Course profile

Course profile
What lies in wait on 2nd July - The 110k course profile

Saturday, 28 November 2015

New kit please!

When I've ran in the past, on roads, I've always been very keen to avoid getting swept up in convincing myself that I need the latest or most expensive kit. I really didn't want to be seen as one of the 'all the gear and no idea' crew. I always ran in the legendary 'Silver Shadow' trainers - always amazed at how many people remember them - and an old T-Shirt, so I really did keep to the other end of the spectrum. Admittedly, running (especially shorter distances like I've done before) has less potential for money splurging than say, cycling or climbing, but there's plenty out there once you start looking.

In fact, once you get into ultra distances, there's a lot more kit. Apart from the obvious things like shorts, leggings, socks, tops and jackets, there are all manner of weird waistcoats, belts and backpacks to carry water and provisions with you. Some of the belts especially resemble Bat Man's utility belt with the multitude of pockets and pouches. I have a small rucksack now, which I've tried running with once and found it bounced around quite uncomfortably when I stored a water bottle in the holder on the strap, so I think I may be looking at some of these other options myself as my distances increase.

I've not even mentioned all the electronic gizmos, torches, heated jackets, muscle massagers and various creams and rubs. But it's shoes that are the real minefield. When I registered for the race, I went out to our local running shop (Pete Bland in Kendal) to get myself a new pair of proper trail shoes.
The originals - Nice!
 I've been very happy with them as well, but the other day when returning with wet feet I thought it may be nice to have some spares. Saves having to rush out in a panic if the first ones fall to bits as well. I headed back to Pete Bland where I found they don't stock this model any more. They weren't popular apparently.

Never mind, plenty of others to choose from. But I must have got lucky the first time as this time there was a lot to take into consideration. Do you pronate and which way? What sort of drop do you want? Is it a road to trail/trail to fell/fell running shoe you want? How much cushioning? What sort of grip? How aggressive a sole do you want? What depth of lug?
Second pair - Garish!
My first pair are pretty minimalist and I eventually settled on a fairly similar second pair as I don't like lots of cushioning on the sole. The girl in the shop even made me feel a bit better about the wilful extravagance of buying another pair by telling me she has seven pairs at home. I don't anticipate having that many, but can see there may be other purchases on the horizon. If it's more shoes I have one last question based on the display in the shop and the ones I've ended up with - can't they tone the colours down? Maybe that's why my first pair wasn't popular ......

Thursday, 19 November 2015

More mind games ...

I'm typing this up sat at home, on a weekday and feeling a bit sorry for myself. Yes, I'm off work ill. Not sure if it's a cold or a bad case of man flu, but I'm not feeling too perky whatever it is.

Luckily, this came on yesterday on my official rest day. But today, a training day, I'm probably going to be sensible and stay in. The last thing I want to do is make myself properly ill by forcing myself out in the cold and wet whilst under the weather.

Seems an easy decision, but I have been mulling it over for the last day or so. All the advice you read tells you to listen to your body and not push things too hard, resting up is just as important as active training. But all this advice is hard to take on board when it's up against the guilt brought on by knowing I've missed a day out of my programme.

Having said that though, I've already missed a couple of days recently. It's the reason behind it that makes it justifiable; I missed one day because I was an hour late back from work on my birthday and we were going out for a meal and to see a film and another as we were on the motorway all day and attending a social event in the evening. A few weeks ago I wrote about having to 'give myself a talking to' to head out after a day at work, but these ones felt different - I'd have gone, but just couldn't fit it in.

I think being ill fits into this category too, it's not just ducking out because I don't feel like it. If I ever do that I'll feel like I'm in trouble ....

What I'm really dreading is picking up some kind of injury. I recently read Scott Jurek's 'Eat and Run' which includes the account of how he managed to complete and win the Western States 100 mile ultra after tearing a ligament with 56 miles to go. Jurek basically talked himself into continuing and while I'm pretty sure I won't have that kind of resolve it does go to show how mental strength is going to be as important as physical if I'm to complete this challenge. Not sure he'd have dealt with my man flu though ......

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Don't think - just do it!

The more astute amongst us (and more northerly and westerly based) will have noticed that the weather has taken somewhat of a turn for the worse recently. The glorious autumn colours and bright sunny days suddenly seem a rapidly receding memory as the leaves of the trees are battered to the ground by heavy rain. That, coupled with the clocks changing last week has given my training runs an altogether different feel. A much darker, wetter one.

So it's now much tougher to motivate myself to get out there, but I've learnt that the best approach is to not think about it. Going out for a run in the evening after work, when it's dark? Then head out immediately after getting home. Whatever you do, don't give yourself any excuse to procrastinate as every second you delay will make it harder to go out the door. Long weekend run due on a rainy Saturday morning? Same rule applies - out as soon as you can. Don't look at the weather forecast and tell yourself you'll wait until the rain stops at three o'clock, like the BBC says it will. It might not. Here in Cumbria, it really might not.

I've also learned that it's never as bad outside as it looks from inside. Being in a nice warm house staring gloomily through the window at the rain and wishing it would stop is much harder than actually running in it. I think it's the difference between being depressed because things aren't as perfect as you'd like and accepting things as they are, and making the most of it.

It's also strangely comforting running in the dark. Following the circle of light from a head torch is almost meditative, almost like the whole world is reduced to you and the immediate surroundings. You do need to keep yourself from drifting off too much though - I went out on Tuesday night in the dark, drizzle and fog and found myself having to stop and examine the ground for signs of a path across fields I've walked many times in the day. Who knows where I'd have ended up if I'd been too far away with the fairies? (Answer - running into a drystone wall probably).

In a way, current conditions play into my hands. The whole thought of running 68 miles is a bit much really, but if I don't think about the end goal or even individual days I might just find myself doing it before I've even realised what's going on ...

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Changing places and new lessons

We’ve been away this last week, with a week off to visit family in London and Wiltshire. No excuses though, the training must go on, so I’ve been out running in Richmond Park and on a stretch of the Ridgeway (the ancient roadway from Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon). So what have I learned from this change of location and priorities for the day?
1: Running in the morning is quite nice – Not having to go to work freed me up to get out first thing and do the day’s run before breakfast, powered by a small snack. I like this, you feel all virtuous at having completed your training and have the rest of the day ahead of you. Can’t see it happening normally though, there’s no way I’m getting up that early every day …
2: There are different definitions of what constitutes a hill – A sign at the top of a small slope in Richmond Park warns of the ‘steep slope’ and advises cyclists to dismount. …. I guess it’s all relative and maybe they’re more worried about cyclists careening into pedestrians but it did seem a little over cautious.
3: When it’s smooth you can look around more – The surface on the circular path in the park - The ‘Tamsin Trail’ - is almost completely free of anything to trip you up (unlike most trails I run on up here),  giving ample opportunity to admire the impressive antlers on the Red Deer and the impressively large amount of layers some of the other runners had on. It's not winter yet!
4: … But sometimes it’s too smooth – The Ridgeway runs over chalk downlands and in places the surface has been worn away down to the bedrock. Being chalk, this is very smooth and when a bit damp, very slippery. Don’t go looking around too much when trying to run on this ….
5: It’s hard running for a long time – I know, I know, that’s obvious. But having officially run for the longest amount of time I’ve ever managed this weekend (2 hours), my legs hurt and I just wanted to point that out.
6: It doesn’t just rain in the Lake district - A disappointingly wet Friday morning proved this. Honestly, what do we go to the parched and barren south east for?

Finally, I learned something I didn’t need to go away for but that I was probably going to learn at some point no matter where I was. 

It’s a bit delicate but:  There may be ‘toilet issues’ on a longer run - Thursday’s hour long run ground to a halt after 50 minutes and turned into more of a battle to get back to our hotel  and to the loo. Sounds funny, but it’s an extraordinarily uncomfortable situation to be in and one I’ve read can affect anyone. I don’t really know how I’ll deal with this sort of thing if I’m expecting to be out for 10 (15? 20?) hours but I guess it’ll all come out in the wash. Hang on, that’s really not a good choice of phrase ……