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!

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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!

Rob

10 Peaks Preparations

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

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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.

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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…

T’Egypt

So it’s only when you step back and try do something normal thing do you realise how obsessed with the MDS you have become! Packing for a relaxing all-inclusive holiday in Egypt quickly turned into optimising my luggage weight in order to pack my runners, water bottles, electrolyte tabs, books about running, running hat, I even tried to order sand gaiters on next day delivery to test them in the desert! The MDS is taking over, but I love it!

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Whilst in Egypt I managed to get out for 3 training runs. In an attempt to make them as hard as possible without abandoning Lucy for hours on end, I waited for the temperature to peak just after midday and then headed out for just short of 10km runs. The heat was surprisingly OK, even with the reflected heat off the Tarmac/sand/buildings – I could still knock out a decent pace. The sand on the other hand, that is just energy sapping! Pace drops through the floor and your calves take a pounding!

The good news… We have sand in the UK! If I struggled with the heat I would be panicking, as it is hard/expensive to train for that…. But it was largely OK. I’m feeling confident that if I focus my training on hills and sand I will do just fine!!! All I need to do now is find a big sandy hill!!!! Or someone to throw sand onto a treadmill for 3hours at a time 🙂

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Next up in the “training” is a 36 mile race in the Brecon Beacons. I’ll update soon on the planning for that!

Montane Lakeland 50 – 2013

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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.

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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: http://tinyurl.com/oorvwyl

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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 (http://www.lakeland100.com/the-lakeland-50)

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!

The First Test….

With three days to go to my first marathon, I think the enormity of the task (the MDS) is setting in. What I experience on saturday will be one 6th of the MDS, but without the sand and without the 40+ degrees.

For my first marathon, I haven’t taken an easy choice. Not that any marathon is easy…. just, this one is especially difficult. In summary:

  • 26.2 miles
  • 1338 m of elevation gain
  • Welsh hills
  • Welsh rain

Welsh Trail Marathon Elevation Profile

Welsh Trail Marathon Elevation Profile

A steady jog tomorrow night to loosen up and then let the carb loading begin!

Decisions Decisions

With little over 10 months to go I have started deliberating the plethora of kit options. Which bag? What size bag? Trainers? How many pairs of socks? What food? Energy bars? First aid? mp3 player? solar charger? water bottles? bottle holders? cap? buff? pain killers? Sleeping mat? Sleeping bag? Torch? Compass?…. pants?

I’ve spent the last few months deliberating one of the big decisions: the backpack. Key things for me to decide:

  1. What size pack?
  2. What brand?
  3. What front pack?
  4. What hydration system?

Here’s my thinking, in case it’s of any use to other folk. This is a hybrid of advice from what I’ve seen on forums, picked up chatting to previous competitors and calling a few stores (the team at likeys.com have been a great source of advice)

What size? There are three common sizes that seem to be used at the MDS. The elite guys who travel light seem to get away with 20L… I figure that’s not me and I can’t be bothered with the hassle of cramming my clothes and food in and out of a tiny pack each day. That leaves 25 vs. 32L. There isn’t a huge difference between the two, both would fit the gear. 32 slightly more comfortably, the 25 will stop me packing too many luxuries; the 32L and 25L packs I have tried feel the same on my back. The brand/style is more significant (see next). So, as a first timer and a bigger guy (with bigger clothers and few more calories of food) I’m leaning towards the 32L option. I’ve set myself a hard 10kg pac weight limit to avoid the temptation to over fill it with luxuries. It also guarantees that all my kit will be inside the bag, not strapped onto the outside and bouncing around. I hate stuff bouncing around when I run…  the last thing I need in the desert is a rattling pac. It’s also inefficent use of my energy- I need that for running.

What Brand? There are a number of big names in this area. The popular choices for the MdS are (in no particular order) 1)OMM 2)Raidlight 3)Aarn 4)Official MDS 5)Inov-8.

OMM – well respected pacs and very durable. Great pacs by all accounts. Very comfortable when I tried one on. Front pouches seem to get mixed reviews- they seem to bounce a lot. OMM packs can match up well with Raidlight front pacs. They also tend to be longer pacs that might suite taller folk.

Raidlight – appear to be the most common setup used for the MdS. Very light weight, designed specifically for multi day ultras. Some people have raised concerns over durability when using the pacs for heavy training and in events after des Sables. Shorter in length… looks more like a chunky day pac.

Aarn – I’ve struggled to find much on these. The limited info I have found suggest that they are very adjustable and comfortable… but can be a pain to get stuff in and out (?).

Official MDS – quite expensive compared to the OMM and Inov8. Good build quality. Great design ideas including flare holder, bottle holder built into shoulder strap, integrated sleeping matt. 25L capactiy. Lots of compression straps- squishes down to 4L… handy after several days of racing and food is used up.

Inov-8 – similar to the OMM packs. Long length. Lots of compression straps. Angled side pockets for easy access. Storage on waist belt. Integrates with the Inov8 Race Pac2 which sits flat on the chest- interesting! Good build quality – will survive the MDS and many events to come.

I’m leaning towards the Inov8 and OMM packs at the minute. Mainly due to the longer body length and excellent reviews on durability; I intend to use the pac for the next 10months in training and will continue to use it post-MdS. I have therefore ordered a Inov-8 Race pac 32 to try out. If I hate it, I can always try the OMM… there’s plenty of time to test options. 

Inov8 RacePac 32

Inov8 RacePac 32

Front Pac. Well with the choice of the Inov-8 Race Pac I figure I had to give their front pac a go, so ordered one of those too!  It’s unusual: it sits on the front of your chest and attaches to the shoulder straps of the pac. I like the idea that is sits snug against the body to reduce bounce- also means maps and snack are right there for the taking! The other option is the Raidlight front pac, which can attach to the OMM and Raidlight pacs using the waist band. This will be my second option to test (if I don’t get on with the Inov8 set-up)

Inov8 FrontPac 2 +  Raidlight Bottle Holders

Inov8 FrontPac 2 +        Raidlight Bottle Holders

Hydration. The big bit of advice that everyone give is “don’t use a bladder – it’s a hassle and waste of time”. So, I get the message, I’m not going to use a bladder… mainly because I don’t like drinking out of them – I much prefer bottles. Also, the advice is wise: stopping to refill a bladder is time consuming in the comfort of my kitchen, let alone the desert. There’s also a hygiene factor.

There are 4 main choices with bottle systems: 1) Raidlight OLMO 2) OMM i-agmmy 3)Inov-8’s offering and 4)something from Camel Bak. I’ve tried and tested the OMM option for the past month on my normal pack and hated it. It didn’t last a month- after a 16 mile run I’d had enough. It bounces, makes lots of noise and the bottle are only 500ml. Water rations at MdS are handed out in 1.5L bottles… so I figure that I need 2 x 750ml bottles. Also the caps on the OMM bottles are really hard – feels horrible on my teeth when I pull it open: it’s the small things that add up! The Raidlight bottle holders seem to get the best reviews, whilst the camel bak bottles seem to be highly regarded. I think I’ll order a Raidlight OLMO and see how we go. 

Decision (well, the first attempt). I think that the initial deliberation complete. I’m getting the following combination ordered up so that I can test it during June and July:

  • Invo-8 RacePac 32
  • Inov-8 Race Pac 2
  • Raidlight OLMO bottle holder + Raidlight 750ml Bottle 

The testing of this setup will culminate at the Montane Lakeland 50 at the end of July. Yup that’s a 50 mile Ultra Marathon. I don’t need the full volume/capacity of that combination, but I want to test it out in a tough race so I know if it works for me. It will be a very personal thing.

Wow…a 1,000 words all about a back pack! The MdS really does take over your life!

1000 Miles and 28 Years

I racked up the 1000th mile in my MDS training; running, cycling, kayaking, walking, rowing, elliptical, spinning… you name it, I’ve been doing it! And that’s not to mention the endless hours of circuit training and gym work that doesn’t give me any mileage! Anything that can mildly replicate the strain of running 250km in the desert is on the agenda! With no particular events lined up for May, the focus has been on getting the weekly mileage up- I’m currently hitting 35 miles (55km) per week and I’m feeling pretty good. No injuries, just lots of aches and tiredness after the long runs (18-23miles).

Liam and I spent an awesome Saturday morning pounding the roads and trails around Boxhill, Surrey. The name leaves nothing to the imagination- it’s a hill and a big one at that.

View from the top of Boxhill

The views were well worth the hard climbs!

So 2 hours of hill reps and trail running later, we were well and truly knackered! The motivation of racing lycra clad roadies to the top was brilliant- our short, steep sprints up the trail route vs. their long winding, smooth tarmac roads provided a fair, light hearted competition – we even got a few “well dones” from a Bianchi clad crew! A good days training and a good reminder that churning our stacks of miles on the roads and trails isn’t enough- we need lots of hill work, more hill work, and then some more hill work. Power walking is also on the list.

I also celebrated my 28th Birthday with short 5miler on the treadmill wearing thermals leggings, hoody, beanie and thermal base layer – definitely earned the chocolate cake! The following morning the “celebrations” continued as I ticked over the 1000 mile mark! It’s a little sad, but quite exciting really- considering 6 months of last year were spent waiting for my hip injury to sort itself out.  I’m hoping the next 10months rack up at least another 1000 miles, if not more!

Next month I’m heading to Wales for my first Marathon. As usual, I’m ‘in for a penny in for a pound’ … it’s a trail marathon in Snowdonia National Park. I figured I’d save my first road marathon for an occasion where I can train with that as the goal and post a good time. Next month’s race will be about completing in a steady time. I may even take a stroll up Snowdon as a recovery walk the following day!

Fingers Crossed!

MDS 2013 Congratulations

Congratulations to everyone who ran the Marathon des Sables 2013! Fantastic effort by everyone of you… Even if you didn’t make it to the finish, you’ve mad a huge commitment to the training and it’s no small task completing even part of the race! Some of the photos look amazing- I can’t wait to be there next year!

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To those of you who I’ve been stalking on twitter extra congratulations! 4 of you finished in the top 400… And Tobias made the top 15! An utterly amazing effort by all of you! Enjoy the rest… And then start planning your next adventure!

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Good Luck MDS 2013 Runners

Today the competitors of the 2013 Marathon des Sables will arrive at first bivouac…. 1year from now that will be me! #gulp

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I’ll be tracking 6 runners through the desert…
•728 – @TobiasMews
•634 – @starterfor10
•577 – @roddyriddle
•669 – @_wayde
•876 – @alijyoung
•692 – @mjgreenfield1

I’ve only met one of these people in real life…. The others are “just” twitter people that I stalk for training and equipment ideas!

My reckoning is that Tobias Mews will place in the top 20 overall.. Certainly the top Brit or two. I also think @starterfor10 will be pushing hard with the top women! @Roddyriddle is a type 1 diabetic… Awesome work to even be at the start line! And the rest…. Well, lets see!

Bring on the start!

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.

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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!

Reading Half

Quite possibly the wettest race I have taken part in…. ever! 13.1 miles of heavy rain and temperatures somewhere around 6-7 degrees made for a cold and wet half marathon.

The good news is that I managed a PB (note- its only my second proper half, so wasn’t hard to beat my current time). I clocked a 1:46… So having targeted a 1:45 I was pretty pleased. I was really pleased with the consistency of my pace – proving to myself that having a race plan a sticking to it is important (remember this in the desert!!!)

So after running a 1:46 at a comfortable pace, I reckon sub 1:40 is achievable. However I need to keep reminding myself that pace isn’t important at the minute; spending more time on my feet is more valuable. Yesterday’s 13 hour shift on site helped with that! As will next weekend’s festivities – I am off to the New Forest on Saturday to take part in a Questars 5hr Adventure Race! Bike, kayak, bike, run, bike…

Time for some foam roller action!

Keep Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’…

I’m pretty sure that when Fred Durst penned Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavoured Water he wouldn’t have thought that his lyrics would end up being quoted on a running blog. Well Fred, here it is!

Breath in now breath out
Hands up now hands down
Back up back up
Tell me what you’re gonna do now

Keep rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ rollin’
Keep rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ rollin’
Keep rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ rollin’
Keep rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ rollin’

Fred Durst, Rollin’, 2000

Well that pretty much describes the last week! I’ve been ramping up my preparations for Reading Half Marathon since returning from the snowboarding trip and my mileage and pace were all going to plan. I have a target of 8 minute miles, which works out at 1hr45 on the day. Prep runs were coming in at 7:45 splits that dropped off a bit at 9-10miles, but still OK for the 1:45. However, over the last week I’ve had to slow my training down and STOP running! I’ve been suffering with some pretty bad knee pain (I think it’s IllioTibial Band Syndrome – inflammation of the ITB)… basically its bloody painful on the outside of my knee. Really really frustrating with only 2 weeks to go!
Causes :
a) unbalanced running style/gait
b) bad trainers
c) over training (likely!)
d) pounding the road (yup- my local trails have been flooded recently)
e) muscles tightness (feels it)

Solutions:
1) stop running (yup)
2) ice and ibuprofen (lots!)
3) rolling on a foam roller (yes, just like Fred said!!)
4) stretch (yes!)

Foam rollers appear to be popping up all over the place at the minute… It seems to be the latest fad. You’re not cool if you don’t have a foam roller propped up in your home gym, hanging out your back-pack or bragging about the pain of it on twitter. So yeah, here I am – it hurts! But I will add that I’ve been using it for the last year… clearly, I’ve not been using it enough. I tend to wait for the aches and pains before I use it. This week is a good reminder that prevention is better than cure! It is now a fixed part of my weekly routine.

So what’s the plan for Reading half? Well I don’t know, to be honest! I plan to run it, but almost certainly wont be getting the 1:45. Gutted! I have a final 10mile training session planned for next Friday, so we’ll see if that’s even do-able and then re-asses the plan. In the meantime, I’ll keep rollin’ rollin’ rollin’!

Anyway, I wonder what Fred is up to these days?

January is for cross training….

Note to self…. No snowboarding in 2014. Out of 4, 3 of us suffered with injury or illness. Between us we accumulated 1x fracture/bruised rib, 1x broken and dislocated elbow and 1x serious stomach bug! I can’t afford anything like that next year, so will have to pass on next year’s fun!!

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Anyway, 6 days of intense cross training and ‘high altitude’ training means I’m looking forward to this weeks running! I wonder if it has helped with my usual 5mile loop… I’ll report back soon!

Oh, I also got a new foam roller called “The Beast”! It’s very hard and it’s bumpy- it bloody kills!

Anyway, back to the running!!

2012 over and out!

Training over the holiday is all going to plan… well apart from skipping the boxing day run. New Year’s Resolution – No Excuses!

Today I should have been running the Mortimer Gut Buster… but it was full when I tried to register. Never mind. Instead I volunteered to help out, slipped on a marshalls vest and gave everyone some moral support on a very cold and wet December morning! In place of today’s run, I clocked a 16 miler yesterday. I don’t feel too guilty.

A pefrect spot for some Sunday morning marshalling

A perfect marshalling spot

Over the last three months (when I started training properly) I clocked almost 600 miles in running, biking and kayaking… hopefully I’ll top 2,000 miles next year! Bring on 2013!

Testing Testing… Run, Bike, Blog

New blog setup to keep a diary of training.

This weekend was full of cheese, wine and laziness…. Well deserved after three consecutive weekends of competition. I placed in the top half of the men in all three races; not bad with only a couple of months of on/off training. 

Cheese

Managed a 5 mile trot on Sunday to shake off the cobwebs! Today’s pleasure, spin!