Course profile

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

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Boxing day run

Boxing day was another horrible wet one, but not quite as bad here as predicted. Couldn't allow that to put me off so I duly went out on my long run. However, as it's Christmas and foul weather I did allow myself 2 1/2 hours instead of the 3 on my schedule as a special treat, running to Ambleside and back from one of my regular running start points at the beginning of the Dubbs Road.

What was that like? Well, as an experiment I've made a film of it. It's not the best quality as I made it with my (cheap) work phone and I do worry it makes you feel a bit sick to watch but I think you can almost feel the rain ......

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Saved by the track!

It's been getting really difficult to find places to run recently. Not only am I out in the dark after work mostly, but it's been really wet so there are lots of flooded areas and large puddles everywhere. And before you scoff, I'm not just being a wuss here. I don't mind getting my feet wet but running into water that you can't see the other end of and don't know how deep it is (let alone what's lurking beneath the surface) due it being dark is just plain foolish. It would be all to easy to injure myself by doing this and then I'm in real trouble .....

It was already tough, then storm Desmond struck. Most people will have seen the mess made by this deceptively benign sounding event and it's added to my problems by churning up a lot of the paths and tracks and adding extra piles of rocks or bonus pot holes to turn an ankle.

I'd even started doing what a lot of off road runners do this time of year and that I really didn't want to do - running on roads. It's not nice though. Once you're used to the reduced impact you get from non tarmac surfaces it does feel very uncomfortable on this much harder surface, especially with the lesser cushioning I have in my trail shoes. And no, I don't want to buy another pair for the roads.

Off round the track in the dark - you try getting a good photo this time of year!
So I've been reduced to using the running track. That's right, Windermere has a running track. It's only short (I reckon 300 metres), but it has a nice cinder surface and enough ambient light from the surrounding streets and houses that you can run on it with your head torch off. Depending on what pace I'm going at it takes between 1.5 and 2 minutes to do a lap and I've only managed an hour at most before getting bored, but it's been a bit of a life saver in this last week and I've been round it I don't know how many times.

Now the storm has faded, the flood waters subsided somewhat and a lot of the paths and tracks have been repaired, I'll be venturing out further afield again soon but there has been a strangely hypnotic and comforting feel to these circuits. I just hope I can still run in a straight line!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Rain stops play ....

Last weekend the weather was dreadful when I went out for my long run. Strong winds and lashing rain gave me reason to head round to the west shore of Windermere where it was a little more sheltered. This in itself was tricky enough as the roads were strewn with debris brought down from trees and a little flooded in places.

But I persevered and managed the full 2 1/2 hours my training programme has got me up to now. I've just read an interview with Holly Rush, British international marathon and ultramarathon runner, where she describes her favourite feeling after a hard session or race, that complete and utter exhaustion, tiredness, smugness. I'm not really to the point where I'm training that hard yet, but after soldiering on through the constant rain and considerable buffeting (copyright MWIS - Google them) that Saturday morning I certainly had a warm glow of smugness when returning home. Great, I thought, I can run even in the very worst conditions .....

Didn't reckon with storm Desmond a week later though. If I thought it was bad last weekend then this weekend has really put it in perspective. Even so, I reckon I would have got out and completed my planned training today, even if it meant running round and round some of the local paths and tracks that have remained free from floods in my home town of Windermere.

Civilised! Running in the balmy southern air of Richmond Park.
I would have, but I didn't. Instead, I was stuck in the car on the A591 for the entire night. We'd been down to London visiting family again (where we had a lovely run all the way round Richmond Park on Saturday) and unfortunately/stupidly chose Saturday night to set off and travel back to the Lakes. After an initial uneventful 280 miles, we got stuck 10 miles from home. Lots of to-ing and fro-ing, unsuccesful attempts at sleeping and trying alternative routes saw us finally getting home at 11:00am on Sunday, 18 1/2 hours after setting off. Brilliant.

Funnily enough, I didn't really feel up to a long run after that. I'm knackered, basically. Looking at the nightmare many Cumbrians have been through over the weekend, I'm well aware we got away lightly and really only suffered a small inconvenience. But it seems there is such a thing as the weather being too bad to go out for a run, but not for the reasons I'd have guessed at ....

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 ……

Saturday, 24 October 2015

How far? Don't know ....

In my previous experience of running, I've always followed a similar template: Get to know a few routes of certain distances and run them regularly, trying to beat my time. I think this is nothing unusual and probably what most people do.

That's all changed now though. The general consensus seems to be that training for a long distance event like this mainly revolves around getting used to being on your feet for a long time. In the case of the race it'll need to be an awfully long time, but I'm trying to not think about that yet ...

This has resulted in me building my training programme around going out for a certain amount of time, not a particular route of a certain distance. I didn't think anything of this when I was planning it out, but it's now throwing up some interesting problems.

Firstly, as the time I need to be out for gradually increases it's becoming tricky to decide where to go. I don't really know how fast I'm running, so unless I just run out and back again on the same route it's difficult to judge finishing at the right time. I certainly want to avoid as much as I can having to run round in ever decreasing circles from my finish point to make up any time if I get back too soon. It'll get easier as I get more familiar with my pace and my local routes but at the moment I'm left feeling a bit lost as to where to go when I need to head out.

Today gave me another thing to think about too. I headed out up the Garburn Road, a popular track that goes from the Troutbeck valley over to the Kentmere valley (and is, handily, an early part of the 110km route). That was fine, until I reached the top with 15 minutes to spare until I was due to turn round. Didn't fancy heading down to Kentmere to have to come straight back up, so carried on up onto the fells towards 'The Yoke'.

It was drizzly when I set off, but by now was raining harder and the wind had got up, all of which I really noticed when I did turn round to come back down. Just wearing shorts and shirt meant I soon started to get quite cold (in fact it was absolutely perishing ...), so ended up sprinting to keep myself warm. This got me back down too quickly, but I was quite tired by then so couldn't face an extra few minutes up and down the road to make up the time.

So I think I need some planning on where to go. Heading out and deciding on the fly seems like it has the capacity to get me into a bit of trouble. With the weather on the change as well I think I also need to start taking some extra gear with me. Probably some food too. And a drink ....?

In fact it feels like today was a bit of a marker point. The honeymoon period of the first few easy weeks is over and I'm feeling the whole thing start to expand out and get a lot more complex. Or is it? In the end all I've really got to do is keep getting out there and putting the hours in.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Doubts and excuses

Two weeks in now ad it's starting to dawn on me that it's going to be a long haul. The other day I worked out that from when I started training to the race (or 'event' as I was recently advised to think of it as) was 39 weeks. That means I've already only got 37 weeks left! On the flipside, it means I've got 37 weeks of running almost every day, through the winter and increasingly longer distances.

It's these sort of thoughts that are already playing on my mind and I can see how it would be easy to start lagging back or even give up. Last Thursday I'd been working outdoors all day with a group of conservation volunteers and felt a little tired on the drive home. I've read plenty of advice on other blogs/websites that says you need to be careful and not overdo things, if you feel tired don't go out. I was starting to convince myself that I felt tired, so maybe I didn't need to go out ....

Thing is, I wasn't physically worn out by a really hard day. It had just been busy, but nothing out of the ordinary. I talked myself round and went for my scheduled run, feeling a lot better for it afterwards. But it was a close thing. The same thing happened the next day, when the evening after work was quite overcast, chilly and drizzly and making myself head out was again difficult.

Saturday presented problems too. It's the day of my longer run, which has now gone up to 1.5 hours and being indoors on a day off gives lots of excuses to delay and postpone. Again, when I finally went out it was fine and I had a now familiar feeling of relief that I'd passed another day and not let myself down.

So now it's Sunday and I'm having a day off, very nice. But it's a little concerning that two weeks in I'm already having minor battles with myself like this and it's only going to get harder with longer distances and much worse weather. I need to keep reminding myself why I'm doing this and remember that in the end I do enjoy running once I've started. I think what I'm really starting to realise is that maybe it's not the actual race (event?) that's going to be the challenge here, it's getting to the start line ......

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The first steps ....

'Are you feeling fit yet?' - That was the interesting question Janet asked me yesterday when I returned from my (almost) daily run. The answer is 'not yet', but I'm glad to be starting.

I'm one week into my 9 month mission to run the Lakeland Trails 'Ultimate Trails 110km challenge', which will take part on July 2nd in 2016. I've not done anything like this before so am both excited and worried at the same time, but am determined to see it through as well. I have some good reasons for doing it, which will help and which I'll get into as this blog progresses. At the moment though, there's a lot to think about and learn, one of which is how blogs work as I've not done one of these before either .....

It's all about the running

So let's keep it simple for the moment and note how the first week of running has gone. The first thing I've learnt would be that if you're going to do something like this, get a plan. I have done a little road running in the past and even ran a half marathon once, but always went out training on an ad-hoc basis. This generally results in not going out at all quite a lot, which you can sort of get away with for a shorter event but I really don't think is going to do if you want to run 68 miles. So, one week ago I sat down and worked out what I'd do every day between now and the actual race. It's all up for negotiation and alteration, but I'm already finding having a structure is getting me out there.

Secondly, I'd recommend not getting too excited and overdoing it .... After the planning I headed out for my first training run on a trail near me. A little way along I met another runner coming in from a side path. He'd done similar events, so I ran alongside chatting to him and thinking to myself 'This is ok, I'm keeping up well, aren't I great ...'. I ended up going further and faster than planned and then paid for it the next day when my legs almost seized up, it was painful to go up and down the stairs and I had to duck out of my planned run for the day. Not a great confidence booster!

Anyway, a week in and I'm feeling better. Similar distance yesterday and the legs are ok today. I'm on the way!