Sunday, October 21, 2007

John Knox Challenge event

The week started with my right ankle feeling pretty good, but instead of doing Tuesday’s V02 max run on the road I did it on the treadmill at the gym; the logic being it’s flat, level and has better shock absorption. Still, I didn’t go crazy with it and did just 3 miles at an average of just less than 8 minute miles. I walked the first .5k warm up, so I did have to pick the pace up to pull the average back to 8mm though. I may well stick to doing this session on the treadmill on Tuesdays, because I am at the gym doing a strength and stability session anyway, so it would save me doing a road/trail run before or afterwards. I completed the run, and then concentrated on a lot of ankle work in the gym stability session.

On Wednesday I did a 9 mile endurance pace trail route around Apedale. I did have one scary moment when I stepped down off a stile only to invert the problem ankle. I clutched it for a few seconds fearing the worst, but this time I got away with it. I made extra effort to watch my feet for the rest of the run. I had no other problems and was happy with the session. On Thursday I did a 6.5 mile interval session; mostly trail, but with approx 1 mile of unavoidable road. The session was quite tough as usual, but especially so due to me trying out a new route with more climbing involved. On Friday I returned to the gym for my usual session, once again doing plenty on my ankles. I realise that at the moment this is a weak spot and it is prone to inversion, so it’s important I work on building the strength back up.

I packed a 6kg rucksack and made all my preparations for the following day. I got up at 7:30am and drove to Hollinsclough in the Peak District. It’s just a small village about 25 miles away down the most narrow single lane carriageway you can imagine. I’m glad I didn’t meet any cars coming the other way, as one of us would have been reversing quite some distance. I registered, and was surprised to find that there were more competitors than expected; about 60 in total. 50 were walkers and had set off at 8am, and then there were 10 or 11 runners who set off at 9am. The route was billed at 22 miles, but I had measured it on Memory Map at 20.5 miles. The route is shown below, along with the hill profile and my speed profile.

It was a very cold, but beautiful sunny morning. There was a ground frost as we set off, and for the first 15 minutes my un-gloved hands were like icicles. I set off at the back, as usual ‘faffing around’ with bits of kit, and taking a photo below (see the sacrifices I make for to ensure this blog is more interested!). Great picture huh? I wish it was like this every morning when I run!

I lost sight of the other runners in the light mist, except one chap running slower who I basically followed, until I suspect he was going the wrong way. I established that we were indeed slightly off-route and guided him and I back on route albeit adding a little distance onto the route. Serves me right for blindly following, but it was only a mile or two into the route, and we didn’t add too much onto the route. I overtook him, and in fact it wasn’t long before I caught up and passed two more runners on the first serious ascent. The view was stunning as we climbed. I took this shot looking forward, where you can clearly see the ground frost.

This shot looking back. I love the line of shadow where the ground frost gives way to melting as the sun has risen. I have got a new camera phone and the pictures are a considerable improvement on my old one.

More great morning views below as I neared the summit of the first climb. which was in fact the highest peak of the day at 1350ft.

There was then a welcome descent for almost 3 miles, briefly joining the High Peak trail. I passed another runner who looked to be struggling soon after. This was only 5 miles into the route. I'm not sure if he went off to fast trying to keep with the really quick runners, or he had a problem. He just looked a little heavy-legged for so early in the route. Anyway, I passed and caught sight of two others in the distance ahead. I reached the first checkpoint on the outskirts of the village of Flagg. I barely stopped, just topping up my water with some orange juice. That's all they had on tap! I left the checkpoint and started to catch up with walkers; mostly travelling in small groups. I would catch up most before 10 miles has passed, but a few I didn't catch up until 15 miles, and I believe one or two even finished the event a few mins before me, so they must have really been marching hard from their 8am start!

Soon after CP1 we joined a mile long 'green lane' where I still kept a couple of other runners just in view. I'm not sure if they eventually became mixed in with walkers, increased their pace, or got lost, because I seemed to lose sight of them shortly afterwards.
At the end of the lane I crossed the busy (and speedy) A515 and once more joined the High Peak trail, soon after reaching CP2. I filled up with water, but refused the food. Much as I would have loved to have the cakes, scones and biscuits, I have banned myself. I solely rely on the food I have brought with me, which today consisted of 100g of cashew nuts (approx 500 calories, good carb ratio too), and also a SIS Go electrolyte -enough to fill my 800ml shoulder mounted drinks bottle once. I ate about half of the nuts at around the 10 mile mark, trying to keep my sugar levels up to avoid hitting the wall. I had averaged a reasonable pace, only walking when facing the steep ascents.

Between CP2 and CP3, in a strange twist, I started to get left foot pain. Remember it is my right foot that has been causing me problems. Initially I welcomed it, as it was something to take my mind off my right foot, but when it didn't go away it became more of a concern. I was caught slowly by another runner, who had started a few minutes after everyone else. I made a bit of a navigational error whilst I was ahead of him, but it was he who called me back to the right path. So, he ran off ahead at that point, but I kept him in sight virtually all the way down to CP3. I filled up my water at added my electrolyte at CP3. I felt guilty refusing the lovely food they offered, but set off straight away joined by the other runner who had paused briefly too. The last 8 mile section was predominantly ascent, which clearly shows in my speed profile. You can see I keep a really good average pace (5mph) to around the 13 mile mark. After that it jumps up and down with the climbs and descents. I caught the other runner up again, and we struck up a conversation for about the next 5 miles, into and just beyond the last checkpoint; CP4. Soon after we caught up and passed more walkers and then started more ascents around the 18 mile mark. I slipped back and took this last photo, leaving the other runner to carry on (he was running a little quicker than me anyway).

I also took the opportunity to walk briefly, to eat the remaining cashew nuts. I had also eaten a few just before CP4 too.

My left foot was really quite painful when I ran now. I resorted to running on my toe for the last 3 or 4 miles, which wasn't pleasant, but certainly less painful. Walking hurt less too, but I didn't want to do any walking! I lost sight of the other runner and got a little lost coming into a farm. The direction arrow for the footpath had worn off and I was not sure I was allowed to walk through the farmyard, so I followed what looked to be a worn path around the building. As this eventually lead down to a shallow river it became apparent it was the wrong way, but travelling back would have lost me too much time. So, adventure-racer-in-training that I am, I jumped into the river and waded ankle/knee deep, following the river under a road bridge and then climbed out to join the road again. I got myself back on course, though I had added more distance onto the route again! If nothing else the dip cleaned off my trainers and soothed the foot! There was a real killer hill at around the 19 mile mark. It was on the road, rather than footpath, but at this stage it really burned my muscles. I could not consider running up, so just dug in with a 2x2 breathing pattern and fast-marched up (about 3.5mph). The route went back onto footpath for the final 1.5 miles, but deteriorated into a terrible boulder strewn descent in the last 800m, making it virtually impossible to run. If I would have slipped I would have cracked my head open. The route description warned that it was dangerous, and to take care. My foot really was hurting anyway, so my run was a bit of a hobble anyway.

I finish came into view and I completed in 4 hours and 28 minutes. I had done 21.2 miles and 2500ft of ascent. That was an average of 4.7mph. I was really happy with my performance. I had not taken any conscious 'walking breaks'. I had only walked when the terrain dictated.

Thanks to the organisers (Keith Bailey of Staffs LDWA) for the meal at the end, as well as organising such as great event. The weather was perfect as well, all of which added to an enjoyable day.

I travelled home, had a bath and took some ibuprofen. My foot isn't painful to weight bear as I stand still, but the action of walking causes pain. It is bruised on the left had side on the top of my foot. I have absolutely no idea why? I didn't sprain it (that I remember?) or impact it at all. If you're a chiropodist, then I'd love to hear probable causes?!

It was a friends 30th birthday that evening, so I had to do more walking around bars in the town etc. This won't have helped I don't think. I did some massage on it, and was hoping that a night’s sleep would see it cured. However, this morning (Sunday) it has not improved, so my planned 12-15 mile run was out of the question. Instead I went to the gym and did 20 miles on the bike. I set it on a random hill profile and ran it between level 12 and 14 (out of 20), so as not to make it too easy. This caused my foot no problems, and I feel was a good enough substitute for the run under the circumstances. I wonder if maybe I was running on an odd camber for a few miles on a hillside, or a slight sprain caused it. Anyway, it's not serious at all, and I hope my Tuesday it will be fine for me to run. If not, there is always the cross trainer again.

I seem to be plagued by foot problems at the moment? Maybe I'm paying the price for the hilly and uneven terrain I run on, coupled with a weekly mileage average of around 50 miles at the moment. I don't know, but I'd much rather run 50 miles on trail, than on the road, that's for sure.

It's been a very successful week, and I'm happy, despite the foot niggle. I'll post up the next 4 weeks training plan in the week. I've actually mapped out everything into January 08 already; just wanted to see what kind of mileage I will be covering each month come that time. My next major event isn't for three weeks, but I won't be slacking off in that time. It's all week on week steady build (except my consolidation week. week 4 in the 4 week cycle) right up to the time when I begin to taper in February.

All comments welcome of course, have a great week!


Lloyd Biddell said...

Well done Rich!

Hahaha - thought I recognised your fifth photo of the long track. That was part of my route for an event I did in June? I think - details on my blog. God know how I recognise it though as its hardly the most scenic of paths!

I've had a long history of ankle problems so can sympathise a bit. I know its stating the obvious but the best advice I can give is just to listen to what your body is telling you. Sometimes a weeks rest will re-energise the body, and I guarantee you wont lose any fitness in such a short space of time.

MDS Rich said...

Hi Lloyd, thanks for the comments.

That path comes out onto the A515 next to a pub if that helps identify it? From reading your blog account, sounds like you were definately in the right area, so I probably was retracing your steps, albeit at a much slower pace!

I suspect my body is telling me to rest, because I've woken up with a cold today. I've taken some zinc and multi-vits, and will do for a few days now. It's mentally hard to rest now. I'm almost at the stage when my mileage should be peaking (december/January) so I'm almost fearful of resting and losing fitness, but I know what you say makes sense. A few days or a week won't make any difference I guess. I've got no big events for a few weeks, so I'll do slightly less miles at the weekend and 'rest-up' in that sense. I will also likely crosss train instead of a few runs as well, just to be safe.

Lloyd Biddell said...

Yup, very same path - small world. Start of my race was at Underhill, just north of Longnor. Then around High Wheeldon, follow the small rd to Hurdlow Town, then take the path to the pub going under the disused railway line on the way. Follow the path you pictured to Monyash then the second half of the race took me to Youlgrave.

Re fitness I was always told that if you took a month off then it would take a month to build up back to where you were before etc etc. But anything less than 10 days would make no difference whatsoever - hence why people taper before big races so you are as fresh as possible without losing the fitness.

On a seperate note it also looks like I've had a few cross country races in your neck of the woods too - Lyme Valley, just north of the cricket club in Newcastle? Plus another race at Parkhall Country Park in Stoke. Former isnt a great area, but Parkhall looks like a good area for training, lots of hills and plenty of sand!

MDS Rich said...

I ran through Lyme Valley last week oddly enough, it is a small world. I live just a few miles away from it. I used it on that road run I did to try and ensure I stayed mostly flat and level, and avoided upsetting my ankle. There is a straight and level path from one end to the other, but there is the short sharp hill to one side as well if you do want to take in some elevation. It's not an area I normally run through, but it was useful on that occasion for the good paths.

I have heard of Park Hall, but never been. I think that is the other side of Hanley, so it's a little out of the way. If there is some sand there maybe I should look into it though!