Sunday, 15 January 2017

45 miles is a long way to run

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder….. Not sure if long distance running events was in the foremost thoughts of the person that created that saying!

Country to Capital is a 45 miles race from Wendover in Buckinghamshire to Little Venice in central London.  I was extremely anxious before the event, not knowing if I could or if I should.  But I wanted to give it a go.

My objectives for the race were quite simple.  Be on the start line and run as far as I could.  How far I could actually run was a huge unknown as the furthest that I have run non-stop since July 2013 was 20 miles.
I have run several races prior to 2013 where I refused to quit and suffered the consequences. I have also quit races and suffered the consequences.  I have learned the difference the hard way and was determined to use my experience to make the right decision for me.

how do I work this watch....?
My four year abstinence from running ultras is a direct result of my ankle “condition”.  I suffered a serious injury through over compensating and had major surgery on my ankle (4 surgeries to date).  The combination of the surgery and the injury in that four year period resulted in 12 months of no running, with very little running in between.  The bad news is that I will one day require further surgery on my ankle.  The good news is that until that day there are no limitations on what I do.  The impact of running is negligible and if I can manage the pain then I can run to my heart’s content.  I have a fabulous surgeon that has supported me through all my operations and all my running successes to date.
The “stop if it hurts” philosophy doesn’t apply to my ankle.  If it did I would not get out of bed in the morning, but I do know when too much pain is dangerous.

Off to London we did go
So with that in mind, when I started running in Wendover yesterday I was prepared to be in so much pain that I would have to stop.  If not ankle pain, then pain in another part of my body that was not ready yet for running 45 miles.
I started slowly and at a pace that felt uncomfortably slow.  I was forced to walk up some of the little hills due to congestion and that I am ashamed to say I found very frustrated.  All the hills were runnable but the people around me chose to walk.  The route was very busy and there were runners all around me.  I overtook them on the hills and then they caught up on the flat sections.

Local entertainment for the supporters
For the first 18 miles there was quite a battle in my mind.  The demon dude was having a great time…. Telling me to quit, I was no longer able to run long distances and should be at home playing with dogs and ponies and drinking beer with Ian.  Quit and retire from ultra-running.  
The temptation to agree to demon dudes demands was rather strong, especially as I kept on seeing Ian and the dogs as he supported me in exemplary fashion along the route.  I had already spotted that Ian had purchased a little mini keg of beer from a local brewery while driving between check points – yes, he really is that good!
Running in the zone

Anyway, back to the demon dude battle in my mind.  Around about the 18 mile point, I crossed over the M25 and found myself alone, there were no other runners in close proximity and I actually started believing that I could finish the race.  If I could run 18 miles without a significant physical issue then a few more miles beyond marathon distance was possible.  Yeah I know my maths is rubbish!

From the M25 to Little Venice it felt like I was flying.  The demon dude left my mind and the little angel appeared and gave me my wings.  I changed my shoes just before I reached the canal tow path - I needed the cushioning of my favourite road shoes to reduce the pain.  One of the hardest parts of the race was changing my shoes as my hands were so cold courtesy of the conditions and then I forgot my gloves!

The shoe change and sudden focus on the race produced a huge improvement in my running performance.  From running 6-9 minutes per kilometre I found myself running just under 6 minutes per kilometre.

I had a little wobble at the 26 mile point when I threw all my toys out of the pram and just stood by the side of the path fiddling with my mobile phone. Thankfully my toddler tantrum was short lived and I started running again.  The pain was a little bit uncomfortable at this point, but inspired my most favourite person’s saying “the pain is no less the slower you run”, I tried to run as quickly as my legs would allow me.  

My most favourite person also made me wear a Garmin for the duration of this event.  It had the course on it so that I did not get lost and it also recorded my run, from start to finish.
I ran most of the first half just under 10 minute miles pace, the canal tow path at 8:30 minute miles and then finished the last ¼  mile just over 6 minute mile pace.  Now that’s a progressive run!

But more importantly than any statistics, after all that has happened in the past 4 years and successfully finishing this event I now believe that I am still an ultra-runner and my best performance ever as an ultra-runner is yet to come.

My fuel for the race was water, Clif Shot Bloks, Clif Bar, honey and fruit pancakes, plus some of the wonderful cake that Go Beyond serves at their fabulous check points. 

Thanks to Ian B-B for the photos and never ending support