Tuesday 30 July 2013

Lakeland 100 UTLD 2013 Part 1

After a busy few months (ultra distance runs and races most weekends) I got a last minute waitlist place into the Lakeland 100 and decided to go for it. The only reservation I had was what effect running 80 miles the previous weekend was going to have (I won the 12 Labours of Hercules race in the Peak District - a great event from Beyond Marathon check that post out too!)

Pre race expectations were that it would take between 22 and 24 hours depending on conditions and I was expecting to end up in the top 5. I planned to start slow and keep a comfortable pace and see how the legs felt later on and tried to ignore any timing information if possible.

 I reached CP1 in 27th place which was not really as far back down the field as I would have imagined but had enjoyed chatting to various runners along the way. The legs had felt a little stiff after driving up and sitting down through the race briefing but by the time darkness had set in and a few cps had passed we had reached Keswick I'd pulled up into the top 10 already and was feeling much better.

 I spent most of the night running with 1st lady Lizzie (Ladies beware!) as neither of us were very familiar with this part of the route and it was good to keep us both on track. I felt like I was running effortlessly during the night and aside from neither of us knowing this section of the route well we had a few stoppages to get the road book out and scratch our heads we moved quite well. When it came light I moved ahead to the halfway at Dalemain. Although we had drop bags here I didn't really need anything apart from a hat and didn't bother sitting down to eat a cup of custard and a cup of tea I was in and out in I guess 5 minutes. I don't really like to linger at checkpoints but sometimes it's nice to see friendly faces and absorb some of the enthusiasm from the various crews supporting the event. (The marshals were totally amazing! They had really gone to lots of effort to theme some of the checkpoints) 

 I only saw 3 runners over the next 50 miles but enjoyed the atmosphere at each checkpoint along the route. With it being quite warm I kept a steady pace and tried to drink both 600ml water bottles between cps. I knew this part of the route so didn't really have to worry about directions and just took it one cp at a time, I felt great mentally all the way through really aside from the legs feeling a bit less nippy than usual. The Delamere Spartan Army was in force at the Mardale cp, sorry I wasn't more talkative but you guys were great!

The next section has a nice climb to get your teeth into and a long descent to follow before hitting Garburn Road and heading over to Troutbeck. I quite enjoyed this section and a bit of shade in the woods before Ambleside was welcome! It was only as I ran through Ambleside when somebody shouted I was only 33 mins away from 3rd that I thought about getting a bit more competitive. I jogged into the cp and got some more water before heading off up and around Loughrigg.

From Ambleside it's pretty good running lots of flat and no major hills but for some reason I had been thinking there was a checkpoint at Chapel Stile and at Langdale.... I was racking my brain trying to remember where they both were as it seemed as though they would be really close together, obviously they are the same place. Just before the camp site track that leads to the cp a big yellow helicopter was landing so I paused to watch for a moment before heading on to the penultimate cp where the current 3rd place was having a breather. I gulped down a cup of tea and cup of coke before setting off in pursuit of 2nd ensuring I built up a good gap to stay on the podium (I managed to put over an hour gap between us in the last 10 miles or so) at this point 2nd place Ed was 40 minutes ahead of me so I had some work to do!

I reached Tilberthwaite cp quite quickly and  had closed down a 12 minute gap to 2nd place... Game on! I hiked the big stone steps up from the car park and then ran on the wrong path to the river! Bugger! Turned around and ran back to the junction and up the hill. As I reached the top I could see current 2nd place in the distance and was on a mission. He couldn't answer to my pace on the rough descent after initially trying to keep up and shouted well done before dropping back, I kept a good pace, just to make sure, all the way down through Coniston and to the finish with the last miles being 'rather quick' I held him off and built a 5 minute gap with Mr Mills having already finished (well done matey!)

The atmosphere at the finish was amazing and it was great to be part of the race! Will I be back next year? we will see! Got to sort out my schedule (which will involve less races and more focus... rather than doing events weekly perhaps)


Part 2 soon!

Wednesday 24 July 2013

12 Labours of Hercules Ultra, Beyond Marathon

When the event was first announced (I think just after Dusk 'til Dawn 50) I knew it would be an interesting event!  Predominantly an ultra run with elements on mountain marathon and adventure race type events. Competitors had 24 hours to complete as many labours as possible (out of a possible 12) which varied in distance from a central location (Losehill hall YHA near Castleton in the Peak District) from 0.5 miles away to 6 miles away. Each out and back leg could be completed in any order and most had a task associated to them with spot prizes for the winner of the task.

Assuming you finished all labours there was 78 miles with 17000ft of ascent. Competitors were a mix of teams (ARGONAUTS), pairs (TITANS) and solos about 80 people started. I was the first finisher overall (ahead of teams and pairs too) just over 4 hours ahead of the 2nd solo.  Full results are up on the website. First 6 finishers here. Great event all round, ideal first ultra perhaps, you're never far from the base and you can run anything from 1 to 78 miles!

Team Name Category Finish Time Labours Completed Miles Completed
Charlie Sharpe Solo 16:10:49 12 78
Accelerate / Holywell Argonauts 16:59:00 12 78
Lost liabilities Argonauts 18:00:31 12 78
Son's of Sparta Titans 18:56:40 12 78
2 Men 1 Mission Titans 19:16:13 12 78
James Harris Solo 20:15:08 12 78

To keep everyone accounted for there were large sheets with each cp written on at the main HQ and competitors signed in and out on there although there were also electronic timing chips to keep track of every bodies times too. Seeing as you could really go in any order you liked it was hard to tell who was in what position and it was quite amusing to people running in all sorts of directions. Best to know where you are going! On receiving the map I knew most of the cp locations although there were one or 2 bits I couldn't remember running on before. I didn't get too concerned about the order except that I left the long one (12 mile) until last as it was mainly road and I wanted to do 8 while I had a good pace on to bag the spot prize for fastest to complete the leg (which I managed)

From the start the majority had chosen cp 2 which was in Peak Cavern, so to avoid traffic I decided to opt for a short 4 miler and then go back for that one second as to avoid the crowds. We had one of the most detailed race briefings ever known to a runner and as always with a Beyond Marathon event all the details had been calculated and the event went incredibly smoothly. I would challenge you to find a race with so many variables so well organised!

After race briefing it was time to get out and get going. I led the pack steadily out and down the driveway into Castleton at around 4.30 per km pace and found I had a fellow solo runner also doing the same leg. Luke mentioned he had a calf problem recently and didn't sound too optimistic but was keeping up as we ascended and reached our first control. We both went for the short 2 mile into the cave next and ended up missing the cp and going all the way into the cave, oops. In the cave you had to retrieve water from the cave and carry it back to base where it was tested with Litmus paper to check the PH!! Once we got out of there it was on to a longer one at cp 9 which it seems most of the field had gone for and were now returning. We had to carefully choose (Ie grab the first one you see) a belt hanging from a tree deep in the woods near the tip of Ladybower Reservoir and return to base.

That was basically the last I saw of any other runners apart from passing them in the opposite direction for hours, although I enjoyed just running my own pace and ticking off some of the longer cps. The labours varied from Archery, Origami, Spear throwing, memory games to simple collect an item and return to base. It broke the running up nicely and it never felt like there was a long way to run as at most you were 10 km away from either a labour or the main checkpoint.

We visited some incredibly cool points and some I'll definitely go back to. After cp 9 I did number 1 and then had a spot of Archery to do (I'm  glad my running isn't as bad as my archery!) then it was off to get number 8 which had a slight gradient but passed by quick without much fuss. After a quick look in the big hole a mile or 2 out the top of Winnats pass I set off back. The return leg was quite fast and I was moving well.

Next stop cp 10 which involved a climb up Mam tor, along the ridge passing Lords Seat and then down towards Booth to an orchard where an apple had to be retrieved and transported back to base, piece of cake! I think next I went for 11 which would mean I'd done the first half and ran up through Cavedale towards Peak Forrest, If I remember rightly the route followed the Dusk 'til Dawn route to where the first checkpoint was before turning down a cobbley track for a real test... after reaching the cp we had to run up a further 200m to a list of 8 birds names stapled to a post, remember them all and return to the cp and recite them... Albatros, Pheasant, Peacock, Pigeon, Hawk, Eagle, Dove, Stalk... I couldn't get the list out of my head for the rest of the race!! Next we were given a piece of paper and had to make a bird from the paper and take it back to base to have it graded (I think mine got 4/10 so no prizes for me!)

After that I headed out for an area I didn't know which was just above Bradwell at Robin Hoods Cross. For me this leg just seemed like hard work, I'm not sure why, perhaps I was just a bit warm but looking back at the results I wasn't doing too bad. The climb upto the cp was a bit of a jungle but I found it easy enough with the directions and it was back to base before hitting Lose hill before sunset. Quite straight forwards except a surprisingly big descent down the other side to collect a miniature cow before returning back to base in less than 40 minutes.

This was quite a nice point in the race as I knew just 20 miles left, two short pretty quick labours left, over Hollins Cross to Edale and then Win Hill summit. I went for Edale first but the cp wasn't where I thought it was and I spent about 5 or 6 minutes wandering around looking for the right bridge, although after that it was a good run back to base and ready for the penultimate cp.

I switched my torch on and grabbed a glowstick before going after Win Hill and caught up with a pair of runners just before the ascent. I was pretty quick up to the top and back with only The Sons Of Sparta Titans being quicker on this leg. It felt good to be back at base but then still 12 miles from the finish!

I set out towards Buck Stone with a pretty good pace although it wasn't long before I'd passed Aston and took a wrong turn somewhere and spent nearly 30 mins running before I got back onto the right path where I was supposed to be. I crossed the river at Bamford and then it was quite straight forward to reach the car park below Buck Stone, ready for some spear throwing. To be fair I didn't do bad at this considering i was throwing into the darkness. A quick trip up a bit further to some rock before returning back along the same path towards Bamford. Another little detour (bugger) before finding the road I needed. I put a bit of effort in here and managed to hold just under 8 min miles with some musical assistance back to the finish! A few tired runners and spectators came to life and congratulated me and I could relax! It was a little exciting running back towards the finish as I had been away for a couple of hours I didn't know what position I would be, I was surprised to hear that no teams had made it back yet.

At the finish all the crew were super helpful getting warm food into tired runners (It was a 10am start so just after 2am when I got back) they seem to like this finishing in the dark business!

A huge thanks to Richard and Wendy and the team for putting on a super event totally different from just another ultra. My only reservation about running it was the fact that I had Lakeland 100 5 days later. (I was certain they were 2 weeks apart when I booked) Beyond Marathon are holding some great looking events next year like the Double or Nothing, Dusk til Dawn 50 mile and it's rumoured a rather long race around both white and dark peak areas, it may even be 100 miles?!!?! You best check the website out for more information. It was great to meet some new faces and catch up with people from all over the place!

Well done to all and see you at the next one!


Sunday 14 July 2013

Peak District 100 RRR (race route recce)

Rumour has it that a NEW 100 mile ultra will potentially be breaking into the UK next year and it looks to be epic! Here are a few piccies from a 55 mile run around part of the course. 
A stunning mix of flat fast trails, some single track, cracking views and the odd hill ;)

To find out more details as they are released head to http://beyondmarathon.com/ where you can also find a range of other popular ultras they organise and also their world wide ultra map! (I've yet to take part in a race with organisation as good as theirs)

The feet stayed nice and dry all the way around in a spell of good weather and I loved the mix of terrain. If you are looking for an intermediate race to build up to the event I'd recommend you check out the Dusk til Dawn races (an over night 50 mile in October or the Daylight version in May)

I can't wait!

Saturday 13 July 2013

Tour of Merseyside race series BTR Liverpool 2013

The race series is new to Merseyside for 2013 organised by BTR events (who did an excellent job!) It consists of 6 races in 7 days between 5 and 13.1 miles totalling 52 miles.

Tour Tshirt and chip timed number

Southport Half marathon 13.1 mile - 1hr 23min 57 seconds  5th tour runner
Thurstaton 10k                              - 38 min 29 seconds       2nd
Walton 10 mile                              - 1hr 00 min 55 seconds  3rd
Hale 5 mile                                    - 30 min 06 seconds        3rd
Stadt Moers 10k xc                       - 36 min 28 seconds        3 rd
Wirral coastal 12 mile                    - 1 hr 14 min 50 seconds  joint 1st (leader Anthony ran in with me)

Total   52 miles in 5 hours 24 min 45 seconds 2nd place overall.

Average pace 6.14 per mile OR 3.52 per km.

Race 1.
I cycled up to Southport on a warm morning and having not done much speedy training recently I wasn't sure what to expect exactly but planned to stick around 4 min per km, a pace I knew I could hold without much fuss. I obviously had a week of racing ahead of me and for a change held back on the first race rather than smashing myself up. The course was flat and on the road with a couple of sections weaving through the various parks and around the Marine lake, a few turns and loops but nothing too exciting. This probably was the hardest race of all for me, I would say just down to it being the first time in a while I had run any real distance on the road at such a pace. After the race it was great to chat to other tour runners and I had a leisurely cycle back to Warrington via I don't know where, eventually finding St Helens and finding my way back ok from there.

Race 2 Wirral Country Park

Race 2.
Monday evening led us to the Wirral country park. Thurstaton to be exact for this mysterious 'multi terrain' 10k. Basically 1km tarmac, 2km beach, 1km tarmac, 2km trail in the woods and the other tarmac and cycle track.
From the start I found myself around 7th position and the front group pulling away.. until the beach. A sandy 2km which made the going tough for those softie road runner types (wink wink) although I found it a bit more comfortable and moved up through the field a little. After sitting behind 3rd and 4th who were feeling the pace on the gradual gradient of the road I moved in front and just then caught a rare glimpse of Richard Webster out on his home turf. Some steps led up the gentle slope through the trees and I moved away from the pack now in 2nd. I must have opened up quite a gap although I didn't look back to check, we came back down to the road before taking a long cycling trail back to the start area which seemed to go on and on and on and on but I held a steady 6 min mile pace from there until the end about 1 minute behind the leader. This moved me into 3rd place overall getting closer to that 2nd spot.

Race 3 Walton on the Trans Pennine Trail

Race 3.
Walton 10 mile on the Sustrans cycle trail. This race broke down well into smaller sections we ran 2.5 mile northwards before turning back and doing 5 mile back passing the start and then turning around for 2.5 mile back to the start and finish. Again from the start i found myself in about 8th with some enthusiastic starters infront. I picked a few off by the turn around point and was in 5th on the return back towards the halfway mark. I caught 2 more runners before the final 2.5 mile section and despite picking the pace up slightly didn't catch 2nd place Andrew Dunning but stayed ahead of Gareth Howell. Surprisingly I enjoyed this having never run a 10 mile before I remained in 3rd overall but had pulled a few more seconds back.

Wednesday was a 'rest day' ie no race. I had a good bit of cycling to and from work and a steady hour running some local paths and ended up averaging 7.02 min miles which felt like walking speed at the time!

The rest day a quick local run this is Billinge Hill

Race 4.
Thursday brought us to Hale near Widness for a 5 mile race (slightly long due to a last minute issue with the finish line positioning) The Mayor was out to count us down and set us off which was nice. Another warm night and this race was looking the least attractive on paper for me but I actually didn't find it too bad. Being the shortest race of the tour probably had something to do with it. A small loop around half a mile followed by a big loop. The same enthusiastic starters infront which I reeled in quite quickly and took position in 3rd at around the 1.5 mile mark. At 3 miles we turned to a long looking country lane heading towards the village and it made the distance seem a long way however I kept my focus on Andrew ahead and came in just behind to some very enthusiastic supporters on the slightly downhill finish. Again pulling some seconds back from Gareth but still 3rd overall.

Hale village 5 mile pre start line erection

The red vest while I was 3rd overall and each day had its own race notes

Race 5.
Stadt Moer Park near Knowsley is known for its XC cross country running events I believe. It was very dry this time of year but I imagine quite exciting in the winter months! I was expecting this to be at least slightly undulating although there weren't really any hills to note the course weaved around the park for 2 5km laps. I slotted into 3rd quite quickly and took the first lap slightly quicker than the second. I opened up quite a gap on Gareth meaning going into the last race 15 hours later we would be only 4 seconds apart.

Race 6.
Saturday morning we are back to the Wirral for a coastal 12 miles out and back along the promenade with the 800m at the far end being on the beach. I was pretty much certain I was going to get 2nd overall after this race. After taking Southport half marathon on the steady side (perhaps too steady?) I had been finishing before Gareth each day. From the start Andy moved into the lead and me and Gareth sat behind for a short while before Anthony (overall winner) came from behind and followed Gareth to the half way point. I moved infront of Gareth and was actually pretty close to the 2 leaders all the way up to the beach section at the far end. That slowed the pace a little as the sand was soft 800m out and then back the same way 6 miles to the start/ finish. It was great coming back towards the other runners there was great morale between everyone and lot's of encouragements being thrown around! I was slowly pulling Andy back in and somewhere between 9 and 10 miles I got right behind him before passing him about 11 miles. I was moving well and could see I was catching Anthony quite rapidly who had allowed me to catch up and run in together. Thanks Anthony and also everyone else who ran, completing such an event is an amazing achievement.

Post race 6 Wirral Coastal run

Post race we met in the Pavilion for a video documentary of our week which was great to watch and see everyone and their reactions to the races etc. There was an incredible variety of runners from racing snakes to people out to finish the event in one piece. I was a little surprised to find myself in the top 3 considering my lack of road running or speed training, I've just been enjoying running out on the trails and in the hills the past few months. We were also treated to some generous prizes and a nice trophy along with a buffet to finish us off.

Tracey raising money for my favourite charity Rett Syndrome Research Trust UK

At each race the support and crew were fantastic. It was incredibly well organised and stress free. My legs felt pretty much the same all week. I've not really had any aches or stiffness which is good. A quick check over from Adrian at Jointsandpoints  who knows his stuff and the legs were feeling great. The series for me was even better than I imagined and everybody was super friendly and enthusiastic!

Presenting 2nd place trophy

A good haul along with some prize money!

I would totally recommend you make the effort and make the time to put this into your schedule for next year, yes there is a bit of travelling about and it's far easier to make excuses but it's incredibly rewarding and an experience different to pretty much anything I've done before! A big confidence boost for me too that I actually can run at a decent pace when I want to, it may even have inspired me to have a bash at a marathon in the 2.30's who knows! Thanks to 9bar for fueling each event for me too! Nutty was flavour of the week and went down along with a banana and plenty of water about 90 minutes before each event!

Get onto http://www.btrliverpool.com/event/tour-of-merseyside/#enter-now if you want to be part of the next one and if you want some help in the training leading up to it pop me a message
It's 1 year away even a beginner could make it round by then no worries!

Next week is 12 Labours of Hercules... 80 miles of fun in the Peak District with Beyond Marathon who put on some of the best events I've done! I'll either be in really good shape or knackered I guess, planning on a steady pace so should be able to enjoy it and not smash myself to bits!

Thursday 4 July 2013

Buff Lightning 12 hour race 30th June

I rolled in with 2nd position overall with 110km in the solo category will post pics and info soon!