First up was helping friend and fellow ultra runner, Chris Howe, research his PhD into ultra runners. This would involve a lactic threshold test and two days later 50 miles on the treadmill. To be honest, having not run on a treadmill for years I was not that phased about running on one for 50 miles, but a fair few people recoiled in horror at the thought. It had only been one week since Ironman, had I underestimated it?!
The lactate threshold test would give me my V02 max results (details of findings below fact fans) and was all quite bearable until the last 45 seconds or so which, if you've done one, will know are utterly disgusting.
The 50 mile treadmill test would work thus:
You get on the treadmill and run 50 miles. Elevation must stay at 1%. Every 10 miles Chris puts the mask on and records V02 for 3 minutes at the pace you are currently running at and then at a standardised pace (which all participants will do) for a further 3 minutes. There is a table laden with all your typical check point food and drinks. Every time you take a sip, drop an electolyte, have a handful or Haribo, these all get weighed and recorded. At 25 miles you get off to have blood taken. You can get off to have a wee anytime you like. Chat, music and iPad entertainment was provided. I planned on starting off slowly and once past 20 miles fluctuate the speed afterwards to provide variety. The first 15 miles seemed to feel ominously long, however the legs felt strong and once past the half way mileage, I decided to crank the speed up whilst they felt good. Amazingly this lasted a lot longer than I thought. Once the thought of a negative split was in my head it gave me a goal.. and there is nothing like a goal to galvanise your mind. It gave me a real tangible target to focus on, that and a sub 8 hrs moving time. Finishing with a sprint finish - without a visible finish line to run for - I cranked up the speed to sprint too early; that last minute felt like a lifetime! Afterwards I felt fantastic! However, my body less so. I was such a dehydrated husk my veins refused to give any blood and I also failed miserably on an exceptionally dry mouthed saliva test.
It was really interesting to take part and look forward to the next test - 100 miles on the treadmill, anyone?
A week later at the crack of dawn, me and 25,00 other cyclists were heading towards Hackney for Ride 100. This was the third year of the huge cycling sportive. The sun was up and the atmosphere was like a party! Choosing to stick with Boston Marathon buddies Sophie Raworth and Ben Wickham, all we wanted to do was have fun.
Fun was had. We peddled off at a speed I reserve for sprint triathlons. "This is WAY too fast" I hollered to Sophie and Ben. They were having none of it. 20, 30, 40 and even 50 miles passed at this speed. Cycling on closed roads was a total joy and it seemed so much easier to keep speed. Sophie and Ben dragged me along with them. Every time there was a downhill or a tight corner I lost them through my cowardice and braking and had to peddle like mad to catch up.
The route takes you out to the lumpy Surrey Hills, which are a great challenge. Newlands Corner, Box Hill and Leith Hill are the best of them and the latter being the most narrow and challenging. It was utterly exhilarating to cycle back into London through pockets of cheering crowds. My legs absolutely checked out on me at mile 90, but the sheer joy of knowing that this was without a doubt the fastest I had ever cycled in my life, kept me going until the glorious finish in the Mall. With 1hr 24 minutes taken off my 100 mile bike PB, coming over the line 5.29 I was ecstatic. WHAT AN EVENT! We were all elated, I could not have done it without them encouraging me all the way.
It was brilliant to finally have a great bike ride after all the training and the battering at Bolton IM. Having said that Ride 100 would be the end of my liaison with long-distance cycling, it's got a reprieve. It's really helped with the running, and there is an exciting cycle project on the cards for 2016.. more on that soon!
Ride 100 ballot is open now! with only 20% female, it would be great to see more ladies powering through the course.
If you are an ultra runner and wish to take part in Chris Howe's research contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org