Today it's Wednesday 12th November. Yesterday I found out that in 2015 I will be running Grand Union Canal Race; a race that's been on my wish list for quite some time, and means as much to me as running the Oner did in 2013. Of course as happens before every ultra race I enter, delusional thoughts of winning enter my head. For this race I believe the win is pretty much out of the question, as the number of fantastically talented ultra runners lining up at the start will be more than I can remember any time since I've been following the race. My early tip for the win has to be Mark Perkins. As far as I know this will be the furthest distance he's raced so far, and over a race of this distance raw speed will be less of an advantage than it would even during a 100 miler, but you just can't argue with a 14 hour and 13 hour 100 mile finish within the same couple of months of summer 2014. These would mean that even if he was to take it pretty steady he'd get to the 100 mile point some time before the likes of me would, and so will have a huge head start when it comes to commencing those final 48 miles.
A more realistic, although still extremely difficult, target for me would be to aim for sneaking a sub 30 hour finish. I have a feeling there'll be more sub 30 finishes than usual next year. Last year there were three, with another couple of people being close. What would it take to do this?
Well, what it would take would be around 12:09 minute miling upon average for 148 miles, just to sneak under 30 hours. How doable would this actually be? Well, I'm guessing there may even be one or two times during the race when I want to take a break for around twelve minutes and nine seconds to eat something proper; if this was the case that would mean there'd have to be enough miles to cover that, plus all of my other shorter stops, that were run at far enough under 12:09 minute miling to build enough of a cushion to allow for the stops. Chances are also that especially during the second half of the race there will be a number of miles that are slower than 12:09. On flat terrain I would fancy my chances, if fully fit, of being able to grind out plenty of 12:09 minute miles through doing a little bit of a run/walk later on in the first 100 even, and would hope that I'd have been able to complete the first 50 in something around 9 hours without taxing myself all that much. If I was able to do the first 50 in 9 hours and the second 50 in 10 hours 30, say, that would leave another 10 hours and 28 minutes (let's be safe) to do the last 48 miles. That would mean an average of 13:08 minute miling for the last 48.... not necessarily very easy I'd say. Especially as near the end there will quite possibly be a few miles that take a crazily long time, just because of how exhausted I'll be and how much pain I'll be in.
All being well, on the flat I can walk pretty fast normally, and could probably relentlessly post low 14 minute miles just from a steady power hike, so with a bit of running thrown in then 13:08s would be pretty doable, but how possible would this be after 100 miles have already been completed? Would I only be able to jog at 14 minute mile pace? The truth is I just don't know, because I've never gone past 80 miles on foot before at the time of writing. I just have no idea how my legs, or my mind, will cope. Perhaps I'll still be able to move but just won't feel much like it. Perhaps the desire will still be there to keep moving but my legs will just say "Naahhhhh, mate!!!" Maybe I'll have a new lease of life at 122 miles and bust out a 4:30 marathon to get to the finish (would be a pretty amazing feat at that distance.) Maybe the last ten miles will take four hours. I just don't know.
The race itself is an unknown quantity, so how will I train for 148 miles? Until relatively recently my thoughts would just have been to stack my training with plenty of mileage, but the small amount of wisdom I've accrued in the time I've run ultras to date has told me that more important will be to just get into the best level of fitness of my life so far, which will be through quality training rather than volume of mileage. I plan to do some long runs for sure, but I don't plan on being out on my feet all day and night at any point until I line up at Gas Street, Birmingham next year. During late April and early May next year I'll be putting in some big weeks in all probability, just to get me ready for the sheer distance, but most training weeks would consist of somewhere between 40 and 60 miles in all probability, and would include speed sessions; speedwork will make a huge difference to how easy it'll feel in those early miles to be trotting along at 9-10 minute miling. The easier that feels the more likely I'll be able to sustain it for a good number of hours, which is what I'm aiming for. I'm aiming to find a pace at which I could literally run all day, and when I see everyone storming ahead of me early on I'll stick to my pace, and possibly reel some people in as the dusk starts to fall.
I've made the mistake in pretty much all of my previous ultras of starting too fast and then somewhere between miles 20 and 35 having some extremely slow miles due to cramp or similar issues, then feeling a little better later on but having lost too much time in the middle to achieve the kind of time I was aiming for. This will be different; 148 miles is an incredibly long way, and so the one word I will have on my mind will be sustainability. Anyway, enough talk. Time to train.....
This - http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Everything-Will-Work-Out-in-the-Long-Run-signed-personalised-copy-Dave-Urwin-/251699955001?pt=Non_Fiction&hash=item3a9a7c8539 . It's the story of my life, but is more wholesome than the One Direction song of the same name. I didn't drive all night to keep anyone warm, for that would release an unnecessary amount of car fumes into the atmosphere. That's not to say I didn't dump toxic waste anywhere, but it was all into my own body as a response to a world that frightened and confused me when I was a child, and this persisted into my late teens/early adulthood. This nearly made me lose my health and sanity for good, but then I discovered the endorphin high and have barely looked back since. The posh word for it is ecotherapy, for me it's linked with being close to creation, but whichever viewpoint you take it can't be denied that being outdoors and putting one foot in front of the other is nature's anti-depressant. That's what the story is about.