Personliga Rekordens Tavling

I write the blogs that remind me of the good times, I write the blogs that remind me of the bad times (with apologies to Chumbawamba...). It’s tempting to forget about the Personliga Rekordens Tavling, and pretend it (or at least my performance in it) didn’t happen. But writing it down will hopefully help stop me making the same mistake again.

That mistake was thinking that entering a race late in the year, requiring serious training through the Autumn, was a good idea. Yes I did the Spine in Winter 2013-14, but I did virtually no running in the build up to that (and was also a lot less busy at work than I am now). Yes I managed a decent performance at Escape from Meriden last year, but that was Iargely down to good planning and keeping going long after most of the field had stopped (and the hours around dawn were tough and I nearly stopped 30 miles in). But having managed PBs at 100 miles and 24 hours back in February, despite puking and power-naps, I desperately wanted to have another go at a 24 hour track race. And I convinced myself that this Autumn would be less busy at work and having some concrete goals (and a training plan from Ronnie Staton) would make getting my arse out the door doable.

It was in fact the busiest Autumn term I’ve ever had. I didn’t do too bad a job of sticking to the training plan, but by late November I was exhausted and a long-standing niggle with my right hip/leg flared up (after 3 hours in an uncomfortable seat watching Jools Holland...). If it had been a UK race I’d have DNS-ed, but I already had my flight and hotels in Sweden booked. (One of my motivations for choosing Vaxjo over the better known Barcelona track race, was that even if the race didn’t go well I’d get to spend the weekend in my spiritual home. It sounds wanky, but I feel happier, and more at home, in Sweden than anywhere else). I set off with low expectations. A bigger than planned taper hadn’t helped either the tiredness or the injury, and I wasn’t sure I’d manage to run for more than a few hours.

My right leg felt ‘wrong’ from the outset. Keeping running was hard work and I had to switch down from run 10 laps-walk 1, to run 4-walk 1 much sooner than usual. Nonetheless I went through 50 miles in just under 10 hours, less than 10 minutes outside my split from earlier in the year. However I’d burnt nearly all my matches doing this. The injury had obviously messed with my gait and my quads and knees started hurting early on. And by 12 hours they ceased up so badly I could barely shuffle and my mental reserves were also already run down. So I stopped, changed out of my running gear, packed away my food and drink table and crawled into my sleeping bag.

I intended to sleep until the morning and then head to Copenhagen earlier than planned. However after ~5 hours, I woke up needing the loo, and discovered that my legs had loosened up and I could walk OK again. I decided grinding the miles out would be good practice for a 6 day race (and less boring than lying in my sleeping bag playing with my phone). After a couple of tentative laps I changed back into my running gear and reassembled my food and drink. I tried running, but my legs weren’t having it, they just wouldn’t bend. So I walked, for 7 hours. There were moments when it seemed completely pointless (and an early drop would have looked less embarrassing on the results than a completely shit 24 hour total). Initially I used the total of the early leader of the women’s race, an international runner who’d clearly been having a bad day and had dropped hours ago, as a carrot. Otherwise it was just a case of counting laps slowly up and hours slowly down. In the end I did about 80 miles, not too awful for 12 hours of run-walking and 7 of pure walking, but 30 miles short of my goal when I entered.

Trying to take some positives away, I’ve learnt that legs can recover surprisingly quickly (and part of me wishes I’d tried getting moving again after a much shorter break...). I also managed, thanks to Ella’s baby food pouches, to do a good job of keeping eating. Although obviously not running much made that easier...