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!

Rob

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