Monday, 20 April 2015

"January, sick and tired, you've been hanging on me. . ."

Well I was definitely sick and as a result quite tired.

As 2014 finished with a 10k, 2015 started with a 10k, in the guise of another local race 'The Broadstone Quarter' on New Years Day, a race I had not done before. OK, so strictly speaking and to appease the pedants it was a quarter marathon. Its a popular race, despite being on New Years Day, and for a lot of local runners, including many of my running friends, it has become a bit of a tradition - kicking off the year as they mean to go on.

Unfortunately when I ran the 10k on Boxing Day I was just coming down with some sort of coughing lurgy and I spent the interim time between the two races just managing dog walks with a 'feckin cough', as I put it, and wondering if I would be able to compete. In the end I just decided to give it a bash on the basis that the race is a 2 loop course and if I felt really bad I could drop out after lap one (DNF beats DNS after all!).
The course starts and finishes with a bit of a wiggle by the Broadstone Sports Centre, with big triangular laps in between. Although the route has a nasty long hill up (twice!), of course it also has its counterpart, a lovely long hill down.

Strava data shows a pretty good pace considering that my aim, as I put it, was to 'finish and not die'!

In the end I found that running surprisingly didn't really have an adverse effect on the coughing and I was able to do both laps. But I finished looking like the walking dead (according to my caring running mates!) and once I stopped running I started coughing like I was on 60 a day!
Before I staggered home though I was presented with the oddest or perhaps the most puzzling race memento I've had, that of a Broadstone Quarter Tea towel. Perfect for drying your sports bottles perhaps?

Of course, now all thoughts turned to June as I started to realise I had better have a serious look at my training plan for Mont Blanc.
Obviously I would need to do hill training and hoped to do most of my training off road, but of course at the time we were still in dark evening mode meaning that apart from Thursday evenings (not being done on my own), the only off road work was done at the weekend.

I'd asked a couple of local experienced trail runners what sort of training program I ought to follow and the main conclusion was that I should train for time on feet rather than distance.
Given that the time on feet was going to be closer to a marathon time, I decided to do 2 off road marathons leading up to this, both by my favourite race providers, White Star Running. One was the Larmer Tree Marathon in March and the other was the Ox Marathon in May, both around Tollard Royal in Dorset.

The other thing that needed sorting was kit. Which always makes me fret. Quite a lot. Decisions, decisions. . . .
Mont Blanc Cross instructions call for the following obligatory kit list (as taken straight from the website so spelling is not mine!):
  • Mobile phone.
  • Stock of water minimum 0,50 liter.
  • Waterproof jacquet windproof.
  • Whistle.
  • Survival blanket.
  • Personnal cup
I was also planning on adding a thin hat and gloves to this list too, given how the weather can change quickly on a mountain, and obviously a few gels or other nutrition. You also have to complete the race in what they call 'semi autonomy' e.g. not allowed any assistance except at the 2 aid stations and must carry everything you need with you.
Obviously the thing to do was to keep weight and volume down if possible, while having just enough storage.
I'd already been looking at hydration packs v water belts, and contemplating the old bottles v bladders debate. Hydration packs have their up side but the down sides were bothering me, you couldn't see how much fluid you had left, it was often difficult to get stuff out of them while wearing them, and the straps always chafed my shoulders. I tried the Salomon XT Wings pack (shown below) last year and while it was seemed initially comfortable and held a lot I found the following problems - the adjustment straps wouldn't stay adjusted and kept loosening slightly, with the lack of stiffness in the pack the bladder pulled on the attachment loop and dragged the back of the neck down causing discomfort in the way the pack sat after a while, the front pockets were too small for my usual gels, and the back pockets were difficult to get things out of. " Our survey said. . . .Eh-Erhhhhh!"

Thinking in the other direction I decided a waist belt would be the answer, but it would have to be a generous one to fit in all the kit. I currently had a cheap one courtesy of sports direct which was actually made from 2 waist belts joined together, eliminating the thin waist strap and increasing the storage. This was always pretty comfy so i wanted something similar without a thin strap. After trying a couple of belts I ended up with the Salomon Agile Belt complete with 500ml soft bottle. Although this has a waist strap it is wide and padded and stays in place very well and despite its apparently smallish size miraculously holds all the essential kit plus more.

Shoes - I didn't think the Merrells would be man enough and whilst I did briefly toy with the idea of trying different makes and models I'd already tried and tested a pair of inov8 trailrocs last year and in the end decided to go with them. Mind you the Merrells are on standby!

Waterproof jacket - my Montane Minimus smock was going to be ideal, given its small size and weight

So, kit sorted, hurrah! back to fretting about the training. . .

As last year, this month heralded the return of Jantastic (organised by the Marathon Talk boys) and I signed up (with far too much enthusiasm) to Steve Way's DBS Team, and promised 5 runs a week.
With a team captain like that you don't want to let them down, and at the end of January managed to drag myself to 100%, goodness knows how February and March were going to pan out however!

Daisy's running was coming along well and by the end of January she could manage around a 5km run (her walks were even further but for constant running I was increasing her distance very slowly)
If the training schedule said further than that then Kev was walking her while I went for a run with Max.

Ooh, yes, training schedule. nearly forgot!

Well after my initial thought that I should do 2 Marathons in the run up to June, something kept nagging me in the middle of January that I ought to swap the Larmer Tree marathon entry for the half entry instead. Don't ask me why, I'm not normally one for chickening out, but after not taking notice of my inner voices last year and ending up injured, I'd already decided that if I got a bad feeling about a race/training run etc I would act on it. After all lets face it, I'm never going to be that competitive apart from against myself!

says it all really!
Soooo, once i swapped i felt much better, and after doing so I also found myself deciding I would race it as best i could instead of just being a long training run. This decided I then switched to a half marathon training program (which wasn't all that different to the marathon one at this stage so no harm done!) up to March.
My thoughts were to do a half schedule up to March, a marathon training program up to the Ox in May putting in as many hills as possible and doing all off road and then switch to the remainder of a half schedule again in the remaining 4 weeks leading up to Mont Blanc with the emphasis once again being on hills and off road.
Sounds complicated but seemed to make sense!

I did well on the Purbeck Marathon with a training program lifted from the Bournemouth Marathon Website training zone (by none other than Martin Yelling) so figured if it ain't broke, don't fix it!
I used the advanced program, not because I thought I was advanced but because on inspection it was 5 days a week and the distances seemed doable plus would fit in with Jantastic!

I started 5 weeks in, i think (shown as 9 weeks to go), which looks like this

As i wouldn't normally run on a Monday I just shunted the first 2 days up one and so Monday was now Tuesday and Tuesday now Wednesday. (still with me?)

I also found the book Trail and Mountain Running by Sarah Rowall and Wendy Dodds to be very helpful with quite a few relevant training pointers.

My longest run in January turns out to have been 20-21km (bit vague as I stopped the garmin at one point and forgot to start it for a couple of minutes!).

Obviously in February this was going to have to go up. . . .

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