I have to say I think that when I decided to run in my vibrams I really didn’t think about the terrain! They were great fun when it was grassy but when I was descending on the mud, it was chaos, and I had more than my fair share of falls. A lot of people were having problems, but my shoes have no tread in them what so ever so I didn’t have a hope. I would have been much better off in the trek versions, or even some proper off-road shoes(!) but it was an interesting experiment to try and my body has held up well, despite all the questions I was asking myself whilst sliding over in the mud a metre away from the cliff edge…
After a long journey through a storm and some dodgy, single track a roads, I arrived yesterday evening to a rather empty HQ! But there was still food being served so I had some tea and got shown to my accommodation, a lovely little cottage, just a short walk away from the HQ.
A usual restless pre-race night ensued where it felt like I hardly slept. I got up about 6 and started sorting my stuff before I remembered I didn’t need to be up til 8! Another couple of hours snoozing and it was time to grab the kit and get breakfast. We had a long transfer to the start and didn’t get going until 11, but it was nice to finally start.
The first hour was pretty much a procession as it was a narrow track and too many runners to pass, but it eventually filled out. I had the first sign of things to come just before the first checkpoint with a questionable downhill, some mud and my first fall f the day. I arrived at checkpoint 1 in around 1hr9, which was just after 10k so a fairly good pace considering. I refilled my bottles, grabbed some food and left.
The next hour was great, the terrain was good, my legs felt great and I was flying in the Vibrams, despite the rain. However, after about 2 hours (coincidentally my longest run since July!) I started to tire and the mass of people treading the ground and turned it into mudbath. I lost count of the number of times I slipped, including one where I landed on some rocks and knocked my knee, forcing me to walk it lose for a bit. It was a long slog to the next checkpoint and I didn’t arrive until just before 3 hours on the clock.
After some food, and setting off again, I was feeling a bit better and the ground seemed a bit grippier and then next hour and a half passed quite quickly despite some tough terrain and not seeing anyone else in sight. I had a couple of moments where I had to stop and check the map, but I think I managed to navigate pretty well, all in all! I arrived at check point 2 with 4hr30 on the clock and 32k done with just 9 to go. Excellent, should be done within an hour.
However the terrain got worse and worse and I fell more and more. I hit a low patch at 5 hours 30 when I looked at the map to see how far I had left and realised I hadn’t covered nearly as much as I thought. But I was catching people so I can’t have been doing too badly, despite losing lots of time as people flew past me on the downhills and I might as well have sat down and slid to the bottom.
After another 15 mins of a ridiculous descent which I did far too slowly, we hit a little village and had 3k to go. ‘just over than rock there and it’s on the other side’ apparently. ‘That rock’ however was a massive up and a massive down. I caught some of the walkers going up just as it got dark so I just followed them down, praying for some stones in the mud to provide a bit of grip. Finally we hit the road and I left them for a shuffle to the finish to come home with an official time of 6 hours 30.
I appear to be feeling ok! My knee is a little sore from a fall, and my feet just feel tired, but my legs certainly don’t feel like I’ve been running for 6 and a half hours! I had a massage to work out some of the tight spots, but looked in better shape than most at dinner, at least I can walk! Tomorrow will be interesting. Hopefully after a decent sleep I won’t be feeling too bad, but if today was the flat day then tomorrow will be brutal! I will be wearing my Newtons I’ve decided as apparently it is very rocky and I would like to try to run it rather than tentatively walk it in the vibrams! Hopefully my fee will have recovered in time.
Total time so far: 6:30
Total distance: 41.9km
So, 3 marathons in 3 days…. I must be nuts! Especially after my run training of late, which has been severely hampered by a foot injury. First things first, I am going to finish. I don’t have any goals other than that, no time goals and certainly no plans of breaking any records.
I am feeling very underprepared at the moment, partly due to training, partly due to the fact I have just been running around the house looking for bits of kit, hours before I need to leave, I partly because I don’t have any experience of this kind of thing, what so ever! I am going to be the 22 year old triathlete, rocking up to an ultra event, standing out from a mile away, with the shaved legs, looking completely lost, and silly shoes (see below). As crazy as it sounds, I am looking forward to it, I want to see how far my body and mind can go, and how I survive. I know I am young and recover quickly, so hopefully I should be able to put together 3 solid runs. I also know however, that I have not run more than 2 hours since July, and if I am out for 6 hours, I may well fall apart… only one way to find out.
I have had lots of discussions about kit with people. I will be running in a base layer with a thermal vest on top and gillet, and normal running shorts. If the weather is worse, I have plenty of tights, knee warmers, jerseys and fleeces to keep me warm, or even a running vest if it gets really nice (ha!). After a little experiment earlier in the week, I found that my IM Switzerland rucksack makes a great running sack, so will use that to carry my kit. I am going to wear my fuel belt, with 2 bottles in, and carry a normal sized water bottle in my back. (Did plan on using an old camelback I had lying around, but just discovered I would probably be arrested by the Environment Agency for the new species of mould growing in it!). As per the rules, I will have waterproof tops, warm kit and spare food/emergency supplies and a compass and whistle dangling off a strap to whack me round the chest every time I stop running smoothly.
My shoes have caused the biggest amount of contention! After listening to a lot of advice, I am listening to it carefully, then ignoring it! I plan to run in my Vibram FiveFingers, and reactions have ranged, from complete horror and outrage, to intrigue. From the running I have done in them off-road, I love it! They are a lot more comfortable then my other option, my Newtons. Unfortunately I am not in a position to be able to get some proper off-road shoes, due to time and money, but although I may be slipping around in the mud a bit, they perform a lot better in than normal shoes, and aggravate my injury a lot less than my Newtons, something that will be important after 120k! The only problem I am going to have is if it gets extremely rocky, and lots of little sharp rocks, which hurt due to the lack of protection. So I will be carrying my Newtons with me for that reason, and in case my feet pack in! I would be interested to hear if anyone has any experience of running extremely long in minimalist shoes or Vibrams. I do anticapate that if my form goes out of the window, then I could run into problems. Hopefully, running in Vibrams will stop this, but if I run into trouble then it will be Newton time. I have been told it is impossible, and there is no way I will be able to do it in the silly shoes, but there’s only one way to find out!
Hopefully if I can find some internet (or signal, it is the middle of Wales after all…) I will get a daily blog up after each stage. For now, it is time for the long drive down to Pembrokeshire. It should be a nice drive, lovely scenery etc, better than driving back in the dark on Sunday night after 3 marathons!
Wow it has been a long time since I last wrote one of these! As I settle back into Uni life, I think now is a good time to look forward and see what the plans are for the next season.
After Switzerland, I took a long break. I didn’t have too long of complete rest, and just did what I felt like, including a couple of runs within a week of finishing, and feeling pretty good. Admittedly I didn’t really manage my recovery very well, with rest and diet going to pot, and as a result it took me far longer to bounce back than I would have hoped. However, I am not too out of shape, certainly compared to this time last year, and am doing more and am certainly lighter.
I do feel like I needed a big downtime though, after my IM I had moving house (twice), finding a new house in Manchester, getting ready for Uni, going back to work at the Navigation and enjoying doing nothing, I slipped into a downward spiral of laziness and depsite a few attempts to kick start the training again, just lost motivation. However, I feel I am now back and ready to train, and certainly being back in Manchester helps.
Unfortunately, due to my laziness, I missed all the entry deadlines for end of season tris, so have no last race of the year. However, I do have a very busy few months coming up!
The main race of next year is going to be Challenge Roth, which I have paid and entered for! I am very excited to be doing this year, having heard what a fantastic race this is. However, I also want to do a branded race, on the very off chance that I am in good shape and there is a lucky roll down. So I have also decided to enter Ironman UK, which is only 3 weeks later! Speaking to friends who have done similarly stupid things, including Russell Cox, who did the exact same thing last year. Given my age, and with a history of recovering quickly (if I keep focus!) and the fact that there are a big number of slots next year, with a possible 3 in my age group, it makes it a good challenge to try and do!
Part of seeing whether this is actually doable, is a possible attempt at the Pembrokeshire Coastal Challenge, which is 3 marathons held over 3 days. It is a good time to do it, with plenty of time to recover before the Roth training starts, and will be a good indicator of how well I will be able to do 2 Ironman marathons close together. Swimming will be fine, and my bike fitness is good enough to be able to do both, certainly with another year under the belt, and it is only the marathon that will be interesting. I haven’t entered this yet, as I want to make sure my run fitness is up to scratch before I do, but all the signs seem to be good so far. I have also just started running in Vibram Fivefingers (not exactly sensible given!) as I transition further to barefoot/minimalist running, but I am loving them and seeing a quick adaption so we shall see. Thankfully I can enter right up to a week before so don’t have to make a decision just yet.
Coming up before that are the Tour of the Peaks, and this weekend a silly 170km 4000m climbing ride in the Yorkshire Moors with Mike, which really will be a shock after Freshers week, and no longer than an hour on the bike since Switzerland… but it will be a good kickstart and I can start training properly again, and start club sessions. I never like doing things the easy way anyway….