It seems like forever since I last blogged. Early July was in fact my last post here on ‘Buzz’.
The reason for my absence….? Well, I kinda got distracted.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been an attention seeker and have blogged almost none-stop since starting here at Accelerate in 2012.
But this summer, ahead of the Scott Snowdonia Trail Marathon, I encountered a series of set backs.
Firstly – while sampling a test vest from a Company Rep (which will for obvious reasons remain nameless), I experienced horrible tightness through my back at the tail end of a 20mile training run. Every footstep for the final mile or so felt like I was being punched in the Kidneys. Not good.
Upon further investigation and in discussion with Accelerate Performance Centre’s genius Physio, Peter Down, it turned out that my suspicions were correct. The fit and overall design of the vest had restricted the movement in my back muscles, causing the eventual tightening and impairment. Further to this, upon receiving a Remedial Massage from Pete, it transpired (with an audible ‘pop’) that one of my Ribs had been forced out of position and had only just snapped back into the socket along my spine. Hmmm, nice.
Immediate issue: I was due to be racing a Trail Marathon in Snowdonia 2 days later, so Pete couldn’t do all he’d like to have, in order to fix my back – since I’d be reeling from the treatment and suffering during the race either way.
I took part in the race all the same – getting up at 4am, driving to Wales – racing – then driving back home. Quite a day.
The race itself was a little stressful, with my mind set on running a PB by maybe so much as a full 60mins, but on the day – suffering with pacing (too fast at the start), dehydration, sickness and vomiting and some knee pain on the 6 mile descent to Llanberris (race HQ), I still managed to slash 30mins from my 2015 result. But it had been far from glamorous.
So now I was sore again, still with what seemed to be a recurring back issue and cause for concern in my left knee….
Rest still wasn’t an option – for the past 6 – 8 months, I’d been building a fundraising campaign in order to complete the South Coast Challenge, 100km race (my longest ever run) in support of Cancer Research UK. My training would have to continue. I’d have to make it work.
Gently, I tackled a couple of 20mile runs and one 35miler, that in itself felt great. Not least because of a new tactic in eating/drinking during my long runs. Pizza slices every 30 minutes, along with a good drink at the same time. Worked a treat.
I turned up confident at the start of the 100km, in Eastbourne – ready to give it my all – food and drink routine ready for action and no niggles.
But then it went RED HOT. I led from the start, online tracker giving everyone back home a fit of excitement. I ran to my usual level one Heart Rate, though by feel, since the limitations of my watch meant it wouldn’t last the required length of time on this long day out, so I’d borrowed an alternative from Stu and was sticking to pace for a change instead.
I was cruising along at 8min miles while the sun was peeping over the English Channel, figuring that I’d be best to move quickly while it was still flat ground and the temperature hadn’t risen too sharply.
By the time we started the first hill, at the beginning of the ‘Seven Sisters’, it was already feeling a tad warm.
By the 20 mile mark, I’d taken an accidental detour and lost a few places, but more upsetting was a fall that scuffed both my knees and wounded my pride a little. Still I carried on with some confidence, but the heat was now sapping my strength.
With bottles dry and sunglasses streaked with sweat, I attempted to cover the Brighton seafront, half blind and desperately dry, with nothing left to drink and a very tired, aching body. My internal dialogue was all over the idea of giving up as soon as I reached the half way point in Hove Park (54km).
Thankfully, for having caught sight of my family cheering me on and the news that so many people were at home/online cheering me on, I saw fit to rest, drink, eat and re-pack my equipment, even changing my shoes in order to attempt the second half of the race. I was currently 3rd overall and 1st Vet 40, which was exciting to hear, but still pretty depressing when I considered how unlikely it seemed that I would manage anything more than a shuffle/walk from this point on.
Setting off, with news from the Medical Tent that it had reached 35 degrees that lunchtime, I forced my way back onto the course for more. First glance back at my watch revealed a 50min mile for my trouble! Ha! At least that’s a first.
Suffice (it) to say, after a brief second wind and some running ahead of yet another checkpoint, my race slowed to a crawl and I decided to quit at 80km. Broken.
It was a blow to my soul. I knew that to walk was to over shoot the cut-off time at the finish. Also kept my support hanging around in the dark (my 2 year old son in tow).
No sooner had I quit, than people came from all angles to compliment me on 50miles well run, etc – along with many a donation to my JustGiving Page, which were gratefully received, but stuck for how unworthy I felt in accepting them. The money wasn’t for me or my achievement though, it was for the Charity concerned, so I was taking it and no mistake.
Once the dust had settle and I could reflect, I began to see some positives from what I’d been through. I’d experienced some tough conditions. Realised once more, that you only get out what you put in and that more training could have been afforded if I’d made the effort. All in all, with the Ladybower50 looming in September, on my doorstep by comparison, I was keen to tackle another ultra and finish it at the very least.
So that’s what I did. After first visiting Peter again for a more thorough back massage, which worked a treat, then APC’s Podiatrist, Colin Papworth, who dealt with a very unhappy left foot which seemed to have become tight and painful for ‘no reason’, but was likely a left over from the South Coast event, I lined up at the beginning of the Ladybower50, raring – but not to win, or even to impress myself.
I just wanted to salvage some dignity and finish a race. #NoDNF (did not finish) was the phrase I used on social media that week.
And……I achieved an all time personal best at 50 miles!
Among the highs for now, the success has left me feeling a lot more positive. I’ve settled on an outfit that works for long runs, comprising of a Mountain Equipment Short Sleeve Tee, Square Leg Shorts (since another aspect of the South Coast was chafing, even in the Salomon SLAB Twin Skins!), Montane Fang5 vest (review to follow) and inov-8 Race Elite Peak Cap, with in-built sweat band around the rim. Newest piece of kit – my Montrail Fluid Flex F.K.T. trail shoes, which at 4mm drop and of relatively deep midsole, but with a flexibility that suits my love of freedom and foot function. They might well be my perfect shoe…. certainly allows comfort on road, but grips on light trail. I just won’t chance any steep sided fells in them. Ski Sunday!
Now all I need to do is stick to my race plans, carry food (unlike lap 2 of the Ladybower50, where I foolishly rushed through the checkpoint and ran on fumes for the next few hours), drink more (more overall, but certainly at more frequent intervals) and use electrolytes in my drink (Pete’s suggestion being that the loss of salts in my sweat has contributed massively to the virtual shut down in my back on hot days).
So that’s my last few months in a nutshell. Next stop………A ROUND ROTHERHAM PB!
Oh and I do still intend to finally get on top of that Half Marathon training and smash the 1hr 20min, but that’s a way into 2017 I would have thought.