It's been a while since a proper long run (Winter Tanners 9th Jan in fact), so despite all the cross-training on the ElliptiGO which has been serving me very well it was time to do what I know best, and get back on the trails and rack up some miles.
On Sunday I took part in a local LDWA organised event - Chiltern Kanter. This was a 26m run on trails that I mostly know, but some that I didn't. However you only found out the route when arriving at the HQ, where I had to plot the 29 grid ref points onto my EXP181 map, and then join the dots up. I felt like a kid again :-)
I set off at 9:30 with running friend Glyn. As is the way with LDWA events there is no set start time, with other runners setting off from 9 onwards and walkers setting off from 8. It was a bright sunny morning and I had expected this break in the recent damp weather to continue, hence I travelled very light, bringing no spare outer or water proof layers, and ran in just shorts and a T. Well you can guess what happened later in the day... yes the heavens opened!!! More on that later.
It was great to run with Glyn and enjoy this event with someone else which makes the time pass quicker not that either of us were in much of a hurry. We were 11mpm in the early stages, and as the main aim of the run was time on my feet rather than speed this suited me perfectly.
There had been a lot of rain in the previous days and weeks and the trails were muddy and in places waterlogged. But keeping my feet dry was something I didn't have to worry about after acquiring a pair of sealskinz waterproof socks. This was on the recommendation of BritNick aka Nick Ham, and I can confirm that these are indeed the 'dogs b***' and performed very well indeed. At the end of the run my feet were dry and clean, rather than being waterlogged, full of grit and prune like in appearance! Wonderful.
The first checkpoint was over 2 hours into the run which did seem like a long time, however I didnt run out of fluids so this detail was of no consequence. I wasn't drinking too much but the slow pace and cold/damp weather didn't make you thirst for fluids. I took just about enough.
Scenery wise we passed through and beside many open fields, along small sections of country road, and well established trails including the Icknield Way Trail and Ridgeway National Trail. These were all runnable and on the whole fairly flat, with only the odd climb or two. It was the mud however that made footing a little more tenative and slowed progress. But the biggest factor of the day was the rain which started about half way into the 26 miles route. The rain was extremely cold and half hour later I could feel my bare arms and hands being rapidly cooled. Glyn offered his lightweight jacket early on, but I thought I could last it out and hopefully that it would stop. But it didn't and by the time we had climbed to the top of Ivinghoe Beacon I was suffering a little, and I very gratiously accepted Glyn's offer. He made a joke that as an ultra runner I shouldn't be so caught out by the weather, and he was right. I did check the weather forecast but not in great detail, and the very bright start to the day lured me into a force sence of security. That added to the fact that I also approached this event as JUST a marathon so thought I wouldn't be out for too long was also a mistake to learn from. This is the first time and the last that I will go out unprepared whatever the distance. And that's afterall what training runs are all about, which is how I was approaching this one. Lesson learnt!
So with rain jacket on, Glyn and I decended a cold and very wet Ivinghoe Beackon and continued along the Ridgeway trail. Back on familar territory we plodded through the wet slippery mud onwards to Pitstone which would be the 3rd and final CP. It was great to come inside to a dry warm hall with an array of sandwiches (cheese, marmite, jam), and cakes on offer, plus hot coffee. We must have taken 10 minutes at this stop (long by my standards especially for this distance) but it was time well spent, as I regained some feeling and movement in my frozen hands and fingers. Even today (Monday afternoon) my hands still have a numb feeling to them such was the effect of the cold and rain. I didn't bring gloves either!
We knew we had to leave the comfort of the hall though and sooner rather than later. We were 21 miles in at this point with 5 to go (if you believed the official distance) but we ended up covering 28 miles in total so in fact had 7 miles still to cover.
The refuelling did the trick though and I felt a hundred times better and a tad warmer. The final miles were more of the same wonderful wet muddy countryside, including a small section along the grand union canal, and circle around Tring reservoir. The rain even stopped towards the very end with the sun gleaming though, although that could just have been me feeling happy to finish.
We arrived back at HQ safe and sound - Red Cross Hall in Tring town centre. We had covered 28.34 miles in 5hrs40m. A very leisurely pace and an extremely satisifying run that met many training goals: Time on feet (tick), first long run for a while (tick), tested the new socks (tick), and learnt the harsh reality of what a change in weather conditions can do even in a local trail marathon where you think nothing of it (tick). Mission accomplished.
Thanks to Glyn for the great company on this run. It would have been a whole lot tougher without you, and I did enjoy your butt side down Ivinghoe Beacon ;-)
Roll on the next 3 weekends which are: Leighton 10k (PB potential); MK60 (on the ElliptiGO); and Lightning 12hr (12hr distance record potential). Hooraaah!!! :-)