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

Grand Union Canal Race 2016



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I had been looking in 2015 to step up to a 100 miler after previously having done the 70 mile Saffron Trail but was unable to find anything that fitted in with work. By coincidence I saw a tweet that said it was the last day for GUCR applications, quickly checked the diary and put in my application. This is a ballot race so I just had to sit back and await the draw. When the draw came around in December I had a chronic chest infection, had time off work, could barely function and then had an email to say I was successful on getting a place in GUCR! flat on my back and having been away from running for a number of weeks I was going to have a real task to get my fitness back.
I needed a plan.

In the new year I slowly got myself going again. I had some marathons lined up and would like to have done a 40 or 50 mile event but there was nothing that fitted with my time off. I ran Cambridge Boundary marathon, 3h 55m 51s, Brighton marathon, 3h 51m 27s and the Flitch Way marathon, 3h 51s 19s. I first met Lee Kelly at Cambridge boundary marathon and overheard him talking about GUCR and met Mike Abel at Flitch Way after recognising his name from the GUCR start list. apart from those runs I was doing regular weekly runs and had a long run out of 40 miles which went well. I was self sufficient over that run and covered it in 7 hours averaging 10m 30s miles which I was really pleased with.

So, time passes, the training has been done and the race looms on the horizon. The race pack had arrived in the post and some loose plans of timings and nutrition had been put in place. A small shopping list of items was drawn up,anti chafe cream, zinc oxide tape and sun-cream among other things. The week before the race and my wife and our family’s lives changed for the worse as my father in law passed away. Final race prep plans went out of the window as I went about consoling my wife and helping her and my mother in law where as much as I could. I have to give huge thanks and endless love to my wife for being so understanding about race weekend so close to her Dad’s passing.

I had booked myself a night at Jurys Inn literally 2 minutes from the start on Gas Street. I got a train from Audley End via Cambridge to Birmingham on the Friday 27th and was in town by 13.30pm, found the hotel and checked in. I then had a walk around to get my bearings.

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I made my way to registration, caught up with a few familiar faces and then went to dinner, later catching up with Mike Abel for a drink before bedtime.

Race day.

I hadn’t slept that well, more to do with an unnecessary worry that the alarm wouldn’t go off and i’d miss the start! I was up at 4am, for myself this was to make sure breakfast had plenty of time to go down before setting off. 3 sachets of porridge, banana and an energy drink and I was all set, I just needed to stop pacing up and down the room thinking about what may lay ahead. For during the run I had various foods with me. My drinks were made up of either Tailwind or Skratch Labs hydration powders, I had Soreen oat bars, crisps and a concoction of oats, rapeseed oil, waxy maize starch and electrolyte powder to see me through along with what was made available at checkpoints.

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I made my way down to the start, handed my bags in and said a few hellos. The weather forecast from the midlands down to London had looked good for the 2 days but the heavens had opened. That was the first initial pain to deal with as I had to make a choice to go with or without my jacket on. I chose to go with it which was probably wise as it kept me a touch warmer. 6am and we were seen away from the start, some 120 people had begun what was to be an epic journey, some multi time event runners and complete newbies like myself. The initial few miles were straight forward and I was running with or near to Mike Abel for quite a while. The pace was high but it was to be expected while fresh and trying to settle into a good rhythm. the path slowly wound it’s way out of Birmingham towards Bordesley, South Yardley and the first checkpoint at Catherine De Barnes. Being fresh and carrying enough drink and snacks to see me through to checkpoint 3 I didn’t really stop, just long enough to grab a couple of snacks and a drink and continued on my way. I was away from CP1 at about 07.45am (times will be approximate as I haven’t seen the check in, out sheets). Heading on to CP2 at Hatton locks I wasn’t feeling as comfortable as I hoped I would and stopped at the checkpoint for a breather. The weather was a little humid and now the sun was up it was going to be warm, I put the jacket away. Heading onto Warwick and Royal Leamington Spa I had settled into a far steadier pace, everything was feeling good, my nutrition choice and hydration was working out and I was making good time. It was early enough that I was mindful enough to look around and admire some of the great countryside we have, some truly beautiful views about. The brain isn’t to clear on the times but I still certainly had a good few hours in hand at CP3. My water and snacks had lasted me as expected, topped up, thank everyone for their help and continued on. I’m not exactly sure from memory but it was around this point I spent some time with Ian Shelley who was great company. I was now truly in ultra running territory heading on toward 40 miles. I had written notes from the maps supplied and so far everything was straight forward. I was moving on to Braunston and the first of the tunnel sections. I kept expecting the wheels to fall off and be hit with a huge struggle early on but fortunately things were working out…for now. After the tunnel section and heading on towards 50+ miles I saw someone in jeans running towards me…my mate Tony! He had driven from his home town in Haverhill, Suffolk all the way out to somewhere near Weedon just to see how I was getting on.2016-05-30 17.38.18

Things were still comfortable and there was a lot of cat and mouse running with other runners back and forward. My average speed was around 4.6mph still inside the 3.3mph average needed to complete the run. I headed on to Blisworth Tunnel. As a training run I had travelled to Wolverton a few days after Brighton marathon and ran from Wolverton, up and over Blisworth Tunnel and back so was familiar with the approaching ten miles.20160420_112219

The legs were starting to hurt now and the climb up from the towpath onto the main road was quite a long up hill section and walked to save energy. I was with a German runner, Tommo, we were matching each others pace.It was good to have someone to take the mind off the aches and also be able to encourage each other to keep the pace up. At checkpoint 4 I had got my headtorch ready as I didn’t expect to get to CP5 before it was dark.

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reaching Navigation Inn 70 miles, it was around 22.40pm, things were still going ok, there was time in hand and although my calves were tight I had no cramping issues. Also since the early days of my running, having gait analysis and changing my footwear I have been very fortunate not to get blisters when running even in marathons and previous ultras…so far so good. having had some soup, bread, coffee, cookies and sweets (it’s true what they say, we’re just an eating club with a running disorder) it was time to crack on. The second half awaited and I was heading into a running distance unknown, new territory. heading on passed Wolverton, Milton Keynes was the next point on the journey.20160420_140506

On the far side of Milton Keynes Tommo was still with me it was now early hours of the morning in a place I didn’t know and we heard shouting. Shouting and whistling got louder and looking back there were a few men shouting abuse and coming after us. Bloody good motivation to get a shift on I can tell you! Arriving at CP6 I saw Naomi Newton Fisher who I have seen at races before, not taking much note of where I was and my senses numbed by the cold night I asked if we were near Hemel Hempstead….wrong question! we were miles away. I put an extra layer on and layed into the food on offer. Naomi commented that I was still moving well, the feet were good having been up for over 24 hrs tiredness was the one thing starting to affect me and the self motivation was hard. Some time after leaving CP6 my feet started to hurt, I had strapped them from the start but my feet had got wet on an earlier section that was unavoidably wet and muddy and the slog through the night was now taking it’s toll. Things were kind of bearable but tiredness was making it difficult to stay motivated and the mental game of ultra running had really begun. How far could I push myself.

I had started my Garmin from around 50 mile mark to keep an eye on distance and average speed, it was reading 4.3mph still well above that minimum 3.3mph average needed to complete. That 100 mile barrier lay ahead. The pace had started to suffer as the feet were quite painful, I could feel I had blisters and they would need attention at the next checkpoint. At CP7 it must have been around 10am or 10.30am as I remember still having that couple of hours or so in hand and that chance was still there to finish. Tommo decided to leave the checkpoint before me with his German friend. I took the time out to put more strapping on my feet and to change my socks. Sausage roll and beans, 2 cups of tea and more biscuits andit was time to move on. The following 20 miles to CP8 was the worst part of the entire race for me. 20 miles on any given day would usually be done in around 3 hours, on Sunday it was about 8. I was so dead tired on my feet that occasionally at a lock with a good patch of grass i’d lay down and get a 10 minute snooze to try and freshen up. It did help but obviously cost me time. The weather had warmed up and it was a really nice day with plenty of people out and about on the canal with a few curious as to what we were up to. The sleep deprivation coupled with the blistered feet was taking it’s toll and it was sheer bloody mindedness, stubbornness and a refuse-al to quit keeping me moving along.  The more soul destroying part was how long the miles took to pass I was moving forward but felt as if I wasn’t getting anywhere. Pass Berkhampstead, Hemel Hempstead, Kings Langley, Rickmansworth, mile after tedious mile. That voice was there,”you could stop, have a hot shower, chill out with a curry and a beer”. I was tempted.

Every step was searing pain, the feet were blistered. I couldn’t see me getting to CP8. The close time for CP8 was 19.00. I kept clock watching and as long as I was inside the cut off time I would keep moving. I was having huge rollercoaster ups and downs of energy and emotion. One minute I was enthused to shuffle on other moments I could hardly move and considered quitting. I wasn’t concentrating on my notes properly and had to keep re-reading where I thought was and hoping every lock that came into view was the next checkpoint. But finally in the low evening sunlight I could see CP8 ahead, got there and struggled over the lock gate and crashed in a chair. 18.15. 45 minutes in hand. Not wanting to waste time I had some tea, scrambled egg and sausage and was on my way. 18.30. 30 minutes in hand. I left CP8 refreshed even if still in discomfort and got shuffling again within half hour I was feeling bad again. This really was it. At the next bridge 183 I was going to call in and quit. The next 45 minutes was a mental argument, “you’ve had a good crack, give it up”, “F**k that, get your arse in gear”, “you can’t do it, what’s the point?”, “have faith, you’ll freshen up, the legs will come back”. Agonising.

At bridge 183 there wasn’t an access road. Shit. The next bridge was about a mile further on. OK, walk to that bridge and quit. I carried on and just felt a rise in mood. I felt ok. Check the watch. If I could get to the checkpoint by 23.30 at the latest i’d give myself the slimmest of chances and hoped adrenaline and realisation I was almost there would carry me. I crossed bridge 188 and around mile 125 a fella on a barge asked what I was doing, I had it on the notes as being 4 miles to Bulls Bridge but he was trying to tell me it was 6. Fuck!! I hoped he was wrong otherwise I knew I wouldn’t make CP9. A huge panic and adrenaline rush and I belted off (my daughter had been tracking me and told me my pace shot up to 7mph)  I must of kept it up for a couple of miles tops. 22.50. About 3 miles to the checkpoint. OK, 1 hour 10 minutes to cut off, 3 miles to go, if I wanted to get there by 23.30 I had 40 minutes. OK, think again, 20 minute miles, get there at 23.50, in and out and see what I’ve got left. I got down to Bulls Bridge and I was absolutely dead on my feet. 23.25, the surge in pace had bought me the time but ruined my energy. It’s a bad place to be when you give your self a verbal talking to, you feel positive in your head but the body has completely stopped responding. 35 minutes to CP9, still time, just move, you’ll freshen up, the legs will come back and you can push on again. It wasn’t happening. Pigeon step after pigeon step, the feet were ruined and my head couldn’t deal with the pain. 23.50. I could see a high vis vest and torchlight ahead, I was now close to CP9, I still couldn’t move. No adrenaline, no surge of energy, virtually immobile. I was met by someone who’s name I didn’t catch through tiredness. CP9 23.57. 3 minutes to eat, drink and sort my feet out. I couldn’t do it. Timed out 00.00, CP9 133 miles. 12 miles from the finish. Just another 30 to 45 minutes and I would of continued, another hour and I may of finished inside the cut off time of 03.00am. My GUCR was over, I didn’t even have the energy to be emotional about it. I had taken myself to a distance I had never been to before, i’d had an amazing weekend amongst the greatest people and proven to myself I am capable of pushing through some severe endurance and worthy of standing on the start line of an ultra.2016-05-06 11.02.41

I was shuttled to the finish line to collect my bags, shared a cab with Mark Gibson who was dropped off at his hotel and made my way to Liverpool Street to get a night bus to Stansted Airport to then get a cab home. I had an hour to kill so went to the 24 hour cafe to re fuel.20160530_015834

I had to smile to myself when crossing the road to get the bus. The lights changed, I shuffled on my way over. The lights were fitted with a count down timer, 6, 5…I was barely half way across the road before the lights changed again! beaten by a cut off time twice in one night! feet

A bit of recovery time and i’ll be looking at races again.There is the possibility of a race on July 2nd but it will dependant on the feet. Thanks must go out to all of the volunteers, helpers, organisers, Keith, Dick and anyone else I crossed paths with whose name I don’t know.

And yes, I would love to have another go!

 

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.

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!

From Disaster to Triumph Over 70 Miles

Previous to this race I had only run one official ultra, the Stort 30 last October. I had been looking for another ultra to do and www.challenge-running.co.uk who run the Stort 30 also have the Saffron Trail ultra. Saffron Walden is my local town 4 miles from where I live, the ultra has the final checkpoint in my village and being born in the county of Essex it looked like it was meant for me to do. After completing the London Marathon in April I began trying to increase my runs again visiting Scotland for a 35 mile run. I also made a point of getting out on the course to help cut down on navigation time and had a 30 mile and 35 mile run on a couple of different sections. Knowing that certain sections are really wet and muddy I was hoping the weather would stay dry for a few weeks and dry the course out. This is the UK! no such luck, for the 3 weeks leading up to the start it had been raining. So from then on my hope was it would at least be dry for the run and make things reasonably comfortable.

Saturday July 12th 2014…Saffron Trail Ultra day. I had all my gear packed making sure I had all the compulsory kit plus anything else I thought I would need.

Waterproof Jacket (not just wind proof), My Berghaus Gore Tex jacket

Spare baselayer top and bottoms

Good quality headtorch with spare batteries, LED Lensor H7R.2

Working mobile phone (fully charged and on so we can call you if there are any changes or emergencies)

The capacity to carry 1lt of fluids either in bottles or a bladder.

Full size space blanket (not cut down), I took an emergency bivi bag

Hat or buff.

I also took a battery pack to keep my phone charged up, gels, cake, gloves, my own race notes (not used in the end) and electrolyte tablets.

I left home at 13.43, an hour into London, 10 minutes wait for my connection and then another hour out of London to Southend. The weather forecast was looking pretty bad with a storm moving in around 16.00, passing through, followed by another around 2am. I arrived in Southend at 16.00 and the weather was dry and very humid, no storm as forecast and took a slow walk toward the start area and was there for 16.15…no one in sight. The registration didn’t open until 17.00 so obviously I was a bit early and Lindley the race director hadn’t arrived yet. 16.45. 17.00, 17.10…something’s wrong! 2 other runners had turned up. I tried Lindley’s phone, no answer. A few minutes later one of the other fellas got through to him…the registration had been set up a couple of hundred yards back along the road. Panic over we made our way there, had all of my kit checked, registered and collected my number. I then just took time to chill out and keep calm and got talking to another runner. before long we were given the race briefing mainly safety, responsibility for litter, sensibility and looking out for other runners etc. 18.00, the magic moment, everyone was away! I took off really slowly as I set my GPS and Nike+.

My plan had been to make good time over the first 3 legs which was 28.2 miles, effectively get time in the bank for when I tired later on and helping to keep a reasonable average overall. I was pleased with the opening effort with my pace fluctuating between 8.0 minute miles and 9 minute miles. The county would be described by most as undulating, the hills maybe small but pretty damn steep! With the weather so warm and humid I was sweating heavily, I made sure I drank regularly and ate my cake. I had pretty much memorised the course and had no need to refer to my notes, little more than 2 miles in at Raleigh Castle Thunder was raging over the Thames Estuary, the storm was on it’s way in. I arrived at the first checkpoint in Hockley around 19.45, 45 minutes ahead of my set schedule. The next leg was a shorter 6.6 miles a quite straight forward heading North onto the banks of the river Crouch and then following it West to the village of Battlesbridge. I was taking 1 Torq gel per leg to help with electrolytes and energy. When I got onto the river for the first time I started to feel tired, still sweating in the humid air and moving at a reasonable pace maybe I was setting out too fast. I pushed onwards, the rain had started and lightening was streaking all around, It was a picturesque sight along the river. I wasn’t feeling good, another runner caught up with me and told me that the checkpoint was only a couple of miles away, he left me behind. I eventually came out onto the main road that follows into Battlesbridge and the checkpoint. I felt ill. I had some drink and something to eat, I couldn’t hold it down. Only 17.7 miles in and things were going downhill quickly, I couldn’t understand why! Was it the heat, humidity, not eating enough or the gels. I had some soup some more drink, topped up my drink bladder and added electrolyte tabs. Another group of people had caught up with me, Debbie, Graham and an American in the country on business who thought he’d give it a shot, Tre. While I tried to get my head straight they refuelled and I set out with them.

The next leg was 10.7 miles from Battlesbridge to Danbury slowly heading North through the county. I felt a little better and matched the pace of the group, it was comfortable if slow around 12 minute miles. It was good and I needed the time to recuperate. As we headed out across fields, railway tracks, through woods and along roads I was feeling comfortable again. I took another gel. About 3 miles in nearing East Hanningfield I started being sick again. The others moved off ahead, I tried to move after them, sick again. This continued for a few miles, I felt like I had been clobbered with a hangover from hell, I had around 50 miles to go…I was going to quit. I pushed on again and caught up with the group and helped navigate our way, I didn’t let on I was thinking of giving up. It was dark now as well and 2 thoughts from other experienced ultra runners were going through my head, never quit on a low point because invariably if you take your time you will start to feel better and never quit in the dark because the dark makes things seem gloomier and worse than they are. I would decide at CP3.

grave1

grave2

 Before entering East Hanningfield village you pass through an abandoned graveyard, the church burned down in 1883. Debbie had arranged for her husband to meet us prior to reaching the official checkpoint to fuel up. He met us in Danbury only a couple of miles short of the checkpoint, I can’t thank him enough for his help. He gave me some eno salts, vegetarian sausages, cheesy biscuits and fruit pastilles. It really picked me up and made me feel better. We headed on to CP3, there were a couple of runners there and I overheard one of them dropping out, I filled by water, took on more food and filled my pockets. I wasn’t going to quit, I felt better. The next leg headed around the south side of the city of Chelmsford following the river Chelmer for the most part before turning North to Stacey’s Farm near Broomfield. We crossed over fields and could see the city lights, over a small bridge and onto the towpath passing under the A12. I now had a terrible backache and had to stop and take some Ibruprofen and adjust some kit, the rain was taking it’s toll on my gear. They all headed off. Got set and carried on, I couldn’t see them, no bother just stick to the river path and I should catch them. A little further I thought I could see head torches and knew they couldn’t be far. I just couldn’t seem to catch them, and headed on into Chelmsford. Passing through the city centre was a bit surreal with everyone spilling out of pubs and clubs drunk and drowned rat me running by. Heading along something didn’t seem right, I had taken a wrong turn, damn!! I hadn’t used my notes and realised I failed to take a left and was on the wrong stretch of rivers, I had turned along a subsidiary stretch. I turned around and made my way back onto the correct stretch, with my mistake they had to have a good 30 minutes up on me now, I was going to have along way to go on my own. nearing Stacey’s Farm I was met by Maxine one of the checkpoint helpers. There had been an altercation with a farmer and they had to move CP4. I filled up my water with her and changed my torch batteries and carried on to the checkpoint. I’ve never felt so hungry!! I had piles of cupcakes, chocolate cookies, sausages, sausage rolls, sweets, crisps and a couple of coffees! Food never felt so amazing! I probably waisted 15 minutes there and was told the other group were about 15 minutes in front at my arrival, so about 30 minutes by time I got going again.

 Leg 5 was up to a track named the Flitch Way which runs along the site of an old railway line near the village of Great Dunmow. I was having regular walking breaks by now and being sensible walking up hills to conserve energy. I found the section straight forward with no mistakes or dramas. There were a lot of overgrown areas so I was getting badly stung and scratched by brambles. I was wearing 1000 mile compression socks so it minimised the worst on my lower legs but my knees and lower thighs were getting a beating. After plenty of twists and turns, field crossings and roads I came up to the Flitch Way and made it along to CP5. The group were now 50 minutes ahead of me, I didn’t think I had much chance of catching them now. I was still inside the cut off time and was beginning to feel really good to the point I was doing far more running than walking. I didn’t stay long and cracked on, I was heading into home territory and feeling more confident. The following leg was going to be a tough one and headed to CP6 at Broxted. Coming up to a wooded area and farm building I could see runners, I caught up with them, they were feeling things and starting to find it hard going. They told me the group were only a short way ahead, I charged on. Rounding some trees The way ahead sloped up a slight hill across a field, I could see the group I had been with. It really boosted me to keep working and after 10 minutes or so I had caught them again. They were tiring as we headed into Little Easton, I was feeling strong again and decided to leave them. I had now passed 5 people. following the paths along I saw 2 runners way off course as I headed along the correct path I whistled to them, got their attention and waved the right way, they seemed to ignore me. I carried on, now I ‘d passed 7 people! A touch further along they made up the half mile and we discussed they way to go, I was happy with the direction we were going, they weren’t, again I left them. Following on to Tilty and through a field with Abbey ruins out across the fields I saw the same 2 runners heading towards me! They had taken some wrong turns ended up on the right track but in the wrong direction. Yet again I left them and pulled out another half mile lead. Making the CP6 2 other runners were only 100 yards ahead. Ernie was there again and I had another dose of eno salts, I was told they were tiring badly and slow so I grabbed a banana and carried on after them. within half a mile I had caught them, it was Colin I had been speaking with at the start plus one other. I told them I was on home ground and to follow me. Again I began to pull out a lead on them and began to play Psychological games with them. Every time they came into view I made sure I was running, as soon as I was out of sight I would take a walking break. I had about a 1 mile lead on them. At Henham they had obviously put a good effort in and I saw them about 1/2 mile behind. I started running again told hold the lead charged through a really muddy and slippery woods which I was hoping would slow them down some. Flew downhill on painful legs and had to walk uphill again. As soon as it levelled I started running again, downhill for about 1/2 mile and onto a road section. Some more woods and into Widdington, across the fields, along  some track way and into my home village of Newport. Along the High Street to the last CP7…65 miles done and 5 to go…I was going to make it come hell or high water. Took on more drink and grabbed a banana to take with me, I was feeling absolutely dead on my feet having now passed 9 people over the last 2 legs. I forged on having to walk large sections, there are some steep hills in the last 5 miles. I wanted to run into the finish as well not walk. Now filled with paranoia I kept checking over my shoulder expecting them to have caught me, it didn’t happen. I followed the road up to a cut through on fields, through parkland on the edge of town and was running again. I passed a couple out for a jog “You can go ahead of us you look faster”, “I don’t feel like it, i’ve run in from Southend 70 miles away” queue flabbergasted expressions. out of the park gate, along to the traffic lights, cross, 200 yards and into the finish at the town fire station. I had made it..all 70 miles under my own steam, from throwing my guts up and thinking of quitting to digging in, grinding out the pain, discomfort and making it. And not just making it either but finishing in 5th place which amazed me, I thought I would be middle of the pack at best.

2014-07-14 11.41.50

I am now recovering, my legs generally are no worse than doing a marathon but my thighs are red raw and bleeding which is the most painful thing to deal with at the moment. I have some more ultras planned and am supposed to be going to the south downs on Friday 18th July to run 35 miles, it may not happen. Thanks to Lindley at www.challenge-running.co.uk and everyone that I met along the way.