Well, you’ll know that I was never known for grace, poise or suppleness. As a result, change takes time. So, whilst it may be with all of the elan of a super-tanker, I have turned. I can sense a change in my stamina. A change for the better; muscle memory, or whatever we may choose to call it, is quite an amazing thing really. Buried deep inside me, buried below summery months of excess, is the ability to churn out long, slow hilly miles. I have embraced it once more.
The weekly update reads like this.
The one with the steppy half
Tuesday last week I resolved to get some hilly miles into my legs. All of this is driven by my desire to be as ready as I can be for the 700m of elevation per day (well 900m on day 3…) of the ACC. My teaching roadshow had by now reached Guernsey, and so I knew exactly what was required. Whilst Iron Maiden may have been “run to the hills”, in Guernsey they’d have made it “the cliffs” for sure.
The cliff path out of St.Peter Port is familiar territory for me, of course; in a previous life, we used to walk visitors a bit of it to Bluebell Wood. In this life, indeed this year, I have already run it as part of the Guernsey Ultra. So, I knew what was coming; steps, and plenty of ‘em. But who cares when they’re good for you, and definitely who cares when the views are as amazing as this? From town, with the sea glistening and with a cruise ship in the bay, you turn the cliff corner at the brutal steps St.Martin’s Point; all along, your escorts have been countless gulls above and the continually bobbing lobster pot markers at sea level. It’s splendid. From the Point, I knew that I could bag a couple more showcase climbs before finally, almost reluctantly, turning inland again at Saints Bay; whilst I could have retraced my steps, I knew that I needed a few slightly faster miles to get back to the hotel in time for some food.
All told, a half marathon in something like 12 minute pace. I’d like to be more accurate (and I would certainly like to know the elevation of this one), but the bloody Garmin lost the entire course. So, no data. Of course, that means you only have my word for it that it ever happened at all….
The one with the “day after” half.
In my mind as I ran this one, I was thinking of a question I could ask; “How can you tell when someone is training for an Ultra?” My answer would be “when their midweek runs are back to back half marathons!”
The first few miles of this run were fine; I headed out to the flat west coast, hitting it at Vale church. I had resolved to run around the coast until I got to Cobo, and then turn inland. The coast path was lovely, although slightly ominously the ever so small inclines that I did face were Everest-like in their intensity. The run after the day before can truly turn molehills into mountains it would seem.
From the turn inland at Cobo, I knew that it would be grim. It’s a slow climb up to the middle of the island. Looking at the watch and doing mental maths, I knew that (despite what my body was screaming out for) I couldn’t just head to the hotel. So, a diversion around Saumarez Park was required. Here, the wheels well and truly fell off. Once it was clear to me that I wasn’t going to achieve my self-imposed sub-10 min pace, the mind gave up. As we all know, once the chimp’s out, it’s not long before the legs give in to a self-fulfilling prophesy. Not a lot more to be said about the run other than that it was done. Mind you, two half marathons on two midweek nights ain’t too shabby….
The one that was lumpy
Just looking at the sub-title, you almost know that this run must have been a Cotswold Way one. And you’d be right. The early morning alarm on Sunday was truly unwelcome. Still, out and at ‘em as early as I possibly could be. Truly, once you’re out, there is something strangely satisfying about getting miles run pre-7am.
The route was well worn; to Tyndale Monument. This meant that for 17 of the 20 miles that I ended up doing, I was retracing my steps from the previous week. Now, here’s the thing. I went further (3 miles) than last week. Even more pleasingly, I went a whole 35 seconds a mile quicker too. I nailed the ACC days 1 and 2 elevation, in 20 miles, and at 11.45 pace. That, my friends, I will take.
At times, I know I am Victor Meldrew. I suspect it gives me great pleasure to have a good old moan. By the time I fell into the Hawkesbury Shop for my customary post-long run rehydration (2 cans of Barr’s shandy!) I was broken. But I was also happy. I knew I had possibly over-performed, and I was happy.
So, listen very carefully, I shall say this only once – Victor was pleased.
The one where “every day is a school day.”
Ah, yesterday’s run. Let me start by saying I was actually pleased with how I felt when I woke up. Having gone to bed aching and moaning like an old ‘un, I had feared a lot worse. The legs functioned; maybe the old muscle memory truly is kicking in.
The legs’ reward for functioning was another back to back run. I was in work, and so I couldn’t get out until just after 9 once we knew all classes were up and running OK. I wanted to go long, but I also didn’t want to take forever over it. So, the route was decided; it was a flat first 8 miles out along the Avon trail and on through Pill – there are always fond 401 memories here, as it was the route that those marathons took in October ’16. As with the second run in Guernsey, though, as soon as there was a hill, there was nothing in the tank.
The second 8 miles, therefore, the hillier ones, were always going to be hard. Up and over the M5 bridge at Avonmouth (never sure whether I like HGVs hammering towards me!), and then a slow (very slow!) climb up to Kingsweston on the other side of the river. What seemed to be flat turned out to be Everest-like. The trawl up part of the Green Man route, Mariners and then Pitch and Pay Lanes, was just awful.
Anyway, 15.5 miles done.
So, yep, every day is a school day; I have learnt (or rediscovered perhaps) an important lesson. It’s all well and good pushing yourself on day one to attain some notional target that you set, but know this; day two will bite you back. That’s going to be important for me then; I will need to run the ACC well, but always try and keep something in the tank for the following days.
On a yard we go!
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