Marathon des Sables; The Final Update!

A week on from completing the 2014 Marathon de Sables I’m still not quite sure how to describe or explain the experience. It was everything I imagined and more. And in some cases less (but not many cases of that!). Here is an attempt of describing how it felt on the final day.

The Finish

After 18 months of training I was stood at the start line of the most exciting marathon I have been involved in. It doesn’t take much, considering I’ve only run 2 marathons before (if I exclude the ultras). Nevertheless it was promising to be an interesting day. The top 200 were being held back by 90 minutes. Disappointingly I was position 201 going into the final day. To say I was gutted is an understatement! I wanted to be with all the quick guys chasing the rest of the pack down! However, that all changed as we were milling around at the start line and one of the guys from tent 110 announced to me that I was the fastest guy on the start line. The fastest guy out of 800 people! Oh shit… I’ve never been the fastest guys at the start line before. And most likely I’ll never experience that again! For a very brief second it was excited, then I had an “oh shit” moment at the prospect of navigating (well following the pink rocks) with with lots of people following! The reality is there were plenty of people around me who are quicker at marathons, it’s just my cumulative time over the first 4 days was a few minutes quicker – I think my double marathon nudges me ahead of some guys who are quick at the “short” stuff. I had no doubt there would be faster runners who would be keen to lead the group off and set the direction. Just like the other 4 days, I planned to let them shoot off and then chase them down as the day went on. I wanted to run a 5 hour marathon and hoped to beat the front of the elite group home. I was assuming they would run 3:00-3:30 marathons so it would be pretty tight (almost impossible) with a 1hr30 lead – but figured it would be exciting to try!

Before we knew it music was blaring over the speakers, helicopters swooping over our heads and we were off. The final marathon was under-way! The chase was on! Run! At the first check point I was still feeling fresh and the temperature was still cool so I pressed on. A  number of runners were stood refilling water bottles, so I continued with my week-long tactic of always moving. Even though it means carrying the empty bottle in my bag, I wanted to save that precious minute in my attempt to stay clear of the elites. Over the next 11km we ran on some awesome trails and flat stony plains. Having taken 80 mins to get to the first CP I spent the whole of the next leg thinking of the elites that would now be chasing me down. Not that they knew they were chasing me but it certainly helped keep the legs turning. As I checked in at CP2, I noticed that there were very few foot prints in the sand and not too many bottles in the waste bin; I seemed to be doing OK. I grabbed my 1.5L bottle of water and poured half on my head (much to the amusement of some cameramen and the check point officials) and half into my drinking bottles. In all the excitement of running I hadn’t been drinking as much as I should have done. it also meant I hadn’t been taking much salt on. So I swigged down a belly full of water and 3 salt tablets. All of these checkpoint shenanigans lasted no more than 20-30 seconds and I was on my way again.

Early morning miles


With my legs starting to burn and my hands throbbing (a sign of dehydration) I set off for the final CP whilst slurping on my carb drink. This was may favourite leg of the whole race. Perhaps in my life. Bold claim, I know! But it was truly epic, the route, the company, the solace, the views, the climb up to a jebel pass and then a few km up high before a fast decent into a lush green check point I ran hard. I was still ahead of most of the 800 in the early start and none of the elites were in site. In fact, I could barley see anyone in front of me. As I arrived at CP3, I received a huge applause from some families that were in Morocco to see their friends/family finish. The CP staff were also extremely attentive and rushed… I got the impression I was near the front and they did everything they could to get me in and out as quick ad possible. I declined half of my water ration in an attempt to save time and repeated my speedwalk and water admin departure from the CP. This was going better than I had planned and I could sense the finish.

No more CPs left in the MdS 😦 no more “beep” as I cross the CP entry gates, no more practising my pronunciation of  “Bonjour, six deux six”. The next “beep” would be as I crossed the finish line! Best a get move on. For about 3-4 km we were running along a dried up river bed… I say running…. it was a jog! My shuffle was still reeling in one or two of the front runners of the early start. I could see them in the distance in the river bed. As we neared the end of the river bed I was overtaken by a camera crew in a Jeep who jumped about 400m ahead and set-up their tripod. Surely not for me…. nope, just the winner of the day, Abdelkader el Mouaziz! His PB for a marathon is 2hr06min! I could see him in the distance behind me. Minutes later was I running alongside him, albeit for a matter of moments… what an phenomenal athlete! His exit from the river bed was effortless, he dashed up the side of the rocks to climb onto the plateau.  I clearly looked bemused as the Camera crew pointed me towards the trail of footprint I should be following… there were 5 maybe 6 sets of foot prints in the sand.

With 5km to go I crossed the “stony plateau” described in the road book. I could smell the finish. I could also sense a couple of elites not too for behind me. One of the marshals gave me a great a cheer and  said “they’re about a half a km behind you. you’ve got 5km to go!!”. As I started the descent down the rocky hill I kicked a rock so hard I screamed. And swore. I swore lots! but F#@K it.. I had lasted all week… there was only 4km to go I wasn’t going to stop and check it now! From a quick glance over my shoulder and I could see Danny Kendall and Carlos Sa – the fastest two Europeans in the MdS (British and Portuguese respectively). 300m behind.. and they seemed to be speeding up. As we hit the final descent onto the last 2.5 km of dunes Danny flew past me. Shortly followed by Carlos. I felt like I was stood still – I think they were locked in a head to head race for the marathon stage (if I remember rightly Danny needed to beat him by 5 mins to over take him on the overall GC). As I crested the first dune and I could see the finish… I overtook one last person and then ran as hard as my legs will let me for the last 2 km of dunes.

250km later!

Choked with tears, excitement and some dehydration I collected my medal, tried to smile for the camera and gave Patrick a big sweaty hug! I then hobbled to the water tent to collect my 4.5L ration of water before slumping in a heap to recover. I had a brief cry (not sure if that was pain from the marathon, the relief of finishing the MdS or disappointment that the best 18months were about to be over). A few harsh words with myself and I soon realised I should gather my shit together and cheer in the rest of tent 110! We had been together all week and the best part for the others was just about to happen. By the time I dropped my kit at 110, Andy was also home and dry. We wandered up and cheered in the rest of the troops. First Chris, then Gerrit… a short while later Tom, Matt and Adrian made it over the finish line of the 250km hammering.

So that was it… the last day in the MdS. How did we get there? Well, I had intended to write a detailed review of  each day when I got home. But in all honesty I have been pretty tired and still trying to get my head around what happened over those 10 days. When I finished the race and for the first few days after the run I didn’t feel like I had been running at all. Let alone 250km in the desert. By Tuesday I was tired, the adrenaline and endorphins had all died away and I was left genuinely exhausted. I’ve been napping most days and having lots of sleep every night. Recovering is the easy bit: eat, sleep, stretch, eat, sleep! So, there’s my excuse for not writing a full report of the week. Also, I kind of like the short summary that I sent from the desert. It captures it as it happened…. so there you have it. the MdS 2014.

Thank you

There are countless people I want to thank. so in no particular order… here goes.

The office – thank you to everyone in the office. You have put up with a lot of running chat (sorry, but that will likely continue). The support has been phenomenal!

Mum and Dad – I know you didn’t really want me to do this when I first signed up. I blame dad! He did Kilimanjaro – that got me hooked!

BMHAC – great club, great coach and great Sunday morning runs!

Ruth & Luc – The endless lunchtime running chat, the company on the treadmill, stretching, Wednesday runs to work, kit chat, all the stuff that non-runners hate. Awesome work at London by both of you! Ruth posting a “good for age” time and I think Luc securing a “Championship Start”! Both huge achievements!

Mike – Epic training partner. Enough said!

My mates – all of the guys I should have been out drinking with for the past few months… it’s time to catch up on those nights out!

Tent 110 – you know how much fun and pain the week involved. Awesome tent mates.. looking forward to a catch up beer soon!

Lucy – a HUGE thank you to you. I know I have been obsessed with the MdS for the past 18 months. Thank you for being so patient (most of the time ;)) and putting up with all my stinking kit, washing and early mornings. I’m looking forward to a few normal weekends just as much as you are 😀 xx

What next?

No idea. I haven’t planned anything yet. I’ll perhaps run a few road races and work on my speed over the summer.. I popped to ParkRun this weekend and found it hard going, so need to get back down to BMHAC soon.  I’d like to run a sub 1:30 half and maybe a quick marathon. who knows. In the meantime, lots of food, sleep and rest is needed.

Until next time…. no, not the next MdS, just the next adventure….


p.s I’m still counting up the cash donations… looks like we’ve smashed £6k… will update tomorrow!

Mortimer Gut Buster

Having volunteered as a marshal at this race last year (because I was too disorganised to get a race spot), this was a “must” for 2013. It’s in my neck of the woods and I know some of the trails well- the views are stunning.

The race comes as a 10 km or 10 mile option. It seemed that most opted for 10miles, but either way the route is petty gruelling and a perfect way to blow the cobwebs off after a few days of Xmas merriment.

Since signing up for the Marathon des Sables, I have lost a sense of perspective; today is a good example to prove that point. Not being content with “just” a 10 mile race for my long Sunday run I decided it would be better to run there as a warm up, race and then run home. A warm up… so, maybe a mile or so? Nope! 6.4 miles! Yeah, a full 10k as a warmup. Run – eat/drink – Run – eat/drink – Run. Great training for the checkpoints at the MdS.

With this perfect plan in place and nice route in mind, I set the alarm for 7am.

7am came and I was regretting the late night KFC on the journey home from London. If there is one area I can improve my training in 2014- avoiding food binges is it. A zinger tower burger, BBQ beans, chicken popcorn, a mini fillet, large fries and large coke at 11pm is not prefect race prep. I saved half of the coke, let it go flat over night and used it as my pre-race drink! (See earlier Lakeland50 blog for my love of coke as race fuel- shame I can’t take it to the desert!)

Bag packed, brekkie half digested and with the sun rising, it was time to warm up! And boy, I needed to warm up! It was below zero when I left the house.

Beautiful running conditions; cold, crisp and firm underfoot (mostly!)

Beautiful running conditions; cold, crisp and firm underfoot (mostly!)

A perfect start to the day.

The warm-up was largely uneventful. Well, except the frozen slushy flood that covered a 20m stretch of the road. The only route around was a 2 mile detour… Or shimmy along the embankment whilst gripping hedgerow! Ouch! Oh and I got lost… the 10km became 10.5.

I arrived at race HQ puffing and panting to the few puzzled looks for fellow racers sipping their pre-race teas, coffees and lucozade. Great organisation by the guys at My Sporting Times meant number collection, bag drop and a quick toilet break all went with out a hitch. Awesome work by the all the helpers and marshals! very friendly!

With 15mins to stretch, stay warm (yeah right!!), slurp some KFC Pepsi, say hi to a few familiar faces and then stiffen up,  I was starting to regret that “warm-up”!

And we we’re off

The front runners were off like rockets. I tried the usual game of looking for a bunch of people who “look” to be similar level (a dangerous guessing game- always some surprises!). I avoided looking at my watch for the first 5 miles and tried to run base on “feel”. My aim was 1:20:00 so I was trying to feel my way to 8min/mile pace on 6 mile old legs.

The road sections were icy, lots of slipping around corners. The muddy fields were stiff- plenty I opportunity to roll and ankle and the rolling hills were energy sapping. As we reached the 4 mile marker, I had 10 miles in the bag. Done! Well, not quite! As I approached the 5 mile marker I allowed myself a quick look at the Garmin. 7:50 splits. Happy!

At 6-7miles there was a tricky climb where the recent rain had washed a gully into the path. That combined with a bit of fatigue and some trainer sucking mud, my pace dropped of a lot. From there we had some nice down hill and flat open fields to trot across! The 8min/mile average was back on. At the 8 mile marker my Garmin was reading 7.73. I was ahead of schedule, brilliant! I held that thought for the next 2 miles. Until I got to the final, “9 miles” marker… That final mile felt like the Longest mile ever. The sun was up and melting the frozen mud, enough people had covered the ground that it was getting boggy! My pace was fading, I was regretting the 10k warmup, I was regretting the choice of road shoes (which had been prefect until now) and I was regretting the KFC. That “final mile” was more like 1.2 miles and felt like 1.5! urgh!

I crossed the line in 1hr21min.

Slightly behind plan, but it placed me 77th/259 overall and 40th/80 in the men’s under 30.

Job done!

Job done!

I avoided the mince pies and mulled wine at the finish line- not ideal prep for the run home! With the temperature still low I started to stiffen up. With a few layers back on, a feeling the cold I figured it was probably best to get a lift home; I wimped out of the full run home and opted for a 10 minute jog to “cool down” and meet Lucy.

All in all, a good days training. Three 10s – 10km warm up, 10mile race, 10min warm down.

A special mention for a friend, Lucy Jolly, who blasted around the course in 1hr 1min and won the race! Epic running by Luc – nice job mate!

I’ll definitely be going back next year, without the warm-up to try and post a quick time (though, I thinks Luc’s time is perfectly safe!). It’s an awesome, picturesque race that’s not too big, a good range of running abilities and some great support from locals dotted around the villages and farms! 

In the mean time, lots of [good quality] food to help recover ready for tomorrows training run…. a home made half-marathon!


Clarendon 2013

Good morning. It’s 6am on Sunday 6th October. Yet another early start.

With precisely 6 months to go until I am on the start line of the 2014 MdS, it’s fair to say I’m a little nervous. I’m questioning my trainers, filling out entry forms & waivers, confirming my blood type, double checking my bag choice, submitting for medicals, buying some serious insurance, worrying about my average weekly mileage, ordering different electrolytes to try out…. Let’s just say the last brand dint agree with me. The list goes on…. the preparation is no small task, but it’s enthralling!

Meanwhile, in about 4 hours’ time I’ll be on the start line of the 2013 Clarendon Marathon. Not quite the challenge of the MdS, but another significant day of training. A warm day is forecast and the route is described as having rolling hills – a perfect days training. I cannot wait. I’m aiming for anything under 4h30min, but will most probably set off for a 4:00-4:15 pace, to see how my legs cope. No point taking it too easy! Right, see you on the other side!


Well, let’s just say they were more than “rolling hills”! And, the weather was warmer than “warm”!

I went off at what I thought was a steady pace, but was trying to do my pacing calculations on the fly as my GPs couldn’t find a signal. So, with that excuse out of the way…. I clocked 1hr 53min for the first half and a disastrous 2hr 31min for the second half. I know, I didn’t heed my own warning from a previous race about pacing…. but I did get a good beasting! I didn’t drink a great deal in the first half as I was too busy rushing through the aid stations and the second half had some decent hills! Nothing compared to the 10Peaks, but more than I was expecting and didn’t have anything in the bank.
Result : 4hr 24mins. A great workout after week which already consisted of 20+miles running, 1 hr spinning and 1 hr of circuits.

All in, it was great days racing and a course that I will definitely come back to! The organisation was great, the marshals were friendly and the route challenging but enjoyable.

Next weekend a relaxing few days in Devon (with a run or two), then its Birmingham Half Marathon!

10 Peaks – Brecon Beacons

With little time to get sufficient hill training in before the 10peaks race, I was approaching the start line at 5am with a few nerves. I was surrounded by some very lean fell runners, three Ghurkhas and a mix of “normal” runners (like me)…. Which put my mind a rest a little. As the race began I had a horrible sinking feeling as the lead runners set a terrifying pace for the first few miles of trail running.

Getting ready for the 5am start!

Getting ready for the 5am start!

Following the trail run to get the legs moving we were into our first climb: 700ms of dark, wet fell running. Despite only being 25minutes into the race, the lead runners were well out of sight- not even a flash of head torches could be seen. By the top of the climb my multiple layers to battle the early morning cold were starting to feel like a bad idea; 2 hours of fell running results in some serious overheating! Resisting the temptation to strip layers, we descended into the valley near the Neuadd Reservoir. We crested the next climb after a serious session of scrambling up what can only be described as a “wall”, not a hill! On reaching the summit of this intermediate peak, there was a small out and back to reach a checkpoint before progressing North to Bwlch Duwynt, where we had stunning views of the later stages of the race (Pen Y Fan, Fan Y Big and Corn Du). As we tracked the steady climb along the exposed ridge temperatures dropped, heavy mist closed in and fingers and toes were numb…. Luckily we had some reasonable terrain to get a running pace going again and get the blood pumping! Dropping down from here onto the A470 got us out of the mist and allowed me to stretch the legs through a speedy descent! Though not as fast as the daredevil leaders- utterly amazing to see them fly down and up the mountain side! Fells runners are a different breed of runner – FACT!

Perfect Running Conditions

Perfect Running Conditions

And breathe… we’re half way in mileage… but well under halfway in terms of hills!

Some cold pizza proved to be the perfect pick-me-up at the halfway check point, despite it being very squashed and slightly sweaty from the first few hours in my back pack! With the sun providing some warmth and the strenuous climbs generating enough body heat, stripping the 3 excess layers was particularly welcome. Refuelled, rehydrated and ready for the next stage, we watched as 4 runners set our ahead of us (having been behind us for the previous couple of km). They were our bait for the next 5-6km! With some tarmac and a roman road to lead the way until the next fell, we made good progress but didn’t manage to bridge the gap to the group of 4 ahead of us- everyone had settles into a nice steady rhythm. As we approached the Graig Cerrig Gleisiad Nature reserve we hatched a plan to take the most direct (but hilly) route to the next peak. It paid in spades… we overtook the group of 4 that we had been following and managed to pull out a 600m lead on them – we were away and clear. A chance to set out own pace all the way to the Storey Arms. Quick slice of cold pizza, a can of coke and a few stretches and we were ready to go again!

From the car park we could see what was waiting for us. This was the “Oh Shit” moment in the race: we had already completed a marathon across the fells and we still had the huge climb to Corn Du, Pen Y Fan, Cribyn and Fan Y Big. Walking these on a normal day is a big undertaking, to do them after running a marathon across the fell… well that’s pretty stupid 😀 

As we started the climb, there was no sign on the “low” I experience in the Lake District (at about this mileage)- I had learnt my lesson on hydration and nutrition. An attempt to speed march up Corn Du was met with some puzzled looks from the tourist out for a relaxing Saturday afternoon walk with their family. Especially when their curiosity was met with the response “I’m over 28miles into the race and have another 8 miles to go”! When you say it out load to the general public you realise how big of a deal these events are – I probably play down Ultra Marathons, because its “only” 36 miles and not in the desert!

Having beaten Corn du, the infamous Pen-y-Fan was waiting! Having never climbed it before I didn’t know what to expect, other than something quite tough (the SAS train and run their selection process on this hill!). By this stage Mike’s knee was giving him some serious pain- loading it up on the steep descent from Corn Du proved really tough! The sound of his yelps made me wince! But he pushed through and we made it to the top of Pen-y-Fan. Note: I must come back as try this climb on fresh legs!!!

Cribyn awaits, all 795m of it!

Cribyn awaits, all 795m of it!

All that remained was Cribyn (795m) and Fan Y Big 719m), followed by about 10km of fairly flat fell running (on a normal day this wouldn’t be called flat). Easy! Well, it was for the winner of the log course who can thundering past us as we approached the open fell above the Talybont-on-Usk. Honestly, on fresh legs there is no way I could ever keep pace with him!! I still can’t fathom how he could run so fast after 40+miles and on such uneven terrain! Mark Palmer….massive credit to you!

We had topped the following peaks:
1. Spot height Waun Rydd, 762 meters
2. Trig point Twyn Mwyalchod, 642 meters
3. Fan Fawr, 734 meters
4. Fan Llia, 632 meters
5. Fan Frynych, 629 meters
6. Corn Du, 873 meters
7. Pen y Fan, 886 meters
8. Cribyn, 795 meters
9. Fan y Big, 719 meters
10. Spot height Bwlch y Ddwyallt, 754 meters

A final push to the finish, including getting lost in the bracken (oh yeah, I hadn’t mentioned we had to navigate our way around this 36mile route), and we were home and dry (well, actually soaked) in 10hr50min exactly! We were pretty pleased with our time, especially considering Michael had picked up a knee injury! We were even more delighted to later find out that we finished 20th out of 90runners (Top quarter!)!!! Our best finish yet!

2nd ultra marathon under my belt!

2nd ultra marathon under my belt!

So, the preparations for the MdS 2014 continue! Another ultra under the belt, another 10 hours of training, another 10,000 feet of elevation gain! I’ve now racked up 1,500 miles in training 1,000 running, and 500 kayaking/crosstraining/cycling! The next event in the calendar is “only” a marathon. But to make things tricky it’s a trail marathon and it’s likely to be muddy!!

Until then… More hill reps and more miles!


10 Peaks Preparations

So the preparations for the Clif Bar 10 Peaks Brecons have really started:


Carb loading at the airport before a work trip. Pancakes, porridge and fresh orange juice. I feel slightly nauseous, but I can sleep it off on the flight knowing that the carbs will serve me well come the weekend.

Aside from stuffing myself full of food, I’ve been doing some more sensible prep work.


Hmmm…It’s not until you plot it out on an OS map that you realise how much ground ultra-marathons cover! Not to mentioned the mountains, open fells and those tightly packed contour lines! Over the course of 36 miles we’ll be ascending and descending 10 of the biggest peaks in South Wales!

Some of the more famous climbs include:
Fan Fawr, 734 meters
Fan Llia, 632 meters
Fan Frynych, 629 meters
Corn Du, 873 meters
Pen y Fan, 886 meters
Cribyn, 795 meters
Fan y Big, 719 meters

In terms of physical preparation, I haven’t had the ideal build up to the race: a 2week summer holiday, a manic first week back at work and now a heavy cold. Hopefully I can shake it off this week whilst I load up on carbs and vitamins! If not, it’s tough shit…

Big Baz sounds like he’s in good shape. Took a little convincing to get him onboard for this race, but he’s game! He’s very prepared (as always) and has been scouting the route on YouTube (it served us well for the Lakeland50!).

We’re hoping to be all done in 15hours, but we’ll wait and see what the weather is like. Poor visibility, rain or a hot day can scupper those plans quite quickly! (Note: I’ve got all the excuses in early incase we are much slower than we hope!)

Should be an interesting weekend! Bring it on…

Montane Lakeland 50 – 2013


OK, I’m going to be vain and quote myself from mile 30 something after we had passed a few weary looking 100mile competitors: “There is no F###ING way I am ever doing the 100. Mike- remind me of this conversation the next time I get cocky and suggest we do the 100!”

Well, 14 days later and I’m still standing by that opinion. Well, almost! I definitely want to do the Lakeland100 at some point, but not 2014. Next year (assuming the calendar works out) will be a chance to go back and do the L50 in a good time. We were thrilled to be sub-15 for our first ever Ultra-Marathon, especially the Lakeland 50…one in which we baked for 7 hours at 26 Degress, steamed in the damp for 2 hours, then were soaked in a huge rain storm for the next 6!

One of many long climbs!

So how was it? Amazing! I could write an entire diary on this one race alone, I will resist, and simply give a sentence or two about each leg… probably under sells how hard/long it was, but never mind.

Leg 1: Dalemain to Howtown. 11.2 Miles. 2hrs 9mins 29sec. Nice relaxed jog around the estate, charged at by some bullocks, lots of support at Pooley bridge and the first big climb, followed a bunch of runners from Sunderland, re-moved badly taped tape from foot. Lesson 1: Tape it correctly or it’ll be worse than no tape!

Leg 2: Howtown to Mardale Head: 9.4 miles. 2hrs 51mins 28 sec (Total: 20.6 miles, 05:00:57). Second proper climb, weather still hot (mid-high 20s), lucky we are following a large crowd as the track becomes very feint (and easy to lose in bad weather), descending through bracken to edge of Hawewater was stunning (and quite technical), amazing trails skirting around the water’s edge to CP.Top up bottled from stream – fresh! Lots of people dropping out at CP10 from 50 and 100 mile races! Lesson 2: Enjoy the good times!

Beautiful, technical trail around Haweswater to Mardale Head

Beautiful, technical trail around Haweswater to Mardale Head check point (CP10)

Leg 3: Mardale Head to Kentmere 6.5 miles. 2hrs 17mins 52 secs (Total 27.1miles, 07:18:49). After a much needed break and some flat coke we start another huge climb. Starts OK, then I hit a mental block unlike anything I’ve had before: legs fine, lungs fine, heart rate fine, sugar/energy fine… just can’t get motivated. Mike forces me to eat an energy chew. We speak to Lucy & Sam and find out we are top half. Renewed motivation for the last 2-3 miles. Lesson 3: Your motivation will (eventually) come back….if you run far enough, speak to the other half, or spark your competitive side. It’ll be option 1 and 3 in the desert!

Leg 4: Kentmere to Ambleside 7.3 miles, 2hs 11mins 38secs (Total: 34.4 miles, 09:30:27). Great smoothie at CP11, some rain and the temp has dropped – a great leg where managed to get a good run going. Arrived in Ambleside to high 5s from Mike’s kids! Resisted stealing their fish and chips… instead flat coke, flapjack and jam sandwich! Mike tapes blister (or did that happen already- it’s a bit of blur from here to the finish!). Lesson 4: Flat coke is liquid gold for ultras!

Leg 5: Amble side to Chapel Stile 5.6 miles, 1hr 32mins 21secs (Total: 40.0 miles, 11:02:38). Getting dark, but I resist putting head torch on – Mike’s is enough (just!). Probably should have put on at CP12. Another great section, some nice flat trails! Could have run much faster if it was day time- maybe next year!??! Follow to middle aged (??sorry??) ladies setting a nice pace. Heavy rain turns torrential as we arrive at CP13 – the best CP ever. Sofas, fairy lights, fire to light the path and an extra large coffee with 4 sugars and a digestive! Lesson 5: Put coat on as soon as it rains and use all the zips!

Welcoming fire fairy lights in the distance

Welcoming fire fairy lights in the distance

Leg 6: Chapel Stile to Tilberthwaite 6.5 miles, 2hrs 21mins 27secs (Total: 46.5 miles, 13:24:15). A Long, wet, slow slog to the next check point. We seem to be passing people that passed us 30mins ago, then they re-pass us. One guy is also on his first ultra (randomly camping next to us) and the two ladies (268 and ???) who we seem to meet at most check points. The ladies pull out some good pace and we don’t see them until the finish. We group up with our neighbour and his friends (acquired on route) until the next CP. Lesson 6: Ultra-runners are friendly. Even the fast ones.

Leg 7: Tilberthwaite to Coniston 3.5 miles, 1hr 25mins 49secs, (Total: 50miles 14:50:04). The slowest, most technical 3 miles I have ever run! To prove the point mountain rescue / air ambulance had to help one runner! I just hope he didn’t slip down the 20 foot, rocky drop in the torrential rain… the path is now a steady stream flowing over our feet. We pick our way through 2.5 miles of slippery, rocky, madness…finally reaching tramac and finish with a 0.5 mile “sprint” at 8min miles. The legs still work! Lesson 7: Don’t underestimate the last “little bit”!

Cold, wet and very very happy!

Cold, wet and very very happy!

Finish: 50 miles, 14hrs 50mins 4secs (approx. 10,000 ft ascent). Amazing applause as we arrive into the hall. Feels like almost all of the 200 odd people ahead of us are there to cheer us in! We finished in the top half- awesome! Legs and cardio feel fine… but I’m freezing cold and in need of some sleep. If the race started earlier in the day I could run some more, but the conditions have the better of me. Time for a warm bowl of pasta, some dry clothes and a little sleep (in the car!). Lesson 8: Take a tent that doesn’t leak and sleep for more than 3 hrs!

In short, we loved every minute of it and are already figuring out how to shave time off the next attempt! I’d love to complete it in 12hr30min and be home by midnight. That might be too ambitious. However, it will be post MDS, Mike may have completed a normal marathon (this is currently his only official race) and we’ll have a few other ultras under our belt. In fact, maybe we’ll do the 100….. 😉

Sticking to the Game Plan

28C and 10k…. Shouldn’t be an issue for someone running the MdS.

Well, that’s if they stick to the plan and stay injury free.

Sunday saw my first entry into a 10k race. This might be surprising, but I’ve never really run a 10k properly- obviously I have covered that distance many times, but I’ve never raced it!

I arrived at The Hurst in Tadley with sub-45min in mind. That would be 7:15 splits. ‘Should be fine’ I thought, it then started to warm up and I began to contemplate whether I should really push for that (with a niggle in my calf) or whether I should just trot around and enjoy it. Anyway, as the start arrived and we assembled at the starting line I could hear people chatting about the first half being mainly down hill and how they don’t usually make a negative split at Tadley, as the first half is so much easier. Hmmm… Maybe I could bank a couple of 7minute miles and then cruise the last half! Oh, there’s the klaxon- GO! And I off I shot!

What a stupid idea- I went off at 6:45 pace, caught up in the excitement of the start and enjoying (as the guy described it) a forgiving down hill start to the 10k. I eventually settled into a nice 6:45-6:50 rhythm for the first 5k. Maybe this could be achievable, maybe I could get way under the 45min target! And then BOOM- I blew up, my legs went dead, concentration was shot an I couldn’t run at a good pace.


For the last 2miles it was about hanging on, plodding 8minute miles whilst the world and it’s mother started pouring past me! A number of v60 runners, a guy pushing his toddler in a pram and (annoyingly!) lots of people running 45min 10ks who had paced themselves correctly!

Lesson 1: stick to your game plan
Lesson 2: what works for the guy at the start line does not work for me
Lesson 3: it’s hard work running in the heat
Lesson 4: consistency is the key
Lesson 5: don’t run a 10k on the hottest day of the year an try to run a PB

All of these are key to success in the desert! I just need to remember them, not be tempted to copy others and not stray away from my game plan!

3weeks until the Lakeland 50! I hope it cools down before then… either way, I’ll definitely be sticking to the game plan!

Brutal but Beautiful

As I said in the previous post, Trail Marathon Wale is a tough marathon. It’s hilly, it’s rocky, it’s narrow, it’s rooty, it ‘s tree lined, it’s slippery, it’s windy… Oh and it’s 26.2mile long.

An awesome race, that was a good first test of my endurance. It was tough going but not ridiculous. I finished in 4:56:12. I was very happy to be inside the 5hr mark.

I had set out wanting sub4:45… But that was based on nothing more than a guess. A couple of the 3hr marathoners that I know finished in the 3:50-4:15 region. With that in mind in very happy with my time.

Garmin connect details:

A cool memento from the trail marathon; a wooden “medal”/coaster. Makes a nice difference to the classic metal on a ribbon.

Next major stop on the training programme is the Lakeland50 (

In the meantime a quick bleep test at the office today and scored 10.6… Will be interesting to re-test without marathon legs under me!

Adventure Racing

The format is this: you have 5hours to cover as much ground as possible on foot, bike and by kayak. The winner is the team/person that has reached the most check points. Geeky- yes! But it’s bloody tough going, especially when it’s a fraction above 0! It’s great training- being on your feet for 5 hours is tough going…. Especially when you are lost and frustrated!

Two weekends ago we (me, baz and big baz) entered an adventure race in the New Forest. The weather was horrific- it snowed for the 24hours leading up to the race, the wind was blowing HARD and the temperature (before wind chill) was a painful 2 celcius. A hard day was in store!

As soon as we had maps in hand we started frantically planning- we usually plan for 10 mins then bolt out the door and start racing. Today, however, we were allocated a 11:45 kayak slot and the kayak transition was close to the start/finish so we delayed our start (you have a 1hr window). We tried to get our departure time so that we arrived at the TP at 11:45.. Only we underestimated our speed and arrived 5mins early with 2check points in the bag. Standing in the freezing cold next to lake wasn’t ideal. We cracked on with the kayaking, gathered 4 CPs and only used 20mins of the allocated 45. Good work so far.

From there I strapped my feet back into the pedals (not that I could feel them after wading shin deep in the ice cold lake) and we cracked on with the bike ride! An hour and half spent cycling into a head wind at the helm of the Felt 29er was an interesting way to spend a saturday! Baz and Big Baz has a really good pace that i just couldn’t keep up with – my legs were still recovering from Reading half! At the 2.5hr mark we took a pit stop near check point 22. An energy gel, flap jack and 15 mins of steady cycling later, I was back on pace so we headed to the Run TP.


Now the real fun begins… And by fun I mean cramp! After all 3 of us cramped simultaneously whilst cycling up a big hill climb, we were not it in a fit state to run! But that’s no excuse- we had at least 5 miles to cover if we wanted to be competitive… 5.2miles later we returned back to TP and were suffering badly. Baz was cramping in his quads and hamstrings- an unsolvable dilemma! It was a steady plod back to the bikes…

From there we were back on the bikes and had a 3mile sprit back to the finish!!! Sprint is a generous way to describe it… But we did our best!

All in all it was an epic race despite the freezing cold! We clocked 35+ miles of cross country running, cycling and kayaking. We managed to bag 6th place (out off 80+)! Not bad for our 3rd outting at adventure racing!

This weekend we are heading to the Lake District for another 5hr race. The competition will be stronger and the hills even steeper- but at the minute it’s all about the endurance training, so the added challenge is just added motivation!