I’ve never been good at saying "no" especially when it involves a challenge. So when a friend dropped me a text to ask if I’d like an entry into the Millennium Way Ultra in April I didn’t really think about it before saying a straight yes.
The Millennium Way Ultra (41 miles) is an event I’ve thought of doing a few times but the date just never sits right. It generally clashes with Stafford Half Marathon which is an event I love for the social aspect as much as the run itself. So whilst it’s been on the radar It’s always been a “maybe one year” event. One thing for sure If I was going to to commit to the event I’d always intend on training for it with a view of giving it a real good shot. Maybe a 3 or 4 month build up. Gradually increasing the milage, getting the body conditioned and ready for the that distance. That would be the plan anyway.
So now I find myself with an entry, I’m not particularly fit (yeah I do a fair bit but I’m not fit as I would call it) and only 4 weeks (now just over 2) until race day. I say race day in the loosest possible term.
Can a 41 mile running event really be a race? Are you really racing others or just yourself?
So straight off I figured how hard can it be to run that distance?? It 41 miles and I’m used to running about 6 to 7 min miles pace over 10 miles so I figure; slow it down a touch and I should be able to manage 8 min mile pace. I work out that pace for that distance and hey I’m going to smash it. Around 6hrs is the normal winning time and at my pace I’ll win it easy. Already you get a picture how my mind works. In principle I’ve won it before I’ve even taken a step. I’ve got 4 weeks to take my standard training runs from 10mile to 40. Simple, or thats what I thought.
Here we go...
First Saturday I set off early morning to try and cover 20 miles. The last time I did this kind of distance was the Liverpool Marathon 2 years ago. I’d not run anywhere near that far but I needed to get a test in and see how easy this challenge was really going to be. Add to that I decided to run on empty. No food or drink before the run to test the old fat burning machine inside me. 2 and half hours later I'd done 20 miles off road with mix of flat and hilly terrain. I had Fireman Pete to thank for dragging me along for the final 2 mile but I’d completed the first task and didn’t feel too bad. I wouldn’t of wanted to go round for a second lap though and that worried me a touch!
Maybe just maybe I’ve slightly underestimated how tough running 41 miles is really going to be.
The following morning I had planned to get out on the bike for an early morning ride. I woke to find I had to lift the legs out of bed… Needless to say I wasn’t going anywhere. I did have a little spin in the afternoon and the following week I managed a fairly normal training week.
Another week, another session...
Saturday rolled round again and this week I planned either 25mile or over 3hrs. This week I took a couple of gels to test the stomach. The plan for this run was to knock the pace back a touch and run around the 8 - 8.30min mile pace. I met with Fireman Pete once again and we set off on a nice steady pace. Steady pace soon turned into Pete smashing it down the Canal at sub 7’s trying to rip my legs off. 16 completed before Pete (thankfully!) left me to finish off on my own. He’s getting quicker and quicker.
Heading off over Cannock Chase onto the hills to test the legs. 20 came round quite quick and I felt really good. Still running strong even up the hills and felt like I could just keep going. You see that’s the problem with this long distance stuff. One minute you feel good, no problems and then all of a sudden the legs fall off. The last 3 miles back home really hurt and it was downhill. I’m putting it down to lack of water. I could of easily drank bottle after bottle when I got back. At least I hoping the lack of fluids was the reason anyway.
23 miles completed and 3hrs and 6 minutes on my feet. I think I could of continued for another 4 or 5 before the legs fell off completely but that’s still leaving me with the small problem of another 10 to finish...
So 2 weeks in to my 4 week training plan and I think I need to re-think my pace, how hard this going to be, how long it’s going to take and how much it’s going to hurt. Everything really! 2 weeks left to figure it all out.
Oh and I don’t know the route yet, so there's that...