Grand Union Canal Race 2016



20160527_161813

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.

20160527_161813

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.

20160528_054021

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.

20160420_094513

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.

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.

Image result for flitch way

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.

Image result for flitch way

 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.

Image result for rayne cafe

 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.

Image result for flitch way

 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.

Image result for flitch way

 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

Paris Marathon 12th April 2015

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

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

paris00

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

paris8

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

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

paris6

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

paris5

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

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

 

close to our hotel
close to our hotel

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

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

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

The Violet start pen
The Violet start pen

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

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

paris1

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

It started so well!
It started so well!

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

Au Revoir for now.

Schneider Paris Marathon

Soon be time for the Paris marathon, training has gone reasonably well and the worst of the injury I had has passed. A fuller blog post and report will done after the race. In the meantime I have the following I need tweeted on Twitter, thanks to anyone willing to help.

 

 

If you could include #BelievewithSE along with #Run42! and @Traindriverbaz. Every tweet equates to an amount of distance and the target is 42k. These three bits would equal 400 metres of distance so to reach 42k I would need around 105 tweets!!

 

24 Hour Treadmill Run For Children In Need

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

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

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

treadmill

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

baz

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

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

20141115_163151

20141115_171545

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

Treadmills are bad for your feet, no more!!

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.

Virgin Money London Marathon 2014

We had decided in the New Year that we would make a weekend of the London marathon and stay in a central hotel to make getting around easy. On Saturday morning we travelled into central London and headed for the Radisson Blu hotel in Leicester Square, arriving earlier than our check in we dropped off the bags and went for a walk. I took my wife and children just around the corner to Trafalgar Square and then along Whitehall where they would watch me on the Sunday, then we carried on to Big Ben and along the Embankment.

PicsArt_1397303180435

After getting our bearings on where to go we headed back to the hotel to check in and then had pre planned to go the cinema and out for dinner for the rest of the day. I stuck with a simple pasta dish for dinner and although tempted refrained from having a beer! After we went back to the hotel and had an early night as I had a 06.50am alarm call booked.

  I had all my kit pre layed out so there wasn’t any messing about in the morning or anything that would be forgotten. Down in the breakfast room I kept with my usual porridge with honey, a banana an orange juice and some water. I met a runner from Falkirk named Brian over breakfast and had a chat about running, our travel plans for the morning and other interests. I had decided to get on the 08.15am service from Charing Cross to Blackheath that would get me to Blackheath around 08.49am and with a 10 minute walk or so would have me in the start area for 09.00am..plenty of time. Except the queues for the toilets were huge and I seemed to pick the one line that wasn’t moving…20 minutes later and busting I got that job out of the way!

 I had arranged to meet my club mate who had travelled down by bus but once I turned my phone on and got messages coming through I was running out of time and unable to find him. checking the time it was now 09.50am and the marathon started at 10.00am so I hastily made my way to my starting pen and made sure I got right to the front. Looking around although I was in the right allocated pen the pacer in pen 8 was 4 hours 45 minute pacer, my club mate and running partner in pen 5 and the 3 hour 30 minute pacer I wanted to be with in pen 3. It didn’t feel right and I wondered why I was so far back. On speaking to those around me they all had targets of 5 hours or slower!! My previous marathon time was 6 hours 2 minutes so I feel they they thought I was over estimating my predicted time and put me at the back. I could be wrong but it is strange I was put so far back when most 4 hour runners were in pen 6.

 At least the chip time means my time started at the start line so the only thing that would hamper my time would be the thousands of slower people I would have to pass. Once the tape was broken and we could begin to move forward to the start line I was able to by pass a lot of people by keeping to the outside edge that was clear and passed a couple of thousand people by time I got to the start line but I had still only got up to pen 7 runners. I was now running in the VMLM 2014!! I was able to get into a reasonable pace and was actually happy to be kept slow at the start by other runners. Although I wanted to try and get up with Tim I didn’t want to break my neck in the first 3 miles. My pacing was bang on for 3 hour 30 minutes running at 8 minute miles and felt comfortable. Mile 3 soon came around and this is where all the runners converge together, some spots were narrow and created slight bottle necks which was awkward for trying to stay upright and not trip on either a runner, bottles or kerbs. The weather was warming up by now and I was hoping this wouldn’t continue as this would really knock the life out of me. My pace was still smooth and Cutty Sark at mile 6.5 soon came around.

2014-04-14 08.53.32

 The runners had started to thin a little but the occasional bottle necks meant they bunched up again now and then and I would suddenly find myself boxed in and being slowed down. My pace aim was to be passing over Tower Bridge around 1 hour 50 minutes. I eased on through mile 8 in 1.04.07, mile 10 in 1.20.30 and had Tower Bridge and mile 13 in my sights. One of our club runners was watching at around 14/15 miles so I knew once over the bridge I had to switch to the left hand side to stand a chance of seeing her. Passing over Tower Bridge the clock time read as 1 hour 50 minutes, bang on my predicted pace time!! mile 13 comes a short way over the bridge and my Nike+ time cam in at 1.44.57! Just inside a 3 hour 30 minute marathon which is the best I could have hoped for. Somewhere around 14.5 miles I saw Fiona from our club and stopped for a few seconds to say hello and ask if she had seen Tim, he had been and gone but was only a couple of minutes ahead, i’d continue to keep my eyes open for him.

 I was now heading into the Canary Wharf and Isle Of Dogs district. Being all concrete and glass it is a real sun trap and the heat was getting really bad heading up towards mile 16 the road starts to rise for a couple of miles as well. I started to feel it at mile 16. My pace was still perfect passing mile 16 in 2.09.10, still heading for 3.30! I was taking on a gel .5 miles previous to the lucozade sport stations situated every 5 miles and my energy level felt really good although my legs were stating to ache. With long distance running it is to be expected, I can handle aches and blisters, cramp is the dreaded foe simply because it’s debilitating. Mile 17, 18 and 19 came around with ease passing 19 miles in 2.35.06 still looking good. 22 miles is back at Tower Bridge this then heads along towards the Embankment so that point was my next target. Mile 20 the worst possible situation, cramp!! I had to take a few seconds to stretch as my left leg had locked up. I had been drinking and taking gels, my pace had been comfortable but the heat was quite bad and I was sweating profusely and I don’t think my body could keep the hydration up quick enough. Not surprisingly my pace started to suffer, being this close to home it was time to ignore the clock, dig in and do the absolute best possible. I relaxed back to give my muscles some recovery space and not push then so much, every mile marker I had to stop and stretch. The crowd at this point were out of this world screaming and cheering as if you were a front runner yourself, amazing! Every time I stopped for a stretch people would scream my name and cheer me on, telling me “not far”, “keep going Baz” and ” you’re nearly there”. Passing trough 22 miles I didn’t have a clue what my time was, I now know from Nike+ it was 3.05.35. I knew the next section to 25 miles was the Embankment and my wife and children were waiting just a little further along so this spurred me on to get to them and give them a hug for their support. Another mile anther stretch, another mile another stretch, I was hurting badly but I wanted a good time and definitely a sub 4 hours I knew I was more than capable of. Mile 25 3.37.10 my absolute best effort was slipping away, damn I hate cramp!! I rounded the corner by Big Ben and knew the family was on the left at the end of Whitehall…there they were!! I dashed over and had a hug and was a bit emotional, I tried not to stay for more than a few seconds. Less than a mile to go. Head up Birdcage Walk toward Buckingham Palace and then turn onto the final 385 yards of the Mall. I was hurting but I was running, cramp wasn’t going to stop me now, I had no strength to push or sprint for fear of cramping on the finish line. I did it!! I finished the London marathon and knew I had knocked a huge chunk of my previous time. I felt sick, I felt dizzy, I thought I was going to collapse. I took a moment by the side of the road, composed myself to collect my bag and almost keeled over again. I needed to get some food and drink pretty badly, I felt so ill.

2014-04-14 08.51.52

 After collecting my bag, goody bag and medal I stopped for my photo. I desperately needed to get back to my family and the hotel so I could start recovering. I tried to drink some more Lucozade but it made me feel sick again, as well as the heat and being dehydrated I think I may have over carbed and the sugar was making me feel sick. I found the family at the letter T meeting point and had a carton of coconut water I had pre planned to have. Miracle juice!! within minutes of having the drink and walking back towards the hotel I felt great again. Apart from some aching legs the sickness had passed, on getting back to my room the next thing was to jump in the bath…aaahhhh! bliss!

 I continued to eat and drink coconut  water through the afternoon and felt really good if not very tired. On starting to check the times and stats I could see from Nike+ I had actually run 26.99 miles! with all the weaving and crossing the road I had added .79 miles to the run..not good. For the first time on the train on the way home I got my time…3.59.29…Just scraping inside my sub 4 hour minimum target, anything faster would have been a bonus on a perfect day and with the heat and cramp that was an acceptable and credible time to me. Writing this the following day I have nothing more than sore thighs and can walk up and down the stairs easily! And am now looking for another marathon…possibly Amsterdam in October.

2014-04-14 09.19.21

VMLM 2014 Expo and Registration

A great start to the journey! The first train we boarded from home ended up being terminated so we had to make a change before finally heading to Stratford and then on to Custom House for the Excel marathon registration. The opening time was 10am so we had plenty of time departing home at 07.35am but I was expecting there to be large amounts of people and some queuing to do so I wanted to get there in good time. I took my 8 year old son along to experience the day and he was hoping to spot a celebrity or two! It was his first time on the DLR service which was an experience in itself for him, driverless trains weaving through the city buildings, great fun for him. Excel is dead easy to find, it is on the doorstep of Custom House station and you virtually walk straight into Excel once getting off the train.

20140411_131932

 We got to the queue about 09.50am..it opens at 10.00am and only had about 100 people ahead of us. Once the doors opened and people flooded in the numbers soon swelled and there were thousands of people streaming into the Excel. The first port of call was to loo for my relevant number station to pick up my race pack.

20140411_100256

Number 24813..went and collected my pack and listened to some instructions and then we could head on to the chip collection point.

20140411_100303

It didn’t take long to get the chip and then we headed on in to the expo. We tried to be methodical going up and down aisles but there was so much going on and so many people trying to get your attention and talk to you we had plenty of turns off our intended path. In all it didn’t really matter as we probably ended up doing about 4 loops of all the stalls anyway. Adidas had a huge wall that could be signed so my son and I wrote a few messages up on the wall for people.

20140411_101723 20140411_101905

One message was for all the Saffron Striders at the club and the other was for the people on http://www.therunningbug.co.uk . As i was raising money for Macmillan cancer we went over to their stall and had a chat they also had a wall which I signed against my pre printed slot on the wall.

20140411_112703

Being absolutely bombarded with all sorts of gadgets and gizmos to try out i was careful not to blow my money straight away. I had some purchases in mind but didn’t want to get caught by all sorts of things I hadn’t intended to. Having worn out socks i bought some new Balega socks which look and feel great but i’m not sure if to wear them for the marathon just yet. I had also wanted to buy some Brooks ASR shoes. Brooks had sent me a camera to document my runs in the build up to the marathon and in return for handing it in they were giving a £20 discount on shoes and a free bag of pasta. Typical! of all the possible shoe models they didn’t bring the ASR to the expo because it isn’t the most popular shoe. What to do..I was offered an alternative shoe but with no medial post…no thanks…what about if we email you a 20% discount code so you can still buy the shoes..yes please. And the bag of pasta? as we don’t have the shoes, no problem! Samples were available at the majority of gel and snack bar stalls and I think me and my son tried 75% of them, some far tastier than others. I ended up buying some powerbar gels and electrolyte tabs I haven’t tried before so we’ll see what they are like at some point. Fullers London Pride beer is one of the sponsors of the event so we stopped by to speak to them..and have some samples, “sorry son, dad only here”. Next on the list was Vita Coco coconut water stand where again my son was happy to dive in and try all the flavours available and settled on a purchase of mango and pineapple..good choice! I have had trouble with the soleus muscle on my left leg and have been having treatment for some time but one thing i wanted to try was Kinesiology tape. We found the KT tape stand and asked them some questions on what it was made from, how to apply it and why I shouldn’t go away and buy a cheaper brand. I had some applied to my problem area and was told it would be good to keep on for the marathon. I could feel the effect of it pulling and lifting the skin which is what is supposed to help alleviate pressure of any muscular pulls or strains. Feeling happy I bought a roll which I will use along side treatment.

 After about 3 hours of wading through charity leaflet handouts and international marathon invites we decided we had seen and purchased everything we wanted and had covered all the bases on who we wanted to see and speak to we decided to move on to the final section where we could buy some lunch and listen to various speakers. On our way I bumped into a friend and stopped and chatted about our preparations where he told me we had not long missed Wilson Kipsang…gutted, one person on my list I wanted to listen to. We moved on and bought noodles for lunch and sat down to an informative but less interesting talk on final instructions. Looking through the timetable we would have to wait a good three hours to listen to a celebrity speaker and closer 4 to hear Priscah Jeptoo..a bit too long to wait with a couple of hours travel home and trying to keep an 8 year old interested. Nevermind! we had a great time at Excel, the only problem is I am in the rear most pen 9..the 3.5 hour pacer is in pen 3. Being conservative with my application time of 4 hours has given me a little catching up to do..i’ll stick to my pace and i’m fairly sure I will catch up to them in the second half. That’s the plan anyway!