Sunday, 28 March 2010

Kipling Kaper

With my dodgy knee starting to feel less dodgy, it was time for the Kipling Kaper, a 31 mile event in the Peak District. For this event I had planned to just going for it, to just run as fast as my legs will take me (but without getting too out of breath). The event was closer to home than most so I got to get up at a later time of 6am for a change. Everything was going good until I reversed my car (still on the drive) into my neighbour’s car. I felt like such a tosser. After a quick letter through his letter box apologising, I set off in a really shitty mood. The weather did not help when I was met with rain and thick fog.

I arrived at the start with plenty of time to register, get ready and dwell on the morning’s incident. The start was more memorable than most events I have participated in recently with a mass start and I had just drove into my neighbour's car. I can now recognise a lot of the regular runners in the local events and felt sorry for Nick Ham who had to recount on his injuries over and over to everyone he talked to, although all the concern shows that he is a much liked member of this community. As we all grouped together in the car park, the sun came out and off we went.

We all set off in a big group which I positioned myself hear the front. The first hill came quickly and the group began to spread out although not by much. Everyone seemed to want to run the first hill, so I just got my head down and ran with them. We reached the top of Gun hill trig point where I could see about 6 runners in front of me and a long line behind. All the aches and pains of injuries were staying a bay so far but there was a section of downhill to tackle next. I thought I kept at a slower pace to make sure my knee did not flare up, but on reviewing the data from my watch I found I was going 5 minute miles at times which is 12 mph. A few runners when flying past me on the grassy banks and I cannot imagine what speed they were doing. At around the 3 mile mark I thought I could feel a blister on the back of my right foot which started hurting so bar I had to stop. I noticed that there was no blister there but a big purple patch. Already feeling down after redesigning my neighbours car, I was so deflated that I thought about quitting right there and walking back. On the other hand, in light of the damage I had done to the car I was going to make this run count for something and any suffering may take my mind off it. I ran on and found the pain started decreasing as the mile ticked by. We passed Abbey Green and headed due west. Before the first check point at 8.5 miles there was a long straight stretch along a disused railway line. I found myself with two other runners who were running at the same speed. We sped along the flat section and with the pain on my heel not hindering me anymore, I fell into a meditative pace dwelling on damaged cars.

After 2 miles running alongside Rudyard Reservoir, I arrival at check point 1, grabbed a couple of biscuits, and set off quickly along with the two other runners I was with previously. A new member joined the group before we left the disused railway track and headed toward Rushton Spencer. We continued onto the Dane Valley Way and along a canal feeder. Here another runner joined the group which would continue to lose a few in front and behind only to rejoin again at the next style or gate. The group passed through Danebridge before heading off through farm fields, passed Hammerton Farm, then passing a pub called the Wild Boar. This event allows for a number of different route combinations to allow for a varied distances. It was my intention to do the whole hog and coming up next was an out and back climb up a hill called Shutlingsloe, which is only 506 feet in elevation but a ‘crawling on hands and knees’ accent to get to the summit. I could see it in the distance and it looked big and steep. A number of our group asked me if I was going to do it and although I was still feeling relatively fresh, I was having concerns about pains in my knee and my right leg. As we approached the start of the 2 mile extra sightseeing tour up the hill, I had almost decided not to do it but as everyone else was heading up the hill I followed. For the next 2 miles I was regretting every extra step I had to take. It was not the extra distance but my legs were telling me that I have not done many hilly runs recently and were turning to concrete. We reached the top and nearly got blown away in strong winds before descending back to the bottom. The very last section of the detour was a steep road and right at the bottom I felt sharp stabbing pains in my abs. I could walk fine but running sent stabbing pain with every step. I was having a nightmare of a time. I damaged my neighbour’s car, got a new injury on my heel, trashed my legs going up some hill and now I am doubled over in pain. The next check point was within spitting distance and I walked it in catching the group in the hall, all on a feeding frenzy.

I decided to make it a quick stop so I could get back out and try and walk off the new pain in my abs. I shoved a load of cakes and scones in my mouth and grabbed a couple of sausage rolls to eat on the hoof. I left the group still feeding knowing they will soon catch me and leave me for dead. I walked at first and slowly started to do a run/walk until I could tolerate the pain. I was feeling so low that I just focused on forward momentum. I started along Cumberland Brook before two of the team caught me up and we ascended up to Danebower Hollow, walking the whole way. At reaching the top I was all but finished. I started running again, but at a much slower pace trying to suck my abs in to reduce the pain. The other two runners were ahead and I slowly lost sight of them. The only people I would see for the remainder of the event was three more runners who I would crawl past in the later stages. There was a bit of a downhill section next and I could see the route would take me through a valley. I managed to pick my mood up a bit and found a bit more speed, keeping to a run. I spent this time thinking about my version of 'pimp my ride' to my neighbour's car. I was getting cold and decided to put my fleece on, hoping the extra heat would reduce the pain. There was a bit of navigational error which resulted in me running randomly across fields to find the correct track, which I eventually found. On the map I could see how close the next check point was and this, along with a surface that was easier to run on, gave me enough of a boost to push on. Finally I could see the check point.

The third and last check point was in a car park and there was ample food and refreshments and a warm atmosphere. I didn’t stop long and made my way towards The Roaches. I have been rock climbing here a number of times in the past and was looking forward to running through it. Unfortunately the approach involved a big accent up through Gradback Wood, up to Roach End and up to the top of The Roaches. I walked the entire length with short jogs on any flat sections. I was starting to have a big low again and though the climb would never end. I just wanted to run and get this over with. At the top of The Roaches, it levelled off and I started to run again. It was just before the decent down from the ridge that I caught up with three other runners and after passing two, I continued along with the third. We ran through the maze of paths down to the road and I could see that it was mostly downhill to the finish. I pushed ahead in the hope that it was all going to end quicker and after a quick navigation error involving climbing up a steep hill I had just ran down, I swore my way along wet muddy fields. This was the final push and I was doing everything to keep running. The pain in my abs was becoming unbearable and my face was completely contorted as a hissed my way through endless number of gates and stiles. I was so close and the last few hundred yards I was reduced to a walk as I could not take the pain any more. I ripped my shoes off at the entrance of the finish hall and after handing in my card, made my way to the food and started shovelling it down (and what a feast there was). I could not be bothered to put my shoes back on as the effort seemed too much, so I finally walked back to the car in my socks. Only one thing left to do... go home and talk to my neighbour.

My neighbour was extremely understanding and said that everything was fine, but I still feel angry at myself. This whole experience has shown me one thing. When undertaking an endurance event, a positive outlook from the start will get you a long way after your body fails, and a negative outlook will only get you as far as your body will take you. I have physically recovered well the day after the event and now have to mentally focus on the Compton Challenge 40 mile run I have next weekend. Then there will be only 3 weeks until the Highland Fling Race which is my first none training run of the year.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Walk to ‘Ell and Back

Just a week after Not for Nothing 50, I felt ready for this 30 mile run although I planned to take it easy because I knew I would not be fully recovered. To try and keep my total weekly mileage up and to practice running on tired legs I did a 10 mile run on the Saturday before running the event on the Sunday. On the Saturday night I had a massive downer when my right knee locked up (an old none running injury) and I was unable to straighten it without a fair amount of pain. I knew that it would ‘pop back’ at any time but it can take days. After lots of grumping and moaning about never running again, pop, it was back to normal again. Just in time.

The event did not start till 9:30am so I didn’t have to get up at 4am like most events. With only 1.5 hour drive I arrived at Greetland All Rounders Rugby Club at 9am and prepared to leave. The weather was perfect, with blue skies, not a cloud in sight, temperatures around -4 degrees but with the promise of rising to 5 or 6 degrees. With a last minute decision to ditch my fleece, I was off.

The first couple of miles flew by as I meandered my way down to Rochdale Canal. With a brief visit through Sowerby Bridge, the canal was marginally uninspiring with a 3.5 mile section of straight flat footpath. I could see the hills all around and was looking forward to getting some elevation. At the end of the canal section there was a check point before the first small accent through Luddenden Foot up to Moor End where the second check point was located. With 7.3 mile done, I was feeling good and my legs were feeling fresh.

A mile into the next stage and I started feeling a sharp pain in the outside of my left knee. It was bearable and was not affecting my running so I continued on without too much thought. The bulk of the walkers were around this point and they all looked happy with the spectacular weather we were having. The temperature was rising but a cold breeze kept my cool with stunning views. I continued on along tracks and quiet country roads before following the Calderdale Way Trail. The route follows the trail to a check point at Ripponden, where the 15 mile route would travel back to the start and the 30 mile route would head in the opposite direction.

The opposite direction turned out to be one of the steepest roads I have ventured on, although it was over with quickly. I got to talking with another runner at this point but the pain in my knee was reaching new levels of pain. I had to say good bye and fall back with frequent stretching and rubbing. I knew it would not do it any good to continue running but I powered on. Through further tracks and country roads, I reach the next check point at Baitings Reservoir.

There was a huge cheese butty with my name on it at this check point and I walked across the dam trying to eat it as fast as possible. My knee was really hurting now but I was too occupied looking up at the hill I was about to climb. The next part of the route when up onto Rishworth Moor, which contoured around the top before arriving at Green Withens Reservoir where there was another check point.

The next section was all downhill and my knee was slowing me down to a crawl. Whenever there was a sharper pain spike than the one previous, I would make a strange grunting noise through my teeth and nose. I let gravity get me down before reaching the A672 which I followed closely before reaching the next check point at Booth Wood Reservoir.

I immediately went the wrong way after this check point but was helped back on track by a walker whom was many years my senior but still going stronger than all but a handful of the remaining walkers who set off at 8am that morning. I passed under the M62 and started my slow accent of Deanhead Moor at which point the sun was baking hot. I started feeling a bit dehydrated and my energy levels were depleting. I passed the last of the walkers before arriving at Deanhead Reservoir, where I arrived at and followed Scammonden Water to the next check point.

I had hit a low point now but knew that there was only around 5 to 6 miles left to go. The pain in my knee was slowing me down and I just wanted to get back. I decided to eat all my remaining food in one last effort for more energy and set off under the M62 once again before meandering down the valley back to the finish. I was to be completely on my own for the remainder of event apart from the virtual partner on my Garmin watch. I had given him a slow time but he had caught me up. He was under my feet and I used it to push on, so I ran the complete remainder of the route. Despite there being short steep accents, ankle deep mud, stiles, traffic on the road, the virtual partner was relentless and ploughed on through it all. I finally managed to get ahead of him and held a lead. I was so close I could see the finish at the top of the last steep hill. I arrived at the last steep accent but there was no way I could run it, so as I walked as fast as I could, the virtual partner caught me up and was in the lead. I reached to level road, only 800 feet to go. All I wanted to do was walk to the end but I was determined to beat my watch. I plodded on in pain to the finish arriving 2 seconds after that relentless virtual partner. Next time I will give him a handicap. The strange thing with the end of this run was that normally I am counting down the miles, which seem to go slower and slower, but this time it all went really quickly.

I wolfed down my pie and peas and drank some electrolytes before heading home. I had got some sun burn, but the biggest worry now is my knee. It still hurts to walk but I have faith that it will heal quickly. The only down side is that I planned to enter the Hardmoors 55 in two weeks time, but I now have a fear that the wear on my body will prevent me from doing the Highland Fling Race and the LDWA 100, which are my main focus points at the moment. I will give some time for recovery before deciding on my next move.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Not for Nothing 50

My next long run was the Not for Nothing 50, a 50 mile event exploring parts of Norfolk. The week leading up to the event was a nightmare. I went for my usual 10 mile morning run on the Sunday, in crisp white snow. About 6.5 miles into the run I felt a sharp pain in my Achilles tendon which stopped me on the spot. I managed to walk and hobble my way back home but the pain did not go. I guessed it was either an inflammation or rupture, an inflammation being ok, a rupture being at least 3 months off running to heal. I rested and iced it all week noticing a reduction in pain each day and decided to just run the 50 and hope for the best.

I drove down to Norfolk on the Friday night and stayed at a campsite so I wouldn’t have a 3.5 hour drive starting at 5am in the morning. It was hammering down with rain and the wind was rocking the car. I woke at 6am and could not sleep again, so I packed my bag and got ready. The start of the event was at a hall in Hanworth. All the walkers had left an hour earlier and only a dozen of runners were waiting to start. At 9am the first couple of runners started to leave and although I had planned to leave last, I wanted to start my journey with no more delay.

The first section was from Hanworth to Cromer (7.2 miles). It was not raining at this point but there was dampness in the air that threatened rain. I started running with another runner in front of me for the first mile or two but let him go as I wanted to keep a slower pace. I ran along sleepy roads and farm fields before arriving at the National Trust’s Felbrigg Hall. Off in the distance I could hear a strange noise up ahead, which got louder until I finally could see hundreds of sheep all bleating like crazy. Another runner had appeared from a track ahead of me and I found it amusing the way the sheep all charged for him as he ran by. When I arrived, they all turned and started for me, keeping their distance by only a couple of feet as I took the long way around, they only chased me to a cattle grid before calling it a day and turned to wait for the next runner. The rest of the way to Cromer was uneventful and I finally arrived at the first check point where I had some orange juice and a biscuit.

The next section was from Cromer to Southrepps (5.9 miles) following the Paston Way as close as possible. When I left the check point I passed all the runners coming the other way, which means we were all going a similar pace of 10 min/miles. It was raining on and off now and I made my way out the maze of street in Cromer and followed along the cliff edge towards Overstrand. The last section I was completely on my own but now I was passing lots of walkers. Everything was going smoothly so far. The pain in my Achilles was only a dull throb and the weather was holding up. It was at around 11.3 miles I had a bit of a problem. I went the wrong way. I took a track without looking at the map and when I finally looked at it, it was obvious I was off course and I found where I was instantly. I could have turned around but thought I would be too demoralizing, so I opted for a slightly longer route which would get me back on track. When I finally arrived at the next check point, there were some walkers and a hand full of runners leaving. I quickly grabbed a couple of jam sandwiches, a penguin bar and a digestive biscuit before heading off again.

Next section was from Southrepps to a car park in Bacton Wood (7.6 miles). I continued to pass more walkers and made my way along tracks and across muddy fields. The weather was changing between rain and sun, which meant that it was either too wet or too hot. I was being careful not to make any more navigational errors and was taking my time. The walkers were thinning out at this stage with only a couple of very fast walkers. Just before I reached the check point I passed the leading walkers, who I all met at the end finding that they finished with incredible times between 13 and 14 hours. That was not far off my time and I was running (well I was doing the motions anyway). I arrived at the check point which was a tent serving soup and more biscuits. Two runners were just leaving and as I refilled my water and chatted to the check point volunteers, a hand full of people checked in and out, including the lead walker. I got my ass in gear and left.

I left Bacton Wood check point and headed for my next destination, the Church Rooms at Coltishall (11.3 miles). I noticed that I was lacking in a bit of energy at this point and feeling rougher than I would have liked but I maintained a good plod. I caught up with the two runners who were the ones leaving the previous check point and another runner caught up from behind (he would have been ahead but have made a few wrong turns resulting in a extra 4 or so miles at this point). We stuck in this group for the most of the way thought this section although I was trailing behind and periodically caught up when they slowed to eat. I was starting the hit the wall and I knew it. It was a long section but I knew there would be hot food at the next check point and I would have completed 32 miles in total. I made sure that I kept drinking and eating as much as possible and made the decision to start popping Pro Plus tablets. This section was starting to drag and I knew it was because I was feeling rough. I could finally see Coltishall in the distance but I was feeling dehydrated and dizzy. I finally lost sight of the other runners as I slowed and just kept pushing. When I finally arrived at the check point the rain had stopped and the sun was out, but I felt rough. I quickly sat down at a table and was served some soup which I wolfed down with lots of salt. The two runners I have been with previously were leaving but I decided to rest a while before heading out again, so I used the time to reorganize the food and gear in my bag. I refilled with water and had a last minute rice pudding before making my way out. There were lots of runners coming into the check point now and some leaving so after about 30 minutes of rest I set off.

The next section was from Coltishall to Great Wood car park (11.3 miles) and I ran along Bure Valley Path, passing through Aylsham. I could see it was a long straight path and needed some motivation, so I put on my mp3 and just kept running. I had picked up from my low and found that I could maintain a run the whole way. A couple of runners went past me, and I knew my speed was not all it could be but I was out for an adventure and not to race, so I plodded on. At Aylsham there was a surprise check point providing more food and water which was great of the organizers as it helps to break up the long section with a focal point. I was still feeling good but felt dehydrated, so I made an effort to keep taking small regular sips of water. The only problem was that at this stage I found that I could not keep the water in, and had to make regular stops. Past Aylsham and black clouds were looming and the rain started. I finally left the Bure Valley Path and still felt good, figuring that I could still make for around 10 hours if I keep pushing. In the next 3 miles everything turned to shit. I felt so dehydrated and was starting to get really dizzy. I just could not stop going for a pee. The light faded just before I reached to check point and I was feeling rough although with only 7 miles to go felt like I could make it. Within 2 minutes of stopping at the check point I thought I was going to pass out. I was really dizzy and started feeling extremely rough. I cannot explain exactly how I felt but it was worse than any sickness bug, any fever, anything I have felt before. I was too worried to attempt the next section in the dark because I thought I would pass out. I was sitting for a while before I have to make a very quick trip into the woods for a toilet stop which didn’t help issues. My mouth was so dry I figured it must be dehydration. I was all but ready to call it quits. There had been a few runner go through the check point but it was when three people walked it in that I asked if I could tag along with them. I honestly thought I was going to pass out somewhere on the route. They said they were going slow so I tagged along. I have no idea how long I was at the check point but it was a long time.

Great Wood to Hanworth (6.9 miles). The four of us in our little group basically walked the whole of the last section with a little bit of trotting now and then. It seemed to take forever. I kept talking to the others to try and take my mind off my pending doom. I did not feel any worse while running but was happy to walk. We slowly made our way in the dark, with stronger rain showers now and very wet and muddy fields. There is nothing much more to say about this section other than I was counting down the miles till the end and I still could not stop peeing. I was trying to work out why I felt so ill and how it hit me so hard. Did I not drink enough? Did I drink too much? Did I need to eat more? We finally arrived back at the hall in Hanworth. 50 miles in 11 hours 44 minutes. My legs were fresh as anything but I felt like death. After going for a pee twice more, I had a fry-up of bacon, sausages, egg, beans and toast. I started to feel a bit better after half an hour and peed some more. I decided to stick around until 10pm before heading back for a shower at the camp site. It was great talking with some of the lead walkers and I am amazed at the quick times they did it in. I finally ran back to the car in the rain with fresh legs.

The end of this run is very similar to my last run along Hadrian’s Wall Path. After lots of though on the subject I have decided to formulate my running strategy to identify what is going wrong. My number 1 though at the moment is that I have been taking lots of Pro Plus (only on the last two big runs) and think the diuretic effect of the caffeine could be causing my to dehydrate or causing other problems. I will lay off them for now and see how I go next time. Glad that my Achilles problem has faded away, I am set now for my next run. I am very thankful to those who I completed the last section with. Without them I probably would have pull out and would have suffered major regret. I own them this 50.