Having now completed a marathon or more a month since Nov 10, my body is definitely getting used to the distance. Expecting to wake up with sore legs after the Forest of Dean ultra, I didn’t – nor did I experience any form of delayed onset muscle soreness. I admit to feeing a bit tired early in the week, but since then it’s been back to normal.
Thurs was a treadmill session, Sat was a fast 2 hour hilly x-country run and today was a tempo road run for just over an hour. As well as taking my usual multi-vitamin, I’ve also started to take something called Udo’s Oil. I’ve read about it a number of times and it’s supposed to be good for fat conversion as well as for lubricating the joints. As my 50 miler is probably going to take 12 hours, fuelling is going to be a real challenge if I have to rely on carbs alone.
Sponsorship has started to pick up slowly, but I’m going to need a lot of support if I’m to hit the £16,000 mark. I’ve met and spoken with quite a few people who say they are going to support Armed Forces Day and hopefully the release of the Armed Forces Covenant will remind others that regardless of the politics, there are young men and women laying their lives on the line so that others can enjoy the freedom to go about their business as they choose. Whilst doing their duty, some of these soldiers are unfortunate enough to experience life-changing injuries; which is why the work of the Defence Medical and Rehabilitation Centre at Headly and Service charities like ABF The Soldiers’ Charity are so important. With 5 weeks to go to Armed Forces Day, please keep spreading the word and remember that even the smallest donation can make a difference.
In the week prior to Event 14 (the Forest of Dean ultra) I was fortunate enough to have a meeting at the Defence Medical and Rehabilitation Center (DMRC) at Headly Court and was shown much of what goes on ‘behind the scenes’. I won’t go into detail, but it’s a place where extraordinary people do extraordinary things – staff and those undergoing rehabilitation.
Preparation for the 32 mile (actually 31.76!) Forest of Dean ultra had gone well and being a circular course (running loops) there was no need to carry additional food and water. The main purpose of the race was a trial for the England and Wales Commonwealth games squad and with a field of only 28 people I kind of got the feeling that I might be running on my own a lot…..I was right!
The course was one short lap, followed by 5 longer (approx 5.5 mile) laps. Starting at 10.30, light load of a running belt holding water and a few gels, the first 3 laps felt good. Not too hot, not too many hills, light breeze, I was enjoying the scenery as well as the efforts of the odd Commonwealth trial competitor sprinting past me. The course was well marshalled, with plenty of water stations, but I hadn’t yet come across a feeding station. During an ultra event I’ve found it usual to come across a table with some solids on it once in a while; something that you can eat on the run to prevent your energy levels crashing.
By about 1 PM I was starting to feel hungry and had already consumed 3 of my 4 gels, so asked about food – only to be told that there was none! Not so bad if you are a racing snake on your last lap with only a couple of miles to go, but not great news for a 43 year old ex-rugby player with only a gel and a small pack of jelly beans stuffed into his shorts. Only 2 options really, run or stop – so I kept running. By the time I finished the penultimate lap it was clear that I wasn’t going to finish before the 6 hour cut off time (it was initially promoted as 7 hours, but that’s another story), so the Marshals ‘invited’ me to retire a lap early. Invited = stop or we’re going to remove the course around you.
Anyway to cut a long story short, I finished the ‘official’ race short in a bloody-minded mood, grabbed some food from my car and after a quick break went back out to complete the extra miles I needed to take me over the 30 mile ultra mark. Why? I need to be able to look people in the eyes when I explain what Run4Recovery is all about and why I’m doing it. Note to self – always carry your own food!
I’ve really managed to shift my training up a gear this week, which has included three long(ish) x-country runs at tempo pace. When I say long(ish), I mean over 2 hours, which might be long for most people but not in the context of the 6-7 hours that Event 14 (32 miles) next weekend will take.
Planning for the Run4Recovery ‘finale’ (the Recovery 50) is progressing well and I have a meeting with the staff at DMRC Headley Court next week to discuss the detail. Sponsorship continues to trickle in, so my remaining fundraising and media efforts will have to be really well focussed prior to Armed Forces Day on 25 Jun 11.
Whilst the low of the week was attending the funeral of a young Captain, the highlight was the annual Army vs Navy rugby at Twickenham. Not only did the Army stuff the Navy with a score of 44-10; not only did I manage not to over-indulge and set back my training; but most rewarding was meeting Lance Bombadier Ben Parkinson for the first time.
Ben is one of the most seriously injured soldiers of his generation, having sufferend multiple injuries and the loss of both legs in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2006. His determination to recover is humbling and his story is one of the many reasons behind my Run4Recovery efforts. You can read more about Ben on the ABF The Soldiers’ Charity website and I urge you read the accompanying letter from Ben’s mother to the Charity, which ends with Ben writing “many thanks to you all, I will beast my body every day“. ‘Beasting’ is one of those military terms which can best be described as ‘exertion until every muscle burns with exausion’. Ben’s will and attitude is typical of so many soldiers who are recovering from life changing injuries. Without the support of Service charities like ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, their journey down the recovery pathway would be far harder than it already is.
A fair week of training last week, which included a 2 hour x-country session around Caesars Camp (big hill). Last year, 2 hours cross country would have been pretty hard going – but I actually rather enjoyed it. I’ve taken a couple of lessons from my London Marathon performance (if you can call it that)! First is that vaseline conducts heat. It might reduce friction, but doesn’t stop heat blisters – so I’m now testing a product called ‘Body Glide’ which is essentially expensive non-heat conducting vaseline. Second lesson is that hot feet generally equal soft feet, so they are getting more frequent Epsom Salt foot baths – which I thought was a cure for constipation! Good news is that it’s the Army vs Navy rugby at Twickenham next weekend, for which I’ll have to muster considerable will-power not to drink my body weight in beer the week prior to my next event on 15 May 11. Thankfully I’ve just been notified that the course has changed, so it’s only 32 miles instead of 33!
Training is about to re-commence, having been sat in the sun for a few days in Cornwall eating and drinking to the best of my ability. Salt water and sand have been kind to my feet and the blister (I was tempted to give it a name) is healing nicely. All I need to do now is get off my arse and do some proper preparation for the Forest of Dean Ultra on 15 May (Event 14). I would have posted an ‘official’ London marathon picture this week, but at £50 for a single digital image I thought it was daylight robbery. I have a cunning plan!
Well considering that I ran a very (unintentionally) slow London Marathon yesterday, I feel pretty good. What was becoming a fair taper week was interrupted by a friend in need on Thus, which saw me getting home after midnight having consumed some very good red wine. By midday Sat I had carb loaded so well that I couldn’t see my toes, but was all prepped and raring to go by the time my head hit the pillow in preparation for an early start the following morning.
A huge hand of respect goes to the organisation of the London Marathon; it ran like clockwork from arrival to leaving London. Starting off at 09.45, I was set for a good race. The weather was cloudy with a light breeze and I ran the first 13 miles well on track for a time somewhere between 4.30 and 5 hours – which was what I was aiming for. The crowds were fantastic, the noise overwhelming at times and a real mix of runners from OAPs running their first marathon to those in very fancy dress. By mid race it was hot, almost too hot at times save the cooling efforts of the London Fire Brigade and en-route shower stands. At the 14 mile point had to stop to adjust my shoe; at the 16 mile point I had to stop again to adjust my sock and by 18 miles I had the early stages of a blister on the sole of my foot – which from 20 miles just grew.
Running becoming a non-option, I marched the last 6 miles into central London thanking the swarms of spectators for their support (whoever suggested having my name on my vest, thank you) and looking at what seemed to be an ever growing number of runners being carted off by St John’s ambulance. Although I desperately wanted to bask in the glory of running the last few miles, in the back of mind was Event 14 of my Run4Recovery challenge (33 mile Ultra) in a month. I ran the last few hundred metres, positioning myself for a good finishing line photo, only to be tripped by another runner (I didn’t actually call him this!) stumbling in front of me.
Having marched the last few miles I finished with far more energy than expected, so managed to grab another photo opportunity before collecting my bag and making my way over the road to Wellington Barracks for a shower, massage and the ABF Soldiers’ Charity reception. Home in time for tea, medals and a few days rest (and blister management).
Overall this has been a pretty good week. Not only did I manage to get some quality training completed, but the sun has been out and the grass is a little longer, meaning that I was able to finish with a well deserved barefoot run tonight. It’s also happy anniversary to ‘my feet’! Strange you might think – but today was the Frimley 10Km and for those of you able to think back a year, Frimley 2010 was Event 1 of my Run4Recovery challenge. My feet have been running for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity for a whole year now! I’m sure they were better looking when I started, but they seem to be standing up to the pace (pardon the pun!). Fed up of being a running widow, my wife ‘gazumped’ me this morning by running Frimley with a friend. Her first 10Km race, so an extra special ‘well done’ to her.
With the London Marathon just 1 week away, I started my pre-race prep on friday with a night out and lots of beer washed down with a Chinese (or was it the other way round?). I survived the next day with a pretty clear head so I’m working on the delusion that it has probably done me more good than harm. Taper week this week, so I’ll be making sure I concentrate on a gentle miles and early nights. Well, that’s the plan anyway!