Running in Sept and Oct

Back in July I ran the KACR 145 and was doing quite well until, at mile 90 things went wrong and I pulled out of the race. following that I had a rest a made an effort to try and recover properly. I took all of August pretty easy and signed up to The Devil Run a 15k cross country around the Devil’s Punchbowl near Guildford. The rest had clearly helped as I finished 7th in a time of 1h 17m. Getting in some steady training runs I booked Abington 10k where I got my PB last year. A fairly flat and fast course again I thought i’d have a go at getting near the 41m 11s PB. A good effort but finished in 41m 54s so not quite there and not enough work on the shorter runs.

Then I had 3 weeks to get ready for a 1 week block of 3 marathons and a 30 mile ultra. I’ve not done a double weekend before and this was now going to be my first double double! I had Phoenix Running Back to the Future run on 21st October which was a 6 hour timed event. Myself and club friend Alan Jones ran 8 laps to make it a marathon and knowing we both had Chelmsford marathon the day after we took it fairly easy finishing in 4h 47m.

On the 22nd October I had Chelmsford marathon to run. I was a little sore but ok considering the marathon the day before. Last year when I ran Chelmsford I blew up pretty badly and finished in something lie 4h 26m so the aim was to at least better that. Storm Brian was blowing through and as well as being cold there was a terrible headwind for most of the course. I surprised myself catching up with the 3.45 pacer and decided to reign it in a bit. By mile 16 I wasn’t feeling great and by mile 19 stopped for a toilet break. After setting off again I felt awesome! nothing hurt and I picked up the pace where the last 7 miles were all sub 8 minute miles and finished in 3h 45m.

I took the following week off thinking the miles would not benefit me and I was only risking injury before another double weekend.

On October 28th it was time for Beachy Head marathon. Beachy Head has got a reputation as being scenic but extremely tough! I planned again to take this fairly easy wanting to run well at Stort 30. We were lucky with the weather and the views were utterly stunning!! I had an early start being up at 3am for the drive down to Eastbourne and after parking and a short wait registered and waited for friends to turn up. There ended being quite a few people. A group from Twitter JK, Clare, Darren, Michael, Sarah, Deborah, Mark, Chris and bumped into a number of other friends from other clubs and who I’ve seen at various races.

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The start was brutal having to walk up the steep hill straight away but it eased up enough eventually to get a jog going. The entire route being one extreme to the other of jogging downhill followed by pretty steep inclines. After a great day out this is a race I will definitely return to. Having taken it steady I finished in 5h 26m and only had to worry about the 3 hour drive home and wonder how sore I would be in the morning.

October 29th and it was Stort 30 day. The 4th time I have done this race improving every time I have run it. 2013 – 6h, 2014 – 5h 31m, 2016 – 4h 51m   I was hoping to improve again. The legs were really sore and I was stretching and light jogging trying to get them to ease up a bit. I thought If I ran a steady 8m 30s a mile I should be fairly comfortable and still PB. The first few miles are a bit muddy, stony and rutted in spots but I had settled into 7m 30s per mile..too fast. I kept trying to ease up but every time I checked the average pace was still 7m 30s per mile! I made it to half way in super quick time and was running 3h 15m marathon pace…it soon began to tell. At mile 19 I had my first twinge of cramp in my quads which the hills had destroyed the day before and all I could do was let it ease off before trying to get going again. Fighting on I didn’t want the PB to slip and it was a very up and down last 6 miles, cramp, walk, run etc. I had slipped from 12th down to where I thought I was somewhere between 40th and 50th. The end eventually came into sight and I finished in 4h 20m another 30 minute improvement and new PB and my finish position was 33rd, 6th in age category so no age prize this year. It was a very pleasing end to the race year. I’m now looking to get a coach and concentrate on improving my marathon time, initially sub 3h 30m target and then possibly pushing on to 3h 15m good for age

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Rebuilding The Runner

Nothing seemed to be working, physically or mentally. I was trying to mentally dig in and get a grip but there was no feelings of energy and the legs when heavy and tired when trying to run.

Only 2 weeks after the 145 mile Grand Union Canal Race and I had the Monster Ambit 24 hour. It was a mistake to turn up so soon after and I clearly hadn’t recovered. Only 5 laps in, about 34 miles and I was burnt out and at a standstill. I felt disappointed but it was clearly far too soon to be going in for a big event again. I needed to have some more time off.

Ahead in July I had the Kennett and Avon Canal Race, another 145 mile race this time from Bristol to London. I needed to give myself a chance to complete that race by backing off a little and recovering, small miles, long walks etc. I had 3 weeks of lower miles and some gym cross training and on 29th June took part in a club 5k league race clocking a time of 19m 46s. My fastest time this year and getting closer to my PB time of 19m 11s. The rest, cross training and eating well was beginning to have some effect. I was now 4 weeks away from KACR and needed to have a long run to get the ultra legs back and instil some confidence in myself so entered the Essex30, a 34 mile race on the Flitch Way Near Braintree.

 

I had the Stort 5 mile to run in Hatfield Forest on the 2nd July and my fast 5k gave me some confidence in doing well at that event. I run the forest parkrun most Saturday so know the course and conditions. On the day I set off hard treating it like a fast parkrun. The 5 and 10 mile race were both run at the same time so I didn’t have much idea who was in what race without trying to glance at people’s race numbers at opportune moments. I kept a high pace and felt I had a chance at a team prize and kept a club member in sight. Team prizes were given to the the fastest cumulative time of the first 3 from each club. While running I was trying to work out my position and thought I was the 5th person from our club. I finished in a time of 34m 10s, 10th overall and the found out that I was in fact the 4th placed club member…the 3rd man only being 30 seconds ahead of me!! doh! But another good result.

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The following weekend was the Felsted 10k, again hopes high but it was a really hot day. A huge field of 328 people had turned out for the run on the roads around the Essex village. I set of well again and managed to keep a reasonable pace with a chance of a PB if I could hold on. I couldn’t. The heat was too much and at mile 5 I cramped and had to slow the pace and finished in 44m 28s the PB still standing at 41m 11s.

Again, 1 week later it was time for the Essex 30. Really not sure how the legs and body would cope with the longer miles I made a decision to try and use gels for the first time in over two years thinking they may help. They didn’t. I took one around every 8 miles and after having the second gel actually binned the other 2 I was carrying. I was feeling really sick, spinning head and struggling just to keep a steady pace going. I went back on the real food and drank water and cola and finished the race in 5h 50m, my 50k time stands at 4h 43m by comparison. It was a good amount of time on my feet training so something positive to walk away with.

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Time to get ready for KACR.

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With the hotel booked and single ticket to Bristol purchased I took the remaining couple of weeks taking it easy feeling it was better to be recovered than try and hammer pointless miles into the legs. After the long journey to Bristol and registering for the race I caught up with friends and went and had some dinner and had the opportunity to meet some new faces too. One restless night and a 04.30am alarm and it was time to get the race going. Breakfast and a long walk to the start. Bags in the van, a talk from Dick Kearn and we were on our way. I was determined to run a good race at a better pace than Gran Union where I had to slog through with a sprained ankle. The pace was good, I felt ok and the miles were ticking by nicely. constantly keeping tabs on the pace and mindful of a few turns and crossings along the route. Slowly passing towns and villages, Keynsham, Kelston, Weston, Bath, Semington, Devizes. Through all of the checkpoints I kept the time to a minimum. Fill water, add Tailwind. Access bag, eat some food, snack food into ziplock bag, leave checkpoint. 5 minutes in the early stages. From previous races I have lost time at checkpoints. 15 minutes at 10 checkpoints, 2h 30m, that could be anywhere from 10 to 15 miles further along the race. Up and over the Caen Hill locks, a series of 29 locks rising 237 feet over 2 miles, a 1 in 44 gradient, not much but enough when you are 35 miles into a race. The pace was comfortable and I was feeling good eventually arriving into CP5 the mid way point at 19.28pm, 2h 15m ahead of GUCR and bang on my target to finish in around 36 to 37 hours. After leaving CP5 I had my first major dip and began to feel quite bad very quickly. I had to march fair way and settled on a walk 0.5 mile then run 0.5 mile to cling on to a reasonable pace. I arrived at CP6 feeling pretty ill and had developed bad kidney pain so decided to use my time to eat and drink well and gather my thoughts before heading onwards. After leaving the checkpoint now 86.5 miles into the race I was trying to cope and hoped things would improve, they didn’t, now feeling worse than ever at mile 90 I pulled over and gave myself a few minutes. I decide to walk off the canal route, now in Reading, was I truly ill or just making excuses in a tough race. With the kidney pain not subsiding I took the decision to withdraw from the race. Gutted but it it was the right thing to do. A later GP check up and the Dr was happy it was down to dehydration with blood tests being clear and only poor lung function being identified possibly due to an allergy.

After KACR it was recovery time again. Just a few easy weeks. Looking for some races to do and what time I had available I joined some runners from the ‘Wednesday Nights Headtorch Runs’ FB group for a run on Box Hill which was a good workout! Also I had a Sunday free which meant I was able to join Mark Thornberry for his Grand Union Canal Cancer Fighting Fun Run. Mark should have done GUCR145 back in May but was unable to due to being diagnosed with liver cancer. He has since been told it is terminal so decided to go ahead and do the 145 mile route anyway! What an awesome mindset!

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Various runners from across the nation joined Mark at varying locations and joined him on his epic journey. I joined near Northampton on day 2 and ran 40 miles to Tring. Mark is being treated by Kings College Hospital and is well on his way to raising 50k for them.

donations can be made here: Mark Thornberry

I have a string of marathons and a 30 miler booked for late October, 4 in one week and as ever looking out for something extra to stick in the diary.

Why?

Since GUCR last weekend i’m still getting asked the age old question by friends and work colleagues about my running and in particular, ultras. Why?. Why do you do it? Why put yourself through that? Why bother? Why not just put your feet up?

Those that know me well enough know I pulled on my running shoes again 5 years ago after three lifelong friends passed away in the space of 5 months. A hard, difficult and emotional time. Trying to make sense of life’s cruel ways. I dealt with it through running, running harder and faster the feelings of guilt and remorse replaced by exhaustion and burning lungs. It took many months to feel better but grief was replaced with an acute sense of life’s finite value. I don’t want to have regrets, wishing I had at least attempted various things. I’m not saying anyone should bankrupt themselves to achieve a life event, but, within your means, do as much as you are possibly able. Take that course you’ve wanted to do. Learn that language, trade, skill. Save for that dream holiday. Get in touch with that long lost friend or relative. Start painting or taking photos or walking…or even running. Whatever the thing is. Do it. Now. Today. Immediately. Don’t put it off. Wonder what an ultra is like? Sign up, train up and turn up. My three friends (Andy 34, Darren 36 and Charlie 42) never had their tomorrow to achieve their hopes and aspirations. You do! I do. So when I am in the midst of a tough ultra, hurting in a darkened corner of my mind I am grateful for those sensations and emotions because they are instantly reminding me I have the good fortune to be alive as they do not. And I get myself together and move onwards.

 

That is why.

Grand Union Canal Race 2017 – Part two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Grand Union Canal Race 2017 – Part One

I was struggling badly, such excruciating sleep deprivation. Something I need to learn how to cope with. I was on the approach to CP9 and the time was evaporating fast! I shuffled into the checkpoint at 23.58.41….the cut off was 00.00. My GUCR 2016 was over.

In the week following it was a given I was going to apply for the following year so I could rectify my mistakes and make it to the end. My friend and ultra runner who finished GUCR in 2016, Mike Abel, made a remark that he would crew me in 2017 if I got in. So when the entries opened I had the form filled in and sent back within about a minute! I hadn’t realised at the time but the first 15 applications were given automatic entry to the 3 race canalslam series. I had thought it was the first 15 drawn from the ballot so went along to the draw meeting Gin Lawson and Mark Haynes only then to be told by Keith about the automatic entry. Soon after I then contacted Mike to see if he was still willing to crew as he had said. Thankfully he said he’d change some of his plans and help me out. My cousin said he would drive for us so Mike could buddy run.

I continued through 2016 injury free and mainly running marathons, half marathons, club events and small ultras like the Stort 30. Heading into 2017 I wanted to up my training and races. In 2016 heading towards GUCR I had only done 2 half marathons, 1 marathon and a 40 mile training run…and made it to 133 miles. In 2017 I ran 4 ultras, 4 marathons, 2 x 10ks plus the training runs in between. I was happy for how most of them panned out and began to write up a pacing plan based on those race times. The aim became a 35 hour plan with the realistic view this could slip to 36 or 37 hours depending on weather, injury and tiredness.

As we got closer to GUCR coming around my cousin announced he’d booked a holiday over GUCR weekend..I was pissed off to say the least. There was nothing that could be done so started asking around for someone to step in. Mike said worst case scenario he would still drive so all was not completely lost but still a major spanner in the works. In the last couple of weeks before GUCR Ed Jones who was a finisher in 2016 said he could step in to buddy run from the Wolverton area and Adrian Eeles, an online Twitter acquaintance said he would be able to buddy run from the Hemel Hemstead area. A load of kit and food shopping and I was finally feeling ready.

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On the Friday I drove over to Mike’s to get him, checked we had everything and set off to Birmingham. The drive to his had been twice as long as it should have been due to an accident and the continuing journey to Birmingham was just as bad but we finally arrived, parked and checked in around 17.00pm meeting Nathan Taylor in the foyer. Then soon after down to registration where the weekend buzz begins to kick in, meeting friends, acquaintances and familiar faces exchanging stories, training progress and expectations for the weekend. Always a fun and exciting part of race is meeting like minded people that are on your wavelength and being able to glean information and tips from people is all part of the ultra running learning curve. I have massive respect and admiration for these people, some of whom I’m fortunate to be able to call friends. Theses are my people, sporting legends in the ultra community and unsung warriors that most people wouldn’t know. Off to O’neills pub for dinner and a few nerve calming drinks, more meet ups and chat with the likes of Michelle Payne, Colin Barnes and paul Ali before heading to bed for a 04.50am alarm.

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Race day. Breakfast eaten, kit on and a bit of limbering up and it was time to head down to the start. check in. A bit off chat and trying not to think about the monumental task that lay ahead of us all. The weather was looking to be hot and humid, nothing to be done but deal with it as best as possible. We made our way off of Gas Street onto the canal basin and after a few words form Dick Kearn we were off. I set off at a comfortable pace around 9 minute miles soon making sure I slowed a little to 9.30 a mile, CP1 lay 11 miles away.I was instantly feeling the humidity and the only way to really cope was to drink and douse my head and shoulders with water, a shower started in the early stages and helped cool the air but it was fairly short lived. I didn’t use the maps at all during the run and did as last year using a crib sheet with water points, checkpoints and any bridge crossings or junctions noted. I was planning on using every water point available, this didn’t happen overall as some of them were hard to spot or plain missed as I probably had my head down. Stopping at an early water/toilet point I saw Wendy Shaw and Jaime Russell who were both looking strong. I had been cat and mouse over the early miles with Cat Simpson who I think most people had as the favourite to be first female. At mile ten she suddenly took off and I never saw her again! I arrived a t CP1 at 7.44 am..bang on my plan to the minute. Trouble was I should have met Mike at a bridge by now and hadn’t seen him, after a quick call he arranged to meat me closer to Knowle locks. I topped up on some drink and some people, probably friends of other runners gave me a fun size milky way to see me along. I continued on eventually meeting up with Mike, topping up drink and collecting my pre packed bag of food which had grapes, biscuits and raisins and continued on. I was still keeping a 9.30 a mile, the sun was up and it was already getting hot. Thankfully everything else was good. I was in the rough area of other friends at this point, Paul Mason, ian Brazier and Paul Adams. I had been texting Mike on the approach to let him know what I was wanting and asked for an ice lolly..but he was a touch further along from the shop already. So I made my own pit stop in the shop..well worth it!! More drink, another bag of food this one containing a porridge mix with waxy maize starch and protein powder as well as the biscuits and other pieces, some more encouragement from Mike and I was on the way again. CP3 Birdingbury bridge is about a 14.5 mile section. I was really feeling the heat and burning up badly but I was mindful of last year and wanted to make good time to CP5 Navigation Inn hoping to arrive somewhere between 19.30 and 20.00. So I pushed onwards, eating, drinking and trying to stay relaxed. I had forgotten how stony and muddy a lot of the path was and made sure I was lifting my feet enough so I didn’t stub my foot and trip. I think it may have been this stretch that I saw Michelle Payne, she’d run into abridge and busted her nose badly. Her crew had cleaned her up but Michelle being as tough as she is was carrying on and soon went ahead of me. I arrived at CP3 just after midday, about an hour ahead of last years time. As expected at the 36 mile point the aches and pains had started but nothing that wasn’t bearable or manageable. On to CP4 at Weedon. Still back and forth with a number of runners apart from dying in the heat nothing that notable happened along this stretch and I arrived at CP4 somewhere around the 16.25 mark, slightly off my plan but 1 hour ahead of last year so I was still looking ok. Another top up of water and food and I was on my way again to CP5 Navigation Inn, the point that is just shy of the half way point so great incentive to get on and finally feel that you’re getting somewhere. the path was still rough in parts. Then somewhere around mile 56 /57 I turned my ankle quite sharply, gave it a moment and assessed it. It felt like i’d had a lucky escape and could run ok so carried. Within 2 miles I turned the same ankle sharply again! this time it was really painful and obvious i’d damaged it. I tried to run on but this time I couldn’t, every step was sharply painful so I walked for  a while wondering what was best to do. Again i tried to run and found if I stayed as flat footed as possible I could get some momentum going, any flexing of the foot just caused immense sharp pain. I put in a call to mike to let him know he needed to get out to me and strap the ankle and agreed he’d meet me at the parking point at the top of the slope leading off the canal path to get up and over Blisworth Tunnel. I started to lose time being down to around 14/15 minute miles and had some time out once meeting Mike to have the ankle strapped and taking some pain killers. I got on my way again following the road way that is undulating and heads up and over the tunnel, onto the track way and back down onto the towpath. the ankle was still fairly sore but began to ease a little as the painkillers did there job. I knew I wasn’t that far now from Navigation Inn and wanted to get there in daylight and although off my plan still be ahead of last year. As the canal wound it’s way I was waiting for the sight of the pub lights to come in to view..and eventually it was before me and ran into the checkpoint at 21.45. I was pretty disappointed as I was now 1 hour 45 minutes off my plan and only 40 minutes ahead of last years time at this point. If the second half went as badly as last year it could all be over again….

St Peter’s Way Ultra

Over Christmas I had given myself a couple of weeks off running. In part as a much needed rest for myself but also to give my long suffering wife and children some personal time over the festive period. I had signed up to the Flitch Way 100k  on 29th January 2017 and had to get back into the training post Christmas..and it wasn’t going well. Up until Christmas I had been following a high carb, low fat diet and had been in keto and running well. Christmas and all the lovely food that it brings had put an end to that and post Christmas I was struggling to get back into a routine and finding training very difficult. My longest run pre race ended up being 13 miles and this showed on race day. I managed to haul myself to 44 miles before my knees protested from the lack of training. Not too bad considering but still noted as a DNF. But it was a good kick to the training and helped get me going again.

Next up was the St Peter’s Way ultra, again one of Challenge Running’s races on February 26th 2017. The runs in the weeks leading up to it had been stronger and I was feeling much better and more confident. On race day I drove down to Ongar giving a lift to local runner Robin Challacombe and parked near the start which I know fairly well as it is also the same area that incorporates the Essex Way Relay which I have taken part in the past 2 years. The weather was a little on the cool side and damp. The race is listed as one of the muddiest race in the UK! so was expecting it to be quite bad on the field crossings involved. I had my kit check done and registered then sought out some friends and had a chat and catch up. Lindley then gave a briefing and soon after set us all on our way. I’m not great on races that rely on notes and navigation and was expecting to get lost at some point! As well as the maps and notes I had the route on my Garmin and in the early stages planned on following the masses hoping that, surely, the majority couldn’t all go wrong.

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The early miles were pretty good and straight forward with people moving in large groups with only a slight bit of weaving over fields and finding the way. As usual I was sweating fairly heavily but wasn’t too concerned, I was moving at a good pace early on around 8.45 per mile. I had set myself a time of 9 hours after the 100k effort and subsequent training, not knowing the route and also aware there were field crossings and hills involved. CP 1 same came around were I didn’t stop for long at all just topping up my water and continued on wards. I soon came across Nathan Taylor who I had met at the 100k and we ran together for some way. I know Nathan is a stronger runner than me so wasn’t sure how long I would try and keep to his pace. He has run St Peter’s a number of times so it was great just to follow him and not refer to the map or notes. We passed the A12 and then onwards passing a railway line. It was only a few days after storm Doris and along this section there were a number of huge trees down which meant a small bit of climbing over or ducking under. Shortly after I fell behind Nathan and made my biggest mistake of the run missing a turning he had taken which left me back tracking and trying to find the correct turn. A fair few people had managed to pass me at that point and I ran with or near to another set of runners passing alongside a golf course and narrowly being missed by a wayward shot through Stock and on towards Hanningfield.

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The route then leads on to the A130 and following this is a long incline which I had to take a walk on as it seemed to drag on for ages and got to my legs. Fortunately once it was over I was able to pick up the running again, I’m not sure in hindsight what my pace was at that point but I know it was good and better than I had been hoping for. It was now a matter of how long it would last! There were some reasonably rough field crossings but the weather had been kind to us and I managed to run across them. They certainly would have been far worse in a downpour. I had developed a bad backache mainly due to not running regularly with the waist belt I was using. Heading on to Maylandsea and beyond was a good section and the legs were working well and I was still! yes! still! holding a good pace. As I headed on to the final checkpoint the wind was really picking up, no rain fortunately but it was really strong. As the final checkpoint came into view I was feeling really confident and just wanted to forge on to the sea wall where I knew the end was near. On leaving CP4 I pushed on fairly strong and was determined not to let the few fellas behind me catch up and overtake. I kept looking back but had lost sight of them. I think it was just before Tillingham I noticed that someone different had also overtaken them but was making good ground on me!! I pushed on “when is that bloody sea wall going to appear!” I kept looking back and I could still see a fluorescent yellow t-shirt some way back, maybe half a mile. After passing though a small farm and over a couple more fields the bank of the sea wall was in sight. on top and looking out the chapel of St Peter was in view. The wind was howling and the strongest it had been now open to the sea. I got a bit carried away and belted along the wall. As the crow flies the chapel looks quite close, about 2.5 miles but the wall loops around and is closer 3 possibly 3.5 miles. I slowed a little and kept a strong pace…it just didn’t seem to get closer. Then it was standing before me..passing through a small copse and on through the finish line.

chapel

I finished in 7h 42m well inside my target of 9 hours. An average pace of 10.45 a mile which was 15 seconds per mile faster than my effort at the 100k so a good improvement. All of my races in the coming months are all training for the Grand Union Canal Race  which I failed to complete last year missing the cut off at CP9, 133 miles.

Thanks to Lindley and all of the volunteers who made it a great day, a great scenic and historic route. It’ll certainly be on my list for next year.

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Running – Past 5 Month Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Thanks, Baz