Just like Ellie…

Just twenty seven more sleeps before I line up at the Comrades marathon.   Eeeeek! I am having an attack of reality!

Also, I worry that I may be getting slightly obsessed by Comrades.

This week I watched hours of footage on YouTube of the 2014 down run when Brit Ellie Greenwood won an epic women’s race.

For more than a decade, two Russian identical twins, Elena and Olesya Nurgalieva have completely dominated Comrades. In the previous eleven races there were twenty-two first or second place positions available.  The Nurgalieva twins occupied eighteen of these, and they missed one or two races for babies and other reasons.

So, Ellie Greenwood beating them was a big deal.  She did it by running a wonderfully patient race, even walking quite a lot in the early part of a down run and then finishing incredibly strongly over the closing kilometres to mow down the Russians.

Ellie’s race report is a fantastic piece and you may wish to watch the YouTube video yourself, though I’ll doubt you will manage to watch all twelve hours of it:

http://www.irunfar.com/2014/06/never-ever-give-up-ellie-greenwoods-2014-comrades-report.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8a2_A_UGJ28

(Go to 6:09:00 to see the crucial bit)

In my dreams, I will finish this year as strongly as Ellie, but somehow I think I will be grovelling!

I continued following the Comrades training plan this week. It stipulated mainly steady runs throughout the week with a rest day Friday and then a one hour run on Saturday and a 50-55 km run on Sunday – the longest training run of all.

I deviated a bit from the plan on Saturday because I fancied trying a fast parkrun.  Running lots of slow miles and galactic distances is all well and good, but it gets a bit boring and certainly blunts the speed. I feel like I am constantly running on tired legs but never getting out of breath.

Woodhouse Moor parkrun in Leeds is a perfect fitness gauge for me. I know every millimetre of the course, I have run the event 204 times – 612 laps of the park. My best time ever is 17:44 and the best time in 2015 so far was 18:06. Given my high mileage and heavy legs, I hoped to run around 18:10 – 18:20 on Saturday.

I was surprised and very pleased to run my second fastest ever time – 17:48.  Surprised because it didn’t feel like a fast run – my legs still felt a little heavy, but clearly I have good aerobic fitness and I was able to sustain the effort better than I normally would.  I felt strong, but not particularly fast.

For the Sunday long run I hatched a plan to park in Leeds city centre and then take the train out to Skipton and run back on the Leeds-Liverpool canal – around 30 miles. I put a post on Facebook to see if any of my Valley Strider teammates fancied joining me for the latter part of the run as I thought I would be in desperate need of company by that stage.

One of the ultra-runners in the club, Ian S, said he would join me for the whole run and Hannah said she would run the last few miles with us.

Pulling back the curtains on Sunday morning revealed absolutely horrid weather – it was hammering it down with rain. A thought flickered through my head about postponing the run. However, I had agreed to pick Ian up on the way into Leeds, so I just had to get on with it.

We caught the first Sunday morning train out of Leeds to Skipton. The passengers in our carriage were a motley bunch – two 40 something men in running shorts and waterproof tops joining several gangs of teenagers making their way home after a heavy Saturday night out.  Many were much the worse for wear and several were still swigging from bottles of wine and cans of strong lager.

By the time we disembarked at Skipton, the rain had moderated from a biblical downpour to merely torrential. We chugged off down the towpath, steadily knocking out the early miles between 8:30 and 9:00.

Mercifully, the rain relented after an hour or so. We jogged on, working out which towns or villages we would reach next and taking the occasional 1 minute walk break.

At the Bingley five rise locks, at about half distance, we took a longer 5 minute break to eat some food. To be honest, the miles passed fairly painlessly and after three hours we were well over twenty miles in when Ian confessed that he was struggling. That wasn’t surprising considering that he ran the London marathon only seven days earlier. He said his foot was giving him problems so he wanted to slow down.

We were due to meet Hannah at Horsforth, so we agreed that I would go ahead and then we’d run back to meet Ian.

A couple of miles down the path I saw the unmistakeable bounding gait and smiling face of fellow Strider John Shanks, he had come out to meet me and run the last few miles. After meeting up with Hannah, we jogged back and soon found Ian again.  Unfortunately, he’d had enough and said he would make his way home.

The last few miles were tough for me, my tank was pretty much on empty, but we managed to keep the pace around about 8:30 per mile. It certainly helped my spirits having my mates with me.

Although I’d originally hoped to run about 35 miles, we stopped after 31 – annoyingly this converts to 49.88 kms, so not quite the 50kms that the plan called for. Failed again!

The main thing I learned from this run is that I didn’t eat enough and I didn’t eat early enough to prevent the hunger knock.  I must remember to start the food intake early, not after 10 or 15 miles.

Next weekend, the plan stipulates a final long run double header – 2 hours on Saturday followed by three hours on Sunday. I should probably try to run a hilly route for Sunday. I’ve entered a fast 5K race on Wednesday – the John Carr 5K at Esholt. I’ll be having a wee crack at my PB.

CM -4 weeks
Weight 11st 3.2lb
62.3 Miles
parkrun – Woodhouse Moor  17:48 (12th)

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