Isle of Wight: The Rematch

In June 2016 I wrote about my Isle of Wight 2016 attempt and I finished the report with this sentence.

Now in 2017 I’ll be going back to finish what I started.  I know the course now, I know when to push and when to be careful and hold back.  Nicer weather would be nice but this time I will learn from my mistakes and complete the island.

That was my first ever Trail Ultra and I got everything wrong and everything seemed to go against me.  Now here I am, one year later, and the Isle of Wight was to be my second Trail Ultra.  I don’t like mud or dirt or hills or stiles or fields or countryside. 🙂

Just like last year I stayed overnight in Southampton and arrived on the Island on the first Red Jet in the morning.  I caught the shuttle from Cowes to Chale and arrived 30 minutes after my allotted start time which wasn’t really an issue as groups left every 20 minutes.  For some reason I have a little brain freeze if I feel rushed near to a start time, even if I have time, in my mind I don’t and start skipping pre race routines.  I also don’t realise this until 5 – 10 minutes into a race.  This time I’d forgotten to go to the toilet. Never fear readers this wasn’t one of the three necessary visits but an additional one because of pre race hydrating and then having to wait.

I looked around at the group I had started with and it comprised of about 20 runners and 40 -50 walkers so in my head I could stay with the runners, get a good distance from the walkers and then stop for a toilet break.  For those of you who haven’t been to the South of the Isle of Wight there is no cover, no bushes, no trees, nothing to get behind for a bit of privacy.  So while I’m working out how far ahead I needed to be from the walkers behind me I start to realise I have a different problem; I’m catching the walkers from the group that started before mine.  As luck would have it a dip appeared and I used that opportunity to relieve myself. 🙂

My two biggest issues in 2016 were blisters and the weather.  The blisters were caused by wearing new technical trail shoes which ripped my feet apart and the weather was wet and cold.  I choose this year to wear road shoes for the extra cushioning and to carry full waterproofs for the rain and the cold.  While the road shoes could have been a risk, the weather had been dry on the Island for over a month so I was sure that I would be okay on that front.  I’d worn the waterproofs on two previous long training runs and I enjoyed the coziness on a cold night.

So the plan was simple, take the first third of the Island, mostly trail, slowly and carefully and then enjoy the road sections on blister free feet.  I even did a rough workout of when I might be arriving at checkpoints.  I’d never done this before as I’d never been confident enough in myself to even consider it.  Maybe I was maturing as an Ultra runner?  The plan kind of went like this:

Start time should be around 8.20am ( I knew I was going to miss the start time I’d been given)

Check point     Planned           Actual

1.                        9:45am             9:33am

2.                      11:45am            11:23am

3.                        2:00pm              1:47pm

4.                        4:30pm               4:51pm

5.                        7:30pm               8:46pm

6.                      10:30pm              12:32am

7.                         1:00am                4:25am

8.                         4:00am                7:28am

 

As you can see in the first half I was there or thereabouts on arriving on schedule but, and there’s usually a but, it went a bit wrong after that.  I’ll explain.

2 weeks ago I was tapering badly, and went for a gentle 5k stretch of the legs, nothing fast just a gentle jog.  Well, I did the first km quite fast and held it and then the last km I pushed a bit and suddenly I’m almost racing, going way too fast.  The next day the pain in my leg started, a sharp pain which I knew was caused by pushing too hard, I’m not a fast runner and bad things happen when I try to run fast, usually falling over.  I did run one more time before the Island but I managed to keep that slow and pain free.

So back to the Island and I was going along comfortably, not quick, not slow, having some great conversations with other runners when I tripped.  I have no idea what I tripped on but I knew I couldn’t go down, my knees couldn’t take another impact hit so subconsciously I threw out my left leg and stopped my fall.  When 100kgs moving forward suddenly stops there’s a lot of forces going on and they all seemed to hit the same point that had hurt two weeks previously.  This was at about 42km into the race and by the time I hit halfway the pain was settling in to stay.  I had a great massage and a good meal and read some Facebook messages of which I seemed to have hundreds off.

I was blister free and apart from the leg pain okay to continue so off I went.  Running was a little painful at that point but I knew 15 of the next 20 miles were on road and I could still move at a reasonable pace.  It was only when I went off road that my pace crashed dramatically but I was moving checkpoint to checkpoint by this stage.  From checkpoint 5 to 6 I had slowed enough that it took 2 hours longer than planned to travel, taking almost 4 hours to move 15km.  I tried not to stop for any length of time in the checkpoints as I knew my energy was fading and I couldn’t take food or gels down at that stage.

Between 6 and 7 I was having trouble walking due to the pain but each time I got close to just stopping and sitting down, someone happened to catch me up and ask how I was doing.  Each time unexplainably this got me going for another km or two, if only everyone could be as nice as people in Ultra races.  4 hours for 13km this time and suddenly I was at Ventnor, the scene of my failure the previous year.  In 2016 I arrived in Ventnor a beaten man, I could hardly walk and was so cold that I couldn’t feel half my body.  When given the chance to get on the failure bus I leapt, figuratively as I couldn’t move, at the easy get out.

This year, at Ventnor, I hurt even more than last year, only one small blister but with a leg rapidly swelling I left before the medical staff got a chance to look at me and pull me out.  Only 11 km I thought, how bad could those 11km be?  3 hours it took me.  3 hours at 2 mph, at times I was walking asleep but again it was other racers that spurred me on.  Of course there was no way that I wasn’t going to finish, not this time and at 7:28am,  23 hours after starting, I crossed the finishing line and the race was over and my demon had been laid to rest.

The organisation of the race is superb, the marshalls and all volunteers were a credit and all the Islanders I met clapped and cheered us and I was handed water and oranges from complete strangers on the street.  I guess they knew better than most how tough their Island is.

Isle of Wight, I’ve obsessed over you for a year and almost killed any chance of beating you before I began.  I knew I can’t claim that I’ve conquered you but you know there was no way you were going to beat me again.  This year I had to finish.

I have been to Hospital and it’s shin splints on my left leg.  The extra 60k I travelled on that certainly didn’t help but as someone once said “Pain is temporary, Victory is forever”

Overcoming the fear of failure.

This morning was only my 3rd run this year and one that I’ve been putting off for weeks.  I suffered an injury back in November and was advised to take the rest of the year off to recover.  Amazingly I didn’t gain any weight over Christmas and then, after another check up, starting on my running plan for the next Ultra.  Second run in and a sudden hamstring pain stopped me in my tracks. And that’s when the fear kicked in.

What if this pain comes back every run and I can’t run anymore?  What if I am stuck running 5k races and can not get back to long distance again?

Safest thing is to rest and recover. Right?  So I did and I kept coming up with excuses convincing myself that it wasn’t the right time, it was too cold, too wet, etc. The worst thing was I knew I was making excuses and still I couldn’t get out of the door.  Day after day went by and it got easier and easier to not put my kit on and go out and run.

I’m not like a lot of runners out there who enjoy running, the best I can achieve is I tolerate it.  To be brutally honest it bores me but I do have the ability to shut off my brain and kind of blank out.  If nothing else it makes the distance and time go faster.  🙂

So why go running if you don’t enjoy it?  I guess it’s a personal battle to push myself further than I’ve done before.  It’s not really a challenge if it’s fun, is it?  The next event for me is The Isle of Wight Ultra again.  We have unfinished business the Island and Me.  I had to come back and complete the whole circle as not finishing the last 6 miles last time has prayed on my mind.  Only time will tell if I manage it this year and I know that I won’t be able to move on without finishing even if I have to crawl over the line.

Hopefully the 4 miles this morning will be the catalyst to get the training plan back under way.  I’ve lost 2 weeks already and have to get my base fitness back up again before I get to long distance training again.

New Charity this year: The Princess Alice Hospice.  A very local charity this time and one that I know will inspire me to push myself.

An Escape too far!

Escape from Meriden 2016

I’ve started races before not entirely fit but only short ones, I’ve hobbled and stumbled around a few 10k’s in the past knowing that if any pain came it would be over in about an hour or so.  I’ve usually run those even when slightly injured as it was for Charity.  But I’ve never before taken on a long run when not completely fit and ready.  Ten days before this race my IT Band went and despite a lot of rest, foam rolling and massage I knew it was a case of when it would go on this run not if it would go.  All I could do was adopt a run/walk strategy and try not to push at all.

I traveled up by train, first to Coventry and then to Hampton in Arden, a small village 3 miles from Meriden.  I had expected to find a taxi company at the station but nothing.  After a quick check on my GPS I set off walking to Meriden, already slipping and sliding on the frost covered pavements.  As I got to Meriden another runner stopped to ask directions and then gave me a lift for the last 4oo metres.

2016-11-18-23-39-39

Race HQ was in a community hall and possibly the strangest I have ever been in.  An amazing collection of runners all who looked both calm and almost bewildered to why they were there and what they had gotten themselves into.  I checked in and was given my number and race drone tracker.  Everyone was in really chatty moods and I had great conversations with many of the runners.  A few words from the Race Director and we left as a group to walk up to the start line.  With temperatures at just above freezing there seemed to be some nervous tension as people discussed plans for their race.  After five or so minutes and a quick countdown we were off.

2016-11-18-23-54-14

A large number of runners headed off in the same direction as me and for the first twenty minutes it was like running in a fire parade with all the twinkling lights ahead, around and behind me.  Spirits were high but the temperature remained low and I ran in a small group for about forty minutes.  At this point I experienced the first sign of my IT band going and decided to walk for a while.  I stopped at a garage for drinks and had a great conversation with the attendant who had seen other runners passing by.  Her look of incredulity as I explained what the race was all about was amusing and I was soon off and moving again.

Two more hours of run/walk that was turning more into walk/run as I went along and then I slipped on a patch of frosty road and down I went.  As I lay on the road I knew I’d damaged my knee but the one thing I’ve learned is that I can deal with pain to a certain degree so I got up planning to just continue.  The pain was so bad plus with the muscles around my knee already misbehaving I knew my race was over.

2016-11-19-04-23-27

And this is where Escape from Meriden differs from all other races I’ve been in.  There was no Aid station a few miles away, going forward or backward, there was no-one I knew who would come out at 3am to pick me up.  I knew all this before the race so it helped in making the decision I did.  It helped mentally anyway, and running long distance is so much of a mental game.  I did have a SOS button on the tracker but, to be honest, it didn’t cross my mind until just before I got on the train and I went to turn the tracker off.

So I did what I knew I had to do, I walked to the nearest train station so I could get home.  I walked through the night and into the glorious sun rise.  According to my tracker I walked for six hours and eight minutes after falling at an average speed of 3.5 mph.  I knew Banbury was on the London line and would be both the closest and best station to head for.  I had no idea how far it was and that was immaterial really, I just had to get there.  I wasn’t helped by the fact that the route I had chosen may have been the most direct but it didn’t pass through any towns or villages almost at all.  The last 3 miles into Banbury were by far the slowest and the most painful but I had all the time in the world to make it.  🙂  I bought out half of a Greggs bakery on arrival and after a small wait started my multiple train journey home.  Three hours later I arrived home, sank into a hot bath, ate and slept.

2016-11-19-08-10-20

Total distance 53km in about 9 hours so not fast at all.

Injury is something that happens and I’ve learned to deal with it.  I had trained well over the previous three months and I have suffered from IT Band failure before.  I knew it would go but had convinced myself that I would be okay.  I didn’t want to miss out on such an intriguing race after all.

I’ve learned from this race as I’ve learned from them all.  I’ve learned a bit more about my capacity to deal with pain and next time I might do things a little differently but I doubt it.  🙂

I will come back and do another one like this, I loved the format and the organisation was spot on.

Timberrrrrrrrrr!!!

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to see it, does it make a sound?

I have no idea, but if a fat man falls while running, even though no one was around he makes enough noise for 2 or 3 people.

Yes, I fell and at the end of one of my better training runs too.  7km run at 30 seconds a km faster than normal and a last sub 6 minute kilometre to finish with.  Yeah I was really moving when, out of nowhere, something grabbed my foot and wrestled me to the ground.  I actually have no memory of whether I tripped on the pavement or what but suddenly my top half of my body was moving much much faster than my bottom half.  It all happened in slow motion, for me anyway, and it seemed like 5 or 6 seconds of arm flailing like windmills while my body decided which part would hit the ground first and whether a ninja style roll would work in this situation.

2016-07-11 06.13.21

230 lbs moving fast (ish) has great momentum and is not going to stop fast and yes I know I have padding but like a giant redwood tree it is not in control when falling.

My last step before finally succumbing to gravity did put the brakes on enough that my fall was actually quite slow but my left knee was the first point of contact followed by both hands and then and only then did the ninja training kick in and I ended up on my back.

Winded, I first checked my watch for damage and stopped my run.  That done I lay there and performed a quick body check.  I wear gloves all the time I run whether in winter or summer and that saved my hands and after a wipe off my knee is only scrapped.

I look back at this morning and I think it could have been worse, I mean someone could have seen me.  🙂

I Don’t Trust Non-Running Physios

Why I never trust a non running physio.

Paul: I’ll be looking after you today as Dave’s on holiday.
Me: Okay
Paul: Looking at your charts you’ve been suffering for a while now.
Me: That’s right
Paul: Is it still tender at all?
Me: It flares up a bit after a run and can be a bit painful for a few hours.
Paul: You’re still running on it?
Me: Well….yes.
Paul: You do realise that it’s going to take ages to heal if you keep over using it.
Me: I’m only doing minimal mileage.
Paul: Right, this has to stop! No Strenuous exercise for 2 months.
Me: Apart from races, yeah?
Paul: What?
Me: You know, apart from races.
Paul: No, no! Nothing at all for 2 months.
Me: I see. Just parkruns then
Paul: NO!! NOTHING!!
Me: So no strenuous exercise at all?
Paul: Exactly.
Me: So reduce my speed by what? 30 seconds per km or 1 minute per km?
Paul: I give up.

Thank goodness Dave is back in 2 weeks. He understands as he’s a runner. 🙂

 

Of course I do trust my physio until he says don’t run, I mean, WHAT??  🙂