Sometimes you have to slow down

It's been almost three weeks since my last post which is a little slack considering I was regularly posting each week but to be honest life has been pretty busy both at work and at home although this hasn't adversely impacted some quality running sessions from being completed.

As the seasons transition from spring to summer I definitely feel an extra bounce in my legs and a lot of my short sessions can be done wearing just shorts and shoes. However it's important to note that proper hydration, adequate protection from the sun and prevention of chafing are all key elements in this weather and a recent experience I had on Sunday definitely made me think more about how to approach this with my upcoming race in three weeks time and more importantly the Lakeland 50.

Over the last three weeks I have been running a couple of sessions a week with a light pack in preparation for my ultra at the end of July to accommodate the extra weight. These sessions have been going well and each week I have gradually increased this however I wasn't prepared for the impact mini heatwave we had here in the UK last weekend. With the temperatures due to rise to around 25C on Sunday it was definitely a day to pack plenty of fluid (3 litres in fact) for a long run of around 22-23 miles. I woke up around 5.30am, had a quick cup of black coffee and a glass of water before heading out the door around 5:50am. After warming up I noticed that there wasn't a cloud in the sky and although the ground was quite wet I knew we were in for a scorcher of a day.

I set off at a steady 9 1/2 minute mile pace and for the first time in a while I put on my IPOD as I hadn't listened to it for a while on a run. It was evident within a few seconds that I hadn't listened to it for some time as the voice over software said "Low battery" over some great Johnny Cash tunes that I had downloaded last time I used it. I plodded on for about an hour or so before the IPOD died on me, I looked down at my watch and it said I had covered around 6.5 miles. I felt relaxed and comfortable and was already preparing myself mentally for gently pushing the pace to hit a negative split for the last half of the run as I try to on all long runs before hitting my jog/walk phase

Around two hours into the run and 13 miles done the air temperature definitely felt a lot warmer than it had earlier this morning and combined with the extra weight in my pack (around 12lb) I was feeling a little fatigued compared to previous weeks. The next few miles I felt increasingly fatigued and by the 16 mile mark I was suffering quite a bit which hadn't been the case on every other 20+ miler this year (about 9-10 runs). Of course I had picked up the pace (around 8:40 min/mile) since mile 9 however my Camelbak hydration pack was emptied (2.5 litres in total) and this brought home to me how warm it really was as I hadn't realised how much fluid I had been drinking. Although I was a little surprised how much I had drunk I wasn't shocked given the weather and fortunately I had another 500ml of fuel on board just in case I did run dry.

I reached mile 18 with a 4 minute negative split over the last half compared to the first half of the run and felt a little relieved to be taking the next hour at a jog/walk pace. I had clocked 2:45 for that first 18 miles and during that last 60 minutes I would look to cover around 5 miles given me a grand total of 23 miles for the day. The reduced pace really did help and I felt relaxed and comfortable once again. The time seemed to go rather quickly and when I arrived back home after 3hrs and 45 minutes I felt really good again. I finished my workout off with around 400 partial squats and proceeded to drink two litres of ice cold Cherry Coke! That really helped and is my favourite post long run drink!

As I rested up I started to think about how the runners at the Edinburgh marathon were fairing in this heat and for one family unfortunately that day will live long in the memory for the wrong reasons. It was really sad to hear that Douglas MacFarlane collapsed during the first leg of the team relay race and passed away quite quickly afterwards.

It really showed how me the fragile life is and that you can be here one minute and the next your whole world can change. Keep yourselves hydrated out there guys this summer and slow things down when needed, it's not worth your life at the end of the day.

Good News...Bad News.

Well what a difference 7 days can make to a running schedule. Earlier in the week I sat down and mapped out how much gear I still needed to get for the Lakeland 50 event in July. A complete list is below:
  • First aid kit
  • Full waterproof trousers.
  • Whistle
  • Hat and gloves
  • Emergency foil blanket / bivi bag
  • Emergency food & drink
  • Compass
  • GPS Handheld Device
Now looking at this it will probably cost me no more than 200 pounds, maybe less with some bargain hunting. It doesn’t seem like a lot of money but considering I have already spent 60 pounds on a waterproof jacket, 50 pounds for the entry fee and transport costs to get to the event it is probably going to cost in total around 350 pounds for the Lakeland event. When I looked at this in detail it instantly occurred to me that I might have to cancel an informal race meeting in the Peak district in June and the Ridgeway 85 race at the end of August. Actually I would have to cancel the races. How could I possibly afford to the transport for these races, entry fees, food/drink and accommodation all within the space of 3 months.

Suddenly I started developing a very empty feeling inside as I realized my whole summer schedule of racing had collapsed. Now I am certainly not impoverished but I thought to myself, how do people who racing consistently year round afford this. I started to feel pretty down about the situation. Even though the Lakeland 50 is my major event for the year I just want to get our there and challenge myself by entering some fantastic events. After all I don’t train extremely hard not to put all of that into action.

I contacted both the organiser of the Ridgeway 85 race to cancel my entry. Anthony the organiser was very accommodating and cancelled my application and wished me well and said that he hoped to see me next year. Then I emailed Matt who had helped organised the Peak district event and he was disappointed we couldn’t meet up after months of chatting over email. The one thing I couldn’t do though was not race at all until Lakeland. I immediately went to work on looking at booking a race locally within 30 miles between May and June but it had to be below 30 pounds to enter, no small challenge. Training wise I am very much prepared for a marathon or 50k but most races locally had already been booked up but I did notice a race called the North Downs 30k. Now this certainly wasn’t a long distance but the profile of the race looked fantastic.

First staged in July 1984, the North Downs Run is one of Kent's most enduring and popular running events and not without reason – the out-and-back course passes through some of the beautiful scenery of the North Downs. Its undulating paths and tracks thread through woods, fields and parkland in a vista of summer colours – blue skies, red poppies and the welcoming green of shady woodland paths. You’ll dash through sleepy hamlets before being treated to jaw-dropping vistas over the Thames Estuary in the distance. Not only that, the race lays on free pre- and post-race massage, homemade cakes, fruit and water, a well-stocked running goods tent, and four sizes of finisher T-shirt.

This race is only 30 miles from home and just 20 pounds to enter, it seemed like a bargain to me. Now the only caveat was that it was on Fathers day (20th June). I spoke to my wife and said to her that if my daughters were getting me a present then entry to this race was what I would love. I said to her afterwards that we could spend a great afternoon together as there was also Live Music and BBQ. In the next 5 minutes I entered the race via The Runners World website. I started to feel better about things and although I don’t feel completely satisfied I have somewhat filled the void with a potentially exciting race.

I still want to put another ultra distance race on my 2010 roadmap and with my birthday in October I had put the Caesars Camp Endurance races on my list of potential events already. However I will have to look into all the logistics during the next month to see whether or not it is viable. It’s amazing to think that something as simple as putting one foot in front of the other could work out sometimes to be expensive. But of course the feeling at the end of every successful race makes things absolutely worthwhile and I’m sure I will have that feeling after the races coming up.

April has ended!

Well April has been a successful month on the training front and here is a quick tally of the numbers.

April Totals:
-Miles: 185
-Hours: 27hrs 31mins
-Sessions: 20

For me this has been the most successful month I have had since taking up running 2 years ago. I set the bar at 200 miles for this month and knew that figure would be tough to hit but overall I am very pleased with what I have achieved. When I look back to where things were a year ago I am still amazed at how much progress has been made.

I have certainly enjoyed my running this past month. Since switching to trails from the road my body has certainly benefited on the recovery front and I have definitely found that the off-road experience has a meditative effect and I have even ditched the Ipod on 99% of my runs this month. Even with the increase in mileage volume I have managed to balance successfully domestic life, this for me is a massive plus.

I am really looking forward to this month and with the summer around the corner my thoughts are starting to focus firmly towards the races this summer however with plenty of gear yet to buy it's certainly going to be an expensive couple of months!