Eye eye

For some reason my weekend seemed to blur into one long day… probably because I didn’t make it to bed on Saturday night.  In fact, with the exception of some short intermissions, I was awake for 36 hours straight.

The reason for this long day started  at 7.30pm on Saturday, after a circuit around the London Eye, when 15 of us started running along the Embankment in the direction of… well, the Brighton Eye.

I have been vehement in my absence at any such Ultra events that the other guys have been competing in over the years, but this one was conceived by Cliff and Andy so it seemed rude not to participate… though only after a considerable battle of willpower with myself!

We had two support cars which carried Andy’s spare shoes and most of his running wardrobe, though, to be fair, most of the others also had large kit bags.  This enabled the ensemble to run with micro-packs holding water and emergency supplies only.

Since I was avidly trying to avoid doing the run in the first place, I had not attended the planning sessions and so pitched up with all my gear in my running pack… which weighed about 7kg including 2 litres of water.  Dai tried to persuade me to decant some weight into the support cars but… well, I didn’t, choosing instead to lighten it slowly by consuming all the edibles!

The support cars met up with us at predetermined locations along the route and provided additional snacks, hot cups of tea and, for those that had them, fresh socks, shirts, trainers, legs etc.  This also meant that we could choose which sections we wanted to run, with some people running only a few sections and others running the whole way.

The general idea seemed to be to walk up any hills and run the rest of the time and I had hoped to complete the whole distance by going more slowly.  It quickly became apparent that this was not going to be possible since, in order to maximise the time spent off-road, the route was torturous.  Map-reading never having been my strong suite, I had to keep with the pace or get lost… although keeping up didn’t prevent the group from getting lost on a number of occasions!

As evening turned into night turned into morning, so the differential between my pace and the others’ slowly widened until I would catch up with them only when they stopped to figure out which way to go or at the next refreshment stop.

Eventually, on reaching the support cars at Weir Wood Reservoir at just after 7am , I decided to hang up my sodden shoes… everyone else  having already taken refreshments and continued on.  I had covered more than 43 miles in just under 12 hours.

My legs were tired and my shoulders ached from the pack but I could probably have continued further… but only at a much slower pace.  My mind was also tired though and the lure of an escape was too appealing so I joined the kit bags riding between check points.

The aim was that everybody would at least complete the first and last sections so I was fortunate to have more than six hours to recover until the last of the others had completed the next 18 miles.

I then rejoined the ensemble as we ran the final four miles into Brighton… though run is not the right word in my case and the others had to wait for me to catch up before we ran the final hundred metres together.

The event, which covered more than 65 miles in about 19.5 hours, was topped off by a ride on the Brighton Eye.

The gang of 16 (including Paula, our one permanent driver) were amazing throughout, though my Top Banana award has to go to Nikki who intended to do half but managed to complete the whole distance… and still managed to disappear off ahead of me in the final section!

I didn’t ask for sponsorship, but if anyone would like to donate a little money to charity in recognition of my efforts, then please go to my Just Giving site.  The charity, set up 20 years ago in memory of Big Man Daren’s brother Clive Packham, encourages Scouts to participate in adventurous activities by offsetting some of the costs of travel or training.  I particularly like it because they insist that the Scouts themselves present a formal case for the money they need and then make a final presentation of the event to the Trustees.

Even small donations will be very welcome!

More magic machining

Since I will now be participating in the Eye to Eye run next weekend (rats!) I thought I should keep up the mileage, though how exactly you train for a 64 mile run I have no idea.  In 1976, as my brother and his friend Geoff prepared to kayak the 1,500 miles circumnavigation of Iceland, a local reporter asked how they had been preparing.  His answer was something along the lines of beer and large meals, which I think was lost on the reporter.  My best preparation is probably to get some pounds on too.

In the meantime though I went for another run on the machine.

Eager to find a way to make use of the Kindle I decided to listen to the book again, though since the earphones were a pain last week I just put it on speaker.  Unfortunately the volume doesn’t extend far and the magic machine drones at an equivalent level, but I found that I could read the text and listen so could get a sense of what’s going on… I know the book quite well anyway!

As part of my experimentation last weekend I went to sleep wearing the (uncomfortable) headphones to continue to listen to the book, though the scientific evidence is stacked against it being likely to make a difference to my understanding.  You have to give these things a try though, especially on a long bank holiday weekend.

I’m on firmer ground in my understanding that the mind takes in less information as the intensity of exercise increases and I demonstrated this effect to myself today.  I had started at 6mph for a mile and increased the speed by 0.2 each mile until I reached 7mph.

My intention then was to reduce back to 6mph and increase the gradient from it’s normal 2 to a more hilly 4.  Instead, however, I only reduced the speed to 6.8 and within half a mile I had realised my error.  My concentration suddenly lapsed on the book and despite reducing the gradient to 3, I still struggled to complete that mile at 6.8mph.  My subconscious also threw me a curve-ball by giving me motion sickness, presumably based on the fact that I was looking down whilst running rather than at the wall.

Either way I stopped reading and when I completed that mile I dropped the speed to 6.2mph for the final three miles.

The final result was 10 miles in 93 minutes, 6.45mph average.  I could have increased the speed at the end to keep the time to 90 minutes, but the aim for next weekend is to keep moving at a walking pace (even if I end up doing only a couple of the legs) so there is no point in exciting the fast-twitch muscles!


New mind games

Anyone who has a Kindle will know that there’s a lady who lives inside it who can read your book to you, should you be otherwise engaged or too lazy to do it yourself.  They too might have tried this feature and will have also probably have chosen to leave the lady to twiddle her thumbs, on account of her intonation.  Or rather, relative lack of it.

But this gave me an idea.

We don’t necessarily have to be fully focused listening to something for the sub-conscious to take the information in, so an automaton voice could be quite useful for its monotonous clarity, even if the audible structure of the sentences don’t always make sense.

And since what I had in mind was a boring tempo run, I wondered if it might be an interesting way to inculcate myself with the contents of the book… rather appropriately a book on the subconscious.

Unfortunately the volume would not go high enough for me to be able to hear the words over the rumble of the running machine so I had to don earphones.  Kim was delighted!

This in itself had two side-effects.  Firstly I had to wear a t-shirt to clip the lead on to.  Secondly I had to hold the lead to stop it jumping around and being caught by my hands as I ran… the result of which would presumably be bye-bye Kindle lady as she jumped off the running machine console to land under my feet.

After a few dry runs and thus entangled I started to run and to listen.

I know that as we try to maintain a faster speed, so any surplus conscious processing reduces, so I had the perfect excuse to run slowly and I started out at 6mph and although I tried to go faster, settled on 6.5mph.  Around the five mile mark I realised I was going too slowly to meet my internal goal so I increased first to 6.6, then 6.7 and eventually 6.8mph.  With half a mile to go I increased again to 7.5mph in order to neatly complete 10 miles a few seconds under 90 minutes.  Average 6.67mph.

I have no way of measuring the results of the experiment, but it was certainly more of a positive distraction than the radio station I used to listen to when I’ve done longer distances on the machine in the past.

Why the longer distance?  I may or may not be running a leg or two in the Dargonne overnight Eye to Eye run in a few weeks time… it’s a 64-mile question that I don’t yet have the answer to.  I’ve said I will run if Cliff bought me a ticket to ride (on the London and Brighton Eyes) but only he knows the answer to that at the moment.

But I thought it was worth getting ready just in case!

Of course, I suppose I could be persuaded to do more than a token amount of it if there were a few leveraged monetary pledges for my favourite charity to encourage me and I will take any comments below into consideration…. though hopefully no-one will read this far through the post to take me up on the offer!