Thursday, 6 June 2013

Changes afoot, and The Yomp

I realise it's now almost three months since my last explusion of my thoughts onto the page; well lots of things have happened since then.

March is typically one of the busiest parts of the year for me, coupled with my previous boss leaving and me taking over it was even busier this year.  The handover was problematic and combined with poor record keeping on the part of my ex-boss, the busy period carried on into April and May as I'm still trying to plan and organise from the crap he left me. In amongst that I also now have two people reportting to me and overall responsibility for oil and gas outside the USA, so lots happening at the moment.

Add that into my continuing attempts to learn the ukulele and my continuing attempt to try and train suitably for the Grim Reaper 70 in August, and my continuind delivery of my work with a few Sunday's away from home and you'll understand that time to write has been limited.   I'd also intended posting a good few pictures here as well, but somehow they've not got themselves out of my camera yet. They will have to wait for another day.

I had intended this to be a lead up to a mid-season race, but I didn't get there in time so this is also a race report of the Yomp, which I'm using as a training run before the main event.  The first weekend in June was supposed to be a 4hr 30 training run, so I think I'll be on target for that with a 23 mile/3600ft elevation race. Early April was patchy for the long runs, but I at least got the time in with one weekend being three 10k treadmill sessions and a yoga session. Late April was OK with three long runs in succession being completed, up to 3hr 45 min.  May has not been so good with both work disruptions on Sundays, minor calf strains and mini-tapers, but I have at least one more hard month to go before tapering into August.  Looking forward June may be  also be a bit problematic, but I'll do what I can. I am seriously considering dropping back down to 40-50 milers next year as I think I can train more successfully and consistently for those, plus I want to spend more time on the bike again next year.

So Friday, drove up to Cumbria to stay at my parents, not a bad journey with fairly clear roads for a Friday afternoon/evening, some slow traffic in one place due to an accident, but otherwise a steady drive around 5 hours altogether including a couple stops. Over-ate apples and dates on the way, and a bowl of nice bolognese waiting when I got here.  A couple of beers with dad and ready for bed.

Saturday morning, bowl of porridge with nuts, seeds and fruit and a cup of (mistakenly decaffeinated) coffee, then time to check out the new gear.  I got a new camelbak for my birthday with the intention of using it for Grim later, but using this race as a tester, and also because you need to carry some safety gear here (although with the forecast it was pretty superfluous).  Because there are checkpoints with water every couple of miles, I took out the bladder to use it as a rucksack for the maps and waterproofs.  It also has front pouches to fit food bars, my nuts/seeds/fruit mix and a bottle of nuun plus the mandatory whistle and compass.  I'm experimenting with my feeding strategy this time to not drink carbs and use gels, but to try to move more towards real foods (but with a couple of gels in reserve).

Saturday morning, and a short 5k run to settle the camelbak in, no worries there, nice and comfy and running well apart from a slight pull in the left calf from an overnight cramp; I'll wait till race day to try out the debris gaiters I bought.  Unfortunately my calf compression sleeves hadn't arrived at home by the Friday.

Perhaps not the best race preparation, but a morning of errands and a couple of saturday afternoon beers in the sun helped to take my nerves off the race, that coupled with research into Naismith's rule for running to try and work out a reasonable target time for the race.  Turns out the best approach is to take your normal flat pace, add distance at a rate of 8m for every metre climbed.  That gives me around a 4hr 40 target.  Looking back at last year's results I think anything less than 5 hours is a good time

So, my cousin Sallie, husband Nick, kids Tash and Lauren and two dogs arrived saturday afternoon, she to race, he to look after dogs, kids and provide general encouragement.  They are both keen runners and take it in turns to see who races unless they can palm the kids adn dogs off on grandparents. Sallie has a pretty good racing history with a 3:30 marathon time so I was fully expecting her to come in ahead of me, particularly as they reggularly run in North Wales where I live and train on the flat.  Traditional pre-race prep of a good three course meal with wine to help it go down, back to bed before 10:30 ready for an early alarm.

Sunday, 05:30, coffee, banana, final kit checks, nervous trips to the toilet.  Race start is only 5 minutes walk from my parents house so it was a matter of walking over in race kit, check in, get the chip timing explained to me then wait for Sallie to arrive.  The day was perfect for it, a slight breeze, bright adn sunny with just enough cloud cover to keep the heat off.  As 0800 approached, we both threw our unused kit at my mum and dad, a few pre-race photos and then we're off.

A very odd start for this race, as you start in the school grounds, go down an alley wide enough just for two, through soem barriers adn then at the end a right turn at a pedestrian safety barrier onto the road before you can finally start the running.  About 4km of tarmac and concrete out of the village and up to a farmyard at a steady but gentle slope before you get off road and start to see where yo are heading up the first big climb.  Before that though, timing point and water stop at about 5km, then you start the real climb.  And it's soggy.

Lots of rain in the weeks before the event adn it's still running down off the hills, but with Injinji socks and toes taped I'm not worried about that.  Although the Inov-8s let water in easily, it also gets back out the same way, but I'm looking forward to a day of wet feet at this point.

So, first real climb, time to start walking.  On flatter events I'm nornally working with 3km run, 2min walk, but today that goes out the window with a walk the uphills and run when you can strategy.  A steady climb up of just over 400m in about 6km, with a few little dips and flats on the way.  Second checkpoint at the top of Wild Boar Fell, where i dithered a bit to refill by bottle and drop in a tab of nuun, where Sallie got about 200 yards ahead of me.  A fairly flat and soggy bit for about a km or so then a short but very steep drop off into a col before the next hill.  I nearly came a cropper here, underestimating the slope, but ended up just letting my legs go, leaning back a bit and using my arms to try and balance before it flattended out a bit more into the col, then started heading up again for the next peak. Not so hard a climb this time but still a bit of walking required

This one came with another water stop and timing point again, at about 15km and 650m high at the top of Swarth Fell. By this time the wind was coming up on the tops and the volunteers were well wrapped up and sheltering in their tents between runners.  The drop off from this one was truly spectatular, straight down the side of the mouuntain, no path, just go for it, and as a U-shaped valley it started out almost vertical.

I'd been chatting to a guy for a couple of km who was aiming for a similar tiem to me, and he headed off down slope before me.  I could have caught him easily but decided to let him be the sacrificial goat and get about 20 yards ahead, where I could watch him find all the soft and tricky bits watching as he nearly tripped and modify my line accordingly.  It was great fun though, just letting yoruself go and descend.  A total drop of 300m in 1.5km or an average 20%, but the first 100m of that came in just 150m of forward travel. 

Mum, dad, Nick and the kids were waiting at the next check point and told me I was about 5 mins behind Sallie at this point, not far off halfway now. 

Teh next climb was long and steady rathher than short and steep, going from 350m to 690m in about 5km, mostly walked with only a few opportunities to break into a trot.  The only good thing about this climb was that it was fairly dry underfoot so reasonably firm. This was up The Riggs along Mallerstang Edge with a big drop off to one side and acroos to High Seat, spectatularviews.  In terms of terrains, it was a little dip before another peak, then a nice downhill section for a while and a chance to recover some of the time lost on the climb, and warm up again from the chilly breeze that had sprung up. 

Another steep drop off the edge here from 700 down to 500m and a couple of flattish km alomng a valley floor.  This was also the point at which those doing the half Yomp joined the long course, making things interesting as you started to coem across adn need to dodge the walkers adn slower runners. About 10km to go now, but my calves had started to cramp from about 24km and I had one more big climb to come.  No other option but to substitute the pain for soemthing else.  Luckily I managed to find another runner climbing at the same pace as me so we had a good chat up the climb, 200m in 2km so only 10%.  He'd run both the half and full course before and as we talked of targets etc, time so far he reckoned I'd be on for a sub 4hr 30 time "it's all downhill from the top" he told me.

Only around 9km to go by now, with just over an hour to do it in, the only question is would my calves hold out.  Up to the last but one check point at the top of the last climb to Nine Standards and then start a 6km/4 mile descent back to the start point.  A bit tricky at the top with a few rocky sections, but as soon as the path improved to a nice grassy surface, and fairly firm I just let my legs go, trying to dodge the walkers who weren't looking where they were going.  All was well until I put my right foot onto what looked like, and had so far been a firm surface, only to find that it was a knee deep bog.  Right foot stops immediately, left leg carries on and I come to a rapid halt with my right leg tried into a knot.  Result; me stood by the side of the path for about 30s trying to uncramp my right calf and hop around in pain at the same time.

Off again, back up to speed getting down below 5 min/km now and as low as 4min/km. Off the hills and back onto the roads for the final checkpoint with just about 3.5km to go, only problem was I was tiring badly now, and my calves were reducing me to a walk on slopes I would normally run up with ease.  Last 3km to go on the road and 23 minutes to get under 4:30, mostly downhill.  Should be able to do it.  Up comes the quarry on my left, I know I'm close now, then the field down to Frank's Bridge, over the bridge, around te corner and STEPS! Who puts steps at the end of a 37km race?  Haul myself up those and run in the last 500m, final timing point and collapse in a heap.

Time 4hr 25, ending up 35th overall 32nd male.
Sallie maintained her 5min lead coming in at 4h 19 and third female.

A good spread of tea, biscuits, sandwiches, timing splits and certificates.  But more importantly a good friendly bunch of folks, all interested to find out how well you did, whether you came in first or 51st.  The guy I shared the final climb with came in a few minutes behind, and when he found out my time said "I told you so", the guy who'd been trying to beat 5hr came in around 4:40, smashing his target.

Overall I' was well chuffed with my time considering I'm a flatlander and don't do hills, super chuffed for Sallie, but I know she's a good runner.  A bit more hanging around chewin the fat, then back round to mum and dads for a shower, a spot of lunch and then pack the bags to set off on the 240 mile journey home.

All was well until after about an hour my toes started hurting like mad adn started to cramp.  The left leg was OK as I drive an automatic and that one is free to wiggle around as much as it wants, but the right was more problematic.  It wa stime to stop for coffee anyway, but I must have looked a bit odd as I walked gingerly across the car park with my quads on fire.

Monday morning, ironically my calf guard arrive in the post, so they got used in recovery mode.  Monday evening and a gentle recovery run, calves OK, hamstrings OK, but quads very painful.  Monday evening/Tuesday morning and I'm having trouble with the transition from sitting to standing. 

Things to learn from this;
- more electrolytes needed in warmer weather
- don't underestimate your ability

I think I'll give Tuesday's time trial a miss.

Almost forgot, Geek trace

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