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.

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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.

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 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.

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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.

My Running Plans As I Enter My 40th Year

So I just finished work at 01.15a.m. on Sunday June 15th, my 39th Birthday.  The last couple of years of running have seen improvements I wasn’t sure that I was still capable of. The willpower and discipline has been up and down and the results have been an equal rollercoaster. But, from where I started I have come along way. Initially running only a couple of miles at a time, eventually building to 10k. The time for that 10k then slowly dropping from 1 hour 5 minutes to 41 minutes 47 seconds over a 2 year period and the distance building up to marathon distance. Then I started to read and think about ultra running, went to Scotland and ran 35 miles and entered Challenge Running’s Stort 30 ultra.

I have recently been back to Scotland and covered the 35 mile run again. So, to what and where is my 40th year going to lead in respect to my running?

I generally do lots of treadmill speedwork over winter and try and aim for some spring PB’s. That is what happened this year setting new 10k, half marathon and marathon PB’s. As the year progresses I Like to do a mix of 10k’s and some long distance races and more recently looking at doing ultras. I have a loose plan mapped out for the rest of this year which is mainly concentrating on doing ultras. I have now signed up for the Saffron Trail ultra http://www.challenge-running.co.uk/saffron-trail/ a run from Southend on the Essex coast to Saffron Walden, approximately 70 miles. I have been out training over various sections of the route, the last two legs are my local home area so I run these parts quite regular already.

crocus (2)

 

Wanting to do more ultras some carry conditions that you need to have run a specified distance before entering. I need to complete the Saffron Trail before being able to move on to other challenges. My drawn out plan that fits time off, work and family commitments  is July 12th Saffron Trail – 70 miles,  16th August Stour Valley Path – 62 miles (2 UTMB points), September 27th Cotswold Way – 102 miles (4 UTMB points) and the Stort 30 on October 26th. When I gain the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc points this will qualify me to run the CCC  http://www.ultratrailmb.com/page/21/CCC%C2%AE.html next year. To run the UTMB you need to have gained 7 points from no more than 3 races so I won’t be able to qualify this year.

The CCC route    http://www.nexxtep.fr/UTMB/FR/Reperages/CCC/

So the year ahead is looking exciting and most definitely challenging. I just need to continue with long steady miles, including the odd 10k and club night for a bit of speed. And to try as best as possible to stay injury free. I have no idea how this will pan out as time goes on, I don’t know if I can get through 70 miles let alone 102 miles. What I do know is I will never find out thinking and fearing what may be sitting at home in a chair. I need to get out there and do it.

 

Feel the fear and do it anyway!!

West Highland Way – Re Visited

 Last year I took myself away to Scotland to run 35 miles of the West Highland Way from Bridge Of Orchy to Fort William. After writing up my blog post on how things went and speaking to friends at the running club my friend and fellow club member Tim Mcmahon said he would be interested in covering the route as well. So the organising of 35 mile re run was put into action.

west highland way copy

 We set out on the over night sleeper service from London Euston to Scotland and arrived at Bridge of Orchy at 08.15am. The weather was fantastic and a big improvement on last years overcast and rainy day. I had been briefing Tim on the route and what to expect but just as I had found last year the run is a shock to the system from the start having to climb up through a pine forest for the first 1.5 miles before coming up to the Inveroran hotel and a surfaced road to run on. With the weather being warm we were sweating right from the start and tried to keep an even and slow pace. The road way then leads onto the old military road way and on towards the Kingshouse hotel on the A68.

parliamentary roads

20140516_100910Yours Truly, Baz Taylor

Heading down toward the Kingshouse hotel the wind had picked up quite a lot but was still very warm, we were only about 1.5 miles from the infamous devils staircase!

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20140516_100806Tim Mcmahon

I knew we were going to have to hike the devils staircase as initially I had tried to run it last year and found it impossible and led to me cramping badly on the following decent

staircase

Given how steep the staircase is we managed to get to the top within about 30 minutes and the legs were feeling pretty good. We started a slow run down and headed on to Kinlochleven. We were now 17 miles in and things were going well, no cramps, energy was good and averaging around 11 minute miles. Given the steep terrain and the climb having us down to around 2 miles an hour I was more than happy with that. The path down was really hard on the ankles and very steep in spots so it took a lot of strength from the legs to avoid falling over. I found a pigeon step run heel striking was an effective way of being able to run downhill but retaining control at the same time. The scenery was breath taking and the miles were ticking by and we soon came down to Kinlochleven. The time was 12.40pm which had us around 20 minutes ahead of last years time. Again as per last year we went into the village shop and topped up on water before continuing on. There is a short steep climb out of Kinlochleven back up to a military road so again we walked this as it was too steep to possibly run.

kin

 Once up on to the road it levels out so is far easier to get running on. Now 22 miles in I was tiring quite badly and made sure to keep eating and drinking to keep the energy up. After traversing along the mountainside for around another 6/7 miles we came upon a point of the trail where there is a couple of different route possibilities. Last year I had gone left and followed a tarmacked road back into Fort William, this year we decided to go right and follow the off road trail instead. In hindsight this may have been a mistake as it was extremely tough, very steep in places and very energy sapping. I was beginning to suffer quite badly feeing sick and dizzy, trying to keep on top of things I soon used up my remaining water. If you attempt this do not underestimate how much water you need. Over the entire distance I had only carried and consumed 2 litres of water, I could easily have drunk 4 litres!! The route climbs up and enters a very dense pine forest which was amazing and straight out of a Hollywood movie, very dramatic and heavily scented with the Scots pine. I kept moving through phases of sickness followed by feeling ok and energetic enough again to run more, quickly followed by more nausea. Now around 33 miles in we used the gravity of the downhill parts to help get back into a slow running rhythm. We only a matter of a couple of miles from reaching our designated 35 mile target, the same distance I had run last year, I could quite easily have laid down, not moved and just stayed there out in the open. It was a real help having Tim along this year as He was able to keep encouraging me. We soon came across the long awaited signpost pointing to the campsite that marked our 35 miles. The weather was turning, rain had been forecast but for later in the evening, it had arrived early. It was really starting to blow a gale and the clouds were closing in, we twisted around the final descent and could see the campsite through the trees. Out into the open and we reached our 35 mile target in 8 hours and 20 minutes, this was 41 minutes quicker over the distance than last year but the alternative route we took at the end was far, far harder. We dropped into the campsite shop and refuelled and after 10 minutes I started to feel a little better. Tim had faired really well but admitted he had found sections very tough and was shattered. Another great running experience, but for now I think I’ll return to some shorter distances no doubt before misplacing my marbles again and tackling another ludicrous distance.

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.

Taking The Time Out To Realize My Running Improvements When Things Aren’t So Good

Working Hard Since The Summer

After my trip to Scotland back in June i made the decision to enter an ultra event. I had a couple of 10k events in the summer and settled on doing the Stort 30 ultra at the end of October. From June onwards I started working hard on improving my mileage following a Hal Higdon marathon plan. It seemed to be ok at the time and I adapted it a little to fit work and family events along the way. In hindsight it wasn’t quite as good as I hoped for and that along with running in fairly new shoes turned the 30 miles in to a real hard slog.

The Mileage

I had been putting in 3 to 4 runs of between 5 and 8 miles during the week and then going for a long run on Sunday continually trying to increase over time. Starting out at 12 miles and then progressing toward 20 miles. I hit a 20 mile road run in August of 2 hours 48 minutes so was pleased with the progress at that point. I then reduced the Sunday miles slightly and began a build up back toward 20 miles for the ultra. 2 weeks before the ultra I hit another 20 miler out on the course in a time of 3 hours 28 minutes, which was to be expected being off road so I was still happy with that time. The ultra didn’t turn out as well as i had planned and afterwards adapted my running plan to include some treadmill speed sessions a couple of times a week and doing some longer miles more often. This was panning out well and after 3 weeks I was starting to see the speed out on the road improve. The long miles were also back at 20 miles and I was hoping to start increasing those runs toward marathon distance.

Illness Strikes

Then out of the blue I have been hit with flu. Without warning, went to bed feeling fine and woke up feeling as if I had been trampled on by an elephant! I’ve spent the last 10 days feeling pretty rough with all the usual sneezing, nose blowing, headache, sore throat and chesty cough. Not being able to get out and run and sitting around dosing up on Lemsips I feel as if all the hard work is leaching away and every day that passes is ending back to square 1 with all the hard work to be done all over again!

Mental Self Doubt

Anyone that knows me knows i’m not one for self pity. It serves an individual no good and is a dreadful mental state to be in. A self pitier makes excuses for themselves why things aren’t going well in their life and then expects everyone else to run around rectifying things and picking up the pieces!! No! Not for me.  BUT. I have been thinking about all the hard work that seems to be slipping away. I planned to nurse myself through Christmas and pick again in the New Year. Get back to my new plan that was starting to work and build it up again. Also thinking as to why when things are going so well there always seems to be a spanner lurking around the corner waiting to jump into the works. Starting to feel a little better, although still with blocked sinuses and a chesty cough, I thought I would turn out for the first cross country of the season. I was just planning on having a steady run around, getting some fresh air and hoping it would help me to feel a bit better. I ran the 4.96 miles in 40 minutes 18 seconds. 5 minutes and 40 seconds faster than last year! 

Learning To Worry Less And Hold Onto Positivity

So proof if it were needed that I needn’t have worried so much and been down about being knocked back by illness. If the hard work is put in in times of wellness it will be well retained in times of illness. As a runner I think I am used to being of a mindset that I need to be in a state of continual forward progress. Anything less and it feels like the wheels are falling off the wagon. My physical ability will slowly but surely continue to incrementally improve but I need to relax a little more when things don’t appear to be happening in times of illness and also injury. I may read some books on positive thinking during times of doubt or hardship. The physical side of running is good the mental side needs improvement.

For all those that are good enough to follow and read my blog this maybe my last post this side of Christmas. So just incase I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Have a great time with your families and friends and to some great running adventures in 2014.

 

 

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Salomon Crossmax Guidance

20131011_103321   I am a moderate to severe overpronator so when looking for a trail shoe I had it in mind to look for a shoe that offered support. It isn’t that common to find a trail shoe with support as most people will tell you because trails are so uneven and the foot is always moving about there isn’t much point in having the support. I would rather have the support and run blister and injury free. My UK men’s size 9 weighed in at 380 grams which is quite heavy for a shoe but it is worth it for the protection they offer and is hardly noticeable running on trails. If I was running on roads for any distance greater than about 3 miles then I am sure they would slow you down and become uncomfortable. I have quite a wide foot and buy an E width when buying road shoes. These weren’t tight or uncomfortable so i would say they are either a D or possibly an E width although this wasn’t stated when purchased. Salomon describe the elements that make the Crossmax as follows: Stretch Air Mesh Lace Pocket Protective Toe Cap SensiFit QuickLace Friction Free Lace Eyelet SensiFlex Textile Non Marking Contagrip OS Tendon Contagrip HA Contagrip LT Molded EVA Dual Density EVA Light Weight Muscle Compressed EVA Transition Link Carriage Construction EVA Shaped Footbed Ortholite Out of the box the shoe was a good red and black design. To the feel it was very solid a really stiff when trying to flex. My initial worry from this was they were going to be real bricks on the feet and take some getting used to. Trying them on they were amazingly comfortable with the Ortholite providing a snug and comfy fit. Walking around in them they did feel a little stiff with the main amount of flex being in the toe box area. They certainly held the foot very firm and gave the feeling of protectiveness and support that is required from a trail shoe. Taking them out onto my local trails they were great to run in and the stiffness wasn’t even noticed. The Contagrip outsole was superb in the mud and prevented the slipping that road shoes usually had. The lugs are a combination of rubbers to suit differing surfaces so they handle every thing from tarmac to gravel and sloppy mud. Having run on the road in them i wouldn’t want to do very much at a time as the minimal sole cushioning means you really feel the foot strikes. My road sections when on a trail haven’t been more than 3 miles at a time and that is about as much as I would want to do as  could see lower leg or shin trouble coming on doing long distances on the road. The quick lace system is good but I found I was over tightening them to start with and had to find a balance between tight enough to stop any heel slip but not too tight to cause discomfort. It may be my foot shape but the top eyelet on the inside was rubbing my foot and making it sore. This may toughen up in time and is something I will keep an eye on or I will have to resort to plasters in that area when I run. When my feet got wet the Crossmax drained really quickly, was comfortable to continue running in and seemed to dry a little from the heat off my feet. The toe cap was also great offering protection from scuffing tree roots and clipping the odd stone. I used the Crossmax to run my first ultra the Stort 30 organised by http://www.challenge-running.co.uk/stort30/. They were fantastic through the entire 30 miles, I had no blisters at the end and only a couple of hot spots. Although I had wet feet they drained really quickly which helped reduce the likelihood of blisters. I will being using these shoes all through the winter on trails and hope to run more ultras in them in the future. Apart from the issue with the eyelet, which may only be personal to me,I had no problem with them at all and would recommend these shoes to anyone.Salomon do these shoes in a standard non guidance form so you do need to check when shopping that it is or isn’t the guidance version.