I’ve written a few blog posts during Project Trail that have ended up being published to the Men’s Running site. I thought I’d re-create them here to them as a record. Time has flown and the race is a mere 9 days away…..
16th November 2016 – The Tale of the Taper
The taper. The final few weeks of preparation and contemplating the challenge lying ahead. Some runners seem to love it as a chance to fill their faces with carbs; others are bouncing off the walls, desperate to get to the race. Here’s a few of my tapering observations…
Where has all the time gone: You’ve had this race booked for months. Training plans were meticulously created with mileage building up until race day. Suddenly, you’re mere weeks away and the taper is here. You begin asking yourself, “Have I done enough?”; “I don’t think I got enough long runs in!”, “Why on earth did I skip so many sessions from my training plan?” It’s not the time to play catch-up, though; the work is done and suddenly doing back-to-back runs to “catch-up” is only going to end in disaster.
All sorts of things start hurting: You’ve worked far too hard for anything to scupper your race now. But every run is a potential disaster, and the phantom injuries start to appear. Twinges appear in the knee/ankle/hamstring without warning, but are you imagining it? Is it the paranoia of a potential injury? Why does everyone on the bus/in the lift start stepping dangerously close to your toes? Why have they organised a BMX night at work? (This actually happened).
Embracing the carb load: Everything contains carbs, right? At least that’s what you tell yourself. The fourth biscuit from the office cupboard is just taking advantage of a carb-loading opportunity, and no-one can tell you to stop eating because you quite simply need the energy. Best to try not to end up stuffed full of white pasta and a dodgy stomach the day before though, eh?
Giving up the beer: Months and months ago when you booked on that race, you promised yourself to go tea-total for at least the final two months, well maybe one month. As time creeps along, you suddenly realise there is your cousins wedding, the works outing, and at least four Fridays during your dry period, so you decide two weeks will be enough, maybe one week. Roll on the night before and you’re convincing yourself that surely one glass of red wine will be OK? It’s mainly fruit, right?
You’re about to stop boring everyone to death: Everyone will be glad this is over. The missus has heard so much about your current kilometre pace and which socks you’re going to wear that she only has to look at you and starts glazing over. People dive for cover in the office in case you start to talk about your upcoming race. Don’t worry, it’ll all be over soon and you can bask in the glory of all the hard work you’ve done. At least for five minutes until you start scouring the internet for the next one!
25th August 2016 – Peaks and Barges
We’re now into the full swing of Project Trail training and any thoughts of easing into the latter half of the year with a couple of brisk country walks, rosy cheeks and warming cups of tea have rapidly vanished. It’s all about getting the hilly miles in, bleeping TomTom watches, and bleeping out my expletives when the going gets tough. I’m loving it, but three years ago if you have told me I’d be doing this I’d have blown the froth off my pint with laughter.
Last month I completed the Peak District Challenge (PDC) as part of a duo with Michelle Edye. We met at our local running club and soon found a combined passion for getting out there on the trails. When I found out that you could enter the PDC as a team, I instantly started crafting a cunning plan to persuade her to enter. As it turns out all I had to do was ask, and then spend some time convincing her that the 100K might be too far! It was a great run and ended up being 55K – the last 10K being in torrential rain, which definitely added to the drama. I think my brain stopped functioning properly towards the end – I tried to high-five Michelle to get the spirits up. We missed. Twice. Then we considered wading through a river to get back to the end quicker. Truly not thinking straight!
My furthest ever run and a great learning experience for long trail running. I’m also really loving the Columbia Montrail trail shoes as I got through the whole thing without a blister in sight!
In other news, completely un-planned, I won a race! I randomly entered Man v Barge, a quick jaunt over a hill (Marsden to Diggle) while a canal barge chugs through Standedge tunnel, the longest canal tunnel in the UK. Not only did I beat the barge but I beat everyone else in the five-mile race – even the barge looked surprised! This, followed by a beer on the canal path before noon and a chip butty, made for a brilliant day.
25th July 2016 – Reality Sinking In
The reality has now sunk in that I’m part of Project Trail and fully committed to running 50 miles. No matter which way I Iook at that number, it’s far. Converting to kilometres made it look worse, so instead I looked for some other measurements. I’m now considering it as a mere 16.67 leagues, or 16 leagues and a bit. No problem.
I ran my first marathon this year, two weeks after completing the 50K Canalathon, kind of in the “wrong” order, but I’ve tried to see each race as a stepping stone to the next. I already had a couple of long races planned in 2016: the Peak District Challenge (50K) and Man versus Mountain (Snowdon), but my brain is one step ahead of my physical ability so I already knew I wanted to go for a 50-miler in spring 2017. Then I saw the Project Trail competition and knew I wanted in – especially after seeing a picture of an ultramarathon aid station!
I can’t deny that I’m somewhat apprehensive about the distance of this run, as I know it’s an entirely different strategy to me turning up to a parkrun with a minor hangover and stumbling round the course. I’ll be on my feet for a long time so need to have both the physical and mental preparation in hand, this is why it’s so great to get a training plan devised by Robbie.
Previously I’ve prepared my own training routines based on things I’ve read in magazines or the internet, but to have a tailored plan to take into account my running experience and the races I have planned will be a huge benefit and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into it. The Wendover race looks a real challenge so I have no particular aims of finishing times – solid consistent laps without injury would be fantastic.
I’ve been asked the question, “Why do you run?” a lot and for me, while I did quite a bit of martial arts in my teens, most of my 20s and early 30s has been spent working, playing in bands and not being particularly active, other than various country walks or swimming now and again.
Since running, I’ve really noticed my fitness increased and I really enjoy the physical feeling of running (most of the time!). Especially when everything is working well, I feel strong and like I could keep going, although this feeling has been known to rapidly disappear!
Of course, the going will get tough but I’ll just repeat the mantra which has kept me going through quite a few tough moments – “the finish line doesn’t move, you do.”
I have now officially received the training plans for Project Trail. Gone are my original visions of spending the first week gently looking up intervals on the internet over a cup of tea. Oh no, this is straight into it…. the Project Trail training programme is via. TrainAsONE which generates a plan and updates as you upload your runs via. Strava or similar. The software is currently beta so its great to be involved at this stage and see how this is developing.
Whilst clearly the aim of Project Trail is to canter around 50 miles of Wendover Woods, I currently have more pressing issues ahead of me – namely the 50km Peak District Challenge, or the PDC as us trendies now refer to it. There are some options of distance, from 10km to 100km, and I’ve gone for the 50km. This time I’m part of a duo and I’m fortunate enough to know someone else silly enough to want to do it (Michelle) and, for the record, the entire thing is her fault.
Here’s how it happened……
I just can’t seem to stop entering races. I used to get drunk and buy stuff off Amazon, but now I get drunk and enter races. Whilst on our usual Tuesday night chatting/running session I was moaning about not being sure what to enter next and later I got a text about the PDC! When I saw you could enter as a team I instantly started crafting a cunning plan to persuade Michelle to enter. As it turns out all I had to do was ask, and then spend some time convincing her that the 100km might be too far!
We’ve been busy training at various locations over the Peaks planned on Strava route-builder – I’ve put some links at the bottom of this post to several of the routes we’ve ran. Running as a team will be interesting as races are usually such solitary events and of course there is the added pressure of not wanting to let her down after all the hard works thats gone into this. Its not just been running training, we’ve been practicing our pork pie eating, our “how-soggy-can-you-get-your-trainers” sessions and most importantly perfecting the “missing-a-train-so-you-get-to-go-to-the-pub” strategy. Here’s a few pics from training….
Mainly worrying about missing essential Facebook updates whilst up here
17 miles in and a crinkly sweet potato becomes the best thing ever!
Paths? Where we’re going you don’t need paths!
I’ve never been so pleased to see Lyme Park
Team “Lost in the North”
The race is 20th August, so I’ll post about how we got on!
PEAK DISTRICT ROUTES
Macclesfield 27km (this was done incredibly hungover) https://www.strava.com/routes/4180229
Glossop 14km https://www.strava.com/routes/4313977
Staley Bridge to Greenfield 30km https://www.strava.com/routes/4994797
Hathersage 34km (route from Trail Runner mag) https://www.strava.com/routes/4994924
Lyme Park to Macclesfield 19km https://www.strava.com/routes/5179009
Macclesfield to Lyme Park 38km https://www.strava.com/routes/5947541
Chinley 16km https://www.strava.com/routes/6003656
Manchester Circular (Canal, Heaton Park, River Irwell) 32km https://www.strava.com/routes/4180083
Out-of-the-blue, I’ve been given a fantastic opportunity to be part of Project Trail after entering a competition in Men’s Running mag!!!
What is Project Trail I hear you cry! It’s an ongoing feature in the mag where 3-4 guys are entered into a race, trained up to within an inch of their lives and then featured for a few months to show their progress. The race this time is a biggie….. Its the Wendover Woods 50 miler! As well as race entry we also get training plans and advice from Team GB’s Robbie Britton and lots of free running gear!! If its anything like previous “Project Trails” then there’ll be a regular feature on how me, and the other two competition winners, are getting on, so my ugly mug will be out there in a national magazine! I’m off to Wimbledon for the first photoshoot this week so am covered in fake tan, and am plucked and preened to within an inch of my life (last 18 words not true).
Whilst I have been working hard at running, this really will be a challenge…. 50 miles…. that’s just a bit less than two marathons…… its 16 parkruns…. its…… really…… far…… am I going to be able to do this? One thing is for certain, its going to take something pretty serious to stop me 🙂
I have written the odd race report on this blog, but I do intend to do more frequent posts on how the whole experience and training is going and, ultimately, a full report on the race itself. I considered starting a new blog as this one was really dedicated to my exploration into music, sound bending and camera mangling, but then it dawned on me I really was overthinking it. Given all the content that’s been posted here since I started it in June 2012, running is just another “tentacle” emerging and another part of my life…..
With the evil pincers of available time closing in on me, I have unfortunately taken a break from my piano lessons as over the last few months had been able to dedicate less and less time to it, and really want (and need) to dedicate the required time and effort to run a fifty mile race just a few short months away! There are still a few songs in the pipeline which will get finished eventually. At least I can blame one of them on Mat because I’ve been waiting since October 2015 for him to send me a bassline, but these things can’t be rushed eh? 🙂
I set up a new Twitter account more geared towards running, so follow it HERE @allhailthetrail
In honour of this momentous time, I have drawn a stick man running up a mountain…..