This is not what the JW Ultra was like!
This week was all about recovery, more winning and an ultra marathon (OK, 1/3 of an ultra marathon).
Learning my lesson from the previous sub-40 10k PB back in July, I decided it would not be ideal training to complete a speedwork session on Tuesday. Instead, I opted for a simple 5k out and back via Hagley Road.
The run home from work was much the same, taking it very easy for 5k along the canals.
“Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”
Why yes, yes I do feel lucky!
As many of you know, I had little intention of running this year’s Great Birmingham Run. I originally first ran it in 2010 as my first foray into half marathons and to cut a long story short, it no longer has the same appeal to me. Just simple things like the PB friendliness of the course – it’s all about the finish time potential for me. Paying £34 for the privilege of busting a gut running up Charlotte and St James Road ain’t my cup of tea.
Sometime last week, I saw the Birmingham Mail promote their competition with the prize being a free place in the race. I figured, “Why not?” and what would be the chances of me winning anyway? Well, it so happened that I actually did win, receiving an email on Wednesday with a code for a free entry! No strings attached either, so I don’t need to write about my experience (um, I’ll do that one anyway for free…), wear a silly costume or otherwise. Discussing this with a colleague at work, we reasoned that I was probably one of a very small handful of people to have entered the competition. Most people who would want to run have already paid for their places. The race hasn’t sold out and those that haven’t committed to the training would not be entering anyway.
So, come Sunday 19th, I’ll be toeing up again at the start line on Sand Pits for the fifth time. Even more interesting, I’ll have been out for Iain’s birthday the night before for some alternative carbo-loading…
Exploring the Soho Loop
I’ve heard many things about the nearby Soho Loop, but only just the other day ventured out on to it for the first time. As pleasant as it was (nice and quiet), I can’t see it being incorporated into my normal routes all that often, mainly because of the distance it covers. I suppose if I wanted to cover close to 14 miles, I could pair it up with one loop of the canals up by Spaghetti Junction and Star City, but that’s about it sadly. The OCD inside me likes running rounded numbers like 5k, 10k, 10 miles etc!
Here’s the Garmin data for this run.
The JW Ultra
The final leg of the JW Ultra
A couple of months ago, Martin Foster asked me if I fancied participating in a relay team for the JW Ultra – a 30 mile ultra marathon. It sounded like it could be a laugh and landed at a good time to double as race prep for the Cardiff Half Marathon. Each leg of the race was billed as approximately 10 miles to coincide with the pubs doubling as checkpoints.
I like to get pre-race logistics sorted before a race; I hear so many horror stories of people turning up to the wrong race HQ, or at the wrong time and it’s something I could do without. With 13 hours to go before the race was due to start, Martin, Yi and I had finally decided upon a running order and which checkpoints we would be at, with me covering the final leg.
Arriving at the checkpoint in Hockley Heath, Lis and I had some time to kill before Yi was due in. I had budgeted about 70 minutes for my leg with a view to treating it as 10 miles at target half marathon pace. Speaking to a few runners who had completed the first or second leg, company on the canal towpath was sparse at best; not ideal for trying to hit an ambitious race pace.
Yi finally arrived and I took the relay team belt from him and started running, all in one smooth changeover along with a few cheers from the crowd.
I passed a couple of runners with ease that had started before me, both solo ultra marathoners and relay team runners. Then, I ran out of runners to reel in and the pace began to slip and continued to slip all the way to 7:30 miles. At 1:30pm, it was very warm outside with temperatures in the low 20s. I was also somewhat dehydrated going into the race, not wanting to be pissing every 5 minutes without potential facilities nearby.
I was having a horrid time and must have run at least 3 miles without a soul in sight. Eventually, some solo runners came back into view and the chase was back on. The terrain underfoot was generally quite good; firm but bumpy and undulating so maintaining a rhythm was tricky.
Out-kicked by ultra marathon runners – for shame!
I kept tabs on the distance I had covered and with the final canal crossing in sight, I was fairly certain the final leg wouldn’t even hit 9 miles in total (actual distance was around 8.6 miles). Nearing the end, myself and 3 solo runners left the canal and ended up going the wrong way temporarily due to a lack of signs or marshalls to direct us towards the finish. Some runners that had already finished had to steer us back on course for a thrilling 4 person sprint towards the line; embarrassingly, I couldn’t out-kick the 3 guys who had just run the best part of 30 miles! Ultra runners are a completely different breed of crazy and know no limits when it comes to pain at the end of a race!
Results-wise, the team came somewhere in the middle, with my final leg coming up as the 4th fastest out of the 17 teams that participated.
Despite never running a sub-7 minute mile on the course, my heart rate monitor reported a 4.2 training effect benefit (highly improving on the chart), no doubt due to the warm temperature and the dehydration.
Here’s the Garmin data for my leg of the JW Ultra.
Double day – 4x 800m reps and 2 mile recovery run
Having treated the JW Ultra as my long run for the week, I opted to get a few 800m reps under my belt.
The weather was almost perfect for running on Sunday morning; temperatures were cooler compared to those during the JW Ultra and clouds helped to break up the direct sunlight above. Others clearly had the same plan as I did because I had never seen Edgbaston Reservoir so full of runners before. Clearly, half marathon fever has taken hold of the city with just 5 weeks to go before race day.
On the agenda were 4x 800m reps at 3:50/km. I still feel like I peaked a couple of weeks ago and trying to keep pushing to the next level could see things coming undone – it’s all about maintenance right now for me to get me across the Cardiff Half finish line in under 90 minutes.
The marginally slower pace felt just right to get me working hard, but not to point of breaking. The splits were a touch faster than target with headwinds causing some fluctuation.
Two different people gave me positive feedback on my speed during my recoveries to top off a very positive session. I’ll take more of the same please!
Here’s the Garmin data for this session.
And to top off things off, I went for an easy 2 mile run for a double day.
As per usual, here’s this week’s entry from Mark Remy’s The Runner’s Rule Book:
You’ll find the elusive runner’s high when you stop looking so hard for it
The runner’s high is like an orgasm.
Stop snickering! I’m serious.
The two phenomena are similar in the sense that they’re physiological responses, intensely pleasurable, and – for some- maddeningly elusive. Some folks experience the runner’s high regularly; for others, long or hard runs simply end in sweaty frustration. The act itself is fun, but, you know… anticlimactic.
No matter which climax is eluding, you, the advice is basically the same: Relax. Stop focusing so much on the destination, and start focusing on the journey. Listen to your body. Breathe. Enjoy yourself. You’ll get there.
Now, about those multiple runner’s highs…