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Saturday, 21 June 2014

Race Report South Downs Marathon

Marathon #51 was a bit of a worry from the start. I have not run more than 10 miles in the last 2 months and have been getting in junk miles. However I entered this with the trepidation of a lamb to the slaughter and you might well want to douse my quads in mint sauce this evening!

Up at 4.45am this morning with a couple of bacon and egg butties and off down to not far from Portsmouth. Arriving at the finish at 7am, I boarded a coach to the start. From 7.45am until 9.30am I sat, stretched, ate, watched the relays go off and pondered in quite contemplation with Chichester and the sea on the horizon. 2 mins before the start I bumped into Helen. My favourite runner to run with ever was looking good off the back of the SDW100. This day was all about her as this was marathon #100. I take my new cap off to you my good running buddy!

I ran with Helen from the gun to the top of the first hill. Anyone who has done this knows that there is a 750ft grind over 4 miles. We chit-chatted but near to the top, Helen was clearly in form. I ushered her onwards recounting the 30 miles I had ran in the last 4 weeks! I was in no state to be competitive but just happy to bimble along in the middle of the pack rather than search out a top-30. Helen was only about 100m ahead for the next 3-4 miles or so. At CP1 I remembered that water was pretty much the only fayre at CPs. After 6 miles we were up on the South Downs Way and running into a god breeze. I really enjoyed the next miles up to the halfway point at Cocking Down. I was in probably a runners high, breeze in my face, sun beaming down and flitting around puddles in the trees, occasionally chatting to runners. Cocking came and I paid close attention to the point where I clipped a rock and face planted on the SDW100 last year. Judging by the gradient, I was lucky to have a visit to A&E and only a bruised arm, black eye and bleeding retina!

Mile 13 to 18 was about digging in. A caffeinated  gel held me together but I was starting to realise that I didn't have enough miles in my legs. The hills were brutal. I had to walk some of them. Whizzing up to Harting Downs and a chance to take on my last gel and some water, I realised that after a positive start, this was just about the finish. Uphill allegiances were forged and then lost on the downhills as I overtook runners. The clock was ticking and in the last few miles struck up a conversation with Sam who was running his first ever marathon. What a marathon to choose!

Coming into the finish was great. I forgot how good a big finish was! Helen wand Peter were at the finish waiting for me. Helen finished just 10 mins in front of my 4 hours 30 and Peter in 3.50. After a boiling hot beer we got back on the way with some chit-chat in the car.

Only 5 marathons/ultras done this year. This was #51. Done! How good to return to my beautiful new daughter and amazing wife after such a good day.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Pegged Back

I'm feeling a little lost right now. Running, for me has not been in a worse shape since I broke my leg. The difference is then that the steely determination to get back to running again after the consultant at King's College Hospital in 2010 told me....."Marathon? No you'll be lucky to do some light running on the treadmill...." 16 weeks later Marathon I did and then a year later my first sub-24 100. Now where has that steely determination gone?

Mileage has been an issue. A gorgeous new baby and a 50 (sometimes 60) hour week are taking their toll on fitness. My heart rate has increased, lactate threshold decreased and up and went about 4 months ago! I haven't put on any body mass though. A small crumb of comfort.
So, focusing on the short was a way forward. Slowly, steadily my Parkrun 5k time dropped and dropped and dropped. Not yet at my 19 min 2008 5k best but close to a sub 20 with 20.23. Then....that began to slip also....21.29, 21.34 and now 21.36. I've tried some different things, hill reps and different routes. The one thing I have enjoyed is getting out on the trail. Something I need to do more of. I have a marathon coming up in the next few weeks. No training, the last time I ran over 17 miles was the 3FM 27. In the last month, the furthest I have run is 10 miles.

I think I have passed the low point and am now on a very very long uphill curve. It will be a struggle. I have less of a steely determination...more of a slow burning desire for improvement. This marathon is a bimble; a chance to get a long run in and by no means a speed test, more a test of my mettle to do this when the morale is low and for a boost. A chance to feel positive about my fitness again.

Less pegging back and more fingers crossed.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Catching up

It's been a long time since I blogged and perhaps it is well overdue that I catch up with what has been going on. This little darling has been taking up my year so far.......

So I have been on a running downward curve for the last 5 months. Believe me, it is totally worth it and both Susie and I are loving it. So instead of blasting for podiums and doing crazy miles I did some putting back a few weeks ago. After doing my fastest parkrun PB since my 19 min 5k in 2008, I was only focused on the short stuff. A lot of junk miles.....nipping out for silly distances like 4, 5 and 6 miles where I can has now developed into trying to run home.....a decent 12 mile run.

Then I was lucky to be given the opportunity to mark the last third of the NDW50 in late May. I took my good running buddy Phill Beecroft who is tuning into a tidy runner over ultra distance himself. Unfortunately for me, every time we go training together, he beasts me into a jelly-legged turd but luckily for me, every training run in the world doesn't count for podiums and race day strength, which is why he still hasn't beat me in any race yet! He will no doubt beast me again after my lack of training but we will still have a beer and a laugh I'm sure!

Anyway marking the course was a real laugh until we realised that what would be a normally quick run, with the addition of stop-start, mark, go back, check if it can be seen.........13 miles of course marking became 18 miles and about 5 we found a pub and had a pint of local ale. Super.

Feeling fresh, the next day Susie, Audrey and I went to the 38 mile CP and met James Elson, race director and also new dad. It was then a chance to finally meet Bryan (@ultraDHC) and plenty of other equally lovely runners and to wish through the runners. Typically Ewan Dunlop's nemesis Johnny Melbourne came in 3rd place through the CP and on form, motored to 2nd for the 50 miler. This chap beat Ewan and I to the top spot on the Norman Conquest 50 so I knew he was I was well pleased to see he sneaked the 5 min deficit on the chap in front in the last 12 miles!

All in all, a good day although the last time I managed a run over 15 miles. Daddy duties are definitely taking over at the moment and falling out of form is much quicker than getting back on form. I actually have no plans for the summer other than some pencilled-in dates of maybe-races but this is all about ticking over for another few months until I can pick up again in the autumn. I've been averaging 12 marathons and ultras a year over the last 4 years and not running these distances does feel a bit weird. All I know is that next big race is more of a mid pack bimble than a back-of-the-front-of-the-pack-and-occasional-lucky-break-to-get-a-podium race. I can't wait to get back into it, especially hearing stories from the likes of Immune's 100, Ewan's #podiumpals exploits, Jenni's sub 8 first ever 50, Beecroft's northern fell runs and Bryan and Paul's GUCR races. I'm getting itchy feet just thinking about these future events but until now, much of the running is with my running pram.......