Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Longest Day Run: T-3!

June 19… only two days to go!

Well, three. It’s two days to the longest one of the year, but three days to Day 1 of Longest Day Run 2013. Because we can’t flipping well go out running for hours on end on a weekday / schoolnight, now can we?

Longest Day Run
is a challenge organised by my good friend Simon via the Daily Mile website. Herewith what it’s about:
The challenge is quite simply to run as many miles as you can over ANY 24 hour period of your choice during that weekend. Last year the suggested period was from midday on the Saturday until midday on the Sunday, but to accommodate all sorts of different challenges which people will undertake it makes sense to allow greater flexibility.

There you go – “quite simply to run as many miles as you can”. How could it be any simpler?

Quite. But don’t worry: I’m not going to go crazy over a 24-hr period. No crazier than usual, anyway. I’m just going to do one long run on Saturday 22 and a recovery run on Sunday 23. Sure, it’s tempting to go for, say, two half marathon distances rather than the 20-miler I’m eyeing up. But that doesn’t seem to be in the event’s spirit and anyway, it’s about time I got a long run* under my bum bag again (well, do you wear a belt while running? Thought not!). Besides, I’m still all too aware of what happened earlier in the month…

…see, I really enjoyed my three half marathon distances over consecutive days, in Italy on June 4 and 5 and then back in Portishead on June 6. The Italian runs were beautiful: it was a true pleasure to be out there soaking in sights that are no longer as familiar as they were for eighteen years. The Portishead one… well, granted, that was probably unnecessary. Showboating, almost. And, shortly after that, I felt a ‘niggle’ above my right foot. Yes, above the ankle and below the knee. It’s an area of concern for runners. So what did I do?

I rested, of course!

OK, admittedly I did so in a runstreak kind of way, but I did rest. So I still ran every day, just… well, less. Besides, running wasn’t the biggest part of the problem. The pain (which I’d first felt a few weeks prior – more of that later) was at its most intense a few hours after I would stop. I just grinned and bore it. Can’t have been too bad, because nobody noticed! I would have loved to use an icepack: might have speeded up the recovery… But then questions would have been raised, sanity questioned… before you know it someone will have recommended prosthetics! So I went under the radar. Just a cold Radox bath a few days back. All in all, summat’s worked… I’ve had three full days niggle-free now. Whether lack of a proper recovery run really was the problem, I don’t know: it certainly hurt more after I
’d spent time on a coach or a car, whereas not traveling for a few days, combined with rest, has meant that the swelling (at its peak after sitting in the back of my parents’ car en route home from That London) has gone down and the pain gone away. So, whatever the problem was I’ve solved it. I think.

Diversion: Yes, it’s hard for runners to acknowledge pain and stop. A brain linked to legs who are used to running finds it very tough: there is a genuine stimulus to keep going. The way I saw it, I owed it to myself and to my fellow runstreaking, longestdayrunning nutters to try and get fit for Longest Day Run. Should the pain still be there afterwards, I’d reconsider runstreaking. But do I run every day because I’m health
y or am I healthy because I run every day? Therein lies a conundrum. Personally, I think it’s a bit of both. For now, I’ll keep on running every day. Because it’s not done me any harm over the past 251 days.

So… Saturday’s run…

…hey, I’m not aiming for a time. I’ve not trained for a time. Although I am tapering, to some extent more than I
’ve done ahead of races! Then again, I need to: when running seven 20-milers in the build-up to the 26.2 in Manchester, as well as on the two since, I generally kept on favourable terrain (asphalt, and flattish asphalt at that…). On Saturday, my prime concern is to…

…well, to enjoy the scenery. I was going to set off early in the morning, around 4am-ish: but that would have meant that the views onto the Bristol Channel wouldn’t be sun-blessed, as I generally run westward along the channel. So I’ve now had a rethink (partly out of typing out this post!) and will be setting off around 5:30pm. Still safe and light till around 10pm: it will, after all, be the longest day of the year (OK, almost)… and now with the sunset to which look forward.

(What’s that? “If you’re setting off running westward, won’t you be running eastward heading home?” Fear not:  I’ll take a detour heading back. Details shortly. Trust me on this one.)

My plan is to tweak the route I ran on the last Bank Holiday. That day I ran 20m5mi in 3h10’33”, at 9’17”/mi. Not a great pace, by any means. It was my first long run in a while, coming after our holiday in Wales with its steep hills but short distances: alas, I’ve not run any since, either. But I have clocked some half-decent mileage, albeit less so over the past fortnight due to rest/taper… indeed, are you not meant to run less in the build-up to a long run? Oooh it’s all too confusing… I know that in the past my long runs haven’t required any special preparation other than a short run the day before (and after), but then they were just standard training runs. This is Longest Day Run, man… it deserves more respect! As does my sh… well, you know, the bit below the knee. The one that’s not hurt for three days.

So – how am I going to tweak that route?

I’m looking to build in a bit more trail. Last time round, I wasn’t actually planning on running any trail: I just found myself staring at a path by the coast in Clevedon and thought I’d give it a go. This time, I want to get onto the coast trail in Portishead and try to get to where I began in Clevedon last month… some good friends from church reassure me it’s possible, although I have also been warned that I won’t “be able to keep a normal running pace along the coast path - it is very narrow, winding, and entrenched in places with undergrowth to cope with too.” I trust The Spirit of Houndkirk will be alongside me! In all seriousness, I’m not overly fussed about not being able to keep a normal running pace for a few miles: that’s what trail running is all about. As long as I can avoid slipping into the Bristol Channel with its world-renowned tidal range (second largest in the world, chaps and chapettes), I’ll be happy. Of course, it would help if grass and weeds were not knee-high. But… you know, I’ll give it a go. It’s not about the time… it’s not about the time…

There you have it, that’s tweak number one, early on in the run: indeed, I will have to run towards the centre of town before heading out so as to reach the beginning of the trail section. But, being no Mike Wells (hey, ever read his blog? if you like this, try this), I won’t be running backwards! Undergrowth permitting, it’s a tweak to which I’m committed. As for tweak number two (of two)…

…that’s still TBC. It involves returning from Clevedon to Portishead via Tickenham. This will mean nothing to you: to me it means additional mileage and hillage along the B3130. Again, the B3130 will mean nothing to you: to me, it means a busy, pavementless road. It would be a totally nonsensical tweak: far more sensible (or less stupid, anyway) to get back to Portishead as I did last time, along a quiet country lane, and make up any desired mileage on more familiar territory. Because I’ve never run on the B3130: I just know it’s hilly and busy from when I’ve been on it in a car, something I used to do every day to get to work a decade or so ago. But… you know… you see… this is Longest Day Run, right?

Look, I’ll decide about that second tweak on Saturday. In fact, I’ll let my legs decide: even after my op, they’re probably more reliable than my brain. Taking the shortest route back from Clevedon, thereby keeping away from a busy road at around 8pm, and proceeding to detour within Portishead if at all, would not be unreasonable. Besides, I won’t be so stupid as to ignore my body. I’m still aware of my recent niggle: of course I am, it was on the last Bank Holiday that I first felt something in my shins on Portishead High Street, just before the 2mi hill back towards my house. I contemplated stopping and walking but remembered I’m from Sheffield and kept going. Not that walking would have been much different, anyway. Besides, after a day or so the niggle went away, and I only felt it again a week later after my three “medium runs”. But this time… as well as the water and the Blok Shots, I’ll take some cash and maybe even my phone with me. You know, just in case. And because I should more often, if not always, anyway.

So there you have it: this is my plan for Longest Day Run 2013. I’m hoping to enjoy it!



…look, I hope to enjoy it and think I will. But there is a part of me wishing I could be running alongside many other nutters who are getting together for a 42-miler. It won’t be uninterrupted, and I do hope they run 42.195mi, not ‘just’ (!) 42.0mi (look, you either get that or you don’t). I would love to share the experience, the emotions, the food, the sights… the camaraderie, quite simply. Hey, I wrote on here about how 13.1mi helped me bond with someone I’d known for eight years – imagine what 42 with folk you rarely get to see must have the potential to do!

What can I say, other than… maybe next year?

As I often say, “if I could jump in a car”… but I can’t. I’d have to get Up North on the Friday, run 42mi, maybe then wait till the Sunday to come back… Now with hindsight my Dad, who’s currently in Sheffield, might have helped me out: after all, Mum and he have offered to come and babysit next week if I have to be away on business on an evening when Karen has a couple of commitments! But therein lies the other piece of the jigsaw: a weekend away from the family, at a time when we haven’t actually spent an entire weekend together since… er, since coming home from our holiday on May 18! Karen took her Guides camping, then I went to Italy to see Springsteen, then Karen went to London for the weekend, then I went to London to see Springsteen… it’s all good, but a weekend at home won’t do anyone any harm. But… next year…

…so here’s where I really went wrong this time round, if ‘wrong’ is the right word. I thought of Longest Day Run as a run. To be precise, I thought of it as a run on the longest day of the year – well, at the end of that weekend, anyway. And that is not incorrect, of course. But this weekend is not about the run: it’s about all that soppy stuff I listed earlier. It’s about making an affirmation of one’s love for running and all that it stands for, ideally in the company of people with whom you share those values, those beliefs and, when possible, those experiences. I will be once again sharing those values and those beliefs but will have to delay sharing the experience itself. Although I’ll do my best to compensate for that with Twitter and Strava, of course.

So hey, Longest Day Run… I’m ready!

As for what lies ahead once set has the sun on Longest Day Run…

…well, Chester Marathon will be 106 days away. Now, 106 days ahead of Greater Manchester I wasn’t in full marathon training mode: that would have been January 12, a full month before my first pre-mara long run. But Bristol Half will be 85 days away, the Grand Pier (i.e. Weston-super-Mare) Half 99 days away… ah, but they’re just halves. That’s not to say I needn’t train for them: but I run at least one 13.1mi run every week anyway, have done every week of the year so far (I think… OK, not when we were on holiday, but I think that’s the sole exception) (must check!), and if I’m training for Chester I’ll be alright for the halves. Now, I trained for Greater Manchester over seven weeks, but at the start of that period I wasn’t where I am now. So maybe long runs can be a fortnightly event over the coming fifteen weeks? Seven or so long runs in preparing for a marathon?

Hmmm… sounds familiar. Almost too familiar. We’ll see. I’d still like to think I’ve got to a stage where I don’t need to get myself fit for a marathon, rather I need to maintain an established level of fitness and put a bit more focus into my efforts closer to the time. But hey, it’s quite likely that what these two things mean in terms of training are pretty much the same: 50mi/week, varying the focus of the sessions across Julian Goater’s “4S” (speed / stamina / strength / skill – not to be confused with Squintani’s 7S!), with at least one 13.1-miler every week and at least one 20-miler every fortnight, moving up to 23-milers in the six weeks or so preceding the 26.2-miler. And I’m now going off to freak out at how routine-like I made that sound – a) because I’ve only got one marathon under my bum bag, b) because I can’t… er… you know, I can’t…

…well OK, I couldn’t stand running!

Before I go freak out, let me just tell thee this fer nowt: I’m not giving up beer for three months. Not sure that was entirely necessary. One month should do it. What’s tha reckon?

And no, I genuinely am not aiming for a time. Although you never know, cometh Saturday I may feel good and aim for four hours.
For what distance?
Well no, that
’s the point. Just run for four hours. And not worry about the miles. But hey, we’ll see. Or should I say, I’ll see. And then I’ll tell thee.

* the definition of “long run” is subjective. And typically evolves over time. This time last year, I’d never once run 10k. I first broke 15k on July 3, before flying out to Paris to see Springsteen, and got into the routine of an 18.5k Weekly Long Run from August 12. That’s 11.8mi – so still sub-HM distance, yet sufficient to convince me, over a series of weeks, that I could run Bristol Half. These days, however, I am reluctant to use the term “long run” for my own efforts unless I’ve scored at least… well, a ‘score’.

Note To Self: August 12 is your wedding anniversary, Squinners. Try not to reference this other here anniversary when reminding Mrs S how blissful these seven years of marriage have been.

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