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….

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The Punishment And The Prize

After the improvement at St Peter’s Way it was back to training out on the local roads, trails and gym sessions. The gym sessions have moved away from the heavier weight sessions as I felt they were slowing me down a bit. I have moved to a lighter cardio based session switching between bodyweight and light weights. A general session will be as follows.

Treadmill – up to 5k at 16kmph

press ups – as many as possible,usually around 70 to 80…still can’t hit the 100!

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v sit ups – as many as possible

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chin ups – 10

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bodyweight Squats – 25 to 50, depending how achy I am

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pull ups – 8…one of my weaker moves

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pistol squats – 10 each leg

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straight arm plank alternating raising each opposing arm and leg

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lunges – 20

Treadmill – up to 5k at 16kmph

This round will usually take about 55 minutes, it’s working pretty well. My next bit of running was a bit of fun and charity raising doing the Vertical Rush for Shelter the homeless charity running up Tower 42 central London. WHAT. A. KILLER!!! That was one of the hardest bits of all out cardio I’ve done! I heaved myself up the 932 stairs and 600 feet in 7m 40s and finished 257 of 1099 entrants. By comparison my friend I went down with managed 6m 16s and finished 47th overall…what a result!

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 The next race booked was one of the Enigma Week At The Knees marathons on Wednesday 15th March at Willen Lake, Milton Keynes. I knew Steve Edwards was running and chasing a record of 700 marathons at sub 3h 30m. I have been trying to break 3h 30m with my PB standing at 3h 34m. After setting out from home early the day was starting to warm up already. After finding my way to the event and the registration and talking to a few people I introduced myself to Steve and told him of my plan to use him as a pacer for the day. We were soon ushered to the start were a few words were said and an award given to Tiago Dionisio who was running his 500th marathon, then David ‘Foxy’ Bayley set us on our way! I set out at the front with Steve and another runner as planned. Willen Lake is a lapped course and after the first lap I was a little concerned that the pace was a bit high running 7m 30s a mile. sub 3.30 only needed an average 7.55 per mile. By time the second lap came around even Steve dropped back a little and I mentioned to the other runner with me we needed to ease up a bit. By the fourth lap in hindsight I should of picked up my drink and didn’t..even Steve pulled me up and asked if I was going to drink. By mile 16 his words and the early fast pace came back to haunt me. I began to cramp badly, my legs began to lock up. I’ve fucked it for today!  It was all I could do to walk, let it pass, carry on for a bit, lock up again…so on. From being at the front I began to drift back with Steve eventually lapping me and finishing in 4th place in 3h 58m…what an embarrassing disaster. Steve had completed his 773rd marathon, Tiago in 2nd on his 500th and Frenchman Denys Baudry had something like 408 marathons to his name…me on measly number 18 inclusive of ultras..I didn’t feel quite so bad. Punished for not doing enough threshold long runs.

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Back to the drawing board and continued with the training. Next up was Canalathon 100k organised by cannonball events. My goal this year is to complete GUCR after failing at the 133 mile point last year so Canalathon was not just about finishing but time on the feet and kit testing. In a useful way I would be running this race tired too. I managed to get about 4 hours sleep and was up at 2.30am to drive up to the start at Sowerby Bridge West Yorkshire. The race started at 7am and headed along the Rochdale canal into the edge of Manchester and then turned back to Sowerby Bridge. The first 10 miles was gradually up hill passing loads of lock systems before gradually dropping down towards Manchester then a return of 20 miles gradually up before the final 10 down to Sowerby. I ran with a group early on which held a good pace and helped time pass. we slowly filtered apart and getting on towards the turn the legs were hurting so I made full use of the aid station filling up as much as I could manage. I headed on the return not feeling great but it happens often in long races and you learn to work through it as it invariably passes. about 35 in and I freshened enough to get a move on again…40 miles and back to a struggle. I had in mind the last 10 was down hill so forged on towards the 50 mark and the final aid station, again filling up for the final push. I used every bit of downward slope to gain momentum and kept myself going..I was picking a few people off. I love this part of a race when people begin to tire, it fires me up to push on really hard, see if I can pass them and turn it into what it’s supposed to be. A race. demoralise their efforts as I run on strong and cheekily egg them on to see what they have left ‘come on mate, stick with me!’ A couple of younger fellas were having a good day of it..I hadn’t once see them walk, just a steady well paced plod. After initially passing them, around mile 57 or 58 they caught me up and put me on the spot! The legs were protesting but I pushed and stayed with them..on..and on. Come on. Don’t let these youngsters do you! closer and closer. How far lads? ‘about a mile’…hold on to them, hold on to them. The finish line beyond the final bridge…half mile tops. Come on then lads lets see what you’ve got left. Giving it the 5k parkrun effort I left them behind. Not a great time by any means finishing in 12h 25m but a good distance on a route and surface very similar to GUCR. A real fun event and well organised, I’d certainly go back and do more of their events.

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After recovering from Canalathon I was feeling really strong, injury free and felt I may be getting back to some reasonable form. The next race up was Ranscombe Spring Challenge, an 8 hour enduro event. I’m not the fastest of long distance runners, I don’t claim to be, my Strava is open for anyone to see. Looking at previous Ranscombe results there only seemed to be around a half dozen that went for an ultra distance..I thought I’d have a good chance of finishing in a decent position if I could hold it together on the day. I know Naomi Newton Fisher having been in a few races together and asked for a bit of info as to how hilly it was. Another early start and a cold foggy morning lay ahead as I made my way to Kent. I found it fairly easily and got kitted up and made some conversation..little did I know what lay ahead!! The start soon was upon us and off we went on the first lap. The course curved around and onto a downhill section, so far so good. It then began to rise up across a field, slightly down again then a long rise that went some way, across an open meadow, turn right through a gate, across a ploughed field then onto a hill within a wooded area…shit!! this was a steep kick..slightly down again then even steeper still! eventually up on to a track way turning right and thankfully a long downhill section that slowly dropped down and about 1.8 miles back running parallel to a railway line through some woods and back to the start finish. After the second lap the first half of each lap was mainly uphill and the steeper arts of that were killing me. From the 3rd lap on I had to walk the steeper sections. Fill up at the aid station, out for another lap, fill up, another lap, fill up, another lap. Most people enter these events to rack up another marathon and drop once they reach that target..leaving the foolish amongst us to forge on to what ever ultra distance we can manage. The 7th and ultimately marathon lap came around. A large amount of people were beginning to drop as they completed their target. I didn’t know at the time but there were 17 of us eventually moving on to an ultra distance. This is my second enduro event and you easily lose who is on what lap, distance and how long they’ve taken. The more I pushed on the more I felt I could finish top ten. The rules are that the 7th hour is the cut off for completing another lap, arrive 6h 59m.head on for another lap..arrive at or just after 7 hours it’s race over! I began calculating how much more I could cram in. If I pushed had on these next few laps it would by me enough time I may just push myself up into a top 5 place. I arrived back on my 10th lap in 6h 45m. ‘Are you doing any more?’…’As long as there’s time I’ll keep moving’..out for the 11th and final lap..i arrived back in 7h 33m having completed 41.1 miles. Traviss came over with my finishers medal, ‘well done’ ‘I’m pleased to tell you you’re today’s winner!’. WHAT! My first out right win since being at school! I want this win to show people that tenacity and determination can count for a lot. I didn’t win because I was particularly fast but because I kept forging on as long as there was time on the clock. And on that day it was enough by 1 lap, 3.7 miles.

What a boost for the confidence and self esteem. Still cracking on injury free, strong and coming back into some form. Another race was needed. The only options I could fit in around work and pre GUCR were marathons. The next available option was Barrow Good Friday, Chocathon Easter Sunday or Boston, Lincs Bank Holiday Monday. Chocathon had sold out, Barrow or Boston. Steve Edwards had told me he was going to be at Boston..let’s see if i’m any closer to that 3.30. Another early drive and 1h 30m later I was up in Boston, Lincs ready for another race. I knew a few friends and online acquaintances were going to be there and kept an eye out for those I knew. I saw Richard Hayes who’s fairly easy to spot with his mohican, introduced myself and had a chat. I saw Steve Edwards again and had said I’d get a copy of his book. Typical! No book as he’d sold out. I also managed to catch up with my friend Gin Lawson from Sudbury Joggers, Alison Davidson and Colin Johnstone who introduced me to Haroon Mota. After chatting in the market square I made my way towards the front of the marathoners ready to see if my form was truly building and that 3.30 marathon was any closer. Boston, Lincs is flat as a pancake with Garmin ultimately telling there was 0ft elevation. A good course for PB hunters. The course heads out around fields and along the edge of the marsh land so can be empty of support. I was ticking of a perfect pace, 7.42, 7.55, 7.41, 7.54..right on target. On my previous PB i had stopped 3 times at aid stations and clocked 3h 34m. In hindsight if I hadn’t stopped that may have been the 33.30 there. Today I wasn’t stopping. Through the aid stations, grab a bottle, Freddo frog chocolate and some Tailwind. Through half way in 1h 43m..still on target. The day was warm and I was glad I went with my club vest to run in. Through mile 20 in 2h 39m, the pace had slipped a little now an average of 7m 57s. Still inside a 3h 30m marathon and well inside my PB of 3h 34m. This was looking to be a good day! 21, 22..I didn’t feel great at all!! I started getting awful stomach pains. I tried not to stop, I kept moving forward but I was slow holding my stomach with one arm and trying to keep momentum with the other. Maybe I had drunk too much water and was a bit bloated, I don’t really know but it wasn’t comfortable and I couldn’t run properly. My pace was dying. The 3.30 was slipping away rapidly. 9.22, 9.23, 9.52. Mile 24, it had eased off the 3.30 was dead in the water, I was now clinging onto the slim hope of a slight PB improvement. 8.08, 8.06..i’d picked up the final couple of the miles…too little too late! 3h 35m 42s, a minute slower than my PB. It was a disappointment that yet again a 3.30 was there but circumstance cruelly saw to my time being eroded away. I came away happy with that effort, It was a good effort, an on form effort and realistic of my current ability.

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Now sitting here I am 4 weeks away from GUCR, 145 miles from Birmingham to London. That nagging demon that has been hanging over my head for the last year. As mentioned earlier although capable of holding a fair pace I rely on tenacity, determination, sheer bloody mindedness. It’s a discipline where being a stubborn bastard can count for a great deal. I really don’t have a care for smashing myself to bits. On GUCR I was still positive in mind to the end, it was just a matter of the body had stopped responding to what I wanted it to do! I learned a lot about myself, how I may tackle this differently. For one I will have my friend, motivator and experienced ultra runner Mike Abel crewing for me. He has full permission to give me as much abuse and arse kicking as is necessary. I have had some great help and advice from some very experienced and knowledgeable people in the ultra running community. I thank them. They will be in my thoughts. I will not let any of them down. Least of all myself.

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.

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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

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.

 

 

 

2015-10-25 14.41.41

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