Wednesday, 29 September 2010

It's raining it's pouring...

Everyone will relate to the feeling when you look outside and it's pouring with rain, it's dark, and you really don't feel like going for a run, but know you have too! Well this is how I felt tonight. I had to because this is the final BIG week of training before a taper week next week for the Royal Parks Half. 

On Sunday I put in a steady 12 miler off road. On Monday I put in back to back 4.5 milers (one at 6:30 avg mpm pace, the other at a more leisurely 8mpm pace) so 9 miles in total in one lunchtime! Tuesday was a rest day which brings me back to today's club run.

I'd eaten a massive jacket potatoe too just an hour earlier which isn't exactly ideal for a Wednesday LBAC club night which is always a rapid affair. It's often the way however that once you get yourself out there, such runs so often surprise and turn out to be the best. Tonight was no exception!

The rain literally fell out the sky in sheets soaking my supposedly water proof TNF jacket to the skin. Most were wearing just a tshirt, some even vests (Tom the pocket rocket), but us ultra runners are taught to go out prepared!

Anyway I quickly got into a nice stride and set about my business sticking to what felt fast but sustainable. On these type of training runs I try not to look at the garmin as I want to feel the pace I'm running rather than be told. I felt good (apart from the potatoe that was sitting high in my stomach or hadn't even made it that far!) I like running in horrid conditions (sometimes) as it's an extra challenge and most others probably don't prefer it this way so it's always an advantage if you can harness this and set yourself apart from others. I ran and ran.... harder, faster and further than anybody else. Was this really the slow ultra plodded from just a few weeks ago. I smashed out the miles mainly because I wanted to finish the session as quickly as possible. Why prolong such a run when the greatest benefit can be gained from going out hard from the start and sticking to it. 

As you can probably tell from this post I am still pretty pumped up from tonights run. It really is a great feeling to feel that the effort I am putting in is paying back so quickly. This short 4 week training period in the lead up to the Royal Plans is going exactly to plan.

I covered 8.6 miles tonight in 59 minutes 10 seconds. My mile splits were: 7.24, 7.05, 6.47, 6.53, 6.47, 6.39, 6.37, 6.53, 6.41 (last 0.6 miles). Total avg pace 6.52 mpm. This just happens to be exactly the pace I need to run to go sub 1h30m in the Half! So if I can do it on a club night in the pouring rain, dark, dodging cars and puddles then what I wonder beckons on a fine Sunday morning in the Royal Parks of London. It's an exciting prospect and I can't wait.

It might come across that my motivation for this is based on time and splits, and getting a new PB but actually i'm on a high more because I'm just thoroughly enjoying my running right now. Why - well I think mixing it up and going from the ultras to training for a half has a lot to do with it. I'm learning a lot from this shift in training and it can only be a good thing.

what's next? A slower recovery run tomorrow lunchtime... :-)        

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Sunday LBAC long run report

Today was the first LBAC Sunday morning training run. Basically quite a few club runners get their weekly long run in on Sunday morning like so many other weekend warriors up and down the country. So therefore individuals from the club have volunteered to lead a run every Sunday morning from a start point of their choosing in and around Leighton Buzzard. Today it was Joe's (Mr Ironman) turn who led a super little route with 3 of us in tow. Tom (the pocket rocket and club captain), Fred (Super Vet), and myself.

The route took us initially along the grand union canal on a surprisingly muggy morning. The flat start was nice especially with the hills to come. We turned off after a few miles to Stockgrove Park, and meandered up and down undulating trails crossing paths with a few other runners and dog walkers on route. The speed was around the 8 mpm pace so not sluggish but more than sustainable.

From Stockgrove there was a quick water stop before we continued into the ajoining Rushmere Woods which with the carpet of pine needles that covered the trails were very easy on the feet. We joked that these would make for great inner cushioning! Very sustainable too!! Held together with hubba bubba we decided :-)

Anyway once out of rushmere having clocked 10 and bit miles we made our way up the road, over the grand union canal and continued through to Linslade Woods which was a very neat short cut back to where we started. Total mileage 12.2 miles in 1hr49min. A good run and my last at that distance before the Royal Parks in 2 weeks time. Between now and then it all shorter speed work.

So to all LBAC runners and anyone else reading this local I can thoroughly recommend joining us on a Sunday morning. See here for full details -

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Royal Parks Fundraiser - PLEASE HELP

A quick post to ask for your support (and money) for my Royal Parks half marathon in a few weeks time. I'm running on behalf of PACE who help children with physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy, also enabling them to transform their own lives and that of their families. A very worthy cause and I would like to raise at least £200 for them.

I'm gunning for sub 1:30 and training is going well so its definitely ON. And for every £1 raised I will personally throw in 50p too so if I hit my £200 target, that's £300 raised!

Click on the link below to my Just Giving Fundrasing page. Thanks

STUART BLOFELD is fundraising for The PACE Centre

Thursday, 16 September 2010

LBAC Club Run

Wow yesterday’s club run was a real blast. Who would have thought road running could be this much fun! I went out with the intention of doing around four 7 minute mile intervals with quarter mile recoveries in between. It soon became apparent however that whilst I was doing the 7 minute miling I wasn’t going to get the recoveries I planned. This was because I settled into a good stride with fellow LBAC runner Chris at the front of the pack, and Chris' approach to every run he does is flat out all of the time with 100% effort! He chuckled at the suggestion of taking a rest in between. I wasn't going to be beaten or suggest that I need rest! So it was that we maintained the effort mile after mile through the streets and parks of Leighton Buzzard.

We weren’t alone for very long though as the racing snakes in the pack soon caught up and pushed the pace on further. At this point I look down at my Garmin (which was on its best behaviour today) to see 6.10mpm pace. Bloody hell what am I doing I thought... The answer being exactly what i need to be doing! This was speed training at its best... heart pumping, lungs bursting, full out running.

What I was most surprised about from this session is that I'm not as slow as I presumed I would be after the recent ultras. My speed was there. I just need a bit more speed endurance so that I don't die in the latter stages of a race. The session ended up being exactly 9 miles in distance with an average pace of 7.07mpm. Just 4 extra miles at just above this pace would bag me a PB at the Royal Parks in 3 ½ weeks time. A real possibility then, and a huge motivator to keep the training cranked up to the max.

So it’s more of the same over the coming weeks which may look a bit like this:

Sat - Long run (plus hard hill reps session in middle)
Sun - Rest
Mon - Short sharp effort. 4 miles at close to 6mpm as possible
Tues - Rest or slow recovery run with Leighton Fun Runners
Wed - Hard fast LBAC run. 6-9 miles at 7-7:30mpm
Thurs - Rest or v. slow recovery run
Fri - Rest

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Speed training begins

I'm writing this on the train on way back from London and wanted to fill the time. So not perhaps the most thrilling of intros or reasons for a post but let's see where it takes us. 

So the brooks green silence running shoes arrived on Saturday and I couldn't wait to try them out having never wore a flat racer before. So Monday lunchtime saw me don them and head out for a quick blast along the very familar 5 mile out and back from work accompanied by my colleague Dave.

My first impressions were how amazingly light they were. Not just a bit lighter than what I'm use to, but like i wasnt even wearing shoes at all. I knew I would be sacraficing cushioning and a certain amount of protection for this but they were extremely comfortable and felt right. 

We had intended in doing a session at 7mpm but the garmin was playing up and wasn't picking up the satellites. So we cruised along at a fair old click. Only when the garmin decided to work did we realise it was sub 6:30 pace. Blimey i didnt know i was still capable of such speeds after a summer of ultras. It felt good though so we didn't adjust the pace. it quickened further and we soon found ourselves running sub 6s (mainly because Dave doesnt know how to run any other way). I hadn't being running at that pace for months!... Was I losing the ultra shuffle!? 

The brooks continued to feel great and so was I. I always find the hard runs mighty satisfying and this one especially so, giving me a glimmer of hope that perhaps sub 1:30 is attainable at the royal parks half in 4 weeks time. Only time will tell but I plan to do plenty more of these sessions between now and then plus some intervals and hill sessions. I guess the trail shoes are staying in the cupboard for now. 


Friday, 10 September 2010

Leighton Fun Runners Invitation Run

LBAC runners
I joined the Leighton Fun Runners (LFR) for their invitation run on Tuesday. The LFR are the other running club in town, my club being LBAC (Leighton Buzzard Athletics Club). There is quite a lot of history to both clubs but the main thing is that we have two thriving running clubs in the same town which are growing in numbers all the time. That can only be a good thing.

The annual invitation run invites other local clubs from around the area. There were six of us from LBAC. Many others were running in the Tour of Milton Keynes which was unfortunately the same night meaning that the LBAC turn out here could have been

There were well over 50 runners in total which were split into three different pace groups. A 7mpm group, 8-10mpm group and 10-12mpm pace group. I convinced myself to join the 7mpm group as I needed to shake off the cobwebs and lose the ultra shuffle. The slower groups set off and we stood around for a bit longer eyeing up the chocolate chip muffins which would await us on our return.
Pete Mackrell blasting along

The route took us along the Grand Union canal whilst still light and as darkness began to fall we ventured on road and through the maze of residential streets that make up the north side of Leighton Buzzard. I've lived here for 7 years and still never know where I am most of the time!

The 7mpm pace was just about sustainable mainly because it was nearer 7:30 pace... Phew! The LFR were very welcoming had we had a great run.
As darkness fell in LB...
Whilst they said it would be 6 miles the extra mile making it 7 meant that we had definitely earnt our tea and cakes that awaited us back at the club house. A very nice evening which I plan to repeat by joining the LFR on their Tuesday run more often as nice to mix it up a bit!

LFR club house - award given to their club captain

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Ridgeway Results

Whilst the full results still haven't been published a clever forumite has extracted the following from the Hall of Fame (which contains times for all years that the event has taken place). So it appears I finished in 23rd place out of 87 finishers. With over 100 starting the finish rate was quite good with only about 15-20 people dropping.

Well happy with my placing. Reckon I can knock off at least an hour next year :-)

Ridgeway Results 2010
(List of finishers in order, including those on the earlier 10am start) 
Robert Treadwell 2010 14.48 1
Michael Beard 2010 16.21 2
Karen Hathaway 2010 16.24 3
Steve Reading 2010 17.05 4
Steve Charleston 2010 17.12 5
Linda Huxley 2010 17.45 6
Allan Rumbles 2010 17.56 7
David Larkham 2010 17.58 8
Vaughan Wade 2010 18.03 9
Claire Shelley 2010 18.10 10
Rob Harper 2010 18.15 11
Alwyn Johns 2010 18.24 12
Anne Wade 2010 18.40 13
Dicky Wilkinson 2010 18.40 14
Matthew Taylor 2010 18.44 15
Helen Smith 2010 18.49 16
Anna Finn 2010 18.49 17
Tom Sutton 2010 18.52 18
Adrian Holloway 2010 19.21 19
Sarah Thorne 2010 19.24 20
Julie Ewers 2009 19.29 21
Robert Edwards 2010 19.46 22
Stuart Blofeld 2010 19.37 23
Ian Morris 2010 19.37 24
Colin Fitzjohn 2010 19.43 25
Robby Elson 2010 19.46 26
Nicky Taylor 2010 19.47 27
Glyn Raymen 2010 19.49 28
Neil Pringle 2010 19.55 29
Kevin Mayo 2010 20.07 30
Anthony Hayes 2010 20.07 31
Jennifer Bradley 2010 20.23 32
Jim Binks 2010 20.37 33
Jonathan Venning 2010 20.57 34
Mike Lall 2010 20.41 35
Paul Britt  2010 20.55 36
Tony Nott 2010 20.56 37
David Oliver 2010 21.01 38
Paul Oliver 2010 21.01 39
Catherine Holloway 2010 21.03 40
Joan Clarke 2010 21.04 41
Peter Johnson  2010 21.04 42
Nicholas Sheard 2010 21.05 43
David Telfer 2010 21.07 44
Andy Horsley 2010 21.10 45
Sarah Matthews 2010 21.12 46
David Berger 2010 21.12 47
Rob Jones 2010 21.15 48
David Hegarty 2010 21.15 49
Sean Corney 2010 21.17 50
Fraser Scott 2010 21.20 51
Martin Campbell 2010 21.20 52
Mark Rawlinson 2010 21.37 53
David Bruno 2010 21.40 54
Phillip Stapleton 2010 21.45 55
Raymond Hickman 2010 21.45 56
Dino Ilaria 2010 21.45 57
Nichola Newton 2010 21.52 58
Suzie Niven 2010 22.10 59
Carl Miles 2010 22.10 60
Steve Paterson 2010 22.40 61
Guy Nesbitt 2010 22.44 62
James Radford 2010 22.47 63
Brian Layton 2010 22.50 64
Justin Bowyer 2010 22.50 65
Tom Hallett 2010 23.20 66
Jeremy Smallwood 2010 23.20 67
Mark Ball 2010 23.23 68
Sarah Kibble 2010 23.23 69
Barry Miller 2010 23.23 70
Stuart March 2010 23.23 71
Dave Jones 2010 23.45 72
Henrietta MacKinnon 2010 24.29 73
Vicki Johnson 2010 24.37 74
Mel Corden-Lloyd 2010 24.38 75
Martin Matthews 2010 24.46 76
Ian Blakebrough 2010 24.49 77
Steven Wall 2010 24.49 78
Andrew Ferguson 2010 24.52 79
David Palmer 2010 25.50 80
Elizabeth Tunna 2010 25.54 81
Paul Jefferies 2010 26.00 82
Neil Salmons 2010 26.00 83
Kevin O’Rourke 2010 26.17 84
Kathy Tytler  2010 27.50 85
Luke Attwood 2010 27.45 86
Steve Cairns 2010 27.45 87

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Post Ridgeway Recovery

Unbelievably its already been a week since the ridgeway. I haven't suffered any major post race blues mainly because I have a half marathon to train for in just 5 weeks time! And secondly because my post race recovery has gone so well. Normally I couldn't even think of running in the week following a big ultra, however remarkably I was out with the local running club on the Wednesday. And whilst I was firmly at the back of the club running pack at least I was there. It was a nice slow six and half miler around the roads and trails of Leighton Buzzard, Ledbury and Wing. And even with just 4 days off from running it was nice to get back into it.

Clearly it's going to take me a while to get back on pace, and it will be interesting to see exactly how long. On today's (Sunday) 10 mile run I didn't try to push the pace as it was mainly off road but in the last mile and back on the road I tested the legs and run a quite unfamilar 7mpm pace (the pace I need to be running at the half marathon in 5 weeks time) and I managed only 200 metres before it felt far too much!! So there's evidently a lot to do to both sufficiently recover whilst also getting in the speed training.

With this brings the realisation that if I want to run a good time in the half then I've got to hang up the trail shoes and dust off the roadies! This is actually strangely appealing (at least for a short period anyway). And luck would have it that in the latest Runners World magazine they have a feature piece on 4 week training plans for 5km up to mara distance including the half. Perfect!

So for the next 4 weeks I shall return to all the fun and intensity of fartleks, interval and tempo runs. Nice. And another bonus is that I now have an excuse to buy a new pair of roadies :-) with some birthday money that needs spending. Any suggestions people? I'm thinking perhaps the Brooks Green Silence, which fits with my green ethics and is the first running shoe to really embrace Sustainability! Plus it's a no thrills flat racer :-) It bloody ugly though but for this very reason is actually quite appealling -

Friday, 3 September 2010

Ridgeway Challenge

So it was that after only 4 weeks following on from my first  100 miler I was back on the start line for another ultra. This one the Ridgeway Challenge was 87 miles in length and follows the oldest road in Britain (possibly Europe) that dates back 5000 years. It starts at Ivinghoe Beacon on the Chilterns and is  just a 15 minutes drive from my door step. It finishes in the little village of Avebury (outside Swindon). Being a National Trail it is very well waymarked throughout with the distinct White Acorn sign making navigation that much bit easier. However that didn't mean that you didn't have to pay attention and with so many footpaths, bridalways and byways intersecting the Ridgeway it is entirely possible to go off route as we found out!

I'm getting more use to the start line of ultras these days with their very low key almost non-eventful type feel but there is still an underlining buzz of excitement. Ivinghoe Beacon is some what exposed on the top as you would expect with the wind whipping up good and proper. So the talk on the start line was whether one was wearing too much or too little. As always once you get going it always tends to be the former as you heat up and need to strip back the layers.

The actual start was bizzare and reminded me of the start of the grand national (weird I know). The organiser struggled to make himself heard or get everyone back behind the imaginery line and then everyone just set off without so much as a go, hoot or hollar. Mrs Disco Stu aka the wife got some great photos of the first descent and ascent as we all set off on our way (I'm on the left in the bright green T and blue shorts).

The first descent (image courtesy of Mrs Disco Stu)
The first ascent (image courtesy of Mrs Disco Stu)

To CP1: Distance from start 10.5 miles; finishing at Wellhead Farm (Wendover). 1hr 45mins
The first section was one I was familar with having run it a few times before. This was nice and enabled me to relax and not worry about navigation. I was running in the field that started at 12 pm. 30 or so other runners had opted for the earlier 10am start with an extended 28 hr cut off as opposed to 26hrs for us. In total a 100 or so runners were attempt this Ridgeway.

For the most part of this section I used it to check the vital signs and how well I had recovered from the TR24 four weeks ago. How were the feet...the ankles... the legs. All signs were good (at this stage). However my stomach didn't feel 100% but I was carb loading on pesto turkey pasta at 10 in the morning which was probably something to do with it.

I was aiming for an average 10 minute pace on the first two sections and whilst it started slower than that the pace picked up and I did indeed reach CP1 in exactly the time printed on my pace band. Game on :-) There was an array of sugary treats on offer. I grabbed 2 mini flap jacks and went on my way into Wendover, up the highstreet (see right) and started the climb to the top of coombe hill using my power walk to good effect catching two in front who were running up abet very slowly.  

To CP2: 16.8 miles; Whiteleaf Hill. 2hrs 50mins
Section two is a lovely stretch of tree lined woodland trails which wind around, up and over the Chilterns. The pace stayed in the 10 mpm zone and I thoroughly enjoyed this part which finished with an extremely steep long climb to the top of Whyteleaf hill where CP2 awaited us and table full of goodies. Whilst there were sandwiches on offer I thought it was a little early to hit the savoury snacks so opted instead for a few mini Mars bars and a bit of banana. I was still on target for an 18 hr finish but that wasn't going to last surely...

To CP3: 24.5 miles; Kingston Blount. 4hrs 15mins
The third section was a blast with a short but fun down hill section down to Princes Risborough then on to the main road for a bit before it diverted back onto the trail and across a series of wheat fields linking onto the Icknield Way. It was on the road section that it seems the Ridgeway had already taken it first casulty. I passed a chap with an MdS tattoo on his calve so I commented that I'm sure he was wishing for a bit more sand. anyway he said that he was already thinking of dropping at the midway point in Goring. I was taken back that he had decided this so soon into the race with still 5-6 hrs til he got to Goring but I guess if your head isn't in the right place which his didn't appear to be then perhaps it's for the best and you live to fight another day. I encouraged him as best I could before going off on my way.

The next part included a few climbs but nothing too serious (that was still to come). It was on this section that I got talking to a guy called Ian who was running his third ultra, his second being the 145m Grand Union canal race earlier in the year. What amazed me is that before that his only other ultra was a 50 miler and he hadn't run a marathon before either. That's pretty hardcore by anybody's standards and quite refreshing to hear that you don't necessarily have to run a marathon to up your game and give ultras a go, which really breaks from conventionally thinking I feel (apart from you Nick!) Anyway Ian was a great guy and really good company to run with and so we plodded along chatting about ultras and all things running. This helped to pass the time and take my mind off the miles and the slight fatigue I could feel in my legs.

By this stage the pace had now dropped well below 10mpm as the miles wore on and was probably nearer 11mpm. The end part of this section was a very straight wide trail with quite poor footing due to the ruts. CP 3 was a swift affair only stopping to gulp some lemon squash and grab a few nibbles and on we (Ian and I) went.  

To CP4: 31.7 miles; Swyncombe Church. (time unknown)
The start this section was more of the same straight trail that I was very familar withtraining prior training run on this part of the Ridgeway. However once past Watlington I was on new ground with no previous knowledge of what was to come. A few km further along the trail actually turned off left (a real rarity!) and proceeded to climb up and up. However what goes up must come down and we were rewarded with a great downhill section which at this stage of the race I was still able to thoroughly enjoy and brought a massive smile to my face. The the reward for this was CP4 which sat at the top of a short sharp climb which I power walked up. What I heard next was music to my ears "would you like a cup of tea" said the very kind Marshall in her caravan. Not only that, I got a buttered fruit bun and jam sandwiches to go with it too! :-) At that precise point I didn't want to be anywhere else as I devoured the bun and sandwiches and tasted every sweet drop of tea. It's a very British thing I know but there really is no better remedy when you need a pick me up than a good cuppa! We took a bit of time at CP4 as what was lay ahead was a tough 12m section (the longest of the race) before we would reach the half way point at Goring. Looking back now I think Ian wanted more time at CP4 and I'm feeling a little guilty now that I perhaps pushed him outta there quicker than he would of liked. I'm a firm believer though in keeping moving forward and whilst I could have happily stayed for a few more buns and tea we were here to run the ridgeway.

To CP5: 43.7 miles; Goring On Thames. 8hrs 7mins.
Time wise things well going very well and whilst we had dropped our pace we were still on schedule against the CP splits on my pace band. An 18hrs finish was still on. Section 5 was without doubt where things got difficult for the first time (for both of us). I was thinking clearly and knew what i wanted to do but that didn't mean that my legs would obey. However we continued to push a 11mpm pace which to a racing road snake is gonna sound awfully slow boardering on crawling but to us it felt like a good maintained effort.

The scenery and terrain on this section was great including cutting through crop fields (see left) and back to what I really love which is narrower twisting trails which keep the mind alive and focused on every step. It included the famous (so I'm told) Grim's Ditch which is a series of ancient defensive earthworks. To me it was an ultra runnable trail and the smile was firmly back on my face as I led the way and we pushed on. It was a super 4km stretch which at the end of it took us within a stones throw of the River Thames but you couldn't (yet) see it.

A very long 2km later and having gone through a church yard and cementary (see below - that's Ian) we were on the final stretch into Goring on Thames through fields right beside the Thames. This final stretch certainly did 'stretch' and felt like ages which is always the way when you are anticipating a stop ahead where we would get hot food and warm clothes. The temperature was certainly dropping by now.

Before we reached CP5 I had a lovely chat with my wife and 2yr old daughter. It's so nice to hear a familar voice and feel that warmth and closeness even when the reality is that you are still pushing and your legs are tired however at that point  we were flying (comparatively speaking) and getting ever closer.

Ian and I discussed and agreed that we should spend a good amount of time to eat, change into warm clothes and prepare for the night section. We arrived at CP5 with 8hrs 7mins on the clock having run 44 miles. And on my pace band was 8hrs 8mins! We were early ;-) and still on track for an 18hr finish, however I was certain this wouldn't continue because for one I don't think I had accounted for a 1/2 hr stop in my calculations nor the climbs that lay ahead.          

To CP6: 52.4 miles; Bury Down. 10hrs45mins.
So having thoroughly enjoyed a baked potatoe with beans and cheese, choclolate, jelly beans, and cola I was refuelled and changed into my night gear for what would be a very long night. We went over the Thames bridge and up the road to be met by a T junction with not a single Ridgeway sign in sight! Had we gone the wrong way!? Time to consult the map which had stayed in the bottom of my bag until now (such are the extremely good waymarkers throughout). We were indeed on track and proceeded on our way out of the town and onto a country road that passed by some very nice homes.

This road continued for a good 2km before it became trail and started to gradually ascend up and up. Our pace since starting out again was far slower than it had been before the rest, and it didn't feel like things were going to change in a hurry. It was time to get the head down and settle in for a long night ahead. I had studied the map in the days before the race and knew that the next 3 sections between CP5 and 8 was one continuous trail stretching some 26miles. That's a marathon in the dark on one trail rarely deviating left nor right having already covered over 40 miles. Plus the surface was a mix of hard chalk or very compacted mud so not very forgiving on the feet. I kinda knew it was gonna be tough and we weren't dissapointed!

There was nothing else terribly eventful on section 6 apart from being stopped by the police who asked what we were doing! We replied and was probably not the answer they were expecting but they didn't question it, enquired if we had a support vehicle to which we said no and we set off on oir way.

We reached CP6 where the big event was Hot Dogs and Hot Chocolate! The marshalls really were out doing themselves on every check point. When Ian and I arrived we were the only runners there so put our feet up (well I did anyway) for 5 minutes or so. However we were soon being joined by others so had to make hay whilst the moon shined and get outta there. This yo-yo-ing of runners at CPs happened all night and so it felt that we were neither making up nor losing ground on those around us. At least that is how it felt but I haven't seen the results yet so can't be certain.

To CP7: 61.5 miles; Sparsholt Firs. (time unknown)
We left CP6 at 10:45 and in just one section had dropped 45 minutes on the 18hr pace. However this was mainly in part to the extended stop at Goring rather than the snails pace that I at least seemed to be going. The focus now then was to see if we could keep going at the same pace without dropping more time and finish  below 19 hrs. I was quite confident that we would do so.

Only two things stick out in my mind on this section - one was Ian and I following this guy who was off in the distance with a shining bright red light on his backpack. We became it seems so mesmorised by it that we missed a left turn and strayed off the Ridgeway for half a mile only realising our mistake when we came to a crossroads in the trail with no markers of any kind bar a single footpath up through a field. Out with the map for the second time it was not clear where we were so were none the wiser as to whether we were off track or not. We then saw the shining headlights of others across to our left on a different trail passing a monument. Upon consulting the map again they were indeed in the right place and we weren't. Luckly the aforementioned footpath took us straight back onto the Ridgeway and we continued on our way as if nothing had happened. Phew.

The second incident was a runner we approached nearing CP7 who had a foil blanket wrapped round his bare legs. It was pretty chilly by this point and had gone midnight. His friend running with him said that he was in bad shape and suffering from mild hyperthermia. I wasn't surprised especially at the pace they were going. That's the problem with walking in that you just don't warm up the muscles enough. We reached CP7 and informed the marshalls who sent someone down to recover him. I imagine his race was over but you never know. A good cuppa can work wonders! As it did for me at CP7 together with more marmite and jam sandwiches plus the most delicious chocolate marbled cake ever, plus a jordans bar to go. Was there no end to their hospitality!  

To CP8: 69.4m; Charlbury Hill. 15hrs 15mins
As far as pace was concerned I was starting to lose interest in whether we would make 19hrs or not. I still thought it possible but with the Garmin dying at 60miles we had less idea whether we had to push on or just continue plodding to make it. Quite frankly garmin or no garmin it wouldn't have mattered. I was moving as fast as I could which was a little slower than Ian. I'm sure if he did push on ahead he could have finished faster. We were both grateful of the company of one another and working as a team as we had done since the third section certainly got us to this point faster than we would have otherwise done on our own.

We finally made it to CP8 and was met with a roaring camp fire (or was that CP7!?... To be honest I'm not sure as my memory is a little hazy). What I do remember is what I ate (as usual)... More marmite sandwiches, hot choc and creamed rice pudding which really hit the mark :-P

To CP9: 79.9 miles; Barbury Castle. 18hrs.
This next section up to CP9 was without doubt the hardest of the whole race in part because it was also the second furthest at 10 miles, although talk on the RW forum after suggested it was nearer 11. Whatever the distance it went on and on, and many runners were broken by the constant climbs and never ending fields. There were though some awesome descents which I was still able to enjoy and let gravity do most of the work.

I think but can't be sure that this section took us just under 3hrs to complete, perhaps around 2:45. It wasn't actually bad going when I read others blogs that it took them 5hrs. Ian and I were still running every part that didn't involve a climb and we were keeping a rhythm about our running that kept us going and edging ever closer to the end.

We finally made it to CP9 which was at the top of a 3km continuous climb along Smeathe's Ridge. By this time the sun was rising and the head torch was off. A new day and we had made it through the night in one piece :-) The danger now was thinking that with a mere 6m to the finish that it was job done. However having covered 80 miles in 18hrs the last 6m was gonna be far from easy.  

To Finish: 87miles; Avebury. Time ???
What gave us hope of a fast finish was the encouraging words of one of the marshalls at CP9 who said it was all downhill from here. Music to our ears however this fella evidently hadn't actually run it and couldn't have been more wrong. After a short downhill it was all up again! Argh. Ian still had the pace on me as he had done for the past few hours but I pushed on as best I could.

And then disaster struck as a poorly angled Ridgeway waymarker sent us the wrong way off down a steep field when in fact we should have gone straight on. Realising our mistake once we got to the bottom we then had to climb back up taking the road which we thought (wrongly) would take us to where we needed to be. We ended up exactly where we started and probably wasted a good 20 minutes. Argh. And by now we were getting more than a little concerned that the 20hr mark was creeping up on us. To have it slip away from you when for a very long time it looked like we would go sub 19hrs was a little frustrating but if we pushed we thought we would do it.

The footing on this final section was the worst it had been at any point along the whole Ridgeway. The ruts were really deep and narrow so you couldn't run in them so instead you had to skip across the tops of them hopping from one side to the other to find any flat ground that you could of which there was little. The end had to be close now.

The end of the race didn't in fact finish on the Ridgeway but instead cut off short and down into the village of Avebury however we weren't exactly sure what we were looking for. I had spotted a village off to the right as we desended down the Ridgeway but not knowing any landmarks meant we were none the wiser if in fact this was Avebury or not. But hang on a minute, what are those illuminous yellow arrows pointing right off the trail and towards the village... Could they just be... Just maybe... We still weren't actually sure even when I noticed the running IMP brand name on the arrrows. It had to be surely.... and after consulting a nearby local map it was indeed Avebury ahead of us with a sign saying 0.5 miles!!! it was such a good feeling. We passed a farm yard and onto firm ground for the first time in many hours. Avebury is a tiny village and no sooner had we entered it we were nearing the finish. I quickened the pace with the addrenline pumping charging for the line but it didn't feel right and not in the spirit of what we had been through so I slowed so as not to come in front of Ian and we crossed the (imaginery) line together. It was over. Our numbers were taken, and our official time given - 19hrs37mins. We collected our medals; mine was a finsher medal. Ian got 3rd place in the male over 40s category! Way to go my friend :-) and very well deserved. I was dead pleased with going sub 20 as this was my original target before I got carried away with  goal pace and spreadsheets!

Like every other ultra I've done the finish area and atmosphere was a no frills affair with not an ounce of bravado in the tiny hall which was mostly taken up with runners bags in the middle and just enough room to mill around the edges. I had my finisher photo taken by the organisers and then went about freshening up with a few baby wipes! I actually felt in remarkably good shape. My feet were fine with not a single blister or hot spot. Love the Injinjis and innov8 combo!! A definite winner. I enjoyed a bacon sandwich and chatted with Ian about the race and how we wouldn't do it again (yeah right!). See you next year! :-D

Overall this was an amazing event and you really couldnt ask for anything more from an ultra as it had everything. The organisation was first class. The CPs were the best I've experienced which were all ran by local running clubs. And at every time of day and night they were smiling, unbelievably encouraging and a real credit to the ultra scene. Of course what matters most is the course itself and you really couldn't ask for more of a contrast than what is thrown at you on the Ridgeway. The first half was utter delight the second was utter hell and I wouldn't of wanted it any other way. We take on these challenges for that very reason and I didn't leave this one disappointed.

That's it as far as ultras are concerned in 2010. My next race is the Royal Parks half marathon in October where if I can get some speed back will try and break sub 1:30 for the first time. However this might be a tough ask considering my lack of short fast running of late. Then it's picking out a few key races in 2011. The Lakeland 100 might be one, and/or perhaps the ONER. The Fellsman will also definitely be worth a return. But for now that enough miles for a while whilst I let my body repair and come back well rested and stronger. Unless of course I decide to ditch running and take up golf!! LOL.