167.7 KM Means Little To Me

To the majority of the world, running 167 km would be hardly any more significant than had you run 155 km or 175 km. However, to members of the imperial world, of whom I am one, any distance over 160.93 km is hugely symbolic and for the first time ever this week I covered more than that distance in one seven day period.

The 100 mile + training week is something I’ve always been wanting to run but lack of talent and time has seen me fall well short. Until recently anything over 70 miles was big mileage. In recent months, the record mileage week has crept up to over 80 – 82, then 84, then 86. Thanks to being unwell over the previous weekend it meant my 24 mile long run was delayed until Monday. The cold continuing to hamper me on high speed running and working night shifts taking away any desire to do speed work, the shift fell quite naturally to easy paced long runs day after day.

By Saturday I’d covered 87 miles, already a personal record. It meant that with my planned 16 mile run on the Sunday I was going to shatter that best and jump into a pantheon of the serious runners club. Ignoring any pain in my legs on Sunday I went out and ran those 16 miles, allowing a little metaphorical tear of joy (or was it beads of sweat?) to fall when 12.2 miles was covered – the moment I past 100 miles. It may be considered ironic that 12.2 miles was at the exact steepest point of the hill on Casthorpe Road, meaning I was closer to walking than running. But I was still moving and I continued to move on for another 4.2 miles past 100.

I doubt I’ll ever run this kind of mileage again – not unless I see my race times magically improve by minutes because the body breached the mythical 100 miles a week barrier. It may be that this excess of miles may come to bite me down the road. But, honestly, I’ll take the pain. It was one of those goals I thought I’d never attain and I have. And it felt hard….

The goal has been reached!
The goal has been reached!
Proof of mileage!
Proof of mileage!
The reason behind the high mileage - no long run  last Sunday
The reason behind the high mileage – no long run last Sunday

Day 90 – The Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon (Five Hours Too Late)

It was quite a race day.  With something of a lie-in, not needing to be up until 4am to cover the Australian GP, it meant that I was thrown right in – working flat out non-stop until just a few minutes before 3pm. If you want to know how the race went, I’m probably not the best person to ask. Head down, working away, only really know the skeleton details of what went on.

No sooner had the work ended then I was donning the running kit ready for the last run of a long old week. To my chagrin working on the Australian GP meant I was unable to take part in the Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon, which is Grantham’s main (maybe its only) road race of the year. In 2013 I took part on a bitterly cold, windy, snowy day. I had a bad race, hampered with injury, but ended up finishing sixth. Had I taken part this year, looking at the results I would have surely finished second and, who knows, depending on how this year’s training has gone, maybe come within a sniff of victory.

In stark contrast to the conditions in 2013, the weather today was simply gorgeous, sunny, pleasantly warm with only a relatively stiff breeze spoiling the idyll. From the off the legs felt better than yesterday. Stiff, but the calves much less tight. Whether that was helped by the decision to wear compression socks we’ll never know as I refused to take part in a one leg long sock, one leg short placebo experiment.

What was continuing to ache though was the left hip / left upper thigh. I’m sure this is stemming from the back but the net result is discomfort in the upper thigh that feels a little like a dead leg. It’s not really slowing – indeed after the opening uphill miles, I was comfortably into sub seven minute miles, but it is annoying and not the kind of problem I want to be racing with.

The scenery over the half marathon course is in places simply gorgeous, especially the run on the canal path towards Woolsthorpe.  A quick pit stop at the pub and I was back into my running. The first of two steep hills I made relatively swift work of and I was running faster as the headwind became a tailwind for much of the remainder of the run.  The miles went by quickly enough as the sun began to slowly set. The second hill into Barrowby was a killer, but I knew that once tackled it was all gently downhill back to home.

I  went though 13.1 miles in 1:31, not a bad effort considering by then I’d already covered 100 miles for the week. The am I losing my pace doubts are in full swing at the moment; I should look at the facts that I am running just outside 3 hour marathon pace after a 100 mile week covered when I have been getting up to work, on average, at 2:30am. With proper tapering and the smoothing away of any niggles, hopefully I will fly.

The run was over after 16.4 miles. Shattered and stiff, at least I could relax for the rest of the evening safe in the knowledge there should be no early wake up call for Monday morning.

Day 89 – Somebody Hit Me With The Stiff Stick

Now into day five of getting up in the middle of the night to cover the Australian GP and the body is finding familiarity in the routine. I managed four hours sleep during the night and then nearly three over lunchtime. I’m not what you would call wide awake and alert, but at least the soporific effects of enforced early middle-of-the-night shifts are a little less than in previous days.

I would have liked, then, for my run to feel a little easier than it did. From the off the legs felt really stiff and sore. The calves in particular, which have felt remarkably resilient in recent times, felt suddenly as though they had done eighty odd miles in the past six days. The first mile was a wince and shuffle affair, at least the sun was shining, albeit with a stiff breeze blowing.

I aimed to run ten miles; the main challenge of the run the climb at around three miles up Somerby Hill, which was greatly aided by having the wind firmly at my back. From then on, down to Little Ponton and then back into Grantham, it was a case of knocking out the miles, the relatively swift mile splits belying the lethargy dominating the legs.

I ended the run feeling as stiff as when I started, but comforted in the knowledge that, with one day of the week still remaining, I’e already, at 87.8 miles, knocked out a record mileage week. With a belated running of the Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon course planned for tomorrow, a century of miles for the first time ever looks a distinct possibility!

Day 69–A Little Frustration But Pleased With The Run

I set out for the run a little later than planned, watching the bobsleigh on TV and reading about the controversy over in America with Nike/USADA disqualifying a Brooks athlete in the ladies 3000m in frankly ridiculous circumstances. If I moaned a couple of days ago about short track speed skating not having an appeal process and some baffling decisions, then athletics took it to a new level with Alberto Salazar appealing the appeal of an appeal and eventually getting his way when some Nike people had a closed door meeting with USADA officials.

I thought briefly about burning my seven or so pairs of Nike trainers in protest, but thought the better of it for when push comes to shove, for my feet anyway, they make the best trainers on the market. I just wish they didn’t, allegedly, have such a questionable influence on the outcome of elite sport.

With that injustice out of the way I drove out to Somerby to follow a route known as the Old Somerby 19  based on a Strava upload from a club mate which I downloaded and eventually managed to get it uploaded to my watch (a process that took way longer than it should have). As the title of the run suggests it was 19 miles and I wanted to run something closer to 22 miles, so I began the run with a loop of Somerby, stopping to return to the car and discarding the gloves which, despite the strong wind, were not necessary as the temperature was a balmy 12C.

The first mile was 7:09, which is quick for me for an opening mile. The second was 6:42, then 6:43, and the fourth in 6:28. Regardless of whether the wind was helping me this was swift stuff so early in a run. It was reminiscent of an 18 mile run I did back in October when, similarly to today, I hit 6:38 after the second mile and was pretty much able to hold that fairly comfortably for the rest of the run. The next four miles confirmed I was in that kind of form: 6:37; 6:23; 6:39; and 6:37.

Then things briefly went awry. My Garmin 910XT has a known issue where, when following a course, it is horribly prone to repeatedly telling me I am off course and then back on course (When I never left the course in the first place), delays in refreshing the course line and, worse still, random power offs. Ever since that happened mid run last November I now make a point of checking the watch frequently to the point of paranoia. That was justified today as somewhere around 8.2 miles the unit powered off randomly. It turned back on, took a while to find satellites and I continued running, but something wasn’t right – the distance didn’t appear to be increasing and the route I was taking on the course map bared little relation to what I was actually running.

I made the decision to stop and stop the following of the course. This had the effect of resetting the mileage and elapsed time to zero, something it doesn’t usually do. I powered the watch off and on again, was relieved to see at least my run was stored in the history rather than disappearing into the ether, and recommenced the run. It was ultimately no more than an annoyance, but for flagship watch it is unacceptable and Garmin will be receiving a phone call in the morning. At the end of the day my old 305 could handle courses near perfectly and this more expensive watch handles them badly to the point of it being nearly broken.

The rest of the run went fairly quickly as my mind mulled over exactly what I would be saying to Garmin in the morning. There were a few tough miles when I turned to face the head wind, which almost at times had me stopping in my tracks. By and large though the pace was relatively consistent and the legs remained good, albeit with a little tiring in the closing legs, which is only to be expected. At 7.6 miles on the new run the watch powered itself off again. I kept cool, gave it a few seconds and turned the watch back on. This time I was able to recommence without having to create a third leg to this long run.

As I returned to Somerby the watch was showing around 12.5 miles on the second leg of the run. The maths wasn’t too great at this point of the run, but I reckoned I should do another lap of Somerby to ensure the run was over twenty miles and hopefully nearer 22. It ended at 13.3 (Half marathon completed in 1:28) which mean a total of 21.7 miles, both segments averaging 6:41. The pace was unarguably consistent

This also meant a new record mileage week of 86.5 miles, which came as something of a unplanned surprise. There were very few quick miles as I spent most of the week recovering from Stamford, but today’s run left me in no doubt that things are coming together very nicely – as long as I stay fit and healthy!

Day 46 – 314 For 1

I was planning on making today a rest day – Friday has been my most frequent day off from running for some years now and with the final day of F1 testing in Jerez, the only chance I would have got to head out and run would be in the evening: a Friday night run is something I can count on the fingers on one hand I have done.

But the planned rest was planned before I realised yesterday I could break my mileage record for a calendar month. After yesterday’s effort I calculated I needed to run seven miles. As the day wore on I found myself less inclined to head out; the weather looked and sounded truly horrible – wet, windy, and, by all accounts, cold. I tried to talk myself out of it but in the end the lure of a PB of sorts proved too great and so it was, at 7:30pm, I left the comfort of my home to run seven long miles.

Once again this week I got lucky in that the icy cold rain had relented and all I was faced with was a stiff wind, which, although cold, was thankfully not the arctic blast I’d been hearing so much about on the TV weather forecast. the first couple of miles were a real trial – the legs were stiff, bits ached, and the mind was constantly asking why? why? as I struggled into the wind and up the first of two climbs.

Salvation came, not for the first time this week, from the Sansa Clip, who almost seemed to sense my mental frailty and chose  to play, once again, Kingdom of Rust by Doves. Despite my legs determination to not run easily, the song seemed to override the pins and before I knew it I was running 7:20 miles and getting quicker. It helped too that I’d literally turned a corner and the wind was a cross come tail wind that began to blow me ever quicker back towards home.

Heading up to Barrowby Gate, it was Strava’s turn to will me on as I knew there was a trophy to be had if I just upped the pace a touch along this hilly road. That tackled, the run was psychologically as good as done with just a mile and a half of downhill or flat running to tackle. Before I knew it I was home – seven and a half miles run, Best of all, I managed to make it indoors just as the heavens opened again.

I barely had time to shower before I was uploading my run to Fetcheveryone and Strava. Fetch was the most important, official confirmation of my mileage was up and there for all to see.

Official Confirmation314 miles – two more than March 2012 when I was training for the London Marathon that I was unable to run and then took part in the Shakespeare Marathon that wasn’t (That story is for another day, it took many months to come to terms with that one and it still winds me up just thinking about it…).

Hopefully this year my marathons go to plan. If they don’t well at least I have my Strava Gold Trophy for Barrowby Gate to treasure (although someone could easily beat that). January is done. All in all a very good month, as good as I could have hoped for, and well on track to, hopefully, Sub 2:45.