Going Big In 2016

Well, it’s been a while since posting a blog update again! But not without good reason. Heading towards the end of 2015 I had managed to get on top of injury problems in my left leg and only a matter of weeks after posting my last update in October 2015 I was struck down with an extremely bad chest infection that saw me sidelined from running for 7 weeks, having time off work and prescribed antibiotics as a precaution. The good side of that is my legs had a good rest. I had already made an application to the Grand Union Canal Race and was ill while waiting for the ballot result. I was fortunate (depending on your outlook!) to get drawn and will now be 1 of 150 people lining up to cover 145 miles on foot.

gucrmap (2) The slight panic was until I recovered from the chest infection I wasn’t able to train. Just before Christmas it had faded enough that I went out for some easy efforts, the worst had gone but my breathing was still difficult. In the New Year I was starting to feel stronger and the running was going well. I started to attend parkruns most Saturday mornings, they are a free, timed 5k run that take place nationwide in the UK and I use them as my speed session for the week. Especially as heading towards another ultra most runs are quite long and I try and make my standard run 10 miles.

As a build up for the GUCR I have entered some other races. The Cambridge Boundary Run  takes place on the 6th March and is a mixed surface marathon in the City of Cambridge. some eagle eyed blog readers may have noticed that this is only 1 week before my Bath half marathon run on the 13th March. I am not planning on running the Boundary race at a fast pace, it is purely a training run, miles in the legs and time on my feet in preparation for the GUCR. The Bath half a week later is a fast course and it would be nice if I could push my current PB from 1h 32m 27s down to the 1h 30m mark. I’m not currently sure if I can do it as i’ve not been doing much speed training but the time of 1h 30m would make being placed nearer the front of future races far more likely.

After the Bath half I may do the Oakley 20 race but have not yet signed up. This is a good last long run to have before some of the UK’s best spring marathons including London, Manchester and Brighton that I am running on 17th April. A good resource for UK marathons is Marathon Runners Diary especially useful if you’re after a 100 Marathon Club membership! My current marathon PB is at 3h 59m, my half marathon as stated above is 1h 32m and my 10k is 41m 11s. Using these times and a few different race calculators available on the web my marathon prediction time is coming out between 3h 12m and 3h 15m. I have no idea how I could bridge that gap, I will be aiming for a PB at Brighton but but I will be happy with an improvement of between 5 and 10 minutes let alone 40 minutes!

Brighton may be my last race before the GUCR. The GUCR takes place on the late May Bank Holiday weekend 28th May so there is a possible gap to enter a 40 or 50 mile race just as a little warm up and kit test for the GUCR but it depends if there is a race available that coincides with my time off from work. If I don’t do a race I will have a long day out on my own. I also plan on having a couple of day trips to Wolverton on the edge of Milton Keynes and having some runs along the route. Apart from the fact Wolverton has a train station right on the river and I am able to get there and back quite easily, it will also be a section of the run that will be dark on race weekend.

On the whole things are moving along nicely, the last club cross country of the season is taking place this Sunday 28th February and I continue to get along to club evenings when time off from work allows.

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.

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 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.

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 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

Still Making Progress With The Running

By the end of March I’d managed to shake off the injury I had been carrying for almost a year. The running was beginning to improve again, the distances getting longer and the pace slowly improving. One thing I have started doing the last few weeks is actually attending Park Runs. I registered about 2 years ago but had never been until 4 weeks ago! They are clearly a great training aid for a bit of speed because I ran a new PB of 20m 51s a couple of weeks back.

Out of nowhere the other week I pulled/tore a muscle along the front of my shin which made walking painful. I have no idea how it happened or why. went to bed fine and woke up in pain. So that put an end to running the Ashdon 10k. It healed up pretty quickly and I was back to the running with no problems a week later running the Birchanger 10k. That was a really tough run! some large hills on a 2 lap course meant my time on the face of it was quite slow at 46m 13s. but a flatter course would easily take 3 or 4 minutes off that time. That means my target of a sub 40 minute 10k is still some way off.

A bit of a last minute impulsive entry I have entered the Flitch Way Marathon. As it is local and I’m looking to increase my training mileage I’m just treating it as a training run. I am quite likely to enter the 12hr Enduro at Wimbledon in 4 weeks so this will be the start of the increase in distance that I need.

Here’s hoping I can now stay injury free!

Paris Marathon 12th April 2015

I headed toward the Paris marathon with some trepidation. Having had a lingering injury for some months I took November and December off to recover. I started back running on January 8th and the left leg was feeling far better and started right back at the beginning running just a few easy miles and building up slowly. The trouble was I was 2 months behind most other people training for a spring marathon. All I could do was not panic about the situation but continue to slowly build the miles up week by week. In the weeks building up to the marathon I managed a 17.5 which was extremely difficult, a 20 miler which went really well and a 16.5 again where I struggled. I could do no more other than give what I had on the day.

We departed for Paris on Friday 10th April so we had good time to explore Paris before the race. Leaving on the 13.31 from London we were in Paris at 16.50 and headed across town on the metro to the Arc De Triomphe which was a short way from our hotel, literally 3 minutes from the start and finish area (http://www.elysee-etoile-paris-hotel.com/) That Friday evening we headed for a walk about to get our bearings heading around the Arc De Triomphe along some side streets and down to the river with the Eiffel Tower standing on the opposite bank.

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We then headed under the Eiffel Tower and along the park to a restaurant we had booked before leaving home.

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A fantastic seafood restaurant http://www.vin-et-maree.com/ which we can both highly recommend. The staff were very polite, friendly and understanding of our poor French! I was hoping to have a couple of early nights before the race which was looking to be impossible eventually getting to bed around midnight.

On Saturday we made use of our Carnet of metro tickets to venture around town. First off on the Saturday I had to make my way to Port De Versailles and collect my race number and goodie bag. while there I bought some electrolyte powders to carry with me during the race in an attempt to stave off cramp. After finishing we headed across town on the metro again to Notre Dame.

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We looked around the Cathedral and the area shops and headed along to Pont de L’archdeveche and placed our own lock upon the bridge.

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After having some lunch we were running out of time. Three lads (Tim Mcmahon, David Johnson and Chris Bushell) from the my running club, Saffron Striders, were coming over on the Saturday and we had a restaurant booked for that evening so we had time to either go to Musee D’Orsay or head up the Eiffel Tower. before when visiting Paris we have been to the Louvre and the top half of the Eiffel Tower was in fog! We decided to head over to the Eiffel Tower. Saturdays weather was overcast and a bit breezy and by time we got to the top it was blowing a gale and had started to rain a little, but we still had great views across the city and could see the entire course laid out before us. We had run out of time so headed back towards the hotel and met up with the others and soon after went out for our meal and had a reasonably early night.

The morning of the Paris marathon had arrived. I had started to feel the nerves, the weather was warm already and the forecast was for a warm day of around 18c. I had a continental breakfast of coffee, croissant with jam and orange juice. We then headed out and had a photo close to our hotel.

 

close to our hotel
close to our hotel

We were staying very close to the start and finish area so only had a couple of minutes walk. After talking about plans to meet up after the race we made our way down to our starting area. Having a current PB of 3h 59m for the marathon I was hoping I could improve a little and opted for the 3h 45m Violet start pen.

Top of the Champs Elysee near the Start
Top of the Champs Elysee near the Start

The start pens started at 08.45am and headed out in 15 minute blocks, ours leaving at 09.15am.

The Violet start pen
The Violet start pen

After a while of stretching and jogging around the cramped area we were moved down toward the start line and eventually away! I started out comfortably and always take the first 2 to 3 miles to get into a steady pace. The Champs Elysee is cobbled and didn’t know how much of the course was going to be like this. The weather was getting really warm and it was only around 09.45am, it was going to be hotter than forecast. I didn’t really take a great deal of notice of landmarks at the start, I do remember passing the Grand Palace and then Place De La Bastille. My pace was right on where I wanted to be to better my PB and was well on a 3h 45m marathon. As I started to warm up I knew I had to slow my pace a little I had my head down and was working away and before I knew it we were looping around the park at Bois De Vincennes. I was now down to 8m 30s per mile which was still on for bettering my PB. Next I was just looking for Notre Dame I knew this was well passed half way, cobbled sections kept appearing here and there and was uncomfortable on my lower legs. Around the Notre Dame area the roads dip down and go into subterranean tunnels which you then have to work up hill to get out of, these really affected my ankle that  have had problems with and around mile 16/17 I felt my left Achilles ping and really began to burn and sting. There was no way I was going to drop out unless I was in danger of missing my train home. I took some Ibruprofen to help with the pain. I had been taking my electrolyte powders and so far had no issue with cramp at all. I was now passing the Eiffel Tower and had around 8 miles to go my pace had now begun to dip significantly and I was barely on for knocking a few minutes of my PB, as long as cramp didn’t hit I thought I may scrape a 3h 57m time.

There is another park, Bois De Boulogne which you pass through before heading to the finish. I had just about entered the park after mile 20 and I felt my thighs tighten and the beginning signs of cramp coming on. I knew then that it was going to be a tough 6 miles back to the finish. There had only been water on the course and  I could have done with some energy drink as well. I had to walk I knew if I cramped fully I would be stopped for minutes trying to stretch and  relax so it was better to walk and let the legs relax a little. I can’t remember where it was but there was 1 Isostar stand with energy drink so I had 2 cups which helped and picked me up so I could jog along again. The heat had been burning on my back for over 13 miles and I was starting to feel sick, I had been drinking plenty and wetting my head so although it was bit of a late thought I turned my cap around to protect my neck. I was so close now and counting down the kilometeres…38…39…40. I knew my PB had well and truly slipped away but I was running the last mile of the Paris marathon, in pain, but with fantastic weather and great crowds. With a last surge I passed as many people as I could manage without cramping up and finished. Initially I made it about 4h 25m, 26 minutes outside my PB.

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All things considered it was a great experience, I was disappointed that I didn’t do better but I was at least 4 weeks behind on training and I’m not really good at running in hot conditions so that was more than a fair time on the day.

It started so well!
It started so well!

Now I know what to expect, how to travel around and have a good hotel to use I would think about signing up for next year. I have nothing else booked at all for this year so I’ll have a couple of days to get passed the worst of the soreness and pick the running up again later this week.

Au Revoir for now.

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!!

 

24 Hour Treadmill Run For Children In Need

After coming out of the Saffron Trail I was happy with the fact I had managed to cover 70 miles in pretty good shape and felt OK at the end of it all. Having done a few ultra events I was thinking about the 24 hour type events that usually run in a loop of a few miles with a rest area where you can rest, eat and drink as you please during the 24 hours and the total distance accomplished determines the winner. There wasn’t anything that fitted within my work diary so thought of another way I could do a 24 hour run..the dreadmill!! Looking through my work diary a gap that looked OK was also coinciding with the UK charity night of BBC Children In Need. So I had a space in the diary, a plan of what I wanted to do now I just needed to get a local gym onboard.

I approached 3 local gyms, Lord Butler, Just Gym and Wilburs all based in my local town of Saffron Walden. There was quite a delay in hearing back from them so started to ask around for help. I had a couple of offers via the running club to use a home treadmill, I also contacted Ernie Jewson at www.wombatfitness.co.uk down in Chalkwell, Southend to see if he would be willing to help. Fortunately himself and Debbie were willing to help so I told them I wouldkeep them as a back up if things fell flat locally. I heard back from Lord Butler first and explained what I wanted to do and they set in motion some staff meetings to discuss my proposal. Just Gym within days also contacted me, I told them as Lord Butler had stepped in first I was giving them first refusal. Wilburs to this day have never replied to my email. Beckie Reynolds at Lord Butlers was really enthusiastic and hopeful it could go ahead, just one issue, they needed 2 members of staff to stay overnight. Over the course of a few weeks asking staff and meetings 2 members of staff, Alex and Holly volunteered. 24 hours on a treadmill was all set to go ahead so I set up a just giving page and started to contact local media.

The local area papers put small articles in, regional BBC Look East said they would be interested in either putting some pictures on TV or visiting with cameras if they had a gap in their busy schedule as well as tweeting various organisations and people about the event. My training had been leading me toward the Stort 30 in October so I only had a few short runs in the couple of weeks between the 2 events. I wasn’t too concerned with distance just the amount of time and throwing myself into another unknown. Staring at a wall for 24 hours, how hard would the treadmill be on my legs and tiredness. With events like this you can’t dwell on the unknowns too much you just need to be open minded and deal with any issues as they arise.

treadmill

I started on Thursday 13th November at 20.30pm and planned to continue through to Friday 14th November 20.30pm finishing while Children In Need was on air. I had Electrolyte tablets which I have now found invaluable, Crisps, cupcakes, jelly babies and fruit smoothies to get me through. I was planning on going at a very slow pace with no idea how long I would go until needing to walk or take a break. I set out at 5mph, the gym was busy and I had 1 1/2 hours until closing time. Things were going fine, slowly people finished and left until eventually it was just me. The TV’s and music were left on so I had something to occupy my mind, everything was going fine. After around 4 hours I had to ask Alex to turn the music off as it was on a loop and was driving me mad!! My head was already telling me it was bedtime..I had 20 hours to go, so I started on the first of many coffees. every 45 minutes or so Alex or Holly would check if I needed anything and topped up my water bottle for me. Early hours of the morning I was dead tired already I was snacking regularly trying to keep salts and blood sugar up but I was still drowsy. Then around 05.30am after 9 hours of jogging…BANG..I hit “the wall” just out of nowhere my energy went off a cliff edge and I had nothing. It was about an hour until opening time so was a good point to take a toilet break and top up on food and drink. The next 3 hours were really tough trying to recoup some energy and get back into a jog again. Once the gym had filled up and more people were chatting to me about what I was in the midst of doing I began to feel better and managed a very slow plod of just over 4mph. During the night at 00.30am I had had Will Leonard from my running club drop in with snacks and some encouraging chat to keep me going, when the gym reopened in the morning more friends form the club dropped in to offer their encouragement and bought a top up off snacks for me. They are fantastic friends who I am eternally grateful to. I also had a light massage from my physio in the morning to loosen my legs up,

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Getting on towards midday my feet were killing me and becoming really painful and I was having to start taking more regular breaks. It was really frustrating as my thighs and calves felt fine and my energy was far better with the activity around me and my brain back on daytime mode…but I just couldn’t run as it was far too painful. Heading into early afternoon the pain in my right foot was extremely sharp and my energy had faded again. I was falling asleep on my feet at regular intervals and I still had some 6 hours to go. It was no longer about trying to attain a large ego massaging distance but grinding out the last few hours and not quitting before the full 24 hours were up. I was now down to grinding away at a literally painful 2 mph. minute by minute, hour by hour all I could do was keep pacing away and taking the occasional toilet break. With 22 hours done I was well and truly done for, I had nothing. I had to employ a 15 minute on 15 minute off strategy to see myself through the last bit. I got myself to 62 miles 1600 yards, gave myself a rest and spent the last couple of minutes doing the last 100 yards to rond it up to 63 miles completed in 24 hours.

The challenge was easily the hardest thing I have ever done and far harder than the Saffron Trail from back in the Summer. The firmness and unchanging nature of the treadmill had destroyed my feet, the monotony was also crucifying. I certainly won’t shy away from future ultra events but I will NEVER do such a stupid challenge on a treadmill again and would actually advise anyone not to do more than 10k on a treadmill.

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The following day I couldn’t initially bear weight on my right foot and had to take painkillers to get myself moving. As well as being bruised it was sharply painful and knew it wasn’t good. I booked myself off work and headed to A and E. After hours of waiting I was told I had a stress fracture of the Cuboid bone, they were really good at the hospital and I was provided with a plastic boot which would enable me to keep more mobile than plaster would thus losing less strength in my leg. I have to keep as long as the pain is too much to walk on. Once I feel I am comfortable to walk in regular shoes I can ditch the boot so although the full healing will be a few weeks I am hoping to get rid of it after this week.

Treadmills are bad for your feet, no more!!

Stort 30 Ultra 2014

Since the Saffron Trail in July running has been a struggle both physically and mentally. I came out of the Saffron Trail with an ankle injury which still hasn’t completely gone even now. After the Saffron Trail I had 10 days or so out to rest then tried to get back running but was held back on any double digit sessions because of the ankle. I then had the Essex Way Relay with the club to aim for. Being despondent with my efforts I didn’t even write a blog post about that run. I did a 10.5 mile section which was about 1 hour 40 minutes effort, 25 minutes off good form. It was a great race and enjoyable and hope the club can get a team together for next year. It was just hard running on an injured ankle. So, my next booked race was the Stort 30. Last year I ran in new footwear, got cramp and suffered in the return 15 miles finishing in 6 hours 5 seconds. This years attempt was to better that time and avoid the cramp. Having switched my footwear to the Brooks ASR 10 shoe, I have had no problems and think they are a great trail shoe.

Stort30route

My long term problem has been getting proper long runs in, the 15 or 20 mile runs. My longest heading towards the Stort 30 was 14 most others being 6 or 8. I have had a couple of sports massages in the past 3 months which doesn’t seem to have done much to help the ankle heal. All I could do was take the run step by step. The day couldn’t have been any better and was a huge improvement on last years gale force conditions. It was mild and dry so I ran in shorts and t-shirt, none of the leggings and rain jacket of last year. I also ditched the race vest and went with a light weight Nike waist belt that has 2 small 300ml bottles and a pouch that I filled with Jelly Babies. Having done some other ultras there were a few people that I have met before there. Nicki Edwards, Colin Harper and his partner Sharon, Paola Peroni, Gin Craig and her friend Lisa.

Stort30Start

 We have had some rain lately so I was expecting the first 5 miles to be very muddy but it ended up being pretty good. I settled into a comfortable pace making sure I didn’t use too much effort, didn’t chase anyone and let those that passed me go. At the first 5 mile checkpoint I carried straight on to save some time and purely to make use of what I was carrying.

CP1

After the 5 mile Sawbridgeworth checkpoint the path returns to a gravel or stony surface. The route as well as following the river towpath is also mirrored by the Cambridge to London rail route. The stations run from Bishops Stortford as Sawbridgeworth, Harlow Mill, Harlow Town and Roydon which along with the checkpoints helps to break down the whole route into smaller 2 to 3 mile sections. Harlow Mill soon came around only another 2 miles and I’d be at CP2. Everything was holding together and I was keeping a good pace around 7mph, 8 minutes 30 seconds per mile. As the narrow boats came and went passing longhorn highland cattle and even some pigs on a far bank Harlow Town checkpoint came into sight. A very quick stop for a drink and some banana and I headed on to Roydon station. No aches, no pains just steadily purring along. Too good to be true. 20 minutes later I arrived at Roydon only a couple more miles and I’d be at the half way turn around point. At Roydon there is a tarmac section, you then pass Roydon marina before crossing a weir and turning right onto the river Lee. Another half mile and I arrived at mile 15 checkpoint 3 in 2 hours 11 minutes! The lead runners had passed me at about 14 1/2 miles and were sailing along. I hoped the return 15 would be just as good.

 Mile 17 and I started to cramp. I just need to be straight up honest with myself, I was majorly under trained. The pace eased up and I had to adjust to make sure full on cramp didn’t lock my legs up. Mile 19 my ankle was killing me again, I was feeling sick as hell and my energy had vanished. I had bought some Ibruprofen with me for the ankle…and left them in my kit bag! Somewhere around mile 20 I had to stop, my mental strength was eluding me as well, I was trying to dig in but I couldn’t get my head straight. Then Colin whom I met at the Saffron Trail came along, I tagged with him and Sharon a short way and had to let them go as I could feel my legs seizing again. I had to break the small 3 mile sections into further small chunks of 1/2 mile blocks of running with a short break to let the legs relax. As I started to feel better and the pain eased off I could hold some kind of pace better and surprisingly mile 24 was my fastest at 7.27 for the mile. I couldn’t keep it up and the pace soon died again. Back at the Sawbridgeworth checkpoint again I was only 5 miles from the finish. There was no doubt I was going to better last years time it was just a case of by how much. Each 1/2 mile block came and went and approaching the last mile I walked a little as the last section is up hill to the finish area on the field were we had started. I was determined to run the hill and finish running. I plodded away up the hill with my thighs stabbing with each foot drop. Onto the field for 1 lap to the finish, my legs started to lock and other runners were hot on my heals. No way was I stopping now with 200 yards to go and I wasn’t going to be passed either.

Another ultra finished.

I timed it at 5 hours 30 minutes 38 seconds..30 minutes quicker than last year so a good result.

The simple lesson from this year is not to underestimate even short flat ultras with perfect weather. The ankle injury couldn’t be helped but if you don’t respect the training ultras will hurt you.I’ll be back for more next year.

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.

An Ultra Learning Curve

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

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

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

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

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

2014-07-14 23.41.08

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

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

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

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

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