|Kites - brilliant!|
All the advice is that you should now be feeling like you need to have one last blast in order to feel stronger, one last long run in order to put your mind at rest - and the trick is to resist this. My trick for resisting this is to visit my training hill one last time.
The Ellers - a 1.3 mile hill with 784 feet of climb. I've set it as a segment because this is the hill I run up twice a day when I'm training for these long rounds. It's about a ten minute run there, it varies up to about twenty minutes uphill, ten minutes jog down and then ten minutes home.
Last year it got to about 4 weeks before my Paddy and I decided to see what pushing the pace on the climb would lead to - at this point I was run/walking up in about 18 minutes. I managed 13 something and the record for the segment, a segment that I had created to help monitor my consistency up the hill, was 12:13. At that point I told myself that if I wanted to complete the Paddy I should try for the record the week before as a last, short, hard effort.
Running against the clock is a funny thing. Whether it's 24 hours or 12 minutes it gets inside your head. Your body responds differently. Where you might back off you push on, where you might think that's enough you decide it's just the beginning. Last year I duly claimed the record in 11:49 and was chuffed to bits. A segment I had created and now had the record on as well.
So to this year. How to gauge how the training has gone this close to the Ramsay attempt. I'll try and beat my own record, which still stands. I think that's partly because it's tucked away and partly beacause who would really want to run that hard up this hill! I look at my previous attempts and notice my average time is coming down from an initial twenty minutes to closer to seventeen. A good sign. I also note that Strava has me having run up this hill 154 times. I laugh a little at this, particularly as I didn't use Strava for a long while.
So I run there at a faster tempo than usual, a warm up if you will, and my legs are feeling good. I set off at a slightly harder pace than I think is sustainable but manage to keep going owards and upwards. At half way Ithink I've got this in the bag but then it kicks again and I remember now that last year I had started slow and then finished strongly so I will have a race on my hands to the top. I get a little faster without truly getting into the red. As the seconds tick over I stop my lap timer.
It looks like I have done it by a few seconds but I am reluctant to be sure until it is downloaded and verified. I run home to see that I have beaten my record by 6 seconds. I am curiously both pleased and disappointed.
I'm never really happy it seems.
I'm pleased I've beaten my record and lowered it to closer to 11:30 than 12:00, which I like. But I thought I was further ahead at halfway and wanted it to be a lot clearer that I was ahead of where I was this time last year.
And that's one of the markers I have been looking for. A marker as to how my training has gone. It's a small one, but on reflection last year I was really out on a limb thinking I could maybe set the record and this year I was slightly disappointed with the margin of gain, so that's a step in the right direction - I think!
My Paddy started with 4 hours of strong winds and horzontal rain, it briefly broke for leg two and three hours of glorious running but then deteriorated through the long leg until I was battered back into my full wet weather gear again. It did ease off then but I am beginning to realise just how much those early battles with the weather must have taken out of me and using this to feed my motivation and confidence going in to what is generally accepted as the harder of the Big 3 rounds. My Bob Graham was run in 23:49 and the Paddy in 23:48 but in significantly worse conditions. If I am at about the same, or slightly ahead of my, fitness as at this time last year then that bodes well. The game is truly afoot.
Another marker is getting grumpy with my family during the taper. To counteract this today I took Louis and Rupert out to fly a kite. To be honest afternoons don't get much better than this. Just as important as the physical build up now is the mental one. Positive images, thoughts and experiences will all count. For a start I've several hours of small talk to fill with people I know to varying degrees. I'm not much good at small talk at the best of times and to be honest that could be one of the hardest parts of the challenge!
Now if I can just work out an anecdote from this afternoon...