Description: Had enough of muddy fields and tarmac for this week. Heart wanted some hills and gravel tracks. Turns out I was the only one who did. So after starting out with another group, I had to pack it in and turn round. I think heart probably wanted to run alone tonight. Running at my own pace up to the top of Ashton Court through the deer park in darkness was what I needed. Avoiding puddles and hoping for no surprises. I reach the turning point once again. Full beam on for the stony descent.
Slower than hoped, legs burning up hill but with a push on the flat at the end. Very little energy tonight and maybe not the best stretching before. (Maybe that’s why the quads burn!)
The Prep: Race #60 for run 160. Attempting this three days following after a trail marathon, I’ve been through a sports massage on the legs, and cold bath and “recovery” 8km run. Monday felt amazing, so light, and so ready. Tuesday was a different story. It may be psychological, it may be DOMS from my exuberant 8k Sunday recovery run. The legs just seem to be a bit more niggley than they were yesterday. They’re sore after the alternative lunch walk and they’re not as light on the stairs. Can I really do this?
I leave early and get back home and I’m tired! I last ate at 1pm and I don’t want anything bouncing around in my stomach for the 7:30pm race. Stomach is grumbling. I lie on my bed for an hour. The wait is killing me. And then the first of two saving graces; Prodigy’s new track. It’s brutal!
I close my eyes, lie there, listen and let the images form. “The day is my enemy, the night; my friend.” There is no 9am start for this. It’s dark and I own the night. This race is on my turf. The bass kicks in just as the race bursts open at the start. Running round the curves, hunting down that time like a deadly animal.
I get changed and do a few minor stretches. I walk out the door, and I’m on my way to register. I’m listening to this track and literally bouncing around. Can’t wait to do this, COME ON!!!!
Then, reality hits as I see who’s registering. Fuck! I’d hoped that I’d get away with attempting this 5k PB without certain other people being here, but that’s not gonna be my luck tonight. And suddenly, here I am in this glass atrium, 1 minute away from my house, feeling like an imposter. Even though I’ve run this circuit more often!
But then I see a shining beacon, someone I know, but who I can actually talk to without a SWAT team taking me down! Marcus! The guy who helped me get round the whole of the Greenman route on NYE.
So I tell him I’m here to claim my first sub20 5k, three days after my 6 hour trail marathon, and he says something amazing. I can’t remember the exact words, but he refers to my stubbornness to finish the Greenman and trying to get this PB right after a marathon. He says something like I don’t know the meaning of the phrase “that can’t be done”. It just doesn’t apply to me. And hearing that, felt incredible. That, here in this room full of the elite of running in Bristol, to someone that was once given up on for not being inspiring. Wow! If only I could hear that, from the person over there.
Despite this, my warm up didn’t feel great, nor did my stretches. There’s a couple of faces I recognise, but don’t claim to know. And to be honest, yeah, it’s all pretty intimidating. I’m here now on the start thinking “I don’t know if I can do this”. This is despite Marcus saying he’s aiming for a sub20 tonight and that I should just pace him. And another Southviller in green, Pete, aiming for sub20 as well. Slightly less of an imposter now, but still intimidating. “30 seconds…”
The Race: And rather than the bass dropping in that Prodigy track, I’m thinking shit, shit, shit as the race starts and I set my Garmin going. I concentrate on only two things, keeping Marcus within distance, and watching where my feet are as they get very close to the kerb. I do not give a shit where anyone else is except my pacer. I only occasionally glance at my Garmin to check that our pace is neither too slow, nor stupidly quick. It’s 3:50km/min. I’ve run at least 2km at this pace, this is…manageable.
In a semi-haze I only half register that this middle lap is a little bit tougher than the first. There’s a small amount of moving around people to keep pace, but nothing that’s going to waste too much energy. All the pre-race studies of the inclines and pacing mean very little right now, even on the back straight. Suddenly, somehow we’ve crested the highest point and we’re well in to our final lap. This is getting really tough now, but it’s nearly over. I haven’t been paying any attention to distance, only pace. When we go past the 4km mark I remember that I’d calculated that I’d need to be bang on 16mins or less by this point to have a chance of a sub20. It’s 15:?? something. Okay, just keep this up. The pace has definitely quickened. Marcus tells me to keep up with the girl in front, Tracy. So without thinking, or emotion, I do. And for a while I over take. At this point I look further ahead in the field, and think I can make out someone in green in front, and someone tall in a white and blue top way out in front. Then Marcus comes back and offers me more encouragement. I’m losing him as we start the last little incline to the finish. 400m to go. I am so close to throwing up. I can’t be bothered to think about how shit I feel. I just try to sqeeze out every little bit of gusto I have going up that incline, knowing that I just have to keep going faster if I want that sub20. I can’t remember if I over took many people, it certainly didn’t feel like that. And it certainly wasn’t a highly accelerated sprint finish. Round the corner and the last 100m. This is it, do or die.
The Result: I’ve made it in to the funnel, then I recognise a green shirt in front of the person ahead. I go to try to tap him on the shoulder, but I’m told to get back in position. I’m too delirious to be thinking straight. I hear someone take my number and I wobble back out of the funnel. There’s Marcus, I’m so relieved it’s over. There’s a couple of green shirts ahead so I wobble over to them and shake their hands. They say something to me, but I can’t talk. Only shake their hand and smile. Then I suddenly remember I haven’t stopped my Garmin yet. I go to stop it, and see 19:55. Holy shit I did it, I DID IT!! MOTHER OF GOD I’M SUB20!! And then as the euphoria hits like a tidal wave, I find my voice again. “Sub20” I squeek/croak! (Think of a frogmouse. I may have just made that up.) “I did it, sub20!” As I say it and the weight of what I’ve just done sinks in, I can see the two faces I recognise talking. I really don’t care about how far in front they were. I just wish to high heaven that one of them could hear me right now, and see the time around my wrist. After an appalling September last year, I vowed to make October better and to set my mind to running a sub20 5k. Tonight, I delivered on that promise. Half the satisfaction is achieving the time. Half of it is achieving that three days after running a trail marathon. If you only knew!
I AM SO FUCKING HAPPY RIGHT NOW. I walk in and get my bag. On my way out I see Marcus again and thank him so much for pacing tonight, and that I couldn’t have done that without him. As I leave the finish and get back on to the pavement opposite, I burst in to life again and jog home. My mind wants to run another marathon!
The Aftermath: I get back to the flat and tell my flat mate about it. I must seem like I’m off my face. And I am. I feel incredible. He has a couple of ice packs, which I use to rest my calves on. Bliss. But I can’t stomach much of the stir fry. I know that after such a natural high, there’s gonna be a crash, and lack of food and sleep wouldn’t help.
But even the next day, I went to work feeling so happy and bouncy. I wanna to tell EVERYONE! But in the end had to settle for a select few. It’s all I wanted to think and talk about. Had a good chat with fellow SRC runner Sergio. At lunchtimes, the official results come out. 19:35! Holy fuck! 19:35!!! I did that! My legs! Marcus and Pete are only a few seconds ahead of me. Someone else is now sub19. (Holy fuck that’s fast.)
And then another amazing thing. The effective boss of my boss is amazed at my time, that it’s bloody fast. That it’s “something to look up to”. Holy shit, that’s effectively saying that what I’ve achieved is inspiring, isn’t it? That’s almost saying that I’m inspiring, no?! And more comments “You are so quick”, “Just wow”, “fair shouts that’s amazing”.
But all I really want is just one single word of praise from the person downstairs. Or just an acknowledgement of how happy I am that I can achieve something like that. I leave work…restless. When I get home, I write a very short and concise message saying well done on a hugely fast time, and that I’m happy with my sub20. Nothing. And then I hear the door slam. And now, second day in a row, I’ve lost my appetite. I was happy with my 19:35. The more time goes by, the more I think it’s not enough.
Being a fan of all things industrial, an article name with “The PowerStation” is gonna catch my eye! As part of the STRAVA Workout of the Week, when I read the article, it fit very nicely with last week’s revelation that I’ve been neglecting my hills over speed!
The PowerStation: 10km, with 8×30-second hill sprints @95% effort, walk down.
So based on 5:00min/km, that would be roughly 100m, which would nicely fit the A38 hill outside work that I’ve been eyeing up! I’d like to up this to 250m with a jog back, ten times to cover 5km. Perfect for right after work!
I’ve also been scoping out other hills. Bridge Valley seems to be really good. There are steeper, more technical climbs, and some short but steep road hills around. Also some just over the motorway near the house, so plenty to choose from! Also need to get back in to Ashton Court Park Run! (Once I’ve bagged my sub20 5k!)
Summary: This week has gradually got better after the pit of Sunday. Set some new goals of 50km distance and 1,000m of ascent per week. I may not manage that every week, and based on my monthly marathon calendar and ultra training plans, it may be natural to cycle my distance every 4 weeks. Strava stats would certainly say this is the case, with an 80k, 50k, 30k, 80k pattern appearing so far this year.
Around 15k on Tuesday with some fairly good Bridge Valley hill reps of reasonable effort. Decided to go all the way and become a premium member of Strava, and I can say that I love the race stats and heart rate zones! Geek-data-tastic! Thursday was meant to be a rest day, but couldn’t resist a 13km head torch run around Leigh Woods. Slower than hoped and didn’t get on to the Towpath, which was probably a good thing! Already on around 25km and over 500m ascent already. Then came the trail marathon on Saturday. With a sports massage and a cold leg bath afterwards, Sunday’s legs were pretty fresh. At 72.5km, I added a gentle 8km recovery run to bump this week’s total distance over 80km and ascent through the roof to over 1,200m! (As of Sunday night I’m number 1 for Southville in distance and ascent! Thank you Strava!)
I may not be winning races, and I may never be fast “enough”. But I can be proud that these little legs of mine can now take me over and across so much beautiful landscape! This week I realised that I can run again the day after a marathon, and now those multi-day ultras seem a bit more achievable!
“Low Intensity” is the key. It may be sore and stiff at first, but after a while things are supposed to loosen up and the additional blood flow is supposed to improve lactic acid removal and muscle repair.
So this supposed recovery run was actually an excuse to get out, push my weekly mileage up and hopefully secure my number one place on the Southville Strava leader board. I wanted a steady 6:00min/km, but going round Little Stoke it was difficult to go any slower. What maybe should have been a gentle 5k, was now turning more in to a 7k by the time I return home. If I go a few extra hundred meters that will be 8km and I’ll have done over 80km in total this week! I wanted that top spot, and I wanted that nice round number.
But actually, was I undoing all the good work of the massage and cold bath in the space of a few minutes? When I started the run, I felt so fresh! Like I hadn’t done a marathon before! But by the end I’m wondering if I’ll feel this the day after tomorrow?
Pre-Race: “We will, we will Rok you” is what was going through my head at 7am this morning. On the bus, heading to town to meet my lift to Stanton Drew and the stone circles. Having packed the night before, and getting the rather extensive kit list together, waking up 20mins late wasn’t catastrophic. Luckily, at the bus stop, the Tesco’s was open, so I managed a Breakfast sandwich to make up for my missed breakfast at home. I hadn’t really done a great job of carbing up, hydrating or sleeping in the days leading up, but never mind. Hopefully Thursdays trail run won’t have done too much damage either.
The lift was pleasant company with Liam and Laura, and we arrived only a car after SRC turned up. We had enough time to register, and get ready. Thankfully they were much more relaxed about the kit, likely due to the brilliant weather forecast! The marshals and organisers were so friendly. They also had course descriptions printed, which I took to aid the maps just in case. I had the full kit list, but took the bum bag with some water, warm layer, first aid kit and gel, as well as showerproof jacket around the waist. Liam took some stuff in my CamelBak rucksack.
The Race: The start was cold, but stunning as we ran around the stone circle with the sun just rising above the hill in the distance. The start of something epic. The pace to begin with was fairly brisk and the runners’ field seemed to split into two, with Liam and me at the front of the second group. Having not recced Loop 1, I wanted to keep pace, or at least keep them in sight and not rely on the map. It worked pretty well. We overtook the faster SRC group as they sorted out their kit, and then they overtook us as Liam sorted out his shoe. It was only a matter of time as they regained position.
But at about that point we ended up running with Mike, the chap who got me round the last half of Greenman. And it was a pleasant run for the now three of us through Pensford (the viaduct looked amazing) and up and beyond to the Loop 1 halfway point. Navigation is a big part of this “race” and the first difference of opinion came when the chap in front went right, and I was sure we go left. A group of three girls then caught us up and also went right. So we went right, the path would loop back round anyway. A few hundred metres further, and we ended up looping round and getting back on the route.
Now there were six in our group. Turns out she was 4th lady (that’s f**cking fast!) at the Riverbank Rollick a couple of weekends ago while I was struggling like a retard on the Skyline, and will be doing the Aztec West Fast 5k on Tuesday! This is her first marathon and will apparently be doing “Slaughterford” tomorrow. Whatever that is, it sounds horriffic! So yeah, massive respect! The group is chatting so much that we miss the subtle right turn off the road, and instead head to the junction, and end up arriving at the village hall from the wrong direction, but having covered greater distance, 18km so far in total.
We have to go in to the hall to record our loop time. But I have to say that the setup is fantastic. It’s like the whole village has baked their own cakes, there’s so much variety. Juice, tea, hot chocolate, you name it! I stuff some coffee and walnut cake down me and chase it with sugary hot chocolate. Bliss! While I’m outside, I notice blood has seeped through my man-leggings and I’m worried that it’ll stain. The medic comes across and says saline works! Turns out it’s the same medic from the Skyline races. Small world eh?!
Five minute later the group of six is off again, this time towards Dundry! Going uphill, the girls make headway over us. But we end up catching Jerry on his 101st marathon! So we have four. Well before halfway, my legs certainly feel fresh no more! I find the run along the top of Dundry tougher than I want, but the views are still amazing! The WHOLE of Bristol on my left, Chew Valley and the Mendips to my right. And I can still let go on the down hills. Not thinking about Loop 3, just trying to get to more cake and hot chocolate!
As we arrive at the cake and hot chocolate, the girls are already leaving. Three and a half hours down, our legs are tired but our spirits are high. My mind is telling me this next loop is gonna be tough, and it is. This is the bit that makes it a marathon and not a 30k country jolly.
Then it gets worse…cows! I really don’t want that field on the right, full of cows, to be the route. Surely we keep left of the fence? We search for the gate, but eventually realise that this really isn’t the field. So it’s back round to the right for Man vs Cow. Luckily, cow doesn’t give a shit as we jog on by. Even so, I’m first one out of that field! The view as we get up to “Cold” Hill is amazing, and we pause for a group photo. The hills and tired legs are making progress slow. The occasional yet regular overtakes by fresher relay racers doesn’t bolster motivation.
Can we make 5h30? We’re making steady progress. At the last drinks station I’m not so confident. The station is much needed though, I scoff down two slices of orange, a cup of flat coke and some jelly beans, and some more juice. Last bit now. Only one more hill to go!
Once we get round that, I get a second wind. I want 5h45 dammit! I’m shouting at my legs like a madman to “stop being slow”! Yes I’m angry, I want that time dammit! I’m pleased that I’m finishing on a high, which I’ve still got some fire within physically and mentally. Anger gets a bad press, but in small focused bursts, it’s a valuable tool for me. Whether it’s trying to finish off a marathon, or secure a second over a sprint finish.
I’m jogging up the last little hill, if I walk this I won’t make 5h45. As a result we’re pulling away from Mike and Jerry. I feel guilty as we’ve stuck together as a group this far. Mike stuck with me through the toughest part of Greenman. It takes Liam to say that we need to hang fire a bit, for me to concede that we won’t make 5h45. We’re easy under six hours. I can live with that. Mikes not too far behind and it’s a group of three again until the last 150m where we pick up the pace to the amazing cheers of the modest but loud Southville contingent at the end! In we go, they take our numbers, and we take our coasters! Official time of 5:51:50.
The race was fantastic. I’d certainly do it next year, the community spirit, it’s like the whole area has come out today to support, be it bringing cakes, marshalling or shouting and clapping encouragement. Psychologically it feels great to come back home to the village hall after each loop before stepping back out into the wilderness. “I may be some time.”
For a much more eloquent write up of his experience, have a read through Liam’s blog entry here:
Post-Race: So now that I’ve completed my hilly marathon, I tell people I’m hoping to get my first sub20 5k on Tuesday, and in return they give me a certain look. A look that says “best of luck chap, but you’re a fool for trying”. And in my mind it’s a red flag in front of a bull. Yes it’s bonkers, but once I’m set on an idea, I don’t let go. I love bonkers ideas. It’s how I find out what I can and can’t do at that point in time. I just need to recover from these 26+miles, and fast!
So when I find out they are doing sports massages for a fiver, I’m all over that. After getting changed, and renegotiating a lift back, I’m on that bed getting my first ever sports massage. (Talking about myself and “sports” still don’t seem to belong together in a sentence, even after two years.) And thanks to a firm hand, I’m discovering that my feet are a bag of nails, and oh that right calf BLOODY HURTS when you poke it like that! But apart from those, it wasn’t as torturous as I thought they were meant to be. Not sure how much benefit this will really be, except it is worth the fiver just to be able to lie down after a marathon. Not that I’m falling asleep, honest. After another Southville group photo, it’s time to get up and go.
It’s in the car that I start to notice how relatively normal my legs feel. Right now they’d be solid as the standing stones, but they’re not. On the bus, I’ve got my legs out in front while I’m listening to Daft Punk, and feeling…fresh…pumped up for my impending sub20…feeling superhuman…or bionic like my tights (they’re man-leggings!)
After the marathon, I’ve also been asking about recovery techniques. Another thing that has been mentioned, and that I’ve seen people use, are ice baths. The sceptic in me is thinking that this is a conspiracy. But on the bus back I’m reading up on it. 5-15mins in a cold bath. Or alternate between cold and hot. Apparently, the way it works is to constrict the blood vessels, and then when it heats up it helps flush out the lactic acid, or something like that. However, I did read (somewhere) that it’s supposed to help reduce Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), which occurs 24-48 hours after exercise. Ahhh…so that’s the “day after tomorrow” car crash feeling! Nice to know it has a scientific name. And behold the Running Lore textbook (by Tim Noakes) explains on page 816, that it often occurs after eccentric muscle contraction. That’s one where the muscle is lengthening while the fibres are in tension and contract, as often happens when running downhill. (Ah, so that would apply to today then!) Incidentally, a concentric muscle contraction is where the muscle shortens during the contraction.
So, the “ice-bath”. Obviously a cold bath is more practical, and I’d figured 10mins would be a good introduction. Now, I HATE the cold. So I put on a couple of HH base layers and a hat and made myself a hot chocolate. However, no amount of creature comforts will change the fact that getting into that water is agony. I HATED it. Surely anything this painful can’t be a good thing? But I figured I’d get used to it. After a minute or so, my breathing and mind have calmed down. I have to cross my arms and go in to an almost meditative state to take my mind away from the bitter cold. After several minutes my legs are shaking involuntarily. Around 6-7minutes my whole body is shaking. The ten minute alarm goes off, and although it’s not as intense as it first was, I’m getting out!
There’s probably something to be said about getting out and letting the legs warm naturally. However reading about the “alternating” from cold to hot justified getting a hot bath right after. Maybe that undid all the good work, if any. Who knows! Not convinced it was worth it. But we shall see what effect it has and how desperate I am for a fast recovery in future.
Description: Not bad. Pretty happy. 11 seconds slower than the perfect Brighton PB, but still 34 seconds faster than my Little Stoke PR PB in Nov. 17 seconds faster than fastest Aztec. But this is the place where it counts.
Today, if I’d been in the same place mentally as Thursday night, this would have been a PB. Probably much closer to that two zero. But Thursday and Friday eating didn’t turn out too great, and despite going to bed early and enjoying the sound of the wind outside, I didn’t get a great night’s sleep. So I wasn’t as fired up physically or mentally as I’d hoped.
I seemed so slow to get off the mark, and the first kilometre seems harder than it should have been. The head wind on the subtly uphill straight didn’t help. Second km seemed a bit better and I told myself that my body and heart rate just need to get up to speed and then it’ll be easier. It was a little, both just under 4:00min/km, until the third, when my pace went off to 4:20min/km. That’s it I thought, no chance of a PB today, and I started the fourth km with a little less fire and a little less speed. Fourth was still slow, but steady. If I can keep this up, maybe it won’t be horrendously slow. Fifth and final I tried to speed up a bit, put in a bit more effort. But I’ve left my warm flat, there’s no one here physically to fight and chase with, just me and my mind. And a few dog walkers to avoid. It might have been better if I’d been chased by a dog, but no such luck. But the time wasn’t too bad, and the distance was quickly passing. Try as much as I can up the final straight, over the little ramp and thankfully at 5k I have a time of 20:34. Bloody pleased it was under 21, and under my Aztec PB. Would have been great to be 4 seconds faster, but I can live with that. On a good day, there will be a better time!
Lessons. People can slow you down to begin with, but they can make you faster overall. Perhaps the slight ease off of the third km gave me breathing space to attack on the final km. I might get this PB if I do the first 2 on pace, 3rd just off, maybe 4:10, 4:15, then try and get back on to pace for the 4th and then just give 150% until you throw up or black out on the final. We shall see what it takes!
Clothing: So, it’s been blowing a gale here, and although it’s mild for this time of year, I was considering my clothing options carefully before today’s run. I’ve found the Helly Hansen tops fantastic, but wonder how they compare with my merino tops. Should I wear the merino next to skin with HH on top, or vise-versa? This article helped: http://thenextchallenge.org/comparison-base-layer-materials/.
I’ll concur that merino is GREAT for low stink. But I don’t expect it to be so great at drying out when wet, but it’s warm and feels good next to skin. So, it’s not raining, just windy and a bit chilly. So put on a HH t-shirt with a merino longsleeve over the top. Also wrapped up a lightweight running jacket with hood around the waist (hardly felt it). And great. Jogging out I could wrap the long sleeves over my hands, buff keeping my neck warm, running fast I could roll up the sleeves, buff wrapped around wrist to wipe away the sweat while the HH shirt kept me fairly dry. Then at the end, sleeves go back over the arms, the buff goes on the head, and the jacket on and hood up. Walking back home in to the wind was fairly pleasant as a result. Win.
Recovery: One mug of Cadburys Hot Chocolate = 15.5g of protein [6.8g from 200ml semi-skimmed milk + 7.7g from a serving of hot chocolate!] Plus 27.1g sugar (~100kcal). Not to mention 0.53g sodium, or ~8% RDA. (Which surprisingly is the same as a small bag of Walkers Salt & Vinegar crisps! Go figure!)
My whey protein mix has around 20g of protein and only 2g sugar. If I were to mix that with water, I’d be better off with the hot chocolate, especially after a winter run! Similar level of protein, but more sugar and calories, and it’s hot. And tastes damn good too!
“All types of milk, from whole to nonfat contain 18 amino acids: all nine of the essential amino acids; six semi-essential: arginine, cysteine, glycine, proline, serine and tyrosine; and three nonessential: alanine, aspartic acid and glutamic acid. These are the same amino acids found in eggs.” – http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/amino-acids-contained-milk-eggs-3992.html
Looking at the back of the whey protein tub, there’s a load of amino acids on there. And I usually mix the strawberry flavour with milk anyways, which would give me 35g of protein in a glass. But if I’m on a run away from home, but near a café, I’ll be trying to order a hot chocolate, if not a latte. Maybe I’ll have a protein shake with milk after a particularly punishing run, or when I want something cool and refreshing. And who knows, I may get a tub of chocolate whey protein and add a scoop and experiment.
Looking at the Twining Swiss Hot Chocolate info, it also contains a load of vitamins and minerals crucial for metabolism of carbs, proteins and fats, as well as ATP release. We’re talking around 30% of RDA! Looks like I’ll be defecting to Twinings Swiss Hot Chocolate as my recovery drink of choice this winter!