got it at a bargain price. It retails for £110 and I picked it up on Amazon for £68. Thank you very much Mr Amazon - or is that, Mr Alton Sports!

It must be something about being ill or injured, but I seem to buy or sign up for things that I ought not to. I'm like a loose canon that needs controlling. Within the space of a month, and through illness or injury, I decided to run (and arrange) the Bath to Newbury 56 mile run for the Newbury Runners (what was I thinking!), and buy a new hydration vest. Well earlier this week I also decided, after reading Paul Ali's blog, to do Endure 24 as a solo runner!

I'd pondered doing this last year but elected not to. I was planning on running the Lakeland Marathon instead. However, after reading Paul Ali's blog I quickly logged onto the website and signed up! There were only 10 places left.

Now this may seem like a totally stupid thing to do, especially as it is only 1 week after a very tough trail marathon Snowdonia. However I think running solo would be good for me for a number of reasons:
  • Financially it is cheaper than travelling up north to run the Lakeland marathon and spending money on two nights' accommodations and petrol. £70 to enter Endure24 is a lot, but I'd spend more than that on petrol just getting to the Lakes and back! Not surprisingly the Lakeland Marathon is now out of the schedule.
  • Although it's only 1 week after the Trail Marathon Wales, I will still have a week to recover (meaning no running whatsoever!) and in theory, given the mileage I'll be running by then, I shouldn't be too tired (hopefully I won't pick up an injury in Wales!)
  • There is no pressure on me at Endure24. I'm running solo so have no pressure in relation to team mates. I can run as fast or as slow as I want; I can eat, sleep, walk when I want. I see it as complete freedom. If I want to push myself then I can.
  • It's a safe place to push my running limits. The 5 mile circuit is perfect - never too far away from a marshal.
I haven't set a goal yet for Endure24 - I will do that closer to the time. However I would like to see how far I can run within the 24 hours. I have the Bath to Newbury (56 miles) run in August and I suspect that will take approximately 10 - 12 hours to complete depending on the weather. If I can run 50 miles from the outset and within that time-frame, then I should be able to take 4 or 5 hours rest (during the evening) and then run some more. If I could do 70 miles I'd be happy, but as I say, I haven't set any real targets yet. Too early in my training, and the above might just be wishful thinking anyway.

Although I'm entered as a solo runner, I had to create a team name. My 1-man team is called An Ultra Virgin. Technically I won't be an ultra virgin due to Marlborough, but in reality I will have so much to learn that it still makes me a virgin. I feel Endure24 is the perfect place to do that learning.

Back to Running
After a few days off running and feeling very frustrated, I tentatively headed out on Thursday evening. I'd bought some Hilly doubled-layered socks to try and prevent further blistering. I decided to test them out on Thursday. This was more a free run - that is, I wasn't focusing on pace or HR. I just ran. I could still feel a little pain in the right foot. I stopped, played around with the laces, then continued. The pain started to subside. I ran out towards Ball Hill and into the sticks. It was pitch black and very foggy...very hard to see with only a headtorch. It was, nevertheless, very peaceful. I ended up running a fairly hilly 17.30km. This was a planned distance as it was exactly half the distance of my Sunday Long Run. I was just short of home when my watch told me the run had finished, so I then reset it and plodded home for the final km as part of a cool down. In the end I covered 18.30 km. The right foot felt great - no pain whatsoever. I felt a tiny blister appear on my left foot, but when I got home it wasn't the case. It was just the old blister (which is now healing up). The run took 1hr 49mins with an average pace of 6.21 min/km and a HR of 171 bpm. In actual fact my pace was faster - it was just the 3 killer hills that slowed me right down. I felt really good after the run...although my HR was high for a training run. Andy Tucker would not be happy with that!

I took Friday as a rest day and on Saturday I went for a gentle recovery run. I ran 9km in 58 mins with an average pace of 6.27 bpm. Average HR was again around the 162 bpm mark (too high really).

My HR readings are a little frustrating...they seem to fluctuate so much depending on the time of day. The other issue I have is that as my runs get longer, especially during the week, then I need to up the pace in order to finish them before I go to work. This week I ran in the evening, but that was an exception. Usually it's first thing in the morning. That said,  I do need to start running at a faster pace.

Sunday was the Long Run again. This time I was without my running partner Robin. The plan was to run the following route: Wash Common - Newbury - Hungerford (along the A34) - Wickham - Stockcross - Newbury. Given there was no wind I wanted to up the pace but still keep to a HR no higher than 165 bpm.

I set off at 5.50am and headed down Andover Road into town. It was nice to start the run downhill! I reached Waitrose and the it was a long slow slog up to the bridge over the A34. I decided to slow the pace...bearing in mind my HR target. The run along the A4 to Hungford was pleasent. There was no wind and I able to run at close to or exceeding my marathon pace all the way to Hungerford; only slowing down slightly when running up a hill.

I hit Hungerford and swung a right at the Shell garage. I then walked for a couple of minutes at the base of Eddington Hill (A338) whilst taking on some food. At this point I'd covered 16 km and it had taken me 1 hr 38 mins. I tested the Alpen bar to see what it was like. It felt heavy to chew, and I was needing a lot of water to swollen it. It's a nice bar, but I'm not too sure I'd want to eat it during a warmer climate. Although I was walking a little (and my average pace for that km increasing), I felt it was more important to test the food. I then started moving my legs faster and started the ascent up Eddington Hill towards to the M4 junction. This was a bitch of a road. Traffic was a nightmare - they come round blind corners fast and there is no pavement to run along. Thankfully at that time of the morning it was quiet, but when a car did past me, I'm sure my HR spiked a little. The road itself seemed like a never-ending series of steep ascents and descents. A real leg-sapper, especially after already running 16 km. I eventually reached the M4, but even then the hills did not stop.

After stopping to take an energy gel and put my gap on,  I the proceeded along the road to
Run Elevation

Wickham. It's one thing running in the dark along a very long straight road (and not seeing the pain that lies ahead), but it's another doing it during the day when all you can see in front of you is miles of open road. Lots of descents and ascents mixed with long straights. Mentally it was a little challenge. I saw some cyclists (I'm sure I said hello to Gobi Lord as he flew past!) and thought, "wow, it's a lot easier cycling this route than running it!". No sooner do you get to a end of a long straight, then you turn the corner and there is another one. Running in the dark has it's advantages...and now I prefer to run in the dark.

I'd probably hit the 26 km mark and my legs were starting to feel the effect of the running on Thursday and Saturday. Breathing and HR were good, and very consistent, but my legs on the ascents were starting to feel heavy; I eventually hit Stockcross and psychologically I'd hit a milestone. I stopped to take another gel and realised I only had one more ascent to make - past the Vineyard restaurant. I came out back on the A4 and the bridge that crossed the A34. I ran back down the A4 towards Waitrose. I had to pick my car up as I'd left it at the Parkway car park. I hit the centre of town and ran along the high street. I finished at the entrance to Parkway and stopped the watch. It read 34.50km - perfect distance which I couldn't have planned better (I'd aimed for a 34.60 km).

HR Chart
I'd averaged 6:18 min/km and a 161 bpm. I was one very happy bunny. I was only 4 miles short of completing the marathon distance and I wasn't puffing or panting, although my legs did feel heavy. 

I was really pleased with this run. Yes it's not at Zone 2, but I am happy sitting at around the 160 bpm mark. I also seem to be running faster at the this HR range. Over the past 3 weeks I've been at this range, and my pace has increased each week.

Finding the Right Food
As you probably gathered from this and previous blogs, I am in the process of trying to find the right food to eat whilst running. In the past I've had jelly tots, jelly beans, jelly babies and various cereal bars, and none of them have been right for me. They are either too sweet, too dry, or too chewy. I used SiS gels, which are good, but a few they also become too sweet. On the Long Run

I've just bought some wine gums. I think wine gums and they aren't too sweet. They also contain the same amount of calories as jelly babies, so hopefully they'll work. I still need to find the right "bar" to munch on. I feel this is going to be case of trial and error, but hopefully I'll find something soon. I may give the Alpen bar another try next week, and eat it more slowly.

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