Sunday, 24 June 2007

Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Well, I've finally gone and done it. Today I ran at least 27 miles, unsupported. I did the decent thing and went over the Chilterns when I could quite easily have chosen a route on the flatlands to the north of us. So, attired in waterproof jacket and carrying my supplies in my camelbak rucksac I set off in the rain.

The rucksac felt like it weighed a lot more than the 4-5 pounds than it did but it was necessary to my success. As well as the 1.5 litres of isotonic drink (half fresh fruit juice, half water and a pinch of salt) I had three banana, honey and maple syrup sandwiches and a banana for energy replenishment. The cool and wet weather allowed me to get away with just 1.5 litres. If it had been sunny I'd have had to take 2 litres at least. I also had my glasses and contact lens case and emergency clothing (thin thermal vest, winter buff and gloves) and phone in case I came a cropper part way round. Once I got going I didn't notice it and it all adds to the training effort.

The first six miles were rolling and went nice and easy then it was up onto the top via a rather dodgy road that had me trapped in a tight gully at one point. I had to pin myself to the side of the gully to avoid being roadkill. Once on the top the next few miles were fairly flat (and traffic free) till my halfway point which I went through in 1:44. It was here that I caught up with the only other runner I saw all day. I caught her (20ish decked out in all the gear) going downhill and as I passed her my suspicions about her gear fetish were proven when she said "Kayanos. Good shoes!" She then caught me going uphill (story of my life). We had a quick chat before she turned off. She's training for the Dublin Marathon in October.

By this time the rain had eased so I stopped to take of my waterproof and get one of my fantastic sandwiches. They were nice and soggy and went down a treat unlike some of the commercial energy bars that take more energy to eat than they contain. The idea behind my sandwiches is to release energy over a long period. The honey and maple syrup give an immediate boost being largely sugars. The banana takes a bit longer followed by the carbs in the wholemeal bread. It certainly seemed to work for me.

The route got a lot hillier in the second half (sounds familiar), at least by Chilterns standards. The waterproofs came out again when I ran through a downpour and then off again when the sun came out for the last couple of miles.

The 'wall' didn't appear, probably because I was going at tourist pace but also because I'd made sure to keep up my fluid and energy intake. It seemed to work as I didn't feel tired at any point although my lower legs did ache towards the end. I judged the fluids perfectly as I used up the last mouthful when I reached home. I then went on the treadmill to walk for 5 mins to cool down and help keep me loose.

So here I sit, surprised that I can still walk and to be honest suprised at how easy it was, which I put down to my nutrition during the run. I've always known that I could run the distance but now I've actually done it. I'm fairly happy with the time as well considering the circumstances (not racing, self supporting, no cheering crowds etc). This is all to be confirmed (when I drive part of the route to check the distance) but according to my Polar speed pod I went through the magical 42 km in 3:32 and finally reached home after another 2.5 km.

And now for the finale! (Turn away if you're squeamish.) My pee is red! Blood, you're thinking and so was I when I saw it. I was especially worried as I'm carrying a defunct kidney. A few years ago I had a problem with my kidney which proved to only have 25% function. So, they operated on it and now it's got 0% function. "We can take it out for you" they said by way of an apology. "Keep your bloody hands off" I said. When I saw the red urine I was a tad concerned that something had happened to it. Anyway, because of the kidney op we have some wee sticks that test for blood (amongst other things) left over and according to them there's no trace of blood. Here's my theory of what it is: foot strike haemolysis. I only came across this recently but apparently constant pounding on hard surfaces (e.g. road running) will actually smash red blood cells to pieces. This is then filtered out by the kidneys and passed out in urine. I can only assume that the fact that the blood cells (or haemoglobin) are in pieces means that it doesn't react on the wee stick. Just in case you're worried, it's no longer red, just the dark yellow it normally is when I'm dehydrated. Well I did warn you to turn away.

So, all in all it was worth getting up this morning. I've cracked the distance now I need to crack the hills and the speed. Should be able to do something about that over the next couple of months. Just need to get my red blood cells back first!

Ooops, nearly forgot. I nipped into Tesco's this morning to get my bananas and fruit juice and as I was driving out two little piglets dashed out of the farm opposite paying scant regard to the highway code and ran off up the road towards the hills. Thought I might see them later but I didn't. Bet you were wondering what the picture was about.


aquaasho said...

How can you go from blogging about red wee to cute little piggies. It's thrown me altogether!

Great run by the way. Bet you're glad to get that done. You're lunch en-route sounds lovely! I'll hopefully be starting my long runs again in about 3 weeks. You should definitely do a blogpost for TGU about your training. Just hit Contact Geared Up and write to Robin. This sort of stuff would be of interest to lots of other hill runners especially the nutrition side of things which you've obviously given lots of thought to.

Mick said...

"This little pig went wee wee wee all the way home". Easy.

I'll try and get in touch with Robin. I find the layout of the TGU blog a bit confusing though.

I'm using a book called "Nutrition for Marathon Runners". It's well worth a read.

aquaasho said...

The website is being changed by Robin and is mid-transition at the moment. He's getting rid of some features and adding new homes. But you are right, it is sometimes confusing and has a lot going on.
Robin is away climbing at the minute so if you don't get a reply you will eventually!