Monday 26 March 2012

Buff 12 hour Race Ledbury, March 2012

The course in pictures ... some words to follow!

The event offers free camping right next to the course for the night before and after the race which I decided was a good option being a 120mile trip and a 6am race start, along with the clocks changing forward meaning I would not really end up going to sleep had I travelled down straight from home. 

I eventually arrived after numerous diversions all over the place due to people crashing and things like that. Saturday afternoon was very warm I imagine just nibbling around 20 degrees. I got my tent set up and had a bite to eat before jogging around the majority of the course taking the above photos! The course was a little longer than last year and seemingly a little hillier with a water station at half way.

The aim of the day was to complete as many 10k laps as you can within 12 hours (6am until 6pm) if you finished a lap before 6pm you could continue eg (5.59pm you could go again) although if you finished at 6.01 then too bad, you're finished.

A bit of pre race confusion for me, so I was camping the Saturday night, I wasn't sure if my phone would auto update the time or not sooo, I set the time forwards 1 hour and set the alarm for 5am. I woke up during the night wondering if I had missed the alarm or not, turned the phone on, 3am.... hmm definitely too early, back to bed then the alarm buzzed I woke up and looked outside, nobody moving, no sign of any life, a bit odd an hour before the start I thought... I made a quick call to a friend driving down who was leaving around 4... And  yes it was just after 4.... how inconvenient, back to sleep which seemed to take ages, when the alarm finally went at the right time I was tired and didn't feel like getting up. I wolfed down a 9bar, couldn't be bothered to cook anything and got my kit on which was all ready the night before.

I set off at what felt a comfortable pace with the aim to get around 12 laps and not doing anything too crazy that might bugger me up for the Viking way on the 7th April (it's a long 'un)  
The first lap was in the dark due to the clocks changing. My first few laps were low 50minutes which felt fine at the time before the heat had picked up, I began tipping water onto myself from about 8am although I didn't really drink or eat much until gone 10am, then I was putting down 1 litre each lap and tipping a cup full over my head every 5k.

Started to settle down around lunch time, and was apparently running somewhere along the lines of 2nd or 3rd. The laps slowed down a little just after lunch when the temperature crept up a bit more and I carried on ticking off the laps and keeping food and water topped up, leaving me feeling quite energetic towards the final couple of laps. Somewhere just under 11 hour mark I passed a chap who was in a bad way, running not being particularly pleasant for him as he was having some leg issues, he was current 2nd place. I stopped and walked with him for a moment, just to make sure there were no bones hanging out before running on to the end of the lap. In this position 4th place had declared his 9laps and already called it a day, 1st place was still trotting around happily and so between myself and 3rd place, we could either go for 1 more lap or call it a day at the end of this one. I was still running well and un injured so 3rd place Mark would have had a hard time beating me around another lap to try and grab back 2nd place, however if he completed a further lap and I chose not to then he would also get back his 2nd place. Although neither of us were too concerned, I waited at the end of the lap and sat in the sun chomping down some grapes another 9 bar and a few sandwiches until the next 30mins passed and 12 hours was up. I suppose that is the only problem with laps, If you do not HAVE to go for another one to keep your position then why bother? Unless you are trying to beat a record or push yourself as hard as possible, it would only leave me with an extra 10k to recover from, being close to the Viking Way I was more than happy to call it a day and grab a shower! 

Brilliantly organised event, I am sure next year will be just as good although the weather would take some beating! There was a substantial stack of prizes, I received a head torch, a waist belt bottle holder, a Buff shirt, a Buff and some other edible goodies along with a medal and a Trophy, 2nd again and a brilliant weekend!  The race is also open to teams who complete in relay fashion, upto 5 people in one team or you could run as a pair or a 3. This would allow people of all kinds of abilities the opportunity to have a great day out without worrying about navigating (heaps of marshals who were all very patient and encouraging!) a marked course and multiple laps so you are never too far away from safety!

I would love to go back again next year depending on the plans for races!

Saturday 24 March 2012

Lightning 12 hour race, Ledbury March 2011!

On my way!
Basically we have a 10k off road course with a few ups and downs and the aim to complete as many laps as possible until 12 hours (6am until 6pm) at 6pm the finish line closes so basically if you get there at 11hours 59mins you can go around again, if you get there at 1 second over 12 hours then you finish. Depending on your tactics you might speed up to make it around in time for an extra lap, or you might deliberately dordle around slowly to prevent reaching the end in time for another lap!

This time last year I was travelling down to start my longest ever race! It was to be my longest run time wise although I had hiked for longer whilst in New Zealand! I had the idea of just maintaining a steady pace, hiking up the hills and jogging down and on the flat. I had camped the night before and was up around 5 for an early start at 6am where there was already plenty of activity. Somehow it took me ages to get ready and with 5 minutes to go I was still considering where my running clothes were. I literally got onto the start line near the back as the race had just begun.

There were a lot of teams in the race doing a relay and not that many solo people (around 30?) I just moved around at what felt comfortable bearing in mind how long there was left, I had a good system where I would collect some food each lap and continue around minimising my stopped time. It was a warm day and a nice course, although laps aren't my favourite there are numerous advantages, you know exactly what is coming up, you can get into a rhythm, the food and drink station is the same every time, social aspect of passing and being passed by other runners and you get that morale boost every time you hit the start finish area!

Mid afternoon and I was still moving and didn't feel too bad considering, it had become apparent that I was in the top 3 and I was quite surprised, this helped to keep me motivated, knowing there was someone to chase (Adam Harris) who I never did catch on that race! Coming towards the end Colin a runner from near home who I had met at a few local marathons passed by on his way home from a marathon in the area and that was a brilliant boost to see yet another friendly face!

The final lap was quite tiring but I ran with a chap from a team doing the relay and he helped keep me going until around the final 5k of the lap I had a massive surge of energy (or I just wanted to finish and get it over with) I manged to pick the pace up and pass a number of runners into the finish with a sub 24min final 5k.

Since then I have much more confidence and experience at the distance and time running although I will bear in mind the Viking Way on the 7th April (all 148 miles of it) although i'm expecting over 150 by the time I have made some un planned detours in the wrong direction. It will be nice to enjoy a relaxed long run tomorrow. Last year I managed 12 laps, this year? Who know's?

Sunday 18 March 2012

Garmin Forerunner 310XT, GPS Watch Review

Today I thought I would throw together a quick review on my Garmin 310XT. I have had it for over 1 year and wear it most days (for any cycling or running I do) The battery is rechargeable with a usb cable. It has lasted about 18hours when actually recording.
The Garmin 310 XT

I bought the watch as a way of measuring and recording my distances and speed (or lack of?) mainly when running. It is available with and without a heart rate monitor strap (HRM). I don't tend to use this as I find it a bit awkward, seems to be fine for the majority of the time but every now and again I would glance at it and see something like 235bmp even after I have set up my max and resting heart rate. I would be willing to put money on the fact that my heart wasn't doing anything quite so extreme during a steady, long run.

The functionality of the watch I find absolutely great! It can be set to record running, cycling or 'other' eg swimming or skiing or whatever else you might get up to, being waterproof it is ideal for those outdoorsy types or anyone that might end up submerged during their Saturday morning run.

Basically on each activity you can set the display to show whatever you wish from a long list of options such as; speed, pace, elevation, time, time of day, heart rate, total distance (always a killer when you check about an hour into a 100 mile race)  and so on. For intervals I usually have last lap pace (you can set the laps automatically according to distance or time or just manually by pressing the lap button), last lap time, last lap distance. The watch has heaps of configurative possibilities, far more than I have used so should satisfy any technology loving creatures out there!

The back light is great!

I find the watch pretty consistent usually, my run to work on the usual route is always within a few meters.Things like the elevation also being consistent when doing the same route multiple times. It picks up signal as quick as I can put my shoes on if I am outside, if you're planning on running in the gym on a treadmill the GPS might not be the best choice! (Although jokes aside there is a foot pod which I DON'T have, apparently able to measure cadence etc incase your treadmill doesn't have a display?)

 It has been incredibly durable, the only small problem is the little bit on the strap that holds the tail of the 'excess' strap snapped off, I have continued to use it like this for about 6 months or so, so it is obviously not a major problem! Being generally a bit rough with things this has been dropped probably a couple of times per week and is still going strong. It's pretty comfy to wear, I saw some of the other GPS watches and they looked huge, this isn't too bad and I don't have the biggest wrists in the world! It can be seen in action below.

A quick search and it's going for under £150 now. Last year I clocked just over 10,000km with the watch on (running and cycling) so it cost me about 2p per km if my maths is any good at this time of night? Bargain!

The Garmin wirelessly transmits data to the computer and uses an on-line interface called 'Garmin connect'  here you can see each individual activity on a map with split times etc, reports of all your data sorted how you like eg, monthly mileage totals for each activity in a nice little table to print off and stick on the fridge, or a calendar of your training, for example this particular week in October last year I ran 220km with the watch in the week. The time and average speed represents total time so where I may have forgot and not stopped the watch it would continue to record so just remember to do that if you want to keep real accurate records. I tend to use it all just to look back on as I train to how I feel and to what race schedule is like rather than trying to hit so many miles each week.

Time Period
Elevation Gain
Avg Speed


 Another really useful feature of the watch is the ability to download a GPX file on to the watch and follow a course (if  you are too lazy to navigate, or just want it for back up to ensure you don't get lost). Good if you know the route before hand, not so important if you are doing Warrington Half Marathon fenced in onto the roads, but more useful if you were perhaps recceing a section of the Bob Graham Round or something. You can plot points in so If you know the location of a check point you could plot that in and be able to set the watch to point towards it keeping you on track. Although I would reccomend learning to navigate and still carrying map and compass etc if you are venturing into the wilderness, what if your watch failed?

To summarise, there isn't a feature I can think of that needs to be added, it has survived over 1 year with me which is quite rare for most fancy gadgets, battery life is still pretty good, combined with a solar charger which are pretty cheap to pick up it would suit multi day events such as Marathon Des Sables or Gobi challenge. Heaps of incredibly useful features, more than you are likely to use, one thing I forgot, you can plan a session on the watch or computer and the watch will display the instruction and automatically keep the time and use a series of beeps and alarms to keep you on time and at your target pace etc. eg if you wanted to do Tabatta intervals you could set the beeps for 20 sec sprint and 10 sec rest x8 and the watch would alert you when you have finished. There are other options available with regards to brands and styles, I chose this as it was the top of the range at the time and waterproof, had a back light and longer battery than most!

Hope you find this useful you can get the watch on Amazon HERE

Any comments or questions specifically drop them in the comment form below or pop me an e-mail!

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Golite Rush 10L Pack

I stumbled across the 10L Rush pack by GOlite whilst trawling through the outdoor shops in Ambleside, with a very specific mental check list, on what I was looking for.

I wanted the pack for longer ultras and also long days during the winter where more layers would be required therefore more room to put them in than a waist pack. It had to meet the following criteria

  • Bottle holders, 1 on each side. I don't get on with hydration 'bladders' and the ones I have used were a pain to refill and clean, also if I wanted two different drinks then with one bladder this isn't possible. Bottles are easier and quicker to fill, convenient to see how much you are drinking or how much fluid you have left and have numerous other benefits to me.
  • Size up to about 12L, having a bigger pack would me to pack more gear than I actually need, I already have a 20 something litre Berghaus pack that I have had for years which is perfect for multi day but too big for a day out.
  • Waist straps with pockets. Having had these on a previous pack they were great, incredibly convenient for storing either small snacks between checkpoints or the camera and phone for a long training run along with a bit of money for example.
Typical gear you could fit in to the pack!

They were the main things I needed, some added bonuses of this pack are; 
  • An internal zip pocket to store something you need to keep easily accessible such as head torch or spare snacks. 
  • The 2 bottle pockets are made of a stretchy fabric that keeps them from bouncing out and they can therefore also accommodate something other than bottles too such as your gloves/head torch/whatever. Very easy to access these unlike other packs where you need the most flexible shoulder in the world to even consider getting a drink. 
  • There is a 3rd stretchy pocket in the centre at the back which is great for sliding a map into without crumpling it to death, or fit a small jacket. 
  • There is a sleeve in the back of the pack which would take a bladder if you are that way inclined. 
  • Fully adjustable straps including the height of the chest strap. You can even remove the waist strap and pockets if you wanted to. There is a strap that can compress the pack too if it is pretty empty, to prevent things flopping around inside.
  • Built in whistle on the chest strap, often in mandatory kit check list.
  • Elastic cord on the back, if the pack is full or perhaps for those good English days when the weather can't make its mind up, you can wrap your jacket onto the pack secured ready for quick access. 
  • Reflective bits, might save you from being squished if you venture onto the roads at night. 
Snug fit, easy access to the bottles

That is a summary of the features I have discovered so far. It is comfortable to wear for long sessions even with just a t shirt, haven't had any problems with it rubbing. The straps have lots of adjustability to keep it stable and secure. It's big enough for the likes of Lakeland 100 where you need to be prepared for varied weather and might even be out for 24 hours! 
The pack is lightweight although I don't tend to worry about shaving off a few grams here and there so I haven't actually weighed it. On the GOlite website its 450g
There is a drain hole at the bottom of the pack (you could just about fit a headphone cable through it, and to test it I decided to cross some water, I had my gear in the pack inside one of the waterproof 'fold over and buckle' type dry bags and that remained dry and sure enough the water came out of the pack, I had never really needed to worry about that in any of the races I have done with it although the likes of some adventure races maybe it would be more of a benefit?

A typical day out, the pack in action!
The pack is pretty sturdy so far after 6 months and  has a good quality, solid build, as I've been scraping past rocks and sliding on my back down snow covered slopes along with a few odd scuffles here and there the pack is showing no signs of wear, although perhaps due for a wash!

I paid about £30 for it and it was the only pack I could find that met all my 'wants and needs'  I would definitely recommend you check it out or perhaps even some of the other packs in the range, if you are looking for a new one! I'd say it would be ideal for something like the lakeland 100 or an all day outing but I would be seriously impressed if anyone used it for a multi day event being only   12 litres!

Any questions or if there is anything I might have missed off feel free to drop a comment!

Monday 12 March 2012

Grantham Ultra 2x29 milers March 10th + 11th

Nice early start on Saturday morning leaving home just before 6am and cruising down to Cotgrave near Nottingham

Just after passing a sign 'Leicestershire, the heart of rural England'

Basically... Day 1 run from Cotgrave (just outside Nottingham) to Grantham following mostly canal path, then day 2, repeat the same course in the opposite direction! It's pretty flat and was fairly good ground to run a good pace, part of the canal was grassy track which was a tad slippy but nothing the road shoes couldn't handle.

Jen, awaiting victims!

Day 1 start was quite steady with about a group of 5 staying together for nearly the first 10k I moved on ahead just before the first checkpoint and didn't see anybody until the end (apart from Gaynor Prior out for a leisurely jog down the Grantham Canal!)  It would have been pretty difficult to go wrong on this course, there was plenty of those awkward gates (designed to deter cyclists?) to weave through and interrupt your rhythm, one of which a cyclist coming towards me tried to hurry through as he had seen my race number and managed to get tangled up good style. I hopped over the fence and he was very apologetic.

That thorn went through my shoe into my foot and dropped me!
All was going well I hit marathon distance about 12seconds off what I expected (@ 3.09 and 48 sec)  apart from a minor incident with a thorn, going through my shoe into my foot it felt like I had been stung by a Jelly fish! Pulled it out and got back up and it was a little sore for a moment although I soon forgot about it. Ran on and passed a section of the Viking Way (got a long race along that in April, just shy of 150miles) before a hotel came into view, here it was about 1km to the finish and I felt pretty good having not run at a pace that was too extreme. in 3.32 and some seconds.

Trophy for 1st on day 1
After that I promptly downed about 1l of water and some of Claire Trinders flapjack, now world famous in Grantham. Thanks Claire! Washed it down with 2 pints of milk and a lemonade and more flapjack. Vale my friend from Italy was 1st lady today who unfortunately couldn't stay for both days, only her 2nd ultra, very impressive 4hours 14 min if I remember correct?

After that we moved on for a quick feed involving Wetherspoons finest gammon steak. After that headed to my accomodation (about 4km from the race start/finish) which was nice and clean and just what I needed. The bathroom was a bit on the small side (I couldn't stretch my arms in any direction, what I imagine a caged hen to feel like) but it was perfect and did the job (I basically drank tea and slept) the shower bathroom combo was about 1m square or the size of a large fridge, all nice and clean and I would stay there again.

Day 2 the legs felt ok I had a little bit of breakfast and a 9 bar before heading out the door onto the start line. I walked the first km while I drank a pint of milk and then jogged slowly on to the start line, arriving just in time about 8.45. The weather was warm already and the sun was beaming!
Grantham Church day 2 am

Day 2, scenery very much like day 1 only seen from the other direction! I planned to run a little slower today as it felt surprisingly warm and I haven't really got used to running in any kind of heat yet this year (compared to say Autumn when you have spent all Summer running in 'warmer' temperatures) so took it steady and took on more water than I normally would which left me feeling strong towards the end. I rolled in 3hours 48mins and took home a trophy for 3rd on day 2. It was very warm at the finish there and I bet it came as a shock to some of the runners out for a little longer. I saw the paper today, it reported 18 degrees recorded in Nottinghamshire yesterday! Ideal for those Marathon des Sables (MDS) training ;)

The trophies/medals from the weekend.

Rory took a heap of photos too  I have a couple more on my phone from the actual race, I'll pop them up soon! Between finishing day 1 and running day 2 I had approx  6 litres of tea/water/juice and the milk!