Grand Union Canal Race 2016



20160527_161813

I had been looking in 2015 to step up to a 100 miler after previously having done the 70 mile Saffron Trail but was unable to find anything that fitted in with work. By coincidence I saw a tweet that said it was the last day for GUCR applications, quickly checked the diary and put in my application. This is a ballot race so I just had to sit back and await the draw. When the draw came around in December I had a chronic chest infection, had time off work, could barely function and then had an email to say I was successful on getting a place in GUCR! flat on my back and having been away from running for a number of weeks I was going to have a real task to get my fitness back.
I needed a plan.

In the new year I slowly got myself going again. I had some marathons lined up and would like to have done a 40 or 50 mile event but there was nothing that fitted with my time off. I ran Cambridge Boundary marathon, 3h 55m 51s, Brighton marathon, 3h 51m 27s and the Flitch Way marathon, 3h 51s 19s. I first met Lee Kelly at Cambridge boundary marathon and overheard him talking about GUCR and met Mike Abel at Flitch Way after recognising his name from the GUCR start list. apart from those runs I was doing regular weekly runs and had a long run out of 40 miles which went well. I was self sufficient over that run and covered it in 7 hours averaging 10m 30s miles which I was really pleased with.

So, time passes, the training has been done and the race looms on the horizon. The race pack had arrived in the post and some loose plans of timings and nutrition had been put in place. A small shopping list of items was drawn up,anti chafe cream, zinc oxide tape and sun-cream among other things. The week before the race and my wife and our family’s lives changed for the worse as my father in law passed away. Final race prep plans went out of the window as I went about consoling my wife and helping her and my mother in law where as much as I could. I have to give huge thanks and endless love to my wife for being so understanding about race weekend so close to her Dad’s passing.

I had booked myself a night at Jurys Inn literally 2 minutes from the start on Gas Street. I got a train from Audley End via Cambridge to Birmingham on the Friday 27th and was in town by 13.30pm, found the hotel and checked in. I then had a walk around to get my bearings.

20160527_161813

I made my way to registration, caught up with a few familiar faces and then went to dinner, later catching up with Mike Abel for a drink before bedtime.

Race day.

I hadn’t slept that well, more to do with an unnecessary worry that the alarm wouldn’t go off and i’d miss the start! I was up at 4am, for myself this was to make sure breakfast had plenty of time to go down before setting off. 3 sachets of porridge, banana and an energy drink and I was all set, I just needed to stop pacing up and down the room thinking about what may lay ahead. For during the run I had various foods with me. My drinks were made up of either Tailwind or Skratch Labs hydration powders, I had Soreen oat bars, crisps and a concoction of oats, rapeseed oil, waxy maize starch and electrolyte powder to see me through along with what was made available at checkpoints.

20160528_054021

I made my way down to the start, handed my bags in and said a few hellos. The weather forecast from the midlands down to London had looked good for the 2 days but the heavens had opened. That was the first initial pain to deal with as I had to make a choice to go with or without my jacket on. I chose to go with it which was probably wise as it kept me a touch warmer. 6am and we were seen away from the start, some 120 people had begun what was to be an epic journey, some multi time event runners and complete newbies like myself. The initial few miles were straight forward and I was running with or near to Mike Abel for quite a while. The pace was high but it was to be expected while fresh and trying to settle into a good rhythm. the path slowly wound it’s way out of Birmingham towards Bordesley, South Yardley and the first checkpoint at Catherine De Barnes. Being fresh and carrying enough drink and snacks to see me through to checkpoint 3 I didn’t really stop, just long enough to grab a couple of snacks and a drink and continued on my way. I was away from CP1 at about 07.45am (times will be approximate as I haven’t seen the check in, out sheets). Heading on to CP2 at Hatton locks I wasn’t feeling as comfortable as I hoped I would and stopped at the checkpoint for a breather. The weather was a little humid and now the sun was up it was going to be warm, I put the jacket away. Heading onto Warwick and Royal Leamington Spa I had settled into a far steadier pace, everything was feeling good, my nutrition choice and hydration was working out and I was making good time. It was early enough that I was mindful enough to look around and admire some of the great countryside we have, some truly beautiful views about. The brain isn’t to clear on the times but I still certainly had a good few hours in hand at CP3. My water and snacks had lasted me as expected, topped up, thank everyone for their help and continued on. I’m not exactly sure from memory but it was around this point I spent some time with Ian Shelley who was great company. I was now truly in ultra running territory heading on toward 40 miles. I had written notes from the maps supplied and so far everything was straight forward. I was moving on to Braunston and the first of the tunnel sections. I kept expecting the wheels to fall off and be hit with a huge struggle early on but fortunately things were working out…for now. After the tunnel section and heading on towards 50+ miles I saw someone in jeans running towards me…my mate Tony! He had driven from his home town in Haverhill, Suffolk all the way out to somewhere near Weedon just to see how I was getting on.2016-05-30 17.38.18

Things were still comfortable and there was a lot of cat and mouse running with other runners back and forward. My average speed was around 4.6mph still inside the 3.3mph average needed to complete the run. I headed on to Blisworth Tunnel. As a training run I had travelled to Wolverton a few days after Brighton marathon and ran from Wolverton, up and over Blisworth Tunnel and back so was familiar with the approaching ten miles.20160420_112219

The legs were starting to hurt now and the climb up from the towpath onto the main road was quite a long up hill section and walked to save energy. I was with a German runner, Tommo, we were matching each others pace.It was good to have someone to take the mind off the aches and also be able to encourage each other to keep the pace up. At checkpoint 4 I had got my headtorch ready as I didn’t expect to get to CP5 before it was dark.

20160420_094513

reaching Navigation Inn 70 miles, it was around 22.40pm, things were still going ok, there was time in hand and although my calves were tight I had no cramping issues. Also since the early days of my running, having gait analysis and changing my footwear I have been very fortunate not to get blisters when running even in marathons and previous ultras…so far so good. having had some soup, bread, coffee, cookies and sweets (it’s true what they say, we’re just an eating club with a running disorder) it was time to crack on. The second half awaited and I was heading into a running distance unknown, new territory. heading on passed Wolverton, Milton Keynes was the next point on the journey.20160420_140506

On the far side of Milton Keynes Tommo was still with me it was now early hours of the morning in a place I didn’t know and we heard shouting. Shouting and whistling got louder and looking back there were a few men shouting abuse and coming after us. Bloody good motivation to get a shift on I can tell you! Arriving at CP6 I saw Naomi Newton Fisher who I have seen at races before, not taking much note of where I was and my senses numbed by the cold night I asked if we were near Hemel Hempstead….wrong question! we were miles away. I put an extra layer on and layed into the food on offer. Naomi commented that I was still moving well, the feet were good having been up for over 24 hrs tiredness was the one thing starting to affect me and the self motivation was hard. Some time after leaving CP6 my feet started to hurt, I had strapped them from the start but my feet had got wet on an earlier section that was unavoidably wet and muddy and the slog through the night was now taking it’s toll. Things were kind of bearable but tiredness was making it difficult to stay motivated and the mental game of ultra running had really begun. How far could I push myself.

I had started my Garmin from around 50 mile mark to keep an eye on distance and average speed, it was reading 4.3mph still well above that minimum 3.3mph average needed to complete. That 100 mile barrier lay ahead. The pace had started to suffer as the feet were quite painful, I could feel I had blisters and they would need attention at the next checkpoint. At CP7 it must have been around 10am or 10.30am as I remember still having that couple of hours or so in hand and that chance was still there to finish. Tommo decided to leave the checkpoint before me with his German friend. I took the time out to put more strapping on my feet and to change my socks. Sausage roll and beans, 2 cups of tea and more biscuits andit was time to move on. The following 20 miles to CP8 was the worst part of the entire race for me. 20 miles on any given day would usually be done in around 3 hours, on Sunday it was about 8. I was so dead tired on my feet that occasionally at a lock with a good patch of grass i’d lay down and get a 10 minute snooze to try and freshen up. It did help but obviously cost me time. The weather had warmed up and it was a really nice day with plenty of people out and about on the canal with a few curious as to what we were up to. The sleep deprivation coupled with the blistered feet was taking it’s toll and it was sheer bloody mindedness, stubbornness and a refuse-al to quit keeping me moving along.  The more soul destroying part was how long the miles took to pass I was moving forward but felt as if I wasn’t getting anywhere. Pass Berkhampstead, Hemel Hempstead, Kings Langley, Rickmansworth, mile after tedious mile. That voice was there,”you could stop, have a hot shower, chill out with a curry and a beer”. I was tempted.

Every step was searing pain, the feet were blistered. I couldn’t see me getting to CP8. The close time for CP8 was 19.00. I kept clock watching and as long as I was inside the cut off time I would keep moving. I was having huge rollercoaster ups and downs of energy and emotion. One minute I was enthused to shuffle on other moments I could hardly move and considered quitting. I wasn’t concentrating on my notes properly and had to keep re-reading where I thought was and hoping every lock that came into view was the next checkpoint. But finally in the low evening sunlight I could see CP8 ahead, got there and struggled over the lock gate and crashed in a chair. 18.15. 45 minutes in hand. Not wanting to waste time I had some tea, scrambled egg and sausage and was on my way. 18.30. 30 minutes in hand. I left CP8 refreshed even if still in discomfort and got shuffling again within half hour I was feeling bad again. This really was it. At the next bridge 183 I was going to call in and quit. The next 45 minutes was a mental argument, “you’ve had a good crack, give it up”, “F**k that, get your arse in gear”, “you can’t do it, what’s the point?”, “have faith, you’ll freshen up, the legs will come back”. Agonising.

At bridge 183 there wasn’t an access road. Shit. The next bridge was about a mile further on. OK, walk to that bridge and quit. I carried on and just felt a rise in mood. I felt ok. Check the watch. If I could get to the checkpoint by 23.30 at the latest i’d give myself the slimmest of chances and hoped adrenaline and realisation I was almost there would carry me. I crossed bridge 188 and around mile 125 a fella on a barge asked what I was doing, I had it on the notes as being 4 miles to Bulls Bridge but he was trying to tell me it was 6. Fuck!! I hoped he was wrong otherwise I knew I wouldn’t make CP9. A huge panic and adrenaline rush and I belted off (my daughter had been tracking me and told me my pace shot up to 7mph)  I must of kept it up for a couple of miles tops. 22.50. About 3 miles to the checkpoint. OK, 1 hour 10 minutes to cut off, 3 miles to go, if I wanted to get there by 23.30 I had 40 minutes. OK, think again, 20 minute miles, get there at 23.50, in and out and see what I’ve got left. I got down to Bulls Bridge and I was absolutely dead on my feet. 23.25, the surge in pace had bought me the time but ruined my energy. It’s a bad place to be when you give your self a verbal talking to, you feel positive in your head but the body has completely stopped responding. 35 minutes to CP9, still time, just move, you’ll freshen up, the legs will come back and you can push on again. It wasn’t happening. Pigeon step after pigeon step, the feet were ruined and my head couldn’t deal with the pain. 23.50. I could see a high vis vest and torchlight ahead, I was now close to CP9, I still couldn’t move. No adrenaline, no surge of energy, virtually immobile. I was met by someone who’s name I didn’t catch through tiredness. CP9 23.57. 3 minutes to eat, drink and sort my feet out. I couldn’t do it. Timed out 00.00, CP9 133 miles. 12 miles from the finish. Just another 30 to 45 minutes and I would of continued, another hour and I may of finished inside the cut off time of 03.00am. My GUCR was over, I didn’t even have the energy to be emotional about it. I had taken myself to a distance I had never been to before, i’d had an amazing weekend amongst the greatest people and proven to myself I am capable of pushing through some severe endurance and worthy of standing on the start line of an ultra.2016-05-06 11.02.41

I was shuttled to the finish line to collect my bags, shared a cab with Mark Gibson who was dropped off at his hotel and made my way to Liverpool Street to get a night bus to Stansted Airport to then get a cab home. I had an hour to kill so went to the 24 hour cafe to re fuel.20160530_015834

I had to smile to myself when crossing the road to get the bus. The lights changed, I shuffled on my way over. The lights were fitted with a count down timer, 6, 5…I was barely half way across the road before the lights changed again! beaten by a cut off time twice in one night! feet

A bit of recovery time and i’ll be looking at races again.There is the possibility of a race on July 2nd but it will dependant on the feet. Thanks must go out to all of the volunteers, helpers, organisers, Keith, Dick and anyone else I crossed paths with whose name I don’t know.

And yes, I would love to have another go!

 

Advertisements

I’ve Been Running Not Blogging

I’ve not posted a blog about my running, training or any running events for almost 6 months now. After the Flitch Way Marathon I carried on with my training and then entered the London 12 hour Enduro in June. Part of the reason I blog about my running is self motivation and a way of holding myself accountable and disciplined with my running as well as, I hope, inspiring and motivating others. I began running 3 1/2 years ago after 3 friends passed away within 6 months, one being my best friend who I spent the first 26 years of my life doing everything with. Running helped me with my grief and focused my thoughts and energy..In June, In the darkness of night somewhere on Wimbledon common In the middle of the London 12 hour Enduro I was at last at peace with their passing and my own grief, some 3 years down the line. In an emotional moment I called my wife and told her I didn’t need to punish myself running ultras and I was ready to throw it in for the night and come home. I didn’t. After I hung up I forged on feeling a sense of peace I hadn’t felt for a long time. I felt good again, free and my waning energy began to return. By the end of the night I had completed 54 miles in 11 hours 36 minutes and finished in 8th. I didn’t feel the need to tell people about it or blog about it and share the experience. It seemed for me an almost too personal a moment of closure to put in to print.

Since then I have changed to doing shorter and faster runs. I have started to attend Parkruns on a regular basis, I’ve changed up my diet a little again this time too a zero added sugar, the biscuits and cakes have gone! My bodyfat has dropped from 30% to 19% and there is just a portion  of fat around my waist that is preventing me from having abs again! And since July I have had 3 new PB’s and begun to run sub 20 minute 5k’s for the first time since my teens. My 5k PB is now 19m 32s, 10k PB is 41m 11s and half marathon PB is at 1h 32m 27s. I put most of this down to the regular parkruns. Longer term I am aiming at Brighton Marathon to complete the new set of PB’s.

 

I have been doing plenty of runs and events  I could have blogged about but haven’t, maybe it’s time to get back letting people know about my experiences again. The moral of the last 6 months has been that actions speak louder than words, I’ve been working on all aspects to improve. I’m ready again to add some occasional words for others enjoyment and motivation.

 

 

 

2015-10-25 14.41.41

An Ultra Learning Curve

This past week I have been recovering from the Saffron Trail Ultra which is 70 miles across the county of Essex in the UK. As with most races it has given me time to reflect on the event, how it went, the mistakes, the people and of course the positives.

First up..I can do it! I have never been further than 35 miles in training which has always been tough and if someone told me at the end of one of those runs to turn around and do it again I feel I would have folded! I think the balance of running an ultra is about 80% mental and 20% physical..others may disagree or have their own perception of the balance but this is how it felt to me.

Second..I don’t need gels to get through a long run. After consuming about 3 gels in the space of 20 miles and being ill I reverted to eating normal food. So I covered the last 50 miles without a gel..no more gels for me! Maybe I was drawn in by the marketing hype and had a fixation that i’d be doomed with out the magical elixir. As long as I fuel up at regular intervals on anything available from savoury snacks to sweets I’ll be fine.

3rd..cutting down on the mistakes. Recceing the route helped hugely, obsessing over Google earth for 6 weeks and repeatedly testing myself to mentally remembering the route saved time by not referring to the map and notes. I still made some mistakes but reasonably minor and am sure I would have made more without putting in the homework.

Fourth….ahem! The rather personal chaffing! I plan on buying some Under Armour Heatgear Sonic shorts To help cut down on the thigh rub. During the race I didn’t feel a thing and put this down to adrenaline and endorphins, as soon as the race was over and especially dunking into the bath..ouchy!!! Utterly red raw and bleeding.

2014-07-14 23.41.08

Lesson five..my feet are pretty tough! Only started to get blisters appearing in the last 5 miles. One small one on the sole of each foot. I used 1000 mile compression socks and along with Balega socks they are fast becoming my favourite socks to run in.

6th..Don’t hang around too long at the checkpoints. It’s good to stop and refuel and hydrate. It’s nice to be social, polite and have a chat. But it shouldn’t turn into a mini party of scoffing and nattering! I reckon I may have wasted as much as 1 hour 45 minutes at checkpoints. I need to set a routine, fill water bladder, grab food and take a drink then move on..5 minutes tops.

I didn’t realise I was learning so much! I wonder if they do degrees in Ultra Running..they do other weird degrees so why not! anyhow..

lesson seven..electrolyte tablets are invaluable in my opinion. In the London marathon I cramped badly at mile 20 which hampered the last 6 miles and stopped me getting a better time than I achieved. During the ultra I didn’t cramp once and I put that down to adding the electrolytes to my water. I just need to choose a more palatable flavour next time. Cherry/orange! what the hell was I thinking! Citrus or blackcurrant will be fine next time I think.

 So I learned a fair amount from this race alone and I can’t wait to do more! I have the Stour Valley Path coming up soon and at the moment the Stort 30 booked in October. I am toying with the idea of signing up for the Cotswold way..102 miles! For no better reason than I have the time off work and my sister lives in Bath, so she can peel me off the Abbey floor and shovel me into her house to recuperate. Also to any other ultra beginners and aspirer’s, you do not need to do more than 30 miles at a time in training, that is plenty enough. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and i’ll see some of you soon on the start line.

From Disaster to Triumph Over 70 Miles

Previous to this race I had only run one official ultra, the Stort 30 last October. I had been looking for another ultra to do and www.challenge-running.co.uk who run the Stort 30 also have the Saffron Trail ultra. Saffron Walden is my local town 4 miles from where I live, the ultra has the final checkpoint in my village and being born in the county of Essex it looked like it was meant for me to do. After completing the London Marathon in April I began trying to increase my runs again visiting Scotland for a 35 mile run. I also made a point of getting out on the course to help cut down on navigation time and had a 30 mile and 35 mile run on a couple of different sections. Knowing that certain sections are really wet and muddy I was hoping the weather would stay dry for a few weeks and dry the course out. This is the UK! no such luck, for the 3 weeks leading up to the start it had been raining. So from then on my hope was it would at least be dry for the run and make things reasonably comfortable.

Saturday July 12th 2014…Saffron Trail Ultra day. I had all my gear packed making sure I had all the compulsory kit plus anything else I thought I would need.

Waterproof Jacket (not just wind proof), My Berghaus Gore Tex jacket

Spare baselayer top and bottoms

Good quality headtorch with spare batteries, LED Lensor H7R.2

Working mobile phone (fully charged and on so we can call you if there are any changes or emergencies)

The capacity to carry 1lt of fluids either in bottles or a bladder.

Full size space blanket (not cut down), I took an emergency bivi bag

Hat or buff.

I also took a battery pack to keep my phone charged up, gels, cake, gloves, my own race notes (not used in the end) and electrolyte tablets.

I left home at 13.43, an hour into London, 10 minutes wait for my connection and then another hour out of London to Southend. The weather forecast was looking pretty bad with a storm moving in around 16.00, passing through, followed by another around 2am. I arrived in Southend at 16.00 and the weather was dry and very humid, no storm as forecast and took a slow walk toward the start area and was there for 16.15…no one in sight. The registration didn’t open until 17.00 so obviously I was a bit early and Lindley the race director hadn’t arrived yet. 16.45. 17.00, 17.10…something’s wrong! 2 other runners had turned up. I tried Lindley’s phone, no answer. A few minutes later one of the other fellas got through to him…the registration had been set up a couple of hundred yards back along the road. Panic over we made our way there, had all of my kit checked, registered and collected my number. I then just took time to chill out and keep calm and got talking to another runner. before long we were given the race briefing mainly safety, responsibility for litter, sensibility and looking out for other runners etc. 18.00, the magic moment, everyone was away! I took off really slowly as I set my GPS and Nike+.

My plan had been to make good time over the first 3 legs which was 28.2 miles, effectively get time in the bank for when I tired later on and helping to keep a reasonable average overall. I was pleased with the opening effort with my pace fluctuating between 8.0 minute miles and 9 minute miles. The county would be described by most as undulating, the hills maybe small but pretty damn steep! With the weather so warm and humid I was sweating heavily, I made sure I drank regularly and ate my cake. I had pretty much memorised the course and had no need to refer to my notes, little more than 2 miles in at Raleigh Castle Thunder was raging over the Thames Estuary, the storm was on it’s way in. I arrived at the first checkpoint in Hockley around 19.45, 45 minutes ahead of my set schedule. The next leg was a shorter 6.6 miles a quite straight forward heading North onto the banks of the river Crouch and then following it West to the village of Battlesbridge. I was taking 1 Torq gel per leg to help with electrolytes and energy. When I got onto the river for the first time I started to feel tired, still sweating in the humid air and moving at a reasonable pace maybe I was setting out too fast. I pushed onwards, the rain had started and lightening was streaking all around, It was a picturesque sight along the river. I wasn’t feeling good, another runner caught up with me and told me that the checkpoint was only a couple of miles away, he left me behind. I eventually came out onto the main road that follows into Battlesbridge and the checkpoint. I felt ill. I had some drink and something to eat, I couldn’t hold it down. Only 17.7 miles in and things were going downhill quickly, I couldn’t understand why! Was it the heat, humidity, not eating enough or the gels. I had some soup some more drink, topped up my drink bladder and added electrolyte tabs. Another group of people had caught up with me, Debbie, Graham and an American in the country on business who thought he’d give it a shot, Tre. While I tried to get my head straight they refuelled and I set out with them.

The next leg was 10.7 miles from Battlesbridge to Danbury slowly heading North through the county. I felt a little better and matched the pace of the group, it was comfortable if slow around 12 minute miles. It was good and I needed the time to recuperate. As we headed out across fields, railway tracks, through woods and along roads I was feeling comfortable again. I took another gel. About 3 miles in nearing East Hanningfield I started being sick again. The others moved off ahead, I tried to move after them, sick again. This continued for a few miles, I felt like I had been clobbered with a hangover from hell, I had around 50 miles to go…I was going to quit. I pushed on again and caught up with the group and helped navigate our way, I didn’t let on I was thinking of giving up. It was dark now as well and 2 thoughts from other experienced ultra runners were going through my head, never quit on a low point because invariably if you take your time you will start to feel better and never quit in the dark because the dark makes things seem gloomier and worse than they are. I would decide at CP3.

grave1

grave2

 Before entering East Hanningfield village you pass through an abandoned graveyard, the church burned down in 1883. Debbie had arranged for her husband to meet us prior to reaching the official checkpoint to fuel up. He met us in Danbury only a couple of miles short of the checkpoint, I can’t thank him enough for his help. He gave me some eno salts, vegetarian sausages, cheesy biscuits and fruit pastilles. It really picked me up and made me feel better. We headed on to CP3, there were a couple of runners there and I overheard one of them dropping out, I filled by water, took on more food and filled my pockets. I wasn’t going to quit, I felt better. The next leg headed around the south side of the city of Chelmsford following the river Chelmer for the most part before turning North to Stacey’s Farm near Broomfield. We crossed over fields and could see the city lights, over a small bridge and onto the towpath passing under the A12. I now had a terrible backache and had to stop and take some Ibruprofen and adjust some kit, the rain was taking it’s toll on my gear. They all headed off. Got set and carried on, I couldn’t see them, no bother just stick to the river path and I should catch them. A little further I thought I could see head torches and knew they couldn’t be far. I just couldn’t seem to catch them, and headed on into Chelmsford. Passing through the city centre was a bit surreal with everyone spilling out of pubs and clubs drunk and drowned rat me running by. Heading along something didn’t seem right, I had taken a wrong turn, damn!! I hadn’t used my notes and realised I failed to take a left and was on the wrong stretch of rivers, I had turned along a subsidiary stretch. I turned around and made my way back onto the correct stretch, with my mistake they had to have a good 30 minutes up on me now, I was going to have along way to go on my own. nearing Stacey’s Farm I was met by Maxine one of the checkpoint helpers. There had been an altercation with a farmer and they had to move CP4. I filled up my water with her and changed my torch batteries and carried on to the checkpoint. I’ve never felt so hungry!! I had piles of cupcakes, chocolate cookies, sausages, sausage rolls, sweets, crisps and a couple of coffees! Food never felt so amazing! I probably waisted 15 minutes there and was told the other group were about 15 minutes in front at my arrival, so about 30 minutes by time I got going again.

 Leg 5 was up to a track named the Flitch Way which runs along the site of an old railway line near the village of Great Dunmow. I was having regular walking breaks by now and being sensible walking up hills to conserve energy. I found the section straight forward with no mistakes or dramas. There were a lot of overgrown areas so I was getting badly stung and scratched by brambles. I was wearing 1000 mile compression socks so it minimised the worst on my lower legs but my knees and lower thighs were getting a beating. After plenty of twists and turns, field crossings and roads I came up to the Flitch Way and made it along to CP5. The group were now 50 minutes ahead of me, I didn’t think I had much chance of catching them now. I was still inside the cut off time and was beginning to feel really good to the point I was doing far more running than walking. I didn’t stay long and cracked on, I was heading into home territory and feeling more confident. The following leg was going to be a tough one and headed to CP6 at Broxted. Coming up to a wooded area and farm building I could see runners, I caught up with them, they were feeling things and starting to find it hard going. They told me the group were only a short way ahead, I charged on. Rounding some trees The way ahead sloped up a slight hill across a field, I could see the group I had been with. It really boosted me to keep working and after 10 minutes or so I had caught them again. They were tiring as we headed into Little Easton, I was feeling strong again and decided to leave them. I had now passed 5 people. following the paths along I saw 2 runners way off course as I headed along the correct path I whistled to them, got their attention and waved the right way, they seemed to ignore me. I carried on, now I ‘d passed 7 people! A touch further along they made up the half mile and we discussed they way to go, I was happy with the direction we were going, they weren’t, again I left them. Following on to Tilty and through a field with Abbey ruins out across the fields I saw the same 2 runners heading towards me! They had taken some wrong turns ended up on the right track but in the wrong direction. Yet again I left them and pulled out another half mile lead. Making the CP6 2 other runners were only 100 yards ahead. Ernie was there again and I had another dose of eno salts, I was told they were tiring badly and slow so I grabbed a banana and carried on after them. within half a mile I had caught them, it was Colin I had been speaking with at the start plus one other. I told them I was on home ground and to follow me. Again I began to pull out a lead on them and began to play Psychological games with them. Every time they came into view I made sure I was running, as soon as I was out of sight I would take a walking break. I had about a 1 mile lead on them. At Henham they had obviously put a good effort in and I saw them about 1/2 mile behind. I started running again told hold the lead charged through a really muddy and slippery woods which I was hoping would slow them down some. Flew downhill on painful legs and had to walk uphill again. As soon as it levelled I started running again, downhill for about 1/2 mile and onto a road section. Some more woods and into Widdington, across the fields, along  some track way and into my home village of Newport. Along the High Street to the last CP7…65 miles done and 5 to go…I was going to make it come hell or high water. Took on more drink and grabbed a banana to take with me, I was feeling absolutely dead on my feet having now passed 9 people over the last 2 legs. I forged on having to walk large sections, there are some steep hills in the last 5 miles. I wanted to run into the finish as well not walk. Now filled with paranoia I kept checking over my shoulder expecting them to have caught me, it didn’t happen. I followed the road up to a cut through on fields, through parkland on the edge of town and was running again. I passed a couple out for a jog “You can go ahead of us you look faster”, “I don’t feel like it, i’ve run in from Southend 70 miles away” queue flabbergasted expressions. out of the park gate, along to the traffic lights, cross, 200 yards and into the finish at the town fire station. I had made it..all 70 miles under my own steam, from throwing my guts up and thinking of quitting to digging in, grinding out the pain, discomfort and making it. And not just making it either but finishing in 5th place which amazed me, I thought I would be middle of the pack at best.

2014-07-14 11.41.50

I am now recovering, my legs generally are no worse than doing a marathon but my thighs are red raw and bleeding which is the most painful thing to deal with at the moment. I have some more ultras planned and am supposed to be going to the south downs on Friday 18th July to run 35 miles, it may not happen. Thanks to Lindley at www.challenge-running.co.uk and everyone that I met along the way.

Virgin Money London Marathon 2014

We had decided in the New Year that we would make a weekend of the London marathon and stay in a central hotel to make getting around easy. On Saturday morning we travelled into central London and headed for the Radisson Blu hotel in Leicester Square, arriving earlier than our check in we dropped off the bags and went for a walk. I took my wife and children just around the corner to Trafalgar Square and then along Whitehall where they would watch me on the Sunday, then we carried on to Big Ben and along the Embankment.

PicsArt_1397303180435

After getting our bearings on where to go we headed back to the hotel to check in and then had pre planned to go the cinema and out for dinner for the rest of the day. I stuck with a simple pasta dish for dinner and although tempted refrained from having a beer! After we went back to the hotel and had an early night as I had a 06.50am alarm call booked.

  I had all my kit pre layed out so there wasn’t any messing about in the morning or anything that would be forgotten. Down in the breakfast room I kept with my usual porridge with honey, a banana an orange juice and some water. I met a runner from Falkirk named Brian over breakfast and had a chat about running, our travel plans for the morning and other interests. I had decided to get on the 08.15am service from Charing Cross to Blackheath that would get me to Blackheath around 08.49am and with a 10 minute walk or so would have me in the start area for 09.00am..plenty of time. Except the queues for the toilets were huge and I seemed to pick the one line that wasn’t moving…20 minutes later and busting I got that job out of the way!

 I had arranged to meet my club mate who had travelled down by bus but once I turned my phone on and got messages coming through I was running out of time and unable to find him. checking the time it was now 09.50am and the marathon started at 10.00am so I hastily made my way to my starting pen and made sure I got right to the front. Looking around although I was in the right allocated pen the pacer in pen 8 was 4 hours 45 minute pacer, my club mate and running partner in pen 5 and the 3 hour 30 minute pacer I wanted to be with in pen 3. It didn’t feel right and I wondered why I was so far back. On speaking to those around me they all had targets of 5 hours or slower!! My previous marathon time was 6 hours 2 minutes so I feel they they thought I was over estimating my predicted time and put me at the back. I could be wrong but it is strange I was put so far back when most 4 hour runners were in pen 6.

 At least the chip time means my time started at the start line so the only thing that would hamper my time would be the thousands of slower people I would have to pass. Once the tape was broken and we could begin to move forward to the start line I was able to by pass a lot of people by keeping to the outside edge that was clear and passed a couple of thousand people by time I got to the start line but I had still only got up to pen 7 runners. I was now running in the VMLM 2014!! I was able to get into a reasonable pace and was actually happy to be kept slow at the start by other runners. Although I wanted to try and get up with Tim I didn’t want to break my neck in the first 3 miles. My pacing was bang on for 3 hour 30 minutes running at 8 minute miles and felt comfortable. Mile 3 soon came around and this is where all the runners converge together, some spots were narrow and created slight bottle necks which was awkward for trying to stay upright and not trip on either a runner, bottles or kerbs. The weather was warming up by now and I was hoping this wouldn’t continue as this would really knock the life out of me. My pace was still smooth and Cutty Sark at mile 6.5 soon came around.

2014-04-14 08.53.32

 The runners had started to thin a little but the occasional bottle necks meant they bunched up again now and then and I would suddenly find myself boxed in and being slowed down. My pace aim was to be passing over Tower Bridge around 1 hour 50 minutes. I eased on through mile 8 in 1.04.07, mile 10 in 1.20.30 and had Tower Bridge and mile 13 in my sights. One of our club runners was watching at around 14/15 miles so I knew once over the bridge I had to switch to the left hand side to stand a chance of seeing her. Passing over Tower Bridge the clock time read as 1 hour 50 minutes, bang on my predicted pace time!! mile 13 comes a short way over the bridge and my Nike+ time cam in at 1.44.57! Just inside a 3 hour 30 minute marathon which is the best I could have hoped for. Somewhere around 14.5 miles I saw Fiona from our club and stopped for a few seconds to say hello and ask if she had seen Tim, he had been and gone but was only a couple of minutes ahead, i’d continue to keep my eyes open for him.

 I was now heading into the Canary Wharf and Isle Of Dogs district. Being all concrete and glass it is a real sun trap and the heat was getting really bad heading up towards mile 16 the road starts to rise for a couple of miles as well. I started to feel it at mile 16. My pace was still perfect passing mile 16 in 2.09.10, still heading for 3.30! I was taking on a gel .5 miles previous to the lucozade sport stations situated every 5 miles and my energy level felt really good although my legs were stating to ache. With long distance running it is to be expected, I can handle aches and blisters, cramp is the dreaded foe simply because it’s debilitating. Mile 17, 18 and 19 came around with ease passing 19 miles in 2.35.06 still looking good. 22 miles is back at Tower Bridge this then heads along towards the Embankment so that point was my next target. Mile 20 the worst possible situation, cramp!! I had to take a few seconds to stretch as my left leg had locked up. I had been drinking and taking gels, my pace had been comfortable but the heat was quite bad and I was sweating profusely and I don’t think my body could keep the hydration up quick enough. Not surprisingly my pace started to suffer, being this close to home it was time to ignore the clock, dig in and do the absolute best possible. I relaxed back to give my muscles some recovery space and not push then so much, every mile marker I had to stop and stretch. The crowd at this point were out of this world screaming and cheering as if you were a front runner yourself, amazing! Every time I stopped for a stretch people would scream my name and cheer me on, telling me “not far”, “keep going Baz” and ” you’re nearly there”. Passing trough 22 miles I didn’t have a clue what my time was, I now know from Nike+ it was 3.05.35. I knew the next section to 25 miles was the Embankment and my wife and children were waiting just a little further along so this spurred me on to get to them and give them a hug for their support. Another mile anther stretch, another mile another stretch, I was hurting badly but I wanted a good time and definitely a sub 4 hours I knew I was more than capable of. Mile 25 3.37.10 my absolute best effort was slipping away, damn I hate cramp!! I rounded the corner by Big Ben and knew the family was on the left at the end of Whitehall…there they were!! I dashed over and had a hug and was a bit emotional, I tried not to stay for more than a few seconds. Less than a mile to go. Head up Birdcage Walk toward Buckingham Palace and then turn onto the final 385 yards of the Mall. I was hurting but I was running, cramp wasn’t going to stop me now, I had no strength to push or sprint for fear of cramping on the finish line. I did it!! I finished the London marathon and knew I had knocked a huge chunk of my previous time. I felt sick, I felt dizzy, I thought I was going to collapse. I took a moment by the side of the road, composed myself to collect my bag and almost keeled over again. I needed to get some food and drink pretty badly, I felt so ill.

2014-04-14 08.51.52

 After collecting my bag, goody bag and medal I stopped for my photo. I desperately needed to get back to my family and the hotel so I could start recovering. I tried to drink some more Lucozade but it made me feel sick again, as well as the heat and being dehydrated I think I may have over carbed and the sugar was making me feel sick. I found the family at the letter T meeting point and had a carton of coconut water I had pre planned to have. Miracle juice!! within minutes of having the drink and walking back towards the hotel I felt great again. Apart from some aching legs the sickness had passed, on getting back to my room the next thing was to jump in the bath…aaahhhh! bliss!

 I continued to eat and drink coconut  water through the afternoon and felt really good if not very tired. On starting to check the times and stats I could see from Nike+ I had actually run 26.99 miles! with all the weaving and crossing the road I had added .79 miles to the run..not good. For the first time on the train on the way home I got my time…3.59.29…Just scraping inside my sub 4 hour minimum target, anything faster would have been a bonus on a perfect day and with the heat and cramp that was an acceptable and credible time to me. Writing this the following day I have nothing more than sore thighs and can walk up and down the stairs easily! And am now looking for another marathon…possibly Amsterdam in October.

2014-04-14 09.19.21

The 8 S’s Of Running

SPEED

When we refer to speed as runners we are talking about our movement over distance and how much time that takes. So how can we improve our speed so it takes less time to cover a set distance. For shorter distances like 5 km or 10 km interval training is a great method to improve speed. This is running a set distance or amount of time at a high speed, anywhere between 85% and 100% of your personal effort. For increased distances like a half or full marathon we need endurance runs or tempo runs. As these suggest it is maintaining a higher speed over an increased distance or amount of time, somewhere around 75% to 85% of personal effort. You should be able to maintain this for about an hour, These runs will help your muscles deal with lactic acid as well. For any greater distances like ultras i would suggest HRM training, running very long and very slow keeping the heart rate around the 140 BPM mark. You will probably find you need lots of walking breaks to keep the heart rate in check

STAMINA

Stamina can be put into two types, cardio vascular and local muscular. Through a regular exercise regime your lungs and heart will strengthen and become more efficient in delivering oxygen to the muscles. A person can expect to gain a lower heart rate and increased stroke volume of the heart. Muscles will improve their ability to store glycogen to help with their endurance.

STRENGTH

There are three types of strength we use. Explosive strength where the energy is used in a single action like jumping or throwing. Dynamic strength, the ability of your muscles to support you over a long period of time. And static strength, the force that can be applied against a static object as in weightlifting. As runners it is dynamic strength that we are interested in. Bodyweight exercises are great for dynamic strength. Exercises such as squat jumps, bounding, hopping and various medicine ball exercises are all great at improving dynamic strength. Fitting in just one or two sessions a week will still be of a long term benefit.

SUPPLENESS

Suppleness refers to how we move and bend at the joints. Also referred to as flexibility, improving our suppleness can help reduce the risk of injury. There are a multitude of stretches possible. I have tried many and found a select few that work well for me hitting points of my muscles that tighten regularly. A favourite is the kneeling hip flexor stretch with raised foot. I find this really loosens my hips, helps with my gait and improves my speed.

SLEEP

Sleep is another very important factor in running. All of the bodies major repair is done during sleep. Getting 8 hours of sleep can help improve mood, concentration, improve athletic performance and you are less likely to get ill. I know how hard it is to get a decent amount of sleep as i am regularly home from work at midnight or later and then need to be up at 7am to help the chidren get ready for school and also to give myself time to run before starting work. So I am usually only getting 6 1/2 to 7 hours sleep and over a week i can end up getting quite exhausted. So I try as best as possible on days off to get to bed earlier.

SKILL

Learning and performing techniques will help improve your running. Pacing, you don’t have to take every run at race pace. It’s ok to slow down, long slow runs will improve your running just as much as short fast ones. Sprinting, adding short sharp bursts will activate different muscle fibres and will help in race situations when you need to increase the pace or overtake. Recovery is just as much a skill, cooling down and stretching will help with muscle repair and help make you stronger for your next run.

SPIRIT

Our state of mind when running or even thinking of going for a run plays a strong role in our participation, improvement and enjoyment of running. There are a lot of people that are very disciplined and rarely have any down periods with their running, I am not one of those! My moods towards running rise and fall constantly, especially this time of year when runs are gloomy, wet and cold. I personally help myself along by reading magazines, books and websites to keep my motivation up. I am also a running club member which is of a great help, we have regular social meet ups for meals that really helps boost mental positivity. Setting and hitting realistic targets is also a great way of staying positive.

SUSTENANCE

Diet is very important in not only improving health but also our running ability. Personally the way I tackle my food intake is to work out my calorific needs and then eat as much healthy whole non processed food to meet that need. I include oats, bananas, almond butter, rapeseed oil, nuts, seeds, dates, noodles, brown rice, avocados, beans, peppers and various other fruits and vegetables. Diet can not only help with energy levels but also improve cholesterol levels, lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

 

If you take the time to cover the 8 S’s you’ll be setting yourself a good regime for improving. Spring isn’t far away and the improvements will show when the warmer weather returns. Don’t give up, keep striving and you’ll reach your targets for 2014.

Are All Sugars Equal?

2013-07-25 12.05.01
We all know we need sugar to survive but most of us don't give much thought to the vast array of sugars that are out there. We get our sugars mainly from fruits and vegetables and also processed foods like cakes, biscuits and chocolate bars.Our bodies run on glucose by breaking down carbohydrates to create APT for energy. The liver is the bodies processing unit for sugars. If sugars are consumed in liquid form or in high sugar foods like cakes or chocolate bars thus can put a high load on the liver. This in turn causes an increase in uric acid causing inflammation, gout and increased blood pressure. Over time this can also create a fatty liver which is the main cause of insulin resistance leading to diabetes. Sugars in fruit or vegetables are far better because the fibre content helps slow the load on the liver. Therefore high sugar foods or sports drinks should be limited to when exercising when those sugars will be used very quickly by the body.
The recommended intake of sugars should be 10% of daily calorie intake so roughly 50g for someone consuming 2000 calories. Limiting carbohydrates is an effective way of reducing sugar intake and helping to lose body fat. A big problem with this method is increased hunger. The University of Sydney, Australia performed a satiety test to find foods that satisfied hunger the best. The most satisfying foids were boiled potatoes, raw fruits, fish and lean meat. The worst were croissants, doughnuts, chocolate bars and peanuts.

I have compiled a list of commonly found sugars and where possible the GI for those sugars. The GI of glucose is given the value of 100 and all sugars are measured against this. So a food with a GI of 95 is almost as pure as glucose. A food with a GI of 20 on the other hand won't raise blood sugar much at all.

2013-07-25 12.05.39
Ose = sugar
Itol = sugar alcohol

SUGARS
Agave 11
Aspartame 0
Barley Malt Syrup 42
Beet Sugar
Brown Sugar
Cane Syrup 43
Coconut Palm 35
Confectioners Sugar
Corn Syrup 75
Date Sugar
Demerara
Dextrose 100
Fructose 12-25
Fruit Juice Concentrate
Glucose 100
Glucose Syrup
Granulated White Sugar 80
High Fructose Corn Syrup 87
High Maltose Corn Syrup
Honey 32-87
Invert Sugar 60
Jaggery
Lactose 46
Maltodextrin 110
Maltose 105
Maple Syrup 54
Molasses 55
Muscovado
Rice Syrup 25
Saccharin 0
Sorbitol
Stevia <1
Sucanat
Sucralose 0
Sucrose 58-65
SUGAR ALCOHOLS
Erythritol 1
Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysates 35
Isomalt 2
Lactitol 3
Maltitol
Mannitol 2
Sorbitol 4
Xylitol 12
Tagatose
Turbinado 65

The main factors to consider with sugars are.
1. Avoid fruit juice and fizzy drinks
2. Stay away from processed foods as they can contain added sweetners.
3. Try and get your sugars through the day from fruits and vegetables
4. Limit sports drinks to when exercising
5. Try and limit sugars to a GI of 50 or less to limit the load on the liver and reduce a high insulin response.
6. Last but not least try and reduce cakes and chocolate bars.

Thanks for reading and keep up the great running.