Monday 19 December 2011

Second 30 mile ultra training run done

I've now got three ultra runs under my belt which I'm pretty pleased about. Two 30 milers and the 38 mile "race" around half of the capital ring.

Last Sunday was the second 30 mile attempt. The route I took was along the capital ring to Finsbury Park, along to Stoke Newington, down to the canal, a lap of Victoria Park, along the Limehouse Basin past the Blackwall Tunnel and back again.

Cute cottage in east London next to Regent's canal

The actual run itself was fine. My left hip is still playing up slightly but it was well behaved on Sunday. I even slashed my time down to 5 hours 35 mins - 25 minutes faster than my first attempt (this works out at around 10.8 minute mile, so with walking included in that my actual running pace is probably more like 9-9.5 minute miles, which I'm happy with).

Houseboats on the canal

The thing I am having trouble with is my head. I got to 10 miles and had a minor paddy attack that I didn't want to carry on. I thought I had run further than 10 miles. It was only the thought of having to run back 10 miles anyway that spurred me on to get to the 15 mile halfway point. From there it was plain sailing. I'd passed half way so it was downhill from there.

I'm having real difficulties at the moment with breaking the run down into manageable sizes during the first half, and remaining positive. I get bored quite quickly and then start thinking of how many more hours to go and fantasizing about what I want to eat (currently I'm obsessing about mince pies and cheese - though not together!). So this is definitely something I need to work on - and I'm sure I'll have looootttssss of practice over the next couple of months with the looming scary long and back to backs ahead.

On a positive (see! I'm trying!) I experienced the endorphin trick again at around mile 28, which was great. Absolutely stormed up Finsbury Park hill and along the last mile of the capital ring to home. It's such a great feeling. It feels a bit like the first few seconds of setting off on a really fast run and feeling invisible before the lactic acid kicks in and your lungs start screaming. Very very cool.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

A little bit of mid week running psychology

I took it really easy last week after the effort of the first proper ultra "race", with just a couple of runs in during the week. My left hip and my right knee are also feeling a little niggly so I thought it wise to ease off the training too. Oh that's the excuse I gave myself anyway...

However, not running does really seems to affect me mentally. I get moody, tearful and irritated about things that usually would not affect me. How do non runners cope?!

I think running helps with stress on two levels. First is on a physical level. Anger and stress can be shaken off along a run. Endorphins help make you feel better inside yourself. Second is on a mental level. I find I am able to work through things in a more fluid yet abstract way in my head on a run. Things that may seem important or overwhelming can be taken down in size. Nothing ever feels quite so bad when thought through on a run.

Maybe it’s the sense of control over things that you have when running. Maybe it’s the setting or maybe it’s that you’re working so damn hard to keep going that takes the edge of other problems! I don’t know but whatever it is, I always – without fail – feel 100% better after I’ve been running. So that's my little bit of mid week running psychology for you!

This week, I hope I'm back on form and am planning on runs in all this week with two long runs at the weekend, to try and start building up the "horizontal" running stamina (day after day of running) as well as the "vertical" running stamina (ultra runs). It will take a lot of running psychology for me to tell myself I do really, really want to go out in the freezing cold EVERYDAY and run lots of miles.

Friday 2 December 2011

First 38 mile ultra race completed

I've done it! Wow. Big pat on my back. Technically we were all ready and signed up for the Hereward race - 38 miles around Peterborough. But we decided against going as it would have taken us 2.5 hours to drive there, god knows how many hours to run it, train back to the start point, then drive home. Plus it was on a Sunday so no rest day before work on Monday.

It just highlights the realities of trying to train for these sorts of things. Any other distance - even a marathon, is doable in a day round trip. Or I guess if you are a fast ultra runner - which I am not, that also helps to squeeze in these races.

So we decided to run it on the Saturday in London using a garmin to track distance and time. We took the capital ring loop from Highgate around to Wandsworth via Richmond, and ended in Clapham South, before hobbling onto the Northern Line back home.

Here's the route. Nuts. I expect we'll do the other half at some point soon too.

View Larger Map

As predicted times were snail pace. A huge 8.25 hours (9 in total with 2 stops) which equals 13 minute miles. Pretty slow. I'm hopeful that the times will get faster as we go, but because it's a completely new area and I'm not sure how my body is going to react I'm erring on the side of caution. That plus I basically couldn't go any faster. He he. To put into context how slow we were the winners of the Hereward Race did it in 3:45:42 male and 4:19:24 female - though this is insanely fast.

The first half of the run was pretty awful. I moaned a lot. Stopped a lot. Ate a lot. Walked a lot. My left hip unfortunately also moaned a lot (I think I've damaged the top part of my ITB (iliotibial band) but am hoping it is recovering now).

Bu then! the golden arches appeared from nowhere through the gloom and drizzle of Greenford. Like a fly to an electric zapper we headed in and ate an extremely healthy lunch to exit and storm the next 10 miles from Greenford to Richmond.

It was like Mr Negative had left the building and Mrs Positive was now sat on my shoulder. I'm starting to see that the biggest part of ultra running is the mental attitude. 38 miles is such a long way, it's difficult to break it down at the beginning of a race.

I don't know about other runners but I always break races down into sections. For example if I'm running a half marathon I would break it into the first three miles - relax and try and get into a good rhythm. The next five miles maintain a steady pace, the next three miles crank it up a bit, the final two miles, just hang on in there!

Doing this helps makes it all a bit more manageable and also staves off the boredom, as it gives you something to concentrate on at that moment rather than thinking, ugh 10 miles to go, so far! But for 38 miles I found this really difficult to do until I got to half way, then I found it much, much easier to break down.

We had another break at Richmond. Climbing over Twickenham bridge rather felt like an out-of-body experience as my legs were wondering what the f I was doing and didn't want to participate in climbing as well.

The next section though was even more extraordinary. We had limited light left and still had to get through Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common so knew we had to get a move on. It honestly felt like I was running on air. We must have been running at 8 minute mile pace. It was ridiculous. I don't know where it came from. People talk about endorphin highs and I guess this was it. I've never experienced anything like it before.

Similarly, I just put it down to mental attitude. We knew we had to get through that section before it got dark so had a deadline so the head said go and the feet followed. The light also helped as it just made both parks stunning to run through. I remember thinking I must have had sunglasses on as the colours in a lake and on the trees were so vibrant.

Another strange thing which started to happen was I saw a few odd things. Now I think this was just because I was tired and it was getting dark but it was a little wierd. I kept thinking someone was running alongside Pete, and I thought a leaf was a rat and I screamed and jumped over it. Dear me.

The best bit was eating curry at home in the evening. This does also worry me slightly as I know the desert is not going to have these luxuries. Again, it's going to be something I'm just going to have to reframe in my mind. We're going camping for a week with a few runs in between. Yeh, that will work!
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