Thursday, 4 June 2015

Racing through May - going long!

It's been a while since I last wrote anything, May just raced by (quite literally) so here's a bit of a summary of the highlights!

In April, me and Rosemary finished off the Open 5 series, somehow managing to take the win. This had definitely been the hardest series I've done, mainly due to being completely exhausted and my head having had enough of thinking during the week to want to race. 
To start putting that right, the following week I started a new contract as a part timer! Within a couple of weeks I was transformed back into my former self! Well - a lot closer at least.

17 miles of snowy Scotland
I had 4 weeks to prepare for the Old County Tops - something I'd entered in February through a brain fog with the idea that maybe something to aim for would help matters. As Sal had subsequently had a knee arthroscopy, I recruited a last minute change of partner in Steph Jones from Ambleside.
I checked I could still run that far with a couple of big days out recceing the route and a quick trip to Scotland to recce Stuart Walkers silly birthday plans (something about running all peaks over 4000ft and riding between them)....Clearly running far was not my problem, my stamina had gone nowhere!

The Old County tops has been on my to do list for a few year. 36 Miles from Langdale taking in Helvellyn, Scafell Pike and The Old Man of Coniston.  The weather was on our side, a lovely day out. We took it steady to Helvellyn, summiting in 2hrs 3mins (planned not to get there in under 2hrs) and were following Sabs and Tom up Flowery Ghyll, steadily catching teams as we went. Across to angle tarn we hit some faster running and this is where my weakness showed. Steph was ace, keeping me running on anything it was remotely possible to run. Onto the rocks of Scafell Pike and it was my turn to take the lead. Soon we were up and over and down to Cockley Beck. The feed stations were excellent, banana in hand we headed up the final massive climb up the Old Man. On the ridge, the wind that had been noticeable on the tops all day, was more than noticeable. It was a strong, cold headwind (or so it appeared) out to the Old Man and I was struggling to keep moving.  On this out and back section we got some incentive though, seeing  Nicky and Jean, the leading female pair not as far ahead as we'd imagined and finding Rich and Wil (our other halves) only ~5mins ahead. 
Recce - where is Helvellyn?
On the turn we found the wind was still there, clearly being whipped in every direction. I was definitley struggling at this point, failing to lift my legs properly and tripping over rocks it felt like I was hitting the wall. But I'd eaten and drunk well and out of the wind had been fine. Then came the wheezing inability to breathe....aha - this might explain it. I got my buff out and adopted a ninja look and suddenly we were back running down to 3 shires stone. Hitting the road Steph announced she was 'feeling good' so it was up to her to drive the pace home (read: 'make me run'). We finished in 8hrs 56mins, skirting under the 9hr mark, within half an hour of Nicky and Jean and 5mins of Wil and Rich. The run of the day goes to Caitlin Rice though, 7hrs 44 to win the mixed pairs! This was an ace day out and Steph was a fantastic partner - I'll be back for more next year I think!

Steph reminding me how to run - Angle Tarn
Next up was Duddon, one of my favourite races from last year - 18miles with 1800m of ascent. I'd run it during a period when everything seemed to come together, I had no breathing difficulty and waltzed round comfortably in 3:37, prompting my friend Chris to congratulate me with the line 'I didn't know you were that fast'.
Duddon is a runnable route with some steep climbing, so you have to be able to run fast and also flog yourself up steep climbs. I think my favourite bit of the route is Little Stand as this suits my climbing legs, but you can tell not everyone agrees with that by the looks on the faces of those who have benefitted from the easier running up to that point....

It's hard to enter a race knowing that you are going to be nowhere near your PB, especially an English Champs race. So I had to give myself a completely different target, trying to keep a '3' at the start of my time, ideally within a minute a mile of last years pace!
This plan was going well to 3 shires stone, a little over half way in time. I had run well up the hills - well, the parts of hills that required a fell walk anyway - and was ~10mins down on last year at this point.
Up swirl howe and suddenly I was dropping places. We were heading higher and again, the wind had got up. Running straight into the wind over to Dow, I found myself tripping over rocks and feeling really uncoordinated. After the OCT this rung a bell, so out with the buff and hey presto! Life got easier. I wasn't tripping over things! But you can only run so fast with a buff covering your face, so backwards I went, out of the Helm Ladies team who were packing well behind me all the way round! I had to stop a couple of times to get my breathing sorted and by the time I was dropping off Caw (which incidentally didn't feel as far away or as big as it did in my dehydrated state of last year), I knew it was going to be tight for sub 4. I'd given up racing at this point, so came in in 4:01 - enough for 23rd, which isn't a disaster at an Eng champs race, but could so easily have been a lot better! Somebody said 'you were going well into the finish' and I had to point out this is not a good thing as that means I had far too much left in my legs.

I enjoyed Duddon, but I have to say I'm enjoying just running a lot more than racing at the moment. Racing when you can't push yourself without having your breathing going haywire  just isn't fun as there are only 2 options, stop breathing or take it easy.

Breathing through a straw might explain some things...

However, the good news (I think) is that, after 2.5years of trying everything the NHS can throw at me, I've finally ended up under the care of a specialist team in Preston who don't respond to me with 'your asthmatic, you shouldn't expect to be able to run up hills all the time - here have some stronger steroids', 'well stop running then' or 'what do you expect'. On Monday they filmed my vocal cords as I breathed and saw that as I breathe in they obstruct my airways instead of moving out of the way as they should. This is indicative of Vocal Cord Dysfunction and to difinitively prove how much this happens I am now awaiting more physiological/cardio/respiratory testing and filming of my vocal cords whilst riding an exercise bike. That appointment can't come soon enough!

As racing isn't floating my boat at the moment, I have some 'just running' plans for the summer. I'm off for some recceing over the weekend, then I'll decide exactly what my plans are, watch this space....

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