Marathon training this week felt a bit tiresome and it wasn’t just because I got lost on the trails! Like last week, I did much less than usual but I felt more tired and a bit deflated. My motivation was low. Midweek I met my brother Hugo for coffee and a doughnut in Hideout Coffee. We spoke about running and our upcoming race. Hugo was pleased with my long runs and he told me how he was preparing for his ultra.
Whilst chatting he showed me the route profile of our event. Looks hilly, I thought. I told him about my training on the South Downs Way and my runs up Butser Hill. I was pretty confidence Butser Hill was the ultimate training ground for trail runs. Then, Hugo showed me the profile of another route in the Black Mountains which showed lots of incredibly steep hills. “What’s that small red bump”, I asked. “That’s Butser Hill, I drew it on to show the scale”, Hugo replied. My gosh, Butser Hill looked like a pinprick compared with the Black Mountains peaks we both had to concur. My runs on the South Downs Way don’t come anywhere close, I’m certainly in for a shock.
On my Wednesday morning 12km, I wore my new Hoka Speedgoat 4’s for the first time. They feel good but made my toes go numb. Hugo told me not to worry, this would soon go once the blood was pumping around my feet. Saturday would be my long run and I was well-rested and fuelled when I set off that afternoon. Now it was time to really put the Hoka’s to the test. I followed the South Downs Way again, this time westwards from Old Winchester Hill. Apart from Beacon Hill, the route was pretty flat and there was a lot of tarmac (my poor knees!) so I ran most of it at my usual pace.
I’ve devised a little plan for my long runs, and the marathon itself; run the flats, walk uphill and run fast downhill. Simple. I was praying for a hill so I could have some respite from running but I had no luck. I looped round to Cheriton and Hinton Ampner before rejoining the SDW. This part of the route was definitely my favourite and I passed all kinds of cattle, sheep and beautiful huge trees starting to turn colour.
I got a little lost in Hinton Ampner and ended up in one of their gardens which were supposed to be closed off to the public. God knows how I ended up in there – I was just following the path! – but I couldn’t get out and I had to climb over a gate. I was getting a bit tired so I walked for about 500m whilst eating a Trek protein flapjack. Trek flapjacks are my go-to adventure food. I have them for breakfast at multi-day hikes and during long runs, they are the only thing I can guarantee to sit well in my stomach.
With just 8km to go, I thought I best have an isotonic gel to give me a bit of a boost. Although, I felt ok and I still haven’t experienced ‘the wall’ everyone talks about, but I noticed I kept stopping to walk at every incline. I’d only walk for a couple of minutes but it was still taking a break when I didn’t really need one, it was just laziness. Then, I managed to get lost on the trail in a farmer’s field but carried on past the ‘no public right of way’ sign. There was no way I was retracing my steps all the way back. Surely there would be a gate at the other end of the field. There wasn’t.
Looking at my map I saw that if I could just cut around this field I could rejoin the Monarch’s Way and be back on track. Easier said than done. I ended up running around the edges of three farmers fields, trying to find a gap where I could get out. In the end, I had no choice but to climb over the barbed wire fence, careful not to cut myself or rip my shorts. I tucked my shorts up into a thong so if I fell, I’d only cut my leg and not rip my shorts. I was praying I wouldn’t get caught.
I made it! The last 5km was tough as it was the hilliest section of the route. Who plans a route with the hardest part at the end?! What was I thinking! The Hoka’s felt good and they absorbed the impact well but I still had pain in my knee (which I always suffer from). The numbness in my feet was still there and it came and went the entire run. I’m pretty sure this means I need the wide version of the shoe. Nightmare! The numbness was making me land funny and I strained my left foot at a result. No blisters though – not one – so very happy with that.
Weirdly, I still felt as if I had gas left in the lank so I ran the last 1km of Old Winchester Hill to the car park. After 35km I felt brilliant apart from the usual sore knees, tight hamstrings and this time, slightly sore feet. I was really happy with my pace, my fastest long run to date as well as my longest. I arrived home at 7pm, wafted down some avo and peanut butter on toast and headed out for beers with friends. Despite having a rather deflated week training, I ended it on such a high! Who knows what I can achieve next week marathon training…..hopefully not getting lost on the trail…..find out in next week’s post!