After running 10.8 miles around the streets of St Albans yesterday, I had reached the point in my training schedule where I needed to put in a loaded/weighted run, and it was supposed to be 8 miles carrying 20lbs. However, I did not have the time to do that so instead I would be running just over 5 miles carrying 37lbs.
I set off to an overcast but dry Dunstable Downs and I decided to start from the point just below the Visitor Centre on the top of the Downs, the point where I have been starting from for my hill repeats on Saturdays, and then follow most of what was the Warrior Adrenaline Race route from when I ran it in April 2013 (which you can read about here). That will bring me in at just over 5 miles and would include Regiment Hill. For the first time up here I was not having problems with Strava as I walked to my starting point and it appeared to be picking up an internet connection and GPS perfectly. However, I also record my times on my watch, and actually trust that to be more accurate.
I started out on the track which runs along the top of the Downs, mostly following the direction of the road, while cutting in from time to time. I was taking things steadily and I felt fine. The track is undulating, though none of the uphills are too steep, and there was no real wind today, which makes a change up here. Before long I came off the track on to a dry, earthy stretch which heads downhill into the grassy opening which will house the zipline for the Warrior Adrenaline Race.
From there I turn back on myself along the bottom track, which is also a mud track, with the chalk of the Chilterns coming through, and it has now properly dried out after the wet winter. It begins enclosed before opening out on to grassy areas, and is also undulating, with a couple of steep mounds before you come down to the bottom of what I know as Regiment Hill. I had reached this point in around 20 minutes and 30 seconds, which is quicker than I ran it a couple of weeks ago with less weight. Now I just had the matter of getting to the top of Regiment Hill, a very steep slope with a couple of points where it almost feels like it is going to flatten out, but it does not, and a bend about half way up.
It squeezes in a lot in a short space, and it is a tough climb, even without the bergen. I could definitely feel it in my legs as I climbed steadily – I could not run, but I knew I had to just keep going until I got to the top. It took me about 5 minutes to get to the top, which is 2 minutes quicker than the last time with less weight, and then I was off to the right, following a chalk path which took me steadily back down to the bottom track.
I stayed on the outside track this time, which was not as undulating as the inner track, and I found that I was running more of it. I kept going and before long passed to the side of a gate which took me into the Whipsnade part of the Downs. I was approaching the edge of the Downs which meant that I now turned left up a steep slope, which in turn brought me to a set of steps.
The steps are like railway sleepers and their ascent follows the path of the road which goes up to Whipsnade Zoo. I was walking up here now, striding out, pushing it along, making sure I kept to one stride per step, and also making sure I did not stop. This was another tough climb in this route, although it certainly felt better than it has done before. It levelled out at the top, dropped down a little and then rose up again to take me to a car parking area. I ran across the gravel to another set of steps, smaller this time, which took me up on to a grass area, and to the point I had been crossing a few times recently with the Warrior Adrenaline Race training camps.
I knew I was on my way back now, which always makes the going a little easier. Having said that, the bergen was still feeling comfortable and I am pleased with how quickly I have become used to carrying it, and the weight itself is not actually a problem from a carrying it point of view. I was also not noticing any real difference with the added weight this time around.
I was running along the dried out, stony track, and the ground was not bad going so that made it easier to push on to get to the gates which took me back into a field, which I crossed to bring me to the edge of the stunning Whipsnade Tree Cathedral. The route took me around the edge of that, with it on the inside of me to my left, and onto a grass pathway until I eventually came out on to a lane which I would mostly be following until I came to the Downs again. The lane only had a slight incline but it really felt like I was pushing it uphill now. I went round a corner and on to a track through the trees which branched off to the left and then the right, and once I got to the end of that mud track section I could see the Visitor Centre at the end of another built-up track. I need to work on that part of this route and improve on how much of it I can actually run.
I started along the track to the Visitor Centre, feeling the wind for the first time and watching the kites being flown in the strong winds up top here. I knew I was near the finish because I was just doing the one lap and that kept me going, running in this last bit. I ran across the grass inbetween the people flying their kites and carried on in front of the Visitor Centre, running down the slope to get to my starting point in 1 hour 19 minutes and 29 seconds, which was a minute faster than the last time I ran this route with 27lbs. I had run 5.2 miles, and I had been running with 37lbs, so I am putting this down as good progress.