April started well and ended badly!

Early in the month I ran a nice 40k out and back on the Ridgeway west of Streatley, effectively recreating the 3rd leg of the Centurion Autumn 100 event I’m aiming to tackle later in the year. It was a bit bleak and blustery up on the downs, and I seemed to be going uphill for a lot of it, in both directions!

The following week was a recovery week, mileage reduced by about half, nothing exciting to report. Mid week the following week I couldn’t find a 20k route I liked so ended up doing a half marathon before work, a nice loop with the first half along the Thames to Shiplake. It was lovely being out first thing, I barely saw a soul, and I ran along some new paths for the homeward leg which is always interesting.

The next long run was also 40km, a loop I’ve done before, taking in the Chiltern Way, the Icknield Way and a stretch of the Thames Path for good measure. It was one of those lovely mornings, cold to start with, but bright blue skies. Really perfect running conditions, a joy to be out on the trails. With the longer ultras this year in mind, I’ve been practising running slower, I can now “run” at 6:20-630 km pace, a gentle plod. With walking breaks this brings the pace down to nearer 7:00 per km. For the 100 mile race in October I need to bring it down even more, it’s got to be a pace that can see me through almost four marathons on the bounce. In this run I also experimented with new savoury trail snacks. I made curried potato and rice wraps. Truly, they are delicious and carbtastic to boot! They are quite substantial though, I might try to make a smaller version.

I got my first Covid jab (Team Moderna!) on the 19th, so it was with some trepidation that I set out for an early 20km just 36 hours later. I needn’t have worried, a bruised arm aside, I had no side effects at all. Having really enjoyed the mid-week trail run a couple of weeks before I was keen to do the same again. I had the trails to myself again, just the mist and the trees for company. I’m so lucky to have good trails a few short minutes run away.

The back to back runs gradually got more challenging, with 35km and 20km on the plan for the weekend of 24th April. It all started very well, I had just started on a nice section of the Ridgeway, the dead-straight Grim’s Ditch. I was about 20km into Saturday’s 35km, feeling pretty fresh and, oh the hubris, just thinking I can definitely do another 4 of these for the 100k, and maybe, just maybe I could manage another 7 times for the 100 miler.

This section of path is particularly rooty, running as it does through a narrow strip of old trees. I’ve run it several times before, you need to be on your game, concentrating on foot placement, eyes on the trail. Still smugly congratulating myself on my progress, I must have tuned out for a few seconds, which turned out to be very bad news indeed. Before I could register that I was tripping I had already hit the ground. There was no preventing it, no stumbling about, no flailing of arms, no nuffink, just SMACK! Knees, elbows, hands, ribs and head all made contact, transferring all my considerable forward momentum into the baked hard ground in sudden and very kinetic fashion. In summary, it FUCKING HURT. My knees were the immediate concern as they were leaking ketchup and gave me the most grief in the immediate aftermath.

After recovering my specs from a few feet away I gingerly stood up and did some highly unscientific leg bends to see if the knees still worked. I decided no real harm was done except to my dignity, dusted myself off and proceeded on down the trail. This went reasonably well for 5 or 10 minutes at which point I became aware of my big toe which was by now REALLY FUCKING PAINFUL. I must have given it a good stubbing in the process of tripping over and the adrenaline was wearing off. I still had over an hour of running to go to get to the car so I declared defeat and called in logistical support while I walked to the nearest road.

It began to bruise up nicely as the day progressed so I went to the hospital to get it x-rayed on Sunday morning. The doctor I saw, not an especially healthy looking specimen himself, and clearly not a runner, looked at me like I was from a different planet when I asked him if it would be OK to run 50km in 8 days time. Several aspects of this didn’t compute for him.

  • are you nuts? it takes 2 to 6 weeks for a break like this to heal
  • what are you doing racing at your age
  • 50k! that’s what cars and trains are for

May is ultra month, I am supposed to have a 50k on the 3rd, a tune up for the 100k on the 22nd. With a slight fracture in one of the bones in my big toe, suddenly both of them were looking iffy. I had a chat with my coach and we decided to stop running (obviously!) and focus on cross training for a couple of weeks. I renewed my gym membership and trudged reluctantly down there a few times in the last week of April. It is nicely air conditioned, but obviously there’s no breeze and sweat doesn’t evaporate in the way it does outdoors. The staff will have needed to mop up after me, I was sweating buckets! There is just no joy in hours of elliptical and bike, it’s a necessary evil at the moment but I hate it. As the week progressed the bruising and swelling improved every day, an encouraging sign. So encouraging, in fact, that I clung on to the hope that the 50k on 3rd May might still happen.

Without wishing to stray too far into May’s update, suffice it to say that I took the toe out for a road test on the 1st, just 5k. It held up pretty well with no significant pain, which was enough for me to decide I would go for the 50k and damn the consequences.

I’ll be back soon with a race report!