Friday 16 October 2009

Effects of all the Mara-FUN

In prep for the ACC I ignored various niggles and have had a pleasent injury-free spell going back to 2008. I certainly think the generally softer off road surfaces and slower paces have helped this, as well as the greater variety of muscles engaged on the more variable inclines. Having Snowdon Marathon to prepare for has kept me going but I'm starting to suffer some "wear and tear".

A sore spot under my left foot I first felt the day after the ACC has returned, maybe not a bone-bruise after all. I've also started to suffer all kinds of right leg problems in my last three runs, with sore top-outside of knee being joined by a sore calve yesterday making the last mile of 11 a bit of a pathetic limp. I'm a bit paranoid that the majority of my runs in the last 3 weeks have been on hard surfaces - mostly due to the shortening days - so I'll return to off-road for this weekend. Damage limitation up until Snowdon. Then I'll rest awhile.....

..... who am I kidding the next zany event will be just around the corner! I am Danny and I am a running addict ;¬)

Saturday 10 October 2009

2 weeks recovery, 2 weeks taper

I've reached the stage of being nearly two weeks recovered which means less than two weeks until Snowdonia. Quite sensibly for me I didn't run until Thursday after the event - 4 days rest - and then didn't do anything at a strenuous pace until this Wednesday. That's still probably too early but I figure I'm pretty well trained and recover quickly by now.

I'm still on a bit of a high and enjoying each run despite sometimes less panoramic locations than the South West coast path. Here's an untypical week and a bit in my MIUAYGA - Make It Up As You Go Along - schedule...

Thu 01/10 - 8m club run, down the humber path into Hull. Solid trail along side of A63 at first (bit grim) but with an almost glassy, calm, Humber a few yards the other way, reflecting a multitude of yellows, reds and oranges as the sun set. The next section is all path, passing a retail park, skeltons of dock buildings and then the highlight; a raised walkway over the dock warehouses which is very surreal. Its was dark going back and the A63 provided a useful function as the roadlights and headlights lit the trail. Felt like a medium effort, but quite a slow pace.

Sun 04/10 - Sandstone Trail race - A very nice event in part through Delaware forest in Cheshire. Met up with Claire for a steady-paced run; as she is in injury recovery and I was being sensible. Very nice trail, flat at first and then deceptively undulating at the end, nothing that required a walk though. A very nice off-road introduction event with very runnable paths. We did the 10.5m route, but the 17m apparently has an undulating and scenic ridge run to get you a sweat on before joining the 10.5milers - one for next year.

Mon 05/10 - Hessle hills training - Up and down the small hills on roads in my hometown, which adds up to a fun challenge I might have once considered hilly. Again pace was steadier than I thought.

Wed 07/10 - Club 4 x 400m champs - Exactly the sort of thing I probably shouldn't be doing, but they do say a change is as good as a rest. B******s, but a memorable quote. I was B leg in my team (A's being faster, C's and D's - you get the picture) and ran pretty well. On first attempt, made up the few yards to other team through first 200, sat on him till 300 and then kicked home. Felt great and dead chuffed with 69 seconds. I didn't disgrace myself in other two legs of races either, no one got past, and despite putting more in could only manage 72 and 73 seconds. Happy with that after recent lack of focus on speed.

Thu 08/10 - Club hard session - Ran to the meet up point carrying a pack of hobnob's as my turn to bring biccies - must have looked slightly odd. 1m+ warmup and then 5 x 2k - and a bit - undulating road laps at nearly 10k effort with just 100m recovery. Really one to pace well as thats a lot of fast stuff and little recovery. Did something right as my laps got slightly faster each time ending up 21 seconds faster on last than first. With cooldown ended up being over 10m - a session with it all.

Sat 10/10 - Run around Hessle, < 3.5m mostly flat on roads, but with some solid trail and a decent climb out of the quarry via ~ 100 steps (I'd guess). It'd been a sedentary day so I hit a good effort of nearly 7 min/miling.

Tomorrow will be my practice run. Too late for a productive long run so I'm going to run a few 5m laps with a long climb and descent. Remind the legs what Snowdonia demands.

Eating really well and can't sleep enough.. which reminds me (YAWN)...

Monday 5 October 2009

ACC Day 3 - Lelant to the end of the Isle

I awoke on Sunday with still functional limbs so I guessed it was time to get the final run done and dusted. I seemed to be famished as I'd not really eaten enough the previous day. So I had plenty of porridge, bread + jam and then a banana not long brefore the race. This just succeeded in giving me an upset stomach by race time. Camp was quiet immeadiately before the briefing as many runners had started with the walkers, fearing the worst in the last days offering or needing to make a train/plane back to the real world? There was a bit of gallows humour on the minibus which lifted the mood slightly from the standard aura of the tired, nervous, and, following the brieifing, probably fearful passengers.

The slightly reduced runners gathered on masse on a village green near a church, some like myself watered the flowers. No complaints from the congregation who hopefully prayed for our mortal souls. We were soon off and it was quite a sedate start. Paths, alleys and quiet streets winding towards Carbis bay and then St Ives. I recall thinking that St Ives is somewhere I'd like to spend more time. Pleasent looking pubs, cafs and little shops. I must be getting old as I would have probably thought that of Newquay at one time.

Of the RW forum members I'd shared prep for this event with; Stuart was off up ahead on the way to a superb performance, Tommy I had just met and ran the first few miles with and then we met up with Gareth almost by accident. Nice to put faces to names and hear a bit about how this was going for them. Lots of solid surface and reasonably flat streets meant for a faster start than day 2. On the other hand it wasn't like day 1 where I purposefully had my foot on the brakes for 13miles. A small group of runners had bunched around me and kept me in line when I tried to go the wrong way after climbing the headland beyond the harbour - it was a short cut.. honest ;¬)

After another climb out of St Ives things soon got rough. My early confidence and pace would soon be knocked for six, but for now I was ascending and descending ok and managing to skip over the stones, boulders, twigs of heather and keep in line on the twisty and undulating paths. The trails here were a sign of things to come, fun at first, concentrating on keeping balance and rythm when there were a hundred-and-one obstacles in every one hundred strides. Gone were the straight, flat, and good surfaced paths that made up much of the previous days. This was more like crossing rough moorland somewhere like Calderdale or the western Yorkshire Dales.

By the time the path diverted inland to Zennor - following the return of a section of path near Zennor head to the sea - the cracks were forming in my will and endurance. Running the road into the town I seemed to be in slow motion almost like being towed by the guy in front. I felt like I had at 22 on day 1 or twenty on day 2, no longer confidently catching those in front, now just a passenger on an unpredictable ride. The sun was also out and I was sweating buckets as I often seem to do in the least hint of warm weather. The stomach was neither here northere at CP1 so I guzzled coke and water and ate some chocolate which seemed to agree. Then it was off again in slow motion, slightly bouyed by the very late arrival of CP1, probably more like 10m than 10k'ish, which is a good incentive that I'm near halfway.

A few runners passed me on the way back to the coast and the roughest section of terrain of the whole 3 days. Picking up where we had left off before Zennor it was wild, rocky, moorland, zig-zagging up and down the coast as it sloped towards the jagged cliffs. I was keeping up with those in front - who I was sure were ahead of me the previous day - until I hit the rounding of Porthmeor Cove. Then I just had to walk a bit as the path zigged up hill through more rock-strewn foliage. I let a few runners passed and decided to walk to the next flat bit. As I topped out I passed a girl I had the few previous days, also struggling, who on both occasions previously had then undertook me as I faded. As I approached a hill top the path became unclear, head was almost spinning and I couldn't see the, surely close, CP2 to pull me on. I became more ungainly, short of breath and unstable. A few minutes of this and a small fall made me realise I couldn't get to CP2 without action. I grabbed my emergency gel to get in some energy and electrolytes quick. I then reagained my direction and pushed on at a march. I passed "MdS" Mike who had gone out with the walkers, like myself he was unsure of the true path t this confusing section of the coast "path"?!. He had some of those walking poles, I could have done with some as the downhills were rabbit-punching my trashed quads.

The, panoramic, event signature, CP2, perched high on Trevean cliff, was a welcome sight as I waddled in. As scenic as this was it was not ideal as there was standing room only and the crowd were sheltering me from getting easy access to food and drink. So I only got a bit of water and coke and went on with no food for my "grumbling tum". The footing on the paths improved after CP2. A small blessing almost lost on me as I could barely run the slightest incline and any small obstacle halted me. The names of place I passed were now lost on me, there was some old mining remnents which distracted me for a while. Everything seemed to be uphill, even if only a tiny gradient. This was somewhat not an illusion, as when we got to CP3 were were far above the Atlantic. That was still a way off though. Any last remnents of energy I had were soon left slightly off the side of the coastal path. I inadvertantly strayed to a lower path which soon rounded a headland in almost scrambling style as I had to engage my hands to climb up and down boulders whilst keeping a safe distance away from the crumbling edges. I rejoned the true path, probably having not suffered a distance penalty, but a time and energy one.

Cape Cornwall appeared to the south and a long way below the high approach past a small castle and cairn. Thud, thud, thud,  went the hammer to my quads and soles of feet as I padded down the hill ungainly. I felt proper rough at this CP and drank at least 5 cups of water and coke. I then took a cheese and pickle sandwich and lay on my side in the grass verge behind the "grub van". I lay there for a while, eating in mousebites, trying to psyche myself up for the next.... last section. just about 6 miles, how could I consider giving up now. People came and went, any competive instinct I had was drained, I just needed to drag myself to the end. After 10-15 minutes I was back on my feet and plodding out of the carpark. The next section was comparibly good footing, some tricky stones implanted in paths and the odd big stone to clamber over, but for the fresh trail runner this would have been rather fun. It was a really dipper of a route though, traipsing up and down over whatever hills could be found. More runners passed and others appeared ahead, obviously suffering a bit like myself. I focused on trying to catch up with somebody! I ran downhills, level bits and did what I could on the uphill and tricky bits. I wasn't walking all of it as this would just prolong this experiance... not in a good way. Despite this I was only averaging about 17 minute/miles.

After an impossibly long 3 miles a beach appeared - Whitesand Bay, the last beach before the finish. I passed some walkers and then some runners, I ground almost to a halt on some soft sandy sections and then into a town. Sennen Cove, a nice little place and a flat, concrete path to run along. Despite this luxury I still had to take a walk break halfway through town. A sign said "Lands End 1 1/4m" :¬0 - but pointed uphill :¬(

Then I was hallucinating, "Holy batman and robin...", the caped crusader and his squeeky-voiced assitant passed me. No.... it was actually happening, whatever wonders the crime fighters had in their utility belts it had them running a storming finish, despite the costumes that must have been baking them. I regained my focus, just a few hundred metres now. Me and another guy even broke into a fast finish, despite the ludicricity - is that a word - of getting there a few seconds faster in what had turned into over a seven hour, 28.5 mile run! Winners did just under 5!! Amazing, but consider the difficulty of this last days course when I remind you they'd been sub 3:30 yesterday.

I was there, the line, I stopped for a picture, received my rather cracking laser patterned glass trophy and was directed over to the food. I didn't dwell on the frankly anti-climactic Lands End (Cape Cornwall was more impressive). Water, water, water, was the first order of business. I've never appreaciated water, undiluted by anything calorific, more. The budget cola on offer had become a close second. After a few moments rest I grabbed my hard-earned pasty and headed off to the food table. I didn't feel hungry so availed myself of a "For goodness shake" which I've always found rather pleasent and effective. Thank the lord a "meat wagon" had just pulled up and I joined the other coastline casualties in crawling in for the luxury of automated transport. I couldn't resist nibbling the warm pasty - it was good - but unfortunately my parched throat couldn't drink enough to let me digest it all so I had to leave half till I got back to camp.

It was pretty much dark as I arrived back at the holiday park. Daryl - of the MdS suvivors team was already back at mine and Mikes chalet. He'd sucumbed to a painful foot injury and was able to complete the last day, but not in time for his train connection, even having gone off with the walkers. Made me realise that despite my bodily failures I was lucky to be seemingly uninjured. I tried a hot bath, I felt I'd give the ice bath a miss today, I'd punished my body enough. That took the edge off despite several acrobatics to try get properly washed up in the worlds smallest bath. Not long after Mike arrived back after a long day out, finishing just before sunset. The three of us dedided curry would be just reward and got a lift with one of the votwo guys into Hayle - some of them were still ferrying back tail-enders, well after dark. Those still out there were real heroes, they must have spent nearly half the last 24 hours on foot.

The curry was heavenly, the the cobra beer nectar. I remember once having a strong curry thats name was supposed to translate to "medicine for the sick man". If this is true todays Chilli Chicken Masala must do something similar for the man with very tired legs. A true reward - but I didn't need a reward, completion had been enough, the pasty the prize, the smile on my face didn't fade all the next day. I figured I was the happiest person spending 9 hours on a train the next day - though I may not have had much competition.

Its been over a week now, I'm back in the real world, the rat race, I've probably piled on the reckoned half stone I worked off on a parallel world where the sea was just a few footsteps to my right and a short drop away. It was life changing; though I'm no better or worse afterwards, probably no happier, or sadder, but I've taken on a challenge that was enormous to me and risen to it. Whats left to do now, but to look onwards and upwards and reset my expectations and think about what to do next. What challenge I can rise to meet, and prepare hard for to give me a focus to drive me on past the mundanities of life, the real stuff, getting in my hours, paying the bills.

4:39 - 4:43 - 7:12 - 79miles - 23rd of 127.

Drunken-Euphoria will return in a yet unknown adventure.