Monday, 31 May 2010

Ridgeway Saturday training run

I thought it would be worth a quick post to detail Saturdays training run. After last weeks run up to Ivinghoe Beacon and back I thought this time I would drive to Ivinghoe and run the Ridgeway national footpath to Wendover. Its 12 miles each way so a solid 24 miler in the bank.

I started early and the conditions were perfect. The much forecast weekend rain hadn't yet materialised (that was later), but the overcast skies ensured it wasn't hot. I chose to wear my Ascis Trabucos which haven't seen many miles lately (as the inov-8s have been in favour) but with it being so dry the Trabucos were a good choice. I forgot how comfortable and light they were.

The Ridgeway is a great trail and very very runnable, and for this section a real mix of ups and downs, rolling countryside and flat tree lined woodland trails. The route map below shows all 87 miles of this ancient route which is apparently Britain's oldest road used by prehistoric man! The official Ridgeway website here has further info on the route. As I've mentioned before you can run the whole distance in the Ridgeway Ultra race which is in the last weekend of August. I really want to run this one but this year may be a little much just 3 weeks after my 24 hour race (perhaps not though ;-)

I was hoping to get to Wendover (Section 1) and back in under 4 hours, which included a planned pitstop in Wendover for coffee and something to eat. The timing had nothing to do with me wanting to run a particular pace or time but because I promised the wife I would be home not long after 11. I started bang on 7am and preceded over the initial section from Ivinghoe down to Tring. This is as hilly as it gets and its mainly downhill on the outward section. After Tring its mile after mile of long flat woodland trails that are in great condition and make the running feel oh so easy. I really don't know where the time went but after a few great rollers I was soon decending down into Wendover (high street pictured below).

This is as far as I had ran on the Ridgeway before so I decided to carry on to see where the trial went after the town centre. It went UP! Soon I was on the top of Coombe Hill where you could see for miles around.

I was looking forward to the next moment for the last 2 hours. A pitstop to refuel. I had spotted a nice cafe as I passed through the town on the way up to Coombe hill, so stopped here for a cappucino, hot sausage roll and refills for my water bottle. Delicious!

Why I had never thought before to take a proper half way break on my long runs I don't know. But having learnt a lot about nutrition on the Fellsman I plan to repeat this experience on many more long runs!! :-D

After that I felt good to go and cautiously at first with a full stomach of coffee and pastry I set off back along the Ridgeway. I know why I felt so good coming into Wendover now, as going back the undulating terrain was far more evident! I continued to feel good and went about it in much the same way as the first half at the same pace. The much forecast rain did make an appearance on the return leg but being under the woodland paths for much of it was natural shelter from the worst of it and refreshing also.

I was soon back at Ivinghoe after the last upward section. I wasn't wearing a watch but back at the car the clock said 11am exactly. Now that's pretty good pacing if I don't say so myself. I don't think I've ever felt this good on a run above 20 miles before. This tells me two things 1 - that my endurance training is definitely paying off the hard work, and continues to do so, and 2 - that I'm completely recovered from the Fellsman. This is great news as I can now start to plan the next 8 weeks of training in earnest for the Adidas Thunder Run 24hr.

I would like to run more of the Ridgeway so plan to drive over to Wendover on Saturday and do a 15th mile out and back (30m total). I will report back on how that goes next week.

The rest of the week looks like this:
Tues - gym (morning) & 5m (lunchtime)
Wed - Club run 6-8m
Thurs - 6m steady/intervals
Fri - gym
Sat - 30m

Friday, 14 May 2010

Fellsman official results are in...

The official Fellsman results are in -

I finished in 80th position out of 297 finishers and there were also 104 non-finishers which for such good conditions out on course was a little surprising. Just goes to show what a tough event this is despite the dry weather. So I fnished in the top quarter which for my first Fellsman outing and feeling a little like a fish out of water on the fells is a great result. I'm already looking forward to next year, and wonder how much time I can knock off now that I'm familiar with the route and terrain. Perhaps sub 15hrs! :-D I can easily see this one becoming an annual event :-).

The winner Duncan Harris finished in 11 hrs which is an astonishing time made even more remarkable by the fact that he only took up running one and half years ago. His time on the fellsman last year was around the 14hr mark so to knock off over 3 hrs at that level is a super human effort.

Ok one more video clip to show you too. This one is on the approach to the Stonehouse checkpoint where pasta and hot tea was on offer. Notice how my mum actually catches up with me whilst shooting the video! And I thought I was going fast :-) hehe.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Fellsman video + pics

Breakfast...porridge and toast! (photo courtesy of Nick Ham)

And we are off! I'm hiker 210... (photo courtesy of Nick Ham)

Approaching checkpoint 2

Kit check at Stonehouse checkpoint

Pasta and a nice cuppa at stonehouse :-)

Rice pudding!!! and my dad who along with my mum provided fantastic support throughout the day

Setting off across the notorious Fleet Moss

Monday, 10 May 2010

The Fellsman

I had the option this past weekend of either attending our black tie running club dinner complete with award presentation for my stag success or a 61 mile trek across the toughest terrain that the Yorkshire Dales has to offer. Naturally I chose the latter.

So what of the Fellsman? Well where do I start... this was without doubt the toughest test I have encountered to date. The painful blister on my right foot is a testiment to this fact. The Fellsman is difficult to describe in a few or even many many words and nor can photos as I didnt take any (although my parents did who provided me with fantastic support out on course).

This is a course that includes 11,000ft of climbing cross 10 major peaks in the dales; a course that includes mile after mile of rough track, rocks, barren moorlands, peat bogs and very occasionally runnable flats. If you werent climbing up you were flying down at a speed that the terrain allowed, and on the flats (there were some) you could enjoy the light relief whilst not pushing too hard as you could be punished on the next inevitable climb. This event really did have everything including an astonishing array of food served up on the course by hundreds of checkpoint volunteers. We really were spoilt out there. The Americans refer to such events as 'linear picnics'. Not too far from the truth I suppose but it must be earnt and oh boy did you earn it on the Fellsman! Every baked bean, custard cream, sausage roll, cup of tea, soup, flap jack and rice pudding! All washed down with litres and litres of energy drink. Its a miracle I was able to move at all on that little lot.

So to the race. Well at 16 hours and 48 minutes it was a long one. My longest event (by time) by a considerable margin and my first experience of night running too. Things all kicked off in the picture perfect yorkshire village of Ingleton. The first leg was a real taste of what was to come for the next 17 hours. A gradual but steepening 3.5 mile climb up to the peak of ingleborough at 2375ft. It took 45 minutes to get to the top and I can truly say I thoroughly enjoyed every one of those minutes. The views on what was a perfect clear day were breathtaking but unfortunately i didnt hang around to take any photos as there was no time to waste. Afterall what would be the point of exerting yourself up the first climb of the day only to be passed by loads of other runners as i play the tourist. For this reason the camera stayed in the bottom of my bag.

The next part was simply insane. A serious decent of over 1300ft down the other side of ?Ingleborough. Things suddenly became very real indeed. There was a steep staircase zig zagging up but the preferred option from watching others was taking the direct route straight down the mountainside. A careful balance of speed and lightfootedness was required. And my prize for making it to checkpoint 2 was seeing and hearing my parents cheer me on. A great surprise and a nice boost. With my maps and directions still in my bag (as I thought I could count on following others very early on in the race) I got a surprise when I didnt immediately see which way I had to go - left or right. I chose left on a hunch and went off down the road quickly spotting other runners around the corner that turned into a farm yard before (yes you guessed it) the next climb. This went to the top of Whernside at 2419ft. Itwas a tough climb that whilst starting off gradually became a hands on knees job with several false summits to boot. The thing about this race so far was that much of it simply wasnt runnable and because of this it was less a race and more a test of stamina and determination. And this pattern continued checkpoint after checkpoint... Run wherever the terrain allowed, powerwalk the climbs with the arms pumping and blast down the decents.

The weather gods smiled on us with the much predicted rain clouds staying at bay and the only real test weather wise being the strong winds on the peaks.

My first navigational error occurred coming down the long gradual decent from checkpoint 3. With the maps still in my backpak I followed 5 or so runners ahead of me. But they (and I following) overshot the required right turn over a temporary stile which I didnt see and had to track back across a rough pasture with large tussocks to get to the next check point with my parents somewhat surprised asking why i had come from the opposite direction to the other runners. Oh well a 10-15 minute detour but the flapjack at checkpoint 4 was a great pick me up and much needed for the next 1000ft climb up from Kingsdale to Gragareth.

With 24 checkpoints on the course I'm going to fast forward to the most memorable moments from here on in (He says). And most of these revolve around the checkpoint food! The first major hot food was served up at Dent (CP8) - warm sausage rolls and beans and a chance to use my collapsable mug :-) It tasted so good and whilst I probably spent far longer at this checkpoint than I normally would it was heaven so I didnt care.
Dent was 20 miles into the race (1/3 complete) so there was still a lot to do. The next leg required me to use my compass for the first time as there were a few bearings to keep on track to successfully make it across, down and up and over a large open trackless moorland. I did it with military precision (by my standards) and made it to Blea Moor. Hooray. From here it was a steady 3 mile decent including a forest which was a nice change of scenery and down to Stonehouse for lunch!

But first was a secret kit check to ensure runners had everything on the mandatory kit list. Gulp! I passed the check and was soon tucking into pasta and sauce which my parents joined me for too.
The climb up from stonehouse was long and grinding and not before i had to return to the stonehouse checkpoint, 5 minutes after leaving to pick up my water bottle which i had forgotten... Doh. I was still feeling strong though and my powerwalk up to the top of Great Knountberry (CP11 - 2203ft) allowed me to pass a few runners\hikers onroute. This was roughly half way into the event with still just over 31 miles to go.

The decent down to CP12 was a blast where my parents met me once again. The tea was very nice (despite the residue of baked beans) and was warming as it was getting ever colder by now. I actually turned down the hot dogs here as the pasta had given me my fill (although I could have done with the hotdogs at Cray - note to organisers!).

I going to fast forward now to CP15 and Fleetmoss. This part of the route was on the paper at least, the tricky bit, as it spans across a large open peat bog however the prolonged dry spell meant that whereas in previous years runners would be up to their knees waded through the stuff we were able to bound through with a spring in the stride merely skimming across the surface. Glorious. The navigational element again went very well with a perfect series of lines across this 4.7 mile stretch. This part was also made even better with good company from another runner. Richard was an experienced runner and chatting about all things 'ultra' makes the time fly by.

Unfortunately my new found nav skills soon deserted me as I suggested another direct line towards the next CP in the hope of picking up a 4x4 track (apparently marked by posts). This wasnt to be found though and the tough terrain led to a slightly annoying slog to get back on track. Fast forward to Cray (CP18 and 45 miles in) and things were getting dark. This is where we were grouped into at least fours whom we were to stay together with for the rest of the race (for safety reasons). Breaking up a group on route would lead to disqualification. So after a feast of cocktail sausages, cheese, jam sandwiches and tea, Richard and I together with 5 others were grouped together. We made our way in the rapidly disappearing daylight up Buckden Pike with our headtorches shining in the star lit night. A 1000ft climb to the top which was a slow but steady slog. We had a really good group for company which really helps in the night stage and makes the miles go a lot faster than they otherwise might.

The dark meant that navigation would play an even bigger part than during the day. Whilst we didnt have the luxury of any seasoned fellsman vets in our group we did have my rather comprehensive route notes provided by a good ultra friend Nick Ham who has previously run the fellsman 5 times. Due to injury he couldnt compete this year but Nick could may as well been leading the group, such was the detail and preciseness of his notes. Thanks Nick! Still I had a bit of pressure on me to get it right, and translate the description onto the 6ft of land that I could see around me lit by the headtorch. But it went well very without error and time went very quickly during the night for me. It was now just a case of what time we could complete the fellsman in.

I had always had it in the back of my mind that i wanted to do it in under 17hrs but the speed of the group meant that this was looking quite unlikely although i had no precise way of knowing as i wasnt paying that close attention to the time. As it was though we came down the final trail element of the course and on to a track that led up to some beacons that had been put out by the organisers. These led all the way to the last checkpoint which was just 2 miles from the finish. Still feeling suprisingly fresh after 57+ miles in the legs i urged the group to pick up the pace as i knew 17 hrs was close. We did so and made CP24 with around 16hrs30 on the clock. The group was allowed to degroup at this stage. So all feelings aside I wanted to really go for it in the final 2 mile dash along and down into Grassington and up to the school at Thresfield for the finish.

And with that 3 of the 7 made a break including me and went for it. On route one guy had a change of heart and decided to hang back for the others which left me and Richard steaming ahead. It felt great and after 60 miles to be doing sub 8 minute miling was a nice vote of confidence on the fitness. And so it was that Richard and I made it with 16h.48m on the clock (1.45am approx on Sunday morning). There was no fanfare. Just an extreme sense of satisfaction and accomplishment at what we had achieved. And with that it was a nice hot shower, cup of tea, a bowl of cornflakes and time for bed.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

LBAC Club Stag run... make or break..

So it was that I lined up for the final club stag run of the season needing 11th place or better to lift the stag trophy (I haven't actually ascertained if a trophy exists? - Andy?) I've explained the stag format many times now so I wont go there again. (Stag Rules). Suffice to say that there were two ways I could approach this final run: 1 - go all out and lay down another PB; or 2 - take it (relatively) easy and make sure of the points needed to lift the trophy. It wasn't really ever a decision I needed to consciously make. As I toed the start line for the 5th and final time this season there was only one thing on my mind which was to record my 5th successive PB and cap a great first season with LBAC.

There was another big turn out of 25 + runners which makes scoring points that ever bit more difficult. I started about 4th from last and chased down my next opponent (Nick) who started 5 secs ahead of me. I put in a solid 1st lap but didn't feel that I was pushing as hard as the previous stag race April. On the second lap it again felt solid but I was tiring a little, and was overtaken by Joby (although my 2nd lap was not as bad as last time in terms of slow down). And the third was much more of the same. It felt comfortable and that's the stag for you really. nothing too inspiring to get the creative juices flowing but a solid 2.5 miler nevertheless at near maximum effort.

And for my efforts as I sprinted up the final straight and crossed the line gasping for breath - a 5th successive PB of 14:19. So all in all I'm really pleased with what i've achieved in terms of my improvement over the season. My five stag times below translate to a 1min 11sec improvement from my 1st stag run in November to the 5th today. Of course the gains won't be anywhere near as impressive next year! And that's the stag trophy for you. Beginners like myself seem to have the best chance of winning with their first attempt. Coming back next year and doing the same will be the real test. And for an ultra-runner I really shouldn't be recording fastest times over a 2.5m circuit!

Stag race 1 - 15:29
Stag race 2 - 15:04
Stag race 3 - 14:54
Stag race 4 - 14:31
Stag race 5 - 14:19

Official stag report -

Sunday, 2 May 2010

who ever said running was a cheap...

... hadn't obviously read the Fellsman kit list!!

And with less than a week to go now I'm still buying bits and pieces to ensure I have everything I need to run the Fellsman. So far I have bought the following (mostly)mandatory items:

OS OL02 map - £8.99
OS OL30 map - £8.99
Waterproof trousers (Roclite mistpants) - £21
Plasters (Extreme from Boots) - £2.69
Batteries (Duracell Plus) - £2.99
collapsable mug - £8.99 (pure genius!!)
Sorren malt loaf (300g emergency rations) - £1
3 x SIS Go bars - £3.75
Survival Bag - £9.99
Waterproof jacket (North Face) - £59 (bargain reduced from £90!)
Inov-8 Roclite 295s - £72

Quite a list wouldn't you agree! the grand total £199.39 :-O (although I did get my roclites free with Wiggle 12hr prize :-)

So I think I have just about everything I need!! Just got to fit it all into my relatively compact backpak now!! Will post again to let you know how that goes!!