Saturday, 20 October 2012

Two Marathons Later…

I’ve not blogged for a hell of a long time. Why is that? Well, life has taken a different route. The main reason I haven’t been blogging or using social media as much is I met someone amazing and we’ve been on a bit of a life journey. That journey started at the beginning of June, although we’d known each other a while before that and got very close. Since June though it’s been a roller coaster of a trip – in a good way.  Of course I’m not going to mention a name here and I’m not going to start gushing all over the world wide inter-web, but thought it worth mentioning :)

Now the running! When I last wrote at the end of May I’d ditched by plans to run a road marathon and was thinking of making Kielder Marathon by next goal. Well, the love of my life (whom I shall call Rx for the purposes of this blog) thought I could run 26.2 sooner. I’d also started to conspire with another fellow trail runner who was also fancying his first marathon and within days of writing my last blog, my friend (The Scotsman) and I had signed up to run Coniston on 1st July – giving us 4 weeks of serious marathon training.

Coniston is part of the fast-growing Lakeland Trails and pitches itself as Britain’s most scenic marathon; and it’s hard to argue when you look at the pictures. It’s hilly of course as it climbs up into the fells (2630ft of ascent) and then circles Coniston whilst taking you up and down some interesting routes to say the least. However (and this is a big however), on this occasion it wasn’t so scenic! I don’t know if you remember what the weather was like in June? – it rained ….a lot!!

There were two races at Coniston – the Marathon Challenge and the main Marathon itself. We decided to enter the Challenge. Exactly the same course, but it started a couple of hours earlier and so we had more time. We needn’t have bothered, but it took the pressure off a bit. That having been said, the runners still looked like a field of serious trail runners to me, even if the big guns were going in the later race.

We arrived at the starting line in pouring rain and with heavy cloud cover. There had been talk of it being called off in the run up with photos of water-logged trails appearing on Twitter. And it rained for the whole marathon. The conditions were quite treacherous in places with trails having turned into streams and the fields having become bogs – but it was all the more fun for it. Sure, I’d liked to have seen that view across Coniston water from the highest point instead of facing a white-out and having to dip my shoulder and head into the wind in order to stop by cap from flying off, but that was exhilarating and to be honest I’m used to running in those conditions in the Pennine hills! I absolutely loved it!

My running companion enjoyed it too. He’s a hardy Scotsman and so the weather was no bother to him either. We had talked about running the whole thing together and certainly finishing together, but the reality was a little different. We discovered very quickly that my strengths lay in the uphill – I’m quite lightly built and the last couple of months training around Dove Stone were paying off and I was finding I could plod by way up most hills at a reasonable pace. My good friend though wanted to save himself early on and so walked a few of the early steep sections. He then flew past me on the down hills! – I learnt a lot about running down hill quickly that day! He was like a runaway train and I started to let go of my caution and run the down hills like him towards the end. Similarly, he was doing well on the up hills.

As a result of our different strengths and weaknesses we ran large parts of the race apart, but we finished strong and finished together in joint 12th place in just under 4 ½ hours. The best feeling and my proudest moment as a runner – fantastic!

Of course we both signed up for Kielder too. We ran that 2 weeks ago and that was another good experience, but for very different reasons for me. I think Coniston made me cocky and I’d heard that Kielder was a little more gentle than Coniston. It’s that kind of loose stone gravel paths you typically see around man-made reservoirs – suitable for bikes, dog-walkers etc. It’s hilly in an undulating kind of way, but nothing too serious, so I wanted to push myself a bit and run a good time.

Rx signed up to do the Run–Bike–Run (the same 26.2 mile course) the day before and so we made a weekend of it. The Scotsman came down on the Saturday to support Rx which gave us plenty of time to chat and think about the next day. Rx did well. She’s fairly new to the bike and this was a bit of a test for her. I think it was harder than we expected, but she came through it. She thought the terrain would not be a test for me running and so even more this made me want to try and run it fast.

Lining up for the marathon the next day, The Scotsman and I talked about seeing if we could do it in under 4 hours, but inside my head I was thinking ‘faster, you can go faster’. I set off feeling good and picked up the pace in no time, weaving through all the bodies and running at a pace of around 8 min/mi or quicker. As the race progressed I kept looking at my watch and asking myself if I could keep this pace up. I decided to try and go for a time of 3.30 and I latched onto somebody young and fast and went for it.

I hit the halfway point with a time of 1.45 exactly! This is quicker than I have ever run a half marathon – and by that I mean on the road, on the flat, even when training on my own!!

I’d pushed too hard and gone too fast though and when I got to the dam at mile 18 I was starting to suffer. My legs were starting to stiffen up and I started to run out of energy. The next 8 miles were quite torturous. My legs all but seized up, I was rationing my Cliff Shot Bloks, which were keeping me moving for about half a mile before I started to run out of juice again. I really had to dig in and drive myself forward with everything I had.

What a relief to see Rx on the finishing line. I’d dropped to 10 or 11 min/mi pace by the end, but I was still pleased with my time of 3:34:37  I regretted running against the clock though. It’s not what I’m about. Kielder is a very nice course, but it doesn’t have the variation in terrain and topography that I like to keep me interested. I think that’s why I focused on time. I guess that’s a learning for me when choosing events in the future.

Which takes me to a little race I’m doing tomorrow……

Ennerdale Trail Run 50k Ultra

I’m doing my first Ultra (squeals with excitement)!!

The thing is, until last night I hadn’t run since Kielder. My legs didn’t work for a couple of days after the marathon. Then I picked up a cold/virus and a sore back! Then the cold turned into a chest  infection and I’m still feeling the after effects of both.

I did 4 miles last night and 3 this morning with Rx and felt OK. I’m going to give it a go tomorrow. Or rather I’m going to give it everything I’ve got to make sure I get through it. I’ll take it easy in terms of pace. This is about going the distance. Do my legs have 31 miles in them? I guess we’ll find out…..

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