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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Escape from Meriden Kit Check

It’s been a month since my last post and that’s because I haven’t really done much.  Sure I’ve put in the miles but I’ve also been listening carefully to my body and my body kept on saying rest.  So, for probably the first time, I listened and I feel great because of it.

I’ve also been planning for my next big race.  The Escape from Meriden in a couple of weeks time.  It’s just too far and crazy a distance for my mind to understand which is perfect as it hopefully will mean no pre race nerves.  I’ve planned my route from the start to my finish point and apart from a few small sections it looks good for running on.  I’m a road runner so the route was always going to be a tarmac one, less chance of mud as I really hate mud.  People keep asking me how far I think I will get and the answer is always the same.  I will run 105 miles to get home.  How much of that I manage in the 24 hours of the race is a different matter, I’m hoping for 90 miles, as the race finishes at midnight Saturday night and I still have to get home.  Of course after midnight I do have the option of public transport or a taxi or any friend who is foolish enough to have their phone on, doesn’t drink and has a car.

Laid all my kit out on Sunday just so I can see it all and so I could take photos for Addey.  It looks so much when you lay it out but in reality it all squishes down in size.

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I’ve decided to do away with the bladder for this run and go with a water bottle belt instead.  It allows me to pack more equipment in the back pack but without increasing the weight that I’m used to carrying.  Whether that decision is a wise one only time will tell.  I’ve also doubled the front and back safety lights I wear: Be seen. Be safe.

The Charity vest is not a vital piece of my kit but I’ve always run with it from my very first race and it’s like a comfort blanket.  I’ve also found that people are more willing to help you if they know what you are doing is helping others, and that includes use of toilets, filling up water bottles and cake.

I normally don’t taper well at all but this time it’s different.  This time there’s no back up, no aid stations, no 1st aid help on the race.  I have to get to the start line in the best possible physical shape, I’m even having my first sports massage next week.  Mentally I’m already there waiting to set off, hoping there is a toilet near to the start.

Ealing Half Marathon

Another race, another hilly half marathon.  I really must learn to pick races that cater to my strengths and not my weaknesses.  I just can not run up hills.  I do try but unless the hill is short and not too steep, my mind and body kick into Ultra mode and I start walking.

I woke to torrential rain as the weather man forecasted, but he also said it would stop before the race start.  An hour on the bus to Ealing and he was right, the rain stopped and everything cleared up nicely.

I’ve heard a lot of nice things about Ealing Half before today, a lot of my friends have run it and they’ve all had good thing to say about it.  Apart from a very tight and confused starting corral, I have to agree with all of them.  Baggage drop off was painless and there were plenty of toilets. It would have been nice to have some water before the start but I had my backpack with me so I was sorted.

I met up with Kieron and Nicola and Crackers of course before the race and we took the obligatory pre race photos. Nicola decided to be Clive for the day, women, there’s just no understanding them sometimes.  🙂

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Having previously decided to run a 2:30 race I found myself in the starting pens next to the 2:10 pacer and I thought “Why not?”  With little warning we were rapidly moving forward and then we were off.  I have a habit of going off too fast and this was to be no exception.

Four sub 6 minute kilometres, feeling strong and for a moment I convinced myself that this would be the day that I held on and kept going.  Then the first hill kicked in and it was all over.  I did rally briefly but I realised that to survive I would have to walk the hills.  In hindsight the 12 miles yesterday and the fast 10 miles on Friday were a mistake, tapering has never been a priority of mine and I’m crap at it anyway.

I was overtaken by the 2:15 pacer at 11 miles and that was it, game on again, I did see the 2:20 pacer but there was no way I was letting that one past.  Official result is 2:22:06 so I guess it did pass me.

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Not only a PB at the half but also PBs at 15k, 10 miles and 20k so all in all a better day than I expected.  If only I could run up hills I could be quite good at this running thing.

The organisation was spot on today, the marshals were enthusiastic, the volunteers were fantastic wherever they were.  The people of Ealing came out in force to support every runner, the bands on route were great I lost count how many jelly babies I ate as well as oranges and haribo and there were just so many smiling faces.

Well Done Ealing, I will return and conquer your hills.

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Training Marathon run report

I train slightly differently.  I have no training plan so I can choose to run whenever and for as long or short as I want.  This week I knew I wanted a long run at the weekend so ran a 10k on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as easy warmups and then took Thursday and Friday off.

The only plan for today’s run was to get to 30k and see how I felt.  I knew that I would be passing close to a few Superstores and a few smaller shops I’ve used before so I knew that extra water and food would be easily available.  I started with 2 litres of Tailwind in my backpack, it just works for me, and headed off.  The weather was calm and the sun was just rising as I headed off.  I rarely see any other runners on my morning runs and I didn’t expected that to change, at least not in the first 2-3 hours, maybe as I got further into the morning and headed into areas with more housing I might encountered other exercisers.

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1st Aid Station

At 15k I entered my first aid station.  I knew this had to be a quick stop and I was in and out within 5 minutes, orange juice, water and a bag of crisps.  The guys inside knew I was rushing and helped me out finding things.

At 22k I felt a hot spot forming and, knowing how quickly they can develop into a blister, I immediately stopped to change socks and use a Compeed plaster.  This was the moment that I realised that I hadn’t repacked my backpack after washing it this week.  No plasters, no spare socks, no spare buffs, no spare gloves, nothing at all, not even toilet paper.  So I readjusted my socks and thought I’d be okay as long as it didn’t rain.

Then it started raining.  I did have my waterproof with me so that went on pretty quickly and off I headed again knowing my next aid station was at 30k so I could check again then.  I always thought my waterproof jacket was in fact waterproof but it seems not at least not in that amount of rain.  I do have another one but it’s not quite as light. Sometimes running in the rain is refreshing but at other times, like today, it’s as much I could do not to drown while running.  Of course shorts get wet in the rain and thoughts automatically turn to the possibility of chaffing.  I do use Body Glide and I always use what I think is enough and then put more on but today was the first heavy rain test, it just about passed the test.

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2nd Aid Station

Again at the 2nd Aid Station everything went like clockwork and again I was out within 10 minutes.  The rain continued to pour down but my feet felt okay so I decided to continue.  Up to this point I had been using a run/walk program and it did become a bit more walk/run at this point.  Because I’m not in training for a marathon my thoughts are always monitoring my body to make sure I’m not expending too much energy too early.  There’s no point me finishing a marathon distance with no energy left when I’ll normally have at least one or more marathons still to go.  That’s when the mental stage of my running comes in I think.

So a marathon run, my feet came out unscathed, I have now repacked my backpack, schoolboy error, I’ll now have to do some runs in a new waterproof jacket but it’s nice to know that mentally at least I am ready to run some long distances again.

Great North Run in 3 weeks time, it’s a long way to travel for a half but it seems to be more of a fun carnival run, so I just plan to go up and enjoy it, no racing just to have fun.

Great North Run – 9 weeks away.

The Great North Run is one of those iconic runs that I have watched on TV for years without having one moment when I thought that I would like to run it.

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It always seemed to be cold and rainy or, very occasionally, blisteringly hot when I watched.  Add to the fact that it is 300 miles away and therefore not an away day race and it just wasn’t a race I had considered entering.

Then I got swept away and succumbed to group peer pressure and entered the ballot.  Of course I couldn’t get into the race I wanted which is 16 miles away, that would have been far too easy, but I did get a GNR place.  On advice from friends I immediately started to look for a place to stay as places go fast.  Newcastle isn’t a big city and the amount of accommodation available no way matches the demand.  Luckily I managed to secure a place in a hostel very close to the start line, which will help in the morning but will be of no help later on.

I’ll be traveling up  from London with a friend from Facebook, so it’ll be nice to know someone and have someone to have an evening meal with.  We run at a very similar pace so all being well we can run it together as well before traveling back home.  The plan right now is just to run at a steady pace, no PB’s or anything crazy.  🙂  It’ll be a nice distraction from Ultra training anyway.

Training has been a little sporadic recently.  I am always aware that my tendon injury just isn’t healing fast enough and I’m not really helping it by running but I’m impatient and I am fully aware how easy it is to get into a habit of not running.  I’m not running far usually 6 – 10 kilometers, 3 or 4 times a week at no great pace.  Mostly I’m experimenting with running with different levels of food inside me; anything from being completely empty to being absolutely stuffed.  Almost no difference for me, of course after 2 pizzas I did run a little slower.  🙂

It’s still a little surreal to me that I now look at a half marathon as a comfortable distance if run at a sensible pace.  It’s still a distance to be respected but, for me, not to be feared.

It’s a Dog eat Dog World, sometimes.

It’s rough and tough out there on the mean streets.  You never know quite what or who you’re going to meet out there on your lonely run.

Now I love a good nature documentary as much as the next man and I often visualise myself out there as an animal, sometimes as a lion proudly roaming my territory, sometimes as a giraffe, head brushing the tallest trees.   Last week I was a buffalo, ever plodding along like I’m on a great migration.  It’s early morning and a storm has just passed over.  I can’t sleep so decide to go out for a run.  About halfway through I find myself catching up to four youths so I cross the road to avoid them.  As this large buffalo went past they became wolves and decided to follow me and then run along side me.

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Now as we know wolves are faster than buffalo but they are more sprinters than distance runners.  The alpha wolf snarled at me. “Oi, grandad, where you going?”  The buffalo conserved his breath hoping that the young wolves would tire of this game.  “Oi, I’m talking to you fat boy”  At this point I remembered the documentary and did what any solitary male buffalo would do, I stopped and challenged them.

Perception is a strange thing, all the time I was plodding along panting for breath I became, in their eyes, a slow lumbering grey haired old man, easy prey  As soon as I stopped I became a 220 lbs 6 ‘2″ larger than life buffalo.  “What did you call me?”  I asked the youth, tail starting to disappear between his legs.  “Nothing”   “Well piss off then”  I turned and just like the buffalo lumbered back on course heading home.

It’s only when I got home that I thought that the situation could have turned out so differently. but there again next time I might be the lion and rip their heads off for entering my territory.  🙂