Training seemed to be going so well with my mileage, pace and general fitness improving week by week but it seems that my objective of besting my time for the marathon is unlikely.
The actual injury happened about two weeks ago, I had run in the morning and cycled to and from work and feeling good I thought i would go for a short evening run. My calf had been a little tight in the morning but I just put it down to needing a bit of a stretch, not anticipating that what was about to happen.
0.4 miles into my evening run I had what felt like a stabbing pain in the inside of the right calf, causing me to stop immediately. Thinking it might be cramp or something I tried to stretch and carry on but all I could manage was a hobble. It was clear that all I could do was turn around and limp home.
I had a about 5 rest, with my limp disappearing and did some cycling and on Saturday 4th October I my calf felt ok so decided to do a short run. First mile felt fine albeit but around half a mile into the second my calf felt like it was swelling and the pain returned. I took this as a sign to stop and walked home very disheartened.
I am now into day 3 of complete rest, no cycling and only some core work, stretching and foam rolling. I am looking to book a physio appointment this week to see what the issue is and how severe, good thing is that following Saturday I haven’t been limping and while I can still feel that something is wrong, there isn’t any pain.
So, no running for 3 weeks and the vain hope that my body will repair itself for Snowdonia.
My posting has become a bit lacklustre recently and one of my New Year resolutions is to post more frequently. This is going to prove easier to do as following an injury plagued 2013 I have a good selection of races planned for 2014:
18/01/2014 – Fan Dance Race Winter Edition
16/03/2014 – Leith Hill Half Marathon
17/05/2014 – North Downs Way 50
18/05/2014 – Richmond Park Marathon
21/06/2014 – Trail Half Marathon Wales
25/10/2014 – Snowdonia Marathon
Yes I have the dates right, that is a Marathon the day after the 50 miler. My long-term plan is to run the NDW100 in 2015 and this year is all about building up to that, so a 50 mile followed by 26.4 miles seems to be quite good training (and the idea is quite appealing)
As well as my training progress I am going to try to get some more reviews of various bits of kit posted as I have let this slide as well and I have several items that have had some serious road testing.
The Fan Dance is fast approaching and I have my fingers crossed that the weather improves, I was hoping for snow but this seems unlikely now so I will settle for dry.
I have been meaning to write a longer review on these trainers following my first impressions post ages ago, I have run a marathon in them (my first in zero drop shoes) and several medium distance road runs since, I have come to a painful (literally) conclusion; “Not for me”.
This was not the decision I wanted to come to, I love the Minimus trail range of shoes and really wanted to like their road focused brother but it was not to be. In terms of the design I love some of the tweaks that New Balance have put in place over their other Minimus shoes, such as the tongue being attached one side. I also really like the feel when you put them on, almost like wearing a slipper they do feel really comfortable which makes the issues I have had with them all the more surprising.
Wearing such a shoe for the first time on a marathon probably wasn’t the best idea, but having run in other Minimus trainers (including the trail zero drop version of this one) I was reasonably confident that blisters wouldn’t be an issue. I was mistaken in this belief, and about 3 miles into my run noticed a sore point occurring under the ball of my left foot, this progressively got worse as the race went on and although it didn’t prevent me from finishing, I was left with a rather angry blister at the end.
Post-race I put this down to the socks that I had been wearing, I couldn’t believe it would be the shoes as I had never had this problem with the others from the range. With this in mind, my next run (after blister recovery!) I wore them again with some socks that I knew were never going to give me a problem (I wore these for my Ultra) but again, same spot on my left foot a blister started forming. I persisted with the shoes for a few more runs but with no respite from the blistering I have had to shelve these for running completely.
I am still not sure why this problem occurs, it could simply be the fit of the shoe, the repetitive nature of road running over trail running, or a combination of both which gives me the issue; although I have run in the MT00 trainers on the road and have not had any blisters so I am more inclined to think it is the trainer. As I have said it is a shame because the trainers themselves from an aesthetic point of view are really nice, well designed, light weight and made with good materials.
I guess that a lesson here is that just because you have no problems with other trainers in a range, you can’t assume that they will all be alike. I am still going to wear them, as I say they are comfortable to wear so I will continue using them as casual wear.
With the end of 2012 in sight (and no apocalypse to speak of) it seemed a good time tolook at my statistics for the year and the challenges that await in 2013
Using Good Run Guide I have been able to grab some statistics for all my runs using a GPS watch (any that have been done on a treadmill or using my Runkeeper App are not included)
Logged Runs 2012 by Month
Looking back over the year, its interesting that my distance for a month peaked in May with the NDW50 being in August. I was loosely following a training plan however lost my way a bit with this and June and July where as the mileage should have been increasing further I actually dropped back. Also looking at Jan to Feb it is worrying the leap in distance from 34 miles up to 126, definitely not following the 10% rule there.
Pace over Time
This graph is more indicative of the training plan for the NDW50. As it was my first Ultra my absolute focus was on managing my energy levels and running efficiency, so runs were always planned with pacing in mind. Obviously August was where the pace was slowest but you can see that following this I started to speed up again.
Races by Month
Races from Jan are:
January – Asics Wildman 10km
March – Asics Trailman 13km
April – Offa’s Orror 20km
May – Denbies 10mile
June – Trail Marathon Wales
July – Pen Y Fan Race
August – North Downs Way 50 mile
October – Snowdonia Marathon
December – Grim Original 2012
Whats happening in 2013
Well, first and foremost it’s getting over my Achilles injury (more on how this is going in a separate post) but in terms of races I am already booked up for the North Downs Way 50 in May, Trail Marathon Wales in June and the North Downs Way 100 in August. I will probably look to do the Pen Y Fan race again as I really do like this one and the Grim Original may also be on the list.
I list these as races but the focus is the NDW100 so everything before that will be considered training, of which I need to make sure that I get the miles in my legs. Suffice to say I will be spending a lot of time on the North Downs Way.
‘The inaugural Snowdonia Marathon was held in 1982, and was conceived as a dramatic alternative to the numerous city and town races becoming so popular. The demanding and spectacular route, encircling Snowdon, Wales’ and England’s highest peak, has given the event a unique place in the annual marathon calendar ever since.’ (source www.snowdoniamarathon.co.uk)
So as the description states and the image shoes, this marathon is a run around Snowdon starting in Llanberis, through Nant Peris then up Pen-y-Pass. Following this it is a downhill and both on road and a brief stint on trail, then undulating road past until reaching the second of the climbs at Beddgelert. After this climb it is more undulating road until hitting the biggest climb of the race at mile 22 just past Waunfawr. This climb continues until about mile 25 before a steep descent back into Llanberis and the finish line.
With the profile giving an indication of the amount of climb involved, this is by no means you classic practically flat marathon with a view for setting PB’s if you have previously run marathons. To put it into perspective how a different a beast this run is, the London Marathon has a total climb of around 174 meters, just compare the below profiles to get an idea.
Going into this run, I knew it was going to be a challenging, with the potential for the weather to really add to the challenge!
It had been a long time coming, with the NDW50 well behind me I had been waiting for this race to bring my running year to a close. Training for this specific event had been sporadic but I felt I had a base level of fitness following the work done previously so although I was uncertain of what time I would be able to achieve, I knew I would be able to get around.
I was going to be running this race with Gareth, who crewed the NDW50 for me, with this event being his first marathon. With race number on, kit ready and feeling the anticipation of the race starting we headed to the start line with about 1600 other runners.
The race started and we headed off, the course is pretty flat for the first couple of miles before hitting the climb up to Pen-y-Pass from mile 2 to 4. The first 6 or so miles went by in a flash, the general atmosphere of all the runners around us carrying us forward and our pace reflected this averaging about 10 minute mile, increasing slighty on the uphill but us making up time on the downhill. The one section that caused me what would be a repeated problem later on was the section after Pen-y-Pass of about 2km which was on a trail. I was wearing New Balance Minimus Road, zero drop shoes and with the rocks and uneven surface I was getting a lot of discomfort on my feet as the soles of these shoes are very thin and designed primarily for the road.
We got past this section pretty quickly and before we knew it we had hit the half marathon mark in 02:04:26, a new PB for Gareth and I. As we crossed this milestone the second of the climbs was upon us, heading out from Beddgelert. As the legs were starting to feel it we opted to walk this hill, although when I say walk it is more of a march so as to minimise the impact on our time. With this hill out the way from mile 15 to 22 the course undulated along the road heading Waunfawr. During this section we were experiencing the support of the local people, with kids and adults shouting their support and offering high fives. This really kept us motivated, particularly as my choice of zero drop shoes may have been a step to far. My arches were starting to suffer and with the balls of my feet getting sore maintaining the proper gait was getting harder and harder and I kept dropping to my heels which was causing further pain.
My problems were not going to get any easier as we hit mile 22 and the last (and biggest) climb of the race. After 22 miles the last thing you want to see is a climb going from 116 meters to 376 meters in just under 3 miles. This was punishing, there is no other word for it and we were not alone as other runners were suffering as well. We passed people who were struggling with injuries, trying to stretch out their legs and one runner who was throwing up (possibly the dodgy stomach that can come from too much carb gels). This 3 miles of pain was taking its toll and the decent into Llanberis was no better. Dropping from 376 meters to back under 116 meters in about 1 mile just destroys any remaining strength in the legs.
With the balls of my feet in agony and literally no strength in my arches it was a struggle to carry on but with the finish almost there I thought I was over the worst of it, I was wrong. With the finish now in sight both calf muscles cramped up and I literally couldn’t move. This is the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced, Gareth who had carried on about 10 yards turned back and asked what was happening, I said cramp and for him to carry on. Gareth wasn’t having any of that and said we are going to finish it together, so I did the best to stretch and started running, both legs still cramping as I ran to get over the line.
Crossing that line was the greatest feeling in the world, we had done the marathon despite the aches and pains and set a much better time that we anticipated. What topped it off was seeing my wife and kids waiting for me and giving them a hug just made the day even better.
Would I recommend it?
In a word, yes. The organisation is great, the atmosphere fantastic and the route amazing. I myself am a trail runner at heart but this is one road marathon that I can see me doing again. If you have done a marathon in the past and are looking for a road marathon with amazing views and something a bit different (read significant climbs) then this is for you. It is a run that everyone should add to their bucket list.