A Clean(ish) Sweep

 I had two major running goals for the early part of the year; the Pennine Bridleway 137km race with Ranger Ultras in April and the Spine Sprint in June. What I didn't have as a goal was getting pneumonia which thoroughly messed up my training plans. Hey ho! Well, the PBway 137 has had to be put on the back burner, though I plan to do it next year - this year, I'll volunteer, which is almost as much fun as running. Meanwhile, the struggle to get fit again goes on apace.

I've drawn up a new training schedule, which I've been more or less sticking to, but I need more rest days than I had appreciated - recovery is still an ongoing process. My midweek shorter runs are going fairly well and there are times when I'm getting back into a real flow, which feels good. Weekend long runs are a bit harder. One thing that I've really lost is endurance; running an easy ten miles really takes it out of me.

Anyway, as part of my recovery, I volunteered to sweep for the Ranger Ultras 18km Pennine Bridleway Time Trial this weekend. Sweeping basically involves going along at the back of the race and helping any stragglers. The ideal sweep means that you don't see anyone, but if you are needed, you are there. I arrived at the Race HQ in Hayfield around nine in the morning. There were two distances taking part in the event, a 55km ultra and the 18km that I was involved in. The ultra set off first and I made myself useful helping with registration and got in the way by chatting to friends who should have been working. One of the nice things about Ranger Ultras (it's the same with Punk Panther) is that having volunteered and run in their races, I have got to know a lot of the people involved. Sometimes you see people running, other times they are volunteering at checkpoints. The local, low key event companies are a lot more fun than some of the big organisations with massive publicity budgets but very little community feel or sense of responsibility for the environment.

The 18km runners were able to set off at any point between 10.00 and 12.30, but by 12.00 they had all left, so I set off in rather cold pursuit. The route was an out-and-back along the bridleway and before I got to the top of the first hill, I had met a few of the front runners on their way back to the start/finish. When I got to the turn around point, I learned at all of the 18km runners had finished, so basically my job as sweeper was over and I was just left with a nice slow run in the glorious Peak District. By the end, I started feeling as though I should have paid for the privilege!

So what was the run like? The answer has to be that it was mixed. I didn't know the route, which always makes things a lot of fun and it really was beautiful. The outward leg took us up a big hill, down a bit and then a short climb to the turn around point. Effectively the outward route was mainly uphill and the return mainly downhill. I've run this sort of distance since I was ill, but I've not climbed this amount and I struggled at times. I'm not sure if it is my lack of breath or a loss of strength in my legs, but going uphill is far harder than I would like it to be. Overall, I was ridiculously slow, even by my tortoise-like standards. 

When I returned to the HQ, I had a cup of tea and then hung around to see if there was anything useful I could do while the 55km runners came back. When the rush was over, I hopped in the car and drove home. Even the traffic was kind, and I had a very good day.

So, what did I learn? I think there are three take aways for my training for the Spine Sprint:

  • My leg strength is not as good as it was or as it should be, I need to concentrate on that.
  • I still have work to do on my lung capacity. It took a real hammering with the pneumonia and while it is improving, there is more to do.
  • I need more time on my feet. I was far too tired at the end of 18km. Even at my slow pace, I was going fast enough for the Spine Sprint, but it is dubious how long I could actually have kept going.
So, my training plan needs to look at these areas, the problem is, I only have a couple of months to fix them. Thankfully, I have a fair degree of base fitness for an old man so recovery won't be as hard as it might have been.

Watch this space.