14. All Aboard!

Right as you read this, me, myself, and my wife and kids, will be on our way  to Llandudno, train hopping our way down from Brighouse. Its been quite a journey in itself up until this point, from running the 401 with Ben Smith, walking in the Dales, getting lost during (Wo)Man vs Barge, reccing the Pennine Way, getting covered in mud (and more besides) in Hebden Bridge, getting chased by the sun in Barkisland, climbing hills and rocks in Saddleworth and Dovestones, and ascending Holme Moss twice in a day (on foot). But after a Sunday meal with family later today, the focus will turn onto packing my large backpack full of clothes, shoes, and proverbial race science, for the 210 minute journey and the seven night stay in fabulous North Wales.

There was still the winding down of tapering to get on with this week, against the backdrop of going caffeine free for the race. After a good couple of nights over the weekend, a couple more nights later, and a combined total of sleep over two nights into single digits only, caught up quickly. I actually managed to fall asleep on the bus on my way to my Tuesday swimming lesson, waking up just as the bus arrived into Halifax. I still managed to rouse myself into 250 metres in the main pool, where I managed another out and back across 50 metres, and crack on with the lesson, before making the run home. According to the training guide, it was a fartlek. Mad as that sounded, less than two weeks from a marathon, I still injected some 60 seconds on, 60 seconds off and some 45 on, 45 off splits. I arrived home later than if I’d got the bus. But the main thing was a good solid 5 mile run, and I ensured I didn’t go too hard on the intervals.

I spent much of Wednesday battling sleep deprivation and the lack of a caffeine fix. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday tend to be the busiest nights for myself personally right now, and staying up to do basic things like ironing or loading the dishwasher chipped away at my sleep time – as well as kids waking in the middle of the night. I battled through the fifth day without caffeine, and gratefully caught up on my sleep with an early night. And wow, did I catch up, because I slept in past my 3:40am alarm for a whole hour, which meant I had to get up and out of the door quickly if I was to have any chance of squeezing a run in before work.

I decided to keep it to four miles, a flat out and back, and, again as per the training guide, as a tempo run. I was in too much haste to wait for the Garmin to find a signal, so I set the MapMyRide app up (which I use for cycling…now and again), simply as the GPS loads in literally two seconds. Off I went, agreeing with myself not to check my phone too often and just to run roughly 7:30/mile pace. That would give me 30 minutes of even paced running.

Initially my route took me up a hill. Not s steep hill, mind, just the one leading out of Bailiff Bridge towards Wyke. As the Whitehall Road junction, I doubled back. This wasn’t quite two miles but I had to take into account a quick trip to the nearby supermarket afterwards. As it happened, I was slightly below 7:30 mile pace at this point, but what goes up, must come down. Properly warmed up, I took the descent confidently, completed the third mile, and then looked at my phone. I was somewhere below 22:30 at this point, so I knew I was on track. I was really into my running now, noticeably quicker, but staying blind to my actual pace. A quick loop round the block to ensure I didn’t overshoot my finishing spot, and I was done. Total time, 28:51. The fourth mile split was 6:27. Unbelievable! I’m more than capable of a mile that quick, but I felt comfortable doing it too.

The final run before the holiday was held off until Saturday evening, a 7 mile out and back run to Elland and back. I decided on a whim to go out with my new sport earphones and, just for once, listen to music on the run. The soundtrack? Judas Priest. Oh yes.

The earphones seemed like a terrible idea. I bought them cheap, for a couple of quid, and throughout the run they would not sit on my ears correctly. I first surmised that it was my ears perhaps not being the right shape, or that my long, bouffant hair was getting in the way, before realising it was this cheap pair of earphones that probably were just a bit, well, shit. So much faffing around for the first six miles, and not once did they sit right, leaving me feeling like these sport earphones were a massive con, and a waste of money. 

I got a good shot of Elland Bridge, which I discussed a couple of weeks back, at night, and then began to run back the remaining 3.5 miles, trying, and failing, to ignore the ridiculous earphones. I ought to have just given up and concentrated on the run. Maybe I was too determined to enjoy myself. It wasn’t until the final mile, after finally changing the music to a mix containing Rammstein and Sepultura, among others, that they actually sat pretty. 
Then during the final tenth of a mile, just to get up to 7 miles, I noticed a man stumble across the road, on his own, completely inebriated. And then he started yelling at me. Whatever he was jabbering, I couldn’t tell what he was saying, more that there wasn’t anyone else around, so he must have been talking to me. I had one riposte:

“I can’t fucking hear you!”

He continued to yell as I disappeared around the corner, and still I couldn’t hear him. I felt in no way intimidated and all in all, the earphones had actually seemed a worthwhile investment all along!
Not quite the way I wanted my pre-holiday running to finish, but in any event, no real trouble encountered and no post-run issues, meaning I can go on holiday looking fully forward to the race.

Elsewhere, I’ve had another successful week of swimming lessons, clocking another 50 metre out and back on Tuesday, and during my Stroke Skills lesson, which takes place in a 20 metre ‘teaching pool’, I managed 60 metres! My swimming is absolutely in the ascendancy at the minute, and I’m actually truly enjoying it. Almost seems a shame to lose out on a week!

There’s not much left to say now. I have to busily tidy my house, clean my race vest, pack my supplies, the remainder of my clothes and toiletries, and try and get some sleep. I’ve come through all of this training fairly unscathed, despite a few false warnings, usually in the soles of my feet, and the only thing I need to be careful is a slight hoarseness in my throat that needs clearing now and again. A cold would be the last thing I need going into this race, but I’m not thinking too much about illness. The last 4 months have been perhaps the best phase of my life as a marathon runner, stripped back to consider only the quality, not the quantity of my runs. In some weeks, my mileage was in the low twenties, and never did it once reach the forties. But each and every run seems to have provided me with the preparation I need without butchering my feet or my knees.

So tonight, I shall get some much needed rest for tomorrow, for the final countdown begins in earnest now.