After the improvement at St Peter’s Way it was back to training out on the local roads, trails and gym sessions. The gym sessions have moved away from the heavier weight sessions as I felt they were slowing me down a bit. I have moved to a lighter cardio based session switching between bodyweight and light weights. A general session will be as follows.
Treadmill – up to 5k at 16kmph
press ups – as many as possible,usually around 70 to 80…still can’t hit the 100!
v sit ups – as many as possible
chin ups – 10
bodyweight Squats – 25 to 50, depending how achy I am
pull ups – 8…one of my weaker moves
pistol squats – 10 each leg
straight arm plank alternating raising each opposing arm and leg
lunges – 20
Treadmill – up to 5k at 16kmph
This round will usually take about 55 minutes, it’s working pretty well. My next bit of running was a bit of fun and charity raising doing the Vertical Rush for Shelter the homeless charity running up Tower 42 central London. WHAT. A. KILLER!!! That was one of the hardest bits of all out cardio I’ve done! I heaved myself up the 932 stairs and 600 feet in 7m 40s and finished 257 of 1099 entrants. By comparison my friend I went down with managed 6m 16s and finished 47th overall…what a result!
The next race booked was one of the Enigma Week At The Knees marathons on Wednesday 15th March at Willen Lake, Milton Keynes. I knew Steve Edwards was running and chasing a record of 700 marathons at sub 3h 30m. I have been trying to break 3h 30m with my PB standing at 3h 34m. After setting out from home early the day was starting to warm up already. After finding my way to the event and the registration and talking to a few people I introduced myself to Steve and told him of my plan to use him as a pacer for the day. We were soon ushered to the start were a few words were said and an award given to Tiago Dionisio who was running his 500th marathon, then David ‘Foxy’ Bayley set us on our way! I set out at the front with Steve and another runner as planned. Willen Lake is a lapped course and after the first lap I was a little concerned that the pace was a bit high running 7m 30s a mile. sub 3.30 only needed an average 7.55 per mile. By time the second lap came around even Steve dropped back a little and I mentioned to the other runner with me we needed to ease up a bit. By the fourth lap in hindsight I should of picked up my drink and didn’t..even Steve pulled me up and asked if I was going to drink. By mile 16 his words and the early fast pace came back to haunt me. I began to cramp badly, my legs began to lock up. I’ve fucked it for today! It was all I could do to walk, let it pass, carry on for a bit, lock up again…so on. From being at the front I began to drift back with Steve eventually lapping me and finishing in 4th place in 3h 58m…what an embarrassing disaster. Steve had completed his 773rd marathon, Tiago in 2nd on his 500th and Frenchman Denys Baudry had something like 408 marathons to his name…me on measly number 18 inclusive of ultras..I didn’t feel quite so bad. Punished for not doing enough threshold long runs.
Back to the drawing board and continued with the training. Next up was Canalathon 100k organised by cannonball events. My goal this year is to complete GUCR after failing at the 133 mile point last year so Canalathon was not just about finishing but time on the feet and kit testing. In a useful way I would be running this race tired too. I managed to get about 4 hours sleep and was up at 2.30am to drive up to the start at Sowerby Bridge West Yorkshire. The race started at 7am and headed along the Rochdale canal into the edge of Manchester and then turned back to Sowerby Bridge. The first 10 miles was gradually up hill passing loads of lock systems before gradually dropping down towards Manchester then a return of 20 miles gradually up before the final 10 down to Sowerby. I ran with a group early on which held a good pace and helped time pass. we slowly filtered apart and getting on towards the turn the legs were hurting so I made full use of the aid station filling up as much as I could manage. I headed on the return not feeling great but it happens often in long races and you learn to work through it as it invariably passes. about 35 in and I freshened enough to get a move on again…40 miles and back to a struggle. I had in mind the last 10 was down hill so forged on towards the 50 mark and the final aid station, again filling up for the final push. I used every bit of downward slope to gain momentum and kept myself going..I was picking a few people off. I love this part of a race when people begin to tire, it fires me up to push on really hard, see if I can pass them and turn it into what it’s supposed to be. A race. demoralise their efforts as I run on strong and cheekily egg them on to see what they have left ‘come on mate, stick with me!’ A couple of younger fellas were having a good day of it..I hadn’t once see them walk, just a steady well paced plod. After initially passing them, around mile 57 or 58 they caught me up and put me on the spot! The legs were protesting but I pushed and stayed with them..on..and on. Come on. Don’t let these youngsters do you! closer and closer. How far lads? ‘about a mile’…hold on to them, hold on to them. The finish line beyond the final bridge…half mile tops. Come on then lads lets see what you’ve got left. Giving it the 5k parkrun effort I left them behind. Not a great time by any means finishing in 12h 25m but a good distance on a route and surface very similar to GUCR. A real fun event and well organised, I’d certainly go back and do more of their events.
After recovering from Canalathon I was feeling really strong, injury free and felt I may be getting back to some reasonable form. The next race up was Ranscombe Spring Challenge, an 8 hour enduro event. I’m not the fastest of long distance runners, I don’t claim to be, my Strava is open for anyone to see. Looking at previous Ranscombe results there only seemed to be around a half dozen that went for an ultra distance..I thought I’d have a good chance of finishing in a decent position if I could hold it together on the day. I know Naomi Newton Fisher having been in a few races together and asked for a bit of info as to how hilly it was. Another early start and a cold foggy morning lay ahead as I made my way to Kent. I found it fairly easily and got kitted up and made some conversation..little did I know what lay ahead!! The start soon was upon us and off we went on the first lap. The course curved around and onto a downhill section, so far so good. It then began to rise up across a field, slightly down again then a long rise that went some way, across an open meadow, turn right through a gate, across a ploughed field then onto a hill within a wooded area…shit!! this was a steep kick..slightly down again then even steeper still! eventually up on to a track way turning right and thankfully a long downhill section that slowly dropped down and about 1.8 miles back running parallel to a railway line through some woods and back to the start finish. After the second lap the first half of each lap was mainly uphill and the steeper arts of that were killing me. From the 3rd lap on I had to walk the steeper sections. Fill up at the aid station, out for another lap, fill up, another lap, fill up, another lap. Most people enter these events to rack up another marathon and drop once they reach that target..leaving the foolish amongst us to forge on to what ever ultra distance we can manage. The 7th and ultimately marathon lap came around. A large amount of people were beginning to drop as they completed their target. I didn’t know at the time but there were 17 of us eventually moving on to an ultra distance. This is my second enduro event and you easily lose who is on what lap, distance and how long they’ve taken. The more I pushed on the more I felt I could finish top ten. The rules are that the 7th hour is the cut off for completing another lap, arrive 6h 59m.head on for another lap..arrive at or just after 7 hours it’s race over! I began calculating how much more I could cram in. If I pushed had on these next few laps it would by me enough time I may just push myself up into a top 5 place. I arrived back on my 10th lap in 6h 45m. ‘Are you doing any more?’…’As long as there’s time I’ll keep moving’..out for the 11th and final lap..i arrived back in 7h 33m having completed 41.1 miles. Traviss came over with my finishers medal, ‘well done’ ‘I’m pleased to tell you you’re today’s winner!’. WHAT! My first out right win since being at school! I want this win to show people that tenacity and determination can count for a lot. I didn’t win because I was particularly fast but because I kept forging on as long as there was time on the clock. And on that day it was enough by 1 lap, 3.7 miles.
What a boost for the confidence and self esteem. Still cracking on injury free, strong and coming back into some form. Another race was needed. The only options I could fit in around work and pre GUCR were marathons. The next available option was Barrow Good Friday, Chocathon Easter Sunday or Boston, Lincs Bank Holiday Monday. Chocathon had sold out, Barrow or Boston. Steve Edwards had told me he was going to be at Boston..let’s see if i’m any closer to that 3.30. Another early drive and 1h 30m later I was up in Boston, Lincs ready for another race. I knew a few friends and online acquaintances were going to be there and kept an eye out for those I knew. I saw Richard Hayes who’s fairly easy to spot with his mohican, introduced myself and had a chat. I saw Steve Edwards again and had said I’d get a copy of his book. Typical! No book as he’d sold out. I also managed to catch up with my friend Gin Lawson from Sudbury Joggers, Alison Davidson and Colin Johnstone who introduced me to Haroon Mota. After chatting in the market square I made my way towards the front of the marathoners ready to see if my form was truly building and that 3.30 marathon was any closer. Boston, Lincs is flat as a pancake with Garmin ultimately telling there was 0ft elevation. A good course for PB hunters. The course heads out around fields and along the edge of the marsh land so can be empty of support. I was ticking of a perfect pace, 7.42, 7.55, 7.41, 7.54..right on target. On my previous PB i had stopped 3 times at aid stations and clocked 3h 34m. In hindsight if I hadn’t stopped that may have been the 33.30 there. Today I wasn’t stopping. Through the aid stations, grab a bottle, Freddo frog chocolate and some Tailwind. Through half way in 1h 43m..still on target. The day was warm and I was glad I went with my club vest to run in. Through mile 20 in 2h 39m, the pace had slipped a little now an average of 7m 57s. Still inside a 3h 30m marathon and well inside my PB of 3h 34m. This was looking to be a good day! 21, 22..I didn’t feel great at all!! I started getting awful stomach pains. I tried not to stop, I kept moving forward but I was slow holding my stomach with one arm and trying to keep momentum with the other. Maybe I had drunk too much water and was a bit bloated, I don’t really know but it wasn’t comfortable and I couldn’t run properly. My pace was dying. The 3.30 was slipping away rapidly. 9.22, 9.23, 9.52. Mile 24, it had eased off the 3.30 was dead in the water, I was now clinging onto the slim hope of a slight PB improvement. 8.08, 8.06..i’d picked up the final couple of the miles…too little too late! 3h 35m 42s, a minute slower than my PB. It was a disappointment that yet again a 3.30 was there but circumstance cruelly saw to my time being eroded away. I came away happy with that effort, It was a good effort, an on form effort and realistic of my current ability.
Now sitting here I am 4 weeks away from GUCR, 145 miles from Birmingham to London. That nagging demon that has been hanging over my head for the last year. As mentioned earlier although capable of holding a fair pace I rely on tenacity, determination, sheer bloody mindedness. It’s a discipline where being a stubborn bastard can count for a great deal. I really don’t have a care for smashing myself to bits. On GUCR I was still positive in mind to the end, it was just a matter of the body had stopped responding to what I wanted it to do! I learned a lot about myself, how I may tackle this differently. For one I will have my friend, motivator and experienced ultra runner Mike Abel crewing for me. He has full permission to give me as much abuse and arse kicking as is necessary. I have had some great help and advice from some very experienced and knowledgeable people in the ultra running community. I thank them. They will be in my thoughts. I will not let any of them down. Least of all myself.