Saturday, 2 August 2014

The "Wife Zone"

I really wish I'd seen this years ago. Absolutely brilliant...

Monday, 14 July 2014

Marathon #2 - The Ranscombe Challenge

Trust me, I'm still just as surprised as you are when your brain has just computed that yes, I did indeed complete my second ever marathon last weekend.

Where the hell did that come from you ask?  I've got no idea.

When I signed up for the Ranscombe Challenge about three months ago, just before Paris, I was intending to run it as a marathon.  However, what with how my fitness had totally dropped off the scale over the last couple of months, the race arrived and I was in no fit state to even comtemplate running the full 26.2 miles.  Or so I thought.

A double helping of dinner on Friday night and I was carb-loaded.  Earlyish night followed by a 5:45am alarm call, I was up and out the door by 6:50am to arrive at Ranscombe Farm nature reserve at just after 7:10am.

Fueled on a bowl of porridge and a cup of tea, I was all immodiumed up for a minimum of 13.1 miles and anything else was going to be a huge bonus.  In my running belt I had 4-5 gels and a pack of jelly babies and I was carrying 2 x 500ml bottles of High 5 4:1, my drink of choice on events like this.

Other than running, the main reason for signing up to the Ranscombe Challenge was that I knew my old mate Kelsey was running with her nutty mates from Ashford's Run England club.  I had only seen Kelsey once in the last 8 years since she left Kings College London and we both went our separate ways (she was my boss at the time!)

I'd parked in the car park, walked up the slope to the start area and I could hear her booming northern Hartlepoole accent over everybody's.  Somethings never change...

Kelsey and I before the start of the Ranscombe Challenge...
Open arms, bear hugs, it was like the good old days at King's all over again.  Had a quick chat, had our photo taken together, got in the queue for the cleanest portaloo in history (and I'm not joking either!) and then we were off.

The Ranscombe Challenge is a multiple lap race with an 8hr time limit.  The rules were simple.  Do as many as the 3.8 mile laps as you fancied, making sure you can in to basecamp to refuel etc.  I sort of misheard that part as I didnt come back until I'd completed 5 laps and about 17.5 miles which had organisers Traviss and Rachel pulling their hair out with worry (sorry guys!)

From the elevation profile, I knew I was in for a reasonably tough time but I was determined to take it all in my stride.  Take it easy, run a nice easy pace, take some photos and try to enjoy the day as much as I can.  It certainly wasnt going to be the day or terrain to set any PBs so it was all about the experience.  Now that elevation profile.  Hmmm, mostly up for 2 miles then down for 1.5 miles before a little kick up again.  Brutal doesnt even cover it.

The Ranscombe Challenge elevation profile - approx 850 (2,800ft) of climbing in total for 26.2 miles

So off we went.  Within the first 500 yards, I'd rerranged my ears buds and hung the loose cable around the back of my neck.  I'd just settled into a rhythmn and silence.  The wire had got caught in the branches of an overhanging bush and the ear buds had been ripped frm my ears.  One of the ear moulds had gone so that was pretty much the end of the music for the duration, so I screwed them up and dropped them in my waist pouch.

That first lap was brutal.  It suddenly dawned on my how much climbing was involved...

Stunning scenery with the poppies out in bloom...

Brain set, I got down to concentrating on my running.  The hills were out of my comfort zone but as I could see, everyone around me was pretty much walking the hills then running the flat and downhill parts.  That made a lot of sense.  It kept the HR down to a manageable level and maximised the energy stores.  After all, a lot of the guys were not here to run a marathon, they were here to run ultra marathons and beyond.

The first lap was good.  Some challenging parts but I got it down.  Traviss stood at the top of the first climb and directed us back to base camp but I didnt get the hint that was what I was supposed to do and carried onwards.

At the end of lap 3, I'd pretty much made up my mind that lap 4 would be my last.  I was feeling ok but I thought it would be diabolically mad to attempt further.


Now halfway around the 4th lap, I caught up with a group that was going a little bit slower than me but not by too much but they were keen for me to pass them ASAP.  When I said it was ok and I was glad of a rest, they realised I was Kelsey's mate and started giving me some stick when I said I was only aiming for 4 laps.  "Oh, Kelsey would be ashamed of you, you know that dont you?"  Ha.  That was like a red rag to a bull.  So off I went on lap 5.  500 yards into lap 5 I could see a blue running top in the distance and I knew it was my old running mate Mel.  Perhaps I could catch her.  I did at the top of the the big climb and ran with her back to base camp.

It was only down to Mel that I learnt that I had to go back to base camp at the end of each lap.  What a donut.  We had a nice catch up about everything possible and thanks to Mel's encouragement and knowing I only had another 2 laps to do to complete the marathon, I went and did it.

26.2 miles in 5:20:18.  No where near my Paris time but I couldnt care less.  This had 25 times more climbing involved (minimum), it was off road and I wasnt as fit as I was then but I still bloody did it, only on the back of two 10 mile runs since Paris.  Remarkable considering.

Traviss giving me my well earned marathon bling...

Shattered doesnt even cover it.  Marathon #2 = done

So.  To start the race with only completing 3 laps to get my first half marathon distance race done since Paris to turn it into my second ever marathon with faltering fitness, no long runs behind me or any dedicated training, was nothing short of a miracle for me.

A huge thanks for Kelsey's friends for egging me on to do one more lap...which then turned into another two laps when I finally caught up with Mel who was bloody brilliant completing her 60th marathon.  I can only look on at her with complete envy and admiration.  A top lass, a bundle of laughs and a huge dollop of the grit and determination every marathon runner needs.  Mel, thanks for getting me to the end honey as without you, there's no way I would have managed laps 6 and 7 :)

Monday, 7 July 2014

Cause for optimism

As I write this blog post tonight, I'm in a great place.  There's certainly cause for optimism.

Regular readers will know I've struggled fitness-wise since Paris.  I still dont know the reasons why but my fitness has dropped off and I've put on a little weight.  Not a huge amount but enough to make more than a difference.

So as a result of that, I've had my head down back into some cross training.  I've been back on the bike, I've been back in the Gym and I've been counting the calories again.  Not religiously counting but ensuring I'm running a calorie deficit over a 7 day period and we're now coming up to a month of doing that again.

5lb down and the legs are coming back.

Since Paris, the longest I had run was 10 miles, which was with the Plums on a Sunday morning, 2 weeks afer the marathon.  So a good 2.5 months ago now.  What with my next "race", the Ranscombe Challenge ahead of me this coming Saturday, I know I needed to start upping the mileage, starting last week.

I ran 10 miles on Wednesday night...

I struggled massively. My legs ached, I knew I wasnt going to be quick but I tried to hold 9:30 min/mile pace but it was hard. No gels, just one bottle of High 5 4:1 but I was gone after 7 miles and the last 3 miles were hell on earth.

I was a bit despondant after that. Ok, the plan was to run it reasonably slowly to ensure I could complete it without issue but the last couple of miles really did bug me. 3 months ago, that run wouldnt even have touched the sides at that pace and here I am now struggling.

Thursday,  I went to the Gym.  I forced myself to run the 2 miles there and back, for a warm up and cool down which gave me another 4 miles in the legs.  The legs were stiff, no denying that but just under 9 min/mile pace there and a fraction over 9:30 min/mile pace on the way back after a heavy TRX session and smashing the abs was just what the doctored ordered.

Friday and Saturday I had Izzy, so it was a well earned 2 day rest.

Then on to Sunday.  The plan was to run another 10 miler, in preparation for Ranscombe.  This time around, it was an early start so should be to my advantage.  I was well hydrated from the day before, I'd had my porridge an hour before the run and I felt reasonably comfortable.  This time around, I was taking 2 gels with me for the ride as I knew my legs have been feeling it around Mile 4 and then I needed to start thinking about the end of the run too...

Wow. Hello. Where the hell did that come from? I've just rolled the clock back six months to before marathon training.

My first 10 mile run in less than 90 minutes for well over 6 months, certainly the quickest this year by a considerable margin and not too far off my half marathon PB pace.  I'll take that with open arms.

The first mile was slow.  The legs felt a little stiff but I didnt push and I just let the legs try and flow and keep a steady rhythmn and a nice constant cadence.

Miles 2-3 were quicker.  As I hit Danson Park at 4, I took my first gel as the legs were just beginning to tighten a little.  I have to say I dont particularly like the loop of the park which follows the Park Run route, so I dropped down by the church and back along Danson Lane before cutting back in again.  Always good to overtake a plodder on the upward drag, run past, drop down them and when you come back in the park at the gate, you can see them about 300 yards ahead and you then use that motivation to drag them back in again.  It must be soul destroying for them once they realise you're passing them for the second time in a matter of minutes despite running half a mile further.

After one lap of the park, I dropped back down to Crook Log and hit the back roads but I was beginning to fly.  I was upping the tempo and I felt reasonably good.  The twinge in the legs had gone and I was loving my running again.

Something that should be noted is his was the first time I'd run without music in my ears since the marathon.  Perhaps thats exactly what I needed.  Just to focus on my breathing and not on the music.  Concentrate on keeping a rhythmn. It clearly worked.

Crook Log, Brampton Road, Barrington Road, passing the old family home in Northdown Road and along Wickham Street back to Welling Station where I finally clocked 10 miles but the last 3 miles was quick.  Seriously quick.

8:48, 8:38, 8:20.   Wow, last mile at 8:20.  Is this some kind of joke?  No, the legs were back.  I hadnt felt this good in at least 2.5 months since Paris.  Check out the pace analysis from Strava...

First mile slowest, last mile quickest.  Thats a sure sign that the legs are definitely coming back.  Happy?  You bet I bloody am.

If thats not an advert for ensuring you're hydrated properly pre-run and the need for on-the-run fueling then I dont know what is.

What a difference 3 days can make...

Yesterday's run is quite possibly the icing on the cake at the moment.

I'm in a great place mentally at the moment, life is pretty good and I havent got much to moan about, believe it or not.  Long may this positivity continue!