Course profile

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

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Come run with me - my first 30 miles ...

Another week, another milestone. Set out last weekend to cover the first 30 odd miles of the course, starting at Ambleside and finishing in Howtown. Didn't know if I was up to it, but hoped I would be after the week before.

How did I get on? Well, why don't you come along and see - Here's a short video I made with my new action camera. It gets a bit smudgy places, but I think I haven't got a fast enough memory card. Anyway, technical nit picking aside, enjoy the film!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

My first marathon ... a long time coming

Throughout my training there have been plenty of milestones, mostly centred around running for a certain amount of time. But one has been about distance - when would I finally run a marathon?

I've been steadily increasing the time on my feet but constantly falling frustratingly just short of the distance. I thought I had it cracked on the day of the London marathon when I headed out from my house for a 5 1/2 hour out and back run on the Dales Way, a popular long distance footpath that finishes in Windermere (well, Bowness actually). With it being comparatively less hilly than the trails I've been training on I imagined this would be the day, but quite a chunk of time wandering around a confusing succession of small fields looking for the path put me back too much and I missed out by .6 of a mile. Bah.

Sheep on the Dales Way but no sign of the path ....

Today though I finally broke that elusive (but entirely arbitrary really) 26.2 miles barrier, but it almost didn't happen yet again. I was due a 6 hour run (my longest yet) and with the weather looking particularly kind surely this would be the one?
The new cyclepath next to the freshly re-opened A591 at Dunamil Raise - look at that for good weather!
 Janet dropped me at the top of Dunmail Raise and I set off to run the last chunk of the course, heading over to Watendlath, up Langstrath, over Stake Pass and along Langdale to Ambleside. I must admit that perhaps if I didn't take so many photos I might get further in my allotted time, but it's a bit of a tactic for me to enforce breaks, distract me from the physical difficulties and ensure I take time to appreciate the surroundings.
It would just be rude to run straight through this landscape without taking a few pictures - heading down to Borrowdale

Anyhow, even with all the snapping away I made it to Ambleside after 5 hours and 45 minutes. Close enough to 6 hours to call it a day, but looking at my GPS watch I had covered only 24 miles. This time I wasn't ready to accept defeat and luckily I was still feeling remarkably good, so decided to carry on following the course (the first few miles now) to Troutbeck, where Janet very kindly met me at the Old Post Office. It worked! I made it to 26.74 miles.

So I've run my first marathon now. Quite pleased to have done this as I've entered a proper marathon race, the Coniston Trail marathon in a few weeks time. I'm looking forward to running this in a familiar area and getting some proper experience of running in an event before the main one at the end of June. It's still strange to think that despite never having run an (official) marathon I'm now entered into one as a training run.

Actually, when I think about it the technical definition of an Ultra is 'anything over a marathon' so I could argue that today I did my first marathon and  my first Ultra .... but I don't think I'll count this ...

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Getting the hang of it?

It's now just under two months until I undertake what will undoubtedly be the toughest physical challenge I've ever faced and attempt to complete the ultramarathon. A scary thought for sure, but while out again this last weekend for another couple of back to back long runs a strange thought occurred to me: Am I starting to get the hang of this?

Now, I'm not getting overconfident (or in fact, confident in any way). But I am finding that as I increase my long runs to even longer runs I'm beginning to enjoy it more. It certainly hurts more to keep going, but this keeping going is giving a satisfaction all of it's own. I look forward to my long runs now more than my short ones.

I discovered a while back now that I don't feel warmed up until a couple of hours in and after that I start to settle into a sort of rhythm. Not really so much of a physical rhythm, as I tend to slow down and speed up, stop to take pictures, walk up hills and eat snacks and follow interesting side paths just to see where they go, but more of a mental rhythm. Being out running for 5 hours gives your mind time to wander, then settle into a kind of moving meditation where you're just focussed on the simple act of keeping moving on. One step after the other, the minutes turn to hours and the miles slip by. 

The great curve of the Langdale valley ahead, plenty of time to get into a rhythm here ...
They don't slip by unnoticed though. I'm amazed by just how far it is possible to travel on foot, something I knew as figures - after all, everyone knows a marathon is 26 miles - but hadn't ever actually experienced. 20 odd miles feels very different when you cover ever inch of it on your own two legs. It feels epic, in a very real way.

Epic! I'm in this one, on the track right in the middle near the bottom (photo thanks to Janet)
That epic feel is also helped by the landscape I'm lucky enough to be training in of course. I mentioned in my last blog entry about exploring areas I'd not thought to visit before and exploring feels like just the right word, thanks to being on foot. As opposed to vehicular travel you notice so much more from contact with the ground and this feeling of being embedded in and part of the landscape, seeing it change around you is very addictive. It's a real joy to keep moving on and experience what's around the next corner or over the next hill, even if it's on trails I've run many times before.

So, getting the hang of it then? Well, I don't know about physically (that'll only come out on the day) but if I can keep this interest and delight in the journey this will surely give me a great chance of getting round the course.