The Wheel of Life

I woke up this morning feeling feeling very refreshed considering that my household has suffered at the hands of the the flu bug sweeping through the country this past week although officially it's not an epidemic the experts are saying.

I have been conscious of the fact that I haven't updated my blog this past month but to be honest I haven't had much time due to a very busy month both on the work and domestic front. However I have been reflecting on this years running achievements and compiling areas of focus for next year. See below:

Highlights
  1. Finishing the Grimsthorpe 70 mile race.
  2. Setting a new half marathon PB
  3. Meeting some great new folks in the running world
  4. Running never got in the way of family time.
  5. 5 races completed (Ultras 2: 30km 1: 1/2 marathon 1: 10k 1:)
 2011 focus
  1. Complete Bob Graham Round, sub 24 hours
  2. Run more miles and run what I can when I can.
  3. Don't let running conflict with family time.
Looking at what I have achieved this year I am fairly pleased with the results. I didn't set any specific goals as I hadn't really planned anything at the start of 2009 and pretty much took things one day at a time. For me the biggest lesson I learned this year were that I shouldn't rigidly stick to a training plan. I work 9-6, have 2 kids under 5 years old and therefore this will all come before running because at the end of the day as they are the priorities that dictate my life. So I have kind of adopted the philosophy of "running what I can when I can" and focus on quality workouts when time is limited. This of course does mean though there are plenty of hours in the day where I can get a run in.

In 2011 my approach to life and running will be no different from the last few months of this year. However I would like to race more and improve performance so being with other like minded individuals is a must and by joining a running club this would help but we shall see how I could fit it in. The BGR is my number one goal next year and I have been able to secure time for recces / long training runs from the family to support this effort over the next 6 months It's going to be amazing journey and no easy task especially if the weather is against us as the navigation will be challenging.

I wish you all a Happy New year and thanks for the support this past 12 months. It's been quite an adventure and there is more in store as the "wheel turns".

Happy Running

Gatliff 50km marathon Race Report

"Jerry you won't believe this but drink bottle has frozen, it tastes just like a raspberry slush puppie"

These were my exact words as I left the first checkpoint on Sunday during the Gatliff 50km marathon event. I was pre-warned about this event to not under estimate it or be fooled by the race title. This event is primarily setup for walkers by the LDWA with distances of 50km, 35km and 20km. Every year it has been held there are usually a lot of changes to the course and this year was no exception.

I haven't been running many long runs since Grimsthorpe in the summer and this was certainly going to be a good test of my base fitness, test my sense of direction (of which I have many issues) and hang out with a few running buddies I haven't seen a few months.

As soon as I got out of bed at 5.15am I knew it was going to be a very cold day but how cold exactly remained unanswered, well until I opened the front door. I crept downstairs to prepare a bagel with jam and a coffee to get some fuel on board. Around 1/2 hour later I got dressed into my kit that I prepared the night before and opened the front door. Oh my god! It was freezing. I opened the back door to the car and loaded up my change of clothes and shoes. I checked the digital thermometer in the car and it read -6C/21F. I left around 6.15am by the time I scraped the ice of the windscreen.

The journey to Edenbridge, Kent was pretty quick and once parked up I phoned Jerry and I walked to the Rugby club where the start and finish were. I met Jerry and George inside the main hall, paid my race entry and registered my details for the 50km event. I picked up the route directions and we headed quickly out the door at 7.20am.

The first 2-3 miles were relatively flat however it was very noticeable how rough conditions would be underfoot in exposed areas as we traversed the first fields. It was frozen solid like concrete and with the very uneven surfaces you would need to dance across the terrain in order not to twist an ankle. The terrain changed quite rapidly as we reached the first hills around 200ft although not a great deal of climb the cold air and cold winds were making things a little tougher than in training. We decided early on that we weren't going to run hills as this was a training run so we would power walk up them because after all we were not going to push things today.

As the route progressed we lost ourselves a couple of times due to how we interpreted the directions. Still it made things fun in my opinion especially as the landscape was so beautiful to look at both.  The frosting made everything look like it was coated in sugar. Time seemed to quickly dissipate despite everything around us seemingly standing still, before long we had reached the first checkpoint. One problem however was that they had didn't have any water due to the supply being completely frozen solid. I decided it was time to eat 1/2 a 9bar that I had brought along with my raspberry powerade. I tried drinking from my water bottle but no liquid was coming out. It had completely frozen in my holster. When I finally took the cap off it was like a slush puppie that my kids drink in the summer (ok and me sometimes too). I didn't feel that thirsty however I knew that if I didn't drink much I would still dehydrate despite the low temperatures.

What I didn't know at the time until Jerry told me was that we were entering "Winnie the Pooh" country in Ashdown Forest. George said to watch out for Pooh Bridge although unfortunately no pictures of it. We constantly referred to the directions as the landscape changed to woodland which made faint paths tricky to spot. We got chatting to a walker who offered some sound advice "Follow the yellow arrows". So we decided to pick up the pace and shot down a lovely looking trail, unfortunately it was the wrong one!! We headed back about 500-600m before we come to the point where we should have gone. Where the hell was these yellow arrows!! Once we headed down into the gully it was then we saw the arrows..Weald Way..Doh!!

We started to head into the Wealds of Kent and it was great to get some single track running in with sharp twists and turns, short sharp inclines and some fast descents. This is the type of terrain I love the most when I head out to run. I let gravity take me down the descents as we headed deeper into the rabbit hole of the race. The terrain suddenly changed to concrete and roads which was a shame but again I didn't want to be spoilt to much with woodland trails as I might not of wanted to come out!! We soon hit Checkpoint 2 and I topped up my water bottle with some blackcurrant squash and ate the rest of my 9bar. We then consulted the directions and it was clear at this point we were heading to the highest point which was over 600ft. We set off at an easy pace and felt very good after all I wanted to experience things fully rather than just get to the end of this one. I don't get many opportunities to do this type of event (although I think that will change)

I felt pretty good and the miles ticked by despite losing some time earlier with regard to not following directions correctly however we knew that we were now heading north due to the bearings pointing that way. We could see that we had a 1500m stretch along a disused railway line. We met up with a couple of other runners who were unsure whether we were on the right track so to speak. I looked at the directions as we settled into a steady rhythm and could see that the next checkpoint was the lunch stop. Personally I wasn't that fussed about the food however I was looking forward to a cup of tea or two on this cold day. We stopped at the checkpoint and I ate 1/2 9bar again and some chocolate Swiss roll and two cups of tea and topped up my water bottle. It really did feel good to have a hot drink. We only stopped for about 5-10 minutes and on we went. If I sat down I would have been in there for ages...


We had to track back some way down the railway track again and as we were about to cross a stile we came across a guy who was holding his head and the back of his neck. He did look a bit worse for wear and with the very cold conditions it was best that he return to the checkpoint. We flagged down some walkers who were heading that way and asked whether they could take him there to ensure he got medical attention. It reminded me of how easy it is to take a fall and end up like that especially due to the challenging conditions. You never know when your number come in and I hope he is doing ok and that my number never comes around.

We pushed onward feeling strong chatting away and focused a great deal on the directions so as to not make a mistake. I was quite pleased with myself that I had become accustomed to the directions and feel more confident for future events. The terrain had changed so much during the run that you had to employ a whole host of skills to ensure you continued moving forward, it wasn't just a case of run and follow the arrows. We reached Checkpoint 4 and had a cup of tea and ate the last of my 9bar (do love the pumpkin flavour). I felt pretty good and put this down to getting my sound hydration and eating right. However I didn't fill my water bottle this time before heading out the checkpoint door.

As we entered the last 15km I was wondering how long we had been on our feet as to be frank I hadn't really looked at my watch since we started, it stated around 6hrs. Time had gone quick. Just as we reached the marathon point Jerry had a small celebration as he reached 2,000 miles for the year. I started to have a rough moment and felt quite thirsty. I reached for my water bottle but it was empty. I knew the last checkpoint was only 2 miles away so I pressed on with the others, I have been in this position before and its a case of managing the feeling knowing that it will pass. It wasn't a catastrophic mistake as the checkpoints were not far apart but it reminded me of the importance of maintaining 100% concentration on things such as this otherwise in future races I will pay for it.

We reached the last checkpoint (in a Sawmill) and I immediately wanted a hot drink and some lemon squash to quench the thirst. We didn't stop long as it was only 6.2km back to the finish line. As we headed out the door along the road there was great view of the North Downs. For me it's always a privilege to see this as I am so used to living in a very flat area of the country in Essex. In the last mile or so we sighted the Rugby club and I felt so good that I decided to stretch the legs out and sprinted (felt like I was) across the field to the club house. Sorry Jerry and George I couldn't resist it.

I went through the doors and collected my finishers certificate. We had held back and it wasn't a competitive time (finishing in 7hrs39 mins) but it was a great training run with similar minded individuals and a good experience to take forward for the next adventure.

When Less is more

This afternoon I found out that the car I have owned for the last 2 years requires fixing due to oil leaking into the coolant tank. It will cost in the region of £300 to get fixed and to be honest my first thoughts were one of panic especially as Christmas is around the corner and I do not like spending this money on this type of thing as I have already replaced most of the engine and it's components over the past 12 months totalling a small fortune. Now I could question why does life throw these curve balls at me especially as my state of mind contrasted so differently from this morning.

At 7am  this morning I was pumping my arms and legs in order to complete my quality 5 mile Hill reps session. Usually I make these sessions progressively tougher each time by either increasing the mileage or switching from going up hard and jogging down to going up jogging and running down hard. As I was breathing heavily towards the top of the hill and my rhythm breaking down I was focused on doing one thing, getting up to the top and taking in the view. I have done this countless times and as I start to jog back down the hill and my heart rate / breathing recovers I am still amazed how good I feel and how simple life seems in moments like this.

By nature I am an optimistic person and I don't tend to focus on problems, only on finding a solution to the problem. It was during my trip home from work this evening when I was thinking about how to solve this car problem that I had a moment of clarity that made me look assess other areas of my life and how they make me feel. I and others have heard it a million times the over used phrase "Less is more". This phrase has been used / misused by so many people but if you stop and think how can this apply to my life it actually makes you take stock of where you are in your life and what is important to you. Often in our incredibly busy and connected world we live in we don't spend enough time thinking and appreciating what is actually going right in our lives and focus on only what we don't have or want to have. Now I am not saying that I don't need a Car, House, TV etc however it got me thinking about all the other things I have and what is really necessary to live a life that I enjoy and appreciate each day.

For me like most people I want to be there for family and friends, this is the most important thing to me. The act of putting my shorts and t-shirt on and going running is now such a part of me that I cannot function without this act considering it always helps clear my mind and allow me to focus on one thing often resulting in a calming effect. I love travelling to new places and enjoying the job I do. I always try to find a balance with these things and often I am happy with the results.

Sometimes however the periphery things in life like my car today touch a nerve because it  can interfere with the things I determine important in my life e.g. taking my children out for the day, travelling to places, travelling to races etc and due to today's events perhaps it's time to look at my belief system and really apply it to my daily life starting with the things I don't need and that could interfere with the things I hold dear. By removing them or minimizing the impact they have on the important things, the less there is to worry about and therefore less problems, hassle etc. Now I am not saying this is the magic bullet to living a more fulfilling life but at the end of the day if the things that make me happy are the only things required to live a happy life.

This of course influences my approach to running. Although when I think about it the only thing I would love to change in my running is being able to get in a car that doesn't go wrong and travel to great locations in a convenient fashion in order to pump those arms and legs and just take in the view.

Billericay Striders 10k Race Report

A 10k race..did I read this right..yes you did.

This is a local race some 30 minutes drive from where I live and is organised by the Billericay Striders running club. When a couple of running friends asked me if I was interested in signing up for this I didn't give it a second thought and sent off my entry with thought that I could set a decent 10k PB to build upon. Something I had failed to do officially since taking up running back in 2008.

Before the day of the race I didn't give it a thought to look at the course profile or read reviews of the race from last year. I had assumed it would be a flat course and that a sub 45 minutes was possible despite my lack of fast sessions recently in training.

I woke up well rested on the morning of the race at 6.30am, had my usual breakfast of porridge, banana and half a bagel with orange juice and a tea before getting my kit together. As always a good tip is to prepare your race kit the night so that you don't have to think about where you left this shirt or socks etc. The race was scheduled for 9.45am so my friends picked me up around 8.30am in order to get there slightly early to avoid car parking issues and have time to warm up. It was very chilly on the day of the race therefore I didn't want to run in a vest so I chose a technical t-shirt I frequently use in training and a thin pair of gloves to keep the hands warm as I always seem to have cold hands.

When we arrived at the venue we quickly found the race HQ (which was inside the Leisure center a few yards from the start) to ensure that we kept warm until a few minutes before the race. There were several hundred people taking part of all abilities, local running clubs and there was a very friendly and vibrant atmosphere. Amid all the organised chaos I dropped my bag in the main hall and headed out 20 minutes before the start for a 10 minute warm up (accelerating towards the end) stretch to ensure the legs were flush with warm blood. It was very cold at this point so I decided the gloves would be staying on for the race.

The race announcer called everyone to the start line to line up in four waves based on your expected finishing time to ensure that the fastest runners lined up at the front and the rest of the field lining up where they feel that can finish. I lined up in the middle of the pack around the 45-50 minute finishers expecting people not to race off in front of me. I was aiming for an average 7:15 minute mile pace to achieve my goal and was determined that I could hold that for most of the race before seeing what was left in the tank for the last 2km.

The race started..FAST! As I pushed off a lot of people surged past me. I didn't want to go off too quickly otherwise I would pay dearly in the last third of the race. However I decided to get away quickish but being mindful of my pace which was around 6:40 minute miles at this point for the first couple of hundred meters before suddenly hitting a hill. I hadn't expected this but powered up it none the less. It took around 30 seconds to get to the top of it before yet another hill . Again I responded and kept my cadence high and reduced my stride to work hard getting to the top of it but I was starting to think there was a pattern here.

My watch beeped after the first mile, I checked my pace and saw 7:34 flash up. I wasn't unhappy with that as the hills took some of the speed out of my legs but I would be playing serious catchup to balance out that slowish first mile. With the downhills I was able to pick up the pace a bit but then would hit another couple of inclines which were slowly rising gradients. In a way I would of preferred very steep gradients so that they wouldn't hit the leg speed as much as it was. Maintaining a consistent pace was tough going.

By the end of Mile 2 (avg 7:21) I was feeling sufficiently warm and the sun was shining gloriously as we went up yet another progressive hill. I actually didn't expect it to be as warm as it was. I took my gloves off as they just weren't needed as my hands were sweaty and I started to regret not running in a vest. As the watch went off again at Mile 3 (7:37) I noticed a sign stating that the drinks station was up ahead so as I ran through it and I grabbed a cup of what looked like water as I did have a dry throat and gulped it down before continuing to run on. As the liquid hit the back of my throat I began to choke really badly and couldn't catch my breath and had to stop immediately. Given that I am asthmatic I always take precautionary measures to ensure my breathing is steady. This completely ruined my rhythm and pace for the run.

I finished in 47:58.

I placed 212 place out of 616 runners which was disappointing however I had survived the battle. Just after I collected my race memento I met my friend at the who had raced off ahead of me to finish in a good time of 41 minutes. As we waited for his wife to finish (she did so in 59 minutes) we talked about future race plans. The first thing to him was "I want some more of this fast stuff, lets find another one". Not that I am retiring from ultras or anything however I really enjoyed the experience and took a lot of food for thought away after the race.

I learned some valuable lessons that day that upon reflection are silly mistakes to make e.g. not checking the weather forecast, hydrating properly pre race, not checking the course profile or comments. Performing well in any event in my opinion comes down to many factors but for me the two most important factors I consider critical for success are

Preparation for the event (appropriate training, gear to wear, hydration etc, review the course)
Knowing exactly what I am going to do on the start line (pace judgement)

Personally I enjoyed the experience and will be looking to take part in other shorter races moving forward. It did inject some much needed variety into my schedule and it is providing me more goals to work on for the future.

Happy Running.

In the Fast lane

During the past couple of weeks training has been consistent and I have had some great quality sessions. One of the areas I have been focusing on is my leg speed and speed endurance. The reason for this is that I have finally entered my first 10k road race that takes place in 3 weeks time on November 7th.

**

One of the things I mentioned in my last post was that I would be doing some shorter races during 2011 however it appears fate has come early as a couple of friends of mine wanted to do this and asked me if I would like to join them. The race is local to me, described as flat and undulating and only 10 pounds entry fee so of course I said yes.


**

It's strange when I think about it that I haven't actually run a 5k or 10k race given that I only started running back in May 2008. These distances are usually the focus for many newbies taking up this sport and I think it's great that thousands of people do. I have only run races of 1/2 marathon and above and the reasons for that I think are that I just haven't thought about the shorter race distances due to the fact I thought I would never be fast. Therefore I focused on the endurance side of running and wanted to go longer and longer to find a limit to what my limits were.

**

Until 12 months I ago I didn't really think about fast sessions in my training schedule but they have been firmly fixed since then and I believe they have helped improve my ability to run at a faster although more comfortable running pace during my long runs. One thing I love about the fast runs is that although I often dread the start of them after the first couple of miles the legs get motoring, focus on breathing, keeping good running form and then run the distance in a tempo fashion by building up through the run so that by the end of it I have the feeling that my lungs are on fire.

I had one such session earlier this week. I warmed up with a 7:23 min/mile and a 7:21 before clocking 7:03, 7:02 and 7:02 for the remaining miles on this off road session. When I got to my front door I fell to my knees and was taking in deep breaths of glorious air, surprisingly though I didn't have sored legs the next day so I know there is more in the tank.

**

I have no specific target time for the race although to average sub 7 minute miles is what I would like to achieve. All I know is that I am going to give it everything I've got in the last 1/4 of the race as for me that's where it starts. I picked out this great video of legendary Welsh runner Steve Jones running a 10,000 meter race in the 1980's. It shows to me clear as day how much guts and determination is needed when running these races.

New Focus

It occurred to me today halfway through my long run foot deep in very muddy conditions that summer has finally fizzled out. The weather this whole weekend has been wet, windy and with a noticeable chill slowly returning to the air during the mornings and evenings. I don't dislike training during the winter time as I do find the cold dark mornings somehow more calming than during summer especially off road as you see so few people around.

**

Well I am finally back into some consistent training and although it is still on the low side of things for me I am pleased with the consistency and quality of the runs so far. Today I mapped out the next 12 weeks training wise as I have a couple of off road events organised by the LDWA that I intend on entering. Although not strictly speaking they are not races they are great events to take part in, fantastically organised and great value for money as they can provide quite a challenge both on the running front and the navigation required to complete them. The events I am definitely entering  are the Gatliff Marathon (which is actually a 50km event) and the Winter Tanners 30 miler. So I am very happy that I have got something to focus on over the next 12 weeks before 2011 gets going properly.

**

In preparation for these events I am about to purchase some new trail shoes as my Inov-8 Roclite 315's are on their way out. I have decided to go with the Inov-8 Roclite 295's this time around based mainly on the fact that they are a stripped down pair of 315's and with a wider toe box (I have a wide foot). I am sure to post a full review of them at a later date. I am also planning to buy some racing flats for my shorter sessions and because I intend to do some shorter races to set some PB's in the 5k, 10k etc in 2011.

Although 2010 is not over yet I am already focusing somewhat on next year and what I need to do to take my performances up a notch as I feel I can improve a great deal and become more competitive. This is certainly a big goal next year. I will definitely be entering more ultras next year plus throwing in some shorter faster distances. I have already announced that the Bob Graham Round will be my number one focus however there will be several other events I want to perform well at and in doing so do some fundraising for the charity I feel strongly about (more later on this).

**

Lastly I have had some very positive news recently as I have now got support from 9Bar energy bars for next years events. I started using these as part of my long runs some time ago and after my last ultra race pretty much decided they would be my primary fuel of choice for both long runs I do and for the ultras upcoming next year. It's a really great company and they have a great product that delivers a very good balance of low GI carbohydrates, good helping of protein and taste great. I personally like the Pumpkin bars. So if you get the chance check them out.

Back in the saddle

Well the week is almost up and I am feeling back to where I should be once again and have been enjoying some great runs during the last couple of weeks. I also managed to break the 1,000 mile mark for this year and although not a big number I am pleased that I have reached this total so far and it's still going upwards.

Although weekly mileage has been low compared to pre July I will be looking to take the mileage back to where it was (50+ miles) by the end of September and see whether this can be pushed further up.I definitely was stuck in a rut shortly after Grimsthorpe but things are looking good now and the running express train is moving forward with ever increasing speed. I have also added some great core and upper body exercises involving abs, lower back, glutes, hamstrings, hips, etc. Definitely feel I can improve in this an area I didn't do too much work on during the first half of this year and this should definitely help my overall strength and running posture over the course of the long term.

***

On the racing side of things I haven't booked anything yet for the remainder of this year however I have had a few running buddies ask me if I fancied another race before the year is out and I might just do that. However the only half-solid plan at the moment is to go to the Lake District at the end of October to enjoy a whole day running up there with a couple of running buddies. This is something I missed out on during the summer when I pulled out of the Lakeland 50 event so I cannot wait to get the opportunity to do this.

***

Despite the year not being over yet my 2011 plans however are really shaping up already and I can now confirm that I will be attempting the Bob Graham Round in June next year plus a whole host of other races / challenges. Although a long time away I am not underestimating the challenge involved here as the BGR really is one tough cookie, 42 summits, 27,000 ft climbing, self-navigated and all to be completed within 24 hrs. I will cover this in a future post but it thrills me to think I will be getting the opportunity to do this next year. If you are not familiar with this then check out this great website - Bob Graham Round. More on this and the 2011 schedule later.

***

My goal for this week is to finish up with around 40 miles or so and gradually increase that to around 50-55 over the next two weeks. The main focus is to keep getting those quality running sessions and see where it takes me. At the moment I am really enjoying the running.

Keep rocking guys!

The Good, Bad and Where to Next.

I have been conscious that I haven't posted for a while and that's mainly because I haven't had much going on since the Grimsthorpe 70 miler 5 weeks ago and deliberately so.

Due to my overuse injury sustained during the race I really did need 3-4 weeks of recovery to ensure a smooth recovery. I have slowly returned to running during the past 10 days but things have not gone exactly to plan. It is clear to see that I have lost some of the fitness (mainly on the speed side of things) I worked hard to build up during the first half of this year. Of course this drop in fitness was expected due to the 3+ weeks I took off. I am positive thought that after a few weeks quality sessions and things will slowly come back

During that rest period I reflected on what I did right and what lessons I had learned after the race and where I need to go from here.

What I did Right

I paced the race well up until my legs went at 60 mile point--Up until the 60 mile point I was averaging each 10 mile loop around 2-2.5hrs.

I did some quality  long runs of 3-4 hours--I managed to do about a 12 runs or so between 22-25 miles. As we will see below this was also a mistake because I hadn't really been beyond the 26 mile point at all and I would have liked to do a few 5-6 hour runs.

Resting foot injury developed 3 weeks before the race--This was key otherwise I would never have even got to the starting line.

Areas of improvement

I didn't do enough long runs--Although I did do a decent amount of long runs around 3-4 hours I just don't think I had enough time on my feet prior to the race and this impacted my performance. Of course I was pleased to finish but I felt dissapointed at the same time. I definitely need more time running on my feet so will be trying to fit in some 5 or 6 hour runs. Of course I am still a relative newcomer to running letting alone ultras so my base mileage will grow and my running economy will improve which in turn should help deliver better performances.

Eating erratically and not drinking enough--During the race I pretty much drank bottle after bottle of Gatorade however in the early part of the race I was hit with dehydration and was always playing catchup until around the 30 mile mark and this was one of the reasons I switched to water instead of Gatorade. Also the sweet taste was making me feel nauseous after drinking around 6-7 litres of it.I think I will be sticking to plain water with Nuun tablets moving forward and take experiment with some different gels / energy bars. Eating wise I ate so many different type of things during the race both sweet and savoury and surprisingly all of my choices settled within my stomach (I particularly found eating different types of 9Bars particularly good). However I was pretty much spending on average 6-7 minutes at the checkpoint and this was far to long and I walked way with my muscles feeling cold / stiff and it took time to warm up again plus this was the only time I was eating, not good when you are on your feet for 18 hours. I need to be more consistent and military like with my fuelling / hydration. so I aim to experiment a bit more during the future and hopefully get this one right before my next ultra.

What's Next?

I have been contemplating this question ever since I finished the Grimsthorpe race and to be honest I really am not 100% sure on what I will do, at least not where 2010 is concerned. The main focus during the past weeks has been to rest so as to ensure a smooth recovery. During the week I am well on the way to getting my fitness back albeit only 29 miles however I am looking to return to where I was before Grimsthorpe over the next few week and then take it from there. I am considering the Brentwood Trail marathon on 24th October but might do some 5k's, 10k's or half-marathons. We'll see. To be honest I would like to get another ultra under the belt this year but the season is coming to an end and most races are not within easy reach. But one things for sure I am going to get out there and do some long long runs just for the fun of it.

I am already planning 2011 and it is looking really good already but I don't want to wish away the rest of this year especially as I feel mentally stronger and I know I can only go from strength to strength from here. I think I have entered a new phase in my running in that I am now not just looking to finish but run the race in style  and be stronger during the last half of the race. Bring on the next adventure I just cannot wait.

Grimsthorpe 70m ultra - Report

It was 6.00am when I awoke in my Travelodge room knowing that today’s Grimsthorpe 70 mile ultra was going to push my known limits both from a distance perspective and how much time I would end up spending on my two feet. I made a cup of tea and had two bagels with peanut butter for breakfast that I had made the previous day at home. I felt quite thirsty also due to the air conditioning so I slowly drank a bottle of Lucozade sport to quench my thirst and get some electrolytes into the body.

Leading up to the race I had been in contact with a few of the competitors who were taking part via Facebook and discovered that one of them was staying at the same Travelodge as me so we decided to meet up after breakfast before heading out. It’s always good to meet people in this sport as I pretty much spend all my time running solo, especially long runs. Ian had run many marathons including a 3hrs 12mins at London which is very impressive but this was his first ultra race and he said himself he was venturing into a world of unknown.  He also did me a very big favour in providing me with Kona Cola Nuun tablets which in the end proved invaluable.

We arrived at the event location around 8.45am and there were a few fellow runners who had arrived already in the car park. Ian and I bumped into Lee Chamberlain who is in training to break the world running record for JOGLE and Mick Ellis who has finished some of the toughest ultra races in the UK such as the Lakeland 100 and “The Fellsman”. We had a great chat and stated that we should compose our own list of Rules to Ultra Running. It was such a relaxed atmosphere that I almost forgot that I had to register for the race and attend the briefing and then run a 70 mile race.

Once Keith had completed the race briefing the two most important things to remember was 1) where my kit bag was (especially as all our kit bags and food / drink had to be stored in black bin liners) 2) get our race cards stamped twice on each lap. If you didn’t do this you would be disqualified, harsh but fair. So we all lined up at the start line just outside the wonderful Grimsthorpe Castle itself, had our group picture taken and then at 10.01am we were off. The first lap would include an additional 3 miles (standard lap was 9.5 miles) but I didn’t mind one bit because the views were great, terrain mixed and was in great company with fellow runners. The plan for me was to finish around 16-17hrs which would be around 4.5 miles an hour. So I settled into comfortable long run pacing with 10 minutes running and 1 minute walking. I knew that if I introduced the walk breaks early I would be able to keep my chances of plodding high the further I ran.

The first 12.5 miles I completed in 2hrs 09mins and felt quite good. I planned to take food on board early and stopped at the checkpoint to take out some Powerbar shots and two bottles of Gatorade. Feeling good I didn’t stay to long (1-2 mins). Towards the 3hr mark I didn’t feel great at all, energy wise I felt pretty rubbish, something I hadn’t felt during my long runs at all. I took a 5 minute walk break to get over it knowing it would pass. I arrived back at the checkpoint at 22 miles in around 4hs 09mins, feeling a little dehydrated but better that I had 1hr ago. I took two more Gatorades with me and decided to eat a Clif bar while walking out of the checkpoint.

Lap 3 went fairly smoothly. I ran part of it with another runner named Lee who was raising money for Help the Heroes. He was an ex-Para trooper who lived locally and had never run more than a ½ marathon during his training, amazing stuff. We talked for a while about all kinds of stuff, jobs, family, aspirations, running. As I was keen to execute my running strategy I told Lee I was taking a walk break. I wished him well and he plodded on into the distance. I didn’t realise how significant this meeting would prove later on during the race. I came in at the checkpoint at 31.5 miles in 6hrs 18 mins. Looking at pacing / splits I was still well on schedule to achieve my time goal. I spent maybe 5 minutes in the checkpoint this time eating a Mule bar and the remaining Powerbar shots and drinking water as I was again very thirsty. I decided to take a bottle of water as well this time out this time as I didn’t feel like the Gatorade was quenching my thirst.

The temperature had cooled down from the high of 70F that we had been experiencing earlier so that was very welcome as I begun Lap 4. This lap proved to be significant in terms of my overall finishing time as I had developed a blister on the underside of my right foot. It wasn’t bothering me too much at this point however it would get worse with each subsequent lap. Each lap of the course was a mix of tracks, gravel and limestone trail with some tricky little ascents / descents thrown in to keep you looking where you put your feet. Around the half point of the lap though for me was the most psychologically enduring part of the course, it was a long stretch of road that I nicknamed the “Road from Hell” as it was so straight and long (must have been a mile or so) that during the night it would test even the toughest of runners.

As I arrived at mile 41 in 8hrs 40 mins even though my right foot blister was hurting a great deal I was feeling ok but didn’t want anything sugary to eat so I decided to eat some of the hot beef stew the organisers had cooked along with a cup of tea. It tasted so good that I finished it off quickly and asked for another bowl while at the same time grabbed a whole baguette, some cheese and water. I must have spent 10-12 minutes at the checkpoint and as I walked away down the road I met up with Lee (Help for Heroes) again for Lap 5.

Lap 5 proved to be the slowest and toughest of the race so far. Distance speaking I was approaching a point I had only experienced once before during my first ultra last year and physically my right leg was proving a little painful. I had multiple blisters on my right foot now including my small toe which was extremely tender but I dare not take my sock off now but I think I should have dealt with this earlier in hindsight. I could also feel a blister coming up on the underside of my left foot. I met a few others out on the course at this point who had been suffering as well and talking to them I am sure helped them as much as it helped me to focus on moving forward. Having another person like Lee running alongside you can help to focus the mind on moving forward and as we chatted throughout the lap we motivated each other to plod on when we might have walked and continued to push forward. I actually got up to a pace of 8.5 minute miles at one point but it was short lived. It was now getting dark at this point and I felt quite chilled having only been wearing a single long sleeved top throughout the day. When I got back in at the checkpoint at 9.26pm I had been running for 11hrs 26mins. I spent around 8-10 minutes stopping at the checkpoint eating some bread with butter and cheese and a cup of tea. I then grabbed my light running jacket, head torch, bottle of water. Mentally I still felt fine but physically I was suffering a bit and was a little cold. I could feel my right shin aching quite a bit now but still wanted to move on and so I did into the first phase of the night.

If lap 5 proved to be tough lap 6 was ten times harder. Running at night would bring it’s own challenge but one thing I had to do was walk out of the checkpoint for the first 15 minutes as my legs had gone very stiff whilst standing around eating / drinking. Not good. One positive was that I didn’t have to switch on my head torch yet as there was a beautiful full moon and lots of stars out, magical stuff. It was so quiet that I just wanted to try and absorb the moment but after loosening up we plodded on for a few minutes as we didn’t want to walk. When we got to the uphill sections I had to walk as my quads / ankles were hurting a great deal. The lap did seem to go on and on but it was quite good having company again as I felt so down during it in some points especially on the “Road to Hell”. We must have done no more than 45mins of plodding during that lap and it showed as I arrived back at the 60.5 mile point feeling empty in 14hrs 23mins. Both quads were trashed and I couldn’t run no more plus my right leg was so painful just above my ankle that the blisters just seemed like a side show now!

I didn’t sit down at the checkpoint though as I knew if I did this it would be game over. All I could think about was somehow I had to do complete another lap to finish yet I couldn’t run. I hobbled out of the checkpoint on my own for Lap 7 and started to walk down to the point where we had started earlier that day. I seriously couldn’t remember at that point starting the race it was just a blur, all I knew was that I had to finish what I started as I wasn’t going home without doing so even though I did risk doing serious harm to my legs but I knew I would live.

Lee caught up with me for the first half of this lap and I kept tell him to go on ahead but he wouldn’t leave me. Having run together for around 6 hours I think he felt that it would be disloyal to not finish it together. Somehow though I knew I would finish this race alone.  I had met many runners on this day but Lee deserves some credit for me pushing on when I would of probably walked. My right leg was hurting so much now I was practically debilitated. My right shin was excruciatingly painful but something inside me just refused to give in. During the second half of the lap someone had finally caught up and I told Lee that when this other guy approaches he should leave with him and go on to the finish. I thanked him for all the time we chatted today and I hope that it won’t be his only ultra race as I know he has re-enlisted in the Army. I wish him all the best for the future. This time he listened to me and went off into the darkness.

The next two hours proved to be the toughest time I have ever experienced both mentally and physically. The “Road to Hell” played with my mind so much that I didn’t think it would ever end.  So many times I said to myself that I want to sit down and wait 5 minutes before moving on but I talked myself out of it. I stood maybe for 20-30 seconds at a time considering but I just knew if I sat down I wouldn’t get up. The beauty of the surroundings and the quiet for me were now again just a blur, all I saw was a road that never ended. I don’t remember much going into that final 2 hours only that when I reached the final stamp point I saw another runner behind me. He caught me up about 0.5 miles before the end and for the next 5 minutes we had a chat about the whole day and how it had gone. He told me that he had missed one of the stamp points and had to go back to get it stamped before finishing the lap, very lucky indeed. I stopped for about 30 seconds as the pain in my leg was so bad and told the other guy to go on and that I would be ok. I tried to plod but it was just too painful now. As I reached the checkpoint the organisers checked my final stamps on my card and I proceeded to walk to the finish line just outside the castle gate. When I got there I almost cried as I just couldn’t believe it was over. At 4.20am I had finished the race in 18hrs 20mins, it was a good 1.5hrs outside my target time but to be honest I didn’t care. I felt exhausted in a way I have never experienced and it didn’t really sink in that I had just completed the 70 mile race.

Adam (one of the organisers) offered to drive me back to the checkpoint as I wanted to see the medics about my right leg and deal with the blisters. The two medics were from the British Red Cross and were just fantastic. They helped me into the ambulance and examined my legs. Fortunately I didn’t have a break in my right leg and it is just a very bad muscular strain so they strapped it up for support and treated the blisters accordingly. After spending 55 minutes in their care I hobbled out and chatted to the other runners who were at the check point. One of them was Ian from earlier this morning who I had met up with. It turned out he had finished the race in joint first place in 11hrs 55mins. I congratulated him on his amazing performance. He wished me well and was pleased I had made it although I later found out he had to go to hospital for 18hrs as he couldn’t hold any food or liquid down after the race, thankfully he has recovered now. We will be staying touch as I am sure we will cross paths again.

When I stood there at the end of the race with the sun coming up talking to both organisers and fellow finishers I realized that there were still people out there on the course.  I couldn’t comprehend being out there any longer than I had been but I could definitely understand how they would be feeling and why they would continue to move forward. They would be on the rollercoaster of highs / lows mentally and physically yet somehow every one of them would continue until they achieved their goal, to finish the race. This for me is what ultra distance events are in essence about, there are no losers only those who take an amazing journey into a place where the mental transcends the physical.

In conclusion to this I took so much out of this event that I can only hope that over the coming years I can use that experience to help others along the way. It was a top event, brilliantly organised and executed but most of all it was the company and spirit of my fellow runner that made this day.  

Pictures will be added later.. Time for a rest now.

Summer Fun

Summer really has arrived during the past two weeks and it has made most of my runs weather has been beautiful and it's just over 3 weeks until my second ultra marathon, Grimsthorpe 70 miler. As part of building up for this summer race I tok part in a very popular and highly rated off road race mainly because it was local and the route was over one my favourite parts of the country - The North Downs.

The Start

The route follows country lanes, established tracks like the North Downs Way & Wealdway, plus numerous single track paths through the fields across local farmland. The course ascends from a low of 20 metres at Lower Bush  up to almost 180 metres at Holly Hill. The majority of the course is off-road with some road sections along the way.

The race was scheduled for 10.30am and the weather was forecast as dry and bright with temperatures around 62-64F (perfect for racing). I arrived about 30 minutes before the start on my own as the family had decided to stay home as I was going to be for a few hours and there wasn't that much to keep them occupied in the end for that amount of time

At around 10:15am I warmed up with some light jogging for 5 minutes and then proceeded to stretch out comfortably both my legs and upper body. I queued up for the start somewhere in the middle of the 476 people taking part, atmosphere was quite relaxed although you could tell the guys at the front were going to pull away very quickly. I love that feeling of waiting for the horn to sound and the race to start not knowing what lies beyond in any great detail.

As the horn sounded we all started to move like a giant centipede with 100's of legs. I started off quite quickly as I got a little carried away in those first couple of miles especially as the terrain was going to be quite flat. I let plenty of people go past me as I attempted to ease the pace a bit and hold back.

Just after the 2 mile mark we reached the first signs of undulation with a hill around 60ft or so. I took it relatively easy going up but then absolutely flew down the hill passing about 10 people. Loved that feeling of just letting gravity take you. Still holding a good pace I took two small cups of isotonic drinks at the aid station and followed the path rising another 150ft over the next mile or so and then come a steep downhill of about the same measure. I let gravity take me and again the quads felt fine and my footing was solid.

I arrived at the aid station at the 10.2km mark around 51 minutes, again taking only taking two small cups of isotonic drinks on board . That felt fast considering there were the biggest hills around 11-15km. I was breathing quite hard on the hills so I decided to slow things down a little going up and hold the pace for steady.

Mile 7 and Mile 8 were the toughest on the course. I had slowed down deliberately to ensure I didn't blow out early as this was meant to be a long training run. The incline was about 320ft in total over a very short distance  It was brutal and I power walked up there. When I got to that point just after Mile 8 the the views were fantastic. A lot of the trail at this point was single track across fields with swathes of wild flowers, poppies and crops. I got a mental lift at this point and decided to push things a little to reach the highest point of 586ft. At the 15.5km mark I found passed the next aid station and took 3 small cups of drink and walked a small bit to ensure I caught my breath and didn't choke while drinking. I admired the view for about 5-10 seconds and then pushed on.


The Halfway Point

Then I hit the downhill just after mile 10. Oh my god. It was a drop of nearly 400ft. I was hesitant at first but thought to hell with it LETS FLY, this is where the adrenaline rush is! This for me was the most exhilarating downhill I have had so far, I was so scared that I would fall but I held again very solid in my footing and balance, maybe a bit of luck involved!!!

Mile 11 and 12 went fairly quickly as we navigated through some beautiful woodland. The ground was softer than the hills and it was slightly cooler. I chatted to a few runners during this point but they didn't want to chat much. I was a bit disappointed by this but understand their possible reasons.

The next aid station was around the half marathon point and it was on top of a beautiful but very very steep 100ft hill swathed in poppies. An amazing site, I am still trying to find a photo to show you this as it's amazing. Once you reach the top the aid station beckons. I power walked the hill quite comfortably and as you reach the top you have a short way through a cobbled street (potentially hazardous for calves) to the aid station. I took two small cups of isotonic drinks and someone sprayed me with hosepipe which was most welcome.

The last 5-6 miles was undulating with a lot of frequent smaller hills. Mile 14 and 15 were fairly paced as I enjoyed the support of a lot of people cheering runners on at a great public house, a cold beer would have been good but I wanted to save that for later. The course took us through a beautiful apple and pear orchard for which this English county (Kent) is famous for. I didn't feel that tired at this point really more comfortable especially as my pace was keeping even as I was power walking the hills.

We passed the renowned "Leather Bottle Inn" where Charles Dickens the famous author frequented in the distant past before reaching the aid station. Again I loaded up with a couple of drinks and walked while I consumed them. The next mile was probably the hardest on course as there were plenty of twisting hill climbs and this showed in my splits with Mile 16 being a little skower than I had liked.




The Finish

Still feeling quite strong I continued to hold a comfortable pace as we reached an uphill road section. At the end of this is the last aid station where I took drinks on board again. During the last couple of miles we had looped back onto the section of the course we had started the race on. The last 1/2 a mile or so was a journey across the field and Golf course back to the start. After sprinting the last 200m to the finish I clocked 2 hours 52 minutes and placed 209th out of 476 starters. I collected my T-shirt and medal before going for a cool down by jogging another 3 miles around the local park before going back to my car and stretching out.

Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of this race and really wish I had as the scenery is amazing and would definitely recommend it for any level of runner. With 3 weeks left until the Grimsthorpe ultra 70 the summer is only just warming up.

Happy Running

Training update and Running Free Magazine

When I got back from my 8 mile run today it was the first time in 2 weeks that I actually felt good. Prior to this I have felt quite tired mainly due to a bad cold and hayfever symptons resulting in missing 2-3 training sessions. One thing I do not like is to miss a running session as keeping things consistent is very important for me both as a motivational tool and to keep improving the aerobic engine burning calories so that I can eat lots of great food.

However things seem to be getting back on track and with the North Downs 30k race next week I am visualizing about smashing my race target of finishing under 2hrs 30mins and with just over 6 weeks to Lakeland this will be a great confidence booster. Before this race I will also be purchasing new shoes and the rest of my equipment for L50. Yes I have left this late but I am not panicking just yet.

Some positive news though in the last 2 weeks is that I was kindly asked by Fiona Bugler, editor of "Running Free Magazine" to do an interview regarding my first ultra race "The 50 Mile Challenge" that I did last year for the "We Run" section of the magazine (page 34). Of course I jumped at the chance and I hope people enjoy it, if you don't then that's fine as well. For me it was a life transforming day and I haven't looked back since.

Check out the article if you fancy a read it's both online at "Running Free Magazine" or buy your own copy instore

Sometimes you have to slow down

It's been almost three weeks since my last post which is a little slack considering I was regularly posting each week but to be honest life has been pretty busy both at work and at home although this hasn't adversely impacted some quality running sessions from being completed.

As the seasons transition from spring to summer I definitely feel an extra bounce in my legs and a lot of my short sessions can be done wearing just shorts and shoes. However it's important to note that proper hydration, adequate protection from the sun and prevention of chafing are all key elements in this weather and a recent experience I had on Sunday definitely made me think more about how to approach this with my upcoming race in three weeks time and more importantly the Lakeland 50.

Over the last three weeks I have been running a couple of sessions a week with a light pack in preparation for my ultra at the end of July to accommodate the extra weight. These sessions have been going well and each week I have gradually increased this however I wasn't prepared for the impact mini heatwave we had here in the UK last weekend. With the temperatures due to rise to around 25C on Sunday it was definitely a day to pack plenty of fluid (3 litres in fact) for a long run of around 22-23 miles. I woke up around 5.30am, had a quick cup of black coffee and a glass of water before heading out the door around 5:50am. After warming up I noticed that there wasn't a cloud in the sky and although the ground was quite wet I knew we were in for a scorcher of a day.

I set off at a steady 9 1/2 minute mile pace and for the first time in a while I put on my IPOD as I hadn't listened to it for a while on a run. It was evident within a few seconds that I hadn't listened to it for some time as the voice over software said "Low battery" over some great Johnny Cash tunes that I had downloaded last time I used it. I plodded on for about an hour or so before the IPOD died on me, I looked down at my watch and it said I had covered around 6.5 miles. I felt relaxed and comfortable and was already preparing myself mentally for gently pushing the pace to hit a negative split for the last half of the run as I try to on all long runs before hitting my jog/walk phase

Around two hours into the run and 13 miles done the air temperature definitely felt a lot warmer than it had earlier this morning and combined with the extra weight in my pack (around 12lb) I was feeling a little fatigued compared to previous weeks. The next few miles I felt increasingly fatigued and by the 16 mile mark I was suffering quite a bit which hadn't been the case on every other 20+ miler this year (about 9-10 runs). Of course I had picked up the pace (around 8:40 min/mile) since mile 9 however my Camelbak hydration pack was emptied (2.5 litres in total) and this brought home to me how warm it really was as I hadn't realised how much fluid I had been drinking. Although I was a little surprised how much I had drunk I wasn't shocked given the weather and fortunately I had another 500ml of fuel on board just in case I did run dry.

I reached mile 18 with a 4 minute negative split over the last half compared to the first half of the run and felt a little relieved to be taking the next hour at a jog/walk pace. I had clocked 2:45 for that first 18 miles and during that last 60 minutes I would look to cover around 5 miles given me a grand total of 23 miles for the day. The reduced pace really did help and I felt relaxed and comfortable once again. The time seemed to go rather quickly and when I arrived back home after 3hrs and 45 minutes I felt really good again. I finished my workout off with around 400 partial squats and proceeded to drink two litres of ice cold Cherry Coke! That really helped and is my favourite post long run drink!

As I rested up I started to think about how the runners at the Edinburgh marathon were fairing in this heat and for one family unfortunately that day will live long in the memory for the wrong reasons. It was really sad to hear that Douglas MacFarlane collapsed during the first leg of the team relay race and passed away quite quickly afterwards.

It really showed how me the fragile life is and that you can be here one minute and the next your whole world can change. Keep yourselves hydrated out there guys this summer and slow things down when needed, it's not worth your life at the end of the day.

Good News...Bad News.




Well what a difference 7 days can make to a running schedule. Earlier in the week I sat down and mapped out how much gear I still needed to get for the Lakeland 50 event in July. A complete list is below:
  • First aid kit
  • Full waterproof trousers.
  • Whistle
  • Hat and gloves
  • Emergency foil blanket / bivi bag
  • Emergency food & drink
  • Compass
  • GPS Handheld Device
Now looking at this it will probably cost me no more than 200 pounds, maybe less with some bargain hunting. It doesn’t seem like a lot of money but considering I have already spent 60 pounds on a waterproof jacket, 50 pounds for the entry fee and transport costs to get to the event it is probably going to cost in total around 350 pounds for the Lakeland event. When I looked at this in detail it instantly occurred to me that I might have to cancel an informal race meeting in the Peak district in June and the Ridgeway 85 race at the end of August. Actually I would have to cancel the races. How could I possibly afford to the transport for these races, entry fees, food/drink and accommodation all within the space of 3 months.

Suddenly I started developing a very empty feeling inside as I realized my whole summer schedule of racing had collapsed. Now I am certainly not impoverished but I thought to myself, how do people who racing consistently year round afford this. I started to feel pretty down about the situation. Even though the Lakeland 50 is my major event for the year I just want to get our there and challenge myself by entering some fantastic events. After all I don’t train extremely hard not to put all of that into action.

I contacted both the organiser of the Ridgeway 85 race to cancel my entry. Anthony the organiser was very accommodating and cancelled my application and wished me well and said that he hoped to see me next year. Then I emailed Matt who had helped organised the Peak district event and he was disappointed we couldn’t meet up after months of chatting over email. The one thing I couldn’t do though was not race at all until Lakeland. I immediately went to work on looking at booking a race locally within 30 miles between May and June but it had to be below 30 pounds to enter, no small challenge. Training wise I am very much prepared for a marathon or 50k but most races locally had already been booked up but I did notice a race called the North Downs 30k. Now this certainly wasn’t a long distance but the profile of the race looked fantastic.

First staged in July 1984, the North Downs Run is one of Kent's most enduring and popular running events and not without reason – the out-and-back course passes through some of the beautiful scenery of the North Downs. Its undulating paths and tracks thread through woods, fields and parkland in a vista of summer colours – blue skies, red poppies and the welcoming green of shady woodland paths. You’ll dash through sleepy hamlets before being treated to jaw-dropping vistas over the Thames Estuary in the distance. Not only that, the race lays on free pre- and post-race massage, homemade cakes, fruit and water, a well-stocked running goods tent, and four sizes of finisher T-shirt.


This race is only 30 miles from home and just 20 pounds to enter, it seemed like a bargain to me. Now the only caveat was that it was on Fathers day (20th June). I spoke to my wife and said to her that if my daughters were getting me a present then entry to this race was what I would love. I said to her afterwards that we could spend a great afternoon together as there was also Live Music and BBQ. In the next 5 minutes I entered the race via The Runners World website. I started to feel better about things and although I don’t feel completely satisfied I have somewhat filled the void with a potentially exciting race.

I still want to put another ultra distance race on my 2010 roadmap and with my birthday in October I had put the Caesars Camp Endurance races on my list of potential events already. However I will have to look into all the logistics during the next month to see whether or not it is viable. It’s amazing to think that something as simple as putting one foot in front of the other could work out sometimes to be expensive. But of course the feeling at the end of every successful race makes things absolutely worthwhile and I’m sure I will have that feeling after the races coming up.

April has ended!

Well April has been a successful month on the training front and here is a quick tally of the numbers.

April Totals:
-Miles: 185
-Hours: 27hrs 31mins
-Sessions: 20

For me this has been the most successful month I have had since taking up running 2 years ago. I set the bar at 200 miles for this month and knew that figure would be tough to hit but overall I am very pleased with what I have achieved. When I look back to where things were a year ago I am still amazed at how much progress has been made.

I have certainly enjoyed my running this past month. Since switching to trails from the road my body has certainly benefited on the recovery front and I have definitely found that the off-road experience has a meditative effect and I have even ditched the Ipod on 99% of my runs this month. Even with the increase in mileage volume I have managed to balance successfully domestic life, this for me is a massive plus.

I am really looking forward to this month and with the summer around the corner my thoughts are starting to focus firmly towards the races this summer however with plenty of gear yet to buy it's certainly going to be an expensive couple of months!

A run in the "Garden of England".



20-04-2010
Tue:PM 5.15 miles (:38) Hornchurch Country Park.,  Fartlek run today after resting on Monday @7:37 min/mile pace

21-04-2010
Wed:PM 5.2 miles (:46) Hornchurch Country Park., Nice recovery run today due to legs feeling slight ache after previous session  @8:55 min/mile pace.


22-04-2010
Thu:AM 9.1 miles (1:12) Hornchurch Country Park., Great run today. Perfect conditions, beautiful sunset and got into the flow very quickly with this one. The miles seemed to just fly by that I felt I could have sustained this for a few more miles but darkness set in so decided to head home from the park  @7:56 min/mile pace.

23-04-2010
Sun:AM 23 miles (4:13) Vanguard Way Trail., Long run today was again the highlight of the week. I met up with Jerry after talking the day before about running a stage of the London to Brighton ultra race in Kent/Surrey with an out and back run between Westerham and Forest Row. We ended up parking the cars at the Grasshopper Pub near Westerham around 6:45am and proceeded to catch the trail literally across the road, perfect. We started off at a healthy sub 9 minute mile pace chatting about all the normal topics two runners talk about when first meeting. We were very much enjoying ourselves then we came across the first of many dog walkers who said to us "The London Marathon is the other way". We smiled and carried on but every time we met another walker they would say the same thing. Did no one have anything else to say!


I don't know if it's a British thing yet it appeared that everyone we met wanted to crack the obvious joke in the hope they get a response. Are us British that predictable! However we made fun of it and made a bet of how many times people would ask us. Neither of us won :-). Jerry gave me my first lesson in map reading and I thought I had some success although we did lose our bearing a couple of times resulting in bonus miles! The time did seem to go quickly though and as I had to be back by 11am we didn't quite make Forest Row but none the less it was an absolutely brilliant run with the perfect opportunity to get some quality miles in and run with a like minded individual amongst the beautiful Kent countryside. I wish I had taken pictures but I am sure I will get another opportunity soon to do so.  Even though we had walking breaks, hills and stopped to read the map we still held a healthy pace @10:56 min/mile.  

Total
-Miles 42.6
-Hours 6hr 50min


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Overall the week turned out to be a good one despite overall mileage dropping down however when looking at my sessions this week there is a lot of quality in there especially the Long Run. I loved the fact that I did my long run in a different location and with another runner as it seemed to make the run more vibrant and it felt that the run was quite manageable especially as I felt strong towards the end of it. I feel quite fresh today and the legs are feeling very good indeed. I think that some credit is due here to some new supplements I was trying out both during my run and for my post run recovery drinks.


The supplements were kindly supplied to me by Wayne at YourSportsFuel and I will be providing a full review of these later this week on my blog later but I quickly have to say that if you haven't heard of or tried their products I advise you to visit their site and make an order. More on that later this week.


This week I plan on doing more of the good quality runs this past 3 weeks and ramp the mileage up to around 60 miles. The long runs will probably either be a 5-6hr run on sunday or a back to back session on Sat/Sun (4hr and 3hr run). The North Downs trail is not far from me however I only intend on doing a 25-35 mile run once or twice before the Lakeland event in July so maybe I might have to wait a few weeks before returning. After the weekend my confidence in running has reached a new high this year as I feel good even after almost 4.25 hours on the move and I certainly feel that I can bank a 5-6hr run. 

Viva la Long Run! Happy running guys.

Volcano Chaos


Consider this: at its most powerful, Iceland’s most irritable volcano is sending 750 tons of ash into the air every second…enough to fill an olympic sized swimming pool in just 3 seconds. The giant cloud is grounding flights in more than 20 countries. The total number of stranded passengers is in the millions…all over the world. That pretty much sums up the chaos Europe has been experiencing these past few days but at least my running week wasn't impacted in the same way.

12-04-2010
Mon:PM 5 miles (:37) Hornchurch Country Park, Speed session averaging @7:34 min/mile pace including a repeat up Ingrebourne hill (200ft ascent)

15-04-2010
Thu:PM 8.25 miles (1:08) Hornchurch Country Park., Weather was amazing with clear skies all around. 2 loops including x2 Ingrebourne hill repeats @8:20 min/mile pace

16-04-2010
Fri:PM 4.5 miles (:35) Hornchurch Country Park., Decided to do a fartlek session today with 5 mins fast and 1 min recovery and a 1 mile warm up, 1/2 mile cood down but cut the hill section of my usual loop. Very gusty wind conditions made this feel tougher than it was @7:48 min/mile pace.


17-04-2010
Sat:AM 13.25 miles (1:57) Hornchurch Country Park., Due to missing out sessions on tuesday/wednesday I decided to pack in the miles at the weekend. Did this great run on the reasonably flat 3.5 mile loop of the country park @8:52 min/mile pace. Felt very comfortable throughout and the legs felt good after.

18-04-2010
Sun:AM 22 miles (3:19) Hornchuch Country Park., Long run today was the highlight of the week. A friend of mine joined me for 5 miles from the13 mile mark so average pace was a little slower for those miles than the rest but still averaged @9:04 min/mile pace. All done before breakfast and felt pretty good afterwards.

Total
-Miles 53
-Hours 7hr 39min

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Another great week all round. Given that I have now averaged over 50 miles for the last two weeks and feel remarkably fresh I am fully intent on pushing things further to see where my limits are. I am having a rest day today however to ensure I am fully charged for another 6 sessions this week.


The highlight of last week was definitely the weekend sessions. I haven't run 22 miles since the "50 mile challenge" last year and have only done 20 miles this year about 3 times (a few 18's as well). This distance will become my standard long run over the coming months however with the Lakeland 50 and Ridgeway 85 races coming up in the summer I do intend to bump the long run up to between 25-35 miles every 3-4 weeks to ensure that I get at least 4-6 hours on my feet.. I also am planning to run the Tunbridge Wells Circular Path in May as a great training run with a few other runners including Jerry S 


Finally before I leave I have to say a big "Well Done" to both Alex Flynn and Jonathan Hall for successfully completing the Marathon Des Sables event finishing 528th and 180th overall. A massive challenge and in my top 5 races to do. Both Alex and Johnny are taking part in some amazing events in the near future so take a look at their plans.
Also I want to also bring to your attention Mark Cooper who will be shortly embarking on his 50 marathons in 56 days journey across Europe starting on May 1st. A truly epic challenge so do visit his site for more details on this.


Have a great week guys. Richard

The road is dead. Long live the trail.

 

It has been a great week in my short running life as I managed to break 50+ miles a week for the first time and physically feel pretty good I have to say. Having had this week off from work I have been lucky enough to pick anytime throughout the day to enjoy my running and the very pleasant weather.

05-04-2010
Mon:PM 8 miles (1:05) Local Roads., Run was mainly set around local roads near where I live with 5lb backpack.

07-04-2010
Wed:PM 8.3 miles (1:11) Hornchurch Country Park., First time in the Country Park for an off road run since January. Have put together a great 4.25 mile loop consisting of a 200ft hill in the middle of the route.

08-04-2010
Thu:PM 8.3 miles (1:08) Hornchurch Country Park., Another glorious day and slightly faster run on the same route as wednesday.

09-04-2010
Fri:AM 6.4 miles (:53) Hornchurch Country Park., Decided to shorten today's efforts in preparation for the weekend mileage but a solid run at a steady pace and cut out the hill section of my usual loop.

10-04-2010
Sat:AM 5.3 miles (:51) Hornchurch Country Park., Very easy run today with a friend who is just coming back to running. Felt very comfortable throughout and the legs felt fresh.

11-04-2010
Sun:AM 15.4 miles (2:12) Hornchuch Country Park., Long run was supposed to be a very steady run however I felt so comfortable that I managed to easily maintain an 8:37 minute mile pace throughout the run. No hills today.

Total
-Miles 51.7
-Hours 7hr 22min

Since returning from the Lake District earlier this week it opened my eyes to the fact that I really need to train on the surface I intend to race on so I decided at the beginning of this week that I should switch full time to training on trails/grass and fortunately for me I have a local country park on my doorstep. So I put on my Inov-8 Roclite 315 shoes and headed out on a warm and sunny wednesday afternoon to get the miles in. Every run since then has felt great, my legs feel fresh and  I don't have any of the aches or niggles that I usually get from the road plus I have realised how much I love running off-road.

Running through the local country park has proven to be liberating. It has dozens of potential routes, great hills for repeats and varied wildlife (apart from the dog walkers who cannot control their canines). I don't look at my watch (as much as usual) or take my Ipod. There's no cars, no persons to avoid knocking over on the pavement and no roads to cross in order to get to the next section of pavement. I keep thinking that the only downside to this could be that I will meet a snake out there and it will cause me a different sort of injury from ones I have had previously on the roads, a scary thought indeed.

I love the thought of running out there so much that I experimented this week with 6 runs instead of 4.  This has contributed in me clocking up 50+ miles this week and it could seen as something to worry about as I haven't broke 40 miles a week since January. Time will tell eventually whether I can sustain this however now that I am in the zone I intend to give it my best shot and am determined to keep the number of sessions up there to around five or six a week.

This week has been a revelation for me and having come to the realisation that I need an indefinite break from the roads I am looking forward to all the events in June-August. I have enjoyed running so much this week that it has given me a real boost to how I feel about things everytime I have stepped outside the door. I have managed to recover much faster from each run and I hope that this is the start of a new chapter in my running journey.

Finally, as the number of running session's increases and the mileage goes up, the time I spend on running will need to be offset by some other means. This will be a challenge as I want to ensure that I continue to try and balance all areas of my life. A lot of runners have this predicament and with the fact my family are my number one priority and I am back to work this week, I am not setting a running schedule in place of any kind with the exception of a long run at the weekend. It will be a matter of taking the opportunity to run when I can. A lot of my running usually takes place before the family wakes up but of course if my wife get's woken up by the kids that balance maybe shot!

Enjoy your running this week everyone and always ensure that if you have a support crew like mine that you always put them first.

Good Fortune & Fat Feet



Don't you just love it when good fortune shows up when you least expect it too.

Now I know that most of you are privy to using Facebook on a regular but to actually win something for free through the site is probably a rarity. A few weeks ago I added to my illustrious list of friends a company called Fat Feet Blisters. The company organise some great physically challenging running events located in some pretty spectacular settings right here in the UK. At the beginning of the week they launched a new promotion on Facebook by giving away a "Free Entry" once a month to anyone of their events. The process is simple and is described right here on their blog - http://fat-feet.blogspot.com/

The first question of the month was - The "Marathon" legend is that of a Greek solider running from the battle of marathon to Athens but what was the name of the Greek solider who ran the distance?
The correct answer as most of you know is "Pheidippides".  

Amazingly enough I was randomly picked out to win a free entry to one of their events! I couldn't quite believe it to be honest when I received a congratluatory email. Now I'd already read about their events and unfortunately my first pick The Grimsthorpe Ultra 70 was being held on the same day as the Lakeland 50 race that I had already booked. So I will more than likely enter the Rutland Water Marathon  that is being held in November.

I just want to say thanks again to Fat Feet for picking me out of the hat. Now to everyone who reads this blog go and check out their website as they really do have some cracking events lined up. See you next time.

A Taste of the Fells

Since my last posting the family and I had took a trip to Lancaster to see extended family over the Easter weekend. Of course this would be the perfect time to plan a quick trip to the Lake District to experience the wonders of the Fells given the fact that the Lakeland 50 race was some 3 1/2 months away. I had been meaning to arrange a trip for some time to do a recce for some of the course.

With running time limited as this meant to be a family holiday (2 hours max) I decided that Coniston would be the best place to experience the Fells as it was within 40 minutes of our base in Lancaster and it was the last stage of the L50 race. I left all the family by Coniston water itself with a picnic and I set off around the lake towards Coniston village.


I set off at a relatively comfortable pace of around 8:45 minute miles and as it was only a mile or so to the base of the Coniston Fells I was quickly there and looking for a way to start my way up into the valley. As I didn't have an Ordnance survey map this was going to be a run based on exploring things as I went along without knowing what was coming.


Sure enough I reached though I saw a sign for the Coppermine Valley so it was easy to decide where to go  and shortly after I entered the valley I started to climb up the nearest Fell, it turned out later it was the Yew Pike. After climbing for a few hundred feet my legs really were feeling the strain as the gradient in some places was at least 15-20% easy if not more. After climbing for about 5-10 minutes I had a drink and scout around to see the view. Well I couldn't believe how quickly I had climbed and in front of me I could see in full glory Coniston Old man, a 2,500 ft mountain.



I continued to climb upwards and was fully intent on reaching the summit. This took about another 10 minutes or so but once I reached it I was somewhat apprehensive of looking out at the view as I am a little afraid of heights (yes this is true). Given I wouldn't have this moment again I took a look and was mesmorised by what I saw and took a picture of Coniston village and Coniston Water. The feeling I had on top of this hill was amazing, so peaceful, so calm, everything so clear.


After a brief stop I moved downwards back to the valley floor there was still much to explore, in fact there was so much that I wish I could of spent many hours there but that would have to be for another day. So instead of exploring farther afield I ran mostly around the surrounding valley with the exception of the eastern side where Coniston Old Man is situated and took as many pictures as I could so that I could savour this running experience forever.

I descended back down to Coniston Water through the village and met my family almost 2 hours after I left them by the waterside. I took advantage of the fact that although I couldn't get a nice cold shower for my legs I would walk into the water itself just as my kids had done moments earlier and boy was it refreshing.


As I left the water and was standing there on the bank I thought to myself that although I was leaving today I would be back here in July for a full 50 miles of running through this inspiring and amazing terrain. This had merely been the appetizer before the main course and I just cannot wait to come back for more.

If you want to see more pictures of the run please visit my Flick gallery here - http://www.flickr.com/photos/richard_s1/sets/72157623653327705/

Taking on the Ridgeway 85 Ultra



Well I finally did something this week that I had been pondering for sometime I sent off my completed entry form for the Ridgeway 85 mile ultra.

This 85 mile event is run along a 5000 year old trackway (Ridgeway national trail) through the Chiltern Hills and North Wessex Downs (along Grim’s Ditch for several miles), Barbury Castle and Liddington Castle (hill forts) are en route and with 9,000 feet of ascent (2731m) it surely will be a formidable challenge.

This event takes place over the weekend of 28th and 29th August (Bank Holiday) and it has been given a very good write up both from an organisation standpoint and personal challenge. A fellow ultra runner I know (Johnny Hall) also completed the race last year and he said it really is a race you must do. Given that this race is a little over 5 weeks after the Lakeland 50 mile event I am nervous about recovering sufficiently to take this on. However at the moment my first task will be to log some serious mileage over the next 3-4 months as I will be looking to finish this race under 24 hours.

I still haven't given up hope yet of maybe booking up one more ultra race this year, it will most likely be the 50 or 100 mile race at Caesars Camp although you never know what might happen! I will also be setting up shortly my charity sponsorship page very shortly for a very worth cause so please watch this space for more details.

As for now I am looking to get to bed as I am out early doors for a long run tomorrow! So need to go and get the Camelbak ready. Gotta get the miles in!

Happy Running! ~RS