South Coast Challenge – 54K

IMG_2787

After months of training, I finally completed The South Coast Challenge 54K from Eastbourne to Hove. This wasn’t my longest race, but given the heat and the hills, I can honestly say that this has been the toughest one so far.

I arrived in Eastbourne on Friday evening and booked in to a nice ‘cheap and cheerful’ hotel on the seafront. Although I had only booked a single room, they gave me a free upgrade to a double with a nice view of the sea.

As I arrived early, I popped down to the the race area to get myself registered. My start time wasn’t until 8:40 on Saturday morning, but I figured it would be one less thing to worry about, so I collected my race number and other bits and pieces and enjoyed a nice stroll along the seafront before heading back to the hotel.

The Start Area
The Start Area

I slept well and got myself up in plenty of time so decided to go and watch some of the other waves of runners head off. There was a safety briefing followed by a zumba warm up to get us in the mood for the hike ahead, and then we were off!

Eastbourne Seafront
Eastbourne Seafront

The weather was warm and it was only going to get warmer as the day went on, so I refrained from running along the seafront in order to preserve some energy for the hills. And boy were there hills!

The first 11k before Birling Gap involved a climb of 232 metres, but it wasn’t too bad as it meant that there was the same again in descent. Running downhill on this section was a lot of fun and helped me to get a good pace going to the first rest stop. Not that I stopped for long. Just enough time to grab some more water and an energy bar, and reapply some sun cream before heading off again.

A Long Climb
A Long Climb

The next section wasn’t so much fun though. While the cliffs of the Seven Sisters may look very pretty, the climbing was brutal at times and I was glad that I’d remembered to order a walking pole from Amazon the weekend before. I’m not sure how I would have coped otherwise!

Some of The Seven Sisters
Some of The Seven Sisters

I had hoped to have been able to enjoy some more downhill running at this point, but the gradient was just too steep and I would probably have gone arse over tit had I attempted anything other than a quick sideways shuffle down the slopes.

Needless to say, the pace slowed down quite a bit and it was 1:00 pm by the time I reached the next rest stop, but I was still feeling pretty good. I took a bit more time at this stop to have some food, check the old feet and change into a fresh pair of socks. No blisters to report, so all good for now.

The next section started with another massive climb that just seemed to go on and on. By this point my back was starting to ache a bit, so I applied a Deep Freeze patch, which helped a lot. There was a nice breeze at times, but the temperature was rising and really slowed me down. Luckily,not too far into the downhill section, we could see the next rest stop, which gave me a bit of a lift and spurred me on a bit more.

Again, I didn’t stop for too long. I ate a little, drank a little and set off again for the final stage. This, I knew, was going to be tough as we had 20K to go without a proper rest stop. There was a flattish section to start with and although the heat from the sun was getting stronger ground underfoot was not pleasant (a hard chalky surface with lots of loose stones) it wasn’t too bad.

The hill that came next, however, almost did me in. I wasn’t even that far into it when I just had to stop. It was a combination of heat and back pain, so I took a couple of pain killers and some water before pushing myself forward a few steps at a time, stopping and starting as needed. To be honest, I really thought about giving up at this point, but knowing that so many people had sponsored me to do this, there was no way I was going to let them down. That and the kind words and encouragement from others kept me going.

One of the things that I like so much about these challenges is the camaraderie. Everyone hits low points along the way, but whether walking alone or in a group, we all help each other through it, whether it’s with a bit of chat along the way, some words of encouragement, offers of help or just holding the gate open with a smile for the next person, even the smallest gesture goes a long way.

Another nice view before Brighton

Luckily there was a water station at around 44K, so again I took a few minutes to sit down and air the old feet before continuing on down to Brighton. This part of the route wasn’t bad at all but by that point I’d probably had more than enough heat as I was starting to feel a bit nauseous. Still, I was encouraged by more conversation, some bottles of ‘water for the walkers’ that some kind person had left on a wall and some ‘well dones’ from some random people on Hove seafront.

Finally, just after 9:20 pm, I reached the finish line at Hove Park, where I collected my medal, t-shirt and glass of fizz before throwing up outside the medical tent! Again, I was touched by the kindness of strangers as someone went and got me some water while another took me into the tent to make sure I was ok. Thankfully, it was just a case of too much sun as the paramedic took my blood pressure and checked my blood glucose levels (all of which were fine). The doctor gave me an energy gel and a sickness tablet and I was soon on my way home, happy to have completed the challenge in one piece.

SCC Result

So, the verdict? Well, I can honestly say that this is the toughest challenge that I have done. Even though it was the heat that finished me off in the end, the relentless ups and downs of the hills are not my thing – so I won’t be back for another go. However, if you like hills and want to take part in a brilliantly organised ultra event as either a walker or a runner, then I wouldn’t want to put anyone off. The camaraderie on route, support at the rest stops, the stunning views and the sense of accomplishment when finished make it all worth while in the end.

As for me, I think I’ll go for something a bit less hilly next time.

How’s your running going? What gets you through the low points in a race? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Advertisements

Still Here…

I realise I haven’t posted for a while, but I’m still here, so thought it was time to check in with a quick update.

The training hasn’t been going too well over the last few weeks. There hasn’t been much running lately, although I did manage an out and back 30K walk/run along the coast a couple of weeks ago.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 21.09.04

I won’t go into a blow by blow account, but let’s just say that I learned a few useful lessons for the 50K that’s coming up:

  1. Trim toenails a couple of days before the race
  2. Don’t forget the sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy.
  3. Prep feet with zinc oxide tape before going out.
  4. Check that running socks don’t have holes in them.
  5. Remember to pack the blister kit

In short, I got sunburn, blisters and almost lost a toenail, but apart from that it was kind of fun. And I got at least one good photograph.

IMG_2762

The photograph was taken on the way out, at about 10K, looking back towards Saltdean. Brighton is further back beyond the cliffs in the distance, so I was feeling pretty good that I’d managed to tackle those hills that you can see.

Even though it was mostly walking, with some downhill running, it was good practice for the 50K as the first part of the race will be pretty much like this. Not that it’s going to be much of a race for me now, but it will still be fun running down all the hills.

How’s your training going? How do you prepare for long runs in the heat? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Getting Some Miles In

What with all of the excitement of the Euros and Wimbledon, I haven’t managed to get much running in this week and, with some big matches this weekend, I was getting a bit concerned about my already haphazard training plan. But then I remembered… I have a treadmill!

Yes, running while watching TV has become one of my favourite things to do. So, I set up the laptop on top of the ironing board and tuned in to watch McEnroe (the younger) and Bahrami take on Woodbridge and Woodforde in the Gentlemen’s Senior Doubles Invitation. Bahrami’s antics on court were certainly entertaining and gave me something to focus on while trying to complete my 10K.

My strategy was to run 0.9 miles and then walk 0.1. This seemed to work pretty well and I was able to stick to the ratio throughout the run, finishing the 10K in just over 1:08.

As I’m only 7 weeks away from Race Day, however, I really need to be getting more miles under my feet. So, after a bacon sarnie and a bit of bimbling around, I decided to watch the Women’s Singles Final with a second 10K.

My legs were pretty tired after the earlier run, so I decided to change the ratio to 0.45 miles running and 0.05 walking. The time would be about the same if I could stick to it, but I figured it might be a bit easier on the old legs.

The first 3 miles were a bit of a struggle, so I decided to take it mile by mile and see how it went. I even considered reducing the ratio, but then I remembered that saying about how running is more mental than physical and realised that what I really needed to do was to knuckle down and start training my mind to not give up.

So, again, at about 1:08 I completed 10K, and just in time to see Serena win the match while I was doing my cool down walk.

I also did another 5K on the treadmill yesterday evening, which gives me a weekly total of 25K so far. Not bad for a week without running! I may even do the same thing again for the Men’s Final, but I’m not making any promises!

How’s your training going? Did you get your running done this weekend? Please share your thought in the comments.

An Eventful Treadmill Run

Who said treadmill running was boring? Well, I have, because they generally are, but today’s treadmill run was a bit more eventful than usual.

I was supposed to do a Half Marathon distance run/walk this morning, but when I remembered that ‘Paddle Round The Pier’ was going on I figured that by the time I would be heading back, the seafront would probably be mobbed, so I opted for a treadmill run instead.

Knowing that the hardest part running for over 2 hours on the treadmill would be sheer and utter boredom, I decided to watch one of my favourite YouTube documentaries on the run – it’s the one where a guy runs Badwater for the first time and almost wins it, which is about 2 hours long.

The only way I could watch it while running though, was to put my laptop on the ironing board, put the ironing board in front of the treadmill and hope that the cat wouldn’t do her usual trick of sitting on the keyboard whenever I try to watch something on the computer – luckily she was otherwise occupied with the window for most of the morning.

So, that being done, I grabbed my Garmin (so that I could upload my workout time), and hopped on to the treadmill for a bit of a warm up walk. I’m still not certain about whether the treadmill is in miles or kilometres – the manual says kilometres but since I’ve been running outside more, I’ve been comparing the two and I reckon it has to be miles.

This does mean that the running on the treadmill is a bit faster than running outside, but without wind, hills and other humans to contend with, that might make sense. Anyway, I figured I’d assume it is miles and see what happened on today’s run.

Of course, pretty much as soon as I started the run, my stomach started complaining. I think I managed about half a mile before I had to give up and sort myself out.

The second attempt was slightly better. I decided on a ratio where I would run for 0.9 of a mile at 6 mph and then walk 0.1 at 3.5. This was working quite well for the first 23 minutes, until my bottle decided to launch itself from from the drink holder and I accidentally stopped the treadmill trying to retrieve it, setting everything back to zero again.

I was a bit miffed to say the least, but the guy on the Badwater documentary gave me some hope, so I reset the Garmin (again), found a better place for the bottle, and hopped back on for round three. Third time lucky, right?

Even though my legs had already covered 2.5 miles (or thereabouts) I was feeling pretty good and continued with my ratio for the first half of the run. By half way though, my legs were getting tired, so I started reducing the running sections and increasing the walk breaks. This seemed to be working, but as I watched the timer on the treadmill pass the 9 minute mark, I realised that there was no space on the console for anything over 99 minutes and 59 seconds.

I kind of hoped that nothing would happen other than that the clock would continue from zero again. That would be fine. My brain could deal with that. What I didn’t expect though, was that the treadmill would slow down to a stop and the distance I had already covered would disappear!

Luckily, I clocked the distance as 9.04 miles just before everything stopped, so I knew how much further I had to go. My legs were drained of energy by this point and I was running less that half a mile for each run segment, but I was getting there. I just needed to get in another 4.06 miles and I’d be done.

In the end, I completed the 13.1 miles in 2:29:54, which is slower than most of my previous Half Marathons, but a bit faster than I expected. Taking into account how I felt at the end, and the fact that running on the treadmill ought to be a bit quicker than running outside, I’m pretty much convinced that miles win over kilometres where the treadmill is concerned.

Either way though, a two and a half hour run/walk should help to get the training back on track.

How’s your training going? Have you had an eventful run recently? Do you plan your training runs according to distance or time on your feet? Please share your thought in the comments.

Progress

Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 10.40.58This morning’s run was an early one. I left the house just after 7:30 and headed for the seafront for a nice slow 5K.

The plan was to take it easy with the running so that I could take fewer walk breaks and try to build up my endurance a bit more. I figured that, after Tuesday’s improvements, if I could keep going for 1.5 to 2K without walking, I’d be happy. But the main thing was to be out running.

It was pretty quiet down on the seafront. There were a few runners out and about as usual and some people setting up some kind of event. I’ve no idea what it was, but they were sectioning off a small area of the promenade with blocks of wood and there was a small container with what looked like surf boards inside. I guess I’ll pop down later and see what’s going on.

But back to the run itself. I headed East as usual, but when I completed the first kilometre, instead of turning round and heading West,  decided to keep going towards the pier. From what I remembered from running that part of the seafront before, it was about 2.5K from my starting point to the pier, so it would make a good ‘out and back’ while things were still relatively quiet along that stretch.

Before I knew it, the Garmin beeped at 2K and the pier was well within reach. My pace was slow, of course, but I knew I could keep running and get to 2.5K without walking, so that’s what I did.

I took about a minute of walking to catch my breath and then headed off on the return journey along the seafront, past the bars and up towards Hove Lawns.

It would have been nice to have completed the rest of the run without walking, but at 4K I decided to give myself another short break. There was no point in pushing too hard, especially as I plan to do a longer, hillier run/walk tomorrow, so I took the walk break and then upped the pace a little bit for a stronger finish.

Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 10.42.27

Overall, I completed the 5K in 35:46, which is slower than when I use a shorter run/walk ratio, but that doesn’t matter. The plan was to reduce walk breaks and build up endurance for continuous running, so progress was made, even if it was slower.

How’s your training going? Are you running or racing this weekend? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

 

Getting My Legs Back

Circle HopIt has been three weeks since my last run. I didn’t really plan on having such a long break after the marathon. I wasn’t particularly broken or injured afterwards – just a bit of tightness and discomfort, but I guess my body needed a bit of a rest after all those month of training.

Today though, I decided that I had rested enough and that it was time to dust of my running shoes and get back out there.

I’d been using a run-walk-run strategy for the last few months to help get me through the marathon without injury, but I really wanted to get back to running continuously without walk breaks again. I wasn’t sure how my body would cope with this, so I set myself a target of 2-3K of continuous running for this morning, depending on how things went, and planned to gradually build up to 5K over the next few weeks.

It was nice and cool when I headed to the seafront just after 7:00 am. There was a bit of a breeze, but nothing to worry about, as I set off along Hove Lawns to the cafe just before Peace Statue. The plan was to run there and back, which would be pretty much 2K, and then maybe do a bit more if I felt like it.

As I had no clue as to how I would manage this, I started off nice and slowly, pretty much ignoring the Garmin and just running by feel. And it felt pretty good, so much so that as I approached the 2K mark, I decided to keep going for another half kilometre.

According to the Garmin, my pace was picking up a bit too, although I couldn’t really feel it. In terms of running by feel, the effort was consistent and comfortable, so I continued to ignore the Garmin and keep going to 3K, then 3.5K.

After that, however, I did start to feel a bit tired so, not wanting to push things too hard on my first post-marathon run, I decided that I would stop when I got to 4K.

I felt really good afterwards and pleased that I had managed much more than I’d expected. The left hamstring was a bit uncomfortable and my calf started to tighten up as I walked home, but it was nothing compared to what I’d been having before, so maybe the three weeks of rest wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

The most surprising thing about the run though, was that I managed to run negative splits for each kilometre. I hadn’t expected that at all, but perhaps it was just my legs waking up after their rest.

2015-05-02_Splits

How’s your training going? How much time off do you take after a big race? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Spring Forward

Please tell me I’m not the only one who thought they’d overslept for their early morning long run today… anyone… no… really? (waits as a huge tumble weed blows slowly across the bloggy sphere…) Ok, so It’s just me then.

After bailing out on last weekend’s final long run before the taper, I’d planned to get up extra early this morning for a slightly-shorter-long-but-won’t-quite-kill-me-run instead. So needless to say I was a bit disappointed when I woke up at 8:15 instead of my usual weekend time of something between 6:30 and 7:30.

11054346_10153230396219740_1319207893094433965_n

Still, once I realised that it was really only 7:15 if I ignored the fact that everyone, including the people who control my phone, computer and Garmin, had decided to steal an hour, I started to feel much better. At least it was Sunday, so I could still pretend it was early and, since it was cold wet and drizzly outside, the chances were that not too many people would be venturing out to block and congest the later part of my route.

The plan was to run something between 15 and 21 kilometres. I wanted to make up for missing my last long run but at the same time I didn’t want to leave myself feeling completely exhausted two weeks before race day, so I’d see how it went.

I didn’t really have much of a route planned and decided to start with a couple of laps of Hove Rec to get some shelter from the wind and rain. After the third lap, I realised that the path was going to get a bit busy as more and more kids started arriving for their rugby practice, so I headed back out to the streets again and ran up Shirley Drive as a long way round to Hove Park.

When I reached Hove Park, however, I saw another much larger group of kids running around the paths. It looked like some kind of organised event as they were all wearing yellow tops and, as I turned the corner to the long straight stretch of the path, I realised that there were dozens more of them gathering at the parkrun start line. Junior parkrun perhaps? I wasn’t in the mood to find out, so I cut back out of the path and decided to stick to the roads instead.

Not in much of a mood for people dodging, I decided to explore some of the quieter streets around Poets Corner before heading back down to Portland Road and route that I’d been using for my last few shorter runs.

I decided round about then that I wasn’t going to do the 21K, but that if I ran back along Portland Road and took some detours down the streets that run adjacent to it, I could probably manage about 15K without killing myself. So that’s what I did.

2015-03-29_Route

In the end it was 16K and, despite falling asleep for an hour while watching Netflix this afternoon, I feel pretty good. My legs don’t feel too bad and I wore my ankle support which seems to have helped, but most importantly, I feel more mentally prepared than I did this time last week.

Yes, missing my final long run is a worry; yes, the marathon is going to be hard and it’s going to hurt; but either way I know that I want to do this, so I will.

How’s your training going? Do you have to plan or adapt your routes to avoid congested streets and paths? Please share your thoughts in the comments.