Tuesday 22 March 2011

Who would have thought eating and walking could be so hard...

I had two important things to train for this weekend: eating and walking. These may have been the hardest part of my training schedule so far!

A quick calculation (weight in kilograms x distance in kilometers) tells me that I need to consume at least 13,000 calories to last me through the 112 miles of running. That's quite a lot, especially as I will be on the move for pretty much the entire time. I confess that I am not generally very good at watching my nutrition for running. Gels and things are so expensive, it was better for me to get used to running without them to avoid the costs of going through 6 or 7 a week. I ran my 50 miler a couple of weeks ago on a small bowl of bran flakes and a banana, and managed quite happily with just my sports drink to keep me going. But I want to do this run properly and not drop out, so I decided to practice eating the sort of foods on the run that I will be eating on the day.

So I rolled out of bed on Saturday morning at 5am, apologised for waking Jen up again, threw on my running gear, and packed my breakfast: 2x Jam sandwiches, 3x big bits of the most calorific chocolate flapjack ever made (by Jen! Thankyou hun!), a Mars Bar, a PowerBar Ride bar, a tub of pasta, 2x PowerBar carb gels, and 1L of PowerBar Energize isotonic sports drink. The breakfast of champions! I headed out the door on my usual route, heading towards Cambridge on the guided busway. I know that route like the back of my hand now, and while it is a little boring running the same route every time for 4 or 5 hours, I tend to not notice and pay more attention to my iPod. Currently I am listening to episodes of the Nerdist Podcast, which keeps me nicely entertained as I go. I'm running out of podcasts on iTunes now... The plan was to eat something every 3 miles or so, and I stuck to that nicely. Each time it got to food time, I whipped the first thing that I found in my bag out (without slowing down - a real knack!), and ate on the run.

A lot of people have trouble with this, particularly with solid foods, as their stomachs don't like the combination of a lack of blood flow, a large amount of churning, and then suddenly being asked to digest a big mound of sugar. Luckily, my stomach has had a lot of practice at eating sugary foods and so didn't complain once! The only thing that I would say is that dry foods are not a good plan. My flapjack was just right, but I could see that a drier version would be quite unpleasant after 25 miles. I will have to see how things look later in the run, but certainly things felt good and I was happy that these were good foods to eat on the run. I will prepare a lot of food on the day (more than I need), and pretty much go for whatever I feel like (or whatever I feel I can eat) at the time.

I made it home from running just shy of 30 miles in under 4 and a half hours, even with my fueling. I felt pretty full, and didn't drink my obligatory post-run Nesquik milkshake quite as quickly as normal (seriously - best recovery drink ever!), but after about an hour later I suddenly felt really hungry again and ended up refueling at KFC. All in all a very healthy day!

The next thing that I needed to practice was walking. I am notoriously competitive. I'm not particularly proud of it, but it's something that I have always had (I blame my father!). The nice thing about running, particularly as I typically run on my own, is that the only person I am competing with is myself. So in a race, the main thing I care about chasing is my PB. But I will still always spot a few people ahead of me that I have to take down before the end of the race - I would be sprinting it anyway, this just gives me something to focus on! Doing this in the St. Ives 10K last year resulted in a 3-way race between me, the guy I was chasing down, and a third guy that had come from the back to beat both of us! That'll teach me...

But this is a natural reaction that I have that I really need to curtail if I am going to go the distance in April. If I get overtaken by a banana in the marathon, my first reaction will be "Oh no you don't!", followed by breaking my pace to take them on. A bad idea when I've got another 86 miles to go... So my aim on Sunday was to run the whole distance again, but using the run/walk strategy that I will be using for the run home. That is; run for 25 minutes, walk for 5 minutes. So again, I headed out of the door at 5am to tread the well worn tracks of the busway, with my watch set to go off every half an hour for a 5 minute walk. No matter what. This was very, very difficult for me. I am very stubborn, as many people will tell you. So usually I will want to carry on going. "But I don't need to walk, I feel great!", I will tell myself. So I had to force myself to walk, even if it resulted in me getting overtaken by a carrot (which actually happened!). I was expecting this run to take much longer than normal (I was running a bit slower than normal, and was walking), but actually made it in in only 5 hours - only half an hour slower than the day before!

There were lots of people out and about on Sunday, and surprisingly more than on Saturday (when the weather was absolutely lovely). I got a chance to chat to some of them, and unsurprisingly they are also training for London, taking advantage of the busway for their last long run before tapering. I love seeing runners out and about, and it's nice to feel part of a community. People will always say hello as they run past, and are generally very approachable for chatting about things. One person even asked me for a lift to London on the day! I can't tell if there are more runners around these days, or if I'm just noticing them more as it has taken over my life... I hope that they all have a fantastic day on the 17th, and have a really good race!

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