Wednesday 25 March 2015

Oldham Way Ultra 40 mile - 1st + CR

I'd summarize the Oldham Way as a 40 mile loop around Oldham starting out in the hills and crossing plenty of farmland, followed by a few flat fast miles of canal path in the middle before getting back into the hills over the last third. To be honest I'd not had my hopes up before the race as I didn't think the name sounded that exciting but after looking at the profile I thought it'd be ideal for a decent long run before the next 100 miler in April. I was pleasantly surprised! We had some fantastic weather to be fair, on a rainy day the fields would get a bit more wet and boggy I imagine! 

Anyway... On to the race... Or the day before the race first... Having a local trail marathon the day before was far too tempting to pass up, so I decided if I had a steady run out at the Gin Pit Marathon the day before that would be ideal for a couple of back to back runs. An easy first 10 miles @ 6.50 min mile pace running with a guy called Joe to get through half way in 1.29 before upping the pace a tad for a 2.55 finish,

Back to Sunday It's a 7.30 start with registration and briefing etc all going smoothly. Quick and painless, just how we like it! I'd read the route was a tricky one to follow from last years blogs so I started back a few rows and just wanted to settle in with whoever was at the front for the first 10 or so miles until the canal section to wake my legs up then ramp the pace up. There was nobody attempting to make a break particularly and my legs actually felt fine so after about 10 minutes I moved to the front and started to move away. The maps given out were good and I had the gps for backup. I ran with a guy called Steve (??) and we had some sort of gap behind us, I seemed to have taken on navigation duties and got us to the first of the 5 CPs fairly handy. 

There are a few small hills during the first 12 miles and it's mostly through farmland so some tricky to spot styles in the corner of fields here and there but still relatively uneventfully as we chatted through the miles to CP 2 just before hitting the canal. 

On the canal there was another race going on (Canalathon?) so there was a long stream of runners going in the opposite direction - great to see lots of friendly faces! Some of the tail end runners were a bit confused by us running towards them but all seemed ok and after some sub 7 min miles we were soon at the 3rd cp as they were just setting out the runners treats. It was shortly after here that I moved ahead on my own as we approached 20 miles ish and where the hills start again. 

The route turns off the canal through a few parks and then undulates along towards Dove Stones area, We were treated to a fantastic trail along a valley and back down the opposite side. Just as I was nearing the end and turned I saw someone gaining on me very quickly, I glanced at the watch, still moving at a similar pace I thought that someone must have come back from the dead to be gaining on me so quick. Turns out it was a local guy out for a quick few miles! Before I knew it I had dropped down into the last cp over the reservoir and had a chat to the guys there and grabbed a few jelly babies. It seemed that there was quite a gap forming and finishing just under the 6 hour mark looked pretty comfortable so I left at a steady pace and enjoyed getting into some of the final climbs (for a heads up the bigger climbs are in the last section) Other than a bit of a maze of little trods on the top of the moors the last section was quite straight forwards.

I was looking at the map and had a glance at the watch and was looking like 5.55 or so to finish. All good! Then hitting another hill I realized I was going to squeeze about 41.5 miles out onto the gps so I put a bit of effort in to make sure I was under the hour... despite a 'somewhat fast' final descent towards the finish it wasn't quite enough and I rolled in 6 hours 4 minutes having had a fantastic run in the sun!

It was a bit of a wait before anyone else appeared with the next finisher just under 7 hours and 3rd place just over 7 hours. The chap I had run with earlier on had possibly been running a little on the fast side and seemed to have slowed off a huge amount later on. At the finish there was plenty of food and drink to feast on and I was treated to a good rub from Hayley Wild (aka Killer Hands - if you're looking for someone to sort your muscles out in Rochdale worth giving her a call)

Really enjoyed the route! Don't be put off by the name! Also worth being able to navigate on paths and trails with a map. There isn't much open fell type stuff but still worth being confident with the map, I'm sure many people lost time scratching heads at junctions!
Thanks to Team OA who put on a great event, Berghaus for kitting me up - especially the Vapour Claw Trail shoes and 9 bar for breakfast! (Pre race breaki is 3 Strawberry and Apricot 9bars - saves any additional stress on race day too!)

Sunday 8 March 2015

Trans Gran Canaria 2015 ... Oops!

Some photos are not taken during the race just to show the route in daylight ;)

The TGC is about 80 miles with 8500m ascent, a mix of rocky fairly technical single track and other mountain tracks you could drive a 4x4 over. Starting in Agete on the northwestern side of the island and finishing near to Maspolomas in the south. Temperatures this year were warm but there was a welcome breeze in places.

Training had gone great over the past few months and I'd looked at a few previous performances to give a rough idea of how long it'd take. I figured being a marathon shorter than Magredi Mountain 100mile with similar ascent I'd comfortably be in the 16 (expected) to 18 (bad day) hour range..... In terms of positions it's not something I really consider until later stages of races. I'd rather come last and feel like I gave everything and ran well in a race, than win a race but under perform if that makes sense?

So what actually happened??
Well.... In the last couple of hundred milers I've done I've got all my calories from coke, a few others have been coke and a very occasional bit of other food but I've not  bothered to eat any actual food and felt great throughout. I checked beforehand on the race and coke at checkpoints, all good!

All the organisation was really slick aside from a slightly slow registration, comfortable coach to the start line and almost a big party in Agete to get runners psyched up! It was a fantastic atmosphere and we had around 90mins wait before the 11pm start.

The first km is on the road before a climb up to 1200m and cp1 around 10km in. Despite a steady start I was moving faster than expected over the course and really enjoying myself as the traffic thinned out I had nothing at cp1 and after a tough descent and twisty trail cp2 soon came up. Just after a guy had fallen as his head torch batteries died and he couldn't see to clean himself up or swap batteries. I was eager to move on but waited a couple of minutes whilst he changed batteries and made sure he was ok. A bit of a scrape but no dramas. I reeled in a few runners as we hit cp3, handed my bottle over to be topped up with coke and sorted my water and electrolytes out and grabbed a set of spare batteries out of my bag ready for the next section. I realised a lady was pouring coke zero into my bottle and that I'd had the same on cp2. I tipped it out and put normal coke in and off I went. I felt a bit weak climbing from the cp but knew the coke would kick in soon and was still making good progress. The markings for the course were great provided you were paying attention, few people were getting a bit confused here and there but didn't hear of any major issues.

I was starting to struggle a bit on the climbs and thought it was a bit strange , my legs just felt a bit gutless. At the time I put it down to the difficulty of the course and pushed on. The next few CP's had Pepsi instead of coke and I had been drinking Pepsi Max (I didn't realise at the time but Max is the sugar free one!!) I felt increasingly weak after 5 or so hours and was sleepy during the night, after about 50km even running on the flat was hard.... I knew something wasn't right, I know what a bit of fatigue feels like but I was struggling to see properly and couldn't focus, had to slow even further as I went a bit dizzy. After thinking through what it could be I eventually hit the checkpoint at Tejeda and discovered that the Pepsi Max I'd been asking for was sugar free and 'Pepsi' is the one with sugar!!!!

It was about 10 hours in where I checked the bottle to realise that I had been drinking the sugar free and therefore wasn't taking any energy in... No wonder I was struggling.... I got out some gels and isotonic drink sachets and other snacks from my bag and over the next section around Roque Nublo I was feeling a lot better but had to keep calories going in every ten mins or I crashed again.... There was a cp just before the highest point of the race I had some pasta and grabbed more snacks along with real Pepsi and forced myself out of the cp. An English guy Simon passed me who was doing the 83km race and moved ahead  after a quick chat. He was soon out of sight.

I was able to bring my energy levels up and run strongly in the last 20 miles. The last big descent at about 25km to go was pretty technical and rocky to say the least and I caught and passed tens of runners who'd passed me earlier in the various races. On the bottom it's basically a long flat half marathon to the finish on a good rocky track and Simon moved ahead again. I was continuing to trickle calories in and just felt better and better. The garmin battery dnf'd at this point but this was the fastest I moved since the start as I reeled in more and more runners towards the final 10km to go check point.

Just when you think you're at the end there was a little lap through some soft sand on the beach before snaking through a funnel of spectators to the big finish! Finally I'd finished in 19.34. To be honest a pretty shocking time for me though I'm grateful to be able to do that in a bad day! I think really the lesson to learn is know what's in your drinks or food. There's only me to blame for choosing Pepsi Max.... Had I known it had no sugar in I wouldn't have touched it and just used the sachets I was carrying. I only drink the stuff in races it's not something I'd touch in every day eating.
After all that I'm even more excited about the next big one. My legs have never felt stronger than recently (except during 5-15 hours of the race haha) I'll be a bit more vigilant on what I'm drinking and not assume anything! If you're after a hard but stunning route that is really well organised definitely have a poke around in the website!