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London Marathon 2012 race report

13 May

A stroke of bad luck! Then more! ! Then more!!!

To say I wasn’t looking forward to the London marathon was a bit of an understatement! I know I was lucky that a place came up with the English Federation of Disability sport (EFDS), which I really appreciate by the way, but things turned sour with my training from pretty much day one. I originally got my place around the end of October, and as if by magic that’s when my various problems started!

I seemed to go from a ‘could do anything’ sort of runner who never got ‘niggles’ or injuries, to a ‘whats the next injury going to be?’ type of runner. My wife, and a few others, often said that it was either really bad luck, or someone ‘up there’ didn’t want me to run this marathon. Perhaps it was a bit of both?!?!? 😉

So, around early November time, a few days after I had got my charity place and five months before the marathon, I was in the very early states of marathon training. It was around this time when I developed a mysterious illness and became generally exhausted and run down – and I hadn’t even up’ed my training yet! arrgghh!!

To cut a long story short this lasted, with other complications, for the next six months with frustratingly no real diagnosis or explanation from the medical profession on what the root problem was. I seemed to finally shift the ‘illness’ (although the jury is still out as I’m still not totally 100% well) by using alternative, natural remedies as traditional methods (pills, lotions and potions from the doctor/chemist) didn’t seem to help at all.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

All this obviously had a huge negative affect of my training, so then came strike two in the form of Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) in my right knee. This little nasty, which is the bane of many runners, raised its head around the same time as the illness, fatigue and other problems.

I’ve had ITBS before, in the other knee a few years ago, but managed to ‘fix it’ within a couple of weeks by focusing on stretching and changing my trainers (which were due for a change at the time anyway). But this time it was different! I started to notice the familiar ‘stinging’ sensation on the outside of my knee and a slight tightness in my hip, and knew from past experience exactly what the problem was and what to do. STOP RUNNING!

Now this is harder than you think when you’ve only got a couple of miles before you get home. But rules are rules and the best rule for the on set or treatment of an ITBS twinge is to STOP RUNNING IMMEDIATELY!!!!! So started more months of lack of running misery. Suffice it to say this also had an effect on training, involved a number of new pairs of trainers, a Physio, a swimming pool and a sports clinic (almost sounds like the start of a joke). I’ll talk about this more in a future post.

The third strike was shine splints. I’ve read about them and always though ‘ouch!’ they sound painful! But in my 5+ years of running I’ve never even had a twinge from the shine area, not until TWO WEEKS before the marathon day (remember what I said about someone up there not liking me?!)

And yes, although I don’t think it was the worst case of shine splints in the world, they bloody well do hurt! So off to the doctors it was again. After going from a person who maybe visited the doctor every five years or so, to one who was going very five weeks or so with illness, tiredness, etc, I honestly think he was getting sick of seeing me! The doc gave me some pills, which basically consisted of a higher strength (than over the counter drugs) painkiller and anti inflammatory combo – ironically with the side effect of drowsiness – great! Just what I need if I’m running a marathon and trying to train! – is that strike four?

Unsurprisingly by the time my ‘week before event chill out’ came I had done very little training and the training I had done had been erratic to say the least, mainly due to the desperation and worry about not doing adequate post event training (catch 22)! I managed to squeeze in a number of 10 milers (my normal, old, Sunday run distance that I used to enjoy prior to my troubles starting in November) but these were not built up to and perhaps the cause of the shin splints! Doing sudden bursts of distance, when you haven’t built up to it, is such a bad idea, and I should have known better and therefore paid the price!

As a runner it’s a funny (not) and extremely frustrating situation to be in, to be honest:

You want to run, to the degree that your climbing the walls – But you can’t run because the injuries you have require rest and recuperation – But you can’t rest because you have to train for an event! – Catch 22!

Of course one option would have been to pull out altogether, which under normal circumstances, I would have. I seriously considered pulling out a number of times as April grew gradually closer, but I felt a little guilty due to the charity donations I’d raise and I didn’t want to let anyone or the charity down.

I came to the conclusion that I’d just do what I could do. If I had to walk the end of the course due to lack of fitness or injury, then I would. If it took me ten hours then it would, but I was determined to finish, but to also limit any further injury or damage.

The Sunday before the marathon I started my ‘running event gear pile’ in the corner of the bedroom, dusted off the check lists and crossed my fingers!

Marathon day arrives

As the Marathon wasn’t until the Sunday we decided to travel down on the preceding Friday morning and head for home on the

2012 London Marathon – Scribs running number

Monday afternoon. This gave my family and myself a few days to do the London tourist thing. Ideally I probably should have rested my throbbing shin, but I actually found that it was worse if I sat around, so walking around London visiting the sites actually helped and took my mind off things.

We arrived in London around midday on the Friday. I left the family to book into the hotel and I headed for the ExCeL in London’s Docklands to register. This also gave me the opportunity to get used to the DLR and get my bearings for Sunday.

Sunday morning – Marathon day – soon came. I’d had an early night (actually this was my fifth early night in a row) and, as I’ve learnt from the events I’ve done in the past, I made sure I had everything ready well before bed time. This is a good tip, you don’t want to be messing around with your running number and safety pins or trying to fasten your tracking chip to your trainers the morning of the race. Get everything ready so you literally can get up, get Vaselined, get dressed into your running gear, fuel and go. This came home to me when I saw a guy, 15 minutes before the race, in a panic because he didn’t have any safety pins to fasten his number to his shirt and everyone he asked didn’t have any spares. Whats the motto? Be prepared?!

Down at breakfast I was surprised to see how many runners there were. We were all there well before the normal guests and had the same idea of getting our pre event fuel. Most of them were easy to spot from their Virgin 2012 London marathon red kit bags and general running attire. I wished a few good luck as I was served my porridge and downed toast with jam and juice. Within 20 minutes I was walking through London on my way to the tube station, feeling a little silly wearing my running kit whilst walking. It wasn’t the warmest of days so I had an old disposable fleece on the keep me warm.

One of the many advantages of the London marathon is the free public transport for runners on marathon day. I had a few pounds in my running belt in case of foul ups (there’s that always be prepared again!), but was relieved when I entered the tube station, making sure my running number was visible, and the station master waved me through the turn styles. As I drew closer to the start, at Greenwich, the occupiers of the tube changed from your general mix of commuters to runners. By the time we reached the DLR at Canary Wharf station (a few stops before Greenwich) everyone was a runner. It was about this point when i noticed the atmosphere change. The excitement was growing, runners were sharing stories of past London marathons and other events they had taken part in, training woes (I know that one alright!), tips and exceptions.

Before I knew it we had left he DLR ‘train’ and were on the Greenwich platform shuffling along on foot, shoulder to shoulder, following the crowd all heading for Greenwich park, and the start line. I checked my watch and I had a good 45 minutes before the start which took a little pressure off. I don’t know if it just me, but I like to reach the start in plenty of time, but not have to wait around too long if I over-estimate the travel time. Navigating London in my running kit wasn’t my idea of a good time and I didn’t want to be in the situation where I’d be late and panicked.

Once I found my starting position at ‘Zone 3’ dumped the fleece in a nearby skip got myself ready and started my warm up. Before I knew it was time. The atmosphere was pretty electric by this time with everyone chopping at the bit and ready to go.

We’re Off

The count down completed, Runkeeper was started, and we were off. As I was in zone 3 I was pretty near the front, but as we rounded the corner, out of Greenwich park, I could see people running as far as the eye could see. A couple of miles down the road I was feeling good, not like the Great north run where I felt bloated and didn’t enjoy the first 6 miles, this was different. It appeared that this time I hadn’t over done the fueling. Relief!

Six miles in, I was still feeling ok. The shin and knee were fine and I still felt pretty fresh. I was making sure I was taking on the correct amount of water, from the water stations along the course, and also refueling regularly, things were looking good! The crowds were cheering away and I was quietly impressed at how many people had turned out to cheer the runners on. As it turned out this high valued support remained for pretty much the whole length of the course.

As I went through the 10 mile marker I was feeling a bit less energetic. The shine and knee were still fine, but I was feeling pretty drained. I comforted myself that this was probably pretty normal considering I had just run over 10 miles, especially considering the past months problems.

However, by the time I hit mile 12 I was starting to struggle quite badly. I could see London’s Tower Bridge as we rounded a corner and at that moment I thought ‘I can’t finish this! There is no way I can run another 13 miles’. Then it hit me that something was definitely not right as I’ve run the Keswick to Barrow (K to B) three times (42 miles) a number of times, and although I recognised this feeling, where your body says ‘NO!’, but your mind says ‘YES!’ I’d normally have gone a LOT further than this before I felt it on the K to B. What was wrong? ‘Obviously the lack of training, it must be!’ I told myself under my breath, mentally kicking myself. ‘..and the drugs I am on, I shouldn’t have taken any today!’ ‘It can’t be fuelling or dehydration as I’ve been keeping myself topped up along the course!’. As Tower bridge fell behind I promise myself that I’d switch to fartlets (running and walking) for the next half a mile after mile 13, to try and give myself time to perk up a bit. I started to pass other people walking, which made me feel I wasn’t on my own. It was turning into a matter of survival to complete the course and was soon becoming un-enjoyable!

By the time I hit 20 miles things hadn’t improved at all in fact they were worse. The transition from running to walking hurt. The transition from walking to running hurt. It hurt to run, it hurt to walk, but there was no way I was going to stop! My knee twinge had also put in, a half expected, appearance and had been aching a bit, but dulled after a while.

As I passed the 23 mile marker, something changed. I began to realise that I could actually finish this thing and that had a dramatic change on my performance. For the last 3 miles I managed to run, it was hard, but I managed it. At 25 miles I passed my charity supporters and saw some friends, which gave me another huge mental boost. By this time I could see Big Ben and knew the finish was literally around a couple of corners. With gritted teeth I plowed on. I was on Birdcage walk and less than a mile to the end. Through the cheering crowd I heard ‘Dad!’. I turned round to see my son and daughter waving at me and cheering me along. That was an awesome feeling and one I’ll never forget! For those of you that have run a long distant event before you’ll know that it can be VERY emotional, especially towards the end. In fact a colleague of mine who was also doing the same marathon later said that he’d experienced every possible emotion during the 26.2 miles and he is so right! As soon as I saw my children cheering me on I had a hard time from burst into tears. Luckily the draw of my attention to the side of the road caused me to trip on a sleeping policemen (speed bump, not a really person) which sent my already screaming muscles into a fit of pain, the side effect of which was to refocus me on the event at hand and drive on!

2012 London Marathon – How not to run!

One thing you hear about when trying to recover from any running injury is that you have to make sure to adopt the correct running posture to maximize efficiency and minimize stress on your body. Back straight, head up, arms at 90′ and swinging by your side ‘like they’re on rails’. But you also have to watch out that you don’t get too fatigued, which causes you to let your guard down, droop, and loose this efficient posture for a more ‘sloppy’ one, which in turn aggravates the injury further, or causes new ones. The proof of this philosophy is demonstrated perfectly in the photo (to the right) of me in the last mile. OK, I had run 25 miles at this point so I’m sure you can let me off a little 😉 But when i saw this photo I was suppressed. I didn’t release how bad my running posture had become due to tiredness. It’s a lesson worth noting.

LOndon Marathon 2005

After what seemed like an age, but was more like a couple of minutes, I saw the finish line and the clock. Now this final leg of the event
can give you a further boost. Yes you’re beat! Yes you can hardly stand, let alone run! But when you see that clock counting up the seconds you think ‘I can claw back a bit of time here! Even if it’s a second or two!’. Weather or not I did actually speed up I’ll never know, but when you actually cross that line its an amazing feeling. All the hard work and pain is over, FINALLY! I thought I would give in 13 miles ago, but I made it and that feeling, that achievement, makes the whole thing worth while.

I’d completed the marathon in 4 hours, 9 minutes and 24 seconds. Initially I was a little disappointed with this time. I was aiming for less than 4 hours and I’ve always been my own worst critic. But looking back I was probably expecting too much, considering I hadn’t been able to train as much as I wanted to. Thats the life or a runner I’m afraid. Even the professionals who run for a living have injury set backs and have to pull out of events or fail to achieve there target.

In 2009 Paul Ratcliffe successfully completed the New York city half marathon following a break following an operation. She then flew to Germany the day to compete in a marathon. Unfortunately Paula pulled out of the marathon due to ‘not being ready‘. Its a hard call, but one you sometimes have to take so you can continue to run, and enjoy the sport, in the future.

Scrib’s 2012 London marathon finish time

When I met up with the family my wife jokingly asked me if I’d do it again. I said ‘NO I bloody wouldn’t!’. As soon as I said this I knew that come the following day the answer would have changed. And sure enough, I’ve already entered the ballot for the 2013 London Marathon next year. Hopefully, this time if my health continues to stay stable and improve and I prevent further injury I’ll be able to do a better time. For now I’m taking a month off running, cycling and walking. Why a month? It seemed like a nice round number, it’s also the amount of time my medication lasts, so I figured why not. I must admit I’m climbing the walls a bit, but at least my shins have stopped hurting this week and my knee feels better than it has in months. As I write this I’ve got less than 2 weeks left before the running trainers go back on and when they do I’m going back to doing baby steps for while and work up my mileage slowly. The worst thing I could do now is to try and do a few 10 milers and injury myself again and put myself back to square one! I reluctantly pulled out of the Keswick to Barrow, which is a few weeks after the London marathon, as I think a 42 mile run wouldn’t be a good idea at the moment for me.

So why so hard?

As I had the tracking chip removed from my trainer, at the end of the marathon, and I collected my finishers medal, it came home to me how instantly better i felt – pressure gone i suppose (?). I slowly made my way to Horse Guards parade to meet up with the family and as I walked I came to the conclusion that I found the experience I’d just been through much worse than the K to B. Which sounds daft because the K to B is much, much further than a marathon and you have serious hills to deal with, whereas the London marathon is known for being a very flat course. So why did I find it harder? I’ve thought about it a lot over the proceeding weeks and I can only conclude the following two reasons 1) I definitely wasn’t at my best (injury induced lack of training, medication, etc) and 2) there where no hills.

No hills, should a flat course be easier? I noticed the same thing during the 2011 Great North run and also when I’m training on a flat route at home. If I don’t add any hills into my route I always find it harder. Now, I don’t know why this is exactly, if it’s a mind or a physical thing. My theory is that when you tackle a hill or hills your body has to work a lot harder. When you reach the top of the hill/s your body is now operating in a faster ‘mode’. This increased flow then helps you on the flat, and you find it easier. I may be totally wrong, but it seems to fit the facts, for me anyway.

Lessons Learnt

Every event you do builds your experience and you learn something new. One positive point was that I was happy with my ‘fueling’. The last event I did, the BUPA Great North run, I started the event bloated which hampered me for the first half of the race. This time I started the London Marathon feeling great and I seemed to get the balance right.

Runkeeper

As always I runkeeper’ed the event, which you can see in full here.

2012 London Marathon – Runkeeper activity

So there you have it! My first, and hopefully not last marathon.

Did I enjoy it? At the time no, but in retrospect yes Brilliant!!!

Would I do another marathon? God yes!

Would i recommend to someone else to do a marathon? Yes – but make sure you train correctly, sensibly, build up slowly (10% rule) and for long enough! Most marathon websites will give you plenty of tips on how to do this. Remember 26.2 miles is a long way to run – respect that fact.

Thanks for reading!

Scrib.

p.s. My charity JustGiving page will be open until July 2012. If you enjoyed this post, or any of the other posts on ScribsBlog, then please consider giving to my chosen charity, The English Federation of Disability Sport. You can see my JustGiving page for the 2012 London marathon here.

2012 London Marathon – Finished!
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No Keswick to Barrow 2012 for Scrib.

2 May

For the past few months I’ve been in the ‘Runners injury circle’. Whats this?

Its the situation I found myself in when trying to train for the 2012 London marathon and describes the loop you can get into trying to train with injury.

The more you train the more your injuries niggle. The less you train the more you worry about if you are ready for the event!

There comes a point, in some cases (and in my case), where its just best to throw in the towl and take some time off just to let your body repair properly.

Because of this I’ve decided to take a month off running after completing the 2012 London marathon. Normally two to three weeks would be sufficient for this type of repair break, but I’ve decided on a month due to various injury and medical reasons.  I’ll still be doing some running related activities, stretching and foam rolling to keep things ticking over, but no actual running.

So its no Keswick to Barrow this year for me! Which I’m actually going to really miss!

A huge ‘Good luck’ to everyone who is walking, or running it this year and enjoy your 42 miles. I’ll hopefully see you next year as I have a personal best to beat!

Keswick to Barrow 2011 – This years lessons learnt

19 May

Scrib running Keswick to Barrow 2011

Someone said to me a while ago whilst I was explaining the things I’d learnt about running, that “don’t you just need to put your trainers on and run?”.

Of course they were correct and its advise I’ve given myself in this blog. However the advise I was giving was to folks who want to start running for the first time, not the people who have been doing it for a while.

When you get further along in your running you start to learn all sorts of things. Yes, you can still put your trainers on and just run, but you can improve and make things more efficient as your experience builds. A good example of this growing experience can be seen in may last three years on the Keswick to Barrow (K to B).

My first year in 2009 I literally put my trainers on and ran! I completed the event, got home and made a list of what to remember to take/do next year. The same happened on my second year and again this year. So what did I learn this year?

This year I thought I’d pretty much had my kit, fuel and hydration pretty much worked out! I did, to a point!

Stuff that worked

  1. Carbing up the week (four to five days) before the event. Lots of bread, pasta and rice meals. Felt bloated towards the end of the week though – reminded me of fat Scrib!
  2. A good breakfast of porridge and honey, with a bag of fruit and nuts to pick at, on the bus on way to the start line. There was a good 2+ hours between my breakfast and the start of the run so my breakfast had time to settle.
  3. Running belt: I used my Photon running belt both last year and this year. It allows me to carry a drink and has a pocket to carry a small amount ‘things’, such as my iPhone (for Runkeeper) + booster battery (Duracell Instant USB Charger with Lithium ion battery), all in a zip lock bag and my daughters ‘pink’ iPod nano. Why the iPod nano when I had an iPhone? Well, I wanted the iPhone to do Runkeeper and I didn’t want to risk draining the battery or getting it wet. Saying that the iPhone battery had over 40% of life left at the end of the run!
  4. Adding a small Velcro attached pocket to the front strap of the Photon to carry plasters and a small emergency mobile phone (again, I wanted to leave my iPhone safely in its dry zip lock bag doing its Runkeeper thing).
  5. Keeping my water bottle 3 quarters full was another good move. On the K to B there are refreshments fairly often so by not over filling to the top I can save a little  weight. Something that counts after six hours of running!
  6. The Photon doesn’t have much carrying capacity, but I did want to take fuel (energy gel & chocolate bars) with me. My solution was to take a small drawstring bag and tie it to the front of the Photons strap. This gave me a bit more carrying capacity.
  7. Putting an isotonic drink in my water bottle before I started. Once drank I switched to water (supplied on route), but the isotonic drink early on gave me a boost.
  8. Putting plasters on the back of my heals covered with zinc oxide tape and rubbing vaseline into my toes – brilliant no blisters at all !
  9. Rehydrating OFTEN! Not too much to make you feel bloated, but enough to stop the feeling of thirst coming on. When you feel thirsty your performance has already started to stuffer.
  10. Nipple plasters! Yes I said it! Walkers generally don’t suffer from ‘nipple rub’, but a runner can if they get wet – and it certainly rained on the K to B this year! Simply putting a plaster over each nipple and stop a very painful experience! Believe me I know!

Stuff that failed

  1. I took way, way too much energy products with me! At the end of the run I found that I had most of the products left in my drawstring bag and I had only consumed three of them (1 energy gel, 1 chocolate bar and an engery bar). The thing I forgot was the freshment stops along the route that had oranges, bannas, etc so I didn’t actually need to take so many bits with me.
  2. The worst idea was taking a plastic back with isotonic power in. The plan was to mix it with water, about two thirds into the run, to give me a isotonic drink – magic! Bad idea!  I put the bag of power in the small Velcro attached pocket on the front strap of my Photon. Because of the weight of the power bag it jumped about all over the place! About ten miles into the run the bag got forcibly ejected into the nearest bin!
  3. The only blister I did get was under my arm, where it had been rubbing on my running vest. Next year I’ll remember to put some vaseline in that area!

And that’s about it. The ‘Stuff that failed’ list has been getting shorter and short each year! Maybe I’ll have a perfect year next year?

Keswick to Barrow 2011 – The results.

15 May

The Keswick to Barrow (K to B) results came out on Wednesday and came 64’th out of 2014 which I’m really pleased with!

Its been a week since the Keswick to Barrow last Saturday. Things have returned pretty much to normal, what with work, the kids, recovering, etc! As expected my body has been on a massive ‘give me food!’ protest. With last weeks exertions my body has gone into mad repair and recharge mode. Whilst I’ve been obeying these requests I’ve also been mindful of not over doing it. Having enough to satisfy me without being too stupid, but with the odd treat, considering the circumstances. This can be an important point. An analogy I sometimes use is that ‘it might be great exercise to go on a 10 mile hike but if you come home hungry and stuff down 5 potions of curry’s and rice you haven’t really achieved much! In fact you’ll probably end up putting more weight on!’ OK, maybe a bit exaggerated, but you get my point. You need to refuel with whats been lost and whats required for repair. The trick is knowing how much is too much, and how much is too little. My tip for this is to eat sensibly and then wait a while (20 – 30 minutes or so) if you’re still hungrey then have a little more. You’d be surprised that once you let your food settle you often don’t need anything else. You’ll notice I said ‘sensibly‘, if you eat sugary foods (and drink) your more likely to feel hungry sooner.  I talk about this further in my ‘How I lost weight’ sections.

So a week on since the K to B and the stiffness has gone now, I’ve taken it easy and haven’t run since the event to allow my body to ‘reset’. I’ve still kept things ticking over by walking and cycling to work, with the odd detour to increase the mileage. I’ve also kept up my daily stretching and exercise routine. However, next week I plan to start my running again. I looked at my Runkeeper running stats the other day for the last three years. I noticed that every year during January to May, my training period for the K to B, I do more training than in the previous year.

Runkeeper total miles run per month 11/2008 - 04/2011

This is certainly reflected in my K to B results for the last three years, with my times getting better each year.

Keswick to Barrow score card 2009

Keswick to Barrow score card 2010

Keswick to Barrow score card 2011

I also noticed that my recovery time is less and less each year with this year having hardly any post event limps at all and no BLISTERS! In 2009 I spent the entire Sunday walking on my hands and knees, much to the amusement of the kids who thought I wanted to play horses!

The Runkeeper stats also show my training is a little erratic between June and December, something I plan to correct this year. I have the Newcastle Great North run coming up in September theres something to aim for.

Finally, I noticed this week a huge buzz at work and in my personal life with people suddenly wanting to get out there and be more active. I couple of people have started running and another has dusted off their hiking boots and started walking. Some of these people are wanting to do the K to B next year, others just want to get more active. I think this is fantastic! And it goes to show that being active can rub of on people, which is the main reason I write this blog in the hope that some people might be encouraged to get off their backside’s and ‘get out there!’.

I had the pleasure of listening to someone the other day shortly after they had finished their first long walk, they were absolutely buzzing with excitement due to their achievement. I just sat there, smiled to myself and thought ‘ yep, you got it!’.

Keswick to Barrow 2011: Completed and personal best achieved! YES!

8 May

UPDATE: The results came out yesterday and my position was 64’th out of 2014. Quite happy with that, but could I do better? Should I retire knowning I’ve acheived my goal of sub 7 hours or try again next year? humm?

The day after the day before

I’m sat here in a nice warm quiet conservatory with my aching feet up, and hot cup of tea and my laptop. Rewind few hours and I was in my running vest and shorts in the middle of the lake district with the rain lashing down. The former awesome and the latter a nightmare? Probably, but the lake district is well known for its unpredictable weather and once you accept that and just enjoy the spectacular environment its pretty awesome! Lets face, your not in a situation where getting cold and wet will be a life or death issue. There is plenty of people and friendly support around if you get into trouble. It might be uncomfortable for some, but hey its good to get out of your comfort zone sometimes. ‘Character building’ some might say. Strange, as I write this and look out of the window across a sunny Morecambe bay it seems a world away.

So, the 2011 Keswick to Barrow (K to B to its friends) started in a rain storm, nothing new there! Our team arrived at the Keswick start line just after the 05:30am start time. That’s damn early considering to get there at that time most people were up at around 3am!

We quickly disembarked and made our way to the start line which was located in a already fairly populated field. The runners had just set off and the walkers were just making there way though the starting gate at the start of their 42 miles. There was the normal mix of people stood in that soggy field. Teams of walkers, runners, adults, teenagers, officials, friends and relatives seeing people off. I said goodbye to my team mates, who were walking, and wished them luck and went to the nearest dry stone wall to do my warm up – I definitely didn’t want to pull anything on this run!

By the time I was ready it was 05:45, warmed up (admittedly a bit rushed), Runkeeper started and iPhone wrapped in two zip lock bag and tucked safely in my running belt pocket, I was and ready to go!  I made my way to the start gate and swiped my identity tag at the terminal, there was a “beep” and off I went. Because I started a little later than hoped (05:30 being the optimum time for a runner) I had to wade my way though thick pockets of walkers. I had to dart about a bit, dodging my way past groups, with the occasional “sorry” and “excuse me”. I quickly realised that getting behind another runner and letting them carve a route though the walkers was the best bet. After a few miles the walkers started to thin out and I could set my pace and relax into the run. I discovered that the guy who I had used as a human shield through the walkers was doing a reasonable pace so I fell into line with him and we stayed together for the next few miles.

A few miles further on I remembered  looking east out over Thirlmere reservoir to see the clouds slowly drifting thought the forested hills, it was a pretty inspiring sight! Head down, solider on!

For some reason the first few miles weren’t as good as normal. When I normally run I noticed that the first two miles are normally quite ‘hard’ as my body gets going, after that I can relax a bit and enjoy the run. Today though something wasn’t quite right and it took me a good few miles to feel comfortable.

K to B broken down

I realised whilst thinking back at yesterdays run that I subconsciously split the K to B up into four sections. The first year I ran the K to B in 2009 I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that it was a really really really long way to walk or run. I soon learned that the route has a different ‘feel’ as you work your way along it. This has little to do with how the route is layed out, its actually more to do with how tired you get and your perception of the route as your body drains and tires.

Section 1: To Monks Car Park, Coniston

The first section is the ‘easy’ (when put in perspective of course) bit. This is the first 18 miles to Monks Car Park at the northern tip of Coniston. I have a theory that the excitement, expectation and adrenaline gives you an extra 5 – 10 miles for free. You’re not on fresh legs anymore and the adrenaline is wearing off.

Section 2: Coniston lake road to Lowick

The next section follows the winding road on the east side of Coniston Lake. The feeling of fatigue, the feeling you wish this was a 20 mile event! and the knowledge that you are not quite half way make a lethal mix and can seriously damage your resolve and determination. The road is an unchanging stretch of wood, bends and small hills for a number of miles. Don’t get me wrong its a ‘pretty’ road with trees and a great view of the lake and Coniston old man in the distance to the northwest, but its very monotonous and can soon wears you down as your energy level are slowly depleted.

After approximately six miles this road suddenly changes. The woods and lake are left behind and replaced with long straight sections with fields to either side. Again, very picturesque, but after walking/running 25+ miles can be a little depressing when you consider how far you still have to go, and whats to come!

This is the bit where I have struggled the most every time I have done the K to B. In fact I struggled so much last year (2010) I nearly threw in the towel at a moment of despair due to bad blister problem earlier on in the event after just 13 miles. Every little incline in the road seems to be a hill and your speed seriously decreases and your legs ache. All you can do is git your teeth, remind yourself why your doing this crazy thing, head down, solider on and get through it!

Section 3: Lowick to Kirby Moor

Section 3 is a killer (for me anyway – and I thought section 2 was bad!) but in a different way. Gone is the monotony of the previous section, instead replaced with hills, and big hills, wind turbines, beautiful views all around and the first sight that you are getting close to the end.

Lets review, you’ve done 27+ miles at this point. A pretty amazing achievement by any means, but then you have the dreaded climb from the small village of Lowick to the top of Kirby moor. Sounds OK? Well put it this way, its about 3+ miles up hill, steep in sections, and on tired legs and a real – well – pain! Most of the runners at this point slow to a walk, if they haven’t already. Some people revert to walking backwards to try and relive their burning leg muscles. I saw one guy this year throwing up half way up. Its a grueling climb, but at least you get the satisfaction, after looking at everyone else, that you’re not alone in this misery – a problem shared and all that! However, the climb has one more evil twist up its sleeve if you are a first timer! When you look ahead and see the road breaching the top of the hill you think ‘YES the top!’, then you reach that point and ARRGHHHHH!!! the hill carries on beyond the horizon! Its evil!

Section 4: Down from Kirby moor nearly home

Now the only way I can describe this is like cycling up a hill for hours and hours and then suddenly reaching the top and free wheeling down. Obvious not quite the same, as we don’t have wheels, but the relief you get when you realise you’re past the worst of the up hills and its pretty much down hill to Barrow is amazing! At this point you can’t fail! You mustn’t fail! You’re on the home stretch! The only problem at this stage is your legs may be pretty shot, so going down hill might not be as comfortable as you’d expect. You grit your teeth and go for it, the quicker its done and quicker you finish! – right?!

You pass through the village of Martin, then Dalton then the final 3 mile stretch stretch to Barrow. Nearly there! Then Abbey Road (which seems to go on forever) at this point its pure will power driving you on. Then, finally your home. Done and dusted! Well done! Waiting for your is a medal, a meal, a drink and a feeling of achievement that’s hard to beat! Well done! You made it!

So how did I do?

My first K to B was in 2009. Its funny to thinking back. From a basic level you just need to start walking/running until you get to the end, but you learn a lot especially as a runner on how to improve your performance. As I said before this is my third year and I’m still learning new things based on experience and advice about myself, preparation, what bits to tape up, what to wear, what not to wear, kit, fueling, what to take with you, what NOT to take with you, when to go faster, when to go slower, when to pace yourself, the list goes on.

In 2009 (my first year) I completed the K to B in 7 hours 47 minutes and 26 seconds. In 2010 I achieved 07:19:06. This year I wanted to come in under 7 hours. Why? No real reason, I just figured I wanted to knock another 20 minutes off the previous year since I had done so the previous year.

So how did I do in 2011? 06:33:16 comfortably beating my previous time and giving me a new personal best. I’m really please with the result as, to be honest, I would have been happy with 06:59:59.

Next Year?

hmm? – not sure about that yet, but I think I will have another go. I always said I would ‘retire’ from the K to B if I beat 7hrs but ‘unfortunately’ because I did a lot better than I thought this year I’ve now got that pesky sub 6 hours challenge! And I do like a challenge! Also, events like this can be very addictive! I’ve already heard from friends who did it for the first time yesterday and want to do it again next year, and do better! Good on them I say!

Stats

Anyone interested in the Runkeeper stats. Well according to the stats (not sure how accurate they are over this type of distance and terrain) I burned over 5000 calories, climbed over 4500 feet and had an average speed of 5.64 mph.

Foot note

Although doing an event such as the K to B can be grueling, tiring, emotional and a pain! (literally) there’s also nothing better than the feeling of completing it and beating the challenge! Beating the route! I’d like to say what an amazing atmosphere and how well organised the event is.

The friendly atmosphere, shouts of encouragement, applause not just from the people who organised the K to B (who are awesome by the way!) but also people you pass in the villages and towns on the course, make all the difference when you feel you’ve got nothing left to give.

It amazed me that on the last couple of miles though Dalton and Barrow people were beeping and shouting words of encouragement and clapping. It may not sound that amazing when you’ve never done an event like this, but when you’ve have you’ll understand. I must admit I had a lump in my throat a few times in the final stages purely from the emotion and the encouragement. Thanks everyone! And well done to everyone who took part!

Kewswick to Barrow Training: 28 Feb 2011

28 Feb

Training continues but has had a set back. By daughter crashed her bike and spent the night in hostipal, so no training this weekend or today.

She is doing fine and thing should be back to normal in a few days.

Kewswick to Barrow Training: 20 Feb 2011

20 Feb

I Did 12 miles today on my ‘Sunday morning run’. I’ve been slow building up over the past few weeks, doing a extra mile per week. Its interesting to look at my ‘activity’ map on Runkeeper and try and work out how to add an extra mile. You often see a road loop taking you that little bit further out of your way, and thus adding extra milage.

So next week its 13 miles, but that’s unlucky, so I might have to push onto 14 miles.

The Keswick to Barrow is not until May and I’m glad I’ve started pushing myself this earlier. The last two years I left it to much later which wasn’t a good idea.

I’ve also started swimming again once a week to help build stamina, which I really enjoy and regret stopping. What with a busy family life sometimes keeping fit can take a back seat, but I believe there is always a way to keep your exercise levels up, although it might mean going out side your comfort zone, which isn’t a such a bad thing.

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