Sunday, May 10, 2020

An uphill struggle...

It’s Sunday now, and time to reflect on the big run from Friday, think about what I learnt, and start to plan next steps in the training schedule. For now, rest is on the cards and I won’t be running for a good few days while my joints recover from the pounding they took on Friday.

As mentioned previously, a good preparation for this run had taken place. A few alcohol free days in the build up, plenty of hydration with water, good food choices and a lot of stretches on Thursday meant that I felt ok on Friday morning. For me, a morning run is the absolute best time, starts the day off with some exercise and there are very few people out and about. Due to Coronavirus I am going out as little as possible and apart from when running, am pretty much staying home and avoiding contact with other people. With that in mind, setting off to run up Pendle Hill at about 8.30 am sounds pretty much perfect.

Go through the pre run routine...stretches as laid out by my physio? Done...groin and hip are troublesome areas, so it’s vital that they are properly loosened. Food? Back to this old issue, but the protein flapjacks from Graze are perfect. Light, so they don’t weigh me down, good energy release as well and pretty long lasting. One of those taken and a couple of gels in my pocket, to drink, 500ml of SIS mix (coffee before this obviously) and I am ready to go. At the last minute, I decided to take another flapjack pack with me, with the thought that once I reach the Nick of Pendle, and climbed 360m in a run of around 8.5k, with some steep climbs, I might need some food.

Friday was a decent morning for running, cloudy but warm. When possible, I like a simple approach, shorts and a T shirt, no coat, jacket, base layer and even my trusty tights get left at home today. I’m not someone who likes peripheral stuff getting in the way, so phone, keys etc are all off limits, extra bouncing around would just annoy me. Off we go...down into Whalley and not a soul to be seen, it’s even too early for the socially distanced queue outside the pharmacy to have formed. I’ve been running for about 3 minutes when something starts to irritate me. I am easily irritated as people who know me well will testify, but this time the irritation was caused by me.  The shorts that I wear for running are great, loose fitting, quite long UA ones, they’re not running shorts but who cares? They’re comfortable and that is what matters, but today I have overloaded the pockets, two gels in one pocket and a plastic box with flapjacks in the other is just annoying. The pockets are deep and on the gels side are rapping against my lower thigh. First km done...time is ok...keep running...past Oakhill, cross over and up towards Wiswell...2k done...11 minutes...decent start,  but I am increasingly agitated now, so there is only one thing for it. Without breaking stride, I need to move one gel from the left to the right pocket, take out the flapjack and run with that in my hand. Done...up the hill I go and into the village of Wiswell. Past The Freemason’s Arms (2.8km) in just about 15 minutes, not as quick as last weekend, those lost few seconds fiddling with flapjack...A lot of people really rate that pub and it is supposed to be one of the best in the country, yet I’ve only been once. Came home hungry...again, that says more about me than the place. Now I’m heading out of Wiswell towards Pendleton, a long steady climb and I’m hopeful of being there in under 30 minutes, (pretty much bang on this last’s about 5.4km from home and largely uphill, so I’m happy at that pace) but at this point, 2 extra factors kick in:

1) I keep looking up to the right at Pendle looming ominously and asking myself how on earth I am going up and over...
2) Flapjacks are giving me sweaty palms and therefore annoying

So at this point, I make a call. Have a gel, then the flapjacks can go back into the pocket, it will bounce and squeak, but that’s less annoying than sweaty palms. Gel done, flapjacks back in pocket and keep on going. Every minute or so, I am glancing up to the right and Pendle looms large, putting doubt in my mind. As I write each blog, I imagine that the only people who will read my waffle will know the area, but the site hits suggest otherwise. So, for my readers in Russia, Argentina and Turkmenistan, here is a picture of Pendle:

I think there are a few things at play here. Pendle is impressive and intimidating as it is so wide, and in my head, looking at it from here, I can see the road that will lead to the top. It looks a long way off, steep and the question keeps coming to mind, ‘Is it too soon to do this?’Am I actually fit enough? Self doubt is always lurking. Back to it, a bit slower than last week and as I turned right at Pendleton at exactly 30:30 I’m still hopeful of finishing the run in a reasonable time (target in mind...). However, the next kilometre is a road I have never been on before and the one after that, up to the top is one that I have had cars struggle to get up. Any times I have in mind will be totally dictated by whether I can keep going, at any point, turning round and going home is a decent option as that would now give me a 12k+ run, decent workout, but would be downhill most of the way. As I slow down enormously as I get onto km and even more by km 8, the intimidation factor once more kicks in. I realise now, utterly exhausted and bereft of energy, that I cannot see the end, no sign of this climb finishing. Should I stop? Is this too much? Uneven roads, not great for running...all the excuses in the world. Time to take stock, have another gel and get on with it. Eventually, the Pendle Ski Club appeared and to my brain, this was a huge positive as I am sure that this, and The Wellsprings next door are pretty much near the top, so a couple of climbs and I will have made it. The climbs here get steeper and some gradients of over 20% kick in and when I finally reach the Nick of Pendle, there are a few people up there (travelled by car!) admiring the views. Social distancing means I go out of my way to avoid them, but I stop for 30 seconds to look around and,  more importantly to crack open the flapjack! I’ve made it here but am a good 8k from home, just over 50 minutes on the clock, so doing ok. If you want to see the climbs, on YouTube there are loads of videos of the Nick of Pendle climb. 

Exhausted but exhilarated, I move on...down into Sabden and this brings its own issues, as I run downhill, my pace increases massively and the consequences of this are jarring my back and in no time at all, upper back pain is kicking in. The running shoes I have don’t have any shock absorbance at all, and are designed for flat running basically...Time for some new wheels, but that’s a story for another day! The rest of the journey is pretty uneventful, although my hopes of it all being downhill  are dashed. The stretch out of Sabden towards Whalley undulates and towards the end, there are a few sharp and unwelcome climbs. I’m seriously struggling physically but the end is in sight, I know this is a struggle as I am counting down the Kms and keep telling myself ‘the time doesn’t matter’. Eventually I reach the main road, past the golf club and enjoyed running down Accrington Road, jelly legs kicking in, but nearly home. The last 200m are all downhill so I finish on a positive note. A glance at the clock... 1:32:39 and I am ok with that. In my heart, I had hoped to go sub 1:30 but my head had told me this would not happen. 1:39, Ben Stokes’ half marathon time was my real aim! 

Looking back now, I know I could speed that run up, get to Pendleton in a quicker time and not be put off by the steep climbs. Next time...definitely sub 1:30. Best news was being able to walk the day after... always a bonus! Thanks for reading. 

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