Long run by the River - Stort 30

Well it's been several months since my last post and to be honest there hasn't been much going on and training has been pretty much stuck in 2nd gear. So I decided not long ago to enter a local race in Bishops Stortford. The Stort 30.
The Stort 30 is a new race for the ultra running calendar organised by the guys at http://www.challenge-running.co.uk/ . I have always wanted some organised races in Essex (being local it's suits me travel wise) so this was an opportunity not to be missed so I signed up pretty much a few days after being announced.
The objective for today was not one of seeing how fast I could go over the distance but to mainly to spend time running in my back yard (not practically) with my mate Johnny and to get a decent run in the legs as days like this are few and far between at the moment.
I set off from home with nothing more than just a coffee for breakfast and arrived 15 mins before the race briefing. I caught up with Allan Rumbles (@ogeerunner on Twitter) who I had been chatting to for ages but never met. Always good to put a face to the words, Allan don't worry your not that bad looking :)  I also met up with Johnny and met his wife.
The briefing was straightforward and race director was very clear and concise about the course. Directions wise it should be pretty straight forward but we were given directions anyhow just in case there was a need to refer to them if there was any doubt. We were told the course was mostly gravel paths but with about 40% of the route through grass / mud and given the rainfall the previous few days it was probably best to have shoes with grip. I on the other hand had road shoes and would have to try my best not to slip over :)
All the runners (about 60 in total) gathered outside for the start and within a couple of minutes we were off, running around the field for a couple of laps. Johnny and I started off at quite a swift pace and settled into a pack of about 6-7 runners. We navigated a little bit of tarmac before reaching the riverside. The mud was fairly slippery but it wasn't too bad apart from a few slips. We arrived at the first water station (6 mile mark) in around 47 minutes which was pretty quick going but I felt good and grabbed 2 cups of water before going on my way again. I settled in with 5 others who were running with me chatting away about the route, other races done, the usual subjects of discussion:)
I consciously slowed down a little bit here because I wasn't going to maintain that pace I had started out at so I let a few of the other runners go on ahead. We reached the next station around 11-12 miles and again grabbing some orange squash (couple of jelly beans that I nearly choked on) before plodding on. My friend Johnny and I were running pretty much together and it was good to be pretty much chatting and running all the way to the half way mark. The route proved to be tranquil and time pretty much slipped away as we chatted. There something magnetic about keeping your eyes on the river winding in and out of the land.
When we arrived at the check point (15 miles) in around 2hrs 10mins we noticed that we had not seen many of the runners who had been running ahead of us. It appears some of them must have taken a wrong turn despite the fact I found this the easiest race to have navigated, follow the river to halfway and then follow it back :) Simples..
I took 1-2 mins to grab a couple of drinks and a quick chat with the marshalls / race director who are a great bunch of people by the way before we turned around and started to head back. Within the next couple of miles we saw many of the runners who were ahead of us point and say "How did you get ahead of us", we responded in turn and said "It was practically impossible to get lost :)". That poin kept coming up.
During the next 5-6 miles I started to feel a soreness in my back and right inner thigh but we were still making good progress so pushed throught it.  We reached the water station (around 20 miles) in just over 3 hours. I spent a couple of minutes here and grabbed a handful of plain crisps as I had a craving for them and washed it down with more water before walking out and seeing how my leg felt.
It was within 5 minutes of leaving here that my right leg become quite painful along my right inner thigh when lifting my leg so I decided to walk for 5 minutes or so to see if the pain subsided which it did but the pain in my back was still there and this was aggravating me. I said to Johnny that I wasn't going to be able to run the next 9 miles without mixing in some walking but he didn't have any issue with that and the point of today was to run together and enjoy the morning for what it was. Top lad.
For the next 9 miles I knew that I could run / walk in but along with the leg pain I had back pain also in my upper left back something I have never had before so that was bothering me. I looked at what was I anticipate that the constant need to stabilise myself in the road shoes on slippery mud didn't help and this was causing an imbalance in my right leg and upper lower back. During the last part of the race we were overtaken by a few people who had caught up, I didn't mind to be honest as this was a training run and it I was not in shape to race hard and with the leg / back pain it was not a good plan anyway. We reached the last water station and I made sure I took the opportunity to stretch the legs out but it was difficult to target the sore muscle / tendon in question on the inside of my leg before moving on and getting this race done.
Having left the station I knew I could easily keep up running for 5 minutes / 1-3 minutes walking for the duration. Having navigated easily back to the start we arrived at the Race HQ with just a lap of the park left before finishing. We crossed the line together finishing the 30 miles in 4hrs56mins18secs. I immediately sort after a Coca Cola and Cake, always a great combination post run :) ha ha.
Although things didn't go exactly to plan I enjoyed the day immensely and sharing it with running buddies made it all the better. It turns out that a runner in the race got a little upset about the lack of signs / directions out on course. Personally I thought it was the easiest navigation I have face in a race and I am notorious for having little sense of direction except when it comes to moving forwards :)

Overall it was a great day out, great company, great organising by the race director, big thanks to the friendly Marshall's and rewarding for everybody involved. Highly recommend for veteran or newbie to this distance. Will be back next year that is for sure.


Well...it's been a roller coaster of emotions the past couple of weeks but I made an important decision just a few days ago regarding my entry to the North Downs 100 miler.

I have pulled out....

This was in stark contrast to 4 weeks ago where I had completed a great 35 mile night run on the NDW course. I was feeling confident, fitness level was good and was 100% committed at attempting to run 100 miles.

After taking a 2-3 easy rest days to recover from this I had a 180 degree turn on how I was feeling. I started looking back over the past 2-3 months training and wasn't happy with what I saw. One thing stood out above all else...I was not happy with the quantity of long runs (20-30 miles) I had done. Although I had done a 9.5hr run during April and 4-5 runs in the 20-35 mile range my confidence just seemed to drain from me when I started looking at my training log. Although I had done ten or so 15-18 milers these really didn't provide me the confidence in my fitness to take on a run that could well go on for 24hrs plus.

Now I have a tendency to over analyse things and looking at numbers is probably the worst thing to do in this situation. Now there could be complex reasons why this is but I am not going to waste time talking about searching deep within my soul (I am not that type of person) to explore why I feel this way because in simple terms for me it boils down to one thing.

I did not have the confidence in myself based on the preparation I had done to take this challenge on with 100% commitment. 

Looking at that comment I can see clearly that I had lost my bottle but it is the right decision at this point in time. There is time for another 100 miler in the future especially as the popularity continues to grow however for the remaining part of this year I am going to be focusing on building up my confidence.

One thing above all else though I that I must lose the fear of failing. It is this mental block that is stopping me moving forward and the key to unlock it is (for me) is better preparation but to also realise that there are some things you just cannot prepare for until you reach the gates i.e. running on empty and the legs feeling like stumps after 80+ miles.

So...lets get cracking and break down these walls!

The journey to the 100 mile starting line

I will start off today's post regarding the lack of writing these past few weeks. Since the Suffolk Fatass 67km run on April 1st I haven't run in any races and training has been pretty locked in maintenance mode so simply put I didn't have bugger all to talk about. Tomorrow however officially marks (for me at least) the start of 14 weeks of focused training as I build up to running the Centurion North Downs 100 mile race in August. I have never tackled a 100 miler before (longest race is 70 miles) and there are so many factors involved in successfully completing the distance that it's easy to overlook them especially as this is my first time. I won't pretend to know what all of the factors are are nor try to explain them all here as I would be wasting your precious time as there is so much material already out there in the public domain.

Physical training is of course essential in making the body stronger for any event you take on but there is a fine line with training and over training. Everybody is an experiment of one and in the ultra running world there is no one plan that fits all. The priority for myself is that I will arrive at the start line in the best possible shape I can be in and to be well rested going into that final week before the event.

The mental training stands out as the single most important factor in successfully finishing a 100 mile race or any other ultra distance race for that matter. I have learnt from the ultras that I have successfully finished that you cannot allow the pain or distance overwhelm you. I remember vividly at the Grimsthorpe 70 where I was left hobbling the last 10 miles during the early hours of the morning but I commanded my body to move forward. Perhaps this was irrational but in my mind unless I had been suffering from a broken bone, a dose of hypothermia or something equivalent I didn't even consider the notion of quitting. Relentless forward motion is a motto many people use and I stand by this as well. Run when you can and walk when needed but always stay moving and eventually you will cross the finish line. 

When the sun goes down and the sleep monster slowly tries to suck the life out of me I know that I will need to take full control and persevere through those early hours of the morning. I know that motivation will probably be more key at this point than at any other time of the day so keeping the mind energised and occupied is the only way to stop negative thoughts from shutting the body down.

Now I know that despite all this said you can train hard, prepare mentally for it and still not finish successfully. However after reading many ultra runners 100 mile (or further) race reports there is but one common element that unites everyone of them in successfully coming through the darkest places of their minds and completing the race, heart and desire. These are things you cannot condition yourself to have. You either have them or you don't. Everyone of us

I leave you with a quote from the great Jedi Master Yoda that for me pretty much sums up the mental attitude required to complete this journey.

"Do or Do not. There is no try"

Suffolk Fat Ass 67k - phone a friend

42 miles of fine coastal running from Felixstowe to Cattawade along the full length of the Stour & Orwell Walk. Last year it started windy in Felixstowe but quickly it warmed up and then the sun came out. The finish has a pub, what more could you possibly want? - Matt Biggin

After deciding on entering the North Downs 100 mile run this year I promised myself that I would needed some big days out on my feet. This is always a challenge as it takes time away from other areas of my daily life but an opportunity presented itself this past weekend and I am so glad I took it.

Last year a friend of mine started organising some FatAss events around Suffolk and having talk to him the past few weeks I decided to take part in the Suffolk Fat Ass 67k. The route starts in Felixstowe and ends in Cattawade, running along the Stour & Orwell Walk. These events are very low key, no medals, no doctors, no awards and no official aid stations therefore it is a challenge not to be taken lightly.

On the morning of the event I drove to the "Finish Line" (Cattawade) where I was to meet Matt, Mike (Matt's friend who was biking the route) and Tim another runner who was in for the duration so that we could share a taxi to the "Start Line". It was freezing cold with frost on the ground so I opted to keep on my long sleeve top and gloves but had the option of a sleeveless top underneath when things warmed up. The usual running talk manifested itself in the car and it turns out that Tim was like myself using the run today not just for fun but also as part of his build up to his first 100 miler, the Lakeland 100 in July.

Out starting point was near the Felixstowe Ferry Golf club and as we exited the taxi just before 8am it still hadn't warmed up much so I decided to keep on the long sleeves but the view was pretty along the Felixstowe coast. The original plan was to wait for anyone else taking part and start officially at 9am however given how cold it was feeling we didn't feel like waiting long for anybody so we all took a vote as to when we should leave. Mike (on bike) left first followed by us three runners 5 minutes later as we didn't want to be hanging around freezing our butts off. After all this was a FatAss event!

The three of us trotted off at a pace where conversation could flow easily and we moved quickly along the seafront with both a beautiful view of the beach, open sea and hardly a soul about. This was a good start to what would be a fulfilling day out. After about 2 miles of running along the coast we turned 90 degrees and was heading east along a road with us heading towards the "Trimley marshes".

As we ran Matt was saying that although the route was mostly off road there were a few road sections to endure. We headed off road after about 15 minutes and started to gain some height (difficult in this part of the world). We were close to several local woods here including Garden and Salters but never actually ran through them but conditions were very dry and it was the right decision to use my Inov8 x-road shoes.

After about 10km we were we firmly off road and running through an area called "New Fleet" which were effectively ponds and marsh land area. Time had passed pretty quickly with the talking firmly fixed on the day and running experiences but also due to the fact I was running somewhere completely new and I was sucking up the new surroundings. However despite the relaxed pace I was keeping a watchful eye on hydration and fueling today. I brought with me a variety of food including Clif shot bloks, couple of new Clif gels, cheese sandwiches, 9bars. I had the thought of eating something every 45-60 mins and making sure to sip at least every 10-15 mins as it was warming up nicely. One thing I did realise was that I didn't have a map but I was expexting to keep pace with Matt and Tim pretty much all the way however it would would become something I would regret later on for sure if I got left behind.

The route provided a great variety of trail running for the next 10 miles or so, short steep hills, running by the river, through woodland all mostly singletrack, absolutely beautiful. Things had gone very well and we reached the 13 mile mark in a little over 2hrs. The path at this point meant crossing the an A14 road, turning south west for a mile or so before crossing back over the A14 in order to head towards Bridge Wood. Once through the gorgeous forest we headed along the path that took us directly underneath the Orwell bridge towards Landseer Park (16 miles). Fortunately with Matt knowing this route like the back of his hand we were moving through the area without much walking at all. Matt reminded Tim and I that once we passed the Ipswich marina we would reach our first main aid station (supermarket, shops) where you can load up on water, food etc.

After 3hrs 20 mins we reached the shop for a much needed pit stop. I loaded up with a couple of bottles of fresh water as I had run dry. I still had plenty off food left so didn't opt for any chocolate / sweets. I went for a cheese sandwich which tasted great before having a quick leg stretch. The direction of the path turned us south east back down the banks of the Orwell river under the Orwell bridge that we passed earlier. Things were going very smoothly.

We were all still moving along comfortably along passing through Freston Wood which was absolutely stunning with the trail meandering through it before a climbing up 150ft or so to a clearing. According to history Freston is notable as being the location of the last outbreak of bubonic plague although this is much disputed. Apart from that it has a pub called the "Freston Boot" and the "Freston Tower". So not a lot really but it does reflect for me what the day was about, minimalism.

The trail changed from open fields to more forest but somewhere around 24 mile point I started to feel a little wobbly. I let Matt and Tim go ahead while I walked for a minute or so and got some drink and fuel down me. I felt quite low so I walked on for another 3-4 minutes before running on trying to catch the guys. I still didn't feel right but continued on before coming out to another open path area but with no sign of the guys and no clear indication of where the path led!

I took a minute or two looking for trail sign posts (which was a little sticker about 4 inches round) before finally seeing the sign pointing in the direction of a boating area. I trotted along and felt relieved especially as I did not have a map however from what I can remember most of the route up until the 30 mile mark was heading along the Orwell so as long as I kept that on my left I would be fine. I run / walked for about 3 miles and suddenly my mood changed completely and I felt pretty happy to be running and experiencing the day on my own. No offence to Matt or Tim but is what I had wanted to experience.

Around the 28 mile mark (5hrs 23mins) I gave my wife a quick call to say hello and check in with the kids especially my youngest daughter as she had suspected chicken pox (wife confirmed it over the phone). I also left Matt a message to say that I was ok despite not having a map. He phoned me back to see how things were going and I was quite happy so it was a quick call in the end although he did pre-warn me that about a mile or so ahead the path had been blocked by gates and that I would need to take a slightly alternate route around Shotely Gate. This news didn't panic me as I would deal with it when it came but it did remind me of the fact that I really should have been prepared. I came to the gates as Matt had stated I would and took a detour going west before finding the path again without a problem. I was feeling confident about how things were going and was getting enough fluid and food down me. I kept reminding myself of where I was and how amazing it was to be out here. Although my pace had slowed a little but during the past few miles I actually begun to feel really strong and felt like I had pressed the reset button both mentally and physically. I reached mile 33 in 6hrs 14 mins feeling that all being well I would be home and dry in a little over 2 hours.

However a series of unfortunate events were about to ensue and all because I did not pay attention to the sign posting and did not have a map to double check the route. Shortly after passing mile 33 with my confidence sky high I didn't take a turn south like I was supposed to and continued along the path I thought was the correct one. Shortly before I reached what I thought was the 34 mile mark Matt rang me to see how I was doing. I looked up at the sign posting but couldn't see any identifiable marks for the path. I realised where I hadn't made the turn I was supposed to but after talking to Matt I decided not to track back (probably the most sensible idea) but turn south on the path I was on in the hope that I would cross the path I needed a mile down the road.

During the next 2 miles I ran through private property, a farm (with some big dogs), a forest with some very disturbing wooden huts which looked like you could hunt game from or humans for that matter. The only thought I had was "GET ONTO THE PATH"! The last two miles had taken me 30 minutes as I just didn't know where I was going but it was exhilirating. When I finally reached a path I just followed it towards the local village up ahead. As I was trotting along I asked a lady with who was out walking some very lively dogs whether I was on the Stour walk. She replied "yes of course you are young man, where are you heading?". After explaining to her briefly what I was doing out here she kindly directed me through the next 1.5 miles. I thanked the lady and moved on ahead still feeling positive about how I had avoided a major issue.

At mile 36 (6hrs 58mins) I ran out of fluid and didn't hesitate to knock on a few doors to ask for a refill but everyone that day must of been out because I tried at least 10 doors and not a soul was in. It was either that or they just panicked when they saw a guy walking towards their house dressed in black with a backpack on! I just took the fact I had no water in my stride and get the job done after all it was only another 6-7 miles to the finish. Unfortunately for me I took another wrong turn south not long after this and was running along the coast again for about a mile before I realised that again my stupidity had led me to believe I was on the right path.

I plodded on for the next couple of miles down the lane feeling a little thirsty but knew that within the hour I would be sipping a cold beer in the pub so I wasn't too bothered. The phone then rang and it was Matt. He explained that he was about 30 mins from the finish. I said to him that I was about probably an hour away or so. He said "Have you reached the beach yet?". The thought went through my mind and suddenly I was a little panicked as there wasn't a beach in sight and I was inland by at least a mile or so! Although I didn't know it at the time I had missed the path about a mile back where it takes a turn south back towards the coast along the beach. I told Matt I would plod on until I came to a path that was heading south. After completing 42 miles I found a path that was heading south (confirmed by my Garmin compass). For the first time that day though I questioned myself about going this way. I had a bad feeling about this and that I was heading down yet another wrong path. I had passed a couple of locals coming down that hill so I thought I would ask them where I was and the best way to where I was heading.

I discovered that I was in Stutton and that I was best of heading towards the main road north until I came to the Brantham Bull pub. I thanked them for their help despite their disbelief about why I was out there and the reasons for that, "fun". Before moving on I spoke to Matt and we agreed that this was probably the best thing to do in the circumstances. I would be able to pick up the remaining mile or so of the route once I crossed the railway line just before Decoy Pond. Ironically when I looked at the map post race if I had continued along the path I doubted myself on I would of have joined the Stour and Orwell path within half a mile!

I plodded down the main road passed the Brantham Bull pub and was heading parallell with the railway track. I took the footbridge across it and headed up into the village of Brantham until I stood standing outside the local church. What the hell was I doing here. I phoned Matt and he told me to trace my route back to the railway line and that he would meet me there on a mountain bike.

When I saw Matt I just smiled and said I couldn't believe how many bonus miles I had added today and that I hadn't had a drink in 11 miles to which his reaction was one of shock but I felt no worse for it to be honest. I plodded forward and finally finished the day after 9hrs 43 mins and covered 48miles instead of the planned 42. It turns out Tim completed the route in 7hrs 40mins and Matt following in after around 30 minutes later. I congratulated them both on a successful day before heading back to the car park. Matt offered me 1.5l which I gladly drank along with my favourite chocolate milk and Clif Builders bar which was pretty good as well.

If you have gotten this far I applaud you especially with the lack of pictures but it was an amazing day and a great experience with so many lessons I will take from it (not just the lack of a map). FatAss running is exactly what it says on the tin just make sure you are prepared for whatever the day will bring. Without doubt you will have an awesome experience one way or the other.

Brentwood Half Marathon Report

Well this was my first race of 2012 and the third time I have done this race.

During the past 2-3 months training had gone from being out with injury to consistently getting out the door almost daily with a peak mileage so far of 61 miles. I had thrown in some fast shorter runs and some good threshold sessions so I knew that my PB was very soft and under threat.

Today however was not just about me it was also about raising money for an incredibly brave little girl, Joni-Mai Stevens.

Joni's Story

Joni-Mai Stevens is a beautiful 5 year old girl who near the end of last year was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma a rare childhood cancer which affects the bones and fewer than 30 children a year are diagnosed with the condition in the UK. Not only is Joni receiving chemotherapy but she is also to undergo a hip replacement in the next few weeks and the long journey to recovery continues. CLIC Sargent is a leading child cancer charity who provides families like Joni’s with invaluable help and support during treatment, at home and in hospital and after treatment. Holly, Joni’s mum wants to give something back and she believed this was the ideal way to do so….
There are 16 runners in our Run for Joni team with the majority having children who attend the same small school/class as Joni hence the support for the family and their chosen charity. To see more about Joni's journey please go to http://www.joni-mai.co.uk


Getting ready|

Sundays weather didn't start off too well as it was very cold / foggy when I arrived at the start line but with the forecast predicting a sunny 18C it was going to warm up pretty quickly so I was pleased to be wearing a vest today. The race has grown significantly over the years and had attracted 3200+ runners this year.

There were two start time this year. One gun for runners under sub 1:30 pace and the other 4 minutes later for the remaining runners. I knew that I wasn't on for a sub 1:30 so I lined up with the majority of runners awaiting the off. I had changed my race goal time several times over the past 4-6 weeks leading up to the race but settled on trying for a sub 1:35.

Time seemed to stand still while waiting for the off but thankfully I had a jacket to keep me warm while waiting, "hold on I have a jacket!!!!". I had completely forgot to give this to my wife pre-race so this was not the best of starts. Fortunately I knew she would be aligning the street immediately after the start line so took a chance on standing on the right hand side of the road ready to throw the jacket at her the instant I saw her. The first gun went off and the first band of runners were away.

The second gun went off and like a stampede of wild animals the rest of us were moving. As predicted my wife was just beyond the start line and I threw my jacket at her to her surprise then sprinted away.
My first mile was a quick 6:47 but I knew that this wasn't going to be race pace so as soon as I cleared the majority of people in front I settled down into a pace that felt comfortably hard. I really didn't want to blow it in the first half of this race because the second half is uphill so I knew that sub 7 pace was just not going to happen.

Unlike my faster sessions I had been doing during the last 2-3 weeks the pace did feel fast but the legs felt strong and I believed I could hold onto that pace for hopefully the duration of the race despite the undulating course profile. Approaching the 3 mile point (splits of 6:47, 7:01, 7:17) I heard someone behind me call my name out. To my surprise it was a friend of mine Pete who I haven't seen for quite some time.

As he caught up with me we chatted about a a few things including the fact he had only got a place for the race the night before! He was taking part in his 3rd London Marathon this year and wanted to get a decent time under his belt (Aiming for around 3:15 at London).

The miles ticked by quickly and I found myself able to maintain a consistent pace. Splits for miles 4 to 6 were (7:19, 7:19, 7:04) and thankfully I had warmed up nicely during the past few miles I had as the sun began shining through so I took the opportunity to have a quick drink at the upcoming water station.

Running with a friend at a similar pace really did help the miles tick by quickly. Mile splits for 7 to 9 were (7:04, 7:06, 7:27). Mile 9 was a little slowere mainly due to the uphill nature of the course at this point but I still felt pretty good, in fact I had never felt this good running at this pace for this long but knew at that point that this is where the race really starts and it will hurt at some point!

My perceived effort level through miles 10-12 had definitely felt a little more laboured (splits 7:13, 7:09, 7:02) and at Mile 11 my friend Pete pulled away. I thought to myself that I had blown things and that my pace was slowing but actually looking at my splits post race I realised that he had actually started running sub 7 minute miles and I just couldn't hang on to him!

Passing the 12 mile marker I dug in deep and was focused so much on embracing the pain and try and hold onto the pace kept all throughout the race all the way to the finish. As we climbed a gentle hill (didn't feel gentle at this point) and passed the mile 13 marker (split 7:13) I headed down the 200m straight to the finish and could see two other runners charging towards the line. I mustered every bit of strength I had left and was sprinting for the finish.

I passed the other two runners on the line and clicked my stop button on my Garmin.

1:34:09!!!!!!!! avg 7:10 pace

Oh my god was my first reaction as I stood there gasping for air.  I couldn't believe that I had crushed my PB by 15 minutes. I met my friend Pete at the finish (he clocked a 1:32) and congratulated him. Following the race I headed up to my wife and kids to cheer on the rest of team Joni.

Setting PB's is one of the reasons we runners get out there however the whole experience and day was bigger than that for me and the 16 other runners I knew out on the course who were running for Joni.

We have so far raised a staggering £9,427 however it's not to late to give some thing so if you can help it would be greatly appreciated.


North Downs 100 miler - I am in

It was over in a matter of seconds...I clicked on the button...my payment made...email confirmation received..

I am now in the Centurion North Downs 100 mile race on August 11th!

Although it is some months away the next 4-5 months training will be absolutely key in building up to the event. I haven't looked at constructing a long term training plan yet but the framework is already there.

The key runs will be the "time on feet" long runs and I intend to enter some build up events to support that as well as the normal weekend runs some of which will entail getting familiar with the course location both during the day and hopefully during the evening.

I have done a 70 mile run before but I know that 100's don't really start until mile 80 and this is a whole
different ball game both physically and mentally so any advice / suggestions are always welcome.

Details of the event can be found here if you are interested. http://www.centurionrunning.com/north-downs-way/ndw100 I have heard only positive things about James Elson the race director so I am very much looking forward to seeing him at the finish for the coveted belt buckle, I hope :0)

The journey has started.

Time for some racing

My February totals:
  • 2012 total; 176.2 miles; 24 hrs 38 mins; 22 runs
  • 2011 total; 135 miles; 20 hrs 18 mins; 19 runs
  • Difference 41 miles ; 4hrs 20 mins; 3 runs

It seems like finally I have got back into the swing of training and looking at the stats above I was quite surprised to find that things are going in the right direction as I am pushing up my overall mileage month on month. Not that these numbers are that important as there is no value really in having a pretty training log however it does show that I am getting out the door more frequently.

All in all things are going very well at the moment and with 2 weeks to go until my first race I believe I will smash my half marathon PB. During the past month I have already done some great long tempo runs of 1hr 43 mins 3 weeks ago and a 1hr 40 mins effort for 13 miles yesterday. My official 1/2 marathon PB was set 2 years ago at 1hr 49 mins so it's very soft but that's mainly because I haven't raced the distance at all.

I am mindful though that the week after the 1/2 marathon I have a FatAss 42 mile coastal run and that will be my first big day out for some time so I won't be going out 100% maybe only 90 :0)

I believe getting out the door regularly the past 6-7 weeks since my injury is showing in my fitness currently and I only hope that with smart training and remaining in good health I can build on this as the year develops. The main priority for this year is to keep injury free but also to finish my first 100 miler.

Yes I am going to be doing the Centurion North Downs 100 mile race in August. I have decided to upgrade my 50 mile entry to the 100 mile mainly because it has to be done. This is my A race for the year therefore any other race will be treated as either a build up or fun run. Although saying that I know on race day the feeling to go out hard and run my butt off will always be attractive.

So here's to running long and having some fun racing, the year is finally about to start.

Need for Speed

Today marked the first time I have done a specific speed work session in months. In fact the last time I did a specific speed session was when I hurt my foot back in late September 2011 therefore I was a little apprehensive about it but over the past 5 weeks of building my base mileage up again the time was right to freshen up my training especially with a half marathon race just over 3 weeks away.

Although I have a 42 mile FatAss run the week after so I don't intend to rip the half marathon course up because I want to be reasonably fresh for this but I don't really have any excuses not to do some speed work to increase leg turnover, get fitter and run harder for longer!

So I headed out at lunch time and found a long stretch of pavement near the River Thames relatively free of people (quite unusual but found a good stretch). It was mostly flat except for a section at the near Vauxhall Bridge which I hoped to avoid but wasn't able to as you will see below. The session played out like so:

2 mile warm up (16:24)

1000m at 4:01
2 min jog recovery
1000m at 4:03 (into the wind)
2 min jog recovery
1000m at 4:00
2 min recovery
1000m at 4:18 (into the wind and over a slightly uphill section over the bridge)
2 min recovery
1000m at 4:08
2 min recovery

2.1 mile cool down (18:56) jogged back on way back.

8.25 miles in total - 1:05:52

I have to say apart from the 4th rep I am very pleased with how things went. I didn't strain to breaking point during each of the reps but did feel tired around the last 100m but managed to hold things together especially my running form so overall I would say it was a very solid first speed work session.

Comparing this session to my last attempt back I felt far more in control of what I was doing and knew exactly what I wanted to achieve from it. Hard workout sessions like this are not meant to be 100% all out sprinting as you will only get injured doing so. The main thing to remember is to have a a target pace that is probably on or just above the cusp of your current racing speed and attempt to run it at for the duration of the interval.

Definitely going to be doing more of the same next week. Think the legs won't be thanking me tomorrow but I have my Compressport R2 Recovery sleeves on so hopefully they won't be to sore :0)

Ready Set Go!

As the title of the post suggests things have taken a huge leap forward during the past two weeks on the running front. Following my latest visit to the physio last week I have now officially been given a clean bill of health on the foot / ankle.

Despite indications that my foot / ankle wasn't 100% last week it did behave rather better than hoped for but it did remind me every now and then with a little "Hello I am still here mate". I managed 32 and 37 miles during those perspective weeks most of which at an easy pace but the more I got out the better I began to feel mentally and the legs feeling stronger.

With this renewed confidence there was a temptation to ramp things up but this would of been completely stupid and foolish (lesson learnt there). I had one final trip booked to see the physio last week to see where things stood and I felt positive that by the end of the session I wouldn't need to go back until I needed an "MOT" appointment (by choice of course). We discussed how my running sessions had gone, how I felt mentally / physically and what my plans were for the months ahead. By the time he had reviewed the leg and stretched both legs fully he told me that he was very happy with things as they were and that there wouldn't be much point him calling me back again.

YES YES YES! A sense of relief swept over me. The nightmare of the last few months finally dissolved. I had an extra skip in my step and I finally felt like a runner again. By the end of last week I had clocked up 46 miles (highest since September) which is way below where I want to be at this point but I am happy with that.

It's a pivotal moment for this the running year ahead as I did have doubts that things would get sorted quickly. I can now finally focus on the Milton Keynes marathon at the end of April although I think with the 10 1/2 weeks training block left I will be rather looking to enjoy the race rather than trying to stretch for my original goal of 3:17. This doesn't mean I will be treating the build up process any differently but I have to accept that the last few months lack of consistency and fitness means I will be not at optimum fitness in this build up cycle. Therefore I will need to revise my race goal time based on the weeks leading up to and including my tune up race the Brentwood half marathon on March 25th.

I will be aiming for a sub 1:40 at that race which I think is well within reach but I don't want to take to much for granted at this stage. The primary goal though is to continue the plan of rebuilding the mileage and consistency of running. This week hasn't quite gone quite to plan so far due to busy days at work but I did get a solid 11 miles in today and it will be all about getting those daily runs in and focus on the plan week by week. Time to go up a gear!

Running is cheaper than Therapy

These past few weeks have been some of the most frustrating times I have had with both the health of running but also my general health.

Not long after my first physio appointment I came down with a fever and chest infection. Just when I thought I was back on the road to recovery from my foot and ankle problem I was dealt this even worse hand from the cards of life. WHY NOW! After visiting my doctor and confirmation that I was indeed suffering from the infection I was prescribed a course of antibiotics and rest. This meant an enforced rest period of at least 7-10 days including time off work.

After the first 3-4 days I started to feel improvement and by the sixth day I had returned to work feeling more or less normal again. Although health wise I was feeling like my old self I was been extremely cautious not to plunge myself back into running to quickly. This to me was mental torment as I consider running my therapy time and boy had I missed this time. I decided that after 12 days the time was right for a test run to see how I felt and how the break had helped with my foot / ankle problem.

That first run was like returning to my first runs when I started running. I was breathing quite hard for a slow plod pace and legs felt empty but mentally I felt like the world of melting around me. I could feel the effects of the enforced rest but it was great to just get out, leave lifes problems at the door step, hone my senses to the surroundings albeit with aching legs and sucking up wind at a plodding pace. My ankle and foot both felt mostly ok but noticed that my right shin and a small area on the front right hand side of my ankle were a little sore. Fortunately I had moved my follow up physio appointment two days after this first run due to my illness so I was looking forward to going back to update him on progress.

After some discussion followed by some massage of the shin, testing for stress fractures and ankle mobility he said it could either be some tendon irritation caused by an inflamed sheathe that wraps around the tendons at the front of the ankle or it's the sheathe that binds all of the tendons was inflamed due to tendon irritation, a bit of a chicken and egg situation. He ruled out my feet causing problems gait wise as I had very neutral feet which did make me feel pretty good as I have been working hard on improving my running form over the past 18 months so it was nice feedback.  With that he sent me on my way and said to monitor things daily and to book another appointment for 2 weeks time or to get in contact sooner if it's to painful to run on.

Last week I did get a few runs in and ran from 3-6 miles. Each day got a little easier in terms of adjusting to the pace and the ankle / foot has got progressively better although I would be lying if I said all of the soreness has receded 100% but I am feeling like the fitness is starting to ooze back into this body of mine.

Again I am not going out with the idea each day on achieving mileage targets at the moment but just letting the body / mind dictate pace and duration. I am continuing to soak the legs after each run as well as stretching them out gently. Unfortunately this does mean that I will not be taking part in the Thames Trot ultra this coming weekend however I don't feel disappointed in the slightest as there will be other times for sure. Building a solid base once again is paramount to future success for the rest of the year so the next few weeks ahead will be filled with easy runs building that time on feet once again.

I am just happy that I can get out there and put one foot in front of the other again and attending my therapy class on a daily basis again!