Filling in the blanks: May 2014
My running plan for 2014 was to train solidly through the spring then enter a few long events to prep for August’s UTMB (the A-race of my year, my 3-year plan, and possible of my life). The schedule highlights were as follows:
- Mid February – my personal test-piece road marathon around Belfast
- Beginning May – Lost Worlds Causeway Crossing 100K
- Mid June – run the 26extreme Mourne Way Ultra twice (168K, 5000m+)
- Mid July – recce the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc route over 4 days
- End August – run the UTMB race (170K, 9500m+)
- Mid October – run the UK Skyrunning Mourne Skyline 35K
For a couple of years I have run a road marathon in the cool days of early Spring to get an overview of where my fitness is after winter training. It is a private run on a personal route leaving from Stranmillis and circling the full ring-road before cutting back through the town centre. I call it my Belfast Peace Run as it ties the whole city together. It went really well this year for despite stopping in shops for water and no motivational race atmosphere I dropped the previous year’s 3h42 to 3h20. Even better was maintaining an even split over the much hillier second half.
I was really looking forward to see what I could do with another 10 weeks training. Unfortunately, I only managed 5 or 6 weeks. At the end of March I had a lump in my throat that was initially causing no disruption, but as my Scottish trip approached it began to give pain on swallowing so I went to the doctor. It was a nasty throat infection and I was given strong antibiotics. These had no effect and I became very ill by the end of my holiday. On returning, they gave me really strong stuff that wiped me out for 10 days. My first run back was pitiful and the Causeway 100 was only 2 weeks away… what would I do?
I ate lots and did a few short, regular runs to keep the legs moving. Sitting in the B and B the night before I was still in two minds as to whether to run. I didn’t want to risk a relapse that would knock on further into my stacked schedule for the summer. I decided to run… not to race, just to run and listen to my body.
The Lost Worlds Causeway Crossing is a wonderful race that takes in the deserted forests, bogs and uplands of the Antrim hills before joining the beaches and headlands of the stunning north coast. Although knocking an hour off my previous time was an abandoned goal I knew I would still enjoy being out in the wilds and would still benefit from the experience.
I started steady and after the first 40 minutes my body shook off the stiffness from the previous month and found a positive rhythm. I felt like I imagined I should. I felt like the runner I was… for 30K at least. The bogs and mountains went well. I had the power and energy I needed for them, but as the descent began my perfect picture began to distort. I slowed considerably as the energy and rhythm drained away.
It had just been a preview of what I was capable of, but I still had to pay for the setback of illness and lost training. I had a long time on that road to the half-way point with painful thoughts about what lay ahead. Time to worry and time again to remember that worrying solves nothing. I had a good start and I had many new days ahead in which to get strong again. I arrived at the 50K shattered but at peace. Although I dropped out of the race, I had technically still run an ultra distance, which was ok for a body that had struggled to cover 20K two weeks previously.
Dropping out wasn’t all bad though. Because I was sitting around as the runners in the 50K lined up, I got chatting with Mark McGinn who went on to join me in many mountain training runs through the rest of the year. I also had the rest of the weekend to enjoy the ‘sunny’ North coast with Deirdre. The UTMB train was already leaving the station; next stop, a quadruple Mourne Way marathon.