Into the Unknown
Pre lockdown and before anyone knew the scale of what was about to happen faced with a worldwide pandemic, my main race for the year, the Marathon des Sables (MdS), was postponed just 3 weeks before I was due to head to the Sahara desert. The initial shock came in waves but after a few days I was thankful the decision was made when it was and not after my ‘peak’ week or even worse… after a 2 week taper and carb load!
With the decision made, I packed up my MdS equipment, gear, velcro shoes and freeze dried meals (in date until 2024 so we have time) and started to make some new personal running goals in the changing world we were now living in.
My main goal was to initially just run for enjoyment but also concentrate on improving my speed over shorter distances. Having run long distances for the last year as part of the MdS training block I knew it would be a challenge to turn my steady ultra pace into a much faster pace but I was determined to make the most of this unexpected opportunity to do so. Goal No1 was to run a sub 20 minute 5km for the year 2020 (known as Sub20for20). Once achieved the plan would be to then move onto other distances as the weeks progressed...more on this below.
With more and more races being cancelled in Jersey and around the world, Jersey went into lockdown at the end of March and the Rainbow house conversion into an indoor fitness club began! With working from home, I managed to fit in more time to do the things I love..running and a new found love Zwift (a virtual online cycling ‘game’ so to speak). I completed my first Zwift race, where I got a harsh reality check of how hard cycling is.
Check out my youtube video on my first Zwift race experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=he4rERLlWEA&t=1s
Zwift however soon led to outdoor road cycling which I also loved straight away. After a few easy rides with my dad, it was time to get serious and embrace the clip-in shoes outside on roads. The first ride was a nervy experience with my dad reassuring me ‘don’t worry I have never seen anyone fall to the side they don’t unclip’. Of course this then happened to me almost immediately when trying to turn sharply at the top of St Catherines hill. Thankfully there were no cars or people around to witness the ‘comedy fall’. Cycling has since taken a huge step forward with lots of successful rides (longest 40 miles) and I have even signed up to a Jersey Sport bike handling skills and introduction to racing course in July.
As lockdown started to relax Centurion Running announced a new event called One Community. Its aim was to bring the running community together through a virtual challenge. Runners could choose distances from 5km to 100 miles to be completed over one week commencing on 25 May. Runs could be completed however and whenever runners liked.
Of course without a second thought Rich (my running buddy) and I signed up for the full 100 miles in the week. Without too much persuading my entire family signed up with dad on 50 miles, Kim the marathon distance 26 miles and mum and Al on the half marathon distance 13 miles. The week was about bringing the running community together and having fun and it was great to follow other Jersey runners progress on their Strava feeds. Rich and I organised the week perfectly and had the best time completing it.
Special thanks to Kit from True Food Sport Nutrition for all the nutrition help for the week, You can only get out what you put in and Kit gave some great advice on how to do this beneficially.
Also thanks to my coach Sarah who helped plan the week as well as smashing out the 100 mile week herself, even having time to make an epic video on it available on her youtube channel, check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJ14HyuZta4
In addition to the 100 mile week, I was also steadily building towards the Sub20for20 goal. This came 2 weeks after the 100 mile week. I was doing a lot of speed work with a few key Vo2 max sessions thanks to local running coach Dan Garrido and I felt it was time to go for it. With a failed attempt 8 weeks before at 21:33, I had confidence that I could do it this time with better preparation and Rich pacing me around the FB fields running track. So after a lot of caffeine and enough drills to have completed a marathon it was time to go as we made our way for the 12.5 laps of the track. I was absolutely ecstatic to complete it in 19:49 (Strava timing) and tick off the first speed goal for 2020!
Two weeks later it was time for another time trial challenge, this time the Headway Jacksons Virtual 10km. I had never targeted a fast 10km before, with my current PB coming from the half marathon last year, so I was excited for this one. As the day came, the weather couldn’t have been worse, with horrendous crosswinds and torrential rain. I caught the giggles 3 miles in at just how awful the conditions were. You can’t choose the weather on race day so it’s good mental practice to give it your all in situations you can’t control. I didn’t hit my goal of under 42 minutes, but I did get a new PB of 42:45, which I was very happy with in those conditions!
So, what's next...
We have just received great news this week that Trail Monkeys Jersey have been given the all-clear to proceed with Round the Rock on 8 August with social distance rules in place and staggered start times. Of course, without hesitation I have signed up and am excited to take part in my first proper race since the world changed and especially as it’s around Jersey’s stunning coastline and my favourite cliff paths. So time to ramp up the miles and the trails over the next few weeks and give it my best shot for the second time.
With the New York Marathon now cancelled and the US borders still closed, it is only a matter of time before the Chicago marathon will be cancelled too. This was my main marathon for the year and now also looks more likely to happen for me in 2021.
I have been strangely thankful for the unexpected time away from racing and the pressures that come with it, if only to remind myself why I just love running and the pure enjoyment it gives me. But all good things must pass and I am now soooo ready for the thrills and spills of racing again.
Hope everyone is keeping safe and happy running!