Friday, March 30, 2012

Session with Rory Coleman

On Tuesday, I went over to Fitness First in Derby and had a "refresher" session with Rory Coleman. Basically, we chatted for an hour then we did an hour in the gym.

We discussed where I am and what I want to do. He described me as "being in a fog"! He really thinks I can go a long way (metaphorically, that is!) in ultra-running but need to really re-focus and work to a plan. We discussed the fact that I like the adventure but he pointed out window of opportunity for running representatively is small but the events will always be there - very true! He is so positive about my ability - I must listen. He thinks I'm crazy for doing The Spine (but at least I didn't do it all!) and taking on The Viking Way Ultra. Diet was in there as well. He joined with Jenny and my Mum in saying I don't eat enough - I may listen to one of them one day!!

Bottom-line is, after the Viking Way, I going to recover well, then focus on some key races. I'm going to enter the Celtic Plate in July which is an event to get "spotted"at - 100km round a park in Cardiff. To this end, I probably do the Woodhall Spa 10km, and Humber 1/2 marathon in June as build-up - need to work on some speed now! Will have to save the UTLD for another year.

An hour in the gym with Rory is always "fun". He introduced me to some treadmill sessions including The Kenyan which basically involves running very steeply uphill quickly for 2 minutes, then 1 minute rest, to be repeated for 30 minutes. He tried to break me......but no way! Then some weights - 3 minutes continuous leg presses, leg extensions and seated squats. Hello Mr Lactic Acid!

All in all , a really good and helpful session. Rory knows which buttons to push and I have to now re-focus, work towards a goal, and transfer a really solid winter base to some great performances. It's probably going to hurt but pain is only temporary.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ultra Race Grantham, 10th-11th March 2012, 29.3 miles x2

A rather belated write up of the UltraRace Grantham event – 29.3 miles along the Grantham canal on Saturday and 29.3 miles back on Sunday morning. A dead flat route along the canal from Cotgrave to Grantham and back again.

I went into this event mainly as training for the Viking Way Ultra and also to see where the winter’s training, concentrating on some big miles and strength, had got me – quite a long way as it turned out. As such, I hadn’t tapered fully – I normally back off the weekend before a race but had actually done a back-to-back 34 & 18 miles the weekend before.

Day 1
Saturday dawned fine with the recent high winds much lighter. Arrived at the start at Cotgrave, and said hi to Rory and Jen, who assured me I couldn’t possibly go wrong on the route! Met Graeme and Felix from the MdS forum, and had a chat with Andy, whom I’d met at my first ultra, UltraRace Peaks, last August. After much indecision on clothing, I went for a short-sleeved top which proved a good decision.

Having planned a steady start, I soon myself in the lead group of five! After an early discussion on the correct route, Charlie Sharpe hurdled a fence, leaving Richard Quennell and myself running in 2nd. We chatted away to CP1 and 2 – Richard has represented GB and is more at home on the road and over longer distances. I was making sure to drink plenty and keep some energy going in – beginning to learn!! The two if us were joined by Barrie Jones & Toby Froschauer. Toby pushed on but Barrie dropped back again.

With Richard Quennell. I really was having fun at this point!
At CP3, we hit the grass and I quickly dropped Richard. I felt I was running really well – just over 4:30/km (7:12/mile), at a heart rate around 135. My max HR is about 162, and anaerobic threshold about 152 so I felt that from a cardiovascular point of view I was well within my comfort zone. The limiting factor was my legs – but that will come with “hours on legs” – I’m still a relative newbie.

I followed Toby for a couple of miles before catching him. We chatted for a while, he seemed to working quite hard – I always try and uses breathing rate as an indicator of other’s effort and strain. Unfortunately I now had to pay an urgent visit to the woods. Perhaps the brief rest was actually beneficial, but I soon caught and passed Toby, passing through the marathon in just under 3hrs 15. This is actually a marathon PB for me – I have only ever run one straight marathon, the Derby “Ramathon” in 1984 aged 19, finishing in 3:19 from memory. Have done 3:30 in an Ironman though.

Firmly had my sights on 2nd place now and my first placing in an ultra. Surprisingly, I hadn’t found the flat route boring or mindless at all. Living in Lincolnshire helps and race conditions make a difference too. I picked up my pace over the last 2-3 miles and soon left the canal and ran the last half-mile to the finish.

Finishing - with Jade chasing!

I was so chuffed crossing the line in 2nd place, especially with Jenny, James & Jade there to support me. Surprisingly Charlie was only 2 min ahead – I had presumed he was further and must have been catching him. I proudly accepted my first ever ultra trophy. It was really nice to have family there – they were all very pleased for me and very proud too, which was great.

All that remained was to ensure a rapid recovery to enable me to run back again in the morning! Checked into the hotel and quickly dunked myself in a cold bath accompanied by a ForGoodnessShake! Having had lunch, Jenny and the kids left me to my devices, and I had an afternoon replenishing fluids, grazing and watching rugby.

In the evening Rory and Jen held a very helpful and informative Q and A session, then it was off to bed for an early night.

Day 2
After a fairly restless night with a few oatcake and peanut butter snacks, I awoke feeling a bit stiff but not bad considering. Wasn’t sure how the legs were going to cope with another 29 miles – only 1 way to find out!

Someone asked me over breakfast if my legs were sore. I said yes, to which they replied, “It’s nice to know the top runners feel pain too”. Me…a top runner…food for thought indeed.
Soon we were under way in beautiful morning sunshine. Charlie Sharpe and Richard Q set off very quickly as I thought they would. I let them go but was surprised to catch them after half a mile or so. When we hit the grass at about 5 miles, I suddenly hit the lead.

At CP 1, Jen Salter, who had decided to race day 2, was just behind me with Charlie and Richard a minute or 2 down. Interesting. I was feeling great. Jen was obviously running to a set pace and I remember my heart rate being 130/131. At this pace I would finish 3-4 minutes slower than day 1. Having looked at previous results, the lead runners seemed to be about 10 minutes slower on day 2. Doubly interesting. I tucked in behind Jen – knowing that if I could maintain this pace, I would definitely win the men’s race.

Between CP2 & 3, it started to get tough. I was working hard to keep with Jen, and I started to doubt myself. Why couldn’t I just be happy with a good run rather a superb run? CP3 bought welcome relief – last stock up on fluid and Soreen loaf, and on with the last 8 miles.

Half a mile later, I simply had to pay an emergency visit to the woods and, this time, I just couldn’t get going again. My legs were cramping and mentally I think I’d lost my focus. I decided to walk for 2 minutes – no one in sight – but even then my legs (or my brain?) refused to run. Walked for a few more minutes and soon Richard came past, asked me if I was OK and was off. I tried to get running but it was fairly woeful. Hitting the road, Barrie Jones came flying by, looking very strong. It was time to mentally beat myself up – I was still safely in 3rd after all – and this time I settled into a steady jog and gradually watched the miles go down. Back on the canal, I began to properly get going again and moved swiftly towards the finish at the leisure centre, which seemed to arrive rather sooner than expected.

As I crossed the line, Rory declared me the winner of the men’s race – Jen had already finished. I knew that I had been in 3rd and as I hadn’t overtaken anyone then I definitely hadn’t won third. Looking at my Garmin I realised I was just under a mile short. Whoops. Mr Wrongturn had struck again!! I had turned off the canal too short. I was, quite rightly DQ’d. Silly me! Shortly after, Barrie finished in first place with Richard just behind. Charlie finished third.

So was I disappointed? Well, initially, yes, as I’d stupidly lost the chance of a second placing for the weekend. However, overall, it had been a really pleasing weekend. My primary aim was for a solid weekend’s training in build up for the Viking Way Ultra, and I’d hoped to win a trophy! My winter’s training has obviously put me in a good place physically and I had felt strong on both days. Mentally I had run Saturday’s race in a very positive frame of mind, trying to focus on the now rather than the finish. Sunday had been testing – on hindsight I’d probably gone a bit too hard early on, and I need to be mentally stronger to really push when the going gets tough. So came out of it feeling very positive.
I drove home on a lovely sunny spring day, roof down, music blaring!

Roll on Viking Way!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

The fickle British weather

Friday morning - a lovely 34 miles in early spring sunshine

Sunday morning - a miserable 18 miles in the rain

Both bizarrely satisfying in very different ways!

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Viking Way - another recce

So yesterday I got the 05:57 train from Lincoln to Market Rasen, arriving just as the light did. I managed to find a very pleasant path through some woods towards Tealby.  Some local frost but lovely in dawn's first light.

Once in Tealby, I picked up the Viking Way and immediately found a hill in Lincolnshire up to the mighty height of 149m! On to Ludford where the route wasn't really signed at all but fortunately the map was very clear. Next followed a very pleasant section through the wolds to Donnington on Bain - accompanied only by bright sunshine and the sun of bird song. Gorgeous.

The route on to Goulceby seemed to have a gate every 100 metres which was really annoying and broke my rhythm a bit. The last mile into Goulceby was a bit boggy in places and required some careful attention to the map and surrounding features, as some of the next bit to Scamblesby.

The section to Belchford and then Fulletby was lovely. A short sharp hill up and over to Belchford was again a little boggy in places and another hill before Fulletby. From there, the route was very clear across farmland and down into Horncastle. Checking my Garmin, I had covered 27 miles and felt really good

I pushed onto Woodhall Spa. This section was along the Horncastle Canal, very flat but picturesque then followed a disused railway, very flat, very straight and very boring! Across Woodhall Spa golf course and  arrived in Woodhall Spa 5 minutes before my bus to Lincoln! Good timing!

34 miles, 4:55 hours running. A really enjoyable run through a lovely part of England.

Route-wise all pretty easy to follow and well signed apart from the few short sections mentioned but I kept a constant on my map and knew when turns etc were coming up. Conditions underfoot were pretty good, but this section definitely warranted the trail shoes I was wearing - some of it would have been tricky in road shoes.

I've now covered the section from Tealby to Barkston (near Grantham) and am really excited about the race - can't wait.

Next up - UltraTrace Grantham next weekend. Back to back 29 miles on saturday and Sunday. Treating this more as 2 long training runs and only going to partially taper. Also have to try and pass my fitness test on Tuesday!!

Friday, March 02, 2012

Viking Way recce's

Last Friday I decided to recce the Viking Way from Woodhall Spa to Lincoln. This section may well be in the dark come race day so a sensible bit to do.

I left work early on Friday afternoon, and drove the short distance from Coningsby to Woodhall Spa. Leaving my car there for the night, I set off along the Viking Way and promptly missed a turning after 10 minutes! Map now in hand, I carried on to Stixwould then Southrey where I saw one of our physios driving home. On Monday morning, she asked where I had been going. When I said “Home to Lincoln” it just confirmed my insanity to her!

I wasn’t really enjoying the run at this stage. I often find it takes 60-90 minutes for me to get into my long runs – until then it can be a bit of a drag and a mental battle - “Why am I doing this when I could just drive home and have a rest?”

I was very wary as I passed the “Beware of the Bull” sign. At this point, wearing a red shirt didn’t seem like such a good idea. Fortunately, no sign of aforementioned bull and I safely made it to Bardney. Getting in my running by now and enjoying the sunny afternoon, I negotiated the fiddly route to Fiskerton, then 4km along the River Witham into the setting sun. Lovely. Another fiddly bit into the outskirts of Lincoln, then used my local knowledge to get to the cathedral and then drop down home.

25 miles, 8:43/mile

This of course left the slight problem of my car in Woodhall Spa, so like any good ultra runner would do, I got up early on Saturday morning and ran to Woodhall Spa. This time I followed the River Witham all the way to Bardney which can be boring but I found very peaceful on this occasion. Then took the Viking Way from Bardney back to Woodhall Spa. Car present, unscathed, and with 4 wheels – well, this is Lincolnshire!

I actually felt better during the Saturday morning run which was really pleasing, and I was also faster.

19 miles. 8:27/mile

All in all a really pleasing weekend, followed by 3 good runs this week. Training right back on track.

Taking tomorrow off as leave and will either check out the last section from Grantham to Oakham, or do some of section before Horncastle. Indecisive as ever!