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’ve been posting lots about running recently, and whilst this will descend into my tale of taking a steep run from Mlini into Bosnia, I’m going to start off with some very “Bucket of Tentacles” style pictures of the Kupari resort in Croatia. Not your typical holiday photos, Kupari is a derelict hotel complex located to the south of Dubrovnik.
Back in the early 90’s, when I was mainly trying to step into teenagedom, there was a war going on to which I paid very little attention. It was the break up of Yugoslavia and during the early part, the luxury Kupari resort was captured by the Serbs and ended up being mostly ruined. Now, standing awkwardly against a beautiful mountain/sea backdrop it is an urban-explorers dream. Its completely open to the public and unlike the UK, not a warning sign or barricade in sight leaving you free to roam. So roam I did, camera in hand and visions of a post apocalyptic world in mind. Here are a few of the pictures.
Derelict building? Lets go through on our mopeds!
Another holiday-snap taken from the Dubrovnik City Walls
Not your typical holiday picture, but I liked the collection of people, particularly the gent on the left clearly worried about calf-sunburn.
Post-apocalyptic world out of the way, earlier that day I’d had another rather larger dose of adrenaline after planning to run up Malastica, a local summit rising steeply from the hotel we were staying in.
I made my way out of the quiet tourist areas and into “real” Croatia. Receiving occasional odd glances as an Adidas-clad runner pranced through the usually quiet roads, I carried on up the steep ascent as a thunderstorm blew it’s way in from the Adriatic. It wasn’t long before I was sodden, t-shirt clinging to me and looking up at what seemed like an endless stream of zig-zag paths leading to the summit.
This soon changed though as the cloud curtain opened up revealing the magnificent views ahead.
A further trudge along the path and I arrived at the following sign:
It didn’t look like too much of a warning sign (and I later translated this as “State Border”), so I stepped past it into another country.
Only a few metres in and everything felt more Bosnian. Embarrassingly not knowing much about the country other than there had been a war I wondered what life was like for people on the outskirts of this remote landscape. I reached some kind of peak and took in the view. The glistening Adriatic Sea on one side, the coast populated with hotels and bars but circling round to a rolling mountain range. I sensed a wilderness I’ve never felt before. An unknown landscape staring at me menacingly/beautifully and me staring back:
The path abruptly ended. Looking ahead I saw a distant road and some buildings nestled in amongst the hills. I wanted to get there, but could see it would be a tough jaunt, no signs of any paths or trails, just natural grass, clumps of trees/brambles and sharp rock formations. Without my own full consent I clambered off the path anyway and headed towards the distant road. This was tough terrain and very slow-going, and the reality dawned that I had only just dried out, I hadn’t seen any humans since the start of my ascent sometime ago and I was clambering over sharp rocks somewhere in Bosnia. Common sense was restored and I decided to turn back. The kilometre I travelled off-track took me about 25 minutes and that was moving as fast as I could, such was the terrain.
I carried on along another ridge which must have been the border between Croatia and Bosnia, regular abandoned outposts and walls reduced to rubble lined the edges of the paths high up in the hills.
It was around about then that I introduced myself to a snake. Midnight black and about a metre long dryly slithering across the trail. Realising we were both completely terrified of each other we parted company as quickly as we could going our respective ways with a nod of encouragement. Now running low on water and energy I reluctantly knew I needed to head back so weaved my way back down the rocky paths. What a fantastic descent it was.
Finally reaching a road I stumbled into a bakery selling chocolate milk and very large slices of pizza which truly was a dream come true!!
Later, I found out about the land mines….. warnings on wiki travel to not venture off any roads or investigate any derelict buildings. Ignorance is bliss as clearly this would have added a new element of fear to the whole journey. As if I needed to worry about a little snake! Its hard to know how “real” the danger was and if there were any land mines in the vicinity – wouldn’t a country’s border be the “perfect” spot? In any case, I made it back alive, with a wonderful life experience tucked under my belt!
All hail the trail!
After the fantastic news that I’d been selected for Project Trail I headed to our nation’s Capital for the photoshoot last week. To avoid ridiculously priced peak time trains, instead of my usual Tuesday Sweatshop run from the Manchester Arndale, I ended up going down the night before. I phoned Murray, arranged a quick warm down game and headed off for Wimbledon. I arrived at Euston, had a disciplined pint to relax (£4.90 and served by an Aussie – clearly I had arrived in London) and then got the tube out to Wimbledon.
Quite an uneventful night followed in the smallest hotel room ever, but I survived and headed on to Wimbledon Common to meet the Men’s Running team…… I soon met up with Rick (the editor) and the rest of the team, along with a friendly familiar face, Anne-Marie who i’d completed the Thunder Run with the previous year! It was about now that I started eyeing up the piles of boxes on the car park which was our gear hoard – full kit from Columbia Montrail, a TomTom Runner Cardio watch, some Adidas sunglasses and enough High5 nutrition to make me seriously concerned about making it back to Manchester carrying this lot on public transport!
After meeting the other entrants (Jon and Nic) and also the competition winners from Women’s Running, we all eagerly changed into our new fancy trail running gear and headed further into the Common to find some suitable spots for photographs which will be used for the forthcoming Project Trail articles. I’m much more used to being on the other side of a camera, but managed to pull out a few tough-runner poses even though I’m not a fan of being in “the limelight”. We were asked a few interview questions to be used for the mag and did a quick video interview (links below), I definitely get very self-conscious in front of a video camera! A quick run round the common later to try out our new gear and it was time to head off home!
A really great part of this whole experience is getting a training plan devised by Robbie Britton. We have a call scheduled this week to discuss the plan so proper training will be starting very soon and apparently, I’m going to have to get very very used to hill reps!
Here’s the three of us just before heading off home, and some links to the YouTube videos below.
Jon, Dan (me) and Nic
Project Trail: The Photoshoot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUFSQPic-GU