Night Time 20 Miler

I’m slowly formulating a very loose sort of training plan for Endure 24, which is now 9 months away.  At the moment, my plan involves laying down a solid, consistent running base this year (2013), and doing something a bit more specific next year.  As I’m looking at Endure 24 as an ultrarunning event, the “solid base” I’m creating this year is already involving some quite long runs which can get in the way of normal family life somewhat, so I’m trying out ways of making this a bit more tolerable.  Yesterday’s experiment was to take the run into the night.

Looking back down Canford Heath Road
Looking back down Canford Heath Road

To be honest, this run was a bit spur-of-the-moment.  Two weeks ago I ran 50 miles in the week, starting with 2 back to back 13.5 mile runs, but last week I only managed about 11 miles of running.  I had intended to drop the mileage, but it wasn’t supposed to go below 20 – we were just so busy with things on and I wasn’t feeling quite up to running, so it ended up only being 2 runs (but I did do a decent 8.5 mile walk on top of that).

So yesterday, I decided mid-morning to go for a run in the evening.  A long one: 20-30 miles, just to see what it would be like and to get some miles under my belt this week.  I duly ate my body weighty in donughts* as preparation, then when SmallBoy™ (my 4 year old) was in bed I got ready to go.  I had originally planned to leave around 9pm, but in the end I got out a little after 1930, so this wasn’t quite as late as I’d originally thought.

(* and sushi too to balance things out 🙂 )

Gasometer at Surrey Road
Gasometer at Surrey Road

My plan was to run from my house to Bournemouth by road, then on the beach to Sandbanks and through Poole town back to home.  Kit wise, I decided for a long run like this to use the bladder in my Camelbak rather than run with handhelds, so I had about 1.5 litres of water with a couple of electrolyte tablets for hydration.  I also took my headtorch, phone, camera, 4 or 5 Gu gels and a credit card and bit of money for emergencies.

My running over the last 1-2 months has been the most consistent I’ve ever run, averaging around 30 miles per week since mid August, and it’s starting to feel like it’s paying off.  At around 7-8 miles into this run, I didn’t even feel like I was putting any effort in.  Hills didn’t bother me at all.  I was deliberately running slowly and I felt really, really good!

I’d packed my headtorch for a run through the gardens to Bournemouth and it was easy to extract from a waist pocket and put on my head while running.  In reality, through the gardens I didn’t really need it, but there were a few dark patches between lights where I couldn’t see what I was running on and it was nice to be able to flick on the light and be sure I wasn’t going to trip, meaning I could run faster through these sections.

The Bournemouth Eye in Bournemouth Gardens
The Bournemouth Eye in Bournemouth Gardens

I was really enjoying running at night into Bournemouth.  It was a Sunday night, so there wasn’t too much going on, but this was the first patch with lots of people and it’s nice to soak up a little of the atmosphere – lots of people with skateboards doing some pretty amazing things on the railings around the main square and down on the beach promenade.

Bournemouth Pier
Bournemouth Pier

I got down to the beach, stopped to take a photo of the pier, then headed off towards Sandbanks.  Once the lights ran out on the beach it did get pretty dark, and I was very glad to have the headtorch at this point.  It meant I could just keep running the 1-2 miles of darkness along the promenade without any worries about tripping and it would have been a right pain to run along without the torch.  At Sandbanks – around 13 miles – I was starting to feel it a bit , not anything specific but just that general all-over weariness that a long run brings on.

Bournemouth Pier - the route to Sandbanks
Bournemouth Pier – the route to Sandbanks

I stopped for a minute at Sandbanks to get my rucksack off and get out an SIS energy bar.  I also took this opportunity to put some more water in the Camelbak bladder.  I tried to refil without taking the bladder out of the bag, was concentrating so much on trying not to fill the actual rucksack with water that I put way too much in and ended up with way over 2 litres!  I didn’t fancy the mess of pouring it back out again, so I zipped up the bag and put it back on.  The nice thing with the Camelback I’ve got (Octane XCT) is that it carries up to 3 litres of water and distributes it such that you really aren’t bothered, even with the full 3kg on your back.

Evening Hill from Sandbanks
Evening Hill from Sandbanks (yep, the camra’s crap at night!)

The SIS energy bar was disgusting.  It was like a big wodge of dates, all sticky and hard and competely not what I wanted 14 miles in to this run.  I ate most of it but chucked the last bit into the water at Sandbanks, I’m sure there were a few happy crabs about 🙂

Through Lilliput (not the one full of little people), and on towards Poole I trotted.  I’d noticed that my Virtual Partner on the Garmin (set at 10 minute mile pace) was over 7 minutes behind me which was quite encouraging.  Rounding the corner into Whitecliff, I had another 1-2 miles where the headtorch was really useful, and then I was into Poole.  I ran up the High Street (which was pretty much deserted by this time – around 10pm), round to the train station, then begain the last 4 miles – most of which were uphill.

Up to between 17 and 18 miles I felt tired but still very much in control.  Somewhere around 18 miles I had a bit of a thirst problem.  I had been steadily sipping from my Camelbak throughout the run, and had consumed around 1.5 litres up to this point, but by 18 miles, every time I took a sip I just wanted more and more.  I felt completely parched, and at one point I just gave in and had a massive load of water from the pack.  This proved to be a bit of a bad idea – for the next 10 minutes of run/walk progress, I felt pretty close to throwing up.

I’m not sure if I got something a bit wrong earlier on in the run, but I’d not really experienced this level of thirst in the later stages of a run before.  In any case, I slowed right down to a run/walk for the last two miles and finally made it home.  Despite the feeling of dehydration, I did still enjoy the last few miles.  My attitude to running has really changed over this year, and even when the going is tough I still (try to) take the time to look around and enjoy the fact that I’m out running and experiencing the world (hippy bit over with!).

Final Thoughts

Despite my dehydration issue at the end, I had a great run.  At 18 miles my pace was 9:30/mile, but the last 2 miles slowed me down to 9:45/mile in the end.  Slow, but I’m happy with that – it was 20 miles after all!

I’ve just checked my history on Garmin Connect and found that my best ever times for long training runs were from 2011 when I was training for the Dublin Marathon: I managed 8:26/mile for just under 16 miles, and 9:01/mile for 18 miles.  I’m quite surprised by those times – I don’t ever remember running that fast over that sort of distance!  I’ve got a bit of speed to gain before I’m back at that sort of pace, but having said that I’ve improved significantly from 10:37/mile for just over 20 miles back in June this year.

The thirst issue confuses me a bit.  It was evening – dark and cool – so I really shouldn’t have needed much fluid.  But despite drinking at least 3 litres of water over the run, and a further litre when I got home after the run I was definitely still dehydrated – scary Coca Cola coloured urine the next morning is a sure sign of that!  I had made an effort to hydrate before going for the run, but maybe not enough?  Or maybe I’d not drunk enough early in the run and suffered towards the end?  I’ll keep an eye out next time and try to figure out how to manage this – if I’m planning on running 3-5 times this distance in June next year I need to work these sort of problems out.

Other than that, it was a great run.  I felt strong and happy.  The new headtorch was great and definitely worth taking even on a road run in the evening as it opens up the opportunity to run down dark alleyways and gravel tracks that otherwise would have been avoided.  And my new camera is a bit rubbish at night (see the photos 🙂 ), but it’s quick and easy to use and won’t mind getting wet if it rains, so it means I get pictures I otherwise wouldn’t have bothered with!

So there.  Can I run at night? Yep.  And it even feels fun.  I can see using “dark time” in lots of future training sessions now, especially as the distance increases.


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