Keep on truckin’

2 weeks ago I ran 31 miles. I was tired, I got lost, I was a man a mission. Then things went a little “off plan”….

After my 31 miler I had to travel to Sunderland for work. Although the flight was less than an hour the lack of leg room onboard for a man of my stature (6’4”) was far from ideal as I recovered for the run. After a well deserved evening meal – or “refuelling” as it’s known in running circles – my legs still ached. A lot. I thought nothing of this as muscle aches have been part of the #projectultra experience. I’m used to “good aches” and it followed that pattern.

The next day my legs felt very heavy. Almost as if they were screaming at me for putting them through the 31 miles. At this point I found myself wondering how I’d feel after a further 19 miles, but thankfully not for long.

On the Tuesday I was scheduled to run 12 miles but was feeling very tired, probably a combination of lack of sleep (as I rarely sleep well away from home), being mentally drained from the challenging but rewarding research I’m doing for work and the after effects of the weekend’s long run. Up to this point in my training I had missed or cut short very few runs and prided myself in sticking to the plan. Yet I decided to do 6 miles rather than the planned 12 that morning. It turns out that decision might have saved me from a long lay off…

It felt good to get out again but after the run something didn’t quite feel right. The quadriceps (I had to look that up as I am useless with biology) on the outside of my right leg were feeling tight. Rather than risk aggravating this I rested for the next few days and didn’t run again until the weekend. The little matter of a 25 mile hilly trail run awaited and I was nervous but came though it okay.

Since then I’ve adjusted the training plan and have reduced my mileage so as not to overload my body and reduce the risk of a niggle becoming an injury. I expressed my concern and frustration with the interruption to my training on Twitter and, as ever, the fabulous running community came forward with words of wisdom, support and encouragement:

Me (@GrahamCarterGC): Frustrating… after last week’s reduced #projectultra training miles due to niggle in right leg I’m being sensible … fewer miles again

Me: I wish my training had progressed as well last week as it had up until then but not risking #projectultra by trying to make up for it now

Me: I have faith that I’ve enough miles in the bank – or my legs – to get me to the #projectultra finish line, as long as I maintain fitness

@UltraBevo: @GrahamCarterGC you’ve already got a lot of miles in your legs and not long until #ndw50. You’re doing the right thing.

@DanPark81: @GrahamCarterGC good attitude and undoubtedly true. Hopefully I’ll be feeling the same in 6 weeks time

@theMonkeySmokes: @GrahamCarterGC If you’re able to stay mobile, it won’t hurt. Think it’s less about what you haven’t done & more about what you can do.

@ultraplodder: @GrahamCarterGC when I did the NDW50 last yeat I hadn’t done half the miles you have. You are ready for it πŸ™‚

@c3044700: @GrahamCarterGC it’s your mind. nothing to do with legs mate

@mjgreenfield1: @GrahamCarterGC I would concur with that, a lot is mental strength πŸ™‚

@JediRider: @GrahamCarterGC You have enough miles in your legs mate, I’m running TN100 same day as you are running NDW50 so I’m slowing it down now.

Yesterday I ran 26 miles along the North Downs Way 50 race route on a recce run with @bryanwe @cmmercer @rattyrunner and @paulgiblet and my leg felt fine. Today I managed my first back to back weekend runs for over a month with a fun 6.5 mile trail run with @phil657 and my leg felt okay. Tonight I have a dull ache in that leg but the foam roller treatment has helped, as always. My toenails are another matter entirely though!

My plan is to maintain fitness during the next 20 days in the lead up to NDW50, with the tapering phase of training starts tomorrow. I’m going to take it easy and stretch, foam roll and rest well. I’m doing what I can do get to race day fit and ready.

Mentally I’m ready to go. I know that running 50 miles will be a challenge but that’s why I signed up in the first place. I believe I will do it. I can’t wait. I will, as @girlyrunner1 says:

Keep On Truckin’

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50k – the next step on the way to 50 miles

I did it.

Longest training run for #projectultra done.

31 miles (or 50k) done.

It didn’t go to plan as I has some GI issues, got lost in the woods and it was very muddy underfoot in significant parts of the run. I probably walked too much as well.

Yet I did it. On my own. I didn’t panic when things went wrong, I kept moving, I didn’t let the mileage overwhelm me.

My legs have been screaming at me since I stopped but I don’t mind. I’m on my way.

If you’d told me this time last year – 1 week before my first ever marathon – that I’d be running for nearly 7 hours I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet here I am. That’s what I did.

Before I left this morning I set myself a 7 hour target for the run. Having got lost and spent time standing still trying to work out where I was and been slowed by very muddy paths I was delighted to finish in 6 hours 54 minutes. That’s an average pace of 13 minute miles, which would be fantastic at NDW50.

I can dream.

I believe now even more than before.

I will run 50 miles on 18 May.

NDW50, I’m coming to get you!

My first ultramarathon – volunteering at South Downs Way 50

Yesterday I volunteered for SDW50 at Housedean Farm aid station. I wanted to give something back as a thank you for all the support, advice and encouragement I’ve received from the ultra running community since I embarked upon my own #projectultra.

It was a foul day, with heavy rain making conditions very tough for the runners. Luckily for them (and me) this was an indoor aid station, inside a barn. This provided the runners with a brief respite from the weather and we did our best to welcome them all – from the first man in to the last runner – with a smile and good cheer.

All the runners seemed to appreciate that. Even those who decided to pull out of the event, some after a great deal of soul searching and despite our best efforts to encourage them to “Keep on keeping on”.

I felt privileged to play a small part in making the run a little more comfortable for the runners. Above all I felt humbled in front of all these people taking on such a challenge. Taking ultra running with experienced and new ultra runners was a fantastic experience. It was great to meet runners I’ve been following and talking with on Twitter and after the event I have some new ultra runners to follow.

Well done all who took part in SDW50. Thanks to you all for showing me what’s required to run an ultra marathon. I’m looking forward to
NDW50 even more now.

I can do this

I’ve taken a slightly different approach with this blog.

Here’s a vlog (video blog post) where I share my thoughts on #projectultra progress so far, running while on holiday in Tenerife and how I’m feeling about the North Downs Way 50. It’s getting closer….

Maintaining momentum

Less than 7 weeks to go until I line up at the start of the North Downs Way 50 and run my first ultra marathon.

I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. Having been encouraged/talked into signing up for the NDW50 by running pals and ultra runners Kevin Matthews (@maximisemylife) and Bryan Webster (@bryanwe) I signed up on the day the race entries opened, way back in November 2012. This after having run only one marathon, the Virgin London Marathon in April 2012.

In the build up to London I followed a training plan from my running shoe brand of choice ASICS (@myasics). This was a 20 week plan and saw me start my training before Christmas 2011. As I mentioned in my previous post, I like the structure provided by a training plan and was pleased with my progress as Winter turned to Spring and race day approached. I ran my first half marathon (the Portsmouth Coastal Half Marathon) in February 2012 in a shade under 2 hours, which I was delighted with.

However, come marathon day it all fell apart for me and I finished in a disappointing 5 hours 16 minutes and 30 seconds. Now don’t get me wrong, I was full of pride and emotion when I crossed the finish line. I’d done it. Before that day the furthest I’d ever run was 21 miles and I completed a marathon.

When I found myself struggling in the latter stages I made a decision to soak up the atmosphere, enjoy the occasion and forget about chasing a time. It was going to be a Personal Best (PB) and I might never get another chance to run the London Marathon, so I ran/walked the last few miles.

Yet I still feel a sense of regret and what might have been.

I know that I ran the first 10 miles at too fast a pace.

I can’t help thinking back to a 10 day period in April 2011 – during my taper training phase – when I did no running and wondering if this made a difference. I think it did, so I won’t be making that mistake again this year as I continue my #projectultra training.

So here I am. Lying on a sun lounger by the pool at our hotel in Tenerife. This time last year I left my running gear at home, thinking a rest and a little swimming would be okay. This year I’m doing some warm weather training to keep ticking over.

My NDW50 training plan was written to allow for the time on holiday as a lower mileage week. On our first day here I went out and ran up and down a very tempting mountain (well it felt like one anyway) close to our hotel 4 times – something I’d never have contemplated a year ago – and I’m planning to alternate these mountain runs with coastal runs for the rest our time here.

I’m now at the stage in my running where I really miss it when I don’t run. I don’t want to go back to the UK and wonder what it would have been like to run in Tenerife. Above all, I don’t want all my hard work so far for #projectultra to go to waste.

Let’s do this. Forget Kenyan Hills. These are Canaries Climbs and I love them.

Destiny awaits. I’m getting ready. I will be ready. I’m maintaining momentum.

Update: Day 3 of my holiday running and I ran up and down the mountain 6 times today πŸ™‚

Update: 3rd hill run, when I went up and down the “mountain” 8 times, was ace.