Sunday, 31 July 2011

NDW100 training and fundraising update

I'll start with the fundraising whilst I have your full attention. In light of the current horrors happening in East Africa right now with over 10 million people displaced and facing starvation, famine and disease it seemed only right to take the opportunity of my upcoming 100 mile race to raise money for the DEC Crisis Appeal.
So I have a website set up here - and to make it even easier to donate you can also TEXT a donation to 70070. Just send the following: STUB99 and the amount you wish to donate e.g. STUB99 £10. I've already raised £800 in just over a week which is being matched by my company. So if I hit the £1k mark then my total raised will be £2k! So please help if you can. Thank you.

OK so to recap on recent training. With just two weeks left to go there isn't too much big mileage to squeeze in between now and race day. After the 100 mile training week I put in in Hungary 2 weeks ago, I took it easy and ensured I recovered fully from the exertions I placed on my body. It would have been tempting to get carried away with my invisability cloak on and get injuried. Instead I took 4 days off after Hungary and eased back in with a mid week early morning 11 miler (last week), and session on the ElliptiGO, and a long 30 miler last Sunday. I used this run as a full dress rehearsal of my race kit using my 2 new camelbak handheld water bottles and waist pack which I will pack light for the 100 miler.

Out goes the backpack and water sloshing around with shoulder straps rubbing the neck. No Sir, this is the new lighter, faster, improved Ultra Disco Stu in body and kit! Essentials only made possible by a very short mandatory kit list which consists of only a mobile phone, emergency blanket, headlamp + spare batteries, and water. Together with that I will also pack some clif shot bloks, and a mule bar for nourishment, plus my newly purchased Montane speed lite H20 jacket (see pic) which weighs in at just 180g! I packed my existing Adidas Formation jacket on Sundays run held on the back of the waist pack by bungee cord but at 320g and a bit more bulky it seems too much for something I may not even use. The montane jacket is just what I need packing to the size of a large apple! But before you say that I going too light and not packing enough supplies its worth noted that the aid stations are every 10 miles (or 2hrs20mins apart) oops just given away by target time there! Plus there are drop bag points at 25m, 50m, and 75m. So plenty of opportunity to take on energy and carbs.

In the drop bags will be more cliff shot bloks, mule bars, savoury snacks, recovery shake, and slim-fast meal replacement shakes which pack a massive 500cals per shake! Awesome way to get calories on board fast that is easy to digest and run on with no dodgy stomach issues. The aid stations will also have other food stuffs, plus GU energy gels and GU brew electroltye replacement drink. So things are coming together nicely planning wise. Taking the whole family too with my dad acting as pacer for the final 25 miles of the race, which will be through the night so will provide a huge boost!

Training wise I got in a solid 20 mile run on Saturday morning with LBAC club captain Tom May. Tom is training for the Beachy Head Marathon so was looking for hills which suited me fine. We opted to run the Leighton Tough 10 course twice which is a 10 mile road run organised by the club to be held on Sunday 2nd October. As its name suggests its a hilly course so perfect for Tom and I. We also didn't hang around either finishing the 20 miles in 2h38mins which translates to a 7:57mpm pace! That's the fastest 20 mile training run I've ever run. The only time I've come close to that pace was in the London Marathon itself in 2010! So for a training run it was pretty full on, but it didn't actually feel too bad, and because Tom and I were chatting all the way(Tom doing most of the chatting!) the time and miles flew by.

This was a real confidence booster for 2 weeks time and I'm now raring to go. I don't think I ever looked forward to competing in a race as much as the NDW100. This is probably because of the long build up to this event. I plan to get in some major low impact mileage on the ElliptiGO this week with 2 or 3 rides to work and back. I've got a new route to work (29m each way) which is on quieter country roads and far more pleasant with some good climbs too which will do wonders for the quads. The key at this stage is to avoid injury and don't do anything stupid so the low-impact nature of the ElliptiGO ticks all the boxes.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Meeting the legend Dean Karnazes!!

I thought meeting Dean Karnazes at The North Face Covent Garden store for a book signing was well worth a quick post!! He is after all an ultra running legend and it was his first book 'Ultra Marathon Man' that awoke my true spirit for running and the realisation that running long was where the challenge and true fulfilment could be found. And he has inspired 1000s of people the world over in a similar way. 

I wouldn't say I was starstruck when meeting him but I did fumble around for all the questions that I had ready for him. He was really cool and very down to earth. I joked around with him for over 10 minutes talking about all things ultra and ElliptiGO related. About my trip to San Francisco (his hometown) and my run in the Marin Headlands which is where Dean trains. He signed my copy of his new book RUN - 'To Ultradiscostu, Never stop exploring! May the wind be at your back... Dean Karnazes 2011. 

To meet such an inspirational guy like Dean who recently completed the transcontinental run across the States from West to East coasts (3,000 miles in 75 days) was a great moment, and one I will remember and pull out whenever I need a moment of inspiration on the trails. The icing on the cake was the great photo of me and Dean which will adorn my blog page for some time I'm sure!!  

His next challenge is to run a marathon in every recognised UN country in the world in one year! That's over 200 marathons. If I were him and had the opportunities like he does to take on such awesome adventures I know I wouldn't think twice! Go for it Dean! You continue to inspire :-)

Friday, 15 July 2011

NDW100 Belt Buckle

NDW100 race director James Elson has just released a photo of the NDW100 1 day belt buckle which he has had especially designed!!! And she's an absolute beaut!! Who WOULDN'T run a 100 miles to get their hands on one of these :-)

For those that aren't familar with the US tradition - all 100 milers in the States have a prized and sort after belt buckle for all finishers. Often one for sub 24 hr finishers and another for finishing within the total course cutoff. James has brought this tradition to the UK for the first time and I for one am stoked at the prospect! As you can probably tell ;-)

Thursday, 14 July 2011

5 Day Lakeside Challenge

5 Day Lakeside Challenge

We flew out to Hungary on Saturday 9th to visit the in-laws with the whole family. This is a summary of what turned out to be quite a week of running...

Hungary is experiencing a heatwave at the moment which meant that rather than the normal high 20s early 30s temps that is common every summer the temp in Budapest when we landed was in the early 40s!  And my very first thought ... Excellent I can do some heat training! I'm not use to running in the heat as the majority of my training runs are early doors in England where it is barely above 10-15 degrees max. So that was the plan and this blogs recites each of my training runs and a bit of narrative inbetween.

Saturday (DAY 1) - It took most of the day to travel and arrive in Kriszti's home town of Györ, but managed to sneak in an evening run after dinner. It was 9pm and the outside temperature was still 28 degrees. There's a great little lake less than 1/2 mile from Kriszti's parents house which has a proper running surface around it so perfect for a by of heat circuit training! The lake is in the centre of a popular housing estate where Kriszti grew up with lots of life - dog walkers, fishermen and women, children playing, the young couple on the park bench making out, the local youths hanging out on their scooters, the elderly pair shuffling along, and the runners and walker doing laps of the lake, plus the local folk outside the drinking hole - the 'Borózo' which attracts the 'full time' drinkers if you know what I mean. So a great place to do some reps around the lake.

I only intended on doing an easy short run. It was short but it wasn't easy. I ran 10 laps which is a 1/3 mile around. I had intended each to be nice and steady but the internal competitor kicked in. I ended up speeding up with each rep going from sub 9 minute miling down to 6s. A great short workout and in the dry evening heat I was sweating buckets and felt good.

Sunday (DAY 2) - I didn't make it out this afternoon, as intended, as the wife had other plans for me. Fair enough I suppose as it's a family holiday afterall. However I was not giving up on the goal of running every day on only the 2nd day! So gonna fill the stomach first and get out later in evening. Hope to do at least an hour.... 

And 1h02mins is exactly what I did. A solid hour of laps around the lake on another very warm night (28c). Completed 8 miles in total. So pleased with that and twice as many as yesterday. And as I ran around tonight I hatched my plan for the rest of the week which was to play the 10% rule but on steroids! Not literatually of course. Instead I would add
distance each day but instead of 10% (which is what all the magazines say you should do) I would add
100%!! I figure that the 'play it safe' 10% rule can't apply to ultra training as you'd never get very far. So the plan was simple....  I ran 30 mins on Saturday, and an 1hr tonight. So tomorrow I will run for 2hrs, Tuesday 4hrs and on Wednesday 8hrs! And so the '5 Day Lakeside Challenge' was born! 

Monday (DAY 3) - I ran late afternoon from 4pm til 6. Temp 30c. There was a refreshing breeze too across the lake so it actually felt cooler than the evening runs. So the stats from today are 2hrs4mins on my feet, exactly 15 miles covered (avg pace 8:20) which equates to approximately 45 laps! I again felt strong throughout and am really starting to get into this little challenge I've set myself now. Obviously it gets a lot tougher tomorrow. I'm going back to what I know best and will be up at 4:30ish to get the 4hr run in early whilst it's still cool. Also means that I will still have whole day with the family with a trip to the swimming pool planned. Which will also be a good way to sooth the legs.

It occurred to me today that in this 5 day challenge I will (if I complete it) have covered a 5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon, marathon, and ultra-marathon back to back. Because I was focusing on time rather than distance this hadn't occurred to me until now. I reckon there could be something to this training approach I'm taking. What do you guys think? Perhaps best left unanswered until I get through Day 5, as there's still a long way to go yet...

Tuesday (DAY 4) - Day 4 of the lakeside challenge complete! If I was to have any chance of getting through this I had to pace this one sensibly today, and that's what I did. With 15 miles in my legs from yesterday I went out slow and that's pretty much how it stayed throughout the run averaging 10 minute miling when I hit the magic 4 hour mark. I would say that the mental challenge of looping round lap after lap after lap is outweighing the physical one. This is not to say however that it wasn't physically demanding. Running near enough a marathon is always going to take it out of you. I completed 24.25m as it happens so fell short of the full distance. But as I said if I'm gonna survive tomorrow's 8 hour epic slog then I had to take the foot off the gas today and keep something in the tank.

Highlight of the run was the Borózo (the pub) opening at 6am and seeing the regulars cracking open the beers and smoking cigarettes. I don't know how they do it! But I don't think they had any idea about me either as they looked on and watched as I went past them lap after lap after lap. I know what I'd rather be doing. 

So 4 down and just 1 to go. But in hours I'm not even half way through this challenge yet having completed 7.5hrs of running over the past 4 days. Whatever happpens tomorrow I can definitely say that I will give it my all whatever state I'm in following today's effort. 

Pleasing things about today's run just rewinding back was my hydration. I'm using two OMM handheld water bottles for these runs. The benefit of having two smaller bottles as opposed to one big one or a camelbak is that you can have two different drinks. Today for the first 2hrs I had water in one, and SIS energy drink in the another. Then at half way I swapped over to water and coke. The coke was a real hit! And the beauty of having water too is that you can pour it over your head to cool down - just don't mix it up with the coke!! Another new product I tried today were clif shot blocks. These offer an alternative to gels and resemble jelly cubes. Very tasty, easily digestable and they don't leave your hands in a sticky mess!! A++  Will definitely be buying some more for the NDW100. Right better get some sleep before tomorrow's epic training run. 

Wednesday (DAY 5) - So this was it. Get through the next 8 hours and this would undoubtedly be my finest hour (training wise). I rose early for a 5am start but by the time I got everything I needed together and had a big bowl of porridge and coffee it was half past. This meant that I would be running for an extra half hour in the midday heat!    

On the run to the lake (and even on the walk down the stairs) I could certainly feel the previous 4 days of running in my legs especially the quads. But no use complaining - no pain no gain as they say and this definitely rings true in the ultra world.

The stategy for the run was to break it up into four 2hr chunks and reward myself with something to eat from my drop bag. The first two hours were cool and breezy just the way I like it, and after a while the legs loosened up and the quads felt fine. Pace wise I went with the flow not trying to dictate a particular pace. I fell into a rythum of 10 minute miling which felt comfortable enough (well it would do at this early stage!) 

After two hours I ate a SIS energy bar (cookies and cream) which are really good washed down with some coke. I refilled by handheld bottles one with water and the other with SIS energy drink and set about the next two hours. It was only 7:30 but the sun was out and things were heating up. A white cap kept the sun off my face and head and as the day wore on I was ever so thankful that I had thought to bring it along as I rarely wear one. 

I was still keeping a 10 minute mile pace and feeling comfortable physically. Mentally though the thought of running around the lake for 6 more hours was something I tried not to contemplate. I was never bored however and always had something racing through my mind, be it running or non-running related. I even started writing my best man speech for my best mate's wedding!

The four hour mark came around and to my surprise I had run 23.4 miles which was only 0.85m less than yesterday. Obviously I had found my natural 'ultra pace' but the question would be whether I could sustain it for another 4 hours. I pulled out a bottle of 'turbo diet' chocolate shake which is a 370 calorie meal in a bottle. These are meant as slimming meal replacements and I find them to be perfect for ultra running as they are very easy to consume and tasty too. A bit more SIS bar and I was off for the second 4 hour stint. This time with water and coke to fuel my thirst and need for calories and sugar.

With the promise of the family turning up at the 6 hour mark for a spot of lunch this spurred me one through the next two hours. The sun was blasting down now though and I was drinking loads more than I had been and needed to keep an eye on water supplies. I was still keeping a similar pace give of take 20 or so seconds either side so some miles were 10:20s whilst other were 9:40s. The breaks I was taking to refill my bottles and stop to eat obviously brought down the average but I was pleased with progress and was getting ever closer to actually completing this 5 day challenge!

I was a little thrown when I got the battery low warning on my garmin. With 3.5 hours remaining and having logged 27 miles it was very unlikely that the battery would last so I took the decison to turn off the GPS reciever so at least I would still have the time to rely on. This now meant however that I had to count each lap in my head to keep a tally of the total distance. Each lap was 1/3 mile so this could be worked out quite easily but I still had to keep count which I'm pleased to say I did despite the heat frying my brain.

At 6 hours and on que my wife Kriszti appeared but where was the picnic blanket and the kids!? Obviously we had different ideas. She handed me a bag of rolls, chocolate biscuits and one bottle of water and headed back to the car saying they would be back in an hour. I told her I needed more water as this wouldn't be enough to get me to the finish. 

It threw me a little that the family wasn't there to support me - where was team ultradiscostu when you need them most! Of course a 3 yr old and 3 month old are the priority here, not dad and another one of his crazy runs! But I still have needs too!! Oh well... I shook it off after 5 minutes of feeling sorry for myself and pressed ahead with a cheese and salami sandwich and chocolate bar in my belly.

It was at this point that I knew I would complete the full 8hrs. I think I always knew actually but didn't think it out aloud as you never know what could happen. The only thing playing on my mind in the final two hours was just how hot it was getting (34c to be precise) and that my water rations were running low! There really is nothing worst than the ancixity you feel when you are short of fluids. 

Seven hours had now been and gone (with 38 miles covered) and still no sign of Kriszti. I plodded on round and round the lake still counting each lap and summing the total. I celebrated each mile and especially the 40th mile which in my mind was the goal distance for this run. Any more was a bonus but I was keen to get to 44 which meant sustaining the same 10 minute mile pace for the last hour. 

By now it was really hot and I was having to ration my water to one sip per lap. I thought about going into the 'borózo' and asking them to fill up my water bottle but didn't really fancy that, plus I just wanted to stay on the track and keep running. At 43 miles and with just 10 minutes remaining the whole family showed up on mass complete with water! I grabbed it filled my bottle and was off as there was no time for pleasantries. I blasted around the lake for the final three laps to notch up one more mile and bring the total tally to 44, which equates to 132 laps or 8 litres of fluids! YES I DID IT :-D 
(Video clip below at the finish)  

What started out as a 'bit of training' in Hungary quickly turned into something quite different! This was without doubt the hardest 5 days of training I've ever done, and quite frankly not many events I've done come close to what I endured and how satisfying it has been to complete this little challenge.  In numbers over the the past 5 days I have completed 95 miles (285 laps) and burnt over 12,000 calories. My biggest training week by some considerable margin.

In a previous post I noted that I had to work on my endurance. Well I think I've done this over the past few days. And what was most pleasing was that I was able to sustain a constant pace throughout all my runs and even speed up at the end. Nutrition and hydration wise I've learnt a few things  too. Definitely going for the 2 bottle strategy on the NDW100 which means I can travel light and won't need to endure a sweaty hot back for hours and hours on end. There's a great sports megastore called Decathlon here in Györ which I went to yesterday in the post training glow. Bought myself a new waist pack which will hold all the stuff I'll need for the NDW100 so no need for a backpack! The NDW100 mandatory kit list isn't too onorous so fitting in what I need should be fine. They're also organising personal drop bags along the route so this also means that stuff like my 'turbo diet' chocolate drink and night gear can be left in one of them so no need to carry. I'll also be taking the clif shot blocks which are awesome!!! If you haven't tried them then give them a go. My favourite elite runner Ellie Greenwood (from Fife, Scotland) who just won the famous Western States 100 swears by them and used them to fuel her almost entirely through the 100 miles.

Ok I think I should call it a day there and go and have a beer with my new friends at the Borózo! Happy running!

Sunday, 3 July 2011


Well that has to be the best week of running I've had following an ultra. Taking it fairly easy in the Greensands Ridge race last weekend has paid back. I didn't run until the Wednesday, however on the Wednesday I ran a 5 miler at lunchtime and joined the club in the evening for a 10 miler. Then on Thursday I did a slow 5 miler with it in mind to not overdo it before my long run Saturday morning.

This Saturday morning long run was just 7 days after the GSR, and thinking back I don't think I've ever attempted a log run of 20 miles off the back of an ultra. I rose early... 4am early! And was out the door by 4.30am. It was a warm night so I didn't have to wrap up. Just shorts, a no sleeve base layer and T. I also experimented with two handheld water bottles for the first time. They worked out really well. If I'm to use them on a ultra however I think I would need some handles with them so I don't need to grip them so much.

Anyway this post was about one thing - and that was just how effortless I found this 20 miler to be. Without doubt the easiest 20 miles I've ever run. And again just a week after ther GSR.... not bad. I started very steady and slow and just went with how my body was feeling not worrying about the numbers on the Garmin (for once). This certainly helped and I think, in fact I know, that you can undoubtedly run better and more evenly when not chasing numbers.

I felt stronger and stronger as the run went on and the miles clocked up without me really noticing. I wish every run was like this! I completed the 20 mile run in exactlty 3 hours, averaging 9 minutes per mile. The last mile was a 7 minute mile!

Its too early to get overly excited, and you shouldn't read too much into one training run, but it does bode well as I start my training 'proper' now. I've set out my training schedule for the next 6 weeks, and hope that this will bring me to the start line of the NDW100 in the best shape of my life.