Podiatrist & Footpath Relay

During the week I have been resting the foot again so another nil return on the mileage front. On Friday I visited the podiatrist and told him about my problems. He seems to think that its a tendon strain - we both think its likely to be caused by my unusual running style where it looks like I run with my toes in the air (sort of pointing excessively upwards). This would also explain the state of my big toe. For what ever reason the orthotics seem to be exacerbating the problem. He's put some foam on top of the orthotic in my right shoe which he thought could stop the excessively movement in the toe but admitted that it was trial and error.

Today I ran in the footpath relay held in the Derbyshire Peak District. The weather wasn't great as it was raining, sometimes heavily all day. Having said that, although its not pleasant to stand around in, its almost perfect running conditions as it keeps the temperature down. I really didn't notice the rain once I started.

This year I had been given the longest 13.7km leg which included 400 metres of climb. As I was on second leg quite a few runners came in not very far apart. Our first leg runner, Mike Barnby handed over just 6 secs down in second place. There was another runner about the same distance further back and a couple of others in sight. I set off and had already decided to keep it nice and easy as the first 1km is a 150 metre climb, and ignore what the others are doing around me. Well as it happened even though I was trying to run conservatively I caught the guy in first after 300 metres, said some pleasantries like 'nice weather', and 'I take it the barbecue is cancelled' before overtaking him. The guy in third was still about 9 secs back.

I then turned off the road to continue the climb and although I was trying to run conservatively my legs had taken a hammering, but upon exciting this section I had a quick look back and was surprised to see that I had already built up at least a 40sec lead in the first km. Had I gone off too fast?

We then hit a long straight road section which continues the climb for about 200 metres, before descending and and reascending again. At the end of the second ascent I took another look back and I could just about make out one of the runners further back who must have been at least 90 secs back. Although I didn't know it that was the last time I saw anyone. My legs were not feeling brilliant even though I had only run about 3km by this stage, but then I reckoned that with such a difficult start of the stage everyone must be in the same boat. Normally you would just open up the legs on the nice flat and downhill sections but it was difficult. Throughout the whole of the leg I never felt like I had reached my normal running speed. At the same time I did hold a little in reserve in case anyone caught me up.

It was then a mainly long descent into the village of Monyash -there were a couple of steep climbs but thankfully they didn't last too long. Just before reaching the village I had hidden a bottle of water in the bushes 90mins before the start. In the end I couldn't be bothered to pick it up and wasn't really thirsty anyway. I knew I must be feeling tired if I couldn't be arsed to pick up the water. Throughout the remainder of the run I kept looking back every few minutes expecting to see someone but never did. I reached Monyash in around 26mins, about 10 mins quicker than in training so I knew that I was doing ok. The race organiser had predicted a finish time of 1hr 15mins, but after looking at the route a couple of weeks previously I told our team captain that I could do it in 64mins. I knew that I was still on schedule for this and had thought that I was within a shout of 60mins.

I then excited Monyash going steadily uphill and joining what is known as the Limestone Way. In training the footpath was teeming with people and we had quite a lot of bottlenecks at various stiles. Thankfully because of the conditions I didn't see anyone so was able to run un-obtruded. I should at this stage mention that conditions on foot were quite tricky and I kept slipping in a number of places along the whole run, but it was particularly bad here. I was starting to get very tired now but had only just gone past half way! The legs just never recovered properly after that first climb near the start.

I then descended into a very steep gorge. I knew this was going to be slippy so eased off a bit. I then had an immediate climb out of the gorge and this was the bit I feared most. The climb involved about 100 steps cut into the rock. After the first ten I decided that I couldn't run up them so just tried to walk briskly. Even so my legs were just about gone. Upon exciting the gorge there was a further climb of about 1km to the top and I have to confess that I was tempted to walk a bit. The other problem was that throughout the whole of the leg there were loads of stiles of various types. They really upset the rhythm and it was difficult to get the legs into gear after each one. In the latter part of the route I would lose a couple of seconds at each. I just couldn't get the legs moving, they just seemed to be too full of lactic. I kept looking back more than ever, but still no-one.

My foot which had the alteration to the orthotic was feeling ok, but was starting to get a burning sensation under the arch from the foam. It was beginning to become uncomfortable and I knew I was in for a blister but tried to not let it get to me. After the large climb was over it was a mainly gradual descent of about 3 km into the finish. I tried to open the legs but they didn't really respond much. It was a strange feeling as I felt that I could push on, but the legs could never respond much. That first and subsequent climbs must have done it.

Just as I was starting the descent I came across the first runner who was doing the opposite loop. He was running swiftly as were the others a couple of positions back. As I was moving through one of the last field sections before returning to the road I made a small error and headed to the wrong corner of the field, before realising and correcting myself. It probably cost me about 10 secs. I think it was because there was a farmers track to the left which confused me.

I then hit the road for a long descent down to the finish. Even now I couldn't really open the legs even though I kept feeling like I could. I knew I had slowed down a bit as 60 mins came and went but eventually finished the leg in 61 mins. When I got to the handover there were loads of people about, so many in fact that at first I couldn't see the control point. In all the confusion the next runner I was handing over to wasn't there. A couple of people (probably organisers) shouted out and managed to locate the next runner for us. She clearly wasn't aware that I had finished (all the Chasers had their back to the direction I was running) so I chucked her the electronic dibber whilst she took off her jacket. She then headed back to the control but told her that I had already done it - she then legged it. The confusion cost about 15 secs but these things happen.

I was told by a couple of other Walton Chasers about that I wasn't expected for another 15mins. I think they must have gone by the organisers estimated finish times as I told them that I was only a couple of mins ahead of the schedule that got emailed a couple of days ago.

I knew my lead was at least three minutes just from not being able to see anyone behind me, but was slightly surprised that after 6 mins still no one. Eventually 7.30 or so later the next runner behind me came in from Ashbourne Running Club. He told me that his first leg runner came in a minute or so behind the leader so he still lost a fair bit of time on my leg. There was then a fair wait to the third placed runner (don't know how much further back). It was becoming clear that my run was a lot better that I was giving myself credit for. In the end I didn't actually get the fastest split, about 15 secs back but then I had the disadvantage of running the leg without seeing anyone and having to run with with a bit in reserve just in case I was chased down. The guy who ran the fastest had the advantage of overtaking six people along the way. Always best to chase than to be chased!

I then drove back to my start (and took a couple of others on the same leg as me) to wait for Allan who was running the reverse of my leg, so I could drive him back to his car at the start of his leg (he dropped me off at the start of my leg). Unfortunately I didn't leave a drink in my car so by the time I got back to Allan's car it was a good hour to 90 mins before being able to take on water and even then it was only 200ml. I then had a fair drive home - it was at least 3.5hrs since finishing before I could take on some more water. By this time I had a stinking headache - but three cups of tea and a pint of squash seems to have done the trick.

Overall Walton Chasers won the loop I was on by a few minutes, but combining the times of all four loops we came 6th out of 12.

I'm not sure what I'm doing over the next week so will play it by ear.


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