Project RFP: Weeks 5 to 8

This block of the Project continued to build from the first and I felt stronger and stronger. Well, until I really didn’t feel strong at all! By the middle of Week 8 I realised I had likely done too much, too soon after racing at the end of Week 6 and I suffered with a lack of motivation and bone deep tiredness. I didn’t despair and either push on through or completely capitulate  as I might have done in the past. Instead I opted to decrease my mileage and then took an extended break from Sunday of Week 8 through to Wednesday of Week 9.

Week 5 (July 2nd – July 8th) (72.6km Planned67.9km Completed)

It’s definitely summer in England. It’s hot, it hasn’t rained for weeks and unlike a lot of other people I am not moaning about it! I really enjoy training and racing in the heat and if I had my way I would happily pack up and move to Spain or somewhere similar!

Continuing from Weeks 1 to 4 I carried on testing packs for the Chiltern 50k and found I had much the same luck as those first 4 weeks – namely none! During Week 5 I tested:

Salomon S-LAB Sense Ultra 2 (small too small, medium too big)

Ultimate Direction Marathon Vest (flimsy, bouncy)

Ultimate Direction Fastdraw 20 + Access 350 (really comfortable, enough storage for phone, 6 Gu gels and 950ml water – the winner for Chiltern 50k)

Prior to this I tested:

Salomon Agile 2 Set in Week 1 (very bouncy, uncomfortable)

UltrAspire Speedgoat Waist Belt in Week 2 (needs constant tightening/readjustment on the run)

Week 6 (July 9th – July 15th) (90.5km Planned93.1km Completed)

Week 6 was a great week! First of all I received a Mountain Hardwear Singletrack Vest and after testing I commented:

Finally! A low volume race vest that fits perfectly, doesn’t bounce around crazily and has enough room for gels and water on the front with storage for a jacket/gloves other provisions on the back. Definitely good for long training runs, trail marathons and 50k races. Surprisingly this is the cheapest of all the vests I tested, and cheaper than one of the waist packs I tested!

I opted against using the vest for the race though as I didn’t really have enough time to train with it and to get used to it. Which segues nicely into my race report for my second running of the Chiltern 50k:

I showed up today with no plan other than to enjoy myself and with an achievable goal in mind of running an hour between checkpoints.

0-10km – made a conscious effort to go out slower than the last time I ran this one in 2016 and felt really good. Ran with Craig McElroy, the eventual ladies winner (Jo) and eventual second place lady (Liz). Hiked the ups, ran the downs and the flat and ate a gel just before 10k which I was pleased with. Arrived 6 minutes earlier than planned at aid station and didn’t stop long – refilled handheld, ate an orange piece and took one with me along with some pretzels.

10-20k – Stuck with Liz on this section and had a chat about running. Might have been digging myself a hole in hindsight but felt good and ahead of plan. Arrived at aid station 13 minutes earlier than planned, refilled water bottles and dumped loads of cold water on my head and torso before heading off with 2 slices of water melon.

20-30k – Ran with Liz for a while again but she headed off around 25k and then I ran with Jo for a while. Again, in hindsight I thought they were both strong and both were aiming for sub-5hrs. I still felt strong myself so kept on. Jo eventually ran off into the distance and I didn’t see either again until very briefly at the aid station. I stopped a little bit longer at the aid station and soaked my hat and drowned myself in cold water. I was 19 minutes ahead of schedule at this point so I felt I had time to slow it down and regroup. No fruit was available and at that point I realised I might have an issue as I couldn’t eat anything else there as it wasn’t vegan. I certainly wasn’t up for a gel in the heat so I just downed a lot of juice.

30-42km – I walked out of the 30k aid station as I felt like I might be overheating a bit. I was also trying to psyche myself up to eat a gel. This section of the course is far more exposed than the rest so getting out of the sun meant I’d need to keep moving. I walked for about 800m then ran to a long country lane climb at 32km. I was keeping a positive mental attitude and a brisk hike so I decided it was gel time. At around 33.5km I started to feel nauseous, running in open fields and direct sunlight at this point I had no real option but to adopt a run/walk strategy lest I throw up or worse! This lasted until about 36km when I suddenly found a second wind and ran to 40km or so. I had forgotten the final aid station was at 42km so my mind was not happy when I passed right through 40km with only a sip of water left and rising nausea making an appearance again! I ran/walked to the aid station from here feeling pretty tired and nervous about the final stretch. I arrived at the final aid station 11 minutes behind schedule I spent quite a while at the station drinking juice as there wasn’t anything I could eat. I spent a lot of time pouring water over my head and torso and generally cooling down before setting off again.

42km-Finish – The final stretch was horrendous. My mental game fell apart and I fell into the trap of negative and dark thoughts. I didn’t run much of this section at all. I managed from 42km to 44km and then walked from there to about 47km. I couldn’t stomach a gel, I didn’t really want any water and I was swaying a bit but I held it together and the thoughts brightened up as we hit the last steep descent with about a mile to go. I threw myself down there towards the last road climb and overtook a few people which helped my mood. I hiked hard on the road and ran hard on the descent into the last two fields. I again dropped back to run/walk until there was about 600m or so to go when I ran towards the finish line. Sarah was there to surprise me ringing the cowbell I bought for her so I finished the race with a smile.

9 minutes quicker than the last time I did this in 2016 and 8 places higher up the field so I can’t really complain. Still 13 minutes slower than my 2015 PR of 5:12 but with 2 more 50k races to go this year I am looking forward to having a crack at it again!

Chiltern 50k – splits

Week 7 (July 16th – July 22nd) (57.1km Planned59.1km Completed)

Even though I exploded over the final part of the my race in Week 6 I went into Week 7 feeling happy and positive. I started the week with a really gentle, easy hike to break in my new pair of La Sportiva Helios SR (my 5th pair to date).

I also ran before work once this week as I have done for most weeks during the Project. It is something I never thought I would take to but I have quite enjoyed it so far! It can really help to set up a positive and energetic start to a busy working day.

As the week wore on my legs did start to feel quite heavy and I couldn’t get a decent turnover in my stride when I felt like I wanted to pick it up a little. This was a precursor to becoming extremely tired during Week 8 but I pushed on thinking it would pass. However, when Saturday’s long run came to pass I felt very anxious with a feeling of nervousness pervading my mind and tightness in my chest – I cut my long run short quite significantly and realised that I was going to need to back off a bit to recover properly after the Chiltern 50k.

My final run of the week was something different! I set out with the intention of meeting Sarah after an hour and then running with her, at her pace for 5km before heading back home. Here’s my entry from my training diary:

A run of unequal thirds. First third I ran solo taking it relatively easy, second third I met Sarah and ran with her for 5km and then the final third I was solo again and taking it easier than my first solo section.

0-12km – solo. It was noticeably humid out and it took a while to get going! First time I’ve taken Mountain Hardwear Singletrack Vest out past 10km and decided to use UltrAspire soft bottles instead of soft flasks – they work perfectly with the vest and fit perfectly too. I found soft flasks flopped around a lot which was quite annoying!

12-17.5km – with Sarah. 5km around Rothamstead Park just having a chat and enjoying some rare mid-run company. The 500m extra metres accounts for my trip in and out of the sports centre at the end of the loop to refill my bottles.

17.5-25km – solo. Felt much slower as I’d taken it really easy with Sarah. I wasn’t complaining and just enjoyed my surroundings whilst listening to my new audiobook ‘Kokoda’, by Paul Ham about the Australian defence of Papua New Guinea in World War II.

Week 8 (July 23rd – July 29th) (79km Planned – 39.9km Completed)

I started Week 8 pretty strongly! I ran a 15km on Tuesday and felt absolutely fine – no remnants of tiredness that had appeared towards the end of Week 7 and this filled me with confidence.

I woke up an hour earlier than I normally would on Wednesday and went out for a beautiful sunrise run. I didn’t feel at all tired and I got into a rhythm pretty quickly, pushed the pace where I could (namely downhill and on the short road sections) and ran all of the inclines at the best pace I could manage sustainably. This was probably a mistake as I would then go on to work from 0800 until 1800hrs and from there would visit a classic motorbike and car show with Sarah and our friends until 2200hrs – I didn’t get to bed until 0000hrs and when I woke up at 0600hrs on Thursday morning I felt shattered, obliterated, zonked.

Norton Commando 961 Cafe Racer

My training plan would have seen me run 11.3km on Thursday but as I felt nothing but tired I opted instead for a 3km hike. Even with no weight vest I felt lethargic and slow and this did not bode well for what should have been a 32km run on Saturday and a 16km run on Sunday. Needless to say neither of these happened!

Friday is usually a rest day and at times I might try yoga but instead Sarah and I drove down to the New Forest after work to spend a weekend with her best friend and by the sea.

On a side note, the summer decided to take a break typically for us! The minute we decide to go camping the skies cloud over, the temperature drops and the rains falls!  The weekend was not exactly the hot and sunny one we had planned but we still had fun and made the most of it. At least it didn’t rain (much)!

By the time we arrived at 2200hrs on Friday night I was still feeling extremely tired but realised I had the chance to run somewhere new which is always exciting! I went to bed that evening thinking I might just be able to manage 25 to 30km.

My training diary entry from Saturday morning’s abortive attempt at a long run:

I don’t think this week has treated me very kindly in terms of sleep, namely, I’ve had far too little. I’m really disappointed with this effort – I just felt tired and sluggish from the start and really wanted to give up after about 3k.

We’re visiting Sarah’s best friend and usually I love running somewhere I’ve never been before. New scenery and new trails usually invigorates a run but this morning I just didn’t care. I walked a lot, bushwhacked a bit (which was probably the most fun part of the outing) and ran half heartedly. I was truly glad when I finished.

Might take tomorrow off, Monday is a rest day anyway and I might take Tuesday too. Try to catch up on sleep and press the reset button. (12.1km, 1h24m)

I did indeed take Sunday, Monday and Tuesday off and I am sitting here writing this Friday of Week 9 feeling much better for it. It really does go to show that listening to the body and paying attention to physical and mental cues sooner rather than later is much better than trying to tough it out or ignore it! Of course, I knew that before but this episode will hopefully stick over the next block of training.

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