Project RFP: Weeks 13 to 16

This was the penultimate block of training for Project Relentless Forward progress and a good one it was too! I think it really set the foundation for two great race performances at marathon and 50k distance in Week 13 and 16 respectively. For the most part, aside from racing, I took most of the block pretty easy and relaxed which is pretty much how it’s been from Week 1. It seems to be working well…

Week 13 (August 27th – September 2nd) (65.2km Planned – 69.5km Completed)

Week 13 saw me getting back into the mix after a week of illness. I think the extended break from running must have done me well as I ran the Dunstable Downs Marathon on Sunday 2nd September and managed a fine 4th place – not a fast marathon but a strong showing on a tough course. My race report as told in my training diary:

I had an odd morning today. I really struggled with anxiety and some negative thoughts pretty much from the moment I got out of bed. For a good while it looked like I wouldn’t head out to the Dunstable Downs Challenge Marathon. I decided to put my headphones in at 0700 and listened to techno podcasts from then, until I crossed the finish line at 1250hrs!

I’m glad I did choose to race now. Anxiety and self doubt was with me over the first 2km and I almost turned back on the first climb as I felt penned in and claustrophobic! I gave myself a good talking to, turned up my music and increased the pace. I didn’t know it but from around 5km up to the aid station at 26km I was second in the marathon – it was hard to tell where I was as there were 20 Mile runners with us up to 30km.

I lost the 2nd coming out of the aid station and never regained it! I stuck with the guy until 30km but was joined in the fight by the eventual 3rd place finisher at this point. I tried to keep with the surges but dropped back significantly there. Those guys then proceeded to put 15 minutes between me and them over the last 12km! Chapeau! I crossed the line happy as anything to finish 4th Overall – almost my second podium in 2 weeks.

I walked all the ups and raced with my headphones in for the first time ever. It really helped me to find rhythm in difficult sections and helped me to focus on what I was doing. I basically ignored everyone around me, did my own thing, admired the scenery and thoroughly enjoyed the race once I got going. I even power hiked the last incline on the course which stretches for just over a mile -very surprised I wasn’t caught for 5th! Another nice surprise was to see Sarah unexpectedly waiting at the finish line!

My anxiety was left out on the trail and I feel good now. My legs are tired and my glutes are a bit tight but I am pleased with the time as I was aiming for 3:45. I am also super happy to have gained 3rd place at a tough marathon! Not bad considering I’ve been ill for a week or so and not trained properly since Leila’s Run 2 weeks ago.

As well as a strong trail marathon Week 13 saw a first! My first ever run together my brother. It was his first ever trail run, first night run, his longest run and his fastest 5k to date! I absolutely loved running with my little bro and I’ll treasure the memory. I’ve been waiting for him to pull on a pair of running shoes for 7 years and every step was great fun. He’s only been running since the end of June and I’m looking forward to running with him again in the near future!

Week 14 (September 3rd – September 9th) (72.9km Planned – 68.5km Completed)

I ran two double days during Week 14 – before and after work each time. The second double came on the Friday and afterwards Sarah and I packed up the car and headed down to Devon to spend a long weekend visiting with her parents (my soon to be in-laws).

Sarah’s parents live right on the edge of Dartmoor and I can get up onto the moor within five minutes of stepping out of their front door! I took the opportunity to go for my first run on Dartmoor since December with my friend Jo. Instead of opting for the easy out of the door option, I created a route GPX and headed over to the eastern side of the moor as Jo travelled down to Exeter from her home in Bristol.

The run on the east moor was the first time I’ve ever used a GPX file on my watch, and on my GPX phone app when required. We got a bit lost here and there and so decided to try direct route finding to get back on the track. Therefore, we also bushwhacked here and there which is always great fun. Getting lost added about 200m elevation to the run, but I love the up so that was cool with me! Well, sort of cool, as both Jo and I felt like we had run a 50k by the time we completed our extended 22.9km loop with +863m thrown in for good measure!

We hiked a lot throughout the run and as the run went on we both started to feel very tired and hiking began to takeover from running! The climb certainly took its toll and we had both underestimated how tough this run might have turned out. The beauty of Dartmoor and good company never disappoints though and I laughed a lot, had fun, smiled a lot and kept on keeping on which really helped toward the end when it was a bit of a mental struggle. My legs feel strong and I know that one is great training in the bank.

The next day I headed out for a recovery hike with Sarah and her parents along the South West Coast Path over the border in Cornwall. It was a fantastic day weather wise and my legs, mind and body were pleased with the reduced effort. Taking it easier during this whole block – by running more regularly with Sarah, running with my brother and hiking – I believe has really contributed to my race successes and to my general happy demeanour. I don’t feel like I’m overdoing it and I really feel like I have become attuned to what my body wants and needs in terms of effort level for workouts, rest and food. It makes a change from times gone by when I might have just pushed on, and on, and on until being forced to a halt through over-tiredness and/or over-training.

Week 15 (September 10th – September 16th) (79km Planned – 80.3km Completed)

I started Week 15 in Devon and I knew it would be my last chance for a good while to get out on the moor for a run so I took the opportunity to start the week with a longer effort than usual.

Monday is usually a rest day but I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass! The entry from my training diary:

Last day in Devon for a while and on my usual stomping ground on the West Moor.

It took my legs about 5k to wake up this morning but once I got started I felt really happy! I found the first climb tougher than I usually do so I slowed it down a bit which paid off in the end.

The first half of the run was mostly off trail on classic rough going Dartmoor ground, mostly uphill too. The second half began as I hit the Widgery track to find an Army observation post set up just off the track. I knew live fire ops were going on as the red flags were up and I could hear the firing, but I didn’t expect to come across anyone working!

I decided to sneak up on the OP and to greet the squaddies with a ‘Morning’ – surprised both of them, made them laugh and then asked if I’d be safe heading on down back to Lydford. They said I’d be fine, and they were glad their boss wasn’t with them as took them by surprise!

The second half of the run was mostly downhill on rutted, rocky jeep track and I ran most of it laughing to myself about my encounter with the Army. I came across two more OPs on the run down and passed by unnoticed and without a word. The last mile was downhill, on road so I picked it up a bit recorded a 3:30 kilometre and a 5:45 mile.

My legs felt great at the end of the run and I’m glad I held back at the start to enable a decent second half in terms of pace.

We left Devon with heavy heart (and heavy legs!) on Monday evening and I went on to run 6 days out of 7 over the rest of the week – I took Tuesday as a rest day and used it to map out some new routes on my local trails culminating in a wonderful long run on Sunday afternoon. Found a few new trails off my usual routes and ran an entirely new long run route on Sunday, with a bit of a twist:

An enjoyable long run on a new route. A bit more road than I might have liked towards the final third…which led me to a regrettable spot of trespassing around the edge of some fields before linking up with the final 400m to my house. Regrettable as a very angry group of gamekeepers decided to meet me at the gate to show off their intimidation skills. Kind of spoiled a really good run but I basically ignored their harsh words, climbed the fence and carried on running home.

Running peacefully along a field edge, to avoid running on a road into the setting sun with no pavement. Trespassing, yes. Criminal? Don’t think so. Being shouted at aggressively by 3 gamekeepers in pick-up trucks was a bit much. I was alone and doing no harm! Chill out folks. I could understand if I was disrupting crops or game. Or if I was disturbing cattle. But I was literally on a jeep track.

Anyway, I digress. I had planned to run this at a reasonable pace, imitating how I’d like to go at a Tring 50k next weekend. I was a little quicker than planned but power hiked most of the inclines on the second half of the route. My legs feel good, my lower back seems to be all good with the effort and I’m looking forward to an easy week of training before the race!

Week 16 (September 17th – September 23rd) (73.1km Planned – 70.1km Completed)

As Week 16 arrived it was clear that Autumn had arrived with it! I took a really easy approach and ran twice before Saturday’s Tring 50k race. I ran on Tuesday and Wednesday covering 6.5 and 5.2km respectively before putting my feet up and relaxing.

Having suffered with really bad anxiety before Dunstable Downs Marathon I was feeling a bit nervous the night before Tring and hoping I wouldn’t have to fight myself to get to the start line! I am glad to say that anxiety did not rear its head and I slept like a log. I will close this blog with my training log race report:

I focused on pacing, not racing and it worked out well! The first 12 or 13km are pretty flat so I aimed to average 4:40pkm there and once we headed onto the trails around Wendover I adjusted to between 5:00 and 5:15pkm. I had a loose plan to hike all the ups after 15km and I stuck to that, as well as running all the downs and all the flat. Overall I was aiming for 5 hours so to run 4:35 was amazing!

I listened to music again for the whole race which I really find helpful at the moment. I ate 8 Shot Bloks and drank a lot of water and I knew about it by 35km – from there to the end I felt a bit sick and wasn’t able to eat anything else for the rest of the journey!

I think I finished 7th overall, initially the timing system said 4th. Final result turned out to be 4th Age Group and 12th overall.

I felt really happy all the way through, even when I felt sick! I smiled a lot, hummed to myself a fair bit and spent portions of the race thinking about different things I’m grateful for in my life. Worked wonders!

Closing out the penultimate block of Project Relentless Forward Progress with a HUGE 37 minute PR for 50k was unexpected and I sitting here writing feeling extremely proud of how my race panned out and proud that I stuck to my game plan. Whilst putting together Project RFP I had intended to for my PR at King’s Forest 50k in October – I never thought I would take off so much time before then! The plan now is to line up at King’s Forest and see if I can take any more time off. It’s a flatter course, the temperature should be pretty mild and it’s on a 12.5km loop – all of these things lend themselves to consistent pacing, I am looking forward to seeing how it plays out on the day…

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