A Bridge Too Far: The 14 miler cool down

So today is the day. CamelBak is filled with a litre of heavily diluted Ribena plus a pinch of salt for good measure. It’s stopped raining – joy. although I’ve just started reading ‘Feet In The Clouds’ by Richard Askwith and if I am going to seriously class myself as a distance runner or even a muddy masochist then I should probably get the phrase:

Rain? What kind of pathetic, sybaritic, yuppie am I

Tattooed on the inside of my skull for my brain to read. Thanks Mr Askwith, Scott Jurek showed me that a marathon is a means and not an end and you have shown me that only Romans go around hills. Anyway. Enough motivational procrastination.

The joy of this weeks attempt is that I have a new route picked out which has safe ways across all the major arterial roads I encounter so I do not have to stop at lights or play pedestrian roulette with the Tuesday morning traffic. I’d planned to take this nice and slow, run between 9:44 and 10:00 mins/mile for the first two thirds then see if I can step it up for the last four or five miles. However my legs were having none of it and I had to settle for a pace in the low 9’s but the weather is pleasant, the swishing of the liquid in the CamelBak developed a rhythm which is distractingly hypnotic and I’m feeling pretty good.

I’ve been going for about an hour. Running along the river along Chiswick riverside was a little strange, I lived in that area about 6 months ago and used to run along this part of the river all the time. I’ve come a long way since I was last running along here. In distance and speed mainly, back when I lived in Chiswick I couldn’t even conceive that the distances I am running now were even realistically achievable in any sort of decent time. Running without music allows one to go into ones own headspace and I began to wonder if this reflective nostalgia will be present at the Ealing half, since I used to run sections of that route too – the first time I started running. In Hammersmith I run past ‘The Dove’ a nice pub, outside they have an advertising board and in big white letters is written:

‘Joggers! What are you running away from? Come and hide inside with us!’

Nice Pub, funny sign. I began to wonder, as I approached Hammersmith bridge, why people always assume we are running away. I would like to think I am running towards a goal, not away from something. Towards what? Who knows? The future! No, too easy. I need time to ponder this question but, ironically, this is not the time. I am approaching Hammersmith bridge, the pedestrian walkway is separated from the road by a high barrier and I always encounter slow moving pedestrian groups so I need to warm up my shout box and get ready to throw “excuse me’s” and when all see fails “MOVE”. On this occasion, Hammersmith bridge is clear and I cross without incident, now I am on the Thames path, I am over half way, the route is riverside path all the way to the end. I can switch off, put my head down and focus on my blisters.

12:10pm Mile 10 – Barnes Bridge – Lactic acid nightmare
I’d developed a niggle in my right hip about fifteen minutes earlier. Nothing serious, a fatigue thing that I haven’t found an effective way to manage yet, it is impacting my lap times and I have dropped down to around the 10min/mile mark. But I am more than half way and on target to hit the twelfth mile a around the 1:56 mark which is a few minutes quicker than the the twelve I did about a month ago so I am feeling happy but then my thighs begin to stiffen and my pace falls away. The next three and a bit miles are a mental battle between what my legs want me to do – stop. stop now – and what I know I can. I still have a lot of drink available and my sweating less excessive which I cannot work out if it is a good thing or not but I know that this battle is not to do with how much stamina I have but how long I am prepared to ignore think of my legs as that irritating child on the bus who will not shut up.

The final stretch and the cool down
I pass under Kew bridge, my final bridge before the end at the twelve mile mark. At this point I have two more miles to go, my pace has dropped right down to the 11mins/mile mark and I am for all intents and purposes fucked. Royally fucked but I am now in new mileage territory. am 1.1 miles away from the sort of distance that awaits me in just over thirty days am I know that if I can put in the ground work today, next time, maybe next week – will be that little bit easier. I hobble along at over 11mins/mile, trying not to trip up, needing to stretch my right leg but knowing that if I stop now I will never get going again. I hit the 13mile mark 12 minutes later and it takes me a further, agonising, 2 minutes to run the .1 of a mile to hit half marathon distance. Shortly after that I stop, well stop timing anyway. I decide to walk the rest of the way. This is an exercise in leg preservation, now I am at a slow walk there is no way I am going to be able to spin back up to a decent running speed for the last .9 of a mile. It takes me 30, thigh burning, sphincter clenching, bowl charring minutes to hobble home.

I would have liked to hit the 14 mile mark. That was my intention but after running for a couple of miles through lactic acid I know I can at least run the entire 13.1mile/21k distance. At training/just get round pace I did it in just under 2:10 which means with a few more runs around that distance and race day adrenaline, plus that wonderful oddity in mass-participation runs where the crowd can pull you around means I am positive that I can run a sub 2hr half marathon and as I wrap this up, I am think that a 16 mile race 6 weeks from now is also achievable. The Fast one will be happy.

5 thoughts on “A Bridge Too Far: The 14 miler cool down”

    1. Thank you for reading. I am on a mission of my own to run ultra-marathon distances so I am very keen to follow your journey – if anything to help me prepare for my own.
      20K is really amazing, good effort! Did you have any lactic acid build up and if so. How did you cope with it?

      1. Thanks for your kind words. For lactic acid build-up I tend to only suffer on big hills and races, and this run was pretty flat. I think pace has a lot to do with it, and I use a heart rate monitor/Garmin GPS to make sure I’m not training above the level and pace I’m aiming for. I’ve been running for thirty years, and have increased from 10km to 20 over the last three months, so lactate isn’t so much of a problem. I did wonder if you’ve found gels of any use – I tend to use them after 60 minutes and they really help. Good luck with your goals – I’m following you too 🙂

      2. I haven’t needed gels yet. I take a fruit juice/water/salt solution on my long runs that seems to work but i’ll be doing 30k+ runs soon so i’m going to look into them

      3. Wow, that is massive distance. I’ve not heard of the solution you use, it sounds interesting. In Hong Kong, I’d use half water and half powerade, but I’ve never tried adding salts. Interesting.

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