Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Following on from my stats in my last blog of my improved speed it occurred to me that the best way to check my race time over 18k was to do the exact same race, in the same conditions and at the same time of day....the only difference being it would just be me and there would be no aid stations. The fact that I would racing alone could make me slower so I would just have to push myself harder.....and the aid station thing is pretty irrelevant over such a short distance.
   It is 18 months since I'd run this route, so it was going to be interesting, now I know its not ultra distance but still, it would be a valuable experiment. Last time I did this I was full of gels, water, sports drinks, banana's etc.......and its only 18k!....my glycogen stores would hardly have been used up at all....what an idiot.
    This time I set off much better prepared, lighter, leaner, fitter and in better shape altogether, the only nagging concern was that I'd been doing  a lot of crossfit lately and I had read that in the first few weeks your times can drop before they get better. Not quite sure what the reason is but I suspect its due to fatigue in the muscles that have not yet rebuilt themselves.
       Undaunted I set my watch and off I went instantly feeling under pressure which was ridiculous because nobody knew or cared what I was doing.......but of course I did.....and I'm pretty good at beating myself up if I have too. In my mind this was a pretty serious time trial and, as in any competition, if you are racing against others you automatically go faster so I had to race against someone.......and today the someone was myself. The elevation gain is about 3000 feet and although the course is tough in places, with one long hard climb and three really steep rocky descents, its mostly okay with single track trails. The time to beat was 2 hours-23 minutes.
        The watch hit 9:00 am and we were off!.......well....I was off, what a strange experience this was. I took only 1.5 litres of water and a couple of gels (just in case). I decided early on not to check my watch, as I didn't do it in the race, the only bench mark I would have would be how I felt.
        Two things became apparent in the first 5 minutes. Firstly it was hot and secondly we'd had a lot of rain over the past two days and the normal flat soft single tracks were now either very muddy or mini rivers!
    Whatever, after 30 mins and in a dense forest I nearly crashed into a Chinese guy (who spoke a bit of French), who was lost. I suggested he follow me until I could show him the way to go. There then followed a rather bizarre conversation about Ultra running in French/Chinese/English.....very surreal. He seemed most impressed with my 55k run this year, he'd done the 32k and had stopped due to cramp......interesting stuff isn't it? Well I was hardly going to discuss the effects of Deng Xiaoping's reforms on modern day China, not with my dodgy French....Anyway he went east and I went west...... I found the next 6k really hard, its a big climb and the ground was heavily rutted, rocky and wet and once at the top then its a precipitous rocky descent down. In the race this was a lot easier but today I nearly twisted an ankle several times. One good thing about the wet was the smell of the pine trees, just intoxicating and the air was clear and the mountains stunningly beautiful. I pressed on trying to keep up a decent pace, I realised that in a race the other runners really do push you inadvertently.
     After a few hours I neared the ocean and the final few kilometres were along the beach. I arrived back at the start/finish and checked my watch..... 2 hours- 23 minutes. Bizarre! The exact same time as nearly 2 years ago, what's all that about ?
    Initially I was very disappointed, all that training, 1000's of miles and hundreds of hours and I do the same time. Last month I covered a similar distance a lot faster so why was this? Firstly  my leg muscles felt very heavy on the climbs, there were no quad aches, they just felt heavy. I had just done my first intense week of crossfit conditioning and so I guess that had to be it. According to the Crossfit Endurance guys after a few weeks I'd really see the difference. I certainly hope so.
Secondly although it was warm, the wet  surface conditions were much worse than than last years race. Thirdly I was running against myself and fourth, I'am older, 58 next month, maybe at this age there is a law of diminishing returns. To be honest I don't know but over the coming weeks I intend to find out.....and improve. My 33k race is in 4 weeks time so I better get myself sorted out and fast.
       My plan is crossfit conditioning 4 days per week, 800/1500 metre and tabata sprints, a couple of 10k interval runs and one long  20k plus run per week. I probably will have to do some of this on the beach for specificity. Paddy thinks I should run a little less than this and just do intervals....he's probably right but I find it hard not too, I suppose its a mental thing due to my lack of prep (because of injury) for the Way to Cool 50k earlier this year.....but I feel I just can't take the chance of not doing enough miles, still.....any advice will be gratefully received.


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