Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Wot no training schedule?

Having finished the Classic Quarter and so ended ten months of being focused on that one day I spent last week recovering while feeling a little deflated and wondering what I was going to do now I didn't have to train for an ultra any more. 

The plan I have had, more a promise really, was to lay off running long for a while.  At least to get summer out of the way without me basically not being there most Sundays.  Its tempting to break my promise and push on to another longer route - although I was hurting for a great deal of the Classic Quarter I did get a lot out of it and I am still keen to see where I could take myself with more effort.  However, for many reasons this would be absolutely the wrong thing to do.  Even if I hadn't made a promise I have to face up to reality; my body needs to rest and recuperate - I am not twenty one, I am forty one and I haven't had years of running experience to hone my frame into perfect running shape.  In short if I keep on pushing longer and longer I will start to get injured.  I already have had a good few issues this year.

So I plan train for a half marathon or two.  I was going to enter Indian Queens Half in August though I might leave that one; I am definitely planning on doing Truro again in September and maybe Bournemouth in October.  Since getting serious about running I have always been focused on running further rather than faster so it will be good to concentrate on a single distance and see if I can get a vaguely respectable time.

I also hope to get back into climbing, which has been on the back burner for the last six months or more.  That said, this weekend the forecast is for rain and therein lies the rub; climbing is a fair weather sport whereas running asks for little other than the will to get out and do it, so maybe I'll be running and not climbing this weekend after all.

Friday, 14 June 2013

The Endurance Life Classic Quarter 2013

At the finish line of the Classic Quarter last year, having run as a team of four, I started to think that maybe I could complete it as one of a pair with enough training.  By August two of our team, Simon and I, had run the twenty mile red route at the Roseland August Trail.  This begged the question: if we can run twenty miles now, where's the challenge in running twenty two next year?  And so a it was decided, we would run the 44 mile Classic Quarter solo in 2013.

Mark, Gareth, Simon and I, Lizard, June 2012

Fast forward ten months and Simon and I found ourselves on our way South to the Lizard.

The previous week had been hot and sunny and the forecast was for more of the same.  However, by the time we arrived at the Lizard the sky to the south was dark and punctuated by increasingly frequent flashes of lightning.

Arriving in the car park the queues for registration and the toilets were both quite short; I made a decision to head to the loos first which turned out to be a mistake since, by the time I returned from the toilets, the rain had started and the queue to register stretched right to the back of the car park. By the time we assembled down the hill at the start line everyone was soaked and shivering.  The storm raced off ahead of us though and as we started the rain stopped.  The count down chorus was followed by anti-climax with all but the front runners forced to a walk as we funnelled onto the cliff path.

Cold, wet and raring to go!

Simon sporting typical summer atire
The first two miles were a stop start affair with plenty of bottle-necks; this no doubt helped a good few of us avoid an over-enthusiastic dash to the first check point and gave everyone a chance to ease into their pace gently.

Chasing the storm.  Eerie light at the start of Classic Quarter

We're off! Runners snaking over the hills just North of Lizard

Running down to Kynance Cove

At Kynance we gingerly crossed the pebble beach before starting the first big uphill slog of the day.  From here the going was fairly easy and I made a good pace along the rolling hills to Mullion.  

Arriving at Mullion Cove

I got to Gunwalloe and the first check point in under two hours and it was a big lift to see so many people waiting around (mostly here for the relays I guess) and cheering us on. Forcing down a gel and some flapjack I set off again towards Porthleven.  I had a few aches and pains in the first couple of hours and my back had made itself known a few times but, as the third hour wore on, these early niggles faded away and I ran on comfortably.  

Porthleven came and went, and as we left the houses behind the rain began again.  The course from here to Praa Sands has some spicy hills and by now the passage of those ahead combined with the sudden onset of wet weather had churned up the path into a claggy mess.

Muddy trails, Tremeane
Switchbacks through the undergrowth, Trewavas
At last I came to check point two and on arriving met my wife, Hannah and eldest daughter Bronwen who were generously giving up their day to be my support team. Its amazing the lift you get from seeing a familiar smiling face. I was also surprised to see my friend and climbing partner Jeremy, a Classic Quarter veteran, had popped down to cheer me on and offer some advice.  

Leaving Perranuthnoe

Still smiling, halfway in
After a change of socks and t-shirt I headed off, bound for Marazion and a long, flat section of the course.  Stiffness had set in during my brief stop and it took a good half mile to get myself going again.  By now the rain was long gone and the day was heating up.  Arriving at Marazion I took the opportunity to stop for an ice cream, dunked my buff in the river and wandered onto the new cycle path above the beach.  

At Penzance sea front

Throughout this flat section I alternated running fifteen minutes and walking five until finally arriving at the sea front in Penzance. Here I met Hannah and Bronwen again, who ran alongside me for a while before leaving me to continue along the road into Newlyn and then Mousehole and the infamous Raginnis Hill. At the top of this massive hill I regained the coast path finally, by now exhausted and really feeling the heat. The route from Mousehole to Lamorna was, to be honest, brutally hard with plenty of steep climbs and rocky sections.  Added to this I had underestimated the effects of the heat on my water consumption and consequently ran out two miles short of the check point. 

Looking back down Raginnis hill.  Its steeper than it looks
I arrived in Lamorna at the same time as my team - apparently my directions from Newlyn to Lamorna had been woefully inadequate and Hannah had gone round the houses trying to find her way.  After rehydrating I grudgingly left my resting place on the harbour wall and set off. The route from Lamorna to Porthcurno is generally believed to be the hardest section of the course, and the huge hills in and out of St Loy and Penberth certainly took their toll.  Everyone was looking pretty beaten up by now but it was great to see how we all looked out for each other as we passed others or were overtaken ourselves.

Bloody steps!  St Loy
Porthcurno was in full holiday swing and the temptation to walk onto the busy white sands and dive into that perfect turquoise sea was hard to resist. As I walked up the path towards the Minnack I looked up and saw Bronwen beaming down at me from above; she ran down and held my hand as I climbed the steps to the car park where Hannah was waiting with food and encouragement. 

Porthcurno in full holiday swing
Five miles to go. A lunchtime run, nothing more.  I was lucky to latch on to a couple of motivated souls who pulled me with them for a while, though after we got to Porthgwarra I just couldn't quite keep up and found myself alone again. Walking more than running I finally arrived at Nanjizal Beach, the best beach in Cornwall, and I knew I had a mile and a half to go.  I had twenty minutes to go to get in under twelve hours.  With such a short distance to travel there was no sense holding back and I surprised myself with a final spurt to the finish line, coming home in 11 hours 55 minutes.

Nanjizal, best beach in Cornwall

Simon made it in an hour or so later, having suffered knee problems since the halfway point and swearing he would never again run so far.  For me, I'm not so sure.  Not for a while maybe, but I wouldn't say never. 

Stumbling over the finish line

Simon finishes in perfect evening light

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Sage words

Four days until Classic Quarter.  no room for doubt.  The hay is in the barn. What will be will be.  In the interests of "Total Training", a la UltraStu, I've been re-reading some motivational texts.  From the book Born to Run this quote from the mouth of Caballo Blanco is one of my favourites:

"Think easy, light, smooth and fast. You start with easy, because if that's all you get, that's not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don't [care] how high the hill is or how far you've got to go.

"When you've practised that so long that you forget you're practising, you work on making it smooooooth. You won't have to worry about the last one - you get those three, and you'll be fast."

Sometimes now I get easy.  Occasionally I get light.  I'm a long way off smooth and we can forget fast for now, but that doesn't matter.  On Saturday, I'll settle for easy.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Extreme Tapering

I've had a bad back for a few weeks. Nothing too serious but enough to send me to the Osteopath on Friday. He suggested laying off running for the final week before the Classic Quarter. 

Initially I wasn't keen on the idea, after all its just a niggle right? But then I thought, what do I really have to gain from running ten miles today and a few short miles in the week? I'm tapering anyway, easing off from the big miles of the last few weeks. And what do I have to lose? If I run and I'm fine then I gain very little, but if it hurts then, psychologically, I add a week of stress and worry about how things will pan out on the day. I already have enough worries without adding to them. So I will sit back, relax, rest, eat well and await the big day. 

Incidentally the weather forecast is suggesting hot and sunny for next Saturday. Not ideal, but better than a deluge.