Friday 30 March 2012

The final countdown: Endurance Life marathon


The final box to tick in terms of training for the Marathon des Sables was to run a hard, hilly, hot marathon with the full 10kg bag. This ended up being the Endurance Life marathon held around Seven Sisters and Beachy Head (no I didn’t have any second thoughts…), in Eastbourne.

Bizarrely I wasn’t nervous at all which is quite unusual for me. I think this was because I knew it was a training run, and I was also very aware that this would be a walk in the park compared to the looming race ahead.

It also was a bit of a treat – I was getting out of London to a beautiful part of England, the sun was shining and I had plenty of food supplies on my back to keep me going :-)

The race started as it meant to go along. Hills. I tried running up them all but gave up.

Not really. I reckon if I was just doing this as my big race I would have given it my all. I very much doubt I could have run up all of them – around Seven Sisters was a killer – but my strategy for the race was to finish it feeling good and confident I could get up and do it again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again.

So I walked up the hills and shuffled the rest.

Most of the race was filled with very nice people. However my spirits were dampened a little by some dude doing the 10k who told me to “come on!” up a hill. It actually really bothered me. I started getting upset that I was really slow (all my other team mates finished at least half an hour ahead of me) and that I wouldn’t finish Marathon des Sables.

Stupidly I didn’t reason with myself that a) I was running a marathon and b) I was carrying 10kg c) it was hot, and that I had every right to be slow.

The other 99% of runners were wonderful, and why I like being part of this community. I chatted with a few runners along the way about what they were doing and their journey there. I had claps and shouts of encouragement from others, which really helped lift my spirits.
Overall I felt fine niggle and injury wise throughout the race. However I did feel a bit nauseous at various points. I’m not sure if this was down to the heat (gawd help me! Was only about 22 degrees I reckon) or my shiny, new prescription sunglasses. I had a couple of chafing marks around my left shoulder and left hip, and my shoulders were a bit sore. I also, worryingly, developed a blister after about 6 miles. I never get blisters! Argh! Why now?

So the lessons I learnt from this final preparation run for Marathon des Sables were this:-
1) Sort your bag out before you run. I hadn’t secured my side straps – hence the chafing. I ran with one side much lower than the other the entire race!
2) Check your water bottles don’t leak and you can access them easily. I’ve got Raidlight bottles and they were pretty useless – leaking sticky electrolyte drink everywhere.
3) Taping is key! Tape your feet before you race. Get used to taping. Don’t tape after the blister has developed.
4) Prepare a playlist of a different mix of songs. Running for hours and hours is a little boring at times. Music helps you through the dark bits, though 6 hours of trance music is not the best!
5) Packing your bag is a military operation. Know where everything is and pack in order of when you will need things. Keep vital equipment to hand.
6) Work out a hydration and food strategy. I’m going with 150ml of fluid every 15 minutes. That’s just under a large Raidlight bottle an hour. I’m also going to eat every hour or so – small, but regular.

Monday 19 March 2012

Food for MDS

New! What worked and what didn't: the food I took for the Marathon des Sables

Here are the food choices I carry with me on a race and the food I will be carrying for the marathon des sables:-

Dried mango – very tasty, and surprisingly thirst quenching too.
Geo bars – same nutritional value as Cliff bars, but a fraction of the price. Very good as well.
Fruit and nut mix – high calories and healthy.
Honey roasted peanuts – a post-race treat. Oh! I could eat a super size pack of these and not feel ill.
Bombay Mix – I don’t like this quite as much as the other food choices as they aren’t natural, but they are very tasty and have a high calorie count so good for a bit of variety.
Almonds – one of the superfoods. High in nutrients and really enjoyable. Apparently the elite runners survive the whole marathon des sables week on almonds and nuts!

I’ll be carrying Expedition Foods with me for my main meals. These seem to be recommended time and time again. I’ve ordered some online already and tried them and they are surprisingly okay for freeze-dried food – though not sure I’ll be saying that after a whole week of eating them!

(Actually this is a complete LIE. I may try and smuggle in a pot noodle, as being a vegetarian the 2 options I have - woo - are going to wear a bit thin after, um 2 days)

I also tried carrying Pop Tarts, but won’t be taking these as they just crumble into pieces big time and are a bit sickly after a while.

For shorter races I used to take energy gels but I can’t stand them anymore so these will not be coming with me either.

Thursday 8 March 2012

25:25:25 more back to back running

Olympics site
Not even running 100x25 back to back milers will get you in there

So that was pretty difficult.

But I also loved the ridiculousness of running 25 miles, then going to work. And no-one knows what you have just done.

I sat there at my desk inhaling food, giggling to myself at just having run slightly under a marathon and then coming to work as if nothing had happened.

However, having to then get up the next day and run 25 miles again. And then get up the next day and run 25 miles again I wasn't giggling to myself. Particularly in the howling rain on top of Hampstead Heath day 3 at round mile 11. Oh I was not laughing then.

Day 1 was positively fun. The previous week I'd been struggling a little with left knee issues, which had been affecting my whole left leg. My hip hurt. My calf ached, My ankle was stiff. I decided to go see a sports massuer who told me how to tape my knee to give it some support. This worked a treat for me. I don't know if it was psychological or physical, but I don't care. It's a helpful "plan B" option if my knee wants out in the desert.

Anyway day 1. Great knee, great weather, great route, great company (better half). Absolutely loved running down the canal to the Limehouse basin then back up along the Thames. Brought back London marathon memories! Felt good. It took 4 and a half hours - which is way too quick for marathon des sasbles but just felt right on the day.

Day 2 was a different matter. I didn't tape my knee up and it whinged at me all the way round. I also ran (apologies now East Londoners) what I call the grim route. Anywhere around Olympics site/Stratford/Lea Valley/Capital Ring heading East. *Shudder*. Even Victoria Park. The better half also took delight in telling me we had run on top of one of London's main sewer channels. How nice!

I think I don't like running around there as it's always grey weather when I do, and I'm always in that no mans' land territory of half way through a long run.

Anyway I was in a bad place unfortunately and because of my knee I had to walk the last 10k home. The relief though! of getting home was worth it.

All in all took over 5 hours.

Day 3. Oh the mental strategies needed to get myself out the door! I was starting to suffer a little from tight Achilles and a pulled hip muscle. However these did strangely disappear during the day. Probably got fed up of my moaning.

I've been lucky enough to have trained throughout the winter without coming up against any bad weather (bar the snow, but that's pretty). Day 3 of the 25 miler back to back was the exception. Crap weather.

Grey, windy, wet. Grim.

There were periods of running and laughing so hard it hurt at the silliness of it all. These, unfortunately, were few though. Mostly it was a case of disappearing inside myself and just getting on with it and trying not think about it. Or moaning at the other half.

I had to go home half way round as I was just soaked through and getting hypothermia (slight over exaggeration). However, getting changed into dry, warm clothes did wonders for my mental attitude and I stormed the last 10 miles (round and round and round and round and round and round Finsbury Park). Another 5 hour run.

I could not have done this without my better half. He's the most irritatingly sunnyside up, positive person I know. So I'm sorry for giving you the Death Stare when you told me "PMA, PMA!" on top of Hampstead Heath Day 3.

It has also told me I need to sort out my mental strategy for marathon des sables. What am I going to do when the going gets tough, I hurt, I get bored, and I want to give up? How am I going to deal with that?

I'm hoping it will be different in the desert. There will be no rain. There will be no boring, run-before-a-million-times routes. There will be no other tasks I'm worrying about doing when I've finished the run. There will just be me (and 999 others) and the desert.

But I must make sure I enjoy it. That's the point right? How amazing it is that I can run, and that I have got the opportunity to do this. How amazing it is that I have the chance to raise money for three very worthy causes and make a tiny difference. I must remember that.

I cannot wait.
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