Monday, 21 December 2009

2009 review

With only a week and a bit left in 2009 (and no more running because of a reoccurring ankle strain) I thought it time to reflect on the year and look at some of the highlights.

Firstly my year in numbers...
Total miles run = 1,624
Number of runs = 181
Avg miles per run = 9
Avg weekly mileage = 31
Number of marathons = 7 (inc ultras)
Furthest run = 52.4 miles
Shortest run = less than a mile (following ankle strain from ACC!)

The year began in earnest as I was in full marathon training mode. In preparation for London I ran a number of half marathons including the Fleet half where I got a PB of 1:32 (which including an unscheduled toilet break due to a bad breakfast selection!). So training was going very well and I wanted to break 3:30. So well in fact that I upped my target time to 3:15 and in doing so completely blew it. Despite the disappointment at the time I still posted a PB of 3:42 (London Marathon race report here). Not wanted to waste all the fitness I had built up from 5 months of marathon training I found myself on the start line of my first ultra run just 3 weeks after London.

The Marlborough Downs Challenge was a 33 mile ultra, and my first steps into the unknown of ultra running... Could I cope with running even further than a marathon!? It was a great day and I loved it, and it sowed the seed for more challenges like this (Marlborough Downs Challenge race report here).

My next ultra was the 50 Mile Challenge in Kent. The exact distance was 52.4 miles (a double marathon). This was something a little different as the course was a 6.5 mile loop on trail, farm tracks and country lanes to be ran 8 times. This was the challenge of all challenges but I relished the prospect of pitting myself against such a course. I should of mentioned that it was around this time (I think before Marlborough actually) that I signed up to the Mad Dog running team. The Mad Dog is my personal online coach who provides training schedules, inspiration, advice and race day strategies. Since signing up with the mad dog he has provided much encouragement and definitely helped steer me successfully through my first ultra races. The race day strategy for the 50 mile challenge was spot one! 9 minutes of running followed by 1 minute of walking from start to end. It felt great and I finished that race on a real high! (50 Mile race report here).

It was actually just after London that I signed up to the next ultra race in the year – the Atlantic Coast Challenge – 3 marathons in 3 days along the North Cornwall coastal path (Marlborough and 50 mile Challenge was training for this one!) The thing I was quickly learning about ultras is that you always have to come back for more. The pain of the race soon dissipates and you are left with a feeling of real elation and a yearning for more. The ACC was surely the perfect answer to this! The ACC was truly epic , and it must surely stand out as the highlight of 2009! The scenery was simply stunning, and the terrain was not to be taken lightly. I paced the 3 days well and actually felt stronger each day finishing 6th on the final day, and 9th overall. Not bad for a novice. And such a different feeling to how I was feeling just months before in London. I had found something I really enjoyed far more than a road marathon. When you train for and run a marathon you become obsessed with time. It’s all that seems to matter. Ultras I’ve found are very different – it’s far more about the journey rather than an obsession with the end and getting there in a negative split! And the journey experienced in an ultra is one that is so such more varied with terrain that keeps you on your toes and scenery which keeps you mesmerised for miles. The ACC combined all these things and was truly stunning (ACC race reports here).

Injury followed the ACC with an ankle strain that put me out for over a month (and evidently still isn’t 100%). I need to learn from this that I can’t always run as far or fast as I would like when my body is saying no. Note to self: listen to body more in 2010. I said before that every ultra seems to be the best yet, and this was definitely true for the Muir Beach trail run in November set in the Marin Headlands behind San Francisco. Once again this race proved (as if proof was needed) just why I like running ultras so much. When you tell people about the distance you might cover in an ultra all they focus on is the very real number of miles you are running and ask why... but of course if running ultras was just about running mile after mile after mile I’m sure I like others would question the sanity of doing such a thing. But there is so much more to it than that... the escapism, the adventure, the thrill, the threat of not finishing, the camaraderie, the sights, the sounds,... just living life... (Muir Beach race report here).

And that’s where I think I will end my 2009 review.

So what does 2010 have in store for ultra disco stu... well there’s the small matter of the Devon 100 miler on 24th April, which should certainly keep me focused!! I’ve entered two ultra races in prep for this one. A 45miler in January along the grand union canal from Northampton to Tring, and a 12 hour race (Wiggle Lightening 12hr) which is around a 10km loop in a park in Herefordshire. Then later in the year there is the Wiggle Lightenings’ big brother – The 24hr Adidas Thunder Run in July (again around a 10km loop!) So that little lot should keep me busy and out of trouble.

Here’s to ultra running.... CHEERS!!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

bedford half marathon race report

a bit late coming but i ran the bedford half on Sunday. I didnt have an official place :-O but ran anyway. The reasoning for this was simple... I wasnt actively racing instead i took this opportunity to run with my dad and pace him. This worked out really well! it was great to run alongside my dad who only took up running when he was 50 and has run 6 marathons since! We started at a steady 9 minute mile but upped the pace quickly to a 8:45 and held this pace well for most of the race. But the best was still to come as we upped the pace further and my dad showed great determination to go faster in the final 3 miles. I also now know where i get my sprint finish from as dad blasted over the final 100m and across the finish line! A very solid run. Dad finished 45 secs faster than last year in 1h54m8secs. Nice one dad. A great training run for me too :-)

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

New 5 mile PB!


Today was the 26th running of the BRE 5 MILE anniversary run. And as the 25 or so starters lined up to run this circular route around bricket wood you could cut the tension with a knife! Ok well actually it wasnt quite like that. However my stomach always turns before this one. Without trying to sound bigheaded i was the supposed favourite having won it last year. However there were a few new faces so who knows! Anyway it was me against the watch. I set myself the goal of running a sub 30 minute 5 miler earlier in the year but since then my running has been more about building endurance not speed. In short i didnt feel i was getting faster. Anyway i set the early pace wanting to lose as many others as possible in the first mile so i could settle and run my own race. This worked and it was just me and one other colleague by a mile in (5:45 m/m). Dave stuck close to me over the next mile too and i began to think that i wouldn't be able to lose him. 3 miles in and i started to pull away and didnt want to lose the ground back so pushed on. It was at this point that i started paying more attention to the time again. Could i break 30 minutes!? My previous year time was 30:15 and i thought that at this pace i would get close. I felt in control despite the fact that i was clearly pushing as fast as i could. With a mile to go i knew barring a disaster that i had won but still wasnt sure if i would break 30. The final mile is a gradual uphill. Not what you want at this stage in the race. Despite this i pushed on through and coming ever closer saw that i could do it. I crossed the finish line in 29:37!! YES i had done it :-) retained the BRE Anniversary trophy for another year and got a bottle of pinot noir for my troubles. The wife will be happy!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

San-Fran-flippin-tastic!

Disco stu is back from his running tour of the west coast and by jeeves what a Tour!! The destination (to recap) was the Muir Beach 50km trail run in the Marin Headlands. Just a stones throw away from San Francisco.

Coach Ken and Disco Stu at the start of Muir Beach

From the moment my plane approached San Francisco airport and I could see the Marin headlands looming large in the background I instantly knew this would be something special. The course promised over 7,000 ft of elevation gain, which is not something you find on the grand union canal. To be honest I had no real concept what this type of elevation gain meant in reality, but I would soon find out!!

The day before the race one would normally rest and stay off your feet so as to conserve maximum energy for what was to come, but I was in San Francisco and wasn't going to waste a second resting. To lighten the load I hired a bike which would at least save my feet from the pounding they would take from a day’s sight -seeing. My leisurely bike ride turned into an epic 18 miler starting at Fisherman’s Wharf on the North Easterly tip of San Francisco, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and finishing in Tiburon on the opposite side of the Bay.

Golden Gate Bridge with Marin Headlands behind


From Tiburon I caught a ferry back across the Bay to Fisherman’s Wharf. Quite a ride and the perfect warm up for tomorrow.

I woke early on race day to find a place to eat for breakfast to get my fill of carbs and fat which would hopefully see me through the day. I found a classic looking American diner just down the road from my hotel (the type you see in every American movie). After much hesitation about what to eat I opted for the ‘Elvis Scrambled’, which won over the oatmeal. It was hardly a contest to be fair. All washed down with 3 cups of coffee and an OJ. I was done... yum yum.

Mel's diner and the 'Elvis scrambled'

Coach Ken and Mrs Coach Ken (Karen) picked me up from my hotel at 7am and we headed north across the Golden Gate Bridge and into the Marin headlands. Despite the previous 2 days of unbroken sunshine it appeared that things had turned as the famous fog loomed large over the city covering much of the Bay and the headlands.

The race would attract around 400 runners competing across 4 different distances; 11km, 17km, 33km, and 50km. 56 runners started the 50km which consisted of two loops (the 33km and 17km) to make up the distance. This of course meant that you were running with others who were going a much shorter distance. Get caught up in their battles and you may pay dearly later on.

Ok so on with the race... Whilst I was telling myself that I would take it easy at the start, quite frankly I always say that and it never happens. The race started with little fanfare and we immediately started up the first ascent.


Straight UP from the very start

I fell into a comfortable pace quickly which edged me slowly through the field, and I found myself running with many others doing the 33km (not the 50km!).


long line of runners stretching back along coastal near the start

Pacing this race would be completely dictated by the terrain, so it was a case of go easy on the ups, and bomb down the descents in a controlled free-wheeling motion with minimal breaking. This served two purposes; making up time lost from the ascents and minimising stress on the feet and knees caused by unnecessary breaking, and it worked well. I was keeping an average pace of 10 minute miles in the first half of the race, which was intentionally slowed at opportune moments to take a few photos of the stunning surroundings. The Marin headlands are truly breathtaking and I felt lucky to be running in such a race. At many points throughout the course you would be greeted with wonderful panoramic views of both the San Francisco Bay pictured here, city skyline and the pure blue Pacific Ocean which stretched for as far as the eye could see.


San Francisco Bay


Pacific Ocean from hill 88

Such drama made the miles fly by with little thought to how far or how fast I was going.

The aid stations on the course were like nothing I have ever seen before. In my first 30m ultra in England the choice was orange squash, and a custard cream (perhaps even a jelly baby if you were really lucky!). They do it differently over here with the aid stations more resembling Zack’s 10th birthday party with treats galore! Here they had on offer, cola, energy drinks, energy bars, jelly, pretzels, potatoes dipped in salt, bananas, jelly babies, sweets, and pumpkin pie! Honestly, I’m surprised American runners can even move on the trails with all that lot to scoff! As hard as it was I resisted all these delights on the first loop as I flew through each aid station not even stopping in case the temptation was too great.

Back out on course the miles continued to stack up and before long I was nearing the end of the first loop, but not before reaching ‘Fox’ which was a long steep and arduous ascent with many false summits. Once at the top though there was a fast 1 mile decent down ‘Coastal’ which returned to the start/finish area and the end of the first loop. 33km in the bag and time to get my camelback refilled for the second loop. I also grabbed a cap and sun glasses which provided a welcome relief from the sun strong rays.

Of course straight away I had to turn around and go back UP Coastal, and this is where it started to get difficult for the first time in the race. I was 21 miles into the race and so this was classic ‘hitting the wall’ territory but the views continued to impress.

The long climbs up Coastal and ‘Pirates Cove’ didn’t help matters and even the downhill sections were now starting to feel more difficult as my legs got a pounding from the harder fireroad surfaces. However I knew that this was just my body (actually my brain) trying to get me to stop and/or walk. I continued to push abet at a slower pace than the first loop as my average pace dropped. Miles 21-25 were without doubt the toughest miles I’ve experienced in any race to date. But I was half expecting this given the tough terrain so it didn’t come as a complete surprise. I thought that if I could just get through these tough miles then I would find a second wind.

At the bottom of Marincello fireroad I hit an aid station and this was perfect timing as this time I was ready to refuel. The pumpkin pie was especially good! They also stocked plenty of ice which I put under my cap to keep me cool. That helped a lot and pushed me onwards towards the summit at the top of ‘Bobcat’ (the highest point on the course at 1,029ft). What helped my cause further towards the summit is that I now found myself being chased by another runner. So with this new impetus I found new life in my legs.

Once I finally reached the top of Bobcat I was rewarded with a wonderful 2 mile descent down ‘Miwok’ and ‘Old Springs’ where I was once again able to let the break off and free wheel down the mountain side to the bottom and onto the Tennessee Valley Road. This put some distance between myself and the runner behind and I didn’t see them again. From here the finish was getting close but first I would have to tackle the ‘Fox’ for the second time. This time though I had a better idea of what to expect so I mixed it up and used a run/walk strategy to push myself up the mountain side. Before long I had reached the summit as pictured here.

I made it! Up at the top of the 'Fox'

I thoroughly enjoyed the final descent down Coastal Road to the finish line running the final mile in 6:46. I crossing the finish line in 5 hours 41 minutes coming in 11th place. Not bad for an Englishman running his first ultra abroad on some crazy terrain.

Coach Ken, Jim Vernon, Greg and Edie (all from the Endurables), and Disco Stu

A big thanks to Coach Ken (runningstupid.net) and Mrs Coach Ken for their hospitality during my stay! I will be back for certain to run again!! Perhaps the Headlands Hundred!

What next? Well training now begins in earnest for the Devon 100 on April 24th. This race has provided a great base upon which to build, and has given me added confidence that I might not only complete my first 100m race, but even enjoy it in the process! Yeah right ;-)

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Muir Beach route fly over

Want to see what I have let myself in for next weekend...? Then check out this amazing route fly over of the Muir Beach trail run done by the Run Scout. This shows the 33km course. The 50km is made up of this course plus, another half run again! 33km looks challenging enough!! gulp...

http://therunscout.com/2009/11/muir-beach-33k/

Chiltern League XC race report

Well this was certainly different to my last few races I've competed in... namely that it was the shortest off road race I've ever done! I was representing my running club Leighton Buzzard Athletics Club in this 9km Chiltern League cross country race alongside 15 or so other LBAC runners.

The course was a 3km loop which you did 3 times to make up the 9km distance. The only plan in my mind was to run my own race and not get to carried away at the start and run way faster than I could sustain (i've learnt well from my coach the 'Mad Dog'). After a 15 minute delay to the mens race we were off. As expected the front pack stormed off with me fighting for space behind, as elbows flew around to get position. I quickly settled as I watched the leading pack disappear through the trees (probably running about 5:30 min/mile pace) something I'm definitely not capable of over such a distance. 6:30 m/m was my target average pace for this race and I was going to do everything I could to sustain it to the finish line, and perhaps even duck under 35 minutes. Of course nothing was certain.

In the first lap after the pack had settled I was passed by a few runners but nothing that worried me too much. I told myself that I would be seeing them again if I could stick to the plan and keep something back for later when others would undoubtedly tire. And so it was that the miles flew by, and I stuck to my race plan, as the miles ticked my... My splits for the first 5 miles were 6:30, 6:27, 6:31, 6:24, 6:31. Mad Dog would be proud of that! In the second lap I started to pass other runners as I had predicted. This always feels good and gives you the motivation to keeping going and pick off the next person. The last lap was going to be tough as I hung onto my avg 6:30 pace, and continued to pick off other runners one by one. My breathing was hard and fast but I controlled it and kept in rhythm and my stride long so as not to slow down.

And soon enough I was nearing the finish line and gave it one last push in the final 400m to past a few more ahead of me and surge across the line. Looking down at my watch amazingly I managed to finish 3 seconds within my 35minute target time! My average pace was 6:26, over a distance of 5.44m. I was well happy with that!

I've just checked the Chiltern League website and the results are also in! Cross Country running is not so much about the individual, as it is about representing your running club and doing your very best for the team. And Leighton Buzzard Athletics Club came 1st in our Division!!! what a result!! well done LBAC!

My individual finising position was 31st pace out of 115 in Division 2 category, and 137th place out of 317 finishers overall. Not bad for a long distance runner ;-)

FULL RESULTS HERE.
www.chilternccl.co.uk/cl200922.htm

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Club run

Met up with fellow LBAC runners last night for the wednesday evening run. So very dark now so it was a case of sticking to lit areas only. The club seems to be doing very well with over 20 runners in tow. Good run and my longest since ACC... 7.79 miles. Feel ok today. Went for short recovery run at lunchtime. Ankles are fine. Hip is still a cause of some concern but i hope not so serious! Fingers crossed. Only 2 weeks til Muir Beach 50km in San Francisco :-)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Tread-tastic

I've completed 3 sessions this week in the gym on Monday, Wednesday and today (Thursday). To fit these sessions in to my working week I've being getting up at 5am so I'm in the gym for 6am, do 1.5hr workout (give or take) and then sitting at my desk by 7:30. Now there's commitment!!! ;-)

Monday - 60 mins bike / 15 mins treadmill / 1000's of squats ;-) ...ok thats a lie but about 10mins worth...

Wednesday - 48 min bike / 30 mins treadmill / 10mins squats. bike session was mega tough with the bike set on a 3 peaks rolling mountain session. The resistance on each peak and indeed the lead up to the peak and after was hard core but my little legs coped admirably! :-) 30 mins on the treadmill felt great with all signals from the ankle being positive! hooray

Thursday - yesterdays bike sessions was hardcore so took a break from bike today (knees were feeling it a little!). But I ran for 1 hour!! yes thats right, disco stu is back and running again!! I had set myself the goal of running for 45mins today but it felt good so I carried on and hit the 1hr mark! this was about 1/2 hour ago hence I sit here now in my office feeling very good about myself :-D The RIGHT ankle is absolutely fine now with no ill-effects but. Now for the slightly odd thing... with all the focus on the right ankle it seems my left ankle has been feeling a little left out so it sent a few signals on the treadmill that it too needs some care and attention. really don't think it is too much to worry about, but as a precaution I have wrapped it with the compression bandage.

I know... a pretty dull post but it feels like a real turning point and reckon I will hit the trails this weekend for a proper run!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

life in the slow lane...

so its over 2 weeks since ACC which also means 2 weeks since my last run (dont count the run last week which lasted all of 10 minutes)! I have stayed positive about things despite the ankle sprain and see it as enforced rest which may actually do me good in the long run...especially taking into account the ACC mileage! Am using the exercise bike in the work gym to give the quads a good workout at lunchtimes which will hopefully help for the undulating terrain of the marin headlands in san fran! Cant wait for that race... :-D intend to get on the treadmill next week so will report back then!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

dodgy ankle

went for first run today since ACC which lasted all of 10 minutes! Ankle clearly still wasnt right so i didnt want to risk any further damage to it so but short and walked back. Did 30 mins on exercise bike at work gym instead which was a good work out and felt good. So intend to use that now for next few weeks to build leg strength whilst not running which strangley looking forward to! Only just over a month til muir beach 50km in San Francisco :-)

Saturday, 3 October 2009

AAC tumble caught on video...

On Day 2 of the Atlantic Coast Challenge I was shooting a video clip along the coastal path and took a bit of a tumble... here is the result! The reason for the tumble... a combination of talking to a passing walker who asked how far I had run, and obviously not paying any attention to where I was going! lol

video

Friday, 2 October 2009

ACC DAY 3 - Lelant to Lands End

My finishing position on Days 1 and 2 came as a complete surprise to me. I had wanted to finish in the top half (as I consider myself a midpacker) so to be finishing so high up was unbelievable. Despite this though I never went into the following day thinking about my positioning or where I wanted to finish. The goal was always far simpler than this, just to finish and give it my all.
It was always known that the final day was going to be different to the first two days. The terrain from Lelant to Lands End was going to be far more challenging by a factor of 10+. It was also the longest day at 28 miles partly due to an additional diversion caused by a land slide which closed the coastal path at Zennor Head.

I started Day 3 with the same routine. Getting up at 7am and polishing off two bowls of ready brek, some toast, and a coffee. Then around 9am, two hours before the start a banana and Luzocade energy drink. This kept my carb stores loaded for the rest of the day meaning I never had to worry about food whilst running, which helped a lot. After the final day course briefing where we were reminded in no uncertain terms to expect a tough time out there. We were loaded onto the mini-buses for the last time and driven to the start point in Lelant where we disembarked outside a church at 11am on a Sunday! The parishioners were somewhat taken back by the presence of 100 or so runners descending on their quiet hamlet. Yet some clapped and spoke words of great encouragement which was nice. I should add that this was the same reception we got whenever we were out on the coastal path. The locals and non-locals alike were a pleasure to meet on route so thank you to everyone who encouraged me forward.

I knew with it being the final day that I could give it my all and leave nothing in the bank, but at the same time it was going to be a long day ahead so I still had to pace it right. The start was low key just like the previous two days. No big fan fare, or a horn... not even a Ready, Steady, Go. I think there was perhaps just a GO... as we were set off on our way.

The beginning section was nice and flat as it hugged alongside the local train track. I kept my pace steady and found myself in common company with other runners that I had met and run with in the previous days. I chatted to a few which always helps to relax. Half an hour in and we soon found ourselves on the first beach of the day - Porthmin Beach in St Ives before running along the narrow cobbled streets around St Ives harbour.
Porthmin Beach

I took a call from my wife who gave me words of encouragement and then it was up to the top of St Ives watch tower before a short descent onto Porthmeor Beach and then a longer climb up onto the coast path ‘proper’. This is where the fun really began! The terrain changed from nice runnable surfaces to broken trails strewn with rocks of all shapes and sizes which made footing particularly interesting.

At this point I was running with another runner Marcus who I got speaking to around the harbour. Conversation always helps to make the miles go by faster, not that there was too much time to talk as one had to concentrate quite a lot on footing to avoid an easy slip and twisted ankle or worst. I had actually noticed Marcus towards the end of the previous day (he was the guy on the horizon I was chasing but never caught!). Marcus finished a few places ahead of me on Day 2 so I knew our pace was similar. So the game plan was to stick with him for as long as possible today. This worked a treat as we worked together to increase the gap between us and the runners behind us and reduce the gap of those in front making pretty light work of the rock strewn paths.

We followed the official diversion around Zennor Head off the coastal path and to the first check point of the day. We didn’t hang around, and followed the diversion signs back towards the coastal path. However the signs disappeared and we found ourselves trekking across rutted farm fields. We could see the Atlantic in front of us though, so despite going off course it was just a matter of time before we hit the path again, which we did dipping under a barb wire fence much to the surprise of the competing walkers that we bumped into on the path.

From here the terrain got pretty tough as the path twisted and turned, with short sharp climbs and awkward footing around the randomly placed rocks. You couldn’t run it all as it was just a maze with the path also extremely narrow in places. Despite this I was really enjoying the challenge. It was around here that we caught up with a group of four runners. These guys were obviously working very well as a team, and whilst they were slightly slower than us I was more than happy to stick behind them for a while and let them pick their way around the rocks. Eventually when there was enough room to pass, they commented that we could get past, which we politely accepted and we were once again on our way.

The miles were flying by and before long we had arrived at the 2nd checkpoint of the day which was at around 15 miles. This checkpoint jutted out over Trevean Cliff and was an impressive point to stop and get a photo taken for the album!
The sun was beating down again so I reapplied the sun lotion and got my camelback filled up to the brim. I probably spent more time at this check point than on any other on the challenge, and because of this Marcus had obviously run on as he wasn’t going to hang around on my behalf. I spent the next 5 miles trying to catch up which certainly helped to focus the mind and keep me moving forward with reason. I did get the occasional glimpse of Marcus in the distance but he was too strong a runner to be caught.
This didn’t stop me enjoying the scenery though and if anything now that I was on my own again I was able to take a few more photos than I had done in the first half of the race. Including the lighthouse at Pendeen Watch, The Enys, Pendeen New Cliff, the old Levant tin mine, and De Narrow Zawn, all of which were on the same stretch of the coastal path.
Lighthouse at Pendeen Watch
The Enys (big rock in middle of picture with Pendeen New Cliff in the background
Levant tin mine
De Narrow Zawn
Once done with the sightseeing I pressed on towards Cape Cornwall and down to the last check point of the day. I caught another glimpse of Marcus before he disappeared over the next hill. From here you could see Lands End in the far distance but despite what the check point marshall said about it being 5 or so miles left to go I estimated it must have been nearer 7 or 8.

I kept telling myself that it wasn’t far to go. I would normally cruise such a distance in my lunch hour, but this wasn’t my lunch hour and with 22 miles already in the legs not to mention the 50 or so miles from the previous two days I was obviously starting to feel it. The terrain didn’t let up either and involved a lot more up and down especially around Carn Leskys and Carn Gribba which I took slow and steady. Despite being so close now to the finish line my morale was the lowest it had been throughout the Challenge. I don’t know exactly why... I should have been overjoyed having got so far, especially after learning from a competing walker on the path that I was in 6th place for the day, but somehow at the time this didn’t matter. All I could do was just to keep going however much I wanted to stop.
Smiling through the pain... Lands End in the background

I eventually got to Whitesand Bay in Lands End where the coastal path continued on sand for a short stretch before winding down into the town. From there it was another climb back up above the town where I took this photo before the final mile marker for Lands End.
Upon reaching the top of the last ascent and getting more words of encouragement from a local I finally saw the finish banner. I would normally sprint finish most races but not this one... I picked up the pace slightly and crossed the finish line!! YES!! I’d finished in a time of 5hrs 46mins (6th fastest of the day) and completed 27.97miles in the process. My photo was taken with Ben Mason – Race Director and I got my Cornish pasty and trophy. Hooray I did it!
My family arrived only minutes later just missing my finish as I couldn’t get a mobile signal on my approach to Lands End to inform them of my earlier than predicted arrival. But all that mattered was that they were here now.
A very proud daddy and daughter

My aims when starting out on the Challenge were to complete it, enjoy the journey along the way, take in the amazing scenery, meet new people, and test myself to my limits running further in three days than I had ever done before. I managed to do all these things, and the icing on an extremely tasty cake (‘Rocky Road’ flavour!) was that I finished in 9th position overall on the Challenge with a total time of 14hrs 56minutes. I have to be mighty happy with that!!

Thanks to the Mad Dog for all his wisdom whilst in training for this, and to Coach Ken for his continued support across the other side of the Atlantic on his podcast show Running Stupid. And to my wife for her continued support and understanding of my crazy running stunts.

So what next?? Well I received confirmation only this week of my place in first Virgin London Marathon next year. However I have bigger plans than this and have entered the Devon 100 ultra run (North coast of Devon to South coast) which falls on the same weekend as the London Marathon next April. So my training now begins for that but not before I put my feet up (and my swollen ankle) for a week or two first :-D
Lands End

Thursday, 1 October 2009

ACC DAY 2 - Perranporth to Hayle

Day 2 promised more of the same just tougher, steeper, more steps and more sand! My recovery from Day 1 had gone well as I stood on the start line at Perranporth feeling fresh and up for the new challenge that lay ahead. There was a definite buzz today after yesterdays run as everyone seemed well into their groove and up for giving it a good go.

Just after we started the gentle climb up from the start line I bumped into Danny from the RW forum - good to meet you finally!
The organisers had warned of a gate shortly after the start which as predicted caused a major bottleneck as you can see... Damn! This played havoc with my average pace meaning that I was playing catch up for most of the day. This probably worked out well though as I pressed forward with extra vigour.
The scenery throughout the Challenge was stunning but particularly on the 2nd day, although you never had too much time to fully appreciate it, something I told a passing walker much to their amusement.
The ascents on Day 2 were shorter but far steeper. One captured here is the sharp climb up from Saily’s Bottom with Gullyn Rock on the left hand side. This climb was a real killer which was definitely not for running as one needed to conserve as much energy as possible to be capable of running again once reaching the top!

Once at the top the route levelled out and I could pick up the pace again. The scenery was fantastic on this stretch near Portreath including this structure pictured below (any guessers for its use??)

Towards the end of this part of the costal path was the biggest staircase on the whole challenge which went straight up to the top of Gooden Heane Point. On approach to it certainly looked very daunting!

But as with all these things... slow and steady was the order of the day. Once at the top the view was well worth it across Gooden Heane Cove with Horse Rock (middle of picture) and Gull Rock (far right). Impressive stuff!

From here the path flattened out and so speed was again the order of the day taking in Western Cove and going along the Reskajeage Downs and the North Cliffs.

Western cove

North Cliffs

This stretch was the best surface on the entire path so I gave it my all, and tried to keep a runner who I had seen on the horizon along this entire stretch in my sights to keep me going. By this point the sun was beating down and it was getting extremely hot. I’d failed to pack any sun tan lotion but got lucky as I passed some competing walkers on the challenge and asked if they had any. They did, so thank you very much whoever you are!

Then it was around Navaz Point with Godrevy Island in the background with the lighthouse. The couple who took this photo asked in bemusement what was going on and why there were so many runners about. I’m not sure they quite believed my answer when I told them what we were doing.

Just after this was the final main checkpoint of the day before the descent on to St Ives Bay sands which was a 3 mile stretch of golden sands to pretty much complete the day. I had been looking forward to this part all day as the beach which lies just in front of where we were staying for the weekend was stunning. And so despite my tired legs I enjoyed every second of it soaking up the sun (and sweat).

St Ives Bay sands

After the beach there was just the small matter of navigating around Hayle Towans to the final checkpoint, and back through the town (where I mistakenly added an additional hill I didn't have to! doh...) I then finally reached the finished at St Ives Holiday Bay in a time of 4hrs26mins completing 24.55miles and placing 11th for the day. Result!

I treated myself to a massage straight after which I figured was well deserved and would help recovery for the final big push on Day 3 from Lelant to Lands End.... gulp...

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

ACC DAY 1 - Padstow to Perranporth

So the waiting was finally over... I’d entered this event shortly after the London Marathon back in April and had been gearing up for it ever since. Training had gone well, completing my first two ultra races in the process. A 50km race in May and a double marathon in July. But they were both very different to the Atlantic Coast Challenge which would require instant recovery to be able to run 3 marathons in 3 days. Was I ready? I would just have to find out...

The route started at Trevose Head near Padstow (about 15 miles north of Newquay) and would go South along the North Cornwall Coastal path for 3 days finishing at Lands End on the southernmost tip of England.

Each day started with a briefing at race HQ in St Ives about what to expect and the detail of the course for the day. Maps were handed out but it became apparent on route that when you needed it most the map scale was just a tad too small to be of real use meaning that you are never 100% sure of the exact route, which all added to the fun! If in doubt we were told to keep the sea to our right and the land to our left and you cannot go far wrong!

After the briefing we were loaded off like cattle onto a convoy of white mini buses that snaked their way to Trevose Head for the start. Polite small talk was made with other runners but this journey was always the worst bit of the day as you just wanted to get going.

And so it was that we finally did get going shortly after midday as 120 or so runners set off on their intrepid way.
It was so great to get going and I was not nervous at all. It just felt right to be finally on my way. Day 1 promised some flat stuff including runs on sandy beaches including Booby’s Bay in the very first mile, as well as a many steep assents and descents. The terrain was very varied not only on each day but also throughout the 3 days as it would progressively get tougher and tougher.

Booby's bay

My pace from the start was quicker than I had intended but it felt right so I did not change it. Of course it was the terrain that would dictate my pace for the most part so my strategy was to run strong wherever the terrain was kind to me and slow down for the tougher sections to reserve my energy. The early sections were nice and flat and grassy and easy on the legs but involved much zigzagging around the many coves including High Cove (below).

Heading towards Park Head
High Cove

We were warned in the race briefing that navigating through Newquay might prove tricky for those of us who are navigationally challenged! Despite being with four other runners, five minds did not prove any better than one. I was concentrating so much on navigating the streets of Newquay that I completely forgot about Check point 2 at ‘Lusty Glaze’ and it seemed that so did the others. By the time we realised our mistake we had overshot the check point by ¾ of a mile. I was gutted as we had led a good pace out for the first 15 miles and were easily in the top 10%. Once back at ‘Lusty Glaze’ I did not hang around though (a strategy I employed at every check point throughout the challenge). It amazed me how much time some runners would spend at each check point like it was some kind of Sunday afternoon picnic. The 2litre camelback I was carrying meant that I only required one refill each day which saved a lot of time.
Above Fistral Beach

After shooting off from Lusty Glaze I pretty much found myself running on my own. I successfully navigated through Newquay and past Fistral Beach (above) and across a foot bridge over ‘The Gannel’ which could only be accessed at low tide (15:10 on this particular day). Those runners arriving later would have to make a further detour to get around to the headland above Newquay or get wet. Whilst the going got a little tougher after Newquay the views were fantastic taking in many nice parts including Kesley Head, Hollywell Bay, and Penhale Point, as the miles ticked on by.
Holywell Bay

The final descent of the day was from Ligger Point on a very narrow path down on to Perran Beach.
Perran BeachFrom there it was just a 2 mile trek across the soft sands to finish at Perranporth with my family waiting for me at the finish. Glorious! I completed Day 1 in 4hrs44mins covering 27.1 miles (including 1.5mile detour at Newquay!) and finishing in 28th place.

A big shout out must go to Tommy 'sicknote' from the RW forum whom I met on Day 1 at the start and the end! Here's Tommy cooling off!!..

Monday, 28 September 2009

ACC DAY3

just a very quick note sent from phone... Wow what a day and what a finish. The whole thing has gone so fast that i can barely remember any detail (the reason for taking so many photos which i will upload). Anyway i finished day 3 in 5hrs46mins and amazingly this was good for 6th position! Unbelieveable... I'm still pinching myself. Overall Results have just been posted too and again not what i was expecting at all. I came 9th with a total time of 14hrs56mins! Not bad :-) i need sleep. Good night

Saturday, 26 September 2009

ACC DAY 2 UPDATE

another amazing day. Breathtaking scenery. Felt strong and finished in 4hrs 26min (18 min faster than yesterday).today was shorter by around 2miles but terrain was a lot tougher with many staircases going straight up! 2 down 1 to go!

Friday, 25 September 2009

ACC DAY 1

just a quick update on day 1 brought to you from my caravan it St Ives... A great day. 27 miles in total which i completed in 4hrs44mins. Up and down all the way but well worth is as scenery was amazing. Full race report to follow...

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Atlantic Coast Challenge

not a lot of time to type cos gotta pack for toorrows early departure to St Ives in Cornwall which will be base camp for the next 4 days as I attempt the Atlantic Coast Challenge (3 marathons in 3 days) along the North Cornwall coastal path!

It promises to be quite special!! gotta run...

will post twitters updates during the event...

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Successful trial on trails...

So my new Asics Trabuco's arrived on Monday and I eagerly took them out at lunchtime for a 8 miler. I knew straight away from putting them on that they had a familar feel (to my old Trabucos)... it was akin to cinderella trying on the slipper! a perfect fit :-) far more roomy than the narrow salomons. Opting for the size 12's really worked out too, as the 11.5 which I had originally ordered but were out of stock would of been too small, so that was a stroke of luck.

The 8 miler went well. I'm getting quite into these progressive runs now where the next mile is (of should) always be faster than the last. Of course this wouldn't be possible without the garmin telling you exactly how fast you are going. I keep an eye on the mile laps splits and gently up the pace each mile, which is easier said than done I can tell you! My splits were 7:55, 7:42, 7:28, 7:26, 7:22, 6:58, 6:56, 6:42. Pretty happy with that especially in the new shoes.

So hopefully they will be just the ticket for the Atlantic Coast Challenge which is little more than 1 week away now!! eek :-) The entrants information has just been posted on the website so I've gotta read that through with a fine tooth comb! One thing I've never had to do before which is compulsory on this event is to pack mandatory items in your racing backpack. this includes torch, compass, whistle, waterproof, warm jumper, food, notepad etc which is certainly going to add some weight!! I plan to go out and test the fully laiden race pack tomorrow on my scheduled long run to see what its like. They say never to try anything new on race day so I don't want any surprises!

Just hope the knee is going to hold out!... its been showing me a few signs of late that it might need a bit of a rest so plan to take it fairly easy now in lead up to ACC!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Cross Bucks Way

Cross Bucks Way... scenic run through fields...

First the first run of the week. I did have a 10 mile hill session scheduled however my knee is sending a few signals that I should perhaps take it a little easy in the run in to the Atlantic Coast Challenge, so instead I opted to find flatter ground. I used my new OS Discovery Map for the 1st time and decided to head out West from Leighton Buzzard on the Cross Bucks Way. Map reading is not my strong point, but with a well marked trail this was a fairly straight forward route. Some very nice scenery and lots of animals as the photos below show! I'm not a big fan of running through fields full of cows, as I find them a little unpredictable, however I came through unscathed! phew :-O

click here to see the Bucks Cross Way route

its a lama!!
Cross Bucks Way straight through Soulbury Church!
he's coming straight for me! eek...
carbo loading!
half way!
wildlife!

more wildlife!