Friday, 20 March 2009

Heaven and Hell

Well, this is my first ever blog post and that seems like a reasonable title to sum up not only the game of running long distances in general but my own experiences right now.

In the broader sense I have always thought that our sport attracted people who relish living life with ups and downs rather than a “comfortable” monotony. The euphoria of a great run where everything clicks, the sun shines, the ridge is grassy and the limbs flow effortlessly can so easily be dispelled an hour, a day or week later when the body groans at the effort, the stomach rebels at any food or the mind simply refuses to appreciate the beauty around us.

For me at least, the philosophy is that you have to know pain to appreciate pleasure, you have to experience disappointment to fully cherish success and so you have to spend a little time in “hell” to recognise your own “heaven”.

More specifically, right now, running is providing some challenges as I grow older and have to face the reality of slowing down a little but, more importantly, taking longer to recover from races. The past 2 weeks provide a great case in point. Arriving back from San Francisco on an overnight flight on the Friday morning was never going to be ideal preparation for the High Peak Marathon (a classic 42 mile team trog around the Derwent moors and bogs on the first Friday night in March). Nevertheless, a few hours broken sleep during the afternoon seemed to have set me up OK and the feelings as I left the comfort of the house to travel to the race start at 10pm were no worse than usual; a small part of you is eager in anticipation of a night out, with mates, a challenge and some competition but the vast majority of you thinks its about time for bed and feels like a small bird being thrown out of the nest.

This was to be the furthest I had run since the previous August. Things were going generally OK for the first couple of hours although it felt quite fast but then on the section to Cut Gate we were overhauled by another team. Hell. This had never happened. Our slightly arrogant approach has always been to start last and finish first. We simply don’t figure on getting overtaken. The next 3 hours for me were not a lot of fun. The ground seemed sodden, I struggled to maintain a jog and stumbled from one muddy grough to another – off the back of the team. I felt bad, I knew the others could be faster and I knew Steve and Steve had spent valuable time on evenings sussing out the ideal line from Bleaklow stones to Bleaklow head. I tried to keep eating and running just within my self. Around Bleaklow things started to improve a little and I was amazed to be told by the checkpoint team that we were only 5-6 minutes behind the leaders. I had assumed it would be more like 30 minutes. With the demon line nailed it was reported as 2 – 5 minutes by Wainstones and imagine my surprise as, in the grey light of early dawn, we caught the leading team at Snake pass. Heaven.

We put some effort in over to Mill Hill and appeared to have opened a good gap. Kept it steady too, round past the downfall but, as we left Edale Cross the guys told me they were only a couple of minutes behind. Hell – feeling maxed out already but obviously needing to put more in. It ended well – we pulled away, got our first ever sub 9 hour time and won the event but I was trashed; had to lie down for 10 minutes to let the nausea and breathing subside.

So, a week later and it’s time for my first run in the 2009 Vasque Ultra-running Champs. But maybe thats for the next post!! Come back to hear how much fun I had!!

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