Wednesday, 28 March 2018
Running 15 Miles With Poppy
The weather was a bit grotty here yesterday: dingy, misty, damp. It didn't awaken feelings of enthusiasm for the 15 mile run I had scheduled. I am disciplined about marathon training so, after dropping L off at the bus first thing and spending half an hour doing my strengthening and stretching routine which I try to do every morning (and sometimes fail to), Pop and I set off.
The furthest I've run before is 14 miles, and that was over a year ago when I'd only been running regularly for a few months. It was far too soon to jump up to that distance and it fundamentally exhausted me for quite a while after. I clocked up a good collection of quite gnarly hilly half marathons last year which have stood me in good stead and as a result I ended the year comfortable with the distance, but 15 still felt like a significant move up.
Fuelling becomes an issue for any run over about 13 miles. This is because your body can only store enough glycogen (a type of sugar (glucose) which is converted from carbohydrates and stored in the liver until it's needed) for 90 minutes of exercise.
Running out of fuel is what runners call 'hitting the wall' or 'bonking.' I've heard about it lots of times, but only seen it once, when M forgot he'd changed the gels he was using on a marathon, thought they were his old ones that contained carbs but in fact had only salts. It wasn't nice to witness, he basically got slower and slower and collapsed at the end of the marathon dazed, unable to speak and not really aware of who I was. Shoving a banana down his throat worked wonders and within minutes he was properly conscious, but it took a while for his body to reset itself. It was scary and taught me a big lesson: take your fuelling seriously and always double check you've got what you think you've got.
Most marathon runners use gels, sachets of specially formulated carbs and electrolytes that replace glucose and salts. You gulp them down in one swallow without breaking your stride. This is great if speed is important, but I'm not keen on them for various reasons: they aren't always easy to digest and you don't want an upset stomach on a run, they're often made with synthetic flavours and sweeteners and I try to stay away from those kinds of products, and they just seem unnatural to me. M uses them to great effect, but I decided a while ago I would feel happier using real food as my long run fuel.
My ultra buddies who run over marathon distance fuel on real food. Anything that's a good source of readily available carbs and easy to digest, so we're talking pizza, white bread sandwiches, sausage rolls, that kind of thing.
On half marathons I take a back pack with a water bladder and a handful of jelly babies which I scoff around mile 10, depending on the weather. M had told me leaving refuelling that late on a longer run wouldn't work, because you've already depleted the stores too far. His advice for the marathon was to try having a small bite of a sandwich or similar at miles 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21 and possibly 24. So more or less every half an hour.
Yesterday, I set off with my racing water pack on my back with half a ham sandwich, three mini sausage rolls and a handful of jelly babies stuffed into the various pockets. I also had my mobile and a 'run angel'- a personal safety device worn on the wrist which lets out a piercing alarm and sends your map co-ordinates to 'guardians' (people listed on the app) as a message when you press the alarm. This is less from a fear of other people, and more because if I trip and fall in the middle of no-where and am unable to walk to get help, or worse semi-conscious, the run angel alerts my friends where I am with one simple push of a button. Maybe I should train Poppy to be able to press it too? :o)
It was always going to be trial and error using real food instead of gels, which have clear Instructions for consumption on the packets. We tucked 6 miles under our belts relatively easily and then stopped to share a ham sandwich. I chewed mine- Poppy gulped hers down in one go. It's not for nothing she's affectionately nicknamed Gannet at home. On we went, a small amount of indigestion in the form of a mild stitch appearing because I'm not used to eating and running, but it went quickly.
I have trained myself to be able to run thirty minutes after eating a bowl of porridge, but running and eating at the same time is something else my body has got to get used to. Which is why you do all this in training. Even clothing you have to trial. I'd set off in compression capris which were so uncomfortable in every way after 5 minutes I looped back to the house and put shorts on instead. They were new, but they worked well, so I'll go for those on marathon day.
Seven miles in and it was still drizzling but the run was going well. We'd run out of the village, crossed the main road, gone over the cattle grid and into the New Forest. Forest ponies, cattle and donkeys all roam free through the forest and we ran past a donkey who was busily demolishing the cardboard boxes the householders had put out for recycling. I knew donks ate thistles, no idea they liked cardboard!
We ran on along the road then tracked right over open forest past one of the area's famously dangerous but deceptively mild-looking lowland bogs (the unwary have been caught out there on more than one occasion), eventually finding our way along a muddy and puddle-decked gravel track beside one of the commons. Eventually, after getting caked in mud and then navigating a ford in full flood, we came out on a country lane which led to a cattle grid and a main road. Here we were at about ten miles, so we stopped for a couple of jelly babies before going on again.
At 13 miles we were almost home. We shared the other ham sandwich and, with plenty of energy left, picked up the pace for the final two miles, arriving home in under 2.5 hours, which was a deal faster than I'd expected, but our route was far less hilly than my normal one.
I enjoyed it; my knee was fine, I wasn't especially tired and I felt I could have done another couple of miles quite happily, so that was all good. The fuelling was also great (I ate the sausage rolls for lunch), so ham sandwiches and jelly babies it is on race day, with some sausage rolls as back-up :o). Poppy was fine, although she was a little stiff when she woke up after her sleep in the afternoon, so I'm not sure she'll be doing the full marathon with me in May. She's fine today though, so we'll see.
I deliberately didn't stop when I got back from the run, apart from a long soak in a hot bath and a pause for lunch: I knew I would seize up and/ or fall asleep if I did, so I did loads of household chores, took Ted for a walk and then did the food shop in town. At the ham counter I asked whether I could buy one slice of ham on its own and, in response to the puzzled looks, explained why. The lass on the counter then told me all about her sister running last year's Southampton marathon with a stress fracture in her ankle! We ended the conversation with her thinking about coming along to the C25K course we're running in April. I love those kinds of conversations, the ones that feel like they start out randomly but end up making unexpected connections. What were the chances I'd end up talking to someone who wants to start running?
M had run 9 miles to work and 9 miles back yesterday, having done well over 100k last week, so by evening we were both ravenous. We stuffed ourselves with an enormous bowl of spaghetti and the leftover ham from the packet, with asparagus and courgettes in a cream and black pepper sauce, then had a salted caramel donut each and a starbar with a mug of hot tea while we watched the final episode of Shetland :o) After that we agreed we were finally full. I fell asleep just after ten and slept through till 8.30 this morning! Unheard of. I'm only slightly stiff today and although I feel a bit tired I'm better than I thought I would be.
Poppy crashed out on her bed by the fire last night as soon as I lit it and didn't move till bed time proper. She often sleeps with her head thrown back like that. I think it looks most uncomfortable, but then, I'm not a dog, so what do I know? Ted obviously felt the need to sleep close by and keep watch over her.
Next up, a quarter marathon this weekend before my next big run of 17 miles in two week's time. 26.2 is getting close....
Hope all are well?