Saturday 28 January 2012

Best caption competition....

'Are you SURE this is the bridleway?'

Tuesday 24 January 2012

UR 45mile x2! 21st + 22nd Jan

The first 2 races in Rory and Jens ULTRArace series of 2012 had around 60 finishers on day one and half of that on day 2. Some of us running both days others (sensible ones? running 'just' one of the days) The course for day 2 was day 1 in reverse with a minor detour around a fishing match (perhaps to avoid annoying fisherman whose poles block the tow path when they are manouvering huge fish from the water? Also much easier for us to run around them, rather than turn it into the ur45 hurdles)

Day 1 45miles from Northampton to Tring.
I slithered out of bed at 4am, squashed the carefully arranged, pile of running gear from the floor into a backpack, blended up a smoothie and hit the road. It was around 2 hours drive to Northampton for an 8am start (seeing as im from WARRINGTON not Wakefield -RORY).
Journey there... all ok, arrived and had a jog down the first km of the course to where we join the canal that pretty much takes us all the way to the finish with a few bridge crossings here and there to stay on the right towpath! Jogged back up had a quick banana, caught up with a few runners and observed the ever entertaining race briefing before we lined up on the start.

For a change I tried my very best not to look at the time or speed on my Garmin and instead run to how I felt. From the start and the first km down to the canal I had moved into the lead. On the whole it was easy to follow the course with occasional markers although I got the map out quite frequently on bridge crossings to decide which side I should be on (never managed to get 'lost' but with hindsight checking the bridge numbers beforehand would have been a significant benefit, worth bearing in mind if you are signing up!)

There was a little rain the day before but I opted for road shoes and on the whole they were fine although I did find myself scrambling a little on some of the small 'muddy' sections. I passed the first CP around 13.6km in 1hour and couldn't hear anybody behind me for quite some time. There was quite a stretch to the next CP I just carried on running at what felt like a good pace bearing in mind I would be running back tomorrow! Shortly after CP3 I was dying to look at my watch to see what kind of time pace I had been going as I was becoming quite thirsty and having forgot my Nuun electrolytes (they were in my overnight bag just had none with me) I was a bit concerned. I gave in and looked at the watch I had done 3hours 57mins and 52km... Quicker than it felt I was going! I slowed down a little to the next CP until I could get some more water. I was passed steadily by day 1 winner Ed O'Reilly just before the CP. I had a good drink and filled my bottle and pressed on.

From there more canal as we neared TringBefore the end I was passed by another runner doing only the day 1 who finished about 3mins ahead at the Pendley Manor Hotel in Tring where we had a delicious bit of soup waiting for us along with our bags! I finished day 1 with 76km in 6hours 6mins  (47miles).

Jay Macdonald, a friend running day 1 finished almost an hour quicker than last time!! He was kind enough to be housing me and ferrying me around for the weekend along with Rachel his girlfriend who has been brilliant manning many of the previous UR check points and putting up with grumpy, tired runners who moan about the left over flavours of Jelly Babies or the distance of the CP being 100m further than expected. After the race and a few soups, bottles of water and more water, we headed home via the pub (an exciting pint of water for me), for more water, and a big pizza!

DAY 2!
I woke up a couple of times in the night for a drink being really thirsty and when the alarm went at half 6 I got out of bed. It felt like my legs were still in bed, so I woke them up again and got ready for another day along the canal! Guzzled down some more water and the surviving pieces of pizza before doing some mobility exercises and left for Tring and day 2. The pre race brief seemed empty a few less runners than yesterday!

Although the legs felt a bit stiff they loosened up well after the first few minutes as we joined the canal. Likely the case for most of the 'double' runners, with one or 2 new and fresh looking runners joining us again for 'just' one day. Day 2 had a slight bit more wind in our faces it seemed although the ground was a little drier. A lot of the tow path is surfaced so road shoes are great, there is a chunk on grassy paths which after rain may be worth opting for trail shoes.

Today I was trying to get more water inside as I still felt slightly dehydrated and adopted a slower pace than I had planned. The legs were never going to do a fast sprint today but were comfortable ticking along at a steady pace. To save time and keep drinking I planned to drink as I crossed a bridge, taking my time so as not to end up running the wrong side of the canal! Everything passed a bit slower than day 1, I got a few photographs of some amusing boat names including 'A waste of time' and 'Home' and an artistic bit of painting somewhere not far from Milton Keynes.

If you have a phobia of water, ducks, dogs, canals, fisherman (anglers?), boats, towpaths or bridges this may not be your ideal race. Time seemed to tick along slowly, I stopped to do a few mobility exercises for my hips which worked great, just then I reached the 2nd last CP for the day, leaving quite a slog around 19km to the last CP, I took an extra bottle of water, filled my bottle, a handful of JBs and a coke. I found it easier to keep running at a steady pace than to take any walk breaks. Just as I started to wonder about the last CP I noticed the water turning green indicating I was close to the Blisworth tunnel (aparently somebody last year attempted to shimmy along a brick width ledge inside the 2km tunnel last year!)

From here up a gentle climb to the CP  before a short road section then back to the canal for the final 10k back to Northampton! The finish was up a gentle slope and around the side of the Park hotel where a slightly chilled Rory and Jen were waiting along with a good friend Vale who had some delicious sandwiches ready for me! 

The old legs were a wee bit stiff after the drive home and didn't feel much better the next morning. Probably the most ache I have had from any running actually. Luckily Monday morning at work only involved a kettlebell session and some lunges after a quick go on the foam roller and power plate!

day 2 75.11km about 46miles in 7hours 55mins, much slower than day 1, though if I hadn't chilled out and got enough water down me, it could have been a whole lot longer! a 3rd and an 8th place. Not sure about the total times out of those who ran both days, will update when I know!

official results below. I have some photos too!

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Ultima Frontera 160km, Spain Oct/2011

Where to begin!? Well I first heard of the race early in the year, stumbled across the website, only later during the year I decided to enter, yep why not?! The pictures of the area looked great and I hadn't been abroad during the year yet, so made it my holiday. It was organised by Paul Bateson and I thought he and his team did great and would love to go back to do the event again! The event came in 3 flavours a 50km, an 80km and a 160km (2 laps of the 80km course totalling just shy of 5000m ascent)

Friday morning I bumped into Richard Weremiuk (fairly easy to spot a runner in those 'big toning shoes' in an airport it seems?) behind Beyond Marathon at the airport and we grabbed an average tasting breakfast! Although for airport standards it was a culinary delight! Nothing to eventful then until arriving at Malaga airport in Spain where we met Annie Garcia (aka Anniegizer ihavetoooomuchenergyfornormalsports Garcia ) and got our ride up to Loja with Antonio, nestled away in the hills. The afternoon we spent eating double meals and taking it easy around our hotels saving the much needed energy.
In the evening I ventured down to the race HQ, a large sports hall and collected my number and had some more food  before getting an early night!

This was the 3rd time I ran 100miles during 2011, it was the course with the most elevation (about 5000m) but I found it the easiest, partly because I had imagined it to be incredibly tough, therefore was pleasantly surprised and partly because I had researched the course as much as possible and trained specifically as possible.

During september I found a few races between the 40mile and 60mile distance in the Peak District, including Bullock Smithy and HP 40 and used them as a hilly long run doing 1 each weekend. I aimed at what felt like a relaxed pace and cruised around them to attempt to replicate the pace i planned to complete UF160. Bullock Smithy being a 56mile event starting just south of Stockport and also finishing there. I did manage to get lost a few times and took a pack big enough to do the Gobi Challenge, but rolled around in 11hours 14min  in 10th position. This had roughly half the elevation of UF, and with 14 LDWA style checkpoints was never going to be fast (is it possible not to stop for a hot soup in a barn in the middle of knowwhere? or a stone cottage, with a strong smell of gas, midway down a muddy descent, for some cake?
Anyhow so based on that, I figured I could happily complete UF160 in under 24hours.

On race morning myself and Mike Papageorge (a great guy he was really helpful and also 3rd place in the 50km!) headed down from our hotel to the race HQ. Everyone busily attending to their gear and packing kit and drop bags. I chose to run with my Salomon bottle belt style thing until the drop bag point where I would collect my 3L backpack with night gear in @48km (and run with both from there).

There was a bit of confusion at the start although all was under control, we all walked about 1km back up into the town for a 'more scenic' start. There was around 100 runners between the 3races all following the same route until CP 2 @35.5km where the 50k runners headed S whilst the rest of us head N. We started shortly after 09.30 running on the narrow streets for around 1km before getting out of town onto a trail heading over into the hills. It was hard to tell which runners were doing which race, though it didn't really matter to me I set out trying to just run with how I felt. It was warming up and after a couple of k's climbing quite steadily (first 20k was largely uphill)  the runners began to spread out a little. I had been passing people during the climb having started somewhere I guess around the back quarter of people.

The course was pretty good underfoot for most of the time, I chose my trusty Saucony Triumph 7s (a neutral road shoe), we weaved mainly on mountain tracks with some sections on surfaced roads too. I caught up to a runner Chris Goodacre, who won the 50km and we ran together on a gradual climb to CP2 where he was to turn off heading 15km back to Loja, I continued with 45km to go before I would hit Loja marking my halfway point. I hit 42km marathon distance in about 4hours 40mins. I steadily past a few more people before reaching a loop where we descended into Montefrio CP3 48km where drop bags would await us. I arrived here in less than 5hours 30mins from the start, about 90mins ahead of schedule, not having paid much attention to my Garmin watch until here. I had left my night gear here expecting to be about an hour or 2 before nightfall, which now would turn out to be nearly 4hours before dark. A minor thing but it meant carrying the extra bag for about 35km before I would need it! I restocked my waist pack with a couple more Zipvit bars and continued on, not the fastest of CP stops.

There was 18km until the next CP which seemed to take a while but a nice single track trail took my mind off it and kept me entertained and it was trending downhill. I didn't see many people here it was relatively straight forward apart from one section where I knew a right turn was approaching, there was some paint on the road pointing down a track that had been spray painted over in a very similar colour to that we had been following.... Had someone local been having a joke trying to redirect us for a laugh? I spent about 5mins looking around but decided to carry on for a couple of minutes which paid off! About 1 minute later there was a bit of spray paint for our route, so I was safely on course! Shortly after I saw one of the organisation team driving past with a quick wave. I crossed the road and continued on track into some sort of tree plantation which looked like something from the Wizard of Oz! A quick step over a ford via some stepping stones with feet still dry! It was a straight flat road for a few km until the small town Huetor Tajar with the 67km CP (last one of the first lap). Quite swiftly through the CP and moving well I hit the last 200m climb of the first lap and my body started to feel heavy and slow. I found it quite amusing how everything began to ache all of a sudden with no particular cause, I checked the watch looking good to complete the first 80km lap in ABOUT 8hours 40min. Also still daylight meaning I could have left my backpack at the halfway point (also the start) and saved carrying it for 4 hours, I wasn't complaining seeing as I was feeling good and running well within my 12hour first lap expectation.

A quick bite to eat as I organised my gear and found my bag in the huge sports hall. I guess 10mins passed at the CP. I set off feeling good again, the brieft tired spell passed as quickly as it came, though at the time i forgot about it. Climbing to the first CP was great, a nice sunset and a relaxed pace, I began to think. My pace was slowing, I felt good but I was becoming lazy?! I knew to get a sub 24hour time I could take it easy (15hours to do another 50miles?! Nearly half the speed of my first lap I thought) . I had a bit of a discussion with myself and as a result decided that I could try sub 20hours leaving me about 11 hours for the last 50miles which sounded a bit more challenging but also very realistic!

It began to go dark somewhere around ermmm.... 95km. I got the headtorch on but didn't really feel it necessary to put any extra layers on and stuck with the shorts and a Tshirt. There began to be a bit of light rain nothing much but enough to dampen the ground. I think this was the first rain of the season? I couldn't really be bothered putting a jacket on as I would have been too warm.

 Just as i got to the 100km checkpoint 2 other runners were heading down the route having just left. I was swiftly through the CP grabbed a bit more water, passing one of the runners who was sorting something in his pack and catching the other a few minutes later. It was Richard Webster, who I met briefly the day before at the hotel. He has an impressive CV of races and i look forward to running with him again soon! We ran and chatted along a steady section along a surfaced road for a few kms which was a great break from not seeing anybody aside from the wonderful CP staff for a long time. Just before the next climb I pressed on ahead and reached the next turn off feeling great. I remembered the route from the first lap and I was anticipating the left turn in the next few mins which in reality was actually closer to 25mins! It hadn't seemed far on the first lap and I kept stopping to check I hadn't missed it! Eventualy it arrived and I followed the track. With it being dark it became hard to judge the gradient and although I ran this section on the first lap I was cautious not to push too hard. A couple of cars emerged in the distance coming down the track, you can only imagine what they thought. Someone running up the trail into the back of beyond, I stepped off the track for them to pass and spent a moment choking on the dust. Heading into the darkness I suddenly came across the CP where I had a quick glass of coke and a handful of JBs before continuing the 7k climb. Just near the top I noticed a sign reflecting off my torch in the distance, as I approached there was something in Spanish with a picture of a scary looking pig and then as if by magic an intense rustling in the nearby bush started, I continued very swiftly to the next CP (back in Montefrio 128km and drop bag location) arriving here after about 14hours running. I was quite quick here and turned down the offer of some hot food, by the time I would eat it and have it warmed it could have been a 20min stop (thinking back to Bullock Smithy)!

Out of the CP a short uphill section then onto the single track which was now sticky with the rain, as I ran the soil would build up under my feet for about 5 steps then flick off in big clods throwing me totally off balance. This got old pretty quickly and slowed me down quite significantly over the however many kms it was (about 5km perhaps) didn't really see much to note for a while until back to the stepping stones where the river had risen slightly covering the stepping stones! I sacrificed the right foot and hopped across (literally) I popped the headphones in and picked up the pace a bit for the 4km to the CP and ran it under 21mins.

Paul was here we had a quick chat for a couple of mins and I departed, My time now looking more towards 18 hours 30mins so that became my new target! The last climb was just as I remembered it and I slithered along at a medium pace. Before the end there was another sticky mud section only for about 5-10 mins this time which was annoying and difficult to run, very much what I imagine those ridiculous toning shoes you see advertised in the gym would be like!

I began the gradual descent back into the lights of Loja knowing I was within a few ks of the finish I got a bit keen and ran pretty fast down through the town passing a runner about 1-2km away from the end to arrive 10mins ahead  in 18hours 13mins around 3am. This gave me a top 5 position which I was very surprised about, having considered myself relatively inexperienced at that kind of distance compared to some of the other runners, though I don't tend to worry about other runners and focus on challenging myself.

After finishing I stayed awake the rest of the night waiting for Annie and friends to finish. She arrived in under 24hours around 8am if I remember correctly, but I used the time inbetween to eat as much food as I could get within reach! Annie being 2nd female after an impressive year of some incredible ultras

The expected time I had and my actual time were greatly different but in a good way at least. I recognise that by having a time in my head not challenging enough I became lazy and had to alter my goal to combat this.

I ran with 2x600ml bottles and estimate that I drank between 6-7L with no energy powders added only the occasional nuun tablet.
Foodwise i had 200g of JBs
A couple of cokes
4-5 Bananas
A handful of crisps at most CPS
1 small muffin and 2 dates
2 oranges (just seemed refreshing?)
and about 4 zipvit bars

Major balls ups on my part... predicted time, drop bag planning, not pushing myself as much as I could have, I also didn't have a small enough pack thus the waist belt and hydration pack with the bladder removed, although this worked ok, I now have a small pack which is just the job! I started far too casually.

All in all I would love to get back next year, it was a brilliant event, good value and well organised, Paul, Eric, Michelle, Barbara, Antonio and Juan and anyone else involved in the tea, making us all feel welcome and looking after us! Next time I would be confident to have the number 16 in my finishing time!

Friday 6 January 2012

Sunrise to Sunset 27/Dec/11

Sunrise to Sunset is a time based race organised by Denzil Martin near Telford. Based around a 0.84mile loop, gently undulating on a very quiet country lane, partly surfaced. The aim being to run as far as you can or want in during the hours of daylight, officially that was between 0820 and 1601 this year. There was a marker for people completing 'just' the marathon (as if that wasn't enough) to run over after their 31st lap.
Previous winner and course record holder (43miles) Robbie Britton (also winner of the NDW100 2011) had been setting the pace on somewhat wintry conditions in the past 2 years and was back again despite not being 100% to chuck out a good 36.12miles and call it a day. About 30 runners took part, most choosing to complete marathon distance, including 1 dog (Meg), about 9 of us continued to 'ultra' distance.

Although not being the biggest fan of laps, i had entered primarily as a social training run at a nice comfortable pace, it was great chatting to so many different runners and friendly faces as i passed. Great amounts of motivation on display to get out and start earning (or rather burning) our xmas dinners off. There was a great social atmosphere around the start/finish base with a roaring fire and table full of nibbles! I passed the marathon mark in a steady 3.17 and continued on most of the day at a comfortable pace. I opened up quite a gap and found time for a mid race picnic and gave the checkpoint something to worry about as i munched away on a couple of 9bars and a milk shake! At this point about 5 runners were still going around. They all passed the checkpoint once or twice, i finished my food and headed back around for another 10k finally calling it a day at 80km about 15km clear of 2nd.

If i knew that 80km was 51.24 miles i would have thrown in a few more laps to round it up to 52.4miles and 2 marathons, but then it would have left me at 84.3km and i would have had to round that up to 85km, which would have left me in a viscious cycle hard to break out of!

After that came the best post race food i have ever had! Homecooked jacket potato with a delicious bolonase sauce which i managed 3 helpings of and even bagged a portion 'for the road' Massive well done to Denzil on such successful food and a great event which i beleive was his 49th marathon also! Definately a great event to do if your looking for a chilled out day with lots of great people next xmas! Equally if your looking to make a push up to ultra distance in the relative safety of a lapped course with zero navigation, get it onto your calendar.

Denzils website has a few pics and results
and will display information for future events!

Something to think about...
“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic.”

Over and out!

Wednesday 4 January 2012

2011 A Quick Round Up

Total  run 4300-4500km
          cycle 5500-5700km
          swim about 1km!
         (-2 months)

Races, about 35 ( i use some for training runs)
Pairs of shoes worn out 4 + 1 trail shoes
Biggest week... run 220km
               run + bike 423km

Biggest 588km
              run + bike 1102km

Here is a few words on some of the most memorable races
Tough Guy Jan 2011. Basically for those that aren't familiar, imagine a cross country run around about 10k.....Add some trenches full of water, multiple laps of a short and sharp hill, obstacles, nets etc ..... Then follow it up with an obstacle course with giant cargo nets, tunnels, tyres, high ropes, a lake, trenches full water, some barbed wire, hurdles and a few electrified obstacles, all this done in freezing January conditions. All the water was frozen for the front runners, I managed to cut and bruise my shins pretty good on the ice. After the event I spent about an hour shaking and a further 3 hours shivering with as many layers as I could wear at once... a very stimulating experience and having also done the summer version (Nettle Warrior) Im certainly not in a rush to go back and do it again!

London ultra 50k in Feb being my first 1 day ultra race, (I did the Gobi Challenge in 2010 my first running event) i was loaded up with a 25l pack with enough gear and food to sink a ship or survive in the mountains for a week! - I used hardly any of it, got lost numerous times putting about 4 extra miles onto the race distance, muddier than i expected, but a great day out. I was around 32 nd position

SIS Lightning 12hour in March being the 2nd ultra of the year i managed to finish 2nd place solo too. Based around a 10k trail course- that felt hilly at the time, the aim to complete as many laps as you could in 12 hours, I managed to equal the leader with 12 laps although about 30mins slower than him. Being twice as long as I had run before it was very much unknown territory, one I will be keen to try again this year!

Adidas Thunder run 24hour in July. This event has a great atmosphere! The amount of support is amazing as there were hundreds and hundreds of people taking part (categories from 8person relay teams right down to pairs and solos) the aim again complete as many 10k laps of the undulating trail course as you can. I managed 17 laps putting me around about 6th place exceeding my 100mile target which I was happy with although I did get a bit lazy once I realised i was going to make it!

Peaks Ultra 40miles Aug. Being only 70miles away from home I decided to cycle to the race near Derby the day before (Im not a cyclist as such but while the weather was nice in summer (was summer?) I became quite adventurous! Meeting plenty of friends on the evening for a good feed ready for the race on the Sunday morning.Starting the race at a relaxed pace towards the back of the pack as the first mile stuck to a canal we then arrived at the first hill. As the race progressed it became a nice warm day and I was enjoying running between the fields and tracks and quiet country lanes, I had passed quite a few people then came the final 30mile checkpoint where I was informed I lay in 2nd position about 17minutes behind the leader, to my surprise. There was an undulating road section from there then a couple of corn fields and coming to the bottom of them I swiftly passed the leader and ran on the final 6 or 7km to the finish. I cheered in friends as they arrived then began the 70mile cycle home. This began very slowly especially on the nearby hills, after about 90mins made a food stop and refueled. By the end i was feeling pretty good again but ready for bed!

September I had a phase of hill training using a few different races in the Peak District for training runs for the Ultima Frontera 160km. A 40mile, 50 mile and 56mile, all done at a comfortable pace (tried to imagine my pace for the 160km) I also managed to squeeze in HELL RUNNER in Delamere Forest, an 18km trail run taking in as many hills and bogs as possible including chest deep mud and the infamous Bog of Doom. I had a good performance winning in 1hour 20mins 3 minutes clear of 2nd place. An enjoyable month!

Nottingham Ultra 50km in October was my longest run in Oct before Ultima Frontera 160km. I planned to take it at a comfortable pace and save my energy for Spain. From the beggining I was sat in 3rd, just before the halfway point moved into the lead and out of sight finishing in 3hours 43min, great finishing infront of the castle!

Ultima Frontera 160km in Spain! Travelling abroad always exciting, especially to run 160km in the hills around Loja, Spain. Around 5000m of elevation over a pretty scenic course. Around half way I realised my predicted finish time was way too generous and I was feeling just fine, finally finishing 5th in 18hours 13mins, could happily shave a chunk of time off that knowing the course! A good holiday!

After that I took it easy for a month trying not to enter any races although I couldn't resist a nice social day out with Denzils Sunrise to Sunset. Although not a particular fan of laps it was great to see so many runners out enjoying the rare occurance of 'good weather' on the 27th of December. I called it a day at 80km and proceeded to dig into some excellent post race food that was even better than an LDWA event!

All in all an exciting year, I have learnt a lot through such a variety of challenging races and experiences and I have been lucky enough to meet some amazing people along the way. More of the same for 2012!