The big news is that I have decided to withdraw from the North Downs 100 this year. I spent a lot of time deliberating whether to withdraw now, later or see if I could get the necessary training in and hope for the best but the reality is that I don’t want to put myself through it knowing that I am not ready.
Last time I got to 60 miles but fell apart and I would have concerns over even getting that far. I would rather take my name off the list and let someone else who wants to do the race have the chance. That said I am still hopefully going to be involved as I have offered to man an aid station if needed.
I wanted to write that the barefoot experience is a positive one but today’s run (albeit not barefoot but in my Xeros) has left me feeling quite frustrated and really coming to the end of my tether with running in general.
Running home my left knee started to hurt and progressively got worse until I had to stop, I stretched and started again after the pain went but it quickly returned. That was the summary of the rest of the run home, stopping, pain, stopping and so on.
The pain was located on the outside of the knee so can only assume its IT band related, so once again I am back to the drawing board and a frustrated runner who just wants to run!
However self pity to one side for the moment, I have a plan and am putting it out to the world to give a sense of accountability if I don’t stick to it.
I have drafted a daily conditioning plan below:
200 meters barefoot everyday – 2 minutes estimate
Plank 45 Seconds x 3
Single Leg Squat x 5 each leg
Eccentric Calf Raises x 10
Side-lying Abduction x 10 each side (use resistance band as strength improves)
Pelvic Drop x5
Kneeling hip flexor stretch
Calf Stretch (Result Sport Calf Stretchers)
Groin (feet together, sitting)
Hopefully the combination of strength, stretching and running form work everyday will slowly get me fixed and able to run. I think the problem is due to my form changing and the muscles not knowing what has happened, so I need to basically re-train myself from scratch (I sound like a broken record the number of times I have ‘gone from scratch’)
The only race I have is in June and I am going to drop to the half instead of the full marathon and that will be a ‘just get round affair’
Anyway, hopefully in a few weeks time I will be in a more positive state.
Should anyone reading this have any thoughts/suggestions please leave a comment, any advice will be welcome.
Third week has gone and well into the fourth now, last week I ran last Tuesday 2.6 miles (longest so far) totally barefoot but after that my feet were tender for a few days so I ran on the Friday and Saturday with my Xero’s with a short barefoot warm down afterwards.
Yesterday (Week 3) I ran at lunch barefoot again, feet having recovered and set a new distance record of just over 3.10 miles (5km) and other than my feet again feeling tender the rest of my body felt relaxed and at ease.
It could just be me but I do feel like my feet are slowly changing shape, my big toe on both feet seems to have more mobility and my arches seem to be more pronounced. Outside of my feet my glutes now feel like they are firing more and my calf muscles, while still not 100%, feel relaxed. It’s a slow process and there is part of me that wants to get some shoes on and go for a long run, or run at the speeds I know I can before making the change but the ‘enforced’ training limits by being led by my feet long term feels like the right thing to do.
I do have a concern over my race plans for the year, I don’t see me being ready for a marathon in June and the NDW 100 might be off the table as well. I have a line in the sand date of May 18th to make a call on the NDW 100 and already probably going to drop to the half in June but hopefully what I lose out on this year will be paid back with many injury free years of running in the future.
Still early days, but if nothing else every run is truly exciting again.
This is my second Snowdonia Marathon, having completed the 30th anniversary race in 2012 (Previous Race Review) so I knew that this would be both a tough but amazing race.
My plan had been to try to improve on my previous time (and current marathon PB) and after sporadic training and the drain of running the North Downs Way 50 and Richmond Park Marathon the day after (Race Review) I had been making significant gains in my fitness and overall speed so was looking good for achieving my aim.
That was until around 5 weeks ago where those plans all came crashing down around me, at the start of a run around 400 yards in my right calf went and pretty much from that day to the start line of the marathon I had done no running (the actual total was 2 miles a week after the original injury where it recurred again)
Some frantic physio booking and praying to anyone that would listen I found myself at the start line of this years Marathon Eryri. I was with Gareth (who I ran the 2012 marathon with) who had also got aim of beating his time and marathon PB. To say I was nervous was an understatement, last time I ran I got 1 mile before my calf went again and there was the fear that I would get no further this time.
The race starts at Llanberis and follows the A4086, through Nant Peris then up Pen-y-Pass. This is a pretty demanding climb and I was worried that the strain of the ascent would cause things to go horribly wrong.
With the count down underway there was nothing for it but to just hope I could make it to 18 miles under the cut off, if I could do this then I should be able to finish even if that meant a death march. As the race started and we crossed the line I could already feel the lack of running had impacted me more that I had expected. My heart rate had spiked well above what it was in training and for the pace I was running even with the hill was not good. I voiced this concern to Gareth and said that if he wanted to go ahead he should, to his credit he said he would stick with me.
About 3 miles in was a water station, however as we arrived it seemed to be having issues as the cups were getting blown everywhere and it didn’t appear to have any water available. This was not a real issue as another water station was a mile or so further away at the top of the climb. Pushing on my heart felt like it was jumping out my throat and my hips and quads were aching already, however my calf seemed to be holding up so I focused on this positive.
After the top of Pen Y Pass it is then a fairly steep descent which allowed me to reduce the effort somewhat and try to bring things back under control. The road then gives way to some trail which was a nice break in the repetitive plod. I was keeping pace with Gareth by the number of walking breaks I was requiring was increasing and I could see that he could go faster. After a quick stop for me to sort a toe out before it blistered around 11 miles in I said to Gareth again that he has to go, I didn’t want to stop him from going for his goal especially after the support he gave at the Richmond Park Marathon.
I was fairly insistent and he agreed to go on ahead and he was pretty quickly gone from my sight. It was just after this that the heavens opened which combined with the increasing pain in my legs lead me to feel quite low. I pushed on though at a more moderate pace interspersed with walking.
One of the reasons I love this race is the locals who come out to support the runners, I remember passing a line of children standing in the pouring rain giving high fives to the runners as they passed. I obliged and it was amazing how that lifted me, I had reached 13 miles and I was damn well going to finish run, walk or crawl.
From half way to 22 miles it is undulating road, my run/walk strategy had turned into walk/run/hobble but I was still moving forward which was the important thing. The support from the crowds kept me going and I made a point of saying thankyou to everyone who offered their support.
22 miles is where the runners start the climb of Bwlch Y Groes, a climb going from 116 meters to 376 meters in just under 3 miles. I remembered this from last time and it was just as imposing, however here I found myself passing people on the climb. I was walking but walking at a determined pace. It was probably the fact that I knew I would finish the race whatever happened which gave me the extra boost.
The climb is not the hardest part though, the descent that follows is a quad smashing brute dropping all that ascent in about a mile. This was extremely painful and I was a hobbling mess at the bottom.
I normally have something left in the tank for a ‘sprint’ finish but this time I had nothing, I think a couple of people passed me at the end but I had nothing to respond with. I saw Gareth and he managed to get a photo of me as I passed
I crossed the line in 05:06:02, about 25 minutes slower than my PB but I had made it. I met up with Gareth and he told me that he had set a new PB (Read his blog on the race here)
To anyone who may read this who is wanting a marathon distance event to run then you couldn’t ask for a better event, the support from the crowds, the organisation, views and challenge of the climbs and descents set it apart from the rest. I am a trail runner and don’t generally do road events, but this is one that I will always make an exception for.
I will be doing it again next year, I want to run it at peak fitness and see what I can do, I urge you when it becomes available to sign up to do the same.
My last post was ages ago, I think May following the NDW50/Richmond Park Marathon effort.
Suffice to say I need to start posting more and actually write some of the gear reviews that I had planned as well as race reviews. The good news is my training has really picked up over the last few weeks as well as me loosing about 2 kilos of weight, meaning that running and cycling is getting easier meaning I can run and cycle more!
The last two weeks is where it has really slotted into place, with 35 mile week of running and 62 miles of cycling followed by a 43 mile week of running and 51 miles of cycling.
The next events planned is the Snowdonia Marathon followed by the Winter Fandance (Clean Fatigue) so I will focus on writing about my build-up to these as well as the longer term plan for the (in hushed tone) North Downs Way 100 in 2015
Normally I wouldn’t combine two race write ups but this is a rather unique case.
Last year I signed up again for the NDW50 after my DNF on the NDW100. I wanted to get more runs under my belt with a view to entering the 100 in 2015. A while after entering the 50, Gareth (who I run a lot with) emailed me a link to the Richmond Park Marathon
Looking at the details it looked a good one to do, one problem though, it was the day after the 50. Most people would probably say “sod that” but inevitably my ego drove me to think “why not, it will be good training”
Fast forward and I was standing at the start of the NDW50 waiting for the off
NORTH DOWNS WAY 50, 17th May 2014
I won’t go into too much detail about the race its self, suffice to say its a 50 mile point to point from Farnham to Knockholt Pound across the North Downs. If you want more detail on I have a previous post from 2012 on the run: Ultraplodder Blog North Downs Way 50 2012 or visit the Centurion running homepage: Centurion Running
I always like the start of these events, you can feel the anticipation and nerves all around you. I had a stretch goal of 11 hours and a plan B of 11:30 (10 mins slower than my PB) and at the start was reasonably confident that I would be able to achieve at least plan B, I was wrong.
The race started and we were all off, the start is pretty flat when comparing it to the rest of the North Downs and its a good opportunity to ease into things and keep the pace reasonable before hitting some of the more challenging sections. The first 6 or so miles to Aid Station I felt fine, it was getting warm but it was manageable. It was after leaving this that the voice started, a hell of a lot earlier than usual.
In anything that pushes you towards your physical limits there will come a point where a voice in your head will start to tell you all sorts of negative things, normally this doesn’t happen until later on, usually half way.
The heat was really starting to drain me, it still being early in the day this was worrying me. I felt like I was struggling to take on enough fluids and salts (I spent most of the day feeling sick) and the other thought was “you have to run a marathon tomorrow”. I had failed at the 100 and the thought of failing this was a big worry for me.
I was lucky to have Gareth crewing for me and meeting him at aid 2 cheered me up a bit, as did the coconut water he carried. Once I was off again the negative thoughts started to creep in again.
I tried to suppress these as much as possible but it was turning into a drag and I could already see plan A and plan B slipping away with me just hoping for a finish within the cut off. I forget where but I met up with Garry who I ran a large proportion of the NDW100 with last year. He was running with a friend, Karen, who was doing her first ultra and the chat lifted my spirits. They were progressing well and tried to keep the pace with them but I felt myself slipping behind.
Rather than make a song and dance about it I let them carry on ahead (sorry both if I didn’t say goodbye, I just didn’t want you to feel obliged to hang around) and got my head down to plod forward. This mental struggle continued through Box Hill, Reigate and Caterham (a good proportion of the race!). Each time I would reach an aid station or a meeting point with Gareth, have some more food and water and carry on. I started to feel more positive from Caterham to Botley Hill, despite my slow pace I had enough time left that I was fairly certain that I would at least finish under the cut off.
Botley Hill to the finish at Knockholt Pound my feelings would range, I missed a turning which was a set back and several fields had rather a lot of cows who seemed to be intent on blocking my way. Also, for those who have done the race before or know the route, this section seems to take forever and is really mentally draining. Each gate you pass through you hope for the road which will lead to the finish and instead you are presented with another field, it can be quite demoralising.
I did finish however and made it within the cut-off, my time being 12:41:59, pretty much at the back of the fields and widely off my targets but crossing that line was just the best feeling.
As usual the organisers had put together another brilliant event and the volunteers who manned the aid stations made it all the better, their enthusiasm and willingness to help is what can make the difference between someone giving into the desire to quit or pushing forwards.
I didn’t have time to reflect on the day, I had to focus on getting as much food and rest as possible for the following days challenge.
Richmond Park Marathon, 18th May 2014
Sore, that’s how I felt as I got out of bed that morning. I had been luck on the 50 in that I had no blisters on my feet and chaffing around ‘sensitive’ areas was minimal (although still noticeable!). I had already prepped my gear so it was a case of getting up and getting dressed. Gareth was running the marathon as well and he picked me up around 7am.
After sorting ourselves out at the race start and waiting for 09:30 for things to kick-off it had become very apparent that today was going to be warmer than yesterday, something which I really wasn’t happy about. I had used bottles in my Inov8 race vest on the 50 but for the marathon had switched to the bladder, which had 2 litres of electrolytes in it. This combined with the aid stations was hopefully enough to see me through and prevent any dehydration issues.
The race started Gareth and I had set off together, the pace was slow and running was something which my legs were very much telling me not to do. I can’t remember where I first said it but I told Gareth it was ok if he wanted to shoot off ahead, he was after all going much slower than he would be able to on his own. To his credit he said he would stick with me and even when we had to adopt a run/walk strategy very early on.
The Richmond Park Marathon route was split into a 12 mile twisting lap around the park followed by two 7.1 mile laps. There were several aid station points dotted around the course and as per previous day the enthusiasm of the volunteers was fantastic. Also, they were bordering on Ultra style aid stations, with Flapjacks, Banana’s, Jelly Babies and Apples to name a few so that really helped perk me up.
On the first 12 miles the section from mile 9 to 12 was really quite tough, it was along the middle of the park and was feeling the full brunt of the sun, with little to no shade. It was here that I really started to doubt by ability to continue, my legs were dead and each burst of effort to run was becoming harder and harder to maintain. Gareth continued to motivate and pace (drag) me along and we had a quick pit stop at his car to grab some fluids and then crossed the 12 mile mark.
Mentally this was a big plus, effectively half way. There was still plenty of time within the 6.5 hour cut off and although we were moving slowly, it wasn’t terrible. The first 7.1 mile lap around the park was better but still a struggle, everything was telling me to stop. We continued, passing aid stations and me grabbing an apple whenever I could (I couldn’t get enough of them!)
As we approached the end of the first lap you had straight on for the second lap and a turn right for start/finish. The crowds were cheering as other runners were coming to the end of their marathon, Gareth and I carried on straight much to our amusement.
It was the last lap where Gareth and I agreed he would run off ahead. There was plenty of time for me to finish at the pace I was going and mentally I was in a good place. There was part of me that wanted to run alone as well, I wanted to just put some music on and take myself away from the pain and exhaustion.
This was probably the most emotionally varied 7.1 miles of my life, one minute I was ready to collapse and the next I was holding back tears of joy. I distinctly remember crossing mile 24 and realising that finishing was a certainty, it was then that I almost burst into tears. This happened again at 25 and 26, with the last 200 yards being a long drag over the line.
Gareth was at the end waiting and I think I was a bit delirious as I couldn’t really make any decisions on anything (other than I wanted to sit down for a bit) so Gareth sorted me out some food and drink.
It was a long day and I finished in 05:45, the race itself was so well organised and the volunteers who worked the aid stations and marshalled were all brilliant, I would absolutely do this race again (maybe not with 50 miles the day before though).
North Downs Way 50
Centurion events are always amazingly well organised and this year was no exception, the aid stations were well stocked with fantastic volunteers manning them and the medical support on the day was fantastic (I didn’t have to use it but witnessed it being used). If you are planning a 50 or 100 mile Ultra into Ultra running a Centurion event is one of the best.
Richmond Park Marathon
A great marathon and definitely one to do again, well organised and great aid stations with great volunteers cheering you on, again medical support on the day was excellent. The goody bag at the end was a nice touch, with T-Shirt, medal and a mug (which is now sitting on my desk at work). For another perspective on the Richmond Park Marathon Gareth has written a blog on his experiences over the weekend: Gareth Davies PT
The two days were hard, that’s a given, but they were harder than they should have been. This is in part due to the warm conditions and the lack of opportunity to acclimatise, but the real reason is I didn’t train enough and didn’t train smart. My longest run up to that day was about 19 miles which simply isn’t enough, I think to an extent I was complacent given that I had run the distance before and didn’t appreciate how I would be affected.
I am still deciding my future plans but suffice to say it will be something of a reset and back to basics, rebuilding my running form and core strength, then building the distance back up. The next Ultra I do I want to feel ready as I have been asking myself, ‘if I can do that on little training, what can I do when properly prepared?’