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100-mile challenge: Weeks 8 and 9

December 26, 2011

Coming to the tail-end of my self-set challenge, it was becoming abundantly clear that a bit of advance planning could have helped…

Week 8

So, Week 8 was never going to be a resounding success, what with it being my last week at work for the year and the small matter of Christmas shopping to contend with. It was helped somewhat less by some bad luck with my bike.

The runners gathering for the 2011 Virgin London Marathon at Blackheath

The serious runners at the Virgin London Marathon will have regularly clocked up 100-mile weeks during their training.

Having finally fixed the slow puncture that had been slowing my cycles, I found myself marveling at the easy progress a well-pumped wheel afforded me. However, after a particularly long day, I set off home after 7 (sometimes it’s best just to man it up and get tasks cracked rather than saving them until the next day). Passing the British Museum, I hung a left to Russel Square (currently being substantially repaved as a priority transport route for the 2012 Olympics). In the dark I merrily cycled over a big pot hole and found my bike slowing with the inevitability of a puncture.

Two punctures, actually. Holly and Ivy. Sugar and spice. Ant and Dec. Yep, the full double act.

I wheeled my crippled bike back to work, locked it up and caught the tube. In my luminous jacket. Grumpy and day-glo.

The next morning I ran to work with my cycle repair gear in my Camelbak, ready for the inevitable faff at the end of the day. The double-puncture repair was accompanied by a trip to Evans to stock up on inner tubes and borrow the spanner necessary to remove my front wheel.

An hour later, I was fully pumped up and more than ready to head home. I sped off, only to find that my brakes weren’t working. For whatever reason, I wasn’t able to adjust my brakes at the roadside, so I made my way home gingerly, grinding to a halt at every junction or red light through clasping my front wheel with both feet. Slow progress was slowed further by the need to get off and walk down any hills on the way home.

The next day I ran to and from work. But not before I’d sorted my brakes.

And finally Friday rolled round. After work I popped along to an over-crowded, over-priced bar (£4.40 for a pint? Really?) and then headed back to my bike. Only to find the rear wheel flat, the tyre curiously hanging off the wheel.

Fortunately for me, another cyclist was unlocking his bike at the same time this  unfolded. He immediately helped me assess the state of my inner tube (slow puncture), get the wheel back together and pump up the tyre. It’s the kind of thing that restores your faith in humanity. And following his sensible advice, I cycled home quickly before I got another flat.

And so, with Week 8 I’d changed as more inner tubes than I’d had runs, clocking up a less-than-impressive 12.5 miles. It was, however, a shorter week than others due to my slightly miscalculation about when Christmas fell.

Week 9

Yet, despite having a whole week off, things didn’t go entirely to plan with Week 9. (Granted, the plan was to have five 20-mile runs. In retrospect, that’s a bit mental.)

Sunday, true to plan, I set off for a 20-mile run. For whatever reason, I got a painful cramp in my calf after 7 miles. Despite stopping to stretch it out, the pain was unrelenting. Yet I still decided to run the remaining 13 miles, just slightly limping and in pain. Less than ideal.

The next morning my calf still hurt, and given impending family visits and Christmas, I decided to let things slide and crack on with Christmas shopping.

The rest of the week, I slotted in two additional runs. One a neat 10-miler at a decent pace, the other an 18-miler that included a small section lost around Canary Wharf.

And so, Week 9 came to an end at 48 miles. A far cry short of the 100-mile target, but not bad going for a three-run week.

And the lessons learnt…

My highest mileage week (ever) clocked in at 80 miles. No mean feat alongside a full-time job, but all the time it made me think of the non-professional athletes gunning for a space in the 2012 Olympics.

The majority of professional-standard distance runners regularly clock up 100-mile plus weeks. To compete with them, un-funded runners need to make serious sacrifices in order to put in the running time and intensity in order to compete for the same qualifying standards as the funded full-time athletes.

And so, when the 2012 Virgin London Marathon rolls round in April (the final event for 2012 Team GB marathon qualification) and both professional and amateur athletes attempt to seize the remaining two men’s and one ladies’ places, remember the amount of work that’s gone into that one make-or-break race.

100-milers, you have my respect.

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