Grand Union Canal Race 2017 – Part two

…Arriving into CP5, 70 miles in Mike had me sit down. He had bought an ankle support and had a hot meal of chilli con carne ready for me too. Ed Jones was also waiting having made his way along the canal from Wolverton. Another bag of snacks, raisins, jaffa cakes, tribe bar, grapes and a top up of Tailwind. Gasping for a refreshing drink Ed did me a favour and bought me a bitter shandy. I changed into my night kit of a baselayer, t shirt and Rab hoodie over the top also taking my lightweight Salomon jacket too. Roughly 15 miles to the next checkpoint and Ed with me things should be ok. I just needed to try and jog while dealing with the ankle pain. Another coffee and it was time to get cracking. Initially off to a good start i had to take a walking break, interspersed with the odd squat to stretch out the thighs. Ed was doing a good job of keeping my mind occupied and helping the miles pass. At the next checkpoint I was looking forward to meeting Rodrigo Freeman, he ran and finished GUCR last year but some how amongst all the buzz we wasn’t acquainted at that time. It was only when I saw an article in a work publication that I then realised that Rod worked in the same industry as myself and got in touch with him online, which is how he then told me he would be at the Bletchley, 85 mile checkpoint. There are no particular difficulties along this stretch, no tunnels, no junctions or diversions. It’s just a matter of getting into a mentally comfortable spot to jog on. The problem was that time and distance seemed huge. I’d get into a jog, keep going for a period of time that felt like i’d maybe covered another mile, maybe 10 or 12 minutes and actually i’d only made 0.3 of a mile!!

Ed had me do a mental task of giving one life event for every year of my life, which all though my brain was dead tired and starting to feel scrambled already, was enough to keep it awake and enough to keep the time and distance passing. Ever so slowly now the miles were passing by but thus far I had suffered no cramp and no sickness that some other runners are often struck down with. I arrived into the Bletchley checkpoint 6, 85 miles at 02.00am now 3 hours off the plan but 2 hours 10 minutes ahead of my 2016 effort and still well inside the cut off times and above the average speed needed to finish. I said hello to Rod then crashed into my chair while Mike went about giving me food and drink and checking things were ok, in hindsight it’s bit of a blur but after a short while we moved on. I doubled back briefly remembering something I wanted and was also given a ginger beer by Rod, tasty, easy to drink and more needed calories. Never refuse anything you can manage to get in to your system. Another 15 mile stretch to the 100 mile mark, CP7, by many seen as the true halfway point of the race. The last 45 feeling just as hard as the first 100. I was beginning to get bad heartburn from the dinner I had eaten plus everything I was consuming on top. The only thing I could do was drink some water every time it happened. with painkillers and endorphin’s the ankle was holding up enough to keep moving at a decent speed.

Milton Keynes was uneventful this time around, last year getting some abuse and being followed was a good incentive to get a move on. The pace was beginning to drop with large periods of speed walking mixed with some feeble efforts to jog. Long into the night I was awaiting the sight of breaking daylight to both try and wake up and lift my spirits. With runners well spread out at this point the canal seemed like an empty place to be. I knew the group I wanted to be in contact with were a good couple of hours ahead by now. In races, especially ultras it is always good to have someone in view, even if it is a mile away as it gives an extra incentive to push on and see if you can catch them. At this point with no one about it was get to the next boat or get to the next bridge. one foot in front of the other. after 5 1/2 hours of trudging, jogging and limping through the night I ran into CP7, 99 miles at the Grand Junction Arms at 07.15am. I was 2 1/2 hours quicker at this point than last year and still moving quicke enough to stay above the average speed and stay inside the cut offs. Last year the 100 to 120 section was where I lost the race. It killed me and I was unable to manage the aches, pain and tiredness, gave in and stopped far too often. This is where the race really started and It hadn’t been a smooth ride so far with a bruised ankle. Sausage and beans for breakfast, fruit pot, coffee and a banana and it was time to head off into the early morning.

It was already very warm. I had been drinking a lot and always make sure I use an electrolyte based drink or eat food often to avoid hyponatremia. Ed said he’d see me through to Tring which was only a mile or two after the checkpoint so i’d be on my own again until I caught up with Adrian Eeles. My cousin had said he’d also try and meet me in the Hemel Hempstead area too. I forged on very mindful that this section was my nemesis from last year and was determined to get through without giving into the tiredness. Nearly two hours later I saw my cousin and we power walked together having a catch about our families, as we neared Fishery road there is a river side cafe so he went and got me a can of coke which was a welcome boost. I left my cousin at this point and carried on not knowing where Adrian would be and fortunately not much further on he appeared on the canal. Great to have another companion to occupy the mind and not allow me to stop and crumble to the ever increasing tiredness. Through the night I had made do with coffees and buzz gum, a caffeinated guarana gum and had also taken a couple of pro plus. I probably could have taken more or a larger dose as it was barely taking the edge off the tiredness but having not experimented much I didn’t want to end up making things worse by ingesting too much caffeine. Again with Adrian we had the odd short jog..boat to boat, some power walking then jog to a bridge etc. Just keep ticking off the miles. I wasn’t thinking of anything beyond 120 miles at this point. If I made it there i’d cracked it, I would be a finisher. mile after stifling mile Adrian chatted and took my mind of the never ending 20 mile section. dousing with water and keeping cool as possible. slowly, wearily and painfully we headed on to Springwell lock CP8, 120 miles arriving just before 15.00pm, 3 hours 20 minutes ahead of last year! although this year was feeling way harder and more painful timing was still good. i had another surprise visitor at this point as a club friend Iain had turned up which was a welcome distraction. Another seat, more food and drink and it was time to go again. I was feeling in good spirits at this point knowing I had overcome the problems of last year and less than a marathon to go! 13 miles to CP9 Hamborough Arms and then the final 12.

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I left Springwell feeling pretty good if still in a degree of pain. I can’t remember at what point Adrian left me but it was during this next section. Sn enough I would be back to my own motivation with no safety net should I crack and give in to feelings or emotions. I was determined to make a good effort here as last year I arrived at Bulls Bridge around 23.45 in darkness. Not this year. During the trudge along the canal I remember seeing Jon Aston who looked quite pained and also Neil Carter who was trotting along quite comfortably. After having done a 20 mile slog the 13 miles should breeze by. they didn’t. Again any effort to jog soon ground to a halt only having covered .25 or .3 of a mile. Fine. Walk a bit and then do another .25 stint. so on so forth. I was starting to get concerned that my average speed had dropped to 4mph, above the 3.3 needed but an obvious sign that checkpoints, stopping to stretch and the slower walking efforts were all eating away at my time. If I really could only walk it had to be a purposeful power walk, at least 4mph to keep the average up. I recognised bridges and areas from last year and once I could see and hear the train line I knew I was getting close, probably 4 or 5 miles, and this spurred me on. And finally, still in daylight, Bulls Bridge. Another mile and the final checkpoint would be in front of me. I was feeling the excruciating tiredness as I had last year, I couldn’t think properly and even conversation was an effort. I pushed on to CP9, 133 miles, arriving at 19.30pm, 4 1/2 hours ahead of last year. Still 8 1/2 hours on the clock to cover 12 miles. Pat ‘Paddy’ Robbins was at the checkpoint but I couldn’t even be bothered to speak. Mike fixed me up, I felt dire. New larger sized shoes to allow for the swollen feet. The only thing that could stop me now would be and accident caused by tiredness or my own mind.

Leaving the checkpoint on Mike’s words of 2 10k’s to go, usually 1 h 30m I dragged myself off. He was planning on meeting me at a bridge about midway to help break it down. But not having gt this far last year it was all new and I couldn’t judge where I was and how far I had to go. Such immense tiredness, i’d veer to left, then fight to straighten up and avoid a dip in the canal, then veer back to the right and crash on top of a concrete bench. No, it’s not happening again! Count to 10, I know Mike’s watching on the tracker and the phone will go. Get up, forge on, can I jog, no, shuffle on. A text, not far from the bridge now, keep moving. A light ahead. It’s not getting closer. Eventually Mike was there again. 21.50pm. 10k had taken me just over 2 hours. A few more encouraging words and the final 6 mile push lay ahead. setting off my head was just wanting me to lay down and give in to the painful desire to sleep, the legs were painful but it’s a finite amount, the pain had peaked hours ago, it was just a matter of managing and digging deep to keep going. 4 pieces of the buzz gum and within a mile the edge had been taken off the sensation, I power walked on knowing I was so close now. My Garmin had died at CP9 so I had no idea again of time or distance. A text. 2 miles to go. Don’t go for it yet, I didn’t have the energy to last 2 miles all out running. power walk onwards. text. 3/4 mile to go. Go for it! I dug in, gave it every bit of final energy, ignored any of the wincing pain from my legs and ran all the way into the finish.

At last I was Grand Union Canal Race finisher!! crossing the line at 23.48pm, 41h 48m.

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Still some lessons to be learned as to footwear, socks and some food items. It was a shame about the ankle holding me back but then some people would have stopped all together! Now to sit back, recover and on to the next race, supposedly on the 10th June if i’m fit enough.

 

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Running – Past 5 Month Update

Since the Grand Union Canal Race back in May i’ve continued to be fortunate and stayed injury free. The next race after GUCR on the May bank holiday weekend was the Saffron Trail race which I did two years ago. I was hoping to improve on that run, which I did do knocking 2 hours off my previous time but still finishing in 5th place. This blog post is an update of races and results over the last few months and what may lay ahead.

2nd July 2016 – Saffron Trail – 17h 1m – 5th place – PB

25th August – Club 5k league – 20m 12s – 6th place

4th September – Essex Way Relay – 1h 15m – 14th place

11th September – Thetford Marathon – 3h 51m – 5th place

18th September – Bath 50k – 4h 43m – 19th place – PB

25th September – Ely Marathon – 3h 34m – 4th place – 3rd Male Trophy – PB

9th October – Peterborough Half Marathon – 1h 30m – 342nd – PB

23rd October – Chelmsford Marathon – 4h 12m – 329th

30th October – Stort 30 – 4h 51m – 99th – PB

16th November – Stevenage Half Marathon – 1h 34m – 60th place

I’ve entered the draw for GUCR 2017 along with KACR. The LLCR is part of Canalslam but it doesn’t look like I can get the time off work to get all three races in. I recently had a day out for a run in North Wales a good 200 mile drive out from home. The weather was pretty harsh and a Spring or Summer re visit is on the cards. It’s a great route and definitely can be covered in a quicker time without the wind, rain, hail and snow. I put together a very amateur video using my mobile phone, it is very shaky but gives an idea of the route.

 

No races are booked at the moment for the rest of this year. The GUCR draw is taking place Friday 11th November which I hope to attend and training will continue trying to stay at least marathon fit. I have now completed 8 marathons and 8 ultras so am thinking of doing more marathons and start heading towards the 100 club.

Thanks, Baz

Grand Union Canal Race 2016



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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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.

 

 

 

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Flitch Way Spring Marathon 2015

Having received my new work roster for the rest of the year I have now been able to look through and pencil in possible races for the year. After finishing Paris I had no particular races in mind and ran Birchanger 10k a couple of weeks back. Knowing I had Sunday 17th May free I had a look at what races were available. There was Great Baddow 10 mile, Wimpole 10k, Richmond Marathon and the Flitch Way Marathon. I opted for the Flitch Way Marathon. The Flitch Way Marathon is one of Challenge Running’s many races, this is now the fourth of Lindley’s races I have taken part in.

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The Flitch Way is now a footpath that follows the route of an old railway line that used to run from the town of Bishops Stortford to Braintree but was removed in 1969 under the Beeching cuts. It is predominantly flat if a little soft under foot in places, to the extent that one section runs on a wooden walk way through the worst of the boggy patches. The Flitch way Marathon route starts in Great Notley Country Park, heads out along the Flitch Way towards Takeley for 13 miles and then back to finish at the top of a steep hill in the park as seen below.

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 As I hadn’t trained I planned on taking the run easy and treating it as a training run. The weather was as perfect as it could have been for running and with the Flitch Way bordered by hedge row and trees it was very shady and cool to run along. I was dropped off at the start around 9am and saw Lindley the race director who pointed me up to the race HQ. After collecting my number and storing my bag I chatted to some of the other runners, some of whom I had met before, others I hadn’t. I had initially told my running friend Gin Craig I was going to run with her as I reckoned I was only going to run between 4 hours 30 minutes and 5 hours. After we set off that barely lasted 1/2 a mile, the pace was 9m 25s per mile and I felt comfortable enough to run a bit stronger than that.

 After winding our way out of the park and heading onto the track itself we crossed a road. A short distance on runners were greeted by a cafe set at one of the old stations, Rayne,  complete with an old railway carriage.

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 The route then continued along a firm packed track. Being a clear warm day the track was quite busy with family walkers and cyclists. The route headed toward the town of Great Dunmow. I had quickened my pace a touch too much and was at 8 minutes 15 seconds per mile and slowed a little to someone who was close by and holding a comfortable pace. It turned out to be Jaime Neill who is an online acquaintance from the Facebook page Run 1000. He was holding a very steady 8 minutes 30 seconds per mile so I decided to run and chat with him. What had started as a day off and taking part for the fun of it was now turning in to a run that was currently better than PB pace! I was mindful to make good use of all the aid stations along the way, the first of which was manned by Rich Cranswick whom I’d met at the SVP last year. At Dunmow the route deviates very briefly through part of the town then linking back up with the Flitch Way route. The ground in parts along here was very soft and quite wet but I managed fine with my road shoes and stayed up right! I always use Nike+ app on my phone when running as it gives an audible pace every 0.5 mile which I like and lets me know if I’m working too hard or even not hard enough. The pacing was still very steady at 8m 30s a mile. Heading ever closer to the turn around point I was hoping I wouldn’t hit any type of problems until well after the 20 mile mark. wanting to get a good amount of drink onboard at the half way point I told Jaime I was going to push ahead to give myself a couple of minutes to stop. The legs were still felling strong despite not having a long run further than 13.5 miles since Paris Marathon.

Image result for flitch way

 After the half way point there started to be more a bit more of a difference in pacing, sometimes catching people, sometimes being over taken. As I headed back towards the town of Dunmow I had to take a left hand turn through a hedge and into the industrial estate. I missed the turning and went straight on.  A runner behind me followed, we both hadn’t gone far and I started to question it, it didn’t look right. I stopped, he carried on. I back tracked and bumped into another runner also heading along the same path. I told him I thought it was wrong and after going back a few hundred yards saw the gap we should of turned through. I’ve no idea where the other runner went or if he’s even finished yet! My legs had started to feel things now and were getting tired. The new runner I was now with was David Rogers. He had initially been ahead of me before slowing enough that I could catch and over take him before meeting up again when I made the mistake. Both tiring we decide to stick together and pace each other back to the finish. My pace was now fading away quite badly and the chance of a PB had gone but I was still on for a strong run. The finish of the marathon is at the top of a steep hill which has a large sculpture on it, upon touching the sculpture you have finished the race.

Image result for flitch way

 Having been running together for 3 or 4 miles I suggested to David that we should race the hill up to the finish together. I’m not sure if he thought it was a good idea but he agreed anyway. We returned back passed the cafe at Rayne station, back on to the track and just had to get back down into the park. we could see the hill ahead with the bird sculpture on top, the bottom of the hill approached, a quick shake of the hands and a wish of good luck and I was gone!! I put my foot down and powered up the hill not looking back to see if David was hot on my heels. A sprint of the last 30 yards and I had finished another race. If counting ultras this was now my 7th race of marathon distance or greater. The organisation and marshalling is second to none at challenge running events and can’t recommend them highly enough. Get over to their website, have a look and sign up to one of their future races.

Initially I wasn’t really sure what my time was but found out via Lindley that it was 4h 14m 19s. 12 minutes faster than Paris marathon and only 14 minutes 26 seconds away from my PB so quite a good day. Now to just keep the miles up and stay injury free!

Position Race Number Forename Surname Gender Club Finish Time
1 11 Ian Coxall Male Ipswich Jaffa RC 03:16:22
2 15 Robert Dixon Male   03:29:27
3 23 sebastian parris Male barnes runners 03:30:09
4 33 Pete Jones Male   03:36:31
5 39 Nick Butcher Male Trent Park Runners 03:39:58
6 8 Charley Jenning Female   03:42:43
7 16 Vincenzo Arduino Male   03:43:12
8 12 David Ferris Male   03:43:45
9 53 Nigel Harrison Male Ipswich Jaffa 03:47:42
10 21 Paul Cross Male   03:53:52
11 1 Gary Paul Male   03:58:53
12 17 Adam Waller-Toyne Male   03:58:58
13 29 Mark Loftus Male   04:04:22
14 26 Jamie Neill Male Great Bentley Running Club 04:07:36
15 43 chris poynter Male   04:09:39
16 36 Alan Li Male adidas26s 04:11:09
17 38 Barry Taylor Male Saffron Striders RC 04:14:19
18 47 David Rogers Male Leigh on Sea Striders 04:14:28
19 13 Andrew Wilmott Male Halstead RRC 04:15:10
20 46 Damon Jackson Male   04:23:45
21 32 Karl Simon Male   04:24:15
22 31 Noel Bundy Male Mid Essex Casuals 04:24:16
23 34 Verne Barltrop Male 100 Marathon Club 04:24:19
24 40 Peter Maddison Male Crowborough Runners 04:24:20
25 19 Kim Freeman Female   04:27:49
26 2 Stuart Mellows Male WDAC 04:27:50
27 42 Duncan Anderson Male Bracknell Forest Runners 04:30:29
28 54 Daniel Smith Male Halstead RRC 04:38:07
29 20 Gin Craig Female Sudbury Joggers 04:42:33
30 10 Steve Morris Male Royston Runners 04:43:03
31 41 frances cooke Female 100 marathon club 04:47:17
32 55 Richard Weeks Male   04:47:43
33 25 Bob Parmenter Male 100 Marathon Club 04:49:31
34 51 Richard Townsend Male Saltwell Harriers 04:52:55
35 4 Sally Denwood Female   04:52:59
36 44 Sally Silver Female Canterbury Harriers 04:59:07
37 52 Steve Harvey Male   05:07:42
38 6 Emily Adams Female   05:09:53
39 7 Paul Adams Male   05:09:53
40 49 David Clare Male 100 Marathon Club 05:17:59
41 14 Jonathan Hyde Male   05:30:12
42 48 CAROLYN THOMSON EASTER Female TRA 05:30:52
43 56 Hazel Kurz Female 100Marathon Club 05:40:54
44 45 John Kew Male Bristol And District 05:49:03
45 5 Fran Thorne Female   05:59:23
46 35 Ric Falco Male   06:33:45
47 37 Des Connors Male   07:04:56
48 18 Dean Woodcock-davis Male   4:12:078
49 3 gemma colling Female   DNF
50 9 Benjamin Ficken Male Great Bentley Running Club DNF
51 22 Susan Foot Female North Herts RRC DNS
52 24 Cynthia Neldner Female RRC DNS
53 27 Chris Witmore Male Bungay Black Dog RC DNS
54 28 martin mead Male   DNS
55 30 Tracey Ranson Female Springfield Striders RC DNS
56 50 Tom Fairbrother Male Woodbridge Shufflers RC DNS

Schneider Paris Marathon

Soon be time for the Paris marathon, training has gone reasonably well and the worst of the injury I had has passed. A fuller blog post and report will done after the race. In the meantime I have the following I need tweeted on Twitter, thanks to anyone willing to help.

 

 

If you could include #BelievewithSE along with #Run42! and @Traindriverbaz. Every tweet equates to an amount of distance and the target is 42k. These three bits would equal 400 metres of distance so to reach 42k I would need around 105 tweets!!

 

Stour Valley Path 100km

I had gone in to the Saffron Trail with a mild ankle injury that only felt slightly bruised. The race, although starting badly turned out great. The downside being that a mild injury was now a serious injury. I had bad sharp pain on the medial side of my left ankle. I took a week off after the Saffron Trail to recover then went out for an 8 mile run, the ankle was agony and I had to keep stopping. Another 10 days off, icing and massaging then a 4 mile tester, still no good. Then we had a family week away to Tunisia, no running but some gentle exercise in the swimming pool. On return I had 3 days until the start of the SVP 100  race. I was injured and unfit, common sense would scream to most people to take a DNS and nurse the injury. Myself on the other hand thought I would give it a go, the worst outcome being a DNF. I would personally give it a try and clock up 1 mile than stay at home wondering “What if?” and clocking zero.

svp

 Newmarket is not that far from where I live but having to get the train I decided to go up the evening before so I could make the 7am start and give myself a good chance of being able to get my train home from Manningtree. Thanks to Rich Cranswick for pointing out a spot out of the way to stick the tent up and only 5 minutes from the start. After arriving in town I made my way to the White Lion pub where registrations and kit check were taking place. Thankfully all of my kit was in order, I took down race race director Matthew Hearne’s  number in case of emergency. There were only a few other runners about and it was fairly early in the evening. It was about 19.30 so I decided to have a pint before heading up the road to pitch my tent. A couple of locals asked what was going on, I told them and in conversation all of the usual clichés spilled out about being “crazy”,  “mad” and asking “why?”. We’ve heard it all before and although you can give reasons you can’t make people understand. Around 20.30 I headed off to get some sleep. My first navigation error and the race hadn’t even started yet! I was heading the wrong way to the camping spot and by time I made a u turn it was after 21.00 and the light was fading. Tent up. Ear plugs in. Kit ready. Sleep.

 At 5am my alarm went off and I couldn’t believe how cold I felt! I think my body was still on Tunisian 100F temperature setting! Although the sky was bright and fairly cloudless there must have been a small shower overnight as the tent was wet so I was expecting the first part of the route to be slippery. After getting ready and packing away Rich Cranswick was also camped nearby with some lightweight kit he was trying out. We chatted together while making our way to the start. I was feeling quite apprehensive, I had the injury strong in my mind and I didn’t know the route at all. I knew a couple of acquaintances would be about for the run, Naomi Newton Fisher who was running and Gin Lawson Craig who was helping at checkpoint 3. I couldn’t remember if Naomi was starting at 7am or the later 9am start so just kept an eye out for her. A few nerve induced toilet trips later I spotted Naomi and introduced myself and had a chat. 06.45am, time for the race brief and a walk to the start area. A quick group photo and at 7am we were away on the Stour Valley Path!

 A pretty straight forward first section along a footpath heading South out of town until turning left on to the Devil’s Dyke. The Dyke was damp and slippery and had loads of tree roots to skip around and over. despite this I had settled in to a small group of about 7 people and we were running at a steady 6mph or so. About 4 miles in and the first navigation error happened. We had missed the first right hand turn off the Dyke. After a chat we looked at our position on the map and after an extra .5 of a mile we were back on track again passing Stetchworth. The group began to split a little and I was pretty much on my own, mistake number 2 of the day! The Stour Valley Path has yellow markers along it’s route. The SVP route guide in my opinion is dire and the detail awful. I took a right turn that also had a  yellow marker and seemed to end up absolutely no where with 2 other runners who had followed my turn. Damn! What to do? go back?, head the way I thought the map said?  I decided to follow a road. This brought me to a signpost that helped me locate my actual position and where I needed to be. I back tracked along the road until coming back in to contact with the route. It cost me 30 minutes! I could really have done without that. I was under time pressure as well. My last train home from Manningtree was 22.02. I had to finish by 21.30 at the latest, 14 1/2 hours. More than possible…if I wasn’t injured AND kept making mistakes. Feeling pissed off already I pushed on to the first checkpoint at Great Thurlow. I arrived at around 09.15am, 21 minutes inside my set schedule. Not bad considering making 2 mistakes.

 Having learned from the Saffron Trail I waste too much time at checkpoints I had a drink, something to eat and was away again with some time in hand. Psychologically The SVP is good in that each leg gets progressively shorter. The first is 12 miles and then 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, and 5 miles. The weather was warming up as I headed out on the next leg to Clare. I had to take some painkillers to cope with the ankle, but considering my lack of fitness my energy was good and I was keeping myself in the race. This leg passed without any fus or mistakes. I was approaching mile 23 and wasn’t using any energy gels just jelly babies and fruit pastilles. I was due in at no later than 12.05pm..it was 11.45am, still on target. I seem to crave sweet tea or coffee on long runs and was hoping CP2 had some. CP1 had none but CP2 were good enough to help out with a tea. Some more food, more first bladder refill and I continued onto leg 3 to Long Melford. Things started to get tougher! This was a really hilly section. The up hills killed my ankle and the downhills were now sending pain through my knees. More pain killers. I had the incentive to crack on to CP3 to meet another acquaintance Gin Lawson Craig. We follow each others running exploits online and she is an inspirational runner. I was hurting badly, I knew the day probably wouldn’t work out so I was preparing to throw in the towel at CP3. I was joined by another runner and we pretty much stayed together on the run into Long Melford which helped take my mind off the pain. I could see Gin ahead at CP3 and almost collapsed on the poor woman as we greeted each other. 33 miles in I arrived at about 14.15, my target time was 14.18 so my time in hand had slipped and I was on the edge. I took a good time out. I had a chat with Gin’s friend Lisa, a visit to the toilet, more food, drink and evaluated things. Gin pretty much told me to carry on. I got my kit back on and headed out on leg 4.

 I felt like shit! About 2 miles into leg 4 I almost turned around to go back tp CP3. I didn’t, I kept going. I was struggling badly and now doing more walking than running, the overall pace was suffering. Along leg 4 you pass the town of Sudbury, I made another mistake. Another 30 minutes lost. I was now well and truly fucked off! I hated the SVP route guide and should have gone with an Ordnance Survey map. I couldn’t use my .GPX file as my phone battery is ruined and has been draining in as little as 2 hours. I back tracked and got on route…again. That mistake killed my chance of holding up the necessary pace.  Somewhere along this point I came across Paul,  he was having a really bad time himself suffering periodically with cramp.  I stayed with him knowing my race was dead incase he needed some help.  We both forged on as best as possible.  Paul did some math and worked out he was still just,  only just by a few minutes,  inside the cut off time.  That put me in the same place but my issue was getting my train home which put me 1 hour behind time.  Paul dug in and put in an awesome effort leaving me behind.  We battled on to CP 4 at Lamarsh.  Just approaching Lamarsh I was caught by another runner.  It was the sweeper for that section clearing up the back runners.  There were 2 runners behind me.  Another 1/2 mile and I arrived at checkpoint 4 Lamarsh at 17.40.  I was 1 hour and 20 minutes behind my own set schedule so even if I felt fit I would have missed my train home. I was now in pain and the pain killers had stopped helping. 42 miles in and it was time to call it a day.

lamarsh

 The SVP route is fantastic and I would consider it for next year.  I can take some positives out of this race as well in that I had no sickness at all, I used no gels and the compression shorts fixed the chaffing problem I had during the Saffron Trail.  Some things I would do differently next year are that with the Saffron Trail I recced about 90 % of the course in advance, wrote my own route notes and spent about 6 weeks on google maps trying to memorise the route.  With the SVP I dod none of these.  I’m sure that a little more homework would pay dividends.

 Thanks to everyone who I crossed paths with, all the volunteers at the checkpoints and to Matthew Hearne for a great race.