Forest Flattened

Posted on: 21 Sep 2018

While the locations are about 100 miles apart, there was something distinctly familiar about the surroundings for yesterday’s long run traversing the woodland trail paths of Cannock Chase.

Flashbacks to the Forest of Dean 'forest flat' marathon came thick and fast as I made my way from Birches Valley to Marquis Drive, only this time there were a few distinct differences.

The weather – replace 28 degree scorching heat with blustery winds and drizzle.  My nutritional strategy – replace water and gels with electrolyte tabs and flat coke.  And finally, my energy levels – replace crashed on the floor and sick with negative splits and a hefty confidence boost!

OK, so it was 19 miles rather than full marathon distance, but for a training run this was just what I needed. 

I made it as challenging as I could, with a route that encompassed road and trail and a number of steep climbs knowing what awaits me at Snowdon.  The weather forecast was awful, but fortunately with a 7am start I missed the heavy rain.  That didn’t’ stop my feet getting soaked on the grassier pathways, however there’s no rubbing or blister damage to report. 

My run initially took me up to Hednesford Hills, then back down to Hednesford town.  A steady flat trot out to Rugeley and then sharp uphill onto the foot of Cannock Chase at Slitting Mill.  Across the Chase and then another climb to the aforementioned Marquis Drive.  A quick circuit around the Chase’s parkrun course, before descending into Hednesford again.

Feeling strong at this point, I added another steep climb up to Pye Green, then doubled back and headed for home. 

There was just over 1,000ft of elevation gain in total and an average pace of 9:20 minute miles, with 2hrs 57 on the clock.  No walking, even on the hills, and the second half of the run was slightly faster than the first.  Result!

I’ve mentioned before about starting to use a hydration vest on runs over 15 miles and I found it really useful this week.  Drink wise, I had 500ml of water with electrolyte tabs on one side of the vest in a soft bottle, and 500ml of flat coke on the other.  I ate one protein bar split into three pieces and one of those lunchbox sized malt loaves.  No jelly babies, no gels and, mercifully, absolutely no stomach problems.

Have I found a combination that works?  Well, the signs are good and I’ll repeat it next week for my run into work (albeit that’s a much flatter route). 

I felt like I still had miles left in my legs when I got home and needed very little recovery time before heading out and getting on with my day.  I also managed a steady five-miler this morning and all was well.

The proof, of course, will be in the eating of a marathon-sized pudding up and down the hills of Snowdonia in a month’s time.  But it feels like positive progress, and we all know the importance of confidence and self-belief when it comes to distance running.

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