Six weeks and five days – Plotting a new course

Hello all!

Six weeks and five days – that’s how long its been since London. Six weeks of barely anything. Well I’ve not had too much to say lately, because I’ve been in a bit of a chill since the London Marathon. Aside from recovering from the marathon itself, I had my recovery interrupted by a minor groin strain, made worse by missing a step as I tried to prevent an accident that never happened. It was always in my plan to take a few weeks off running following London, but I didn’t expect to have my strengthening plan interrupted by a strain that flared up every time I attempted a leg raise, a stair climb, or even just walking.

After London, I managed just one run in the first four weeks, a May Day run around the local park, my groin wrapped up with a bandage. I did 3.25 easy going miles, which confirmed to me that my groin maybe wasn’t quite ready to be put through its paces yet, but nothing to hold up the plan. Alas, a setback is a setback, and to count my blessings, it happened between races. My training for the Snowdonia Marathon wasn’t effectively scheduled to start until late June, and so I felt a bit more relaxed about the situation and could turn my hand towards planning ahead for the rest of the year.

That doesn’t mean change hasn’t been afoot. I’ve still had my swimming to contend with, and the Snowdonia conundrum has got me seeking new climbs and challenges. And there’s even going to be a chance to give something back. So here’s what I’ve been plotting and here’s what I’ve been doing.

1. World Triathlon Leeds

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No, I haven’t suddenly found I’m good on the bike or found I’m an exceptional open water swimmer. You’d have heard about it from me if that was the case! As you may have heard, Leeds is hosting a leg of the World Triathlon Series over the weekend of June 11-12, featuring many of the world’s top triathletes – the Brownlees, Javier Gomez, Non Stanford, Vicky Holland, Gwen Jorgensen et al – swimming in the lake at Roundhay Park and biking and running a city centre course culminating in Millennium Square. There’s also a raft of events targeted at sub-elites, club triathletes, and people of all abilities over the weekend. It looks amazing. I really wanted to be a part of it. However, I knew I wouldn’t be ready as early as when the event was confirmed, to be able to confidently take part. Knowing this event was happening on my doorstep wasn’t going to stop me though, and I’m excited to say I’m going to be volunteering instead! It’s almost here. We’ve all been briefed, and I’m on double duty, operating the finish line for the open races and then moving to another section when the elites take the stage. I’m hugely looking forward to it, and I believe there’s even a couple of people I know taking part in the public events.

I volunteered on the finish line of the Leeds Xpress Triathlon in 2014, so I know what a rewarding and valuable experience it is. To be able to give something back, to play a key part of delivering an event. It helped me gain a perspective on the value and importance of marshals and volunteers. This will be something else though. To be part of a huge operation. It should be a cracker.

2. Swimming lessons – one year on

Little did I realise until last week that I’d actually gone one year since taking up swimming lessons. It allowed me to take in how far I’d progressed. To think when I started, I could say I’d completed an aquathlon but couldn’t bear to stick my head underwater. Well now, I do breathe underwater, have a decent, if not perfect front crawl, can do a little back crawl, attempted breaststroke (which I’m still not very good at), dolphin (not bad), butterfly (needs work) and sculling (a bit like rowing a boat in one sense), and I’ve much to be pleased about. It’s not getting easier, mind – the last session I attended, we were learning how to dive. I tried it from a sitting position and every time, I got slapped across the face by the water. Each new thing I try starts the same – with nerves. Until I get comfortable with it, my nerves get shot to pieces and its much trying, failing, trying again, over and over, until I get it right. That largely applies to everything, even my front crawl. But overall, I’m more confident than I was and even when I’ve felt like not going to my lessons, I’ve not given up. I’ve gone and got in the pool and got on with it.

What’s clear is that I’m still a long, long way off open water triathlon, and even pool based triathlon – though I’d argue the bike is my weakest discipline. There’s not a lot in the way of aquathlons in this country, and even where there is an aquathlon, I’ve to bear in mind that I still can’t do more than 25 metres without stopping. I only recently went lane swimming for the first time since November 2015 – my new 9-5 job and family commitments have largely severed any time I have to get to the local pool. I’ve still much work to do, but I’ve still a sound base going forward. I just need more time in the pool.

3. Planning my Snowdonia Marathon training

As you may well know, coming up late October is possibly my toughest assignment to date – the Snowdonia Marathon Eryri. One of those marathons you fall in love with on the telly, sign up for eagerly before it sells out, before you can look at the elevation profile again and go ‘oh…bugger’. That doesn’t mean I regret signing up. Not for one second. But that means planning a block of training that will see myself going out further afield to manage the training I require. Namely, hilly long runs.

I had planned to enter the Derwentwater Trail Race 15K on September 3, but money aside for a new kitchen, and the racecation Snowdonia involves, I’ve had to put that plan aside. Instead, through my insatiable quest to plot different routes and see different sights, I’ve put myself forward onto a new course that won’t just see my training involve hills, but fells too. As such, I’ve been on a drive to obtain the kit necessary to tackle such challenges. Luckily for my bank balance, I did manage to win a pair of slightly used Inov-8 Mudclaw 330s in my size (11.5) insanely cheap and still with, apparently, loads of mileage. With those now in the bank, I’m now ready to take myself into areas such as the fells of Norland, near Sowerby Bridge, sections of the Pennine Way, and maybe even a trip up the Yorkshire Dales. Its going to involve a lot of planning, discipline and conviction, but I’ll ensure that not all my long runs involve hitting fells and indeed there’s a few nice rolling road routes I have lined up. A lot of the routes I’ve already planned follow a similar profile to Snowdonia, with steep climbs and scary descents. Basically, I want to ensure I get the best runs under my belt I can.

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Having missed much of last summer’s running due to my sesamoiditis, I will have to get used to another thing again. The sun. This last week, it has been crack-a-lackin’, reducing the daily shower to insignificance and at times being unbearably hot. We’ve even had thunderstorms. I’ve primed myself with some of the P20 suncream, and it’s going to be needed in some of those exposed routes. I may well ensure if I’m going to run, then run very early, but I can’t guarantee getting up in the middle of the night or the crack of dawn as a possibility every time. And all this for a race that will more than likely be damp and wet!

4. The 401 Challenge

He’s been running now for well over 250 days, completing a marathon each day to raise £250,000 for Stonewall and Kidscape, trying to raise awareness of the effects of bullying and the fight against it, and inspiring people, indeed runners of all abilities, to inspire themselves and join him in trying to run part of, even a whole marathon with him. Yes, Ben Smith, of the 401 Challenge – that’s 401 marathons in 401 days – is right in the midst of his challenge as you read this and he’s coming back round to Bradford and Leeds in early August. I intend to join him on one of these runs and may even run the whole marathon with him. You can follow him over on Facebook by searching for the 401 Challenge. Right now he’s going through a tough patch, so give him all your support!

If ever there was an inspiring story within the world of running, Ben’s is right up there. You can head to his page, which I’ll leave a link for below – alternatively, check out his interview with Marathon Talk, episode 311. I’ve rarely ever been as hooked on an interview as I was with Ben’s. His story of how he came to be is a rough ride but ultimately, with running and this challenge, the light has appeared at the other side. Its a fantastic cause and one I, like many others, are putting our support behind.

I’ll be writing up about the World Triathlon very soon, but aside from that, here’s to getting back into the swing of things. That itch is going to get scratched.

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