Monday, 28 February 2011

Chiltern Kanter LDWA event report

It's been a while since a proper long run (Winter Tanners 9th Jan in fact), so despite all the cross-training on the ElliptiGO which has been serving me very well it was time to do what I know best, and get back on the trails and rack up some miles.

On Sunday I took part in a local LDWA organised event - Chiltern Kanter. This was a 26m run on trails that I mostly know, but some that I didn't. However you only found out the route when arriving at the HQ, where I had to plot the 29 grid ref points onto my EXP181 map, and then join the dots up. I felt like a kid again :-)

I set off at 9:30 with running friend Glyn. As is the way with LDWA events there is no set start time, with other runners setting off from 9 onwards and walkers setting off from 8. It was a bright sunny morning and I had expected this break in the recent damp weather to continue, hence I travelled very light, bringing no spare outer or water proof layers, and ran in just shorts and a T. Well you can guess what happened later in the day... yes the heavens opened!!! More on that later.

It was great to run with Glyn and enjoy this event with someone else which makes the time pass quicker not that either of us were in much of a hurry. We were 11mpm in the early stages, and as the main aim of the run was time on my feet rather than speed this suited me perfectly. 

There had been a lot of rain in the previous days and weeks and the trails were muddy and in places waterlogged. But keeping my feet dry was something I didn't have to worry about after acquiring a pair of sealskinz waterproof socks. This was on the recommendation of BritNick aka Nick Ham, and I can confirm that these are indeed the 'dogs b***' and performed very well indeed. At the end of the run my feet were dry and clean, rather than being waterlogged, full of grit and prune like in appearance! Wonderful.

The first checkpoint was over 2 hours into the run which did seem like a long time, however I didnt run out of fluids so this detail was of no consequence. I wasn't drinking too much but the slow pace and cold/damp weather didn't make you thirst for fluids. I took just about enough.

Scenery wise we passed through and beside many open fields, along small sections of country road, and well established trails including the Icknield Way Trail and Ridgeway National Trail. These were all runnable and on the whole fairly flat, with only the odd climb or two. It was the mud however that made footing a little more tenative and slowed progress. But the biggest factor of the day was the rain which started about half way into the 26 miles route. The rain was extremely cold and half hour later I could feel my bare arms and hands being rapidly cooled. Glyn offered his lightweight jacket early on, but I thought I could last it out and hopefully that it would stop. But it didn't and by the time we had climbed to the top of Ivinghoe Beacon I was suffering a little, and I very gratiously accepted Glyn's offer. He made a joke that as an ultra runner I shouldn't be so caught out by the weather, and he was right. I did check the weather forecast but not in great detail, and the very bright start to the day lured me into a force sence of security. That added to the fact that I also approached this event as JUST a marathon so thought I wouldn't be out for too long was also a mistake to learn from. This is the first time and the last that I will go out unprepared whatever the distance. And that's afterall what training runs are all about, which is how I was approaching this one. Lesson learnt!

So with rain jacket on, Glyn and I decended a cold and very wet Ivinghoe Beackon and continued along the Ridgeway trail. Back on familar territory we plodded through the wet slippery mud onwards to Pitstone which would be the 3rd and final CP. It was great to come inside to a dry warm hall with an array of sandwiches (cheese, marmite, jam), and cakes on offer, plus hot coffee. We must have taken 10 minutes at this stop (long by my standards especially for this distance) but it was time well spent, as I regained some feeling and movement in my frozen hands and fingers. Even today (Monday afternoon) my hands still have a numb feeling to them such was the effect of the cold and rain. I didn't bring gloves either!

We knew we had to leave the comfort of the hall though and sooner rather than later. We were 21 miles in at this point with 5 to go (if you believed the official distance) but we ended up covering 28 miles in total so in fact had 7 miles still to cover.

The refuelling did the trick though and I felt a hundred times better and a tad warmer. The final miles were more of the same wonderful wet muddy countryside, including a small section along the grand union canal, and circle around Tring reservoir. The rain even stopped towards the very end with the sun gleaming though, although that could just have been me feeling happy to finish.

We arrived back at HQ safe and sound - Red Cross Hall in Tring town centre. We had covered 28.34 miles in 5hrs40m. A very leisurely pace and an extremely satisifying run that met many training goals: Time on feet (tick), first long run for a while (tick), tested the new socks (tick), and learnt the harsh reality of what a change in weather conditions can do even in a local trail marathon where you think nothing of it (tick). Mission accomplished. 

Thanks to Glyn for the great company on this run. It would have been a whole lot tougher without you, and I did enjoy your butt side down Ivinghoe Beacon ;-)

Roll on the next 3 weekends which are: Leighton 10k (PB potential); MK60 (on the ElliptiGO); and Lightning 12hr (12hr distance record potential). Hooraaah!!! :-)

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Club Stag run report

It's been a good week so far and hopefully this will continue. On Sunday I went out with friend Idai on our ElliptiGOs together with the MK cycle touring club for a 50 miler around the beautiful country side and villages of Buckinghamshire. A great ride and 20 miles further than I had previously ridden on the GO. The pace of the touring cyclist is a leisurely one to put it mildly so this suited me just fine. There is no way I would be keepin up with he keenest roadies who are probably averaging nearer 25mph rather than the 12mph that this group averaged. A great training ride which sets Idai and I up perfectly for the MK60 in 3 weeks time.

A nice slow recovery run on Monday was followed by my weekly commute to work on the GO. So 95 miles covered and it's only Wednesday. Tonight was the monthly club Stag run (3 lap around a park and Ind Est - 2.5 miles in total). And this was my best stag run in ages!!! So you might also be thinking that it was my fastest. Wrong. It was actually my slowest time of the last 5 stag runs which will go back to April last year. And this is the thing - running fast does not always = a good run. This was my best run because I felt in control of my pace rather than chasing a time as yet not achieved (sub 14 minutes) but fallig way shirt of he goal with the pace tailing off from the 2nd lap onwards. Instead I paced this one and got faster with every lap. First mile a 6:06; second mile a 5:53; and pace for the last 1/2 mile 5:41. This is withot doubt the most satisfying way to run and finish a race getting faster with every step instead of dying out with each. Yes my pace is slower, and I'm not as fast as I was (at least not tonight). My PB for the stag is 14.04. Tonight was 14.55 but an extremely satisfying 15 minutes of running. Compare this with my mood in the last stag when I ran 14:30 (faster) yet I crossed the line and shouted **** such was my dissapointment with my time then. So clearly time does not matter, but how you approach a race and how you execute the plan does. Job done.

So things are shaping up nicely. I'm getting he miles in on the GO and getting in some quality runs too. 11 miles tonight, having run 7 miles before the Stag race followed by 2 mile warm down after. So this should see me build up nicely for the 3 events in March which looks like:
6 March - Leighton 10k - gunning for sub 37
13 March - MK60 - On the ElliptiGO. Taking this one really easy with the 12
hour race the following weekend.
20 March - Lightning12hr - the big one! Back to defend my crown and want to go one ebtter than last year and complete 13 laps (130k).

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Is going long just an excuse for running slow?

Is going long just an excuse for running slow? Discuss...

Of course us ultra runners all know the answer to this question, but trying convincing the rest of the running fraternity of this and you get a swift revoke. Those in my running club say what they say mainly just to wind me up, and not because of any deep beliefs but all the same they are still thinking it and I often find myself trying to defend the art of running long (and slower), rather than running a 3hr marathon which is what they all say I should be doing.

I could be quick to dismiss all this and just get on with what I enjoy and do best, but obviously something has triggered me to post this question and seek answers from other ultra and non-ultra runners alike.

Why should I need to defend what I do as not an excuse for running slow. Why isn't running long as respected as running fast (of course there are those special talents who mix running long with running fast) but on the whole I think we all agree that running long does mean 'appropriate pacing'. This is neccesary to cope with the changes in both the terrain and profile, as well as extra distance being attempted. Of course road runners seldom experience the type of terrain and descents and ascents that ultras races serve up. And perhaps because of this they simply can not relate to what ultras are about and thus don't get it.

So where am I going with this... I'm not sure I know myself. Perhaps I shouldn't feel the need that i need to justify running long to my running peers, or why my marathon times  are so slow, but something inside me obviously seeks to do just this, rather than just let it lie and go enjoy myself.

Ultimately I think ultra-running should get the same recognition as something that demands just as much dedication in training and competing as other distances. But I'm certainly not after recognition from my peers but just a acknowledgement that I'm not selecting the easy option, that I chose to run ultras because that's what I do, not because I couldn't run a 3hr marathon if I decided I wanted to and train for it.

Perhaps most of this is in my head, and that this post is actually an internal wrangle I'm having with myself about whether what I'm doing is getting the very best out of me in terms of my abilities. There's no doubt that being a member of a running club the talk is all about times, and PBs, and because of this after a while you feel a need to prove yourself even if it's not your distance. And I don't mean proving something to them, but to yourself... So that I can feel that despite being an ultra runner I am still as capable as going as fast as you. And I think the recent XC season has proved to me that I do seek this comparison when racing my peers. No one likes to lose and I'm no different. 

I will perhaps take time to reflect on the above, and see what you guys think about all this. Let me know if this strikes a cord with anybody. Because if it's just me then I'm the one with the issue not them, and I should stop the internal wrangle between running long or fast! 

And if I read this post back and realise it's just total garbage then I won't be offended at a lack of responses! The most likely outcome I'm sure.....

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Mud glorious mud @ Wing XC - 12th Feb

Wing is our home XC fixture and also the last of the season. One more good performance from the LBAC team would see our club stay up in Division 1 which is the first time this would have happened in decades.

The whole club - Juniors (under 13s, 15s and 17s), and Seniors all competed. First up was the Juniors which gave us seniors an ideal opportunity to view the conditions under foot. It was seriously muddy!!! The kind of mud that sucks your shoes straight off. And unfortunately for the juniors they were the first to find this out as many fell victim including our own under 15s female Ali who had to run the entire race in bare feet after losing both her shoes in the opening minutes of the race. I promptly retied my spikes twice, practically cutting off the blood flow to my foot but ensuring that they WOULD stay on whatever!

The mens race consisted of 3 laps and was 9km in total. The start was a fast downhill section following by a right hander and short flat stretch before we hit the mud fest! I went for the outside edge of the swamp (still a ft deep in mud!) and my spikes stayed on!! Hooray I had survived! I'm not going to provide a blow by blow account of this race. It's enough to say that I felt ordinary on the first lap (although it was also my fastest - probably too fast) but survived. I started to find a steady rhythm to my running on lap 2 and slowed it down a tad. And on lap 3 as those around me tired, and despite my very heavy breathing (and heavy legs from a 90 mile week on the ElliptiGO) I had enough to pass quite a few runners, and hold off a very strong challenge from a Silsoe runner (green shirt - see pic below) for the last mile and a half all the way to the finish line. Interestingly I had exactly the same battle with this same Silsoe runner at the Luton XC fixture last month. I held him off then too :-) I definitely benefited from his challenge as I wouldn't have run as fast in the final mile without the motivation to stay up with him, and pass. So thanks Dan.

I didn't quite have enough on the day to beat Pete Mackrell though who I battled with for much of the 2nd and 3rd lap. We swapped positions a few times and I held him for quite a while, but he's a strong runner also, and found 10 yrds on me when I perhaps was concentrated enough, which I simply could not make up. Pete finished 13 seconds ahead of me (3rd from the club). Andy and Ian were 1st and 2nd.

My race stats were as follows:

I finished 66th out of 262 runners in total. My highest placing of the season (and 52nd place out of 160 Division one runners). 4th for the club. Finish time was 39:00 dead. Distance on Garmin 5.81 miles. Avg pace was 6:42.
Mile splits were:
1 - 6:14 (too quick);
2 - 6:37 (better);
3 - 6:53 (slowing);
4 - 6:47 (good effort);
5 - 7:04 (what I had left!).
But then I ran 6:41 pace for last 0.8m to keep ahead on Dan from Silsoe. So some slowing down during the race but kinda gotta expect that with the mud and the hills taking there toll.

My max heart rate was 186bpm, with an average of 177bpm so I was working hard. And the best number of all is 2! This is the number of shoes that I managed to keep on my feet :-)

LBAC finished 6th on the day (out of the 14 clubs in Division 1 ), and 9th place overall in the league so we stay up!! We naturally celebrated last night hence my sore head today after far too many pints of Tribute, Brains, and Black Sheep :-O

Some good photos were taken by Clive Daniels from the Leighton Fun Runners which captures the race conditions in all there muddy glory! Thanks to Clive for the superb photos and permission to use them.

Pete Mackrell to my right as I go for the deepest puddle on the whole course!

This one is courtesy of my mum

Practicing my high knee action!

And what happens when you don't tie your shoes tight enough!
Andy Inchley (1st for LBAC)

Ian (2nd for LBAC)

Pete Mackrell (3rd for LBAC)

Thursday, 10 February 2011

2011 race / life schedule

So it's already February but never to late to post my schedule and goals for 2011. It's certainly not going to be a major year of racing for me but it will be a major year in my life as our second baby (Jasper) is born. However through a carefully thought through training plan I still plan to be fitter going into each event then I have been in the past. As ever it's quality over quantity which I know will get results.

13 Jan - Winter Tanners 30. Completed.
27 Feb - Chiltern Kanter 26
13 Mar - Milton Keynes 60. On the ElliptiGO
20 Mar - SIS Lightning 12hr (defending my crown!)
8 Apr - Baby Jasper due!
5 Jun - Chiltern Hundred. On the ElliptiGO
27 Aug - Ridgeway Challenge 87
29 Oct - Snowdonia Marathon

Perhaps a modest line-up but with family life to juggle this little lot will keep me more than busy! So my goals for the year are:
- to successfully integrate my ElliptiGO riding I to my training (something that so far is working well)
- run less but work harder
- get the family balance right (something I am yet to do successfully)
- become the first European to finish a 100m event on an ElliptiGO, and thus make it into the ElliptiGO Century Club (and set a fast time to boot!)
- Set a pb on the Ridgeway Challenge (last year was 19:38 I think)
- 10km pb (target sub 36mins)
- Set a marathon pb at Snowdonia! Faster than pancake flat London. DEFINITELY my toughest goal of the year but something I am prepared to work hard for to achieve. Having done my research on this marathon and speaking to past runners at the club the course profile adds around 20 minutes onto a 'normal' marathon time so I need to prepare myself and train as if to go sub 3:10, to achieve sub 3:30 at Snowdonia!

Quite a year and I'm thoroughly looking forward to it :-)

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Snowdonia Marathon...

here I come!!! Registered today for this epic event. Have being looking for a marathon in 2011 to sustain my appetite for this distance, but was looking for something quite different to the usual road marathon and I think Snowdonia meets that criteria.

I will also go in search of the STILL ellusive sub 3:30 time which I first set as my marathon target back in 2006. I was out by just 6 seconds in London last year so to have a go in Snowdonia will be epic. Let the training commence!

I can't wait :-D