Sunday, 27 February 2011

First 20-mile run...

...and you know what, I really enjoyed it!

Yes, when I stopped I felt completely broken, but only at the point that I stopped.  While I was concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other it didn't seem so bad, not that there was much "kick" to fall back on.  It hurt,  but to quote Dean Karnazes it was a "good hurt".

I wasn't even planning to run 20-miles when I went to bed on Friday night.  My marathon training plan said do 16-miles this weekend for my long run, and that is exactly what I was planning to do.  But then I bought Dean Karnazes' "Ultramarathon Man" and read the whole thing through in one day,

What an inspiring read, the book is an amazing, yet I found very humble, account of what can only be described as some quite astonishing running.  Having completed the book very early Saturday morning while I waited for the alarm to go off (yes, I know that doesn't make much sense) I devoured my morning Weetabix with a newfound gusto and desire to try and push myself further, just to see if I could.

Still feeling a bit gung-ho after my 1:49:22 Brighton Half Marathon last Sunday, which was an unexpectedly quick PB, in my first big competitive Half Marathon race, I only needed a gentle nudge to be enticed into pushing the boundaries once more. Dean did it.

Feeling fresh and with a faint hint of Spring in the air, I popped on me shorts combining some very pasty limbs with a pair of very white compression socks and set my mind to running my first 20-miles. The first few miles were a bit clumsy, but coming upto mile 5, as I passed the Hospital, I started to find my groove and enjoyed a lovely run out along the seafront on the cliff road to Ovingdean and then over to Rottingdean.  What I hadn't appreciated on the way east, was the wind.  Not really strong enough to feel it was an aid from behind, but once I turned round and started heading back to town it was right in the face.  Thankfully not as bad as it had been through the winter where at one point I found my 6'4", 90kg frame running to a standstill, such was the ferocity of the gale, but still strong enough to be a bloody irritant.  Especially as my planned route for the day had me now going 8-miles west along the Brighton and Hove seafront.

I was so glad as mile 16 came up on the Garmin to turn away from the sea, it definitely made the running harder, but I'd like to think of it as a handy training aid on the day (and perhaps worth an extra mile of effort). What was really nice was turning away from the wind, sea and breaking waves and thinking "only another 4-miles".  It doesn't seem too long ago when the idea of running 4-miles was difficult enough, can't believe it's only April 2010 when I thought "right, I'm going to run a Marathon" having done nothing other than patchy, short infrequent runs before.  But to now be thinking, "16 done just another 4 to go and I feel ok" was a lovely sense of achievement and improvement, even at Christmas this sort of distance seemed frighteningly difficult and looming very close as something that had to be mastered.

As I came down the road to bring up the 20-miles on the Garmin, I honestly didn't feel to bad.  I did the last mile in 8:48 and finished (just) with a negative split over the run, which was very nice.  Once I stopped though it was a different story, I was buggered!  Legs went to jelly and I felt wasted. Jumped into a cold bath for 30-minutes or so then took the kids swimming. Which seemed extreme at the time, but proved to be a cracking way to stretch the legs out, and seldom has a cold beer and pizza looked or tasted quite so good as the ones I devoured in a pace that can hardly be termed a good example of table manner to my children.

I wasn't sure how the run would go, I did the 20 miles in 3:10:16, but the run was less about pace than distance, and I was unsure how much I would or would not enjoy the experience of running 20-miles.  But, I really enjoyed it. Honestly.  I don't mean the after-glow of thinking "crikey, look what I've just done", but during the run itself, I was remarkably happy and enjoying myself.

I quite like the solitude of a long run and I found a nice little rhythm that basically enabled me to just switch off and run. Not too quick I grant you, but at this stage I'll take a 9:30mile pace over 20-miles. And, I know it sounds a little perverse, but I think I enjoyed the experience while I was running more than I do on my usual 5-6mile training runs in the week.  On those I'm very aware of the start, finish and pace, but with a larger longer task and less interest in checking the pace on the Garmin and instead focusing on finding a rhythm my body was happy with to run for a long time, it was strangely a more enjoyable run. Not something I admit I expected to say after a 20-mile run. I want to do it again, not right now or tomorrow, but I am looking forward to my next long run and pushing on again.

24-hrs later now as I waffle my way through the latest blog entry and I'm a bit tired, but not too stiff or drained.  Sleeping in my compression socks was a good move I think and swimming offered a better stretch than usual, but I'm ok.  Gonna be sensible and take a few gentle days before getting back onto the schedule, but I'm not too bad. 

And thanks to Mr Karnazes. I had to do a 20-mile run sooner or later, but you made it sooner and a bit easier.

I'd have loved to have been in Tokyo this weekend running the Marathon, but when alls said and done, 20-miles in and around Brighton doesn't seem such a bad alternative. Just a shame the sushi's not as good.

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