Tanners 30

Two weeks ago I finally got around to running the Winter Tanners 30 mile trail event put on by the LDWA. I have often wanted to kick off the running year with this one but it hasn't fit into my schedule however having paid my yearly subscription to the LDWA back in September I thought I might as well sign up in order to use it as a good training run on the trails. I am not naturally suited to trails and prefer road but it's usually a very enjoyable social event with lots of peeps using it as a training run.

At the time I was training for an October marathon. Unfortunately as I have said previously I got injured and didn't start running again until late November so going into this event I hadn't run much but I wasn't going to be racing it so I thought I would take it easy and enjoy it as much as I could. I ran with a mate David (blog is here) who was just coming back from a rest period due to a busy 2014.

We met up in the car park in Leatherhead and made our way to registration in the what felt like sub zero temperatures but beautiful blue sky. We checked in at Race HQ and then made our way to the start area at 8.45. Although conditions were really crisp, dry and sunny I fully expected mud on the route so went out in my Inov8 Roclite's. Fortunately I was mildly surprised to say that there wasn't that much mud given what I had read in blogs from previous years.

The route this year took us over the North Downs and on to Leith Hill before coming back in a westerly direction before coming back over the North Downs. Certainly not a flat route like where I live so despite the pace being "social" I didn't quite know how much elevation change there would be.

I had asked David that we should take some pics today as the weather was fantastic and the views are gorgeous (at least to me as I am used to the urban jungle) and of course you get the odd Photo bomber!

(Suck in the stomach Stewart!)

(Guess where we are going?)

(Who is this person??)

When we got to the top of Leith Hill the views were glorious. You could see for miles around us and there of course was Leith Hill Tower. An 18th Century Gothic tower which was built with the intention of raising the highest point to over 1,000 ft.

(Not too shabby)
Having reached the tower I was feeling rather pleased with myself as we were just over a third of the way into the event and we hadn't got lost once and I was feeling good. Now I know we have LDWA instructions for the route but my sense of direction leaves much to the imagination. Of course David and I were both leading on the directions and had other runners / walkers ahead but I get lost in multi storey car parks at Lakeside Thurrock and remember going over 2 miles wrong at the Gatliff 50km event a few years back due to my inability to interpret the key properly on the sheet.

Here is a reminder of what the instructions look like.

"Ahd down BW.  In 130Y ignore RT & 80Y later, at FiPo, FL.  In 250Y join TK from L.  In 40Y join 2nd TK from L & in 12Y at  FiPo T sharp L (210º) & follow BW down to RD.  TR, WALKING WITH CARE, & in 350Y, at FiPo, TR towards BIRKETTS FARM"

Now of course this is self explanatory once you get used to it but I was still pretty pleased with myself. It's a case of "small things please small minds" I guess. Following on from that we then descended down from the hill on some very enjoyable trails. Of course things were going so well that and I had this instructions malarkey down that I got just a little bit above myself

Just before CP2 there was a section coming up that mentioned going up Pitch Hill. Part of the route up involved going up a glute and calf busting climb via a faint path. The section read like so:

"Cont ahd on CONEYHURST LANE for 860Y ignoring 2 FP signs on L & TR towards RAPSLEY.  Cont to end of tarmac & keep ahd on TK for 750Y to reach RD.  TR & in 90Y TL up MOON HALL ROAD.  In 70Y at FiPo TL.  DO NOT FOLLOW ARROW but go steeply up faint path (10º)."

I have highlighted the last part of the sentence because as David and I got to the top of Pitch Hill I said the following 

(I thought I was good at Maths)

Rich: “That track felt a lot steeper than 10 percent”
David (after lengthy pause): “That’s a compass bearing, not a gradient”
I think this comment brought on David's asthma as he was laughing and coughing a lot! Shame on me but you live and learn I guess. After a pause to catch our breath we had some of David chocolate covered coffee beans and a drink which went down a treat before picking up our gear and starting to run back down the trails.
After leaving Check Point 2 still feeling good the time seemed to go pretty quick and I had noticed that we had begun to head back West (don't ask me how I know that but the instructions probably said so) . We had hit some great single track paths to run on which again in the conditions were very very runnable.
(Wilberforce Monument)

After swiftly passing the Wilberforce Monument we were turning to come back over the North Downs Way. After climbing a fair bit it was again another good moment to just take in the natural beauty of the Downs. Of course some obligatory posing had to be in order.

(David enjoying his posing)
Soon after some more great single track along the ridge we had our first navigational blip and fortunately it was only a blip. Instead of forking right off the North Downs we continued on a couple hundred yards before realising that we were wrong and the directions correct. We had seen runners ahead of us continue on along the North Downs but they were not within shouting distance even for me so it was a case of a quick back track and down the hill.

We continued along the paths until we hit Steers Field. We speed hiked the uphill and made our way to check point 3 which looked quite busy. I then had someone shout "Hey Rich" and it was Rob Jones who I have spoken over Twitter, Facebook etc over the past years but never met! (UltraBobban blog here). We had a quick chat about the route and Rob introduced us to his friend Mark who was doing his first ultra before they set off down the last section of event.

David and I left the CP feeling strong and pushed on past Tanners Hatch Youth Hostel before coming back onto some muddy trails. We caught up with Rob and Mark not long afterwards and the banter then started which was entertaining for the last couple miles to the finish.

Now I knew Rob was going to put in a cameo performance just before the end and hammer the last mile or so but we still had some navigating to do before this would happen. The four of us were skipping through the rutted fields as best as one can with your feet disappearing in the mud. The pace had strengthened a bit but the legs were holding up ok. 

After coming out of the muddy field Rob picked up the pace and was bolting for home. David asked me if he was racing the last bit and suddenly went up a gear. Of course we were now heading downhill and I was in two minds but I felt really good and pushed on, I could see Mark was also running hard just behind me. I glanced at my watch to see that I was running around 7 minute miles and going gradually downhill the is great fun (at least for now).

Just before the finish I overshot the turn onto the tarmac by 50 yards but luckily didn't fall over. After seeing the tennis courts and turning right I rushed into race HQ. Job done.

Around 5 hours 47 on the clock which considering the 3,500ft of muddy climbing and standing around taking pictures wasn't too bad. Congratulations to Mark on completing his first ultra.

I'm sure you will be back for this one again next year although I think I will do a bit of reading up on gradients before I do!

2014 - The year that was

2014 was a year that promised so much but half delivered.

Wow that statement sounds pessimistic and like I am feeling down but last year really was but when I reflect on the year that was this cold new years day I see the two polar sides of my running.

From January - early May I enjoyed the most consistent and highest volume of running building up to the Halstead marathon that I have ever had. I had never been fitter nor more confident in my running. Although I did not achieve my target time at Halstead I was really pleased with the 3:20 time I had achieved as I had shaved 33 mins off my PB but I knew that on a flat course I could have got much closer to the 3:10 that my training had indicated leading up to the race.

Shortly after this my training imploded and during May, June and into July all of the hard work I had put in the past 5 months had crumbled away. When I think about why I did this I am still not able to pinpoint exactly why I did this.

To get out of this rut I set a new goal for an October marathon. Target was to smash 3:10 at the new Chelmsford marathon that was local to me.

August and September training went very well and I managed to rebuild a good base with some really good quality workouts. I was so focused intently on hitting my goal of another marathon PB in October however looking back I completely ignore signs that my body was feeling the strain. I was 12 pounds heavier than I was at Halstead, I had done any core support work and so the stage was set for me to fail. After putting together a 20:15 5km the week before the race my body broke down and I picked up an injury that pretty much put me out of the game for the rest of the year.

Since then it has been a case of managing and rehabilitating the injury in order to get back to the process of looking to set and achieve goals in 2015. I am still heavier than I would like and that's something that should be manageable now that Christmas is out of the way and of the runs I have done coupled with a core strength program I am feeling a lot stronger than I have in some time.

Mileage wise I still ended up with 1,720 which is the second highest total in the years I have been running but had I not left my running shoes in the cupboard during May-July and the injury this would have been much much higher but that's the way it goes.

It's time now to move on and set goals for 2015 and use last year's experience to channel the positives and negatives from it into achieve the goals I will be setting

Happy New Year.