Thanks, Marathon Talk!

I listen to podcasts while I run. Most of the time I listen to either Marathon Talk  or to Talk Ultra

On a whim, I entered a competition on Marathon Talk for a trip to Las Palmas to run the Grand Canaria Marathon, Half Marathon on 10k. Much to my absolute astonishment, I won. Thanks so much to Tom and Martin at Marathon Talk for this amazing opportunity!

So, in a few weeks time, I’ll be leaving this gray place behind and heading out to the sunshine. I’m going to do the Half Marathon, but I will not race it hard as I’ll have just started my training for the London Marathon at that point. I’ve been suffering with a bit of plantar fascitis in my left foot and haven’t run much over the past few weeks.

In a bid to give myself something to really get my teeth into, I’ve entered the Race to the Stones which is a 100k race in July. It will be my first Ultra, and it counts towards UTMB qualification points, which is my aim for the coming years.

I’m staring with trepidation at my 16 week London Marathon training schedule, based on the Pfizinger and Douglas Advanced Marathoning regime. It is based on between 70 and 90 miles per week, and it is scaring me half to death right now. Once I start doing it I’ll be ok. I hope.

My plantar fascitis pain has caused me to buy yet another pair of shoes (actually two pairs). I bought a second hand pair of Hoka trail shoes on ebay, to see how they felt. They made my foot feel better almost immediately. I’m trying to keep off road at the moment to keep injury at bay and I’m hugely impressed by the Hokas performance in mud and rugged trails. I’ve also bought a new pair of Hoka road shoes (Huaka), which I hope will help me through my higher mileage marathon training and keep the foot pain at bay.

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The good places

hawaii

A few winters ago I had the opportunity to go visit family who live in Hawaii, on Oahu. One day, hearing the radio reporting monster waves on the north shore, I borrowed their car and drove from Waikiki to Haleiwa, a small town on the far north shore. It was early morning, overcast, misty, and no one was around. I parked up at the beach park, and started to walk north along the beach. As I came out of the shelter of the bay and onto the long strand that runs from Haleiwa to Waimea, the size and fury of the waves became apparent. Far off shore, sets of thirty, forty, fifty foot waves were streaming in. Closer in, the shore break was well over 10 foot, crashing directly onto the reef, surfed by sea turtles. I walked the five miles or so of beach, as the sun came out, seeing almost no one, with the rainforest on one side giving way to surfers’ dream homes. Finally when I got to Waimea, I climbed the hill on the road, where high up I could watch  the surfers riding the huge breakers. I sat for hours as the sun grew hot, until finally walking back to Haleiwa in the early evening, dizzy from spray and sun, and amazed that such a place exists.

 

mokuleia

During the same trip, on another day I drove out to the far north eastern tip of the Island, to a place called Mokuleia, where the road ended, and there was nothing but mountains on one side and the sea on the other. I ran as far as I could up the track, until it truly came to the end of the land: nothing but the Pacific ocean. I swam in the sea, then ran back to the car as free as I have ever been.

Injury, return, and dreams

After my encounter with a rabbit hole at cross country last month, I tried to push on, until finally accepting that I was actually injured an really did need time off. I took just over two full weeks completely off running. Instead of running I cycled, and went to the gym, doing a lot of strength work and climbing on the step machine and the elliptical cross trainer. Eventually the leg pain that I had been experiencing faded, and to date I’ve done three runs, and feel ok. I’m easing myself back in, running every second day, interspersed with either a cycle session or a gym session. I’ll probably continue this pattern for another week or so, before picking up the miles again. I have one month of basic fitness to lay down before my marathon training plan begins on January 1st, preparation for my attempt at sub 3:15 at the London Marathon.

And after that? I’ve been thinking a lot about my running and what makes me happy.  I ran a serious racing season in 2015: one full marathon, two half marathons, three ten mile, four 10k, one six mile, three 5 mile, and miscellaneous 4 mile and 5k races.

I enjoyed it, but I’m ready for something different. Ever since I was young, I’ve loved the mountains, and I have loved climbing and hiking. I’m endurant, and sure footed, and I know how to navigate. At school, I did a bit of Orienteering, and adored it. One of my favourite memories from school was, aged 16, bivouacking in a forest in the west of Ireland as part of a survival/navigational skills course that we were sent on. It was probably the best thing my school had us do. As a teenager, I hiked part of the Appalachian trail in high summer with my father, watching the eagles circle high up as we climbed the ridges above the treeline, looking down on perfect blue lakes as we went traversed the Stokes State Forest Park on the border between New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

I’ve been listening a lot to Ian Corless’ podcast Talk Ultra. This podcast, which has just passed its 100th episode, is a wealth of information and enviable access to the world’s top ultrarunners. Maybe I’ve been immersing myself in it too much, but every bone in my body now wants to take on Skyrunning. I’ve never ran further than a marathon before, and while I’ve done a few trail races and one fell race, the furthest has been 10 miles. However, I’ve been placed in all the trail races I’ve done, and I’m a strong climber, and an ok descender (I’m learning). I’m pretty sure that with training and experience, I could be a half way decent Ultra runner.

So, once London is done, my reward will be: mountains! A few weekends training in Wales (Snowdonia) and Dorset (coastal path) have been penciled in. My aim is to do the Peak Skyrace in August, and take it from there, with the Mourne Skyline in October as a possibility. My long-term objective is to do one of the classic Skyrunning Ultras, like Transvulcania, which you have to have Ultra experience to enter.

Perhaps in a few years I’ll look back at this post and laugh at my optimism, but I’d like to think that I’ll smile, and remember a time before I tested myself on the mountains. We will see.